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Review: NCISLA “Payback” (S8E15)


Going into this week’s climax of the mole storyline, I found myself wishing that “Payback” had been penned by ever-reliable showrunner R. Scott Gemmill. But I have to say that Jordana Lewis Jaffe outdid herself, giving us an episode with suspense, intensity, emotion, and well-placed humor. Director Terrence O’Hara also contributed to the ep’s success with well done action and pacing throughout.

Full disclosure: I’m just starting to write this at 11:00 pm Monday night (thank you flight delays!), having returned from a weekend trip and finally watching the episode. To make this doable, I’m going to keep things on the short side and stick with what we most like to talk about here at wikiDeeks- how the story impacts our favorite character and his ladybird. I know you all are anxious to discuss!

Violence Solving Violence

Aside from knowing Joelle was back, I had somehow successfully avoided all spoilers over the last couple of weeks. The scene where Deeks barged into Sabatino’s interrogation and started beating on him utterly shocked me. The intensity of the violence had me literally gasping as my hand went to cover my mouth. Deeks was like a runaway freight train in his forward momentum, while also being so serious and focused on the task at hand. If I were Sabatino I’d have been pretty scared.

Not for the first time, we got a very clear window onto Deeks’ dark side, the part of him that learned at a very early age that violence stops the bad guys and gets results. As Eric Christian Olsen has said, “This character obviously has issues of violence solving violence, especially when it comes to women that he cares about.” While Deeks normally represses his violent urges, here he unleashed them in full force in an effort to get information that will save Kensi. It was basically a repeat of “Spoils of War,” only his team was there to witness it, and to keep him from going too far. (It could also have potentially been a glimpse of an enraged Deeks out to protect Tiffany from Frances Boyle.)

It also made me think about the first time Deeks witnessed Kensi being abducted, in “Deliverance.” At that point in their partnership, they were barely friendly. Kensi wasn’t anywhere close to the one person Deeks cared about the most in the world. In that episode, Deeks felt horrible about what had happened but he remained so self-contained. He blamed himself but expressed no anger. No chairs were thrown. In “Payback” he is absolutely frantic, desperate to save Kensi. He simply couldn’t survive losing her.

What was great about this scene was that it managed to be simultaneously shocking (nicely directed by Mr. O’Hara) and yet unsurprising, since it sprung from what we already know and understand about Deeks’ character and motivations. On a shallower note, Deeks slamming the door open and hurling the chair out of his way was, umm, attention grabbing, as was his roar of anger right before Sam stopped him. Speaking of hurling, it was impressive and somehow amusing how easily Sam picked Deeks up and hurled him to the side. The man is strong! And even as Sam and Callen tried to keep Deeks under control throughout the episode, they kept their efforts as low key as possible and never threatened to pull him from the case.

Callen: So what’d I miss?
Sam: Not much. Sabatino says he doesn’t know where Ferris has Kensi and he’s been working against these people.
Deeks: Which is a big fat post-truth.
Sam: Deeks tried to break his face.
Callen: Goin’ off book for this one, huh?
Sam: There is no book for this one.

Too Close to be Partners?

When Sam, Callen and Deeks had arrived at the church I was already beginning to wonder if they should pull Deeks from the case (not that he’d have let them). And then when they were back in the boatshed after Deeks punched Sabatino and hurled a second chair across the room in front of Joelle and Hetty, the concerns only increased. It made me think back to Hetty’s conversation with Nate in “Impact,” when she asked him if Deeks and Kensi were too close to continue working as partners. I do hope that’s something the showrunners continue to explore. I’m not so sure myself that they should be working together.

But then Deeks focused his anger on one person who definitely deserves it- Hetty. Words cannot express how thrilling it was to hear Deeks let Hetty have it for putting Kensi at risk. Again, there were great parallels to an earlier episode, this time with Kensi’s admonishment of Hetty in “Internal Affairs.” If only Hetty had taken his words to heart rather than responding with sarcasm. Oh, Hetty, how much I simultaneously enjoy your attitude in one scene and then despise it in another. Despite Hetty’s annoying response, Deeks’ standing up to her was one of my favorite moments of the season.

Deeks: [Roars and throws chair]
Hetty: You feel better?
Deeks: I can’t do this. I can’t do this, he’s not giving us anything.
Hetty: He may not have anything to give us.
Deeks: No. No, I can’t live with that.
Hetty: You might not have a choice, Mr. Deeks.
Deeks: That is awful rich, Hetty, considering you’re the person that put her in this position in the first place. It’s not enough to get your whole team locked up, now you go and kill every single person who might know where she’s being held?… Let me be perfectly clear about this. If Sabatino doesn’t know where she is, that means she’s in this all by herself. You understand what that means, right? If anything happens to her… that’s on you.
Hetty: Now, do you feel any better?

