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NCIS: New Orleans - Close to Home - Review: Seeking a Better Life

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NCIS: New Orleans - Close to Home - Review: Seeking a Better Life
5.8 - "Close to Home"
Directed by Tony Wharmby
Written by Katherine Beattie
Reviewed by Kelly Anne Blount

Recap – “Close to Home” opens with a drill sergeant leading high school JROTC members through the woods on a run and through a series of pushups. She is focused on one young man she refers to as Torres. As she’s yelling at all of the students to hustle, she is stabbed multiple times in the back.

Pride is at a bakery visiting his half-brother, Jimmy. There’s some drama going down outside of the front door. There’s a young man arguing with the bakery’s owner, Alma. Pride asks if he should intervene. His brother tells Pride not to intervene. He will let him know if anything changes and he needs Pride’s help.

After Pride buys his Beignets (I think that’s what he has in the to go box?) he gets a call from ASAC Thompson. Thompson reminds Pride that he has a very important meeting in fifteen minutes. Too bad Pride is more than twenty minutes away! He doesn’t care though… He just wants those pastries and perhaps his old job back?

Gregorio meets up with Hannah at the scene of the crime. The murder took place on the grounds of a high school, close to a football field. Much to Gregorio’s surprise, Hannah admits that she didn’t have an easy time in high school.

Loretta brings them back to reality. The victim is Sargent Kate Dunn. She was viciously murdered. Hannah wonders if Dunn might have pushed one of her recruits too hard. Seems like a big leap to make without any background knowledge.

Sebastian admits that he wanted to join JROTC in high school. Gregorio laughs and tells him that he wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. Sebastian admits that his mother told him the exact same thing, in the same tone. Oh, Sebastian! You are the best. Look at everything you’ve overcome to become an NCIS agent!

Hannah and Gregorio interview all of the kids in JROTC. As they look through their notes, they state that they don’t have any leads. No one even noticed that Dunn was missing until they got back to the locker room.

Gregorio calls teenagers, “hormonal sociopaths.” Hannah points out that their frontal loads aren’t full developed yet.

Just as they are getting ready to leave, one final student named Mary Foster shows up. She’s listening to K-pop and Hannah admits that she hung out with K-pop stars when she lived in South Korea. Love it!

Bringing the conversation back to Sargent Dunn, Foster says that she didn’t see anything, but she admits that Mateo Diaz was, “sort of extra.” She says that he moved to the States from Central America by himself and that he didn’t have any family. According to rumors, he killed someone in Central America and is hiding out in Louisiana for the time being. Foster admits that Dunn was always pulling Diaz to the side and talking to him. Also, Mateo hasn’t been in school for several days. Time for the team to figure out what’s happening with the JROTC member!

Back at HQ, Christopher and Sebastian talk about Diaz. LaSalle points out that Diaz is prime gang recruitment material, being so far away from his family and all. Sebastian tells him to pump the brakes on his assumptions. Diaz is on the honor roll, is a member of JROTC, and he works two jobs. Ah, one of his jobs is at Desiree’s, the same bakery that Pride’s half-brother works at. I wonder if he knows Diaz?

Pride is at work. He looks super bored. He’s also unprepared. Luckily, Thompson has everything, including a slideshow and full presentation ready. Pride owes him, big time. Before Thompson can get past the slide, Pride gets a call from Christopher.

LaSalle fills Pride in on the case. Pride knows Mateo from the bakery. LaSalle admits that Jimmy won’t tell him anything about Mateo. Interesting, why wouldn’t Pride’s brother want to help with the case? LaSalle asks for Pride’s help. He’s hoping Pride will call Jimmy and ask him to talk to LaSalle. Mateo’s life may depend on it. Even though he’s at work and in the middle an important meeting, Pride leaves to meet LaSalle and Jimmy at the bakery.

Jimmy plays it close to the chest. He says that he doesn’t know where Mateo is or where he’s been hiding. Jimmy does admit that Alma, the bakery owner, was hassled this morning by a guy looking for Mateo. Pride saw this go down. Jimmy says that it could be gang related.

Pride and LaSalle find Mateo at an abandoned parking structure. He’s riding his bike and tries to get away from them. He trips up while trying to get away and crashes his bike. Before Pride and LaSalle can say much of anything an undercover NOPD officer shows up. He claims that Mateo has nothing to do with the murder and that Mateo is his confidential informant (C.I.).

The police officer reluctantly tells LaSalle and Pride that Mateo is informing on the Aztec Kings, a Central American gang. LaSalle is surprised that they are in New Orleans. Pride and the NOPD officer aren’t.

Mateo is surprised to hear that Sargent Dunn is dead. Pride convinces the officer that they need to question Mateo at NCIS HQ.

In the interrogation room, Mateo says that Dunn was the only person who cared about him. He is really upset about her death. He says that he was given asylum in the United States due to the gang violence from the Aztec Kings.

