Debating Deeks: Emotional Evolution of Kensi Blye
Bad Ass Blye. Kick Ass Kensi. The youthful and attractive federal agent has long been portrayed with a rock-hard core and sharp edge. Even the most evil criminals end up cowering before her lethal glare and exacting aim of whatever weapon is within reach. During Season 5 these traits were confoundingly applied to her undeserving partner. Now, nearly a year later, some fans are still openly angered by the repetitive physical abuse she regularly doled out. Her right-cross to Deeks’ tortured jaw served as the ultimate, and for some final, example. However, Season 6 has introduced a reformed Kensi. Has this grown over time or was it prompted by a single event? Most importantly, will it endure? Stemming from the recent wikiDeeks Roundtable Discussion, contributors Gayle (DensiLand) and Randy (JerichoSteele) delved into this current and compelling topic.
Gayle: Like many, I was quickly drawn to the intriguing Kensi Blye in the show’s crossover pilot, “Legend”. Her stereotypical young and beautiful appearance belied the inner workings of the tough-as-nails criminal investigator. As an example, needing to improvise a cover, Kensi brings a silver convertible to a screeching halt, grabs a curbside pipe, proceeds to bash in a headlight, and staves off a gang of cat-calling hoodlums by effortlessly pulling her gun and continuing with the mission. This wasn’t just a fascinating character; she was a reflection of contemporary, multifaceted women. In short, I wanted to be her! We quickly discovered her walled-off persona and were drawn to learn the root of her complexity.
As the show revealed her mysterious layers – being an only child, a tomboy “daddy’s girl”, a lone woman on a team of men, the losses of her father, fiance, and colleagues (many things I personally relate to)- her isolated and sometimes violent nature felt realistic to me.
Randy: I too was intrigued by the new team from L.A. that were introduced during the crossover with the original NCIS crew. All of the characters were colorful and interesting, bringing a ‘breath of fresh air’ into the world of high stakes undercover operations. Agent Blye was presented as a beautiful, yet crafty, field agent who had looks as well as brains- a powerful and dangerous combination. At first look, she appeared as your typical federal agent: well-trained, competent, intelligent, and confident. It wasn’t until later that we began to see the ‘woman’ underneath the ‘agent’, and the events of her life that had created the person she really was. All the little broken pieces of her past were revealed over the span of several seasons, slowly peeling away the layers that all add up to one incredibly complex person.
Kensi is a fast thinker, acting quickly on her feet while out in the field. I remember the episode where they were being tailed by another set of agents from another federal agency. She slams on the brakes, jumps out and while they are sitting there trying to figure out what she’s doing, she snatches a hand-held battering ram from the trunk and slams it into the front bumper of their car, activating the airbags and rendering the vehicle inoperable. That was a display of her ability to react in an instant to whatever threat came her way, whether a deadly enemy or just someone she needed to send running for the hills. But… that instant reaction doesn’t play well in the realm of emotions and Kensi tends to react so quickly when faced with something she isn’t prepared to deal with on a deeper level that she doesn’t fully contemplate the consequences of those actions.
That part of her is why this sudden change of attitude toward her partner has been fairly obvious during the last few episodes and brings another level to the woman who is Kensi Blye.
Gayle: Randy, thanks for bringing up one of my favorite instances of “Violent Blye”. You don’t earn the nicknames she has by being meek! The methodical revealing of her layers has captured and attracted us to want to know why she reacts as she does, or at times (seemingly) doesn’t react at all. It’s one thing to subdue a criminal, but it’s completely different when applying the same tactic to your own partner.
We were slowly entrusted with Kensi’s emotionally damaging history that explained her behaviors. It wasn’t simply her agent training on display, but rather the expression of a personal safeguard. With that background it’s no wonder she actively held people at bay both physically and emotionally, which were all simply outward expressions of her “trust issues”.
Randy: There is no doubt that Kensi’s past has warped her ability to fully trust someone. The loss of her father in her teen years, the years estranged from her mother, Jack, and probably events that we aren’t aware of at this time, all add up to problems being fully open with others.
