Essential Episodes: NCISLA “Parley” (S4E23)
Do you ever have an episode from a series that you can’t quite figure out if you love or you hate it? Episodes that one second you’re smiling and the next you’re growling? Episodes that your family doesn’t want to watch with you because they don’t want to have to listen to a 2 hour speech on a 42 minute television show?
Maybe this just happens to me.
“Parley” (Season 4, episode 23) is one of these episodes for me. I mean, how can I possibly love an episode that further reinforces the idea that my favorite character is a lying liar who lies? Although, if you’re like me and think Marty Deeks is the most precious of all the cinnamon rolls in the world, you already knew and accepted this fact. Marty Deeks lovers seem to become even more infatuated with him every questionable act he commits or horrible event that befalls him.
This is why I feel “Parley” is an essential Marty Deeks episode. Not because it was a great episode for him, but because it showed multiple layers of his character (the good and the bad). More on this later. Believe it or not, there is more to the episode than just Deeks. Not much, though. I’m choosing to ignore the official press release for “Parley” because I think this is a far more accurate summary:
Much to the surprise of the audience, characters, actors, and writers, Deeks has been running an undercover operation for Assistant Director Granger that required him to seduce a pretty yet intellectually lacking hostess. Deeks may be the most surprised by the fact that he’s been getting some side action as a far less evil Max Gentry since he’s been so busy trying to make Kensi fall in love with him. Kensi is jealous. Kensi denies jealousy. But Kensi is jealous. Meanwhile Sam and Callen argue like a married couple and take a second honeymoon in the boatshed, where they enjoy a fun game of Torture the Bad Guy. Sadfaces and poor communication and violations of privacy, oh my!
Cheat tweet: We found yet another Monica! #notlewinsky #wontdisappoint
Last Night Got a Little Rough
The episode starts with a very excited woman, Monica Davis, strolling down the street. Since this is NCIS: Los Angeles, a man appears and starts shooting at her. She runs and jumps into a car, kissing her savior (who turns out to be none other than our beloved Martin A. Deeks). They drive off in his black Camaro amidst gunfire while the collective Densi fandom punches their televisions.
Cut to the Mission, where Kensi, Sam, and Callen are having one of their usual morning conversations. This time it is a sexual innuendo-laced convo about working out. Always a favorite of mine. The fun is interrupted by the case and the big reveal: Deeks has been undercover as Max Gentry and is off the radar after the super fun happy times with the attempted murder in the streets. Hetty wants answers from Granger. Kensi wants to know if her partner is still alive.
“Max” and Monica (alliteration is adorable) arrive back at his cover house. They’re very much alive but Deeks/Max is hella pissed. With good reason. Monica stole a boatload of diamonds from her boss Johannes Waaldt, an arms dealer turned legitimate business man. Amidst the chaos, he manages to check in with Ops. Sam and Callen go to check out Waaldt’s club, with Sam in his nice new suit and Callen in an old suit. Callen doesn’t deserve a new suit because he lost the pants to the old one. “Even Deeks doesn’t lose his pants,” Sam chides. “We’re lucky Deeks wears pants,” Callen jabs back. Can I just…
WE ARE NOT LUCKY HE WEARS PANTS. Sheesh, it’s like they don’t get me at all.
Meanwhile, Kensi is tasked with backing up her partner at his cover house. Clearly, she’s not in a very good mindset after seeing Deeks smooching all over Monica and putting himself in danger for this super secret operation. Because this is one of those NCIS:LA situations where people lose their ability to communicate, we never see Kensi voice all the reasons she decides to act like an immature schoolgirl throughout the majority of this episode. Is it jealousy of Monica and all of her time with Deeks? Probably. Is she hurt that her partner kept such a massive secret from her? Definitely. Do I think she should be upset that he lies so easily to her? Yes, yes I do. But does that excuse her from acting like a child instead of a professional? Nope.
