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Deeks, M: Leadership Evaluation – The Ochoa Report


TO: Director, NCIS

FROM: Louis Ochoa, Deputy Director NCIS

SUBJECT: Leadership Evaluation #3, Los Angeles OSP Station, Investigator Martin Deeks

Per your previous request, I’m submitting this report upon the conclusion of my temporary oversight at the Los Angeles OSP station. This report evaluates the leadership potential of the special agents currently assigned, as well as their LAPD liaison officer (currently an NCIS Investigator). To facilitate evaluation, each team member’s report is submitted separately. The formats are identical, including the opening Methodology and History sections.

METHODOLOGY: I approached this assignment using the framework articulated by LTCOL Pete Blaber, USA (Ret), a decorated veteran of a classified organization (SOFD: Delta) popularly known as Delta Force. According to Blaber, a successful leader organizes their priorities in the following order: The Mission, The Men, and Me. Other units use variations like “mission first, people always,” but I find Blaber’s framework especially sound for the purpose at hand. Using my observations and knowledge gained from reviewing past operations, I will evaluate each OSP member based on those three criteria, placing them in the order each member uses them in practice.

HISTORY: The history of this station is tied irrevocably to their Operations Manager, Henrietta Lange. Ms. Lange is UA (Unauthorized Absence), but her imprint on this station and its agents cannot be overstated. I have never seen a group as loyal to their leader as this team is to Lange. A similar situation existed, although to a lesser degree, with Assistant Director Owen Granger when he was posted to Los Angeles, and it is impossible to evaluate this team without examining those two individuals.

Henrietta Lange is a veteran intelligence officer, far more suited to covert work than traditional NCIS investigative duties. When evaluated against the Blaber criteria, her demonstrated priorities come out as Mission, Me, Men. Lange will always prioritize the mission ahead of everything else, but it bears noting that her definition of the mission is not always in line with orders or institutional goals. She can (and does) go her own way, although usually without directly (or intentionally) involving her team. A strong component of self-interest runs though many of Ms Lange’s actions, and she almost pathologically withholds information from those around her…even when that information is vital to their mission. It is, I feel, no accident that at least two of her most visible proteges (Special Agent Lauren Hunter and Executive Assistant Director Shay Mosley) had poor relationships with their subordinates and the habit of orchestrating their own missions, often supplanting NCIS directives and instructions. They also withheld information in a way similar to Lange, often with less than optimal results.

Owen Granger’s time in Los Angeles was cut short due to his death, but his impact on the team is second only to Lange’s. On the Blaber scale, Assistant Director Granger scores clearly as Mission, Men, Me. He seems to have taken a hands-on approach to OSP, to the point of accompanying them in the field functioning as a special agent on multiple occasions. He and Lange had known each other for at least three decades, and Granger was one of the few who could (and seems to have) questioned both her motives and motivations on more than a few occasions. He also took a direct interest in developing the skills of many members of the team. Assistant Director Granger was a powerful balancing force in OSP, and I feel his loss has not been truly appreciated by NCIS.

Of interest for this evaluation: Lange hand-picked each member of the OSP team, including one who began as their LAPD liaison officer. I believe this was done in part so she could be sure no one within the team would challenge her leadership. In other words, this team was designed to remain in a subordinate position to their Operations Manager. With one exception, each team member has suffered at least one significant personal loss in their formative years, leaving them psychologically open to influence by an authority figure. The final team member has a strong military background, leaving him conditioned to respond without question to an authority figure. It is possible that Lange orchestrated the departure of Operational Psychologist Nate Getz (who became a Special Agent) to clear the way for her own development of the team without an outside expert being able to observe. Note this is my personal theory; no documentary evidence exists to support it and Getz has been remarkably quiet about both his time with OSP and his transition.

OSP TEAM: The OSP members evaluated by these reports are Grisha Callen, Sam Hanna, Kensi Blye, Martin Deeks, and Nell Jones. This is due to their leadership (or presumed leadership) capabilities and potential to run OSP. Technical Operator Eric Beale and the two newcomers to OSP are not considered.

MARTIN DEEKS: Like most of Lange’s picks for OSP, Deeks has a background containing personal tragedy (he comes from a broken home and as a child was forced to shoot his own father in self-defense). Deeks is the most educated member of the team (he is a California bar-certified lawyer as well as a veteran of LAPD’s Central Division and various long-term undercover assignments). Significantly, he was added to the team by Lange personally and without the knowledge of the other team members (he first encountered Special Agent Hanna in an undercover role). Records indicate it took some years for the team to fully accept him, and even now (based on my observations) he seems somewhat apart from the rest (including, at times, his own wife – Special Agent Blye) on some occasions.

