A man in uniform, wearing a jacket over his shirt, quickly walks up to the desk of the Fremont Inn and asks for a room. He is told that the hotel is full, and the only thing available is the Premier Suite, at holiday rates. He takes it unquestioningly, and hands the clerk his credit card. He quickly enters the suite, checks it quickly to make sure it's empty, and then phones someone and tells them, "It's me. I think we're clear. I'm on my way down to get you." He opens the door, and is surprised by two gunmen, who fire several times at his chest. He falls.
Tony walks into the office, drops a puzzle in the Toys for Tots barrel, and is puzzled when Ziva and McGee are standing at his desk with broad smiles. Since it is their turn to work Christmas Eve, he wonders why they are smiling. They are curious about a Christmas card he has received from Wendy – "Baltimore Wendy", his former fiancee'. She is newly divorced and has invited him for Christmas brunch with her and her 7 year old son. McGee asks if he is planning to go, and Tony shakes his head. "No, I think I will relegate that part of my life to 'Christmas Past'." Palmer enters, talking on the phone with his fiancee', protesting unconvincingly that he is looking forward to hanging out with her dad. He told Breena that he would give his future father-in-law a tour of NCIS, but was half-hoping that Vance would veto the idea. Unfortunately, he didn't. Ziva asks if he and Breena's dad gets along, but Jimmy isn't sure. He tells them that Breena thinks that her father doesn't approve of his job. "Autopsy Gremlin?" inquires Tony. Jimmy begs them to keep that term quiet. "I say it with the utmost respect!" protests Tony. "I know that, but Ed doesn't," Jimmy sighs. "He actually thinks I'm stuck in some dead-end government job that pays too little and has too many hours," he adds incredulously. "You are," Gibbs agrees, "Now get off my desk." Jimmy jumps to his feet as Gibbs tells the team to grab their gear. In relief, Jimmy begins to call Ed to beg off, as "duty calls," but Gibbs tells him brusquely, "Not you, Palmer. Family first."
The victim is Navy Captain Jake Marsden, stationed and living in Charleston, SC. Examining the bullet holes in the wall, the team realizes that Marsden was shot by multiple shooters. McGee and Tony find Marsden's car in the valet parking, but the passenger window has been broken in. Tony removes a duffle bag from the back seat, but the bag is marked with the Marine Corps logo, not a Navy logo. As Tony digs into the duffle bag, McGee asks him why he and Wendy broke up. Tony evades the question, but holds up a bra. "Either our dead Navy captain was having an identity crisis, or he wasn't traveling alone!'
Back in the suite, the team is beginning to remove Marsden's body when the phone rings, from a number in northern Maryland. Gibbs picks it up. A woman's voice asks worriedly, "Jake? Is that you? What happened?" "I'd like to know the same thing," responds Gibbs dryly, adding that Marsden is dead. The woman is instantly wary, even when Gibbs identifies himself as NCIS: "Prove it," she says. "How?" asks Gibbs. "If you are who you say, you'll figure it out," the voice tells him, and hangs up.
The team reviews Marsden's file: He was single, well-liked, and apparently only had time for his job. "Sad, really," remarks Tony. "Precisely why you should reconsider lunch with Wendy," Ziva whispers to Tony. McGee has checked phone records, and finds that Marsden made one out-going phone call from the room, to a cell phone registered to himself, that has since been turned off. The incoming call came from a shopping center in northern Maryland. Jimmy chooses this inopportune moment to enter with his future father-in-law, Ed, and introduces him. "Is this a bad time?" he asks, but Gibbs gives him the go-ahead and he proceeds with the introductions. Gibbs says something polite about Jimmy's work ethic, but Ed is unimpressed, stating that he is there to make sure that IF his daughter marries Jimmy, she also doesn't marry the bureaucratic baggage that comes with a government job. Jimmy is alarmed at the qualifier "if". Gibbs pretends to not understand Ed's concern. "Let me ask you something, Special Super-Agent Gibbs. Are you the only team leader who makes his folks work Christmas Eve? I guess if Uncle Sam calls, you have to answer, even if he calls collect!" Ed smirks, the rest of the team stands open-mouthed, and Gibbs darts a death glare at Jimmy, who quickly ushers Ed away, whispering a quick, "I'm sooo sorry!" to Gibbs as he leaves.
