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.
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)
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.