Banter. It’s one of the three NCIS: Los Angeles staples, along with bromance and booms. Sam and Callen have their own special form of bromantic banter, but of course we’re going to focus on the Densi variety. When Deeks and Kensi do it well, their banter rises to the level of a 1930’s screwball comedy. What makes it special is the way it combines fantastic writing with the showrunners’ willingness to let serendipity happen, thanks to the improv skills of Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah. (Plus, we need something happy to discuss amidst all the angst over comatose Kensi!)
This week’s Top 3 was one of the most difficult but also funnest to select. Thinking about these scenes just makes me happy. I limited the Top 3 to individual scenes even though it was tempting to discuss entire episodes with stand-out banter (most of them will end up in our future discussion of the Top 3 Funniest Episodes).
The Top 3
At various times I had completely different scenes in this Top 3, depending on whether I was looking primarily for comedy, for sexiness, or for significance to Densi’s development, because their banter can include any and all of these disparate elements. My end result included a little of each. I should point out that with these lists, I’m trying to avoid choosing just my favorite examples, if only because that feels too easy. Instead with each new list, I’m trying to use ever so slightly less personal criteria.
It didn’t surprise me that R. Scott Gemmill was responsible for many of my finalists (7 of 11), but I was a little surprised to see he was the only writer named in the Top 3. Kudos, and many thanks, Mr. Gemmill! With that, in reverse order of importance, The Top 3 Examples of Densi Banter are…
#3. It’s like America and France made slow, sweet love and had a pastry baby.
This scene from “Impact” wasn’t on my list of considerations at all until I had this post nearly completed. Spoiler alert: It is my all-time favorite scene of the whole series. But I usually don’t think of it as a banter-filled conversation. It’s obviously not as lighthearted as most Densi banter, but when I thought about it longer, I realized that it’s actually the banter that makes the scene. Kensi and Deeks haven’t seen each other for several weeks, not since the heartbreaking end of “Ascension,” and when the scene starts there’s an awkwardness between them. But then they start bantering about their take-out and a special pastry, and they immediately fall back in step together. It’s like the banter is their lifeline back to where they were before the torture. It pulls them back to themselves, and it’s beautiful to watch. It’s not the funniest or the sexiest, but it’s the most moving example.
Deeks: Is that Yummy Yummy Heart Attack?
Kensi: Yep, three F’s from the health department and still going strong.
Deeks: Yeah, if ‘F’ stood for ‘Fabulous.’ Did you get the, uh, drunken pigs?
Kensi: With extra kimchi- you’re welcome.
Deeks: I think I just felt a shiver. Want me to, uh, grab something to drink?
Kensi: Oh, no, no, no. I have got you covered, my friend.
Deeks: Wow, one day you are going to make somebody the perfect… personal assistant.
#2. Touché, touché, you cannot touch my touché.
“Recruit” gave us this delightful scene that we’ll always think of as “The Touché Scene.” It makes my Top 3 because it’s a wonderful example of all three of the elements I listed earlier. It’s super funny (Okay, that’s a human resources violation). It’s very sexy, what with the metaphorical sword-touching, not to mention the non-verbal communication from Kensi. And it’s significant to them, for it’s a special moment about nothing that becomes a private joke, one they return to again and again. And we always enjoy seeing it reappear, for we got to share in the moment when it first happened.
Deeks: Alright, you know what? Let me just drop some knowledge on you for a second, alright? It’s French. It comes from fencing. It means “to touch.” So, if I were to touch you with my sword, then you would say “touché.”
Kensi: Then I wouldn’t say it because you ain’t never touching me with your sword, Zorro.
#1. Have you seen my corgis? They’ve run amok.
This “Wanted” scene wins my vote for the most spectacular banter, and some of the very funniest. Kensi and Deeks are on such a roll here. They are tormenting Officer Snyder and loving every minute of it. The reason they’re having so much fun is that they’re both equal partners in the wordplay. Instead of mocking each other, here they’re working together to mock Snyder. From the entertaining DVD commentary for the episode we know there was plenty of improv, and clearly Daniela held her own with Eric in that department. It’s just a brilliant example of the art of the banter.
Kensi: Oh, you’d be a good spy. He’s very sneaky.
Deeks: I prefer stealthy.
Kensi: Okay, he’s very stealthy.
Deeks: Also, I’m a master of disguise.
Kensi: Oh, you should see his Margaret Thatcher impersonation. Uncanny.
Deeks: Uncanny. Huh? Margaret Thatcher on a cold day? Who’s gonna see that coming?
Kensi: Not me. Hellooooo, it’s Maggie. And then, bam!
Deeks: Bam! Except for, that sounded a little bit like the queen…
Even once the Top 3 was chosen, the final order changed about four times. Like I said, this was a challenge, and this particular list seems to be subject to dramatic changes depending on my mood.
Also in the Running
These other fantastic banter-filled scenes came close to making my Top 3:
- The Malibu Ken discussion from “Borderline” (R. Scott Gemmill): He’s not anatomically correct either.
- Martha Steward my ass from “Neighborhood Watch” (Christina M. Kim): Wait, so your plan here is to ply him with your abundance of… cookies?
- Discussing marriage boundaries in “Neighborhood Watch”: I plead completely innocent, but totally intrigued.
- Post-smallpox injection in “Touch of Death” (Michael Fazekas, Tara Butters, R. Scott Gemmill): Oh, and um, for the record… I don’t sleep with anything on… unless it’s a costume.
- The bathroom scene in “Neighborhood Watch”: It’s like an episode of Dexter in here!
- The partner survey in “Wanted”: So basically, anything in a Tarzan movie?
- Discussing Tahoe plans in “Free Ride” (Tim Clemente, R. Scott Gemmill): There is no doubt in my mind that that is double-black-diamond rated.
- Talking about Public Defender Deeks in “Paper Soldiers” (Jordana Lewis Jaffe): Rebel without a due process clause?
Next week we’re going to continue avoiding the angst, with another fun Densi topic: The Top 3 Densi Undercover Roles.
In the meantime, what are your Top 3 examples of Densi banter? As always there are no right or wrong answers, just lots and lots of great scenes to talk about! Might there be some “Neighborhood Watch” fans out there who aren’t so happy with my picks?