McGee identifies the incoming call from a mall two hours away from D.C.and pulls the mall security footage.
In Autopsy, Ed rudely interrupts Ducky's conversation with Marsden's body by pointing out that talking to the bodies is a waste of time: "In my experience, dead means dead!" "And what experience, may I ask, is that?" inquires Ducky, good manners frozen under a layer of offended sensibilities. Jimmy explains that Ed owns a funeral home. "Then you should know that every body has a story, given the right questions," Ducky observes, but Ed is dismissive: "Maybe, but as much as you talk to them, they can hardly get a word in edgewise!" Jimmy is mortified. Gibbs enters Autopsy and Ducky suggests that Ed and Jimmy wait outside while he discusses the case with Gibbs. He has found a handkerchief in the captain's pocket, with dried blood, and has sent it to Abby for identification. Gibbs enters the lab, which is festooned with Christmas lights and blaring techno-Christmas music, but Abby can't be found. She is hiding from Ed: "Jimmy and his Grinch-In-Law have been stalking the halls, spreading ill-will and Yule-tide yuckness!" Gibbs tries to smooth it over, saying that Ed is just being a father-in-law, but Abby isn't hearing of it: "Well, he better not come a-wassailing within twenty feel of my leaves o'green!" she says grimly. She has reviewed the security footage from the mall, and shows Gibbs a picture of the girl on the phone. The girl is saying, "If you are who you say . . .", but staring straight at the security camera and holding up a distinctive shopping bag. "She knew we would look at the security footage, she wants you to come find her, Gibbs!"
At the store, a local policeman meets Gibbs, Tony and Ziva, and tells them that he has not seen the woman. They ask if he has checked the dressing rooms, but he protests rather shyly that "well, no, this is a women's clothing store . . ." Tony points out that yes, well, they are looking for a woman. Tony clears the store while Gibbs and Ziva go to the dressing rooms. Checking the stalls, they shoo out one woman, and then come to the last stall, where Ziva pulls back the curtain and finds the girl they are looking for. She is standing on the seat, fiercely wielding a clothes bar – and is extremely pregnant. He shows her the ID, but she in unconvinced. She tells them to give her their weapons, but Gibbs tells her that there's only one way to get a Marine's weapon. "What do you know about it? Are you a leatherneck?" she asks suspiciously. "Where do you think I got this haircut?" asks Gibbs wryly, offering her a hand down. She tells him that if they aren't the ones that are after her, her pursuers are still after her. She was the target, not Marsden.
She is Lt. Emma Reynolds. Tony returns with reports of severe traffic on the snowy roads, and a cup of what looks like coffee. Tony tells Gibbs it is hot chocolate for the pregnant lady, but Emma is adamant: "I'm a Marine first and pregnant second," she declares belligerently. "Hooh-rah," says Gibbs ironically. "Hooh-right!" exclaims Emma. Ziva declares that she doesn't mind special treatment, and would prefer her hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows. Emma decides she wants one, too, and Tony trundles off for more hot chocolate. She tells Gibbs that she had been stationed outside Kabul training local Afghan soldiers. "One of them spoke English, his name was Amir," she tells Gibbs with a small smile. Gibbs gestures to her pregnant belly. "He was a romantic?" he inquires. "Well, what passes for romance in that hell-hole," Emma agrees with a sigh. "Sand can get into some pretty inconvenient places." Gibbs smothers a smile, and asks about disciplinary action. She acknowledges that she took responsibility; the C.O. made her forfeit two month's pay and sent her back the U.S. She thought that was it, until she noticed last week that she was being followed, by three separate dark SUV's. She managed to get the tags to one, and was surprised they were registered to the Department of Defense. Emma tells Gibbs that Marsden was an old friend, who offered to drive her to her parents in Ohio, but they were run off the road, and she got woozy when she cut her hand on the broken window. He went into the hotel, but she knew something had gone wrong when he didn't come back out, and she was afraid to call the police, wondering if the Department of Defense would step in.
Back at MTAC, McGee is talking to someone at DOD, who tells him that Amir died in an explosion in May, and that Emma went on leave soon afterwards. The DOD spokesman tells McGee that there is no reason for the Department of Defense to follow Emma, and that their autos get stolen all the time.
