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Review: NCISLA “Yellow Jack” (S11E04)


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.

Future Plans

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.

Memorable Moments

  • 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.

About Karen P (206 Articles)
wikiDeeks Writer & Assistant Editor. I never wrote for fun before... until my ECO-obsession. Now I love to analyze any and all aspects of the best character on television.

15 Comments on Review: NCISLA “Yellow Jack” (S11E04)

  1. I loved the episode so much, lots of Deeks and Kensi.Deeks felt left out or shut out in the beginning.Time along and not wanting to talk about the possible pregnancy Kensi hurt Deeks you could see his pain and worry.At the end you could tell at the end he was thrown when all the sudden she wants to talk about it.It’s no wonder he feels like he may lose herbut I think it just not her walking away but also that death might take her away.I don’t think we will get a densi baby cause Dani doesn’t want a fake pregnancy in the show since she done two real ones during the show run,she as much said so and Eric agreed, I do however think we will get a child 6 or 7or older dropped in their lifes,maybe one of Deeks exes was pregnant and he finds out bout it or maybe kensi when she lived on the streets got pregnant and she put one up for adoption.Who knows what the writers will come up with.lolBut they may wait for the last ep ever and she will be pregnant.Ever way sto more ep with deeks and kensi.come on writers show the love between these two, they are married not dead.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with the review. Whenever I hear Give Up The Ghost cuing up I know something profound is going to happen with my favorite couple. One observation tho, Kensi’s choice of wardrobe in the ending scene. Shirt tucked in with a light colored belt. Can’t ever remember casual Kensi dressed that way. Undercover Kensi sure but not on duty Kensi. I was immediately drawn to her waist and abdomen looking for signs. Anyone else struck with Kensi’s choice of clothing?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you again for wonderful review Karen. I saw this episode already 3 times and the ending at least 23 (yeah, ok I love it…like…a lot). It was perfect from the first until the last minute with consistent and believable story.
    Unlike you, I was aware of all the spoilers but I didn’t thought that she was late, although that was very possible scenario and although it could be considered as trivial and cliché, it is also very common situation in real life, so I haven’t found it “weak” as a plot for Densi.
    But once Kensi refused to go in that warehouse and didn’t allow Deeks to enter it, I was sure that she was late. It was clear for me at that moment that Kensi would protect and keep both parents and baby (and that was already huge step for her). Combined with the last scene where Kensi appeared even to be little bit disappointed that she wasn’t pregnant, cemented my opinion that she was more ready than she had thought.
    Deeks was so great; mature and caring but not overprotecting, allowing Kensi to come to him at her own pace. Yes he was terrified too but he handled himself so well. I love such Deeks and ECO was truly shining throughout the whole episode.
    All in all one of the best episode of all seasons for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wonderful review, Karen. This is my favorite episode of the season so far, and that’s probably because it had so many memorable Densi moments. This was the first time it actually seemed like they were really, truly married. Dani gave such a strong performance. I felt for Kensi, and the dilemma she was facing. Even though she isn’t ready to have a child, once that became a possibility, she became protective of that life. That’s so Kensi. But it was ECO’s performance that I couldn’t get enough of. You wrote about his changing expressions during their talk in the tent, when she told him that she might well be pregnant. The emotions that flitted across his face during her reveal was amazing. So much hope, yet so much uncertainty. He was afraid to hope because he knew his wife, so when they had that conversation in the bullpen, it was if they were continuing just where they left off as if nothing happened in between. Her strength and his fear that if the pregnancy had been true that somehow that would cause him to lose her, was heartbreaking. That vulnerability was all over his face and she saw it and comforted him. That one scene was better than the vows they spoke on their wedding day. It was complete commitment, and it warmed my heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. *Excellent* review. You stated everything I think about this episode.

    The best part to me was the naturalness of the scenes with Deeks and Kensi. One of the complaints I have in general about what I consider bad eps is the forced, fake scenes and out of character interactions. This one was good.

    So nice to see Navid. Yes, more please. However, Callen and Sam really didn’t contribute a whole lot in this.

    On the negative, being back on the carrier just emphasized how out of place last week’s episode was. As well as no Beale. Oy. Continuity people must be on vacation.

    Let’s hope we’re going uphill now on the quality of storytelling.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful review Karen, I loved this episode …hope we see more of kensi and deeks, sam and callen, eric and nell…partners and friends…..enjoyed kensi and deeks hug at the end….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review! I agreed with all your points and that THIS is the Deeks I love. Extremely few complaints, really only one minor point was the “I was mean to you because you’re a muslim,” it felt a bit pushy, like you said like an after school special. People are mean/scared of others for variety of reasons and it was, to me, a bit in your face. Other than that tiny moment, I throughly enjoyed this episode, easily the best of the new season. One of my friends tuned into this episode after hearing me rave about Deeks and I told her that ending scene embodies what I love about Deeks.

