Question #10: Could Deeks’ father actually be alive?
Let’s start by acknowledging the obvious: It’s TV. Anything and everything is possible! Like so many fictional beings, especially those with questionable character (like the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Loki), even those shown to be deceased somehow continue to re-emerge. So could Deeks’ father actually be alive? Of course.
What We Know
Let’s take a step back. Way back. All the way to Season 2’s “Personal.” In this single episode where our relatively new liaison officer is shot, we learn:
- At age 11, Deeks shot his father.
- His father’s name is Gordon John Brandel.
- His father had been listed as next-of-kin. (More on this below.)
- We are further told after being released on parole, two years later he perished in an auto accident.
Talk about character backstory and development! And like any good treasure trove of storytelling, we’re left with more questions than what we started with!
What We Don’t
While we are not specifically told why Deeks shot his father, the series leaves consistent breadcrumbs of a poor and challenging upbringing, likely layered with one or more types of abuse and/or alcoholism. Learning more about Deeks, it’s easy to see the protective youth taking such an extreme action more for someone else than simply to save himself.
Between the difference in name and next-of-kin listing, we initially presume Deeks’ mother is in some way gone, whether that be abandonment, escape, or her own death. This presumption lingers for FIVE long years until the shocking appearance of Roberta (Bertie) Deeks. Yet, it’s not one of those dramatic moments. No, she’s simply in his kitchen and meeting Kensi (and all of us) for the first time (in “Citadel“).
There’s no explanation as to why Deeks’ last name isn’t Brandel. Perhaps Roberta married (and divorced?) someone else after Mr. Brandel and that Mr. Deeks adopted Marty? Perhaps Deeks was Roberta’s maiden name she elected to revert back to and didn’t want Marty lassoed with the negative connection to the Brandel name? We also don’t know why Deeks listed his father vs. mother as next-of-kin, which brings us to…
The biggest “what we don’t know” applies to virtually everything associated with this show – Was Hetty telling the truth? (Who else wants to join me in a coin-flip on this one?!) Is Deeks’ father actually dead, or is Hetty choosing to protect Deeks from the truth? Was this her way of helping put those traumatic memories in the past? Is there something even more sinister about this man that Hetty wants to protect Deeks from? Was there a factual action or characteristic of Mr. Brandel that justifies Hetty’s decision, or is she again controlling the situation based on her own whims? The world may never know…
What We Might or Might Not Know
One piece of this gets really confusing. In writing this, I had reviewed the dialog (from my DensiLand blog, of course), but various members of the wikiDeeks Team chimed in with conflicting interpretations. Early in the episode, the doctor utters to Kensi, “Uh, the nurse mentioned that there’s no next of kin listed.” However, at the very end of the episode Hetty states, “…I thought it would be appropriate to update my files on your next of kin. Gordon John Brandel. Your father.”
As with good entertainment, referencing the script wasn’t enough, so I reviewed the actual show. (Remarkably, my Tivo was already cued-up to this end scene.) Living up to Callen’s description, “Hetty’s a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma clutching a hand grenade.” In short, trying to interpret Hetty’s statement – if Deeks’ father had indeed been listed as next-of-kin on LAPD and/or NCIS documents – remains open to the personal viewpoint of the audience. Was it listed somewhere with LAPD/NCIS? Did it just not get shared with the hospital staff? Was Hetty intentionally hiding it? (My personal take on all of these questions is yes – and we’re happy to hear your understanding in the comments!) Perhaps writer Joe Wilson can provide us clarity?
Why It’s Important
The “why” seems to take on different iterations based on where Deeks has been in his life, but one basis appears firm: this directly relates to how Deeks relates to others. This childhood event of shooting his father and the reason for doing so may have been one of, if not the, driving forces that put him on the path to being a lawyer, shifting to law enforcement, accepting a broader role with NCIS, and of course his personal relationships with the team. At the time of this writing, we’re able to most easily connect it to Deeks’ potential concerns about being a good husband and hopefully future father. Both Deeks and Kensi have openly expressed trepidation about their relationship and future family based on the less-than-ideal role models they themselves had.
If his father is (unlikely) still roaming the world, did jail set him on the “straight and narrow”? Will he be looking to make amends with his son? Would Deeks actually forgive him and welcome his father into his life? Or will this be just one more thing Deeks needs to protect himself and his “family” from in the future?
Then, as always, it’s another instance to gauge Hetty’s trustworthiness…
What do you think? Do you believe 1) Hetty and 2) Deeks’ father is truly deceased? Based on where Deeks is in his life, how important is this now? How do you think the knowledge of his father’s death impacted Deeks life over these past few years – and beyond?