Gibbs calls Abby, who is worried about them: "Gibbs, what are you still doing there? The snow is falling faster than my holiday spirit, there's a pregnant Marine being hunted on Christmas. Heaven and nature are NOT singing!" Gibbs tells her that he's waiting for an escort, and while they are waiting, Abby tells him that Amir was not a poor farmer: he was actually the only son and heir of extremely wealthy Kabul landowners. "If Emma has a boy . . ." ". . . the kid inherits everything," finishes Gibbs. The family wants Emma, or at least, her baby, alive. McGee explains that the DOD is interested, because they are trying to gain access to Amir's family's land to build a highway. The tribal elders are balking, but if the DOD has possession of the baby heir, then they have a strong bargaining chip. Gibbs hangs up, and as McGee and Abby trade looks, McGee suddenly becomes aware of a tapping sound. Puzzled, he goes to investigate, and finds Ed and Jimmy locked in Abby's office. "How long have they been back there?" he asks. "Not long enough," says Abby with a smile, turning away.
In the office, Ed watches Abby turn away, as Jimmy tells him, "Well, if you hadn't made that remark about her tattoos, you wouldn't be in time-out. We've still got six minutes left," he adds, checking his watch. Ed looks at him incredulously, and tells him that there are jobs in the private sector where he could make twice as much money and still be home by 6 pm. "I hadn't really thought about that," says Jimmy. "Well, maybe you should start," Ed suggests, and then adds, self-righteously, "All I said to her was that girls with tattoos are easy . . . everyone knows that." Jimmy winches.
At the mall, Gibbs makes the decision not to wait any longer for the escort, and to leave by back roads. Emma insists on having a weapon, pointing out that she has more experience than "Deputy Dawg", the policeman. As they exit through the loading dock, Deputy Dawg has been captured by a foreign man. He is quickly disarmed, and Tony and the deputy are delegated to bring him to NCIS while Gibbs and Ziva drive Emma. Tony notices that the assailant is missing part of a finger, and Ziva tells him that it is a common prison initiation ritual in Russian prison gangs. The team quickly moves out.
Back at the office, Ducky finds Jimmy waiting for Ed, and gives him a piece of advice: Don't let Ed's outlook spoil Jimmy's life. But Jimmy is concerned, because Ed offered him a job working for him at the mortuary, so that he and Breena could eventually take over the business. Ducky is alarmed, but hides it: "Really? Is that what you want?" "No!" exclaims Jimmy, assuring him that he loves NCIS, but also wants to make Breena happy. "Doctor, what if this is the only way?" he asks plaintively. Ducky assures him that Breena only wants Jimmy to be happy. "Don't lie to Mister Ed," he says, jerking his head in Ed's direction.
In the car, Emma is incredulous: "Russian mercenaries want to take my unborn child because he is the only heir to land in Afghanistan?" she repeats in disbelief. Ziva tells her that the land may be the key to winning or losing in Afghanistan, and Emma tells her that she is beginning to understand why Amir distanced himself from his family. Suddenly, the car begins to make an ominous rattling noise. Quickly, Ziva checks but notes there is no cell phone coverage. They pull into a deserted service station and survey the damage. Gibbs decides to try and fix it, and Emma points out that there is a garage in the back: "I'll help push!" she offers, but Gibbs just frowns at her. "DON'T push," he warns her, both refusing her help and making her aware of her condition.
Back at the office, Ed is munching down on a box of cookies. "Still here?" inquires McGee and Jimmy explains that he's Ed's ride, and since he is still on duty . . . . Ed snorts under his breath, "Duty!" Tony enters, asking about Gibbs, but no one has heard from him. Tony is beginning to become concerned, but turns his attention to the Russian mercenary as McGee relays information. Suddenly, Tony notices that Ed is busily eating cookies. "Are those Hollander's homemade Christmas cookies from HR?" he asks McGee. McGee asks Ed, "Did she make molasses this year?" Ed holds up a half-eaten molasses cookie: "She did, and they were good!" Jimmy's head drops in despair as Tony grabs the box of cookies and invites McGee to join him interrogating the Russian. "With what, cookies? What are you going to do, sugarboard him?" he calls after Tony. Turning to Jimmy, he snorts derisively, "I thought you said they were pros?"
