It’s taken me a rewatch to find a way to explain this episode, which splits itself between the present and the past with some carefully placed flashback sequences and some hilarious costumes.
I think the hardest part of this set-up is that there’s another con that Nate wanted to run instead of this case. In this case, the team must bring D. B. Cooper to justice, who hijacked a plane en route to Seattle with $200,000 after a bomb threat, in order to help clear the name of an FBI agent.
To help the team, Parker brings in McSweeten’s old partner to look through the myriad case files. McSweeten provides more details (allowing for all the flashbacks) watching as the stewardess, Stephanie, (Parker) meets Cooper.
In these flashbacks, McSweeten (Nate) becomes a man on a mission to find anything and everything about Cooper. In his quest, he goes back to stewardess to confirm a new suspect. What comes next, Nate meets Stephanie’s husband (Eliot) who needs a job. McSweeten offers Steve a job, and after that, the two of them became a great partnership.
McSweeten and Steve take over the FBI Cold Case department and bring in some bad guys with some great 70s flare (the lighting and sound really sell it all.)
Back in the present, McSweeten has died, bringing Steve and Peter’s son together to remember some fond memories. Peter’s son wants to take over the hunt for DB now, slowly becoming like his father before him.
Slowly, Nate starts to piece together something about the identification by Stephanie. Instead of giving an accurate description, she lied and supplied the man on the back of the in-flight magazine.
Steve, Peter’s partner, was actually “DB Cooper”. Instead of just being a man out for the money, Steve took the money to pay back a friend from Vietnam’s family. After jumping, Steve finds Stephanie and they settle into a life together.
There was a very sentimental end to this case–Nate telling Peter’s son that DB Cooper was brought to justice because Steve worked for the FBI. It’s a really fitting button on the episode, just to bring back the emotional connection for the case.