Things get personal for Detective Lovato when a man from her undercover past is killed.
While taking the bus to work, Detective Jamie Lovato recognizes a woman named Carmen from her time working undercover with the Trinitario street gang. When two men get into an argument, resulting in one of the men being stabbed, Lovato jumps forward and identifies herself as a police officer to take care of the situation. Carmen sneaks away in the chaos, leaving Lovato to wonder if the chance encounter has put anyone else in danger.
Benny Madera, who was middle-management in the gang, is found dead in a warehouse, hanging by his hands with his body severed at the waist by a chainsaw. He was tortured by electrocution before being cut in half while he was still alive. Carmen was in a low-level position in the gang, and she must have tried to advance in the gang by letting the others know about Lovato’s identity as a cop—which made Benny a target since he was close to her while she was working undercover.
Mac and Jo speak with DEA Agent Hicks, Lovato’s liaison while undercover, and he reveals that there’s going to be a grand jury case that will bring down a bunch of the gang members in just a few days’ time. Hicks brings in a confidential informant named Raymond Cruz, who says a guy named Hector, aka “Toasty”, is bragging about killing Benny. A unique type of green paint from the electrical burns on Benny’s chest, transferred over from the jumper cables used to electrocute him, leads back to a 1972 Buick belonging to Toasty. They locate the car, which the killer set on fire; fortunately, it’s an older vehicle with few plastic components, so the fire spread slowly and didn’t completely destroy the evidence. There is a chainsaw, car battery and jumper cables in the trunk. Toasty insists that he loaned the car to Carmen a few days ago to run some errands, and she never brought it back.
Danny analyzes a lump of melted plastic from the trunk, which used to be a poncho. The killer wore it while sawing Benny in half, and it was wrapped around a pair of gloves and a rag the killer used to wipe Benny’s blood off his face. The poncho protected the DNA on the rag, leading the team to Raymond, Hicks’ informant. Raymond killed Benny because he thought the man sold him out when he was arrested, before he was forced to become a confidential informant.
“Blood Out” puts some focus on newcomer Jamie Lovato, and it’s a welcome addition to the episode. We knew from her first appearance in “Where There’s Smoke” that Lovato spent time undercover, and this episode offers more information about her past. It also offers a glimpse of Lovato during her 17-month stint as Anita Castillo, showing how good she was at her job while she pretended to be part of the Trinitarios. It’s clear that Lovato felt an attraction toward Benny, and his feelings for her are even more obvious—otherwise, she would not have lived to join the New York team—but I’m glad that Lovato kept things professional between them. She isn’t pleased when Flack suggests that her reaction to Benny’s death is too personal. It’s obvious that he wonders if something happened between them, but she insists that her job means more to her than almost anything. Having a relationship with Benny would have been crossing a line, and she’d never do that. The reason why she’s so upset about Benny’s death is that he saved her life by making her leave the gang when he found out she was a cop. She called him more than a dozen times after she saw Carmen, hoping to return the favor by saving him from the other members of his gang, but she was too late.
Despite the fact that Lovato emerges from the episode untarnished as a cop, things seem a bit more shaky at the beginning. It’s a good choice, I think, since she’s a new recurring character and therefore a more unknown element. Generally speaking, when it’s one of the main characters on the line, it’s hard to buy that he or she could be in real trouble. With Lovato, on the other hand, it feels like a real possibility that she could be gone by the end of the hour. I’m glad she’s sticking around, though. It’s nice to have a second detective working with the team, and I like Lovato a lot, as an individual character and as Flack’s partner. There’s an obvious rapport between the characters, and Natalie Martinez and Eddie Cahill have good chemistry in all of their scenes, whether the detectives are getting along or having a disagreement.
The scene with Flack and Lovato in the car, while they’re waiting for Toasty to show up, is a really nice moment between them. It’s obvious that Flack is curious about Lovato’s past, and he presses gently for more information. Lovato sees the world differently than Flack does, based on her experiences growing up. She had a rough childhood, and she knows how close she came to ending up on the other side of the law. Fortunately for her and her brothers, their grandmother took them in and gave them love and support—something the kids who join gangs are desperate to find. Lovato doesn’t give other people a free pass for going down the wrong path, but it does alter her perspective. She seems to see more shades of grey, while Flack views the world in more black-and-white terms. It’s an interesting conversation, and it continues to set up a nice dynamic between these two characters. They’ve had a cute flirtation so far, but this shows a more in-depth connection between them.
It’s hard to avoid comparing Lovato to the late Jessica Angell, who occupied the same role as a secondary detective on the team—especially since Angell was in a relationship with Flack prior to her death. I loved Angell, and I’ve been fond of Lovato since she sauntered into the precinct and promptly took down a guy more than twice her size. This week really helps to separate Lovato from Angell, showing that although they are both tough, capable women doing the same job, they are very different individuals from very different backgrounds. (Angell, for example, was from a family of cops.) I’m glad the writers have gone slow with things between Flack and Lovato, teasing their interest without jumping into a relationship too quickly. That said, the last scene makes it obvious that it’s only a matter of time before things heat up between them. Flack is waiting outside Lovato’s apartment when she gets home from work; he offers her some takeout and apologizes for making accusations about her relationship with Benny. It looks like they might kiss, but they pull away before anything happens. I think they’ll be a great couple when they finally get together; as a bonus, since Lovato (like Angell before her) only appears on a recurring basis, their relationship shouldn’t feel overpowering in the middle of the usual forensic investigations. Season nine has really expanded the focus on personal storylines, and Flack having a longterm relationship would be a nice addition to this trend.
See also: “Blood Out” episode guide