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Revisiting Max Gentry

Is it time to bring the notorious MG back?


The last time Deeks went undercover as Max Gentry in Parley, it seemed his conscience was bothering him even more than the first time we saw him in season two. Granger’s orders were clear:

Get into the bar, get friendly with the hostess and find out about the diamonds.

Yet during the entire mission, Deeks struggled with his feelings and wondered if he was doing the right thing. As an undercover guise, he had taken on this particular identity on many occasions. Yet now it seems he was desperately fighting to exorcise Max from the depths of his very being.  Undercover missions are part of the job at NCIS, and they can be a life-changing experience for anyone in law enforcement. Some agents are naturals at it like Deeks but it can definitely lead to some soul searching moments especially if it hurts to deal with the guilt and betrayal of the people who have come to trust in you. For Deeks, Max Gentry is a persona that tears away at the very core of his humanity. So who is Max Gentry and why does it torment Deeks so much to put on that leather jacket?

Max Gentry is introduced in season two during the episode, Plan B when Hetty exclaims:

So this is the infamous Max Gentry!

Standing in front of a full length mirror, Deeks is already deep inside his cover, wearing a black leather jacket and a bad-ass attitude. He laments that this is an alias he did not miss, which leads us to believe that he must be very well acquainted with Max Gentry. Deeks seems to be uncomfortable eyeing Max in the mirror, but ironically you can tell this identity fits the man like a glove. Perhaps Deeks invented Max as a persona he could use when he was on the streets as a teenager or going in and out of juvy detention centers. It could have been a coping mechanism or a way to feel strong and invincible while trying to survive on the streets. The gentle, sweet-natured man that we have come to know as Marty Deeks, might have had a much harder time surviving in the urban jungle of his youth. Max became Deeks’ super hero guise. He kept him safe and untouchable in his muddled world. But along the way Max stopped to pick up some undesirable traits as well. Even Hetty knows his reputation was less than stellar.

Deeks survived life on the streets with his best friend, Ray Martindale who taught him to never shoot back…always shoot first. Deeks may have craved Ray’s life style more than he would ever admit. Martindale was probably a huge influence on Deeks, a big brother type who helped him develop the Max façade and encouraged the shooting of his father. When Ray gave Deeks a gun to project himself, in a twisted way, he also gave him hope and a future. Deeks will never be able to repay his debt to Ray for this reason. They are brothers-in-arms.  Another scary aspect for Deeks is who looks back at him when he looks into the mirror. Perhaps it’s an exact replica of his father who stares back at him. Children pick up so many of their parents mannerisms and behaviors that it was probably easy to channel his father’s more ominous side into Max. Regardless, it would be quite disturbing to see the man you hate so much scowling back at you from the glass.  Who does Kensi see when she looks at Max Gentry? Ray asks Deeks if his partner knows about his former life and Deeks is embarrassed. Is it because Ray is teasing him about his ‘thing’ with Kensi?….or maybe it’s because he doesn’t want Kensi to know about Max:

He’s just some guy….

But in reality Max is dark, humorless, sarcastic, sexy, sexist, charming, secretive, nasty, smooth, and mean. He’s the epitome of bad ass and the bad boy every girl falls in love with. He tries to convince Kensi that he doesn’t like being Max but he also knows that some days it’s all too easy falling back into this persona.  Undercover work is one of the most stressful jobs a cop can undertake. Becoming isolated from family, friends and their environment can lead to depression, anxiety and a change of personality. Even his teammates can tell that Deeks is in way too deep when he goes undercover as Max.  Callen confront him:

The only thing that’s not real is your alias and even then I’m not sure.

Callen’s been there before and can tell Max is very real to Deeks.  Kensi can also see he’s a lot closer to the masquerade than he comprehends. Deeks finds it difficult to reintegrate back into his normal life when he realizes that he is afraid to tell Nicole Martindale the truth about his feelings towards her. His feelings are very real. He likes being Max and she demands to know the truth but his silence forces her to brand him a coward. The next time he puts on the leather jacket again, Deeks finds it’s getting too hard to carry around the guilt associated with going undercover as Max. He feels sympathetic to the person being targeted by Max and in this case it’s Monica, the hostess from the club. While Monica is experiencing the thrill of stealing the diamonds and living on the run with Max, he’s acting more like a worried mother hen than the harden criminal he is supposed to be portraying. As she prances around half naked in front of him, Max covers his eyes, embarrassed by her overtness. Monica wonders why he is acting so weird. Maybe besides having to lie to Monica, this time he knows Kensi is listening to every word. His partner will get to find out more about the boy/man he once was. The identity served him well on the streets when he was younger but he has since changed and he doesn’t want the woman he loves knowing about this part of his checkered past. After Nicole, Kensi had taunted him:

Why is lying so easy but recanting and telling the truth isn’t?