It is ironic that even though she has issues with trust, she has operated in a career and with teammates that she is forced to trust, whether she wants to or not. We don’t really know how her first days as an agent transpired or how long it took for Callen and Sam to earn her faith, but Deeks is another story. We’ve seen that play out slowly over the past five seasons and even though there have been issues and setbacks, overall, her trust in him has been displayed as greater than with anyone else.
I spent four years in the United States Marine Corps and one of the big things they do in boot camp is teach you how to shut off your emotions in order to do things that you wouldn’t normally do. Sometimes the hard part is turning them back on after everything is over. After being in combat where you are constantly on your guard, it can be almost impossible to turn it back on, if you can at all.
I can see this in Kensi’s case. She learned to shut it all down long before Hetty ever thought of recruiting her and her job only reinforced her ability to keep her true self hidden so well. But… Deeks wasn’t one to accept her generalities about being ‘fine’ and he pressed, pulled, and provoked her until something real happened. Her reaction may have been stunted from her hard years, but at least she was having some sort of reaction instead of acting like nothing was happening.
Gayle: You’ve got to give the girl props for trying- and try she did. Initially she’d simply ignore the ridiculous references Deeks would make on a regular basis. Perhaps she thought that if she didn’t react, much like children are taught to do when teased, he’d stop.
Quickly we learned Kensi’s tongue could be as sharp as her shooting skills, even though it wasn’t as consistent or confident. A couple of notable early examples include mocking him about being an “anatomically incorrect Ken doll” or pro-actively halting his (selfish) desire to put sunscreen on her. At this point she’s purposefully trying to keep Deeks at a self-protective “arm’s length”, which soon led to the advancement to physical rather than verbal protective measures.
Randy: The progression from the ‘verbal’ to the ‘physical’ has been gradual and overlapping during their partnership and even became her ‘signature’ way of expressing herself. When she was finally cleared after Afghanistan, she punches him and he clarifies by saying “There she is”, like this was the one trait about her that truly expressed how others saw her. When she becomes flustered and has no witty retort to respond to him calling her ‘beautiful’, she punches him. It is telling that this same tactic isn’t used as freely with others, like Callen and Sam, if at all.
Deeks was always one to take whatever Kensi could dish out, letting her verbal jabs wash over him just like her punches. I believe this can be attributed to his ability to simply take whatever comes his way and either turn it into something positive or simply let it go. It has to be part of his own defensive mechanism to protect himself. It may have been a way to simply not ‘rock the boat’ and cause any kind of strife. The abuse he suffered as a child may have created a need to maintain a semblance of order and calm to keep emotions from escalating. This keeping the status quo may have contributed to his patience with Kensi’s eventual physical responses without calling her on the fact that it may have actually drug up some rather painful memories.
I wonder if her experience in captivity and the physical abuse she suffered there, may have helped shaped Kensi’s understanding of what she was doing to her partner whenever she punched him. It may have taken her some time, but she’s nothing if not hardheaded. The shift seemed to come just after the DOJ investigation. Dredging up her time in the hands of the Taliban may have provided the catalyst to actually decide that her previous “communication skills” were greatly lacking.
Gayle: Ahh, the beloved and detested punches. They began as a double dose in “Anonymous” with her applying them as punishment for a humiliating cover- Kiki’s “overhaul to the whole undercarriage”. Deeks not only accepted them, but his responsive laughter may have been considered a welcome mat, inviting more in the future. The punches served as not only her varied outward expressions of frustration, anger, and embarrassment among many unspoken emotions, but also literally helped maintain their physical distance. In turn, based on his traumatic upbringing, Deeks may have interpreted them as a twisted form of affection.
Over time Kensi slowly revealed to Deeks her tightly-wound personality, the “Crazy Kensi Laugh”, her protectiveness of her partner, her reaction to his “firing”, her accidental admission about him being her type, and of course, Jack and her father. These issues highlighted the human aspect of Kensi, helping her test more personal waters with Deeks. These unintentional “tests” built her trust in him based on his reactions. Now in a more confident, less vulnerable position, Kensi has not only permitted Deeks to invade her life, but more so allowed herself to connect to him.
