Once a Hero is the eighth episode in Season Four and also the seventy-eighth episode of the entire NCIS series.
During a security conference, an honored Marine veteran falls to his death, prompting the conference to be shut down while the NCIS team investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. In the process of clearing the Marine's name, the team discover evidence that an illegal human trafficking group might be operating in the D.C. area.
In an unnamed hotel in D.C, there's a hive of actitity as numerous people begin gathering food from a buffet table while others exchange conversation and talk.
Among them is NCIS Director Jennifer Shepard who simply smiles at something.
Tony reaches for a bagel, only for Ziva to slap his hand away and remind him that they're not here to eat: they're here to protect the Director.
Tony states that this is probably the most secure building in the whole country right now and CIA, DSS, ATF, FBI, the whole alphabet's here.
He also reveals that state troopers and metro cops along with NCIS's finest- Tony himself.
Ziva just glares at him.
"And you", Tony says.
Tony then states that he is hungry and these are public servants like NCIS which means that the food is free. Ziva corrects Tony by saying that some are defense contractors.
Tony believes that they're beltway bandits that make a career from stealing from the public trough.
"Politicians", Ziva says.
Tony asks her if she's ever seen a skinny politician.
Ziva looks over and remarks that it's too late before stating that it looks like their guest of honor has arrived.
As numerous people walk, a man's voice states, "Ladies and gentlemen, the retiring secretary of defense of the United States of America".
This has everyone including Jenny clapping.
As this goes on, Tony tells Ziva that he's going to get something to eat and makes a beeline for the buffet table, leaving Ziva behind.
Tony reaches for some salmon.
Meanwhile, Ziva has spotted danger and yells, "Director!", startling everyone.
She then grabs Jenny and they fall to the ground while others step back just as someone crash-lands onto the buffet table, destroying it while sending food all over the floor.
This has everyone scrambling for cover while the agents including Tony draw their weapons.
"Down here!", someone yells.
As Tony stands there, his gun drawn, Ziva and Jenny get to their feet with everyone glancing up towards the sky and wondering what's going on.
In the center of the former buffet table lies the body of a man.
It then cuts to Jenny, Ziva and Tony, all of whom are now staring at the body in question.
In the bullpen as Tony sits at his desk, his eyes closed, McGee wonders how a homeless guy staying illegally in a hotel room order room service?
"This wouldn't be a trick question, would it, Probie?", Tony wonders.
"No", McGee says.
Tony suggests that the guy call room service with McGee then holding a stapler up to his head while stating, "Room service. Hi. This is the guy staying illegally in Room 607. Yes, the room shut down for maintenance. I'd like to order some breakfast".
As Tony sits up, he grumbles that was definitely a trick question and as Tony rubs his eyes, McGee asks for a tricky answer with Tony suggesting that someone brought it to him.
- Michelle Lee goes undercover for the first time.
- It's revealed that Lee can also speak Chinese.
- The opening scene features archive news footage of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, simulating the presence of this personage at the reception.
- The opening scene in an 'upscale Washington hotel' was filmed at the hotel Embassy Suites Los Angeles - International Airport/North.
- Luis Romero is played by late actor Francesco Quinn (son of the late Anthony Quinn). Francesco previously appeared in the Season 1 episode, One Shot, One Kill (episode) as Gunnery Sergeant Freddy Alvarez.
|Leroy Jethro Gibbs||Mark Harmon||NCIS Special Agent in charge of the NCIS Major Case Response Team.|
|Anthony DiNozzo||Michael Weatherly||Senior Special Agent and second-in-command of the NCIS Major Case Response Team.|
|Ziva David||Cote de Pablo||Mossad Liaison to the NCIS Major Case Response Team.|
|Abigail Sciuto||Pauley Perrette||Chief Forensic Specialist, NCIS.|
|Timothy McGee||Sean Murray||Junior Agent of the NCIS Major Case Response Team.|
|Jennifer Shepard||Lauren Holly||NCIS Director.|
|Donald Mallard||David McCallum||Chief Medical Examiner, NCIS.|
|Jeanne Benoit||Scottie Thompson||Tony's girlfriend.|
|James Palmer||Brian Dietzen||Ducky's assistant.|
|Michelle Lee||Liza Lapira||An NCIS Special Agent who was originally assigned to Gibbs's team who now works for the NCIS Legal Department.|
|Davey Chen||Ming Lo||A Chinese national and businessman responsible for running an illegal prostutition involving underaged Chinese teenage girls.|
|Andy Nelson||Jonathan M. Woodward||Congressman Getz's assistant.|
|Frank Getz||Ned Schmidtke||A Congressman|
|Luis Romero||Francesco Quinn||A former Marine and currently a hotel maintenance supervisor.|
|Marty Pearson||Michael Gilden||Abby's friend.|
|Maria (Once a Hero)||Laura P. Vega||A maid.|
|Brian Wright||Michael M. Foster||Victim. Uncredited role.|
|Donald Rumsfeld||Himself||Archive footage. Uncredited.|