Marty Deeks has a conscience and unlike Max Gentry, he has to come clean. After she is taken into custody, Monica faces Deeks and claims he took advantage of her. He tries to apologize by claiming what they did together wasn’t with him…it was with Max. But Monica’s not buying it:

You are so lucky to have a friend like Max.

Deeks is speechless because he has no way to refute her accusations. He knows she’s right, just like Nicole before her. As she whispers in his ear before he leaves, perhaps her parting words are that she prefers Max Gentry more than the man sitting in front of her? Deeks looks defeated and stunned. When he walks out of the boathouse, perhaps we have finally seen the last of the infamous Max Gentry? 

As long as Deeks remains an undercover cop or becomes an NCIS agent, he is going to have to continue his covert ways. But it’s for certain that Max Gentry will always remain the one identity that will eat away at his soul the most. Max may have come from a time in Deeks’ youth when he needed the extra self-confidence for protection. Or perhaps Max is a part of his DNA structure and a side of his family that he would rather not acknowledge. Either way he is going to have to make a decision. It may be time to forgive and forget his troubled youth and move on.

Will we ever get to see Max Gentry again? Perhaps if the infamous episode, Deeks, M. ever makes it to the screen we will find out more about the notorious MG.  Maybe he needs to look at the man in the mirror one last time to say good bye properly and make peace with the person he once was and to celebrate the honorable man he has become.

What are your thoughts about Max?  Would you like to see this undercover persona return in a future episode of NCISLA?  Let us know in the comments down below.

 

About Diane (355 Articles)
Founder, Writer and Contributing Editor of wikiDeeks. Always wanted to put together a talented team of writers and graphic designers who loved NCISLA and Marty Deeks in particular! My dream came true! Hope you enjoy what we have created!

13 Comments on Revisiting Max Gentry

  1. Considering the dumpster fire of Season 11, the writers remembering ANYTHING about what made the show so great in the 1st place (Hetty, Teamwork, Undercover cases, Episodes that span 2 to 3 parts, you name it!) for more then 1 episode at a time would be a miracle in itself!

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  2. I think that Deeks changed when he joined NCIS (even though he was still a cop). He was no longer operating by himself, he was part of a team amd someone always had his back.This was a feeling that Deeks had never had before. When he was a cop at LAPD, he was disliked greatly by his fellow cops, and ostrasized by them, mainly because of how he did his job, that’s why he decided to work undercover. The violent history with his father, for me that also had a huge affect on Deeks and I believe that anger was a huge part of who Max Gentry was.
    I don’t think that we will see Max appear again in the future (much as I love seeing Eric play the part).

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    • Great post Aussi Mate! But I think the bigger change (for him) was falling in love with Kensi. Although they have not acted on their feelings they were present for a long time. As we saw in “Personal” during the kiss with Nicole, Deeks hesitated (and I do not think it is due to Sam and G watching) and Kensi had all of the sudden dry throats that she had to swallow to keep breathing. Monica definitely met already different Max Gentry (as someone here adequately put – diluted Max) that I questioned myself if that was really Max Gentry we met in Personal.
      But back to Diane’s question, I am not sure that I would like to see Max Gentry appearing again as it seems that this alias brings only pain and bad memories to Marty.

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      • I have to agree Maria. Deeks had nobody to answer to (other than Ray) when he was involved with Nicole and he had already moved on. When the ‘affair’ resurfaced Deeks probably wasn’t concerned with Sam or Callen’s opinion, but Kensi’s was a different matter.

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  3. A very interesting and insightful article Diane, thank you. I think it is a testament to the writers of the time that we can discuss, and give substance to, a fictional character’s undercover persona.