Even though he left Central America, he admits that the Aztec Kings still found him and threatened to kill his parents. To ensure his family wasn’t injured, he began helping them transport drugs. He told Sargent Dunn what was going on and she introduced him to NOPD Officer Carter, who was trying to help Mateo get out. Mateo volunteered as a C.I. He tells Pride, “Somebody has to fight back, so why not me?” Oh man. What a good kid!

Officer Carter is pacing in HQ. He’s nervous that the Aztec Kings are going to find out that Mateo is a C.I. Pride comes out of the interrogation room and tells the team that they probably already know, as guys have been looking for Mateo the last few days. If they know that he’s acting as a C.I., there’s a good chance the Aztec Kings were responsible for Sargent Dunn’s murder.

The team agree to let Mateo testify to the D.A. That way, he won’t be deported. Carter is worried. Mateo is in danger.

Pride, Gregorio, and Hannah know they need evidence linking Dunn’s murder to the Aztec Kings and they need it ASAP!

LaSalle visits Loretta in the morgue. He says that the murder fits the Aztec Kings’ M.O., but that isn’t enough to charge anyone with the crime. Luckily, Sebastian has more. He says that the Aztec Kings have a very specific initiation. They are given a personalized knife and have to kill someone with it. The knife was left in Dunn’s body, but so far, they don’t know who owns it.

The team goes over what they know about the Aztec Kings. Turns out they present as typical as possible, trying to remain off of police radar. They use social media, but via coded messages. As is pointed out, wishing someone a happy birthday on Facebook, could actually be an ordered hit.

Pride sees a familiar face. Leo Reyes was the guy harassing Alma, the bakery’s owner, while looking for Mateo this morning. Pride asks for his address on his way out to his car.

Pride and Hannah show up at the address listed for Reyes. He’s there with several young men and women. When Hannah tells him that they need to speak to him at HQ, he refuses. He also says that he didn’t know Sargent Dunn.

Pride wants to know why Reyes was looking for Mateo this morning. Reyes says that he’s worried about Mateo, who he says, “is like family.” He all but threatens Mateo in front of Pride and Hannah. Pride tells Reyes to leave Mateo alone. Pride is not playing. I have a feeling Reyes isn’t going to take him seriously and that isn’t going to turn out well for one person, Reyes.

Shots ring out. Pride and Hannah take cover as their SUV sustains several bullet holes and a blown out window.

Hannah and Pride head back to HQ. By the time NOPD arrived, all of the Aztec Kings were in the air a.k.a. the gun shots were a distraction so they could get away.

There’s more bad news. Officer Carter didn’t bring Mateo to the D.A. like he promised. Instead, he brought him to an ICE facility. Sebastian and the rest of the crew think there’s a good chance that there are Aztec Kings in the facility and that Mateo’s life is in danger. Is Carter a connected to the Aztec Kings? He isn’t answering his phone nor has he checked in with his supervisor. Not good!

Mateo heads to the ICE facility. The man they have in protective custody, isn’t Mateo. Uh oh! You know what that means? They “lost” Mateo Diaz and by lost, it means that he’s in the general population. It’s only a matter of time before the Aztec Kings find him and kill him.

As if things can’t get any worse, Carter is still MIA and his C.I. agreement with Mateo isn’t officially recorded anywhere. Carter is looking more and more guilty by the minute. There’s more! Each of the Aztec Kings arrests Carter has made end up getting bumped down from felonies to misdemeanors due to missing evidence. The gang members are serving minimal time and Carter continues to get richer and richer.

Sebastian has a lead! One of the missing pieces of evidence is the knife that was used to stab Sargent Dunn. Hannah hypothesizes that Officer Carter stole the knife from the evidence room and killed Dunn once she found out he was dirty. He tried to pin the murder on the Aztec Kings, but in reality, the knife’s owner was behind bars at the time of Dunn’s murder.

Christopher is pissed! He wants to take down Carter ASAP! Hannah and the rest of the crew are right there with him. But, before they can even hit place the BOLO, they receive news. Officer Carter has been murdered.

Already in the morgue, Loretta shares that Carter was found stabbed multiple times and stripped naked, to put his shame on full display. The M.O. fits the Aztec Kings.

Pride needs to find Mateo ASAP or he’s going to be the next one in Loretta’s morgue.

Over at the ICE detention center, a couple of guys are following Mateo. He pleads with the guard for help, but the guard ignores him. Looks like we found out who the Aztec Kings have on their payroll. Just as one of the men pulls a knife on Mateo, Pride shows up and saves him. Several other guards step in and help. PHEW! That was close, Pride!

Back at HQ, Hannah tells the team that Pride has Mateo in a safe, but “off the grid” location. Jimmy is there too. Hopefully that will help calm Mateo down. Poor kid!