On the Blaber scale, Deeks comes down firmly as Men, Mission, Me. His loyalty to the team (Men) is beyond question, even in the early days when they did not accept him or appreciate his abilities. He accompanied them into Mexico as part of Mosley’s rogue operation out of loyalty to the team (Mosley had already removed him from the team when he rightly questioned both her conduct and her motives). During Operation Center Stage he endured torture at the hands of a Russian arms dealer without revealing the identity of a CIA case officer (also Special Agent Hanna’s wife) even after (as I learned during my own investigation) Special Agent Hanna questioned his character. His Men loyalty extends beyond the OSP team, as his interactions with Gurkha Jebediah Thapa (see file T45A) demonstrate. His ability to establish rapport with outsiders is of considerable value, although this is one area that seems to have regressed slightly as his connection with the core OSP team became stronger. He has routinely pushed himself beyond normal endurance when a member of his team is in danger (I noted at least two instances when Investigator Deeks left a hospital bed and provided crucial assistance to a teammate…one of these occurred after the torture he endured in Center Stage). But even with this team loyalty, he has shown the ability to ask difficult questions of himself and other team members about their conduct. This is most notable during the Mexico incident, but has occurred on earlier operations as well. Deeks is loyal, but it’s not blind loyalty.

Although the Mission ranks second in Investigator Deeks’ priorities, he has shown a remarkable flexibility when it comes to achieving mission goals while still remaining true to his guiding point (The Men). During the Center Stage incident, he remained in cover (improvising a story about being from another LAPD division) and then volunteered (according to the report filed by AD Granger) to remain in place without medical attention to continue the mission. His focus on the Men above the Mission does lead him to occasional outbursts and hasty action if one of his team is in danger, but in my opinion he’s learned to control his emotions and evolved into a more mature agent. He will still trigger, but in my observation this applies to all members of OSP (and may be a trait Lange desired and sought out during her selection of personnel). Deeks is different in that his triggers are typically threats to the team or someone close to the team. I do not believe he would risk another team member to accomplish a mission, but I do feel he would risk (and has risked) himself. Of note, Deeks will place the Mission first in certain circumstances (such as Mexico), but only IF the entire team has already done so. His actions during the White Ghost incident (as reported by AD Granger) support this as well. This capability has evolved over time, and seems to correlate to his increased understanding of the team’s strengths and weaknesses. In this context it should be remembered that Granger selected Deeks personally for at least one unsupported undercover assignment, indicating he trusted Deeks’ ability to prioritize the Mission when required.

Deeks is perhaps the only member of OSP who places Me last in the leadership scale. This means he will rarely place his own agenda above that of the team. Other members of OSP have shown themselves (to various degrees) to be vulnerable to external triggers (Callen and his past, Hanna and individuals he has interacted with in some long-term way, to give two examples), causing them to put their own motives above Mission or Men. While Deeks has similar triggers, he is able to limit their impact on the team (Men) during an active operation (Mission). He is also the only member of OSP who has not gone off on his own in pursuit of one of those triggers. It occurs to me Lange may have added him to the team for precisely this reason.

EVALUATION: Investigator Deeks has strong leadership characteristics, and is the only current member of OSP who does not have Me either first or second in the scale evaluation. It should be stressed that every member of this team has exceeded conduct boundaries at one time or another during their careers (including before they joined NCIS) for varying reasons. This includes Deeks. However, Deeks has only done so in instances when he believed a life was in imminent danger (typically someone else’s). 

Deeks’ leadership potential has evolved over time. As he gained confidence in the NCIS arena, his skills became more and more apparent. Always a skilled interrogator, he also has the ability to work well with other agencies (unless they disrespect or endanger his team) and form bonds with people others in the team may not be able to approach. His undercover expertise is second to none in OSP. From the beginning he has viewed lack of success or mission accomplishment as a personal failure, but over time he’s learned to modify (or at least suppress) this response. Once he views someone as part of the team (the Men), he begins to feel a personal responsibility for them, which will hinder his ability to approach the Mission objectively. He also has very good instincts about people (likely developed during his childhood and enhanced by his time as a public defender and LAPD officer), giving him an edge in many operations. This, again, may have been one of the reasons he was recruited for OSP.