    I know you should never assume anything, but I have made a lot of assumptions here. Never having worked undercover I have to assume that to do so for an extended time, you have to give a lot of yourself to the character, maybe lose a part of yourself. Up to a point you have ‘become’ that person. Working for the LAPD as a Detective, Deeks apparently had no backup to speak of, so could work undercover for long periods with nobody to answer to. As long as the job was done legally, nothing really mattered. Deeks could walk away from any ramifications. I assume that Deeks spent a lot of time as Max Gentry, making contacts, getting information. We can’t tell whether Max pursued Nicole for information or something else. Perhaps she pursued him.

    I have to agree with Aussie Mate that things changed when Deeks joined NCIS. He worked with a team that he had great respect for, although I don’t think the respect was reciprocated. In ‘Plan B’ we saw the dark side of Max Gentry, while the team was a tad judgemental, or maybe questioning, of Deeks. This was a short lived ‘undercover’ and there was still a lot of Deeks in Gentry.

    In ‘Parley’ I assume Deeks hadn’t been undercover very long as nobody seemed to have noticed he was absent. This Max was a diluted version of the one we met in Season 2, we didn’t see the nasty Max, we didn’t need to. I don’t think Max needed to seduce Monica, I don’t really think he tried to, but it happened anyway. This time Kensi and Deeks were getting closer and Deeks/Gentry had a jealous Kensi almost sabotaging the operation. Deeks didn’t have a huge amount of support.

    The question of Max Gentry’s return is an interesting one. Deeks has moved on a long way since Season 4. He’s matured and married to Kensi, so it would be much harder for him to ‘become’ Max. On the other hand it would be a great showcase for Deeks’, and Eric’s, skills. If Max did return it would be nice to see Deeks having the teams unconditional support,

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  4. The creation and evolution of Max Gentry would be interesting to see. A look back at the youth of Martin Brandel turned Martin Deeks and the persona of Max Gentry. It would add insight to this character.

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  5. I’ve written a story probing the origins of Max, and I don’t think he ‘went away’ just because he married Kensi. And is Deeks really part of the team? We’ve mentioned many times how Callen and Sam continually poke at him, and even Kensi is inclined to from time to time. Deeks (mainly in the episodes written by Frank Military, who should be required to write any Deeks M. episode if it ever comes to pass) is really the team’s conscience. We’ve seen that many times before, but he wouldn’t be that if he didn’t have Max lurking in the background to remind him of what happens when you go outside the lines.
    When I dug into Max I made him a composite of Marty’s and Ray’s fathers, with some extra thrown in. The extra comes from Marty himself. His own anger and drive. And frankly, I found some of the team protests in that episode thin and almost ridiculous. I think they were more stunned that “Shaggy” had a persona like Max Gentry on call, and even more so when they realized it was an incredibly effective alias. I don’t recall Sam being called out as being too “in character” when he fell for King as Switch. And then there’s the whole Joelle sideshow. But I digress.
    People may not want to consider that Deeks has a legitimate dark side, but it’s part of what makes his character so real.

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  6. Max has gone away, we haven’t seen him for seven years. He had been gone a while when we first saw him. I suspect the Max Gentry of Deeks ‘detective days’ was even darker than the one we originally met. In fact the second Max was as dark and brooding as your average gerbil. Perhaps it is best if we don’t meet him again. He was an alias created by Deeks to go undercover and catch the bad guys. Max only exists when Deeks is called upon to use him. He doesn’t control Deeks. Max didn’t marry Kensi, Deeks did.

    We can only guess Max Gentry’s past. It’s quite possible Deeks/Brandel ‘used’ a prototype Max in his younger days. Perhaps Max did have a ‘childhood’. I think it is safe to say Max Gentry is an amalgamation of a number of people, some we may not have met. Who these people are is a matter of conjecture. He is, or was, an unpleasant individual, so it is likely a large part is taken from Deeks father, and maybe Ray’s, as they were the ‘bad guys ‘ Deeks was best acquainted with, they would be familiar. Almost certainly an element comes from Deeks , I think we’ve seen enough of Deeks dark side to know it’s real. We saw it in ‘Human Traffic’ and more spectacularly in ‘Spoils of War’, where we saw his anger and passion in it’s rawest form. Max is mean, he uses and hurts people, something that is not in Deeks character. Granted Deeks can be nasty, but only if you’re a ‘bad guy’. Deeks is clearly uncomfortable in the role of Max. We don’t know when Deeks and Ray went their separate ways, but Deeks reconnected with Ray when he was undercover as Max. It was Deeks who tried to help Ray, not Max. In ‘Plan B’ Deeks, as Max, found it difficult to talk to Nicole. By then he was getting close to Kensi. In a later episode Kensi told Deeks she didn’t tell him about being on the streets because she wanted him to see the best part of her. Deeks didn’t have the luxury of keeping quiet. He’d used and hurt Nicole, and there it was under the spotlight for Kensi to see. I think it’s great that a ‘character’ we’ve only seen in two episodes can capture our imagination so much.

