wikiDeeks News Ticker

Essential Episodes: NCISLA “The Debt” (S3E10)


Linchpin – noun: something that holds the various elements of a complicated structure together

By definition of a linchpin, “The Debt” is an NCIS: Los Angeles Essential Episode on many fronts. This was the unofficial start of the “Internal Affairs” arc that touches down first in Season 6 “Fighting Shadows”, re-emerges in Season 7 during “Active Measures” and culminates- or does it?- in “Internal Affairs”. We get a glimpse into Marty Deeks’ LAPD world. We have seen him on more than one occasion make phone calls for information, etc., but not since “Human Traffic” have we seen the team interact physically on a larger scale with them. And we all know how that worked out that time.

We also get to see how Deeks and Kensi’s partnership/relationship/thing is doing. Several emotional events have taken place since “Human Traffic”. Kensi relived a painful personal memory “helping” Lieutenant Talbot in “Disorder”, Deeks was shot, Kensi was injured during the Stan King Case, Deeks’ childhood buddy Ray was put in WitSec, we met Max Gentry who was involved with Ray’s ex-wife Nicole, the team went to Romania to rescue Hetty, and Kensi’s jealous tendencies appear again towards Eva chasing a Mexican cartel into L.A. A rollercoaster of fun or something. And those emotions are now going to come into play in a big way in this episode.

Moles, God I hate moles

This team seems to be a magnet for them, whether they are theirs or anyone else’s. And you would think that by solving this case, they would have taken notes or something to use in the future.

The episode opens with Deeks in the gym [in sleeveless black tee – info pertinent to the episode] working the heavy bag and Kensi asking how he is holding up. He then shares nuggets from his past.

“Well I shot my dad when I was 11. Shot a lot more as a cop and all of them deserved it. Life or death situations, until today. LAPD gave me a gun because I know when not to pull the trigger. And if I’ve lost that edge, man, I’m just another thug with a gun.”

Kensi again reiterates her support, but instead of being grateful Deeks says nothing, and if you watch, cannot even look her in the eye. It would be reasonable to assume that their “partnership” took a bit of a hit over Nicole and Eva, so the last thing Deeks wants to do is lie to Kensi. And yet, that is exactly what Hetty is having him do. What I find fascinating is that Hetty has never asked Callen to lie to Sam like that. Think about this: Hetty has the entire team, including the Wonder Twins, lying to Kensi. Hetty and her lies will haunt both Deeks and Kensi in the Afghanistan arc and she will even encourage Deeks to lie to Kensi again in “Internal Affairs”. Fortunately by then Deeks acts in both his and his partner’s best interests when he tells Kensi the truth in “Cancel Christmas”.

Kensi is worried about her partner and it seems like she’s the only one. Well of course it does because EVERYONE, including the guys in the motor pool, is in on this. I found Sam and Callen’s dialogue in several scenes particularly harsh. But fast forward, there is Callen again being harsh about Deeks, questioning Hetty during “Internal Affairs” about bringing him onto the team like she “soiled” the team. Oh wait, he did that back during “Fame”. You don’t want him as a liaison, you want him as an agent. And of course after Deeks gets tortured to save his partner and his partner’s wife from Siderov, he questions whether he is fit to be back. I don’t remember Callen ever questioning Sam’s fitness during that time. Sam at least was man enough to question Deeks’ character to his face in “Descent”. Callen took a more passive/aggressive approach.

Teamwork makes the dream work unless it’s a nightmare

The team is in the bullpen to review what they know and the players involved. Hetty comes out of the shadows and informs Deeks that the LAPD has cut ties with NCIS. She awkwardly puts her hand on his shoulder and says she is sorry. Sam and Callen say NOTHING! Kensi is upset as she asks what does that mean? Hetty just fired me.

Why don’t you just quit. Just resign from LAPD and apply to become a NCIS Agent.

