The flashbacks from the previous show, "Aliyah", ended with Ziva tied to a chair, with a terrorist-type, Saleem, walking into a cell, demanding that she tells him what she knows about NCIS. Segue to an apparent repeat -- Saleem walks down the hall, enters the room, and tells the prisoner the chair that they will tell him everything that they know. He pulls out a small medkit and a syringe -- some sort of truth serum -- and assures the prisoner that "You will talk." The camera swings to the chair -- it is not Ziva, but Tony, that is tied to the chair. He replies, with a sneer, that he isn't going to tell Saleem anything. Cut to credits.
Saleem is discussing various forms of truth serums, musing about Soviet methods, but as he injects Tony, he tells him that the serum he is injecting him with is of his own design -- "a mixture of sodium pentothal and several other agents I have found effective for extracting the truth." Tony states that Saleem is going to be dead soon, and observes that the serum must be working. We notice another body on the floor, unidentifiable, with their back turn to us -- possibly Ziva? Saleem takes a chair, and conversationally tells Tony that he has observed America, because he believes in knowing his enemy. Tony replies, "I believe that a man is as big as what he is seeking. I believe you're a big man, Mr. Macreedy." Saleem introduces himself as Saleem Ulman, and asks Tony to tell him who he is. Tony responds, "I am Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo of Naval Criminal Investigative Service." Saleem says that several months ago, he had not even heard of NCIS, but that it has caused the deaths of several of his people, and he asks Tony to tell him what his mission is. Tony is beginning to struggle against the effects of the drug -- he stares at a light fixture to focus, and then gives Saleem the standard party line: "We are tasked with pursuing crimes involving the United States Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families, and our duties are expansive -- international terrorism, espionage, and even an eight-ball of meth-amphetamines. . . . "
Flashback to June. Tony, McGee and Gibbs are onboard a ship, trying to take into custody a large, burly sailor named Dimarco who is violent and obviously strung out on drugs. Tony and McGee briefly confer as to the best way to take him down. Tony suggests "You hit him high, I'll hit him low." McGee mutters, "I don't like the sound of that," and Tony switches it, "OK, you hit him low and I'll hit him high." They both throw themselves at the sailor, who struggles strongly. While watching the action, Tony keeps answering Saleem in a voice-over, saying, "Our team consists of a gang of four -- tight-knit. My partner is Tim McGee -- small muscles, big brain, heart of a lion -- together we're virtually unstoppable. Well, virtually . . ." The takedown is reaching its peak, as McGee urgently warns Tony that the sailor has a knife. The voice-over continues: "Our team leader, the fearless Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, former gunnery sergeant and sniper, coffee aficionado . . . and functional mute." As McGee and Tony hold down the sailor, Gibbs calmly puts his foot on the sailor's neck, immobilizing him and he immediately quiets.
Saleem prompts, "And the fourth member of your team?" Tony grimaces, and answers shortly, "Lost her." "Her?" Saleem inquires. Tony grunts in acknowledgement, obviously fighting the drugs. Refocusing, he tells Saleem, "For the last four years, that slot has been filled by Mossad Liaison Officer Ziva David." Saleem is thoughtful: "Mossad? And NCIS? The organizations responsible for the deaths of my men?" Tony nods affirmatively, and then quips, "Oh, well, geez -- all I can say is that, if WE killed them, they must have been bad guys." Saleem erupts in anger and backhands Tony across the face, declaring angrily, "They were martyrs to the cause! So your team is here to -- what? Finish the job? To shoot down my organization?" Tony interjects in the middle of Saleem's tirade: "Hey, listen, can I get a glass of chardonnay?" Saleem grabs the back of Tony's head and forces it back, screaming in his face, "Are you here to finish the job?!" Tony laughs and responds: "Not only are you wrong, you're wrong at the top of your voice." Saleem is confused by the allusion: "What does that mean?" Tony goes off on one of his movie reminiscences: "Can you imagine Nicholson in 'Bad Day at Black Rock' I would have liked to have seen that . . ." In frustration, Saleem grabs Tony by the jaw and demands, "Where is the rest of your team?!" Tony shakes his head and says, with a glazed look in his eye, "I don't know. I don't care about your team. I don't care about my team . . . ." Saleem snorts in disbelief and says, "So, you were driving in the desert without backup? So, what are you doing here?" Tony, in a burst of bravado, declares, "Well, Saleem, there is only one force on Earth that can short-circuit a man's better instincts, put a fire in his veins and makes him dive headlong into danger without regard for his own well-being. Vengeance, Saleem . . . I'm here to kill you."
