This week’s NCIS: Los Angeles episode was the final contribution from one of the show’s best writers, Joseph C. Wilson, who’s leaving for a new production deal (thanks Tess for the info!). With “Outside the Lines,” the man who gave us “Personal” and “Plan B” delivered a fine, layered script about life’s many shades of grey (thanks also to first-time director Suzanne Saltz). The episode had suspense, romance(?), character backstory, and more hints about what’s to come. Unfortunately it also carried with it the same flaws as many episodes this season, partially built on new characters amidst a partner-swapping epidemic.
Everything isn’t black and white
The episode’s main storyline had Sam consulting King/Dana, the “Queen Pin” who, when last we saw her, had been working hard to move up the bad guy ranks only to be taken down by the team. That was quite the cushy deal she worked out for herself, living in picturesque, peaceful surroundings with private guards. A deal fit for a queen, indeed. At any rate, the point here is that Sam had developed some sort of relationship with Dana, visiting regularly as she worked to recover from her injuries. Did anyone else immediately call to mind Kensi, who around the same time was also recovering from a coma and learning to walk again?
Again I digress. Sam clearly had found someone to confide in about his grief over Michelle’s death, and he in turn provided her with encouragement and support. I loved that the exact nature of their “relationship” was blurry, definitely not “inside the lines” of his federal agent role. It felt more complex and therefore more adult than this show sometimes manages.
Hidoko: You and King seem close.
Sam: It’s complicated.
Hidoko: Complicated feelings?
Sam: More like respect. She’s been through a lot.
Hidoko: So have you. Sam, no one would blame you…
Sam: As much as we’d like to believe it, everything isn’t black and white. Nobody’s all good or all bad. We all have flaws, we all have virtues. It comes down to choices.
I’ve always seen Sam as more of a black and white thinker (Kensi too), seeing people as either worthy, noble and good, or criminals who’ve crossed a line. (I think it’s one of the reasons he and the iconoclastic Deeks didn’t connect.) Here he shows a lot of forgiveness towards Dana for her past actions (I can’t remember what she did but I bet it was pretty terrible). Perhaps Michelle’s death has changed Sam’s perspective on the world into one with more shades of grey. While he had clearly anticipated a betrayal of some kind, he still appeared to recognize the good in Dana and saw her in a much more nuanced way than I think he might have a few years ago. He may also be viewing his own job as a less than 100% noble profession. After all, it’s what led to Michelle’s death.
I also appreciated how much Sam respected Dana for her strength. That’s always been a trait of all the men on this team, and it’s one of the reasons I love this show. Also of note were the parallels with the last time Sam got involved while undercover, with Jada. Jada and Dana couldn’t have been any different in terms of victim vs. criminal. I think Jada’s worldliness helped her to understand Sam’s experiences and provide him a level of support that naive Jada couldn’t. Other than the whole criminal thing, I could easily see Sam and Dana as a couple, whereas it always seemed that Sam simply felt guilt for misleading the purely good Jada (and you know, totally disrupting her life and nearly getting her killed).
It’s OK to feel
I’d have been just as happy to see Callen be the person in whom Sam confided about his relationship with Dana, but Hidoko just keeps worming her way towards becoming a series regular. In this episode she definitely got better scenes than Kensi did. I have nothing against Hidoko other than that there’s just not enough room for another character on this show. It was nice to hear a little more backstory about her tragically short marriage, and I like seeing her friendship with Sam continue to develop. Too bad it’s at the expense of other characters about whom I care much more.
Hidoko: You know I may be out of line, but I think it’s OK to feel. You perform like a superhero but you cannot forget that you’re human.
Hidoko was genuinely supportive and non-judgmental of Sam, and maybe Sam will someday help Hidoko deal with her own loss. I just hope they don’t end up together together. The age difference is too too much, not to mention the supervisor-supervisee dynamic. Seeing Sam act as a mentor to someone as capable as Hidoko (compared to hapless Dom) is refreshing and exactly the kind of support he should be providing to a young agent.
You gotta follow your heart
How fantastic was the taco truck scene with Deeks giving Callen advice? His impetus to support his partner was typical Deeks behavior. He’s always tried to bond with everyone he’s ever partnered with, be it a dismissive Sam in quite a few episodes, or when in the field with Nell or Hidoko. Here he seemed almost too anxious to share all his thoughts with Callen. It was as if he’d been sitting in that truck working out exactly how he could best help his latest partner. It reminded me of his offer to run lines with Sam in “Backstopped.” Unlike snide Sam in that instance, here Callen questioned Deeks’ eagerness but also opened up to him about the ATF investigation. This scene was gold both for Deeks’ lovely words but also for Callen’s brilliantly timed one-liners:
Callen: What are you doing?
Deeks: I know that you’re used to confiding in Sam, and I want you to know that I’m here for you.
Callen: That’s not weird at all…
Deeks: I mean, as a cop I’d say not to worry about it ‘cause these things take time, right? As a lawyer, I would advise you to pick a story and stick with it. But as your friend I would say you gotta follow your heart, man. ‘Cause honestly, whatever it is that you choose is gonna affect the rest of her life. [Puts hand on Callen’s shoulder.]
Callen: Sam never touches me.
Deeks: It’s too much, right? Almost nailed it.
They made me laugh out loud. This might be the first time I’ve really felt any true chemistry between the two. It only took eight years! I shall consider this a definite upside to the partner swaps.
