NCIS flirts with the spooky this week but ultimately refrains from making the jump to supernatural crime.
A woman jogging through the woods hears a ghostly voice calling for help and discovers a badly decomposed corpse in a shed. The body, which I must point out has maggots squirming in its eye sockets, is Victor King, a prominent Navy supplier who’d been under a two-year DOD investigation for fraud and selling defective materials before he disappeared in February.
As the team gathers evidence, the jogger, software engineer Amber Davis (Laura Regan), claims to hear the body speaking to her again to complain that he’s cold.
On the subject of ghosts communicating with the living, the team breaks down pretty much as you’d expect: Torres and Abby are believers; Bishop, Vance, Jack, and Palmer are somewhat open to it; and McGee and Ducky are not having it. In fact, Ducky says hearing voices is a common auditory hallucination associated with mental health issues.
Palmer and Ducky, who’s home for the holidays, discover that King died of hypothermia, likely after getting lost while hiking, And hey, the ghostly voice did tell Amber he was cold.
But Gibbs wonders how an experienced hiker like King got lost in a state park. Although Gibbs is reluctant to talk to Amber again, Vance says the DOD wants to nab King dead or alive. “We have questions, Amber might have answers,” is Vance’s less catchy RadioShack slogan.
Jack’s on it, telling Amber that sometimes the brain makes subconscious connections that feel like psychic flashes. Sometimes it’s a person’s gut, while other times it’s an inner voice. In this case, she thinks Amber somehow picked up clues about King, and that inner voice led her to the shed.
As their conversation progresses, Jack learns that Amber’s daughter died last year in her sleep from heart problems, and it ended her marriage. Then Jack’s desk light flickers, and Amber has a vision of King fighting with someone, a man in a red BMW in West Bay.
Bishop has no luck matching the car description to anyone in West Bay, but she hits pay dirt when she searches by name: Thomas Westbay owned the red BMW and died in a car accident two days before King disappeared. But Amber declares that it was no accident. DUN!
McGee can’t find any connection between King and Westbay, who was an OSHA building inspector. Civilian DOD contractor Jimmy Lancaster shows up with the King files and asks if Amber can find his lost wedding ring before his wife notices. McGee tells him to beat it.
The police report says Westbay fell asleep at the wheel because there were no skid marks before his crash, buuuut he hit the brake pedal so hard, it still shows his shoe imprint. Still, the brakes were in perfect working order by the time the police arrived.
Abby wonders if there’s some way the brakes could’ve stopped working and then magically fixed themselves, while McGee wonders why Westbay was taking his brand-new car to the mechanic every three weeks like clockwork.
With very little effort in interrogation, the mechanic admits that Westbay was laundering bribe money through the auto repair shop, and the fake repair bills covered the laundering fees. Walter White would approve!
That night, Amber arrives at Chez Gibbs, where our man’s perusing Gabriel Hicks’ file. (See? We’re totally going to see that murdering con artist again someday!) Gibbs invited her there to talk, and she asks how he explains his gut instinct. “It is what it is,” he says. So why can’t she be whatever she is?
Gibbs tosses her Westbay’s vehicle gas cap, and at first she’s unsure what to do with it, but it moves her to draw a map to the burial spot of something case-related. When McGee and Bishop follow it, they discover what Abby describes as a “murder weapon-palooza.”
There’s a custom onboard diagnostic drive that could’ve been used to disable and then re-enable Westbay’s brakes, as well as King’s fancy GPS hiker watch that someone hacked to send him into the woods to his death. That’s…diabolical.
Assuming this was the perfect murder, the killer didn’t wipe off any fingerprints, and they come back to none other than Amber Davis!
In questioning, she points to her Uganda alibi, but Gibbs has a photo of her flying into the U.S. on a fake passport during the February murder window. Also, she drew the map while holding Gibbs’ gas cap, so there goes the psychic defense.
Jack buys Amber’s teary-eyed confusion as she promises to help Gibbs solve the murders if he promises not to railroad her if she’s innocent. (Next page: Gibbs sees dead people)