Balance was largely restored in the NCIS: Los Angeles universe with this week’s episode “Reentry” (sorry, just not for Neric fans). Written by Lee A. Carlisle and Andrew Bartels and directed by Eric Pot, the episode delivered classic bromance, banter and booms. Unfortunately, it left me feeling kinda sad.
Banter and Booms
I’ve been trying to go into these last few episodes of the season, and my final reviews at wikiDeeks, with a positive attitude. I’d like to celebrate what makes the show great. So let’s start with that. The episode was filled with funny banter, most notably between Sam and Callen, out in the field together as they are clearly meant to be. Having Nell tag along just made the whole thing that much more fun. Did it make sense that NCIS OSP would be the ones called to comb the mountainside looking for crash debris? Nope, not at all. But it was still delightful to see them together, doing what they do.
When the shooting stopped and the satellite was recovered, we even got a bonus boom, complete with more funny exchanges between Nell and Callen. Sorry Neric shippers, but I see so much chemistry between these two, especially when Eric fails to behave like a real person.
Serious and Silly
Speaking of Eric, he was downright hilarious in his excitement to visit the rocket company. He was so hyper that I felt like I was watching Sitcom Eric. He needed a laugh track. He’s sure changed since the days of “Rocket Man,” when rockets or no rockets, he was afraid to venture into the field and worried he’d be asked to carry a gun. That Eric was a real person; current Eric I’m not so sure about.
And then there was Hetty trying to support a struggling Keane. I thought this aspect of the story was handled beautifully (she didn’t even jump out from behind his curtains!). Each character was grappling with their past decisions, and there was no guarantee of a happy ending. I can’t imagine being in Keane’s shoes. What an incredibly disorienting and overwhelming experience he’s trying to handle. It’s too bad the show hasn’t devoted quite this much time to other characters dealing with their traumatic events. I’d have gladly watched a similar set of scenes play out after Kensi came home from Afghanistan, or after Sam lost Michelle. Instead, we got this story about a man we barely know, which made it somewhat less involving. Still, it was nicely done and offered a somber balance to all the silliness in the rest of the story.
Like Old Times… But Somehow Not
In theory we had a lot of great Densi in this episode. There’s the lengthy opening conversation (see below), and some funtimes in the boatshed and while on overwatch of Jenkins. The duo had a great reaction when Mosley blithely ordered them to take Jenkins into the field. (“I don’t have to have faith in the student, just the teachers.”) Then we had them working together to take out all the bad guys, with Deeks playing his golfer alias completely over the top. (“This place is the worst. You’re getting one star.”) I wanted to relax and enjoy it, and I hope that most of you did.
But somehow I just couldn’t. Perhaps it’s because Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah have made some conscious choices to play these two as slightly out of sorts? Maybe I’m not able to pick up on the actual differences, but I’m feeling them? You know how someone can smile without the smile reaching their eyes? By the end of the episode, I had convinced myself that ECO was acting normally but that something read differently in his eyes. But then I went back and replayed his scenes and I honestly couldn’t find fault with anything he did.
If that’s not the reason, I’d chalk it up largely to the gigantic question mark hanging over ECO’s head in every scene. I found it quite distracting. I think I’m just reading too much into the situation (see evidence below).
Reading the Tea Leaves
Warning: Major overanalysis ahead. I did spend much of the episode reading between every line that Densi shared, and I found a lot to support the idea that Deeks is desperate to retire. Exhibit A was their opening bullpen scene:
Kensi: I’m not saying it’s stupid, I’m just saying it’s boring.
Deeks: It’s not boring, it’s soothing.
Kensi: It’s a waste of time, Deeks.
Deeks: Whoa! That’s like saying that therapy is a waste of time because after a long day of things blowing up and getting shot at and arresting bad guys, I’d just like to go home and relax and watch some slow TV.
Kensi: Oh my god, yesterday you watched eight full hours of a boat crossing a fjord and nothing was happening. The boat wasn’t on fire, there was no pirates trying to board the boat, there wasn’t even any music.
Deeks: I know. That’s part of the slow movement. It’s about finding a better pace for life.
Kensi: I like our pace, what’s wrong with our pace?
Deeks: I’m just saying that things are moving so fast, where like a single tweet can start a nuclear war that we can all benefit by just slowing down a little bit.
Once I was finished overanalyzing this conversation (Who, me overanalyze? It has to be the first time ever), I felt sad. Not about ECO potentially leaving, but about how far apart these two characters are in their lives right now, as well as how anxious Deeks seems to retire. These two aren’t coming out and saying anything explicit (shocking, right?) but I’m still hearing a lot from them both.
First there’s Deeks, who’s so desperate to relax from the stress of his job that he’s spending hours watching “slow TV” and equating it with therapy. This felt like an actual cry for help. I’m genuinely worried that he’s suffering from PTSD. We know that trauma is cumulative, and Deeks has had way, way more than his fair share of it in his life. We know that those who suffered from child abuse are more likely to experience PTSD as adults. First responders who witness traumatic events can even develop it from vicarious trauma. In other words, the traumatic events he describes in this conversation, long days of “things blowing up and getting shot at,” could easily be pushing him towards another bout of PTSD, if they haven’t already.
There’s more that supports this theory. People with PTSD may avoid people, places, thoughts, or situations that could remind them of their traumatic experiences. They in essence begin to organize their lives around avoiding the pain caused by their trauma. It sure feels like Deeks is trying as hard as he can to get away from his job, which doesn’t just remind him of past traumas but keeps adding new ones every single week. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s displayed this behavior. After “Ascension,” he refused to return anyone’s phone calls (including Hetty’s) and avoided the team because they would have been a reminder of his traumatic experience.