    Certainly I think Deeks is the conscience of the team, but I think he is his own man and doesn’t need Max’s help for that. The question of whether Deeks is actually part of the team remains. I don’t know if the team just belittled Deeks entire career, as in ‘Drive’ or disregard policework in general. Then we come to the legendary double standards. I’d forgotten about Switch and King, but I had thought of Jada. Kensi only understands ‘undercover kisses’ if it’s her or Michelle doing the kissing. Deeks undercover is always called ‘under the covers’. Maybe he is accepted more now, I’m not sure.

    Definitely Frank Military is the best writer for a ‘Deeks M’ episode, which I’m still optimistic about.

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  7. Re-reading my last comments, I see I rambled on, and totally missed my point. Probably not the first time. perhaps I can try again.

    Max is a character from Deeks past, which is what makes him so interesting. Aren’t we eager to learn about Deeks past life? The time that Max was most active, Deeks life was very different. Doesn’t Deeks always say he’s ‘method’ when he goes under? Possibly he ‘lived’ as Max, returning to him often, maybe for extended periods. It’s all guesswork, but I think there’s Deeks in Max, rather than Max in Deeks.

    I like to think life for Deeks is happier with NCIS. It’s harder to be mean to people when you’re happy. I think it was more difficult for Deeks to get ‘into’ Max, at short notice in ‘Plan B’. We don’t know about ‘Parley’ but it seems everything was going well, until Monica threw a curve ball and stole the diamonds. The old Max may have coped better, but there was too much Deeks in the later one.

    The question of Deeks being part of the team, or not? He’s an important part of the team to us, but he’s not an agent and hasn’t had the same training. Nonetheless he does work well with them. I think the ‘pokes’ from the team bothered us more than Deeks. It looks like we could find out more in Season 12.

    Finally the dark side of Deeks, the anger inside him. Some people, strangely, dislike Deeks, possibly because they can’t see past the shaggy hair and the jokes. We all love the surfer dude, but it is the rage and passion inside him that gives him a depth, makes him human, flawed but fascinating.

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  8. Frankly I think the training thing is a lazy writing crutch. Deeks is arguably at least as well trained as Kensi, at least in a holistic sense (think of the scene where Callen is talking to him just before the ATF IAD interview about Anna and Deeks offers advice as a cop and a lawyer). In terms of undercover work I’d say he’s better trained than the team on the whole (just look at the two covers we’ve seen…both radically different and believable). He may not have the language skills, but I think on a different level he’s at least their peer.
    Max is no more gone from Deeks than Switch is from Sam, at least in my view. We may not have seen Max directly because he doesn’t fit into the Callen-Sam-centric stories we so often see, and the Densi stuff also makes it difficult to show, but I don’t think we should mistake this for Max being retired. There’s also been a thematic shift from the more undercover stuff to what might be called direct action themes (team chasing a known enemy into a massive shootout or something). That doesn’t leave much room for Max. But it also doesn’t mean he’s gone.

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  9. Deeks doesn’t have the same training as NCIS agents, that’s not to say his training is any less. It’s different and I think that is the point. He has a different skillset and that is what he brings to the party. He is a cop, he thinks like a cop. He’s a detective, he detects. He brings a different perspective, vision if you like. Not to mention the whole lawyer stuff, which apart from ‘Pro Se’ has been totally wasted. He’s got skills that the others haven’t, and that is his strength, and what the rest of the team fail to realise.

    Max has been absent for seven years, that’s not to say he wont come back. Anything is possible. He is a charismatic thug with useful contacts, who’s to say he won’t come in useful one day. I’m sure Deeks hasn’t forgotten him, Deeks doesn’t forget.

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