Deeks Has a Softer Side
I’m about to piss people off right now, but I feel like I have to defend Monica for just a second. Hear me out, okay? Yes, she is a total dumbass for stealing the diamonds. Basically, she’s running off of a .22 caliber intellect in a .357 Magnum world. She doesn’t understand the danger and the proverbial shitstorm she’s caused with her actions. I guess some people hate her just because of her proximity to Deeks/Max/Deeks, which I think is a bit irrational. Deeks lied to her, he tricked her, he made her believe that they were in a relationship of sorts because he was using her for information. Of course she is going to try to get him in the shower with her, and kiss him, and flirt with him. She has no idea that he is not who he says he is. If she didn’t act that way around him, it wouldn’t sell how good of a liar and undercover operator Deeks is. That is one of the most interesting things about his character, and like it or not, Monica’s naivety and eagerness help support that quality.
But back to the plot. I should probably address the plot in short sentences from now on since I have a tendency to go off on tangents about these characters. Deeks rebuffs Monica’s nakedness and complains about cleaning up after her. Kensi arrives to survey the cover house.
DEEKS: (turns on ear wig) Are you there, God, it’s me Margaret.
KENSI: Judy Blume, really?
DEEKS: I got a softer side.
KENSI: Yeah, it’s called your head.
DEEKS: I missed you, too.
KENSI: Not from what I’ve seen.
DEEKS: Oh my God, are you jealous?
KENSI: Oh please, if you want to keep an operation secret, that is your business. (liar)
DEEKS: It wasn’t a secret, it wasn’t even an operation. Granger wanted information on Waaldt so I went to Waaldt’s club. I picked up his hostess, got her to look around for me, that’s it. (liar)
KENSI: And just like that, she agreed to spy on her boss for you?
DEEKS: Well, it took a little bit of persuading.
KENSI: I hope you used protection.
DEEKS: It’s not like that. Truth of the matter is that Max Gentry can be incredibly charming when he wants to be.
Deeks and Max, Max and Deeks. Almost interchangeable in this episode. Right after this conversation, Monica comes out of the bathroom in just a towel and wants to help Max relax (and Kensi has to listen). It’s pretty obvious to me that he was trying to save face with Kensi by saying “it’s not like that”, and then it becomes glaringly obvious that he is in fact “like that.” Wow, Deeks, the deception is really piling up here.
Did I mention that I love Marty Deeks? I’m only hard on him for this reason. Skipping along now. Sam and Callen sink their claws into Waaldt’s do-boy Pieter Smit, Kensi proudly knocks on the door to the cover house to announce that the jig is up, and Deeks realizes he has to tell Monica the truth. He hates this part, he says. We’ve seen him break the truth to Nicole Martindale in “Plan B,” but I wonder how many times he has actually had to reveal himself. Does it get easier with each deception, or harder? I think this is an easier break for him. With Nicole he denied it but had real feelings for her. With Monica, I think his only real feelings are of guilt.
When he goes to break the good news to her, she’s gone. Shocker.
Diamonds? What Diamonds?
Is it any surprise that Monica notices Max/Deeks acting weird and decides to split with the diamonds? She’s not the brightest star in the sky but she is still a thief and a schemer. For some reason Deeks was surprised that she betrayed him, but maybe that was sarcasm.
Sam and Callen are working (not torturing, they have morals) Pieter for information while Deeks and Kensi track down Monica. Kensi is still trying to prove that she is cool by continuing her jabs at Deeks, but he doesn’t let her get him down yet. Kensi approaches Monica at an outside cafe, is catty, the claws come out, and then so does the truth. Up until now he was acting fairly lighthearted about his dual roles, but his attitude changes after this confrontation. Before, he was annoyed and angry with Monica, but now he has Kensi snarking at him and is about to have a severely pissed off diamond thief on his case.
MONICA: (Answers a dead phone call) Yeah? Hello? Hello?
KENSI: I think they hung up. (Shows her badge)
KENSI: Too many letters? Federal agent. (Monica jumps to her feet and starts running, Kensi grabs one of her arms, they start fighting)
MONICA: Back off, bitch. I mean it.
DEEKS: (Aims gun at Monica) Freeze!
MONICA: Max, what are you doing? Shoot her!
KENSI: Sorry, honey, he’s with me. (She cuffs her) And his real name is Marty Deeks, and he’s a cop, and he’s my partner. Who’s the bitch now?
MONICA: He is!
