Review: NCISLA “Mother” (S11E10)
Before this week, only 53 scripted primetime series in U.S. television history had made 250 episodes. With “Mother,” written by Eric Christian Olsen and Babar Peerzada and directed by Dennis Smith, we saw all the reasons why NCIS: Los Angeles has earned spot #54 on the list. The episode gave us humor, excitement, suspense, romance, heart, and at the end of the day, family. If you wanted to show someone what this show is about, “Mother” would be a great example to share. I’ll talk more about all its worthy elements, just as soon as my heart stops pounding…
After a surprisingly conventional cold open with an attack at a spectacular mansion, the episode really got started with a throwback to team openings of the past. It continued the show’s long tradition of a gym competition filled with banter and humor. My favorite parts were Kensi’s underhand free throw (not sure it was in character but it was hilarious), and the funny reference to “touché” after Kensi tells them, “It went in” (although I’d have gone with a “That’s what she said”).
Also appreciated was what I consider canon about Beale’s athletic prowess, or lack thereof. I can’t recall the exact episode, but I remember a scene where Eric, talking to himself, commented on his basketball skills playing varsity (or was it JV?). I didn’t care for that at the time because it contradicted previous scenes, and the version we saw here, of a guy who’d get picked last for the team, felt right to me.
The episode had humor sprinkled throughout, such as Rogers asking apropos of nothing about sandwiches, or Callen describing Fimmel as “either dead or being held captive by a sociopathic poet.” Particularly wonderful was the episode’s second reference to “touché”, when Kensi gave Deeks good reason to stop complaining about her plan to free him, telling him, “Even the worst plan in the world is better than scraping your remains off the ceiling,” to which he replied, “And there it is, there’s the touché.”
What worked well in this episode was that the humor started off strong, but then lessened over time as the stakes increased for the team. There was still an occasional joke but it was more used by the characters to lessen tension. It never felt out of place and it never detracted from the suspense.
The excitement and the suspense
Speaking of suspense, this might have been the most stressful episode of NCIS:LA ever. First though, a shout-out to the episode’s excellent fireworks as Deeks surfed his way out of the exploding building. Nice job ECO with a lot of the actual work, along with what I assume should be a shout-out to David Paul Olsen for the final shot where the fire temporarily engulfed Deeks. It reminded me of the best explosion of all time (not just on the show), the great ”Sans Voir (Part II)” boom.
But “Mother” went way beyond the explosions. Its defining element has to be the steadily ratcheting suspense. Going in, knowing how anxious ECO had been about Linda Hunt’s reaction to the script, I was slightly worried that he might have killed off Hetty. One of my pre-episode notes read, “What’s next after this ep – Is Hetty still alive?”
We didn’t learn Hetty’s fate until well into the hour, but right from the start we got the super creepy woman sitting silently in the mission courtyard with her box. (I kept waiting for Deeks to ask, “What’s in the box?” And the more I saw of the episode, the more relieved I became that it hadn’t been a human head!) The episode that had started so lighthearted quickly devolved into something different. And while the jokes didn’t stop altogether, I began to feel a sense of dread, that something really bad was going to befall our beloved characters. That feeling came from the strong writing and acting, as well as great direction and editing.
Then we got the rest of Fimmel in a scene I desperately wish I could unsee. Maybe his head in a box would have been better! That was some major Frank Military influence right there. It was totally reminiscent of “The Monster.” Poor Deeks, you think you were having trouble sleeping before this? Yikes! (Did they show the body in the sneak peek? I avoided them all week.) The shot made it clear that the team was dealing with a madman.
The stress level was already high at that point and then Hetty was taken and Deeks was in peril and everyone was freaking out. This was not our normal, ultra-professional, calm under pressure team. The loss of their technology was a great way to make them more vulnerable, and to make us feel that vulnerability. Seeing Callen on the verge of panic about Hetty, and Kensi on the verge of panic about Deeks, and poor Sam trying to keep things under control, and the Wonder Twins trying to get back control of their equipment, was one of the very few times, if not the only time, that we’ve seen them all so simultaneously rattled. And because it’s such a rare occurrence, their reactions drove home to us viewers that things were very much not good. It was incredibly scary to watch.
What also worked well to increase the suspense was the literal ticking bomb. Going into the episode, I had no reason to worry for Deeks’ safety, understanding that ECO is, I believe, contracted with the show through the end of the season. But the speed with which events unfolded, the way that clock just kept winding down, simply didn’t give my mind a calm moment to reassure itself that everything was going to be fine.
Most weeks when I watch the show, I’ll jot down notes as I go so that I don’t have to take time to rewatch the episode and can get the review done as quickly as possible. This time, I gave up on the note-taking about 10 minutes in, realizing that it was too tense to try to write and watch at the same time, and wanting to enjoy the suspense without interruption. This episode had about twice as many scenes (or shots?) as a typical episode, and going in I worried it would end up feeling too fractured, not cohesive enough to tell the story. But it all worked. It was yet another element that upped the suspense. Going in, I’d also thought that I’d probably end up wishing for a two-parter, and of course I’d have liked that too, but I think a more conventionally paced version would have lost a lot of the suspense. And surprisingly, I got all that I needed. The episode left me feeling very satisfied (I mean, I’d always want more – give me the 12 extra minutes every week please, but I had no complaints).
