I came into this week’s episode of NCIS: Los Angeles with lower expectations than I’d normally have for a show scripted by Erin Broadhurst and Frank Military. But given the fact that Eric Christian Olsen spent a good part of filming on vacation in Hawaii, I wasn’t sure how much Deeks screen time we’d get. What we did get was a nicely written and directed (by Diana C. Valentine) episode centered around Sam and his ex-partner, with plenty of the character-centered scenes I enjoy. Plus, we just might have gotten the strongest foreshadowing yet about the upcoming Internal Affairs investigation. Or maybe I’m just being paranoid? More about that…
…But First, the Plot
We open with a nice boom! as a deal to purchase black market explosives goes south. A man we later learn was Sam’s first NCIS partner, Mark Ruiz (well played by Anthony Ruivivar), appears to detonate the bomb that takes out the militia buyers. Ruiz is working as an undercover asset for ATF after having left NCIS due to a drug problem. As the case unfolds, bad guys in the form of Filipino hired guns turn against an arms dealer who is actually a terrorist. At one point Ruiz nearly turns against Sam over his suspicion that Sam had an affair with his wife. In the end, he earns the trust Sam has placed in him when he saves his life in the final shoot-out. The explosives are recovered, the bad guys are either dead or arrested, and Ruiz and the team live to fight another day.
A Question of Trust
This episode’s overriding theme was trust. With Ruiz’s motives in great doubt, only Sam wants to vouch for his troubled ex-partner. Sam is “loyal to a fault,” as Callen describes him. Yet that’s one of the things I love about him. Sam stood by Ruiz, and his family, as he fought his addiction. Who wouldn’t want him on their side when the going gets tough?
The issue of trust is repeated throughout the episode, discussed by every character at some point. Sam doesn’t trust Deeks and Kensi not to jump to conclusions, so he doesn’t give them Ruiz’s full history. As a result, Deeks and Kensi aren’t so sure they can trust Ruiz so they investigate his past. Hetty knows his past (she’s somewhat responsible for it- no surprise there), but can’t decide if she trusts him. Callen definitely doesn’t. Granger trusts in Sam’s assessment, but Sam doesn’t trust that Granger did the right thing in shooting a bad guy to protect one of their own. Ruiz expresses frustration when Sam begins to doubt him, reminding him that he never screwed up in the field, despite his problems.
On the other hand, Ruiz really doesn’t trust Sam. He’s convinced that Sam had an affair with his wife Alicia. Now if I know one thing about Sam Hanna, it’s that he’s an honorable man. As Hetty told him in “Active Measures”, “It is a privilege to have a man with your honor on this team, Mr. Hanna.” No one should ever accuse him of betrayal: if there’s one person to be trusted to do the right thing, it’s Sam. Indeed, “there are 10 different reasons why [an affair with Alicia] would never happen.” On the other hand, while Sam will help you through a dozen relapses, if you do question his character, he’s “done” with you. (His attitude after Ruiz confronts him makes it all the more shocking that he would have done that very thing to Deeks in “Descent.”)
The issue of trust also played into what was possibly the most disturbing conversation of the episode…
This Just Got Real
As Deeks and Kensi investigate the scene of the bombing, they discuss Sam’s trust in Ruiz:
Kensi: I just don’t understand why Sam would protect some guy that may have killed three people. I don’t.
Deeks: I do… Because they were partners, and to be completely honest, I would do the same thing for you.
Kensi: Not if I murdered someone.
Deeks: I mean, if you did it for the right reasons, yeah, yeah, I think I would.
I’m sorry, what? Did Deeks just give Kensi and us a subtle hint that he killed somebody? Perhaps the same man he referenced in “Active Measures”, the detective who put a gun in Deeks’ mouth when he questioned his methods, and who liked to beat up prostitutes for fun? I know there may have been absolutely nothing more going on here than a random Densi discussion, but the emotions on both their faces made it feel more significant to me. I interpreted Deeks’ intensity as him unable to hold back the guilt and anguish over what he did and what he thinks is coming with IA, and I interpreted Kensi’s as her frustration with his continuing failure to tell her everything, along with a bit of fear of what she’s going to find out. This exchange definitely scared me a little: a murder charge would make the IA investigation so much more serious (and dramatic!) than if it was just about alleged financial misdeeds.