Saleem thinks this over. "Vendetta . . . DiNozzo is an Italian name." Tony taunts him gently, "Ah, an educated man." Saleem tells Tony that he received his B.S. from Yale University. Tony declares that he got his B.S. on the streets. Tony laughs and then declares, "Yale! You guys have a lousy football team!" Saleem then reminds Tony that Yale has won 18 National Championships, with the last one being in 1927, and then declares that Americans have short memories, "at least that is my impression of you." Tony is in full smart-mouth mode: "Wait, you did an impression of me? I missed it -- back up and do it again, but this time, gargle with sand get that basso profundo going, that's how you nail my essence. It's all in the voice." Saleem ignores this, and asks, "How did you choose me as the target of your bloodlust?" Tony shrugs and says, "I didn't. Hell, a little while ago, I didn't even know you existed -- I was happier then."
Flashback: Tony and McGee are coming off the elevator, arriving for work in the squad room. Tony is wheedling McGee to come and fix his home theatre, McGee is unmoved. McGee makes a few suggestions, most of which are over Tony's head. Tony cuts the chase and asks, "Can't you just come over and fix it?" McGee looks skeptical: "What's in it for me?" Tony thinks for a moment and offers, a "digitally remastered 1955 classic 'Bad Day at Black Rock,' staring a one-armed Spencer Tracy." McGee is unimpressed, and retorts, "Is that anything like money? Because money is customarily exchanged for services rendered." Tony is frustrated and, in a back-handed compliment, tells McGee -- "It's a computer -- computers are your thing. If I had a "thing", I would show it off all the time!" Gibbs walks up behind him and declares, "There are laws against that, DiNozzo.", and tells them to grab their gear, they have a dead petty officer. McGee asks, incredulous, "ANOTHER meth overdose?" Gibbs answers that McGee knows as much as he does. As they begin to leave, McGee asks Tony: "Now?" Tony agrees, "Now." McGee asks him if he wants to go, Tony says, "NO, you go . . . ." Gibbs is waiting impatiently, and McGee diffidently points out that he thinks it's time they filled the empty chair. Gibbs gazes at him and then responds, "Oh, you do?" Tony agrees, "Yeah, we do," and observes that it's the right time and the personnel files are starting to pile up on his desk. Gibbs smiles, grabs the pile and plops it on Tony's desk, declaring, "YOU pick, then." Tony stares at the pile and then mutters that he needs to take out just the women, when Gibbs declares, "Those ARE just the women." In consternation, McGee asks Gibbs if he thinks that's such a good idea, "because, you know, coming from anyone else, that would be considered a lapse in judgment." Gibbs amends it: "OK, you both pick," and McGee is relieved. Tony asks, "You don't trust my professionalism?" and Gibbs throws him a warning: "No casting couch."
Onboard a ship, Petty Officer Kevin Wingate is dead in his bunk of a meth overdose and Gibbs, Tony and McGee going through well-practiced routines of collecting evidence. They muse about how he obtained the drugs, since he had been on 60-day restriction for drug use. Ducky arrives, and chides them for guessing, and Tony's voice-over narration to Saleem continues to describe Ducky: "While not an official member of our field team, Ducky is an essential element of the investigative process. An encyclopedic mind that never stops working -- sometimes his mind is connected directly to his mouth . . . " Ducky is examining the body, notes dilated pupils and sweaty shirt, which reminds him of a classmate of his in medical school. Gibbs assigns tasks to McGee and Tony, and Ducky observes, "So many tasks, so few hands . . ." and goes on to ask, "Has either one of you heard from Ziva?" McGee and Tony freeze and look at Ducky, acknowledging that they haven't. Ducky says that he hasn't, either, and observes that "it is all so very sad, but I assume that time comes to move on . . . " Tony, troubled, reluctantly agrees.
In the squad room, Tony and McGee are interviewing candidates, and Tony dismisses an attractive blonde with a flip, "Thank you, Pantsuit Girl." The next candidate comes to his desk, and McGee introduces her: "This is Claire Connell, she is with the DEA." Claire is a dressed severely, with dark hair pulled back, glasses, and a rather uninspired suit. In a business-like fashion, she puts her hand out to greet Tony, and shakes his hand firmly -- a real knuckle-cruncher. Tony winces visibly. They ask why she is leaving the DEA and she states that she became involved with a co-worker "of an intimate nature" and that she sees leaving the DEA as a way of extricating herself from an awkward situation. Tony immediately assumes that it is a clingy guy she is avoiding -- at her stare, he hastily retrenches and adds, "Or girl . . .?" and then realizes that this is a conversation that has only one ending, ending with a weak, "Or . . . don't tell . . ." She asserts that it was "interfering with her ability to perform her duties at the highest level," and Tony then speculates about those movies where the girl is dressed in an ugly suit, but then "the ugly duckling becomes a . . . swan?" Claire assures him, "That won't be an issue. I find that my looks have a tendency to keep people from taking me seriously." Tony and McGee agree that Claire is a good possibility, and warn her that the final decision will be Gibbs'. Outside of one of the meeting rooms where Gibbs is interviewing Claire, Tony paces nervously, talking about how he thinks she has the "zing, the 'pa'" McGee is confused as to what "pa" is, and Tony tries to describe the elusive quality that pulls a team together. McGee allows as how Claire is "unflappable," and Tony agrees. At that moment, the door bursts open, and Claire comes running from the room, crying furiously. Tony and McGee watch her run away in amazement, as Gibbs, frowning, strides out of the room and throws Claire's file at Tony, declaring, "Strike One."
