During a training mission, a U.S Navy SEAL Lieutenant falls to his death, prompting the NCIS team to be called out to investigate. What's originally assumed to be an accidental death due to a rope malfunction soon turns out to be a possible murder case when Abby finds that the link attaching the victim to his rappelling rope was actually composed of a weaker material than the original factory standard issue. The team are pressured by the CIA and one of its agents to wrap up the investigation within thirty-eight hours or a highly classified hostage rescue mission will be scrubbed. Gibbs soon discovers that the victim had a secret and suspects that the victim's wife is hiding something..
The scene opens on a helicopter scaling a cliff and a group of men jump out of the copter as it flies away.
The men then spend the next minutes preparing to hike down the cliff and they reach the area.
However when Rick Johnson, the team leader climbs down to meet them, his cable snaps during the descend and he falls screaming to his death.
It then cuts Johnson who lies on the ground, dead.
The talk then turns to DiNozzo breaking up with a girl named Arianna but they're interrupted by their boss, Leroy Jethro Gibbs who tells them to grab their gear while ordering Kate to get Ducky and Tony to gas the truck.
"Where are we going?", Kate asks.
"With Gibbs, you never know", Tony admits.
They soon arrive at the scene where there's a full lockdown so much so that Gibbs, Kate and Tony are asked to show their IDs before they can gain access to the scene.
Gibbs meets Commander Michael Rainer who tells him what happened.
They all soon regroup and begin processing the scene although NCIS Medical Examiner Donald Mallard notes that the body was moved.
Rainer tells Gibbs that the intel in Johnson's pockets was classified so it had to be removed so that the body could be transported.
Gibbs then tasks DiNozzo with going to the top of the cliff and sketching and shooting the area.
DiNozzo expresses some unwillingness but one look from Gibbs and he gets right on it.
Ducky then determines that the body can be moved while Kate finds something buried in the sand and calls Gibbs over for a look.
They realize it's part of the D-link and Gibbs bags it.
Ducky tells Johnson that they're going to get him cleaned up in a way that honors his service.
Gibbs and Kate interview the other members of Johnson's unit who tell them that they didn't see anything out of the ordinary. As he leaves, Gibbs wants Johnson's service record and the personal efforts from his locker.
Rainer tells him he'll have at NCIS as soon as possible.
In the lab, Abigail Sciuto has found no sign of tampering on the D-link but they can't put to bed just yet.
She's emailed the manufacturer looking for specs on that specific D-link and when she gets them, she can do a comparative analysis and if nothing's hinky, then they can put this to bed.
With that, Gibbs leaves although Kate notes Abby's behavior is different than normal.
As they head into the second area of the lab, Abby tells Kate that McGee's all mad at her because he told her that she liked him and she wasn't sure how to respond which means that McGee wants to know where their relationship's going.
Abby then decides that she's going to pretend it never happened and hopefully McGee will do the same.
In the morgue, Ducky is telling Gibbs and DiNozzo that Johnson suffered numerous fractures, any of which could have killed him.
Just as they leave, James Palmer apologizes for being late but Ducky hopes that Palmer being late won't become a habit.
"Does this mean I have a job?", Palmer asks hopefully.
In the lab, Abby's busy doing an analysis on the two D-links. She then tells Gibbs she's found a partial on the D-link that doesn't belong to Lt. Johnson.
She then tells Gibbs and DiNozzo that someone hand-made a D-link out of a much weaker metal and then swapped it with Lt. Johnson's real one.
"It wasn't an accident", Gibbs states.
"Nope", Abby tells him. "It looks like murder".
It then cuts to Gibbs who stands there, grim-faced.
The team have arrived at Lt. Johnson's house and are busy interviewing his wife, Denise Johnson.
Once they've spoken to Denise, Gibbs orders Kate to go look around while he and DiNozzo go check the garage.
Gibbs and DiNozzo check the garage but DiNozzo gets sidetracked by the 1966 Mustang in the garage, causing Gibbs to warn him that he is not going to give him the stats on the car.
With that, they both get to work.
In the house, Kate is studying the area when she notices that a pillow and blanket are stacked neatly behind a couch. She then bumps into Larry Clannon, a priest and Lt. Johnson's best friend.
After exchanging greetings, Kate talks to Clannon who tells her that Johnson is the reason he became a priest and that the times are changing.
Gibbs, Kate and Tony arrive at the Base and meet Rainer who's convinced Johnson's death was a training accident.
