The episode begins with a couple doing an inventory at their seaside convenience store. Just then they find that the cooler is open and the husband thinks that the kids are after the beer; but when he reaches the cooler, he is surprised to see dehydrated marine guzzling water. At NCIS, Tony and McGee are discussing about their double date last night and Ziva overhears their conversation. She can’t believe that they started picking up women together.”Truth is Stranger than Fiction”, says Gibbs as he enters with the bodies of the week; the crew of Ghost Runner 12, that went down four days ago.
At the scene, the husband tells Gibbs that three bodies were washed ashore and it seems like one is missing. He says that the guy at the store kept muttering about Happ. Gibbs says that Happ is the pilot. Tony, Ziva and McGee search the life boat. Ziva is still annoyed at them. She challenges Tony t pick up the first woman he comes across next, and if either of them manage to pick up a date, she will do their reports for the entire month. Game on! Just then Gibbs arrives with Agent Borin. She was heading the rescue crew for the last four days. She tells them that one of the crew said that the helicopter was hit by a second aircraft. At NCIS, Tony and McGee pull up the details of the crew: Pilot, Oliver Happ, Petty Officer, Josie Sparks, Copilot Lt. Hank Joplin and rescue swimmer Adam Portis.
Just then Ziva arrives with large rubber boots. Boris needs extra help with debris collection and Ziva suggested their names. In MTAC, Gibbs and Borin are listening to the radio transmission along with Navy Captain Logan Doyle and Navy Lt Commander, David Hernandez. Doyle states that there is no report of the presence of another aircraft. Hernandez says that the helicopter went down near the coast of Delaware. Gibbs wonders how they landed upon the coast of Maryland. Doyle wants the crew to be found immediately as the media is ready to pounce on them. Borin wants to talk to the survivors; but Doyle says that only family members are allowed to visit them. But we know that Gibbs isn’t going to wait! Gibbs meets Duckie at the Medical Centre where the survivors have been admitted.
Duckie tells Gibbs that Portis is in coma while Sparks and Joplin are doing pretty well despite the acute dehydration. There are no signs head trauma or any other injuries. Duckie feels that Gibbs suspects there is more to this crash than mechanical failure. He then hands Gibbs the master key to the crew’s room. Gibbs talks to Joplin. He tells Gibbs that they were flying low and the next thing they knew that they were bottom up scrambling for raft. Gibbs points out that he had earlier said that there was a second aircraft. Joplin says that he must have been delirious as the only thing they hit was water. Next, Tony and McGee are picking up debris on the beach. Tony tells McGee that one of them needs to ask Borin out to win the bet with Ziva. Just then a guy arrives with a knife aimed at them. He is angry that they are taking his scrap.
Borin draws her gun and asks the guy to put down his knife. He tells them that he is Seamus Quinn and he sells the scrap and makes his living. Tony tells Quinn that this scrap is now evidence for an ongoing investigation. Quinn is now fine with them taking it. But he needs something in return; he asks Borin out on a date. She agrees. The duo goes to the water’s edge to pick up more debris and they find Happ’s body washed ashore; he has a bullet wound in his head. This means he did not die in the crash. At the office, Ziva tells Gibbs that Joplin and Sparks have been released from the hospital. She then educates the team about Happ. They learn that he is married and has a six year old son who has a brain condition called NF2. Just then Happ’s wife and son walk into the office. She asks about her husband.
She also asks if they recovered Happ’s flight helmet as Happ had promised his son that he could use it for Halloween. In the morgue, Gibbs asks Duckie if Happ committed suicide but Duckie can’t say that for sure. Next, Borin visits Abby in the garage and learns from her that the bullet that killed Happ is a .22. This is not a Navy issue and Abby finds out that Sparks has one registered under her name. Later, Gibbs goes in to interrogate Sparks and Vance introduces Gibbs to Nora Patel, Sparks’ lawyer. Gibbs puts forth the papers that show Sparks was disciplined for the weapon she had in her possession and accuses her of killing Happ. Sparks tells him that it was Happ who was trying to kill them. She tells Gibbs that Happ learned about his son’s illness that had no cure.
He was devastated. He got into a fist fight with one of the guys and she also saw him drinking the other day on duty. But she also says that Happ wasn’t allowed to fly that day. On the flight, she saw Happ messing with the radar systems. He told the team that he cannot face his dying child and so he decided to take a dive. Sparks admits that she pulled out her weapon; but before she could shoot, they hit the waters. She calls Happ a coward. Next, Gibbs talks to Happ’s wife. He shows her the booze bottles they found around the house and he tells her that he tried to commit suicide. But Happ’s wife refuses to believe that as she feels that no one gives up on their child like that. She feels that the crew is lying. Next, Borin orders some water samples to be sent for testing.
She feels that they could find oil and mechanical fluid samples in the water, so that they know where to take a closer look. She then tells Tony she isn’t going out with Quinn. Next, Gibbs and Ziva are on the ship and are questioning Doyle. He tells them that Happ was a friend and if there was something wrong, then he would have told him but it looks like Doyle does not know about the fight that Happ had with Hernandez. Doyle asks Hernandez about the fight and Hernandez says that it was something to do with training times and it wasn’t a big deal. In the lab, Abby tells Borin that the water samples had no traces of mechanical fluids that could indicate a crash.
Tony and McGee arrive and tell Borin that the Pentagon is going to announce that Happ caused the crash. Just then Abby gets a call and she tells the team that Adam Portis is awake. Tony and McGee go to the hospital to talk to Portis. He is still on the ventilator and may have brain damage. They ask him whether Happ tried to commit suicide and he shakes his head and says a no. At NCIS, they run background checks on the crew members and they find that four of them had applied for stamps required to open off shore account. Happ had not applied; instead the fourth person is Hernandez who applied for the stamps. And they also find out that it was Hernandez who was originally scheduled to fly that night. Tony and McGee interrogate Hernandez who tells them that they were planning to sell the helicopter for $300,000. But he couldn’t go through with the plan and so he called in sick.
He doesn’t know who killed Happ. He also says that Joplin and Sparks cannot know about his confession. But we see that Sparks and Joplin are watching this confession. Sparks tells the team that they didn’t kill Happ. Sparks and Joplin then tell them what actually happened. Sparks admits that they faked the crash. They flew south and landed on a ship waiting to meet them. They told Happ about their plan in air and he went along with the plan. But the moment they landed, Happ pulled his weapon on them and told them t drop the plan. Just then the boat captain shot Happ and they went ahead with the deal. Then the Captain put the three on the raft and dumped them. They were nowhere near the search grid.
The Captain is Seamus Quinn. The team then goes to Quinn’s warehouse and Tony and McGee tackle him. they find that Quinn has a .22; the murder weapon. Quinn is arrested. at NCIS, Borin asks Tony and McGee out for drinks, but they tell her that they have plans. Ziva tells everyone that the duo didn’t go for any hot dates; they stayed home playing video games. Borin asks Ziva out for a drink and the two rush to join them. Gibbs watches Happ’s family on television. He remembers Happ’s helmet that his son was promised for Halloween. Gibbs is holding it in his hands. The episode ends.