In the present, Tony, still tied up, thinks aloud: "It might be easier to find a new drummer for 'Spinal Tap'. Ziva's not replaceable." Saleem asks him, "The one you lost -- why aren't you looking for her?" Tony answers, with a hard look on his face, "If I could drag her back, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But that's impossible, because Ziva David is dead."
Saleem takes a swig from a canteen that apparently contains a reddish fluid. He declares himself to be fascinated by cause and effect, what can be done to the human body simply by adding or subtracting. (The body is still lying on the floor, turned away from us.) Saleem declares that his personal drug of choice since his college days is caffeine, which keeps him sharp and alert. Tony watches him drink, swallowing involuntarily. Saleem then observes that Tony is probably feeling an urge to talk uncensored, and that it is a chemical process in his brain from the drugs. He acknowledges that Tony is trying to resist, but tells him that the resistance only heightens the effect of the drug. Tony relaxes visibly. Saleem asks who is in charge of the flow of their information, and Tony responds, "It must be a lonely place to sit, at the top of the pyramid -- not to mention a wee bit uncomfortable."
Flashback to NCIS headquarters, as Vance is climbing the steps to his office. Tony's voice-over describes him, "Leon Vance. Some people don't like him. Some people don't trust him, wish someone else were in his place. Show me someone who doesn't complain about their boss, and they're either lying or they're unemployed . . . ."
Vance enters his office to find Gibbs in the outer office, drinking coffee from an office cup, not his usual take-out brand. He asks if Gibbs has an update on the meth ring, and Gibbs declares that Petty Officer Dimarco (the out-of-control sailor we saw earlier) is recovering. Vance declares that he wants him questioned today so that they can find who put the knife in him. Gibbs reminds him that there was only one set of prints, and Vance responds incredulously, "He was so out of his mind he stabbed himself?" Vance shakes his head and observes that they have been hitting a lot of dead ends. Gibbs observes, right back, that they are one short, and Vance asks how the search is going for David's replacement. Gibbs brushes off the inquiry by saying that Tony is interviewing candidates, and then gets down to his real question: "Have you heard anything about Ziva?" Vance declares that he has not. Gibbs is skeptical, since he knows that Vance and Director David talk to each other, but Vance says that David has not told him what Ziva is doing, and that "Eli is being tight-lipped about it." Gibbs asks quietly: "Like you, Leon?" Vance says that he has no information, but that he is "tap-dancing around the edges" trying to find out. Gibbs is unsatisfied. "Yeah, I know how that goes," and walks out of the office.
McGee is in Interrogation with Petty Officer Dimarco, trying to pin down where the drugs came from that killed the other petty officer. Dimarco declares that he wouldn't know what they looked like, that he doesn't take drugs, and that someone must have slipped it in his orange juice. McGee, puzzled, asks "Why would they do that?" Dimarco replies, "Isn't that how you take 'em?" McGee asks, "Where did you see that?" Dimarco replies, "I think it was an episode of '90210' . . . ." Cut to Tony in the observation room, commenting to another candidate, Becky Hawkins, "I never really liked that show -- not my cup of tea." Becky has short dark hair, intense dark eyes, and is watching the interrogation with interest. She asks why McGee is conducting the interrogation, and Tony corrects her, saying that they call it "an interview, not an interrogation -- interrogation has such a negative connotation." She nods, and says, "OK, so what do they call THIS room?" Tony says that it's called an observation room. She then nods to the interview room and inquires, "And the other side of the glass?" Tony laughs nervously and declares that "not everything has a name." She pursues the topic: "I thought I heard someone refer to it as 'interrogation.'" Tony brushes it off and moves nervously away from her, and indicates that McGee is in there "softening the big guy up for the bigger guy -- Agent Gibbs is gonna crack him." She is skeptical: "Crack him? Crack him for what? For buying a bad hit of meth? This guy doesn't know anything. You expect him to give up his dealer?" Tony holds up a file in front of him in a defensive gesture and retorts, "Well, let's see if you can figure it out." Moving in on Tony, she asks, "Is this some sort of test?" Tony asks her, "Do you like tests?" She moves in a few inches closer and inquires, "Is THAT a test?" Tony is uncomfortable, and replies. "No. Well, yes -- I mean, everything is a test . . ." and then excuses himself and runs out of the observation room. Becky stares after him in confusion.
