The P3 is packed this night. The beautiful people jam with the latest hot band and sweet seduction is in the air. Course, for some, this is not a good thing. Piper does the hide and peek, anxious about a particularly good-looking dude who's been looking at her for some time. Phoebe's amused by the attention. To her, it's not staring. It's flirting. Piper mutters about "You say tomato" and Phoebe tells her to "relax-o". He seems harmless, innocent, clean cut - the type of well-mannered boy who could desire some consensual corruption, if the moment's right. Piper reminds her kinky sister about Leo and how she has a nice serious relationship with him right now. Unlike her, she doesn't do the one night stand detail. Hell, she's not even gonna have a bachelorette party.
Prue comes rushing in, asking for professional help... from the DJ. Seems she has a tune in her head that she can't get out. Phoebe can sympathize, remembering the time she had the theme song from The Facts of Life playing in her mind for three years. Ignoring the joke, Prue hums a few bars to see if they know what it is. They draw a blank. In fact, Prue doesn't appreciate the crack Phoebe made about "putting a little oomph in it, add some choreography, and have Piper do her beat box bit". Switching to a serious subject, Phoebe gives her an invite from Justin to his family annual barbecue. Seems the lad is eager to introduce his high school crush and her sisters to the kin and see what happens. She and Piper want to go, but Prue mentions something about how the relationship is only at the flirtatious banter stage. Meeting the family would probably not be wise. Phoebe suspects something else, something involving her eldest sister's parental issues. Piper agrees, reasoning that she can't dodge seeing happy complete families forever and feel like she's the odd woman out because her family's a tad dysfunctional. Prue doesn't have time for the head shrink. What's in her head right is this damn annoying tune and the only cure for it is five minutes with the DJ.
The tune haunting this Halliwell is playing right now, in the streets of San Francisco late at night. The tune's innocent enough... until a young boy shows up and is entranced by the melody and follows the truck into an alleyway. A menacing figure asks if he wants some ice cream. The boy says yeah. Alas, he didn't say please, so he's sucked inside the order window by powerful forces. Looks like he should've tried Dairy Queen instead.
Morning comes and Prue's fast asleep. Unfortunately, it's not a restful slumber. She's having a nightmare in a big way. In her dream, she's six years old in a playground among a Winter Wonder-Hell with unknown forces menacing her. She tried to run and hide, but the darkness comes closer and closer. Just as she's about to scream, she runs into the welcoming arms of... Daddy? The alarm clock wakes her up and she finds herself in a cold sweat. This has her spooked... especially since that tune that's plaguing her was playing the entire time. She wonders if that's a sign of something evil coming this way. Even as she gets the paper, the music is still playing.
Phoebe's plagued by demons of her own. So far, her private research into Cole has yielded little. She knows his powers, his family tree, his alter ego, and his sometime allies... but not the man himself. This has her frustrated, enough so that she doesn't say hi when Prue says "Morning, sunshine." and then makes a gag about calling her "cloudy but with a chance of showers." She apologizes, telling her it was another all-nighter for school. Then her laptop has an instant message from the Net. It's from an old friend. Prue wants to peek, but Phoebe tells her it's nothing.
The oldest Halliwell then starts the chain of how nothing for her equals something which equals a boy and... Piper interrupts with some "bizarrer" news of her own. Seems their old friend Cara had a meeting in the Bay Tech Building last night and swore she saw Victor... as in Dad. As in "Haven't talked to in a year, but now he's back in town and haven't bothered to call them yet." Phoebe wonders if she was mistaken. She only remembers him from the 1st grade, Piper reckons, but Cara was sure it was him. She wonders if they should call him. His presence arouses both her and Phoebe's curiosity, but Prue wants no part. She still hurts from his abandoning them long ago. She has come to terms with the lack of parental involvement, figuring they won't have the Rockwellian family with the house and picket fence and the 2-car garage and the dog... and the doting parents. Piper knows this well, but she tells her he's all the family they have. Prue counters that they have each other and other people who truly love them and full busy lives to enjoy. Deadbeat dads don't register in her world. She then makes ready to go to work, inviting Phoebe to lunch at the shoot in the park on Knob Hill. Piper walks with her to the door and Phoebe is finally alone to answer the important message. She can't tell them who sent it... at least not yet. She feels guilty about keeping this a secret, but she's been having a lot of practice with that lately.
