Russians, Russians, Russians. This week, writer, director and actor Frank Military took on the Russia-related NCIS: Los Angeles case of the week with “Through the Looking Glass.” He gave us a smidge of his trademark darkness (torture, revenge) while also providing some well written Densi scenes.
What goes around, comes around.
It’s no secret that Frank Military is my favorite of the show’s writers and I always look forward to his episodes. This week he was caught up in Season 12’s very long-running theme of Russian-related trouble. While this has been a recurring theme (the recurring theme, along with daddy issues) of the entire series, it’s taken special prominence this season. I for one am ready to move onto new problems.
Joelle returned and she is now a woman on a one-track mission for revenge. As she told Callen, all she has left is her “taste for blood.” Now that’s a classic Frank Military line. Her severe dress and hair really added to her transformation into a very sad character who doesn’t see a future for herself. Callen looked rightly horrified by her words. He was as thoughtful and supportive as he could be, yet she appears to be beyond help. Unfortunately she’s not a character I care much about – I think the showrunners find her more interesting than she actually is – so it was hard to be too moved by her predicament. (And didn’t she choose to walk away from her family? Couldn’t she have chosen them over her job? Or maybe I’m remembering wrong.)
The plot itself held my attention, although as soon as it became clear the Russians were involved, my enthusiasm waned a bit. I enjoyed the boom of the exploding car, and didn’t figure out the plot twist, but there was never a single doubt that Joelle was lying to the team and manipulating them to her own ends. I mean, it’s Joelle, right? That Callen and Sam would go along with her direction reflects poorly on their judgment.
I’m with you because you’re you.
Military provided us with several lovely Densi conversations, albeit ones that felt mostly repetitive, just more in a long line of similar discussions. The showrunners have always taken each phase of Densi’s thing slowly, more slowly than we’d usually like, in order to fill in twelve, going on thirteen, years of episodes. The strategy makes sense for a procedural like NCIS:LA. But this particular phase has felt less enjoyable than even the endless wedding planning because the tone has been so relentlessly dreary.
When Deeks and Kensi spent three+ years flirting, and five+ years before going all in, it may have frustrated us, but it was still fun to watch. When Kensi was injured in the helicopter crash, the storyline had plenty of darkness, yet we saw Kensi’s regular improvements so we had hope for the future. That hope plus a few well-placed sweeter moments, such as Deeks waking at Kensi’s bedside or Densi playing checkers, resulted in a serious but consistently compelling storyline for the duo. When they began planning their wedding, we got way too many scenes showing them struggle over finding compromise between simple and elaborate, scenes that felt quite repetitive, yet they at least gave us hope that we’d actually get that long-awaited wedding. In addition, some of them were cute and light so even if they felt like the same conversation over and over, they didn’t stress us out.
Because Deeks and Kensi have consistently struggled becoming pregnant, there’s been no joy to this storyline. It’s been painful to watch them face the same problem for so long, and while it’s gratifying to see Deeks being amazingly supportive, and Kensi embracing the idea of motherhood so whole-heartedly, the end result has been depressing – and repetitive. The biggest sign of progress in the whole thing just may have been in this episode, with Kensi broaching the idea of adoption (what I’ve wanted for them from the beginning). This storyline may still end with celebration and joy, but it’s not been entertaining to watch them struggle.
Despite these issues, Military always writes Densi well, and this episode was no exception. We got a lovely opening scene outside OSP with a vulnerable Kensi sharing the emotional roller-coaster she’s been on. Daniela Ruah was great here, taking her time explaining Kensi’s experience and letting her emotions show. The scene felt unrushed despite the annoying interruption, with Fatima standing in for Nell.
Military’s David Kessler then made a return appearance to taunt Kensi via a postcard sent from Los Angeles. He seems to be closing in on her. The close-up of Kensi’s face as she studied the big screen in Ops was effective and took me back to another stressful Ops moment from “The Job.” Of course, the similarities vanished with Deeks’ response. “‘Life is too short’- that’s an obvious threat to a federal officer” isn’t quite as romantic as “I’m gonna be with you every step of the way. Even if you can’t see me, I’ll be there.” Still, the sentiment is the same. Deeks will stop at nothing to protect Kensi.
Kensi’s reaction was interesting as well. Military made Kensi’s stress very clear throughout the episode, starting with worries about needing to sell the house to pay for in-vitro fertilization, and then letting us know that Kessler has very definitely been haunting her. Here though, we saw the bad-ass Kensi who wants to project strength to the rest of the team. Her response to Callen’s question of “Are you up for this?” was an emphatic, “Of course I am.” How draining it must be to feel the need to maintain such a tough exterior. It’s one of many reasons why she must be so grateful to have Deeks supporting her.
