When I first read the synopsis for “Overdue,” it sounded like a fantastic opportunity to give Marty Deeks his due, to show viewers why he’s so valuable to the team. It also sounded like a possible excuse to make jokes at his expense and portray him as less than competent. I went into the episode nervous about which path writer Chad Mazero and director Terrence O’Hara would take, but I ended it happy, thanks to the episode’s strongly written scenes showing our favorite character in his best light and providing Eric Christian Olsen with another showcase for his talents.
A Rocky Start
The episode got off to a slightly rocky start, at least as concerned Deeks’ storyline. We began with a nice Densi walk and talk. Kensi did her best to reassure Deeks, but his nervousness was palpable. Throughout this season, Kensi has been so upbeat, so sure of a positive outcome to Deeks’ career troubles, that she’s bordered on insensitive to his concerns. This conversation had a similar tone, particularly in her joking final words to Deeks that she had to go because she actually has a job. It felt more harsh than necessary.
Still, how wonderful that “Momma D” sent Kensi the Contaminated Cherries album. And what a great name for a punk band. I need to see the cover art please! And now that we know Deeks had two different bands, we really need to hear him do some singing on the show.
We also watched the new Beale ramble on about tea and getting religion as he spoke with DCSA Agent Martinez about Deeks. He does have a bit of a history of rambling awkwardness when being interviewed/interrogated- I’m thinking about the various special investigators who’ve descended on OSP over the years, or his abduction in “Kill Beale: Vol. 1.”
The focus on humor with Beale is at this point to be expected, but the continued use of humor when Sam took his turn with Agent Martinez was a little disappointing. Yes, Sam’s approach was funny, and no doubt a dramatic way to explain just how great Deeks really is- that he shouldn’t be underestimated, and you can’t judge a book by the shagginess of its cover. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see the payoff to Sam’s set-up, so we were left to wonder exactly what he’d shared.
The Deeks story began to right itself when Sam reassured a nervous Deeks, albeit with less candor than might have been helpful. Deeks made clear that his nerves were caused in part by his lack of a back-up plan for his life. He’s no doubt feeling tremendous pressure to not let Kensi down and to provide his share of income. And even more, he has to be feeling high anxiety at not being able to watch Kensi’s back with a revenge-seeking madman on the loose.
Sam tells Deeks, “You’re good at what you do. You have instincts. You have the guts to follow them. If you keep following your gut, you won’t need a back-up plan.” It’s Sam’s honest assessment of Deeks capabilities and unlike anything we’ve ever heard from the man. The closest we got was him telling Deeks that he made the team better in “The Debt,” and that he was a great cop in “Ascension.” Here he elaborated on what makes Deeks great. We could see the respect behind those words as it registered in Deeks’ eyes, and it was wonderful. After so many years of out and out hostility, I will never get enough of Sam telling Deeks that he’s worthy, and I suspect Deeks never will either, particularly given his struggles with low self-esteem. Sam is nothing if not honest, and we know how much Deeks looks up to him, so his words carry a ton of weight.
I bet those same words also carried a ton of weight with Agent Martinez, who came into their interview already impressed with Sam’s record. It was frustrating that Sam couldn’t have assured Deeks that he’d had his back, and that we only got to see the opening of Sam’s interview, but it was easy enough to infer what he said. Still, just one extra sentence at the end of Sam’s response to Martinez could have made a world of difference. Something like, “Now let me tell you why first impressions don’t mean a thing when it comes to Marty Deeks.”
The episode’s biggest shocker had to be learning Deeks’ middle name: Atticus. I’m so glad we didn’t know this was coming. I wonder if the showrunners had any idea how excited many of us would be at this reveal, but for me it was on par with learning the contents of that the darn box. It’s never been the biggest mystery about Deeks, but it’s long been a subject of discussion.
I had never expected Deeks’ middle name to carry a lot of significance- I was just curious because it was a gap in our knowledge. But the selection of Atticus carries with it a whole potential backstory. I’d like to assume that his mom chose it after Atticus Finch, the Alabama lawyer in Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, who defends a Black man unfairly accused of rape. His willingness to support victims of prejudice has (until recently) made him a hero to many. Maybe his willingness to defend the underdog resonated with Roberta, or maybe she just thought Gregory Peck was handsome. Either way, it’s hard to imagine a literary figure who’d have been a better inspiration for young Marty Deeks.
What I loved about this is that it felt like a fact that the showrunners had known for a long time, that maybe it was something Shane Brennan came up with. It didn’t feel like something Mazero had to invent on the spot. Now more than ever, though, it makes us wonder about Deeks’ career choices and makes it all the more important that we get our “Deeks, M.A.” episode.
