Essential Episodes: NCISLA “Human Traffic” (S2E1)
It was one of the most intense and action packed episodes of NCIS: Los Angeles and it helped kick off Season 2 with a bang! No there weren’t any pyrotechnics or Joey Wilson booms, but the opening sequence was so exciting we’ve rarely seen its caliber on the show since Season 5’s "Ascension." The scene I’m talking about is Callen’s exhilarating chase through the streets of Los Angeles. Fortunately, Callen wakes to find it was only a dream and a product of unresolved identity issues, according to Nate. But the senior agent is still searching for a place in his world and a home while driving everyone else around him crazy, particularly Hetty.Hetty: You were twitching like a sleeping dog. Callen: You know what they say about sleeping dogs.
This episode had all the qualities of an essential NCISLA story where the action never quits and the angst is first class. Written by Shane Brennan and directed by James Whitmore, Jr., "Human Traffic" happens to be my favorite essential Deeks episode and for so many reasons. Looking back, I never get tired of watching all the little nuances and special moments that were sprinkled throughout this episode. Way before there was a Densi and way before Deeks was fully integrated into the team, he became ‘one of us’ quickly as the troops rallied around their leader to rescue the missing LAPD Detective.
After Deeks goes deep undercover at the end of Season 1, the team doesn’t find out his fate until Hetty informs Callen she needs him to be on top of his game in order to lead a search for the newest member of their team. As Hetty briefs the unit, they learn that Deeks has been out of contact with the LAPD for more than 24 hours. The target of his human trafficking investigation, Emilio Ortega, has been killed in a car bombing incident the day before. Enter Jess Traynor, Deeks' handler on the case. She explains that a Serbian national, Lazik was trying to set up a series of safe houses for the transportation of young girls across the Mexican border. Deeks was hired as a defrocked estate lawyer to help with acquiring the properties. It’s the first time we find out Deeks had been a lawyer in a previous life. Automatically the questions about Deeks’ past begin to surface. What’s an ex-lawyer doing as an undercover cop? There’s got to be an interesting story brewing underneath this fascinating revelation!
Exit Jess Traynor. The likelihood of Deeks being dead is strengthened by the murder of Traynor after a bomb goes off in her car. We find out from the officer investigating the case, Frank Scarli, that Deeks was her partner and there was a good chance that their cover had been blown. Although Detective Scarli wants revenge for the murder of his colleagues, he also tries to convince Callen that the case is dead in the water.
As Callen updates Hetty on their findings, she gets a mysterious call that sets up the next scene which will always be one of my most cherished Hetty/Deeks moments on film. As she plays a solitary game of Scrabble in a dark and hazy bar, a desolate and disheveled Deeks enters the establishment and gently takes a seat across from the tiny woman.
Deeks: That’s the Cyrillic alphabet, Russian, yeah?
Hetty: You play?
Deeks: In English and badly. In Russian, it’s giving me a headache just thinking about it. What’s that word?
Hetty: Opasnost. It means danger.
Deeks: Great. A Russian Scrabble/Ouija board, then?
Hettty: You’re not too badly hurt?
Deeks: I’m stinging all over here.
Although he hasn’t been working at NCIS for very long, Deeks already knows to instinctively seek out Hetty’s assistance after he was almost killed in the car bomb that murdered Emilio. He’s on the run from Lazik and the LAPD no longer considers the operation viable. After Traynor was killed the case went cold… but Deeks is not going to let the mission die or Traynor’s death be in vain. Eric Christian Olsen gives an amazing performance as a different kind of Marty Deeks that we rarely get to see enough of. He’s hurting, anxiety-ridden and extremely nervous as he begs Hetty for her help in finishing what he started. He wants to replace Emilio as the go between and get Lazik to send the first shipment of girls on their way south to Mexico so he can have the proof he needs to make the arrest. Hetty has always trusted the young detective or she would never have asked him to join NCIS. All of her agents are special to the matriarch of the group but it was this quiet moment that shows the special place she has in her heart for Deeks. For me, it will always be one of the most impeccably written and directed scenes of the show. Priceless.
Hetty: I’ll see what I can do, but I have no jurisdiction over the LAPD. They can simply tell me to bugger off!
Deeks: Mm, hmm. Yeah, well, I’d like to see them try. I think you got a triple word score there, the one with all the squiggly letters. What’s it mean?!
Hetty: Be careful.!
Deeks: Okay, I’m pretty sure you just made that up, but I… but I will and thank you.!
With Deeks safe for the time being, the team uncovers revealing intel on Lazik’s personal habits. The man is heavily addicted to cocaine and if the team can find his dealer, they may be able to find Lasik. Unfortunately, Scarli and the LAPD disrupt the operation so it’s time to put plan B into action. Eric and Nate determine that Traynor may have been working on Emilio’s payroll which was enough to make her Lazik’s most recent target. The team realizes that Deeks is also in danger and they have to find him fast before Lazik does.
