The episode begins with two plumbers arriving at a house. The lady of the house is glad to see that they have arrived. But she screams when she sees a wounded man stumbling down the road. The wounded man is holding his stomach and is bleeding. He goes to the plumber’s van, takes a can of drain cleaner and drinks the whole thing. We then see froth accumulating around his mouth and he falls on the ground. At NCIS, McGee and Palmer are having some sort of a transaction and Tony is curious. He then learns that McGee has got some “concert ticket connection” that he has been hiding for a while. Tony tells him that it is time for a talk.
Gibbs arrives announcing the body for the week, a dead officer in Richmond, two hours away. At the scene, McGee tells Gibbs that the victim is Gordon Roth. He has been shot and has bleeding and broken knuckles. But Duckie tells them that the drain cleaner is what killed Roth. They put the body in the van to take it for autopsy. Duckie is driving the van and he decides to take the back roads to avoid the forecast snow. We then see that the van is being watched by a man (face not seen) and he gets orders from a woman to follow Duckie’s van. He follows the van. At NCIS, McGee tells Gibbs that Roth was sent to work for the Office of Naval Research. He suffered from hearing loss in Iraq and was an expert on high end military encryption, despite not having a degree. Palmer and Duckie are on their way back and Duckie is driving really slowly.
Palmer decides to play crossword on his laptop. The black SUV is following them. Suddenly one of the tires bursts and Palmer finds that weird since he had just changed the tires. They pull over. McGee tries to explain to Tony that his cousin is the one who gets him the tickets and he did not tell Tony because he knew that Tony would take advantage. Just then Commander Lisa Cleveland arrives. She is Roth’s CO, and Lisa tells them that Roth was very stable. She also says that Roth used to oversee the Navy’s highly classified materials; the kind that people might kill for. On the road, Duckie examines the flat tire with a magnifying glass and finds a bullet. A woman, along with her goon, arrives at the site and she checks Roth’s body. Her goon holds a gun at Duckie and Palmer.
She then declares that “it” isn’t there. They then decide to switch to Plan B; they kidnap Duckie and Palmer. At NICIS, Gibbs goes to the morgue and is surprised to see that Duckie isn’t there. The van pulls up next to a cabin in the woods. There is blood on the floor. The woman orders her men to put Duckie and Palmer in leg irons. She then tells Duckie to conduct the autopsy in the cabin. She asks Marcus to go and look for “it” and she tells Lincoln to get the body inside the cabin. Gibbs visits Abby and she tells him that she has found a camera from Roth’s car and it is GPS enabled. She then places Roth in a park, taking pictures. She then tries to call Duckie and Palmer and is surprised to find their phones turned off. She also learns that the battery from Palmer’s phone has been removed. Ziva tells them that Palmer had called the motorpool to report the flat tire.
They find out the location and pull up the surveillance footage and see that a black SUV had been following the van. At the cabin, Duckie and Palmer cut open the body and Duckie finds that Roth had a hearing aid which he can find no need for. He then suggests that the shooter was around 6 feet tall and was a white male. He then empty’s Roth’s stomach contents and their captors leave the room to get some fresh air. Palmer realizes that Duckie did that on purpose. Duckie tells him that they need to come up with a plan to escape. At NCIS, they find out that the tire was shot at and they also find footprints and tire tracks on the side of the road. Tony finds out that Roth had an offshore account funded by Cuban sources; this calls for violation of at least 7 Navy laws.
They also pull up some old documents and learn that Roth’s signature had changed at some point, suggesting that Lt. Roth is not Lt. Roth. At the cabin, Palmer uses the acids from the dead man’s stomach to eat into the leg irons and Duckie rewires the listening aid as a microphone to listen to his captors standing outside. He hears them telling that Roth was supposed to bring them a package. He also hears that they plan to kill Duckie and Palmer after they finish the autopsy. At the lab, Abby runs facial recognition of the present day Roth to the actual Roth’s college photo; it is not a match. She finds out that the fake Roth first appeared ten years ago on the Navy induction day; and the original Roth was the one to clear the final interviews two weeks before the induction day.
She then says that the fake Roth has been using his CO’s access codes to download some seriously classified information. Gibbs figures out that he is a mole. They now need to find out who shot the imposter. Abby has found that out; she found the blood of Lt. Michael Dunkel at the crime scene. At the cabin, Duckie and Palmer review their plan. Once their captors enter the room, they tell them that the gunshot wound looks self inflicted. It seems that Roth’s killer was trying to disarm Roth and Roth was trying to save his weapon. Duckie says that they could find the killer’s print on Roth’s gun and he might have the “it” they are looking for. The woman gives an OK signal to kill Duckie and Palmer. But Duckie then tells her that he has not told her everything to ensure their safety.
The woman points a gun at Palmer. Palmer is nervous and keeps looking at a teapot. The woman checks the teapot and finds a key to some locker. She then forces Palmer to talk and a nervous Palmer talks about finding the key and methane gas and the drain cleaner. The woman feels that Palmer is stalling; Duckie admits that they are because they are waiting for the cigarette to ignite the gauze in the oven. There is an explosion and Marcus is killed. The room is filled with smoke and Duckie and Palmer escape. During the interrogation, Dunkel tells them that he doesn’t know Roth. But Gibbs is angry and demands the truth. Dunkel tells him that Roth was having an affair with his wife Lisa Cleveland. He confronted Roth and Roth pulled a gun. After a struggle, the gun went off and Roth was shot.
Dunkel says that he was scared and fled the scene. He doesn’t know anything else. Later, the team confirms the affair with Lisa Cleveland. They then realize that Roth was taking pictures to confirm that he was not being followed by authorities. Ziva thinks that Roth killed himself so that his mission is not compromised. She feels that probably Roth had a meeting with his handlers. This means that Roth’s handlers took the body and Duckie and Palmer too. In the woods, Duckie and Palmer hear few gun shots. Duckie deduces that the captors are shooting at anything that moves. Palmer has managed to steal a gun from the cabin; but neither of them wants to get into a gun fight with professional killers. Next, McGee gets a lead on the black SUV. It was reported by a ranger from the national forest where people had asked for the most remote hunting cabin.
They run the plates and find out that it belongs to a shell company that uses the same account that funded Roth’s offshore account. In the woods, Duckie twists his ankle. They hear another gunshot and Duckie asks Palmer to leave him. Next, Gibbs and the team arrive at the cabin and Gibbs figures out the clues Duckie left for him. In the woods, Palmer decides to leave Duckie. Duckie calls out to Palmer in the dark. Lincoln finds Duckie and aims the gun at him. Just then Palmer jumps out of the dark and empties his gun in Lincoln. But then Lincoln gets up on his feet and holds the gun at them again, ready to shoot. Just then the team arrives.
Next, we see that the woman, who captured Duckie and Palmer, arriving at a gym and opens a locker with the key she pulled out from the teapot. She finds a jersey with Palmer’s name on it. It is Palmer’s locker. Gibbs and the team arrive and Gibbs shows her the flash drive she has been looking for. They found it in a sewage drain next to the crime scene. Duckie had not mentioned the sewage that he found under the imposter’s nails. Case closed and the episode ends.