Review: NCISLA “The Patton Project” (S10E08)
It’s no secret that Frank Military is my favorite NCIS: Los Angeles writer. His dark stories full of tension and drama, and even his occasional lighter turns (“SEAL Hunter,” “Crazy Train”), are entertaining- if not riveting- hours of television. Unfortunately with “The Patton Project,” Military took a bit of a wrong turn with a dark hour that somehow lacked his usual drama and missed some great opportunities to provide a more serious Densi than the never-ending-wedding-planning couple we’ve mostly been given this season.
The Deeks and the Densi
Aside from my rant (see below), this was a fine week for Densi and especially for Deeks. Military always gives us a Competent Deeks and this week was no different. Skateboarding Deeks moves with confidence and it sure looked like Eric Christian Olsen was having a ball filming those Venice scenes. Kudos to director Ruba Nadda for how she filmed the sequence; I particularly liked the chase and especially the pursuit up the staircase to the rooftop.
Even better than Competent Deeks is seeing Deeks act as the conscience of the team, just as he did in Military’s “A Line in the Sand.” Of course, we all know that Deeks has majorly crossed such lines on multiple occasions, arguably more severely than any other character. I do think that he’s taken his personal line-crossing seriously, showing remorse for doing the wrong thing maybe more so than a character like Callen, who seems far more comfortable operating in the land of grey. In fact, we’ve seen the toll these actions have taken on Deeks, and heard him warn others from making the same mistakes (like with Eva in “Sacrifice” or with Kensi in “Blye, K. Part 2”).
Here I enjoyed his moral certainty even as I understood how others might feel differently. Like Kensi, who almost directly contradicted Deeks, seeing the importance of putting the bad guys away no matter what the method. While her willingness to go along with Shaked’s plan was disappointing, it felt in keeping with her desire to stop those who had attempted “one of the most dangerous terrorism attacks on the United States.”
Of course, there’s also the fact that this entire group of people sure has come right up to the line and crossed it quite a few times. In fact, kinda regularly. Kensi’s role as sniper has put her into an especially grey area on more than one occasion (the White Ghost, for example). Heck, it’s what her father did for a living. So Deeks’ reaction also felt, in the context of the team’s past, a little more strident than I might have expected. (So did Sam’s “We don’t do torture” at episode’s end. Really, Sam?)
It’s one thing to voluntarily cross a line because you think it’s the right thing to do or you believe it needs to be done, but I think Deeks has had it with being ordered to cross the line. He may even have flashed back to “A Line in the Sand” and his dispute with Mosley. He’s always been more anti-authority than Kensi and I think that’s part of what drove him here. It’s one of the things I admire most about him.
As for the Densi this episode, I guess we’ve been given more proof that deleted scenes cannot be considered canon. The wedding seating discussion illustrated that what we saw deleted from “A Line in the Sand” didn’t actually happen back then (unless Kensi also had a head injury in Mexico that made them both forget their earlier conversation?). At any rate, it was cute but I am so over the wedding discussions in general I can no longer summon any enthusiasm to talk about it.
The Rant of the Week
Since the premiere and aside from some great Deeks-centered scenes in “Pro Se,” Season 10 thus far has given us a Densi almost single-mindedly focused on wedding planning. In other words, a repeat of Season 9 Densi but less interesting or nuanced because there’s no discussion of their post-wedding future. And as we’ve already discussed, they are sorely in need of some follow-up discussions about their future plans. Military, who always gives us great Densi scenes, was perfectly placed to do just that. He’d have been able to follow up from his own Season 9 finale and Season 10 premiere where he set up (and resolved?) their conflict, not to mention “The Seventh Child,” an earlier episode filled with great Densi scenes involving the same discussions.
In “The Patton Project,” he could have easily have inserted a serious Densi talk at several points in the episode. For example, the two could have had revisited the events of “The Silo,” the episode that introduced the Patton Project and showed us how much difficulty Deeks was having dealing with the dangers of the job. They could have done that at any point on the way to or from a location, or Military could have completely exchanged it with the armory banter about identifying Kensi’s mysterious new relatives, costing no additional time.
