Max Gentry: The Man in the Mirror
From the personnel audio file of Marty Deeks as transcribed by Nate Getz:
Every time I watch Max Gentry take off the black leather jacket, I swear it will be for the last time. The mission is over and I can’t wait to get as far away as possible from his stink. You want to know why I hate the guy so much? He appears on the scene so willingly and then sneaks off into the night like a thief. Maybe it scares me that I don’t have to reach so far down into my soul to pull this monster out. I know Max gets results and he’s good at his job. So I let him do my dirty work but I wind up despising myself in the end. I like to pretend I just invented him out of the blue one day and that he stalked me from the LAPD to NCIS… but the truth is, he has been part of my life for a long, long time. Yes, I know Max Gentry very well. As I told Hetty once, this is an alias I can do without…
The last time Deeks went undercover as Max Gentry in Parley, it seemed his conscience was bothering him even more than the first time we saw him in season two. Granger’s orders were clear:
Get into the bar, get friendly with the hostess and find out about the diamonds.
Yet during the entire mission, Deeks struggled with his feelings and wondered if he was doing the right thing. As an undercover guise, he had taken on this particular identity on many occasions. Yet now it seems he was desperately fighting to exorcise Max from the depths of his very being.
Undercover missions are part of the job at NCIS, and they can be a life-changing experience for anyone in law enforcement. Some agents are naturals at it like Deeks but it can definitely lead to some soul searching moments especially if it hurts to deal with the guilt and betrayal of the people who have come to trust in you. For Deeks, Max Gentry is a persona that tears away at the very core of his humanity. So who is Max Gentry and why does it torment Deeks so much to put on that leather jacket?
Max Gentry is introduced in season two during the episode, Plan B when Hetty exclaims:
So this is the infamous Max Gentry!
Standing in front of a full length mirror, Deeks is already deep inside his cover, wearing a black leather jacket and a bad-ass attitude. He laments that this is an alias he did not miss, which leads us to believe that he must be very well acquainted with Max Gentry. Deeks seems to be uncomfortable eyeing Max in the mirror, but ironically you can tell this identity fits the man like a glove. Perhaps Deeks invented Max as a persona he could use when he was on the streets as a teenager or going in and out of juvy detention centers. It could have been a coping mechanism or a way to feel strong and invincible while trying to survive on the streets. The gentle, sweet-natured man that we have come to know as Marty Deeks, might have had a much harder time surviving in the urban jungle of his youth. Max became Deeks’ super hero guise. He kept him safe and untouchable in his muddled world. But along the way Max stopped to pick up some undesirable traits as well. Even Hetty knows his reputation was less than stellar.
Deeks survived life on the streets with his best friend, Ray Martindale who taught him to never shoot back…always shoot first. Deeks may have craved Ray’s life style more than he would ever admit. Martindale was probably a huge influence on Deeks, a big brother type who helped him develop the Max façade and encouraged the shooting of his father. When Ray gave Deeks a gun to project himself, in a twisted way, he also gave him hope and a future. Deeks will never be able to repay his debt to Ray for this reason. They are brothers-in-arms.
Another scary aspect for Deeks is who looks back at him when he looks into the mirror. Perhaps it’s an exact replica of his father who stares back at him. Children pick up so many of their parents mannerisms and behaviors that it was probably easy to channel his father’s more ominous side into Max. Regardless, it would be quite disturbing to see the man you hate so much scowling back at you from the glass.
Who does Kensi see when she looks at Max Gentry? Ray asks Deeks if his partner knows about his former life and Deeks is embarrassed. Is it because Ray is teasing him about his ‘thing’ with Kensi?
….or maybe it’s because he doesn’t want Kensi to know about Max:
He’s just some guy….
But in reality Max is dark, humorless, sarcastic, sexy, sexist, charming, secretive, nasty, smooth, and mean. He’s the epitome of bad ass and the bad boy every girl falls in love with. He tries to convince Kensi that he doesn’t like being Max but he also knows that some days it’s all too easy falling back into this persona.
Undercover work is one of the most stressful jobs a cop can undertake. Becoming isolated from family, friends and their environment can lead to depression, anxiety and a change of personality. Even his teammates can tell that Deeks is in way too deep when he goes undercover as Max.
Callen confront him:
The only thing that’s not real is your alias and even then I’m not sure.
Callen’s been there before and can tell Max is very real to Deeks. Kensi can also see he’s a lot closer to the masquerade than he comprehends. Deeks finds it difficult to reintegrate back into his normal life when he realizes that he is afraid to tell Nicole Martindale the truth about his feelings towards her. His feelings are very real. He likes being Max and she demands to know the truth but his silence forces her to brand him a coward.
The next time he puts on the leather jacket again, Deeks finds it’s getting too hard to carry around the guilt associated with going undercover as Max. He feels sympathetic to the person being targeted by Max and in this case it’s Monica, the hostess from the club. While Monica is experiencing the thrill of stealing the diamonds and living on the run with Max, he’s acting more like a worried mother hen than the harden criminal he is supposed to be portraying. As she prances around half naked in front of him, Max covers his eyes, embarrassed by her overtness. Monica wonders why he is acting so weird. Maybe besides having to lie to Monica, this time he knows Kensi is listening to every word. His partner will get to find out more about the boy/man he once was. The identity served him well on the streets when he was younger but he has since changed and he doesn’t want the woman he loves knowing about this part of his checkered past.
After Nicole, Kensi had taunted him:
Why is lying so easy but recanting and telling the truth isn’t?
Marty Deeks has a conscience and unlike Max Gentry, he has to come clean. After she is taken into custody, Monica faces Deeks and claims he took advantage of her. He tries to apologize by claiming what they did together wasn’t with him…it was with Max.
But Monica’s not buying it:
You are so lucky to have a friend like Max.
Deeks is speechless because he has no way to refute her accusations. He knows she’s right, just like Nicole before her. As she whispers in his ear before he leaves, perhaps her parting words are that she prefers Max Gentry more than the man sitting in front of her? Deeks looks defeated and stunned. When he walks out of the boathouse, perhaps we have finally seen the last of the infamous Max Gentry?
As long as Deeks remains an undercover cop or becomes an NCIS agent, he is going to have to continue his covert ways. But it’s for certain that Max Gentry will always remain the one identity that will eat away at his soul the most. Max may have come from a time in Deeks’ youth when he needed the extra self-confidence for protection. Or perhaps Max is a part of his DNA structure and a side of his family that he would rather not acknowledge. Either way he is going to have to make a decision. It may be time to forgive and forget his troubled youth and move on.
Will we ever get to see Max Gentry again? For Deeks sake I hope not, but maybe he still needs to look at the man in the mirror one last time to say good bye so he can make peace with the person he once was and to celebrate the honorable man he has become.
Next week we celebrate Deeks’ birthday to coincide with the one year anniversary of NCISLA Magazine. Join us in two weeks for a mini fan fic by @Kadiedid which takes place right before Purity as we continue to delve more into the undercover persona of Max Gentry.