Whether or not they address this confrontation in the future remains to be seen. I don’t think they need to, but it sure would be interesting.

Taking the Shot

On the other hand, I was disappointed when Deeks told Hetty that Kensi wasn’t ready. He’s usually not over-protective in that way, always respecting Kensi’s abilities. It’s a sign that he’s lashing out about anything he can think of, but also of how all that Kensi’s been through has impacted him. I think it would only be natural if he continues to feel overly protective when Kensi and he are finally back in the field together, and I hope the show will explore that dynamic.

But then we got that awesome rescue scene. Once more, huge echoes of the past rang through my mind. This time it was “The Frozen Lake” and Deeks’ hesitation to take the shot. Here there was no hesitation whatsoever. In fact, I don’t think Deeks could have taken the shot any faster! Sullivan/Ferris didn’t even get to finish his threat. So even as Deeks may worry about Kensi’s abilities, and even as their closeness stopped Deeks from functioning at a fully professional level, at least he’s able to perform his duties when the moment calls for it.

Then he could finally check on Kensi and talk to her, and their reunion couldn’t have been any cuter. Kensi actually looked both relieved and happy. As in happy with herself that she had held her own with Sullivan; the silver lining here is that she’s proven to herself and everyone else that she’s more than ready to be back in the field. Kensi also seemed happy that Deeks had taken the shot. “Double tap to the head? You must really love me.” What a classic Densi line. It reminded me so much of my #1 Sexiest Scene, when Deeks threatened Michael Saleh, who was pointing a gun at Kensi, in “Greed” (“Let me make this perfectly clear. If you harm her…”). Kensi looked about as turned on in this scene as she did in that one. Their words to Sam and Callen couldn’t have been more perfect…

Callen: Kens, you OK?
Deeks: Dad, get out of the room!
Sam: Kensi, you alright?
Kensi: He said get out of the room!

The End of the Mole(s)?

In the end, I don’t know what to think of the mole storyline. There were so many moles! I wish Joelle had been a little more evil rather than turning into a somewhat hapless CIA agent who somehow got to get out of her assignment tracking Callen when she decided she felt bad about it. Or was that just a line? I mean, didn’t she have to be in on Kensi’s kidnapping since she swapped places with her at the church? It was creepy to think of her sitting at the boatshed gathering intel, all the while pretending to be so sweet and innocent. I only wish we’d had a more calculating turn for her character.

Also, I wish that Sullivan developing feelings for Kensi could have been handled with a bit more finesse, as it could have been interesting rather than kind of awkward (and was she “a job” or did he want revenge?). I have no idea how Sharov was ever involved in both Russia and Afghanistan. But I do like that Sabatino got away. He is so slimy, and hopefully he’ll be back in the future to cause more mayhem for the team.

Memorable Moments

  • What in the heck was the point of Callen phoning Sullivan/Ferris at the beginning? They had to assume he’d move locations and leave his phone behind. That was the weakest point of the episode, as it seemed like a very stupid move on Callen’s part. How did they know Sullivan was about to cut off Kensi’s leg? “Forcing him to change his plans” meant that they had no chance of rescuing Kensi. Oh, right, but then the episode would have ended after only 10 minutes, hee hee.
  • Dare I say that if The Top 3 Sexiest Moments hadn’t already run, some of Deeks’, shall we say, determined behavior to find Kensi might have made the list?
  • Nutella? That’s mighty sweet Callen, although a questionable use of NCIS resources to send someone out to the store for a snack.
  • Deeks may have doubted Kensi, but I loved how confident Sam was. Kensi is as tough as nails. You’ll see. She’s gonna make the bastard pay. Overall Sam couldn’t have been more supportive of Deeks, both last episode and this one. Just beautiful to see.
  • More nice callbacks to the past with the reminders that Sabatino and Michelle had been friendly co-workers.
  • Finally, someone was able to write a very funny Eric who didn’t seem completely ridiculous. I loved his scene with Admiral Chegwidden. Speaking of the admiral, he seems pretty funny. I’m unfamiliar with his character from previous appearances on JAG or NCIS, but he was instantly likeable, so him sticking around might be a good thing for the show. (I do feel compelled to mention though that it wouldn’t have killed the showrunners to bring in a new character of color to up the cast’s diversity level a bit.)
  • Under pressure, Deeks doesn’t simply take the shot. He first makes sure he has Callen’s back before he goes to help Kensi. Maybe he can keep working with her after all.
  • I assume Kensi’s happiness in the final scene was possible because she knew that Granger and Hetty were really alive? After all, she had seen those horrible photos on the bad guys’ phones.
  • Also adorable was Deeks carrying Kensi over the threshold. It reminded me of “Raven & The Swans” but might it also be foreshadowing? Let’s hope so!
  • Callen razzing Sam for introducing him to Joelle was classic bromance. Callen chopping his Joelle-gifted dining table was hilarious. And also very much in character, much more so than had he talked about his feelings.
  • Oh, Granger. I’m glad he got to shoot the bad gal and share a few words with Nell and Hetty. That’s a much better way to go out than simply never regaining consciousness. (By the way, what kind of badge did that would-be assassin flash?)
  • I’m still rooting for Detective Whiting to pull through. No news is good news?