With the words “next of kin” Hetty only meant family. She didn’t mean that he was actually LISTED anywhere as… That’s my interpretation. Anyway, I have said all along I thought he was alive. I don’t think Hetty lied. I just think Nell, the one who actually did the research, didn’t look any further than that car accident. She couldn’t find anything, so she ASSUMED he was dead. I don’t think he would want to make amends at all. I think I he’ll be looking for revenge. And a good way to do that is through Kensi…
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Now HERE is a great final question!
I rewatched Personal a while back, and yes, paid close attention to the ending. I believe Hetty was telling the truth. (and, if you’re asking me, it’d be a BIT too far fetched to have him still be alive after all these years.)
It’s been nice reading all these questions!
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All of your questions have been great! I love your blog and website.
On Mon, Aug 3, 2020, 8:03 AM wikiDeeks | Marty Deeks | NCISLA wrote:
> Gayle posted: ” Let’s start by acknowledging the obvious: It’s TV. > Anything and everything is possible! Like so many fictional beings, > especially those with questionable character (like the Marvel Cinematic > Universe’s Loki), even those shown to be deceased somehow cont” >
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In TV terms of conflict storytelling …. I’ll say he’s still alive. AND Hetty was telling the truth … that was known at the time. I’ll project that he faked his death in order to avoid some scheme that went south. If I remember right, it listed he was killed in a car accident. Didn’t necessarily say it was a positive-no-doubt-about-it ID of the body, per se. So they could have an episode where Brandel comes back “from the dead” to wreak havoc on all their lives for one last time. Or even — to put a happier spin on it — he went into witness protection for turning on higher ups/bigger fish in the nefarious dealings and his death was faked with help of feds. And THAT is the lead in to the backstory of what happened with Deeks shooting his father. 🙂 I picture an opening scene of Deeks and Kensi walking into the darkened bar and Brandel hiding in a darkened corner, after a brief scuffle, he says, “Hi, son.” Then opening credits.
….And on a side note, I guess I wasn’t paying attention — they’re having baby number three soon.
I’d say he’s dead. And don’t forget at the end of the episode once the screen goes black Hetty tells Deeks to list his next of kin as Henrietta Lange. I think bringing him back from the dead would be just too campy. Deeks is a product of his past, but he doesn’t dwell on it like some of the other characters do, and I think that makes him stronger on the whole. Something like bringing ol’ John Gordon Brandel back would break that.
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(Sorry, I forgot to hit the reply button, so this comment is also down below this one), I totally agree. (and I absolutely ❤❤ that ending!)
Totally agree. (and I ❤ that ending so much!)
I believe Hetty when she tells Deeks his father is deceased. However, if an accident was staged, he could still be alive and living under an alias. Could make for an interesting story development regarding Deeks. Personally, I’d like Brandel to be dead. Where Deeks is in his life I don’t see it as being very important. In Borderline he tells Kensi when she asks about his dad, I’m pretty sure he hates me … last time he saw me he said “Marty I hate you.” … The he fired a shotgun at me. Plan B, we find his dad was one drink away from killing him and his mom when he shot him at 11 years old. I think knowing his father is deceased would have little impact and most likely give him a sense of relief. Especially knowing his abuser is no longer a threat.
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I can feel a ramble coming on, so you might like to get a sandwich. This is an excellent question (and an excellent article, may I say) that I have often wondered about. After watching ‘Personal’ I sort of believed Hetty, but never really quite accepted that Deeks’ father was dead. I just felt Deeks would have already known, and he seemed hopeful that Hetty had found his dad. The only evidence we have of Brandel’s death, is what Hetty said, and so early in the series I took it at face value. I think Hetty believed Brandel was dead.
Moving on to the Season 6 finale ‘Chernoff K’ (a name taken by Callen’s dad, for goodness sake!) when Hetty told Callen his father died in 2008, we believed her. Yet sixteen episodes later Callen meets Garrison, who turns out to be his father. The only difference was that Hetty did the research into Callen’s father, while Nell researched Brandel. If Hetty got it wrong for Callen, she could have got it wrong with Deeks, So on the shakiest of notions I’m going with ‘Brandel lives’.
Having said all that. I have to say thirty years in the wind could be problematic. I’m thinking that Deeks’ talents lay in working undercover, keeping under the radar when necessary, was it a skill inherited from his father? Of course, in TV land anything is possible. At this point I have to say RobbieC. is probably right, bringing Brandel back would be too campy. I think that horse has well and truly bolted, but part of me would still like to see it. Incidentally my fanfic, (which has been on life support for a while) is at the point where Brandel is about to tell Sam how come he’s not dead. Wish me luck with that one!
