This week’s NCIS: Los Angeles episode “Kulinda” marked the start of a brand new year. But did it mark the beginning of any fresh changes for our favorite characters? Writer Kyle Harimoto did give us a well written episode that helped us better understand what’s been happening with our favorite duo. Were I merely a fan of the show in general, I think I’d have really enjoyed this episode, directed by Tawnia McKiernan. As a fan of Marty Deeks and Densi though, it left me feeling slightly impatient for more quality screen time for Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah.
Fresh Locations and a Blossoming Romance
One of my favorite features of NCIS:LA has always been the way it celebrates Los Angeles landmarks, making the city almost like one of the characters. This weeks’ case took us to an interesting area that we rarely see highlighted on network television. I appreciated Deeks’ introduction of just a bit of the history of the area. Did you know Leimert Park was planned by the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead, who planned New York’s Central Park? And according to Wikipedia, that drum circle we saw at the end is a real weekly event.
Locations aside, most fans’ least favorite Russian guest actor was back to help out with the case of the week. This time I actually didn’t dislike Anna, I just wished she’d had less screen time. Chris O’Donnell managed to make me believe there was some chemistry between them just by the way he looked at her in the opening scene at his house, even as Bar Paly struggled to pull off the neurotic girlfriend. And yes, Anna just might have won a few points with me with her desire to go to LEGOLAND (Legos were my favorite toy as a child), even if I didn’t believe it was in character.
Fresh Understanding about Old Behavior
Speaking of being in character, unfortunately Kensi’s insecurities and borderline rudeness continued. At least this week we got a scene that helped us understand her better. The final scene with Nate showed us a Kensi who’s struggling- struggling to get back to 100% physically, struggling to even begin to consider what might happen if she doesn’t, and struggling with depression.
It seems only natural that she’d be depressed, and I liked the way this tiny reveal tied back to what Deeks discussed in the first scene with Sam about her not wanting to do things with him. She may be avoiding these outings because of her historic unwillingness to let Deeks see her struggle. But she also just might not feel like leaving the house. And hearing “I’m Fine” Kensi admit to being “a little bit depressed” reveals just how much she’s really hurting.
In the past many fans have been extremely disappointed at the show’s lack of follow through on Deeks’ PTSD and on Kensi’s post-Afghanistan recovery, so I know I should feel happy that they’ve taken their time with Kensi’s recovery. But somehow the positive elements of this story are currently being outweighed by a couple of frustrating ones. The first is that Kensi should have been getting the support of a therapist all along; sadly it appears that Nate’s 5-minute chat is the first time anyone’s made her talk about her feelings. I do appreciate that we’ve seen signs of her struggle throughout; I’m just a bit frustrated that the help feels way too late.
I understand that Daniela Ruah had limited availability in the lead-up to her maternity leave, making it challenging for the showrunners to cover even the physical aspects of her recovery. But it just feels like this is something the docs at the V.A., not to mention Deeks and others, should have addressed long ago. I guess everyone just wanted to stay positive to support Kensi (see Sam’s advice to Be Granite), but it’s unclear whether that was the right strategy. I guess better late than never?
Daniela Ruah was great in the three minute chat with Nate, and the way she immediately teared up at Nate’s suggesting she might never get back to 100% brilliantly told us so much about her emotional state. Of course, I sure would have enjoyed a longer scene, perhaps one they cut back and forth to over the course of the last 15 minutes. After three months of episodes that managed to heavily focus on Kensi without her being present all that much, I need to hear more from her.
The other aspect of my frustration is the lack of any scenes with Deeks and Kensi together. I can appreciate a partner swap to mix things up and add energy, but for goodness sake, I need to see these two together. Daniela Ruah is back from maternity leave. I say don’t have Deeks tell Sam about Kensi’s refusal to go hiking, show us Kensi’s refusal to go hiking. Give us something of these two together. Kensi’s glaring lack of screen time makes it apparent that Daniela Ruah’s return to work wasn’t immediately full-time. But part of what made the first third of this season so incredible were the Densi scenes. Keeping them apart just feels like a wasted opportunity for continued drama and emotion. And to have it happen for the majority of two consecutive episodes feels a little like some sort of punishment.
Fresh Advice (or is it?) from a Deepening Friendship
On the other hand, if they had given us Densi, we might not have gotten that wonderful scene with Deeks and Sam to open the show, my favorite part of the episode. You all know of my love for these two together, and this was the type of big brother-little brother scene I’ve wanted for forever. Deeks and Sam practicing together (Deeks holding his own and Sam not mocking his ability) followed by a sweet heart to heart talk where Sam shows he cares about Deeks and offers non-condescending advice. That advice “Think granite, be granite” mirrored the advice Sam once gave Kensi about “More being, less doing.” This surely must be Sam’s philosophy on life!
I am curious what you all thought of that advice- should Deeks not talk about Kensi’s depression? I kinda think it would be better to address it. Kensi has been allowed to live in denial of the possible outcomes of her accident for way too long, and I’d rather see Deeks pushing her to deal with them as he’s often pushed her in the past. He could do it by way of reassuring her that no matter what, he loves her and wants to be with her. Or maybe he could at least
push encourage her to get treatment. Unfortunately Deeks seems too willing to live with a less-than-ideal situation (“I’m not gonna lie. Things aren’t great, but whatever”). Perhaps that’s him just being happy that Kensi is even alive and talking. Or perhaps that’s part of his generally low expectations for himself that come out of his troubled childhood.
- It’s sweet that Callen and Sam are worried about Granger to the point that Callen is staking out his house. I suppose that’s setting up what we’ll be seeing over the next few weeks. I’m seriously worried about Granger.
- I liked how sincerely Deeks agreed with the Councilman that “it’s a game of moments” to work with the kids and keep them out of trouble. I could feel his personal experience at play there.
- I don’t think it’s just Kensi who feels compelled to punch Deeks in the shoulder. Even Nell, when she realized Deeks’ story about the summer landscaping job was real, reached out to shove him in the shoulder. Only she wasn’t tall enough to reach!
- Again, Deeks, “touché” is only to be used with your ladybird.
- Sam sure is great at talking people out of blowing themselves up or shooting someone they shouldn’t. He’s so serious and sincere. I’d definitely listen to him.
- Oh, and happy birthday Deeks! We remembered even if your teammates and girlfriend didn’t.
Finally, the mole arc is reaching its conclusion. Whom do we suspect? My money’s on Nate or Paul Angelo from “Three Hearts,” but I’ve seen Nell and Arkady and one other recurring character also floated as suspects (keep away from Tumblr to avoid casting spoilers). I only wish it would be Anna! Since I’ve barely kept track of the mole developments over the years, likely whatever they do will work for me. I’m just looking forward to seeing Deeks arrested again (what is wrong with me?)!
What did you think of “Kulinda”? Do I need to chill about my need for Densi? Is it time to let the other characters take over the “emotional center” of the storytelling? Tell us your thoughts in the Comments below.