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Beyond the Metaphor: Densi & the Frozen Lake

NCISLA - Densi - Frozen Lake

One of the most intriguing and thought provoking scenes to come out of NCIS:LA’s Season 5 was from the Densi-defining episode "The Frozen Lake", written by Dave Kalstein. As Kensi tries desperately to find a way to explain to Deeks what she is feeling, she chooses the spiritual side of her Sayoc training for inspiration. From this moment, the frozen lake analogy opens up a whole new dimension to Densi’s relationship as she teaches Deeks how to take the next steps in their complicated dance. As Kalstein mentioned in an interview with wikiDeeks, “Kensi wasn’t just telling Deeks a story, she was actually training her partner by giving him a tool to understand the emotions they have for each other.” Sayoc gives the student a toolset to respond to any hostile situation armed or unarmed. So when Dave Kalstein began incorporating the art of Sayoc into his NCIS:LA scripts, it was important not only to highlight the knife fighting and stick grappling which is the foundation of Sayoc training, but also the invaluable mental training component that is such an important part of the regimen.

Rafael KayananWe wanted to find out more about this expressive teaching so we went right to the Tuhon himself, Rafael Kayanan. Rafael, who is the fighting tech advisor on NCIS:LA, is one of only 10 leaders who have earned the rank of Tuhon in Sayoc Kale.  Sayoc is a Filipino martial arts system that was founded by Tuhon Chris Sayoc in the 1980’s. Kayanan began his Sayoc study in 1983, which trains its students on how to think, observe and affect the world around them. “Sayoc is about emphasizing the study of how the mind works,” Kayanan explains. “Nothing in martial arts occurs without thought; even uncluttered minds require looking within and observing habits and logical biases.”

Sayoc is a discipline that uses metaphors in order to engage the mind as much as the physical being. “Sayoc does not want to encourage becoming a physical threat without learning how to humble your mind as well,” says Kayanan. “Humility is a sharpened ego.”

NCISLA-Frozen-Lake-49The scene at the motel, which prompts their frozen lake discussion, is filled with physical threats handled by rather cluttered minds. When Kensi’s life is threatened, Deeks hesitates to take the shot. She reacts by lashing out physically. As Kalstein describes the scene, “Kensi’s punch came from a purely emotional place… In the heat of that moment – the violence, the danger, the new dynamic to their partnership – Kensi’s emotions simply got the best of her… She doesn’t like to talk about emotions or open up. By punching Deeks, she failed her partner.”

NCISLA - Frozen Lake - KensiWhen Deeks finds Kensi in the shooting range, she is clearly agitated and upset. She’s angry at herself because she let her emotions overwhelm her. She knows emotions are a huge liability that could get someone like her partner killed.  Preventing these emotions from interfering with her ability to do the job must be addressed through thoughtful actions…not pure adrenalin. Kayanan says that in order to teach the student about the frozen lake, the first interaction is through dialogue and communication. “Each Sayoc instructor has been part of a never ending process of looking how the lessons of a high art and an art of consequences applies to who they are and where they will be.”

Kayanan expressed that in between sets of physical drills you can find an instructor relating shared experiences, while showing how the physical drill is really also a formula about human behavior. “Any physical behavior is applied mental command. It can be applied by a muddled mind or a clear mind. It’s your fire.” Using the frozen lake teaching is about being smart and maintaining a strategic perspective, seeing the bigger picture and understanding what’s at stake and coming up with a plan of action that will address all ramifications. As Thapa (the Gurkha) said, “Walk slowly. Stop to look at everything. Take your time.” Even though Kensi is afraid their relationship isn’t going to work out, she stops to explain to Deeks what is going on inside her mind. The frozen lake training has taught her to be observant, careful and thorough in identifying problems she may face.

NCISLA - Kensi - Frozen LakeKayanan says that Kensi’s character is a metaphor for life and that she makes choices and desires the same way many other people do. “Whether she is right or wrong depends on how Deeks handles it as well. We can do something for our self that is right, or right for the other person or right for all involved. Every move is correct until the next move tells you it’s wrong.” That’s why she exposes her innermost feelings and tries to explain why she acted as she did. She realizes that they are in this together and she can’t solve the challenges they face alone. Communication is key for Densi, something Kensi has continually found frustrating in her relationship with Deeks. Even though she berates him for not being able to say what he means, she knows she has the same exact problem, which is why she decides to use the frozen lake metaphor to explain the storm raging inside her heart.

