A good dose of Densi angst always makes me a happy camper, so this week’s episode of NCIS: Los Angeles made me happy indeed, even if I got a little teary-eyed at the ending. Written by Andrew Bartels and directed by Terrence O’Hara, “Yellow Jack” brought us the first real emotion of Season 11 via some wonderful Densi moments, plus an enjoyable return of a favorite guest character.
From “Allegiance” to the Allegiance
As stand-alone, non-Deeks-heavy episodes go, “Allegiance” is right up there on my list of favorites. It was great primarily due to the winning turn from guest actor Wesam Keesh, who played Ehsan Navid, as well as the wonderfully patriotic ending. Can you believe that was six years ago? Ehsan’s been busy in the meantime, building a family and a career. I’d always hoped he’d return someday but couldn’t figure out how his path might plausibly cross again with the team, and I’m glad that Bartels, who co-wrote “Allegiance,” was able to figure out a great way to bring him back. How wonderful that his interactions with Deeks and the team in that earlier investigation inspired him to choose a career spent protecting his adopted country. He was likable originally because of his optimism and his kindness, and both were on display again in this week’s episode.
I hope we’ll see more of Ehsan, and maybe even see him get a chance to work again with Deeks. Deeks (and/or Eric Christian Olsen?) appeared a bit sad to only get to interact by video this time. I recall that Ehsan managed to help maintain their brief undercover outing to an art exhibition long before he got any NCIS training, and it would be fun to see Deeks giving him tips on how to really sell a cover.
It Could Be
Then there was the Densi. Throughout the episode, Kensi and Deeks were so perfectly in character, it really felt like the episode had been written by someone who knows them well. Bartels has co-written previous episodes with some good Densi moments, but he really outdid himself here. And Daniela Ruah and Eric Christian Olsen delivered pitch perfect performances to match.
I had been avoiding spoilers this week until I accidentally saw a teaser from R. Scott Gemmill that “Kensi will be reluctant to share some personal information with Deeks, feeling the time isn’t right.” That annoyed me because characters keeping secrets is such a soap opera plot device, and besides which, I’d like to think these two characters are done keeping secrets and it pained me to think they might take a step backwards. Happily though, Kensi’s stoicism didn’t last long, and it did feel very much in character. Of course woman of action Kensi dealt with her situation by going on a long run alone. How many fan fics have we all read where that exact same thing happens? But oh my goodness Deeks’ worry in the opening bullpen scene when Kensi oh so seriously explained her need for time “sans” her hubby just hurt my heart.
Seeing Kensi so scared about Deeks or herself coming into contact with contaminated blood or people certainly gave us a giant clue about what might be going on with her. Her insistence that they wait for the USAMRIID team rather than breach the building was so different from the Kensi we know that it made sense that Deeks would find it as alarming as we did. Thank goodness it quickly led to the conversation in the decontamination tent. It’s amazing to see these two characters, with their long history of communication challenges, actually talk to one another. Every time we get a real conversation like this, it feels like a blessing for two reasons: first because the show doesn’t often get so emotional, and second because we know that these two characters can do anything together just as long as they talk about it. The scene was also beautifully directed, in hushed tones that gave it a wonderful sense of intimacy.
Even though it was beautifully written, the emotions that played across Deeks’ face when Kensi told him she was late showed us everything we needed to know without any words at all. The spark of hope, the worry about Kensi’s reaction, the fear for their current situation, it was all plain to see flickering across that incredibly expressive face. Later, at the end of the day, Deeks empathetically told Kensi how difficult the day must have been for her, but it was clearly also incredibly difficult for him. Right from the start he knew something was wrong, but he also knew he couldn’t push Kensi to talk about it before she was ready. He’s always been so patient with her and that patience was on full display here. Right before Kensi answered the phone (yet another interruption from Nell!), Deeks was saying, “It’s probably nothing but also it could be-.” At that moment the future that Deeks dreams of felt tantalizingly close, and yet Deeks also knew Kensi wasn’t close to ready to talk about such big things, things that would change their lives.