Oh Girl! We have been begging that one for years, ever since Hetty gave him the folder during “Imposters”. Deeks is working really hard not to come clean with Kensi. Callen does his part to dash her hopes by telling her it isn’t that easy to become an agent. Deeks agrees, saying that Internal Affairs will be all over him. Wait until he meets Detective Whiting.

Deeks has his stuff all boxed up. Callen bro-hugs him with a “hang in there”. Deeks turns to Sam and gets no hug, but Sam does say to him that they could not be more different but he made the team better. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! He must have then suffered a head injury because in Season 4’s “Descent”, he proceeds to question Deeks’ character rather harshly. Ugh! They leave the bullpen.

Deeks now turns to Kensi. This is how Eric Christian Olsen continues to earn my fangirl love every day. His facial expressions and those blue eyes. His eyes are the best and the way Deeks looks at Kensi and also doesn’t look at her is heart wrenching. I also think at this point he realizes how deep he is in with his partner. Kensi for her part has just had her world jolted, thinking she is losing her partner/something. Deeks has a sense of what she wants to say to him and he can’t let her. Not there and not under false pretenses. He will protect her, a common theme with him, and abruptly stops her. At first it appears hurtful but then he looks deeply into her eyes and assures her that, “we will figure it out. We always do.” *Swoon* Given their history to that moment, it would seem they have been talking to each other, which means spending time together. And if they seem to be communicating here, why in Season 4 are they not able to communicate at all? Well except when Deeks “communicates” with her on that hilltop, and that method would work on me anytime.

Change is coming and it’s not good

Hetty has Kensi in her office asking how she’s doing and to make sure her ruse is working. She takes advantage of Kensi’s upset and twists the knife a little more suggesting that Deeks leaving could be for the best if there was more to their partnership. “Sunshine and Gunpowder,” anyone?? Kensi gets a call from Bates, asking to meet with her. Hetty is pleased. This is also the start of the change I see happening to Hetty. Since coming back from Romania she has changed, become even more secretive and manipulative and the events that are yet to happen to the team- Janvier, Siderov, the mole- will further unnerve her.

Once the case is over, Hetty catches up with Kensi in the armory and allows her to vent. Hetty apologizes to her but she could not take any chances that the op would not go as planned and says she is in her debt. Kensi tells Hetty that she will be cashing in some day. And she does, twice, once in “Blye, K” and then in “Internal Affairs,” unless that was for the whole Afghanistan thing. To her credit, Kensi lets Hetty have it during “Internal Affairs”. But Hetty gets her revenge during “Come Back” when Jack just happens to be in L.A. on the same day she and Deeks move in together. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer

One of my favorite recurring guests is Patrick St. Esprit, Lieutenant Roger Bates. He and ECO work really well together. My wish is that he comes back more often, even with the “porn star mustache”.  And Lt. Bates fills in a big gap in my Deeks legend when he tells Hetty that he thought Deeks had found a home with NCIS when she came looking for him. Whaaat? So that means he was his boss during “Human Traffic”? It also means that he had to have known about what went down with Boyle when he joined his undercover unit, which then explains why he got him out of the cuffs during “Internal Affairs”. Let’s hope the character continuity that found its footing in Season 7 continues in Season 8.

John Quinn [Michael Weston], is an LAPD detective who works in Internal Affairs. He knows Deeks, was in his class at the Academy, and tries to tail him, badly. Their class reunion involves some not so subtle shots at each other. “You’ve been dabbling… lawyer, wanna be fed, jack of all trades, master of none.” To which Deeks replies, “In the meantime you are getting paid for busting cops. How does that feel?” Which is why I never go to my reunions. Quinn offers Deeks a way out of his difficulty if he helps bring down the mole in LAPD – Lt Bates. Deeks isn’t buying Bates as the mole, but agrees to help. Deeks reviews what Quinn has on Bates and says it’s pretty thin; he also asks why he didn’t get a search warrant. More Lawyer Deeks in Season 8 please! The good news is he now doesn’t need that haircut.

