To start, let’s hear it for this week’s MVP: Whatever casting director found Charles Tyler Kinder and realized he was the perfect teenage McGee. Because make no mistake, he was.
In 1994, young Timothy introduces a girl to a “web browser” that connects you to the “internet.” Somehow, she has no idea what he’s talking about, yet immediately realizes this will allow him to tunnel into the phone company’s backend servers.
McGee wants to give himself free long distance to call his dad when he’s deployed, while young Chloe wants him to make money off of this discovery. He executes the command, and it blows out a transformer and gets him grounded for a week.
McGee recounts this story as he wheels in the (huge!) first PC he ever built, which he was hoping to introduce the twins to. Instead, they introduced their bodily fluids to it.
Then a mustachioed busybody bustles up to ask everybody for expense reports. It’s Dick Sullivan, deputy inspector general, there to audit Gibbs’ team.
A couple of things here: Torres’ pens and protein powder aren’t expensable, and Rule 99 states NOT to tell Gibbs he’s being audited. NOTED.
The audit-mania’s interrupted when the body of DOD payroll employee Edward Kane is found in the woods with a notebook in his pocket bearing the impression of an old computer password of McGee’s.
As the odds of Kane randomly matching the nineteen-digit string is 9,000,652,000 to one and his last call was to McGee’s former high school, the team rolls out.
At good ol’ Westfield High School in Hampstead, Md., McGee encounters Mr. Lewis, who still runs the computer lab and claims not to remember him despite the fact that McGee was top of his computer class and one of the high schoolers Lewis judged in the talent show back in the day.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Lewis claims he never spoke to Kane, then leaves for a run-through of Cats. (The sign outside the auditorium reads, “Annual play rehearsals,” which struck me as funny. How do you do, fellow kids? Follow me to annual play rehearsals!)
And now we flashback to the talent show, where McGee nervously dons his tap shoes and chats with Chloe about working all summer to afford them. When Lewis overhears Tim say he wants to study writing in college, the adult man stops what he is doing and says, “Talent is a real thing. Not everybody has it.” First of all, nobody asked you, Mr. Lewis, and second of all, you’re saying this because you overhead McGee’s English teacher talking about his writing skills? Yikes. This man is a monster and must be stopped, whether he did a murder or not.
In the present, McGee boots up his computer with Delilah and has a teeny tiny existential crisis, referring to himself as a failure since he hasn’t tap-danced since college, his two best-sellers were ten years ago, and he didn’t even want to join the Navy in the first place.
Then his computer whirs to life with an internet relay chat that greets him by name and offers him answers. When McGee lies and says he’s alone, the IRC instructs him to look for a package in the hallway.
He tells Delilah to call 9-1-1, then Gibbs (honestly, I’d reverse that order), and creeps into the hallway with his gun drawn, which I bet the neighbors love. Then Delilah’s screams pull him back to his apartment, where he shoots and kills a masked intruder. Um. I get that his family might have been in danger, but that was just McGee unloading his weapon at a figure in the dark, no? What if it had been DiNozzo coming back to surprise him or, like, Torres pulling a prank???
When the team arrives to process the scene, they expose McGee’s web of lies, joking about Tim hitting the limit of people you’re allowed to shoot in your apartment and finding a mummified body under the bed. Delilah’s understandably horrified by the depths of McGee’s deception-by-omission, and Bishop murmurs, “Not really a big fan of secrets right now” as she eyes a framed photo of McGee and DiNozzo.
Kasie hides in her lab from auditor Sullivan, who’s short with Bishop about her expensive coffee habit. Then Kasie announces that the dead man is Braxton Ballard, arsonist, kidnapper, and all-around dirtbag. Prints on the hand-drawing of McGee’s old PC indicate he had an accomplice, and the messed-up IRC code on McGee’s machine is complicating her analysis. (Raise your hand if you immediately guessed that the bad code was actually a message.)
In autopsy, Palmer finds trace DNA showing that Ballard strangled Kane, but he can’t offer any whys. Then Kasey wheels in McGee’s old computer, which she hooked up to the internet, where it’s trying to connect to a remote virus he wrote in high school to take down the DOD. (Next page: Tim gets his tap on)