Joe Smith, an attractive, dark-haired man appears to be seducing a woman, caressing her and unbuttoning her blouse, but she is crying, and her hands are secured above her head.
JJ walks into Gideon's office and startles Reid awake. He had been there all night, asleep in a chair, waiting for Gideon. They had a chess match scheduled and Reid hasn't been able to reach Gideon on his cell phone. JJ is ready to brief the team on a new case, and Hotchner isn't due in the office for another half hour.
Haley brings Hotchner a cup of coffee as he sits at the dining room table watching his son, Jack, eat his cereal. Hotchner is dressed very casually, but Haley wonders if he's all right. She assures him that he's doing the right thing, and that getting suspended was a blessing in disguise. When she tells him that they deserve a normal life, he can only respond, "I love you."
When Morgan arrives in the BAU conference room, he looks around at JJ and Reid – the only team members present – and comments on the absence of Hotch and Gideon. JJ notes that Prentiss' phone is going straight to voice mail as well. Instead of waiting, they decide to go on with the briefing and discuss it with the absent members when they join them on the plane.
Milwaukee has had four murders in the last three weeks, and another woman has been missing since for the last two days. All of the victims have been women in their thirties, married, with children. All of the women were from Wauwatosa, and they were also all abducted from public places. They are sure they were all killed by the same person because all of the bodies have been dumped in the city's Third Ward in a similar fashion, and all of their hearts were cut from their bodies.
Joe Smith uses a red marker to draw a heart on the struggling woman's chest. He then picks up a hammer and chisel from a nearby workbench and approaches her as she screams.
"George Washington said, 'Let your heart feel for the affliction and distress of everyone.'"
Hotchner exits the elevator at the FBI offices in Quantico just as Morgan passes by with his ready bag. Morgan tells Hotchner this case is "an ugly one," and offers to catch him up, but Hotchner explains that he won't be going to Milwaukee; he is meeting with the Section Chief to request a transfer. He knows the Section Chief has been trying to get rid of him. Morgan is adamant that the team doesn't want a new Unit Chief, and the team needs Hotchner's leadership. Hotchner reaches out to shake Morgan's hand, saying "It's been a privilege."
Section Chief Strauss is pleased that Hotchner has requested a transfer, and she asks him to consider heading up a White Collar Crime Task Force. Prentiss walks in, interrupting the conversation. She apologizes for the interruption and advises Hotchner that she has decided to resign from the FBI effective immediately. Hotchner is shocked. Prentiss tells him she is taking the Foreign Service Exam and hopes to work for the State Department. Although Hotchner believes it is a mistake, Prentiss asks him not to try to talk her out of it – Garcia has already tried. There is clear tension between Section Chief Strauss and Prentiss, and Hotchner glances at the two as Prentiss pointedly comments that the team needs him back before she leaves the room.
Strauss tells Hotchner that she will be overseeing the current case the BAU team is working on – even with no field experience, she can protect the Bureau, "hold the team's hand," as she puts it. Even when Hotchner explains the team needs stability, Strauss states the rest of the team will function just fine without Hotchner and Gideon.
Reid, JJ, and Morgan sit together on the jet, as they discuss the case. Section Chief Strauss is seated away from them, reading the file. None of them has had the opportunity to speak with Prentiss since they found out about her resignation, and they still can't reach Gideon. Just as Reid questions Strauss' role on this case – since she was never in the field – she approaches them and sits next to him. She asked to be briefed before they arrive at the crime scene.
The unsub abducts women from very public places, holds them for 48 hours with no sexual assault, and then dumps the bodies in public places with their hearts carved out. Morgan places the very graphic crime scene photos in front of Strauss, and then watches her visceral reactions as she glances at the women's bodies. Reid talks about how the unsub has some skill and physical strength, but Morgan comments that although the unsub doesn't mind blood, he doesn't have surgical skills. Strauss asks if they have a working theory yet, and Morgan replies with sarcasm.
Garcia enters as Hotchner is cleaning out his office, and asks if she could talk him out of his decision. She places the Milwaukee file on his desk and tells him JJ asked her to give it to him - that she is following orders.