I’d have also appreciated a discussion about torturing suspects once they found out about the most recently killed Patton Project member. This could have occurred between Kensi and Deeks with references to “Descent” and/or “Spoils of War” (both Military classics), although a talk between Deeks and Sam would also have been fantastic.
And the ending absolutely begged for a closing scene with Densi discussing children. This was the second time this season (at least?) where Kensi was affected by a child in jeopardy. It was a perfect segue into bringing the future ninja assassins back up. And there was time to do it- that 3-minute opening scene with Lawford and Ally could have been shortened by half, and the closing with Sam, Callen, Turk and Ochoa could have been eliminated altogether.
I’m almost to the point of giving up on the showrunners ever revisiting Densi’s future. I mean, if Military didn’t go there, then I’m not confident anyone else will be interested in doing so either. I think they may simply use the “life is short” sentiment from Kensi’s proposal to prompt them to abandon their elaborate plans in lieu of something more impromptu, giving us the wedding we’ve always wanted but without any of the adult conversations leading up to it that we – and the characters – also deserve. I don’t understand why the writers don’t jump at the chance to explore these topics- they seem way more interesting to me than the endless wedding planning. Perhaps the showrunners are too single-mindedly focused on communicating to casual viewers that there’s a big wedding coming up?
Only Frank Military threatens children so blatantly, and while he got away with it beautifully in “The Seventh Child,” here it felt manipulative, even as it lacked any real tension. One of the reasons the episode never felt like it had a true ticking clock was because it diverted away from the suicide bomber almost entirely until the end of the episode. The team didn’t know about her, so they couldn’t race to find her until the last minute and by then, it was too late to generate any momentum. Several scenes fell flat, seemingly lacking any sense of pacing that director Nadda or the editors might have injected. Yet another issue was that racist bad guy Lawford felt like a repeat of similar Military bad guys such as those from “Rage” and especially “The Silo.”
I also had some issues with Shaked’s role. It’s unclear why his assignment would be to take out Patton Project members one by one when it would seem far more effective to apprehend them alive, put them in prison, and extract as much intelligence out of them as possible, something that torture- and certainly assassination- wouldn’t accomplish. Unless… maybe he’s secretly working for a Patton Project member who’s out to undermine the investigation into the Patton Project? Yeah, I’m sure that’s it!
What I did like was that Callen took the lead in making sure the team didn’t choose the wrong path, and that Sam, with support from Eric and Nell, outsmarted Lawford to figure out his plot, making torture unnecessary. It would have been nice to see Ochoa acknowledge that torture is ineffective rather than implying that if Sam failed in his two minutes with the suspect, they’d use it as their Plan B.
The most disappointing part of the episode aside from the lack of serious Densi was the lack of great team moments. In a usual Military episode, each team member gets ample time to shine, to show their individual strengths. For some reason in this episode, that never happened. We saw Sam outsmarting Lawford and Deeks offering a strong moral voice, but otherwise no one really got to excel. I mean, Kensi got to chase and lose a suspect and that was pretty much it for her the entire hour. (This may be a future rant but other than the premiere, Daniela Ruah has been sorely underutilized so far this season.) It felt like Military traded in what should have been a strong team episode for extra banter with Arlo. Don’t get me wrong, I like Arlo and would enjoy finding out more about him. I just don’t want to do that at the expense of the core team.
And speaking of Arlo, did you know that he saved the team’s life in Mexico? I did laugh at that, but by the end of the episode, his presence was serving only to remind me that he’s there as a potential replacement for any one of the cast members who might decide to depart after this season. It had me most worried about LL Cool J, given that Turk was partnered with Callen for no apparent reason. Combined with the job offer Sam got last week, it made for a sad thought and a downbeat way to end the episode.
