In Ward 5, Houston, Texas, teen-aged vandals are breaking glass and spraying graffiti on the walls at a construction site when a security guard fires one shot into the air. The young people scatter, and the security guard chases them down. He trips and, as he picks himself up, he hears a noise behind him. Aiming his gun at the sound, he tells the person to come out. A figure grabs him from behind and cleanly and efficiently snaps his neck and steals his gun.
The briefing is already going on at BAU headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. JJ explains that Houston's 5th Ward is the home of increasing gang violence – it accounts for the city's growing homicide rate. Hotchner, Gideon, Morgan and Prentiss look on as she displays three murder victims – "Three men, three different socioeconomic groups, all killed on the streets with their necks snapped." There's no apparent connection between the victims, or motives. Reid enters casually, drinking coffee. The team members look at him, as if expecting an explanation, but he remains quiet, keeping his eyes from the pictures of the victims. JJ continues - this isn't gang violence – the gangs use guns. Gideon notes how different the victims are: "A homeless man, a construction worker, and a security guard." Reid comments sarcastically, "We have no evidence, no apparent interaction between the unsub and the victims pre- or post-mortem and an indistinguishable M.O. It should be simple."
Back in Ward 5, the unsub is hiding.
On the BAU jet, Morgan, reviewing the three different victims, wonders who the unsub is targeting. Reid describes one attribute of a blitz attacker – that he lacks the interpersonal skills he would need to lure the victims close – and mentions the killer used the "element of surprise," which may mean he stalked the victims. Morgan and Gideon go to the last crime scene, to see if they can find where the killer was hiding, and the rest of the team go to police headquarters. Reid volunteers to work on the geographical profile of the crime scenes. When Prentiss offers to help him, he becomes defensive and tells her harshly that he doesn't need any help. Hotchner steps in and orders him to work with Prentiss. The team doesn't comment, but they all notice the distinct change in Reid's behavior. Hotchner warns everyone that Ward 5 is a very high crime area, and no one should work alone.
As the team drives through the 5th Ward, the crumbling of the neighborhood is apparent in abandoned buildings, homeless people, and graffiti. Morgan and Gideon arrive at the last crime scene and meet Det. Fuller, who thanks them for their help. He tells them about the vandalized area, and that it looks like something kids would do. Morgan walks off to check an abandoned building for signs of the unsub. A woman brings her son, Kelvin, to speak with the detective. She knows he was involved in the vandalism there, and she's brought him to explain himself. She is surprised to find out there was a murder and is even angrier at her son, but Kelvin explains the security guard was alive when he ran off. After more questions, Gideon tells Kelvin he can go, to the surprise of his mother and Det. Fuller. Explaining this, Gideon says, "A boy that frightened of his mother and that slight doesn't have the skill, courage, or height to kill the way this unsub does."
Morgan returns and leads Det. Fuller and Gideon through the abandoned building to a 'nest' made by someone who stayed there recently.
At the precinct, Reid is working on a map of the crime scene locations as JJ enters with a plate of cookies made by one of the police officer's wives. The loud construction noises bother Reid, who slams closed a window to try to keep them out. Construction is going on around the clock as the area tears down homes and community centers for 'regentrification' efforts. Gideon, Morgan, and Det. Fuller enter the room, and Gideon moves to the map near Reid, explaining that the unsub may be homeless – he may be one of the people who have been displaced because of the construction. They will check the names of anyone kicked out his home, while Gideon sends Prentiss and Reid to homeless shelters in the area, looking for a particularly violent man. Prentiss asks Reid if he minds, and he impatiently replies that he's fine with the idea.
Hotchner asks Morgan to check on any thefts of comfort items in the immediate area. Walking out into the precinct, Morgan sees how busy all the officers are, and calls Garcia. "Are you lonely in the Lone Star State? And are you wearing chaps?" "Only in your dreams," Morgan answers. He asks her to check thefts and burglaries in the area, instead of asking the already stretched police there. He also asks her to look for before and after pictures of any demolition in the area going back one week.
A 5th Ward community center is being torn down as local residents watch. The noise and falling debris wake the unsub who is sheltering in a sewer tunnel nearby. He glances up and sees the image of a young boy in the tunnel for a moment before a jackhammer sends more pieces of the tunnel roof down around him. A construction worker opens a manhole and climbs down into the sewer. The unsub silently grabs him from behind and snaps his neck.
