Often, the worst scars are the ones people can’t see.
A daring breakout
At a federal prison in Pennsylvania, a priest (Frank Rodriguez) was giving communion to a prisoner (Ramon Franco), slipping him a note hidden in the wafer. Seconds later, a bomb rocked the prison, forcing an evacuation. Amid the chaos, a guard (David Hughey) suddenly shot another as a helicopter landed in the yard to pick up him and that prisoner.
Returning from a jog, Gaines stripped off her shirt to show scars on her back. She passed by ex-husband Nick (Migs Govea) as the two were at odds over Nick not telling Kristin he had a girlfriend. Nick noted that Gaines had been difficult ever since being in a car accident after an undercover assignment. She ignored him as she headed out.
On a plane, Jess explained the escapee was Estevan Martin Maldonado, aka El Pincho, a notorious drug lord being held for trial. Gaines seemed shaken hearing how the man had tortured an undercover cop yet also took family seriously.
With Ortiz attending his brother’s wedding, the rest of the team arrived on the scene, telling the media to get out the word to find Maldonado. Captain Roland (Kevin Craig West) brought up the chopper had a short range, so Maldonado must have had some help waiting.
DEA agent Greg Galson (Stephen Rider) brought the team to meet Warden Love (Tasha Lawrence), who related the guard, Charlie Simmich, had been a model employee. That “model” part rang false with word that Simmich had murdered his wife as it was clear the guy was a long-term plant for the cartel to pull off this escape.
The helicopter was found crashed in the forest as the bullets it took in the escape damaged it, which threw off the entire escape plan.
Another guard, John Langry, was leaving his house only for Simmich and Maldonado to show up and kill him. His wife pulled a gun as her daughter hid, only for Maldonado to drag her out for a dark fate.
The body of the real priest was discovered dead in his home, so the man who had seen Maldonado earlier was an imposter. The data from the helicopter led to an airport in Scranton where a private plane was landing with a gorgeous woman stepping out.
The hunt takes a deadly turn
As tips came in about the escapees, some friction arrived in the form of U.S. Marshal Samuels (Tony D. Head), who insisted on taking over. Jess wasn’t interested in a clash while Gaines talked to marshal Tara McPherson (Molly Burnett), who lost her nephew to drugs. Gaines offered to partner with her on some leads.
The woman, Emiliana Fererya (Ana Isabelle) claimed to be Estevan’s wife (really, his mistress) and wanted to be with him. Barnes realized the woman had a child, but Estevan wasn’t the father, and the woman was so terrified of him that she was willing to leave her kid behind to be with him.
Somehow the media got wind the plane had been compromised, which meant Maldonado and Simmich knew their escape was thwarted. The pair were holding a woman hostage, with Simmich saying they could run together as it turned out the two were lovers. Maldonado ended that relationship decisively with some bullets before proving his manhood by attacking the woman.
Gaines and Tara were bonding in the car with Tara noting how Gaines was in a tough spot once due to an undercover job. The cops found Simmich’s body with the hostage left alive but assaulted. They figured Maldonado was going to someplace he knew he could trust, like the local drug operations.
Emiliana’s brother Gabriel, a local dealer with a big rap sheet, was a likely aide. Tara and Gaines found some dealers, roughing them up with Tara intense demanding to know the stash house’s location. They met the rest of the team outside it just as someone inside opened fire on them.
Maldonado was running from the house with the two sides trading gunfire. Galson had the drop on him but didn’t fire, allowing Maldonado to shoot a passerby and steal a car to escape. Jess pulled his gun on Galson, demanding to know how long he’d been working for the cartel.
Gaines faces her past
Jess had already been suspicious of Galson trying to steer them away from the stash house but refused to tell where his boss was going. It turned out he was the father of Emiliana’s child and was terrified of being killed in prison but more scared of talking.
Tara and Gaines discovered drugs hidden in a religious statue belonging to a convent which they realized was a front for the drug operation, run by the “priest” Luis. Maldonado was already there, seeing “nuns” bundling up the drugs with one pulling a gun on him.
The feds rolled up as Maldonado took one nun hostage. Luis showed up to fire a machine gun and lead Maldonado toward the escape tunnels. Gaines pursued only for the pair to get the drop on her to use as a hostage.
Gaines stood up to the drug lord, saying, “there’s nothing you can do to me that I haven’t already survived,” and daring him to shoot her. Jess and Barnes arrived to trade gunfire with him, Luis going down, before Tara led other officers to block the exit.
Gaines encouraged them to take the shot, but she was in the way, so Gaines slipped a knife from her pocket to stab Maldonado in the leg. She seemed tempted to finish him off but instead had him arrested.
Gaines brushed off Jess’ concerns and Tara called her a “rock star” while offering Gaines some help with old contacts in Columbia.
Back home, Gaines finally opened up to Nick that the scars on her back weren’t from a car accident. She’d been found out by some drug dealers on a job who tortured her and far worse. She held out until her team rescued her and tried to put it behind her.
Nick was upset she’d never told him, but Kristin didn’t want to ruin the “escape” of her home with this. She admitted that “feeling nothing” had helped her survive before but was now tired of it. She now felt free as the pair shared a drink.
It was a wild manhunt, but the real focus was on Gaines and her past as she tries to move ahead for the future on the show.
FBI: Most Wanted Season 3 returns with new episodes Tuesday, February 22 at 10/9c on CBS.