Season 5 Episode 15

In the Zone

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Apr 29, 2008 on CBS

Episode Recap

Several marines are playing basketball in the "zone" in Baghdad. Suddenly, they are under a mortar attack and everyone hits the deck. When the attack is over several of the men stand up to assess the situation. They realize Captain John Rankin is still lying on the ground so they go over to check him. One of the soldiers turns over Rankin and they discover he has a fatal wound to the abdomen.

In the NCIS squadroom, Ziva and McGee are looking at a picture on his computer. Tony walks in and asks what's up and Ziva tells him it's private. She then posts a picture of McGee and Jethro (the dog from "Dog Tags") on the big screen. McGee takes a bit of ribbing from Tony and Ziva. Gibbs walks in and gets called down to autopsy.

Ducky shows Gibbs Rankin's body. Ducky tells him the wife pulled strings to get Rankin's body delivered to Ducky for the autopsy. After examining the body, Ducky tells Gibbs that Rankin wasn't killed by shrapnel from the attack but by a gunshot wound. They realize the mortar attack was a stage for murder.

Tony walks back into the pit and teases McGee about not having photos up of him and his "girlfriend." McGee informs Tony that the dog's name is Jethro and it's a male. Tony said "Hey whatever your preference." Tony went to his desk and began to type and with each key, a sound of a dog barking came from his computer. He demanded McGee fix it immediately and McGee replied "You're barking up the wrong tree." Tony figured he'd be funny so he sat on the keyboard releasing non-stop barking noises until Gibbs walked in. Tony and Ziva bragged about how they'd been to Baghdad and McGee hoped that he'd be able to go.

Gibbs had the team give him a quick rundown on Rankin. They pulled up his information on the screen and realized Rankin was a millionaire by the time he was 30. Tony made a comment about Rankin's trophy wife when a woman walked up behind him and said Rankin was a reservist who had been called to active duty. When Tony asked who she was, the woman replied "The trophy wife."

Gibbs interrogated Dina Rankin. He asked if there were any enemies and his wife said one, Kelvin Ridgeway. She explained there was a deal with a piece of property called "Gloverfield" and her husband had the papers to buy the land. At the last minute, he refused to sign them going with a gut feeling he had. Gibbs went into MTAC with A.D. Leon Vance. They spoke with Marine Major Ike Varnai who said he liked Rankin and they informed him Rankin had been murdered, not a victim from the mortar attack. After they disconnect the teleconference, Vance asks Gibbs who he should send to Baghdad.

Nikki Jardine is in the bathroom washing her hands. Ziva walks in and notices Nikki has a paper with "5 reasons why I should go to Baghdad" lying on the counter. Ziva grosses Nikki out by asking her why she would want to go with all those germs there. She continues to taunt her about getting sores on her face and stuff oozing out of it. Nikki is adamant she wants to go. Ziva tells her that she hopes she can handle the competition.

Gibbs and Ziva pay a visit to Kelvin Ridegeway. The man is quite obnoxious, making sexual references to Ziva. They ask him about the deal and Ridgeway claims he didn't know why Rankin refused to sign. Ridgeway tosses a ball at Ziva and said to Gibbs "Wonder what you tell the wife about this one" (referring to Ziva). Gibbs smirks and gets up and Ridgeway inquires about it and Gibbs tells him he wouldn't mess with Ziva and leaves. Ziva tosses the ball back at Ridgeway and leaves. Ridgeway looks down to see that Ziva crushed the ball with her bare hands.

McGee visits Abby's lab. He is excited and wants the opportunity to go to Baghdad to prove himself. He was aware Tony and Ziva had been already so he wanted the chance. McGee explained that Tony had discouraged him from "volunteering."McGee was talking with Abby about what he should do (basically he talked in circles!). He ended up not going to Vance to volunteer as he didn't want to seem overeager and he figured that's what Tony assumed he would do.