Gibbs and Ziva examine the car, now safely stowed in the cold garage. They are going to have to jury-rig a quick fix. Emma tells him that she has tried the phones, but they are out, and offers to help with the car, but Gibbs tells her to drink some fluids and get some rest. She tells him that she's already had a drink, and left some money on the counter to pay for it. Worriedly, she peers out the window, and then confides in Gibbs that she hadn't really planned on any of this, because she had just wanted to be a Marine. "I guess Someone else had other plans," she says ruefully. "Wouldn't be the first time," Gibbs agrees, snipping at a piece of tubing. She asks if he has kids. "I had a daughter," he says with a half-smile, not looking up. "Were you there when she was born?" Emma asks. "Deployed," he admits. "Well, I guess I kinda have to be there for mine," she says. "I'm not complaining, I'm just . . ." ". . . Scared?" suggests Gibbs gently. "The hell you say?!" she bristles. "It's all right if you are," Gibbs tells her. "Not according to the Corps!" she insists. "That's what I like about being a Marine: procedures, the Code. I like having a measurable set of expectations. I could always tell how good I was doing, but this?" she gestures to her belly. "How do I know?" she asks Gibbs plaintively. "You don't," Gibbs admits, but adds, "but you'll be able to tell." He leaves her with another snack, throwing some money on the register as he returns to the car.
In Interrogation, McGee and Tony question the Russian, pretending to count his chewing of the proffered cookies as a sign of his truthfulness. The Russian is thrown off-balance, and confesses that he is working for Amir's family. After examining the Russian's cell phone, they note several numbers that are too short to be phone numbers, and McGee guesses that the numbers are radio frequencies. Snarling, the Russian takes the phone and smashes it, declaring that they no longer have the numbers, but Tony tells him that they had already written them down. McGee and Tony go to scan radio frequencies.
At the garage, Gibbs and Ziva aren't haven't any luck with the car. Emma announces that her water just broke. "I'm going into labor," she says, with a deep breath. Gibbs straightens up and looks at her in consternation. "Hooh-rah?" she adds, with a strained smile.
Tony confirms with the DOD that the Russians are not in their employ. McGee, listening to radio chatter, picks out a clue: a service station in a small Maryland town. He identifies the station, and McGee notes, "There's only one reason why our gunmen would go there." "Gibbs!" they both agree. Tony and McGee quickly stop by their desks to grab their gear, shoving Ed out of the way. "Hey!" he protests. They ignore him, and Jimmy calls good luck as they dash out. Ed echoes it, mockingly: "Yeah, 'good luck'!" Jimmy has had it with Ed. Turning on him, he asks, "Why in the world would you say it like that?" "Why? The weather, the road closures, they're never going to make it?" "How in the hell would you know?" demands Jimmy. "They are trained agents!" "Well," shrugs Ed, unimpressed. Jimmy is adamant: "You may not respect me, or what it is we do here, but you have GOT to respect the fact that these people, MY people, are risking their lives!" Somewhat abashed, Ed mutters, "Well, when you put it like that . . . ." Jimmy snaps back, "There's no other way to put it! And until you can figure that out, we aren't going anywhere," he finishes firmly, "Sit down. And shut up." Ed looks at him with a raised eyebrow, and sits down.
At the garage, Ziva and Gibbs are urgently trying to repair the car, with no success, as Emma sits in the backseat of the car, gasping through contractions. Ziva hears a car in front of the service station: it's a DOD SUV, slowing to examine the station. Another one pulls in on the other side of the station. Ziva quickly calculates approaches, and tells Gibbs that they have company. Emma gasps as the contractions come harder, and tells them that the baby is coming. Gibbs takes a deep breath and tells Ziva to defend their position and stay with Emma. He hands her a first-aid kit, but as he begins to leave, Emma frantically calls after him: "Don't leave me, Gibbs! I need someone to tell me how I'm doing!" she begs him. Gibbs, tense, tells her, "You're doing fine!" "I'm not so sure," she tells him, tense and frightened. "Are you asking for special treatment, Marine?" he asks her. "Sir, yes sir. Just this once," she gasps, breathing heavily. Ziva quietly pulls her extra weapon from her ankle holder, and casually tells Gibbs, "It's ok, I've got this covered," as she quietly moves out to intercept the mercenaries. Gibbs watches her leave, and then turns to Emma. "Thank you!" she gasps, as he shrugs off his jacket and settles down to help her. "You might want to hold off on that," he tells her, glancing over his shoulder as Ziva disappears.
