The Top 3 Guilty Pleasure Episodes
Most of the time, I think NCIS: Los Angeles fans come together to form a pretty solid consensus on the quality of each episode. I usually find myself liking episodes that others like. But today we’re going to talk about the episodes we like even when they’re not considered among the best. Maybe even episodes others have criticized… Our guilty pleasures.
To be considered, an episode didn’t have to be disliked, it just needed to be less loved than the ones we talk about over and over.
The Top 3
One indication that an episode belonged on my list was its continuing presence on my DVR, when otherwise I’ve only saved what we’d all consider the “essential episodes.” I ended up with two episodes with elements that many people (myself included) disliked, but that I still enjoy rewatching for other reasons. Plus a third episode where I don’t think there was much to dislike, but I feel guilty about the real reason it continues to hold a precious spot on that DVR. Remember, I won’t judge your Top 3 if you don’t judge mine. In reverse order of importance, my Top 3 is…
#3. “Unwritten Rule”
Yes, I booed Hetty when she took away Deeks’ motorcycle, treating him like a child, and I absolutely disliked Sam’s little jibe about Deeks not being an agent. But oh my, did I enjoy Deeks on that gorgeous motorcycle- what a sight, even if it didn’t last long. I also liked Kensi’s fierce protectiveness and the #1 Deeks Ramble of all time. What I particularly liked about Season 5 (I know, you don’t all share my affection for that season), was that Deeks was the “emotional center.” His well-being was the emotional core of the first half of the season, from his PTSD to worry over his missing his partner. It gave Eric Christian Olsen a chance to show off his great range and gave us some wonderful scenes like the one where Hetty asks him about that “emotional center.” This episode, written by Joseph C. Wilson and Jordana Lewis Jaffe, also provides a “jungle cat” sighting and Deeks’ cheeky “gimme some sugar” response when Hetty reaches for the keys. It makes me laugh every time I see it, even as I prepare to hate on Hetty.
This might be my most controversial selection. It’s upsetting to see Deeks mocked and dissed by Sam throughout, set up by some purposefully bad advice from Callen (what a jerk!) on how to “housebreak an angry Navy SEAL.” Then there’s Hunter – ugh – and an awkward, and not in an entertaining way, Kensi-Callen partnership.
On the positive (and vapid) side, I like Deeks’ short hair, and I don’t mind that controversial striped shirt. But I think the real reason I enjoy this episode, written by Dave Kalstein and Shane Brennan, is that we get to see Sam and Deeks together. They have amazing chemistry, even if they’re in the “hate” portion of their love-hate relationship. Deeks is so sweet throughout, trying so hard to bond with his new partner. He mirrors Sam’s body language when talking to Hunter. He tries to talk shop and help Sam prep for his undercover role. Yes, Sam is a total jerk throughout, but I enjoyed their scenes anyway. I laughed at Deeks’ “I will drop you like third period French” threat to the giant bouncer, and the whole “Kensi probably doesn’t need to know about the whole ‘beating up the soles of your shoes with my face’ thing.” He’s just kinda adorable in a sweet puppy dog way, and I know that eventually these two work out their differences, which makes the maltreatment easier to take.
#1. “Skin Deep”
I know “Skin Deep,” written by Gil Grant, is nothing more than a filler episode. But Surfer Deeks in a wetsuit will always be my favorite Deeks. I apologize for my shallowness, but it’s just how I feel. I would defend my selection by pointing out the great Densi banter (Donny & Marie, Hang loose bro, partida elegante anejo, the butt slap, sex wax, I’m gonna go ride a little wild surf). Then throw in the awesome Secret Agent Man vintage music and an old-fashioned bar fight, plus Shaggy from Scooby Doo jokes from the Topanga Canyon hippies, not to mention trading quotes with Lance (Truth is beautiful but so are lies- Ralph Waldo Emerson). My only regret is that we never get a really good shot of Deeks actually riding a wave. Why’d they have to make fun of his surfing abilities- can’t he have one thing he’s good at?