We have been spoiled over the years by the many incredible, emotional scenes between our favorite couple. One thing we’ve never heard from them is the classic dying declaration (and let’s hope we never have to see one that ends in an actual character death). We kind of got one in The Silo, but Kensi broke off the call pretty quickly, telling Deeks she’d love him ‘til the end of time and back. Here, he wasn’t going to be stopped from telling her what she meant to him, and it was heartbreaking. I have to say, Deeks was pretty brave in that moment. I don’t know if I’d be courageous enough to comfort someone else; I’d probably be too terrified to handle the situation so gracefully. Of course, that’s part of the benefit of writing your own words, right?
What was amazing about those words was that Eric Christian Olsen gave Deeks exactly the thing that he most wanted Deeks to have. When we were lucky enough to interview him, we asked what he most wanted for Deeks:
This is a cheat answer, but I just hope he finds peace, you know what I mean? I hope that that character finds whatever it is that he’s looking for. ‘Cause I’m not sure if he even knows. I think he has this idea that he wants to, you know, maybe go back to being a lawyer, but I know he wants kids. I think that’s probably the thing that’s most important to him, which ironically is the same thing for me, I think that I found the best version of myself, you know, as a father. I hope that he finds peace ‘cause the amount of stuff that that character has gone through in the last whatever years of this life… I hope he finds home, which I think is with Kensi and probably with kids.
Hearing him tell Kensi that she had brought him that peace was so meaningful. Deeks obviously carries a lot of darkness inside of him. He holds himself responsible for too many dark acts. I’m not sure he yet believes that he deserves to be happy, although I love that he keeps fighting for it. So knowing that he’s found exactly that sense of peace in his life was, for me, a profoundly emotional moment. There were a lot of tears shed during that long commercial break.
Deeks: Kensi we got four minutes! Please stop. I need to tell you something. Baby sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t breath.
Deeks: I wake up and the world is narrow, and claustrophobic, and I feel like my, my chest is caving in and I feel like I’m gonna die.
Kensi: What? What?
Deeks: But then, I look at you – granted you’re usually drooling on yourself and snoring like a chubby dachsund – but just knowing that you’re there, and that somehow in all of this madness that you chose me… It makes my whole body relax, and I have this thing that I can only describe as peace. Baby I look at you, and I see us, and I can fall back to sleep.
Kensi: This can’t be the end. Not like this.
Deeks: It’s OK. Hey, look at me. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me and I love you.
Kensi: I love you.
ECO was great in this scene, but most of it played out on Kensi’s face, and Daniela Ruah was fantastic. Her desperation to free Deeks, her denial about what was happening, the way she reached her arms into the room to try to have as much physical contact with him as possible, all of it mirrored the emotions I was experiencing as I watched and rooted for them to find a way out.
The other thing that ECO wanted for Deeks, and what I think many of us want for him, is to be a father, a far better father than his own, one that can help him be, to use ECO’s words, “the best version” of himself. Kensi’s crazy plans to have his babies and live in a van surely makes it look like that is an increasingly possible scenario. And if the way she tackled him doesn’t mean they were immediately racing home to start making little ninja assassins, it would be a surprise.
Deeks: Kens! What are we doing?
Kensi: I wanna have kids with you.
Deeks: What? We’re making babies?
Kensi: We can sell the house. We can all live in a sprinter van. And, we can teach the kids how to surf, and we can teach them French, and we can collect berries.
Deeks: OK, yeah but baby, baby, I don’t speak French and some berries are poisonous and the kids gotta be in school.
Kensi: That’s OK because we can home school them in the van, it’s totally fine.
Deeks: OK, this is a terrible plan.
Kensi: What, homeschooling them in the van, or the rope?
Deeks: I mean, both.
Kensi: It’s OK now, you know why? Because the great news is, even the worst plan in the world is better than scraping your remains off the ceiling.
Deeks: And there it is, there’s the touché.
Then, when the whole sequence couldn’t possibly get any better, we got an awesome callback to “Deliverance.” It was one of the first episodes where their chemistry leapt off the screen, and an essential episode for Deeks and Densi fans. I enjoyed the way their roles were reversed here, with her rescuing him, yet somehow she still ended up on top of him.
Kensi: Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Are you OK? Did you get burned?
Deeks: I’m OK.
Kensi: Oh my god. I need to pee.
Deeks: I think I just did.
And it’s not just that it was a lovely parallel that makes us think more about how far they’ve come. It’s that it’s there only for us obsessive types who would recognize that dialogue even if Kensi hadn’t been lying on top of Deeks. Casual fans would merely view it as a funny exchange and go on about their day. So it’s a very sweet gesture from the writers and showrunners. In that way it’s similar to the recent callback to a Nell-Granger talk that was included in “Concours d’Elegance.” If this is the start of a trend, I’m all for it.
The heart and the family
Obviously for me Deeks always provides the show with a tremendous amount of heart (see my sobbing above). But this episode also gave us a more vulnerable Hetty than we’ve almost ever seen. For many of us, she’s still a bit of an enigma, and certainly a flawed human being. But that’s part of what makes her fascinating. What ECO and Peerzada gave us was a genuinely introspective Hetty, a definite rarity for the show.