Deeks’ interview with Agent Martinez was where Mazero really won me over. Martinez surprised me, in a good way. This show so frequently brings in outsiders to judge our team and they are mean-spirited, not that bright, and/or cartoonish in some way. Martinez was different. She felt real and friendly and normal in a way I found unexpected and almost shocking. It made the entire discussion feel realistic and allowed Eric Christian Olsen a chance to play it straight and really shine.
Martinez: Why don’t you tell me about your life before NCIS?
Deeks: Yeah, no, of course. Before I was, uh, a lawyer, which seems like a lifetime ago.
Martinez: What made you get into law?
Deeks: Um, that’s a great question. Uh, growing up, I saw, um, a lot of injustice. I saw a lot of things that weren’t right.
Martinez: You wanted to fix them.
Deeks: Turns out there’s a few more questions on the California Bar I had to answer first.
When Deeks stalled on “that’s a great question,” I flashed back to Mosley asking him why he wanted to work at NCIS. He’d given her a weak answer that invoked the NCIS motto. Here, he was nothing but serious and sincere. And again, his motivations just encourage us to want more backstory, to hear more about what he experienced growing up.
Martinez: I talked to some of your former colleagues at LAPD. You don’t seem to have a lot of fans down there.
Deeks: Yeah, well, you know, you can’t be everybody’s cup of tea, right?
Martinez: No shortage of tea references around these parts.
Deeks: There’s a reason we work so well together.
Martinez: Is there a reason why you didn’t work so well with LAPD?
Deeks: As a former lawyer, I know when you’re leading a witness. You can just ask the question.
Martinez: [Drops file on the table] The Internal Affairs investigation.
Deeks: And there it is.
Martinez: Dead partner. Missing informant. It’s a complicated file. But the one clear through line is that you did not look good in any of it.
Deeks: I’m sorry, I didn’t… I didn’t hear the question in there.
Martinez: Your LAPD files don’t make you out to be a team player. Do you have any regrets about that?… I’ll rephrase that-
Deeks: No you don’t have to. I, uh, spoke out against a partner and a significant portion of that department that was rotten to the core. And in turn they retaliated against me, so do I have regrets about that? Absolutely yeah, I’m lousy with ‘em, but not because of the punishment or the backlash. My only regret is I didn’t speak out sooner, louder, and more often.
Martinez: I’d say that answers that.
Deeks: Agent Martinez, the world can be an ugly place and you can trust me when I say that I have seen the absolute worst of it, and my greatest fear, the thing that scares me the most is not being able to fight to fix it. And I’ve thought a lot about this, I’ve thought a lot about NCIS over the last [unintelligble] and I think it’s true, I think sometimes you gotta lose something to love it. But this is more than a job to me, this is more than an occupation, this is about purpose. ‘Cause the world is always gonna have that dark side, but at least here I get to get up every single day with a team that I love and respect and go out and do everything we can to shine some light. So if you need to write anything down, it’s that I will do everything that I can to keep doing that.
The episode’s highlight was the discussion of the Internal Affairs investigation. First we got a glimpse of Counselor Deeks, who confronted Martinez about leading her witness and waited for her to actually ask a question. I love seeing his legal mind at work.
Then he addressed her concerns clearly and emphatically. But even more important, he launched into a monologue about why he does what he does, why he is who he is. Seeing his passion, sincerity and integrity so clearly on display brought a tear to my eye. Mazero gave us a beautifully clear window into this character we all love, showing us the hero at his core.
The discussion carried echoes from Deeks’ words to his mother in “Internal Affairs” (co-written by Mazero): “What happened to me, that is what drives me. That is what makes me get up every single day and do what I do to make sure the bad guys don’t win… And if I have one regret it’s that I didn’t do it sooner, because after he was gone, this- you and me- that’s what makes me who I am.” The acknowledgment of how his past drives him even now, how he gets up every day to pursue his calling, and his never regretting taking on the bad guys, all repeated themselves, not in a duplicative way, but in a way that reinforced what this character is about.
The discussion also provided us with a reason for Deeks’ apparent change of heart, an explanation for why he’s now so motivated to continue working at his dangerous job. Over the past few seasons, Deeks’ greatest fear has been not getting out of the field before the job claimed his or Kensi’s life. Now he seems to have abandoned that line of thinking in favor of following his calling in life (with a side bonus of being able to continue to protect his wife). Because the showrunners had long focused so heavily on Deeks’ desires to leave, this turnaround didn’t ring totally true for me. But it was at least plausible and does provide a good reason for Deeks to stick around, so I’ll happily go with it.
Martinez: Detective Deeks, I’ve been through a lot of these interviews. I can’t tell you how this is gonna play out.
Deeks: No, of course, I’m sorry.
Martinez: But I can tell you this. Not many people can take an objectively bad first impression and still come out with the respect of those at the highest ranks of their team.
Deeks: Yeah, I’ve been told I come in a little hot.
