It should come as no surprise that at wikiDeeks, our enjoyment of an NCIS: Los Angeles episode is directly tied to the quality of our favorite character’s scenes. We can overlook major flaws in the rest of an episode if we get a lot out of Deeks’ scenes, but sometimes the opposite is true. Unfortunately this week’s “A Fait Accompli,” written by R. Matt Klafter and Kyle Harimoto and directed by Eric Pot, fell into the latter category. Because the Deeks scenes didn’t work for me, I’m afraid the rest of the episode fell short even though it had some strong elements to offer.
Combos and Chemistry
I debated whether to even write this review as I feel like I’ve been the voice of a lot of negativity lately, and I sincerely don’t want to diminish the enjoyment I know a lot of you likely experienced with this most recent episode. But then I just started writing, and here we are. Let’s start with the positives and go from there.
One of the episode’s strong points was its direction. The slow motion and interesting angles for the action scenes really caught my attention. After twelve seasons of shoot-outs, these scenes are part of the show’s DNA and a key element of its success, yet they can sometimes feel repetitive and lacking in tension. Some of the techniques being employed for the last season or so have brought a freshness and flair to these scenes that have made them worth watching, and Pot made the most of them here.
The partner shifts worked pretty well overall, starting with Kensi and Sabatino continuing together from last week. When Kensi’s been partnered with Fatima or Rountree, the writers and Kensi have seemed to feel pressure to have her fill the humor void left by Deeks’ absence. It’s often felt slightly out of character, even as I’ve wanted to see it as her learning from Deeks to “lighten up.” This week, Sabatino stepped up to fill his share of that void, even if he came off as more carefree than I remember him. It let Kensi mock him and contribute to the humor without having to generate the momentum in the conversation, and it worked well.
But let’s be clear, Sabatino is no Deeks. His zany humor felt a tad forced, and even though the two actors worked well off each other, they certainly didn’t have the magic that is Sallen or Densi. If anything, they and the Fatima/Rountree duo have shown just how special those original pairings are, and how hard they are to replicate.
Sabatino also failed to carry his weight as a partner. Again, he was no Deeks. Last week he led Kensi into a warehouse where they were outnumbered, and both then and in this episode’s final firefight, failed to do much more than hide from the hail of bullets. He also let Kensi take the lead in figuratively disarming the group of “Sasquatches.” It was a nice opportunity for her to show off all her field skills, but Deeks would have been far more helpful in that situation.
Admiral Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) is always welcome to swing by to check up on the team. His crotchety old guy routine provides another welcome dose of humor. Unfortunately he’s at his funniest when paired up with people he understands less well than Sam, like Beale. (“It was a statement not a question.”) And I won’t mention the irony of elder Sam and elderly – and retired – admiral working in the field when
Gramps Deeks has struggled so. Nope, I don’t hold a grudge about that, not at all.
As for the newbies, their action scene with Rountree running and Fatima shooting was very cool. And I can’t complain that we’re learning more backstory. Fatima was an actress? Didn’t see that one coming. It’s interesting that these two look to be set up as long-term partners. It would seem to go against Sam and Callen’s stated goals for mentoring, but it’s also a smart move from the showrunners, since breaking up the existing partnerships has been unpopular and detrimental to overall harmony. If they’re going to be partners, we’ll have to wait and see exactly what kind of balance they find in terms of which character drives scenes forward and which one does more reacting. With Kensi and Deeks, Deeks tends to be the driver; with Sam and Callen, they often take turns. I just hope Rountree can maintain his sincerity and dry sense of humor because it’s quite likable. And I hope that Fatima’s growing collection of backstory facts can round itself into a character who feels real. (And here’s hoping that “Bye, bitch” does not become their catchphrase.)
