Playing with Fire

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Playing with Fire is the twenty-second episode in Season Nine of NCIS and the 208th episode of the entire NCIS series.


Following the attack on the U.S.S. Brewer, NCIS with help from both the United States Navy and also the Marine Corps find themselves in a huge race against time to find and stop the mastermind responsible for causing the blast while battling to stop a global crisis that threatens to compromise the safety and security of many United States Navy ships worldwide. When a similar device is found on the U.S.S. Benjamin Franklin which is docked in Italy, Tony and Ziva head to Italy to investigate and in doing so, are reunited with DiNozzo's predecessor as they conduct a search for the man responsible and stop the Benjamin Franklin from suffering the same fate as the Brewer while back in Washington D.C, Gibbs and McGee tackle other aspects of the case.


The episode opens with a recap detailing what happened over the previous episodes and ends with NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs grimly telling his team that the recent attacks against Navy ships aren't even blackmail or even cooperation espionage: they're acts of terrorism.

On the U.S.S. Brewer, Marine First Lieutenant Eric Ramsey heads down stairs while in the background and over a PA, a man states "Homeland Security flight crews stand by...".

As he walks on, it's shown that Ramsey is glancing at his phone and looking through pictures of his family.

This has Ramsey smiling.

He pauses and then turns his phone to one side while it's revealed that he's looking at a photograph of his family which is composed of a young African-American woman, presumably Ramsey's wife and their children: a young boy and a young girl, all of whom are holding a drawing.

Ramsey smiles again.

Meanwhile, in the machine room of the ship, Tobey Abbott removes a cover while holding a torch with his mouth.

Outside, Ramsey attempts to pocket his cell phone, only for it to slip through a grating with the phone itself later landing on the level, having been shattered into pieces.

Ramsey looks down and gasps upon realizing what's gone on.

He then heads down another flight of stairs.

In the machine room, Abbott is busy working on the wiring.

Outside, Ramsey has found all three pieces of his cell phone and begins working on putting them back together again.

Inside, Abbott continues working.

Outside, Ramsey's work has paid off as the phone comes back on again. He then examines the photograph again, smiling and obviously relieved.

Inside the machine room, Abbott uses his right hand to light one of the wires which he does by applying a cigarette lighter to one of the wires.

As it begins burning away, Abbott examines it before he heads for the door to check on something.

He opens the door to see Ramsey standing outside, Ramsey looking at his phone.

Panicking, Abbott closes the door.

Meanwhile, the fire on the wiring is getting increasingly bigger before it sends a charge through the wires.

Outside, the sound of a door closing gets Ramsey's attention and he looks away to see a huge light underneath the door.

Inside, with the fire crackling, Abbott attempts to escape.

Outside, Ramsey approaches the door, curious about the white light.

Inside, Abbott tries to flee by getting the metal door to open but it's not responding.

He then looks up at the ceiling and sees another potential escape route with Abbott quickly scaling the ladder.

Outside, Ramsey edges closer to the door.

Inside, Abbott continues to try and get the wheel to turn but as before, it refuses to budge.

Ramsey edges closer.

Seconds later, an explosion rips through the area, destroying the door while presumably killing Abbott with the impact sending Ramsey to the ground.

It then cuts to show the explosion which is now raging down the corridor, consuming everything in its path.

Act One

Act Two

Act Three

Act Four

Act Five

Outside the room, numerous Naval personnel have gathered to see what's going on, Burley's screams having alerted them to the area.

As the small crowd gathers with some approaching, Tony and Ziva slip down the stairs, their guns drawn and as Tony heads for the door, Ziva identifies herself and Tony as NCIS before telling the personnel who have gathered there to stay back.

Once they've reached the door, Tony states that this is the only way in or out and that all the other hatches are secure.

Ziva silently nods.

Tony then opens the door and heads into the room with Ziva following him, her SIG raised.

Hiding behind some crates, Tony examines the first half of the area and then drops back while Ziva quietly closes the door, presumably as to not alert the attacker to their presence.

Standing alongside each other, Ziva and Tony sweep past one area, covering each other.

As they head into the main area, Ziva whispers Tony's name with the two seeing Burley lying on the floor, unconscious, a knife sticking out of his left shoulder with a pool of blood underneath.

Tony checks Burley's neck for a pulse and remarks that Burley is still breathing.

Standing guard, Ziva looks down.

Tony then alerts her to the fact that Burley's weapon is gone.

Ziva continues looking down and then looks out again as Tony states a corpsman's on the way. She then lowers her gun, preparing to go out again.

In the depths of the room, a SIG-Sauer rests in the hands of a man and as the camera pans up, it's revealed that it's the man who attacked Burley.

He steps back, obviously paranoid.

Meanwhile, Ziva and Tony split up, covering various areas of the room, their SIGs drawn.