What did you think of “The Patton Project”? What did you make of Deeks’ strong reaction to his orders? Did he and the team protest too much or was this assignment really a proverbial bridge too far? Did you enjoy the wedding banter more than I did? Do you have more faith than I that we’ll see more meaningful Densi conversations? How do you compare this ep to what you’ve come to expect from Frank Military? Oh, and did you know that Turk saved the team in Mexico? Tell us all about it in the Comments!
Thanks for the review, and can I just say that I’m ecstatic that you’re all back for season 10?!
I actually enjoyed this episode greatly – might have even been my favorite so far this season. While I don’t disagree with you that there were some missed opportunities, it still ticked all the right boxes for me. I’m really enjoying Ochoa (and Esai Morales’ portrayal of the character).
Arlo Turk is a very interesting addition. You mention him possibly being a replacement for someone next season. Could it be Hetty? Could that comment he made to Shaked about “his team” be a bit of foreshadowing? Maybe I’m reading too far into it. I do love his chemistry with the team no matter what. The end scene where he mentions needing to talk to them about something, as in saving their lives, had me literally laughing out loud. I loved it.
Thanks again for the great review!
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Great review! I completely agree with you that it wasn’t as edge-of-your-seat exciting due to the team not knowing about the suicide bomber until the end. I feel like I was still on the edge of my seat more during Pro Se than I was here. As much as I love the fact that Densi is finally going to get married, we all know that by now and don’t need to hear all of their plans. What they, as characters, need to discuss is the season 9 finale breakup, if the actions aren’t going to give us heart racing moments, than their words Beed to and o feel like a conversation centered around the breakup would do just that. Hopefully Roberta will kick episode 9 up a notch next week.
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That is great analysis. Thanks!
The most interesting thing about this episode, to me, was we have been saying there have been no consequences for their actions in Mexico. Au contraire, mon frere. It was delayed but here’s the price for keeping their jobs and the huge cost in expenses and a life (though it was on Mosely, they participated). It’s an interesting turn in the entire direction of the show and will make some interesting episodes if they continue this line. And I kinda hope they do. They need freshness in their storytelling.
I have to agree with your assessment about their black ops quandary and I was thinking this as I watched. I get why they would object mostly because they don’t like to be told what to do by anyone other than Hetty and even then … but fergoodnesssakes they kill people in almost every episode. One could argue that they were bad guys or hired help and usually in an us-or-them situation but the hired help were just doing their jobs — they might not have known what the situation was. The team has toed over the line many times in order to accomplish what THEY felt they needed to do. But like I say, I think this would be an interesting avenue for them to explore. I remember many an episode with someone asking “Why are we involved?” when it was hard to see a Navy tie in.
Kat, Mindy, Mandy, Tiffany and Tiffany, and Kip were mentioned. While I’m tired of the humor scenes falling on the wedding plans, it was nice to see peripheral people have more reality than one episode and gone. Really? Kip was supposed to be Deeks very good friend. Gaah! Different writers and their (apparent) lack of Bible for the show drive me crazy.
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We all know Frank Military can go dark, but this episode felt as if he was hesitant to cross that line and go all in. For some reason this show always seems to find the need to mitigate ominous goings on with levity, and for me that breaks any tension that has built up. Did we really need to see Kensi’s relatives in a line up of terrorists? Plus those looked like mug shots, not family photos.
I liked that the director used subdued lighting to emphasize the seriousness of some of the scenes, especially the one between Ochoa and Callen, but it didn’t make up for their need to break those up with unneeded frivolity. I agree, Karen, the “I saved your life” schtick got old fast and really didn’t seem like Turk. Let him be the tough guy. His best bit was stopping the assassination attempt and revealing that he thought of the team as his. Brothers in arms, I would guess. I like Turk, but don’t want him to replace Sam, or anyone else. Although, your thought that he might replace Hetty was interesting. I’d much prefer he replace Mosley.
I liked Ochoa here. Much more interesting, with layers to explore. That he was the one that offered the team up for this kind of operation solidified that he was running things. I hope he stays. I like him so much better than Mosley. Even though this team has killed multiple bad guys with seeming abandon over the years, this operation as presented did seem like a step into the dark side. That Ochoa expected them to walk the fine line they did in this episode, it also hinted that their cases might change to more serious stuff.