When Deeks takes down Quinn as the mole, Quinn thinks he is now in Deeks’ debt. He assures Quinn “you don’t owe me anything.” Maybe not Deeks, but Hetty will be collecting on your behalf down the road. Bates sees that Deeks does have a home with NCIS and Deeks agrees. SIGN THE DAMM PAPERS!

Hindsight is always 20/20

So many events will play out in the next few seasons that got their start here. Densi will grow closer but still struggle to use their words to say what they mean. Hetty becomes more manipulative to the point her team starts to question her. She will use Deeks and Kensi’s relationship and push them to the limits both as a couple and individually. And they all will become victims to the mole, including Deeks. It is my theory that the mole set IA after him because he was not an NCIS Agent. He could just the sign papers… I know, I know, preaching to the choir.

Also, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of creepy Detective Whiting from “Internal Affairs”. Her parting shot to Deeks when Bates asked if they were done was “for now.” In fact ECO mentioned in San Diego that originally Deeks was going back to LAPD but things were changed due to Daniela Ruah’s pregnancy. However, there is still a whole season to write and maybe R. Scott Gemmill will put it back in play.

Classic Densi

One of my all time favorite exchanges between the two that illustrates their gift for banter:

Deeks: Anyone ever tell you how cute you are when you are homicidally angry?
Kensi: I’m not angry. In fact, I could slit your jugular vein 11 different ways from where I’m sitting and I wouldn’t lose my temper.
Deeks: Well I am sorry I had to lie to you. I was trying to protect you.
Kensi: You were protecting me?
Deeks: Us.
Kensi: Us?
Deeks: Our thing.
Kensi: Whoa! So there is a thing?
Deeks: Can we not talk about this right now? Maybe we could do it over drinks or something? [yeah, like tacos]
Kensi: No I have plans.
Deeks: Well–
Kensi: Every night for the rest of my life!

Not to worry my friend. I happen to know that there will be an endless supply of beer coming your way in about five episodes.  There will also be yet another meaningful conversation in a garage, of all places. Stay thirsty my friend.

When Kensi rejoins the guys in the bullpen, she asks Deeks the question we ALL want the answer to and no, it’s not why there is a cat magazine in his box of stuff? Although I really do want to know that answer. “Bates says you swore off female partners. Is that true?” Deeks then proceeds to step in it big time with his partner by saying “I don’t really think of you as female in that sense of the word” and adds vague, possibly inappropriate hand gestures that just get him in further trouble. Do we need to discuss the “girly” magazines his future self finds in her bathroom? Deeks turns to the senior agents for help. All he gets in support… “Game is looking.” Game recognizes nothing.” Even Hetty piles on, “haters gonna hate.” Welcome home Deeks! And you still haven’t answered that question.

I do need to discuss one minor negative thing about this episode. When the red sedan explodes, and this show does know how to blow things up!, ECO gets negative style points for the worst fall down in slow motion on TV. I mean come on man, your brother is your stunt double, he couldn’t teach you how to fall down with style?

I am really looking forward to Season 8. Our two favorite dorks and their road show this summer has got me drooling. Now I just have to remember how to re-program my DVR and adjust for the all the times they will start late because of NFL football! Go Eagles!

Episode: “The Debt”
Writer: Dave Kalstein
Director: Steven DePaul
Original Air Date: November 22, 2011

Thank you to Guest Reviewer Kitty AKA cbetham! Check her out on tumblr and twitter @cbetham, and on at Max and Fern 4ever.

About cbetham57 (3 Articles)
PHILLIES FAN political junkie Golf Parent NCIS LA fangirl

14 Comments on Essential Episodes: NCISLA “The Debt” (S3E10)

  1. One of my favorite eps! I always thought the cat magazine was the one Kensi bought him for not liking working on cars in Sacrifice. Thought it was sweet he still had it. I agree on the explosion but am willing to overlook it in the grand scheme of things…lol! I loved the look on his face and how he swallows hard just before saying Bates really was the mole…it hit him hard. Even then he didn’t truly believe it as evidenced when he confronted Bates at the infamous red sedan.

    Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much Nancy. Such a fan of your writing!


  3. A great read! Thank you! Of course this is WikiDeeks where the writing and insights are always outstanding! Love this site. Thank you so much for putting this together for us fans; its much appreciated!


  4. Great write up, thanks for all the tie ins to other episodes, it really helps provide perspective. I do find the fact that Hetty made Deeks lie to Kensi significant. I understand why it had to occur as part of the storyline , however, it really felt like she treated Deeks and Kensi very differently than she ever treated Sam and Callen. As you point out, it appears she unsuccessfully tries to get Deeks to once again lie to Kensi in Internal Affairs.


  5. Wonderful write up on a favourite episode. I keep saying Eric Christian Olsen should be given more stand alone episodes. My wish for Season 8, apart from a proposal and engagement is for Callen (especially him) and Sam to give Deeks more respect. I have never quite forgiven Callen for his comment to Hetty in Internal Affairs. Thanks again for having a wonderful site on our favourite gorgeous Detective. I will be so happy when Season 8 finally premieres as all these rumours and spoilers are driving me nuts!


  6. Many thanks for your analysis which I really enjoyed.
    This was definitely the episode that made me fall in love not just with Densi – it was maybe too soon – but with the idea that the NCIS LA authors might have been thinking about a possible “more than partners” scenario for Deeks and Kensi.
    And from that moment my love for the show increased and I’m still here today.
    I must also say that I’m thankful to this episode in particular for the many memorable fanfictions that it inspired, some of them are the ones that I have been reading over and over again the most. So much I would have liked to see a scene between Deeks and Kensi after the episode was over over…
    A moment that never came onscreen, but which I found abundantly detailed and perfectly described by excellent fanfiction writers!


  7. that was an AMAZING episode ! and great analysis ! we can see Deeks struggle about have to lie to Kensi. Their partnership could be ruined for good ! I really want to know about the female partners issue and I´d love to see more of Bates !!


  8. So happy I stumbled across your awesome commentaries. You do a great job reminding the reader what was going on in the series at the time (or what had already happened), which comes in handy when one is reading this so much later. Plus I love your headings!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nicki Pappas // July 25, 2021 at 10:00 PM // Reply

    Fantastic review and insight into a true linchpin episode! 🙂

    This was where started truly disliking Hetty as a character. She went from seemingly all knowing, benevolent mother figure who honestly was devastated by the loss of an agent to one who thinks nothing or emotionally manipulating her agents for an op. From a funny, scary, overprotective mother figure into a manipulative bitch.

    You are absolutely right that she *never* asked Sam to lie to Callen or vice versa. I hate that this makes Kensi out to be the weak link. I would have preferred to see her manipulate different members of the team in different episodes if they were going for this to be her characterization.

    Instead she manipulated Kensi (whose backstory has established that she was abandoned by her ex-fiancé (on Christmas nonetheless) all for a case. She has every single member of this tight knit team lie to Kensi all for an op. (Not to mention this just shows that Hetty doesn’t trust Kensi’s skills—because in all of season one she was described as a “born operator” but apparently here they don’t trust that she could sell being upset to Bates. Talk about a slap to the face!).

    You are spot on with this: “Hetty has Kensi in her office asking how she’s doing and to make sure her ruse is working. She takes advantage of Kensi’s upset and twists the knife a little more suggesting that Deeks leaving could be for the best if there was more to their partnership. “. Yes. She intentionally hurt Kensi. Sure she “let her vent” later and gave her a half assed apology—(I’m actually not sure Hetty is capable of feeling remorse by this point— she certainly isn’t by the time she sends Kensi to Afghanistan and gets her and Jack tortured and almost gets them and the whole team killed) but it doesn’t make up for the fact that she basically showed Kensi that neither she (Hetty) or the whole team thought she was a capable enough agent to sell their act to Bates and that she would easily and willingly stoop to manipulating her own team members. There is no emotional safety between Kensi and Hetty. Or their should take be off the writers had the balls to be more honest.

