SSA David Rossi is watching a news report concerning Kate Joyce, a young woman who disappeared from Atlantic Beach, Maryland, three days ago, when SSA Derek Morgan walks into his office. Two suspects have been in custody nearly the entire time, but local law enforcement has had no luck with their interrogations. Little can be done until the young girl's body is found. Morgan, clearly concerned, mentions that 'they' are still in Hotch's office. "It can't be good," Rossi replies. The news announcer goes on to say that the police can only hold the suspects for an additional twelve hours without charging them.
Outside in the bullpen, Agents Reid and Prentiss are obviously watching Hotch's closed office door, wondering why JJ and Section Chief Erin Strauss have been closeted with their boss for so long. Analyst Penelope Garcia is also curious. Morgan walks up with his 'go' bag, as the team is scheduled to be aboard the jet for Maryland in ten minutes. No one knows why JJ has been in a meeting with the two for so long, although Reid's theory that she has asked for a raise is met with rolled eyes and raised eyebrows.
Inside Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner's office, JJ is clear that she is not interested in the position she has been offered at the Pentagon. Hotch backs her up, explaining that JJ is under no obligation to tell him about these job offers. Strauss is strident in her determination that JJ accept this promotion, this job a liaison with the Pentagon. She says that "change is good," and that JJ would be able to stay home with her son more frequently. JJ is not happy with Strauss' interference in her life and tells her she loves her family here at the BAU. Hotchner lays it out for Strauss: even though the Executive Branch has asked for her to transfer, Strauss cannot make her go. Finally, Strauss admits that he's right. She tells Hotchner that the team is expected in Maryland within the hour and she leaves. Alone with JJ, Hotch asks once again if she's not interested in this promotion. JJ replies, "I belong here."
As JJ leaves Hotch's office, Prentiss, Reid, and Garcia quickly attempt to look casual. JJ approaches Rossi and asks about his insight into the Kate Joyce case. He believes that the standard 'dominant/submissive' dynamic of this team of killers will end up being quite complex. The team gathers, hurrying towards the plane and Hotch reminds them of the short time frame they will have with the suspects. Reid explains that, of the two, Syd Pearson has financial resources he can call upon, but Jimmy Barrett, the other suspect, does not. With their bond that dates back to childhood it will be difficult to get them to turn on each other. As the team begins to get on the elevator, Garcia hands out bullet point summaries about the victim and the suspects and Hotch reminds her that they will need financial information and phone records as soon as they arrive in Maryland.
JJ is the last to board the elevator and Garcia stops her as she turns to get in, asking if everything is all right. JJ smiles and tells her that everything is going to be all right.
"Jean Racine said, 'A tragedy need not have blood and death. It's enough that it all be filled with that majestic sadness that is the pleasure of tragedy.'"
JJ is splashing some water on her face in the jet's tiny bathroom when Reid knocks at the door. She brushes past him, assuring him that she's okay and he admits that he is feeling a bit sick and hurries past.
Both Prentiss and Morgan are obviously awaiting an explanation when JJ sits down with them. She sighs and tells them that she received a job offer at the Pentagon twice and turned it down without telling Strauss or Hotch. Morgan isn't surprised that Strauss wants her to take the job; it would be a feather in her cap as JJ's superior. "I don't trust her for a second," JJ replies and Prentiss quickly agrees. Reid rejoins the team just as Rossi and Hotch ask for a review of the case's facts.
Kate Joyce, 19, left a bar with the two twenty-year-old suspects, and was reported missing the next morning when she didn't meet her friends. The suspects, Barrett and Pearson, claim they dropped her at her hotel and police have searched the island and dragged the inlets with no luck. Both claim they had consensual sex with Kate. They must prove more than that the two men were seen with Kate. Morgan admits they will have to break the two men down psychologically. Hotch hands out the assignments and tells JJ that Mr. and Mrs. Joyce have not left the police station in three days - he wants her to stay with them.
