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NCIS: Los Angeles - Episode 5.21 - "Three Hearts" Review - This was "The Talk?"

“NCIS: Los Angeles” finally devoted an episode to exploring the budding relationship between Kensi and Deeks. But unfortunately, most of the journey of that exploration was hard to follow, felt forced and seemed untrue to the characters. It also left too much confusion and interpretation in the end as to what they had decided. Though I did enjoy a couple poignant ending scenes, overall it was much harder than it should have been to figure out what had happened between the characters and why.

After “NCIS: Los Angeles” writer Dave Kalstein promoted on Twitter that “Three Hearts” would be a “game-changer” for Kensi and Deeks, I was hoping for a lot more. I braced myself for the possibility that Kensi may not be ready to move forward with Deeks because she still needed time to heal. As much as I didn’t want that outcome, I knew it would at least make sense with the characters’ recent history. It’s very possible Kensi may still be struggling with guilt, doubt and fear after finding her ex-fiancé Jack again. (Although since returning to L.A. she really hasn’t shown any signs of that, which is a little odd in itself.) But when Deeks suddenly was the one who was afraid of moving forward, it felt strange.

Ever since he (somewhat) expressed his feelings, Deeks has been the one to push to move the relationship forward while Kensi was afraid of the repercussions. But in “Three Hearts,” the roles were reversed – for no apparent reason. Well, no apparent good reason, anyway.

Deeks starts doubting the relationship because of Paul Angelo, the undercover NCIS agent suspected of switching loyalties. As Deeks and Kensi interrogate the potentially rogue agent, the man’s arguments start to upset Deeks. But the problem is, those arguments were convoluted and made no sense. I found myself trying to figure out what they were even talking about half the time.

From the beginning, agent Angelo could see right through Kensi and Deeks. This in itself seemed implausible as they had hardly even said anything to him before he started analyzing their relationship. While the partners try to find out where Angelo’s loyalties lie, he explains that an old ranch hand taught him everything he needed to know about deep-cover operations. He says everyone has three hearts: the first you show only to strangers, the second you show only to your family and soul mate, and the third you never let anyone see because there’s too much truth and risk inside. This whole vague explanation that carried through the entire episode made no sense to me. It seemed by his explanation that the third heart was innately a negative situation. Angelo made it seem like if you ever let anyone see that third personal heart that holds secrets and truths and everything that you value and fear and love, you are doomed, no matter who it is. After all, he’d mentioned that the second heart was for a soul mate. So who could be worthy of your third heart? It seemed to me no one, which would make no sense because it would have no purpose.

During their conversation Angelo points out how much Kensi and Deeks care about each other. He needles Deeks by telling him that Kensi has seen his third heart and it isn’t going to end well. At one point Angelo says, “We’re all too close to this.” Turning to Deeks, he asks, “Have you ever seen the way she looks at you when you fidget with your hair?” To Kensi, he poses the question, “Have you ever seen how he gets stronger just by hearing the sound of your voice?” He implies things go bad when they get too personal – but to me it came across as hollow because he never talked about why getting personal is so bad. He never aimed his dialogue at a partner-type situation, which would have made more sense. Instead, he spoke all-inclusively. And in that case, I couldn’t see how any of the “accusations” he threw at them were bad.

Other things Angelo said made no sense, either, like how Deeks and Kensi were two people living in a world of their own creation and how cover stories strip you away layer by layer until nothing is left. That made sense in the context of being undercover but I couldn’t figure out how that was supposed to transfer to Deeks and Kensi.

By the time he got to the raccoon story, meanings were getting very hazy. Angelo says he had a raccoon that used to terrorize the house until they got rid of it. But soon another raccoon was back – the female. After listening to this dialogue several times, I believe he was trying to say that the female raccoon was going crazy without the male and putting herself in a dangerous situation all because they were mates for life. In essence, she couldn’t do anything else; that was her role and she may get killed for it. Though Kensi said raccoon mating for life was a myth, I believe his intention with the story was to show the negative consequences of them being mated for life, again trying to prove if you get too close to someone it just hurts you both in the end.