To get back to the point, if there is one. RobbieC. is absolutely right saying Deeks doesn’t dwell on his past, it makes him stronger. I don’t think he needs closure, but I would like it for him. Kensi had her questions answered about her father’s murder, she reconciled with her mother and had closure with Jack. While Deeks must have questions about his dad, and can still be blackmailed over Boyle by Whiting, at any time. In ‘Internal Affairs’ he does seem to have come to terms with the events of his childhood, I’m just not sure I have. It does seem to make him question his own parenting skills, so something is still going on.
Much as I would like to see Deeks meet his father again, there are plenty of possible scenarios, and I think it could be a thought provoking storyline, it may well too late. Thirty years after all. I think we have missed out on some cracking storylines with Martin Deeks. So a ‘Deeks M’ episode is not asking too much.
Before somebody picks me up on it, Gordon John Brandel hasn’t been ‘dead’ thirty years, it’s thirty years or so since Deeks shot him, I gather that’s the last time they saw each other. Didn’t he die in 1998? So he’s only been ‘dead’ twenty two years.
I also don’t see any value in bringing GJB back as some kind of Federal witness simply because to me one of the appeals of Deeks is that his good character rose in part from a bad source. Making GJB good on the inside undercuts this. You in essence remove one of the backstops of his character – that good can overcome bad origins. Kensi and her father were extremely close, so it makes sense to give her character that kind of closure. Deeks, on the other hand, doesn’t need it. I’d be far more interested in his relationship with Ray and possibly Ray’s father, some actual stuff about his mother (who plays a very complicated role in his life), and other mentors we don’t know about who may have helped him between the time he was 11 and when we first see him working with NCIS. How did he manage to afford both college and law school, for example? I don’t think his dealings with his father pushed him that way…I’m inclined to think it was possibly the system failing his mother (or Ray) that led him down that path. NCIS has a bit of a father fixation when it comes to characters, and I think it would be good if they deviated from that with Deeks.
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As far as Deeks is concerned his father is dead, Hetty told him so and left him with the paperwork. He acts accordingly, doesn’t dwell on it and moves on. His ‘joie de vivre’ and lack of self-pity are the qualities that endear him to us. His lack of self worth suggests the damage is still there. I think he puts it in a box in the back of his mind, closure would have been beneficial to him, but his doesn’t expect it.
Kensi’s and Deeks childhoods were polar opposites and the way the showrunners have handled them are equally different. In ‘Borderline’ we learnt that Deeks shot his dad, and we were intrigued. In the same episode we learnt Kensi had a special relationship with her father and grew up confident and loved. The following season in the ‘Blye K’ episodes we learnt that Kensi joined NCIS to find out the truth about her fathers murder, which had shattered her world. On the other hand Deeks life improved once his father was out of the picture. Ten years later we’re still intrigued about the shooting.
The Martindales would have been aware of what was happening but I think Mama Deeks holds most, if not all, of the answers. She would know the dynamics of the Brandel family. Although she may have moved away I think she would have known all about Deeks college years, and how they were funded. I imagine Ray and Deeks would have separated before then, but it would be nice to known a bit more about their friendship. I’ve always thought there was somebody else, that we’ve never met, that came to Deeks rescue at the time of the shooting.
I’m still prepared to believe Brandel is alive, but if he really was an alcoholic would he remember much about what happened with his family, and have ability to find them again? In TV land probably so. I don’t know, but if we can get the backstory, I’ll take what I can get.
I would tend to think if anyone came to Deeks’ rescue (I tend to think more assistance, since Deeks has a habit of rescuing people and not the other way around) it would have been a cop and someone on the legal side of the system. That would go far toward explaining his career choices. It’s also possible he ended up in some kind of foster care, at least for a short time. Or perhaps he was emancipated. Lots of character options.
I think it’s important to remember how much Ray seems to mean to Deeks. We don’t see him much, but the one time we do it’s clear he means a great deal to Deeks and that Deeks is willing to risk a great deal for him. There’s quite a bit there. Sure, they would have lost touch after high school…but it’s obvious that in their formative years Ray and Deeks depended on each other a great deal. Ray’s father is painted as being rather similar to GJB, so it makes sense they’d look out for each other.
Deeks breaks the mold of most NCIS characters, and I think it’s important he continues to do that in his backstory. We really don’t need another character who’s everything he is today because of his father’s actions (Sam) or lack of involvement (Callen). The idea that Deeks made it more or less on his own, with help and support at vital points from a good friend (Ray) is much more appealing to me. It also goes far to explain the number of times he’s come off his hospital bed to save members of the team or those close to them.