Morgan, Reid, JJ and Strauss arrive at the crime scene – the latest abductee's body has been found. They introduce themselves to Det. Vick Wolynski, and Reid recognizes his name. He had worked the Jeffrey Dahmer case 16 years earlier. The body was dumped between 7:50 and 8:05, the same time window as the others. Each was abducted from Wauwatosa in the afternoon and the body was dumped in the morning two days later. The area is heavily traveled, so the unsub must be driving a large truck or a van. Det. Wolynski mentions there are traces of paint or wood stain on the wrappings on the bodies. This woman had been abducted from a supermarket around the time she would usually be picking her son up from school. When Strauss criticizes the detective for taking so long to call in the BAU, JJ takes her aside and asks her not to antagonize the detectives the team will have to work with. Strauss tells JJ not to question her again.
Back at home, Hotchner cannot help but look through the case file that Garcia left him. Bloody photos are strewn across the coffee table as Haley walks in and demands to know what he is doing. She hurriedly turns the photographs face down as the phone rings. Hotchner answers, but no one replies. When he hangs up, Haley's cell phone in her purse rings, but she ignores it and insists that Hotchner stop any involvement with the BAU and take the 9-to-5 desk job Strauss has offered him. Hotchner glares at her as he watches her storms out of the house, carrying her purse with her.
Hotchner calls Morgan at the crime scene to see how things are going. Hotchner suggests that the time for the abductions and the body dumps revolve around the schedule of the Milwaukee school system - the unsub might work in the school system. Morgan tells him he still doesn't know if the unsub is coercing his victims or blitzing them, but he will keep Hotchner informed.
In a local department store, Claire is shopping for children's clothes when a small boy taps her on the back and startles her. He tells her he is looking for his father, and she agrees to help him. He leads her out the back door of the store where Joe Smith is waiting with a box cutter. He threatens to gut "the boy" if she doesn't ask to come home with them. Claire quickly asks, and Joe takes her arm and leads her away.
At police headquarters, Claire's husband has arrived. When he couldn't contact her by cell phone he went to the department store and found her abandoned car. Morgan calls Garcia to get her help in analyzing the department store security footage. She uploads the footage of Claire to Det. Wolynski's computer, and the team watches the young boy (David Smith) approach her and lead her out of the store. Wolynski will get a list of missing children to see if there is a resemblance to David. Morgan believes the unsub may be using his own son to lure his victims.
Morgan and Reid provide a profile to the Milwaukee police officers, and Morgan asks the officers to look for a van or truck because the unsub is able to shield his movements as he dumps the bodies. While gesturing at a large map on the wall, Reid tells the officers that, because of the locations of the abductions and body dumps, the unsub is very familiar with the areas and probably lives in one of them. The unsub is making a point by cutting their hearts out – it may be the sickest way he can think of to kill them. The important things to ask are what is the unsub doing with the women for 48 hours and why does he use his own son to abduct them. Morgan explains he probably has borderline personality disorder and believes that all relationships revolve entirely around him. People around him would definitely notice that he has violent mood swings, and may abuse alcohol.
Joe Smith's workshop contains hand-made boxes filled with liquid in which rest the hearts of his victims. He is showering and, still wet, he wraps a towel around himself before he approaches Claire. He removes the gag from her mouth and tells her they will go upstairs where she will be very, very nice to "the boy." He threatens her to get her compliance.
Hotchner's phone rings as he gives his son, Jack, a bowl of mac and cheese. Morgan tells him that Gideon is still missing, Reid's worrying about him, and the team really needs Hotchner to come out to Milwaukee and assist them. Morgan also tells him that his request for a transfer is not in the system yet, so he could come out. Morgan is desperate, but Hotchner tells him that he "has to think."
Claire stands in the kitchen of the Smith home, watching David work on a homework assignment. She is frightened and doesn't really know what to do. She offers to help David with his homework, but this angers Joe, and he tells her "the boy has got to learn to do things by himself." Joe and David leave her alone in the kitchen and she races to the doors and windows, searching for a way out, but everything is locked and bolted. She sees a postal carrier outside and pounds on the window, screaming for help, but the house is soundproofed and he doesn't hear her.