In the small area, the attacker cautiously emerges, examining every corner he approaches for a possible threat. He then senses a shadow behind him and then turns around, aiming the stolen gun while taking a step back.

Ziva then moves forward.

Back in the area, the attacker watches as a series of crates are pushed forward, blocking that area.

The attacker just simply stands there, holding the stolen gun. He then turns around just in time to get hit in the face with a chain which sends him to the floor.

As the chains ring, Tony emerges, his SIG aimed at the attacker while also revealing that the plan was for Ziva to block the attacker in with the crates while Tony used the chain to take the other man down.

On the floor, the attacker stirs, his face now bearing some bruises.

Tony simply stares back, his gun aimed at the attacker while the chains jangle about.

The attacker eventually passes out and hits the floor with a loud thud.

A while later, Gibbs arrives into MTAC and arrives in front of the screen, asking Tony how Burley is.

Tony tells Gibbs to see for himself.

He then turns the laptop's camera to show Burley lying in a bed in the ship's sick bay, Burley now wearing a white hospital gown with his left arm in a sling.

Burley greets Gibbs and states that the Navy docs are great and that he'll be okay.

"A couple weeks R and R will help", Gibbs remarks.

In the sick bay, it's shown that Tony is holding the laptop which is allowing Gibbs to talk to Burley while Gibbs wonders what the condition of the suspect is.

As Tony approaches the bed, Ziva tells Gibbs that the attacker's name is Andre Fullerton. She also reveals that Fullerton is a tech rep, employed by an avionics communications firm.

As this happens, it's shown that Fullerton is sitting up in the hospital, a neck brace around his neck and some bandages covering his face while he has also been cuffed to the bed.

As Ziva looks, from the laptop which now rests on a wheelie table, Gibbs wonders who put Fullerton up to this.

"Put me up to what?", Fullerton demands, arrogant.

"Sabotaging a U.S. Navy ship", Gibbs replies.

As Tony sits down, Fullerston seems unwilling to response.

Back in MTAC, Gibbs tells Fullerton that he also stabbed a federal agent.

Fullerton wonders if someone shouldn't be reading him his rights?

Now really pissed off, Gibbs approaches the screen, telling Fullerton that he has no rights and that he's a terrorist on board a U.S. Navy ship and that they're invoking the Patriot Act.

At the sick bay, Tony tells Fullerton that in an hour, Fullerton will be flown off this ship, escorted by Tony and Ziva to Aviano Air Base where Fullerton will board a C-37A and that Fullerton will taken to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

As this goes on, Fullerton simply looks stunned.

Tony continues to say that once Fullerton is there, he'll be staying at a sunny little seaside resort the locals call "Gitmo".

Ziva pipes up that she heard a nasty rumor about what goes on down there.

From the laptop, Gibbs tells Fullerton that he'll never be heard from again, that Fullerton's friends and family won't know what happened to him.

Back in MTAC, Gibbs states that he's gonna ask Fullerton again: who hired Fullerton?

Fullerton then defiantly and arrogantly remarks that Gibbs is bluffing.

In the sick bay, Ziva standing guard tells Fullerton that Gibbs does not bluff.

Fullerton then takes a few deep breaths before wondering if they can make some kind of deal.

Back in MTAC, Gibbs shoots that down by stating that Fullerton is no position to negotiate and wonders for the last time who's behind the terrorist attacks?

It then cuts to the high screen at MTAC which shows Tony glancing at Fullerton who seems unwilling to say anything.

From the laptop's speakers, Gibbs, finally having lost patience tells Tony and Ziva to yank Fullerton out of that rack and put him on a plane.

Ziva approaches the bed and begins removing the shackles while Tony gets to his feet and does the same thing to Fullerton's arms while in MTAC, Gibbs prepares to leave.

The realization that they're not kidding finally starting to sink in for him, Fullerton tells them to hold it and that he'll tell Gibbs.

In MTAC, Gibbs, halfway up the ramp stops, turning around.

On the big screen, Tony has stopped while Fullerton leans against the bed, revealing that the man's name is Harper Dearing.

Curious, Gibbs heads back down.

Tony leans in, telling Fullerton to tell them about Dearing.

Fullerton remarks that he doesn't know anything.

Not convinced, Gibbs tells Fullerton that Fullerton's own memory will improve once he gets to Gitmo.

Fullerton remarks that he never saw Dearing and that they only spoke on the phone with Dearing explaining and after that, Dearing would only communicate in Korean code.

Tony wonders if that's it.

From the laptop, Gibbs who isn't impressed states that that isn't good enough and tells Fullerton to enjoy Cuba.

Seconds later, Ziva begins removing the cuffs while Tony holds Fullerton down.

Fullerton protests again, telling them to wait and that Dearing had what Northerners would call a slight Southern drawl. As this happens, Tony and Ziva stop while also revealing that the left leg cuff holding Fullerton has been untied while the ones around his right leg and hands are untouched.

