Question #8: Where was Deeks’ mother before she finally appeared in Season 7?
What We Know
The first mention of Mama Deeks was in “Borderline” when he tells Kensi that his mother “still has a copy” of an Encino Times front page article about the time the paramedics had to use the jaws of life to save him from Darrel Donkins’ boa constrictor. Eagle-eared viewers might have been surprised when Deeks is shot just a few episodes later that he does not ask for his mother to be contacted in “Personal,” nor was she named as his next of kin:
Kensi: Is there anyone you want me to contact? Friends, family… girlfriend?
Deeks: I’m not dying, am I?
Kensi: Not yet.
Kensi: Next of kin?
Deeks: Good question.
Another good question is where exactly Mama Deeks is that Deeks doesn’t have her come to the hospital when he is shot, and where is she for the next five years during which we hear nothing about her?
We know that when we first meet her in “Citadel,” it is likely that Roberta does not live locally, as Kensi realizes just before they’re introduced that, “Your mom got here two days ago and she’s been staying with you.” It appears she’s there again (or still?) several episodes later because Roberta is at Deeks’ house when LAPD arrives to search the place in “Internal Affairs.” We might assume that she has moved closer by the end of the season as she invites Deeks and Kensi to “come by tonight” to meet her boyfriend in “Where There’s Smoke...” But just in case that was the boyfriend’s house they were going to, it’s a pretty safe bet that Roberta has moved to the LA area by the time of “Party Crashers” because Deeks is able to visit her home in the middle of his workday.
We know that Deeks loves his mother and credits her for the man he has become. He tells Roberta in “Internal Affairs,” “After [dad] was gone, this – you and me – that’s what makes me who I am.” And in “Into the Breach,” he says, “The only thing that matters is you did a great job with me Mama, and I want everybody to know that. More importantly, I want you to know that. You know that, right?” Deeks insists on a mother-son dance at the wedding and they see each other regularly enough since Roberta starts working at the Squid & Dagger, so they currently seem to have a solid relationship.
While it may be a good relationship, we fans also know that any scene with Roberta and Deeks is comedy gold in great part because “Crazy Bertie” (Deeks’ own description) exasperates her son like no one else can. Mama Deeks is opinionated, has an active social and sex life, and doesn’t know the meaning of the word boundaries (see their “I don’t hate anything” convo in “High Society.” Deeks has called her out on being both condescending and sexist (“Why don’t you go empty a bedpan or something…And what man becomes a nurse? A doctor school drop-out, that’s who,” from “Ghost Gun“), and can be generous with the verbal jabs/insults (“And people ask me why I only have one child,” also in “Ghost Gun”). Roberta tends toward exaggeration and can’t keep a secret (“I told you, they’re secret agents. They do this stuff all the time. Kensi almost got herself killed last year getting Osama bin Laden,” in “This is What We Do“). Just because he loves his mother doesn’t mean Deeks doesn’t get frustrated when he spends too much time with her. Which is probably why he describes the prospect of her bartending at the Squid & Dagger as “a terrible plan” in “A Diamond in the Rough.”
What We Don’t
We don’t know for sure, but now that we’ve gotten to know Roberta it’s possible that Deeks didn’t want his mama at the hospital unless he was going to die because she is not particularly good in a crisis. Remembering what she’s like later when Kensi is in the hospital and recovering at home, one gets the impression that Deeks was fully aware it would have been too exhausting to have Mama around unless it was time for a final goodbye. He might not have wanted Bertie identified as his next of kin because he didn’t want her to have the pressure or responsibility of potentially making life-or-death decisions on his behalf (we’ll just ignore the fact that as a lawyer Deeks should have known how to avoid that task falling to his mother). But this doesn’t explain why we heard nothing about her for such a long span of time.
Was it simply a matter of distance – did Roberta live so far away that Deeks didn’t want to bother her with a trip to L.A. unless he was going to die? Was their relationship relegated to the occasional phone calls that became fewer and farther between because they lived so far apart? Also, we don’t know when Roberta’s second marriage was – maybe she was married then, making Deeks less likely to want to interrupt her life? Could this marriage have put stress on their relationship in other ways, making that a time in their lives when there was little/limited contact between mother and son? Timing wise, maybe she moved to LA after the marriage ended and wanted a fresh start and/or to be closer to her son.