His support continued in the boatshed, in a conversation that really captured how much he loves her. He started off admitting that Kessler scares him, making it easier for Kensi to admit her fears. (And don’t worry, Deeks- who doesn’t cry every time they watch ET?)
Deeks: I’m going to approach this conversation as two people that are very much in love just having a conversation.
Kensi: Mm hmm.
Deeks: And I’m thinking about you with Kessler, all this pregnancy stuff, the logistics, the physicalities, the emotion, and I think that you should consider… I think you should consider seeing somebody.
Kensi: [Chuckles.] I don’t need a therapist, Deeks. I don’t. I don’t need to see someone.
Deeks: We all know and we know- I can see you just white knuckling this, alright? That you’re trying to handle the whole thing by yourself, but I need you to know something. I’m not with you because you’re strong, I’m with you because you. In sickness or in health, in strength or in weakness.
Kensi: Deeks I’m not sick, I’m not weak, I’m not any of those things…
[Post Nell interruption]
Deeks: This is too much for one person to carry, and if you don’t want to talk to me about that, that’s totally fine… But I think you need to talk to somebody.
He’s just constantly looking for ways to help Kensi and his support and concern here was downright romantic. Plus his advice was pretty fantastic. Daniela Ruah gave us the picture of sheer misery, making it clear exactly how sound Deeks’ advice was. And Eric Christian Olsen shined here as well with Deeks’ gentle, loving prodding. His observation about her “white knuckling” the problem showed how well he knows her and the way she approaches everything like another mission that must be accomplished without showing any weakness. He continued with similar observations in the final scene…
Deeks: What can I do?
Kensi: You wanna know what I need?
Deeks: Yes. Always. [So true.]
Kensi: I think I need time.
Deeks: OK, time, great. What does, what does that mean?
Kensi: We need to put a pause on trying to have this baby.
Kensi: I don’t want you to be disappointed in me and I’m sorry-
Deeks: I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed in you in my whole entire life.
Kensi: It’s just with Kessler still being out there, you know, and um, I feel like I’m constantly under attack.
Deeks: Listen, these are horrible circumstances to try to get pregnant.
Kensi: It’s too much.
Deeks: Too much. So we take time. And I say time, as much time as you need.
Kensi: Yeah, but- I do need you to know that I’m not quitting, OK? I am not quitting.
Deeks: No of course, I know that.
Kensi: There’s something I’ve been thinking about- There’s a lot of kids out there with no parents.
Deeks: Yeah, there are.
Kensi: And I’m not saying that we have to adopt, you know? I’m just saying that it’s something that we- I- have thought of. Why are you smiling?
Deeks: It’s just that great moment when I realize this is just one of the many reasons that I love you.
Deeks: I mean, you’re getting attacked from all sides, you’re trying to punch your way out and in the midst of all of that you’re thinking about helping some kid?
Kensi: [They hug.] Thank you for being you. Can we go home now?
Deeks: That would be so amazing to go home with you. Come on.
Again both actors were great here. ECO’s facial expressions told us so much about how well he knows and adores his Kensalina. His observation of her as a fighter, punching her way out of the problem, made a lot of sense and provided insight into how Kensi’s mind works. Plus I’ve got to imagine that he’s long been open to the idea of adoption and I very much hope they move in that direction.
- Deeks’ pink sweatshirt has to be one of his most interesting wardrobe selections. I think he pulled it off.
- Kilbride is really trying to turn into Hetty. His interruptions and eavesdropping were straight out of her playbook. All in all, he injected a nice dose of humor into an otherwise pretty serious episode.
- Notably, Densi was interrupted in all three of their private conversations- first by the arrival of Fatima to OSP, then by Nell in the boatshed, and finally by Fatima in the bullpen. But at least for the second and third talks, rather than let these interruptions totally derail the scenes, Military just let the characters take a moment before resuming their conversations. A welcome twist on a long-running, and long-unloved, plot device.
Only one more episode left! Spoiler alert: Surfer Deeks kidnapped in a wetsuit? Be still my heart. It definitely sounds like a sillier version of a kidnapping plot than I’d vote for but the wardrobe might totally make up for it. It also doesn’t look like Kessler is coming back any time soon. Something to think about in Season 13.
While we wait for the finale, tell us your thoughts on “Through the Looking Glass.” Did the repetitiveness get to you? Did you enjoy any signs of change? What are you hoping for next week? Tell us all about it in the Comments below. And be sure to come back later this week for new editions of Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal, plus the preview for next week’s “A Tale of Two Igors.”