Milton Gordon, the guard the team suspects of being paid for by the Aztec Kings, is on his way in to be interrogated. They knew they need to break him and find Reyes and his crew, ASAP! Otherwise, Mateo, Jimmy, and Pride are in imminent danger.

Thompson calls Pride. He’s freaking out. Pride not only missed the presentation yesterday, he isn’t at work now. Instead, he’s with Jimmy and Mateo. Thompson agrees to cover Pride’s butt one more time. Pride seems to be skating on thin ice at his new job.

Mateo doesn’t trust Pride or Jimmy. He doesn’t think he’s safe anywhere. Pride does his best to convince him. Hush puppies are there to help.

LaSalle is interrogating Gordon. Not only did he ignore Mateo’s pleas for help, he was the one who switched Mateo’s paperwork, sending the wrong guy to protective custody. Gordon cracks immediately. He says for a couple extra bucks a month, he looks the other way. He then adds, “We don’t get involved in their violence.”

Turns out Gordon isn’t the only guard the Aztec Kings are controlling. The shift supervisor, Roland Webb, is in their pocket as well. It gets worse, Webb followed Pride and Mateo once they left the prison.

Pride and Jimmy have taken Mateo out to their Pop’s old fishing cabin a.k.a. the middle of nowhere. It might be a bit too isolated, as Pride doesn’t even have cell reception.

As the guys are kicking back, Jimmy finds an old landline phone. It still works.

You know what else works? Following someone. Reyes and the Aztec Kings open fire on the old fishing cabin, trying to take out Mateo, Jimmy, and Pride.

Pride is the only one with a gun. Things aren’t looking good. He tells Jimmy to help Mateo escape out the back. Jimmy refuses to leave Pride, but Pride won’t have it. He convinces his brother to sneak out the back with Mateo.

As Jimmy and Mateo run into the woods, Pride unloads his last bullet. This can’t be good! There are still several extremely angry Aztec Kings with guns and they are getting ready to charge the cabin.

Meanwhile, Sebastian is doing his best to decipher the Aztec Kings’ code on social media. Luckily, he’s a genius! He manages to crack the code and give Hannah, Gregorio, and LaSalle the address to Pop’s cabin.

Mateo sprained his ankle. He and Jimmy aren’t going anywhere.

Pride is fending off the cabin. Pride style.

Reyes is in the woods and looking for Mateo. Jimmy attacks him, but Reyes wins the fight. Mateo emerges from the woods. Reyes knocks Jimmy out and sets his sights on Mateo.

Mateo has a gun pointed at Reyes. Reyes has his Aztec Kings blade in his hands. Just as Reyes approaches Mateo, he gets shot in the shoulder. Turns out that it wasn’t Mateo who pulled the trigger, it was Pride.

Gregorio, Hannah, and LaSalle race to the scene of the crime. They take Reyes into custody and help Jimmy up from the ground. Pride puts his arm around Mateo and helps him out of the woods.

Back at Pride’s office (he’s at Belle Chasse, right?), Thompson has news. Great news! Mateo’s record has been wiped clean and his application for citizenship has been fast tracked. Yahoo!

Pride asks Thompson if it feels good to bend the rules, even if it’s for the right reasons. Thompson informs Pride that he did everything by the rules.

Pride asks about their visitors from the DOD. Thompson tells Pride that he extended their stay by one day. Not only that, but he set up a meeting for their presentation tomorrow morning at eight o’clock.

Ha ha! Pride is shocked. He’s not a man for early starts. Thompson is starting to become a new favorite for me. I’m hoping we see him in more scenes and out in the field!

Over at Jimmy’s house (Or is that above Pride’s bar?), Mateo is working on Pride and Jimmy’s old bike (they found it at Pop’s house). They gave it to him and he’s super excited to restore it.

Oh! My heart! Pride brings Loretta over to meet Mateo. She tells him about adopting her two boys and says she knows a lot of great foster families looking to bring a great kid like Mateo into their family. What an amazing ending to an action-packed episode!

Review/Thoughts – “Close to home” was another solid episode. I love that we got to see more of ASAC Thompson! I have a good feeling that he’s going to be a clutch character in future episodes. What do you think? I really loved him on Grimm!

I also liked seeing Jimmy and Pride working together. Family is everything to Pride and this episode sure brought that home!

I would have loved a few more Sebastian quips, they always make the episode for me! That and more Sebastian and Gregorio scenes.

My only concern is that Pride continues to solve cases with his old team like he still works there. Granted, there’s a legitimate reason he gets involved each and every time, but how long can things go on like this? At what point is he going to get fired for never going to his new job? What do you think? Will there be a big event to spur this change? Will Pride get fired or will he quit first? What will happen to Hannah? So many questions! Be sure to leave a comment below with your thoughts! I’d love to hear them!

What did you think of this episode of NCIS – New Orleans? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts! Be sure to leave a comment below!

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