Review: NCISLA “Pro Se” (S10E05)
I always approach an NCIS: Los Angeles episode written by Jordana Lewis Jaffe with caution, knowing she’s capable of anything from a funny and vulnerable Deeks (“Unwritten Rule“) to one who’s the subject of much mocking (“Big Brother” and well, the end of “Unwritten Rule”). In this week’s episode “Pro Se,” she delivered a wonderfully multi-dimensional Deeks who was competent and capable, caring and compassionate. This lovable Deeks, aided by a team giddily unencumbered by adult supervision, made for a very enjoyable episode overall.
The Deeks and the Densi
This might have been the first episode this season where we really got a Deeks who operated as his own person, separate and apart from Densi. Not that I don’t love Densi, but sometimes it’s nice to see both characters taking on their own individual challenges. In fact, this episode had more scenes with Deeks without any other team members present than any episodes I can remember except for a few last season when Eric Christian Olsen was clearly working a limited schedule. What was nice here was that his scenes didn’t feel specially manufactured to keep him separated from everyone else; they felt organic and part of the overall story.
In many ways this episode featured a classic Deeks, one who quickly blames himself for problems and goes out of his way to protect a woman in trouble, especially since he feels responsible for said troubles. His passion for helping Tiffany is obvious right from the start, when he dresses down her attorney. His telling Kensi that Tiffany’s plight is “on me” was right out of “Plan B,” when he used the same language to describe Ray.
Eric Christian Olsen was fantastic throughout, never over-playing the drama but clearly communicating Deeks’ mindset, sometimes through body language alone. He slams the courtroom door open in disgust. He almost has to take a knee when he realizes Whiting’s appeared, and he slumps against a bench on the pier after their disheartening conversation. He clutches his baseball bat while spewing legal advice in what felt like a reference to Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men (Tom’s JAG lawyer character always did his best legal thinking while holding his bat).
Deeks’ vulnerability in the scene with Kensi on the beach is heartbreaking. His face when Kensi tells him he’s a good man – a combination of happiness, wonder and gratitude that Kensi sees him that way – shows how much he values Kensi’s opinion, and how she can probably never tell him this enough to make him really believe it. This line and his reaction, a beautifully written and acted moment, get right at the essence of this character.
We also got a impressively Competent Deeks. He not only knows the law, but he figures out what happened during Tiffany’s missing hour (nice detecting, Detective). Even Sam and Callen demonstrate (some) confidence in his legal abilities. My biggest disappointment of the episode was not having them cut more to Deeks feeding the legal lines to Callen. I wanted to see and hear Counselor Deeks! Oh, and let’s not leave out his sharpshooting when under fire, taking out two of the bad guys from a distance. It’s not often we get to see so many of his talents on display at once.
Whiting (played by Karina Logue) has always made a great foil for Deeks. Their relationship has evolved over time, giving it additional layers. One thing that makes her such a good character is that she reads Deeks pretty well. This allows her to effortlessly get under his skin, but it’s also what has helped her to realize that he really is a good man. (And wasn’t that the episode’s theme?)
Despite the overall seriousness of his scenes, Deeks managed to find a nice balance between cracking jokes and taking everything to heart. There were so many shots of him looking sad/thoughtful/somber/soulful/smoldery (is “smoldery” a word?) and I loved them all, but he also found small bits of humor throughout the day that didn’t feel inappropriate, like teasing Whiting about rocking her pantsuit or using her brain.
And we also got some lovely Densi moments, as Kensi provided Deeks with stellar support throughout the episode. The beach scene was beautifully shot by director Benny Boom, especially the final image from a distance showing Kensi leaning into Deeks. So sweet! (Not so sweet: I’m pretty sure the “cloud” above them was actually smoke from distant fires that had swept over the area, producing an almost eerie sky over the whole city.)
Perhaps the most interesting development of the night was Deeks rediscovering his love of the law. He really seemed to enjoy being able to put his legal knowledge to use. Eric Christian Olsen had made a passing reference to this in our interview when asked about his long-term wishes for Deeks, saying, “I think he has this idea that he wants to maybe go back to being a lawyer…” All I can say is, better late than never for Deeks to remember he has another profession to fall back on, one that doesn’t require late night hours behind a bar. Please let this be the direction he goes in the future. I’d add that would have been a great episode in which to reveal why Deeks switched away from law to join LAPD, but alas it looks like they are going to make us wait until Season 15 or 20 to find out these kinds of juicy details.