Outside, Ziva disables one mercenary, but loses the second one, who is quietly breaking into the front of the station. Over a soundtrack of "Silent Night", sung by _______, Gibbs exhorts Emma to "Push!" His voice attracts the mercenary, but Ziva has zeroed in on him. Ziva and the mercenary exchange gunfire over Emma's cries. Tony and McGee are tensely racing to the service station, the car slipping on the icy roads. After exchanging more gunfire, Ziva and the gunman end up in hand-to-hand combat, and she falls on the gunman, disabling him. As she catches her breath, she hears a baby's cry: It's a girl. "She has her mommy's eyes!" smiles Gibbs, handing Emma the baby wrapped in his jacket. "Well done, Marine," Gibbs adds with a broad smile.
Christmas morning at the office. Tony is staring off into space, tapping Wendy's card against his chin thoughtfully. As McGee hands him a file, Breena comes in and greets them, asking if they know where Jimmy and her father are. McGee points to an empty desk, where Jimmy and Ed are both dozing. "You got caught up on a case, huh?" she asks brightly. Both Jimmy and Ed inquire about the baby, and are told that they are at the hospital and both are fine. McGee nods toward the screen, where there is a picture of Emma and her new daughter smiling from a hospital bed. "Aw, cute little bugger!" coos Ed. Jimmy points out that this is why they put in the long hours, and while he thanks him for the job offer, "I'm very happy right here," he finishes, his arm around Breena. "If that's what you want and if Breena is still willing to marry you in spite . . . ." "DAD!" Breena interrupts warningly, "STOP!" Ed raises his chin. "Never!" he tells her. "Just don't spend too many nights here, son," he tells Jimmy, gently squeezing his shoulder. "I'd like to have one of those, someday!" he nods at the picture of Emma and her baby. "Merry Christmas, you two!" Tony continues to contemplate Wendy's Christmas card.
In Gibb's basement, Gibb's is putting the finishing touches on Amira's new pink bicycle. Tony enters, admiring the bike, and when Gibb's explains it's for Mike Frank's granddaughter, Tony remembers that Amira and Layla now live in D.C. "I guess that means you have someplace you need to be," he adds. "Yeah, so do you," Gibbs reminds him. Tony tells him that he sat in the car for almost twenty minutes, debating, and decided not to go in and instead swing by Casa de Gibbs and see what was up. "Well, we all make our own choices, DiNozzo," comments Gibbs. "What, you think I made a mistake?" "I think you made it twice, now," Gibbs tells him bluntly. Tony tries to excuse his choices: "Well, when I joined NCIS, I knew what you expected of me. Everything. Doesn't exactly leave a lot of room for the Wendy's of the world." Gibbs isn't falling for it: "Did you come here to blame me, DiNozzo?" "No, boss." "Good," says Gibbs shortly. Tony looks down at the workbench and picks up two cups. "Family . . . and job. Two different cups," he shrugs, "and if I couldn't fill both, that was my problem. What if I can, now?" "Then get out of my basement and move on!" exclaims Gibbs. "Like you have?" asks Tony sardonically. "Don't be like me!" snorts Gibbs. "Learn from me!" He takes the bicycle upstairs and turns off the light, leaving Tony in semi-darkness. Tony gazes at the lonely string of Christmas lights over the bench. "Merry Christmas," he says quietly, watching the lights blink. Suddenly, Gibbs is on the stairs again: "Are you coming, or aren't you? Layla's making lamb." Tony hesitates. "Are you sure it's alright?" Gibbs nods. "Sure, I told her you were coming." Surprised, Tony asks, "When?" "I told her last week," Gibbs tells him impatiently. "You're not going to find what you're looking for down here, DiNozzo. C'mon." With a smile, Tony follows.