Director Vance is missing, and his SUV has been found on a secluded back road, away from his usual route home. The team examines the car (Tony reluctantly checks Vance's luggage: "This is Director Vance's stuff – do I really want to know if he's a boxer or briefs guy?") for evidence, but the car is perfectly clean of fingerprints or any other evidence – just his luggage and cell phone. Vance's driver is concerned, and tells the team that, upon returning from a trip, he dropped Vance off at the Navy Yard at 22:30 because he wanted to drive himself home, but he then received a call from Mrs. Vance at 1:00 am wondering where Vance was. Gibbs orders Vance's family to be taken to a hotel under protective custody, and to widen the search around the car while he calls SecNav.
Vance gradually wakens and blearilysees a stained glass window. He gazes at it a moment, trying to orient himself, and gradually becomes aware of his surroundings. Turning his head groggily, he is startled into consciousness – he is lying in a burial vault, next to the mummified remains of an ex-Navy officer who had been buried in a full dress uniform. Pinned to the remains is a note: "Your king is vulnerable." (CREDITS)
Gibbs is in Vance's office, reviewing his desk for clues, and on the phone assuring SecNav that they are doing everything possible to reconstruct Vance's movements. McGee enters and tells Gibbs that the security camera in the parking lot shows Vance simply getting in his car and leaving by the 6th Street exit, and is in the process of getting street camera footage from the local police. He will also be examining the GPS in the SUV. As McGee leaves, he steps out of the way of Dr. Samantha Ryan, who is rushing in, concerned about Vance. At that moment, Gibbs' cell phone rings: It's Vance.
The team rushes out to meet him in a small family cemetery and mausoleum. He tells Gibbs that he was on his way home when he was flagged down by someone who claimed to be having car trouble. "There were three of them – and then I woke up here – found a groundskeeper – that's all I remember," he says, still a little unsteady. Ryan gazes at him speculatively, and then tells him that he appears to be suffering the aftereffects of some form of kolokol. "If Deering's involved, he didn't do this alone," she adds. McGee joins the group to add information on the body found next to Vance: Navy Lt. Derrick Whitting, who was killed ten years ago on the USS Brandywine, the same ship that Deering's son, Evan, died on. As the team removes Whitting's remains from the mausoleum, they comment unfavorably on the smell of rotting flesh. Ducky discovers the source of the smell: A raw, newly butchered jawbone of some animal, possibly a horse, that was inserted inside Whitting's body. The team is bemused, but Ryan has the answer: "It's Biblical: Samson, Judges 15: 'And he finds in the jawbone of an ass, puts forth his hand, and slew a thousand men'."
In Autopsy, Jimmy comments, "I don't care how much death we see every day, Doctor – Director Vance waking up in a coffin is just plain creepy!" Ducky is more offended by the use of Whitting's body to hide clues. Gibbs tells them that Whitting was the first of the six people that died that day, being closest to the bomb that exploded on the USS Brandywine. They wonder what message Deering is trying to send – and who might be next.
In the office, Tony comments that their chances of being able to attend Jimmy's wedding are becoming more and more remote. McGee has been unable to locate Deering's whereabouts. Gibbs asks them to find a twelve-year-old case file of three young sailors playing a practical joke that turned into a federal violation. The case officer was Blake Larson.
At the Pentagon, Gibbs strides into Ryan's office. "Doc, let's talk about Deering's son . . ." The desk chair swivels around, and instead of Ryan, Gibbs is taken aback to find himself talking to a teenage boy. "Parker?" he inquires. "Leroy Jethro Gibbs," Parker acknowledges him, standing up and holding out his hand to shake. "So . . . how much do you like my mom?" Parker asks Gibbs. Gibbs is expressionless: "I like her." "Let's say, on a scale of 1-10 – you can round up if you want," suggests Parker. Gibbs is impatient: "I don't do numbers." "Alllriiight – Mr. Tactile – I heard about that, the wood stuff in your basement . . ." "Yeah?" At that moment, Ryan bustles in with an armload of food from the vending machine and a bottle of water, exclaiming that she has tried to get some reasonably healthy food, but . . . . She stops short, flustered, upon seeing Gibbs. "Oh – you're here. And you've met. Great!" she says, with a too-bright smile. "We need to talk," Gibbs tells her quietly. She agrees, and shoves the food at Parker, who promptly returns to his reading and music earbuds. Gibbs glances at Parker meaningfully, but Ryan waves away his unspoken objection: "Oh, you can talk – Parker probably has a higher security clearance than you do!" Gibbs tells Ryan that he wants more information on Evan Deering, more than what's in his official file. "Deering has been digging up dirt on Navy weaknesses and hitting us where it hurts – I think it's time for us to return the favor."