Rant of the Week
I’ve got nothing. No major complaints. The worst thing I saw was the return of an apparently crazed Mosley next week, but there’s no need to discuss that yet. (Although I will admit to rooting for the cartel- does that make me a bad person?)
I guess if I had to complain about something, it would be that the final scene on the bench with Densi could have led nicely right into a larger discussion about their future. Deeks brings up an alternate career for himself, one that addresses his main and recurring concern about safety. Kensi could have run with that to talk seriously about their plans. But instead she jokes that – ha ha – he actually did get shot at today. That’s not really funny- he had four guys with automatic weapons all trained on him and I’m sure in the moment she was worried. One of Kensi’s problems/skills is that she recovers far too quickly from their near-death experiences. She is completely unfazed by Sam strategizing about the timing on exhaust fans that will kill her if not perfect. She really is cut out to do this job until it does actually kill her. Unfortunately that kinda doesn’t work for Deeks. Stay tuned for my debate with Psyched on this very topic, coming soon!
While I wasn’t sure it was super in-character for Sam to be so gung ho to implement a “legal adjacent” plan, I did buy that they were really enjoying not having any supervision. It sure does free up the options. The only false notes were having Nell and Eric as audience surrogates so they could be read in on the latest operation- not sure why they weren’t involved to begin with – and that laughable comment from Callen that Mosley is loyal. Callen did seem to be having fun doing what he does best – playing a super smirky, snarky character. I think this is what Chris O’Donnell does best, and the show is at its lightest and funniest when Callen is filling this kind of role.
I cannot tell you how little I cared about Anna, or about her relationship with Callen (what’s left of it anyway). Just when I thought I had maybe kind of somewhat come to find her borderline acceptable, she has a couple of scenes that make her appear a little unstable. Actually kind of like a deranged, stalker ex-girlfriend. I guess I’m Team Joelle if I could make myself care about Callen’s love life at all.
There was very little in the way of action in this hour and I didn’t miss it at all because I so enjoyed all the interactions between the team. I really like this dynamic without anyone supervising- they seem more relaxed, plus they all get more screen time together. A win win if you ask me.
What did you think of “Pro Se”? Have you warmed up to Whiting? How did you like (or not) Anna’s appearance? Did you enjoy all the Deeksness as much as I did? Tell us in the Comments below!
Terrific review! Thanks!
You covered just about everything I had for pluses — CompetantDeeks (woot! more please) and then his emotions. We could hear some of Deeks speech patterns as Callen repeated them but I think they missed some comedic moments by not having more of a split screen playing out.
The plan to get into the building did seem like one of the worst. Really? They couldn’t think of anything else? I liked seeing them spitball it. And I also liked that it they had to discard it when the situation changed. Plus a whole sequence of that would have changed the focus of the episode. I’m glad it was just a verbal and not an actual.
I’m now going to say something … I can’t even believe I’m saying. Has Bar been taking acting lessons? The scene in the coffee shop with Anna almost had depth. Or is it just in comparison to Mosely? Phew! Back to snarky. I feel better now. Die, Anna, die! And the stupid perp walk at the end. Bah. Dumb. Contrived.
Whiting was excellent. Tiffany got to show more layers, good.
Overall, my second favorite episode of the season. Bravo!
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Great review Karen! All your comments are spot on.
As you, I didn’t have high hopes knowing this episode was written by Jordana Lewis Jaffe. I was afraid it would be full of humour for humour sake and that we were not going to see lawyer Deeks at all (especially when I read that Callen would actually be undercover as the lawyer). I though it was going to be another wasted opportunity for us to see lawyer Deeks.
And boy how wrong I was! I am so happy about me being wrong, because we got to see such an excellent episode. Deeks was so great throughout all 45 minutes that I could not get enough of him. Kensi was there with such strong support as well as the whole team. Deeks showed all his best characteristics always blaming himself first. He was the perfect parts serious, funny, persistent with Whiting and in pursuing the truth about missing Tiffany’s hour, competent about legal stuff and procedures and deadly when he was attacked.
The scene at the beach with Kensi was exceptional. We got full insight in why we all fell in love with Marty Deeks in just one sentence and face expression full of disappointment and regret the moment Deeks said: “I think I should just stop believing in fairy tales…and that breaks my heart little bit.” I always instinctively thought that the reason for loving Deeks’ character so much was joie de vivre he has always been full of, despite of what he was through and what he has seen in his life, despite all the “dark” decisions and choices he had to make especially when undercover. (Ok, to be completely honest I fell in love with his smile and blond locks too).