Where everybody knows your name
Ah, the much-discussed scene where Deeks reveals he’s been thinking of opening up a bar. For me this scene worked well insofar as it showed us how serious Deeks is about escaping from his dangerous job. He is taking his own advice and following his heart. Since there’s no apparent reason why he couldn’t just go back to a nice 9 to 5 legal job, I’m assuming he’s looking for something he and Kensi can do together. They’ve discussed such things in the past- not running a bar, but ways they could earn a living together flipping houses or being personal trainers. I can’t imagine he’d want to leave Kensi at NCIS with a new partner watching her
The actual discussion with Callen was beautifully written, again filled with shades of grey about the relative dangers of their work. This time it comes from the two characters who I think most easily see those shades everywhere they go.
Callen: And how’s Kensi feel about being married to a bartender?
Deeks: Well, first off I prefer the term mixologist and secondly I haven’t told her, yet.
Callen: Wait, you’re serious?
Deeks: Yeah, man, I’m serious. I mean, planning for this wedding’s got me thinking, you know? I mean, how much longer can we roll the dice?
Callen: Ah, that’s just your nerves speaking.
Deeks: No, it’s not man, it’s me thinking ahead. To be honest I think that we’ve gotten lucky so far. And I wanna, you know, I wanna have kids, you know? I want a family.
Callen: Sam made it work.
Deeks: Mmm. I mean, not to be insensitive, but considering what happened to Michelle, you’re proving my point. It’s just not a conversation I’m prepared to have with little Deeks.
Callen: Livin’ our lives by playing it safe? It’s not livin’.
Deeks: I agree with that. I’m just saying there’s a lot of miles between safe and terrorists trying to kill you with automatic weapons every single day.
Callen: Alright, well here’s to little Deeks and fewer terrorists.
Deeks: I’ll drink to that.
I’m pretty sure this is my favorite Deeks-Callen scene of all time. The dialog is beautifully written and fits both men so well. Plus they’ve let go of their respective silliness and snark and are just two guys in a bar having a conversation about a difficult subject that doesn’t have an easy resolution. Could these two actually be bonding? That’s something I never thought I’d see.
Although I loved the scene, I agree with everyone who’s already commented elsewhere about why Deeks’ idea of owning a bar is a bad one. To name just a couple issues, the crazy hours aren’t exactly conducive to putting your kids to bed each night, and it’s hard to picture Deeks wanting to deal with people who remind him of his alcoholic dad on a nightly basis. But at least it didn’t sound like a long-held dream of his, as the press release had led us to believe. Instead I’m going to chalk it up to his predilection for half-baked ideas along the lines of ether-coins, house flipping, investing in Eric’s crazy ideas, and avoiding Mercury in retrograde.
All the Densi
Oh, that’s right, there wasn’t any. Again. Sigh. It actually felt like they went out of their way to keep these two from appearing on-screen together. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that these two actors must hate one another and refuse to work together. It’s been the case all season; even in the great “The Silo,” the two were separated for much of the episode.
As much as I enjoyed the Callen-Deeks mini-bromance, imagine how much more intense that bar conversation might have been if it had been Deeks actually running his idea past Kensi. And poor Daniela Ruah. As far as we know, she doesn’t want to reduce her time, yet she must have been rather bored while filming this episode. Other than that initial bullpen banter, she had no witty exchanges, no real fight scenes, just nothing of interest to play.
It’s such a contrast with earlier seasons, which were much more structured around the core pairs. Introducing just one extra person means adding a third wheel or splitting out into additional groupings, resulting in reduced screen time for some, not to mention needing to split up at least one of our favorite pairs in order to work the new gal into the mix. I’m beginning to think we might be better off if we added a partner for her, allowing everyone to at least stick with their real partners.
Still, Deeks’ plans drove home how burnt out he’s become, and how anxious he is to move onto another stage of his life. To me the bar plans feel like Deeks is just grasping for any way to get Kensi away from her dangerous job, like he’s feeling almost desperate to make it happen before fate catches up with them. And the fact that he hasn’t talked to her about his plans and feelings is troubling, although I could see how he’d want to have all the details lined up before presenting her with such an unexpected option. It’s hard to see how the writers will resolve this for Densi in a way that stays believable yet keeps them both working in the field, and it is causing me some degree of anxiety around what’s in store for these two as the season comes to an end.
- If bitcoins are this easy to steal, it does not make me want to invest. (Sorry Deeks.)
- Oh, Kensi, of course Deeks has already seen Star Wars. The woman who had never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark really does need to try harder to keep up with popular culture.
- While technically Mosley did little to annoy me this episode, she added absolutely nothing to my enjoyment. Oh, Linda Hunt, I miss you! That pep talk to Eric would have sounded much more sincere coming from Hetty. Plus doesn’t it seem like overkill to have the Executive Assistant Director of the entire agency overseeing a random OSP case?
- I know Kensi enjoys hearing Deeks talk detective, but I definitely prefer hearing him spout legal advice. Please tell me more, Counselor.
- I can hear you from here, Randy. These writers sure have it in for country living. That farmhouse looked ridiculously idyllic to me. I wouldn’t mind serving out a jail sentence in that type of “secret relocation,” relaxing outside in the sunshine any time I felt like it.
OK, that’s it from me. Be sure to check back later this week for new installments of Deeks’ Surf Log, Kensi’s Journal, and the Drabble of the Week. And check out the details on our fabulous giveaway of our last three autographed images. We haven’t had many entries yet, so at the moment, your odds of winning are very high! Help us go out with a fund-raising bang, and win yourself a wonderful keepsake from the show.
What did you think of “Outside the Lines”? Was the bromance enough to make up for the complete lack of Densi? What did you think of Sam’s relationship? And how do you feel about Deeks’ plans for getting himself and his ladybird into a safer line of work? Let us know in the Comments below.