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The Top 3 Heartbreaking Moments


NCIS: Los Angeles is known for the banter and fun these agents have with one another. But what makes the show great is how it provides a counterpoint to the silliness in the form of scenes filled with darkness. Today we’ll talk about the scenes that moved us, that made us cry, that made our hearts go out to our favorite character. The Top 3 Heartbreaking Moments, AKA The Top 3 Times I Desperately Needed Someone to Hug Deeks.

The Premise

As always, the selections needed to be Deeks or Densi focused. I found myself struggling with the exact category I wanted to use here. I debated sticking with “moving,” which could allow for scenes with somewhat happier content (like the forgiveness scene in “Cancel Christmas”). At some point I also had a “most intense” list, which included scenes like Deeks nearly shooting Scarli at the end of “Human Traffic.” But I kept coming back to a core list that made my heart ache. What can I say, I love the angst!

The Top 3

No one will be surprised to see Frank Military dominating this particular list- all hail the Prince of Darkness! He’s responsible not just for two of my Top 3 but for half of the 20 scenes I considered (six were from “Ascension” alone). He’s responsible for writing only 12% of all NCIS:LA episodes, but 50% of the most heartbreaking scenes- impressive work. In reverse order of importance, my Top 3 is…

#3. Getting the photo and torturing the cleric in “Spoils of War

Eric Christian Olsen provides an acting tour de force in this scene (I’m counting this as one extended scene even though it’s interrupted by scenes of other characters). It begins with Deeks merely taunting the cleric with some hot food. (Brother I know what torture is, and this ain’t it.) He’s trying to keep himself together despite his worry for Kensi, even offering his trademark humor to defuse tension, answering Hetty’s call with, “Go for the American infidel.”

But then Hetty sends him the photo of Kensi with her throat seemingly cut, and we watch him fall apart. His face just kills me. In that moment I felt his pain so viscerally. Then he takes his anger out on the cleric. I watched, transfixed and terrified at how far he would go. (I don’t even care if it works.) That loss of control over the side of him that channels his father is fascinating and horrifying at the same time. I desperately wanted him to stop, and he does; the real Deeks, a good and kind man, regains control. But then my heart broke again, as Deeks realizes what he’s just done. His face – again – kills me. He’s horrified at his actions. I think he scared himself in that moment. I wonder what fills his continuing Afghan-fueled nightmares more- losing Kensi or becoming his father? At the 2016 London Comicon ECO was asked about this scene and described it this way:

I think what’s interesting about that scene is… listen, this character shot his dad, you know, his dad was wielding a shotgun, he was abusive to his mother. This character killed a cop in defense of a girl. This character obviously has issues of violence solving violence, especially when it comes to women that he cares about. And that I think would be a pretty good example of realizing that that was a flawed theory. So I think the character bailed on the torture, obviously, and that’s when he broke down in tears and just held onto him, because he lost himself in it. And the way that I play that is, that’s the moments when he becomes his father. Because his father was that abusive to his mother. And he realizes that’s who he’s become. So it’s more about his own fear of becoming the monster that he hates the most. So that’s where those tears came from.

And that’s why this scene makes The Top 3. It’s heartbreaking because Deeks loses a part of his soul as his dark side takes over.

#2. Deeks proposing to a comatose Kensi in “The Queen’s Gambit

Darn it, proposals are supposed to be happy! This one, written by R. Scott Gemmill, is chock full of heartbreaking little moments. It’s so sad that it managed to move the garage scene from “Ascension” out of the Top 3, something I wouldn’t have thought possible.

Eric Christian Olsen has never been better than he is here. He’s so good that he apparently made Daniela Ruah cry while she was pretending to be unconscious. We know from before the helicopter crash that Deeks is planning to propose to Kensi, and when he finally gets a minute alone with her on his return to the States, he just can’t stop himself.

The moment that kills me every time is the long pause Eric Christian Olsen takes after he speaks about his prior plans for the proposal. In that moment we watch him realize all that he may have lost forever. Sometimes life doesn’t work the way that you planned it. The tragedy is stunning, and the weight of that potential loss makes me tear up just thinking about it. But Deeks doesn’t let that stop him. “We adapt,” he says as he pulls out the ring and pops the question. The romance of his gesture takes my breath away, for Deeks doesn’t care that Kensi may never wake up; she is the love of his life and he’s determined to support her no matter what.

