In a darkened room, a woman lights a cigarette for another woman, and asks, "How are you feeling today?" The smoker replies, "You let me smoke. What more can I ask for?" The therapist sits down across from her patient, whose face is obscured by shadow. After some small talk about the patient's prospects of being released from the facility, the therapist says, "I'd like to talk about Adam. He's still missing."
The patient refuses to help find Adam, and the therapist asks, "Why not? What more do you need to hide?" The patient replies, "I'm not hiding anything. And I think the better question would be, what are you looking for, Dr. Reid?" Spencer Reid steps out of the shadows and replies, "I think you know what I'm looking for. I am looking for Adam....This isn't about being smart. This is about doing the right thing." The patient says, "I did the right thing."
Rewind to seven days ago, on South Padre Island off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas. It's spring break, and the college kids are out partying in full force. Among them is Dan, who takes advantage of his girlfriend's delayed arrival to pick up an attractive brunette in the lobby of the Hudson Street Hotel. They go to his room, where he lies face down on the bed tied to the bedposts as she caresses him tenderly. Outside the kids continue to enjoy themselves, but in the hotel room Dan is having anything but a good time. He struggles helplessly against his bonds, a gag muffling his terrified screams as someone covers his head with a plastic bag.
In the hotel lobby, maintenance worker Adam adjusts his tool belt as he exits the elevator. The manager calls him over to the front desk, where she's taken over for ailing desk clerk Madison. Another guest has checked out early, and she directs Adam to clean the room before clocking out for the night. Adam says, "What, I'm a cleaning lady now?" The manager replies, "I'm your boss, and you'll be whatever I want you to be." As Adam cleans the room, he finds clothes still in the dresser drawers. He opens the closet door, sees more clothes hanging inside, and then recoils in horror at the sight of Dan's body curled up on the floor.
At BAU headquarters JJ briefs the team on the murder of Daniel Keller, a 21-year-old college junior on spring break in South Padre. He was the second person to be murdered at the Hudson Street Hotel in three nights. Both Keller and the first victim, William Browder, died of asphyxiation after being sexually assaulted. Their bodies were found by hotel staff, Keller's after online checkout indicated the room had been vacated. Apparently the killer wanted the body found sooner rather than later. Reid observes that both victims were naked and posed in the fetal position. Someone's sending a message. The team has to move fast to find this killer. If he's another vacationing student, he'll be gone when spring break ends that weekend. If he's a local, he'll disappear after his victim pool is gone.
"Light thinks it travels faster than anything. But it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always gotten there first and is waiting for it." Terry Pratchett.
On the jet JJ wonders if they should presume that the unsub or the victims could be gay. Reid says that's not necessarily true. In male rape sexual preference typically has less to do with the crime, than with the power and dominance the attacker feels from the act itself.
At the Hudson Street Hotel, Rossi, Morgan and Reid are greeted by manager Julie Riley. Desk clerk Madison Cooke watches from behind the registration desk as Julie talks to the agents. Julie shows them to Keller's room, then leaves to gather the hotel staff for interviews. Reid observes rope marks on the bedposts, indicating the victims were bound first. Was that consensual, or coerced?
Hotchner, JJ and Prentiss meet local police chief Reese Evans at the police station. William Browder's father has just arrived to claim his son's body, and Daniel Keller's girlfriend is expected within the hour. Evans, who hadn't wanted to give Mr. Browder too many details over the phone, is only too relieved when the team says they'll handle that when they interview him.
In the hotel room, Rossi, Morgan and Reid role play the subduing of Daniel Keller. Both Keller and William Browder were physically fit men. It seems unlikely that the unsub threatened them into submission with a weapon. Even if the victim complied with tying one of his wrists to the bedpost, the unsub would have had to tie the other and thus risk the victim's fighting back. Both victims' toxicology screens came back clean, so they weren't drugged into submission either. Again, was the binding consensual, or did the unsub have a partner?
Morgan observes that the unsub is learning quickly. He hid Keller's body in the closet and then indicated the room's occupants had checked out. When the housekeeper arrived everything looked normal and she began cleaning, wiping everything down and removing any fingerprints or DNA the unsub may have left.