The final action packed showdown has Callen, Sam and Kensi infiltrating the old power plant where Deeks has already made contact with Lazik. When the detective finds out he’s been made, the game is over. Defiant until the end, Deeks infuriates Lasik by spitting on his shoes, sarcastically responding to his questions and lying about Traynor. Brought to his knees, Deeks is surprised (and relieved) to see Callen casually stroll in with a drug exchange. The shootout that ensues is classic NCISLA. Tension is high as they methodically pick off each bad guy one by one until bringing down Lazik once and for all.
Deeks: A couple of more minutes and I think I could have taken them all.
Sam: Hey, Deeks. Good to see you.
Deeks: Good to see you too, Sam.
Kensi: Callen, Sam?
Sam: Clear, Kensi.
Deeks: Told you I’d be back.
Kensi: Oh, shut up!
Let the Densi banter begin! Before the sophomoric punching there were the adolescent rebuttals. Deeks finds it amusing and stores away her response in the back of his mind for later. Kensi tells him they know about Traynor but Deeks is the only one who truly knows who the real turncoat in the group is.
This final scene established Deeks as my favorite character in the series. There was something about his convictions and the principles that he stood for that made me fall in love with the man. As he confronts Scarli and accuses him of being the traitor in their midst, the expression on Deeks face was heart breaking. Deeks is gratified to apprehend the man but sad that it has to come at the expense of his partner’s (lover’s?) death. Deeks’ slow burn turns into a one-sided slug fest as Scarli asks him what Traynor was like in bed. Kensi may have stopped Deeks from pulling the trigger but it was Sam who gave him permission to take the first punch. As he walks away in frustration, Kensi calls out his name but he doesn’t respond. This scene was wonderfully choreographed and written, and it gave us a front row seat into the heart and mind of Marty Deeks. It depicts a strong, tough, intelligent, head strong, sexy man with honorable convictions that I would follow to hell and back in a second. Let’s also not forget the incredible acting by Eric Christian Olsen who makes the character come alive and soar.
I was sad to see Nate make his temporary exit from the show, but if it meant bringing in the extraordinary character of Marty Deeks, then so be it. As my friend, Sweet Lu says, “Deeks puts the LA in NCIS: Los Angeles and boy, does he ever. As Season 2 progressed we got to see a lighter side to Deeks but it’s this particular story that will always standout in my mind as my chosen Deeks essential episode. Considering how many great episodes have come and gone since then well, that’s saying a lot!
- Ah, how I miss Nate! I love his conversations with Hetty and enjoy when he is brought in to analyze the team’s problems. This is also the episode where we find out that Nate will be sent away for an undetermined amount of time to ply his skills elsewhere. I never understood the thinking behind this move. I think we need a petition to bring Nate back permanently.
- How does she do that?! Hetty knew Callen was hiding in the wings as she talked to Deeks in the bar. She has a special bond with her team leader who knows her all too well and follows Hetty in an effort to gain more information as her ’wingman’. It’s a sweet scene between the two.
- When Kensi shows Sam that she lifted the drug dealer’s phone, the smile on his face and his tweaking of her cheek was a sweet moment between both agents that are few and far between. It was a brother/sister moment that you don’t always get to see between these two agents.
- I have always loved the slight nod Sam gives Deeks as permission to go ahead and take out his frustrations on Scarli. It was so subtle but poignant. Sam understood.
- Hetty can’t resist playing mother and finds Callen a very appropriate home. She always knows how to do just the right thing for her chicks.
Join us for the next essential Deeks review of “Borderline” by anonkp. But first, let us know what you thought of this episode. What were some of your favorite moments?
Title: “Human Traffic”
Writers: Shane Brennan
Director: James Whitmore, Jr.
Original Air Date: September 21, 2010
Diane Volpe is a Contributing Editor at wikiDeeks.com. Follow her on Twitter: @phillydi
This is one of my favorites as well. ECO dominates every scene he’s in, including the one with Linda Hunt, which is saying a lot. It is Deeks determination to close the case that stands out in this episode and reveals the strength of his character, showing us and undoubtedly Hetty just how dedicated he is to what he does. He cares about those poor underaged girls who are being victimized. We also get to see his defiance in the face of evil. He absorbs blow after blow, and even though weak from the beating he takes, he resists and gives away nothing. That is such a gut wrenching scene. He knows he is going to die, has no hope of being rescued, but still plays it out.