As if this wasn’t all enough to break your heart, Mr. Gemmill digs the knife in just a little deeper after Kensi starts moving her hands and feet. It’s like the inherent optimism of the proposal is being mocked by fate, as the doctor explains to Deeks that the movements aren’t a sign that Kensi is coming around. And then Deeks takes her hand and it reflexively jerks away. But we just know that to Deeks, it feels like a rejection of him and his proposal. He backs away and does a trademark blowing out of his breath as his future, his whole world, seems to be crumbling apart before his eyes.

#1. The Your smile, your laugh… everything scene from the end of Ascension

This scene tops my list partly for its place at the end of a string of heartbreaking scenes from this episode and the season finale before it, “Descent.” Their cumulative effect weighed heavily on me as I watched this scene. It kills me every time I watch because Deeks is so alone. He’s so lost. He’s been abandoned by Kensi twice already. He rejects her efforts to comfort him, and just wants to run off and lick his wounds. Sure, the team may drag him out for drinks (pretty ridiculous given the situation), but it feels like he’s just biding his time until he can run away. I love the hurt/comfort genre of fan fiction, but I always need a big dose of comfort after all the hurt, and here I didn’t get it. Deeks needed some reassuring contact in nearly every scene of this episode, and he didn’t get more than Sam touching his foot in the hospital room and putting his hand on his shoulder here. I had to settle for the symbolism of Deeks figuratively walking over to the grouping of the three agents, finally accepted as part of the team. It wasn’t enough.

The scene is heartbreaking enough with all that, but we also get Deeks telling Kensi that thinking of her helped him survive being tortured. He’s the one in terrible pain but he’s rejected her efforts to comfort him. Instead, as she walks away, he can’t help but reach out to try to stop her pain. It’s something we see time and again, Deeks extending himself emotionally to stop Kensi from feeling bad. His words to her here are really among the most romantic he’s ever uttered, basically telling her that he loves her so much that just the mere image of her provided incredible comfort to him at an incredibly dark moment. Then, to top it off, he throws in “for whatever it’s worth” to his declaration. I’ve always interpreted these words as Deeks assuming that Kensi has rejected his not-yet-addressed “Descent” hilltop kiss. He doesn’t think those amazing words will even mean anything to her? Ugh. I almost can’t bear to see him so sad.

Also in the Running

There were many wonderful angst-filled scenes to choose from. Among them:

  • Kensi abandoning leaving Deeks in the garage in “Ascension”
  • The deleted hospital room scene with a nurse in “Ascension”
  • The hospital room scene with Sam in “Ascension”
  • The ER scene in “Ascension”
  • Deeks helping Kensi into bed after his failed proposal at the end of “Crazy Train” (Frank Military)
  • Deeks alone at the mission at the end of “The Frozen Lake” (Dave Kalstein)
  • Deeks waiting to talk to a no-show Kensi at the end of “Fish Out of Water” (Joe Sachs)
  • Deeks, “the weak one,” being tortured at the end of “Descent” (Frank Military)
  • Deeks learning of his father’s death at the end of “Personal” (Joseph C. Wilson)
  • Deeks not believing that Kensi could forget his birthday at the end of “Drive” (Joe Sachs)
  • The best hug ever at the end of “Spoils of War”
  • An insomniac Deeks at the beach in “Impact” (R. Scott Gemmill)
  • Thapa’s death in “Expiration Date” (Dave Kalstein)
  • Deeks realizing how close he came to losing everything at the end of “Internal Affairs” (Chad Mazero, R. Scott Gemmill)
  • Deeks dropping to his knees in the helipad scene in “Ascension”
  • Deeks confessing to Nicole in “Plan B” (Dave Kalstein, Joseph C. Wilson)
  • Kensi reading her dad’s journal at the end of “Blye K, Part 2” (Dave Kalstein)

Next Week

Wow, that was depressing! Next week we’ll switch over to another kind of dark topic, but hopefully this one will give us all an outlet to vent over The Top 3 Frustrating Episodes. In the meantime, tell us, which scenes made your heart break for Deeks or Densi?