Gideon, Morgan and Det. Fuller arrive at the crime scene where the construction worker, Travis Overby, was killed. Standing above the manhole, Gideon looks at Morgan and says, "Someone has to go down." Reluctantly, Morgan climbs into the manhole. He finds that the unsub had cleaned that area of the sewer and had made another 'nest' there – with blankets and other materials. Gideon believes he had made a temporary home there, and when the jackhammer knocked some of the concrete ceiling loose, he saw a threat and attacked. This is why the victims are so random – he saw them as threats to his hiding places. They go on to examine the other crime scenes.
Prentiss and Reid arrive at the 12th Street Shelter and speak to Annie, one of the administrators. She tells them their sign-in sheet is voluntary and people don't use their real names. "Elvis eats here a lot." Reid asks about anyone at the shelter who might have acted unusually aggressive. He tells her the murderer they are looking for may be a homeless man who has stayed there, and may even be in the room with them right now. Very upset, Angie tells them there are territorial people who fight over food or clothing, although there isn't anyone who seems like he really wants to hurt anyone else. Reid gives her his business card and leaves abruptly, leaving Prentiss to try to explain that the investigation is still ongoing and that no one has been hurt in a shelter. Outside the shelter, Prentiss confronts Reid about his behavior - that he didn't have to try to scare the woman. Reid defends his words, saying she should be put on her guard. Prentiss challenges him, saying, "What is the matter with you? I've never seen you act like this." Reid haughtily replies, "Oh really, in the months that you've known me you've never seen me act this way? No offense, Emily, but you don't really know what you're talking about, do you?"
Back at the precinct, Hotchner tells the two what Gideon has found – the unsub is not homeless, but he is killing people to protect his "make-shift" homes. Before they can give a profile, they need to know how he's learned to kill so efficiently. They need him to make a mistake.
Behind Ramos' Pipe and Supply, Mr. Ramos carries out the trash to the dumpster. He sees someone hiding between his dumpsters and yells at him, demand that he move away. He threatens him with a wooden plank, and the unsub jumps out and grabs Mr. Ramos from behind. Ramos' daughter, Maria, screams "Papa!," which distracts the unsub and he lets Ramos go. The unsub slams Ramos in the face before approaching the girl.
Ramos is rushed into the police station with his daughter, telling them about his attack. Prentiss and Hotchner speak gently with Maria, asking her about the bad man. She says he looked sad, and asked her if she was okay and why she was crying. She describes him as a tall white man, who was dirty and wore a wedding ring like Hotchner's. Her abuela arrives to take her home.
Garcia calls to share satellite pictures of the demotion areas Morgan had asked her about, and they notice an SOS on the roof of the building where the security guard had been killed. The construction noises outside and the SOS tell the team this man was a war veteran, who he thinks he is in a war zone. Hotchner and the team at the precinct call Morgan and Gideon, who are on their way to look at the crime scenes with Det. Fuller. The attacks are consistent with military tactics. In his mind, the unsub is reliving an experience he had in a war zone that resembles the 5th Ward. He may not be aware of what he's doing.
Reid explains the various forms of post traumatic stress disorder that have plagued men since World War I – from shell shock to battle fatigue. One side effect of the disorder is slipping into disassociative states – leaving reality so he can deal with the trauma. He is trapped in his head in a war zone, hiding and defending himself from the enemy. The only clue they have is that he is married, so someone may have filed a missing persons' report on him.
Gobbling down food from a garbage bag, the unsub hides as a couple walks by. Again he thinks he sees the young black boy surrounded by fire and tells him he shouldn't be out there – it isn't safe - before the boy disappears.
At the precinct, JJ introduces Dana Woodridge and Max Weston – Dana's husband, Roy Woodridge, has been missing since Tuesday. He had phoned on his way home from work and sounded upset. Roy and Max served in Mogadishu together – they were Army Rangers when the fighting "went bad" in 1993. Reid asks if Roy displayed any behavioral tics – certain things that make him jumpy or startled. Max relates that Roy doesn't like loud noises, he can't be in crowds, he has nightmares, and the smell of something burning makes him sick. Max won't tell them what happened to the two in Somalia and leaves to get some water. Gideon follows him.
Gideon asks Max if Roy was a changed man recently – paranoid, distant. Max tried to get Roy to go to a veterans' center, but he wouldn't. Gideon wants to know what Roy is reliving from Somalia.