Could Bertie have been in rehab (okay, probably not for five years straight, but maybe off and on)? Experiencing vertigo and disorientation in “The Sound of Silence,” Deeks commented, “Pretty sure this is how my mom spent the Sixties.” Roberta also claimed, “I was a good hippie,” in “Into the Breach.” Perhaps she had a relapse of substance use later in life and needed help to stop. She might have decided to leave her old life because there were too many triggers and that prompted her move to the L.A. area. (I have to credit wikiDeeks commenter Patricia Abbott for planting this seed in my brain and providing the supporting evidence.)
Finally, is it possible that Deeks and his mother were estranged by more than distance, and if so, why? The events of his childhood made them a tight pair, so what might have strained their relationship to the point that they didn’t talk and/or see one another for years? There are any number of things that could come between a mother and son, but knowing their histories and personalities, some might be a little more likely.
For example, Deeks spent a great deal of time becoming a lawyer and for some unknown reason, then chose to become a cop. Could they have had a falling out because Deeks left a safer career for a more dangerous one? We know Roberta worries about Deeks and Kensi because of their line of work. Guy says as much to Deeks in “Forasteira“: “Bert really worries about you guys.” And who could forget this exchange outside the VA hospital in “Ghost Gun”:
Deeks: You’re smoking? What are you doing?
Roberta: I’m dying… from being worried sick. That’s what I’m doing. That’s what I’m… doing.
Deeks: Okay. Just stop.
Roberta: You know, I just can’t take this anymore. You and Kensi and this whole secret agent thing.
Deeks: All right.
Roberta: It’s just too much.
Deeks: No. We’re not secret…
Roberta (to the people nearby): My son and his fiancée are secret agents.
Deeks: Wow. Nope. Kensi is a special agent, not a secret agent, which is fortunate, considering you just told a group of strangers. Also, technically, I am a cop.
Roberta: Yeah, well, technically, you could still get shot every time you step out the door.
Deeks: Well, people die stepping out of the shower.
Roberta: Not from people shooting at them.
Deeks: Actually, I’ve seen a couple of those, too.
Roberta: Martin! Really?!
Perhaps Deeks and Roberta didn’t keep in touch with one another because any contact/discussion only led to a rehashing of the same argument about his dangerous profession? Or was it even more serious – that one refused to interact with the other after such an argument? His transition to OSP liaison wouldn’t have helped matters, as Deeks was probably getting shot at (not to mention almost blown up) more frequently than he did with LAPD. This scenario might also explain why we were suddenly graced with Mama’s presence in Season 7. It’s possible that, knowing Kensi was “the one,” Deeks wanted her to meet his mother, and so started mending fences sometime prior. Maybe he even thought it would be helpful if Bertie knew Kensi was not only his girlfriend, but his partner at work – who else would keep him safer than she would?
Why It’s Important
From what we know of Deeks and Roberta’s relationship now, it is curious that we didn’t see or hear anything about her for such a long time. This is one of the most important, and certainly longest, relationship Deeks has. For a man as loquacious as our favorite detective, how is it possible that he didn’t speak about her for five years? Yes, NCIS: Los Angeles is an action/ crime drama show, and as a result we don’t know as much about any of the characters as we might like to. But the absence of any information about Roberta Deeks, the team members’ relative who has been in more episodes than any other (11 to date compared to seven for Sam’s wife Michelle, the runner-up) is a plot hole that begs to be filled.
It’s also an anomaly: information about Kensi’s, Sam’s, and Callen’s families has been parceled out in dribs and drabs over the course of the series. Yet Mama Deeks went unmentioned for five years only to turn up out of the blue to enjoy a loving, if somewhat trying relationship with her son. As much as we appreciate all the time we get to see them together, Deeks (and Bertie) fans would like to know if there’s a story behind her absence.
What do you think? Tell us in the Comments below!
Hmmmm. This is a tricky 1. and I don’t have a headcanon for this.
A good question! I am curious about this, too, and am planning a fanfic about why he doesn’t have her listed as next of kin. When one has a parent that’s prone to drama, the last the one wants to deal with in a crisis is trying to calm them down.
(My apologies if this gets posted twice! I don’t think it went through the first time.)
LikeLiked by 1 person
Looking forward to reading your take on this question, Meggie!
I am just wondering if Deeks kept his mum out of the picture for safety reasons especially as he was undercover so much. Now that he is with NCIS and has a partner to cover his back it may feel a bit safer. He also probably feels now with Kensi he wants that whole extended family with his mum and Kensi’s mum. Just a thought. Luv these questions and when will Eric answer them????
LikeLiked by 2 people
It’s funny you mention Deeks wanting to keep Roberta safe given his undercover work, Carrie. As I was writing this, I had a thought about Deeks running into a criminal he knew when he was undercover while Bertie was with him. Deeks of course, would try to play it off, but when the baddie calls Deeks Max, Mama would blurt out, “Max? No, his name is Martin. Oh wait, is this one of those undercover things, Marty? *baddie pulls out a gun* Ooops, should I not have said that?”