Morgan and Reid find maintenance worker Adam Jackson on the hotel roof, nursing a migraine headache. Julie told them they could find him up there. He tells them he'd never seen either victim before, and he's been working at the Hudson for about six months.
At the police station Rossi, Hotchner and Prentiss compare notes. It doesn't appear that either Browder or Keller was gay. Keller's girlfriend told Prentiss that he was overtly sexual and aggressive toward women. That had caused big problems in the relationship, and Keller's friends in South Padre said he was definitely willing to overlook the fact that he had a girlfriend. Rossi is puzzled by the fact that both victims were strong athletic men, but there were no signs of a struggle. An alpha male confronted by two men would most likely fight. Seeing where Rossi's going, Hotchner says that this kind of guy wouldn't fight a woman. Prentiss realizes that the unsub is targeting sexually aggressive alpha males, and treating them the way they treat women. They're dealing with a team: a woman who lures the victims into a hotel room and ties them up, and a man who rapes and murders them.
At the Willard Beachside Resort, another young man picks up an attractive brunette wearing a sexy green dress. The next morning a friend finds Carl Cade's body in their hotel room closet, posed just like Browder and Keller. Rossi concludes that the unsubs changed hotels because they saw the BAU team at the Hudson.
The team gives the profile. At least one of the unsubs is either a guest or an employee of the Hudson Street Hotel. They're a dominant/submissive team of a man and a woman. He's a heterosexual who's probably submissive in his daily life with everyone except his partner, with whom he's dominant. She is submissive, socially awkward and emotionally unstable. They're targeting alpha personality males who think women are their right. The police have only two more days to find this team before spring break season ends.
Garcia has been reviewing Hudson security camera footage for clues. After finding nothing on the days Browder and Keller were killed, she checked video from prior days and hit the jackpot. The day before his murder, William Browder made aggressive advances toward hotel employee Madison Cooke at the pool. Just as Browder grabbed Madison, Adam Jackson came along and intervened. Browder knocked Adam down. After a pause, Adam got back up and shoved Browder into the pool. However, Adam told Morgan and Reid that he'd never met either Browder or Keller. Hotchner directs Garcia to check into Adam's background.
Rossi marches into the hotel office and confronts Madison about her run-in with Browder. She admits she didn't mention it because Julie said not to. Julie was trying to protect Madison and Adam. Asked where Adam is now, Madison answers that he's supposed to be on duty, but sometimes he disappears. He might be on the hotel roof.
Garcia learns Adam was born in Corpus Christi and his mother was a victim of spousal abuse. She was frequently in and out of the hospital, and died suddenly when Adam was five. Adam's biological father was unknown, so Adam was left in the custody of his stepfather Mark Harrison. Then it was Adam who was in and out of the hospital. He was eventually foster-homed in Dallas, until he was legally emancipated at age 16. Prentiss says she'd bet that back then, Harrison looked a lot like the current victims.
Morgan and Reid find Adam on the hotel roof and take him into custody. Despite Adam's seeming hardly like the dominant type, Morgan is convinced he's their guy. He fits the classic profile of someone with an abusive stepfather who eventually escapes from his bad situation. Suddenly he finds himself back in the area where his abuser lives, surrounded by alpha males who mirror the abuser's behavior. He snaps.
In the interrogation room Adam tells Reid he doesn't remember the fight with Browder. As Reid continues talking, Adam only becomes more agitated and insistent on talking to Julie. Meanwhile JJ learns that Adam lives as well as works at the Hudson. Julie took him in after he was kicked out of school for poor grades and petty theft, paying his bills and even bailing him out of jail twice. When Julie was in college, she volunteered at the foster care facility where Adam had lived between foster homes.
Hotchner phones Garcia to trace Julie's last known location through her credit card, cell phone or ATM card. At another hotel Julie picks up a young man on the dance floor. Eventually they walk off the floor and right into Rossi and Hotchner. Rossi says to the man, "Believe me, kid, this is your lucky night."
Return briefly to the therapist's office. The patient feels no remorse for what she's done; her victims got what they deserved. She refuses to tell Reid how he can find Adam, because "he's in a better place now."
