In this episode of JAG, we see that Harm has returned to his roots. Harm regains full flight status as an aviator, and deploys onboard the fictional carrier USS Patrick Henry. He is deployed to Kosovo to enforce the no-fly zone there. Lieutenant Elizabeth "Skates" Hawkes, the RIO from the second season episode "Crossing the Line" is now Harm's RIO. However, he can't completely escape his recent legal career, as he is made the Wing Legal Officer, often assisting the inexperienced Carrier Judge Advocate with legal matters. He is also drawn into defending an enlisted man, accused by cocky arrogant fellow fighter pilot Andrew "X-Man" Buxton, of negligence when an ECM Jammer pod falls off its wing mount while X-Man is taking off. X-Man also happens to be Harm's element leader, and seems to be a little too eager for a fight, but careless.
After X-Man gets a little too aggressive and careless during a fight, getting himself locked on by enemy Serbian MiGs, forcing Harm to come in and save him. This causes the CAG Captain Pike to revoke X-Man's element lead status, give it to Harm, and make X-Man fly wing to him. This, and the issue with the enlisted man who didn't attach the pod right, causes tension between Harm and X-Man. Another problem they have to contend with, is a Serbian Command and Control aircraft that appears to be monitoring the no-fly zone for coalition aircraft, so that Serbian fighters can get airborne when NATO aircraft are absent and operate unimpeded. Harm and Skates finally come up with a plan to find and neutralize that aircraft without shooting it down. X-Man however appears to redeem himself by finding and killing a motor rifle unit that appears to be targeting a convoy carrying refugees.
In the meantime, Mac gets that overdue promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, outranking Harm for now. She is tasked with prosecuting a corporal accused of being drunk while firing a prototype antitank guided missile, and thereby singing a lot of grass and starting a brushfire. She puts a technical expert, a Gunnery Sergeant Victor Galindez on the stand to corroborate that there is nothing wrong with the weapon. The Gunny though, has a different opinion - one that may get him assigned to the JAG corps as an investigator.
And right before the episode ends, a Russian admiral onboard the carrier as an observer, confronts a celebrating X-Man along with Captain Pike. Turns out that "Serbian" motor rifle element he killed, was a Russian peacekeeping unit that was escorting the refugees to safety. X-Man is now facing charges.
The following tropes popped up here
- Coming in Hot: Harm suffers a bird strike, loses an engine and comes in this way.
- Didn't Think This Through: X-Man allows Harm to take on fuel instead of taking on sufficient fuel himself. But he immediately proceeds to land right after Harm does, instead of waiting for another tanker to get up and refuel. Besides the possibility of flaming out his engines during a carrier landing attempt, when you need thrust to flare your aircraft, he never anticipated that Harm's damaged aircraft may not have been cleared off the deck in time for his landing.
- Gargle Blaster: The "depth charge" that Cpl Winrow had a few of, the night before his mishap.
- Idiot Ball: "X-Man" Buxton ignores a warning that MiGs always fly in pairs and a common tactic was to dangle one as bait to ambush any pursuing fighter. He still aggressively blunders in, and pretty soon gets locked on. Harm has to lock on to X-Man's ambushes to get him to back off.
- Leeroy Jenkins: X-Man is a shoot first and ask questions later kinda guy. Exactly what lands him in hot water in the last act of the episode, too.
- Loophole Abuse: According to the rules of engagement, Harm can't shoot down the Command and Control aircraft. But nothing prevents him from squirting fuel onto that aircraft, fogging up their cockpit windows and clogging up their air intakes, causing their engines to flame out and seek an emergency landing.
- Older and Wiser: Harm gains this reputation eventually among the Patrick Henry air wing, especially compared to Buxton.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Gunny Galindez reveals some extremely damaging information about an ATGM to save a Corporal from a conviction, even if it meant costing him an extremely lucrative post retirement job with that missile's maker.