Hetty has resigned more times than I can count, and suffered greatly when her agents (many of whom she found when they were children) were killed. Yet in all these past events, it always seemed as if Hetty were crying crocodile tears, that she felt more sorry for herself than truly understanding of the dramatic effect she’d had on these people’s lives. While watching this episode I was struck with Hetty’s approach to her work and its similarities to Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men:
I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom… And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
Here, particularly in the last scene with Callen, we got a Hetty who finally – finally! – appeared as if the consequences of her life choices, her intervening into the lives of others, had actually sunken in. She looked genuinely afraid. Linda Hunt was great throughout, but particularly here. Earlier in the episode, Nell had a great line that followed from her showdown last week that, “This is what happens when you try to play god in the lives of the people you say you love.” It was a beautifully delivered line, nicely understated but exactly right. Could we see real growth for Hetty’s character? Is it possible for her to learn from these events, or will she always be that somewhat grotesque figure who plays with people like pieces on a chessboard?
Exploring Hetty’s twisted past certainly made for a dark subject, but as you all know, I enjoy the darkness. It was striking to see how much similarity there was between ECO and Peerzada’s approach and Frank Military’s. It definitely makes me look forward to their producing partnership on a potential new CBS series (but of course only if they can both clone themselves to continue their current jobs). I’d assume Military’s writing has influenced ECO, who also spoke with us about Military:
Even when he goes incredibly dark, I think it’s a reflection on finding the human element in that darkness. So even when it’s kinda too much to handle, it’s usually some sort of reflection of finding love in those places, or hope, or relationships. It’s not dark for dark’s sake… Frank is searching for beauty in there. And I think that’s interesting, because there is enough chaos and pain and suffering in the world, that to find something beautiful in the midst of that is an important story to probably tell.
And just as ECO pointed out about Military’s work, here we worked our way through the darkness (and mangled bodies) to find love, hope and relationships. To find family. Because Callen was right there with the woman who’s as close as he’ll ever come to a mother, watching her comfort another son as he lay dying in her arms. And yes that was a dark, dark scene, but even though Hetty killed that son, she saw the good that had once been in him, telling Callen, “He was just looking for the same things all of us look for – a home, an identity, something to keep the darkness at bay.”
And that’s what this family does for one another. Kensi keeps the darkness at bay for Deeks. Sam looks after Callen to keep him from wondering back to his lone wolf roots. And Callen provided beautiful support to Hetty in the final scene, telling her that they’d face whatever happens next “as a family.”
In last week’s review, I commented that Beale’s overall character arc has been the least satisfying of all the show’s characters. For me, both Kensi and Deeks have had the most satisfying evolution over the course of the show. And now, having confirmation that Deeks has found a sense of peace nearly completes the arc I’d want for him. Yes, I’d still love to see him become a dad, and to maybe forgive himself for his past deeds, but otherwise, if the show ended tomorrow, I’d feel great satisfaction for his development as a character and gratitude to ECO and the showrunners for shepherding him through the seasons.
However, I feel compelled to put an addendum on that comment and say that if the show ended tomorrow, I’d still have a ton of questions about his backstory, and I would be forever disappointed to not get a “Deeks, M.” episode. Do you know how many characters have had an eponymous episode? I count eight. Fingers crossed that ECO and R. Scott Gemmill will remember Shane Brennan’s promise for a “Deeks, M.”
- I, too, find myself looking straight into security cameras when I know they’re there. I see it as a sign of a clear conscience.
- I’m sorry, why was Rogers there again? (Not that I wasn’t happy to see Peter Jacobson, who always brings a refreshing angle to his role and his scenes.) I assume we’re going to see some sort of Rogers-related storyline through the latter part of the season, but I actually think it would have been more interesting to hear Nell deliver some of his lines about Hetty.
- What did Sam mean when he told Deeks, “Don’t worry Deeks, I don’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree”? It sounded like an insult.
- I was so glad they didn’t try any more awkward de-aging in the Hetty-Ahkos flashback.
- The second wedding photo in two weeks- sweet! Although, yeah, posting it to announce that you’re about to blow someone up probably isn’t the most romantic way to use it.
- I wish the window frame on the door where Deeks was trapped had been a little smaller. I kept wondering why he didn’t try to squeeze through.
- While the quick cutting back and forth between scenes worked quite well to up the suspense, I wished that Hetty’s final conversation with Ahkos might have had one or two fewer cuts back to Kensi and Deeks. I found their frantic energy slightly overpowered the quieter conversation Hetty was having.
- I also might have liked to understand where Ahkos got all his intel and how he hacked into Ops, but given that it would have taken too long, I am good without the extra exposition.
- CBS has never tried very hard to advertise the show but with such short promos, why do they even bother?
One other thing this episode did really well was to show us exactly what we love about each of these characters in all their complexity: fierce but fragile Kensi, fighting the darkness with humor Deeks, Grammy Sammy looking out for Callen and staying relatively cool in a crisis, a Callen who’s maturing over time and learning how to form bonds, and a Hetty who’s full of mystery and contradictions. Giving each character room to shine is another thing that Military does well, and I was so happy to see that ECO and Peerzada were able to do the same.
Whew, that’s all I got for now. I ran out of time for a rewatch, otherwise I’d probably have another 1000 words. Instead, I’ll spare you that and leave things in your capable hands. I can’t wait to hear what you all thought of “Mother.” Tell us all about it in the Comments below. And come back later this week for a new Log and Journal, and new fan fic from some of your favorite writers.