The tune haunts Prue once again as she takes the crowded elevator to the office. This is getting annoying. She searches for the mystery hummer, figuring she can ask him or her what it means without being too nosy. She looks at a woman looking through her purse, the Fed Ex delivery guy, and a few others. Then, she finds her: a little girl with her mother in hand, humming the melody without a care in the world. The elevator stops and the pair leaves. Prue tries to get out and asks the little girl what was the song and perhaps even rewarding her with a candy bar, but the doors shut behind them. She'll have find out elsewhere.
Piper's on a search of her own at the Bay Tech Building. It's been some time and she wants to renew her old ties with the only living non-supernatural kin she has left. She asks the information clerk some awkward questions about not knowing her and how everyone else is at lunch and being a little bothered with annoying questions from total strangers... After asking if she could actually help her, the clerk makes a check on Victor Bennett and which company he works for. Since his abrupt departure, Piper's mom went back to her maiden name and the sisters still use it. There's no listing for him anywhere. Showing her an old photo doesn't help and mistaking a gray haired gentleman for her father just makes things more awkward. Finding Victor will be tougher than she'd hoped.
Phoebe and Prue have lunch and talk shop about the shoot. The editors were impressed by her suggestion of a spread about growing in San Francisco and it just might make the cover. Phoebe knows this talk is an artful dodge. Prue doesn't want to go to the barbecue and it's not about Justin or his family. It's about her unresolved conflict with Dad. Pure wonders why everything in her life is being pinned on her feelings for her father or lack thereof. The youngest Halliwell has a theory: Prue keeps telling them about how she's okay with his absence to convince herself. Having experienced something similar herself gave her the clue. Prue doesn't believe it. Cole was a different matter. Her feelings about Dad are in the past, and he has no place in her present. Phoebe wonders if that's why Justin's being punished because of it. Then the song shows up like a bad penny. It's being hummed by a little girl playing in the fountain. Prue rushes off to ask the girl with Phoebe close behind. The girl just points to... the Ice Cream Truck. Phoebe, amused that her sister had that kind of melody in her mind all the time, now wants to get back to the discussion about why Prue won't go to the barbecue. Prue's attention is elsewhere... and is the little girl's as she races to meet the Truck. She looks almost hypnotized. Prue begins to wonder what's wrong with the picture. An ice cream truck doing its round in winter, no one else is moving to meet it, a little kid wanting ice cream when it's chilly, and no parents to speak of to care about why she's running to the Truck. Phoebe's puzzled, wondering if Prue fancies a snow cone. She reminds her that they're in the middle of an important conversation, lunch had ended five minutes ago, and she'd just finished obsessing over a damned piece of music. Prue knows better. She's got a bad case of déjà vu. She's lived this before. Prue races after the kid and the Truck. Phoebe's irritated. First weird tunes, now flashbacks. Wasn't she supposed to be the careless one in the family?
They finally meet up with the Truck and see the girl just about to be sucked into it. They manage to wrestle her to the ground. She's safe... for about 15 seconds. The Ice Cream Man freaks out and then the vortex sucks all three girls into the Truck. After a flash of light and some disorientation, Prue and Phoebe find themselves in the woods during high winter. The big worry is not if they're not in the truck, but maybe they still are. All around the woods the cries of frightened children, wind, and other unnatural noise disturbs both Charmed Ones. They find a playground with swings, a slide, and some teeter-totters swaying against forces not of this earth. Suddenly, the dread gets heavy. They run into the Ice Cream Man and try to use their powers. It goes from bad to worse. No powers, no powers, no powers. Before they can resort to more physical means, the Ice Cream Man looks to the sky. He doesn't like what he sees and runs off for cover. Phoebe reckons they're not the reason he fled. They soon meet a little boy, ranting about the Nothing. It is a very bad thing. It comes at its own time, and takes whomever it feels like taking, and no matter how well hid you are, once you're taken all that's left of you is... nothing. Still, he offers to hide them in a safe place as the Nothing begins its latest round. Prue sees the little girl who was taken with them trying to reach safety and stumbling to the ground. Before she can save her, the girl screams and is sucked into the Nothing, her features melting away like snow in spring. This shocks her. Phoebe tells her it wasn't her fault, there just wasn't time to save her. They'll have to be better prepared the next time, powers or no powers. The boy's intrigued. Perhaps the Witches are there to save him and his friends. If the Ice Cream Man didn't want them, then they have the power to help them escape. They'll have to talk later. They have to move. The Nothing will be coming back. It always comes back.
