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NCIS: Los Angeles - The Grey Man - Review: "Who is the Unknowable?"

During this week’s episode titled “The Grey Man,” the “NCIS: Los Angeles” team works to solve the murder of a former Marine and CIA operative who was posing as a homeless man. In the process, the partners go undercover where Kensi reveals to Deeks she was once homeless. And their case has an effect on Callen after they realize the victim was killed trying to protect his son, who never knew his father.

I found “The Grey Man” to be an interesting episode because it was laced with an intriguing theme – a theme found directly in the title. In the episode, we learn the grey man was someone who had the skills to blend into any environment and remain unnoticed. The grey man was not known by his coworkers because he didn’t let people close to him. He didn’t go home to his family at night. In essence, the grey man was “unknowable.” That begs the question: Are any of the “NCIS: Los Angeles” characters “unknowable?”

Deeks certainly doesn’t have a problem letting you get to know him. He’s an oversharer (in a fun way). Sam lets his friends and family close, as evidenced by his sweet relationship with his daughter who keeps calling him (and all his co-workers) throughout the episode. But the theme of letting people in and being “knowable” really focused this week on two other characters: Kensi and Callen.

It was teased in promos last week that Kensi’s “secret” would be revealed, and it was. Kensi and Deeks were undercover at a park trying to get information from anyone who might know the victim. So Kensi was dressed up in a suit talking to a lot of government officials while Deeks talked to the homeless wearing his smelly undercover homeless man jacket that he named Artie. He looked the part, too. He even had fake teeth that appeared quite convincing.

One thing I thought was very interesting about the Kensi revelation scene was how the two partners were physically separated as they had this conversation. It gave the scene an interesting dynamic. Kensi was sharing intimate details, which Deeks was hearing through an earpiece as he watched her from across the courtyard. I believe that physical space between them gave Kensi more confidence to be vulnerable. Yet despite the distance between them, their bond was undeniable.

Earlier in the episode Kensi looked shaken up when they learned the CIA agent murder victim had become homeless (which later turned out not to be true). She even asked Granger why the man ended up on the streets. The issue was clearly bothering her. Later in the park we learn why. She becomes contemplative after watching a homeless woman grab some food. As Deeks jokes around with her about his jacket, saying Kensi is not really Artie’s type, Kensi chooses to reveal this tough part of her past. She tells Deeks she used to be Artie’s type. When Deeks doesn’t understand what she means, she asks him if he knew she had lived on the streets after her dad died. Deeks doesn’t quite know how to respond but he is sensitive and quietly stammers he didn’t know this. Kensi, however, can tell he is lying and knows that Hetty told him. Squaring her shoulders toward Deeks and looking right at him, Kensi tells him, “You can fool everyone else, Deeks…. Can’t fool me.”

Deeks then asks her if she wants to talk about it and she doesn’t. But she does reveal that she didn’t feel like herself back then – she was a different person. Deeks, ever caring, replies, “Well, I wish I would have known her.” Kensi retorts, “No, you don’t” before going back to the case.

I liked how open Kensi was with Deeks in sharing this part of her past. That would be a very hard thing to talk about but she felt safe telling Deeks. I even think it was important for her to reveal the truth. That is a part of what makes her who she is and there comes a time as you grow closer in a relationship that you feel the need to share these kinds of things.

In fact, Kensi later addresses why she never told Deeks before. While the timing of this conversation was bizarre (they have less than five minutes to figure out a plan to save a woman and her daughter and they spend part of that time having a conversation about Kensi’s history), the sentiment behind Kensi’s statements rang true. Kensi explains this was the worst period of her life – a time she made a lot of mistakes – and she only wants Deeks to see the best part of her. That made so much sense. You always want to show the best version of you to someone you care about. But you also want them to know the real version so it was time to tell Deeks. She trusted him with who she really was. In turn, he valued the vulnerability in what she shared and gave Kensi his full attention, support and care.

Of course, after that he lightened the mood in true Deeks style by finishing up with a joke about how the best part of her might be her sexy ankles, though her toes were “a little weird.” As Kensi laughed and rolled her eyes, I noticed she didn’t mind him calling her sexy. These two have always been comfortable with each other but they seem to be growing more comfortable in a different way – a closer, more intimate way.

Meanwhile, while Kensi was opening up and revealing tough parts of her past to Deeks, Callen was claiming to Sam he wasn’t like the grey man. He said he had a home and a girlfriend and was doing just fine, which Sam took credit for since he believed he helped Callen set up that support system. But the reality of Callen’s belief and statement was later tested when Hetty questions why Callen isn’t with his girlfriend Joelle while her parents are in town. Callen hasn’t met them and doesn’t seem to want or need to. It slowly becomes apparently that he is still at least partially closed off. He is not letting Joelle in fully to his life. And he is spending his evening at work lost in paperwork.