 As she explains to Deeks about her Sayoc training, she uses the frozen lake metaphor to say: “I know I screwed up our thing but I wanted for us to work out so badly I just rushed in and let my emotions take over. By the time I got there I realized I may have destroyed everything we had together. You did the same thing when you didn’t take the shot. Our emotions can’t come in the way of our relationship. The only way we can prevent this is to stop, be disciplined about it and take our time to talk about what is important and how we can overcome our challenges.”

Although Kayanan says discipline is a major part of the concept, discipline can also be a form of punishment or obedience. Thapa explains to Deeks that he must take his time, and Kayanan says he also asks Deeks to think about the consequences. “Are you thinking beyond what happens if you get what your heart desires?” asks Rafael. “If you do, then perhaps you wait till spring and row out to that lake and apply the one good rep that life allows you for that situation.”

NCISLA-Frozen-Lake-321After Deeks rescues Thapa, the partners stop to talk next to the ambulance and Kensi decides to trust her training as she asks Deeks for his patience. She’s not just asking him to be patient as she works on her communication skills, but to be patient (disciplined) as she slowly works her way across the frozen lake, moving their relationship forward inch by inch. Kensi uses the teaching to find her way through her fear in order to take on the challenge. She realizes that if they can get their thoughts together, and be smart about their next moves, then they can have it all!

Kayanan loves that a show like NCIS: Los Angeles can show the symbolism of the frozen lake exactly the way it is taught. “The viewers have been part of all the characters’ journey. Every writer, every crew member and especially the actors bring them to life. So the symbolism of the frozen lake for Sayoc is not different from what Kensi and Deeks discuss. A longtime viewer of the show knows each character so well that I bet they can tell you what their ideas of Sam’s or Callen’s frozen lakes are too.”

When asked if there are other ways to cross the frozen lake besides what Thapa teaches Deeks, Kayanan replies, “Yes, but that’s for Deeks to show us, isn’t it?” We have a feeling Deeks has already been showing us how he will cross the lake and then we’ll get to see how well Kensi has trained him in the Sayoc philosophy!

Thanks go out to Rafael Kayanan for taking the time to explain the frozen lake concept to us and how it was applied in this episode. You can also read his interview with wikiDeeks in its entirety tomorrow and find out more regarding how Sayoc teaches their students about the frozen lake metaphor and how they can apply it to their everyday lives.  In the meantime, tell us if our interpretation of the frozen lake matched yours in the comments below.


Diane Volpe is a Contributing Editor at
Follow her on Twitter: @phillydi

Karen P.

Karen P. is a contributor at
Follow her on Twitter: @anonklp

About Diane (416 Articles)
Founder, Writer and Contributing Editor of wikiDeeks. Always wanted to put together a talented team of writers and graphic designers who loved NCISLA and Marty Deeks in particular! My dream came true! Hope you enjoy what we have created!

12 Comments on Beyond the Metaphor: Densi & the Frozen Lake

  1. Dr. Brenda // May 5, 2014 at 7:18 AM // Reply

    Thank you Diane for another thoughtful article. And huge thanks for Rafael Kayanan for providing the background and thought process behind this aspect of the storyline!! It really is a rare gift to have that sort of insight into such a powerful and pivotal storyline from behind the scenes.

    This article reminded me once again why I love NCIS:LA. I typically have a limited threshold for fictional action/violence, in part because I have a high adrenaline job where I see actual victims and perpetrators of violence so I want my “fun” to be different than work. However, the story lines are so well-crafted, deep, thoughtful and compelling that together with the high-quality of the actors’ performances it just keeps me coming back for more. Sometimes I have wondered if I am just projecting my analytical nature on the show. This interview very clearly demonstrates that this show is not just about “catching bad guys,” rather there is rich meaning in the carefully crafted story of each of the characters’ lives woven amidst the cases.