As for Kensi and Deeks…what you said, Karen, especially about Deeks. He is sounding more and more like the lawyer he is. Also, he slipped across that line once and tortured a cleric in Spoils of War, and I wondered if that wasn’t in the back of his mind during this op. It certainly was in mine. He pulled himself back, and was the right person to remind them that they are supposed to be the good guys, upholding the law, not judge, jury, and executioner.
I liked the episode, but expected more from Frank Military, although seeing Deeks on that skateboard was a treat.
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Great review! I liked this episode a lot. I think Ochoa and Turk are great with the team. I’m really enjoying Ochoas character and I think he is going to be a interesting player in the future. I don’t think that Turk is going to let them forget he saved their lives for quite a while..
But I did have an issue too with the way the team acted like they would never cross certain lines (executing and especially torture). I think that the team was a bit on a high horse there. I mean I’m sure Sam has done some missions overseas were the target was executed in the past. Working for the Seals and also the CIA. And we have also seen a lot of instances where they did cross lines on screen.
For example, Sam didn’t seem to have a problem with Sabatino shooting someone in the leg to find Michelle and even tortured someone himself about the intel on his family if I’m not mistaken.
So, the definitely operated in this grey/black (as Callen calls it) zone bevor. Especially when it was personal for them. So I really don’t see why they would act like it was an insult to assume they would operate in the grey.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t think the team should just have been cool with executing or torturing someone either. In the end the did manage to stop the bad guy without executing and it was the right thing to do since he had information.
I also think they could have been a bit nicer to Turk (give him the benefit of the doubt when he said the guy jumped of the roof). I mean.. he did safe their lives..
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Thanks for your review, I am so happy wikiDeeks is still operational. I enjoyed this episode, It was not what I expected based upon the promos and Frank Military , however, I thought it was well written, very well acted by the cast,both regular and recurring, and set up some interesting ethics conflicts.
Part of why I enjoyed it was , as usual, Frank Military made very good use of Eric Christian Olsen’s acting abilities. I very much enjoyed seeing Eco switch from playing a light comedic role in the wedding conversations, to skate boarding in Venice , then switch to full on dramatic role, having serious ethical discussions. I thought it really showcased his talent.
It is interesting that the fallout from Mosley continues from their operation in Mexico. So it seemed possible to me that far as Densi, they were setting up a new potential conflict, not really sure of that , but we got a different conflict than before from Deeks and Kensi, the discussion of what the role of the team and the agents are , as was said by Deeks and Sam , judge , jury and executioner .
I am really enjoying the additions of Ochoa and Turk. Both of them are good actors , and are being seamlessly integrated into the scenes, which I attribute to their abilities. This is in sharp contrast to season 9 in which scenes felt forced between the cast and the new cast members. I do think the show and episodes are far superior to season 9.
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Thanks for your great review.
I admit the episode seemed a little lacking compared to other Military’s scripts but much better than most Season 9 episodes.
I do like both Ochoa and Turk (and the actors as well).
I’m still waiting for a Densi serious adult talk after the very serious issues they started to deal with before the Mexican mission, but it seems this wasn’t the right week yet again. Maybe it was a wasted opportunity in an episode that could have given them several inputs and by a writer who has probably written all my favorite NCIS:LA episodes.
All the wedding talk has become quite boring and I wonder why the writers can’t think of anything deeper and more meaningful for Kensi and Deeks at this stage of their relationship. I’m giving up hope we will see any pivotal Densi scene before the wedding and like many of you, I’m starting to think the wedding may happen in a very unexpected and fast way, triggered by a case or something else, more or less as it happened with Kensi’s proposal (I hope not, though). The more I think about this possible (rushed) scenario, the more I realize “I want the fairytale”.