Well so much for keeping things short, LOL. At least I set a personal speed record of two hours to get the review done. I’m sorry I don’t have more time to ponder this episode. We got a lot of interesting Deeks material to go along with his confession to Whiting in the last ep. I also appreciate how in character everyone was throughout, and how many previous episodes Jaffe managed to summon up in my thoughts. I am looking forward to her next outing. And finally, I’d be remiss to not point out how fantastic Eric Christian Olsen was in every scene, showing us a Dark Deeks who’s desperate to save the woman he loves.

What did you think? Are you happy with the resolution of the mole storyline? Do you think it’s even resolved? What did you think of Dark, Determined, and Desperate Deeks? And did you love the Densi reunion at the end?

About Karen P (159 Articles)
wikiDeeks Writer & Assistant Editor. I never wrote for fun before... until my ECO-obsession. Now I love to analyze any and all aspects of the best character on television.

21 Comments on Review: NCISLA “Payback” (S8E15)

  1. Ed and this also in response to what Dianne, Cladani and Daisy said,

    Ed, I respectfully disagree with what you said about that you do not
    care who Callen’s ex girlfriend was. For my part, I care about Joelle,
    and to me it does matter that she was Callen’s ex girlfriend. As I stand
    by my opinion that it was a rotten thing to ruin and destroy her character
    by forcing Joelle into this storyarc and making her a traitor.

    I agree with you completely about the remainder of your wishlist and as you
    know I share your extreme disgust of Anna. I am already having nightmarish
    visions of the overdose which we will get of her and all the sub, subpar acting
    from Ms. Paly in episode 17.

    And I think that your many thought provoking, astute comments definitely
    make people think, as well as that your humour often made/makes me smile.

    Welcome Dianne!
    And to answer your question about Nell’s mystery download during the
    season’s premiere when Duggan took over. I am also still bothered by
    this. And I remain suspicious of Nell (as well of Eric and Nate).

    Cladani and Daisy,
    I totally agree with both of you that they crammed too much into
    this three part storyarc.
    And I, too dearly hope that Ellen Whiting’s storyarc and the resolution
    of Deek’s Internal Affairs case will be addressed.

    Raven

    Like

    • Raven,
      I went back and re read what I wrote, and I guess I could Have worded it better.
      I think I have said that I like Joelle, both the character and the actress..
      the point I was trying to make…apparently not very well…was that I thought the show felt that there was a group of people that thought Joelle was a good fit for Callen. (Myself included by the way). I feel that there may have been some thought that if Joelle was out of the way, that the fans would be more accepting of Anna. Your reaction and feelings about Joelle are not uncommon, and that very fact is the reason they may have throwen Joelle under the bus..to eliminate the competition…
      My comments about Callen’s girlfriend and all the bizarre names I threw out there, was an attempt to state that my dislike of Anna had nothing to do with Joelle, I just don’t like Anna, the 2 are not related. I dont care if Anna is Callen’s girlfriend or not..I .just don’t like her…
      Thus my statement that it did not make any difference who Callen’s ex girlfriend was, or if she was still in the picture or not….I Just Don’t Like Anna…I would pick just about anyone or anything over her…
      The point is that she gets way too much airtime and her lack of experience make the scenes that she is in less enjoyable than they could be.
      whether it is lack of experience, lack of training, lack of practice, lack of commitment, or just lack of ability….at this point in her career she is lacking the skills or blend in with the cast and create any form of. chemistry.

      Like

    • Thanks Raven. I’m glad to hear someone else thinks there is more to Nell’s little side trip than meets the eye.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. in case there is any confusion…the reason why I don’t like Anna…

    Watching Bar attempt to breathe life, believability and depth into her character is like watching a Camel try to ride a bicycle.
    …They may have seen it done and may have actually watched intently as experts practiced.
    They may be standing right in the middle of a bunch of people actually doing it…but it doesn’t mean they have a chance in hell of pulling it off.

