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NCIS: Los Angeles - Episode 5.18 - "Zero Days" Review - One Step Forward, One Step Back

As one relationship slowly moves forward on "NCIS: Los Angeles," it seems another may possibly be moving back.

For Kensi (Daniela Ruah) and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen), you wouldn’t think they could get much farther away than Los Angeles and Afghanistan. But the writers have just placed another chasm between them – Kensi’s ex-fiancĂ©, Jack (Matthew Del Negro), who was revealed as the mysterious and enshrouded man believed to be the White Ghost. (It was left somewhat ambiguous as to whether he really was the White Ghost.)

When Kensi yells to Jack and he is thrown into the area where she is being held, he explains his whereabouts for the last nine years since he disappeared. As he does, you realize that emotionally, he has severed ties to Kensi. The whole time she thought he was dead, Jack had been living a new life in Afghanistan, where he converted to Islam, got married and had a child. He told Kensi he found simplicity and purity of existence there and felt free. With tears streaming down her face, Kensi asks, “Free from me?”

“From everything,” Jack responds. Though Kensi is crying, Jack seems unapologetic for his actions and emotionally unresponsive to Kensi’s obvious pain.

From that aspect it’s hard to see Jack as much of a threat to Kensi and Deeks’ relationship. But while Jack’s feelings may not pose a threat, Kensi’s are another story. To see him now, after all these years, is extremely emotional for her. In season two, Kensi had mentioned she had tried to help her Marine fiancĂ© through PTSD, but despite all her care, on Christmas Day one year, he just left. After that she thought he had died. Knowing this, the audience can assume she will now have to deal with the flood of memories and emotions that led to a relationship in which she never felt closure – and knew she had given so much. She told Jack, “We could have worked through this together – you and me, the way it used to be… You didn’t try hard enough.” Will Kensi’s newfound knowledge of what happened hinder her from moving forward with Deeks? Will the joyful reunion viewers anticipated between them now be another setback they need to overcome?

After seeing Kensi’s relationship build and grow with Deeks, the scenes with Jack felt strange. They offered no real context of their relationship, leaving the conversation between them somewhat melodramatic. One moment we find out who he is and the next Kensi is crying – but we don’t get the backstory of why she’s crying or what happened between them. We also don’t know if we can trust Jack. And although it’s easy to realize that anyone in her situation would be upset, Kensi is usually so strong and tough that without more background provided, the continuous tears and pleading questions felt a little exaggerated.

Los Angeles
With all the drama in Afghanistan, the typical "NCIS: Los Angeles" comic relief accompanied several situations back in L.A.: Eric (Barrett Foa) being sent to prison (in red polar bear pajama pants!), Eric expressing jealousy of Nell’s interaction with his friend, and Sam (LL Cool J) trying to take credit for Callen’s continued dating of Joelle. These were all great scenes.

The episode is woven around Eric’s college friend Ira. As Eric plays a remote video game against Ira, someone starts shooting at his friend and Eric, hearing what happens over the phone/chat, becomes a witness. But when he shows up at the crime scene to check on his friend, he apparently makes an officer mad and they arrest Eric for tampering with a crime scene. Deeks picks him up at the slammer and can’t resist taking a picture of Eric curled up in his pajama pants between two burly men – a huge bearded man to one side and a tattooed man sleeping on his shoulder. What a fun scene.

After that the team must find out who is trying to kill Ira. Because he first doesn’t want to cooperate, NCIS sends Nell (Renee Felice Smith) in with glasses and a fake persona to charm him. Announcing she is from the "Department of…" (she purposely trails off), Nell lays on the charm and it works. Ira can’t keep his eyes off her – and Eric, watching back at ops, can’t stand it. You can almost see smoke coming out of his ears as Nell places her hand on Ira’s arm and says she needs his help.

It was entertaining to see Eric squirm with jealousy. And I loved that the team looked over to see how he would react. They are close enough to understand each other’s’ partner dynamics. That’s part of the fun.

We know that Ira is a hacker-for-hire specializing in finding “zero days” – code flaws in computer systems. But Nell learns from him that he was working on a zero day to exploit weakness in Russian GPS – a system that guides Russia’s nuclear missiles. After finding the dangerous Chechen separatists who want to control and divert the missiles, NCIS realizes they will have to fix the zero day system on their own. And that’s a job for Ira and the ops experts. When Nell is assigned to go talk to Ira, jealous Eric volunteers for the task. When that doesn’t work, Eric again has to watch Ira hitting on Nell, whose real identity Ira now knows. Eric isn’t too thrilled when a flirty Ira says to Nell (no longer wearing glasses), “I’m glad about your glasses. It makes it easier to see your brown eyes.” Throughout the whole conversation Eric tries to hurry them up and outshine Ira at accessing the necessary information.