Yes, my first choice for Deeks saviour might be a cop, because they would have been first on the scene after the shooting. Lawyer would be close second because they would have sorted things out, if the cops didn’t. Of course that might have encouraged Deeks to become a lawyer. I certainly think there was somebody. In my my mind this unknown person being in trouble would be a good entry into ‘Deeks M’.
Usually we see Deeks wanting to protect women, but I think he is hard wired to protect anyone in danger. Deeks felt he had put Ray in danger and had to protect him, regardless that people felt Ray was lying. He is totally loyal.
If you don’t mind, I think I might take your comment on breaking the mold on other NCIS characters further. He is nothing like the others in any way, another reason we like him. The obvious difference, he’s a cop, he thinks like a cop. He has no military training that we know of, not trained as an agent, yet functions with the team at the highest level. He still maintains the lawyer vibe. He has taken a totally different route to get where he is without help from anybody that we know of, in his professional life, certainly not from the colleagues he respects so much. All this in spite of his fathers’ actions not because of them.
Clearly the events surrounding Deeks shooting his father had had a huge impact young Marty, but I think it was his mother more than anybody that made him the man he is today. Not saying he didn’t get help from Ray, I would imagine they did help each other. if only to get through the day.
I can only think of two times he came off his hospital bed to save the day, but man, they were awesome! Yes, they speak volumes for Marty Deeks.
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If I can take this a bit further, perhaps his mother helped make him who he is based on her lack of action instead of something she did. Deeks has family loyalty to be sure, but his biggest sacrifices (at least that we see) are always for friends. His friends have become his surrogate family, and he’ll do anything for them (even when they disrespect him, like Sam did before the torture in Descent). Accompanying the team into Mexico is perhaps the ultimate expression of this…he believes Mosley is totally out of control, that the mission isn’t really justified, but he goes as a partner with his friends. Not necessarily for the kid, and certainly not for Mosley. Deeks, I think, having no real family of his own has created one with his friends (even though they are very limited in number). His character seems to come from a deeper place…one that he created for himself to protect himself.
I just finished my little fanfic on the first appearance of Max Gentry, so I’ve been thinking a bit about Deeks and where some of his behaviors might come from. Apologies if I’m going on a bit about it, but that’s why.
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I’m not sure there is a need to apologise for going on about Deeks, this is Wikideeks after all. I wasn’t going to comment anymore, I’ve rambled on so much and I think I’ve contradicted myself more than once, but here I go again. I think one of the joys of Deeks is that he is so complicated everybody sees something different, and reading what other people see adds to our own perception of him. That is the point of the wonderful Wikideeks isn’i it? I get the feeling your Deeks is not too different from mine.
I still think Mama Deeks did most to shape the young Deeks. Having said that I do agree his friends are now surrogate family and yes he will do anything for them. The actions you mentioned do speak volumes for his character. A character that is brave and confident in his abilities but with little or no sense of self worth. Yet his character is flawed, but that’s another bucket of worms. I could go on forever.
All credit to the writers, and possibly more so ECO, for bringing us Martin Deeks, a character we know is fictional but has caught our imagination. He is thought provoking. We want to know about him, what happened to him, what makes him tick. As I think I’ve said before, we know so much, yet we know so little.
I do feel a little sad that we have got to the last question, there are just so many, or is it just me?
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I am pretty sold on the ‘he is alive’ theory. I feel like if he were dead, Nell would have found that out in her search almost immediately, given the places she listed as having checked with, and the fact he supposedly died so soon after being released. Plus, we never see what Nell actually gave Hetty and if it differs from what she told him/gave him. Maybe she’s got “bigger reasons” for hiding some truth from Deeks. On the other hand, on the “dead dad” topic, Hetty has been wrong before (tho, to be fair, Callen’s dad was REALLY good at hiding/changing identities… I’m still not 100% convinced he’s dead now! *shrug*).
If he IS alive, the biggest question would be why?! As I put in a Tumblr post recently on this vary topic, there are a few options. 1 – him trying to run away from his “bad” life and have a fresh start for any number of possible reasons. 2 – Maybe he’s some secret agent of some kind and they “killed” him off to give him a fresh persona (like Joelle’s original life was completely erased). 3 – Did he narc on his cellmate or something and gets put in witness protection? Lots of possibilities here.