Also in the Running
I considered a few other episodes, but in the end decided they lacked enough “bad” parts to make me feel all that guilty about liking them:
- SEAL Hunter (Sara Servi, Frank Military): so funny (see next week’s list)
- Sacrifice (Joseph C. Wilson): more great Deeks chemistry, this time with a Mexican cop named Eva
- The Livelong Day (Joe Sachs): a Top 3 Funniest Scene with the undercover railroad inspectors
- Cyber Threat (R. Scott Gemmill): tennis playing Deeks
Next week starts a final run of pretty weighty Top 3 lists, with the Top 3 Funniest Episodes. In the meantime, go ahead, tell us your Top 3 Guilty Pleasures. We promise not to judge!
Or, return to the last Top 3, the Top 3 Frustrating Episodes.
I guess guilty pleasure is subjective
Regardless of how good or bad the episode is, some scenes stand out. if it is the couple undercover, a kiss, confronting Hetty about something,a conversation, whatever…there are quite a few episodes that, although I may not be all that interested in the entire thing, there are scenes that you just watch over and over. it is just so hard to pin down for me. Trying to pick some of my favorite scenes out of less than stellar episodes is tough.
you have touched on the top 3 Funny, Favorite Undercover, and so on, so I will try to be different.
I love your list, so I will take the easy way out and piggyback on your #1.
I do love skin deep, I can watch the bar scene and the Topanga scene over and over.
The Sex wax conversation in Opps is hilarious as well.
In fact, if I am being honest I have the episode on by DVR and it happens to be queued up at the bar fight scene…GUILTY…
…NOTE…Okay, I actually stopped writing long enough to watch the scenes from the start of the bar fiight through the Topanga scene. sorry.
back on track…
Following the easy way out and staying as shallow as humanly possible..
I will stick on the path that this is a very good looking, young athletic couple with incredible chemistry and banter, and dive down that hole.
I loved Active Measures for if nothing else, the beach scene alone. it would have been nice to see their first I love yous, because that was obviously not it, but the interaction was great, Kensi being somewhat jealous. Deeks struggling to explain it away, and they both looked so good.
Plus, they got to have an actual conversation that wasn’t interrupted by Eric or Nell…for the first time in I don’t know when, and I really enjoyed that for a change.
Then, I would throw in Standoff
Early in their partnership, everyone at the beach,all looking good. Someone from Callen’s past.
Kensi and Deeks undercover…at the beach…in swimwear…and Deeks trying to be helpful and keep Kensi from getting sunburned by offering to put lotion on her.
This is ep 2-6, so very early in their partnership, and full of hope for all the great things to come.
That is as shallow as I can be right now, but If I make any improvements I shall return.
I did leave out the scene with the two of them on the boat, I like that one two, but they don’t really talk to each other, …but they do look good.
And, I left out the pool scene in Unlocked Mind because I thought it was an important episode that didn’t fit your criteria..
Mostly, the shallowest part of me thinks,,, they are in LA, the weather is beautiful,they look amazing together, there are lots beaches and outdoor things to do during the day, and lots of great nightlife in the evenings…. so lets get them dressed up, or dressed down and get them out.
either undercover or just together…doesn’t matter to me. Casual beachwear or Dressed up to the nines…bring it on.
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Hah! Well done Ed. I think your list is great. Kudos on your shallowness 😉
I’m with you! #1 guilty pleasure is DEFINITELY “Skin Deep” – some totally dorky scenes in there (“hang loose bro”), but I love it!!!
Thanks Brenda! Glad to hear I’m not the only one who appreciates this episode.
Mine is probably “Disorder” (2×11): I remember I wasn’t particularly impressed with the episode when it aired, but later I revalued it a lot and I consider some scenes inside it little gems: all the leitmotif of Kensi’s (imaginary) family in Seattle, the hilarious scene at Talbot’s with duct tape on Deeks’ forehead and Kensi ripping it, Kensi’s interrogation to Talbot and the first time Jack was mentioned (“Six years ago, I was engaged to a marine. His name was Jack. He was stationed in Fallujah. His unit was tasked with enforcing curfew. Shoot-outs and ambushes every night. He came back home, but I knew he wasn’t the same.”), Kensi’s dream of the three Wise men and the beautiful and sweet ending scene at the shelter in which we get to know that Deeks has a big heart and he’s not just the funny guy he pretends to be. Everybody would expect a “hot date” at the end and Deeks surprises us with a completely different kind of “date”.