Now, I’ve absolutely been 100% wrong before, misinterpreting random snippets of dialog as potential clues. This may very well have nothing to do with the investigation. But Deeks does have one additional line that would tie into this theory, when he tells Sam, “Maybe he lost his edge, got frustrated, killed the militia guys?” I could picture scenarios where Deeks interrupted that detective “whaling on some poor girl,” triggering his protective response to seeing a woman being beaten- and setting off his Max Gentry temper. Given that this episode was filmed in sequence, the writers had to have known what the actual IA storyline is going to hold for Deeks.
Of course Deeks said other random things last night that wouldn’t seem to tie in with this scenario, and would themselves make for completely different theories: I’m just saying, people change, Sam, especially when they’re in deep cover… and Betrayal between partners… this just got real. I need to believe that whatever he allegedly did, the writers will not make Deeks out to be a real bad guy, even if he didn’t follow the letter of the law in some way. What’s your theory?
Classic Densi Team
The opening bullpen discussion on boundaries provided lots of classic Densi, as well as signature team banter. But I gotta ask, why does the team get to witness so many of Densi’s public displays of affection, but we hardly ever do?
Kensi: Who writes their name on things they then leave at their girlfriend’s house?
Callen: [to Deeks] Do you still write your name on your underwear?
Deeks: I gotta mark my territory.
Sam: That’s a poor choice of words.
Kensi: The bottom line is, you’re just really bad with personal boundaries. [Sam and Callen laugh.] Is something funny?
Sam: You two? Having a discussion about boundaries? Isn’t that a little ironic?
Deeks: Explain that.
Sam: Most people bring their work lives home, you guys bring your home lives to work. Boundaries get blurry.
Kensi: Deeks and I keep our work lives and personal lives very separate. I have a rule about that.
Callen: What about that little display of affection last week on Lincoln, at the stoplight?
Deeks: Hah! Didn’t know you guys were behind us.
Sam: And the fight over who gets the side of the bed that’s closest to the bathroom?
Eric: Oh, or Deeks telling us how Kensi likes to hang dry her underwear in the living room.
Kensi: Deeks, you hang dry your underwear!
Deeks: Yeah, in the bathroom, where things are supposed to hang dry.
Sam: And there it is… boundaries obliterated.
Callen: More stuff I can never unhear.
Oh, and how exactly does Callen know that Deeks writes his name on his underwear?
- Mark and Alicia had an adorable son. I loved little Joey’s reaction to seeing Sam on his doorstep (Momma- there’s a super ginormous man here).
- I actually liked Granger a lot in this episode. I’ve come to appreciate his gruff one-liners (There’s been a complication). They crack me up, and compensate for his otherwise dour demeanor. And here he was so thoughtful, not wanting to be the “office gossip” and really giving Ruiz the benefit of the doubt.
- Awww, Kensi knows Deeks’ password. They are adorable.
- The desperation with which Ruiz tried to salvage the op after five long months reminded me of the Deeks of “Human Traffic”, who was so determined to apprehend Lasik that he met with him without taking any back-up.
- I thought I read somewhere that law enforcement officials aren’t supposed to have guns in the interrogation room, but first Talia in “Citadel” and now this unnamed NCIS agent have me wondering.
- Finally, a closing op where the team has adequate back-up, instead of trying to take on the bad guys alone. This felt much more realistic to me than some of their 2-on-10 shoot-outs.
- There were some very nice moments between Sam and Ruiz at the junkyard and hospital, but seriously, how did Sam managed to keep that suit blood-free?
- Sammy? That’s too cute. I so enjoyed Callen teasing Sam with his nickname. Now I really need Deeks to find out about it. Can I at least get a drabble or two about this? Anyone?
All in all, it was a very enjoyable episode. Check back this week for Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal, along with the Edit of the Week. Then tune in this weekend for our Classified Preview and Case Briefing on next week’s out of sequence episode (directed by Chris O’Donnell at the end of last year), which looks like another tense Frank Military outing. I won’t hold my breath for a lot of Densi continuity, but as a stand-alone episode, it looks quite promising.
Writer: Erin Broadhurst and Frank Military
Director: Diana C. Valentine
Original Air Date: November 2, 2015