Ziva comes flying into the lab. "You wanted to see me, Abby?" Abby is sitting down with her head on folded arms in front of the horse jawbone, muttering that "this is an assault . . . ." Ziva mistakes her distress for the case, but it quickly becomes apparent that Abby is distressed because the case looks like it will prevent everyone from attending Jimmy's wedding. Ziva refocuses Abby's distress, and she reveals that she has identified the breed of horse the jawbone came from. Abby shoos Ziva off to find the breeder, with the admonition that she is "holding out hope for a piece of wedding cake."
In file storage, McGee finds the file Gibbs is looking for: Three sailors videotaped a male and female officer engaging in sex, and then broadcast the tape over the ship's broadcast system. Gibbs was the co-agent on the case, and kept good records, even though the names of the co-conspirators were expunged: Evan Deering was one of them. As a result, Deering was reassigned to the USS Brandywine, where he was killed. Ryan, Gibbs and Vance theorize that Deering is after NCIS in retaliation for his son's reassignment to the ship that he was eventually killed on. Vance comments that Larson has retired and is living on a horse farm in Maryland. "Horses? I'm detecting a theme," comments Ryan. Vance sends the team out to talk to Larson.
As the team arrives at the farm, Ziva sighs at the bucolic surroundings. Tony is less appreciative: "Ah yes, manure and a government pension, what more could a girl wish for?" Ziva tells Tony that she is sad that he cannot appreciate the simple things in life, but Tony corrects her: "I appreciate 'simple', Ziva. When I retire, it will be to a 'simple' tropical island, with 'simple' topless women fanning me with 'simple' banana leaves until the day I die." McGee comments dryly that such a fantasy isn't entirely unpredictable. Meanwhile, Gibbs' attention is arrested by a sudden disturbance among the chickens and the horses suddenly shying. The team notices his sharpened attention, and becomes alert. Gibbs notices that the pickup truck's door is open and still has groceries on the front seat. Testing, he finds that the hood is still warm. "Larson!" he calls, "Are you home?" A moment goes by – and suddenly Larson's home explodes in a ball of flames, sending the team diving for cover.
As the firemen remove Larson's body from the house and control the fire, the team wonders how Deering knew they were there. McGee returns from a search of the area carrying a small videocamera. Gibbs plays it back, watching themselves on video as the house explodes. The camera swings back to Deering, who films himself taunting Gibbs. "The terrorist account that killed my son Evan did not need to happen." He maintains that he has saved thousands of lives by revealing the wiring issues on the ships, and that now, "it's about Evan."
Gibbs tells Vance that he plans to interview the ex-wife. Vance is still bitter that he had been captured so easily, and Gibbs tries to tell him to shrug it off. "The hell it doesn't matter!" Vance exclaims. "Deering played me, Gibbs – nobody plays me!" Gibbs points out that it is just a game to Deering, and that Vance should hit back. Vance, frustrated, tells Gibbs that he has thousands of agents around the world ready to take a bullet for him, but he can't protect them from one deranged father. Gibbs grins. "Hey, Leon, if it makes you feel any better – I wouldn't take a bullet for you." Vance can't help but grin, but then grows serious as he tells Gibbs that he wants Deering gone.
Ex-wife is named Victoria Deering. They divorced two years after their son's death. As the team reviews what they know about Victoria, Abby, with Jimmy in town, hesitantly interrupts, asking Gibbs if there is any chance the team is going to be able to make it to Jimmy's wedding. The team is silent as all eyes turn to Jimmy. Jimmy understands the silence and tells them that he understands, "of course, the timing couldn't have been worse . . . " he says dejectedly, but then puts on a brave face. "It's ok – I guess it just wasn't meant to be . . ." he trails off, and then hurries back down to Autopsy. Abby is upset on Jimmy's behalf.
In Autopsy, Jimmy and Ducky are conducting an autopsy on Larson's body. "Speaking of love, Doctor, I need your opinion on something." Ducky is exasperated, and tells Jimmy he's not in the mood to discuss Jimmy's questionable decision to sing "Wind Beneath My Wings" to his bride. But Jimmy is concerned about something else: Should he postpone the wedding, in light of everything that is going on? Ducky tells him that while the investigation is important, it's also important not to take loved ones for granted, and that for him to postpone the wedding would be to "hand Harper Deering another victory." Jimmy agrees reluctantly, but adds, "just the idea of none of you at my wedding . . . it just seems wrong." Ducky reminds him, "Did I not just say – and rather poetically, I might add – that we have loved ones that are not to be taken for granted?" Jimmy realizes that Ducky plans on attending the wedding, and delightedly wraps a smiling Ducky in a bear hug.
Gibbs talks to Victoria Deering, who does not believe that Deering could be responsible. She tells Gibbs that Evan was the only thing holding them together, and when he died, they fell apart. She then adds that Deering probably feels that he won't stop until he has made his point.