    Does that make the poor Camel bad?…absolutely not…
    It just means that it does not possess the skills needed for that particular task.
    …and neither does she.

    hope that clears it up…
    Ed

    Like

    • Ed,
      Thank you for your explanation, and I think
      I was too protective of Joelle and responded
      too quickly. But I understood that your dislike
      of Anna has nothing to do with Joelle.
      As for Anna. Yes, I understand that you dislike
      her whether she s Callen’s girlfriend or not.
      Because I would like to add something to all
      what I have said about Anna and Bar Paly
      in my comments to Karen’s previous reviews.
      I, too dislike Anna whether she is Callen’s
      girlfriend or not. Because I share exactly all
      of your objections against Bar Paly’s extremely
      painful attempts at trying to act, not to speak
      of her total lack of chemistry with any of the other
      cast members. The casting director should have
      been much more critical.
      I am sincerely sorry if my comments also caused
      confusion.
      ******
      As well as that that I stand definitely corrected
      about the woman and man on the picture which
      you posted either on Karen’s previous review or
      Tess’s feature of the official preview of Payback.
      I was wrong, they were not stunt people, but
      Ferris/Sullivan’s helpers.
      ******
      About one of the items which remain on your
      wishlist:

      “See a ring on Kensi’s finger”

      I rewatched Payback from the moment when Deeks
      rescued Kensi. And I noticed that Kensi swung her
      hand in a conspicuous but rather careful way when
      Deeks carried her outside. And from what I could see
      something glittered on her finger. Which would mean
      that he proposed to her offscreen and she accepted,
      and now wears his gorgeous ring. But perhaps I am
      totally wrong about this.

      Raven

      Like

  3. I really don’t think so.
    I cant believe they would ever consider not showing the fans the proposal.
    from time to time the writers do things that many fans think of as a mistake…but I would never believe that not showing the proposal would be one of them…
    It is possible I missed something, but I went back and looked and the only thing I see that is shiny in that scene is the crystal on Kensi’s watch.

    I looked close because I seem to recall a time when Dani actually forgot to remove her actual wedding ring and it can be seen for a split second in the show.
    I thought this might be a case of an oversite that slipped through again.
    Does anyone remember just when this was?
    For some reason I want to say it was in opps during others dialogue and she was just in the scenes background, but that may have been something else.
    Maybe my brain is playing tricks on me…
    Ed

    Like

  4. I rewatched the scenes many times, but I honestly saw nothing on Kensi’s finger, neither inside the room when she is hugging Deeks nor when Deeks is carrying her out. I said here in one of my comments that I’m ready to forgive the authors for some of their choices here and there I don’t completely agree with, from time to time, but I would probably never forgive them if they decided not to show Deeks’ proposal&Densi engagement on screen. Too many Densi milestones have already happened offscreen, this would be the last straw!

    Ed, I remember well when it was ECO who forgot to remove his wedding ring, in a scene in OPS in Dead Body Politic, as I remember Dani wearing a necklace with the Star of David while filming the first scenes of Blame it on Rio when they were all welcoming DiNozzo in the bullpen, but I can’t remember if we actually saw a glimpse of it in some scenes or if it was only very visible in some BTS photographs and in an interview she released those days. I don’t remember Daniela wearing her wedding ring in any filmed scenes though, let’s see if someone with better memory than me remembers this moment.

    Like

    • In no way shape or form will they get any sort of a pass from me if the writers decide to have the Densi proposal take place off screen…

      it might drive me to actually write something critical…
      and we all know how much i dislike doing that….
      Ed

      Liked by 1 person

    • Daisy and Cladani,
      Good memories…that’s why you are the brains of this operation…
      There is only so much room in my memory banks, and I had to flip a coin between that and a kid’s birthday…
      it was a close call.

      Ed

      Like

  5. Another one of Ed’s ideas…
    it is up to you guys if it is good or not…

    This discussion we are having presents some perfect examples of the types of things we need to see in the first of many ” behind the scenes, outtakes and bloopers dvd’s that should be added to the boxed sets that come out….
    With the humor and improvisation that we see from ECO, as well as his unique relationship with Dani, there is no doubt a huge amount of material available.
    from Renee and Barett dancing to the humor of Chris and Todd, there is so much I would love to see.
    We have heard discussions where Dani “complained” that Eric was stealing the last line in a scene from her just to get a rise out of her…let’s see it please…
    We hear about Dani cracking up when her and Eric had to first kiss and having to have several takes to get one without laughing….lets see it.
    we heard that during the “First Fight” scene that Dani covered her legs with lotion and makeup
    to look more sexy and Eric said it was like being in bed with a slimy lizard or something like that…let’s see some of that please.
    How about Dani learning to surf during the filming of Skin Deep… lets see it please…
    ECO ad libs a lot…can we see some of it.
    with all the action they have, things don’t always go right the first time,…some bloopers would be nice to see.
    This show and cast seems perfect for it, right…

    Will somebody set me up with an outtake reel soon please….