Flashbacks and Fate
No, we’re not a Callen site, but I wanted to say to the Callen fans out there that we know how it feels when your favorite character disappears for most of an episode. Sadly we Deeks fans don’t know what it’s like to have multiple flashbacks to your favorite character’s childhood and young adulthood (nope, I don’t hold a grudge, I swear). This week we had two flashbacks that were beautifully photographed. The hazy focus and bright light gave them a lovely dreamlike quality that made them feel like real memories. And either the actor’s voice (Johnny Jay Lee) was eerily like Chris O’Donnell’s, or COD actually did the voiceover.
Unfortunately they also gave us the return of de-aged Hetty. I thought we had all agreed after “Rage” that we would never try that again? She’s just a little weird and distracting. The scene could have been shot without showing her face at all. More importantly, I don’t know how in character those flashbacks were. Since I definitely don’t consider myself an expert on Callen, if you’re interested, I’d refer you to this very interesting post if you want to read more.
Poor Callen, going ahead with his romantic gesture despite his unfortunate conversation with Arkady, only to find out that something’s amiss. I took his final scene at the motel to mean that Anna had been lying to him all along. I hadn’t anticipated that but realized that I should have. It was never in character for her to go off to rebuild houses; it’s much more likely that she’s gone rogue- she is Callen’s soulmate, after all.
But is there something more complicated going on? Might her disappearance tie into what happened to Kam? Only time will tell.
Desperation and Deservedness
Had we not had so many issues with Deeks’ portrayal in last week’s “Love Kills,” my reactions to his scenes in “A Fait Accompli” would have been very different. For example, the first Densi scene, with Deeks on the phone from FLETC, worked well on its face:
Kensi: Hey recruit.
Kensi: Whatcha calling me for? Shouldn’t you be on deck for PT?
Deeks: Yeah, no. I’m headed up there right now. Listen I just wanna say that I’m so excited that you’re coming to graduation.
Kensi: Oh, I know. It’s gonna be so much fun. Uh, hey. So listen, I got approved for my days off, and I booked my flight. Why are you breathing like that? What’s wrong?
Deeks: What? No, why would something be wrong? Everything, everything is fantastic. I was just practicing my meditative breathing.
Kensi: Ah, since when do you practice meditative breathing?
Deeks: Since I realized that we have to do a roadtrip across the country together. Do you think that our marriage can survive such a roadtrip all the way back to LA?
Kensi: Well I think I’m going to need some mandatory silent miles.
Deeks: Well, how many miles are we talking about here?
Kensi: Um, I’m thinking probably… 10 minutes every 100 miles?
Deeks: Ten minutes of silence, that seems like a missed opportunity for bonding and also for safety, I gotta be honest, is it even safe to drive in silence for that long? Because people fall asleep and then they die. I don’t wanna be a statistic, do you wanna be a statistic?
Kensi: You just upgraded yourself to a 15 minute silent period.
Kensi: You know what babe, Ops is calling me, I gotta go.
Deeks: OK, alright, listen, so then that’s fine. We’ll, ah, five, ah, five minutes for every 200 miles. Is that good?
Kensi: I love you, bye.
Deeks: Love you too. [Kensi hangs up] You got this. [groans]
This scene could be taken as a classic example of Deeks being silly and the two bantering about road trips. But what I saw was a Deeks trying his best to hide his injury and ongoing struggles from Kensi as he listened to her plans to come see him and his potential failures in person. The final line, said to himself, showed us the tremendous pressure he was under to keep his head above water, to not let Kensi and Hetty and everyone else down. His inability to stop talking felt like a desperate attempt to keep Kensi on the phone with him as long as possible in an effort to find solace, strength, and just a little of the peace she could provide in the midst of such a stressful situation.
Then we learned that he’d washed out of training and again my heart broke for him. Hetty’s hand was obvious here, so there was never a concern that he’d actually flunked (and come on, CBS Press, do you have to give away quite so much with promo photos of Deeks holding a badge?). Yet Kensi knew just how freaked out Deeks was as he hurriedly packed his things. Her firm “I love you” showed her concern over his mindset. It’s painful to think about Deeks’ shame and the self-flagellation he experienced on the long flight back across the country.
