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Review: NCISLA “Love Kills” (S12E08)

If you’ve already read our open letter to R. Scott Gemmill, NCIS: Los Angeles showrunner and writer of this week’s “Love Kills,” you can probably guess how I felt about this week’s episode. Ably directed by Dan Liu, it was filled with banter and featured another beautiful Densi conversation, but I struggled to look past the treatment of my favorite character to enjoy the rest of the episode.

Man buns and couples therapy

Let’s start with the positives. This episode felt- if I may use a technical term- less COVIDy than other episodes so far this season. Gemmill and Liu gave us an ongoing mixing of characters – cast members and guest actors alike – in varying combinations that felt organic. For the first time this season, I didn’t even think about the special precautions they’re taking to protect cast and crew.

We also enjoyed the gift of banter. Gemmill has always given us the most consistently wittiest scripts, and here the one-liners flew so fast I could barely keep up. If the Deeks storyline hadn’t been intruding and distracting me from the fun, the whole thing would have been quite enjoyable. The highlights were the dynamic trio of Sam, Callen and Sabatino. Sabatino has always produced more than his share of witty retorts, but I don’t remember him ever being quite so happy-go-lucky as this, going about his day without too much serious investment in catching the bad guys, and instead just enjoying catching up with – and mocking – everyone in sight. Sam and Callen gave as good as they got, though, and it was great to see them paired up for the entire episode.

If it bleeds, we can kill it

In another promising development we learned a little backstory about each of our newbies. Rountree has a sister, and she’s attending UCLA. (Go Bruins!) And Fatima’s dad loves old-school action movies.

Of the two, Rountree’s development is proceeding more smoothly. His wry sense of humor is enjoyable, for instance here when he suggested that Kensi didn’t actually need to share so many details about her fight with Pietra. I also appreciated his concerns about racial justice and public perceptions of law enforcement. It might have felt slightly more forced than his conversation with Sam about similar topics a few episodes ago, but it showed him as sincere and thoughtful, and I hope the show continues to explore these topics.

On the other hand, Fatima doesn’t yet feel like a fully formed character, but more a collection of random traits. She’s right that the rest of the team are big on the “witty repartee and catchphrases,” but practicing her dad’s favorite tough guy quotes again felt forced. I’m not sure if it’s the acting or the writing, but hopefully with time she’ll sort herself out in my eyes.

Competence in short supply

Before we talk about Deeks’ problems at FLETC, I feel the need to point out that a lack of competence was actually a theme throughout the episode. Pietra Rey got the drop on Sam in the house and then on Sabatino in the boatshed (but for some reason, it’s always fun to see him get his butt kicked, isn’t it?). Sam got his fingerprints all over a mystery cell phone. Sabatino and Kensi entered the warehouse without a warrant. Maybe Hetty does need to come back to supervise.

Other than Deeks’ part of the story, my least favorite moment of incompetence was around the discussion of Kensi’s previous lost fight against Pietra. Maybe it was in character for Kensi to grasp at any excuse in front of the new guy, but the idea that being on her period would have impaired her performance felt, if not sexist, then at least annoying. I’d like to think that Kensi wouldn’t come up with such a ridiculous excuse, no matter how much her pride had been wounded by losing the earlier fight.

Misadventures at FLETC

I won’t promise to keep the discussion about Deeks’ storyline short (when have I ever managed that?), but I will try to avoid repeating too much from our just-published letter. Instead let’s just focus on the emotional aspect of watching Deeks suffer unjustifiably. Each scene of failure made me that much sadder, more frustrated, and honestly, a little sick to my stomach. I couldn’t help but feel Deeks’ sense of humiliation, particularly in the sparring scene where his classmates looked on as he struggled. Deeks may have tried to joke all this off, and maybe some fans actually laughed, but I found it painful to watch.

It appeared that Gemmill was trying – to use another technical term – to Bealize Deeks, to make him over the top silly. Gemmill has always seemed to be the most enthusiastic person on staff about turning Beale into someone with a larger than life personality who may provide laughs, but doesn’t feel based in reality. (And speaking of Beale, do we know if he made it through FLETC? I’m pretty sure Nell did.) Overall it was hard to reconcile the thoughtful, sincere Deeks we had in last week’s episode with this version.

Thinking of how Deeks’ self-esteem will drop even lower because of these events reminded me of Kensi’s one-upping him early on when she bragged about acing all sorts of classes, and it just made me sad and feeling a little defensive of my favorite character. It wasn’t necessary. There are plenty of other ways to have introduced tension at FLETC, or – here’s a crazy idea – why not just let Deeks succeed at something? I wouldn’t even have minded if they’d skipped over the whole storyline and just given us a cute phone call with Kensi at the end of the episode.