Piper makes yet another call to Prue at P3. She's worried. The magazine called and said she didn't check back in after the shoot and Piper's left messages to Phoebe as well. Then, Mr. Shyness shows up and things get very tense. Piper leaves a message to Prue to either call up or rather show up to save her from having to perform a very awkward rejection by herself. She hangs up the phone and meets her "friend" He introduces himself as Caleb and he's new in town, looking for someone special. He even apologizes for interrupting her call to... Piper mentions about her very large, very jealous fiancé who comes in regularly. She's flattered by the persistence and gentle manner. Perhaps if it were another time or place, they would have gone for a cup of coffee and nice chat. Maybe he would be interested in meeting her two single VERY single sisters. Caleb's intrigued. Maybe they all can get together sometime and have the fiancé come along. Does he hang with the sisters too? Piper recognizes the old Monty Python "Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Know what I mean?" routine. She didn't like it the first time she saw it, and likes it even less now. She suggests that maybe he should go to the other club across the street, the "happy" one with the cages and the rubber flooring and its delightful "3 for 2" Friday special. Caleb's confused by this. He's not interested in that... whatever the Hell she's talking about. Maybe he was misunderstood by what he meant. Piper gently but firmly tells him to come another time. She's a little busy right now... with stacking and stuff. Caleb, at loss for words, agrees and goes off to whatever business he had at hand. Piper's exhausted. She needs her sisters now!
Prue, Phoebe, and the boy are going around in circles in their Winter Wonder Hell. That's how the Nothing gets you, the kid warns. Phoebe slaps her sister's arm, asking why she can't get a boy-band's song in her head like normal people. When asked about the Ice Cream Man, the boy doesn't know much. He caught him and his friends and he might be in charge of the Nothing, but that's about it. The child is glad the sisters are here. They just might be able to help them escape. He goes off to get his friends. Phoebe touches a chain on the swing set and has a premonition. It's the same dream Prue had about being lost in this Ice Age as a young girl and her father rescuing her. She tells her sister this and suddenly things get a little murkier.
Safe at home, Piper calls up Leo repeatedly. He orbs-in, wondering what's the fuss about. He can't be at her beck and call all the time. He has other clients to attend to. Piper then tells him what happened (or rather what NOT happened) to Prue and Phoebe and asks if he could his ESP to locate them. She's probably paranoid, but they haven't returned her call and they've been gone since lunch and... Leo closes his eyes and searches the world. He finds no trace of either sister. It's as if they vanished from the face of the earth. Suddenly, Piper's Spider Sense goes into four alarms.
The boy assembles his friends. Only two others are left. Prue figures the only way out is through the Ice Cream Man. She spots him close by and tells the kids to stay low while she and Phoebe confront him. They run after the "Good Humor Man" through the playground and find a startling but hopefully sign. On top of the slide is an opening... an opening to the street outside! It's a way out. The kids come out of hiding and one by one, Prue and Piper help them into the hole. They're the last ones to leave, with the Ice Cream Man chasing after them. They mistake his cries of fear and terror for rage. Once outside, the Man grabs the nearest kid and tries to bring him back into the playground. The boy... gives an evil smile and burns the Man with his dark magic. He falls back screaming, his hands blistered. Phoebe and Prue suddenly realize something's wrong. Phoebe mutters 'Oh, my God!' and the lad laughs 'Not quite. Just the opposite'. Prue wants to keep him from the others, but soon realizes he's not the only one with a secret. The other two are just as bad as he is. They could've just killed them outright, but they feel a little generous today. They just thank the Witches for their 'help' and run off laughing. It's now officially a bad day.
