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The Penelope Papers Recap
◄ Back to 9.03 The Penelope Papers
NCIS: The Penelope Papers
Original Airdate: October 4, 2011
Recap Author: callerbear
Original Airdate: October 4, 2011
Recap Author: callerbear
It's a bright summer morning. A man in a suit walks through a park, talking on his cell phone. He's explaining to his wife that he had to work late the previous night, but it's obviously that she doesn't believe him. "Look, I can't deal with this right now. I've got to go." he says, and closes his phone. Looking all around, he nervously sits down on a bench and makes another call. "Hey, it's me. I'm starting to really lose it here. I can't keep lying to my wife, it's killing me! We need to end this... Can we meet? I'm in the park across from the Hayes hotel." Behind him, an arm reaches out from behind a tree, holding a revolver. "I'll see you soon," the man says, hangs up his phone, and takes a deep breath in relief. Bang! The gun fires, the man is shot in the head and falls to the ground.
Roll the opening credits.
Bing! DiNozzo walks out of the elevator towards the squadroom. He's on the phone. "Yes, I know, I've got it... for the 188th time, I've got it! Yes, the balloons and streamers, I know, I know! No, no strippers this year! No!" McGee and Ziva are looking at him. "I've got to go. I'll call you back." It's Tony's father's birthday -- his father is planning the party, but Tony is paying for it in more ways than one. Tim and Ziva reminisce about their own fathers and birthdays; Tim tells about a time when he was about seven years old: He spent hours making a huge, glittery birthday card for his father the admiral. His father took one look, returned the card and said "You can do better. Try again."
"Gear up!" Gibbs enters, "Dead navy officer downtown."
The team investigates the crime scene. Single devasting gunshot wound to the head, a couple of hours earlier. Navy Lieutenant Paul Booth. 32 years old, married, no kids. An ID badge with his name and picture is lying on the ground nearby. His fingers look burned and stained. "What was thing guy into?" McGee wonders. "I don't know, but maybe you can tell us, Tim!" says DiNozzo. He's just found McGee's business card in the dead man's wallet, from back when McGee was still in the Norfolk NCIS field office. "Boss, I don't know what this is. I don't even know this guy!" says McGee. Phoof.
Back in the squadroom, Tony shows old and recent pictures of Booth to McGee, but McGee doesn't remember the man at all. He's checked his old files as well, and has no record of any contact with Booth. "How could he have my business card from eight years ago? I don't even have one of those!" he says. According to his CO, Booth was a motivated officer 'driven to succeed'. He taught mathematics at Waverly University and was praised by colleagues and students. But he had recently cut down on his teaching load to just one course each semester. Ziva has tracked the symbol on the ID badge to the "Telles Research Group", a defense contractor that does leading-edge research for the Department of Defense. Booth was an analyst reporting to Telles vice president John Westfal. Tony and Ziva are sent off to talk to Westfal, while Gibbs interviews the (pregnant) widow.
She had last talked with Booth by phone early that morning, before six o'clock. He was anxious, and had been like that a lot lately. She had suspected that he had been seeing someone else. But a few weeks earlier, when Booth was coming home from work very late, she saw someone parked across the street, watching Booth. She saw the surveillance again: "Last night, and the night before that."
At Telles' country campus, John Wesfal is telling Ziva and Tony about how 'green' the company is: They've installed solar panels and are hoping to raise their own cattle this year. They believe a certain amount of isolation breeds creativity. They recruited Paul Booth -- he was a top analyst that loved working there. Westfal tells them a little bit of the company history; the company founder, Max Ellswood, founded the company in 1965 to develop cutting-edge military strategy, and that the company's theories have been used in every war since Vietnam. "His passing was a sad day, but his legacy lives on!" he says. Beyond that, he won't tell them any more about the specific projects on which Booth was working.
In Autopsy, Palmer is ignoring Breena's phone calls. "There will be plenty of time to turn off each others calls once you're married, Mr. Palmer" says Ducky. "I'd advise you not to start before you've even exchanged wedding vows." Palmer is frustrated. The wedding plans have set everyone on edge, and whatever he says to her always seems wrong. He doesn't know what do to.
"Just give her what she wants" Gibbs advises as he walks in. "I have no idea what that is," sighs Palmer. "Welcome to the rest of your life, Jim-Boy!" says Gibbs as he turns to Ducky for a report. The killer stood about 20 feet away, and Booth's fingertips were inflamed, cracked and bleeding much like they had received chemical burns. Ducky suggests that the available evidence (or lack of it) indicates that the killer had considerable skill.
