The third NCIS: Los Angeles episode of the season, “Driving Miss Diaz,” brought with it a recurring character, canon consistency, and a nearly episode-long Densi undercover assignment, all things we at wikiDeeks have hoped to see more of this season. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to put this episode on my list of favorites- it just felt a little flat overall. In his prior episodes, writer Andrew Bartels has delivered more than his share of interesting guest characters and heartfelt moments. I loved Ehsan from “Allegiance” and how he bonded with the team, and who can forget “Humbug” and its focus on the team’s private lives? Yet in this episode, I just didn’t connect emotionally, despite the passion Alex Elmslie brought to his mission to bring war criminals to justice, and the fierce determination of a mother to protect her children from those same men. We’ll talk more about that…
…But First, The Plot
We open on a young woman from Peru whose life is threatened by a man masquerading as campus security. It turns out she’s one of four such women in the U.S. who might be a witness to an 18-year old massacre in Peru. Our friend Alex Elmslie, working for the Global Criminal Tribunal, is convinced that a current Peruvian presidential candidate, Alfredo Silva, is responsible, and he’s determined to find the woman and get her to testify. Densi goes undercover to protect the last possibility, a model named Catalina Diaz living in L.A. To make a long story short, the woman’s birth mother is the actual witness to the massacre, and she had Silva’s son nine months later. Our model, his half-sister, is trying to protect her little brother. The team protects them all and Silva is taken down for his crimes.
Be a Force, Not a Face
I think we all recognize that every episode can’t feature a case that directly involves one of the team, like we had with Callen in the season premiere. For me, sometimes filler episodes like this week’s are exciting (“Empty Quiver”), sometimes they are goofy and fun (“SEAL Hunter”), and sometimes, well, they’re neither. Sometimes I just sense a certain lack of energy coming through my screen, something subtle in the way the actors deliver their lines, as if they’re not 100% invested. That in turn makes me feel less invested. And I don’t think it’s the actors at fault. If the banter doesn’t sing, I tend to think the writing could have been stronger. If the action doesn’t feel suspenseful, I start thinking about the directing and editing decisions.
As for the goodness of having a recurring character, canon consistency, and a Densi undercover… It was overall a positive to have Elmslie back, rather than a new character pursuing war criminals. That additional history, the references to his previous interactions with the team, and his resulting personal struggles all added to the storyline. I liked his conversation with Granger, and really appreciated the fact that Bartels seemed to be quite familiar with his story- I didn’t notice any continuation errors. I’m afraid though that Elmslie is a character for whom I had never felt much in the past. No affection, no great dislike, I just hadn’t made an emotional connection of any kind. So even though Bartels did as much as possible to make him a sympathetic character, I just didn’t feel invested.
And yay for undercover work! It’s what this unit is supposed to specialize in, after all. But what I enjoy most about seeing Deeks and Kensi undercover is watching them play different roles. Here it felt like they were merely dressing differently (did I mention yet how amazing that suit was?), but for the most part, they were talking and acting just like themselves. It’s when they have to embody a different personality- a Brazilian swimsuit model and her British friend, a cruel boss and his bullied secretary, a scorned girlfriend and a guy who just wants to get into his safety deposit box- that the undercover assignment really becomes special. And it’s where I think the actors really start to have fun, which I think comes across in their performances.
Don’t get me wrong, there were quite a few delightful moments in the episode (see below). Maybe I was just feeling let down after the first two episodes, which both contained a lot of great scenes between teammates talking about more than just face wash and toilet paper. You tell me, am I just being too hard on the show?
- Was it just me, or did anyone else think about Harry Potter at the description of “la niña que vivió”- The Girl Who Lived? But I was a bit confused about how someone who was two or three at the time of the massacre would be much of a witness.
- I have to say, I’ll watch any episode where Deeks wears that suit the entire time. (But do most chauffeurs dress that nicely?) He could definitely be a model.
- Is Deeks (or ECO) ticklish? I loved the moment when Kensi pulled his phone from his pants, and the way he giggled. But what do you think- was it in character for Deeks to have those photos?
- I kind of expected some America’s Next Top Model references during their undercover assignment, but then again, I think maybe Kensi’s love of that program is much more established in fan fiction than on the show.
- I laughed at the new receptionist, and Sam’s Saved by the Nell line. But come on, Nell has more IQ in her little finger than this nice lady had in her whole brain. I didn’t really see much resemblance.
- I kind of wanted Eric to leave the purpose of his evenings at home with Nell a little vague, but hey, maybe board game night is just code for something else.
- Hetty’s photo shoot felt more like an excuse for her to relive her Holllywood glory days than to actually protect Catalina. She definitely seemed to be enjoying herself. (I’m not real sure about the results though- I wasn’t a fan of the pictures.) I’d have loved to watch her actually work an undercover with Deeks- I don’t think they’ve ever done that together.
- Yay, Monty’s still alive! I’d begun to wonder since we haven’t seen him in forever, despite several visits to Deeks’ place. I have definitely begun to worry about the doggie actor who plays him (fun fact- his real name is also Monty).
- Deeks figures out a key clue two episodes in a row- hooray for Competent Deeks!
- Poor Kensi’s new car! I guess it was bound to get a few dings at some point. At least no bullet holes so far.
- I loved Deeks asking Sam to feel his face. It brought to mind the end of “Fame” when he asked if Sam wanted to coddle him. Similar teasing, but such a different tone. Look how far they’ve come! I just want to see as much of these two together as possible.
Kensi: This girl has to be the only person in L.A. who doesn’t drive.
Deeks: That’s because Catalina Diaz is a self-entitled model. She’s probably never carried her groceries or paid for a single drink in her life.
Kensi: If she is who Elmslie thinks she is, she’s had a pretty rough childhood.
Deeks: So did I, so did you, and you can still execute a power slide while firing a weapon, and you know what that is? That’s my kind of girl. [Kensi starts frisking him.] What are you doing? Oh, we can make time for this later, if you really want to get into my pants.
Deeks: I call that being a force, and not a face.
Kensi: [Smiling] Shut up.
Deeks: Oh really? Where’d you even hear that, for god’s sakes?
Kensi: I… I don’t remember.
Deeks: You don’t remember? Oh, I remember. You read it off your bottle of face wash. Yeah, that’s right princess. You gave career advice… from soap.
Kensi: OK, it was very good advice…
Deeks: Was it?
Kensi: And plus, how do you even know that? Have you been using my face soap, again, hmm?
Deeks: Well, Monty has very sensitive skin.
Kensi: Oh does he?
Deeks: Yeah, he does.
Classic Deeks & Sam (AKA Ice Cream)
Deeks: As a wise bottle of soap once told me, “Don’t be a face, be a force.” I think we can all learn a little something from that.
Callen: What the hell’s he talking about?
Kensi: I don’t know.
Deeks: All I know is that face wash is changing my life. [To Sam] You wanna feel this?
Deeks: So silky smooth.
Sam: I don’t want to touch your face, Deeks.
There’s a new episode next week, but in the meantime, tune in later this week for Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal, plus the Edit of the Week.
Title: “Driving Miss Diaz”
Writer: Andrew Bartels
Director: James Hanlon
Original Air Date: October 5, 2015