Fullerton remarks that he knows this because he's from Mississippi before stating that's all he knows.

Back in MTAC, Gibbs asks Fullerton why he did it.

"Money", Fullerton states. "Lots of money".

From the laptop, Gibbs calls Tony's name.

With Ziva and another Navy officer on guard, Tony grabs the laptop from the wheelie table and heads away far from Fullerton as possible before Tony goes, "Yeah, Boss?".

Gibbs tells Tony to put Fullerton on suicide watch and that he wants to make sure that Fullerton gets back here for trial.

"You got it", Tony replies.

A while later, down in the Bullpen, McGee tells Gibbs that he's found seven Harper Dearings in the United States and that four of them either currently reside or were born in the South.

It then shows the monitor with McGee bringing a list composed of the same seven names which quickly drops to four.

"Let's hear it", Gibbs says.

McGee brings up Harper Dearing number 1- a forty-eight year housewife form Chattanooga, Tennesse with the licence showing a the photograph of a forty-eight year woman with brown hair and glasses as well as a cross hanging around her neck.

Gibbs dismisses that, saying "No. Next".

McGee then brings up Harper Dearing number 2 with the licence showing that Dearing number 2 is an eighty-four year old priest currently residing in a home for retired clergy.

"Next", Gibbs says.

McGee announces Harper Dearing number 3 with the card popping up and revealing "No photo available" with McGee stating that Dearing is a second-grader in a Little Rock, Arkansas elementary school.

Gibbs just looks up at McGee, deeply unconvinced that a second-grader could do something like that.

"No", McGee replies.

He then moves onto Harper Dearing number four and on his screen, a licence of Dearing pops up, revealing that it's a man in his sixties with a shaven head, beard and also wearing glasses with McGee revealing that Dearing is sixty-one, born in Augusta, Georgia and that he currently resides in Virginia.

Convinced, Gibbs approaches the desk, asking McGee to let him hear it.

McGee reveals that Dearing is the CEO of Dorado Hills Investments, a multi-national venture capital group that specializes in technology companies.

On the screen, a page of the Dorade Hills Investments sits there while displaying Dearing's own page.

McGee states that the group is headquartered in Sterling, Virginia.

Now holding a cup of coffee, Gibbs asks about a criminal or military record with McGee stating "Neither".

Gibbs then approaches the monitor, examining Dearing's photos and information while wondering why would a corporate executive be terrorizing U.S. Navy vessels?

McGee remarks that it doesn't make sense.

Gibbs tells McGee to get Dearing's DNA down to Abby and that she's got a DNA sample from the envelope and to see if Abby can match the sample to Dearing.

Grabbing the phone, McGee remarks that if Abby can't, maybe Dearing's got a close relative whose DNA is on file.

Gibbs just stares at the monitor.

It then cuts to Harper Dearing's information and licence which stay there.

Gibbs simply nods.

The next morning, with the lab still shrouded in darkness, Abby arrives in carrying two bags and her umbrella. She then approaches where it's shown that Gibbs is sitting there, the lights on with Gibbs working on his SIG-Sauer.

Stopping at the door, Abby calls Gibbs's name.

Gibbs simply runs some glue alongside a strip of his SIG before placing the bottle back down.

Abby now wonders what Gibbs is doing.

Examining the SIG, Gibbs tells Abby that he's cleaning his weapon and waiting for her to get in. He then grabs a cloth and begins polishing his reassembled SIG.

Abby approaches Gibbs and stops, wondering how Burley is.

Gibbs tells her that Burley is fine and states that McGee said that Dearing had a son who was in the Navy before asking did she get a DNA match?

Heading over to her computer, Abby tells Gibbs that she's had people working in the lab all night and to let her check her email.

She then places her belongings on the table and types something into the computer while telling Gibbs that she's having them compare the DNA from the envelope that was found in Abbott's quarters to the DNA of Dearing's son, Evan.

An email pops up, causing Abby to remark that it's here.

She reads it and reveals that they found a familial match along with the 99.9 percent probability that Harper Dearing is their guy.

Gibbs simply heads off to the table, grabs his SIG and leaves the lab while also holstering his SIG as Abby looks on.

With that, Gibbs leaves the lab altogether.

A while later, an NCIS Dodge Charger along with two SUVs pull up.

As the group composed of NCIS agents get on, it's revealed that the two team leaders are Gibbs and McGee with both men heading straight into Dorado Hills Investments.

Inside, a Security Guard spots the large group and approaches them, demanding to know what's going on.

With McGee holding up a warrant and Gibbs holding his NCIS badge, Gibbs wonders where Dearing's office is.

The guard tells them that it's on the second floor.

Once the NCIS group are gone, the guard heads over to the phone.