I wouldn’t have thought Deeks would buy into any of this. Deeks is usually very smart at seeing through people and none of Angelo’s arguments were very powerful. If there had been some kind of event or circumstance that happened during this operation that showcased how dangerous it was for Kensi and Deeks to be so close, I could understand. But in this case an angry and arrogant man simply rambled about things that made no sense and it rattled Deeks. This simply did not feel genuine to the character.

Nonetheless, Deeks expresses fear that he and Kensi could be too personal on the job and get burned. He says though they haven’t been burned yet, he could see it happening one day. When Kensi replies she wouldn’t let that happen to him, he retorts that she would be the reason it happened in the first place.

These back and forth matches of who is scared and who is defending their relationship are beginning to feel like a ping-pong match. First Kensi is scared of getting too close and what that will do to them, and now it’s Deeks’ turn. But without a genuine reason to make him feel like that, the ping-pong game is feeling a little fixed.

After all this, the end scene is the climax. And it was also hard to figure out. That is partly because it was left somewhat open-ended and partly because it was based on the earlier confusing dialogue. I watched the scene several times and got different things out of it each time.

One thing that I did like was that even with Deeks’ hesitation to getting personal, he still couldn’t resist flirting with Kensi. The whole conversation about the Wonder Woman sports bra and his Superman underwear was classic. Even with his reservations, he can’t resist being playful with her. This was also apparent in the earlier scene where they start talking about rock ‘n roll music. Their conversation wouldn’t have made sense to anyone else; but it makes sense to them because they speak each other's language.

When they finally get serious and have the “talk,” Deeks says he doesn’t know what to do with “their thing.” Kensi then asks him what his third heart tells him and he slowly, sadly gives her knife back. His third heart with all its inherent risks isn’t ready to make the leap. Kensi says okay and they are both clearly upset. It seems they are deciding they are not ready to take that chance, or at least Deeks isn’t. But then it gets confusing when he tells Kensi he actually believes that raccoons mate for life. Simply hearing that, it sounds positive – like he is offering her some hope that they could be meant to be together. But thinking back to the original context, Deeks would actually have been agreeing with agent Angelo that the raccoons stuck together simply because they were mates, not because it was good for them. As I watched the scene over again, this reality became clearer as I noticed the solemn expressions on their faces. Deeks feels terrible for what he is saying.

But there is still some hope that comes in my favorite scene of the box. Deeks has been waiting to open this box that Kensi gave him for a long time now. She previously told him it was something he’s always wanted. Despite that, he’s never opened it. In this solemn moment of realizing they may not be ready to move forward, Kensi gets out the box and uses her newly returned knife to open it. Deeks’ heartache is now mixed with anticipation as he eagerly wonders what’s inside. It was the perfect moment to open the box. After slicing it open, Kensi walks away with a smile on her face that gave me hope. She could have been smiling because she knew Deeks would appreciate the fun revelation. But I think it was more than that. To me it was a smile of satisfaction – a satisfaction in knowing that they weren’t done. They weren’t done with their friendship and they weren’t done exploring the layers of what else was to come.

That’s exactly what the box represented. As Deeks removes a sealed smaller cardboard box from the larger one (“touché,” he says), I couldn’t help but think of the layers of their relationship. They are still going through the needed outside layers to figure out what they want the inside to be. The box analogy was perfect. Even the tape on the outside box said “Fragile – Handle with Care.” Deeks still has something left to open – and something left to figure out relationship-wise. It just wasn’t time yet. That comparison to their relationship did leave hope. This was something that the two of them were both not ready to proceed with yet. But if they continue to handle it with care and unwrap every layer slowly, it’s hard to say what is at the center. Even Granger and Hetty had differing views. But Hetty had the last word when she said their relationship was not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.

They are now moving to the next phase – the middle. The big question is: the middle of what? This could simply be the middle of a new revised friendship or it could be the middle of something more. I felt it was open for interpretation. I got the feeling that with their current fears, the relationship conversation would be tabled for a little while. But it will likely come back up again. For now the ping-pong ball has stopped. But it feels like the game isn’t over quite yet.

What did you think of "Three Hearts?" Do you agree with this interpretation of the ending or did you see things differently? What did you think of the box? What do you think is going to happen with Kensi and Deeks now? Let us know in the comments below.

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.

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