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Thanks Cladani. I don’t think you should feel guilty at all about your pick. In fact, I’d add it to our list of Essential Episodes because I think it’s such a big one for Densi. Deeks learning about Jack and how he left her, Deeks’ support at the end when he lets her join in the chase despite her head wound, the duct tape, the super sweet ending. It’s one of my favorites for sure.
I really debated about posting a response to this topic, because I know what my guilty pleasure episode is, hands-down, with no hesitation. And I know how (I think it’s fair to say) reviled this episode is within the fandom, so I’m reluctant to put myself in the position to be flamed/hated/have my sanity or Densi credentials doubted. But this episode happened to air in syndication today and I recoded it and watched it again; several scenes over and over (because no, I don’t own the DVDs). And I was reminded how much I enjoyed it. And I figured, hell, some time has passed, maybe I can be like the tree that falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it…did I really write this if no one reads it?
I’ll preface the naming of my guilty pleasure episode by saying that I came late to the show and even later to the fandom. I didn’t start watching regularly until season 7, borrowed the DVDs from the library last summer, and watched the entire series in order, and then discovered some great online communities (including this one) after that. So Densi already existed and was in a good place when I started watching, and I went through all of the ups and downs of their ship as I binged-watched the series, secure in the knowledge that they would end up in the hallway at work talking about marriage and kids one day. In other words, my emotional investment was quite different from those of you who had taken the bumpy and far-from-certain ride, in real time, with them through the years.
Hey Worried, I enjoyed your posts. I hear you! If I had thought about it more, I totally would have listed “The Frozen Lake” with my runner-ups. It does have so much good mixed in with the terribly frustrating. Dave Kalstein made so many good decisions, even though he almost simultaneously, and definitely in the same scene, made so many poor ones. It’s probably the reason it’s the episode we’ve written the most about. If you haven’t checked out our various discussions and debates on the topic, do a search on the episode title and you’ll find ’em. I even took the pro side of the debate, which was a helpful exercise for making me see the episode in its most positive possible way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Thanks for your feedback, Karen. I think frustrating is a good word to describe The Frozen Lake. I actually only checked to see if it was listed as an Essential Episode before I wrote all this, because I didn’t want to duplicate something that had already been done. I didn’t realize you could search by episode titles on this site. Off to do some reading, thanks!
Wow, I totally wish I had found your debate before I wrote my response. I totally just would have commented here, “The Frozen Lake–go see Karen’s debate for why!” Awesome work from both of you.
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Hee hee, glad you liked it!
So as I sit and watch this episode again and remember what I like about it, I thought I’d jot down my thoughts and share them here, in what I hope is a safe space. And hell, maybe someone will read these comments, and, having the benefit of time, Densi on the verge of engagement, and a different perspective, think maybe this isn’t the worst episode ever.
Without further ado, my #1, absolute guilty pleasure episode is The Frozen Lake. We open with Deeks “acting weird:” he’s first to arrive, actually doing work, quiet, and not his usual jovial self. What I appreciate about that is how after finally being “with” his partner for the first time the night before, Deeks is thrown off his game a little. Like he’s sitting there doing work but in the back of his head thinking, “Damn, I’m in a hell of a lot deeper than I thought.” And that these two people, seasoned undercover agents, can’t not be awkward with each other while leaving the bullpen a minute later, I think they were both unprepared for how their worlds were rocked the night before. Plus I loved Sam and Callen’s reactions; they clearly figured out what had happened and were OK with it (for the time being), I think, willing to see how things played out and how it impacted the team. Hell, even Eric and Nell figured it out before the end of the episode. Of course, this could have been done so much better: why did Kensi not have a clean shirt in her go-bag? Why did they not plan for what they would say, how they would act around each other?
Their heads were in the game and they were getting back to “normal” up in ops, even though they weren’t standing next to one another as usual, with Deeks’ comment about Kensi fangirling over a guy with a knife (and who is holding Kensi’s knife at the end of the episode?).
