Prologue: Wojo arrives late and with his tie draped around his neck. Chano tells him that he's doing his filing; he hates filing but when he has to do Wojo's he really hates it. Wojo tells Fish 'A penny for your thoughts' and he says 'Save your money.' Chano says he's depressed because he says he's been on the force 25 years and has nothing to show for it. Wojo says he envies Fish for having a steady job, a nice retirement plan and a wife that will always be there. Fish calls him vicious. Wojo then apologizes to Harris for being late and he says not to worry about it as he types without looking at the keyboard. Wojo says he is amazing and Harris says it's a matter of mind control. He says one part of his brain is typing an arrest report and another part is talking to him. Wojo says he makes it look like a snap; but he comes over and starts reading what Harris has typed; it's what he's said to Wojo. Barney comes out and tells Wojo it's nice to see him again. He says he overslept. Barney asks if he has an alarm but he says he was in another borough when it went off. Chano takes a call about someone shooting up the Lexington Avenue subway stop. Barney tells Wojo to go with him as he starts to pour himself a cup of coffee. He says he was just on that subway and five minutes earlier, he'd be there already. Then he says if he was five minutes later, he'd be there at that moment. Barney says timing is everything. Fish comes out of the bathroom and asks Barney if he ever thought he should be proud of himself. He looks puzzled as Fish sits at his desk. He says he appreciates whatever it was he had in mind. Harris pulls his report out of the typewriter and says he loves quiet moments. He says that if one listens closely, they can hear a stream trickling down a mountainside. Fish says he forgot to jiggle the toilet.
Part One: Wojo and Chano bring a businessman, Francis Lindquist, in for the shooting at the subway. He apologizes for what he did, then says he thought they went easy on someone if they apologized. Chano tells Fish he never saw anything like it before. Wojo says that he shot a candy machine at the subway and Chano adds 'To death.' Lindquist says it deserved it. Wojo then says he understands why he did it, the frustration. Fish says someone can't do that or they would end up alone. Barney tells Harris to go the 24th Street fire station. He says they have 'some fine cookin' over there.' Barney says they had six fires in that area recently and they suspect arson. He also says to take Wojo with him, as he again starts to pour himself a cup of coffee. Wojo asks if he doesn't have time for coffee and Barney says he would have if he hadn't been late. Wojo says it doesn't make sense; he was late then but not now. Harris says that logic is on his side but 'the captain ain't.' Barney tells Fish 'Another day, another dollar' and Fish says that's exactly what he's saved: $30 a month for 25 years. Barney says that takes a certain amount of self-discipline. Fish says his brother asked him to go into business with him. He didn't and now his brother makes $40,000 a year. Barney says he can't look backwards. As Chano makes out the arrest report, Francis tells him that he had put 20 cents in the candy machine three days a week and he can count the times it worked on one hand. He says he reported it to the company but all he got was lip service. Chano asks him why he didn't go somewhere else and he says it was principle, that he wanted the machine to give him his candy bar. When it wouldn't, he shot it. He says he even gave it another chance, that he tried again and when it didn't work, he 'let it have six right in the coin slot.' He says it was like everything he ever wanted to do but didn't have the guts to do. Chano says everyone has dreams of glory and he says 'Like not tipping a waiter.' Chano says that is his favorite. He then asks Francis if he has a lawyer and he says his cousin Louis, but he doesn't like him. He then says he doesn't like Louis either but he likes his wife. As he calls Louis, Chano tells Barney that he will be charged with firing a gun in public and criminal possession of a firearm but he doesn't know how to write up the rest of it. Barney offers assault with a deadly weapon and Fish says he shot a candy machine. Barney says that he could be in a lot of trouble, then adds 'See, if it was a cigarette machine...' Chano says that they can figure it out downtown. Francis says that he couldn't get through to his lawyer cousin so he left a message on his machine. He then goes on about how he said everything he had to say but was afraid to stop because he had more time left. Chano asks if he hates machines and he says 'Passionately.' Fish says there is a stamp machine on Sixth Avenue he'd like to take a contract out on. Later, Wojo and Harris come back arguing about a composite sketch of the arsonist. Wojo says he can throw it in the garbage. Harris says that it was made with great precision and that they can be a very useful tool. Wojo says it's just a picture of Woody Allen, but Harris says he's going to 'check out Woody's movements yesterday.' Barney asks them what happened. Wojo says they talked to the firemen and Harris says they also found a witness. Wojo says it was a hooker, so it wasn't much of a witness. Barney says, 'Hookers have been known to see.' Harris says they took her downtown and a police artist made a sketch based on her description. Barney says it looks like a young Albert Einstein. Kotterman, owner of the local deli, comes in and grabs an arrest report and hands it to Fish. He asks what they took this time and Kotterman says $214 and three bottles of Scotch. He then goes to get a cup of coffee and says hello to Barney, Fish and Wojo. Barney tells them that all the local arsonists are accounted for: 'State prisons, federal prisons, burn wards.' Harris says their suspect won't be in their files. Wojo disparagingly calls him Sherlock Holmes. Harris says psychology is an important part of modern criminology. Wojo blows a raspberry and Barney tells him to 'hold off your rebuttal 'til later.' Harris says the suspect just likes to set fires, a pyromaniac. Wojo asks what the difference is what he's called. Harris says he's just trying to get inside the suspect's head. He says someone who likes fires is sexually frustrated and socially inadequate. Wojo says he can file that in the garbage also. He says he likes fires also but it doesn't mean he's 'socially frustrated or sexually inadequate.' Harris tells him he mixed them up. Wojo asks what is the difference and Barney says 'Actually, not that much.' Wojo says he's just another hoodlum, but he's using fire instead of throwing rocks. Kotterman joins in the conversation saying that he thanked God he was only held up at pistol point. He then goes on about how it was his own fault. He said he learned one thing: 'Bread cast upon the water gets soggy and it sinks.' Fish tells him to give details on the robbery. He says three kids came in and said 'Stick 'em up.' Fish asks if that was all they said and he says 'There was nothing to discuss, it was perfectly clear.' Fish asks what they looked like and the same as always: 'I've been robbed so may times they all look like friends.' Barney says they will use the composite sketch and Harris' analysis in their investigation. He tells them to make copies of the sketch and distribute it in the neighborhood. Wojo asks where and Harris says to go to porno theaters and bookshops. Barney also says to go local bars and massage parlors. Harris then takes a call about another fire, this one set in a dressing room of a burlesque theater. Wojo says he was lucky. As they go to leave, Wojo tells Harris to drive because he wants to look out the window.