Hotchner moves quickly around his bedroom, taking his gun from the safe, and packing. Haley confronts him, and insists he stay home and not help with this case. Hotchner can't just turn his back on his team or the women who are in danger in Milwaukee. When he asks for some support from Haley, she refuses and tells him to kiss his son before he goes.
Hotchner has a stop to make before he heads out – Emily Prentiss' apartment. He tells her the team needs them both and neither of their job changes has gone through the system yet. She is surprised that he's put in for a transfer and wants to know why he's really there. Hotchner admits he suspects Section Chief Strauss was trying to get Prentiss to spy on the team for her because she thought Hotchner was a threat to her political aspirations in the FBI. He knows she could have told Strauss that Elle might have killed a suspect in cold blood or that Reid might have a serious drug problem that he didn't report. However, Strauss apparently had no real evidence, and, to Prentiss' credit, she wouldn't play along – that's why she resigned. "I told you," reminds Prentiss, "I hate politics." He asks her to go on one more case, even without her badge and her gun.
Det. Wolynski and the team are frustrated – they know the unsub is holding Claire, but they can't seem to make progress. JJ suggests they change their focus to the boy, and how this may be affecting his behavior. Strauss calls Garcia to ask her to search for Milwaukee schools in the Third Ward and in Wauwatosa, and specifically to identify guidance counselors who work directly with young children. She then tells the team to give these guidance counselors the profile of a troubled child. They describe him as a sullen, withdrawn boy who steals or acts inappropriately with female figures. The guidance counselors hand over hundreds of files.
Joe Smith picks up David from school. David asks if this lady is going to leave too, just like the rest. He doesn't want her to leave. Joe seems to get a terrible headache, saying, "They all leave." When David says they leave because of his father, Joe strikes him and tells him repeatedly, "They all leave."
The team is poring over reams of files in the 12 hours they have before the next woman is killed. Hotch and Prentiss enter the room unexpectedly and the team is happy to bring them up to speed. Then Section Chief Strauss enters and tells Hotchner and Prentiss, "We'll deal with this later." Ten hours later, even Dr. Reid thinks there are too many files to go through in time.
In the Smith kitchen, David eats his breakfast cereal and tells Claire that his father is going to kill her.
A few hours later, the BAU and Milwaukee police arrive in an industrial area in Wauwatosa where Claire's body has been dumped. Section Chief Strauss approaches the body and stumbles, suddenly horrified by what is before her – she has inadvertently stepped on the victim's hair. Hotchner tries to assist her, and tells her to take a few minutes to get a hold of herself: "It is what it is." She walks off, trying to restrain her emotions. This dump site is different – the unsub was careful to change locations to avoid the police. Claire's husband arrives unexpectedly, and as the rest of the team hurries to shield him from the body, Hotchner takes a moment alone with Reid. He knows Reid is worried about Gideon, but he needs Reid to focus on this case. "I know," replies Reid.
They are now looking for someone who lives in Wauwatosa, who has a blue-collar job, and has a son with behavior problems. Suddenly Reid has a thought – what if the son isn't a problem kid? Although it contradicts the standard profile, sometimes a child with a disturbed single-parent will do anything to appear to be a perfect child. Hotchner calls Garcia and asks her to focus on Wauwatosa schools, and eliminate children in two-parent households and fathers with white-collar jobs. He also tells her to stop putting glitches in the way of his request for transfer and Prentiss' resignation – but he thanks her for doing it. Garcia understands and smiles to herself.
Reid and JJ ask the guidance counselor at an elementary school about any boys who are model students who try to please in a way that the teachers talk about. She immediately identifies David Smith. His father had been diagnosed with an inoperable tumor six months ago and his wife left both of them.
The school nurse has driven David home. He opens the door with a key, and invites her in to see if his dad is home.