Martinez: Even fewer would invest in their friends’ business endeavors one time, let alone seven. Especially when said friend is so, uh-
Deeks: Skulduggerous. The word you’re looking for is skulduggerous and just for the record it was eight.
Martinez: Most importantly, it’s exceedingly rare to find someone who’s willing to speak out against what is wrong, no matter what the consequences. But as I was saying, it would be highly unethical for me to tell you how you did.
Deeks: Of course.
Martinez: So I’ll just leave it at this. It was a pleasure meeting you, Deeks.
All of this was overdue praise indeed. Hallelujah! We may never get “Deeks, M.A.” but we have been granted with several episodes that could have been given that title, including this one (as well as “Personal,” “Plan B,” and “Internal Affairs”). I’m grateful any time we get to learn more about this character, or in this case, any time he gets a chance to showcase his finer qualities.
Martinez’s reference to just “Deeks,” after he had told her that he is, “Martin to my mom, Atticus to nobody and Deeks to my friends,” was a beautiful way to end their conversation. Mazero kindly kept Deeks (and us) from worrying about his fate. It also made clear that Deeks would be accepted to FLETC not because of his connections (although they did get him this far), but because of the content of his character. He deserves that, and it’s wonderful that Martinez lets him know.
Throughout the episode, Eric Christian Olsen was wonderful. He showed us Deeks’ nervousness, but it was never over the top (especially compared to every scene with Beale). He joked and used humor to defuse his own tension, but it was subdued and appropriate to the situation, and just showed him as a warm person you’d enjoy talking to. His small reactions, like his expression shift when Sam complimented him, spoke volumes. And his actual speaking volume was on the quiet side, but it only seemed to make what he said more important and intense.
The Millenials and the Old Folks
So far this season, our new recruits have received relatively little screen time, which has been just fine with me. But I’m afraid they’re getting stuck in a running routine where they whine about work and everyone makes jokes about how young they are. The millennial jokes at this point just feel lazy (although Beale’s “millenial mouse” insult made me laugh).
I know this show likes to reveal character history as slowly as possible, but we still don’t really know anything about Rountree or Fatima. Take the wonderful nugget about Sam’s dad driving the family to Ohio in the RV when Sam was a child. This is a great bit of history for us to learn about his character. But couldn’t Rountree have offered some comparison to his childhood as a way for us to learn something about him too? It could have been a comment about how his parents hated the idea of being cooped up in the car with his sister and him for hours, or how his parents divorced and he flew to see his dad in Texas, or whatever would match up with what the showrunners have decided is his story. Instead of joking and whining, let’s have a little more backstory sharing.
Callen and Arkady made up the episode’s other running story. Yes, Arkady exercising with a cigar, and calling Eric a “jumpy Urkel who mumbles in your ear,” was funny. Yet as the episode wore on, I found him becoming – dare I say it? – ever so slightly tiresome. It felt like just a little too much. Maybe it was the contrast with the serious Deeks scenes that didn’t work for me.
And the ending was so sad. Poor Callen, getting up the nerve to ask for Anna’s hand, then having to wait all day to get to the discussion, and then having his hopes dashed before he could even voice his intentions. That’s a lot of angst! I hope Callen asks Anna anyway- it’s not like she will care what Arkady thinks. I do wish he would confide some of his doubts to Deeks. They have so much in common in their childhood traumas and their impacts on their ability to form lasting relationships. It could make for a great conversation.
- When I first heard the title, I thought Kensi might be late again. Alas, that seems an increasingly unlikely event.
- Nell practicing delivering “hard truths” behind her/Hetty’s desk was pretty adorable.
- Beale feels like he’s in a completely different show, but he did have some great lines, including that ‘Ma’am’ “felt wrong from the get go” and that he was “in a purgatory of our own making.”
- Also, it’s now clear that Beale knows he owes Deeks, so hopefully he’ll fork over some money to keep the bar open and unsold.
- And yes, I was annoyed at the apparent double standards for visitors to the mission. Beale didn’t even have a visitor badge, but he can apparently come and go whenever he wants, and even help in Ops?
- Please can we have a fic showing us Roberta’s interview with Martinez?
- The COVID creativity continues with this week’s way to avoid direct contact with a fleeing suspect: Rountree’s pot-throwing worked surprisingly well.
- Oh and there was also a case. It seemed fine, but I was so caught up in Deeks’ scenes that I couldn’t be bothered to pay attention.
Spoiler Alert: I gotta say that my Deeks defenses are back up with that promo for the next episode and the synopsis for the one after. I don’t know who wrote next week’s ep, but it appears at first glance like they took the Jordana Lewis Jaffe approach to making Deeks look stupid for laughs. Not. A. Fan. I want Competent Deeks and I hope the promo is just misleading. It would be a shame to backtrack after this week’s progress.
I can’t wait to hear what you all thought of “Overdue.” Tell us in the Comments below!