KENSI: Can’t argue with that…
I get why Monica calls him a bitch. I hate that Kensi agrees. Whether or not she is jealous or angry about his undercover assignment, she needs to have his back right here. I don’t see Deeks reacting as immaturely as Kensi does in the episode if the roles were reversed. She may be the federal agent in this partnership, but he is far more seasoned and understands how stressful undercover work can be. His partner cutting him down in that moment changes his attitude for the rest of the episode. The small amount of guilt we saw earlier is now overwhelming.
Sam and Callen have figured out that the diamonds are potentially going to be used as payment for a nuclear bomb, as Pieter reveals Waaldt has been seen meeting with Isaak Sidorov (continuity, how I miss you). The team realizes they actually need Monica’s help to return the diamonds to Waaldt so they can try to track Sidorov and the bombs down.
Deeks and Kensi bring Monica back to the boatshed, where Deeks interrogates her alone while the rest of the team watches. Now he has to be himself with Monica and appears to be struggling with this, speaking softly and choosing his words carefully. Monica isn’t holding back, though, attacking him at every angle. She tells him she’s done things with him she’s never done with anybody else (I’m guessing it’s not karaoke). She tries to make it known how betrayed she feels. The man looks like he is about to cry. He defends himself weakly, as if he feels he deserves the backlash. Monica finally agrees to go along with their plan to return the diamonds to Waaldt, but not before whispering something for only Deeks to hear. Deeks is visibly shaken, and as the camera turns to Kensi, we see that she is too.
I actually really like this interrogation scene. We as fans love the undercover aspect of the show but rarely see the ramifications (and when we do see them, it’s awesome). This part in particular sticks out to me:
DEEKS: God bless you. Always the hustler.
MONICA: Yeah, takes one to know one.
DEEKS: Fair enough.
MONICA: Why should I believe a word you say?
DEEKS: ‘Cause I’m the one telling you, not Max.
MONICA: Yeah. And your imaginary friend, Max Gentry, absolves you of all guilt. “It wasn’t me, it was Max.” So lucky to have a friend like Max.
DEEKS: Are you done?
Max is a scapegoat for Deeks. He can do the things undercover that he might not necessarily want to and leave it with Max instead of taking it home, or so Monica believes. Deeks doesn’t like the reminder from Monica that just because he claimed to be somebody else, it didn’t absolve him of all his guilt. Knowing him, the guilt probably never completely goes away.
The first time we meet Max Gentry, in Season 2’s “Plan B,” he is a basically a Bizarro Marty Deeks. Dark, violent, cold, manipulative. I believe that when he created Max Gentry, it was in the image of his father. Someone who could fit in with the crowds he needed to worm his way into. A real asshole, pardon my French. These are qualities that we know reside in the hidden depths of our Deeks, traits that rarely surface but shock and fascinate us when they do. Over time it seems that Max has mellowed, become more infused with Marty than Gordon. Aside from firing a weapon into a crowd and growling a lot, the Max Gentry from “Parley” is not the dark, frightening persona we were originally led to believe. A leather jacket does not a bad guy make, Deeks.
So was the change in undercover legend due to bad writing or good Deeks? Had he been happy and comfortable with NCIS for too long that he lost a bit of his edge? I’ll give the writers some credit and say possibly. Max is an easy, established cover for Deeks to whip out when necessary at this point. If he didn’t need to be evil, then Deeks would avoid making him that way. What happens next for Deeks after this episode (torture, depression, separation) brings back some of the darkness inside of this character that makes him so damn interesting.
Sunshine and Gunpowder, the Sequel
After the uncomfortable interrogation, Kensi finally matures back to her actual age and has her partner’s back again. Monica tries to get under her skin as Kensi preps her for the diamond exchange with Waaldt. “I trust him with everything,” Kensi says in response to Monica’s implication that Deeks couldn’t be trusted. She says it confidently, but it seems like she is in a position that she feels she needs to voice her trust to make it true. During this conversation, you can see the wheels turning in Kensi’s head as she realizes that her Deeks really isn’t much more than just her partner. She has no greater claim to him, but it seems like she wishes she did.
After the diamond exchange, we cut to Deeks removing a bullet from Monica’s bulletproof vest (she’s lucky Kensi fitted her with one and that Waaldt isn’t a fan of head shots). After the hellish day, he looks like is content to be left alone. So much so, that he even left his phone in his car. Kensi is still able to track him down, of course. How convenient was it that Hetty needed a letter delivered to him on Kensi’s way out? This was back when Hetty was still playing chess with her employees instead of Russian roulette.