Upstairs, a female receptionist hangs up the phone with her and her male colleague looking on as Gibbs arrives, displaying his NCIS badge with Gibbs stating that they're NCIS.

As two agents head down a corridor, Gibbs and McGee head for the main office, two unnamed agents backing them up.

Ready for a fight, Gibbs opens the door and the team sweep in, only to find the room which is in pristine condition completely and utterly empty.

Suddenly, a man arrives, stating that he'll call someone back.

He then approaches Gibbs, wondering if he may help them.

Gibbs wonders who the man is with the man identifying himself as Vincent Maples and that he's the president of this company while behind him, the two agents are on in the lobby, interviewing the two personnel at the desk while Gibbs and McGee are talking to Maples.

Gibbs demands to know where Dearing is.

Maples has no idea before wondering why they're looking for Dearing.

Gibbs tells Maples that they've got a warrant for Dearing's arrest.

Maples just looks stunned at the news.

Gibbs tells Maples that Dearing is wanted for terrorism and four counts of murder.

Maples is still stunned.

"Where is he?", Gibbs demands.

Maples remarks that he doesn't know and that he hasn't seen or heard from Dearing in over a year.

McGee silently nods and looks over at Gibbs who wonders how Maples gets in touch with Dearing.

"I don't", Maples admits.

McGee just looks at Maples.

Gibbs simply looks annoyed.

A few hours later, the elevator rings with the doors opening, revealing Tony, Ziva and Burley with Ziva wearing a bright blue scarf.

The three exit the elevator and stop upon seeing the numerous groups of people gathered in the room.

As this goes on, Gibbs states, "Listen up".

As this happens, the camera pans over the entire Squadroom, showing various people standing on the stairs and around various areas too.

In among the crowd are Abby, Ducky and McGee.

As Tony, Ziva and Burley look on, all three stunned, Gibbs announces to the entire room for attacks against the United States Navy, Harper Dearing.

Gibbs then approaches the NCIS Most Wanted Wall and quickly slaps a photograph of Dearing over Osama Bin Laden's photo with Dearing's photo in place.

Turning back, Gibbs tells everyone, "Let's go. We got work to done".

As Gibbs heads back down again, everyone starts moving once more, the Squadroom now abuzz with talk as they're all now united with a common goal: find Harper Dearing while as Burley and Ziva head off, Tony stares at the Wall, amazed at the revelation.

An overhead shot shows everyone heading for their respective areas.

It then cuts to show the photograph of Harper Dearing which sits there, revealing that Dearing has become the number one target on NCIS's Most Wanted Wall.

Major Events

  • Ziva meets Stan Burley in person for the first time.


Series Regulars

Name Portrayed by Role
Leroy Jethro Gibbs Mark Harmon Special Agent in charge of the NCIS Major Case Response Team.
Anthony DiNozzo Michael Weatherly Senior Special Agent of the NCIS Major Response Team.
Ziva David Cote de Pablo Junior Special Agent of the NCIS Major Response Team.
Abigail Sciuto Pauley Perrette Chief Forensic Specialist of the NCIS Major Response Team.
Timothy McGee Sean Murray (actor) Special Agent of the NCIS Major Response Team.
Leon Vance Rocky Carroll Director of NCIS.
Donald Mallard David McCallum Chief Medical Examiner of the NCIS Major Response Team.

Recurring Cast

Name Portrayed by Role
Stanley Burley Joel Gretsch NCIS Special Agent trained by Gibbs.

Other Cast

Name Portrayed by Role
Admiral Theodore Tully, USN Nigel Gibbs An Admiral with the Navy.
Emma Park (Playing with Fire), NCIS Elizabeth Ho Intelligence Analyst attached to NCIS
Andre Fullerton James Harvey Ward An arsonist responsible for attempting to blow up the U.S.S. Benjamin Franklin but fails thanks to Tony and Ziva arresting him. Later gives up the name of the person truly responsible after Gibbs along with Tony and Ziva tell Fullerton that he will be sent to Gitmo.
Vincent Maple Rick Peters A man who appears in the episode.
Mrs. Johnson Karina Logue Bruce Johnson's wife.
Mail Carrier Dan Martin A man who appears in the episode.
Wayne Usher Ron Nagle A man who appears in the episode.
Security Guard (Playing with Fire) Patrick Faucette A man who appears in the episode.
Seaman (Playing with Fire) Tony Christopher A man who appears in the episode.
Tobey Abbott Robert C Sloan One of the victims of the explosion that occurred on the USS Brewer.
Seaman Apprentice (Playing with Fire) Maggie Gwin A woman who appears in the episode.
Harper Dearing Richard Schiff A reclusive billionaire who doesn't actually appear in the episode in person. Appears in a photograph late into the episode.
Ferry Captain Troy Waters
Master At Arms Dobson Angelo Romanelli