However, Gibbs soon produces the fake link and Rainer learns that Johnson's link was swapped with a metal made from a much weaker substance than what Johnson originally had.
After that revelation, the team are granted access to the mission on the condition that everything there is kept classified.
Rainer then tells the timeline is 38 hours and that if they don't find out what happened by then, the mission will be scrubbed.
With that in mind, Gibbs orders DiNozzo to check every D-link and harness.
Folsom agrees to escort DiNozzo there but he first brings Gibbs and Kate to where Bravo Team are bunked.
A while later, Gibbs and Kate are interviewing Vengal who's stunned when Gibbs tells him that they're looking for the guy who killed Lt. Johnson.
Back at NCIS, the team are in the Evidence Garage, going through Johnson's belongings when a CIA agent Andrew Kramer arrives, informing them that the NCIS investigation into Johnson's death is of great importance to the CIA because the SEALs are part of a multi agency task force that's been training for a very specific mission.
When Gibbs states that they're not going to tell him about it, Kramer tells him that they would have to read it and they don't have the time to do it.
He then tells that they've got 34 hours to find who's responsible or four months of planning and preparing for the mission goes out the window.
Abby then arrives and informs them that while the print from Johnson's D-link doesn't match any military databases, it does match a criminal database and she tells the group that the prints belong to Johnson's wife, Denise.
It then cuts to Gibbs who stands there, his face giving nothing away.
The team have arrived back at the Johnson household and Kate's telling Gibbs and Tony everything about Denise Johnson's past including the fact that she was eighteen when she got arrested for joyriding.
She then tells them about the things she saw in Johnson's den which gives the impression that Lt. Johnson was sleeping in there.
During the interview, Denise picks up on the fact that Kate isn't married but insists that she didn't kill him.
Once the interview's over, they leave and return to NCIS, armed with the Johnson's laptop with Gibbs commenting that he's seen a woman kill her own children by drowning them, simply because the woman's boyfriend didn't like them.
As they get into the car, Tony remarks to Kate that it's interesting that Denise Johnson pegged Kate for being unmarried.
At the bullpen, DiNozzo goes through the laptop and finds that Johnson wasn't recommending Vengal for promoting. Kate then gets a call from Mrs. Vengal's doctor that ruins Vengal's alibi and as such, Gibbs dispatches DiNozzo to convince Vengal to come to NCIS.
As DiNozzo leaves, Abby comes in, remarking that she was down in the garage looking for a fingerprint kit when the phone started vibrating.
She mentions that it freaked her out and then gives Kate the phone while signing to ensure that the chain of evidence is maintained.
After putting on gloves, Kate realizes the message is a text, saying "Why weren't you there?".
After a long explanation to Gibbs, Kate soon suggests hacking, a theory she would never even suggested before she joined NCIS.
Gibbs then orders her to get McGee in the building, unaware of the hostile relationship between Abby and McGee right now.
Kate does it anyway.
A while later, Gibbs and Kate go to interview Clannon at the church and as Clannon gets ready for Mass, Kate tells him she might hang around next time.
As they prepare to leave, Gibbs lights a candle for someone but when Kate asks who, he doesn't say anything.
NCIS Special Agent Timothy McGee arrives in from Norfolk and it's obvious that he and Abby are still pissed at one another. They eventually start working on their own separate computers while still refusing to have any eye contact with each other.
Vengal has been brought into NCIS and DiNozzo, Kate and Kramer are watching from Observation.
Kramer doesn't want the interview being taped so the tech shuts it down after DiNozzo agrees.
In Interrogation, Vengal's still clinging onto his weakened alibi but he finally cracks, revealing that he went to a doctor off-base for an inner ear infection.
"Why would I kill Lt. Johnson?", Vengal then asks. "I risked my career so I could stay on the mission".
It then cuts to Gibbs who hangs his head.
Kramer calls Gibbs with the news that the mission has begun and that if they haven't gotten an answer in eight hours, then the mission gets scrubbed.
Kramer finally reveals that the mission is a hostage rescue situation and with that, Gibbs hangs up before ordering they all start from the beginning.
They then compare notes with Kate thinking that it's the wife.
Much to Kate's horror, Gibbs believes Cannon, the best friend is responsible but even after a few minutes, they come up with nothing.
Luckily, though, Ducky, having arrived to get away from his crazy neighbors whom he also calls the Devil's Spawn has brought them ice cream which means that they can eat while brainstorming ideas.