Gibbs is in MTAC, talking to an operative on the ground in Chad, who is describing an operation where the natives picked up stakes and moved quickly. Gibbs inquires, "Captives?" and the operative responds, "Possibly -- NCIS confirms the presence of a woman." Tony enters MTAC, catches the end of the operative's statement, and is immediately interested. The operative goes on to say that there was no ID and no confirmation. Gibbs smiles and declares "You're doing a bang-up job there, Chad." Chad observes that they are a long way from Dubai, and that the local network consists mostly of nomads roaming the desert. "They don't like our faces much, but they respect mine more than they would yours." Gibbs acknowledges the teasing: "You think so, huh?" Chad grins and continues with his needling: "One look at that baby-smooth skin and they might think they had spotted another girl!" Gibbs rolls his eyes and says goodbye with "Careful, don't be going all native on me out there!" and kills the transmission. He turns and finds Tony. Tony hands him a file while quipping, "Chad reporting from Chad. Next step: Captain Rebecca Hastings. Air Force." Gibbs, opening the file and observing a photo of the candidate we have just seen in observation, comments, "Fighter jock." Tony continues: "Grounded for medical reasons. Natural born thrill-seeker. Likes to live on the edge, take risks. Pretty hot. Thinks that NCIS might offer some . . . new challenges." (The look on his face indicates that he realizes that he himself might be considered a "new challenge" for her.) Gibbs asks, "What do you think?" Tony shrugs, smiles and quips: "Oh, well -- women . . .!" Gibbs smiles and agrees, "Yeah." A moment passes, and then Tony asks, "What was that about, with Dunham?" Gibbs explains that they are tracking terrorist training camps in the Sahara Desert. Tony prods further: "And the woman you were talking about -- the captive? Any theory as to who she is?" Gibbs thinks for a moment and answers: "Dunham says that Mossad's presence has increased in North Africa." Tony thinks, and asks, "Plotting an offensive?" Gibbs opines: "Or course correction -- cleaning up a failure." Tony demands, "What kind of failure?" and Gibbs responds somberly: "The kind with casualties." Tony presses further: "Is that all you know?" At Gibbs' slight smile, Tony continues, "Or is that all you can tell me? OK, I got it." He turns to leave. As he reaches the door, he tosses off a tidbit, "You know, in Arabic, the word for 'desert' is 'sahara'. So, actually the Sahara Desert is really "Desert Desert". Either way," he grimaces, "it's a lot of sand."
Later, Tony and McGee are eating dinner together at a sidewalk cafe. McGee is chatting -- the doctor won't allow him to question Dimarco because "the strain was too much for his weakened heart." Tony isn't eating -- he is oblivious to the conversation, staring off into space. McGee tries another conversational tactic: "Gibbs signed off on the new girl -- Rebecca Hastings. Seems like a pistol . . . ." Tony frowns, and then abruptly gets up and leaves. McGee is concerned and gets up to follow him, throwing a $50 bill on the table to cover the tab. He walks up to Tony and then offers another conversational gambit: "I'm thinking of buying some tight, red leather pants. Something that really cradles my butt!" Tony declares "It's not normal." McGee apologizes and says that he wasn't really going to buy them, but Tony interrupts and declares that it isn't normal that they haven't heard from Ziva. McGee suggests that maybe she just wanted to make a clean break of it and Tony confidently declares that that may be true for some of them, but not for all of them, "unless you did something to her that you're not telling me about?" McGee and Tony walk to their car, and as they begin to get in, they pause to talk to each other over the roof. Tony declares again, urgently: "It's NOT normal." McGee thinks for a moment and then agrees, "No, it's not." Tony is relieved that someone else feels that something is wrong. "THANK YOU!" He then goes on: "What if she CAN'T contact us? What if something is stopping her?" McGee stares at Tony and adds, "Or someone . . .?" Tony agrees: "Yeah. I'm not the only one thinking this, now, am I?" McGee agrees, and Tony goes on, "And you know Gibbs is thinking about it, too. He's not talking about it, but he's definitely sniffing around." McGee looks at Tony intently and asks, "So, what are you going to do about it?" Tony declares that he's going to do everything he can -- he's going to start digging. McGee, entering the car, casually observes that he can't do it alone. Tony takes his comment as a challenge: "You going to stop me?" McGee gives him a direct look and says, "That's not what I said." Tony realizes that he now has help.
Cut to the terrorist camp. Saleem prods the body on the ground, and declares, "When he wakes up, he will learn -- what a mistake your partner made, following your lead." He kicks the body and it rolls over -- revealing an unconscious and battered McGee.
Saleem is continuing his interrogation of Tony: "So, you believe that I am responsible for the death of this Ziva David? So you travel half-way around the world to kill me? That is insane!" Tony is nettled: "I'M insane? You kill indiscriminately!" Saleem declares that wars are measured in body counts, and that the world is changed with rivers of blood. "There is no reason to kill just one person." Tony disagrees: "Oh, sure, there is." Saleem demands to know how Tony found him. Tony grins and declares, "I'm skilled." Saleem is skeptical: "You did it? By yourself? Really?" Tony agrees, "No, not really." Again, Saleem asks how Tony found him, and demands to know "Who are you leaving out?"