Part Two: Francis asks Chano if he would like prison, and he says not if they put him in the machine shop. He then says not to worry being a first offender. He asks if his cousin is a good lawyer. Francis says no, but his wife has great legs. Chano says he'll probably get probation if he promises not to do it again. Francis says that will depend on the machine. Barney tells him that Louis, his lawyer cousin, is downstairs arranging his bail. He also says he was delayed getting to the station because of a nearby accident. Francis says that Louis loves accidents because that's how he gets most of his clients. Fish comes up with lunch as Francis keeps asking why Louis's wife married him. Fish gives him his lunch order. Chano takes a call from a dispatcher who says that Wojo and Harris are bringing in a suspect. He also says that no one was in the theater at the time. Barney calls him a 'firebug with a conscience.' Louis comes in the squad room and starts berating his cousin. He says that the world doesn't owe him anything. Francis said that he knows there are things he can't have but he paid for the candy bar. Louis then says that he has a lot of principle. He then asks who said the quote 'A little principle in the wrong hands is a dangerous thing.' Francis says 'I think it was Allen Ludden.' Barney has Chano let Francis out and Louis signs him out. Wojo and Harris brings in a man who is a good match for the sketch. Wojo says he was spotted near the fire. The man, a Mr. Forman, says that he was just watching it. Wojo then says they chased him into the the theater. says that he had nothing to do with it. Wojo asks why he was running and he says they were chasing him. Barney has Wojo check him for priors. Louis asks Barney why he was arrested and when he tells him, he gives Forman his card and says that if he isn't there, his wife will take a message. Francis says her name is Sharon. Fish says she has great legs 'and I bet they match.' Louis tells his cousin to conform. He then says he can't give him a lift and Francis says he'll take the subway. Louis asks what happens if he sees another candy machine. Francis says he'll remember what he told him: don't break the law, find a way to take it out on somebody else. Francis then says 'Well, I'll certainly give her a call.' Barney asks Forman where he was when each of the fires happened. He says he was at home taking care of his mother. Barney asks if she's ill and Forman says she thinks she is. Barney asks him what he was doing at a burlesque house; Forman says every so often he has to remind himself there are other kinds of women in the world. Wojo says he has no priors, but he does have a minor violation for illegal storage of gasoline in the trunk of his car. Forman starts crying, Harris asks if he wants some water and Wojo says 'It's a little late for that.' Barney asks if Forman has been advised of his rights, then gives him his one phone call. Kotterman comes in and says kids spray painted dirty words on the front of his store. Chano asks if he wants to file a complaint and he says he just wanted to keep them informed. Barney says 'A little whitewash helps us do our job.' Kotterman says he can handle it himself. He says he's been fighting the city for 40 years, that he's been robbed in the day, at night, vandalized, terrorized, and the only thing that hasn't happened yet is being burned down to the ground. He says he can feel it in his bones that it will happen. He then sas that the local arsonist will get him. He points out that he will spend some time in the squad room until Barney points out the arsonist is in the squad room. Kotterman then runs out. Forman is calling his mother, confessing his crimes. He says he needs to see a doctor. When Harris asks for a match for his cigarette, he pulls out a lighter with a big flame. When his mother asks to come with him, the detectives say it's against the law, but when she doesn't believe him, they tell her all at once.
Epilogue: Barney says that it's time to leave. Harris says he has a date with a lady he met at the fire. Wojo asks if she was the one with the 'enormous personality.' Harris asks if he wants to come along because she has friends. Wojo says he has a date in Queens. Barney asks if that means he'll be late again, and he says yes. Chano says he's going to jog two miles, play an hour of handball, have a light dinner and go to bed. He says a policeman has to be able to handle any emergency. Harris than asks if he wants to go with him. Chano asks if it's an emergency and Harris says yes, so Chano agrees. Barney asks Fish if he's going home. He says his wife Bernice is visiting her mother in Poughkeepsie. Barney says his wife Liz and their kids are in Philadelphia visiting her brother. He then asks Fish if they want to go out and he agrees, but they can't decide on what to do.