Talking About It
Oh, NCIS:LA, when you play that Densi theme song music I know I’m watching a good scene. The final scene called to mind many previous Densi conversations, including the emotional end of “The Silo,” which was also set in darkness with the two talking about their future. Here Eric and Daniela were just as good. Deeks’ long pause as he realized he couldn’t continue talking about his own disappointment and needed to shift gears to something more supportive, was fantastic. It added so much to making the conversation feel real, unrehearsed, and natural. And how wonderful to see Kensi determined to figure things out with her husband. Her defiant statement that “I wanna talk about it. I’m done not talking about it,” was perfectly Kensi. When she added, “We don’t work with fear, right? We work with honesty and I want to be able to tell you everything,” it was also perfectly Kensi, at least the more mature Kensi who’s grown up and developed communication skills she once lacked. Her words and her shaky voice also reminded me of the scene from “Till Death Do Us Part” where in voice-over she read her letter to Deeks about her Dad’s ring.
The dialog also reminded me of the ambulance scene in “The Frozen Lake,” where Kensi told Deeks that their thing would work as long as they talked about it, and he agreed but pointed out that she didn’t actually like talking about it. These two have come a long way, and that’s one of the reasons getting to witness grown up conversations like these is so satisfying.
The final part of their exchange was beautifully bittersweet. Deeks whispering, “We (You?) thought you were having a baby today,” seemed like a combination of sadness that it wasn’t true mixed with wonder that it could have been true, and hope that their visions for their future might be aligning more closely. Kensi’s sad reply showed the exhaustion of the day, but the small smile that graced her lips indicated that maybe the feelings she’d experienced during the day had surprised her, that maybe she was more ready to be pregnant than she had thought.
One thing I kept wondering about throughout the case was how Kensi could keep working, and then how Deeks could let her do so without trying to get her out of harm’s way. It surprised me. But then they flashed to a shot of Sam working in a dangerous environment even though his children would be orphaned if something happened to him. And poor father of three Ehsan possibly getting Ebola-laden vomit spewed onto him. And I remembered something Agent Rand said to Sam in “The Seventh Child” about wanting to keep the world safe for their children. However, keeping the world safe for one’s kids who are themselves safe at home is entirely different from risking your possible embryo’s life.
The whole basis for these lovely scenes, the pregnancy scare, wasn’t the most original concept in the world. I’m sure there were more original ways to help Kensi envision herself as a mother, yet it written and acted (and directed) so well that I found it quite effective. The showrunners needed a way to move these two characters forward in their future plans. They couldn’t have Deeks suffer another life-threatening injury since they already tried that and it didn’t change Kensi’s outlook. So I’ll take this and be happy for their forward progress.
We’re left in a hopeful place for these two, where they’re communicating and maybe even coming to some agreement on a plan for their future, something Deeks talked about wanting during that horrible fight in the garage in “A Line in the Sand.” It may be about as close as we’re likely to get to seeing Deeks’ dreams come true until, I’m guessing, the series finale. After all, it’s hard to picture them both continuing to work out in the field with a child at home, and the way the showrunners have set this up makes it hard to picture them dropping the kid off at day care on their way to a day of fighting bad guys. I’d be fine with that shift though because I’m so anxious for Deeks to have what he dreams about. But if it has to wait, I can think of worse ways to end the series.
- Go Competent Deeks, reconstructing what happened to Lieutenant Grant. However, seeing it all happen as a flashback over Deeks’ narration seemed out of keeping with the show’s usual style.
- And yay for Clever Kensi, with an assist from Competent Deeks, figuring out the identity of the “military heroes” being targeted.
- While Bartels’ script was strong throughout, the moment at the end where Petty Officer Lamb apologized felt a bit too “after school special,” although I very much appreciate the sentiment.
- The same can be said for Kensi’s talk with the USAMRIID colonel. The topics she brought up were a little too on the nose. A baby just that morning, really?
- By the way, per Wikipedia, “yellow jack” is a reference to the yellow (or yellow and black) flag (or jack) used to identify ships quarantined due to the presence of a disease.
Who knows when we’ll get more Densi-heavy scenes like we did this week, but hopefully this will be enough to tide us over for a while. In the meantime, come back later this week for new entries in Kensi’s Journal and Deeks’ Surf Log. What did you think of “Yellow Jack”? Did you enjoy the angst? Are you hopeful that we’ll ever see an actual Densi baby? Or will Deeks’ hallucinations from “To Live and Die in Mexico” be as close as we get? Tell us all about it in the Comments.