A detective of the Metro PD approaches Gibbs on the day before Christmas Eve while investigating a burglary and double homicide involving an older couple in their upscale home. A delivery driver saw a third person inside the house; fingerprints at the scene lead to a former Navy hospital corpsman second-class (HM2), Quinn, who served in Vietnam with The Walking Dead, and who supposedly died 17 years before; Ducky signed the death certificate for Quinn. Abby sees Santa Claus and makes a picture of herself with him. Gibbs, acting on a suggestion by Ducky, finds Quinn at the The Wall; then the gang get a project for Christmas Day; Tony finds an unpleasant Christmas gift. The Metro cop rushes to nail Quinn, but the team believe otherwise, and they persist in their efforts; Gibbs, Tony, and Ziva meet the cop at the scene, and the real bad guy joins them, so they bust him. McGee gets a shock; Gibbs makes a delivery and a telephone call.
A Metro detective investigates a burglary and double homicide at Christmas in Washington; the suspect is a former Navy petty officer who supposedly died 17 years ago; the Gibbs gang take an interest, find the pieces, and put them together.
- A minivan pulls up to a lavish home, decorated for the holidays. A young man chats with a friend on the phone as he delivers a bouquet of flowers, his last delivery for the night. He knocks on the door, decorated with a large bow, but here's no answer. He knocks again and then peeks in the window. In the distance, he sees a man and woman laying dead. And then suddenly, a man looks out from inside the house, horrified.
As we open, Ziva and Director Vance return to the base after a day of Christmas shopping. McGee announces that a Detective Kemp is on his way up to see Gibbs. DiNozzo recognizes the name and says they had a mutual friend. After a little bit of prying, he admits that they used to date the same woman. And now, Kemp is married to her. Kemp enters, apologizing for ruining their Christmas, but Gibbs points out it's only December 23rd--they aren't going anywhere. Kemp explains the prints found at the crime scene belong to Ned Quinn, a former petty officer. The delivery man gave a sketch that looks like an older version of the picture of the young soldier. But supposedly, Quinn died in a fire in 1991. McGee pulls a copy of the death certificate. Uh oh.
Ducky chats with Abby, showing her a six pence that was passed along through his family, each year being baked in Christmas pudding. He's sad that for the first year, he let the tradition lapse. Ever since Abby was little, she's loved everything about Christmas, except for the shopping part. She can't figure out what gifts to buy for the team, especially Gibbs. She asks, "What do you get for the guy who has nothing and wants nothing?"
"Some squeak shoes," Ducky replies as Gibbs enters the room. Gibbs explains to Ducky that fingerprints at the crime scene belong to a petty officer that has been dead for 17 years. Ducky takes the the death certificate and he says, "Oh dear, someone is in trouble!" He opens the folder and looks up surprised. "I signed it?" Freeze Frame!
The team does research on their lead suspect. Ned Quinn, graduated with honors from the University of Virginia. He was in the Marines and served in Vietnam. After the war, he suffered from PTSD and became a meth addict. His wife divorced him, taking full custody of his daughter. Shortly after, he supposedly died in a fire, with seven others.
Ducky looks over the autopsy report. Back in 1991, the city Medical examiner was unable to make a positive ID from the charred remains so Ducky was called in with the hopes his military medical and dental records could confirm his identity. Due to victims heavy drug use, his teeth were so deteriorated it made dental matching impossible. There was no DNA back then so all he had to go by was the examination of the skull and measurement of bones. He determined the victim was a male, caucasian, age 40 and at least 6'2. The remains were found in Quinn's room, with his personal effects, so they assumed the body was his. So if it wasn't him, who is it? The file shows that Quinn was treated for PTSD, so Ducky contacts the psychiatrist, Dr. Pryor.
A young woman gets ready for her work, thanking her mother for watching her son. The doorbell rings. It's McGee and Ziva, and they ask to speak to Melissa Fox. Ziva asks, "Are you Connie Wheeler? We need to ask you some questions about your former husband, Nick Quinn." Ms. Wheeler is shocked to hear the name.
McGee and Ziva talk to the mother and daughter. The mother explains that she and Quinn divorced after he returned from Vietnam. She is shocked to hear he may still be alive, and not to happy about it either. Ziva asks the daughter if she's had any contact with her father, but Mrs. Wheeler cuts her off, saying her stepfather is the only father she ever knew. Ned Quinn has never been a part of her life. The daughter looks troubled, and leaves the room to tend to her son. When she's out of earshot, Mrs. Wheeler tells them that if Quinn is alive, she doesn't want him to know where they are. She's moved on.
Ducky talks to the Dr. Pryor. Abby sneaks in and is excited to see the doctor... because he's dressed like Santa. Ducky tries to get her to leave but Abby keep interrupting, taking pictures. Dr. Pryor tells them that Quinn suffered from survivor's guilt. In Vietnam, he and another Corpsman switched patrols and then the guy was killed in an ambush. That's all the doctor can remember but he gives Ducky his files. He heads out to attend a party at the Children's Hospital. Before he goes, Abby snaps a picture.
The team goes over Quinn's file and service record, but nothing suggests that he had violent behavior. According to his record, Quinn left Vietnam on December 30, 1972. The week before he left, there was one ambush, only one Navy Corpsman was killed: Roger Lawrence Graham. If Quinn is alive, he may honor his memory by visiting on the Veteran's Memorial on the day of Graham's death, December 24th. Tomorrow.
