Daniela Ruah, Matthew Del Negro
Does what happens in Afghanistan stay in Afghanistan? For NCIS: LA's Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah), the answer is probably not.
On Tuesday's episode (9/8c, CBS), Callen (Chris O'Donnell), Sam (LL Cool J) and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) are sent to Afghanistan to rescue Kensi, who's being held captive by the Taliban after a botched anti-terrorism mission in which she discovered that the alleged traitor she was sent to assassinate is none other than her former fiancé, Jack (Matthew Del Negro).
"I think this is probably my favorite episode that we've shot," Ruah tells TVGuide.com. "It's sort of like a movie. The action's incredible. I think everybody was on their game, when it came to performances. There's some really intense scenes. ... It's the team fighting for one of their own, which always makes for a good episode. There's a lot at stake."
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The question, of course, is less whether Kensi will make it safely out of Afghanistan and more about what kind of condition she'll be in when she returns. "She obviously cannot go unaffected by everything that's happened," Ruah says. "She's a really strong woman and she does the best she can to get back in the job. She's desperate to get back to normality, if that's even a word. ... I think there may repercussions later on with that."
Hetty (Linda Hunt), for one, is "not entirely confident about Kensi's psychological and emotional abilities when she first comes back," Ruah notes. "So we'll see how that pans out."
Aside from any professional or emotional consequences, will Kensi's encounter with Jack be the latest in a long line of wrenches thrown into her budding romance with Deeks?
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"I think that there's some sort of personal failure in Kensi's mind ... and I think it really hurts for her to think that she may have been part of why [Jack] had to leave. It's definitely a painful situation," Ruah explains. "I always feel like when you break up with somebody, if you break up because you don't love them anymore, it becomes so much easier. But when you still love them and you have to break up for any other reason, it becomes really, really hard, and that's kind of what happened to her. He left, and she still loved him, and she had to let those emotions pass with time, and all of a sudden [this] just rekindles everything. And of course, what does that do with her relationship with Deeks? Where does that stand? Does this sort of make everything go to zero, or does it make it stronger? We'll have to see."
While fans are clamoring for "Densi" to take their work partnership to the next level, Ruah is less convinced the two are destined to be together. "I don't think anybody understands them better than they understand each other — but that could also make for a wonderful friendship," she hedges. "It doesn't necessarily mean that they'll become a couple. I think they have to set their priorities straight, before anything could ever happen. What's more important: their job or their future life together? ... I'm actually indecisive of where I would like them to go."
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That's not to say Ruah doesn't appreciate the Densi 'shippers, however. "It's really flattering," she says of fans' emotional investment in the plot line. " It keeps me in a job, for one. If people didn't find us amusing or entertaining, we wouldn't be happening. I feel appreciative, and I love playing along with it."
Of course, the Afghanistan story line was a way for the show to deal with Ruah's real-life pregnancy. (She gave birth to a baby boy in December.) Ruah is grateful that, as a result, she was able to keep working until she was seven-and-a-half months along.
"They could have just said, 'Oh, Kensi's in Afghanistan. We'll see her in two and a half months when she's back," Ruah said. "[But showrunner Shane Brennan] decided to incorporate that as a huge part of this season's arc, and we got a few bigger developments with Kensi and Deeks because of it, and I'm just really, really happy that I got to do all that stuff. They sent me to the Hindu Kush because it's cold, and I could wear layers and layers of clothing, which means we could hide my belly. In Episode 18 ... I think I was about six months pregnant there, and I had to dig a small hole in the sand so I could lie on my front. And then when they start shooting at me, I had to sort of roll over and I just felt like a turtle on my back. I couldn't get up."
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With Season 5 of the drama winding down, future episodes will reveal to viewers (via flashbacks) more details about Kensi's ordeal in Afghanistan — and in some ways, will bring the season full circle. Will her experience mirror that of Deeks in the first few episodes, after he and Sam were tortured?
"I find it interesting how they react in two very different ways," Ruah notes. "Deeks began to sort of doubt what he's doing with his life and wonder if he should come back, where I think Kensi has a very different reaction. I think what she finds stability in is her job, and I think that's what she's going to hold onto to make herself not go crazy, or feel overly traumatized about what happened."
NCIS: LA airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on CBS. Where do you think Kensi and Deeks will go from here?
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)