A belated happy new year to everyone! This week began with only the eighth Season 13 episode of NCIS: Los Angeles. “A Land of Wolves,” written by Justin Kohlas and Adam George Key and directed by Tawnia McKiernan, provided another entertaining episode with a big Densi focus and nicely balanced storylines that moved quickly while still allowing for some good conversations.
No Chair Throwing
In the past we’ve seen Deeks react, shall we say, poorly to knowing that the love of his life is in jeopardy. Those reactions have always been very much in character and always interesting. But in this episode we saw a Deeks who’s gotten better at tamping down his emotions. (Of course, it could also be that the repeated trauma has worn down his reactions.) In reality, I think we were seeing a Deeks who knew he could take action to find his wife so long as he stayed focused enough to keep from being thrown off the case. Well done, Investigator.
Watching Deeks navigate the situation, even if he kept his emotions relatively under control, was still compelling. Eric Christian Olsen still managed to convey the pain and panic Deeks was feeling. This is a man who’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop and for his happiness to be taken away from him. With the specter of Kessler clearly hanging over him, he’s got to feel like it’s only a matter of time. That he stayed as calm as he did was impressive. ECO delivered Deeks’ line to Kilbride, “I’m calm. Send me the location,” with a perfect mix of 90% calm and 10% near panic. Ultra Serious Deeks had an ultra intensity that would have made me afraid to try to stop him.
The most highly anticipated part of the episode, for me, was seeing Sam and Deeks together in a high-stress situation. I’ve always loved watching these two characters interact. Their different ways of looking at the world, their very different backgrounds and extremely different personalities always results in entertaining scenes. Yet here we saw more harmony and support than odd couple banter, and it felt right. Despite Kilbride’s reminder to Sam about the team’s last outing to Mexico, Sam volunteering to Kilbride, “I know. I got him,” actually conjured memories of “Spoils of War,” when Hetty had given Sam explicit orders to cut Deeks out of the loop in order to successfully rescue Kensi.
But this time, Deeks kept himself in the loop and Sam worked hard to keep him as calm and positive as possible. In Deeks’ defense, I don’t think he was “spiralling” when he brought up the possibility that Kessler was involved. It should be the first thing anyone thinks about if either he or Kensi go missing. (Why aren’t these two regularly getting sprayed with Overwatch?)
The most supportive thing Sam said to Deeks was remind him that Kensi was no ordinary civilian lost in the woods, assuring him that she’d no doubt have already built a house with a zen garden (a lovely callback to Deeks’ project in the previous episode). However, the unspoken memory that hung in the air between the two men any time Sam tried to be supportive was, of course, Michelle’s death, and Sam’s inability to find her in time to save her. It likely took away a lot of the comfort Deeks might have otherwise taken from Sam’s words. And while I would have enjoyed a more in depth conversation between these two men who, despite their differences, share so many important life experiences between them, there wasn’t quite the time, and a larger heart to heart might have detracted from the urgency of the situation.
In Her Element
Meanwhile, as Deeks and Sam focused on the search and rescue, “Bear Grylls Survivalist Ninja” Kensi was very much in her element. Sure, she was in pain and worried about protecting Rosa, but it almost looked like she was enjoying herself when the militiawoman called Ghost threatened her in the cave. She was more than ready to take the woman on one-handed, and I’d have enjoyed watching her do it. (That cave setting gave me more Afghanistan memories, although I’m guessing the parallels were coincidental.)
From starting a signal fire with a discarded cigarette to breaking windows with her head and then pulling shards of glass out with her teeth (!), the woman was fearless, resourceful, and everything else her father raised her to be. It was fun to see her doing the kinds of thing she was raised to do, and we got more of that here than maybe any episode before. The episode also touched on one of my Season 13 wish list items- more undercover work from this team that specializes in it. Sadly, we never really got to see Kensi doing that undercover work, but it’s nice to know the team is still engaging in the work they’re meant to be doing.
Sometimes Things Don’t Work Out and Sometimes They Do
Kensi also bonded quickly and resolutely with young migrant Rosa. Their conversation in the cave was particularly well done. It felt unforced, both in the time they took to share more about themselves, and in the fact that Rosa is without family when Kensi is seeking the same. Daniela Ruah played the scene beautifully, showing all the emotions Kensi was experiencing, and Natalia del Riego matched her all the way as Rosa. Every time Deeks or Kensi has encountered a child, my mind has immediately gone to fostering or adoption. Here, Rosa appeared closer to twenty than to childhood, but apparently she’s under eighteen. More than her physical appearance, it was the maturity evident in her conversation with Kensi that made her feel grown up. The episode really gave Kensi a chance to start off in protective Special Agent mode but then we could see her feelings expand toward Rosa to the point where she provided comfort in an almost maternal way.