That final scene with Scarli and his sad, desperate words that tell us how the man’s betrayal and false apology effected him just drew me in…”No you’re not.” A simple comment with so much power. His explosion of raw anger at the man’s disgusting comments about his dead partner shoed all of us just how loyal he is. We see him skate the edge, almost crossing it as he places a gun against the man’s chest, threatening and close to emotionally losing it until he hears Kensi. She was the only one he responded to and we see him realize just how out of control he is. ECO’s acting was a revelation in this episode, none more than here, because the variety of emotion that plays out across his face lets us read what is going on in his mind, no words needed, and he has been doing that ever since. Shane Brennan and the staff had to know they had someone special to work with after this episode. We all knew we had someone to root for, to far in love with, write stories about and dedicate a blog to. Thanks for finding our Mr. Deeks for us Mr. Brennan.
“Before the sophomoric punching there were the adolescent rebuttals.” LOL! I think I love you.
Seriously, this is the episode that I hold on to when other writers who shall remain unnamed treat Deeks like a clown and the butt of jokes. This is the Deeks I fell in love with, and this is the character I want to see.
Thank you for this reminder of our early connection to Deeks and this now rarely seen side. It’s even more impressive to consider ECO’s performance at almost the very introduction of his character. He was able to bring this immediately, not needing countless episodes to grow into Deeks.
And I agree with Jan, far into the future, your line “Before the sophomoric punching there were the adolescent rebuttals.” could be a tagline for a look-back at this duo.
I agree with you all. It is the episode that made me fall in life with Deeks and I will always look to this as the benchmark for basing all future Deeks centric stories.
Yeah, we can use that line, Jan and Gayle for a trailer for a new Densi movie! Ha!
Excellent analysis, every single word had me nodding my head in agreement. And the special moments were all the ones that stood out for me as well.
This was indeed the episode that made me fall for Deeks. I vividly remember my reaction to his appearance at the bar while Hetty waited. Deeks’s subdued entry, his facial expressions, his delivery of the lines, the interspersing of humor when there should be none was the scene that hooked me. It was such a visceral reaction to him and as the story unfolded, the emotional swings, the conviction as to what he believed had me mesmerized. I remember cheering out loud when Sam gave him the subtle nod to take out his frustrations on Scarli. The team backing him up, letting him get in his licks and then pulling him away was amazing. I loved the look on Kensi’s face as he walked away from them.
I have never had a reaction to any character as mine has been to the character, Deeks. I’ve been fans of countless must-watch TV shows but none have driven me to google NCISLA for spoilers which led me to my discovery of fan fiction. Lucky me😊
What a great trip down memory lane. I agree with everyone’s comments. This is one of my favorite episodes. I need to pull out my DVDs and watch them again. This will be first to watch on my list.😊
Great review. This is my fave Deeks episode. Like others, it’s the one that drew me in to the show. ECO is amazing and he was amazing from the get go. But this ep is just WOW. I’ve watched it more than any other ep and always will. It’s the ep I wish the writer would rewatch to remind them of who Deeks is. Of course, I’d be happy if the dang writers would freaking keep character traits and watch the eps to remember what someone already had a character do instead of making everyone out of character too many times. *how many kids does Sam have?* Etc. But THIS EP was perfection. I love every Deeks moment in every ep of NCISLA. I love every DEEKS focused ep that much more. I love ECO more than any other actor in all the many many years I’ve been a TV watcher. THIS ep is what I want to see more of. For all of them. Since then we’ve had some great eps and some great moments but for this DEEKS LOVER, Human Traffic will always be my GO TO ep for Deeks. The way I would introduce him to a newbie.
I also love this episode. Many great scenes have already been mentioned. Another of my favorites is when the team is looking at evidence that Lazik is in LA. Nate says that they should let LAPD know since Deeks is a detective. The team basically glares at him and so he says something like, “But he’s our detective so…”
This was the episode that got me into NCIS LA. I saw a few episodes early on in Season 1 but never really got it. Then I saw this episode to start season 2 and that was all it took to rope me in! Callen’s chase dream (with the awesome soundtrack) has been re-watched so many times! Still one of my all time favorite scenes! I didn’t know any of his backstory from the Hand to Hand and Fame episodes of Season 1, but regardless, I immediately determined that Deeks was my favorite character on this show. I especially loved ECO’s acting during the last scene with Scarli and the bar scene with Hetty. The facial expressions that he gave during those scenes really opened my eyes to the talent this actor really possessed.
The way we see Deeks in this episode is so rare … as you very well described, he´s hurt, frustrated, nervous, and kinda desperate to not throw all the work they did it the trash cause yeah, LAPD would close the investigation. And in the end, when he punches Scarli over and over, he´s so mad and need to put that anger off his sistem. A dark Deeks. And I´d LOVE to see more of this Deeks.