I look forward to hearing what you all thought, but I have to share that for me, this episode falls into the pantheon of all-time most upsetting episodes. It upset me as much as “Three Hearts” and “Come back” (I know, most people liked that one… What can I say? I’m a stickler for canon consistency). It’s probably right there with “Drive” in its disservice to Deeks. We’ll forever have to see Deeks as a man who couldn’t pass basic physical training at FLETC, and that simply doesn’t gibe with my overall picture of the character. His killing Boyle, even if he did so under questionable circumstances, is far more in keeping with all that we know about him than what we saw here. And that it came directly from R. Scott Gemmill was in itself disheartening, since we want the showrunner to share our vision of the character. Right now I don’t think we’re on the same page at all. It makes me worry about how much I’m going to like Deeks’ future.

The bus out of nowhere

The final Densi scene was absolutely beautifully written and acted. It’s amazing to think that they had to have filmed each half of the conversation separately, but still gave us the same sense of intimacy as in similar past conversations. As always in scenes like this, Eric Christian Olsen crushed it. We could so easily hear Deeks’ world falling apart around him. Daniela Ruah was great too, showing us Kensi’s worry and struggles about what to say to help her husband.

Deeks: Hey.
Kensi: Hey!
Deeks: [Groaning] How’s it going?
Kensi: Good. How are you?
Deeks: I, uh, crushed it on the range today, which is awesome.
Kensi: Of course you did.
Deeks: Yeah but that’s about it. I’m telling you, these kids are machines.
Kensi: So what. You’ve got all this experience.
Deeks: That’s a good way of putting it although I don’t think it’s helping much. I’m not gonna lie, baby, I’m, I’m actually struggling.
Kensi: Well, honestly I remember those days and they were really really long and you’re probably just tired.
Deeks: No, I’m definitely tired, and I’m feeling that for the first time in my life. It’s like this bus that suddenly comes outta nowhere and just slams into you. It takes your energy and your youth and your job and your bar and… virility.
Kensi: Well you know there’s no crying in FLETC, right?
Deeks: Yeah, actually, I saw that in the bylaws.
Kensi: OK well then, suck it up, and you go show those snowflakes how Party Marty bangs it.
Deeks: Oh my god, Party Marty. Baby, Party Marty’s been dead for twenty years… He’s so long gone… You know how much I love you, yeah?
Kensi: I love you too, baby. Hey, I gotta go get some bad guys.
Deeks: Yeah you do. Go get ‘em girl. Hey, will you do me a favor, you just be careful, alright?
Kensi: Always.
Deeks: Bye.

Deeks’ sad laugh over Party Marty’s demise was perhaps the most effective moment. Seeing him confront the fact that he’s not a young man anymore, acknowledging this universally human inevitability, was impactful and will be hard to forget. It’s difficult to imagine Sam or Callen showing this much vulnerability, even though they’re both quite a bit older than Deeks.

Memorable moments

  • Oh, yeah, there was a plot here. I was too distracted by Deeks’ storyline to follow it, but then again I never found the earlier episodes about counterfeiting as interesting as I guess the writers have.
  • I was happy that Lance Hamilton from DOJ was out of the country- I’m not a huge fan. I’d have thought this might be a good opportunity to call in DeChamps instead, with her Secret Service background.
  • When we learned that Pietra trained as a “jungle guerilla” in Brazil, I could just imagine Deeks hearing it as “jungle gorilla” and talking about himself the “jungle cat.”
  • I was shocked to learn that neither Sam nor Callen speak Portuguese?
  • Episode highlight? I do love the haircut.

At this point you all have heard more than enough from me, but please return later this week for new editions of Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal. In the meantime, what did you think of “Love Kills”? Tell us in the Comments below!

About Karen (287 Articles)
wikiDeeks Writer & Assistant Editor. I never wrote for fun before... until my ECO-obsession. Now I love to analyze any and all aspects of the best character on television.

19 Comments on Review: NCISLA “Love Kills” (S12E08)

  1. I think the episode was great. And about Kensi’s ‘sexist excuse’ – in the episode ‘answers’ (11th episode in the 11th season) Kensi reveal s to Deeks that she’s not in the mood because she got her period, and because every season of NCIS LA means another year, it’s not sexist at all for her to say that she had a hard time in that fight while having her feminine day.


  2. Great insite Karen, I agree, I would rather, they have him go through the training,not see it, and find out at end , he did it..that was painful to watch, he would never been that far behind the rest of class in running, and to show him sleeping in car, not even believable. And I would rather have deeks get in on his own , rather then Hetti pull strings..Give him a BREAK…I enjoy Sabintino, but how come he is aloowed everywhere, being CIA…even just walking in where, they interrogate people…I’ve said all I can say about the new people, they don’t help the show…deek has been there 11 years, and has been fighting to be accepted all the time..iI am really hoping things change with the writers..really, really do…thank you..