Cut to Abby's lab, in August. She is scolding McGee and Tony: "I can't believe you were going to leave me out!" Tony hastily assures her that it was nothing personal, and McGee chimes in, "It was for your own benefit!" Abby is unconvinced, and faces them down: "So, which was it?" Tony's voiceover goes on to describe Abby: "Abby Sciuto. NCIS resident forensic scientist. Heart and soul, paradox wrapped in an oxymoron, smothered in contradictions of terms. Sleeps in a coffin, and is really the happiest-go-lucky girl you'll ever meet." Tony and McGee continue to bumble through their apologies, and finally, Abby forgives them. They tell her that they have been trying to track down Ziva's movement as best they can, and Abby asks, "Since when"? McGee reveals that they have been tracking her since she stayed in Israel. To their surprise, Abby continues, "And then she took Rivkin's place on the Kedon unit." McGee and Tony stare at her in surprise, and she exclaims, "I've been doing the same thing! I mean, it's weird that Ziva hasn't contacted me." (At this point, all three of them are pacing in a large circle, thinking.) Abby continues, "It would be one thing if she just hadn't picked up the phone and called me, but I've been trying to reach her several different ways." Tony quips: "Psychics, crystals or telepathy?" Abby is not amused: "No jokes, ok? Ziva is universally absent, ok? It's freaking me out." McGee calls the meeting to order. "Ok, let's compare notes, here. We've got NCIS in Dubai on the ground trying to figure out what Mossad is up to." Tony: "We've got Mossad trying to figure out what some terrorist is doing." Abby: "And somewhere, in the middle of this, is Ziva." Tony observes that Gibbs thinks that the Director knows more than he is letting on. While McGee, Tony and Abby are deep in thought, the new agent, Rebecca Hastings, quietly enters the lab unnoticed, and hears the remainder of the conversation. Abby declares, "And he's not telling us anything! So we have two options . . ." Tony observes, "They are both illegal." McGee says, "Hack into Mossad . . ." and Abby finishes enthusiastically, ". . . or hack into Vance!" Becky is horrified at what she is hearing and declares, "Oh, that's it! I'm out of here! I'm done!" and rushes out. The three of them watch her leave in surprise, and McGee observes, "So much for the daredevil!" Abby is dismissive of her: "Whatever. Let's get cracking!"
Later, Tony is sitting at his desk, on the phone, telling someone that Gibbs is in Interrogation and that he'll take a message. He repeats, "Damocles . . . yeah, I know, like 'The Sword of'. Out of Agrabah . . . where is that?" He is interrupted by a tall, attractive young woman with long brown hair who comes to stand in front of him, startling him into dropping the phone. She introduces herself as Officer Heather Kincaid, and observes that he has forgotten about their interview. Tony covers up his confusion by reciting facts from her resume, "Seattle PD, like your father and your grandfather. . . ." He gets up and begins to walk to Interrogation, asking her if she can walk while she talks. She deadpans, "I've never tried something that complex before, but I'm a quick learner." Tony realizes that he's just been scored on, and observes, "Ah, sarcasm. I like sarcasm." Heather responds, "Who doesn't?" and Tony frowns: "Not THAT much."
Gibbs is interviewing Dimarco, who is declaring that someone must have slipped the drugs to him. Gibbs is unconvinced, and asks, "Lots of enemies on board?" Dimarco disagrees, "No, sir!" Gibbs continues: "So, the opposite of that -- lots of friends?" "Yes, sir!" The interview continues as Tony and Heather enter the observation room. Heather remarks that "I don't know what it is that you're looking for, exactly . . ." and Tony finishes the sentence: ". . . but you're it?" Heather glances at him and then observes, "Oh, so that's the pitch you've been getting?" Tony laughs and confirms that everyone who has interviewed "is a perfect fit for this job." Heather shrugs and says, "Sure . . . in this economy." Tony observes, "You can't just drop someone into the mix -- it's a lot harder than it looks, trust me." Heather smiles and says, "I'm only asking for a shot." Tony shrugs, saying, "Frankly, I don't know if we even need the help, and you've got a pretty good gig already." Heather rolls her eyes and gently mocks him, "Oh, 'it's not you, it's me'?" Tony asks her if she really wants to do this, and then points to Demarco as an example. "We have been babying, coddling and nursing him back to health for the last three months -- the poor, helpless drug victim with the bad heart! It's almost killed him -- HE'S the dealer!" In the interrogation room, Gibbs is now pacing, and has obviously lost patience with Dimarco -- we hear muffled shouting. In a neat bit of coordination, Tony and Gibbs are saying almost identical things, but to different people in different rooms -- that "after the first overdose from his own rotten stash, this guy dosed HIMSELF to draw suspicion away from the fact that HE'S the pusher!" Dimarco confesses that he didn't mean to kill Kevin. Tony, in exasperation, declares, "And two dead, before we figured it out. Anyway, we're not hiring right now -- sorry to waste your time." He rushes from the observation room, and meets Gibbs, who has left the interrogation room equally hurriedly, in the hall. They gaze at each other, and stride off in different directions.