Leo and Piper try to make the best of a bad situation. Yeah, the sisters are together, but Piper has a list of bad mojo a mile long. They've been gone all night and even the good Whitelighter can't find them. Leo figures they'll be coming through the door any minute with a reasonable explanation. What do you know? Prue and Phoebe do walk and get a group hug. The love can only last for a moment. Urgent business is afoot.
Phoebe gives the Cliff's Notes about how they tried to help the good guys from the bad guy, but in the process helped out the real bad guys who posed as good guys. Leo's confused, but that must wait. They must consult the Book of Shadows. Prue and Phoebe find nothing about the kids. Piper muses over the idea of a demonic dogcatcher using ice cream as bait. She pities the lactose intolerant demons that'd get in his way. The Charmed Ones soon find a whole page on the Ice Cream Man. He's mortal who uses the Devil's Chords, a series of musical notes that can charm demonic kids when played in the correct sequence... like moths to the flame or, as Phoebe puts it, moths to the Nothing.
The Nothing is also mentioned as the only way to vanquish the little devils. Piper's "thrilled" about it. Nothing like dealing with pint size bad asses. The reason why the Ice Cream Man was in the playground in the first place leaving the back door open was to save the Witches from the Nothing. Phoebe spells it in plain English: basically a vacuum cleaner of the Gods, It doesn't discriminate between good and evil. It just tastes the same. The mood gets black. The only person able to correct this mistake is right now wounded and possibly Nothing bait. None of their powers have any use inside and they can't open it because the door is entuned to a mortal's hand. Phoebe then recalls her premonition of Prue and Victor long ago. The oldest Halliwell is moody now. The first time she really needs him now and he's nowhere! Phoebe drops a bombshell to that: He has been in San Francisco all the time. In fact, he's been in town for the last three months. She's been talking to him via the Net Instant Message service for some time. She regrets not telling her sisters soon, but she could never find the right time to tell them. Well, it's the right time now and they have no choice in the matter. Phoebe scrambles out the laptop and starts writing an urgent email.
The kids are busy catching up with new killing. In fact, the main target of their rage is, surprise, ice cream man. One of them met a very grisly and fiery death by one of the kids. Unfortunately, the lead kid is not amused by this wanton killing. He likes carnage like the next demon, but right now they have to be smart and find the REAL Truck. Killing every ice cream man in town and leaving a mess will attract attention. About the only ones that might deserve killing is the Charmed Ones, but only if they're dumb enough to defend the Truck. For now, they have to play it cool and stop killing "poor" mortals for sport... at least until they get the Truck. He asks the girl to clean up the corpse. She blows it a kiss and it turns to dust. The leader's pleased. Someone's using his or her head for once.
Breaking out some bottled water at the P3 bar, Piper dubs the place "Club Switzerland." The joke falls flat on Prue. She didn't want her father at the house, so the club was the most logical place. To her, this is simply business not family. If Victor has any useful information, she'll thank him kindly... and then bid him on his way. Piper sees someone she wished would go on his way. She scolds Caleb, wondering which part of his hint-taking brain was improperly wired. Caleb just wondered if it was a good time now.
Leo shows up just in time, telling the clueless chap he has a phone call. He'll happily escort him to the office to take. Piper is relieved as the two depart. She mutters about not having anyone killed today. The other sisters would if maybe Piper needs to get laid more often. Daddy finally arrives, a little grayer a little older but glad to see his daughters. He gets a bear hug from Phoebe and compliments Piper on the place. Prue's not the mood for family vibes. She just wants to cut to the chase. Piper tries to reason some five minutes of family chat, but Prue's not buying. She can do the bonding another time... if ever. After all, Victor's a businessman and he doesn't want to be detained any longer than necessary.