Randy: It certainly did raise the stakes, but I still wonder what has caused the shift we are seeing in the current episodes. The punches, the awkward laugh, and the lack of proper emotional response is more akin to a middle school aged girl than a thirty-something female federal agent. I’ve seen this in my own experiences, where a particular event in a person’s life causes an emotional ‘pause’ button to be pressed and that while the person continues to age physically, their emotions remain stagnant at the same level.
I’ve witnessed individuals who remain an emotional ‘child’ even though they are now in their early twenties. This is usually the result of an emotional trauma that left them stuck in that place in their life. It isn’t until later in life, that they realize (or don’t) that if they don’t manage to move on and catch up, they may not ever grow into an emotionally stable person.
This may be Kensi’s situation: she was very young when she watched her parents marriage fall apart, she estranged herself from her mother only to tragically lose her father at fifteen years old, and then spent a year living on the streets of LA. Any one of these could leave her reigning in her emotions to the point where she no longer knew how to let them out properly.
Gayle: You make a keen point about one or more life events having a lasting impact. Personally speaking self-reflection connected me to Kensi, as I too unexpectedly and tragically lost my father at a relatively young age. So, Randy, you are on point; I can personally attest to getting “emotionally stuck”. So whether it be shared traumatic experiences, developed trust over time, or something else, at this point we can’t seem to be certain what Kensi’s new emotional status truly is.
The punches, like flipping polarized magnets (much like these two in general), turned from pushing opposition to pulling connection. It was a way for her to literally reach out to him without risking any feelings, specifically rejection. Our evolving understanding of her likely inner warring thoughts and emotions now provide hindsight to past actions. As if we didn’t already presume their initial meaning, her more recent and open acceptance of Deeks personally only confirms the then-rejection rationale behind such events as the “cover kiss” and the “bacon butt grab”!
As skilled as she is at feigning an alternate persona for an op, in relation to her partner, the girl was as transparent as saran wrap. Yet with the patience of Job, Deeks allowed her to retain her dignity in almost every instance. She was only hiding from herself and he was smart enough to not only realize it, but also provided both a safe space and time she needed. Now that she’s accepted her own true (& scary) emotions, she’s willing to (still carefully) express them.
Those early physical and verbally-combative days feel long gone now that she trusts him- with everything. Now we see shy grins, hear initiated flirtatious banter, and know those winks indicate unspoken feelings. (Yet my habit for planning for the worst continues to wonder if her fear voiced in the Frozen Lake parable is about to become an even greater reality?)
Randy: The point you make about her emotions coming to the surface has been something that I have noticed beginning in Season 4 (“Parley”, “Rude Awakenings”, “Resurrection”, “Descent”) that ramped up at the start of Season 5 (“Ascension“, “The Frozen Lake“, “Spoils of War“, “Three Hearts“) and is finding its footing in Season 6. Since her emotional reactions tend to lead her into trouble (captured by the Taliban to check on Jack), her fear of losing control over them is valid.
But… she is entering a time in her life where there is little left to hold her back. She has resolved the case of her father’s death; she has reconciled with her mother; and she has closed the chapter of her life that involved the broken engagement to Jack. While I’m sure there are other parts of her life that we haven’t seen yet, those were the three Big Ones that influenced most of her adult life. Now, with those chains no longer shackled to her, we are seeing a new Kensi Marie Blye… a woman, who for the first time since her teen years, may actually be free.
You also mentioned the trust that has been built between her and Deeks. With that confidence in each other, that just adds to her confidence in what they have and what they are building together. A strong bond like that between two people will free them both to reveal more of themselves to each other and that, in turn, builds more trust.
Kensi’s metamorphosis has been slow but natural. Now, we see her laughing with Deeks, rather than at him; we see gentle, reassuring touches instead of the emphatic punches; we see gentle smiles that convey warmth and tenderness, rather than the eye rolling that indicated her exasperation at his juvenile antics. While Deeks himself has changed during this time as well, Kensi’s has been more observable and telling, showing us the woman buried underneath that beautifully tough exterior.