Finally we got Kensi and Deeks talk about something else apart the wedding. It became little bit tiresome and boring so this is such a great surprise too. Seems that team is at its best when there is no immediate authority upon their heads and it was also enjoyment to watch.
All in all another great episode in the season 10.
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Karen great review. I found this to be another solid entertaining episode. As you said, I also approach episodes by JLJ with a certain wariness. I was pleasantly surprised,I enjoyed this episode, and her portrayal of Deeks. My only complaint is I usually find her subplots disconnected and this was no exception, there was a choppiness between storylines, but in this case she did a such good job with Deeks and ECO delivered such a great performance it did not matter. I love Deeks in this episode , he was competent, questioning of himself and trusting and supportive of Tiffany. l also loved Deeks and Kensi in this. Kensi was supportive of Deeks, their beach scene very touching. Their final scene when she said you are a good man Martin Deeks was incredible and beautifully done.
I liked Deeks’ interactions with Whiting, their strange professional relationship is really good for this show; they have real acting chemistry. I liked seeing Sam and Kensi in the field but we still got enough Callen and Sam interaction and Kensi supporting Deeks. This episode was a good model for how to mix the partnerships up and still please the fans. It was the total opposite of season 9 where the partner splits destroyed the chemistry , rhythm and energy of the show. Here the splits worked to make the show better.
I also am not an Anna fan, I did think the actress’ portrayal was better in this episode but it made no sense story wise, clearly not the actress fault. Last season Anna told Callen to tell the truth yet in this episode she was giving him a bad time about telling the truth.I do prefer Callen with Joelle, I am hoping they try to redeem her character, maybe she helps Callen find his father.
I am no sure what to say about Mosley anymore, the fact that Anna is being handcuffed and led into the courthouse while Mosley is out free seems unreasonable and unfair. I guess I am hoping Mosley does not escape into witness protection, she does not deserve it. I am hoping the government tries to hold her accountable and she vanishes on her own, and we never hear of her again.
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So many great points, Sassy, and an interesting idea about Joelle helping Callen find his father. She did seem particularly affected by that news.
Thank you for your great review Karen. I, too, had low expectations, but this episode was a very nice surprise and definitely one of my favorite Jordana Lewis Jaffe episodes.
I loved the scenes with Whiting and Deeks, I think Karina and ECO are great when they acting in a scene together. I loved seeing more Deeks and especially that lawyer side of him and I am happy that the way Deeks was written felt natural and in character for me as a viewer.
I am definitely more team Joelle and the Anna storyline felt a bit disconnected and the scenes didn’t feel as a natural part of this episode for me personally.
I really miss Hetty (even though I love Admiral Kilbride) and hope to see her back soon. Mosley though… I did not miss her and I agree with the comments here about her character.
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Thanks for the great review. And thanks sassyzazzi for commenting on the disconnected subplots, I had to re-watch this episode to figure out a couple of them…might be just me but for a time they seemed to bounce around like a rubber ball. Agree that the distant beach scene with Deeks and Kenzi was just wonderful, my favorite scene of the episode. Didn’t get the connection with Deeks and the baseball bat, but then I haven’t seen ” A Few Good Men” in years – I better rent it sometime. And I always like it when Whiting shows up; like her or dislike her she’s quite a character who works great with ECO….must be her eyebrows. I prefer seeing one scene with her than an entire episode with Mosley.
In my opinion Bar Paly’s acting was even worse here than last season’s. And I just can’t get into Joelle at all for a love interest for Callen. For checking a box or two for who I’d like better, can I check the boxes “neither” or “somebody else”?
Just wondering, do you think this delving into Deek’s lawyer skills will come into play perhaps later in the season, with the team having been served subpoenas and I’m sure a court hearing? Of course I’m sure Deeks got a subpoena also and so I assume can’t help in the team’s defense…up front anyway. But this episode shows he certainly could help in the background, just like he did here.
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I am so grateful you wrote this amazing review, Karen and reading also some more comments, I see I was not the only one who enjoyed this episode.