Deeks’ marriage to Special Agent Blye has been a source of concern in some quarters, but in my evaluation its impact on his leadership potential is limited (more than one might expect). Deeks always put the Men first, and his wife is still part of that category. He may question the need for her to take excessive risks, but in my observation this behavior is common for him when it comes to any team member. In stressful situations he may attempt to aid her first, but this is no different than Special Agent Hanna’s (for example) reaction if a family member (or friend) is threatened. Of note, Hanna does not seem to respond in the same way if some team members are threatened, while Deeks responds equally no matter who is involved.

If you want an Operations Manager who will accept any mission no matter the cost and without question, Deeks is not the person you want in charge. He will always weigh the team’s interests against those of the mission, along with repercussions to the team if a mission goes wrong. He is also not afraid to question the ethics or legality of a mission or action. Deeks would, however, function well if paired with another leader who scaled out as Mission, Men, Me…so long as he trusted their judgment when it came to the Mission (essentially recreating the Lange-Granger dynamic). His elevated concern for SA Blye would be offset to a great degree by a Mission, Men, Me co-leader.

I do feel, however, that Investigator Deeks is especially suited for the other role we discussed…more so than any other member of OSP.

TEAM SCALE:

Blye: Mission, Me, Men

Callen: Me, Mission, Men

Deeks: Men, Mission, Me

Hanna: Me (with a strong SEAL affinity that overrides his NCIS affiliations), Mission, Men

Jones: Men/Mission (almost dead even), Me

About RobbieC (5 Articles)
Author (and fanfic dabbler) and occasional commentator on things Deeks. My avatar is a character from one of my favorite Miami Vice episodes, written by NCIS LA's own Frank Military.

22 Comments on Deeks, M: Leadership Evaluation – The Ochoa Report

  1. After reading this, I had to think back. And Callen especially has done things not mission related for personal reasons and/or gain. Sam too. The NCIS mission is Navy/Marines related, nothing more. Watching the past 2-3 episodes of the show, it definitely has gone off the path. That type of mission is for the CIA and/or FBI, not NCIS.
    Deeks would be the best choice to run OSP.
    Callen, no way because if Anna gets into trouble again, he uses not just the team, but the agencies capabilities (technology, etc) to help or find her. Technically it’s a justification for his termination and that would not be good.

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  2. Catherine Betham // April 19, 2021 at 11:09 AM // Reply

    This was EXTREMELY well done. Would be interestedi in Kensi’s eval please and thank you.

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  3. Ain’t that the truth! Seriously good, from someone who knows their stuff.

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  4. This is just incredible. Outstanding job. Thank you so much for sharing this!

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  5. Great job, RobbieC!! Fascinating read.

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  6. Awesome work! Curious, what other role?

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  7. Great job RobbieC! I read it as if it was undoubtedly an official report. I do not have any idea who Pete Blaber is or if he is an actual person at all, but every word sounds unbelievably real. I would also like to know what was the other position you mentioned and hope that you would be back with (that) story soon. The only difference is that I see Kensi as more of the “Mission, Men, Me” person. But again an excellent read indeed.

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    • Blaber is a real person. His background is as described in the report (former Delta officer).

      The reason I went with Kensi as Mission, Me, Men is two-pronged: she has gone off on her own a couple of times (thus the Me element), and we so often see her identity being tied so closely to what she does (the Mission), that they kind of blend together at times.

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      • As a woman who grew up as a tomboy, I can relate to Kensi on a few levels. I always related to men as my father died when I was 10 and my mother had no time for me. I watch Kensi and see she fights a battle within herself and is driven to prove she up to any task. She is also a perfectionist, which can be tiring. I love Kensi, she reminds me of myself when I was young.

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        • Exactly. I don’t think this is a bad trait of Kensi at all. It’s just who she is. But it does create challenges for her, and sometimes I think the show misses opportunities to allow her to grow.

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          • I agree, it is not a bad trait and yes, I wish the writers would have allowed her to deal with her feelings a little better. I just watched the Mexico episodes and I get mad at Kensi’s single mindedness when she is talking to Deeks and doesn’t realize until she is on the plane what she did. Hopefully the writers can soften Kensi’s edges a little going forward and I give Deeks credit for not walking away first.

