In St. Mary’s River State Park, a deer hunter happens upon a dropped tank from an F- 14 Tomcat and, inside, finds the mummified remains of a Navy officer. When Gibbs (MARK HARMON), Tony (MICHAEL WEATHERLY) and Kate (SASHA ALEXANDER) arrive at the scene, they look for signs of the man’s identity. Finally, recovered dog tags identify him as Lieutenant Schilz, a disbursing officer who was reported missing at sea off the USS Eisenhower in 1994. He was declared a deserter and received a dishonorable discharge, because $1.2 million dollars were missing from the Eisenhower’s safe. With Gibbs’ parceling out their assignments, Kate goes to meet with Schilz’s widow and Tony rounds up the NCIS agent at the time, Richard Owens, now based in Hawaii.
Ducky’s (DAVID McCALLUM) autopsy shows that Schilz was murdered and then stuffed into the pod, meaning he didn’t steal the money alone. Kate’s interview with his widow Mary prompts her to want to exonerate Schilz. His daughter was born the day he disappeared, which is also the last day Mary spoke to him. And with his dishonorable discharge, neither mother nor daughter are reaping any benefits. Mary has recently re- married; her husband is named Randy Wiles. Surprisingly, the agents next discover that Randy was the assistant disbursing officer aboard the Eisenhower. However, upon interviewing Randy – who is barely scraping by -- Gibbs and Kate believe he has no culpability in Schilz’s gone missing, or the theft. Perusing Owens’ files, Gibbs is immediately frustrated by the agent’s shoddy investigating and realizes they will be re- examining the case – and the Eisenhower – from all perspectives. So, Owens is summoned to meet Gibbs, Kate and Tony aboard for some further detective work.
There, Owens relates information about another disbursing clerk, Petty Officer Toner, who had joined the Navy to nab an officer, and left to find a rich husband. While Owens had bought her alibi, Gibbs finds it slippery, and sends Kate to go interrogate her. Kate finds Erin Toner hobnobbing while playing golf at a country club, and living in a wealthy Pennsylvania suburb. She relays that her riches have come from winning the Ohio lottery. But when Kate checks out that story, she finds that Erin won a comparatively meager $37,000. A further look into Erin’s activities on-board ship reveals she was having a relationship with an airman, Petty Officer Ted Martinez, who also left the Navy around the time Toner did. And, Gibbs finds out that Martinez was the plane captain on the Tomcat that dropped the pod with Lt. Schilz’s body. Then, Abby (PAULEY PERRETTE) learns his fingerprints match those found inside the pod, but another unidentified set of fingerprints remain.
Tracking Martinez’s activities after his discharge, Tony and Owens learn that he died in a Mexican hotel – and realize he had been traveling with Erin Toner. Now the agents are certain that Erin and Martinez conspired to kill Schilz, steal the money in the safe, and then load his body into Martinez’s plane. They further deduce that Erin killed Martinez on their Mexican getaway so that she could have the money all to herself. In a confrontation loaded with tricky maneuvers, the agents corner Erin with the – unbeknownst to her – false information that they have matched her fingerprints to one found on a gun in the Mexican hotel that killed Martinez, and can now implicate her in Schilz’s death as well. Presenting their defense in such a bold manner leaves her no choice but to confess.