    As a laugh, did anyone else catch that both NCIS:LA and the Chicago shows (Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, Chicago PD[NBC]) had episodes dealing with a mass contagion disease in the past few days? Chicago et al aired their’s last Wenesday and obviously NCIS:LA was a few days lat er. Weird.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. michelle mcnally // October 23, 2019 at 1:46 PM // Reply

    totally amazing episode. kensi and deek’s scenes were wonderfully written and great performances especially deeks. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you so much for another amazing review Karen.
    I really loved this episode, the acting in Densi – scenes was so amazing, definitely the highlight of this episode (and of this season so far) for me. I really loved the writing in this episode, even though maybe the case was a bit overshadowed by those amazing Densi-scenes.
    I really liked the way the used those flashbacks in this episode,in my opinion it made the storytelling more interesting.
    The previous seasons have had so much Densi-related angst that I kind of have had enough of it, but I really enjoyed how the episode ended and I guess I can say that this time I enjoyed the angst, especially the balance between angst and hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Karen, thanks for the wonderful review, I enjoyed reading it and I really enjoyed reading all the fan comments. It is so wonderful to have a great episode and a happy fandom. I thought this was a really good team episode even though the team was split. The way it was integrated really worked for me. Of course Deeks and Kensi made the episode for me. They really showcased in this episode that at least for me they are the best couple on television. Both Daniela Ruah and Eric Christian Olsen gave incredible performances. It just amazes me how ECO can communicate so much with his eyes and his face, he really is a marvelous actor. I also appreciate that TPTB gave us some good Densi drama . To answer your question about them having children, given the dynamics of their relationship and history, I just do not see how Kensi and Deeks could keep working as field agents if they had a child . So selfishly since I watch the show for them, I would like them not to have children until the series ends. I think they could write a Castle type ending where the last scene is 5 years our and you see them with children.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Karen, I thought your review was spot-on! ECO and Daniela Ruah really shined in this episode. They play these Densi moments beautifully. I only wish there were more of them! They don’t even have to talk; everything is conveyed through their faces. The audience actually feels the emotions right along with them;that’s the sign of a of a great actor. Densi has come a long way; It’s wonderful to see the development of Densi as well as the rest of the cast through the years. I’m a new fan and NCIS LA has quickly become my favorite show

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Debra Gillespie // October 25, 2019 at 1:22 AM // Reply

    Karen, great review as usual. Three words to start…oh.my. heart. Just when I’m getting “used to” the great chemistry between ECO and Daniella, they bring it up a notch. When I heard the familiar Densi theme, my tear ducts started working the most since the hospital scene in the season 10 premiere. (Better Angels has to be a close second.) In a way the final Densi scene here was the complimentary one to the hospital scene, as it that one Kensi decided not to continue the conversation but Deeks pressed on and opened up to how he wanted to marry her.
    Glad to see Navid back, he was great in Allegiance several years ago. Three kids in under six years? Wow….but it certainly made his “I got three kids I’m used to vomit” a good line. This is another character from an earlier season that Sam and Callen has mentored, I wonder if they have any others showing up soon? But it’s been fun to see these recurring characters, and I agree that it would be great if Navid shows up again sometime.
    Karen, you mentioned “The Seventh Child” and I remembered the excellent, early Densi talk about kids that was in that episode. But during Yellow Jack for some reason I was remembering an earlier talk in season 6 “Fighting Shadows” between Sam and Kensi in the field, when Sam gave a good “kids happen” lecture to her. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get more Densi angst about the possibility of children until later in the season; but if we do, I’d love a scene with Sam and either Kensi or Deeks about kids, like the marriage advice he gave to Deeks on his boat before the wedding.
    There was a comment by becca about a six or seven year old child showing up unexpectedly in Kensi and Deek’s life; I keep wondering about the little girl in “Decoy” that Kensi had a brief talk with….certainly open to conjecture but I keep wondering why she was there unless she will be significant in a later episode…just will have to wait and see.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think the most amazing thing this week was Eric’s and Daniela’s performance.They were so great and believable in their scenes together that they reminded me why I fell in love with this show to begin with: to learn more about the characters’ stories, their lives, what made them what they are today, their imperfections and flaws, obviously all masterly mixed with cases, explosions, threats and bad guys. This is why I have kept coming back every season and I am glad when the show remembers who has been here since the very beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Martina Pruett // October 26, 2019 at 11:08 AM // Reply

    I LOVED the Densi scenes in “Yellow Jack”. Stellar let’s by both actors. I would love to see a Densi baby and how they navigate work and a child. I don’t think they have to leave their jobs just because they have a child. They (and the writers) could figure out a way. This is a tv show remember. I want to see them as parents, and NOT just for an episode (like the series finale)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks everyone for all the great comments! I especially enjoyed those who made additional references back to past episodes. Here’s one more that occurred to me. Their conversation took place in the exact same spot as the one from “The Debt,” only this time there was no box keeping them physically apart. Kensi was the one pushing both conversations forward, only here Deeks reciprocated, showing in yet another way how far they’ve come.

    Liked by 1 person

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