    Thanks again!!


  2. Wendi Pugh // May 5, 2014 at 7:34 AM // Reply

    Fantastic interview. Thank you. Really brings the Densi relationship into perspective and it makes sense.


  3. Thanks guys. It was fun to learn about the teaching. Really fascinating.


  4. Reader1976 // May 5, 2014 at 10:12 PM // Reply

    This is exactly why I am so fascinated by NCIS LA. I love rewatching each episode and catching all the metaphors and symbolism. And Frozen Lake is one of my all time favorite episodes. Fascinating interview and article!


  5. mountaingirl89 // May 6, 2014 at 12:23 AM // Reply

    Thanks! This really put into perspective the whole “frozen lake”. I understood the basics, like Deeks did, but wow, the depth of it is amazing.

    now I believe I understand why she didn’t look upset when it seemed like Deeks was pulling away in “three hearts”…….he is being slow, taking his time……especially after what happened over in Afghanistan. I mean, he didn’t say they were over and he didn’t say they were together. The whole raccoons mating for life thing was his way of saying that he is still for them, but at a slow pace so their frozen lake doesn’t shatter underneath them. Because if they got into a relationship right then and there they wouldn’t have time to deal with everything that had happened to each of them. A lot of what happened between Sidorov and Afghanistan needs to be dealt with with just themselves first before they try to help each other or it will be a lose/lose situation. They would hurt each other before the relationship even got off the ground……..

    this is making me really excited for the last episodes!


  6. I’m clearly in the minority here, but I find the tone of this article to be very troubling. I’ve heard similar attitudes from religious zealots and cult members, especially when it comes to the justification of violence. Anyone who disagrees with the justification is just an unbelieving infidel, and the objects of that violence need to be “trained” by the spiritually superior master to see things the right way.

    I would never deny Rafael Kayanan his right to his own beliefs, but those rights end when fist meets face, and he uses his belief system – any belief system – to justify it.


  7. DeeksFreak // May 7, 2014 at 9:51 PM // Reply

    I’m sorry, Jan, but I must have missed the part about beliefs justifying violence… Where exactly was that again? The article I read talks about finding balance between mental and physical acuity and how that relates to the personal and professional relationship of 2 characters in a TV show. The only part where violence is mentioned is the part about Kensi punching Deeks and it clearly states that she failed her partner. She reacted poorly and allowed her emotions to affect her actions, which would be the opposite of what Sayoc is trying to teach.


    • The justification is in the form of blaming the victim. Deeks does not act as Kensi wants, so she lashes out violently. To say that she failed her partner in doing so conveniently ignores the fact that there are laws and regulations against both workplace and domestic violence (this was definitely the former, possibly the latter depending on how you interpret their relationship).

      Kensi broke the law. Yet her only response is to try to “train” her partner to behave better (as per Kalstein), as opposed to apologizing and seeking counseling for herself. Most abusers find ways to convince their victims that the battering is a result of the victim’s own behavior. There is a reason why most states require police to make arrests in domestic assault cases, even if the victim does not want to press charges. That is because the abuser often convinces the abusee that it is their fault, and sure enough, Deeks apologizes for not taking the shot rather than report the incident and get her suspended. He is behaving like a typical child of domestic, taking on the blame himself for the batterer’s rage and lack of self discipline.


      • mountaingirl89 // May 8, 2014 at 1:14 PM // Reply

        ok, that is one way to look at it. But if you are going to look at it that way (the rules and regulations for the work place way) then you will have to face the fact that, if they went by the book with laws and such then Kensi should have reported him for harassment a long LONG time ago. All the nicknames and such that he has called her and all the stuff he has said is harassment.


  8. Fair enough, they have both made comments over the years that would get them in trouble at any government agency or most private employers. (Sam has also made some problematic insinuations about Deeks’ sexuality, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion.)

    Maybe you think that physical violence (especially between partners who may or may not have been intimate the night before that violence) is simply a matter of rules and regulations, and that legalities are all that matter on this subject. I’m quite comfortable being among those that disagree.


  9. Thank you for doing this interview. As usual, it was very interesting.


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