The Top 3 Frustrating Episodes
We wouldn’t be here writing and reading about NCIS: Los Angeles if we didn’t love the show. But that doesn’t mean we always love the show. Sometimes the showrunners or writers go in a direction that strikes against what we envision for the characters we love. That results in disappointment or even anger. What’s worse is that sometimes we in the fandom don’t always respect one another’s right to disagree when there are strong opinions. All this combines to make a list of the Top 3 Frustrating Episodes.
My list of nominees were episodes that disappointed me because they failed to fulfill expectations. They were episodes that contained significant canon inconsistencies (you know that drives me crazy!). And they were episodes where I didn’t think the characters behaved as I would have expected. There were also some episodes that I felt were overrated by the general fandom, ones that I just didn’t get.
The Top 3
In the end I went with two episodes that made up my most negative overall experiences as a fan (and in the fandom), plus one episode that could have been an all-time great but for what I saw as poor characterizations. Just as you all refrained from judging my picks for the Top 3 Sexiest Scenes, I trust that you’ll refrain from judging my picks here. In reverse order of importance, my Top 3 is…
After an utterly shattering Season 4 finale with “Descent,” and a powerful Season 5 opener with “Ascension” (thank you Frank Military), R. Scott Gemmill took the follow-up episode. What was good about it was that it did follow up with Sam and Deeks about how they were coping with the after-effects of being tortured. This was actually a rarity for the show, and an indication of just how terrible their ordeal had been. What was truly great was Eric Christian Olsen’s performance. He made us feel Deeks’ suffering. And then there’s the episode’s final scene, which is my all-time favorite scene of the entire series (as it is for Eric Christian Olsen, Daniela Ruah and many other fans).
Unfortunately all this greatness was weighed down by what I saw as some less than ideal characterizations (and a completely uninvolving case of the week where the bad guys get away). I had small quibbles with Nate, who may not have provided the best possible advice to Deeks- what exactly did his relationship with his partner have to treating his PTSD? But really, this could have been forgiven but for Hetty. The curtains. The “I’ll need to know if you’re quitting so I can find a replacement if you can’t cut it.” The “I don’t want him back if he’s not the man he was.” The “Sunshine and gunpowder” note-writer morphed into a “Is Deeks too close to his partner?” Hetty I didn’t recognize. It was the beginning of the end of my love for her, the episode where she transitioned from fairy godmother to cold manipulator. I realize she always had that aspect to her character (just look at how she hid Callen’s past from him), but for me prior to this episode, it had always been outweighed by a degree of fondness and kindness towards her agents.
#2. “Three Hearts”
At the time, this was the worst experience I had had in watching an NCIS:LA episode. I had mistakenly assumed that once Kensi got back from Afghanistan and had a little time to recover, she and Deeks would pick up where they had left off in “The Frozen Lake.” I was totally expecting a different outcome here, and when Deeks returns Kensi’s knife without offering any explanation other than a reference to raccoons, I was shocked and disappointed. The multiple metaphors (The Box, the knife, the raccoons) and it being the third Dave Kalstein episode with a mysterious stranger uttering words of wisdom (Thapa and Tujon being the others) were annoying aspects. But I’d have overlooked them if Deeks and Kensi went home together. This episode was the first time I felt the showrunners pulling back from what seemed like an inevitable Densi coupling. I felt manipulated. It scared me because it felt like they might never put them together at all, that we’d be teased endlessly a la Tiva. And in fact, it was the beginning of a lengthy what-the-heck-is-going-on-with-Densi series of episodes that continued all the way until “Humbug,” an incredibly frustrating time for me as a fan.
#1. “Come Back”
“Come Back” was such an unpleasant experience for me as a fan that I am actually reluctant to discuss it. For me it’s the most overrated episode of the series. I know many of you loved it, which is partly why it frustrated me so much and why I hesitate to talk about it. I saw such a different episode than most people did, and that experience profoundly confused me.
Written by the delightful Erin Broadhurst, this episode had a lot of great Densi aspects: the duo announces plans to move in together, and throughout the episode Deeks is nothing but supportive of Kensi as she deals with the latest Hetty surprise. Throughout, Kensi, Deeks and Jack all talk to each other like grown-ups, which definitely isn’t something I take for granted with NCIS:LA (see #2 above). And the big shoot-out with Kensi taking on multiple bad guys was thrilling.
