A Diamond in the Rough was written by Chad Mazero, a name I will confess that I did not recognize as a writer (although according to IMDB he was a story editor on many of my favorite episodes and he is now on my favorite writer list for all the Densi goodness he delivered this week) and directed by James Hanlon.
The case itself had a lot of twists and turns before we found the actual villain. Often the villain is identified early and the suspense is derived from chasing down the target before whatever the deadline is for that case, along with stuff going boom! This case was different in that all of the potential suspects seemed initially plausible and there was a longer process of running down leads until they finally found the real threat in Sadat. For an NCIS: Los Angeles episode there was surprisingly little boom and bang and a really low body count. I thought it was actually a nice divergence from how the storylines usually unfold. Despite a few things I didn’t love, what made me love this episode was the number and quality of Densi scenes, especially a couple that really felt like the classic Densi I first came to love. After last week where Deeks was barely present, it felt like Deeks/Densi got more airtime than the case itself and more than most of the other characters, which suits me fine! I honestly can’t remember the last time there was an episode with so much Deeks/Densi goodness. Part of what took me so long to get this review up is that I had to keep re-watching and re-winding so I could transcribe and analyze my favorite scenes and decide which ones to use. Spoiler alert – I think I included all my favorite scenes so lots of gushing ahead!
Things I Didn’t Love
Unlike many of the recent episodes I don’t have a rant about this episode – although I will say I watch those opening credits like a hawk to make sure Mosley isn’t there. There were some things that I did not love with the episode and I always like to air them first and then focus on the good stuff.
I know the “missing [insert electronic item] laden with military/national security secrets” is a favorite plot in procedurals, but I’m not sure why. I work in healthcare and we have greater security requirements for patient information than what we are to believe exists for sensitive national security information. However, I don’t suppose this is the last time we’ll see a case like this so we’ll just pretend that the missing laptop was really a security threat.
I am also always puzzled when small, easily remedied inconsistencies or inaccuracies appear in a show (not just this show). Pakistan – officially known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – is 95-98% Muslim. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam and Pakistani women would typically wear a hijab, so serving wine at a dinner with a Pakistani General whose wife is not wearing a hijab seems like such an easily fixed contextual inaccuracy. Same with Sadat – hard to believe that an assistant to the consular attaché from Pakistan would be a woman in Western dress, although I appreciate that she was a British national and not Pakistani herself.
Neric – I like Nell and Eric as characters, but I’m not really a Neric super-shipper (is that still the word for it?). I’m always a little bugged at the airtime their relationship gets when Densi has often been short-changed. Eric’s weird gadgets were just… weird. The scene at the end where they were about to kiss on their way out – I’m with Deeks: “Oh my virgin eyes. Oh get a roooom.” (with an Irish accent).
The bar. So we’re really doing the bar, are we? I don’t know what to think. I really hope this doesn’t mean Deeks is leaving the team – and since it seems that Kensi is also involved with the bar, maybe this will be a side gig for both of them?? But from what I know about that sort of business, it’s not really a part-time side gig. Also – looks like they’re still fixing the place up, so I’m not sure why we’re hiring staff already. (Although the interviews were hilarious.)
The Good Stuff
One of my favorite parts of NCIS:LA has always been the Densi banter and the scenes where their facial expressions say as much as their words. Both Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah do such a great job communicating without words, in both serious and light-hearted scenes. This week we got a lot of Densi banter, a lot of funny scenes, lots of great facial expressions and – my other favorite – a lot of Deeks’ mega watt smiles. I love those. Some of them had that impish quality that sometimes makes me wonder if he’s ad libbing – but it happened too often this episode that I can’t imagine he was just winging the whole thing. He seemed to be enjoying this episode as much as I was! Either way, I love funny, smiling Deeks and classic Densi.
Funny Smiling Deeks
The first big grin was early in the episode as they were interviewing potential employees. I loved the look on Deeks’ face when they were interviewing the defensive guy.
Deeks: What is HAPPENING?
He looked surprised enough there that I really did wonder if that scene was ad libbed by defensive guy. Whatever you think of the bar, they seem to be having fun working on it together, which is nice. And based on my past experience in college, I think they got a good snapshot of the wide range of people who work in the service industry!
A little while later as they’re on their way out of the hospital to investigate the step-daughter we get another big grin:
Deeks: So, uh, stepdad almost dies and she doesn’t bother to call back? She must really have hated him.
Kensi: Or, she’s actually in danger. You wanna find out which one it is?
Deeks: You know I’m a sucker for a good “choose your own adventure?” (GRIN)
Kensi: (sneaky grin)
I watched that a few times, because I’m honestly not sure what was so funny there. I can’t remember a prior reference to “choose your own adventure” – can anyone else?
Ultimately, though, this was early in the episode and I was just happy that they were happy and smiling so I didn’t think too hard about it.
I did laugh out loud at Photographer Deeks at the party house. He’s great with the undercover personas. The first great scene was when he was interacting with Tricep Guy. (This episode also had to have a record for number of weird guest cast between the party house and the bar).
Tricep Guy: Dude, snap me.
Deeks: I’m sorry, I don’t speak frat.
TG: Let’s go bruh, I want to get the sun while it’s on my good side.
