Torres' dirt-bike riding past roars up to meet him when a bank robbery leaves a Marine dead

By Sara Netzley
April 18, 2017 at 10:54 PM EDT
One Book, Two Covers
Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
S14 E21

Tonight’s tightly focused NCIS chips away at the Torres mystique, allowing us (and Gibbs) to get to know him a little better.

Things get underway when Marine Corp. Kyle Campbell, driving a “this-is-in-no-way-a-U-Haul” truck, slides up the rear door and lowers the ramp just in time for a dirt bike to come roaring down the road and into the back. Campbell shuts the door and scrambles into the cab in time to hide from the police cars that come roaring by seconds later.

His actions are rewarded when the helmet-wearing driver shoots him in the head, leaving a very round, very large hole. The next time we see him, his body’s been dragged into a ditch, and the NCIS team is looming over him.

Torres recognizes nearby tire marks as belonging to a dirt bike and the small truck it was loaded onto. And what do you know, a bank was robbed the day before, with the driver escaping on a dirt bike.

Thanks to grainy surveillance footage of said robbery, Torres identifies the make, model, and custom exhaust of the bike. Why is he so certain? Because it’s his bike!

Seriously, if you’d told me in August that I’d be genuinely delighted about an episode detailing the year Wilmer Valderrama’s character spent undercover with a dirt bike gang, I’d have told you to shut your ridiculous cake-hole, but here we are.

In 2012, Torres was undercover with the Rosewood Boyz (yes, with a z), who were known for riding bikes, robbing banks, and partying hard. Ha! Hahahaha! Torres’ time with them ended when he blew his cover to convince Royce Layton, a good kid mixed up with bad dudes, to testify against top dog Mitch Monroe in exchange for witness protection.

Torres wants to leap directly into the case, but Gibbs frustrates him by keeping him sidelined. Also frustrated are Palmer and Ducky, who can’t identify the substance under Campbell’s fingernails. (We also get another shot of the head wound. They must be really proud of that makeup effect.)

At the prison, Monroe scoffs at the idea that he somehow resurrected the Boyz and is running them from the inside. Then he tells Gibbs to deliver a message to Nick Medina (a.k.a. Torres’ undercover identity): “I’m not gonna be in here forever.”

But Torres has no interest in hiding and approaches Vance to ask to be put in the game. Vance then uses the 1996 Chicago Bulls (which are the best Chicago Bulls — COME AT ME) as an analogy to tell Torres that sometimes you can make the biggest impact from the bench. Yeah, I’m guessing Torres didn’t dedicate eight years of his life to undercover work just to watch Dennis Rodman hot-dogging on the court while he rides the pine.

Still, Torres knows one way to help. After he got a little drunk and almost ripped off his shirt to jump into a pool while wearing a wire, he switched to the old-school method of surveillance: taking careful and constant notes of every conversation he had while undercover. He heads home for his notebooks and finds that someone’s placed his dirt bike in his garage. When he approaches it cautiously, it explodes.

At the lab, Abby declares that his old chariot was packed with enough black powder to blow up a rhino. (Given their presence on the endangered species list, she’s grateful that didn’t actually happen. And oh yeah, she’s glad Torres didn’t blow up, either.) She vows to use the burner phone detonator to locate the incoming call.

Meanwhile, Quinn found Campbell’s ex, who says he fell in with the Boyz to pay off his gambling losses, and with her help, they track the Boyz to Miller’s Motorcross, where generic heavy metal plays over all kinds of fancy bike jumps. (McGee declares it every mother’s worst nightmare, and he’s not wrong.) Gibbs notices roses stenciled on a bike and leads the team to a pack of Rosewood Boyz, one of whom refers to Quinn as Kate Upton. As much as I love her, I don’t see it.

Their leader steps forward, and Quinn snaps a photograph of him with Gibbs that allows them to identify him as Alonzo Marcel. (Please refer the photo at the top of this recap so you’ll understand when I tell you to get yourself a man who looks at you the way Marcel looks at Gibbs.)

Torres claims not to know Marcel, then quietly slips away as the team frets about getting the DOJ to release Layton’s witness protection location. Next thing you know, he pulls up in front of Layton’s house and consults his notes, which definitely feature an entry on Marcel. Deception, Torres! Deception!