This episode was AMAZING! Way to go ECO! It had everything I love about this show. partner banter, densi, a gunfight. Everything. BEST. EPISODE. EVER!!
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This episode is was best episodes of season 11th
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The greatest one of the whole season!
Oh wow, after such a terrific episode and equally amazing review I don’t think if I should even add anything, but let’s try. Thank you for writing this!
I absolutely loved this episode and haven’t felt this into the show in a while. I’ve always continued to watch it but during the last seasons I was more frustrated than not. And most times, I thought it came down to the writing because the potential is still there. ECO and Babar got it soooo right in this one. It was the show and characters I fell in love with.
As for specifics about the episode. I already commented this on tumblr but I loved the scene at the museum with Hetty and her two “sons” on the floor next to her. It perfectly reflected the two alternatives of how they could have turned out, Akhos with the black heart, having been taken away and turned into a killing machine, and Callen with the white/maybe grayish one, having found a team and family. I also really liked Callen on this episode. He had an intensity to his character I hadn’t seen in a long time while at the same time he allowed for some brief moments to see his real worry and, dare I say, cracks in his armor? Sam was equally great, acting less like Super Sam and more like Callen’s partner, always having his back, and a voice of calm trying to help Kensi and Deeks, but still showing some of his own vulnerabilities. The fact that coms were down and all this chaos happened through the phone was a great idea and added a new layer of worry for us and panic for the characters.
Moving onto the other characters. In a post-ep fic that I wrote I said that Eric as a field agent would just be another one in a bunch but as tech operator, there’s only one Eric Beale. And this episode, especially in contrast to Kill Beale, showed that both his, and Nell’s strengths are in OPS. That’s where they belong and where they can do the most good for the team and the world. And speaking of Nell, she was excellent again and I would love to see another conversation with Hetty. They have always been close to some extent and I believe even though they’re different, they can still stand on common ground.
And now onto Densi… Oh how much I love those two and all of their scenes. It was everything I wanted and so much more. Their scenes were beautifully written and acted and left me feeling so incredibly satisfied. I have already rewatched them many, many times. I’m also a sucker for the “one of them is dying so let’s say goodbye” trope and call backs to the past, so Deeks being trapped in a room with a bomb and that final scene and the memories of “Deliverance” made my fangirl heart so very happy.
TL;DR: I’m a happy fan this week and this is now one of my all-time favorite episodes. Can ECO and Babar write more episodes together?
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Jess, you did a remarkable review of the show. I have searched & searched all over the place for the answer to a question about this show. I thought your review was about to answer it, but it didn’t. Hopefully you fen answer it or someone else reading my comment can. So here it is…. What is the story that Hetty reads to the boys & quotes at the end?
Grateful to anyone who knows the answer!
Hi Laurie, you can find more than you likely want to know about the source material in this separate post: https://wikideeks.com/2019/12/11/bogeymen-boxes-circles-of-hell-literary-cinematic-references-in-ncisla-mother/.
This episode is was best episodes of season 11th
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Wow Karen you hit this review out of the Park! Nice job! And a nice nod from ECO to boot. Can’t ask for more. All I can say is move over Frank Military there’s a new kid in town. ECO knows these characters so well and can really write to their darker sides. I was so impressed by this episode. Made me fall in love with the show all over again! And that’s saying a lot!
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Wow. Brilliant episode. Brilliant review. I saw you and wikiDeeks got a shout out from ECO on Instagram. It’s a love fest for sure. Can something be too perfect? This ep seemed to be just that. So many emotions from every character. I am a died-in-the-wool Deeks fan, but I must say I loved the way ECO wrote Callen here. He was fighting so hard for Hetty, and showed such a range of emotion in this episode. That final scene in the museum with Hetty cradling her ”lost son” while Callen watched, revealed so much of his inner self and his questions about Hetty. In the end, he was the strong one…sure of himself and with no illusions about her and her choices. It was masterful writing and acting from Chris and from Linda Hunt.
I was worried ECO wouldn’t write a scene for Deeks and Kensi. What was I thinking? Of course he had something to say, and he did it with…should I say it? A bang. But also with such a moving confession of weakness and vulnerability. So beautifully written and acted. Intimate. Moving. With all the emotion I crave from these characters.
Was it perfect? I will not criticize any part of it. I have no desire to search for plot holes, or for things that didn’t make sense…especially driving time. I will simply say it lived up to everything I have longed to see on this show and with these characters, especially Deeks and Kensi. Thank you ECO, for the early Christmas present.
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Wonderful review! Thank you! And look! ECO mentioned your review on Twitter!
This episode reminded me of why I love the show. It reminded me of how good episodes COULD be. I read an interview of ECO saying he had about 15 other episode ideas. LET HIM DO THEM. He cares enough about the show and characters and storyline to actually sit down and write an episode. So many actors take a turn at directing on the shows they’re in and potentially it can become a career after their shows are over and their popularity/looks fade, i.e. Jonathan Frakes. I think the path that ECO may be on — producing/writing/creating — is an even more demanding but lucrative career choice. Directors are hired guns an episode at a time. But as an example of the latter, actors Peter Horton and, yes, Shaun Cassidy, have become show creators and producers, most recently with New Amsterdam.