Vance walks into the pit as Ziva and Gibbs return from their interrogation of Ridgeway. Ziva sees Nikki heading into the pit and they "race" to get in front of Vance. They both argue their point on why they should be sent to Baghdad (Ziva said she had contacts there and Nikki said she did to and hers were still alive.). Vance looked at McGee and said he was surprised McGee didn't volunteer as it was a great opportunity for an agent. McGee said Tony didn't volunteer either and Vance said Tony had spoken with him earlier. Vance assigned Tony to go to Baghdad with Nikki as his partner.

McGee and Ziva were disappointed they weren't able to go to Baghdad. Ziva looked up world clocks on the Internet, specifically Baghdad and McGee told her that Nikki and Tony had been there for 45 minutes already. Ziva said they were probably checking into their hotel.

A convoy pulled up outside a hangar in Baghdad. Varnai got out and showed Tony and Nikki their "hotel" while they were there. Varnai led them into the hangar, full of cots and told them it was overflow for visiting military. Nikki was upset that she didn't have any privacy. She grabbed her towel to shower when Tony showed her that the water coming out of the faucet was brown. She whipped out a box of towelettes and washed her hands and face. Varnai returned to take them out to the crime scene. Tony asked Nikki why she wanted to be in Baghdad and she joked it was good for her resume.

Varnai wasn't overly friendly while dealing with Tony and Nikki. He first brought them to the basketball court to interview two witnesses. A civilian contractor, Allan Hayes, claimed he didn't really know Rankin well and a Sgt. who claimed Rankin was a great soldier and an overall great guy. They dismissed the two men and checked out the scene. Tony realized the shot had come from behind Rankin and had Varnai bring him up to what was a family residence. When Tony turned to call Nikki, she was on the phone, speaking Arabic. He went up without her and realized the shot had come from the residence. He looked on the floor and pointed out a shell casing to Varnai. Tony called Nikki up to translated questions and answers with the Iraqi woman. The woman said a man named Ali MacMoud had been in that room and she hadn't seen him since the mortar attack. She provided them with his address. When Varnai, a team of soldiers, Tony and Nikki arrived at MacMoud's home, they found a hysterical woman. The woman claimed Ali had been taken the previous night by hooded men and she believed they planned to execute him.

Gibbs interrogated George Stenner. Rankin had contacted Stenner the day before his death. Rankin had Stenner do a confidential soil test on the Gloverfield property before he would sign the papers. Stenner acted nervous and kept asking to go to the bathroom. Gibbs refused the first time and Stenner told Gibbs he'd provided Rankin a soil testing on the property. The soil test revealed that the property was contaminated and full of heavy metals (lead). Stenner said he'd only sent out one copy of the report, to Rankin but he'd email Gibbs a copy. Stenner asked to go to the bathroom again and Gibbs told him "no," then laughed and let him leave.

At "hotel" Baghdad, the camera panned to Tony and Nikki's clothes strewn about the floor. You could hear them making noises which implied they were being intimate. Finally, we see Nikki and Tony are excited that they got "three bars" on the computer signal so they could teleconference with the rest of the team. While awaiting their video feed, Tony told Nikki that "for someone who hates germs so much, you're a slob." The feed came through and Abby told Tony how much she missed him and asked him about the nut Nikki. Tony showed Abby Nikki was there. While Abby kept fumbling over her apology, Ziva was hissing in her ear that Tony and Nikki couldn't be sharing a room! Tony tried to get Abby to find the missing Ali as Varnai walked into their hangar. Tony disconnected when Varnai got testy about their reasons for being there and not being able to find Ali. Nikki made a phone call and got help on finding Ali but Varnai refused to bring them into that zone after dark.