Unfortunately there were some elements that I just couldn’t manage to overlook. Anyone who visits this website regularly will know that canon inconsistency is one of my pet peeves. Here Kensi’s backstory with Jack seemed to be recast in a completely different light (they broke up? I thought he disappeared from her life on Christmas day). That abandonment I thought Kensi had suffered was always something that defined her to me, that was fundamental to her character. The casual way they mentioned their break-up totally threw me.
The other aspect threw me is Kensi’s one-on-one conversation with Jack. She and Deeks have a wonderful rooftop conversation where he encourages her to get things off her chest, to say what she needs to say to Jack. But what she needs to say isn’t what I had long expected: “When you disappeared on me, it broke me but I’m finally happy no thanks to you.” It was, “I’m sorry I didn’t call you after “Spoils of War.” Seriously, she apologizes to him? That’s what she needed to get off her chest?
Then there’s Hetty pulling her usual tricks and being secretive in ways that put peoples’ lives in danger. I’m not referring to springing Jack on Kensi- that was just super annoying. But not letting Jack know she had his family protected leads to the bad guys nearly killing Kensi (unfortunately par for the course Hetty behavior). Plus I was stunned that Jack knew all about Deeks torturing the cleric- did they chat about that before Jack left the base in “Spoils of War”? It didn’t strike me as something Deeks would have been sharing all that freely with his girlfriend’s ex-fiancé he’d just met. And to see him joking about it with Jack also didn’t ring true to me. Also, Kensi and Deeks have been sleeping together regularly- why are they both worried the other will learn about their nightmares? Surely they’ve already seen them.
But what really made this episode #1 was my experiences talking to other fans. I was flat-out told I was wrong to dislike the episode and that my standards were just too high. I got a much better understanding of why people sometimes decide to leave a fandom. I’ve tried to remember it whenever I (hopefully) respectfully disagree with others. So let me end this rant by saying that for most of you who loved this episode, I’m genuinely happy for you. I just wish I could feel the same!
Also in the Running
Unfortunately there were quite a few other episodes that were in the running for this Top 3:
- “Drive” (Joe Sachs): wingsofnight’s fantastic Essential Episodes review sums up all the reasons beautifully
- “Ascension” (Frank Military): Too many scenes of Deeks being abandoned, not enough scenes of Deeks being comforted
- “Recovery” (Gil Grant): What the heck happened next?
- “Parley” (Cheo Hodari Coker): A bitterly jealous Kensi fails to support her undercover partner
- “The Frozen Lake” (Dave Kalstein): What the heck happened the night before? Plus The Punch, Deeks gets blamed for Thapa escaping (and Deeks blames himself), Hetty is horrible, and Deeks is abandoned and so sad at the end
- “Tidings We Bring” (Chad Mazero): No Densi Christmas this year
- “Unwritten Rule” (Joseph C. Wilson, Jordana Lewis Jaffe): Don’t take away that gorgeous motorcycle!
- “Big Brother” (Jordana Lewis Jaffe): Another groin kick, really?
- Every Season 5 episode post-“Three Hearts” through to Season 6 “Humbug”: What the heck was going on with Densi?
- “Blaze of Glory” (Joe Sachs): Incompetent undercover Densi (plus awful, weird Eric)
- “Resurrection” (Dave Kalstein, Gil Grant): Sam’s distrust of Deeks’ babysitting skills was not cool
- “Chernoff, K” (Kyle Harimoto): Deeks gets 13 lines- literally- in 42 minutes, which is better than…
- “The Gold Standard” (Joseph C. Wilson): No Deeks at all!
I feel better getting all that off my chest- thanks for listening! Got a Top 3 list of your own frustrating episodes? Please share in the Comments below. You’ll feel better too! As always, no judging- we’re all entitled to our feelings.
Next week let’s talk about something much more fun- The Top 3 Guilty Pleasure Episodes. You know, the ones you’re not necessarily “supposed to” like, but you find yourself rewatching again and again? As always, I promise not to judge your list if you don’t judge mine!