There was something for every character in this episode in terms of character which is a fun thing to see. I think ECO/Peerzada brought back Rogers just because he’s a fun character actor to have around so why not? They’re writing it — they can have what they want. 🙂 But I think they were also planting seeds for future eps because he was being overly happy with the list given to him with Hetty’s name so prominent at the end. And there was more development with Nell not wanting to go the Hetty route, just a throw away line almost, but it was said. I think Callen would make a better Hetty because he has the emotional distance needed for the top job that Nell apparently now doesn’t have.
I’m not a huge Callen fan but I absolutely LOVED his scene going into the museum to get Hetty, being an efficient machine of tactical purpose. Kudos.
Of course, the scenes with Densi. Deeks should have known better than walking into that box (flashbacks to Michelle) not only alone but without safeguarding the only way out. But it made for good scenes between them. I was also having a quibble with how long it took Kensi to figure out to use the car to rescue Deeks. They were in a huge warehouse fergoodnesssakes … ok, done with my negatives.
The editing and pacing of everyone’s crisises – the comms and so forth out in Ops so they had to use the limitation of land lines and trying to communicate with multiple people, Callen and Sam needing to rescue Hetty, Kensi needing to rescue Deeks and Sam not available to help, Rogers interrogating the woman … well done and nearly organic, high stakes, legitimate, clock-is-ticking problems that stretched their abilities to almost having to make tough priority choices.
Jess did a fabulous job in her analysis of the Callen/Akhos/Hetty arc so I won’t duplicate anything there. We’ve met other people who Hetty has plucked out of orphanages and the like. She had quite the little sideline going. There’s a quote from Casino Royal (2006) that fits “Since MI6 looks for maladjusted young men, who give little thought to sacrificing others in order to protect Queen and country.” But the cost …. ultimately is a choice. You can choose to see it as Callen does or it can twist a weaker person.
ECO and his writing partner struck a goldmine in exploring this angle of Hetty. This has been hinted at but never fully told. Her character has had decades of stuff like this — enough for a spinoff series or books. Hetty in the 60s and 70s would make interesting stories. I picture her as a combination 007/George Smiley and Raymond Reddington with his tales from all over the globe.
I would like to think that this episode is a trend of better ones rather than an outlier in a not-great season.
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I forgot to mention Dani’s acting ability has grown so much over the years. Looking at early seasons compared to now … night and day.
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My question is: “Los Angeles has earned spot #54 on the list” ?
Hey Andree, it’s a reference to this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_longest-running_scripted_U.S._primetime_television_series, sorted by Number of Episodes. Also, FYI by the end of the year they’ll move up to be the 39th longest running scripted show ever. And if they get one more season, they’d move up to the 27th or 28th longest.
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Big thank you for answering.
Thank you Karen for writing an incredible review of this awesome episode. I am not sure I can add much other than to say, often when I watch one of their episodes that I have been excited about, I have very high expectations and it is hard for the show to meet those, in this case this episode exceeded all my expectations.
Of course, I really loved the way ECO wrote Deeks and Kensi but I also loved that he wrote a well balanced team episode for this 250th team show which showcased each character and their emotions both as individuals and as part of the team .I was so happy to see a strong Beale, strong for the team. I was really happy to see how he wrote Callen. Each cast member delivered an incredible performance, Linda Hunt was just amazing.
I also appreciate that this season, the show seems to be very grateful to us long term fans, providing us with callbacks. The scene with Deeks surfing on the board through the flames , and then the ending sequence calling back to ”Deliverance” was a gift to us long term fans.
So I join you in asking for one more thing from the show, our “ Deeks, M” and I truly hope they let ECO write it!!!!
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CAN WE GET ANOTHER ECO WRITTEN EPISODE?! Everything was absolutely perfect and I felt very satisfied after. And this review is spot on! Couldn’t have said it better myself!
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Amazing review of an amazing episode!
I was sure Eric wouldn’t disappoint us, he has a real gift with words and this script (thanks also to Babar Peerzada) definitely confirmed it. The blend of humor, action, darkness, mystery, love, desperation and angst was masterfully achieved.
I think we could feel what the characters felt and this doesn’t always happen easily in episodes. ECO just wrote the Deeks and Kensi I fell in love with: smart, competent, imperfect alone but perfect together and totally in love with each other. Obviously he knows what he is talking about, having played the character fo almost ten years. Who better than him could write the episode we have been waiting for so long, “Deeks, M.”? I do hope the showrunners will never ever end the show without telling us a little more about Deeks’ story, even if I am afraid such an episode would have fit better in an earlier season.
This season I have realized I am equally as interested in Deeks’ future as an agent, husband and dad as in Deeks’ past.
Congratulations, Eric, for this great episode and thanks, WikiDeeks, for always being the perfect place to speak about our passion.
Now I am looking forward to the Christmas episode having read Deeks and Kensi will have a very long dialog (really can’t wait!).
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Great review as always, Karen. Wow,wow, wow,wow, wow, what a ride! What a fantastic episode. What a dark, interesting look at lives lived in violence. Kudos to Olsen and Peerzada.
I have got to start with the opening scene on the basketball court. It was so nice to see our gang all together and happy like in old times. Beale with his mad hops. But OMG how spectacular did ECO look? Just a little pre Christmas gift arm porn.