And then there’s the other scene I would probably re-write. The “frozen lake” conversation. Sigh. I do want to take a moment first to point out that this episode was actually named for the thing Kensi wants most in the world: her relationship with Deeks, even if it is buried in a stupid metaphor. And my inner shipper totally “squees!” at that. I also like that they actually do some talking about what happened and how it impacted their no-longer-blooming ‘ship and partnership. This is probably the most direct conversation we’ve seen the two of them have (stupid metaphor aside) about their thing: she calls him on his inaction, that he would have taken the shot 24 hours ago; he counters that things have changed in the past day and admits she is right, but that he’s trying to make their thing work; she argues that it won’t work because even though it’s what she wants most in the world, their thing already jeopardized their work and their partnership. Even with the metaphor, it’s such a sad conversation, and in the end, I think Kensi has convinced Deeks that they’ve already destroyed what they both wanted so much. I also don’t like that Kensi leaves a case-related discussion with the whole team to blow off some steam (the unprofessional behavior just keeps coming) at the beginning of that scene, but I guess we’re meant to understand (in case her punching her partner in the face earlier didn’t quite send the message) that Kensi is upset.
Finally, lest we forget that this entire episode is not all about Densi (despite the title–squeee!), we have one of the best characters, and one of the coolest fight scenes ever. Gurkhas, believe the hype, indeed! I love Eddie Reyes, Jr. here, love Thapa, and love Deeks’ scenes with him.
Kensi and Deeks, after basically ending things on the firing range, are trying to find a way to work together while Sam and Callen interview Thapa. I appreciate that brief, classic dysfunctional Densi conversation (discussing two different topics at the same time), how Deeks is still trying to push for their relationship, “If he can control his emotions,” but Kensi’s not buying it, “A lot easier said than done,” before Deeks’ final salvo, “It’s never easy when you start to care.” Deeks then tries to connect with Kensi using her own metaphor (see, he was listening!) and stating his confidence that Thapa (and by extension, Deeks and Kensi, of course) will do the right thing. Considering how their last face-to-face convo ended, it’s no wonder they’re back to double-entendres and not looking at one another.
Oh hey, I almost forgot about the White Ghost, and Hetty’s offer of her team as a Quick Reaction Force, which Granger turns down (though in a few months, that’s exactly what they’ll be for him). I shudder now, almost literally, at Hetty’s response to Granger’s comment about the years making her kind. “Have they?” she asks, knowing full well that she’s about to send Kensi off on a mission to execute this “dangerous and elusive man,” also knowing full well that he is Kensi’s not-at-all-dangerous ex-fiancé and that there is a mole in the midst of it all. And choosing not to give Granger or Kensi any of this information. Nope, the years have not made you kind at all, Miss Lange.
I like that Deeks works with Thapa because he and Kensi are separated. Yes, Callen, they could use some space. Kensi definitely needs to be away from Deeks for a while, to remember how to behave professionally (which she fails again miserably at in the end, by storming out of the vehicle after Callen decides they’re going to wait another minute before going in to back up Deeks). I wouldn’t have minded seeing some of a conversation between the two senior agents and Kensi about her actions (not that she would have said much, apparently, given their scene as she’s setting up for over watch). But that’s what fanfiction is for, right? I really enjoy Deeks’ initial meeting with Thapa, with him being so trusting and welcoming. Despite everything that’s happened that morning, Deeks still expresses absolute trust in and admiration for his “regular partner.” Not to mention a continued desire for their ship. Deeks admitting that he used to prefer to work alone is a nice foreshadow to his much later conversation (5×22) with Kensi about the same thing (“You’re the yin to my yang”).
The scene with Deeks and Sam (and then Callen) is a good one to me for several reasons. First, Sam reminds Deeks he’s not in this alone (after what was likely seen as Deeks’ second “screw up” of the day). Second, Deeks being Deeks throws himself on his sword and takes responsibility for what went down at the hotel (“Just for the record, Kensi told me to take that shot…I just didn’t take it.”) No excuses, no explanations, and certainly no blame on his partner. All the senior agents expect of him at this point is to get them back in the game (which of course he does). They’ve come a long way, baby. Plus that little grin when Deeks says, “Crazy, right?” that he knows something Callen and Sam don’t…melts my heart.