Deeks: While it’s on your… you’re gonna flex your tricep and…definitely do that. Ho ho, that’s actually a really good picture. Yeah we got it.
TG: (hands Deeks a card)
Deeks: What’s this? Oh good, we got a card. Nice to see we don’t have a shortage of entrepreneurs.
Deeks: WHUT? (BIG GRIN)
TG: Oh, slide that photo into my DMs.
Deeks: Yeah, that’s definitely not going to happen…
And then after snapping some pics of the “celebutante” and her criminal boyfriend in the pool:
Deeks: OH YEAH, that’s gonna get a lot of likes (and another grin)
And then there was the final scene in the bar. I know – it was in the bar and about the bar, but if you overlook that fact, it was both funny and unexpected with Roberta suddenly joining them. Plus, it’s been a while (I feel like Karen would know exactly) since the final scene of an episode ended with Densi.
Kensi: I’m so glad we didn’t grow up in this day and age. Just the pressure, you know?
Deeks: It’s a miracle these kids even make it through DJ academy.
Kensi: No, I’m talking about the need to be perfect all the time.
Deeks: What are you talking about? We are perfect! We would have been fine. What are you drinking?
Kensi: Ah, let’s do two two Sazeracs.
Deeks: Two Sazeracs, that sounds delicious. Quick question, what exactly is in a Sazerac?
Roberta: Rye, absinthe and bitters.
Deeks: Kensi, why all of a sudden does it sound like you lived a hard life of menthols and disappointment?
Roberta: Save it for my euology.
Deeks: Oh my god mama. So why are you here exactly?
Roberta: I heard there was a job opening.
So Roberta is retired, bored, looks terrible in plaid and has ditched her boy toy Guy because she couldn’t teach him anything more and he wasn’t entertaining her. She said just enough to create a vivid mental picture and Deeks’ response was perfect!
Deeks: GROSS!! (and the facial expression)
And then Kensi and Roberta gang up on her “boo-boy” (do you think we’ll hear Kensi use that in the future?) to persuade him to go along with the “terrible plan.” Now I have more questions! Does this mean Roberta will have more guest appearances? Or is this a way for Deeks to have the bar, but stay with NCIS? I guess time will tell, but for now all we have is Deeks’ final words on the matter:
Deeks: What could possibly go wrong? (as screen is dark)
In addition to all the funny scenes, we got one of their classic Densi car arguments, which somehow went from barkeeps to dog walkers to personal trainers in short order with a well-placed “touché” followed by a discussion of short shorts.
Kensi: OK, well (glancing at his legs) I think it’s time you dust off your short shorts. (Wicked look)
Deeks: Dust ‘em off? Whatever do you mean? I wear them underneath just in case. Huzzah!
Kensi: That is so weird.
Deeks: Quick release.
Kensi: Nooo. No Velcro pants.
Deeks: Straight to the paint.
I had forgotten how much I miss these kinds of scenes that were so commonplace in the early seasons.
Later in the episode when they get the fence (Billy Freedman) who was selling the stolen property, we had a partial throwback to a classic Deeks line:
Deeks: No Billy…That looked like it hurt.
Was it just me, or were you also waiting for him to ask “Did it hurt? Or did it just look like it hurt?” Although we didn’t get the full classic Deeks quote, the follow-up here was just as funny.
Deeks: How you doin? How’s that head?
Billy: Not good.
Deeks: That’s right. That’s the sound of a bad decision. Just to clarify. (Deeks & Kensi both grin)
I loved the scene where they are heading into Billy Freedman’s house. The close camera angles and jerky picture are often used in scenes like this – and I enjoyed it here too. But what really kicked it up a notch was the audio of their heavier, more rapid breathing. I don’t recall that being as prominent in previous scenes like this and I thought it really added to the drama of the situation.
A little while later when we see Kensi driving straight at the van carrying the Abidis we get another repeat of classic Densi with Deeks complaining about her driving, not to mention having his life is obviously flashing in front of his eyes as he hollers at her to marry him right there and then.
Kensi: We’ll go around and cut her off from the front.
Deeks: That’s a stop sign. OK. I should have drove. WHOOO oh my lord. Oh my God I should have drove.
Kensi: Stop talking!!!
Deeks: Hahah!!! (horn honking as they go around a car) Let’s get married. LET’S GET MARRIED RIGHT NOW!!
Kensi: They’re not gonna stop. We’re not gonna stop.
Deeks: OK, that’s Plan A, what is Plan B? I don’t like Plan A. Son of a (unintelligible).
Those scenes are always entertaining as Deeks clearly has control issues when he’s sitting in the passenger side. And yet Kensi almost always drives and has never failed to get them out of a jam. It’s a schtick that could get old, and yet it never does as they always find a slightly different way to play it. I was also happy that this was the only wedding reference this week, sparing us from more cake, venue and “Tiffanies” discussion.
Well that’s it from me. So, what did you think of “A Diamond in the Rough”? Did you love it as much as I did? Did you count how many times I said “love” in this review? What do you think of Roberta working at the bar? And can someone help me with the title? I really did not make the connection between the title and the episode this week. Looking forward to hearing all your thoughts in the comments.