Of go back to last week’s Top 3, the Top 3 Densi Communications.

About Karen P (273 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.

16 Comments on The Top 3 Heartbreaking Moments

  1. The three most heartbreaking moments in my list all belong to Season 5 (I still wonder why we had to go through so much angst in that season…).
    #3. Kensi in Ascension asking a bleeding Deeks to wait some more time tied to that chair after being tortured. Deeks’ hurt and astonished expression in that scene still has the power to break my heart after so many years.
    #2. Deeks alone – yet again – at the end of Frozen lake. I admit I have never totally forgiven the author (DK) for not letting Deeks and Kensi say goodbye before she left for Afghanistan. And Hetty’s cruel words to Deeks ( “Your partner’s been reassigned… Indefinitely…”) marked the beginning of my mistrust of her character.
    #1. I have always been so great a fan of the Spoils of war hugs that they can’t not be my Number 1! I remember I didn’t expect them at all, let alone to be so beautiful and heartbreaking. They got me so emotional that I still can’t watch those moments without having a lump in my throat. Perfect scene. Perfect ECO and DR.

    Thanks Karen for this weekly appointment with the Top Three. As a fan of this show, I find it so fun and stimulating, sometimes very challenging too, to go look for scenes for my lists and more than once let some momentarily forgotten NCIS:LA memories resurface in all their beauty.


    • Thanks Cladani! It’s tough to argue with your picks. That SOW hug is the best! And that Ascension scene kills me and was in my Top 3 prior to that “Queen’s Gambit” proposal.


  2. Heart break is the reason why season 5 is actually my favorite. It allows for great acting. In no particular order:

    Three Hearts – Yes, the scene has a silly analogy of raccoons. But so desperately trying to talk about their “thing.” The music from Impact plays in the background. He gives her back her knife. “Ok.” She opens the first box. And he looks like a little kid seeing what’s in a present. But there is hope at the end.

    The Frozen Lake — Last scene. “Your partner has been reassigned, Mr. Deeks.” Deeks alone at the mission. Long shot of Deeks walking out, so lost. Can you imagine him going home and just mind-scrambled and not able to sleep? And then basically all the episodes that she was gone, he breaks my heart. Blaming himself for her reassignment. Trying to change the reassignment by offering to leave. Trying to find a way to get information about her and to contact her.

    Spoils of War — Before the hug, he sees her looking after Jack, he’s so uncertain, and trying so hard to be supportive, wants probably to just grab and hold on right away but holds off, making small talk …until the great hug after she breaks down. Then they break apart while Sam tells them about the exfil plans and Deeks brushes at his nose to control feelings.


    • Yes, peakae, why do we enjoy the heartbreak so much? It makes me think about the great fanfic writer Maxie Kay, who always managed to mangle Deeks in some way in her stories. She always said that “Deeks maims so beautifully” as the reason. I think there is something compelling about how ECO portrays those heartbreaking scenes that makes me feel his emotions. As you pointed out with so many wonderful little details like him brushing his nose during that “SOW” hug, I think he does sadness so perfectly that it’s hard not to be captivated.


  3. Wow, great list. Hope you took a Lexapro after watching/thinking about/summarizing all of those scenes! I think you could make any of those the top three and they would work. I kept changing my mind re: which I thought was my own number one, and it might be after he tortures the cleric. But then I think of “for what it’s worth” and the look on his face when he asks Kensi to untie him in the garage, and (I don’t think I saw this on your list) when they are both looking longingly at the pictures of them playing basketball (don’t remember which ep) while Kensi was in Afghanistan, and I just can’t make up my mind. Damn, now I need a Lexapro!


    • Those last few moments in Frozen Lake where Granger tells Kensi to grab her stuff and leave and Deeks texts her drive me nuts. Every time I watch it I get cross. We live in an age of instant communication. She couldn’t have sent him a text back telling him what was happening or better still, call him from the car? For me, that was poor writing. Yes, it added angst but it made absolutely no sense. And I was furious with Hetty and her ‘Buckle up Mr Deeks, it’s cold out there.” What a ,……..!