No judgment here: I wasn’t involved in the fandom at that point, but I remember being equally confused by many of the things you mentioned about Come Back, particularly that Kensi and Jack split up as opposed to him leaving her in the middle of the night, how the hell Jack knew about the torture, and Kensi and Jack’s “talk.” That said, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-watched that shoot-out scene (without a doubt my favorite in the series). This might be an example of a time when being a less-involved fan of a show works out better. I was surprised/confused by some of the episode, really enjoyed some of it, and was able to kind of shrug off the negatives and move on to the next installment. Sorry to hear about your experiences at the time.
As for my list, Three Hearts is #1, followed by Parley and Drive (both because of disappointing Kensi behavior).
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Thanks for the support Psyched! You make an excellent point about the relative pleasures of being a casual fan. It’s so true that if I just cared a little less, I’d be way less frustrated.
You hit the nail on the head, with your picks. Drive would be in my top 3 instead of Come Back, but I understand your point of view. 3 cat vomits is my number 1. In fact, I stopped watching the show,for a while, after that piss poor episode. I can’t talk about it further or I will go on a rant.
Thanks Diane! And while rants are definitely welcome here, it’s possibly better for one’s mental health to avoid rehashing old NCISLA-related traumas. 😉
I could probably name episodes that were frustrating to me and that’s a great list up there but the things that truly frustrate me are more concepts than actually filmed scenes.
We never got resolution on the boxes. “Something he’s always wanted, more than anything else in the world.” WHAT?? Is it still unopened in their house? Did they open it and it was a good joke or was it the greatest gift of all time? What?
Still to this day he’s not really getting the recognition that Deeks is a valuable member of the team and has saved their freaking butts more than once. It’s better than it was, of course, but come on.
The relationship with Hetty and Deeks started out so amazing in the two eps in season 1 and all of season two. You could tell she cared about him, sometimes more than the others. It was there. Then it wasn’t. I think it started some time in season 5 with Manipulator Hetty.
Side frustration — they’re trying to recreate the relationship magic with Neric. I think it takes away from the specialness of Densi and not everyone on the show needs to “hook up”, fergoodnesssakes.
Ok, one more. They’ve never satisfactorily explained why Deeks didn’t name his mom as next of kin. Yes, we see she’s flaky, he’d try to protect her, etc., etc. …. but it is a serious question for a serious possibility. (and yes, we know she wasn’t even invented yet at the time but it bothers me). I’m glad they dealt with Deeks and his former partner, but now let’s deal with shooting his father. What a fascinating background event that they haven’t followed up on. Oh, and who does Kensi look just like? (Plan B). And why don’t they do REAL undercover for longer periods of time than just dressing up for a take down? Why can’t we have dark Max back and repercussions of Deeks being him?
Wow. Deep breath. I love the show, I really do. 🙂
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Hah! Yes peakae I can sense how much you care about the show. After all, if we didn’t care, we wouldn’t bother to talk about the things that frustrate us. You list many excellent reasons to be frustrated with the show. I’d especially like to see longer undercovers. I just finished rereading Mel aka imahistorian’s Feel the Tide, which includes Deeks on a six-month undercover. It’s great. How fun would it be to send Densi off together on a multi-episode undercover assignment?
Oops, that imahistorian story is Truth be Told. Feel the Tide is the sequel. (They’re both excellent.)
Thank you for your list, great picks.
One episode that I would like to add is Expiration date (even though there were some great moments), I hated that they killed Thapa (he and Deeks were great together) and I didn’t like the way the “fight” between Kensi and Deeks was written (in my opinion the writing was a bit childish, even though I did understand the idea what they were trying to show us).
I agree with Peakae’s comment above, things that frustrate me most are unanswered questions and suddenly changing things (for example character behaviour) without explanation, and in my opinion there has been more these things this season compared to previous seasons, mainly because of Kensi’s accident and the mole hunt.
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Thanks AnneS. You make an excellent argument that Expiration Date needs to be added to the list. I hated the ending when she didn’t stay with him when he was clearly so sad. Ugh.
This time I don’t need to dig into my memory too much. I can still feel the frustration I felt almost three years ago.