Again, I’m reminded of this being a turning point (for the worse) for Hetty’s character with her “You have several problems, Mr. Deeks. Which one are we talking about?” The fact that I can never tell if she’s being genuine or sarcastic when she says, “I’m sure it’s brilliant” doesn’t help my opinion of Hetty here either. But the woman does know how to dress a man, I have to admit. Love Deeks in his lawyer suit.
There are also some nice moments in the next Densi convo, when he’s preparing to go undercover. Kensi tells him she’s not happy about the op because of how dangerous it is for him. She also pushes for Deeks to admit that he’s only doing it to redeem himself for not taking the shot and losing Thapa. I don’t love that we’re skating close to a metaphor again with the whole can-we-just-pretend-we’re-not-Deeks-and-Kensi-right-now thing, but I get it. And I like what Deeks is trying to say here: when it’s just you and me (if we take work out of the equation) the possibilities for us are endless, so let’s take some time to figure us out. I love that Kensi choses to play along by picking Fern, the name Deeks gave her, but am still confused that Deeks would pick Max, his most hated alias. The rest of this “introduction” is equally confusing and inconsistent. I’m pretty sure they really refer to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend, and yet when Deeks asks Kensi if her giving him he knife makes them official, she first nods her head and then seems to think better of it and contends that “sometimes a knife is just a knife.” What? I can’t help but think that was an intentional move by TPTB, and I don’t like it one bit.
More Deeks in a suit, Deeks undercover as a lawyer, and a smooth move with the knife; what’s not to love? Not to mention the fact that this is another prior alias, reminding us that Deeks had a very successful career before becoming a liaison. But this scene gets even better, with Deeks nearly single-handedly taking down Talita and her goons, while also taking a hell of a riskier shot, LEFT-HANDED (that almost took Kensi’s head off) than he didn’t take that morning. Oh right, and he also recovered the flash drive and saved Thapa’s life. Redeemed, I’d say.
Rightfully, Kensi is the one who reaches out to Deeks in the end, literally and figuratively. She’s now done a complete 180 and thinks they’re going to figure it out as long as they talk about it, which makes sense. Deeks’ next comment doesn’t, however, because I never really got the impression before that Kensi didn’t like talking about them. They both have to work on the communication, no doubt, but that statement just rings false to me. I think this is my favorite scene in the entire episode, if only because it is so well-acted by ECO. There are so many little nuances to his facial expressions and voice that I just love here.
Once more Hetty makes herself unlikeable to me in the last few scenes. How bitchy was it when she gives Kensi the clean shirt? And the arrogance when she tells Sam and Callen that she moves the chessboard not the pieces is kind of astounding, especially given that she knows what she’s setting Kensi up for. Plus there is no sympathy when she tells Deeks that Kensi’s been reassigned indefinitely (I am willing to admit that my growing dislike of Hetty by this time may color my interpretation of her words/tone in this scene though).
Yes, there is a lot not to like about The Frozen Lake: the unrealistic reaction of Densi “the morning after” (she without a shirt, they awkwardly avoiding each other); the punch; Hetty; Kensi’s other examples of unprofessionalism; “Sometimes a knife is just a knife;” Callen and Sam get an apology from Kensi but Deeks doesn’t; the roller-coaster of a ride their relationship went on (they sleep together, they mess up at work, they can’t make it work, they’re using the words boyfriend and girlfriend but they’re not official, they have a thing, they can make it work if they just talk about it, Kensi is reassigned indefinitely); Hetty (yes, again).
But for me, there’s also a lot to like about it: how clear it is that their relationship and partnership are important to both Deeks and Kensi; Sam and Callen’s responses throughout; Ernie Reyes, Jr./Thapa; good Deeks characterization; Deeks in a suit; “I have a boyfriend. So does my girlfriend;” Deeks undercover by himself; overprotective Kensi; action! Deeks; ECO’s acting; there is a thing! And those things, despite all the yuckiness, are what make this my guiltiest pleasure episode. I’m thinking I’ll try to post this anonymously, just in case the reaction is even worse than I’m prepared for.