“NCIS” season premiere recap: Torres goes rogue to get revenge

The season 21 opener finds the team scrambling to save Nick from his long-awaited justice.

Welcome to season 21 of NCIS!

We open in Miami in 1995, where a young Nick Torres (Julian Rangel) picks up a gun to protect his family from their mother’s violent boyfriend, Maurice Riva (Al Sapienza). But his sister Lucia (Rita Angel Taylor) stops him, telling him that algún día — some day — they’ll get justice.

That day has finally arrived. While undercover in prison during the season 20 finale, Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) met Riva’s newest victim, Reymundo De Leon (Michael Garza).

Although we don’t see Torres confront Riva, Nick’s battered face and dead-eyed stare as he bellies up to a bar tells us it wasn’t a friendly chat — especially not when he blows nine months of sobriety under the sad, concerned gaze of the bartender who tries to talk him out of it.

That Monday, he’s passed out at his desk, so Parker (Gary Cole) points him to a fresh toothbrush in his desk and sends him to get cleaned up. Is… is Parker the world’s best boss?

Vance (Rocky Carroll) might disagree after Parker convinced NCIS’ cyber division head to quit over the weekend. (Parker says he was just being honest when the guy had second thoughts about being an agent.)

Before McGee (Sean Murray) can settle in as the temporary tech troll king, the FBI enters NCIS HQ with an arrest warrant for Torres, who goes quietly. Parker’s the one who kicks up a fuss, prompting his former FBI colleague Agent Colfax (Matthew Godbey) to snark, “First Gibbs, now this one. You always stick up for the wrong people, Alden.”

Parker’s as eager to prove Colfax wrong as I am to see it happen, especially when we learn that Torres is being charged with Riva’s murder. The team’s been ordered off the case, but Vance tells them to take the time they need to “process.”

Yep, they’re gonna process their way right through a hush-hush investigation starting with Torres’ sister, Lucia Campbell (Pilar Holland), who retired from JAG, and started her own law firm.

She fills the team in on Torres’ history with Riva, who befriended them when they arrived in the U.S., then stole their mother’s identity and kept them in line with abuse and threats of deportation until the day he up and left. Torres has been obsessed with getting justice against Riva ever since.

What worries Lucia is the voicemail Torres left her the day of the murder, telling her he found their childhood tormentor. When she tried calling back, he didn’t answer, and she assumed the worst.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> Gary Cole and Katrina Law on 'NCIS'

Robert Voets/CBS

Gary Cole and Katrina Law on 'NCIS'

Kasie (Diona Reasonover) discovers that local police reports show Torres’ print on Riva’s gold ring but no murder weapon or witnesses, which might explain why FBI Agent Rose (Kim Matula) has shut down the whole NCIS network to collect more evidence.

The FBI found a video on Torres’ home computer that he sent to the team announcing his plans to murder Riva and asking the team not to get involved. “You see the problem?” asks the no-nonsense Rose, who has a far more respectful working relationship with Parker than the weaselly Colfax.

Rey’s mother Marta De Leon (Vanessa Martinez) arrives to answer questions about Riva, with Lucia translating. She talks about Riva’s kindness in trying to get Rey out of prison, but Lucia shares her own nightmarish experiences with him, and Marta agrees to work with NCIS.

Elsewhere, Knight (Katrina Law) and Palmer (Brian Dietzen) have committed their first crime as a couple. Aww, you never forget your first! The pair borrowed a hearse from one of Knight’s friends and pretended to be undertakers to transport Riva’s body to the funeral home with a tiny lil’ pitstop in Jimmy’s autopsy suite to confirm the coroner’s findings.

Palmer spots a potential clue in Riva’s brittle hair and nails, and he and Jess also discuss continuing the whole role play situation. Sounds like this heist awakened something in them.

Knight then follows Rose onto the Elevator of Schemes and Secrets and hits the stop button to plead with her to give Torres a fair shake. “Our only loyalty is to the truth,” Knight reminds her. (When Rose asks if she’s been practicing that line, Knight admits that she has.)

Her practice pays off, and Rose shares that Torres is currently being arraigned in a closed hearing, having waived his right to an attorney. Parker and Knight race to the courthouse in time to see a stoic Torres being led out of the courthouse while Colfax sneers that he just pled guilty.

No one’s totally surprised that Torres went all lone wolf, and, helped along by a box of FBI case files that unexpectedly shows up in the big orange room, the team realizes that Torres thought his sister had killed Riva thanks to a voicemail she left him saying, “Algún día,” and that he’s gotten himself put into prison alongside Rey as part of his plea deal. Also, Palmer confirms that Riva had hypothyroidism, which pushes his time of death to when Torres was very publicly in a bar.

So an innocent Torres reluctantly hands over his NCIS credentials (gotta love that glamour shot ID photo!) and heads into gen pop, where Rey punches him square in the face for killing Riva, whom the poor kid still considers his ally.

Unfortunately for his continued good health, Torres is also in lock-up with the Russians he dealt with during his undercover stint. When Lev (Chris Petrovski), who’s clearly got a black-market pomade supplier, rolls into Torres’ cell block with his buddies West Side Story-style, Torres jumps into the fight, more than holding his own until a guard comes to break it up. No problem, right?

Wrong. When the dust settles, Torres looks down to see a shiv sticking out of his side.

Off to the infirmary! Parker, McGee, and Lucia pay Torres a visit and are finally able to hear his side of the story: He gave Riva a beatdown but left without killing him. When he was arrested for murder, he assumed it was his sister and rushed into a guilty plea. See, this is why you should actually speak to your sibling before signing up for life in prison on their behalf.

But hey, it wasn’t all in vain: Our favorite recurring tech troll Curtis Hubley ( J. Claude Deering) locates Riva’s offshore accounts in Belize and finds that Marta De Leon accessed them.

At Marta’s place, the team finds no Marta but a full, written confession that she shot Riva in a panicky rage after he tells her he framed Rey for his crimes. Oh, and Rose stood up to Colfax, got fired, anonymously sent the files to NCIS, and is taking the NCIS cyber division job. Excellent. More Agent Rose, please!

Torres, meanwhile, has been cleared of all crimes, but Knight and McGee are worried that Parker’s going to bounce him. When Torres shows up to hand over his badge, Parker gently reminds him that to do this job, you have to trust everyone on the team with your life, in good times and in bad.

“One day at a time, Nick,” he says, handing back his badge and telling him to grab his gear for their next case. But their departure’s interrupted by a call from Palmer that changes Parker’s whole demeanor and leaves us with a cliffhanger.

Stray shots

  • Interesting choice to so thoroughly isolate Torres for the bulk of this episode! It’s such a sharp demonstration of how much the former loner’s been integrated into his team and how strange and lonely it is for him to remove himself. I can’t wait to see how Valderrama plays Nick’s return to the fold, and how the rest of the characters navigates any speed bumps to come.

  • My whole body recoiled at the thought of Knight drinking a decade-old boysenberry Caf-Pow. I mean, ancient boysenberry? *shudder*

  • “Algún Día” is the first of a 10-episode mini-season, and according to Valderrama, this won’t be the last time you see one hour of TV rolling into the next because the showrunners grabbed the opportunity to play with the normal NCIS structure. Head here to read the full interview with Agent Torres himself and start getting excited for season 21!

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