I always felt like Deeks,mom wasn’t in his life due to distance. We just don’t have enough information. This article actually caused me to have even more questions. If Bertie was a good hippie and Deeks comment about, “Pretty sure this is how my mom spent the Sixties” and Deeks was born in 1979 then Bertie could have been in her mid to late twenties before she even had Deeks assuming she was in her teens in the sixties. And good hippies leads me to believe she probably experimented with drugs so did she get cleaned up, then get pregnant, then give birth, then marry Brandel? And after Brandel was shot which would have been in 1990 then what happened to Bertie and Marty? Did they remain in his childhood home? Did he go into foster care due to neglect? There’s just not enough information to answer the question.
I like to think that she stuck around til Deeks was in college then met and married her second husband who then moved her to another state and they lost touch for a while.
Verdict is in! We need some Marty Deeks episodes with childhood flashbacks to get a better picture of his relationship with his mom. .
LikeLiked by 2 people
Firstly I am thrilled you gave my rehab theory some credence, I never envisaged Roberta having a major drug habit, just needing something to help her through the day, she supported the family after all. Thank you for the credit.
Secondly another good question and an excellent article thoroughly researched. I can only assume the real reason we didn’t hear about Deeks’ mother was because the writers forgot about her, but remembered her in time to bring her back to show Deeks’ commitment to Kensi. We wouldn’t have heard about her because nobody would have asked him about his family, but that doesn’t help with the backstory.
It always bothered me in ‘Personal’ why Hetty asked Nell to track down Brandel but not Roberta. Presumably she knew of her whereabouts but it did rather give the impression Deeks didn’t have a mother. It didn’t tell us more about the shooting than we learned in ‘Plan B’, just told us Brandel went to prison and had died. Incidentally I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t believe Brandel died. Didn’t Hetty tell Callen his father had died, it was in a church in one of the ‘Russian’ episodes, but that’s another story.
When Deeks told Kensi about his exotic dancing, I’ll go for ‘Lokhay’ but I’m not sure, didn’t he say it was to fund his ‘board situation’. I’m not sure how old Deeks would have been or where he went to college, but I always assumed it was Los Angeles. So wouldn’t he have lived with his mother if she was still living there, or doesn’t it work like that? Could that mean Roberta moved away during Deeks college years. Then there wouldn’t have been a problem with his line of work at that time. I never had the feeling there was an estrangement between Deeks and Roberta. Deeks is loyal, he doesn’t do estrangement. He felt the need to protect Ray even though he seemed to be lying to him, and he followed Kensi to Mexico after their big argument. Having said that, he does move on, he told Kensi that in one of their conversations before the wedding. I like to think Roberta remarried, moved away, and got on with her very busy life, just as Deeks got on with his. I also think she exasperated her new husband and eventually moved back to Los Angeles, but there is absolutely no proof. We do need to know these things!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for the inspiration with the rehab theory, Patricia! And I tend to agree, realistically the writers probably just didn’t think too much about Deeks’ back story when they wrote the character, maybe because he cam in so late in the first season? I had actually written much of this piece thinking that we’d heard NO mention of Deeks’ mother until she showed up in season 7, which supported my thought that the writers just didn’t give him a mother initially. Then when I found that reference in Borderline, it kind of tanked that whole theory. So I can only assume they forgot about her for 5 years.
I like your idea that bringing Roberta on to meet Kensi was a way to show how serious he was about her. Also, I’m not sure we know where Deeks went to college, but even if it was in LA, he might have wanted to live on campus/away from home enough that it was worth stripping to finance that freedom.
Very thoughtful and excellent article, Psyched. I have a head canon that partially uses the suggestions here, but I certainly have more questions, also. FWIW, I believe that Roberta and Deeks were estranged after he declared he wanted to become a cop and get out of the relatively safe career of law. I don’t believe their estrangement occurred when he was in law school; in “High Society” Deeks was scolded mildly by Roberta for missing her birthday in 1999, when he was in the Czech Republic. He would have been twenty years old, so he probably was in law school at the time. (Although I keep wondering what he was doing in the Czech Republic in the first place).