            Liked by 1 person

      • I see where are you coming from. I agree that a lot of Kensi’s identity was (and to a certain extent now) strongly linked to her job and her need to protect others, but unlike you, I think that Kensi’s evolution (both emotional and as the person) was (perhaps) the best shown in the serial. She made a long way from the self-sufficient, prone to risky behavior, closed-up and wanna-be-funny girl to Kensi we know now. The biggest and the most important role was played by firstly her partner and then so much more Marty Deeks. Yes, the Mission is maybe more important to Kensi than Men, but I am not sure that Mission would come before Deeks now. Actually, I am pretty sure if Kensi has to choose (now) between Mission and Deeks that she would always choose Deeks (when all other options have been exhausted). That’s how they roll and that’s how I see them.
        Still a great character study I have enjoyed reading again.

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  8. I really enjoyed this and it gave me a lot to think about. Your observations on the characters were fascinating and made me see them in a different light, which is saying something after all this time.

    I enjoyed listening to your observations about Hetty, with her loose definition of mission and pathological withholding of information. It’s exactly how I see her. I liked the notion that Granger was a “balancing force” and it just made me miss him all the more. The part that blew my mind was the idea that Hetty chose the team members because their psychological make-up and history would leave them more subordinate to her than other candidates. It makes total sense and puts an even creepier spin on Hetty, which I enjoy. And I think the idea that Hetty added Deeks to the team because he puts Mission above himself is intriguing.

    I also enjoyed Deeks getting his due praise for all his talents, especially his ability to bond with people, something he does far better than any of the others and a big reason why he’s so lovable.

    I’ve always wondered what would happen if an Ascension scenario repeated itself and either Kensi or Deeks were forced to leave their spouse in that chair (or worse, let them be killed maybe like in The Silo). Would either of them be able to do what was asked of them? I’m not sure Deeks could have left Kensi in the chair even back in Ascension had their roles been reversed. I’d be curious about your take on these scenarios.

    Thanks for such a thought-provoking piece!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kensi has evolved since we first met her, but it’s a very uneven, unsteady process. I don’t honestly think Deeks could ever willingly leave any team member (not just Kensi) in that chair in Ascension. He might under protest, provided the order came from someone like Granger who he both trusted and respected. Someone like Mosley? Not likely at all.

      Kensi…I honestly think she would leave him in that chair again if she was told the mission depended on it. Her identity is still so tightly wrapped up in being a special agent I’m not sure she could do anything else. It would bother her more than it used to, but I still think she’d do it if ordered to (and unlike Deeks I don’t know if she’d question the order). There’s still a strong part of her that wants to please her father by doing her duty (as I mentioned in the Deeks FLTEC feature), and she hasn’t quite balanced who she is with who she thinks she should be. And we see this still in episodes where Deeks isn’t involved.

      With The Silo, I think Deeks would try to trade places with whoever was in that kind of danger. He’s always been ok with risking himself, but starts questioning things if it’s someone else.

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  9. Incredible work! I always thought that Deeks was a bit of a clown at first, it was very nice to see him grow and mature over the seasons. He is a multi-faceted man and a man that is loyal to the team and will do what it takes without question. He has the team’s back no matter what….

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  10. When I first read this I was impressed, really impressed, not just because Ochoa’s view of Deeks is exactly the same as mine. He is indeed ‘the conscience and soul of the team’ as you say. Then I read it again, and moved beyond impressed. All the threads you pulled together to show the tapestry that is Martin Deeks. Although he is often written as a barely adequate jokester, you detailed the actions that make him so much more. It made me give more thought to the rest of the team, not that I think much of them. I was aware of Hetty’s ‘hidden agendas’ and machinations, but I never gave them a great deal of thought. Getting rid of Nate Getz, I liked him, never thought of that. I never really had a handle on Kensi, Deeks loves her that was enough for me. Her actions are now starting to make more sense.

    I have been envious of people who watch the show and take things at face value, just enjoying it, or not. No, there is much to think about in this show, with Deeks in particular. The Ochoa Report, is thought provoking in the extreme. Thank You.

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  11. What a great read. What a great second read. I could not see Deeks nor any of the other team members as an Operations Manager, however, Deeks has varied skills which places him above the others on the team for leadership potential, in my opinion. (And he never gets credit for.)

    What I want to know is what is the other role alluded to in this evaluation. Maybe Team Leader over Callen? The one who goes rogue at the drop of a hat.

    Thanks Robbie C. You captured the team dynamics perfectly.

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  12. For those with questions about the other role, I’d suggest a trip over to fan fiction and the story Turn the Page. All is revealed there.

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