Part of the reason is he can’t get past his own “grey man” in his life – his father. This case hits him hard because the victim found out he had a son and did everything he could to protect him, dying in the process. But his son never knew the man. He didn’t even know his father had been watching or helping him. With Callen’s father out of the picture – not knowing if he is even dead or alive, and just barely finding out who he was last year – this hits the NCIS agent hard. He can’t understand why a man would not reveal himself to his own son, not saying anything to him at all. Though the scene was short, Chris O’Donnell was great. His painful emotions were written all over his face. Struggling with the unknowns of his father is something that eats at him. But through all his questions, Callen does let one person into his pain: Hetty. He trusts her enough to reveal his thoughts and fears. And Hetty tries to comfort him as best she can. She reasons that maybe the mother requested the man’s silence, or perhaps he wanted to share his fatherly role but didn’t know how. “That’s the thing about the grey man,” she says. “He never reveals his secrets.”

In the end, it seems as if Callen’s father is more of a grey man than he is. The idea of Callen’s father still holds many unknowns, many secrets. But Callen still has a chance to let those around him into his life. And my guess is he doesn’t want to be grey man because he knows how it feels to be on the other end. Hetty’s quiet promptings made their point. There is still hope for him yet. And I don’t think Hetty would let him fall into the “unknowable” black hole, anyway. She is part of his support system that grey men don’t have.

Other thoughts on the episode:

- I loved Sam’s role as a father being brought into the episode, even if we never saw his daughter. He was sweet with her over the phone and it was very cute how she kept calling Hetty and Callen to talk. Sam is a caring, concerned father who loves his little girl.

- Most people would be hesitant to tease a woman about eating too much. But not Deeks. He had no problem teasing Kensi about how much she ate, and it was amusing.

- I loved how Deeks was so enthusiastic to go undercover as a homeless man. He embraced the role and his smelly jacket (that he apparently keeps in the freezer. What?!). I loved him talking to the jacket, I loved his interactions with the older homeless man, and I love that he wanted Kensi to rate his undercover abilities.

- It was fun seeing Sam and especially Callen in suits. Like Kensi said, it was “something you don’t see every day.”

- Deeks was also amusing when he told Kensi that the short red skirt the prostitute was wearing would look real nice on her and Kensi should probably borrow it.

- Deeks’ funniest lines came when Kensi asked him what his plan was in entering the restaurant. I loved his response: “My plan is to live long and prosper, you know what I mean? To make little baby Deeks, little ninja assassins with fantastic hair.” Hilarious!

- Deeks really gets into all of his undercover operations. He is great at creating stories on the fly. He can easily fit into every role, including attempting to pose as a neighbor to get the lawyer out of danger. Deeks is really the perfect person for undercover work. He has no fear and can spin a story or tale like no one else.

- I also loved Deeks’ attempted reasoning with the Pena cartel. After mentioning fried cartel, I laughed out loud when Deeks told them they looked really confused and idiotic. Way to tell it like it is, Deeks. Then he went further by telling them they could talk about their feelings or figure out why their dads didn’t love them enough if they would just put their guns down. Deeks does make us laugh! Then when the explosion came, did you notice how Deeks fell right on top of Kensi to shield her from the blast? What a sweet, protective guy!

- How in the world did Callen know the meaning of Sam’s daughter’s texts? I wouldn’t think he’s the type of guy who was up on all the latest texting acronyms and emoji trends. That surprised me.

- I was a little bit shocked to find out that Callen is still dating Joelle since we haven’t heard about her in forever. It ticks me off that so many things happen off screen without any mentions onscreen. We don’t need to see everything, but when there are no mentions of their personal lives at all, it’s frustrating to later be told that something is happening. This is one of the main frustrations of Densi fans – if something is going on, why aren’t we seeing it? Now the same thing is happening with Callen. If he hadn’t mentioned Joelle, you wouldn’t know anything was going on still. This points to a pervasive way of thinking by the producers that frustrates me to no end.

What did you think of "The Grey Man?" Do you think any of the NCIS team members are "unknowable?" What did you think of Kensi's revelation to Deeks? Please join our discussion 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 anchor/reporter and now does everything from hosting to writing. She loves covering NCIS: Los Angeles for SpoilerTV. (She's a big fan of Kensi and Deeks!) She also writes SpoilerTV articles on other great shows.

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