The final scene, as Deeks himself said, was twelve long years in the making:
Deeks: All she said is go to her office.
Kensi: Typical Hetty. She gives you just enough to keep coming back.
Deeks: Hmm. I’ve always thought she’d make one hell of a drug dealer. OK, right. I’m here. Office with creepy doll heads everywhere, anyway…
Hetty: Mr. Deeks.
Hetty: Where do you think you’re going?
Deeks: To change my underwear?
Kensi: [Boom] Hetty, are you OK?
Hetty: No time for idle chitchat. Mr. Deeks, open the top drawer.
Deeks: Open the top drawer to whaaat… [Pulls out badge]
Kensi: I found out an hour ago.
Deeks: Henrietta Lange, uh, this is the most savage, inhumane, messed up, greatest thing that anyone has ever pulled on me. I mean, I gotta be honest, this is… this is pure gold.
Hetty: I could never in good conscience allow strangers at FLETC to give you that badge.
Deeks: Thank you.
Hetty: Bugger. Now, go celebrate with your team.
Deeks: Oh yeah, we about to get it.
Hetty: On Saturday.
Deeks: What? Wait what? What did she say? Did she say Saturday?
Deeks: No, because what she meant was… I think she could… did she mean today? Because today is a word that also means this day, not Saturday.
Kensi: I think it’s just that Callen wasn’t available so she wanted, you know, all of us to celebrate together or something.
Deeks: Callen. I barely even know the man. I can’t even pronounce his first name. No this right here is twelve years in the making and now we’re gonna put it on pause? I’m about to go Richter. You and I? Ragefest-
Kensi: Baby. I am so proud of you.
Deeks: Thank you…
Kensi: And you know what? Nothing is stopping us from, you know, celebrating today.
Kensi: Just the two of us?
Deeks: The two of us today- ah! Whoa! Yeah, I got a rib thing. I think it may be broken.
Kensi: I knew it.
Deeks: Or fractured.
Kensi: You lied to me.
Deeks: I didn’t lie.
Kensi: You lied.
Deeks: I just withheld the truth because you can’t…
Kensi: Does it hurt right here?
Deeks: Ah, that’s, that’s, oh…
Kensi: Sorry, that’s what happens when you lie to your wife.
The scene caused me to flash straight back to the Hetty who jumped out from behind Deeks’ curtains in “Impact,” the one who seems to have a poor understanding of what makes for a happy surprise. Only that time, the joke was mostly on Deeks himself; we audience members weren’t actually scared by it. Here, the joke was also played on us (unless we look at spoilers like promo photos). We were made to believe Deeks had flunked out right up until the final scene, and I didn’t appreciate it. Kensi was wise to make it known that she wasn’t in on it. The cruelty of making Deeks – and large portions of the audience – suffer for all that time for no good reason may be in character for Hetty, but it’s one of the reasons she’s, shall we say, flawed.
The larger issue here is really the one that began last week and there may not have been much Klafter and Harimoto could have done about it. That’s how Deeks was made to struggle in a way that was out of character. His incompetence, played for laughs, is something that Deeks – and the audience – know happened, badge or not. He and we will always remember those moments and think less of him for it (or try to forget them and just blame the writers).
And that’s what I read into this scene in Deeks’ reactions. The way he hesitates and looks down when Kensi tells him she’s proud of him tells me that he’s not proud of himself, and what a shame and a missed opportunity. This was twelve years in the making and this character has done more than enough to earn that badge, and yet it will always be tarnished by the way he obtained it. It should have reinforced his own understanding of that worthiness, but it may have done the exact opposite. He’ll likely always wonder if he was really going to make it, always wonder if Hetty pulled such a mean trick as a sneaky way to save his butt.
