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S19 E18
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Ready for a peek in Torres' (Wilmer Valderrama) metaphorical backpack?

Our favorite former undercover agent has attending counseling sessions with Dr. Grace (Laura San Giacomo), where he's uncomfortably dodging questions about his relationship with his father and whether he'd like to commit himself to sobriety. Dr. Grace gently tells him that he's compartmentalized his trauma and carries it all — the undercover work, his daddy issues, even Bishop—in a backpack that's getting too heavy.

And it's about to get heavier. A triple homicide turns out to be the work of gun-runner Reymundo Diaz (Joseph Melendez), who bribed his way out of a life sentence in a Mexican prison and is now on a murder spree in search of Carlos Salazar, the man who betrayed him.

Salazar is, of course, an undercover persona for Torres, who broke into Diaz's inner circle six years ago by dating Diaz's cousin Maria (Mariela Garriga).

Now, not only is Torres in danger, but Maria is too. When Diaz was arrested, Maria agreed to testify against him only after Torres promised that he'd enter witness protection with her, knowing full well that their happily-ever-after was a lie.

NCIS
Credit: CBS

Still, when Torres discovers that Maria could be in danger, he goes into a full-on freak-out, which for him is a mix of intense brooding interspersed with shouting. It doesn't help that the U.S. marshals in charge of Maria's witness protection are kind of terrible at their jobs and are also kind of terrible people who blithely assure Torres that Maria is fine even though they haven't talked to her in a week.

When Torres demands Maria's location, they take him to Maryland location. (Convenient!) Poor Maria's been living life behind a door with five locks on it under the name Anita, a telemarketer. The vibrant, colorful artist Torres remembers laughing with in flashbacks is nowhere to be seen in this stark white box she's living in.

Worst, there's no sign of her, only a blood stain and a bullet hole. Torres is beside himself, but in what might be a first in any law-enforcement film or TV show ever, he actually agrees to go to safehouse when it's clear that his life is in danger. I wasn't aware that was something a character could do!

In the hotel room safehouse, Torres drinks and places an 11 p.m. call to Dr. Grace, where he says that he spent his whole life trying not to be his father, then turned around and abandoned someone he cared about, exactly like his old man.

Then he hears a noise in the hallway and ends the call. Yep, that's just what you want: a drunk federal agent with a loaded weapon and emotional baggage. And standing on the other side of the door is Maria, alive and well and not happy to be face-to-face with the man who betrayed her six years ago.

Torres immediately wants to check her for injuries, but all the blood was her attacker's. (She fought him off with the knife she keeps under her bed — you're not paranoid if they actually are out to get you.) When she checked in with her marshal contact, he sent her to the safehouse — and Torres, who's clearly locking down a million emotions at seeing her again.

"You changed your hair," he finally says. "I like it."

She gives him a once over and declares his changes only "meh," but it's said with teasing affection, and it breaks the ice.

Maria wants to leave WITSEC immediately, but Diaz has been diagnosed with a rare cancer and is spending his final days on earth wiping out the rats who turned him in. A killer with nothing to lose? Yeah, she and Torres are going to have to spend the night together. She takes the bed, and he takes the chair, although she assured him that wasn't necessary. *eyebrow waggle* The next morning, he offers her his extra hoodie and apologies for ruining her life.

She recognizes this apology as coming from someone who was abandoned by a person he cared about (hi again, Bishop), but Torres quickly changes the subject, and Maria offers up a detail she recalls about her attacker: he had a gun tattooed on his left hand.

This sends McGee (Sean Murray) and Parker (Gary Cole) to the mobile home of Diaz associate Pablo Silva, where they find the marshal's beaten, tortured body. They assume Silva got the safehouse location out of him, but it's too late to warn Torres. As he and Maria try to leave, gunfire erupts in the hotel hallway.

And here's where it starts to feel like a Grosse Pointe Blank fan helped write this episode. In "make this gun work"-style, Torres hands Maria a weapon and tells her to shoot anybody who comes through the door without knocking twice first. She, in turn, orders him not to die.

In the hallway, Torres and Diaz exchange fire while Silva sneaks into the hotel room. Torres manages to outflank Diaz and kills him with a single shot to the head. Then he knocks twice and creeps into the hotel room, where he finds Silva dead and Maria hiding in the tub (just like Minnie Driver in GPB!). "He didn't knock twice," she says.

With the threat to their lives neutralized, Torres escorts Maria to her apartment, where she gladly says goodbye to life as Anita. Although she acknowledges his impossible situation six years ago, she's not quite ready to forgive him. "Losing you was the hardest moment of my life," she says.

Then she reveals that although she sold all the art from her previous life, she couldn't bring herself to part with the pineapple painting Torres created with her. They banter about it, and Torres promises to be there if she ever needs him. This time, she believes him.

Back in session with Dr. Grace, Torres says he's taken Maria out of his backpack, and he thinks they'll be good friends — "for now." But seeing her again stirred up feelings that he doesn't deserve yet, and he tells Dr. Grace that he needs to work on becoming the man he wants to be, starting with sobriety.

Nothing worth having come easy, after all.

Stray shots

  • Let's hear it for counseling!
  • I don't know why, but, "Trooper Phil Collins, no relation," made me laugh and laugh.
  • Maria, Anita … along with the 1997 John Cusack/Minnie Driver rom-com, there appears to have been a West Side Story buff on the writing staff this week.
  • What does the Venn diagram of NCIS fans and romance-lovers look like? Because my tender little heart will break a little if we don't see a sober and therapized Torres getting a call from Maria, asking for help and opening the door to a real relationship between them.

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