There were a lot of things I liked but my top three were (in order of importance):
1) the way Deeks and Kensi look at each other in the beautiful scene on the bench after she has told him “You are a good man, Martin Deeks”. Sometimes you may wait a lifetime and still not find a person who looks at you like that, so I think they have been very lucky to find each other and in that look there is a little bit of everything: love, admiration, thankfulness, pride, tenderness. I do hope they will never forget how one can make the other feel, not even in their darkest hour.
2) protective and competent Deeks: what a great mix this week! I couldn’t believe my eyes and I thought it was Christmas in advance. All Deeks’ scenes with Tiffany were great and lawyer Deeks… wow.. I would like to see more of him (possibly in a suit as a bonus).
3) Densi beach scene: I think we all missed such interactions last season and it definitely warmed my heart to see that when given the right material, Eric and Daniela are still awesome at portraying Deeks and Kensi’s feelings and emotions. That moment was so perfect I didn’t want it to end. I admit I have watched it like ten times in a row only to get every little possible nuance in their voice, look, body language and every time it was greater. Well done!
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Thanks for a great review, Karen. You touched on so many of the things that struck me, and described them so well.
For me, the Densi scenes at the beach and at the end, on the bench, were the highlights. They showed the kind of deep love and affection that comes as a relationship matures, after the initial infatuation and flirtation stages. Kensi’s “you’re a good man, Marty Deeks” stood out as a rare, substantial hint about why, exactly, she loves him. Hope we get a little more of that.
I agree that they seemed to have skimped on scenes of Deeks feeding Callen the appropriate legalese. My guess is it was due to editing for time. I don’t think that we saw much of Deeks’ legal expertise showcased, so i hope we’ll see more of Attorney Deeks down the road.
The only real down side of the episode for me—and I realize I may be alone in this— was the intrusion of that new character—-the hair and scruff of Marty Deeks. It has taken on a life of its own, and I found it distracting, even in the scenes between Deeks and Kensi. Hoping someone will find a way to tame it a bit, in the near future.
Overall, a good episode that advanced the Densi relationship while giving us a much-appreciated glimpse of the serious side of Deeks. More, please.
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Amusement, your comment reminded me that when I was watching the episode, I turned to my husband when Deeks was on the bench with Tiffany and said, “They need to cut his hair.” You are not alone in this!
I wish there had been more Eric & Nell. I do not like Motley. I do not like Joelle. I love Anna. I think Sam’s ‘integrity’ is overrated considering how many times they have implied that he had cheated on Michelle while working a case.
Great episode. Finally Deeks and Kensi being back to substantial characters, and no wedding talk. So much to enjoy here. Seeing Deeks nailing his lawyer job was awesome.
warning- unpopular opinion ahead
As most of you I got bothered by the Anna side of the episode. But worse than that, it is starting to deeply affect my liking of Callen as a character. In 10 seasons Deeks, Kensi and Sam have evolved a lot as characters, in their personal lives and their professional ones. This episode was a perfect example of it. However Callen seems stuck in the same persona, both personally and professionally. He is still playing solo most of the time, and not trusting the team completely. He is still a tormented little kid without family. He is still super dependant on Hetty (as seen in the last episode). After 10 years as a “team leader”, he actually seems to be regressing in this role more than progressing. Honestly, Sam would be a much more sensible leader for this team, from his personality and his experience.
Would it be any other show, (e.g. one that would not be sticking to promoting Sam/Callen as the only lead of the series), that would be the beginning of a plotline where Callen is actually turning evil. If you know you classic tv series, there is always a good guy that turns temporarily evil in the later seasons. Callen is betrayed by his boss (Mosley), his father was taken away by the government he works for, his love was a double agent, his rebound love is a killer who resent him, his mother figure (Hetty) seemingly abandons him … I would actually really enjoy seeing Callen turn evil for a few episodes, although I hold no hope that CBS would do such thing.
Am I the only one with this line of thought?
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Frost, not sure I can really see it happening, but I did enjoy reading the path to evil you delineated for Callen. Poor guy–no wonder he’s still a loner. As Ochoa said, the man needs to stay celibate!
I don’t agree with Frost about turning Callen into a evil agent, but that first scene did provide an interesting contrast between Callen and Deeks. I felt Callen seemed quite cold to a woman he supposedly loves. I didn’t expect him to lie for her, or agree with what Anna did, but I did expect him to be supportive and much more comforting. His attitude was cold compared to Deeks, who has gone out of his way to help Tiffany, even killing a man who was threatening to kill her and feeling guilty about putting her in danger during this operation. He was understanding and kind, and I find the contrast quite striking. I just rewatched the episode and after reading Frost’s comments, felt the difference deeply.
