NCIS returns from its winter hiatus with a time-hopping episode that finds our favorite agents maybe, possibly, kind of engaging in a little accidental-ish hostage-taking. But hey, what’s a little Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility deployment among friends?
We open in the midst of Secretary of Defense Wynn Crawford (Mitch “FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner” Pileggi) demanding Torres and McGee’s weapons and badges, warning that their felonious hacking will land them in prison.
But before we can get to the hacking, we have to jump back two days, with Bishop and Torres sitting in for Gibbs and McGee at the multi-day Optics in Law Enforcement seminar at the Freemont Inn.
The woman conducting the seminar busts the pair for talking and texting (Bishop’s setting up date No. 5 with someone named Boyd), so they duck out and — oopsie! — stumble across a room full of corpses.
In the present, Sloane texts Vance before she and Gibbs interrogate a terrorism suspect named Hartgrave. (Weirdly, she’s in Vance’s phone as “Sloan.”)
Two days prior, a frazzled Freemont Inn employee chides NCIS for declaring a crime scene without all the facts. The twenty bodies in the room Torres and Bishop found are actually cadavers intended for a surgical robot medical conference, which would be fine — if there weren’t, in fact, twenty-one bodies in the room. And the employee’s attempts to keep a lid on things fail when the law enforcement officers at the conference, along with a local TV anchor, all peer curiously into the cadaver room.
In autopsy, Palmer cuts open the only body without a toe tag and discovers that the internal organs are basically mush. Kasie’s follow-up testing uncovers something terrible: The man’s lungs disintegrated from chlorine gas — you know, the stuff banned by the Geneva Convention.
But hey, in lighter news, McGee’s thrilled to get a box of gadgets from fancy tech company Splendifida. He suggests it’s a thank you after he pointed out a few bugs in their mechanical dog that he bought the twins for Christmas, and the agents go gaga for the free drone, VR goggles, and watch with a hidden knife and camera. Also, Torres gets ahold of Bishop’s phone and cancels her date with Boyd by sending a terse, “Sorry, work stuff.”
In the present, Hartgrave claims no knowledge of enough missing chemical weapons to wipe out a city block.
Back to two days ago, McGee and Torres settle into Kasie’s lab movie theater for a presentation on the past and current uses of chemical weapons. (Gotta say, I’m enjoying Kasie’s multimedia approach to information sharing, even if this week’s subject is extra distressing.) She also announces that the chlorine gas victim was Keenan Grant, who drove trucks for the Trine Chemical Agent Destruction Plant.
And this is where we first meet Dr. Patton Hartgrave, Trine’s lead chemical engineer. Hartgrave has a cough that we all know will end up tying him to some the crime of the week. The Trine CEO says their supply of chlorine gas was destroyed years ago, but this claim is undercut when the team learns that Grant was on a run to the Freemont Inn the night of his death.
Just as things are getting interesting, Secretary of Defense Crawford bumps into Gibbs and orders him to shut down NCIS’s investigation lest it interfere with the State Department’s work on a Syrian cease-fire agreement.
Ah, but in the present, Hartgrave starts coughing up chunks of lung thanks to chlorine gas exposure. ”I’ll be dead before you can get me to talk,” he gloats. Still, Crawford doesn’t want to move on this new information.
Then we’re back to the day before when the team starts tiptoeing into ethically gray areas. They don’t have permission to access missing weapons files, but they do have permission to search security records pertaining to this week’s victim. Rather than hack the Pentagon, they decide to hack Trine. And is it even really hacking if Torres was wearing the fancy hidden-camera watch that captured Hartgrave’s admin password?
They log in and download whatever they can before their hack is traced. Reviewing the records on Kasie’s computer reveals that Hartgrave was on the Freemont Inn pickup with Grant, indicating that’s when the gas poisoning happened.
At this point, Trine complains to Vance about the NCIS hack, and we’re now caught up with the beginning of the episode, as a furious Crawford threatens Torres and McGee in Vance’s office. (Next page: Can we really trust the SecDef?)