The exchange here in the armory with Kensi and Deeks is what finally sent me over the edge. I was no longer a fan; I was now a certified fangirl. The point of no return. So if you guys are tired of my ranting and raving and fan fics and edits, blame John Peter Kousakis for his direction of this scene. The dialogue itself is good and shows how poorly these two communicate about the important things, but the real star of the show is their tension and expressions.
KENSI: So, I was… (speaking at the same time as Deeks)
DEEKS: Listen, I… Sorry, go ahead, I wasn’t…
KENSI: No, please.
DEEKS: I was just gonna see if you were good.
KENSI: Yeah. You?
DEEKS: I mean, I’m good if you’re good.
KENSI: I’m good.
DEEKS: Okay. Good. We’re good. Which is, you know… great.
KENSI: Glad we cleared that up. See you tomorrow.
DEEKS: (Opens his mouth but says nothing. He sighs and opens the envelope: there’s only a note with two words) “Sunshine and Gunpowder.”
And then I start screaming YOU TWO ARE SO STUPID YOU ARE NOT FINE JUST SMOOSH YOUR FACES TOGETHER YOU FRACKING IDIOTS.
Like I said, total fangirl. They have no idea what to say to each other because they’re too afraid that they’ve misinterpreted the other’s reactions and don’t want to make a mistake. So instead, they tiptoe around each other and say nothing real at all. It’s painful and beautiful at the same time.
When Deeks opens Hetty’s letter, he finds a simple message: sunshine and gunpowder. It’s a reminder that even when they have troubles, this is their partnership/relationship in a nutshell. He said in “Wanted” that she smelled like sunshine and gunpowder, two of his favorite things. I like to look a little deeper into things (as evidenced by how long this review is, sheesh). Deeks is sunshine, bright and beautiful. Kensi is gunpowder, cool and powerful. But together, they bring out all of these qualities in each other and make a perfect pair.
The final shot of this episode is Hetty watching from her computer as Deeks reads the letter. Hetty is a total creeper of course, but we’re kind of used to this by now. She smiles and closes her laptop, leaving us all wondering why she pulled that little move. Was it meant to be her seal of approval for him to act on his apparent feelings for Kensi? Or was it just to remind him that he cares deeply for his partner, and to focus on that instead of their current troubles?
I still don’t really have an answer for that, but just for fun I’ll say it was a seal of approval. During Season 5 and the hell she put them through for that year, I wouldn’t think that at all. But knowing what I know now, that they are being permitted to be in a relationship and remain partners, it’s possible that this outcome was Hetty’s intention all along. She does like to play matchmaker. With Kensi and Deeks, she found two very different people that are both a little broken but somehow all their pieces fit perfectly together. They are not even close to that point by the end of this episode, but I believe this was the catalyst that set everything in motion.
“Parley” is a great lead-in for the most Deeks-heavy finale of the series. Throughout Season 4 (for the most part), Kensi and Deeks had grown extremely close. At the end of “Wanted,” we saw the “oh crap, I’m in love with her” reaction from him. Add that to the guilt he was already feeling about Monica, and we end up with the extremely conflicted Deeks that we have by the end of “Parley.” If he isn’t feeling guilty about it, why not just be honest with his partner about it? And then when she does find out, her reaction throws him completely off his game. That leftover tension heightened everything between Kensi and Deeks in “Descent” and led to their first real kiss.
So in conclusion, I consider this episode a must-see for all Marty Deeks lovers. Is it his best showing? Not at all, but that’s why I love it.
Writer: Cheo Hodari Coker
Director: John Peter Kousakis
Original Air Date: May 7, 2013
If you want to read more NCIS:LA fiction by hermionesmydawg go to FanFic.net.
One of my favorite eps too. I consider it the first of the story arc of Descent, Ascension, Impact, Omni, and Unwritten Rule.
Excellent review! This is one of my favorite episodes. It definitely pulls you in many directions, very much the emotional rollercoaster. I’d still love to know what Monica whispered to Deeks at the interrogation table. Such a great scene between all three of them. Jeananne Goossen knocked her portrayal of Monica out of the park I thought. That is a character I wouldn’t mind seeing pop up again sometime.
