As much as I love NCIS: Los Angeles and try to support it, I have to level with you lovely wikiDeeks readers and say that I did not enjoy this week’s episode, “Knock Down,” written by Jordana Lewis Jaffe and directed by Tony Wharmby. It aimed for a level of irreverent humor that it didn’t quite hit, and in the process it did a disservice to some – but not all – of the characters we love.
The Tender Lovers, Together at Last
Let’s start with the positive. The episode’s highlight was getting more of Deeks and Eric together. These two have always been a winning pair, but this season the writers have really let the duo shine, giving them more small scenes together that showcase Eric Christian Olsen and Barrett Foa’s outstanding chemistry. While some of their scenes here were a bit over the top, like Deeks sneaking around to avoid Eric at the episode’s start, they all put a smile on my face. They gave us an Eric who seemed less childlike than he sometimes does and one who is coping with his partner’s absence quite well. And they gave us a Deeks who, while a little silly at times, was determined to support his friend whether Eric wanted that help or not. While I missed Deeks in the field- and with Kensi- this seemed like a good way to utilize what little shooting time ECO apparently had this episode.
My only issue with the duo’s scenes was Deeks’ reaction to Eric talking about departing with Nell. His surprise that Eric would consider it felt a bit ironic given Deeks’ own often-expressed desire to move on. It seemed unlikely that he’d be unable to wrap his head around the idea that Eric might have reasons to do the same. Plus, didn’t they already assume Eric had moved on when he took that tech job/secret undercover assignment? (And did Eric know from the start that it was a secret undercover assignment? ‘Cause if he didn’t, then he’s already made this whole “moving on” decision once before and it shouldn’t be that big a stretch now.) Anyway, it was a small issue with what overall were some nicely played scenes.
Trouble in Paradise
Unfortunately, the opening bullpen scene with Callen returning from his staycation gave us an indication of the somewhat forced, somewhat awkward humor we saw through most of the hour. Sure, let Sam toy with Callen and pretend he doesn’t want to hear about his vacation. That would be cute. But Jaffe never let Sam pull back from that teasing to let Callen share what was apparently a great deal of happiness. The man was practically bursting to talk about his time away with Anna, and he never got the chance. Because the humor came at Callen’s expense, it just felt mean. I mean, look at that picture – when have we ever seen this man so upbeat?
Callen’s clear desire to share, something Sam has encouraged him to do for, oh, I don’t know, about eleven years, made Sam’s repudiation feel cruel. And that made it feel completely out of character. Sam Hanna is a flawed human being, but he loves his partner, he’s always wanted him to be happy, and nothing I saw in the episode made me understand why he’d behave this way. Giving him a date with Katherine at episode’s end only made his behavior more confusing, for it seemed to remove jealousy as an excuse. (And I can’t see Sam ever allowing himself to be cruel out of jealousy.) I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Maybe you all can make me feel better about this scene and Sam’s behavior throughout the episode.
Monogamy and Motherhood
The next scene contained the dialog that threw me the most:
Kensi: Hey you know who’d have bailed out on us by now?
Kensi: [laughs] Are you kidding me? Yes, he would’ve… But I like this, I like changing it up. You know we never do that. I like working out with you.
Fatima: I feel like you guys always change it up.
Kensi: What? No. There’s so much drama and intrigue out in the field that when we’re home or at the office we’re like slow and steady monogamous… lifers. Actually we’re like NCIS agents by day and CPA’s by night.
Fatima: Well I won’t tell Deeks you said that.
Kensi: That is actually, probably for the best. He’s not exactly my biggest fan right now.
Color me confused. Kensi sounded downright bored by her life with Deeks outside the job. I get that she’s enjoying having a new friend, someone she can mentor. And I can’t begin to wrap my head around the total amount of time that Kensi and Deeks spend with one another. It only makes sense that Kensi is enjoying the variety. But “slow and steady monogamous… lifer” makes her sound almost restless, unhappy even. Is she rejecting the idea of motherhood because she thinks it will make her whole life boring? I’m never good at analyzing Kensi. All I know is if Deeks had overheard her say that, the hurt expression on his face would have broken my heart. The scene felt a little like Jaffe using Deeks as the butt of a joke, something she does way too often. But the end result was, I felt, a disservice to Kensi’s character.
Perhaps Kensi’s ennui was meant to tie into the pretty ridiculous scene with Agent Rush at the boatshed and the discussion of motherhood, but Rush, with her lack of focus and oversharing, felt like such a cartoon that it was hard to feel any emotion when Kensi finally got her to share how she really felt about becoming a mom. Even Kensi’s unanswered question about how pumping feels seemed forced, as surely she’s had plenty of opportunity to find out about it from her friend Mandy? It would have been so much more interesting to have Rush behave like a real, capable, exhausted, conflicted, new mom who’s chosen to continue risking her life despite the addition of a baby. It felt like a lost opportunity. Again here, the humor all came at the expense of Rush’s character. Where Jaffe did succeed with a working woman was with the Battalion Fire Chief, who managed to be incredibly capable while also cracking plenty of jokes.
The Densi ending was cute but again felt like a missed opportunity. Rather than more humor at Deeks’ expense (at least he didn’t get kicked in the nom de plumes, as I believe Jaffe has done to him twice before), I’d have loved some reference to Kensi’s takeaways from her day without Deeks.
- At least the blame for last episode’s boom has moved in Sam’s mind from Deeks to where it belongs, with Agent Roundtree, who, as he relayed to Callen, “almost got himself blown up.”
- It felt odd to me how everyone just left the little green safe house to pursue bad guys or protect good guys. I assume the dead body inside the house was one of Rush’s FBI colleagues? No one seemed too broken up about his loss, or even to remember that it had happened.
- Deeks being replaced in most of Kensi’s scenes drove home for me for the first time just how, well, dull, Fatima is in comparison. She doesn’t joke. She doesn’t even banter. Bantering should be prerequisite number one for being on this team, and it worries me that we haven’t really seen her do much of it. Because Fatima doesn’t banter, it made it hard for Kensi to have a lot of fun without it feeling forced. In sum, she and Deeks really need to be together, like, all the time.
- Sam bouncing off a car brought back memories of Kensi doing the same all the way back in Season 2’s “Overwatch.” These two are both pretty indestructible.
- It didn’t exactly seem like Kensi had the boatshed on “high alert” as she’d been advised to do. Random people were both coming and going without even knocking, as she and Fatima joked about getting popcorn to watch Agent Rush get scolded by her boss.
- I have to quibble with the cause of Deeks’ broken toe. There were so many funnier and more interesting ways for that to have happened.
What did you think of “Knock Down”? I hope you liked it better than me! Either way, tell us about it in the Comments. And I’m sorry to throw out any negativity into a world that needs nothing but the opposite, so I’ll leave you with ECO’s Instagram post that celebrated the episode’s good points and best messages…
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Escape from the chaos of reality tonight for a new episode of @ncisla. The serendipitously timed episode actually deals with how we struggle with grief, sadness, and loneliness, and how necessary communication and love are to the healing process. @barrettfoa @reneefelicesmith @danielaruah come get this HUG. #bringitin #youareloved #youareappreciated