In Abby's lab, Abby and McGee are at the computer, and Abby suddenly exclaims, "Omigod, omigod!!" turns to McGee and declares, "It's the GOAT!" McGee, in dawning understanding, repeats, "The GOAT!" Tony is confused as he walks in and asks if they found something. Abby responds, completely unintelligibly, "We're the two zuzims, Gibbs is our father, and he used US, to buy the goat! It all makes sense now!" Perhaps to Abby, but not to Tony, who looks at McGee for an explanation. McGee explains that they accessed Mossad's encrypted files, "but they weren't in English, so we had to do a little bit of rudimentary linguistics. It's a Hebrew school nursery rhyme." Chad Gadya (One Little Goat). McGee and Abby start to enthusiastically sing along with the nursery rhyme:
"When came the Holy One. Blessed be God
And destroyed the Angel of Death,
That killed the butcher, that slew the ox,
That drank the water, that quenched the fire,
That burnt the stick, that beat the dog,
That bit the cat, that ate the goat
Which my father bought for two zuzim
Chad gadya, Chad gadya"
Tony is unimpressed, and asks, "So -- what is the goat?" Abby responds, "It's the information that McGee and I recovered from the burnt laptop that was in Ziva's apartment . . ." and McGee finishes, ". . . that contains the location of a camp in North Africa run by a man named Saleem Ulman." Abby continues: "We gave it to Gibbs -- who gave it to Vance -- who gave it to Eli David -- who read it, and then he put Ziva and a team on a Jordanian freighter called the Damocles!" Tony puts two and two together: "Out of Agrabah?" McGee and Abby look at him in surprised, and McGee agrees: "Bound for the Horn of Africa." Tony asks if they have a manifest for the freighter, and Abby says that it's a cargo ship, and theorizes that it could be a direct supply line to Saleem. Tony asks, "Where is it now?" McGee says that he doesn't know and Tony orders him: "Find it!" McGee protests that they have tried, but there's no record of it appearing anywhere. Tony, exasperated, asks "Why not?" as Gibbs enters the lab, and finishes the sentence: "Because it was lost at sea. The Damocles went down in a storm on the 28th of May off the coast of Somalia." A pause, then, "There were no survivors." Tony is staring at Gibbs in horror as he realizes that Ziva was on that ship.
Tony continues his tale to Saleem. "After that, life lost all meaning."
We see Tony sitting at his desk in shock, as fragments of his life pass before him -- McGee, Ducky, Abby, Gibbs -- all speaking to him, but incomprehensible, as if in a bad dream. Finally, Tony snaps out of it and, as the team is leaving for a case, he stands up and declares "NO." Gibbs confronts him and inquires, "No?" Tony continues: "We have an obligation. Saleem Ulmen has to be stopped -- before one more person dies." McGee is watching the exchange carefully. Gibbs smiles and then instructs him: "Make your case." It's up to Tony to convince NCIS to go after Saleem.
We next see Tony in a presentation to Gibbs and Vance in MTAC, with a map showing the location of the camp and various arrows describing the supply chain that outfits the camp -- "everything that Saleem and his men need to stay alive out in the desert." McGee and Abby are assisting, describing the various items that the camp uses, and how they are trying to track common elements such as car parts, machinery, etc. However, McGee and Abby chose to follow up items "of a more personal nature", things that would be going directly to Saleem. They have a good idea of his penchant for electronics -- i.e., music, games. They compare it to manifest of the Damocles, and discovered a code, the one thing that points to Saleem - a brand name for an import not easily available in Europe or Africa. Tony continues to describe it: "They bring it in all the way from the United States, at high cost and difficulty." Vance wonders aloud what they are talking about, and Abby gleefully reveals that Saleem is importing "Caf-Pow", her own caffeine-laden drink of choice.
Tony reveals to Saleem that they have tracked him by the Caf-Pow. Saleem, in a fury, throws the canteen against the wall, splashing the beverage on the floor. Tony taunts him: "You HAD to have your Caf-Pow, didn't you?" As Saleem leaves, Tony continues to taunt him, "It's just a little chemical addiction -- don't worry! Maybe you picked that up at your American college!" The door slams shut behind Saleem. Softly, Tony calls, "Are you ok, McGee?" McGee doesn't move, but responds clearly, obviously unhurt: "Yep -- when do we move?" Tony cautions, "Not yet." McGee points out: "He's rattled -- this might be your best shot." Tony maintains, "Not yet . . ." but quiets as he hears Saleem returning, and shouting outside of their door. McGee goes back to playing unconscious as Tony warns him, "Wait for my cue . . ."
The door bursts open, and Saleem drags in another person, with a sack over their head and torso. Saleem tells Tony that "questions are being asked in town about missing NCIS agents, and there is concern that US forces might mobilize." He goes on to threaten: "One of you will tell me the names and locations of all the operatives in the area, and the other one will die." He pauses, and then turns to whip the sack off to reveal a very wan and drained Ziva. Ziva is stunned to see Tony and emits a small gasp. Tony stares at her impassively. Saleem continues, "I will give you a moment to decide who lives," and then leaves. Tony gazes at Ziva, and then, asks, nonchalantly, "So . . . how was YOU summer?"