Deeks’ over the top desire to celebrate also felt forced. It was like he felt he needed to project happiness at the occasion. He’d shared some of his struggles with Kensi but apparently not all of them, and he didn’t want her to know exactly how close he’d come to really failing. I think he clearly felt relief that his life hadn’t completely caved in on him, but it’s hard to get past that look away, that feeling like he isn’t sure he deserved it.
Because I didn’t buy that Deeks was genuinely happy, and because I think the best case scenario is that he thinks he barely passed, I couldn’t really enjoy the occasion. I look forward to hearing your interpretations on the subject- I am hoping that many of you did get a lot of satisfaction out of Deeks finally becoming a federal agent.
Or, did he? I believe his badge says “Investigator,” not “Special Agent.” I guess we can still call him a generic “federal agent” though? I’m curious about the backstory there. Does it signify that he failed to earn the title of “Special Agent,” making it another way to humiliate him? Or was it just the only way to work around the age rules?
More than One Fait Accompli
This week’s title was intriguing. I could see it in the fact that Deeks was inevitably going to get his badge one way or another thanks to Hetty, even if it didn’t play out how he wanted it to. But then again, that’s one of the issues with this storyline. Because they set it up with Deeks needing this job, without having any other way to stay with the team, we knew it was a fait accompli, and the roundabout path they took us on to get there didn’t satisfy most Deeks fans.
I could also see the title in the Callen flashbacks, which showed a life set in motion by his traumatic childhood that made it a fait accompli that he would never be able to have a “normal” relationship. I’d been hoping that had changed with Anna, and I think it has, but we’re going to have to wait for some more angst before he gets his happily ever after.
The title also could tie into proud papa Sam. It was a fait accompli that his and Michelle’s children would grow up to be patriotic high achievers. Sadly, that arc took a dark turn with Kam’s kidnapping at episode’s end. This turn would be disturbing no matter which character was taken, but knowing what Sam, who’s already lost his wife and nearly lost his son, will be going through is too painful to think about. It feels a little unoriginal, and almost too cruel a choice on the part of the showrunners, and I don’t look forward to watching his pain when the show returns in February.
- Rountree’s rescuing the homeless man had to be the closest any of them have come to contact with a guest actor this season. Glad they’re doing so much testing!
- I love the Porsche- it’s so pretty. And although Fatima did park it like 2 feet from the curb (Deeks would have told her, “That’s OK, I can walk from here”), so far at least she seems a capable driver. I’m tired of seeing every female character on the show be mocked for their driving skills.
- Wow, sorry USC Trojans out there! First we learned that Rountree’s sister is at UCLA, and this week Sabatino mocked the bad guy relentlessly for his alma mater. (Have you ever liked anyone that went to USC?. See?….. Sit down, Trojan boy.) As a UCLA alumna, I’m enjoying it, but I will say that I have known many good people from our cross-town rivals.
- The Quiet Riot sing-along between Kensi and Sabatino was quite a little moment. It felt simultaneously out of left field and yet such a dose of sunshine. Now why can’t we get the same thing with Kensi and Deeks singing together? That would be magical.
- We continue with the show’s fixation on age jokes with the jewelry store girl and her dad jokes. Sigh.
- Sadly, Deeks wasn’t wrong about not really knowing Callen after all this time. The man is hard to get close to!
- Do we know where Nell’s been? There are so many characters it’s getting hard to keep track!
Overall the previous episode made it challenging for Klafter and Harimoto to sort matters out satisfactorily this week. I’m glad we can put the whole Deeks FLETC arc to bed and look forward to seeing more of Deeks and Kensi hopefully working together in the field when we start back up in February.
Be sure to come back later this week for new editions of Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal. In the meantime, what did you think of “A Fait Accompli”? Were you frustrated like me? Or did you love seeing Deeks get his badge? I want to hear either way- maybe you can give me a different perspective that will make me feel better. I can’t wait to hear, so share your thoughts in the Comments below.