Excellent Analysis! Parley also drove me crazy- More than any other …… I am sure others would agree!
You have been inside my head…I swear it. Your actually wrote every emotion exactly as I felt it, except I hated it by the end. Not the end where Deeks made me want to crawl inside the TV to comfort him, right after I punched Kensi in the face….make that jaw…but the end that had me disliking Kensi so much I wanted him to have nothing more to do with her. I realize it was a setup for what comes later…but by the end I really, really didn’t like her. I agree it is an essential episode and an intensely emotional one. The writer almost tore their relationship apart and it was daring to do so, and I admire that, not that I ever want to see it again. I do think it was an episode where these two actors got to shine with how well they can do emotional scenes, ECO especially. I will admit, I do watch that scene in the armory from time to time, just to see the ripple of emotion across Deeks face. Your description of him as a big, gooey cinnamon roll was perfect…made me laugh and fan girl you for coming up with that. Oh yeah…and the pants reference…right on…more leg…we need more leg and no more striped tank tops…he’s a surfer…let him shine.
Have to agree with this great review, and I don’t think I ever thought of Him as the Sunshine and her as the gunpowder. That was awesome. That he is so undone by Kensi’s actions is awful! She just takes away his confidence so blatantly. I had a question – been watching reruns on Esquire channel and there was an episode in I think season 4 where Deeks does not appear. And in the episode Hetty says something to Granger about “he (Deeks) better not get hurt” and Granger replies with something like “he’s just fine”. Now, I never knew what that was about – but was it about this? Was it prior to Parley and she knew Granger had sent him off? I “probably” would just have to go back and watch episodes again (sigh) to see if that is it or not. I always wondered why he isn’t in the episode at all.
That was Gold Standard, 4×09. Most of us assume now that it was supposed to hint towards Deeks’ undercover assignment, but it was handled very poorly and not mentioned again until Parley.
I only watch this episode because there is a lot of Eric Christian Olsen in it. Just love him!! Kensi did annoy me with the way she acted. She always said to Deeks that he ‘never says what he means’ well she didnt either!! On another question. I have been wondering about the IA investigation into Deeks. Could it have something to do with this episode? Or maybe when he was with the cleric in Afganasta trying to find out information on Kensi? I have also read that there will be more focus on Deeks & Kensi in Season 7. Lets hope so! Can wait to meet his mother in the show. I also read she comes in to the show due to an engagement?
Thanks for this excellent review.
My most favourite part of the episode: the “I trust him with everything” sentence. Here Kensi really seems to give voice to her inner thoughts and feelings underlining that her partner is a person you can’t trust when he is undercover but in real life (the “real deal”) he can be blindly trusted (does she want to convince herself that this is still true after he has left her in the dark about this case?). Curious that Kensi mentioned Deeks’s past of which we know so little about… Hopefully we will see more in Season 7.
My least favourite part/thing of the episode: Kensi so very unprofessional. I understand her anger, her jealousy, her frustration, she’s human after all, but at this very moment she is an agent and she is working, if she cares so much about her partner she shouldn’t run the risk of putting him in danger, whatever the reason. Instead, she talks to him incessantly via comms making him lose his focus and, even more dangerously, she enters the safe house as if it were a game and Deeks the prize, with the risk of jeopardizing the mission and worse, blowing Deeks’ cover.
Last thing I would like to add about the timeline: I don’t think Deeks worked much on this case, at least I don’t think he’s been working on it since The gold standard, the episode in which he didn’t appear. It would be too many episodes and too much time. Wouldn’t Kensi notice that his partner wasn’t with her most of the time? I understand it’s a show and we need “suspension of disbelief” but with these time issues sometimes I would like the writers to be a little more precise. Sometimes I fear they don’t exactly know themselves either…
Although I didn’t feel well yesterday (still feel stomach-ache) I consider it one of my best days recently due to the mere fact that I had the honour to enjoy Hdawg’s writing twice. First the above review and then the last chapter of Companion. Real treat if you ask me.
