A two-man team breaks into a house. They cut the phone line so the alarm won’t work. They creep through the house and hear someone upstairs. The intruders have guns. They’re creeping up the stairs when all of a sudden a body comes over the railing. It’s a dead man, strung up by his neck. One intruder is so startled he fires into the body.

At the office, Tony is excited it’s payday. He realizes he has McGee’s statement and McGee makes $253 a week more than him. McGee says it’s all about withholding.

Gibbs comes in with the body of the week: a reservist in Arlington. At the scene, the intruders are in cuffs for breaking and entering. They didn’t steal anything. The victim is Dr. Robert Banks, a psychologist with high level clearance at the Pentagon. Dr. Rachel Cranston (Kate’s sister) comes to the scene, she was the victim’s doctor.

She tells Gibbs she’s sure he didn’t kill himself.

She spoke to the victim several times last night. He was consulting on a special project for the Pentagon, in the PsyOps division.

She thinks they fabricated prescriptions in his name to make him look bad. He lived for his daughter and wouldn’t have killed himself because of her.

Back at NCIS, his teenage daughter Amber blames her mom because they got divorced.

He had an additional life insurance policy for $4 million that goes to his wife and daughter. It had an exclusion clause for suicide. It appears to be news to the ex-wife.

A woman (Jamie Lee Curtis) comes to see Tony and he assumes she’s there about the paycheck. She thinks there are underlying feelings of inadequacies between him and McGee. He figures out she’s not from accounting. She’s Dr. Samantha Ryan from the Department of Defense, head of PsyOps.

Vance joins them, Ryan knows him and flirts a little.

Vance talks to Gibbs, he got a call from Sec Nav wanting to know why NCIS is working a PsyOps case. Gibbs says it’s theirs because the victim was a reservist.

He asks how Vance knows Dr. Ryan and he plays coy, saying they “spent time together” at the war college. He warns Gibbs that she’s inquisitive.

Gibbs joins Drs. Ryan and Cranston staring each other down. They went to school together and both slept with Dr. Banks. Cranston tells Ryan “they” think Banks was killed because of a PsyOps mission.

Ryan refuses to answer any questions with Cranston there, but tells Gibbs that Banks was working on a PsyOps assignment with a man named Brian Mitchell.

Ziva and Tony visit Mitchell, who can’t believe he wasn’t informed about Banks’s death. Mitchell is freaked out by the PsyOps work and has asked to be reassigned. He says Banks was going through a rough divorce and ugly custody battle.

Tony shows him a court order allowing Mitchell to talk about what they were working on. They were looking into former Marine Sgt. Kyle Baxter, who received a negative discharge two months ago because of a negative psych eval written by Dr. Banks.

In the morgue, Duckie is trying to figure out whether Banks died from hanging or the bullet. He says it’s was definitely a suicide, but Duckie says he only had about six months to live because of a kidney and liver condition.

In the lab, Abby tells Gibbs that someone switched out Banks’s prescriptions for dangerous psychotropic drugs that were wrecking his kidneys and liver.

Gibbs pays Dr. Ryan a visit and they instantly start sizing each other up. Ross her assistant joins them with the personnel list for the ops Banks was working on. He hands Gibbs a flash drive, but Gibbs prefers paper.

Back at the office, McGee scans electromagnetic field emitters they found in Banks’ house, which can cause interference with sleep and cause migraines.

Gibbs brings in personnel files. He’s suspicious of them, but wants McGee to go through them anyway.

They found a mission file in Banks’s safe. Gibbs looks at it and tears out a page. He wants McGee to track the gizmos back to PsyOps. He unplugs their computers and insists on paper from here on.

Ziva and McGee hit the archives.

Gibbs goes to a psychology ball and interrupts Dr. Ryan. As Gibbs is pulling her aside, her assistant Ross checks that everything is OK. Dr. Ryan leads Gibbs into the women’s room to talk.

He reads from the page he tore out, which suggests “removal of threats using drugs and alternative methods”. He mentions driving a sane person to suicide using pills and sleep deprivation. She cautions him to be careful with what he’s suggesting. She claims to know nothing about Banks’ death.

Rachel Cranston rinds Gibbs working on a rocking chair in his basement. She confesses she left a few details out. Banks mentioned a sensitive national security issue, an operation. She got the sense someone wanted to keep him from talking.