Hotchner tells Mrs. Woodridge that some people had been hurt recently by someone who thinks he is in a war zone. Garcia calls, and describes a '02 white Ford F-150 pickup that had been found with a flat tire near Lions Street, a quarter mile from Highway 59. Mrs. Woodridge identifies it as Roy's truck, and says he drove the Eastex Freeway to work everyday.
Max finally admits to Gideon what had happened in Somalia. They were escorting an aid caravan to a refugee camp when the convoy was ambushed. For two days they ran, hid in abandoned buildings, with fire and gunfire all around them. Roy kept watch as Max slept. When he woke up, there was a rifle pointed at him. Roy snapped the neck of the person with the rifle, only to find it was an eleven-year-old boy. They finally found a radio, fixed it and called for an extraction. Max tells Gideon that Roy knows how to hide, and he won't miss with a gun.
In an abandoned building in the 5th Ward, Roy hides and sees visions of the fires in Somalia, and the young boy he had killed.
Gideon asks for a SWAT team to go building to building and find Roy. Reid is concerned that, seeing the guns of the SWAT team, Roy may try to fight them. Mrs. Woodridge sees the SWAT teams gearing up to find her husband. JJ confesses that Roy has actually murdered people. Mrs. Woodridge begs JJ, "Help him, please help him." JJ says they'll do everything they can.
On the map, Reid explains how Roy became confused in the ward. He had left the freeway to repair his flat tire and, while he was fixing it, a building had been imploded five blocks away. The sound of the explosion was what had triggered his dissociation – hiding and running from his perceived enemies. Hotchner empathizes, "He's reliving the worst moment of his life… he's gotta be terrified." Garcia calls with burglary reports – nothing unusual had been stolen, just the things one would expect with one exception - one communications radio – hand-held – was stolen.
Hotchner and Gideon brief the SWAT teams, explaining that Roy is an expert marksman and no one should try to apprehend him alone, when Reid rushes in to tell them about the radio. Max tells them it was probably Roy who stole the radio. The two were eventually rescued after stealing and repairing a radio. Max tells the team about codes they had developed to identify friendly radio traffic. Max volunteers to help monitor the radios. Det. Fuller wants to focus on the grid search since Roy has already killed four people, but Gideon asks for a chance to bring him in because Roy wants to be rescued.
Garcia views Nat-Recon satellite photos from the ward on her computer screens when the call from Roy comes in. Max talks with him on the radio and asks Roy for his coordinates. He has put up three large colored flags, identical to one another, to triangulate his position. Garcia finds the flags – and triangulates on the corner of Farmer and Capron Streets. Det. Fuller will have construction stopped in the area, and Max tells Roy they are coming to rescue him.
SWAT, the police, and the BAU race to the location, and sweep the area of civilians. Roy sees the helicopter in the air and believes he's being rescued. Hotchner, Morgan, and an unarmed Gideon approach him. Max tells Roy it's time to come in, and Roy begins walking towards them, carrying a handgun at his side. Suddenly, a jackhammer starts up again, and Roy reverts to a flashback of the fighting in Somalia. He just begins to come back to the present when a young boy on a bicycle rides towards him. Turning, Roy runs towards the boy. Morgan and Gideon rush towards him trying to stop the inevitable, but a sniper shoots him in the back. Gideon kneels beside him, and Roy asks if the boy's all right. "Yes, sergeant, the boy's all right." Roy then dies. Reid gets the call, looks at Prentiss and shakes his head. Mrs. Woodridge can tell what has happened by the look on JJ's face.
Det. Fuller thanks the team once more as they pack up to leave. No one is happy with the way this case turned out. Gideon isn't there, but Hotchner believes he knows where to find him.
At the corners of Farmer and Capron in the 5th Ward, Gideon sits on a park bench. Hotchner sits beside him, telling him the construction workers were taking the rest of the day off to honor all the victims. Gideon tells Hotchner about the first recorded war in 2700 B.C. and how, nearly 5000 years later, humans are still consistently good at killing each other. Hotchner reassures Gideon, "We did everything we could for him, you know." Gideon replies, "Sometimes knowing that just isn't good enough." A mural on a nearby building is a monument to fallen soldiers, reading, "Fallen but not Forgotten."
"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." Thomas Paine.
[Recap written by highwaykind and phf3947]