Gibbs stops by Ryan's office, where she introduces him to Lucy, a computer program (named after "5 cents, the doctor is in" Lucy). She has fed Deering's personal information into the program, which identifies potential allies and enemies. One potential ally is Jonathan Cole. As Gibbs and Ryan speculate on turning Cole into a double agent, her phone rings: It's Deering. He is in a car watching her son waiting on a sidewalk, laughing with friends. As Gibbs attempts a trace, Deering taunts Ryan. He tells her that she is weak, an open book. "As a single parent, you're doing an excellent job," he drawls, and offers to tell Parker that she's running a little late. Ryan is frightened at how easily Deering could capture her son. Gibbs and Ryan go to pick up Parker, who is unharmed, but Ryan is unnerved.
As the team can't attend the wedding, they want to give Jimmy his wedding gifts before he leaves. Ziva presents him with "the finest Israeli cotton sheets, so you sleep like a baby," she says with a smile, and then adds, soto voce, "or maybe make one!" to Jimmy's embarrassment. McGee gives him a wireless long range security camera, to keep an eye onhome when he's working late – or to be used as a baby monitor, later on. Tony gives him a DVD of a movie, "the 1963 dark masterpiece, 'Contempt'!" Ziva is not impressed, and McGee accuses Tony of re-gifting the movie that he received for Christmas. "It's not regifting if you've already watched it on Netflix!" Tony explains defensively, but Jimmy thanks him sincerely, and they all have a group hug. As they hug, Jonathan Cole is brought into the office.
Cole is being questioned by Gibbs and Ryan. He's cocky and assured, knowing that they must want something from him. As Cole talks with his mouth full, Ryan sighs and comments that his father must not have been big on manners. "Oh, he was big on manners," Cole assures her. "I just wasn't big on listening." Gibbs shows him pictures of burnt corpses, and accuses Cole and Latham of selling Deering the Watcher fleet microchip. "You handed him the fleet's weaknesses," Gibbs tells him. Cole agrees that he knows about Deering and how to catch him. Ryan tries to bluff: "He's lying – he doesn't know crap." But Cole is confident: "Then why am I here?" he asks her. Gibbs and Ryan explain that they want to use him to lure Deering into a trap, in exchange for possibly commuting his sentence. "What's the catch?" he asks. "You might get killed," admits Gibbs. "That's not a catch – that's the fun!" comments Cole. He's in.
Later, Tony and Gibbs are walking back to the office after grabbing coffee, and Tony tells Gibbs that the dis-information has started about Cole "escaping" from prison, and that Victoria Deering has been called and told that Cole is looking for her ex. Gibbs is sure that Victoria is trying to contact Deering with the news. As they walk along the sidewalk, Abby meets them with the news that the accelerant used in the Lawson fire does not match any of the other M.O's. Director Vance pulls up by the curb in his SUV, and Gibbs asks him kiddingly if he has a new parking spot. Vance tells him it's temporary while they are on high alert, and Gibbs lets him know that the trap has been set. As Vance leaves, Gibbs receives a text message from Ryan: "My office now!"
As he enters her office, her desk is clear, and she is quickly shoving files into a full briefcase. "Are you ok?" he asks, and she wordlessly hands him a sheet of paper. He scans it and asks, "Who is Liam Duff?" It is her ex-husband, who has been released from jail on a bogus technicality thanks to Deering's influence with the judge. Ryan is frightened – her ex-husband "hurts people." Gibbs assures her that she and Parker are safe – "I can promise that" -- but Ryan doesn't believe him. "I know you want to, Gibbs, but you can't." Gibbs reminds her that this is classic headgaming stuff and warns her not to let Deering in her head, but it's too late.She is taking Parker and leaving. Gibbs catches her arm as she tries to leave and gives her a long look. Biting back the tears, she tells him that SecNav will know where she is. Kissing him quickly, she breaks free and hurries out.
Back at the office, Ziva and Tony are trying to cheer each other up for missing the wedding. "Who likes weddings, anyway?" declares Tony, and he and Ziva exchange wedding horror stories – weird uncles with inappropriate toasts, rubber chicken enhanced by cheap wine, cheesy music and children, rental tuxedos, the bouquet, the garter, the cake, the fittings . . . But Tony is reflective when he admits that the vows are nice. Ziva glances at him cautiously. "Eh . . . the ring," she admits wistfully. "The . . . kiss," Tony adds, carefully watching her from the corner of his eye. "The ketubah," she adds with a smile. Tony admits that he wouldn't know what to do if he had to deal with all of that. "Elope?" Ziva suggests. She and Tony exchange a slow smile, as Gibbs enters the office, commenting, "Yeah? Well, worked for me." He asks for an update, and an excited McGee hurries in with the news that Cole's dummy email account just received a cryptic message: "Where Golden Eagles rest. Tomorrow 8:00." McGee suggests that "where Golden Eagles rest" might refer to a coffee shop in Georgetown that is popular with retired Navy pilots.
