In the latest New Orleans crossover, a Homeland operation to stage a wargame becomes all too real when someone stops playing by the rules. As Gibbs and co try to determine what the goal of hijacking the wargame was, a more pressing issue becomes relevent - the 'Terror Playbook', a file containing the methods to infiltrate public areas and commit terror attacks, and the country's methods to defend against such attacks; was stolen from a hacked computer in Homeland on the night of the wargame.
In Part 2, Gibbs and Vance send Torres and McGee to the Big Easy to thwart the sale of the Playbook, and recover it before another attack can begin. The mission becomes complicated when the team discovers the hacker and seller of the Playbook is one Eva Azarova, Russian Sleeper Agent and known spy in New Orleans. To make things worse, Eva has her own agenda for what she wants the Playbook for...
- Berserk Button: When Ducky innocently asks Reeves about his accent he immediately gets defensive because he thinks Ducky is going to mock him for being lower-class.
- Book-Ends: Part 1 sees Abby getting caught by security trying to plant the balloons in the ventilation, while Part 2 sees Torres getting confronted by a police officer as he chases after the killer of Buyer #1, who it turns out was dressed like a harlequin, in New Orleans, during Mardi Gras Week.
- Crisis Crossover: A two-parter on both shows, the operation in DC leads to a sale in New Orleans. NCIS collectively pool their resources to regain control of the Playbook, and prevent it from falling into terrorist hands.
- Evil Counterpart: Evil Abby, whom Abby channels when planning the wargame. Evil Abby is essentially Normal Abby but without the morals.
- Foe Yay / Les Yay: Eva not so subtly has a flirt with Gregorio during the sting operation, and later gives her a farewell kiss before leaving for prison.
- Hostage for MacGuffin: Victor, Eva's mentor, has the Playbook and Torres; but he needs Eva to gain access to the encrypted file, which can only be opened by Eva using a specific Russian phrase in her voice. Thus he bargains Torres for Eva. Eva uses the trade to fulfill her agenda, killing him as revenge for recruiting her in the first place.
- Living Legend: It seems McGee's reputation has spread to the point NCIS as a whole is in awe of the man. Sebastian even has a major man crush on him, since he went from tech support to Special Agent to Senior Agent within the span of a decade. Moreover, he is one of the leading computer specialists in the business, a whitehat hacker who can create complex algorithms for things most people would write off as impossible, while also being the protege of two of the finest agents in the organization. He even uses Ziva's Vulcan Neck Pinch to incapacitate one of the buyers, passing it off as a Mossad trick he picked up.
- MacGuffin: The Terror Playbook, which contains all potential weaknesses and exploitation thereof of the United States' public areas, and the federal government's methods of countering such weaknesses.
- Mythology Gag: McGee seems to have learned Gibbs' famed interrogation technique of sitting silently, waiting for the suspect to crack like an egg.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: McGee invokes this in order to get Torres back safely.McGee: We have footage of Victor's SUV leaving the hotel late last night.
Gregorio: Before it disappeared into thin air?
McGee: Actually it didn't, the SUV passed a number of cameras as it fled the scene.
Sebastian: Yeah, traffic cameras, security cameras, pedestrians' personal cameras.
McGee: If we can access that feed, we can piece together exactly where the SUV went.
Gregorio: We don't have the resources to consolidate dozens of sources to find a single target.
McGee: The NSA does. This case involves national security and international espionage. I asked Bishop to call in some favors from her old bosses.
Sebastian: Yeah. We track the SUV from here, LaSalle and Percy are our boots on the ground while we gather intel. We're gonna find Torres.
Gregorio: How legal is this, guys?
Sebastian: Strictly speaking, we're probably entering a bit of a grey zone.
McGee: Well, one of my team was taken by a sociopathic Russian agent, I say screw the grey zone.
Pride: We're with you, McGee.
- Suspect Is Hatless: At the start of Part 2, Torres reports that the person he thinks killed one of the buyers for the Playbook was dressed in a Harlequin costume. Since this is in New Orleans at the start of the Mardi Gras season, there was a party going on with at least a hundred people dressed like that less than a block away.
- Worth It: Eva's theft of the Playbook from a Homeland server, subsequent sale of the Playbook on the Darkweb, and murders of the buyers of the Playbook, were all in an attempt to lure out her mentor Victor, who recruited her as a child, and in effect stole her innocence. She kills him before he can double cross NCIS, and subsequently tells Gregorio that a lifetime in prison was worth killing Victor for. And meeting Gregorio was good too...
- You Killed My Father: The motive for Part 1: The would-be "terrorist" was after a war criminal-turned-politician who killed his parents. Ironically the killer murdered the think tank's leader, who they considered their father-figure.
- Inverted in Part 2 Eva kills her mentor who raised her from a child to be an assassin.