Back in the lab, McGee and Abby begin making up to one another and they eventually make up after Abby confesses that she loved the poem McGee wrote for her.
In the Evidence Garage, the ice-cream's gone but after Ducky has left, Tony and Gibbs decide to test the D-link while using Kate as the guinea pig after she unwillingly gives them.
Despite Kate's fear of heights, she soon enjoys it but once she's on the ground, she realizes that the fake D-link is lighter than the real one and that as an experienced climber, Johnson would have known it.
In the lab, McGee's working to get into Johnson's secret account and Abby agrees to help.
The team arrive at the garage where they find a lathe, vise and acetylene torch, all the items needed to make a D-link and Gibbs remarks that it was right in front of them the whole time.
Gibbs's phone rings and he hangs up before telling Kate and Tony that Abby and McGee got into Johnson's email account which means they finally have the answer they've been searching for.
It then cuts to the Johnson living room where Denise tells them she suspected something years ago.
It's revealed that her husband, Johnson was having an affair with an unknown man.
While Kate comforts Denise who's sobbing, Gibbs gets a call from Kramer and tells him that Lt. Johnson's death was a suicide and that they're good to go.
Kramer thanks him and hangs up.
The next morning, Kate has kept on her promise and attended a sermon on Clannon.
She then talks to him, regarding Lt. Johnson and when Clannon believes he failed his friend, Kate tells him that she believes that he didn't.
"How can you be sure?", Clannon asks.
It then cuts to Kate who tells him that she has faith before smiling.
- Matt Battaglia, who appeared in this episode as P.O. Porcaro, also appeared in the season one JAG episode "Black Ops," which featured a very similar basic plot-line.
- When Abby gets the white piece of paper with Dave Smith's email address from her computer monitor for McGee, there is a yellow post-it note next to it. This reads "Got a lust for life" which is a song by Iggy Pop.
- While at the church, Gibbs lights two candles and when Kate asks him who they were for, he doesn't reply. They're actually for his deceased wife, Shannon and daughter Kelly who would not be officially revealed or spoken about until Hiatus Part 2 (episode).
- When Abby is first telling Gibbs that she found a fingerprint on the D-link, she's wearing a necklace with a skull and crossbones shirt but in the next scene, she's wearing the clothes she had on when she was talking to Kate about McGee.
- When Gibbs is getting out of vehicle to talk to Lt. Johnson's wife the second time, he is buckling up his pants. No explanation is given and it is completely random from what is going on in the previous scene.
|Leroy Jethro Gibbs||Mark Harmon||An NCIS Special Agent in charge of the main NCIS Major Case Response Team.|
|Anthony DiNozzo Junior||Michael Weatherly||The Senior Agent of the main NCIS Major Case Response Team and also the second-in-command.|
|Caitlin Todd||Sasha Alexander||A Secret Service Agent previously assigned to the Presidential Protection Detail on Air Force One and who is now an NCIS Special Agent as well as Tony DiNozzo's partner.|
|Abigail Sciuto||Pauley Perette||A Goth who is also the Chief Forensic Scientist and who also works for the NCIS Major Case Response Team.|
|Donald Mallard||David McCallum||NCIS's Chief Medical Examiner.|
|Timothy McGee||Sean Murray (actor)||NCIS Agent stationed at the Norfolk Naval Base.|
|James Palmer||Brian Dietzen||A young medical school student who is Gerald Jackson's temporary replacement as the Assistant Medical Examiner.|
|Michael Rainer||Adam Baldwin||Lieutenant Tom Johnson's commanding officer.|
|Denise Johnson||Julie Benz||Navy Lieutenant Rick Johnson's wife.|
|Rick Johnson||Tom Hughes||Victim and a Lieutenant in the United States Navy. Uncredited role.|
|Larry Clannon||Doug Savant||A priest and also Lt. Johnson's best friend.|
|Andrew Kramer||Johnny Sneed||An agent with the CIA.|
|Porcaro||Matt Battaglia||Navy SEAL and a member of Navy Lieutenant Johnson's unit.|
|Vengal||Ross Gibby||Petty Officer in the United States Navy and a Navy SEAL.|
|Folsom||Robert Joseph||Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy.|
|Young Pregnant Woman||Kathryn Gordon||A pregnant woman.|
|Man (A Weak Link)||Ryan Culver||Uncredited role.|
|Kenny||Austin Priester||Petty Officer in the United States Navy and a Navy SEAL. Uncredited role.|