  4. You folks are just incredible. You bring up some of the most tormenting moments of the show in incredible detail. I cannot explain how impressed I am.
    Unfortunately, I don’t have your capacity or threshold for angst.
    I am okay for a while but want that happy ending.
    Getting a 2-minute scene at the end of a 2 1/2-hour movie, I can handle.
    Getting 20 minutes at the end of a 16-hour miniseries, I can take.
    Going on 7 years is pushing my limit. I can appreciate the drama, the writing and the acting, it is very well done. But, I just start to have trouble enjoying it. I guess it makes me shallow, or maybe just impatient, but I need to have a payoff.
    Seeing all of this put together in one place, as a fantastic of a job as it is, the first thing that comes to mind is…Enough is enough, isn’t it time, can they please be happy for a while. I really hope they don’t have a setback for a while.
    I need some balance. For me, 15 episodes of torment aren’t quite offset by 90 seconds of a happy Densi. that needs to be a turning point, not the end result..

    Peakae, you are far tougher than I…
    Your three in particular are tough for me.
    I probably should appreciate the pivotal moments in their relationship, or the drama of it all, but what I feel is overwhelming….and consistant..
    Three Hearts- I hate Hetty for manipulating them with Paul Angelo
    The Frozen Lake- I hate Hetty for not letting them say goodbye and letting Deeks think it is all his fault.
    Spoils of War- I hate Hetty for putting Kensi through this and keeping secrets that could have allowed Kensi to be more prepared to handle things differently.
    A big portion of the entire list just makes me hate Hetty.
    it is not always her, obviously, but there is a pattern for sure…

    I feel like I just watched Forrest Gump, except at the end,his and Jenny’s kid gets run over by the school bus in the last scene and then a dog attacks Forrest while he sits on the bench…

    So, you all are probably wondering why I am reading something that I find hard to take… No kidding, right?
    Although the constant angst is not my cup of tea, I have a huge amount of respect for your thoughts, your writing, and the level of detail you bring to the conversation.
    Thank you all.

    It does reconfirm my belief that it is time for a proposal…
    These two have earned that, at least.


    • Aww, Ed, I’m so sorry we made you sad this week! Thanks for reading anyway. I very much appreciate your observation that Hetty is all too often behind a lot of the sadness. And yes, I too am hoping for some happiness as we move into the last part of the season.


  5. Agree with all of those on the list. I always shed a tear with the scenes in Spoils of War and Ascension. I would like to add the scene in Home is where the Heart is when Kensi leaves Deeks after he tells her she will walk again. I just wanted to give him a big hug. With all the sadness this season I really hope we are blessed with a beautiful and romantic proposal before the end of the Season.


    • Ugh, Donna Marie, that is an incredibly heartbreaking moment. Could Deeks look any sadder? Yes, we need that proposal!


  6. So many to pick from. The saddest to me are his birthday rejection in Drive, and your number 1 and number 3 picks.


    • Thanks Diane, that birthday rejection is awful, particularly because there was no reason for it. It was like the writer did it to be funny, but it just felt cruel.


  7. All of these heartbreaking moments still have such power to move me, and none would be able to do that without the expressive face of Eric Christian Olsen. The expression on his face when Kensi tells him she can’t untie him in Ascension, still brings tears to my eyes no matter how many times I watch that scene. The devastated look on his face when Kensi leaves him in the courtyard after she rejects his encouragement that she will walk again is stunning for its raw emotion made visible. Without ECO’s expressiveness the scene would have been nothing. But the most heartrending is the scene in Spoils of War when he breaks down after torturing the cleric. It was unbelievably poignant and a testament to ECO’s ability to draw such raw emotion from somewhere deep inside and share it with us.


  8. The one thing that makes the end of Ascension so much poignant for me, is that after the “for whatever it’s worth” phrase, Kensi seems to start making a step towards Deeks. And at the same time, Sam and Callen enter the bullpen and she takes a step back. I’m still wondering what could have happened if there were no interruptions… A hug maybe…


    • Yes Iro! That’s soooo frustrating. After an entire episode (two really) where Deeks needed a hug, he might have actually gotten one. Those writers can be really mean!


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