Detective Mathias of the Atlantic Beach Police Department is dismissive of the BAU's intention to bring the suspects out where the Joyces can see them – the family has yet to leave the police station. JJ excuses herself to meet to the Joyces and Mrs. Joyce comments that they nearly named their daughter Jennifer, and she would have been called 'JJ' as well. She offers to take them to the hotel, but Mr. Joyce is adamant that as long as the suspects remain with the police, so will he. Det. Mathias shows the team a video of Kate leaving a club with the suspects. He explains that "Syd Pearson is a handful. Jimmy Barrett is dumber than a box full of rocks." Hotch comments that there has to be a reason for their lifelong friendship. Mathias says they've only been out of their holding cells to be interrogated and go to the bathroom. There were cameras in both interrogation rooms. Hotch watches through the office window as the suspects are led through the police department bullpen area. Mr. Joyce was watching, too, and rushes out of an office to confront the men, demanding to know what they've done with his daughter. The police keep them apart, but Jimmy looks worried about the father's threats while Syd is nonchalant.
Prentiss sticks her head in the door of Syd's interrogation room, asking casually if she can get him anything. He narrows his eyes and then flirts with her, asking for Tucky's roast beef with curly fries - she happily agrees. He smiles and adds the wish for a beer and she laughs. Det. Mathias doesn't like the approach, but Hotch tells the detective that she's trying to build trust. Det. Mathis is completely untrusting of the BAU's procedures, reminding them they don't have much time. Hotch is forced to explain his reasoning.
On the way to the club, Reid explains that Kate's records show that she's a good student with good friends, a "complete sweetheart," as Rossi describes her, a bit sarcastically. He is confused about why a good girl, a smart nineteen-year-old would leave the club with those boys. It was a huge risk. The images from the club's security cameras tell the two agents that Kate and her friends moved around a lot, but the suspects didn't. They waited for her. She seemed drawn to them, as if she knew them. Reid believes she is too cautious to have gone off with total strangers.
The Joyces show JJ a photo album showing Kate on the swim team - she had been on it for years with her younger brother, Drew. He died of leukemia. A red cell phone rings from the backpack on a chair in the corner, playing a popular song, and Mr. Joyce turns it off, angrily. He says they shouldn't have let Kate come down on her own. They end up shouting at each other. JJ tries to calm them, but Mr. Joyce turns on her, saying, "Our children have been taken from us and there's nothing you can say to change that." She agrees, but asks them to hold on to each other.
Garcia calls Hotch with a lot of background information on the boys. Their criminal backgrounds begin at age ten when they shoplifted, vandalized, and burned down a building. They bring out the worst in each other. Morgan begins interrogating blond, good looking Syd Pearson. He asks Syd how he got the brace he's wearing on his left wrist. Syd was a star lacrosse player but broke his arm in three places. Morgan needles the young man about not being a good enough player to get into Chapel Hill, even after he bragged about going there to everyone. He also tells him he knows that he cheated on his SATs - had his girlfriend take them for him - and that that must have taught him not to trust anyone. Syd insists he hasn't done anything wrong.
Prentiss begins with Jimmy Barrett. There is a beeping noise coming from the video camera and she gets up to ask someone to change the battery, opening the door just as the roast beef and fries are delivered to Syd's interrogation room across the hall. "Did anyone ask you?" she asks, indicating Syd's lunch. Jimmy claims not to be hungry. She asks Jimmy if Syd ever let him drive his Lexus, and calls Syd an 'LRB' - a little rich boy. Jimmy smiles a small smile and tells her that Syd's dad has a dealership. She asks Jimmy about his boat and he tells her that it's fast. She asks a few more questions and Jimmy gets confused, wondering what all this has to do with 'that girl.' Watching on video, Hotch tells Det. Mathias that Jimmy is distancing himself from her, depersonalizing her. As they talk about Kate, Jimmy gets more and more uncomfortable.
In Syd's room, Morgan points out that, although the boys claimed they met Kate that Friday night, her credit card receipts show that she rented a jet-ski from Jimmy that morning. Jimmy texted Syd a few minutes later. Morgan brings up another girl who accused Syd of assault a year ago but decided to drop all the charges. Syd tells Morgan to give him a polygraph. A moment later Prentiss walks into the observation room to tell Hotch that Jimmy has also asked for a polygraph.