Early the next morning, there's a knock at Bree's suite. It's Jimmy, and when Bree protests that he's not supposed to see her yet, he tells her, seriously, that he needs to talk to her. He explains that he feels guilty not being at work while the rest of his "family" is working so hard to protect them, and suggests getting married first thing that morning so that he can return to Washington that afternoon and continue working on the case, and then have a party later. Bree sweetly agrees, telling him that the reason she loved him was because he was "the sweetest, most kindhearted man I've ever met."
At the coffee shop, Cole takes his place at a table to wait for Deering, surrounded bynumerous officers in plainclothes. As they wait, the waitress offers him coffee and then asks him if he is Cole. When he says he is, she slips a folded envelope out of her apron and tells him someone left it for him. He opens the envelope and withdraws a cell phone, which promptly rings. The team realizes that Deering has outsmarted them again. Deering is strolling beside a brick wall, with the NCIS office visible in the background. He tells Cole to give Gibbs the message that he was never after Vance, he is interested in justice.
In the office, they replay the conversation, puzzled at Deering's meaning. Gibbs thinks for a moment, and then notices that Vance is holding his car keys and a bag. Vance tells Gibbs that he is on his way to the Pentagon. Gibbs asks McGee to replay the call, enhancing the background noise. They hear familiar bells – the bells in the Navy chapel. Thinking harder, Gibbs asks Ziva what they found in Vance's car."Nothing, it was clean," she tells him, startled,and then admits that they did not strip it down. "There was no reason to," she responds, puzzled. Gibbs and Cole come to the same conclusion in the same instant: Deering has hidden something in Vance's car. Gibbs gives the order to evacuate and to call the bomb squad. Cole, holding up his handcuffed wrists, reminds Gibbs that he worked in bomb disposal, and that he would be faster than the bomb squad. Gibbs hesitates a moment, then agrees. Everyone disperses quickly to clear the building.
Outside is chaotic, with people hurrying away from the building. As they reach the car, Cole holds up his wrists and Gibbs quickly releases him. They begin to search the car.
In the building, McGee is downloading critical files onto a flash drive, in case of fire. Vance orders him out "NOW!", but McGee hesitates, waiting until the download is finished.
Ziva and Tony are going office to office, making sure the building is clear. Tony tries to send Ziva out, but she grabs his arm. "No, I'm not going without you," she declares, and they both hurry down the hall.
Gibbs and Cole continue to examine the car, and then suddenly Gibbs finds a loose seatcover. Carefully, they pry it apart, and find several M112 demolition charges, wired to a cell phone. Cole studies it briefly and tells Gibb to "get out of here – it's too close to the building." Glancing around, Gibbs sees Abby scurrying around in her lab, not 20 feet away. "Go! Get her out of here!" Cole urges him, but Gibbs hesitates, searching Cole's face for some sort of answer. Cole gives a half-laugh. "It's not the danger – it's the fun!" he reminds Gibbs, who nods respectfully, hands Cole his knife, and then hurries away. Cole begins to examine the bomb, but suddenly the bomb's cellphone begins to ring. The call is identified as "FOR EVAN". Cole gazes at it helplessly, knowing for certain that he has run out of time . . .
The bomb explodes.
In the basement, Gibbs dives at Abby, hurling her to the floor as the windows implode from the explosion and fire rips through the lab.
In the office, the plate glass window overlooking the Navy Yard explodes into flying shards of glass just as McGee was starting to dash out. He falls to the floor as the offices crashes around him.
In Ziva and Tony's elevator, the elevator car gives a sickening lurch and begins to crash as Ziva is thrown into Tony's arms and the roof of the elevator collapses on them.
On a distant, deserted beach, Ducky is strolling along the shoreline, enjoying the surf. He is carrying his tuxedo jacket, but otherwise is dressed formally, perhaps ready for Jimmy's wedding, or just after. As he pauses to take in the crashing waves, his cell phone rings. Puzzled, he answers it, and from the look of distress on his face, he is just now hearing about the explosion. "Hello? Yes, this is Doctor Mallard . . . Dear God . . . how many? Of course, tell them I'll be there right away. It's imperative that no one touch any of the deceased until I . . .until I . . . ." he trails off with a grimace of pain and his arm falls to his side as he struggles against a growing pain. He takes a hesitant step, but the pain becomes too much . . . he sinks to his knees in the wet sand, pitches forward and is still, his hand still clutching the cell phone, eyes gazing out over the ocean as the ocean gently laps at his prone body and the seagulls cry.