In the squadroom, Tony reports that Booth had emptied all of his bank accounts on the day before, putting everything into a trust fund with his wife as the beneficiary. He had also filed a police report complaining that someone had tried to run him off the road. McGee is still sifting through email, but pulls up Booth's cell phone records. He'd made three calls shortly before his death: to his boss, his wife and to an unlisted number. McGee traces the unlisted number... then is startled by the results shown on the plasma. "Who is Penelope Langston?" Ziva asks. Open-mouthed, McGee stands. He looks at Gibbs, at the plasma, back at Gibbs... then bolts out of the office. "Hey, stop!" Gibbs orders. "Boss, I can't right now. I'm sorry!" calls McGee as he gets into the elevator.
Cut to DiNozzo and McGee walking in what appear to be public gardens. DiNozzo is surprised when McGee tells him that Penelope Langston, the last person to talk to Booth before he was killed, is McGee's grandmother! They approach Penelope, who is talking to a group of students about growing bonsai trees. Penelope is surprised to see Tim, asks him about his health, and recognizes Tony from McGee's descriptions. "Penny, we need to talk... about Lieutenant Paul Booth." She sadly agrees. "I know," she says, "I know he's dead." Phoof!
She says that she had tried to reach Paul through the university, and that they had told her of his death. She deftly avoids answering questions about Booth. Eventually, she relents and says that Paul had been one of her students. He needed help getting through some tough times, and they stayed in contact. He was having work problems at Waverly, she says. When Telles is mentioned, she reacts. "Since when was Paul working for those imperialistic nut-jobs?" She had heard about Telles from her late husband, a Navy admiral. She knows it's a "think tank" going back to Vietnam, but nothing else. Booth had never mentioned anything about working there. "Stop trying to make connections where there aren't any" she says to Tim, "You're so much better than that."
McGee and DiNozzo leave the gardens. "She's lying." says McGee. He recognized a technique that his father used to use when asked a question he didn't want to answer: he'd turn the tables on McGee, telling him that McGee was the one with the problem. Tim hadn't thought that his grandmother would act like that. He's trusted her for years, she's been an important part of his life. "I just don't understand it!"
Meanwhile, Abby has discovered the reason for the burns on Booth's fingertips. He had an old photocopy machine in his basement that creates a lot of heat when it's used repeatedly. Every time he made a copy, his fingers were slightly burned -- yet he kept on doing that, over and over again. Abby estimates that he made about 4,000 photocopies of something.
In the squadroom, McGee confirms that Penny has lied to him -- she had retired from teaching before he enrolled in college, so he couldn't have been one of her students. Telles has encrypted their top secret files, so it will take him some time to break the encryption. DiNozzo and David have found Andrew Pike, a former analyst and rival of Max Ellsworth at Telles. He was fired and banned from the building, and was claimed to have been violent. Booth had several email messages from John Westfal referencing something called the Annex Principle.
Gibbs and McGee head back to Telles. Westfal denies killing Booth, but says that he had caught Booth taking more than 4000 pages of files about the Annex Principle, which is highly classified. Booth admitted to Westfal that he had passed on copies of the information to someone else. "He only said that she was a close friend."
McGee confronts his grandmother: "I thought I knew everything about you. I thought I could trust you." He tells her that he knows about her work for Telles and that she and Booth stole papers. She won't tell McGee about the papers because she had promised Booth to keep his family safe. "I'm sorry, Timothy, but I can't. I just can't." She turns and walks away. Tires squeal, and a black BMW accelerates directly at Penny. McGee pulls her to the ground, out of the car's path. Phoof!
In the squadroom, Ziva and McGee are trying to trace the black car -- it was a rental. McGee tells Gibbs that Penny is down in Autopsy -- Ducky is checking her over. She refuses to tell McGee anything. Gibbs presses Tim on the point: "Get her to talk, McGee, or I will." Michael Sheahy, senior editor of the DC Chronicle newspaper, calls DiNozzo. Sheahy says that he's been communicating with Penelope Langston about the Annex Principle and that Sheahy will be meeting her that night. "Wait's over, McGee!" Gibbs says!
McGee escorts Penelope into the interrogation room where Gibbs has been waiting. The two of them spar. Gibbs tells her that perhaps she knows something about Booth's death, that maybe she's involved in something over her head, or that maybe she's covering for the real killer. "Enough!" interrupts McGee. Gibbs turns steely eyes on McGee, opens the door, and motions for McGee to join him in the hallway. "Go home, McGee, you can't be professional. Go home." McGee defends Penelope -- she's his grandmother, means a great deal to him, and he won't let Gibbs treat her like that. Gibbs emphasizes that in order to find Booth's killer, they have to learn what was in those papers. McGee thinks about it, nods his head, and reaches out to take the files from Gibbs hand. "She'll talk to me," he says with more confidence, and he returns to Interrogation.
He starts to press Penny for information. She worked for the Telles group as an analyst and then quit. Why? She tries to change the subject again ("I knew I shouldn't have given Paul your business card..."), but McGee brings her up short.