However, after my rewatched, I just needed to say how fine ECO looked in this episode. The closeups reminded me of just how gorgeous our Deeks is. I personally love the long, messy hair, except for that little curl that keeps getting in his eye. Other than that, I was just content to watch him. This is now one of my favorite episodes. Your review was right on, Karen. He was competent and even Callen acknowledged his ability as a lawyer. I was almost shocked when he spoke that line. I don’t recall him complimenting Deeks before, but maybe I’ve forgotten. It was a great team ep, but its showcase of Deeks was the best part. With no oversight, the team was front and center. Loved it.
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I loved this episode and “classic Deeks” – so many things about him in this episode that I missed last year (and maybe even the year before). So glad they found their way back to the things that made me love this character in the first place. To TPTB: please do more of this version of Deeks!! His ongoing loyalty and concern for Tiffany is truly touching. That deep caring for his clients was an important part of what made him a great lawyer too, along with the skills he showed while talking in Callen’s ear. Not that I want him to leave the team, but I’m all in for him going back to law instead of owning a bar. Definitely more logical for him to go back to something he was very good at instead of some random mid-life crisis-ish gig. I would love to see lawyer Deeks in court. Could be a great vehicle for his comedic skills also.
I’m one of the few who doesn’t mind Anna – but this episode was not helpful to my tolerance of her. Weird stalker-ish, needy/clingy vibe (as someone else commented on) in the opening scene with Callen. She’s a no apology/take no prisoners kind of person. Self-pity doesn’t look any better on her than on Mosley. I get this was setting up a future episode, but it was a little eye-rolly in my opinion.
I don’t like Whiting one bit. However, there is a really interesting interaction between her and Deeks – especially when she has to grudgingly admit that he’s right and is helpful to her case. Good use of her in this episode, and a great evolution of the frank antagonism they had initially to her reluctant cooperation with Deeks. See that’s how you write a unlikeable character!! In contrast to Mosley, a bone I can’t let go of!
I LOVED that beach scene and when Kensi told Deeks he’s a good man. Oh my. Not just classic Deeks but adorable Densi.
I watch all the NCIS franchise shows each week and declare a mental “winner” in terms of best overall episode. It’s been a long time since NCIS:LA beat out the other two so soundly in my view, but they definitely were the best show by far this week.
So glad the site is still up so we can talk about the show! Would have been so sad to watch great episodes this year and not have this space to discuss!! Thanks to all who are working to keep things going!!
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Excellent job, Karen! You, like Deeks, are at your best with this episode. I agree that I would have loved to see what Deeks was saying to Callen while he was in court. I thought COD did a great job with his facial expressions as he clearly tried to parse through the “Deeksness” of whatever he was hearing so he could cut to the legal chase, but there was no reason we couldn’t have had the camera on COD while we listened to Deeks over comms.
I was pretty surprised to hear Deeks express any kind of possible interest in returning to the law. While I think that’s much more in-character for him than running a bar, I don’t think the hours are any better (a little more about that in our debate…). And I completely agree that his mention of it would have been the perfect opening for a continuation of their very needed conversation. Your characterization of Kensi there was spot-on, by the way.
I also agree it seemed a little out-of-character that it was Sam who kept insisting they could do what they wanted since mom and dad were away. Those were much more Callen or Deeks lines, IMO. And yeah, what the hell was it with Callen describing Mosley as loyal? Oh, and I almost forgot about Anna–her scenes deserve a big ole WTF?! Unstable is a perfect word to describe her appearance and actions. Hmmm….maybe those interactions with Anna were part of a delayed-onset TBI-induced delusion of Callen’s, in which Anna is deranged and Mosley is loyal…
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Thanks for all the great comments everyone! I particularly liked the Callen-Deeks comparisons- very interesting. So glad you all enjoyed the episode as much as I did.
Great review! I too would have loved to have seen more lawyer Deeks. I also wish they would have delved a little bit into their future at the end there. (Shameless self-plug, I remedy both of these in Season 10 Tidbits chapter 5 which should be up sometime today on fanfic.net). I loved all sides of Deeks in this episode and supportive Kensi. It was probably my 2nd favorite episode of the season!
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