Ziva and Tony stake out the memorial on the lookout for Quinn. Ziva tries to get info out of Tony about his ex who's now married to Kemp. DiNozzo doesn't reveal much and tries to avoid her question. Finally he admits that she was perfect. Ziva asks him if ever regrets not getting married and having a family, especially at this time of year. DiNozzo ducks the question again, going to check out a suspect.
Back at the base, Abby brings Gibbs some eggnog from the holiday Christmas party. He tells her to head home. As she leaves, Melissa Fox, Quinn's daughter, comes in. She tells Gibbs that despite what her mother said, she would like to see her father if he still alive. Abby watches from afar, touched. And at the moment, DiNozzo calls to let him know that Quinn was spotted at the memorial.
Quinn stands alone at the memorial staring at the name of the fallen Corpsman. Gibbs joins him at the wall and says, "I don't know how many times I come here, it still gets to me. You look at a name, you have to look at a refection on yourself." Quinn responds, "The difference is you can leave, the names don't." Gibbs agrees and says, "Death is permanent, except in your case Ned Quinn." Quinn looks up, surprised. Freeze Frame!
Quinn sits silently in interrogation. He's now clean and sober. The only thing found on him was $8.00 and key to a hotel room. Gibbs goes in to question Quinn and he explains that the Taylor hired him from the street, to help decorate the house for the holiday. It was there way of reaching out. He was in the garage when they were attacked, and when he found them, he tried to give Mrs. Taylor CPR. Mr. Taylor was already dead. Gibbs asks why he left the scene of the crime, and he replies, "I've been dead for 17 years, who's going to believe me?"
McGee and DiNozzo head over to Quinn's hotel to search his room. They find sketches that Quinn drew of his fallen friend. The landlord tells them that Quinn is quiet and always pays his rent on time. He seems clean.
Back in interrogation, Quinn explains the mystery of his "death." He was ten blocks away when fire broke out. He was letting a fellow tweaker crash in his room until he got back. By the time he did, the building was on fire and in a rare lucid moment, it occurred to him that his wife and daughter might be better off if he was dead so they would receive his military benefits. Abby calls Ziva out of observation and asks if Gibbs told Quinn about his daughter. Ziva tells Abby to drop it.
Ducky shares the results of the autopsy. Mr. Taylor died from a blunt force trauma to the head, Mrs. Taylor died of a heart attack and had ligature marks as if she was restrained by handcuffs. The evidence shows that Quinn was telling the truth. His bloody fingerprints prove he was trying to administer her CPR.
Gibbs asks Director Vance if they can have a little more time with Quinn before they turn him over to the local authorities. He believes they won't bother investigating further because of what seems to be obvious evidence. Vance tells Kemp they are going to keep Quinn a little bit longer because the family collected benefits from his fake death. Kemp doesn't really buy it, but it gives them a little more time. Freeze frame!
A fireplace plays on the computer screen. McGee is researching information on the couple and discover that Avery Taylor filed a multimillion dollar patent infringement suit against Paradigm Industries. Which just happens to be owned by Kemp's father-in-law. The team goes to the Taylor's house to do a search of their own. DiNozzo bets Gibbs and Ziva he can figure out the alarm code before Gibbs picks the lock. He gets it on the first try. They search the house and find some fibers and a button. Also, a chair is missing. The missing chair is in the closet. Someone broke into the safe. They dust for fingerprints.
The security patrolman comes in. Turns out you have to enter the code twice or it sends a silent alarm. He tries to offer help but they don't really want it. He mentions he's thought of applying to NCIS because his security job doesn't pay very well. DiNozzo finds the murder weapon in the garage.
Abby comes back to the base, just back from church in her goth best. McGee is still watching over Quinn, who's sketching as he waits. Abby called the daughter and now she's in the lobby. She wants to see her father. McGee is furious but she convinces him it's the perfect Christmas story. She's sure that Quinn will be happy to see his daughter. Reluctantly, McGee tells Quinn that Melissa is outside. Quinn is upset and says she's better off without him.
The team is back at the base, and Abby has the lab results from the weapon. There are two sets of fingerprints on the weapon: Quinn's and the victim, Mr. Taylor. Quinn admits it's his hammer but he has no idea how it got back in the garage.
Abby examines the rest of the evidence. The hair on couch was from Mrs. Taylor. The button is from a military or police uniform and there's a print on the safe, but it's from fabric, most likely a glove. And they also find out that the alarm was deactivated at 2:17 a.m. and then reactivated four minutes later. Hmmm....
Back at the Taylor's, Kemp arrives at the house, upset he's been getting the runaround. They tell him they are there to arrest the killer and give all the evidence. As expected, the security guard shows up at the house again. They approach him, taking his gloves and pointing out they have the missing button from his shirt. He pulls a taser gun. No one takes him seriously, he has one taser, there are five of them. What's he going to do? He tasers McGee and tries to take off, but is swiftly caught. He confesses that he handcuffed Mrs. Taylor as he tried to rob the house. Mr. Taylor tried to hit him with the hammer and he turned it on him. Case solved.
The team goes back to the base and DiNozzo shares his Christmas tradition of watching "It's a Wonderful Life" while eating caramel corn. Everyone is there but Gibbs.
Gibbs pulls up to a house with Quinn in the passenger seat. When Quinn realizes it's Melissa's house, he starts to protest but then Gibbs tells him he'd give anything to hug his daughter one more time. Quinn gets out the car, thanks Gibbs and hands him a rolled up piece of paper. It's sketched drawings of the entire team. Gibbs watches the reunited family through the window and then makes a call. "Merry Christmas, Dad." Freeze Frame!