What an interesting subject matter ECO chose for his first NCIS LA script. “Mother” was an amazing, dark, intriguing look at violence and its effects on the human psyche. How is it that some are driven to madness and others are not? I am now interested in how Hetty chose the children she trained, and why she chose them. What did she see in them? Has she made the same mistakes with others, as she apparently had with Akhos, who was now seeking revenge? Did she fail any the others? Hmmmm.
When Hetty was taken, it set the team in panic mode, as they raced against time to find her, and the fact that the tracking system and comms were down only escalated their frenzy. And now Deeks is trapped with a bomb with no foreseeable way out! Is Hetty floating in a lake after being tossed from a helicopter? Oh, dear lord, the suspense.
While I never really thought that Deeks would be killed, I was still on the edge of my seat wondering how he would escape certain death. His declaration of love to Kensi was everything. Even in his most vulnerable moments she centers him and puts his mind and heart at rest. It is truly a love story. This heart wrenching scene was so beautifully written and brilliantly acted by DR and ECO. (A gift from ECO to us die hard Densi fans).
The episode showed a vulnerable, self doubting Hetty, now wondering if she was doing the right thing all these years. Worried about her favorite “son” Callen, and his solitary life. “How do you instill morality when you’re not even sure if you still have your own. I am worried that this isn’t the life for you, or maybe any of us.”
I was happy to see the old capable Beale back in OPS doing the job that he is meant to do. He was calm, and deadly serious. He is clearly not cut out to be an agent (hope the writers finally realize this and keep him in OPS).
I loved Nell’s observation, “this is what happens when you try to play God in the lives of those
you say you love.”
I loved that Kensi now recognizes what she wants with Deeks, kids in a van down by the river!
I loved Callen’s stony resolve as he walked thru that museum double killing Hetty’s captors. COD was great!
I love that Sam, who knows about love and family, always looks out for his brother Callen.
I love Linda Hunt. I don’t think she is in good health, but man, she knocked it out of the park here.
Watching Kensi desperately clutching Deeks through that little window nearly broke my heart.
The scenes with Rogers and Natasha were intense; thank goodness he was able to extract information from her about Hetty’s whereabouts, but what are his future plans for her?
All in all I felt that this episode was a wonderful love letter from ECO to Linda Hunt. This was storytelling at its absolute best. He showed that there is light in the darkness. I certainly hope he continues to give us more subjects to think about and feel. He’s pretty good at it. Hopefully, maybe we will get the promised Deeks,M story.
One question: How did Akhos know that Kensi and Deeks would be the ones to go to the warehouse and discover their wedding picture behind the map?
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I had the same question about the wedding picture but I’m going to overlook it since the episode was so great.
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The picture itself didn’t bother me, but having the title of the episode beside it did.
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Having thought about how Akhos knew it would be Kensi and Deeks at the warehouse: seeing the wedding photo behind the map means he’s been studying the team for quite a while (and also a clue to his psychosis — I mean who goes to those detailed lengths to just blow people up?) This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing whatsoever. The use of the warehouse had to acquired and then wired with bombs and the container set up with all the stuff in it and the bomb constructed. He needed to hire henchmen and a helicopter. He needed to scout out the museum. He needed to booby trap Ops and obtain whatever equipment was utilized to do that. He planned each step which also takes time.
This all also means he has watched and knows how this team operates. So he planned that (nearly simultaneously) Ops would be EMP’d and the teams would be split up. He knew that Callen never allow anyone but himself go after Hetty — therefore including Sam. That means that the second set of coordinates leading to the warehouse would fall to Kensi and Deeks to check out.
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I wonder if this has to do with the mole arc?
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I have been checking regularly for this review. What a great episode. ECO and Daniela were great. They both do such a great job conveying emotion in their face. I caught the Deliverance connection right away and it was so perfect to have it there.
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Wow, what an episode. Great review Karen, you hit all the major points spot on. There were plenty of past episode flashbacks for me here, but like many of you I adored the “surfing Deeks/bomb explosion” and the “gotta pee” lines that were a great tribute to “Deliverance” – still one of my favorite episodes after all these years. On Tumblr there was a mention that there were possibly hints of Titanic in that warehouse scene also, but I haven’t seen that movie in years; anyone notice something like that? (Particularly Kensi and the axe).
Like peakae, I had an eerie reminder of Michelle in that lit storage unit from “Uncaged” when Deeks approached the lit control room. And I must confess right here – when I saw the bloody torso of Fimmel on that bed, for a few seconds I thought of changing the channel, although I had anticipating “Mother” for days.That was almost too much for me. Certainly glad I didn’t, but for me that creepy scene was worse than even the body-part-sown together scarecrow of “Monster”, and I immediately thought of that episode. (Can TPTB resolve that storyline? Please?)
Callen in “The Raven and the Swans” asked Hetty a similar question about how many “broken children” she had trained, and she yelled “A lot!” in that episode. So her silence here makes me wonder…is it because Callen might be the last one of those alive now, or for some other reason? Anybody have any thoughts about that?
I grew to like Rogers last season and was hopeful he would show up in this one. He truly seems to have gotten to like the team, but now knowing the bad blood between him and Hetty and looking to have evidence against her, it looks like having him back won’t be so pleasant. It will be fascinating how it plays out, probably later in this season.