In the interrogation room, Reid continues to press Adam about the fight with Browder. Adam says he does and he doesn't remember the incident. He remembers trying to stop Browder from grabbing Madison, and the next thing he knew Julie was pulling him out of the pool. Meanwhile, Julie tells Hotchner that she told Madison and Adam to lie because of Adam's criminal record. She had feared that if the FBI found out, they'd take the easy way out and try to pin the murders on Adam. She's taken care of Adam because he's had a rough life. Both of them insist they aren't lovers, and agree to take a polygraph test. Except for one hiccup on Adam's test, both of them pass with flying colors.
While the polygraph tests are in progress, Reid studies the hotel security footage of the fight between Browder and Adam. Across the room Reid sees Julie and Adam signing paperwork before being released, and Adam fixes him with an unyielding stare. Reid then notices that on the video, Adam had had a similar fierce expression before getting up and shoving Browder into the pool.
At the hotel Adam says goodbye to Julie at her office. After he leaves, she returns to the corridor. The team gathers at the police station, at a total loss since both of their prime suspects passed the polygraph exam. While the team talk among themselves, Julie goes to Adam's room and finds rope and a green dress. Reid theorizes that their unsub couple isn't a couple, but one person with multiple personalities. The hiccup on Adam's polygraph test was his alter ego surfacing briefly. Reid shows the others the security video and points out that Adam's initial intervention with Browder was timid. But after Adam was knocked down, his entire body language changed and he became more aggressive. The stare down from Adam before he left the police station, was the alter ego making itself known to Reid. The alter ego killed the victims; Adam has no idea what's happened.
Julie goes up to the roof and confronts Adam with the dress and rope she found in his closet. She's totally confused and agitated now. What's going on? Did a woman get Adam involved in this? If he turns her in, Julie might be able to help him. Julie suggests they go to the police together, and Adam refuses. She then threatens to go alone, and Adam answers in a woman's voice. "My name is Amanda. Adam doesn't need you any more."
The team returns to the Hudson in search of Adam. A bloodied and badly injured Julie lies in the shrubbery behind the hotel, where she landed after Amanda pushed her off the roof. She tells Hotchner and Prentiss about the change in Adam's behavior and his calling himself Amanda. Recalling his own experience with Tobias and Charles Hankel, Reid realizes that Amanda is now going after the man her victims represent: Mark Harrison, Adam's abusive stepfather.
Harrison still lives in Corpus Christi. The police race to his house and find him in the bedroom, kneeling on the bed with a plastic bag over his head and Amanda holding a knife to his throat. She tells them that when Harrison transferred his spousal abusiveness to his stepson, he made Adam wear dresses and touched him inappropriately. Adam couldn't face the abuse alone, so the stronger Amanda emerged to withstand it for him and protect him.
Reid implores Amanda to release Harrison, and she and Adam will get the help they need. Amanda replies that Adam will be sentenced for what she's done, and she can't let that happen. She takes the knife from Harrison's throat and puts it to her own. Reid points out that if she kills herself she'll kill Adam too; how is that protecting him? Amanda replies, "You can't help him. I'm the only one. I know what I have to do. I will keep him safe forever." She releases Harrison and drops the knife, locking eyes with Reid as Morgan cuffs her. As Reid repeatedly calls out, "Adam? Adam?" Morgan says, "Reid…he's gone."
Later Reid ponders the fact that they arrested the victim and let the abuser go free. After his experience with Tobias/Charles Hankel, he feels he should have recognized sooner that their two unsubs could exist in one person. If he had, they might have saved Adam. Reid is certain that Adam's still locked in there somewhere. Morgan is sympathetic, and realistic. "Kid, you're gonna have to accept the fact that sometimes we can't save everyone."
Return again to the therapist's office. The patient says, "Tell me, Dr. Reid, how long will you keep visiting me in here?" Reid replies, "Until I find Adam." The patient rises from the sofa and looks him directly in the eye. The body is Adam Jackson's, but the personality and physical appearance are Amanda in long brunette wig and makeup. Reid says he's not trying to wear Amanda down into releasing Adam; he's just waiting for her to do the right thing. Amanda replies, "Well, I'm afraid you'll be waiting for a very long time."
Stephen King wrote, "Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us. And sometimes they win."