JJ explains to the Joyces that the boys are trying to prove that they have nothing to hide. As Syd Pearson saunters past the office, he and Mr. Joyce exchange stares. Mrs. Joyce suggests that they go outside for a moment to look at the ocean. This causes another argument. JJ advises them to eat, to sleep, to go outside, but Mr. Joyce refuses. JJ sees Rossi and Reid return and leaves to speak with the team. Rossi tells her of the theory that Kate met the boys somewhere else, but JJ doesn't believe it. Prentiss suggests that maybe Syd Pearson told her he'd dump Jimmy and go out with her. Det. Mathias is frustrated and asks the team what they'll do if the boys didn't do it. "One of them knows where Kate is," Hotch insists. He doesn't believe an innocent person would have allowed himself to be held for so long without getting angry and defensive. The polygraph is a stall. Prentiss explains how Jimmy is the perfect foil for stronger, richer, good-looking Syd - he's eager to please and quick to follow. Rossi volunteers to speak with Pearson. Hotch asks JJ to "dig" with the family - maybe Kate did know the boys.
When JJ walks away Morgan states that the team can't lose JJ. Hotch replies that Strauss believes they are all replaceable. He's gone over her head to try to explain that they're not.
In the interrogation room, Rossi begins by asking Syd why he didn't walk Kate to her door. Syd sarcastically tells Rossi about how Kate was not exactly a lady, that she was horny and practically begged him for sex. Morgan bursts in with the polygraph results - Syd passed. Syd says it's simple - he didn't do anything to Kate - except have sex with her. He offers to show them the pictures on his cell phone. Morgan asks the police to bring it to the interrogation room.
Reid is interrogating Jimmy. He asks him why he was half an hour late to work on Saturday morning. Jimmy says he was hung-over. Reid sees from his files that Jimmy is never late. He tells Reid that late Friday night, after the club, the three drove to the inlet at 2 or 3 AM. The fishing boats start coming in at that time - Syd wanted to show Kate the boats. As Reid repeats his questions about being late, Jimmy gets more and more agitated, finally jumping up from his chair and demanding that the beeping battery be replaced. Prentiss enters with his polygraph results - Jimmy passed, too.
Rossi snatches the phone from Syd's hand when he shows him a picture of a smiling Kate Joyce at the inlet.
JJ asks the Joyces more probing questions about Kate – about her drinking and her fake ID. The parents are angry and Mr. Joyce asks JJ what time it is. She is upset to find that it is already 7:30 PM. He storms out. Mrs. Joyce is frantic - it is almost dark and she wants her daughter found.
The interrogations go on. Rossi and Morgan work Syd, keeping him awake, keeping him standing for hours. Morgan grabs the brace on Syd's forearm and presses it against his own throat, wanting to know if Syd held her down, if he choked her. He asks if Kate urged Syd to ditch Jimmy, and, to please his friend, he held her down for Jimmy and then threw her out of the car, killing her by accident. Syd never breaks.
Prentiss and Reid have been working on Jimmy. After a few hours, Prentiss tells Hotch that he isn't smart enough to have done this himself. Syd is charming, but Jimmy was just along for the ride. Hotch shows her the photos on Syd's phone. Kate is clearly not interested in Jimmy.
Hotch gets a call from Erin Strauss, telling him that JJ's promotion is an executive decision. He tells her that JJ is a vital member of the team. Strauss tells him that it's a done deal, and she's not willing to risk her job over this. Hotch has no say in this - they want JJ back in DC now.
Finally, Morgan comes to the realization that, although Syd is a scumbag, he didn't kill Kate. Meanwhile, Jimmy is explaining how the inlet was formed to Prentiss and Reid. Prentiss remarks, "One thing you can trust is the ground beneath you until one day it all just shifts." Jimmy asks her if that is a metaphor. Reid and Prentiss sit up - Jimmy is smarter than they thought. After all these hours, Jimmy is getting sloppy. He doesn't have the looks or confidence to pull off an abduction, so he uses Syd. He has been relying on his "not too bright" reputation, but the stress and exhaustion of the interrogations has worn him out. The team now knows that Jimmy would have had to make sure that Kate's body is never found to get away with murder.