When the team learns the Chechens have already diverted a non-nuclear test missile toward San Francisco that can explode in the air, they decide to recalibrate a U. S. GPS station to trick it off course. That means Eric is needed in the field. “Mr. Beale, try not to get arrested this time,” Hetty (Linda Hunt) tells him.

But when Ira shows up to help, the Chechens follow him and the team is caught in a firefight. Eric, however, is unfazed by the bullets flying past him; he continues working on his computer, not even glancing up. As he gives Ira instructions on what they need to do, he makes sure to give him one important final piece of information: “Nell’s eyes – they’re hazel.” Ira understands the warning. Eric has just marked his territory, telling Ira to back away from Nell.

As Deeks causes a diversion (“Diversion is my middle name,” he says), Eric finishes his work, sending the missile to its original target in the Arctic Ocean. (Afterwards Deeks says, “I’m definitely changing my middle name.”)

Once the threat is over, we’re treated to a tender moment between Nell and Eric. This time it is a rare instance of Nell hinting at her feelings. As Eric takes off his glasses to scratch his tired eyes, Nell pauses as if thinking and then says, “It’s nice to see your eyes without your glasses on.” As she leaves for the night, Eric sighs contentedly. It’s a moment that hints of a possible future romantic relationship.

The other fun part of the episode centered on Sam taking credit for Callen’s love life. In the beginning of the episode Sam tells Deeks that Callen (Chris O’Donnell) had a date with Joelle last night and now he’s late to work. “You get the picture,” he smiles.

Deeks replies as if going through the pictures in his mind, “Oh, I get the picture. Downloading now. Delete, delete, save, clear history.” Even Sam has to laugh.
It’s clear Sam is proud of himself for setting up his partner. But was he really the one who set them up? Eric says he heard that Michelle, Sam’s wife, was the one behind the match. Sam replies that Michelle endorsed it, but he was the “cunning strategist” behind it. But wait – Deeks says he thought Hetty was the strategist. Hetty? Even Hetty was involved? Yes, apparently so. Sam acknowledges that Hetty had a “small part,” just as Hetty shows up and says she does “nothing small.” (You have to love the intended irony of that statement.)

Later when Callen does show up, his banter with Sam was amusing. Callen insists he was late because Joelle had car trouble and he had to drive her to work. Sam then responds with a gleam in his eye, “I’m thinking her car trouble was more car absence, which means she was at your place all night. What do you think about that?”

Callen retorts, “I think maybe you’ve been married a little too long and are trying to live vicariously through me.” Then, knowing it would aggravate his partner, Callen feigns graciousness, saying, “Thank your wife for me. She was the mastermind.” That, of course, irritates Sam.

I must say, I wish we would see Callen and Joelle together on screen. Though Callen occasionally talks about her, we haven’t seen them together since the first night they met. Callen deserves a love life and it would be nice to actually be able to see it. "NCIS:Los Angeles" did the same thing with Kensi and Deeks, leaving their intimate relationship to the imagination off-screen. Hopefully we will get to see some of the romance soon.

As for the joke, it’s carried one scene further at the end of the episode. Callen is apparently with Joelle again. When Deeks asks Sam if he knows where his partner is, Sam replies, “Nope. But I know who he’s with. And I have a good idea what they’re doing. You get the picture. (Wink, wink.)”

Oh, yes. Deeks definitely gets the picture. “Downloading, downloading, delete, save,” he says.

And this time Sam joins in: “Whoa!”

I’m eager to hear your thoughts on the episode. What did you think of Kensi’s scenes with Jack? Are you worried seeing him will affect her relationship with Deeks? What did you think of Nell and Eric’s interaction this week? Weigh in with your comments below and tell us your favorite part of the episode.

About the Author - Tonya Papanikolas
Tonya Papanikolas is a freelance journalist who loves covering entertainment and television. She spent more than 10 years as a broadcast news journalist and now does everything from hosting to writing. She is excited to cover NCIS: Los Angeles for SpoilerTV. (She loves Kensi and Deeks!) She also writes SpoilerTV articles on other great shows.