Definitely my Number 1 this week is – and has always been since it aired – Three hearts, and I don’ t even want to think about what should happen on the show to find a certain replacement…
I have always avoided rewatching all of it or just some crucial scenes only for a reason: I can’t help getting angry. Really angry watching two of my favorite TV series characters ever act like immature children instead of the adults they were supposed to be after Kensi had come back from Afghanistan.
And since it’s not healthy to get this furious with a show, I have tried to erase Three hearts from my mind. Quite successfully I would say. As if it never happened at all!
I would like to add something about this current season too. I have liked it since the first episode and I’m still liking it, don’t get me wrong, I have said many times I consider it a strong season in which the showrunners did great with DR’s pregnancy and Kensi’s disability arc. But my regret and frustration come from thinking they could have done even better in some episodes to conclude Kensi’s storyline in an awesome way. Only some scenes strategically inserted or just some meaningful dialogs here and there could have made the difference between a good product – which it was – and something amazing, on a different level.
The top of my frustration this season has been not seeing a proper “Welcome home Kensi” Densi scene. Since ECO teased fans with Deeks and Kensi having a new house, I envisioned at least one domestic Densi scene in which they both acknowledged how lucky they were to have each other after all she had been through after the accident, and Kensi – why not – gave proof of remembering and appreciating everything Deeks had done for her during her coma and long rehab.
I think this scene is long overdue.
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Hey Cladani, I hope reading this article didn’t trigger any traumatic memories! I applaud you for managing to erase – or minimize anyway – your past frustrations. And you make an excellent point about the few missing scenes that could have really elevated some of the episodes this season.
I love the list and all the comments so far. I share your frustration and even anger with just about all of the scenes mentioned.
To expand on Come Back for a minute. I just hated the way cannon was changed for Jack and Kensi, I agree it was a dramatic change from what we were led to believe happened. Although it is not at the very top of my list, it pisses me off no end. All the Hetty manipulation and secrecy aside, and that’s a whole other issue…
Were the writers trying to get Kensi closure, or make Jack seem a little more likeable in a misguided attempt to try and justify Hetty putting the entire team at risk ( especially Kensi) for the sake of trying to give an old friend a head start.
So, they were old friends, before the CIA went after him obviously.
She must have known Kensi back then also, right. Or at least about her.
The entire way Kensi got to NCIS is suspect with this affecting cannon.
The whole thing stinks.
Think about it.
Tearing Densi apart.
Kensi in Afghanistan
Deeks selling his soul torturing the cleric to save Kensi
The team almost dying in the desert.
Deeks pulling back from the relationship after her return.
All happened because of the now hated Hetty.
So, then we get Come Back,…to lead us to believe Hetty was justified in all of this because jack is a really good guy…Bull.
Make be barf. What a load of crap.
Hey Ed, you’re so right about Hetty and what exactly is her backstory with Jack? And how is it that Kensi has apparently never asked her? (Or did she and we just weren’t privy to the conversation?) I’ve always wondered… Hetty knowing Jack could go back to when he was with Kensi. If Kensi’s dad knew Tuhon, then Hetty may have known her dad as well. Could Hetty have been following Kensi since she was a child, and that’s what led her to meet Jack? (Which begs the question about the time period you really want to know about- what was Hetty doing to help when Kensi was living on the streets?) Or was it the other way around- knowing Jack, she came to know Kensi and started following her. Maybe someday we’ll hear the whole story.
Let me throw one more out there that I did not see brought up, unless I missed it.
Blame it on Rio.
What a steaming pile of maneuver.
Yes it was show way out of sequence in relation to when it was written and shot. I get that.
But apparently, the showrunners completely forgot what the content of the episode was. If it had aired before Command and Control, it would have been marginally easier to take.
But, airing right after Deeks appearing so unsure of his ability to provide for Kensi, and her response and validation that she was fully committed to the relationship…
Her behavior in Rio is completely out of character, unless they wanted to portray her as an uncaring, insensitive bitch of a girlfriend.
…in which case, well done.
Just hate it.
Yes! That definitely deserves a mention. I can’t believe I forgot to include it.
Overall, I am still not completely thrilled with the way the Densi relationship was handled during her rehab.
I get they wanted some drama…go figure.
They wanted Kensi to get close to Sullivan to set up the big reveal.