Now, about the episode. I remember liking it very much the first time I saw it maybe two years ago. It actually has everything that I love to see in an episode: action, deeks, fight, deeks, love, deeks, jealousy, deeks, deceit, deeks…
I totally agree with everything that you wrote above (except maybe I have more credit for Kensi than you do) and thank you once again for excellent review. It is better written than the episode itself.
I have started following this show only after Hand to hand episode and I was totally blown by ECO in Human traffic and yes I am Deeks’ huge fan, but I also understand Kensi so much in this episode. I am sure that any day that starts with watching “her” Deeks kissing other woman goes straight to forget-that-ever-happen-day and pisses badass Bly so much that she sees only red (or green in this case) and her brain shuts down (for the bigger part). Because it must be the only explanation for her behaviour that was the most immature that I have ever seen her (don’t really want to go back to Drive where she was only mean and that was not comprehendible to me at all – she must be even more jealous of Jenny telephoning Deeks at 4 am calling him MARTY – that sounded rather intimate when everybody else just calls him Deeks).
But amidst all of the frustration, anger, jealousy, immature behaviour etc..I have never had feeling that she actually put Deeks at any risk. I am sure that if Monica was seen as any kind of dangerous person or threat to Deeks she would have never behaved this way.
Actually writers do make Kensi’s behaviour pretty consistent every time there is another women around Deeks that is attracted to him (Eva, Nicole, Star, Monica, Talia) and I see Monica as a tool to force both of them to recognize and act on their feelings toward each other. Which brings us to the very end of the episode and like you I didn’t now if I would laugh or cry watching them “communicate”. It is clear that they both are aware of the feelings but still not able to act on them. But scene itself is so beautiful that I re-watch it often to simply enjoy their face expressions and acting.
Also Hetty… after a long consideration and thinking about her note to Deeks I also see it as a sign of her approval to Deeks to be bold and pursue also love relationship with Kensi.
Thanks for really great review.
I agree Maria about Kensi’s behaviour. Also I think she must remember that time in “The Debt”. In that episode, she tried to tell her feelings to Deeks (I think), then found out her partner lied to her. In this episode, they’d been getting closer and then, this happened. She must be really hurt and confused and angry with herself not noticing, again.
About “Deeks is sunshine and Kensi is gunpowder, together they are perfect” thing, I think it’s good another word for “Kensi is the yin in Deeks’ yang”. But then I feel like Deeks thinks the other way, “Kensi is sunshine and Deeks is gunpowder”. You know, like, her smile is perfect.
Hdawg, thanks for a wonderfully entertaining review. I totally agree that this is an essential episode, both for the heavy Deeks content, and because it so nicely set up what was to come in “Descent.” But I am in the camp who disliked it. Two reasons I think… First, Kensi’s reaction seemed over the top. That she was so unable to control herself seemed out of character to me. I suppose this is what the writer was going for, to try to indicate how much Kensi felt for her partner, but it made me dislike Kensi. It was reminiscent of that scene in “Drive” when she mocked him after they talked to the daughter. So unsupportive, and something Deeks would never do if their positions were reversed.
The second reason was the Max Gentry characterization. Max made such an impression in “Plan B,” and I dislike it when they pull him out of storage without his true nature being apparent. He’s such a fascinating Bizarro Deeks, as you aptly put it, that I wish the writers would keep him consistent. It was like in “The Frozen Lake” when he called himself Max while talking to Kensi- just wrong.
Still, that final scene in the armory is brilliant, one of my all-time favorites. You don’t even need to hear what they’re saying- their expressions communicate perfectly. TPTB sometimes don’t seem to coordinate storylines and characterization well over multiple episodes, but this scene flows so well right into the opening armory scene in “Descent.” It’s just perfect. Unfortunately I can’t enjoy “sunshine and gunpowder” Hetty as much as I did originally because of her inconsistent behavior towards the couple in Season 5. I think the writers and producers hugely underestimate the importance of consistency and continuity for all their storylines and characters, and if they would take it more seriously, I think many of our issues with the show would disappear.
I’m a little late to this party but I really loved this episode. I think the facial expressions of both Deeks and Kensi said more than any words could. It did bother me how biting Kensi was towards Deeks but I think it shows the people that you care about are the ones that hurt you the most. Love this website. Keep up the great work.
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