A paper she published, she said, caught Max Ellsworth's attention and in 1968 he asked her to become the first female analyst to work on the Annex Principle. She agreed, and has regretted that decision for the rest of her life. She was told it would help keep the soldiers in Vietnam safe, but a few years in she realized that she was helping to create a weapon of destruction. She was just about to release information about the Annex Principle to the press when the war ended and the project was abandoned.
Like her, Paul Booth was lied to. Booth learned that she was one of the last living members of the original Annex Principle team, so he sought her out. They agreed to finish what she had started, releasing information about the project to the press so that it would be shut down again. "It's not your fault," McGee says, "You inspired him; you taught him so much. About how to stand up for himself, about how to be exactly who he was no matter what anyone else thought, especially his father." (We realize that McGee is really talking about himself.) "He'll always love you for that." he says. "You never told me this before" she says with tears in her eyes. "It's the truth" says Tim. They look at one another. "Do you have any idea who did this?" he asks.
Cut to MTAC. Gibbs, McGee and DiNozzo have a video call with Andrew Pike, the former Telles analyst that created the Annex Principle. He felt betrayed and rejected by Ellsworth, he says, when he was 23. Ellsworth wanted to market the principle, but Pike wanted it to be used solely as a test, a new kind of experiment. He left and never looked back... and has been in Bali ever since. He doesn't know what is going on, but he never meant for that project to go public. It is a threat, he says, to our way of life.
In the squadroom, the team has learned more about the Annex Principle. The idea was to merge insects and machines into hybrid creatures, allowing wars to be fought not only on battlefields, but in the field themselves. The insects could be controlled remotely, infiltrate crops, and multiply quickly.
McGee accompanies Penny to her meeting with the newspaper editor. They pull into a specific parking ramp, and the headlights are flashed as a single. Penny approaches the other car with papers in hand, but McGee realizes something is wrong. The car races away, revealing the editor lying on the concrete, dead. Phoof!
Back in the squadroom, it looks like another execution, and the team believes that Penny will be the next target. They look at the original Annex Principle team, and see that John Westfal was a member. Penny tells them how Ellsworth had favored Westfal and supported him to his current position of power. Ziva discovers that the signature on the rental car's contract was Westfal. "Bring him in!" orders Gibbs.
In Interrogation, Westfal denies that he rented the car. He denies killing anyone. As Gibbs turns to leave in exasperation, Westfal calls out: "Paul was right." He goes on to describe the Annex Principle as evil, and regrets that he continued working on it. He says that Paul had the guts, the courage, took risks and spoke the truth, while Westfal just "fell in line", and did whatever those at the top told him it do. "I admired him, Agent Gibbs. Why would I kill him?"
Abby has news: An unusual material was found on the second victim. A one-of-a-kind type of carbon fiber that was used to craft military weapons; specifically a limited run 45-caliber revolver with silencer that was produced only during 1962 and 1963. The hand-grip of the weapon is embossed with a US Army crest! It looks like the killer had been in the army in the early 1960's. Telles' founder, Max Ellsworth, was the only Annex Principle team member to have served in the army during that time. But Ellsworth is long gone! His plane crashed into the Rocky Mountains 23 years earlier... except that his body was never found. McGee calls Autopsy looking for Penny -- she left an hour ago!
Cut to the Botanical Gardens, where Penny is carefully pruning a small tree. She hears a noise -- someone is near. Out from the trees steps Max Ellsworth. He tells her that he felt like he died on the day that the military cancelled his project. But when he learned that the project had been reactivated, he felt reborn... and wasn't about to left Penny stop the project once again. He reaches for his weapon. "I did great things, and I'll do them again," he says.
"No you won't" says Gibbs, arriving to save the day. Ellsworth is arrested.
Back in the squadroom, Ziva and Tony are laughing at Penelope's stories, especially one about Tim becoming fascinated with her red pumps, wearing those shoes everywhere -- the grocery store, church, etc. McGee really wishes that she hadn't told that story -- he was just five years old then! It's time for everyone to leave, and Penny decline's McGee's offer of a ride home. No need, she says, she already has a ride.
"It comforts me to know that you're with such a good group of people," she says, "Even Gibbs. His cold, despotic ways are part of his charm. Who knew?"
McGee agrees. "He actually reminds me a lot of... you know, a little bit.".
Penny nods her head. "In other words, he loves you but has no idea how to show it."
"Oh, sweetheart, he loves you so much! He always has, Timothy, deeply." She looks in his eyes. "You need to take the first step, Timothy. Call him."
McGee is pained. "It's been almost seven years. I wouldn't know what to say!"
Penny smiles. "Oh, you're a smart boy. You'll figure it out. Ahh, here's my ride!" as Ducky arrives with a smile. She turns back to Tim. "Sweetheart, call him" she says as she kisses his cheek. Ducky and Penny leave the squadroom arm in arm, McGee watching them go, blinking, uncertain.
He looks down at his phone, sits in his chair. Picks up the phone and dials a number. "Hi, Dad? It's me, Tim." Phoof.
Roll the closing credits.
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