Well, the Internal Affairs investigation into Deeks is over (possibly for now) with the Monday, Dec. 7 episode of “NCIS: Los Angeles,” season 7 episode 9. As was stated in the review for “Defectors,” this storyline had already been stretched out long enough. It was about time that something had to give, and give it did. It’s an episode that had high expectations to meet because of that and did meet those expectations more than it didn’t.
While overall, “Internal Affairs” is a solid “NCIS: LA” episode with more highs than lows, with exchanges that were long, long overdue, the open-ended nature of it is a bit disconcerting and leaves Deeks with a lot to think about as he has a decision to make. Sure, it’s all too predictable that someone else is going to be arrested by episode’s end, that Deeks will be back at his desk, working with the team for the next case (in part because the next episode, “The Long Goodbye,” has actually already aired, though seeing this stretched out over perhaps two episodes might have been interesting to watch, if done right, considering how long it took to reach this point) and that, at some point, Deeks’ past has to come up, especially with his mother around (they could only put off that conversation for so long), but that last point may actually be the highlight of the hour (with the other long overdue exchange coming in a close second).
The Internal Affairs arc dates back to last season, to Deeks noticing someone watching him and Kensi working out one morning and to the reveal that the woman was an Internal Affairs detective. However, Rivera seems to be long gone from the case since then, with another Internal Affairs detective, Ellen Whiting taking over, and she’s gunning for Deeks. While Deeks is his charming, joking self during their interrogation scenes, Whiting is the one repeatedly telling him they know he’s guilty, that he should confess if he wants to stay out of gen pop, that they’re good “for now” even when they have someone else in cuffs. A problem with the character is she’s not likeable at all (though in this instance, having a likeable character may not be possible). There seems to be something missing that may have made those interrogation scenes just that bit more engaging.
On the other hand, Patrick St. Esprit is back as LAPD Lieutenant Roger Bates, and something that is present in all his scenes with Deeks is that sense of history, that they have worked together, even though Deeks is now part of the team at NCIS. Nick Chinlund comes in as Detective Steadman, also a former partner of the dead cop Deeks has been accused of killing, and he plays the dirty, gunning for Deeks/something else that has to be driving him cop very, very well. Even though Deeks is still an LAPD detective, it’s sometimes hard to remember that considering that it’s so rare to actually see him at the LAPD – and usually when he is there, it’s not for a good reason. Despite being mentioned over and over again, there is not a return appearance from Quinn, whose location is actually key to the entire plot, but it still feels like there’s something missing because of it with Bates and Monica Lee both back from “The Debt.”
Putting Deeks behind bars for the short period of time he is allows for the two aforementioned exchanges: one between Deeks and his mother, Roberta, and one between Kensi and Hetty. Back in season 2, in “Borderline,” Deeks makes an almost throwaway comment that his father fired a shotgun at him at Thanksgiving, and then in “Personal,” it’s revealed that Deeks shot his father in self-defense when he was 11 because his father was wielding a shotgun. Hetty later informs him that his father died in 1998. (There is a timeline issue here, but let’s just ignore that.) Ever since then, it’s been hard not to wonder where his mother is, and earlier this season, she finally appeared on screen, but only briefly, to meet Kensi. With Pamela Reed back in this episode – and the nature of it – it only made sense to hope for a conversation between mother and son that at least mentioned Gordon John Brandel.
Well, “Internal Affairs” did not disappoint. Roberta feels likes he let her son down, but he assures her that the only person to blame is his father. That doesn’t stop her from feeling like she failed to protect him (even though he insists she didn’t), that no son should have to shoot his own father, something she has to clarify was in self-defense when Whiting overhears. When Roberta wants to try to talk to Whiting, it feels like the cliché “mother trying to protect her child from anything,” and it’s nice to see that, given not only the heavy topic of conversation but also just how normal that seems in the midst of a murder investigation. What happened to him is what drives him, what makes him get up every day and do what he does, catching bad guys, Deeks tells his mother. He just regrets that he didn’t do it sooner because after he was gone, they were what makes him who he is. It’s such a sweet, honest moment between mother and son, one that is rare to see on this show with this team.
The other exchange comes when Kensi finds out that Deeks is going to County if he doesn’t confess because she knows what happens to cops there. Listen, it’s all well and good when Hetty pulls a, well, Hetty, with a case, knows more than the team and reveals what she feels is necessary, when it’s strangers. When it’s one of their own, it’s a completely different story and not only is Kensi’s stance understandable, her going off on Hetty is also welcome here. Hetty owes her, Kensi insists, calling her out on whatever Machiavellian plan she’s working on and calling in that favor, to get Deeks out, whatever she has to do. But what does Hetty do? She reacts just as expected and sends Kensi home, suggesting she take a shower, eat, sleep.
