[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for NCIS Season 18, Episode 12, “Sangre.”]
Special Agent Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) reunites with the father who left when he was a kid but Miguel (Steven Bauer) isn’t the dad he’s having dinner with by the end of the April 20 episode of NCIS.
He left to protect his family, Miguel claims, and after he takes bullets (to a Kevlar vest), Nick is ready to give him a second chance. But when he gets to Miguel’s hotel room, his dad has cleared out. And so he goes to Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) house and gets a steak (it’s tradition when disappointing dads come to town for his agents).
Valderrama tells us we’ll see a changed Torres moving forward and teases the May 25 season finale. (Fortunately, NCIS has been renewed.)
Torres looked so hopeful when making plans with his father. Had he considered the possibility he’d leave?
Wilmer Valderrama: Torres has evolved and had other examples of loyalty and respect. He’s had an accidental father [in Gibbs] and an accidental family [in the team] that he wasn’t expecting. He [gave Miguel] the benefit of the doubt. Before he would know that he was not going to be there because he understands how to psychologically break down somebody else’s actions and behaviors and understand that there will be patterns that some of them can’t break.
But this was so personal and based on this new wave of information and the soulful journey he’s been on in the last five years of NCIS, I think he really hoped and believed that this was possibly a new beginning for him and his father. He was probably really excited to make up some of that time and show his father that no matter what his father did or did not do, was or wasn’t there for, he turned out to be a man that his father could be proud of.
When he [got] to that hotel room and saw his deep, deep fear come true, it broke something in Torres. It made Torres go back to a place where he had drifted from: the Torres that came in that first episode of Season 13 that didn’t trust anyone. That is something that we’re going to see play out in the next couple of episodes. There’s going to be a situation where Torres is gonna retreat back to some of the character traits that helped him survive in those eight years of undercover work. [His dad not being there] confirmed that he has to go back to who he was, which could be good and could be bad.
Especially because Torres’ “Papa” after Miguel was shot was just so heartbreaking.
He thought, “I have nothing else. Yeah, I have my sister and my niece, but I have no one to tell me who I was when I was a kid. I have no one else who can remind me who I was before everything about my job changed who I was.” He wanted to hang on to that. The full circle of that storyline is he really thought, “This is a moment my heart didn’t know it needed until now.”[When] his father gets shot, he realized he needed his dad, a dad, and major closure so he can move on and be the adult he’s grown up to be. At that moment, he realized, “Maybe my life is different because Gibbs and this team have taught me that it is possible to have a family and to really have the loyalty and trust in one another.” He gets his hopes up [about his father] because the only ones that had never broken his heart have been the NCIS family.
In a way, Torres did get to have dinner with his dad in that heartwarming scene with Gibbs.
It was a confirmation to Torres that he really isn’t alone, he has a place to go, that there is someone who’s been more of a father to him than anyone else in his life. Sitting with Gibbs, knowing everything Gibbs has been through with his wife and his kid, gave Torres the hope that maybe it’ll turn out OK. Maybe not everything is lost. I don’t think Torres started driving expecting to end up at Gibbs’ house. [They’re] like two seasoned wolves [with] an unspoken pain that no one is willing to process. Torres felt not just comforted but like, “Back to original programming. That was close. I almost felt something. Now I go back to not.”
There is the will they/won’t they vibe between Nick and Ellie [Bishop, played by Emily Wickersham], and this episode makes it clear that she’s someone he leans on. He’d clearly talked to her about the conversation he and his dad had about why Miguel left. What does Ellie mean to Nick?
Above it all, they have a very deep friendship. He has never really confided in anyone. He was an undercover agent before he joined NCIS and is trained to not trust anyone. It’s tough to break those rules, but this team has really cracked something in Torres and allowed Torres to think outside of himself and maybe even wonder, “Is there a family in that?” He really bought into that.
Torres and Bishop themselves don’t know what this is yet. They’ve never broken that rule. They’re not necessarily emotionally available, but they know they need to lean on somebody and this is the closest to a friendship or relationship they’ll ever have at this moment. I really believe that Torres sees Bishop as someone that will never betray him or lie to him.
How much are we going to see them addressing what may or may not be between them this season?
We’re going to see it. This is the season where we understand where it all will fall. The writers have done a beautiful love letter to the fans that have been wanting to know and understand more about [them].
What can you tease about what’s next for Gibbs when it comes to his career and the effect on the team?
The only thing I can tell you is that we got picked up for a Season 19. We’re very blessed and very excited that we’re able to return and give the fans a real season. Last year we stopped abruptly, so we weren’t able to give fans a real season finale and a real season opener.
Katrina Law’s coming in at the end of the season [as REACT Special Agent Jessica Knight]. What can you tease about how her character interacts with the team?
She’s fantastic. Her energy just fits right in and we’re having a lot of fun. We’ve had [her in] multiple episodes. Both of our characters have a lot of interesting dynamics and energies and mythologies and philosophies [in common], so I think these two characters are going to have fun in the field as well. Ultimately with her, it’s fun to bring another element to the show and just play, just have fun and continue to build interesting episodes. Her character has a very interesting kickoff, so that’s going to be a really great episode.
Our season finale is going to really absolutely blow everyone out of the water. It is absolutely the season finale that the fans deserve and I promise you there will be absolutely no way anybody can predict what’s going to happen. I’m not the guy who hypes a fight. I’m always the guy that says, “Watch it and you’ll see.” But the writers did an incredible episode to pay tribute to all the questions that people had from Season 17 to 18 and then really kick off the 19th season.
Everything you ever wanted and more [in the finale]. All [the remaining] episodes are going to create a lot of conversation for sure.
NCIS, Tuesdays, 8/7c, CBS