A group of film students working on a horror movie discover the skeleton of a dead marine in the woods. Gibbs realizes that the way he was killed is identical to the MO of Celia Roberts, a Serial Killer he convicted eleven years prior, so he sends McGee to Maryland Women's Prison to retrieve a written confession. However, while McGee is there, a guard suddenly ends up dead, and the prisoners riot out of fear that everybody in the visitor's center will be blamed for the murder. McGee manages to convince them to appoint him as their negotiator by offering the services of NCIS to investigate the crime, with the promise that only the murderer will be punished. In exchange, the prisoners will release the visitors and an injured guard, leaving himself and two other guards as hostages. The warden agrees to the terms, but issues a deadline for the inmates to surrender by sundown. This gives Team Gibbs seven hours to uncover the true identity of the murderer and save McGee's life.
- Asshole Victim: The guard, Trimble, turns out to be a child molester who was raping Shanon's oldest daughter, so it's no surprise that he ended up dead.
- The Cold Open has a young woman in a cheerleading outfit running through the woods, then she runs into a guy wielding an axe; it turns out that they're just some film students working on a scene for a low-budget slasher movie.
- After the team figures out that Sharon was the one who killed Trimble, Celia takes her aside to talk in one of the private rooms. When they're done, she tells McGee to let the warden know they found the killer, making it look like Celia convinced Sharon to give herself up. It turns out that Celia actually convinced Sharon to let her take the blame instead so Sharon could get the second chance she desperately wanted.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: After the inmates riot, a major concern for several of the inmates is to get their visiting family members out of the visitor's center so they don't get caught in the potential crossfire from the raiding guards.
- Finger in the Mail: Two violent inmates discuss sending out a cut-off ear or finger to show the warden that they're serious about the Hostage Situation. They decide not to use a guard because that'll only piss them off more... so they decide to do it to McGee (who's not one of the guards or one of their family members). He barely manages to talk them out of it.
- Girls Behind Bars: The episode is set inside the visitor's center of a woman's prison. Its portrayed realistically, as the female inmates prove very difficult to handle and one even threatens to kill McGee repeatedly.
- Hidden Heart of Gold: Celia Roberts might be a remorseless Serial Killer, but she does care about her fellow inmates on some level. This is proved when she willingly takes the blame for the guard's murder at the end of the episode and tells the warden that she acted alone so Shanon, the true murderer, and the inmates don't get punished for both it and the riot.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- The main reason why the inmates riot in the first place when Trimble is killed; the prison would just blame all the inmates in the visitor's center for the death. McGee convinces them to appoint him as their negotiator because it's the only way for them to get pardoned for the riot.
- When the warden tacks on the deadline for NCIS to solve Trimble's murder before sundown, he points out to Gibbs that as long as the situation in the visitor's center lasted, the rest of the prison population felt empowered. While he was willing to agree to the prisoner's negotiations to get the visitor's freed as hostages, he knows it'll better to get the hostage situation shut down as soon as possible.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The warden is a strict individual who wants the hostage situation to end as quickly as possible, but he shows concern for those taken as hostages and he's visibly horrified when he discovers what Trimble did to Shannon's innocent daughter.
- Mama Bear: Sharon killed Trimble because he raped her oldest daughter.
- Papa Wolf: Gibbs enters this mode when interviewing a guard the inmates pinned as one of the drug dealers in the prison and one of the suspects. When he tries to deny it, Gibbs shouts that he has no time for this because he had an agent in danger.
- Prison Riot: When a guard in the visitor's center suddenly ends up dead, the inmates panic, believing that they'll all take the blame, and riot.
- Race Against the Clock: Team Gibbs has until sundown (seven hours) to solve the murder or else the warden will void the agreement to only punish the inmate who killed Trimble and send his heavily-armed guards into the visitor's center.
- Taking the Heat: Celia convinces Sharon to let her take the blame for the murder because while Sharon had only a year left in prison and still had other children at home to take care of, Celia had no family and was serving life. When Celia also give herself up, she "confesses" to the warden that while Trimble was raping Sharon's daughter, she had nothing to do with the murder. Team Gibbs know the truth but they decide to respect the wishes of both women involved.Ziva: Do any of us really believe Celia killed Trimble?
McGee: I don't think anyone's going to lose any sleep over it.