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Topiary Cow // January 13, 2021 at 3:32 PM // Reply

      Kathy, agree with you on all! Sabatino walking on in and being accepted, when he has absolutely no jurisdiction!

      I had to fast-forward through some of this episode. Couldn’t stand that they were making Deeks fail.

      I’ll bet if Callen had to take that training today he wouldn’t be succeeding! Have we ever seen HIM with his shirt off? I bet Callen is flabby!

      Agree the newbies add nothing: no charm, no fun, no personality.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’d like to see Deeks channel Max Gentry in FLETC. That cover proved without question Deeks has what it takes. And as for the fitness stuff…the writers need to get real. Deeks is a surfer, was ambushed and shot while on his daily run…you name it. And the age excuse doesn’t hold any water. For example, the average member of Delta Force is in his mid-30s at least (something Frank Military should be well aware of from his work on The Unit if nothing else).
    I hate to say it, but the show’s been losing me ever since the whole Mosley arc. And if they keep this trend going, I’ll stick with reruns on Ion. Maybe they should try shifting the feelings spotlight to Sam or Callen. They could both use a good dose of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Topiary Cow // January 13, 2021 at 3:45 PM // Reply

      Robbie, hahah, the “feelings spotlight” 🙂

      Me too: started by watching reruns on ION. Maybe the writers need to watch those re-runs also, to remember what magic the show used to have.

      Hey, its fiction! Deeks doesn’t have to go to training! They can make something up! For instance: lawyers qualify automatically! Or Deeks goes back to practice law and KENSI goes to law school! Or, Deeks wins a surfing contest! If Beale can be a multimillionaire, why is Deeks stuck in this sad reality? They’re writers! can’t they make up something good? A plot twist?

      I would rather have seen an episode of Deeks-kidnapped-by-aliens than this Deeks-failure episode.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Funny you should mention aliens…
        Frank Military’s second major writing job (he did a teleplay for The Equalizer first) was two episodes of Miami Vice during the second season (both were stellar, BTW; he also had an acting role in another second season episode). Miami Vice has been mentioned as one of the factors in how NCIS LA was conceived in terms of its characters. And one of the least-liked episodes of that show was called Missing Hours…where Trudy Joplin (and a very young Chris Rock) encounter what may or may not be aliens on a houseboat with ties to James Brown (yes…THAT James Brown, who also guest-stars in the episode).
        Sorry…just had to toss that out there.


        • The Topiary Cow // January 14, 2021 at 8:03 PM // Reply

          Robbie, omg I loved the early seasons of Miami Vice! I will have to look at those episodes!!!….so we know FM *could* write an alien episode. Maybe he just needs some encouragement? Frank, you’ve got my vote!


          • He actually didn’t write Missing Hours (didn’t mean to confuse that). The episodes he wrote were Buddies and Little Miss Dangerous. He played one of the punks in Nobody Lives Forever. Buddies is one of the few episodes that deals with Crockett’s time in Vietnam.


  4. I hate how the writers on not at all consistent with how they write Deeks,We all know he runs, works out with the team .If they were trying to be funny they failed big time.I don not like the new agents to be honest they can’t act and take up valuable air time.And can we killed off Sabatibo can’t stand the character even Hetty said he was a parasite.If the writers keep writing Deeks as a clown then im done with the show.Show some respect to Eric and his character.He deserves it.The fans deserve it.I miss hetty and Andrea bordeaux character,She was alot better than the newbies.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Topiary Cow // January 13, 2021 at 3:50 PM // Reply

      -trying to be funny = fail—-yes!
      -new agents can’t act = Yes!
      -Deeks written as clown = done, yes!
      -ECO deserves better === yes yes yes and so do fans!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. When I realized Deeks was going to FLETC I was excited. I expected a little humor, and perhaps a few missteps, but I wasn’t prepared for a full blown put down of my favorite character. Why they went in this direction, I’m not sure. Did they knock him down so he could redeem himself in a later episode? At least that would give me some hope, but this was just dumb. We watch him chase down suspects all the time. We see him fight, shoot, work a crime scene, everything pointing to competence. If he was this physically unfit, Callen and Sam would have booted him off the team a long time ago, and Kensi would have requested a new partner by now. If he wasn’t strong physically and mentally, he wouldn’t have been able to withstand the torture he went through to protect Sam’s wife. His failure at FLETC just didn’t ring true. And it was truly sad to see, and totally unwarranted.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great review, even better letter! Any chance it can actually be sent to him?? I commented on the review of the previous episode that I was worried Deeks at FLETC would be like a National Lampoons movie, and unfortunately it was. I’m not gonna go off on a rant because you pretty much covered everything I was thinking as I watched. I won’t say I cried, but it made me sadder and sadder with each of Deeks’ scenes and tougher to watch. His conversation with Kensi almost completely broke my heart, ECO and Dani as always crushed it and I am concerned what will happen with the two of them in the future(More specifically what the writers do). Not just with what they have been doing to his character but with the direction of the show, I am almost to a point where I am not sure I wanna watch anymore….almost but not quite.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The Topiary Cow // January 13, 2021 at 5:00 PM // Reply

    Karen, as always, great summary and review and good addition to your letter.