Another moment of silence stretches between them. Ziva finds her voice, and then says, softly, "Out of everyone in the world who could have found me, it had to be you." Tony nods, smiles gently and responds, "You're welcome." A pause. "So, are you glad to see me?" Ziva is distressed: "You shouldn't have come." Tony is disappointed -- obviously he had hoped for a more enthusiastic welcome. He shrugs and then declares, "All right, then, good catching up -- I'll be going now," and attempts to rise from the chair he's tied in, without success. He goes on in the same vein, "Oh, yeah, I forgot -- taken prisoner!" Ziva stares at Tony in concern, and asks "Are you alright, McGee?" McGee, from the floor, sighs and responds, "I'm just glad you're alive." Ziva, still gazing intently at Tony, realizes what McGee has said and states, "You . . . you thought I was dead." Tony nods and, almost in tears, agrees, "Oh, yeah." Ziva is puzzled -- "Then why are you here?" Tony tries to fight pass the emotion and says, "McGee . . . McGee didn't think you were dead." Impatiently, Ziva asks, "Tony, WHY are you here?" In a moment of either raw emotion or extreme flippancy, Tony declares, "I couldn't live without you, I guess." Ziva replies, quietly, "So you will die with me." Guiltily, she turns aside and chides "You should have left me alone." Tony quickly tries to reassure her, and tells her, "Look -- I couldn't -- listen, you should know I've taken some sort of truth serum, so if there's any questions you don't want to know the answer to --" Ziva says firmly, with a lift of her chin, "I did not ask for anyone to put themselves into harm's way for me. I do not deserve it." Tony mocks her: "What are you doing out here, some sort of monastic experience? Doing penance?" Ziva declares quietly: "It is justified." Tony sneers at her and tells her, frankly, "Get over yourself." Ziva recognizes a spark of the old Tony, and responds, "I have. Now, you tell Saleem what he wants to hear, and you try to save yourselves. I am ready to die."
McGee, from the floor, observes, "That's not how it works." In exasperation, Ziva demands, "How WHAT works?" Tony smiles and says, "The plan." Incredulously, Ziva asks, "YOU have an escape plan?" Tony winks and nods. Ziva tries to reason with Tony: "Tony, they have 30 men, heavily armed. They have anti-tank, anti-aircraft weapons. What do you have?" Tony smiles and acknowledges, "Well, that's where things get a little tricky . . ."
Flashback to Tony discussing the mission with Vance and Gibbs. Vance is unconvinced, and tells Tony that he doesn't have enough evidence. Vance is reluctant to begin a military engagement on foreign soil. Vance says that he has talked to Mossad and to the Joint Chiefs, and they all agree that they are not prepared to send in a SEAL team on the flimsy evidence that Saleem can't live without his Caf-Pow. Tony protests, but Vance is firm -- they need confirmation that Saleem is there before a strike can be authorized., and then offers that he wishes the circumstances were different. Gibbs gives Vance a sharp look as Tony storms out of the Director's office. Gibbs follows Tony, catching up with him in the hallway, and asks, "Is that it?" Tony, in frustration, says, "Well, yeah, what else is there?" Gibbs drawls, "Well . . . maybe we send a couple of agents to the region?" Tony, still frustrated, asks, "What for?" Gibbs continues patiently, in teaching mode: ". . . you know, get some eyes on the target. You know, change the circumstances." Tony begins to see what Gibbs is getting at: "Change the circumstances?" Gibbs nods. Tony demands, "And you can sell that to Vance?" Gibbs smiles and says, "Oh, yeah -- strictly investigatively . . . " Tony catches on and begins to smile, "Oh, of course -- you guys have a whole 'nother thing going on that I don't know about -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge, Bob's your uncle, I get it!" Gibbs says, "I need volunteers." Tony responds quickly: "I volunteer myself and Special Agent McGee for the secret fact-finding mission thingy that's not secret in the Sahara. What are you going to do?" Gibbs smiles and walks away, saying, "You don't want to know." Tony, immensely cheered, calls after him, "Good talk!" and races off.
Cut to Tony and McGee's arrival in the Sahara Desert. They are speeding along a very bumpy, dusty road in an open jeep. Both are wearing heavy goggles. McGee tells Tony, drily, "Thanks for volunteering me," and Tony responds cheerfully, "Oh, come one, you've always said that you wanted to travel!" McGee corrects him: "On my own time!" Tony reassures him: "On your own time? Are you crazy? We can NEVER report this!" They stop, and survey the area. McGee declares, "That does it for Quadrant Whiskey-4." Tony jumps from the van and declares "There's no sighting!" as two masked figures dart furtively from behind the rocks. McGee says, "I'm going to call it in," and is in the process of making a call when they are attacked by a group of guards, who beat them up and bring them in.