As we begin the push toward the season finale we can easily presume notable hurdles on the horizon for Densi. There is talk of upcoming “mistakes” and of course, our beloved Gurkha will surely play a prime role with our favorite duo. With such impending challenges how might this new, yet still-evolving mature Kensi react? Might we be impressed with unexpected personal confidence or could this only result in a digression to her walled-off, violent ways of the past? Join the discussion by posting your thoughts below about Kensi’s progress and possible future!
Gayle H. is a contributor at wikiDeeks.com. Follow her on Twitter: @Densiland
Randy is a contributor at wikiDeeks.com. You can read Jericho Steele’s fanfics HERE.
I think it’s great how Kensi evolved over the years and how she seems to change now that she and Deeks are together. It’s basically the only thing that show us that there is something different now in their relationship because there is practically nothing else that would indicate that they are a couple now. But this development of her character also shows how little we know about Deeks compared to her. Sure we know that he had a troubled childhood but their is practically nothing more then some hints. His past is still unexplored, which is sad given the fact that he is a part of the team for so long now. Sure he evolved over the years too, but it seems the writers didn’t gave him the same amount of time as the other characters on the show had.
And as for Densi. Unfortunately I have the same habit as Gayle, I’m always planning for the worst so I don’t think their relationship is gonna last until the end of the season, although I hope that I’m gonna be wrong.
But right now it just looks like that the writers regret the “Humbug” episode and everything that goes along with it, which I can’t understand. I mean they were the ones who created this kind of relationship and this lovestory between Deeks and Kensi. No one forced them to do that but they kept going on with it. Deeks basically made his first appearance at the end of Season 1 and until then the show functioned without him or a partner for Kensi. I mean don’t get me wrong here, I am a big time Densi fan, that’s why the current development bothers me so much. Although I have to admit that I didn’t saw it coming until the kiss at the last episode of Season 4. It’s like I was blind but I guess that’s because I was binge watching the show in only few days (sounds like I might have a problem :D). Anyway after this kiss it was clear that these two belong together but now that they are finally in a relationship it seems like that the writers dont know what to do with them now and that’s what bothers me. I mean at some point the writers had the chance to split them up somehow once and for all in order to create some new stories. But they didn’t, and they can’t be surprised now that the fans want to see this lovestory to happen. They kept going to built their relationship further until they reached a point of no return. So after all those years of development there was only one logical consequence, they had to bring them together, they couldn’t keep this will they-won’t they thing up forever. And now that the writers finally put them together it seems like they already regret it.
But it’s too late to go back now. They have to go with it because the way they created this lovestory makes it obvious that Kensi and Deeks belong together and the only way to end it now is when one of the actors leaves the show. Anything else just wouldn’t make sense. So if the writers split them up again they couldn’t restore their partnership the way it was before without losing credibility. I know it’s a show and anything can happen but this would be just a weak and illogical plot in my opinion. Also a very obvious and predictable one, bringing a couple together, splitting them up and bringing them back together….like that never happened before.
So I hope instead of pulling off that old trick they rather start to use the dramatic potential they have with Densi as a couple.
I mean they don’t have to turn the show into a romantic soap but they could just use the same amount of screentime they gave Deeks and Kensi before but show them as a couple now, so people actually could see that they are together.
It might be a bit OOC for me, but have faith! Many of us are pretty sure the view into Deeks’ past was originally slated for S5, until they had to shift things around for little River. Thus, I highly anticipate seeing this play out at the end of S6 (I hope!) Good to know I’m not the only one who plans for the worst, even though it’s a horrible habit!
It doesn’t seem like the team regrets “Humbug”. Did you see the latest interview from the co-writers of that ep? What a holiday gift that was! And with some compelling titles of upcoming episodes, who knows what awaits us!
I like these things, like Debating Deeks, or Writing Deeks. It’s always nice to sit in your couch wrapped up in a blanket and read something about your favorite TV character and your hero at the same time.
The topic was Emotional Evolution of Kensi, so let me do a parallel analysis of both Deeks’ and Kensi’s evolutions throughout the years, considering the emotions and the things that happened to both of them during the line of duty and out of it.
First, they both are deeply scarred by their past and that makes them bond even more.
