‘NCIS’: Torres Battles His Demons, Past & Present (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for NCIS Season 19, Episode 18 “Last Dance.”]
Special Agent Nick Torres’ (Wilmer Valderrama) past comes back to try to kill him, at a time when he’s not exactly making the smartest choices about his life. But, as Grace Confalone (Laura San Giacomo) tells him during one of their sessions, what happens may be just as good as therapy.
When we first see Torres in “Last Dance,” he’s in session with Grace and admitting that he’s not sleeping well due to his dreams, specifically one involving a roller coaster ride with his dad. It never happened, he explains, nor did they ever go anywhere together. He claims that it’s not hard to not have a relationship with his father. Is he being honest with himself, she asks. “Can we be done with the questions and can you skip to the part where you give me the answers?” Torres asks. All she can do is help him find the answers, Grace says.
She knows that he stores pieces of his life in his mental backpack, and in there are his father, his job, and Bishop (who left him with a goodbye kiss last season). It’s called compartmentalization, she tells him. Eventually, that backpack will get so heavy, he needs help carrying it. Recently, she knows, that help has been alcohol. Did he drink last night? She’s not judging him, she makes sure to say. He doesn’t feel judged, he says. So what does he feel? “Numb.” Does he want to be sober? The case interrupts before he has to answer.
The team is called to a crime scene after three bodies are found with Marine corps weapons. Reymundo Diaz (Joseph Melendez) is looking for a Carlos Salazar, who was responsible for sending him to prison six years ago, and he’s killing people to find him. So who’s Carlos? That would be Torres, who went undercover to bring down the gun smuggler (who bribed his way out of prison) and earned his trust to do so by becoming involved with his cousin, Maria (Mariela Garriga). How’d Torres get her to flip on Diaz? He promised to go into witness protection with her. “I did what I had to do,” Torres says of then turning on Maria.
It’s when the team tracks down one of Diaz’s men, Renny (Armando Acevedo), who helped him cross into the U.S. and who tries to kill Torres for the second time, that they realize Diaz knows the agent’s real identity. (Kill enough people, and you can find out anything, Renny says.) His boss is getting rid of the “rats” who sent him to prison — which means Maria’s in trouble. She’s safe, the U.S. Marshals protecting her insist, even though they haven’t heard from her in a week. Torres insists on going to her place to see for himself, and not only is she not there, but there’s blood on the floor and a bullet hole in the wall. Alden Parker (Gary Cole) insists that Torres go stay in a safe house (really, a hotel room).
Torres calls Grace from the hotel. “You don’t sound sober,” she remarks. He’s not. It’s OK, she assures him, because it’s about progress, not perfection. “My whole life I’ve tried to be nothing like my father, and now I’m thinking maybe I am him,” he admits. “I abandoned someone. Someone I really cared about.” He thinks it’s too late to make amends, but that’s when Maria shows up at the hotel room, the closest safe house. The blood was her would-be killer’s. When Torres goes to call the Marshals to get her, she stops him because by the time they get there, she’ll be gone. She’s not going back into witness protection. She refuses to live as someone she’s not.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team discovers that Diaz is out of the gun business and instead focused on picking up pills from a shady pharmacy, to treat a rare, deadly form of cancer. The prison warden wouldn’t give any details but did say he’s sick. Diaz is dying, and he wants revenge. There’s nothing more dangerous than a killer with nothing to lose — and he’s targeting Torres and Maria.
Speaking of them, the morning after she showed up at the hotel — he slept in a chair — he plans to call NCIS for a protection detail for her, then go join his team to find Diaz. Maria can’t help but remark that leaving is his specialty (ouch!) and that their five months together was just one big lie. She was in danger because he put her in danger, she claims. He could’ve found another way to get to Diaz. It was the assignment, he says. So all she was was an assignment? He thinks she should be proud for helping to send a killer to prison, but she feels like she’s been in one, too. The life she has in WitSec isn’t for her.
Torres apologizes, but she doubts she’s the only mark he’s played. She was the only mark he cared about, he confesses. He knows how much pain he caused. Six years ago, she was just collateral damage, she says. What changed? Why is he apologizing now? “This happened to you, didn’t it?” Maria realizes. “Someone you cared about left you. What was her name?” Torres turns the focus back to the case and the person who attacked her. She remembers a tattoo on his hand, and Torres realizes it was Pablo Silva (George Paez). But when the team searches his trailer, the only one there is one of the Marshals, dead and showing signs he was tortured.
So where’s Pablo? He and Diaz attack Torres and Maria at the hotel. Maria shoots Pablo after he enters the room without using the code she and Torres establish, while the agent takes out Diaz in the hallway after sneaking up behind him.
Torres brings Maria home, and she’s happy to be leaving Anita behind. She did once fantasize about him walking through the door and them picking up where they left off, she tells him. She knows he’s sorry, but she’s not ready to forgive him. She understands why he did what he did and that he was in impossible position. “Losing you was the hardest moment of my life,” he says. If she needs anything, she can call him. He’ll be there for her. This time, Maria believes him.
The episode ends with Torres back in therapy with Grace. It must feel great to make amends with Maria, she says. “It’s kind of nice to finally take someone out of my backpack,” he agrees. They might even be good friends, and yes, just friends, for now, at least. “Too much water under the bridge,” he explains. But “seeing her brought back this feeling. It just made me realize something.” That he wants that feeling again? He deserves it, Grace says. He doesn’t believe that “yet,” Torres shares. “I gotta get myself right first.”
And what’s his plan to do that? “By doing what my father never did: facing my demons head on and becoming the man that I want to be, the man he never was,” Torres says. To Grace, his last few days were the equivalent of a decade’s worth of therapy. So, “with this newfound clarity, I’d like to ask you the question I asked you a couple days ago: Do you want to be sober?” she asks. “Yes,” he says, “but if my father ever taught me anything, it’s that words don’t matter.” She believes him, though it won’t be easy. “Nothing worth it ever is,” he knows.
But when will he face the other things in that backpack, the job and Bishop?
NCIS, Mondays, 9/8c, CBS