    You do note that in later seasons “ Hetty becomes more manipulative to the point her team starts to question her.” haha! Yes! Well, if they had been paying attention here (and not writing Kensi off as the weak link and being fine with Hetty manipulation her) they might have seen it coming. But I guess the guys all felt safe in their belief that hetty would never manipulate them. (Guess they had to learn their lesson the hard way…better late than never).

    You are also spot on with this: “Hetty and her lies will haunt both Deeks and Kensi in the Afghanistan arc”. Oh yes. On so many levels.

    I thought this was just poor writing consistency with Hetty’s character but the thing I can’t figure out is why over and over, despite the lies Hetty perpetrated and the hurt she causes, that they all seem to just let her off the hook. It’s one thing to inconsistently write her character but To have the rest of the team act like it’s ok that she acts this was didn’t make sense. She faced zero consequences for setting up “the Debt” and neither did the team. I kind of expected some fallout that they would have to overcome but it didn’t really pan out. Apparently Kensi just let go of the hurt caused by every single member of her team showing they didn’t trust her. The writers didn’t deem that her character deserved more I guess. Could have been good to see…

    Back to Deeks and Kensi: Love that you note that you “ also think at this point Deeks realizes how deep he is in with his partner.” Maybe true but he still went along with this horrible plan to intentionally hurt her. That really sucked. (And IMO she forgave him way too fast. I was for tiny much more of a step back before they could move forward after that breach of trust. Their banter may be good but he has been denying their thing and after manipulating her feelings to have HIM goad her with “so there is a thing” was annoying to me. At least he sort of apologized with “ Well I am sorry I had to lie to you. I was trying to protect you.” but I like to believe that he gave her a way more heartfelt apology later/offscreen. And dare I ask for a promise to never lie again (even though we know he does. Sadly he does more than once.).

    I’m still unsure of what happened between 3×10 and 3×16-17 that made Deeks “the only one she trusts”. Or are they saying that as of 3×10 he was already the one she trusted and now she knows she cannot trust Sam or Callen or Hetty? That would be interesting! 😉 And well deserved.

    It is nice to see the slow build of their partnership and eventual relationship even (or especially) with all the steps forward and backward due to things like this. These are challenges that they have to overcome (just like Deeks lying to her about being undercover and seducing Monica whole he is pursuing their “thing” with Kensi.)

    I also am not clear how hetty is repaying the fact or she owes Kensi when Kensi falls off the grid. Kensi threw away her phone so hetty couldn’t track her. Exactly what did Hetty do that was a favor to Kensi? When Callen went off the grid, Callen didn’t have to call in any favors, why should Kensi?

    Also, you are right that Sam and Callen are way harsh—gone are the guys who worked side by side with Kensi as equals and now they are treating her like some newbie that wasn’t both badass (and in Callen’a own words “a born operator”). And they are relentlessly mean and dismissive to Deeks in a way that seems too harsh. Didn’t come across as authentic to the characters. Unless they were maybe trying to show that Callen is himself broken because of his own background and doesn’t understand the importance of trust, doesn’t think that manipulating friends is wrong? l or that Kensi deserves better from her team? (Maybe he’s a bit of a sociopath—-I find myself wishing that HE were the subject of the whole team lying to him some time to see how he would handle it…) Again, kind of wishing for a bit more fallout that the team should have to get past to become stronger.

    Love love love your reviews. Have been binge watching the show due to Covid quarantine and it’s awesome to watch an episode and see your insights!


  10. Thank you so much for your response. If feels like a lifetime ago that I wrote this. It made my Monday. I hope you keep enjoying the episodes and this website. You will find a lot of treasures here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: