An elderly man is being pushed along a dark hallway on a gurney as he watches the lights go by overhead. He's strapped down and he is bleeding from many cuts on his body. Another man wearing a protective suit, goggles, and a plastic apron pushes him into a room where there is a furnace and many different cutting tools. The old man begs that he stop, that he let him go, but the man in the apron places the old man's glasses on his face and the lights go out.
In his darkened office, Gideon has an old movie projector on his desk and is watching the Charlie Chaplin film, A Night in the Show, when Hotchner walks into his office, wondering about the noise. Gideon relates a story to Hotchner that his great-grandfather had been an accountant at one of the first movie studios in Chicago. When the studio closed down, they let his grandfather take a couple of extra prints home. "They let him?" asks Hotchner. "That's the family story and we're sticking to it," laughs Gideon. Gideon tells Hotch he has the film in his office because he'll be teaching at the academy that afternoon, and he likes to give the cadets different strategies for dealing with the stress of the job. Hotchner sits down to watch. Morgan sticks his head in the door and comments that, if what he's heard is true, Charlie Chaplin was "the original player." He asks why they don't watch the movie on DVD, and then leaves the two "old-timers" to watch in peace.
Down the hall, Det. McGee from the Kansas City Police Department taps on JJ's door. JJ's desk is almost invisible under a mountain of files, and she asks him why he didn't send her the files she asked for instead of coming to Quantico himself to talk about the missing people in Kansas City. He admits to her he has no files because no one has actually been reported missing. "It's more like a theory," he says, pulling out dozens of tiny little notebooks and placing them in neat piles on her desk. He tells her his department had assigned him to keep an eye on the downtown area, and he catalogs every person he meets there, including name, place, what they wear, and any distinguishing marks. Lately he's been noticing every week that there are less and less people in skid row: hookers, homeless people, addicts, vagrants. His bosses think it's because he's doing a good job, and he shows her a newspaper clipping about an award he just won for helping to clean up the streets. "I'm not doing it," he says. "Crime went down because the people committing the crimes have disappeared." JJ suggests these groups of people are transients, and should be expected to come and go. Det. McGee doesn't agree. "I'm telling you, I can talk to somebody at lunch, and by dinner time they are wiped off the face of the earth." JJ becomes quite concerned when he tells her that at least 63 people are missing. McGee had also received a letter at the station house telling him that he should be ashamed for taking the credit for something he has not done. "Something is happening out there, Agent Jareau, something bad."
Bloody water streams along a concrete floor, past a pair of black framed glasses, and into a floor drain.
In the BAU conference room, the team is paging through Det. McGee's little notebooks and asking him about the case. Det. McGee seems nervous, and, as soon as an agent puts down one of his books, he picks it up and puts it back on the orderly pile in front of him. He admits that no one in his department will listen to him, or admit there is a problem. It seems unreasonable there would coincidentally be 63 missing people, and Morgan asks Reid about statistics, although he admits he doesn't know what he's asking for. Reid tells him that the very nature of homelessness suggests "fluidity," but the homeless generally stay in small, well-defined areas based on what services are nearby.
Garcia doesn't think if she has enough information to run searches on the alleged victims, but Det. McGee insists he had checked the department computers, morgues, hospitals, and everything else he could think of, but couldn't find records of the missing people. Gideon and Hotchner explain to him that the BAU needs an official invitation into the jurisdiction by a police chief or chief of detectives or they have no authority to look into the matter. Jurisdictional issues are not open to debate. Det. McGee nervously explains that he doesn't know if that's possible. JJ speaks candidly to Hotchner, reminding him that there may be 63 victims. Hotchner suggests that he and JJ go back to Kansas City with Det. McGee to talk with his superiors, then, if they get an invitation, they can send for the rest of the team. Gideon tells the team that he'll wrap with his students and be available by 4:00, and Hotchner tells JJ the plane will leave in 30 minutes.
Det. McGee calls after Hotchner as he leaves the conference room, trying to get the notebook back that he took with him. Prentiss asks him to leave the notebooks with the team so they can "unofficially" start looking into the case. He won't leave the notebooks with them, but he agrees to brief them on the 63 cases in the 30 minutes he has before the plane takes off.
"Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity, nothing exceeds the criticisms made of the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed and well-fed." Herman Melville.
JJ walks down the aisle of the BAU jet and tells Det. McGee that they will be landing in ten minutes. He is wrapped up in re-reading his notebooks, and hasn't noticed the time going by. As she sits down, Hotchner mentions that the detective is almost obsessional about his notebooks – "excessive note-taking could be a form of OCD." Although this might be a wild-goose chase they are on, Hotchner believes it's worth it.
In the BAU conference room, Prentiss, Morgan and Reid have placed the victims' information on index cards and posted it on a board. They are homeless men and women, runaways, prostitutes and drug users. When Prentiss questions the probability of coincidences affecting this many people, Reid begins to explain the actual meaning of the word, but Morgan stops him, asking him what the Yorkshire Ripper said about his victims. "The women I killed were filth, bastard prostitutes that were littering the streets. I was just cleaning up the place a bit." Morgan and Reid believe that this unsub is a "house-cleaner" – someone who believes he is benefiting society by his kills, and is devolving into a killing machine. Prentiss is frustrated that they have to worry about jurisdictional concerns, but if they don't follow the city's lead, Morgan explains, no one is liable to ask for help again. "We do it by the book, and we pray that no one else gets hurt in the meantime." says Morgan.
A young blonde woman, Maggie, walks unsteadily down the street as a large van pulls up beside her. She leans in to speak to the driver, and tells he doesn't have anything she needs. The nervous driver tells her someone is looking for a date, and, after telling him her price, she agrees to get in. He insists that she open the sliding door instead of the passenger door, so no one can see her.
Morgan enters Garcia's office and asks her if she's had any luck. Although she has reviewed 41 names, none of them has been reported missing in any database, including Interpol.
Maggie regains consciousness on a cement floor. She stands, still dizzy, and wonders where she is and what the driver gave her. She steps on something, and notices her shoes are gone. The walls are all rough cement and bare pipes, but she notices a metal door in one wall and bangs on it, demanding to be let out. The door opens when she pulls on the handle, and she enters another room with a red door in the opposite wall. After going through that door, she finds herself in another room with a red door, and another one. Almost running, now, she hits the door, and falls back in pain - it's chained on the other side. With blood running from her nose, she slams into the door and breaks through, only to land face down on a floor covered with shards of broken glass. She pulls glass pieces from her face, and calls for help. A door in the opposite wall opens.
Det. McGee, Hotchner and JJ arrive at the Kansas City Police Department, and Det. McGee tells them he wants to talk to his commanding officer first. Capt. Al Wright, McGee's commander, is angry, and his voice carries through his closed office door as he yells at McGee. He comes out to speak with the agents, and tells them they've found no missing persons' reports on any of the so-called victims. Capt. Wright apologizes for dragging them to Kansas, but tells them they don't need FBI help. Hotchner asks to have a word with him in his office. JJ turns to McGee and confronts him because he hadn't told the FBI that his captain already knew his theory and had rejected it. "Would you have come?" he asks her.
In pain, Maggie sits up amidst the glass shards, and struggles to take off her jacket, which she uses to sweep as much of the glass out of the way as she can.
Gideon returns to the conference room and asks for news. Morgan tells him they haven't heard from Kansas City and Garcia hasn't been able to find any of the people on missing persons' reports. Gideon gazes at the note cards posted on the board as Reid tells him they've been compiling preliminary profile thoughts based on what they know when Gideon interrupts, telling them they don't even have the case yet. When Prentiss remarks they want to be ready, Gideon asks them if they don't have any other work to do. "Gideon," insists Morgan, "he's a house cleaner." "With 63 potential victims," adds Reid. Gideon asks them what they've come up with so far.
Maggie has made her way slowly towards the open door. Her cut feet and hands leave a trail of blood behind her. Finally, she's able to leap into the next room.
Capt. Wright again apologizes to Hotchner for Det. McGee's behavior. He explains McGee is OCD and he had assigned McGee to skid row because he'd be harmless there. Meanwhile, at McGee's desk, JJ notices an envelope in the detective's inbox – the envelope that held the note sent to him about his award. She also sees a certificate that says he only became a police officer four years ago – his promotion to detective was fast. McGee knows he was promoted to "keep him away from the general public." Capt. Wright refuses to listen to Hotchner as he describes the type of killer they could be looking for. Even when Hotchner explains this type is relatively easy to catch, the captain tells him to leave.
McGee tells JJ about his father, a detective who taught him to care about the people in his area, even if they are seen as problems by other officers. His father had been Capt. Wright's partner, and was killed in the line of duty in 1985 – he believes it is the only reason the department keeps him on. JJ happens to glance down and notices the postmark on the envelope and sees "Kansas City, Missouri" on the postmark. McGee tells her that it's right across the river. JJ explains that it means the FBI has automatic jurisdiction – the killer has crossed state lines. She rushes into Capt. Wright's office and tells Hotchner, who informs the captain that this is now a federal case and he'd like to retain Det. McGee as a consultant. Wright is still adamant they won't be working in his area, but Hotchner tells him that any arrests will be made using his men.
Maggie's cuts are now bleeding badly, but she manages to stand up and see she is in another empty room. She calls out for help, and the lights go out. A voice asks her if she wants to see exactly what's going to happen to her. A film is projected into the room, showing the old man on the metal gurney being dismembered with a power saw. Maggie screams. The lights come back on, and Maggie begs the unseen unsub to let her go. She tells him has a daughter and she wants to go take care of her. She wants to know what she did to the unsub. Speaking over an intercom system, the killer asks her what the legacy of a whore is, besides disease and filth. "What did you do? You were you," he announces.
The rest of the team arrives at the Kansas City Police Department, and Gideon introduces them to Capt. Wright. Hotchner asks the captain to get his squad together so they can give them the profile. The captain is surprised they are ready so soon, but Reid tells him they've been working on it all day. After Capt. Wright goes out to speak to his men, Hotchner admits he doesn't know if the captain is really on board or if he's waiting for them to be wrong and embarrass themselves.
Insisting that she's just been to the clinic and she's clean, Maggie pleads with the unsub. He tells her that she's been judged and sentenced to death. He tells her that she is in the center of a 130,000-square-foot facility, and if she can find her way to the exit before morning, he will let her go.
Officers are seated in the squad room, ready for the profile. Hotchner and Gideon explain the specific characteristics of the offender should make him easy to spot. He leaves a negative impression on anyone he might meet.
Maggie limps along corridor after corridor, and stumbles into a wall with the words "dead end" scrawled in blood.
Morgan explains "house cleaners" and how they want to fix what's wrong with the world. According to Reid, the unsub has deeply rationalized his behavior and doesn't consider it wrong. If he has a relationship with anyone, it will be someone subservient, almost a slave. He will be fastidious, possibly with OCD, and be indignant about the things he sees as wrong with the world. Since Det. McGee noticed the first disappearances a year ago, Prentiss explains that the unsub probably had a stressor at that time – possibly the death of someone who had some kind of control over him. He's probably not working; a job wouldn't give him enough time to "practice his true calling." Hotchner describes him as a predator. "A killing machine. By now it's become all he thinks about."
Finding the door to a stairwell, Maggie props it open with a large rock before heading down the stairs. She finds the door at the bottom locked and sits down on the floor to rest. The unsub stands at a control board and flicks a switch that releases gas into the stairwell where Maggie sits. Coughing, she climbs the stairs, and finds the door she's propped open is now shut. She struggles up more stairs to the next door, and the unsub opens the lock as she gets to it. Just as she makes it through and sits down to rest again, more gas billows through the room. Maggie turns and runs past a sign that points to the slaughterhouse. She's being "herded" there.
The team and the local police are on the streets talking with vagrants and prostitutes, and asking them about the unsub. Morgan and Prentiss talk with an older man, Reid and Hotchner interview prostitutes, Capt. Wright and JJ approach drug dealers, and Det. McGee and Gideon meet up with homeless people huddled around a barrel fire. Morgan speaks gently to Mona, a homeless woman who would rather go to the park than a shelter, "at least I got the birds I can feed there." He tells her to be careful. "This world needs all of its beautiful ladies and that means you, too, mama." She leaves with a smile, and Prentiss tells him that he is a good guy. "You make the people around you feel good."
Hotchner and Reid join them, and they discuss their results. Besides Reid being hit on by every prostitute in the area, they've come up with nothing. Reid mentions this is odd because the unsub should stand out and people should recognize him by the description. Capt. Wright and JJ join the group, and the captain insists that he was right in the first place – there is no unsub. Someone would have noticed him. The team discusses the fact he does more than blend in. He must seem like he belongs. As they talk, Morgan notices a man outside a Department of Human Services van talking with Mona, the homeless woman. He asks Capt. Wright if Social Services makes it a habit of driving around in the middle of the night looking for people to help. When the captain says no, Morgan turns and sees the man trying to help Mona into his van.
Morgan goes into action and shouts to Mona not to get into the van. As he speaks with her, the driver enters the van and starts the engine. Morgan tells the driver to get out, and Capt. Wright asks to see his city employee ID. The man guns the accelerator, so Morgan jumps in the window, struggling to stop the van, and steers it into a nearby car. He grabs the driver and pulls him out, slamming him against the side of the van.
Maggie makes her way to an open door, but she sees that it leads to a room with metal gurneys and cutting tools. Backing away, she sees a sign that reads "Kill Room," and hurries down the hall. As she nears the corner, a large Doberman appears, growling, and chases her back to the Kill Room. She manages to get the door closed just in time. The room is filled with body parts hanging from the ceiling, and the old man's head rests on a table. She panics and run towards a door marked "Exit" and then falls down the stairs beyond it. She can see her sneakers in a patch of sunlight. Crawling now, she grabs her shoes and sees they are the first pair in line of shoes that lead to a door – a door that's open on the sunrise. She crawls closer and closer, but before she can reach it the door closes. As Maggie sinks to the floor, more gas is pumped into the room and she murmurs, "Not fair." The unsub is watching her on a monitor.
Through one-way glass, the team is watching Steven Foster, the van driver, as he sits nervously in an interrogation room. He can't seem to keep still, and talks to himself continuously. Garcia has learned very little about Foster – no social security or tax records. Gideon theorizes that he's probably served the unsub all his life. They explain to Capt. Wright that Foster is the only one aware of what the unsub is capable, and he's extremely afraid of him.
As the unsub puts on his protective suit, goggles and apron, Gideon tells Capt. Wright that the sadism and torture get worse with every victim. McGee barges in, wanting to know if they've caught the unsub. Hotchner tells him they haven't, but Foster will tell them where he is.
The unsub drags Maggie back to the Kill Room.
When Hotchner and McGee enter the interrogation room, Steven Foster begins to rant, acting tough. He blames the crash on Morgan, tells them he deserves a medal for trying to help the homeless woman. Hotchner tells him to sit down and he becomes quiet. He tells Foster that he's going to cooperate completely – even down to drawing them a map of where the killer is – because he knows that Foster hates the unsub. He's also afraid of the punishment he'll receive at the hands of the killer. Foster knows the killer punish him in terrible ways once he finds out how Foster has failed. Foster explains that his family has always served the killer's family, and that the killer's father died last year, leaving the son all the money. Foster tells Hotchner that the unsub is Charles Holcombe and he owns the old meat-packing plant.
Maggie is strapped to the gurney, and is taking the same ride as the old man. She doesn't beg, though, and tells him she won't. She calls him a coward for hiding his face from her. Suddenly, Hotchner, Morgan and Prentiss are there, with the Kansas City Police Department, guns drawn. Holcombe reaches for a knife, shouting, "Just let me do my job!" But Hotchner, Morgan, and Prentiss shoot him. Prentiss is the first to comfort the victim, and then Hotchner tells Maggie she'll be okay. Maggie insists on seeing the killer's face. When Morgan shows her, she says "I won." Det. McGee stands outside the Kill Room, relieved it is finally over.
Gideon's movie projector has been moved into the BAU conference room, and the entire team is seated around the table laughing at the antics of Charlie Chaplin. Morgan and Garcia whisper together at one end of the table, Morgan munches on her licorice, while Prentiss and JJ eat what popcorn they haven't thrown at the back of Reid's head. Hotchner and Gideon are also enjoying the show. Hotchner's voice is heard over the sound of the film: "Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles. Charles Chaplin."