As Tony is relating the story to Ziva, she stops him and confirms: "Wait -- you got captures on PURPOSE?" Tony agrees: "Yep." Ziva is incredulous. "Tony, these men are killers." Tony agrees, and says "I know. That's why we have to stay alive long enough to not get dead." Ziva is thinking quickly: "That would involve getting rescued?" Tony grins and nods: "Yes, it would." Ziva asks how long it would take, and Tony responds, "I don't know -- how long do you think I've been talking?" Ziva hisses, "What's the plan?!" Nonchalantly, Tony whispers, "Oh, well, we fail to contact Dubai, word gets to the carrier group in the Med, and they send off two ( ), and burn sand into glass. How long is that going to take? I dunno -- hours?" Ziva is staring at Tony incredulously. "Days?" They become aware of increased shouting outside of the building. Tony's voice changes and he asks her, urgently, "Ziva -- can you fight?" Ziva doesn't respond as the door opens and Saleem strides in. Tony greets him nonchalantly, "Oh, hey, Saleem, what's up, man? What's the commotion?" Saleem draws a large knife, and declares that they are moving out. Agreeably, Tony says, "Oh, that's good, I was getting kinda tired of this place." Saleem walks to the high window, gazes out for a moment and then returns, stating, "We aren't taking any prisoners." Tony cheerfully says, "Oh, well, then, it was nice talking with you." Saleem comes behind Ziva, grabs her hair, drags her head back, puts the knife to her throat and declares, "No. We are not done, yet." Desperately, Ziva tells Saleem "If they do not check in, their people will come looking for them." Tony hisses to Ziva, "Ziva, shut up." Ziva continues, "Kill me -- you'll need the Americans for leverage." Saleem says, "I do not make bargains." Tony quips, "Do you make pizza?" Saleem is taken aback -- "Whaaat?" As he is distracted, McGee recognizes the cue and sweeps his leg around, knocking Saleem off his feet as the knife clatters to the ground. They struggle briefly, but Saleem draws a gun and points it at McGee. Tony yells, "Wait, wait!" Saleem, glaring at McGee, asks, "Why?" Tony continues, "I told you about the brains, I told you about the guts, I told you about the muscle -- the scientist, the politician, the leader. I told you about every member of the team . . . " Tony is gasping for breath, " . . . except myself. The part I play." Saleem is intrigued, stands, and walks over to Tony. "Which is?" Tony catches his breath: "I'm the wild card. I'm the guy that looks at the reality in front of him and refuses to accept it. Like, right now -- I should be terrified, right? But I'm not. I can't stop thinking about the movie 'True Lies', you know -- when Arnie's strapped to the chair, shot full of truth serum, and he picks his cuffs and he kills everybody?" Tony continues, suddenly confident: "You have thirty seconds to live, Saleem." Saleem is unconvinced, and observes, "But you are still bound. You're lying." Tony smiles and reminds him, "I can't lie. But I didn't say I was going to be the one to kill you. Remember when I told you that my boss was a sniper?"
Saleem stares at Tony for a moment. Suddenly the window explodes with a single shot of gunfire, and Saleem topples, dead. A quick trace of the path of the bullet reveals Gibb with his rifle, hidden on a nearby hilltop, covered in desert cammo, and whispering an urgent "Go" into a microphone. Sudden gunfire erupts from the village, and confusion is evident. One of the guards bursts into the cell, only to shot by Gibbs. McGee springs up and frees Tony, and they both support Ziva as they stumble from the cell, leaving Saleem staring lifelessly on the floor. As they reach the end of the corridor, they are accosted by another guard, but suddenly, the guard is shot from behind and falls, dead. They turn the corner, and suddenly see a figure in desert cammo backlit by the light streaming in through the dusty window. The three of them recognize Gibbs, whose face remains in shadows as he says, casually, "Let's go home."
The four of them - McGee, Ziva, Tony and Gibbs -- are quiet riding the elevator at NCIS headquarters, and looking the worse for wear. Tony, leaning into the corner of the elevator, is gazing at Ziva from behind, and then quips, "Just another day at the office." Ziva still seems a bit stunned. The elevator door opens onto just another day at the office -- workers moving purposefully back and forth. They steps out of the elevator, and see Abby and Ducky standing by Tony's desk, waiting. Abby walks up to Ziva to greet her. Vance, observing the small procession from the stairs, begins to clap congratulations and welcome. The clapping is taken up by the entire office, and in moments, the team is welcomed with thunderous applause by their co-workers. Gibbs and Vance exchange a wry look across the room, Gibbs smiles, and goes to his desk. As the welcome washes over them, Abby gently strokes Ziva's hair from her cheek, and then embraces her fiercely. Ducky begins to congratulate Tony, but Tony moves to throw his things on his desk and flops into his chair. As Abby hugs Ziva, we see, over Ziva's shoulder, Tony gazing at her with an unreadable expression on his face.