Kensi was hit by numerous bad things over the years. So, was Deeks. (He had a father that beat the shit out of him and he never give a damn about his boy; he experienced resentment in the force, both by LAPD and later NCIS, well until the thing with Sidorov, and numerous things that we don’t know yet).
First, it was the loss of Kensi’s father. She witnessed her parents estrange themselves from one another and then her father died. Kensi was vulnerable as any one of us would be if it was in her position. She wasn’t able to show her emotions at that time and that resulted with spending one year on the streets of LA and she rejected her mother.
Second, it was Jack. He left her with no explanation and left her wonder what she did to deserve that.
Third, she lost her partner in the line of duty, and for sometime throughout the years she wasn’t able to forget about that and wonder if it was her fault he got kidnapped and later killed.
She felt like she was abandoned by all of the persons in her life that truly mattered to her the most and all somehow left her, which resulted with her withdrawal to herself.
Kensi was raised as a tough kid, and she learned how to be a woman in a man’s world and she learned how to be a leader at very young age. I still remember that scene from season 2 when Kensi said to Deeks “Don’t tell me that you don’t know how to hotwire a car?” and he sad “I’m sorry that my father didn’t teach me how to be Jason Bourne” or something like that, I don’t remember the exact words.
However, what I meant to say was that Kensi was tough and she was determined to be that way. Well, that hold its grounds until Deeks showed up. When the handsome blonde blue-eyed surfer showed up seemingly out of nowhere, she let her guard down and she allowed herself to trust someone, other than her father.
I agree with the thing that from season 6 beginning Kensi is changed for better. She is more confident and she seems like she wants Deeks to know about her, about what she feels. She is laughing with him, she clearly shows us she cares for him and don’t forget the boyfriend thing from 6×14, which means that she is ready to admit that the thing is official. They shared few emotional moments, and we shouldn’t forget the kiss that gave us the impression that she wanted to make the first step all along. She admitted that there was a thing in “The Frozen Lake”, but we hadn’t much of a chance to see what would that grow up into, since the things in Afghanistan happened.
At that point, I’d like to say that season 5 was the most emotional seasons of all, because the two of the essential characters suffered through some terrible things and it wasn’t fair that the writers did that for both of them.
But, after what they’ve been through, they came out of it stronger than ever, ready to face their destiny, this time together.
About the teasers with the fight and the mistakes, I don’t think that it will be something big, ’cause it would be better for the writers no to piss off the fans, and it wouldn’t seem right for them to argue, after all they’ve been through to get to the point where they’re now.
I agree with Randy about the trust thing. Kensi worked with Sam and Callen for few years before Deeks showed up, but she seems to trust Deeks more than she trusts them. I think that somehow, Kensi found herself in Deeks, because of his tortured soul (after what he’d been through his childhood). He was able to make her smile, to push her forward, beyond the classic “I’m fine”.
Kensi knows how to withdraw her emotions, and she did that successfully throughout the years, but I think that the moment Deeks entered her life she knew herself that her defense mechanism is at risk, ’cause he was able to penetrate deep into her soul and get out her demons out of her head.
And hopefully with the years that passed, finally we are able to see that Kensi is changing for good and that she is letting the Bad Ass persona slip away slowly.
About the Bad Ass Blye, it’s an interesting aspect of Kensi’s persona that we are accustomed to see it in every episode. Something she acts in ways that makes me laugh hard and than my stomach aches. She’s definitely a tomboy, and she knows how to fight. If she was a real life character, I wouldn’t want her to be my enemy, honestly. I’d prefer to have her as a friend to whom I would trust my life.
At last, I want to say that I want to see something more then just tidbits about the “official thing”. I wish that till the end of the season both Deeks and Kensi will admit that they’re a couple (not that the others don’t know that, especially Hetty the Ninja, but it will be great if they move on for better.) Maybe we’ll hear the bells next season, who knows.
Natalie – a great add-on to this piece. As you can see, limiting the length of some of these features is incredibly tough!
This was such a fantastic discussion. You both have amazing insights into Kensi, and you help me to understand her better (I often struggle with her). Thank you for such a detailed and thoughtful post.