    Ed

    Like

  6. I am sincerely sorry, I was obviously totally
    wrong about what I thought glittered on Kensi’s
    finger. And I feel truly embarrassed about this.
    It would be truly unforgivable if they do not show
    the proposal.
    Though I read an interview with Eric, which I
    can’t find back. Eric said in this interview that
    during Payback there would be an upheaval
    in Kensi’s and Deeks’s relationship. Which even
    he had not seen coming. I wonder what sort of an
    upheaval he meant.

    Ed, what you said about outtakes and bloopers.
    During the season’s premiere there is a scene
    which they did not leave out: Kensi runs to come
    to Deeks’s aid, and Daniela’s pregnancy was very
    visible here and she clutches her belly protectively
    for a moment.

    Raven

    Like

    • no reason to apologize for anything at all.
      I went back and looked because I couldn’t remember what I wrote…
      it is often a spur of the moment with no filter or proofreading before I hit the little button.
      no telling what comes out sometimes…
      Ed

      Like

    • Raven,
      Do you mean when Kensi was on stakeout pushing a stroller for her cover…with a gun in it by the way…
      I think the idea was, because Dani’s pregnancy was not part of the show, to portray the fact that Kensi had a stroller and a fake baby bump to not appear suspicious.
      I think what you are referring to is at the end of the scene where Deeks winds up in the back of the truck. I think Dani does that wiggle and pull up move to sell the fact that Kensi is adjusting her fake belly.
      Although it is in fact real…
      …that’s my thought anyway…but I may be wrong.
      Ed

      Like

      • Ed,
        No, you are not wrong Daniela’s pregnancy was made
        a part of Kensi’s cover in High Value Target as I rewatched
        that scene.

        And I still share your hope for an episode in which Kensi and
        Deeks will truly share with each other about their pasts.
        When Kensi excluded Julia from her life completely and went to
        live on the streets she definitely set for herself a goal, to survive,
        to join NCIS and solve the mystery of her father’s death. As her
        father’s death was the force which drove Kensi all the way. Already
        then she possessed great determination, strength and courage
        (and stubbornness which could be positive or negative).
        One can only imagine how tough it must have been for her to live
        on the streets. And perhaps there are still people from her life
        on the streets who mean a lot to her. I do not mean a former
        fiance/boyfriend like Jack. But it is possible that Kensi found
        a friend/mentor during her life on the streets who meant a
        lot to her. I realise that these are all truly wild speculations but
        I think that Kensi’s life on the streets could provide material for
        a compelling episode or even a storyarc. And Deeks would never
        judge Kensi because of her life on the streets, he wants to know all
        about her, truly, sincerely, lovingly and deeply.
        Not to speak that I still dearly hope for the Deeks, M. episode as well
        as for a ninth season.

        Raven

        Like

  7. Hi, I love reading the site when I get a chance (which unfortunately isn’t much at the moment). I haven’t posted before so forgive me if I miss any basic courtesy’s I should be including.
    But I am still confused about a few things in this episode/mole storyline resolution. From what I understand it all came because someone was annoyed at Hetty’s meddling in Afghanistan. Was it the CIA itself, or just rogue agents? And if it was the CIA, how can they possible justify targeting federal agents (even from a different agency) and their families, not to mention shooting Duggan? And if it was rogue agents, how did they still have access to all the information/money they seemed to have? Sorry if I have totally missed something, but I just keep thinking about it & can’t make sense of such a foundational piece of info…..
    For the record, I also dislike Anna & think it was quite problematic making Joelle a part of the mole storyline-it completely undermines the entire teams supposed trade craft (she was around for ages & no one suspected anything? really? It’s one thing to make the team fallible every now and then, but all of them so completely? It just makes them look incompetent). It also changes the way we view a lot of previous episodes, but not in a good way. Just thought I’d put that out there!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, thanks for another fantastic discussion people! One clarification I’d like to make is that I totally agree with those of you pointing out that everyone on the team has had personal cases where they weren’t functioning at optimal levels. I don’t think this was really any different. I guess I just think that when the case gets personal, none of these people should be allowed to work it. Of course, personal cases are completely and totally my favorites, so I have no actual wish for Hetty to implement any new policies in this regard. 🙂

    Like

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