The next morning, Varnai, a team of soldiers, Tony and Nikki went out looking for Nikki's source. When they stopped Varnai talked about attacks made on troops when they were stopped. Suddenly Nikki bolted out of the vehicle and walked ahead. Varnai wasn't happy and got the team to surround and check out the area. A young Iraqi boy walked out and one of the soldiers drew his weapon on him. It turned out this was Nikki's source, Jameel. Tony blasted Nikki for endangering everyone's lives and asked her to tell him the truth about why she wanted to be in Baghdad. Nikki admitted her brother had been shot in that very spot and she wanted to be where it had happened.

Jameel, went with them and lead them to the group, part of Al Shemar, holding Ali. The group leader was hostile and according to Nikki made reference to knowing Tony's mother very well and very intimately. They got permission to see and talk to Ali and Tony entered the building where Ali was being held.

Gibbs and McGee interrogated Ridgeway again when they discovered Ridgeway had called Steiner six times. When they brought up the soil report, Ridgeway basically didn't care and claimed he didn't know what they were talking about. Gibbs asked him if he didn't mind waiting while the rest of the team located the man who killed Rankin so they could talk to him. After a few minutes, Gibbs phone rang and Tony informed him that Ali was dead, his tongue had been cut out.

They questioned the guard on Ali's door and he said he'd brought Ali dinner the night before and hadn't seen him since. He had heard Ali making noises but ignored him. Tony began to check time of death with Ducky instructing him over the phone when Varnai walked in, trying to get them to leave. Tony followed Varnai out while Nikki continued the process. Tony gave Varnai a hard time and tried to pin down about killing Ali. Nikki walked out and informed Tony Varnai couldn't have done it as Ali had died four hours earlier and Varnai had been with them the entire time. Tony apologized to Varnai and said he was just doing his job.

Nikki complained about the smell in the room Ali had been held. When Tony asked, she said it was turpentine and it was giving her a headache. He asked her if she'd felt like that any other time during their trip. Nikki told him she had while questioning the Civilian and Sergeant upon their arrival. Tony realized Allan Hayes was a civilian contractor who had access to turpentine so he called McGee who did a background check on Hayes. Gibbs and McGee uncovered that Hayes had a criminal background and was under investigation for bribes while in Baghdad. They were going to have Tony question him until they discovered Hayes was on his way back to the US. Gibbs ordered Nikki and Tony back to NCIS.

Gibbs handed Ziva a copy of Stenner's report and McGee, the report found with Rankin's belongings. The two reports differed. McGee realized Rankin had done his own check, discovering a ceramics plant had been on Gloverfield years before. This plant left the land contaminated. They also discovered the contract to purchase the land was missing from Rankin's belongings.

Before Nikki and Tony left, Nikki explained that her brother had been shot. He had been dying in the street and a man came out to help him until help came. When other Marines arrived, they assumed the man was an Insurgent so he was killed. The man was Jameel's father; he had saved Nikki's brother Eric's life. Nikki delivered the laptop computer to Jameel and his sister, Tabina before they left Baghdad.

Gibbs and McGee showed up at the airport. They saw Hayes arrive and McGee assumed Ridgeway would be meeting him. Gibbs asked McGee why he was certain Ridgeway knew about the deal when they saw a man approach Hayes. They walked up to them and Gibbs greeted George Stenner. Stenner had doctored the report he gave to Rankin saying the land was fine. Rankin had a gut feeling it was wrong and did his own check and discovered Gloverfield had had a ceramics factory on it years prior. He knew Stenner had lied to him and refused to sign the papers. Stenner provided Gibbs with the correct report to cover his own hide. Hayes had hired Ali to shoot and kill Rankin when they realized Rankin knew the truth. When Hayes realized NCIS was there, he learned where Ali was being held so he snuck in and killed him. Hayes then boarded a plane to return to the US. Stenner admitted he had only done it for the money.

Nikki arrived at a hospital to visit her brother. Turns out her brother was in a coma. She told him she'd seen Jameel and his sister. She then put in a CD of music they used to listen to with their parents when they went on vacation. She asked him if he remembered......