Victor's hurt by this callous attitude. When first asked about the playground, he draws a blank. After some prodding, the memory comes back and he doesn't like it. Victor asks Prue to let it go. She's not as willing as her "father" to drop things midstream. She made a mistake and wants to correct it in a hurry. They're big Witches now and they can handle themselves. Victor reminds her that they're still his girls and he has every right to worry about them. After a moment of awkwardness, he tells the tale: Yes, he was there and went after Prue and that was the last thing he ever did as their father. Prue was six and sick with a cold. Her mother had to run some errands and took the others with her, so he volunteered to keep watch and take care of his precious bundle. He read her a story, but after a page or two, the cold put her to asleep, so he left her bedroom. He even kissed her on the forehead. He didn't hear her leave her room. He figured she needs some water or attention. She heard the Truck's tune. He noticed a truck stopping by a few times, but didn't think much about it. Prue then saw the Truck take a little boy not much older than her and tried to save him. Victor freaked out and rushed in to rescue her. He was over his head and damned near got him and his daughter killed... but he saved her, at the loss of all three when Grams suggested they started using their powers. He was opposed to this. Grams found out about the Truck and how he was almost killed saving Prue and reasoned being their dad wasn't enough. Knowing that only a mortal hand can open the back door of the Truck, they decide to go to the alleyway, rescue the Ice Cream Man, and help him recapture the little devils.
As they walk downtown, Prue expresses her displeasure. At least if things go to Hell, she now knows the exact time things went wrong between her and her father. Piper rationalizes the situation. If he can open the door, they need him. Prue gives her own rationalization: He opens the door, they save the day, they get on with their lives. This is a one-time effort, not to be repeated. Piper sardonically compliments her on her handle of things. Behind the dark cloud Prue's makings, Phoebe and her dad bond. Victor wonders why she was so eager to talk to him even after all the grief he caused. It's one thing to give a second chance, but being a repeat offender shouldn't offer clemency. Phoebe tells him he had no choice in matter. She knew he loved them and it tore at his heart leaving them so soon. Victor holds back a tear and embraces his daughter. Love renews itself once more.
They find the alleyway, but no Truck. They do find some unpleasant company. Seems the kids are trying to find it too. The girl blows another kiss and the family Halliwell gets knocked off their feet. Prue cracks about having the brats grounded. As Phoebe and Piper chase after their fleeing demons, Prue tries to figure out what happened to the Truck. She's at a loss. Victor then reminds her that not everything is involved with magic. He points to the tow away zone sign on the wall. The Truck's in the impound yard. In the cover of darkness, Prue and Victor break in and find the Truck. She tries to use her telekinesis and her hand in opening the back, but it still remains locked. Victor's reluctant to try his luck. After all, chasing demons is not his day job. Prue then asks him to focus on opening the door and not fret over what's behind it. The man closes his eyes, grips on the handle... and it turns! The door opens and they both step inside.
Prue and Victor are back to the playground. Unfortunately, they can't find the Ice Cream Man anywhere. Prue fears the Nothing may have got him. Victor shares her concern, remembering what did it the last time he was in this place. If they can't him, they may have to leave before the Nothing gets them. For once, Prue's in agreement with him. A weak voice seconds the emotion. It's the Ice Cream Man, badly wounded from his burns and exposure. They rush to his side. It's not good. Prue begs forgiveness for her rash act, but the Ice Cream Man has some of his own. After all, she was a Charmed One. She didn't know the innocents she was saving had a hidden agenda.
Startled, she asks him how he knew about her. Seems they have the same friends in the Higher Powers. When she and Phoebe were captured by accident, he got the call and tried to rescue them. Sensing the Nothing growing near, the three decide to make for the slide. The Ice Cream Man starts giving out instructions... almost like he was giving a last request to a fellow warrior. The kids are to be returned to the playground.
He had disabled the Truck, in case any of them had plans to trash it. The sound system needs to be reactivated in order to ensnare the kids. He asks Prue to check his shirt pocket. She pulls out an oddly shaped fuse. It's for the sound system. Hearing the Nothing breathing down his neck, he pushes Prue and Victor out of harm's way. He tells them he can be replaced, but they can't. The Nothing snatches the Ice Cream Man away, his screams echoing over the playground for only a moment. Prue's stunned by this selfless act, but Victor brings her back to reality. She didn't fail him. But, if they don't return to their world and finish the job, the Ice Cream Man's sacrifice will be for naught. He is owed that much. They continue their way to the slide.