Unfortunately, for those of us that never bought into Sullivan, all it did was make me iritated.
From the early stages on, this couple has leaned on each other. Even when it was just beer and take out, they comforted each other.
So, Kensi pulls away now and doesn’t want Deeks to see her like this. Really.
Afghanistan, punched by King, her being terrified over the lasers…the list goes on.
He has seen her at less than her very best, yet he is still here, and all he wants to do is help.
I just don’t buy that she would let everybody but Deeks help her.
I hate when they push aside cannon and normal behavior for the characters just to create drama and tension.
There is still time to make some of it up to me this season, so they better get started.
I agree everyone has their opinions, I don’t like Hetty not letting the team in on things like who Deeks and Kensi where going to protect she couldn’t just say it was Jack. Sending Kensi to be the shooter of the white ghost when she knew all along the white ghost was Jack, hurting Deeks by not letting him know where Kensi went to, Hetty knew that Deeks and Kensi cared very much for each other it seems she was doing things to keep them apart. Having Deeks and Kensi once again interigate agent Angelo, anyone else could of done that. Keeping Callen past from him, Hetty was his mother’s handler she could of told him.
Thanks jab72254- I agree- Hetty behaves terribly a lot of the time and I wish someone would hold her accountable.
Hetty’s behavior and actions set up very well if she was going to bow out of the show as a result of the mole hunt. I still feel that was the original plan before Miguel’s illness led to Granger leaving the show.
I would give a lot to have Miguel (and Granger) back, and have Hetty be the one to leave.
Either dying while sacrificing herself for the team in a final standoff with the bad guys, or leaving as a result of her actions and sailing off on her boat ( yacht).
either way, I would be much happier if she was gone.
she was intriguing at first, but over time the secrecy, manipulation and comments ( mostly about Deeks), have made her unlikable for me.
it really is beyond repair.
I need to see her pay a big price for her actions.
It has always been the others that have had to pay for her mistakes.
I just have to add that for me Kulinda would be in my top 3 worst episodes. To have a guest star have more minutes onscreen than the regular cast was the most disappointing thing i’ve ever experienced watching this show. All the frustrations, the Hetty manipulations, the re-writing of canon…. don’t even equate to how horrified I was by the presence of Bar paly in practically every scene.
I also thought it was a slap in the face to Kensi and Daniela Ruah that after her scene where Nate declared her not ready to join the team again they showed a scene of everyone else (with the exception of Eric) hanging out as a team without a thought to her (or to Eric!)
This episode should have been handled VERY differently.
I stopped watching that episode 10 minutes into it. Then tried it again on the dvr only to to fast forward the episode.
I agree completely,
Kulinda and Tidings were both out of character for Deeks, who, knowing that Kensi is struggling mentally to the point that she doesn’t want to decorate for Christmas, and that he isn’t going to even hang a string of lights.
so, then he just leaves her at home and celebrates without her..
not a chance, don’t believe it, too out of character for the way he cares about her. never would of happened,…just ridiculous.
Then, there is my frustration of being force fed Anna. she gets a huge amount of airtime that isn’t earned, warranted, appropriate, or even in the best interest of the show.
I have yet to find ANYONE that thinks she (Bar) is even an OK actress and she is consuming time in the show that should go to the main cast and more qualified guest actors.
I have yet to see an episode, or even a scene, that would not be better or that i would have not enjoyed more without her in it.
As harsh as it sounds, she is actually reducing my enjoyment of the show.
sad, very sad.
So many people on Twitter are always requesting she be added to the permanent cast. I really don’t know why.
I think the feeling is that if we see more of Anna, we’ll see more of Callen. Unless of course we fast forward thru Anna and actually see none of Callen.
My theory to all her airtime is that she or her father or a boyfriend has leverage against somebody high up at CBS. Knows where a body is buried, some indiscretion, something big.
Thanks denship. You are not alone in your frustrations over the current season, particularly with the newest recurring character.
Totally agree with all of the above. And we are all entitled to our opinions and to express them freely as we all see things differently. I would like to add Sirens as I was looking forward to a scene with both mothers and Densi. (I think that was the episode?) But I have to say (and I am probably in the minority here so please don’t shoot me!) that I have been frustrated with most of this season. Lots of missed opportunities. Like Deeks seeing Kensi walk for the first time & Deeks taking Kensi home from the hospital. But mainly I have been having serious withdrawals of Densi! The Christmas episode was not as good as previous but I did enjoy Deeks working with Callen. Eric Christian Olsen has as always been amazing.