While Rosa’s apparently advanced age is a little disappointing in a prospective foster child (who doesn’t want to see Deeks interact with younger kids?), it does have its advantages. There’d be no need to arrange child care or change long working hours, allowing the duo to have the best of both worlds- keeping their jobs (and their roles on the show) but allowing them to experience caring for a child. And it highlights a huge need, with thousands of older foster children failing to be adopted, leaving the system when they turn eighteen with no one to call family. Aww, I’m getting all choked up at the very thought of Deeks and Kensi bringing Rosa into their family.
I could have used more physical contact when they were finally reunited, but I loved the action portion, with that quick slo-mo of Deeks tossing a weapon to Kensi and them taking out the bad guys together. Deeks’ line to Kensi, “We’re always gonna find our way back to each other one way or another,” was quite romantic and I need it to always be true. The final scene was also enjoyable, with Densi spooning, and Deeks’ romantic words about how lucky he is:
Kensi: You know how lucky we are?
Deeks: I think about that every single day… And if I forget, you know what I do to remind myself? I wake up. And I open my eyes. And I look at you. I love you.
I do take slight exception to Kensi’s mumbled reply, falling asleep without really returning Deeks’ “I love you,” but I can chalk it up to her exhaustion, and as evidence that Deeks brings her as much peace as she brings him. It’s the second time this season where she’s fallen asleep to his comforting words.
The earlier part of their conversation also felt a little off to me when Deeks said Rosa might need foster parents and Kensi didn’t immediately connect the dots to explicitly jump on the idea that they could take her in. It wasn’t clear if that’s what she meant with her, “we can’t let her get sent back,” or if the idea had sailed right past her. It did seem clear that Deeks was already there.
And the final line, Deeks’ “I’m so excited you’re not dead,” also felt off a little. It was another reminder of “Spoils of War,” where Deeks told Kensi, “I’m really glad you’re alive,” yet the delivery sounded almost like Deeks wanted Kensi to wake back up so he could share his stress and worries. Perhaps if the editors had chosen a softer version, it would have felt more like Deeks talking to himself, trying to make himself feel better about the never-ending danger in their lives.
Elsewhere at O.S.P.
It looks like we have yet another new NCIS agent, one Supervisory Special Agent Aliyah de León, played by Briana Marin. She’s a daughter of an old friend of Sam, she’s apparently “a hero,” and she’s temporarily with OSP. She was deferential to the team if a bit low energy. Still, perhaps she can evolve into another DeChamps, who also started out a little stiff and developed more of a sense of humor and personality over time. And hey, at least she’s experienced and not another newbie.
We also saw the continuation of Fatima’s problems returning to fieldwork after her traumatic experience, handled really well by Kohlas and Key. Kilbride has shown himself to be a patient mentor, and I appreciated his continued efforts to get Fatima to talk about what she’s going through. It would seem that they’re providing us with Granger-Nell 2.0. Seeing Fatima share her insecurities compared to the rest of the team increased her likeability quite a lot (at least for the duration of the episode). That vulnerability is appealing, particularly from a character who’s been so self-centered and super competent. Those doubts provided her with a nice dose of humanity.
- Wasn’t Kensi working with a team? I didn’t follow the plot particuarly well, so I don’t quite understand what happened to them.
- Deeks’ truck is far from subtle, but Fatima’s (gorgeous) Porsche is a ridiculous work vehicle. Save it for high society undercover operations.
- Kilbride can work the controls in Ops? Hi-lar-i-ous. Hasn’t he railed about technology ever since we’ve known him?
- Yes! Another reference to Martin Atticus Deeks. Do we think the writers are including the middle name, or is ECO just having fun saying it?
- Now we know at least one place where Kensi’s been shot.
That’s it from me. Come back later this week for new editions of Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal. You’ll have to wait an extra week to get two (2!) previews of the upcoming double-feature. In the meantime, what did you think of “A Land of Wolves”? Did you enjoy the Deeks/Sam and Deeks/Kensi interactions? What are the odds that Rosa will soon become a member of the Deeks-Blye household? Tell us all about it in the Comments below.