Another highlight of the episode comes when Deeks’ mother stops by to see Kensi, claiming she was in the neighborhood. With a casserole. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Kensi learns, when her boyfriend’s mother comments on the state of cleanliness of her home and later makes her “cross [her] heart and hope to Blye” that she’ll do everything to get her son out of this situation. But it’s not all quips and superficial remarks between the two. Roberta admits that she let a terrible thing happen to him once and asks Kensi not to let him down like she did. Given their brief introduction earlier this season, this conversation and Roberta’s call to Kensi when the police showed up to Deeks’ house with a warrant feel necessary to develop that relationship a bit more, especially since Deeks’ has seemed a bit more developed with Kensi’s mother, even though they weren’t together when he met her. (Maybe it’s because of the circumstances surrounding that meeting and the comments here and there about Kensi’s relationship with her mother since.)
The actual investigation itself gets a place on both the lists of highs and lows, the former because of Bates’ work to help Deeks, Deeks’ work to lock up Boyle’s partner and Deeks’ conversation (though it’s tough one) with Hetty at the end and the latter because it’s just too predictable that Boyle’s former partner is also dirty and calls the dead cop the “nice one,” especially after the way he goes after Deeks in the interrogation room. Amidst Whiting’s insistence that Deeks is guilty and he should confess, the rest of the team discovers that Quinn just so happened to have escaped and just so happened to have been building a case against Boyle and Steadman around the time of the former’s murder. That leads them to Tiffany, a prostitute who only went with Boyle to the hotel because Quinn told her they were setting him up, only Quinn never showed and never answered her calls. Oh, and Deeks has been paying her $400 every month under one of his undercover aliases.
Tiffany assumed Quinn killed Boyle, and it all connects back to the stash of money, drugs, etc. that the dirty partner had some place. So after Bates helps Deeks escape custody, Deeks goes to see Monica Lee, suspecting she knows where Quinn is. However, Steadman’s waiting when she gets there, and he only agrees to let them go if Deeks takes him to the stash. Deeks wisely brings him to the boatshed and claims the stash is underwater, accessible via the trap door in the interrogation room, giving him and Monica an escape route and the team time to get there and arrest Steadman. With that, Kensi and Deeks are reunited – and no, Sam will never hug Callen like that – and the team is ready to go out for drinks. But first, Deeks has a stop to make.
That stop is the office. “You could have lost all of this,” he says as he sits on the steps and Hetty joins him. Here’s where Hetty’s “Machiavellian” plan, as Kensi called it, comes out. Quinn never really escaped; instead, he’s been transferred to Pennsylvania under a new name in exchange for his cooperation and the whereabouts of Boyle and Steadman’s stash (which will be found in the latter’s garage). She faked Quinn’s escape to draw out Steadman. When Deeks asks why she did this, she counters with, “Why did you kill Boyle?” He was going to kill Tiffany. She didn’t tell the others because it’s not her story to tell, though she’s not sure it should be his either. But how does he keep this from Kensi, he asks. Ultimately it’s his decision, Hetty advises, but she’s always found that secrets are much easier to keep when you have no one to share them with.
And so Deeks is left with a decision to make – hopefully he makes the right one, because he’s right, he can’t keep this secret from her – and this conversation and Kensi confronting Hetty say so much about who Hetty is and what she does. As she tells Callen, the truth doesn’t take sides, only they do. In a way, the truth makes sense; this team isn’t made up of perfect people. They have their pasts, they have their problems, but, as Roberta puts it, she raised “a good one.” These are good people.
This also says so much about Kensi and Deeks’ relationship. With Deeks facing this decision, it comes at a time when they are solid. They’ve said “I love you,” they’re calling each other “baby” like it’s no big deal and Kensi is firmly on his side, confronting Hetty over her frustrations, trying to find something to do to help him and, when it’s over, running to him for a hug and to check on him. There’s enough drama in their daily lives and their past before they finally decided to go “all in” that they don’t need anymore, and hopefully, this doesn’t lead to that.
Elsewhere, Callen and Joelle are about two seconds away from breaking up, with Callen sleeping on the couch at the office and Sam offering his clueless partner some relationship advice (apologize, G, apologize!). But even as Callen tries to argue that he knows women, he also knows that he should end things even though he likes her a lot. It’s the job, Sam acknowledges. It’s hard on any relationship.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” season 7 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 9 “Internal Affairs”?