Last note – I do feel like Roberta was intended to be dead at this point, which could be why Hetty actually referred to GJB as Deeks’s next of kin – he’d be the last actual living relative. I feel like if she was alive, in Plan B there’d have been some comment from Ray like, “how’s your mom” or “tell your mom I said hi” or something (especially since they’re both Wilson eps). But I like Bertie so I try not to think about this idea too much! 🙂
I like your theories. If Nell did find Deeks’ father had died, why didn’t Hetty tell her to look for his mother? She would have been a reasonable next of kin, even if Deeks didn’t want that. So I’m sticking with Hetty telling the truth, but getting it wrong. Deeks hadn’t asked about his father, so Hetty didn’t need to tell him anything, no reason to lie. I’m sceptical about Callen’s father being dead too, but I’m not sure why.
The question why he would still be alive is a tricky one. Roberta described Brandel as a ‘making a mean drunk’ apart from that we don’t really know much about him. In ‘Plan B’ he sounded more like a petty criminal than anything else. Being a bad parent isn’t necessarily a crime. He may have done bad things but I’ve always had the feeling he was more of a lost soul than a bad person, and I don’t think, deep down, Deeks hates him. All of your options are possible, number three best fits Brandel as I see him.
Another question is do we want to meet Brandel? I would like to learn more about him, but I would like to learn about him from Roberta. Mama Deeks is such a feisty, fascinating character, with a unique point of view. I’m not sure bringing Brandel back now would bring anything to the party. I’m not a fan of flashbacks but I wouldn’t mind seeing him in one.
They may well have intended that Roberta was dead, although she was supposed to be alive in ‘Borderline’. Just as likely they forgot all about her until Season 8.
Not sure what happened here, it was supposed to be quick reply to say I like what you’re saying.
It’s also quite possible that Deeks blamed his mother in at least some way for what happened with GJB and wrote her out of his life. Ray would know that, and wouldn’t mention her out of respect for Deeks’ decision. Deeks is, after all, very cool toward his mother for some time. Perhaps there’s a reason for that. And if that is what happened, it’s easy to see Hetty also respecting his decision and letting things play out over time.
Bringing GJB back as some sort of “bad guy with a heart of gold” is just too camp for me. Deeks is usually the one who deals with the hard questions…why not let his background be one of those hard questions? Maybe the good guy that is Deeks comes from Deeks himself and decisions he made not to be like his parents and break from that environment.
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I agree. Plus, this show is not THAT ridiculous when it comes to who’s really dead.
I must admit I have never felt there was any estrangement between Deeks and his mother. Certainly he never mentioned her for years, but why would he? I think the ‘Guy’ scene in ‘Party Crashers’ gives a good snapshot of their relationship. They drive each other crazy, but care deeply for one another. Roberta was annoyed Deeks hadn’t told her about the engagement but she understood why, and was too busy with Guy to fret over it. I could see a scenario where Roberta marries somebody Deeks doesn’t like and moves away. Deeks might have issues with his stepfather, but he would be loyal to his mother. Just as he was loyal to Ray. I don’t think he would turn his back on Roberta.
When we met Roberta in ‘Citadel’ she had been staying with Deeks for two days and they seemed very comfortable together. I didn’t get the impression there had been any reconciliation, or any need for one. Rightly or wrongly, I have always taken the prison conversation in ‘Internal Affairs’ between Deeks and Roberta at face value. Roberta showed guilt at not protecting her son. Deeks said that what happened to his dad, was his dad’s fault and that what happened to him (Deeks) gave him the drive to do what he does, make sure the bad guys don’t win. Then he said it was the relationship with his mother, after his father had gone, that made him who he is. The dance scene at the end of ‘Into the Breach’ would seem to support that. I don’t think Deeks blames his mother for anything. It’s more in his nature to take the blame.
However supportive Roberta was she wouldn’t have been able to steer a young Marty anywhere he didn’t want to go. Having to shoot his father clearly had a huge impact on Deeks but he used it as a springboard for good.The rest of the team have fathers that were good role models, fathers to be proud of. I accept Callen didn’t meet his father until he was an adult. Brandel was clearly different, he can’t be portrayed as a super-hero, but I’m not sure he was a monster either, at least not when was sober. I hesitate to use the term loser, after all he did do one good thing, he sired Martin. I’m tempted to say it was his finest hour, but I can’t imagine it took that long.
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I love how the people on here still have faith that this episode will happen, even after all these years. Helps me to continue having faith that the writers will #DoBetter for our team in Season 12 instead of continuing with the rehashing of Seasons 10 and 11.
I’m waiting for the episodes ‘Deeks M’ (parts 1+2) at least. There is always hope.
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