Layton greets Torres at the door and chides him for not visiting the way he said he would. Layton refers to witness protection as its own kind of cellblock (um, it’s a cellblock with gorgeous built-in bookshelves) and says the Boyz were his family. He’s got a potter’s wheel set up the backyard, which he says helps him make peace with becoming a rat. He’s also got a dirt bike in his backyard, which is weird because I thought you had to drop all of your old habits when you entered witness protection so the people who want you dead can’t track you down as easily.

Torres asks Layton to share what he knows about Marcel, and Layton says not only does he know Marcel’s secret, but he wonders what NCIS would think if they knew Torres’ secret. Oooh, mystery! Everybody has secrets this season!

At HQ, Abby worked her magic and tracked the detonation call to Marcel’s house. When the team kicks down the door, they find Marcel dead in his bed alongside another man. This, apparently, was the secret Layton knew.

At this point, Torres receives a call from a blocked number, and someone using a voice changer tells him that Marcel murdered Campbell, and he needs to drop the investigation unless he wants NCIS to learn his secret. At this point, shouldn’t he start suspecting Layton, who literally just threatened him with the same thing?

In autopsy, Ducky says the two men were executed in their sleep using the same double-tap method that killed Campbell. Oh, and the unidentifiable stuff under Campbell’s fingernails was also on Marcel’s boots. Also, we get yet another good look at a gunshot wound to the head. Enough, guys.

When Gibbs and Torres enter the Elevator of Schemes and Secrets, the boss man hits the emergency button. Do you think the elevator operator people no longer call to make sure everything’s okay when this happens? “Oh, the NCIS elevator stopped again? Let it go, Hank. Somebody’s having an important, private conversation. It’ll start up again in a few.”

Anyway, Gibbs urges Torres to rip off the Band-Aid, and Torres confesses to planting the evidence that got Monroe off the streets so he wouldn’t murder more of Torres’ friends. Torres has zero regrets, although he would like Gibbs to assure him that his job isn’t in jeopardy. Gibbs says they have more in common than you’d think, although Gibbs would never rip off his own Band-Aids like that. But… but Gibbs encouraged him to do it! Oh, Gibbs. You tricksy fox.

Next thing you know, Abby’s had a break in the case, which is all Torres needs to solve it: The substance at both murder scenes is pottery clay. Torres immediately gets on the horn with Layton, who demands Torres bring him the $200,000 Marcel was keeping in a safe. See, Layton’s the one in charge of the Rosewood Boyz, having won their loyalty by putting away the fearsome Monroe, and he had Campbell killed because his gambling problem wasn’t going away.

Torres delivered the money so Layton would turn over the recording of Torres confessing to planting the murder weapon that convicted Monroe. When Layton discovers a pair of handcuffs in the moneybag, he threatens to give the recording to the feds. But the feds came with Torres, who’s prepared to face the consequences of his actions five years ago.

When Torres reaches for the cuffs, Layton brains him with a pot (which I sincerely hope was created in the backyard), then escapes on his motorbike. Gibbs follows in his sedan until Layton darts off the road.

Then it’s Torres to the rescue! Guys, there was only one way for this episode to end, and that was with a high-stakes dirt-bike chase through bucolic green fields crisscrossed with narrow paths. Torres executes a jump that lets him pull ahead of Layton and kick him off his bike. “You forgot these,” he says, brandishing the cuffs.

Back in the big orange room, Torres is flipping through photos of him and Layton shooting pool during the good/bad old days when Gibbs comes in and announces that Layton’s audio file is nothing but unidentifiable mumbling. Torres is confused about why Layton would use a bad audio file for $200,000 blackmail — until he realizes that Gibbs is the only one who heard the allegedly inaudible file.

Gibbs says Torres did the wrong thing for the right reasons, cautions him to never do that again, and sends him home. And Torres leaves, presumably feeling about a thousand pounds lighter as the piano version of the NCIS theme plays somberly in the background.

Stray shots

  • Dear NCIS: Please give us at least one episode a season covering a period in Torres’ undercover life, the goofier the better.
  • Ugh, of course Bishop is throwing a painting party. And of course she sends e-vites rather than using Facebook events like an actual person. Also, no she di’int try to Tom Sawyer Torres into thinking that painting her apartment is some kind of fun activity.
  • So what do we think, fam? Between letting Torres skate on his evidence planting and allowing Bishop to execute her personal revenge for the death of her almost-fiancé, is Gibbs turning too many blind eyes this season? And which team member will have the next deep, dark secret?

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