JJ asks to see the cell phone pictures and notices that Kate's phone is in the back seat of Syd's car - the same red cell phone that rang earlier, the one that Kate's mom has. The Joyces recovered it from Kate's room, so Kate did make it back to the hotel. The team regroups, realizing that most of the boys' story is true; they did drop Kate at the hotel. Syd took Jimmy home, but Jimmy came back to punish Kate for rejecting him. He took her out to his boat. Reid remembers that Jimmy knows all about the inlet's traffic patterns, when the boats come in and go out. Det. Mathias tells the team that the fishing catch lures hundreds of sharks to that area every night. Prentiss realizes that Jimmy passed the polygraph because they asked him if he 'killed Kate.' He didn't - he just left her for the sharks. But they have to get him to admit it.
Morgan goes back to Syd, making sure that the picture of Jimmy and him in the car showing Kate's cell phone in the back seat was taken after they'd dropped her off. Syd is shocked to find that the phone was found in Kate's room. Meanwhile, Prentiss, JJ, and Reid confront Jimmy. Prentiss asks Jimmy why the GPS on his boat is missing. JJ shows Jimmy Kate's phone and asks him if he lured Kate out of the hotel room with it. Reid asks if he took Kate out into the inlet during the quiet hours when no boats were going in or out. Figuring out the speed of his boat and the size of his gas tank, Reid tells the others that a round trip to dump Kate as far as he could go would take 6 hours - that's why he was late for work. Jimmy tells the team that their time is up. JJ approaches him and tells him that they are going to find Kate and she's going to be alive.
Helicopters and boats search the area, looking for any sign of Kate. The Coast Guard is looking seventy miles out. JJ reminds Hotch that Kate is an amazing swimmer, even after three days in the ocean there's still a chance. Finally, a helicopter search light finds Kate curled on top of an ocean buoy, yelling for help. She is alive.
At the hospital, Mr. Joyce tells JJ that she saved his life. He didn't want to live if Kate was gone. JJ is amazed by his daughter's strength, and tells Mr. Joyce that Kate learned that from her parents. She says, "I'd like to think that your son was watching out for her."
Back at the BAU, JJ is collecting the files, turning off the video screen. Hotch quietly comes up behind her and she asks him when she's expected to leave. There's nothing he can do – she's been ordered to report at the end of the week. JJ is unbelieving; she has to train a replacement, but Hotch smiles and says he is not replacing her. He's hoping he can get her back. He hands her an exit interview form Strauss wants her to fill out. Hotch tells her to be honest. "I was hoping I could do something about this and I'm sorry that I didn't," he says. "How am I supposed to tell them I'm leaving when I don't want to go?" she asks softly, looking down into the bullpen. Hotch has tears in his eyes as he reaches out to shake her hand. He tells her that he'll miss her and hurries off to his office. The rest of the team looks on in silence.
JJ fills out her paperwork. She walks to the bullpen. "They can't just take you away," Reid murmurs. Morgan is angry, upset. Prentiss doesn't want to sit back and do nothing. They don't know what to say, to tell her, to say good-bye. She reaches for Reid. Prentiss holds herself together. Rossi pretends stoicism.
Garcia is shutting off her computers as JJ enters her office. She tells JJ all she had to do was to tell her and Garcia would have put something in her file to keep her there, with them. With her family. "This only works because we're a family." Garcia tries to tell JJ that this is a great opportunity for her, but she doesn't know how. The two friends can, finally, only look at each other, realizing that, no matter how many promises they make to stay in touch, to see each other, this is an ending. Both faces are wet as they hug.
JJ leaves to turn in her paperwork, but only places it on Strauss's desk, making no attempt to speak to the Section Chief.
As she walks down the hallway one last time, JJ remembers. A comforting touch from Emily. A laugh with Penelope. Spence reaching over to feel her baby move. Sharing a meal, heartfelt laughter, and talk during a rare break. Henry's first trip to the BAU, being held by Derek. She'll leave - take the high road - lead by the example she's seen. "There are things we don't want to happen, but have to accept. Things we don't want to know, but have to learn. And people we can't live without but have to let go."
[recap written by Finnegan77]