I agree, I feel that there were just so many missed opportunities, and most would not have taken much time either.
We know how much Kensi hates hospitals, but we missed her getting out.
Hetty the evil got to be the one to see her squeeze her hand first.
Didn’t get to see her first walk.
Deeks bringing her home.
Their first night at home, cuddling in bed or on the couch.
Her first attempt to cook,
Eating her home cooked meal with Deeks
Her baking cookies.
She really should have woken up to see the ring on her finger and thought she had a memory lapse. Or at least asked Deeks at some point why everyone in the hospital was calling Deeks her fiance’.
None of this would have changed the overall plot or taken much time. and it would have created so much joy for many of the fans.
it all could have been accomplished by using about 1/4 of the airtime wasted on Bar/ Anna this season.
a crying shame, really
Hey Donna Marie, feel free to express your frustrations any time. I have really missed the Densi too, which was why I enjoyed last week’s episode so much. It was so nice to FINALLY see them back in the field working together.
I thought I was the only one who was totally frustrated with Come Back. You said my feelings about that episode perfectly.
I actually have stopped watching the show. I still record and literally just watch snippets when ECO is on. I’ve been so frustrated with changing canon, too much of Anna, Eric the buffoon out on the field but Deeks was always reminded that “he’s just a cop”, the arrogance of Sallen that I no longer watch. The last straw and most frustrating thing is Hetty. She can watch the team sleep on a commercial flight, and know all but couldn’t find the mole. Had everyone arrested but doesn’t know about Sullivan, knows Joelle is CIA all if a sudden, etc. the writers get lazy in telling a story do they just have it magically appear that Hetty knows all but since Kensi needs to be kidnapped, just as magically, Hetty doesn’t know Sullivan is one of the bad guys. Yet she should know that there’s this new guy that suddenly is cozying up to Kensi and doesn’t check him out. Karen would have said this more eloquently.
Anyway, I’m bummed that this show is not the same in my eyes. Still like to read up on all of you nice people’s opinions though.
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I’m that way now with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Only want to watch scenes of Fitzsimmons. Otherwise, it’s getting on my nerves.
Thanks Daisy. It’s a shame that you’re not able to enjoy the show anymore, but I’m afraid that can happen. I’m glad you’re still keeping up with Deeks and with all of us though. And I totally agree about The Long Goodbye, and for that matter just about anything Talia ever appeared in.
Another frustrating episode is the one where Kensi and Talia go undercover together. This was the ep after Deeks got arrested and Kensi and Callen leave Deeks hanging.
Agreed Daisy! I was not a fan, even if Talia was slightly less annoying than in her previous appearances.
I am really done with the whole “Deeks the unappreciated whipping boy” routine.
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Thanks Karen for another great article. It is always good and funny and interesting to read so many different opinions. It makes me really appreciate all our differences while sharing so much love for our dearest detective.
For me, the champion of the list of the most frustrating episodes is and will always be….its majesty Drive (as you so adequately put, wingsofnight said it all – all the reasons why this episode is my number one of all the times).
For the other two I cannot decide between Sirens ( I think I have wrote here at length about this episode) and Blame it on Rio (pls read Ed’s comment above – mine sentiments exactly). They are both in the drawer called “do not open again”.
Drive is in the drawer that is sealed and has the photo of the skull and “danger” sign on it!!
As I simply think that life is too short to lose time on people or things that do not make me feel well, I have never re-watched them and I certainly do not intend at any time in the future.
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Hah! Maria you made me laugh picturing your figurative drawers!
My top disappointment is and hopefully always will be Frozen Pisspuddle, but I agree with you on Come Back. I kept seeing reviews saying how mature it was, but to me it just seemed pointless. I had the same reaction as you that after all these years the only thing Kensi needed to tell Jack was that she’s a lousy correspondent? Ridiculous.
Thanks hoopsdiva. It’s nice to know I wasn’t totally alone in my reaction to that episode.