Phoebe and Piper find the kids in a dark part of the park. Piper bitches about why demons can't find a well-lit room with nowhere to hide. Hidden from sight, they overhear the kids' plan to take out the Truck once and for all. Piper muses about how they just crashed their party and that this wasn't a hunt for the Charmed Ones. Phoebe figures they have an advantage of knowing the Truck's location... until the leader tells them they're gonna hit the impound yard. Piper figures they have an advantage in numbers and height... until three more kids show up. Time for the Halliwells to get reinforcements and save Prue and Dad.
The Witches arrive at the impound yard, worrying that the kids have beat them to it and that they already know they're there. Piper hears one of the demons laugh, and wonders if it was funny or if they were trying to scare them. Phoebe knows they have to run interference for Prue and Dad until they come back with the Ice Cream Man. Piper asks if she had a premonition of their victory and whether she should stop shaking now. The kids play shock games like running their nails against the steel car frames and running around. One of them gets a hold of a tool and knocks out Piper. Phoebe's pissed and off balanced. She can't handle this alone.
Prue and Victor make it to the slide... just as the Nothing captures her in its grip. Prue cries out for her dad, and Victor holds onto his daughter for dear life. The Nothing tries hard to take her into its embrace, but a father's love is stronger than any Netherworld creature. In the end, the beast relents and Victor is triumphant. He has saved Prue once again, the first act of his renewed fatherhood.
Phoebe's now surrounded by the demon kids and they show no mercy. She can do little against them. She's knocked out by the kissing demon and is about to get fired... when Prue and her father barge out of the Truck's rear. She pushes all six kids away with her telekinesis and hands the fuse over Victor. He figures eight years of fixing her mother's car is enough to puzzle where this piece goes. Prue and Phoebe cover him, giving little 'Missy' another shove of telekinetic whoop ass into the fence. Victor opens the hood and searches for the proper slot to fit the fuse. The girls have to duck and cover as a boy throws a stream of flame at them. The lead kid sees what Victor's doing and decides to give him a terminal hot foot. Instead, the demon is yanked out of reach by an appreciative Prue. Simple payback for debts recent and long ago. Dad saves the day by correctly reinserting the fuse. The Devil's Cord plays and all the little devils stop their fighting. They follow the tune to the delivery window and the vortex sucks every single screaming brat right back to the Hell they richly deserve. When the last of their corruptive influence is gone, the window closes. The Ice Cream Man has been avenged.
The family Halliwell comes out from the dust of battle, with Piper having a splitting headache. She asks if she ever wants to have kids to remind of this day. Leo and Caleb show up, a surprise to everyone. Caleb thanks everyone for fixing his wheels... for he's the new Ice Cream Man. As Caleb puts on his uniform jacket, Leo fills everyone in. The reason why Caleb was harassing Piper was not for love; it was professional. He's the replacement for the old Ice Cream Man and he got lost. He couldn't blow his cover by asking Piper "Are you a Charmed One? I need to find my demon-catching truck?" outright without some proof. Piper's a little embarrassed by her quick judgment but is relieved for his forgiving nature. That's how the Ice Cream Man works. Caleb's running a little late, so he gives his hurried thanks and farewells and goes on his rounds. As he leaves to make the world safe for mortals and fudge ripple, Phoebe jokes she'll never look at a creamsicle the same again. There's a hearty laugh from everyone. The next morning is bittersweet for the Halliwells... all the Halliwells. The family bonds have been renewed, but Victor has to leave. He hugs Phoebe. She asks that he continues writing, and he tells her not to keep it a secret. She doesn't have to hide anything. This shakes her a little, the memory of faking Cole's death still fresh in her mind. Victor's impressed by Piper's new beau, asking about him. She simply replies that he's an extraordinary gentleman. Still, he will have a little talk with the young man sometime. It's a father's prerogative. Prue will not say good-bye... just see you soon. At last, she gives her father a forgiving bear hug. The weight of her heart has been lifted somewhat. Victor then tells them the reason why he came back to San Francisco. His new job will have him based close to the Halliwells. He will be doing some traveling, but if they're willing to renew their relationship, then maybe the town will be big enough for the four of them. Everyone's in agreement. His cab arrives and Victor... Dad leaves with a glad heart. They have so much to catch up on.
And this time, it will be different. Very different.