The Densi scene on how Deeks has nightmares sometimes and how looking at Kensi gives him peace was so heartbreaking and so lovely. But it makes me wonder, is it the daily danger of this job, or is it memories of his abusive childhood – especially since he might be getting close to being a father – giving him these nightmares? I know other people have different scenarios they would like for a “Deeks, M.” episode, but investigating his childhood would be my choice for it.
I hope everyone has a great Christmas break after “Answers” the last new episode for the year runs next Sunday. And I see CBS is giving us an early Christmas present with the rerun of the wedding episode December 15th.
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The fish comment is about each having thier own special abilites even though the fish can’t climb a tree it still does other things well. Judge people on their own abilites and not compare to others.
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Really outstanding review, Karen! Detailed, and spot-on, and the episode was most definitely worthy of that kind of attention. You’ve touched on so many things, and I agree with all of them. So I will add only a few:
1) I think it must have been on Instagram that I’ve read a few things written by ECO, or maybe it was somewhere else. I just remember thinking “he has such a keen insight into human behavior, both what it is, and what it should be, and he has such a command of the language”, and I’d hoped to read something else by him. maybe something in more depth. I’m not sure a TV script allowed him to fully express himself, but it sure came close. For me, even in a procedural, it’s all about the subtext. There are only so many crimes, and only so many ways in which to solve them. But there are infinite ways they can affect people, both good guys and bad, and I’m so grateful to ECO for exploring that in this episode. Hetty is still such an enigma, and there are so many layers to her, that we may have simply skimmed the surface here. But I’m so glad we went there. There is fallout from this for each character, and especially for Hetty and Callen. Please, please, show writers, can we visit this fallout? Or have ECO write all future episodes?
2) It’s difficult enough to write a single theme well. That would have been the Hetty theme, and the relationships she had with the young people she ‘saved’. But we also had that beautiful, genuine, expression of love and commitment between Deeks and Kensi, equally well done. Eric managed to give us deep, emotionally satisfying scenes in completely different realms of context, and did so seamlessly.
3) Some actors seem to play it cool, and plead ignorance about anything that has come before the episode they are currently promoting. They leave ‘canon’ to fans, and sometimes in a condescending way. Not so ECO. He knew every piece of history to plumb, and honored the show, the characters, and the fans, by doing so. Thank you, Eric Christian Olsen, for putting your talent to work in a way that was both touching and enlightening. Please do more!!!!
Not every milestone episode of every series is worthy of the title. But this one was, and could well serve as a model for other series. Thank you ECO, Babar, and the cast and crew of NCISLA!
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I keep coming back to the look on Callen’s face when he realized that Hetty had not only saved his life, but had killed a man she thought of as a son. A man who called her Mother. What must he have thought in that moment? Would she kill him if he went rogue? The coldness of the act itself, must have given him pause, to question her heart. Yet in the end scene he does not blame her. But his last question hinted that it bothered him. Was Akhos just a failed experiment that needed to be ended? Is Hetty worried that all her far flung charges might be as well, when all is said and done. The banner that hung on the wall between Hetty and Akhos in the museum scene was titled “Prey”. But ultimately, who was the prey? Akhos forgot, or simply didn’t realize, that Hetty is a predator. Sometimes a benevolent one, but always with an undertone of ruthlessness. Is that what Callen sees in the end? I think he knows her better than them all, and she knows that. She also knows he accepts that about her. So many layers to explore in their relationship. I hope someone writes an episode about that…ECO maybe? Just a thought.
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Nothing to add bc I am too lazy and you covered everything. Thanks. But……
ECO and BP you did a great job. You honored the show and its’ characters.
I am excited about the show again. Please other writers, keep the team together and heart of the show intact.
And WORD to CBS’s promotion. That preview undersold this episode.
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Amazing episode and amazing review, thank you Karen for taking time to write excellent reviews.
This episode was the first episode of this season where the suspense kept me glued to my seat for the whole episode. The biggest thing for me was that you could tell that this episode was written by someone who knows and understands the characters. It was surprising to see Rogers, but I really loved the way he was written and Peter Jacobson did a great job. Those cuts between scenes worked really well and they felt natural, sometimes they can be really distracting, but here they worked really well. I really liked the background music in this episode and it was used really well in this episode to set the mood in different scenes.
Maybe I personally hoped that the Hetty storyline would had been more connected to whatever she was up to before she returned but this episode was amazing so that didn’t really bother me and they probably have plans to visit that storyline later (wouldn’t mind if ECO wrote that episode too). This is why I love NCIS LA, amazing episode.
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Karen, first let me say that nobody but nobody else can touch you for writing an episode review. My favorite parts of the episode are probably the same as many others. Those Densi scenes and that scene with Hetty speaking to her dying son were my favorites. The detail and the continuity and the depth of the personalities were all unparalleled. Your review pointed out things I may have missed so I’m positive I have a few more viewings of that superb episode. Thank you so much, Diane. wikiDeeks forever.
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I haven’t watched an episode since the first two of the season as I am immersed in trying to wrap up my dissertation work. I emerged from that self-imposed isolation to watch this episode because some things are more important than PhD work – like an ECO-written episode!!!
