A petty officer leads his very drunk fellow officer to the car and they notice their shipmate lying in the street. They turn him over and see he's dead.
In the office, Tony is being silent, claiming he's finding "deep calm." McGee and Ziva assume he's sick. But he's pouring his over last year's performance appraisal review. Gibbs said DiNozzo displays "exemplary skills but can be a bit too talkative in the field".
"Coming from a functional mute, that's rich," Tony says. Nevertheless he resolves to cut the chit chat.
Gibbs interrupts with the dead body of the week.
At the crime scene, Tony tells Ziva he and his ex-fiancee Wendy are letting things cool for a while.
The victim is Caleb Adams, 23, petty officer second class on a destroyer docked for liberty.
The victim was stabbed.
Baltimore PD has a suspect in custody. They got a call from an auto repair shop two blocks away with an auto mechanic trying to wash blood off his hands and jacket.
They check out the clean cut suspect, who immediately says he's being railroaded. His name is Michael Thomas.
In the office, Vance says he's his wife's kid brother. Vance refuses to butt out. He wants five minutes with Michael before Gibbs talks to him.
Michael says he'd never met the victim before and was just trying to help him. Vance believes him, but tells Michael to convince Gibbs.
Gibbs talks to Michael, who's never been arrested before. He says the cops wouldn't listen and assumed he was lying. Gibbs listens.
Michael took the 5 a.m. bus in to town and was walking down the street when he heard noises. He saw the victim lying in the street bleeding, just after 5:30 a.m. He tried to apply pressure to the wound. He called 911 at 5:45 a.m. and left for work because his boss gets mad if he's late. He gave the location and his name and address. He's bothered over seeing someone die.
Vance listens and he and Gibbs can both seem to think Michael is telling the truth.
Later, they listen to Michael's 911 call. He sounds upset. There's no connection between Michael and the victim.
Caleb Adams had two overseas deployments and was one of 215 sailors off the ship for liberty last night. He called someone named Meredith Bilson five times in five hours, including right before he died.
McGee gets a call from the ship's commander. Brian Smith, a 21 year old petty officer, didn't return to the ship.
Ziva and Tony visit a restaurant where Caleb got pizza at 3 a.m. The owner Marty isn't much help. Another sailor named Robert introduces himself and says he saw Caleb at 11 p.m. last night. Caleb was on his way to see his girlfriend and was saying she was "the one".
Down in the morgue, Gibbs tells Duckie that Vance is being more than protective of a family member. Vance joins them.
Duckie says Caleb was stabbed from the front. Caleb was badly beaten, like he'd been in a fight several hours before his death.
In the elevator, Vance stops it and tells Gibbs that Michael didn't do it. Gibbs doesn't think he did. Vance gets a call from his wife, but doesn't mention what's going on with Michael.
Tony and Ziva visit Caleb's girlfriend and Tony babbles about being insecure about his chattiness.
Meredith opens the door, but says she can't talk. A shirtless man comes down the stairs -- it's Brian Wilson. He runs.
Tony chases him and tackles him.
Brian is scraped and bruised, just like Caleb.
Back in NCIS interrogation, Tony shows Brian pictures of Caleb's body.
Meredith tells Ziva she woke up at 6 a.m. and Brian was pounding on her door, he said he and Caleb got into a fight.
Caleb called at 11:30p.m. and wanted to come over, but she broke up with him for Brian.
Brian says Caleb jumped him and he ran. He says he went to "clear his head", but Tony points out that's a seven hour gap. Brian and Caleb grew up together.
Meredith said Caleb called late, slurring his words even though he wasn't a big drinker, saying he was going to win her back.
She doesn't think Brian killed Caleb, but she washed a lot of blood out of his shirt.
Back at the office, McGee reports he found Michael Thomas had a juvy record for assault with a deadly weapon.
Gibbs confronts Michael with it. He was 14 and said he made a mistake. Gibbs starts yelling and Vance interrupts.
Out in the hall, Vance tells Gibbs to direct his energy toward Brian Smith. Gibbs asks Vance what's going on.
Michael was eight when Vance met his wife, both his parents were dead. Vance helped raise him, got him in to private school and counseling.
Vance and Gibbs visit Abby in the lab. The only prints on the body belong to Brian Smith. Vance thinks he's the killer.
Gibbs tells DiNozzo to search Brian's belongings for a fishing knife. Vance announces he's taking Michael home tonight.
Vance brings Michael home to a very pissed off wife, Jackie, who wants him out of the house. Vance tells her Michael was trying to do the right thing and he ended up a murder suspect. She thinks it's another case of Leon bailing him out. Michael hears her reaming him out. She wants him to let Michael succeed or fail on his own. She relents, agreeing to let Michael stay the night.
Gibbs wakes Abby up in her lab. She found a fish knife in Brian Smith's bag, but with fish blood on it, not Caleb Adam's.
He had pills in his system that someone slipped to him.
In the morning, at the Vance house, Leon reminds Michael he's released in his custody. Leon lent Michael money to open a new repair shop.
In the office, Gibbs worries Michael is a flight risk. They video conference with Abby and McGee on the ship. Three of the sailors tested positive for a drug.
McGee interviews a sailor who says he ended up playing blackjack and losing all his money. The night was a blur. The game was in the back of a pizza place.
Gibbs and Tony revisit the pizza place and bust in on a card game in back.
At the office, Gibbs confronts Marty the pizza guy with a baggie of pills they found in his cupboard. He says the pills just make you woozy.
That night, Caleb was going on about his girlfriend dumping him. He says Caleb flipped the table and ran out. They're interrupted when Marty's lawyer arrives.
Out in the hallway, Gibbs realizes drugged Caleb could have picked a fight with anyone. Gibbs asks Tony for his thoughts. He says it'll take some more talking.
Abby examines the cards from the game.
Upstairs, they have grainy footage from across the street into the card game. They see a civilian and remember a sailor saying someone bragged about winning a ton of money, which would mean they were in on the card game.
Abby comes up to report a hit on the prints. They belong to Michael Thomas.
Vance stalks out.
Back home, Vance confronts Michael about the card game.
Michael says he was trying win back the money Leon lent him for the garage after he lost it all. They told him he could earn it back by recruiting people to the game. Michael felt bad watching Caleb lose his money and after he bailed, Caleb confronted him, blaming him.
"Next thing I know, he's face down and the knife's in my hand," Michael says.
He asks Vance for help and promises he'll make up for it.
"I will help you, Michael, more than I've ever helped you before," Vance says. He opens his front door and lets Tony and Gibbs in. They take Michael away.
Gibbs assures Vance he didn't fail Michael.
Vance hugs his wife and tells his son Uncle Michael won't be coming back for awhile.
Vance sit son the couch and invites his son to show him how to play a video game.