McGee calls to report they’ve found nothing in the personnel files Ryan gave them. Gibbs suggests they find Kyle Baxter, but he’s missing. Gibbs’ phone fuzzes out and he gets suspicious. He cranks up a handheld radio and uses it to sweep the room for bugs. He finds one in his woodworking tools. He opens it up and speaks into it: “Good night, Ryan, sleep tight.” He smashes it.

At the archives, they tell Gibbs that Baxter was handpicked by Banks for PsyOps then kicked out by him. Gibbs wants info on the bug he found, but without using the computer. McGee’s cell phone beeps, signaling that Baxter is getting a call.

Tony and Ziva head to the location, but find assistant Ross waiting for them. He claims Baxter was just there and left his phone to see if NCIS was tracking him. He puts a matchbook on the table and walks away. It has the name James Drenden written in it.

Gibbs rattles Dr. Ryan by showing up where her son goes to school. He points out it’s PsyOps 101 to approach people at their most vulnerable.

Cut to Dr. Ryan yelling at Vance in his office as Gibbs listens, bemused. He says it’s fairplay given that she bugged his house. She doesn’t deny it. They want to know about the operation Banks mentioned to Dr. Cranston. It was to use PsyOps techniques to destabilize Iranian nuclear scientists before they could build a bomb.

It’s possible the Iranians got wind of it and got Dr. Banks back. She offers to do whatever she can to help.

In the lab, Abby cracks Dr. Banks’ laptop and finds someone hacked it before she did, buying stocks in his name, draining his bank account, buying things online, hacking his email. If he Googled something, he got misinformation. His entire reality was being manipulated by someone in Mexico, a resort in Cancun — where the matchbook was from. They have surveillance showing Baxter.

McGee pulls up James Dreden, Baxter’s alias. He came back from Mexico two months ago. He’s still using the same alias as a bartender in town.

Cut to Gibbs talking to Baxter, who is charming and aloof. He says he’s being framed by PsyOps as the fall guy. He says he never left his phone or the matchbook. He gives Gibbs a number to call and ask for Simon.

Cut to Vance and Gibbs in MTAC talking to a man on a beach in a cowboy hat, who says Baxter was the best CI they ever had. He’s been undercover with the DEA for the past 12 months.

Ryan shows up at Gibbs door with tapes of Dr. Cranston’s sessions with Banks. In a round about way she says she had to mislead him about Baxter to protect her mission, just following rules.

Gibbs sites his own: “Rule 42: Don’t ever accept an apology from someone who just sucker punched you.” “I didn’t apologize,” she says.

She makes a choked up plea to Gibbs to leave her son out of it. He says OK. He asks her who with her knowledge could have killed Banks. She says whoever did it lost sight of who they are and what they do. She doesn’t have a name, but wishes him luck. She walks out, but leaves her cell phone.

In the office the next day, he gives it to McGee to work on. He locates the calls from PsyOps and crosses them against calls to Banks from the past month. There’s just one: Brian Mitchell, the PsyOps liason. All the texts have been erased.

Gibbs tells Tony to dial both numbers three times and hang up. Gibbs leaves and Vance explains it’s an old spycraft trick to signal someone to show up at a predetermined location, so novice it might work.

Cut to Brian Mitchell meeting Dr. Banks’ daughter Amber in the park. She says she’ll never take the fall for him killing her dad, but he did it like she said, so they could be together. She wants just her dad’s life insurance policy.

Gibbs comes out and arrests them.

Back at NCIS, Dr. Cranston blames herself for not seeing it was his daughter. She thought Amanda was another broken teenager caught up in an ugly divorce.

Tony finally gets a visit from accounts payable. Due to a clerical error, McGee was getting overpaid. But unfortunately, they screwed up Tony’s withholdings and he owes more than $2,000.

Home asleep on the couch late at night, Gibbs is woken up by Dr. Ryan. It’s 4 a.m. She thanks Gibbs for figuring out what happened to Dr. Banks. She says he has a gift for making people feel safe. She wants breakfast now. He knows a diner that’s open 24 hours. He asks if she’s asking him out on a date. “It’s the middle of the night, Agent Gibbs — you tell me,” she says.

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