I loved everything that has already been mentioned – the Frank Military feel, the “Deliverance” throwback, the tearful scene through the door 💔, Deeks telling Kensi she was his peace ❤️🥰💞, Hetty being confronted with the cost of her past choices, while Callen watched and clearly processed that as well. My doctoral work is in the field of nursing ethics, and my brain was abuzz with thoughts about the implications of the Hetty/Akhos/Callen storyline and that scene with the three of them. The next time my brain needs a break I may have to write a piece for the site about that interaction – because there is so much depth there and such an interesting intersection with the work I am doing.
I will acknowledge that my deep admiration and affection for ECO and his work really colored how I viewed this episode – serious positive sentiment override happening. I would have PVR’d once we got the half a body on the bed and watched it during daylight if it was actually Frank Military who wrote it, not knowing what could come next. But I trust ECO to take care of our Deeks-loving hearts, and I could not imagine they would let him write his own death scene, so that kept me watching. As someone said above – please let ECO and BP write more episodes!!!
THIS is what I was talking about when I expressed my displeasure (or… maybe ranted a little) about the episode where Kensi told the guy trapped behind a car that he was dying. That premise/storyline was implausible and gratuitous. In “Mother” ECO and BP gave a master class in how you can have total intensity, incredible heart-stopping drama, along with heart-wrenching emotion and flames/BOOM in a way that is rich, deep, authentic, thoughtful and plausible. They explored some of the deep questions so many of us have had about Hetty, gave voice to the profound impact that Kensi has had on Deeks and vice versa. We saw a glimpse of their future homeschooling kids in a van (?! – OK, maybe that was the adrenaline talking). To have that scene at the door be part of the Densi canon is such a gift for hard-core fans and long-term viewers. That it was written by ECO – icing on the cake.
I’ve often felt invigorated after watching an intense episode like this. Never as happy and satisfied as after this one. Thank you ECO and BP!!! It was perfect.
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Can’t believe I forgot to say – amazing job on the review Karen! You’re the best!
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Wow, thanks for the truly amazing comments everyone! My head may have almost literally exploded at the fact that ECO read the review, and I’m still not recovered. But what I thought about as I read through these comments was how impressive and how thoughtful all of them are. I can only hope that he came back to read them all, because they make me very proud to be a part of this little corner of the fandom.
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Even though this is so late, I simply cannot let this ep and review pass without comment. Karen THANK YOU for the time and effort put into this longer & deeper review. I was traveling when the ep aired, so I didn’t have the option of pausing the show to take notes (for a Surf Log). Your review was the resources I needed to make sure I captured the major moments – & there were so many!
Of course ECO would be engaged with fans for “his” (& Babar’s) ep. Of course we as die-hard fans would show up and loudly voice our biased love for the work. But the root of this is that it was EARNED. It was simply an amazing episode. You could have hidden the writer names and I’d still think the same.
Not to knock most of the other writers, but this is what you get from someone with a psychology background, who’s “lived” with these characters for years, and genuinely cares about expressing them authentically and deeply.
To me this episode 1) breathed fresh life into the show and 2) reminded all of us why/how we fell in love with it in the first place. Overall, just give us more of THIS! And the one take-away from reading everyone else’s comments? Deeks, M.
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Confession #1: When I 1st read this review soon after it was posted, I was loving it, until I saw the ‘jab’ at Hetty. Then was really annoyed. But that was then.
This episode, was so many amazing words out there! (I almost cried when I saw what the title was going to be, cuz ‘Mother’ is one of the most amazing words out there to describe Hetty!) I really felt the high stakes! (only time this season I’ve felt them without anxiety taking over)
Those Densi scenes, just about ripped me apart. They were THAT good!!!!
Confession #2: After how Kill Beale Vol 1 ended, I, was worried about what would happen with Hetty. (despite my best efforts to hide it). It took an interview with CarterMatt to reasure me that the worst wouldn’t actually happen.
Got a lot of thoughts about Hetty, coming in a seperate post!
Thoughts about Hetty after this episode aired:
Hetty has always had secrets and always will. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I think her ‘training orphans’ thing has to do with her experience being an orphan HERSELF (it was brought up in the S3 premeire that she was an orphan herself) From what I could tell, she saw something good in these orphans. and since they likely HAD no real life of their own back then, I guess she figured she’d give them a chance at actually having an actual life.
She’s never meant to hurt anyone, not even her own team. (despite what Spoils of War might have looked like to some) The choices the orphans make after they leave her care, those are THEIR choices, she didn’t force them to make them.
She’ll always have a dark side, because being a spy required HAVING one.
Callen was right, She’s never failed them. If it wasn’t for her, he would’ve gone to jail at 15. (I really hope she’s taking his ‘we’ll face this as a family’ comment seriously!)
More thoughts on this season altogether: Could go on and on again on how bizarre it is that Hetty went from being so happy in the premeire to being miserable the rest of the season with no clear explanation, but it just seems futile right now. I just didn’t like how long her ‘self loathing’ period went on. (I think it ended in The Circle or Aleysidium). I also didn’t like her ‘sadness’. (for 1 or 2 episodes, it’s understandable, but this was a bit ridiculous). She really needs a confidence boost (HOPEFULLY, something happens that snaps her out of it!), or maybe just a hug. Maybe that’s why we supposed to see Nate again in the REAL finale. (no, I have no idea if we’ll see him in the S12 premeire)
One last thing: if Hetty really was a ‘manipulative god who only cared about herself’, then why has she protected her team for so long??