The guidance counselor introduces JJ and Reid to David's teacher who tells them David just left with the school nurse.
At the Smith house, the BAU can see through the window that David is watching Mighty Mouse cartoons alone in the living room. Hotchner sends Reid and JJ around back to make sure no one tries to leave, and walks back to the street to consult Strauss, Morgan and Prentiss. Joe Smith is tying up the school nurse in his workshop and gagging her.
Strauss advises the team to call SWAT, secure the perimeter and wait for Smith to come out. The team is appalled – Smith is holding a woman inside and may be killing her as they wait – he's already changed his pattern, he may not wait the entire 48 hours before he kills her. Prentiss suggests that she go in alone – the boy will let her in - and she can signal the team if she finds probable cause. Strauss objects, but because Prentiss has already resigned from the FBI, Strauss has no authority over her actions. Morgan hands her his second weapon, and Hotchner gives her his cell phone. David lets Prentiss inside and then locks the door from the inside with a key. David tells Prentiss his father is working in his shop, and Prentiss heads for the door. She hurls the door open, gun drawn, and sees the school nurse, but Joe Smith is waiting for her. He hits her in the head with a piece of lumber and knocks her to the floor. David has followed Prentiss in, and Joe hands Prentiss' gun to his son, pointing it at Prentiss and putting his son's finger on the trigger. Prentiss has fallen to the floor and is stunned by the blow to her head, but manages to press the keys on Hotchner's cell phone attached to her belt that signals the team to rush the scene. David turns and points the gun at Hotchner, who calmly tells him to put the gun down. Joe Smith finally tells his son to do what the agents say, and David releases the gun. Hotchner picks the child up and carries him out of the house.
Holding the handcuffed Smith, Det. Wolynski looks around the workshop at the boxes of human hearts and asks if this is what he wants to leave his son. Smith doesn't answer.
Outside, the EMTs treat Prentiss' head wound as Hotchner approaches her. Even with her injury, she is happy to be back with the team. Hotchner assures her that he will make that permanent. As JJ and Reid gaze at the small figure of David Smith in the back of a patrol car, Det. Wolynski leads his father past them. Joe Smith stops a moment and comments that he hadn't even asked David to bring the last woman home – he'd done it on his own. Strauss and Hotchner discuss the arrest, and Hotchner tells her it would be a mistake to break up his team. Strauss warns that none of them will ever move up the chain of command, and Hotchner replies, "Why would I ever want to leave the BAU?" Reid and JJ look on as Morgan questions Hotchner, wondering if he is really going to stay with the team. Hotchner insists he must talk to Haley before making his decision.
Garcia is leaving her new office, but stops at the map to turn off the lighted pin in Milwaukee. The team has returned home.
Emily Prentiss enters her apartment and drops her ready bag on the floor. She walks to the picture window and stares out at the lighted monuments in the nation's capital.
Aaron Hotchner comes home to a dark and empty house. He whispers Haley's name, but she isn't there.
Section Chief Erin Strauss sits down in her office chair and puts her head in her hands.
Dr. Spencer Reid drives up to Jason Gideon's cabin in the mountains. He knocks at the door, calling Gideon's name. Hearing only silence, he walks in, shining his flashlight over empty bookshelves and a deserted kitchen. Flipping on a lamp, he sees Gideon's FBI shield and his gun. He sits at Gideon's desk and finds an envelope, the word "Spencer" handwritten on the outside. He opens it and reads Gideon's last words to him:
"Spencer, I knew it would be you who came to the cabin to check on me. I'm sorry the explanation couldn't be better, Spencer. And I'm sorry it doesn't make more sense. But I've already told you... I just don't understand any of it anymore."
Jason Gideon pays his bill at a small diner. The waitress asks where he's headed and he replies, "Nowhere in particular." "Then how will you know when you get there?" she asks. He tells her that it is a very good question and turns to leave. As he drives away, Gideon's words resound: "I guess I'm just looking for it again – for the belief I had back in college, the belief I had when I first met Sarah and it all seemed so right. The belief in happy endings."
[recap written by Finnegan77]