In addition, PTSD sufferers can experience a symptom called hypervigilance. Remember “Impact,” when Deeks’ mind just kept running and he couldn’t fall asleep? The slow TV sure reminds me of that “soothing” self-help recording he was listening to at the time. This increased arousal can also present itself in the form of excessive emotions or irritability. Deeks certainly showed plenty of irritability towards Jenkins. Could what I read as Deeks’ overacting at the driving range really be a sign that he’s having trouble modulating his undercover persona due to the stress of the situation?
That brings me to something Nate described to Hetty in “Impact:” “The trauma and damage [Sam] experienced… it’s cumulative, physically and psychologically… If it happens too many times, he could reach a breaking point where he can’t take it anymore.” I worry that Deeks is going to reach such a breaking point.
Whether or not he recognizes what’s happening (and whether it’s even happening at all or it’s just my overactive imagination), it feels like he’s trying to save himself and Kensi isn’t hearing him. It’s kinda like the Deeks of “Drive,” who kept dropping hints about his birthday that Kensi failed to pick up on, only the stakes now are way more serious.
Kensi, on the other hand, seems quite content with their current life. (“I like our pace, what’s wrong with our pace?”) She’s even applauding exploding rockets (once making sure no one’s on board). She enjoys the booms as much as the next girl. In other words, Kensi is not seeking out a quieter lifestyle.
I remember someone did an interview during Daniela Ruah’s last maternity leave about how Kensi’s serious injuries would have her rethinking her profession and considering alternatives. We never saw that happen. Kensi was never anything other than 100% dedicated to getting back to her current job. She worked incredibly hard to make that happen. Is it any wonder she wants to stick around a little longer?
Her injuries may not have led to any second-guessing on her part, but they clearing impacted Deeks. He was the one present (conscious) while Kensi lay in a coma. Overall it was traumatic for both of them, but Deeks came away learning a lesson that one day your luck will run out. Kensi did not.
Both of these people have defined themselves through their jobs. And even though Deeks has been joking for years about them retiring to raise ninja assassins and/or teach yoga in Bali, I never thought he’d really be happy with the latter. (A stay at home dad I can see though.) While it’s been hard to imagine Deeks being willing to leave Kensi at NCIS with someone else watching her back, he may simply be unable to continue in that role.
Deeks: First round’s on me.
Kensi: Don’t you want to curl up with another installment of Boat in Fjord?
Deeks: It’s actually called [Norwegian I couldn’t spell] but a cocktail with my fiancée and my friends is just what the doctor ordered for the night.
Which brings us to the bar. I don’t think it was an accident for Deeks to mention the doctor ordering up a night at the bar. I think right now he’s seeing it as his path to peace. I’ve wanted that peace for Deeks ever since “Personal,” when I learned about his traumatic past. I want him to be able to put all his demons to rest, “slow down,” and enjoy a happy life surrounded by family. I only wish that didn’t involve him quitting NCIS!
So I’m left with mixed emotions. Officially, I don’t want Deeks to reach that breaking point Nate described, just as I don’t want ECO to leave the show. Yet secretly, if ECO is leaving or reducing his time even more, the angst-loving side of me would like him to go out with a bang, with a truly great, dramatic storyline. Could this be where we’re heading? This quote from ECO about the end of the season is beginning to make more sense to me:
There’s some crazy stuff [in the last two episodes] that’s incredibly personal, and the goal with Deeks is always to play the human element of it; not the Bruce Willis version, but a guy who is flawed and is terrified of losing the love of his life. And as we continue to put ourselves in danger, at some point it becomes emotionally exhausting for him, like, ‘What is the plan here?’ So there are some interesting conversations about that – obstacles in an emotional sense, that make for compelling scenes.
I don’t worry that they’ll break up. I have confidence they’ll work out a compromise, but in the meantime it pains me to see them out of sync. I don’t doubt that Kensi will support Deeks no matter what. She always has. So it’s just a matter of Deeks telling her what he needs. You know, communicating clearly. No reason for that to be a problem, right?
Hetty: It’s so good to see them happy. They’ve had a rough couple of years. But they look out for each other.
I shall try not to let what somehow felt like an ominous statement from Hetty worry me. I insist that Densi has a happy ending!
- I doubt they’d have really let the suspect’s boss listen in on her interrogation, but it was an efficient way to advance the story.
- Deeks looked positively dapper in his golf attire. But have we heard prior evidence that he knows the difference between irons and woods, let alone developed a fine stroke? I know ECO plays golf when he’s in Wyoming, but Deeks? I’m not so sure.
- Nice to see those hours of sayoc stick fighting training paid off when Deeks easily disarmed the golf club-wielding bad guy.
- Kensi was awfully cavalier about dropping Jenkins. That seemed like enough of a fall to at least break a leg.
- Seriously, Hetty’s just decided to let everyone into OPS? I guess once it was breached a few times, they figured why not invite any old friends?
- Nate Getz is available for consultation? I thought he was still traveling the globe doing super secret agenty stuff.
- It’s become a sign of a good episode if I don’t need to talk about Mosley or Hidoko, so thank you Mr. Bartel and Mr. Carlisle.
I can’t wait to hear whether you all think I’m crazy, so please share in the Comments below. If you need to organize an intervention, I’m sure Diane will help you with that, LOL. Did you enjoy the classic Densi, or did you feel it was somehow off? Where do you think these two characters are heading?
Also, 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 if you haven’t, check out our fundraising drawing- we’re giving away three fabulous images autographed by both Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah. Thanks for your support!