    The writers need to turn this around or the fans and viewers will be the ones turning around.

    Very disappointing direction for Deeks.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Donna l Hartle // January 13, 2021 at 10:47 PM // Reply

    I would be interested in knowing what ECO thought about his role in this episode. You would have thought he would have at least had some impact on the storyline.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Karen, I agree with you. I have been watching season 2 and Deeks isn’t portrayed as incompetent . So why are we seeing it now?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Co-incidentally I watched ‘Dead Body Politic’ last night. A Season 4 episode which started off with Deeks referring to Sam and Callen as the old folks. Sam challenged him to a press-up contest which Deeks failed miserably, they say nothing is new.

    To get to ‘Love Kills’, I’m starting to like Sabatino. He isn’t intimidated by Sam and Callen, he treats them both with disrespect. Sort of mutual contempt.

    Not sure about Kensi’s reveal about her fight with Pietra. Firstly, since when does Wonder Woman make excuses for anything? Secondly, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Pietra a woman of childbearing age, so how did Kensi know she wasn’t….oh never mind.

    I think I’ve worked out why Callen wants to propose to Ana. I saw the clip, not sure which episode it was from, where Sam asks Callen where he’s going to live when Deeks sells the bar. Of course Deeks said he could live there rent free. Unless I missed the episode where he started paying rent, he still does. He wants to move in with Ana, two can live as cheaply as one. I recognise parsimony when I see it. Wait, didn’t Callen offer to pay some of his foster brother’s medical expenses. So it’s just Deeks then. A true friend would have offered to help him out with his money troubles.

    The FLETC scenes were uncomfortable. I think ECO once said with comedy, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sadly I think it was the latter on this occasion.

    The conversation between Kensi and Deeks was heart breaking. I didn’t much like the ‘suck it up’ remark. I didn’t like it when she used almost the same words in the episode where Roundtree sat in the car with the bomb. I guess Deeks would have been comforted by the sound of her voice, rather than what she said. She clearly didn’t really know what to say. Strangely Deeks always knows what to say to comfort Kensi.

    So Daniela Ruah is making her directing debut, filming the current episode, number 11 I think. I wonder if Deeks will get the same treatment as he did when Chris O’Donnell directed his first episode, ‘Wanted’. Deeks had to get his kit off to make contact with Kirkin. Not saying I don’t want to see more of Deeks. Perhaps I should stop now.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Karen,
    Your review reflects my thoughts too…
    I’ve been debating whether to comment here or not since I already mentioned how I felt about this episode in your letter to Gemmill.
    Only thing I can add is that this is the first episode I voluntarily skipped in nearly a decade…
    And 12×09 will be the 2nd one.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a repeat of my comments from the open letter but it needs to be said again.

    I was extremely disappointed in the portrayal of Deeks in this episode. Being able to run fast does not a good agent make. What was the point of the body slam? Where were the mats and safety gear? How does that exercise make a good agent? When they are in the field chasing bad guys I find it quite unlikely that they would come across a suspect heavily padded and have to try to flip or body slam him. I didn’t get it. And if they have classroom training, Deeks could probably teach the class better than any instructor since he’s been a part of the Office of Special Projects; part of an elite team. Give me a break!

    This man, Deeks, already has the necessary experience to be an agent since he’s been doing it for 11 years. Why did they think FLETC training was even necessary? I could understand supplemental training but that episode just made me angry with the show.

    The only reason I still watch the show is because of the character, Deeks. His humanity make the show more real. Stop portraying him as a buffoon. He’s not!

    To add … I don’t understand why the writers want to kill this show. It once was great but now if I miss it, oh well, I’ll catch it reruns later. As it is, I’d rather watch the re-runs on ION.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I agree Bobbie, not sure what the writers are doing, and can’t imagine eric agreeing to some of it, he always says in interviews that they have imput in their scenes..I just want the core group back together again, and I know this is just a tv show, but the writers got us so invested in their lives, Sam and Callen( brothers at heart) Kensi and Deeks, (friends, lovers, family) eric and nell( wonder twins) and of course Hetti, and Owen Granger( Rest In Peace) who we didn’t like at first but became family…This is what makes a Family and a great show..we want it back..

    Liked by 1 person

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