“In The Dark” first aired May 1, 2007.
The modus operandi for plot development on NCIS has typically been to establish a discreet mystery involving some esoteric bit of technology, usually solved in the assigned 44 minutes, and then to sprinkle that plot with some on-going tidbits about the personal lives of the NCIS staff. “In the Dark” proves no exception. The two performance elements are well balanced in this episode, adding to the compelling environment at the closing of the drama’s fourth season.
The episode opens in the studio of noted blind photographer Jackson Scott (John Billingsley) who has just provided his assistant Bryn Landers (Katie Lowes) several photo proofs requested by Vanity Fair. While inspecting them, Landers notes a dead man in the corner of the photograph. This leads Scott to enlarge the photograph where the deceased is identified as a Navy Petty Officer, which subsequently leads to a call to NCIS, interrupting Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) repairing the plumbing of love interest Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann (Susanna Thompson).
At the photographer’s studio the teams learns that Scott was blinded ten years ago and has since relied on his other senses to find his photographic subjects, a talent that has brought him wide acclaim. In the present case Scott tells the NCIS team that he was following a strange fruity smell, slightly rotten until he arrived at the crime scene where he could only smell vomit. He took his photographs and left.
Crime scene analysis by NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) revealed that the Petty Officer had been stabbed with a folding knife found at the scene. The deceased’s dog tags had been ripped from his neck and Mossad Agent-on-Loan-to-NCIS Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) noted fresh vomit close by. During the autopsy, Special Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) updates Gibbs and Ducky on the Petty Officer's identity, one Peter Lynn, who worked in the supply corps of the Defense Logistics Agency.
Forensics Specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) identified Lynn from his fingerprints and was also able to match a mitochondrial DNA profile of the vomit found at the scene with the material recovered from beneath Lynn’s fingernails. Ducky details the mugger’s meal left at the scene as containing cheese blintz, “undoubtedly a cheap Bordeaux,” and veal. Ducky goes on to discover the deceased Petty Officer had the same meal as his mugger (indicating that this murder was not a random mugging) and in a morgue drawer, a faux leopard skin bra, which he turns over to assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) for disposal. Palmer calls the erstwhile Special Agent Michelle Lee (Liza Lapira) to alert her of the recovery of the evidence of their frequent workplace indiscretions and is informed there is a matching set of panties to look for also, sending Palmer into a spin.