Afterward Roberta met her second husband …. since she hinted about not being sober for either one of her weddings, I think she met her second in Las Vegas and married him there by impulse while being in an alcoholic haze, and then moved out of the area to wherever he lived. Though I believe they occasionally contacted each other – probably for birthdays and Christmas holidays – mother and son still stayed apart by distance and a strained relationship even after her second marriage ended. I believe relations were still shaky in season 2, and I think Deek’s comment to Kensi about his mom still having that article on her fridge was a half-truth, He worked undercover and had to lie to “catch the bad guys”, and he was early in his partnership with Kensi – they were still working on trusting each other in the field. Just like he told partial truths to Brandon in “Bounty” that Deek’s father had moved to Iowa, which we find out later in the season wasn’t the case.
It would be interesting when reconciliation started; my head canon puts it after “Humbug ” when Deeks and Kensi were certain of their commitment to each other. I like the suggestion you brought up that Roberta would feel a little better about Deek’s safety at NCIS after meeting Kensi. And was it in “This Is What We Do” that he said that his mother now probably liked Kensi better than him?
Also have a few of questions that I hope a “Deeks, M.” episode would answer. The idea that Roberta could have gone into rehab for substance abuse years after her involvement in the psychedelic Sixties is an intriguing one. If she did, what substance was it, and what triggered her going to rehab? It certainly wasn’t alcohol; she has been shown drinking alcoholic drinks and talks about them regularly. And if she was a recovering alcoholic, working in a bar – even if it was Deek’s and Kensi’s – would be the last place she should be.
Although I love the episode “Personal” , I have questions each time I watch it. I agree with the suggestion that now that we know what Roberta’s personality and quirks are, that Deeks wouldn’t make his mother as next of kin unless he was dying. But if Gordon Brandel was killed in 1997 according to Hetty, that would make Deeks at an age that he would just be starting law school, and probably still somewhat close to his mother. Wouldn’t he and/or his mother be notified by the authorities about Brandel’s death in an auto accident, and so they wouldn’t have to do the search for him like Nell did? You would figure that Brandel’s prison records had some contact information about his estranged wife for the authorities to notify her at least. Anybody want to help me out on this?
Sorry that this was long… you can guess by now that I hope Mama Deeks and her past would be my choice of being an important part of a “Deeks, M.” episode. Heck, since Kensi had a two-part episode, I can dream that “Deeks, M.” would get the same honor.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Debra I feel the same as you about ‘Personal’. I enjoyed it very much, but there was a lot I thought didn’t make sense. It seemed to muddy the water rather than tell us much. Wish I could help you, I’m sure there is somebody out there who can.
Debra, I also considered the fact that most of what we heard about Deeks (from his own mouth) turned out to be untrue/partially true, especially during Borderline, when he spoke about both his mother and his father. I’ve often wondered if that was Deeks protecting himself and/or holding something back with his new partner (especially given that no one on the team seemed to like him initially); he gets the point across but changes the details, the mark of a good undercover agent, right? Then sometimes I just think it’s a function of having a lot of writers and too many personal details to keep track of.
Your questions are good ones, some of which I’ve had myself or discussed with others in the fandom. And they just prove that we really do need a Deeks, M. ep to answer one (or some) of them!
Knowing now what we know about Roberta and Marty I am pretty sure they spent Marty’s childhood together happily. I am also pretty sure that their distance in the first several seasons was geographical and not emotional and would never say that they were estranged for each other. Maybe they had some discussions when Marty decided to join LAPD as she was/is so afraid for him and his safety but I do not think for a moment that there was a time they were not in the contact or on the good terms. Yes, she is the peculiar person but so is Marty and writers made them pretty much alike.
I was never sure about her second marriage as it would implied that she chose somebody like Brandel again (when Deeks freaked out about her boyfriend, dinner invitation and her taste in men)… Could it be that Brandel was her second husband. If she was good hippy in sixties ht means that she should have been at least 17/18 at the end of sixties and if Marty has been born in 1979 she was already old enough to be in the second marriage.
I also do not think that she ever had any issues with the drugs or to be drug addict
Definitely too few pieces of information about her and her life and it seems to me that how she would be shown solely depends on (short terms) needs of the show runners and writers.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I would love an interview with Pamela Reed about her character background stuff she’s put together for herself to explain all this. 🙂
LikeLiked by 2 people
Great post, Psyched, I love being able to think about all the info you compiled. My only conclusion, thanks to this post and the earlier one about Deeks’ last name, is that not only do we need a “Brandel, M.” and a “Deeks, M.,” we also need a “Deeks, R.” (or “Brandel, R.” or whatever Bertie’s third last name was). If we can have episodes named after Anna or Arkady, then surely Roberta deserves one too.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I agree completely, Karen! And let’s not forget “Reznikov, N” which was about the guy who wasn’t even Callen’s father!