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Great review, Karen! I don’t have much original thought to add. I did think it was an interesting and unexpected (if bizarre) direction in which to take the fallout from the non-mission in Mexico, but I share others’ confusion about where, and how, each team member draws the moral and ethical line. Deeks’ and Kensi’s differences over how long to stay with NCIS and whether they want children pale in comparison to their differences on the morality of taking a life that is not immediately threatening theirs. Talk about conversations that need to be had!
Conversations that don’t need to be had are those that have anything to do with the wedding. There’s not been a single wedding planning scene that has felt in-character to me. These are two people in a highly demanding profession, focused on national security and the protection of individuals in danger. They are confident, committed, and they make decisions in the split of a second, on a daily basis. Fussing over venues, guest lists, seating charts, tablecloths …. anything other than a simple coming together in front of someone empowered to declare them husband and wife….just doesn’t make sense to me.
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I agree with you Karen. I also offer that this could be the start of (potentially great) team arc where they will be at the mercy of DOJ as fallout for Mexico and the team may well be forced into be becoming a black ops team. This could be a great opportunity for lawyer Deeks and I agree wih my friend Stef, a point of Densi conflict.
I am over the wedding prep which is interesting since WE STILL DON’T HAVE A DATE
I love Frank but this was not his finest hour. Still much better than season 9
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I have faith that the issues raised in their argument will be addressed because ECO said it will come up again here on wikideeks’ ask eco segment.
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Another great review, Karen! I agree with so much of what you and others have said. Enjoying Turk and Ochoa–why couldn’t they have written Mosley and Hidoko this way?
I really appreciated Turk’s reminder to the team that if they wanted easy they should be postal workers. I think overall, the writers handled this we’re-not-killers-and-we-don’t-do-torture thing very well. It’s a messy, difficult line to walk, and they’ve all toed across it to different degrees and for different reasons in the past. But this is not how they want to be defined, I think, and this is not something they enjoyed doing when they did cross the line, so I understood the pushback.
I do hope the Deeks and Kensi differences about this will be explored further, and don’t think it needs to be in the form of serious conflict, but it would be an interesting discussion (and, listen up, PTB, if any serious Densi convo is coming up, it needs to be about the Mexico argument, not about this; just so we’re clear.) I thought Kensi’s and Deeks’ positions on the matter of being part of assasination squad were generally in-character. As you said, Karen, Deeks still clearly suffers for his killing of Bolye and his background as a lawyer came through clear as day as well (anyone else seeing that as a trend lately, and perhaps a little intrigued by it?). And I agree that the fact that they were being ordered to do this probably played into the degree of pushback and certainty he demonstrated.
I’ll take the Kensi position a little further than you did, though. You mentioned the White Ghost arc as an example of Kensi being willing to work in the grey as a sniper. Yes, she was going to kill the White Ghost because of what he (supposedly) was doing and because she was so-ordered. But in “Empty Quiver” Kensi actually did snipe two guys guarding a location who were not an immediate threat to anyone. Hetty said “Lethal action has been authorized” and Kensi killed them, probably because it was the safest/quietest, most expedient method, and becasue she’d been ordered. So she’s definitely done it before. And her father wasn’t just a sniper. Oscar Sierra was a black-ops team sent to “eliminate threats to American national security” which is basically what OSP was being asked to do in this case. Also let’s not forget Kensi had more skin in this game than the rest of the team, having already been at ground zero in Colorado and taken down two members of the Patton Project (granted, not in the same manner) who tried to annihiliate several Muslim countries. (Ironically, wasn’t this the group about which Mosley said, “Hunt them down. Kill them if you have to” shortly after she chastised the team about how many fatalaties they’re responsible for?)
But what’s all this talk from everyone here about Turk saving their lives? And Kensi and Deeks planning their wedding. Did I miss something? 😉
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Oh, and I forgot to add that I call BS on Deeks being “facially challenged” as Kensi put it. The man is a cop and damned good one, and has on more than one occasion recognized a face after just one view. Maybe he just didn’t recognize Kensi’s family because those people didn’t exist until like five minutes prior…..?
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Fantastic comments- thanks everyone! I was really happy to see that so many of you enjoyed the episode. Let’s hope even more of us enjoy this week’s!