It is the Day of the Dead in Allende Del Sol, Mexico, and families are celebrating in the small village cemetery. A drunk young man, Miguel Trejo, staggers through the area, greeting his mother, his Uncle Diego, and his sister Rosa. He is glared at by his family, and his uncle follows him to the nearby family home. As they walk through the village, another young man is leaning against his car on a hillside, watching the activity. Uncle Diego tells Miguel that he is not welcome there, but Miguel's mother, Lupe, tells Diego to leave him alone. Miguel speaks sharply to his uncle, telling him that this is his mother's house, and if she wants him to leave, she should tell him so. Rosa, Miguel's sister, encourages her mother to tell Miguel to stay, but his mother can't. Miguel quietly tells his mother that she will never have to be disgraced by him again, and he leaves. Rosa chases her brother as he stumbles out the door, telling him that their mother still loves him. In tears, Miguel says she doesn't love him anymore and he will come back and pick up his things later. Miguel's mother comes outside, and is upset to find that her son has gone. She and Rosa glance up the hill and notice the young man still watching before they go inside.
Later that evening, Lupe Trejo sits crying in her home, among the candles that are still lit for the Day of the Dead celebration. Someone comes to the door, and Lupe is happy to welcome the visitor, pouring a drink of Tamarind water for her guest. She spills the drink, and apologizes, but thanks the visitor for coming that evening, as her daughter is out and they can be alone to talk. When Lupe returns with a cloth to clean up the spill, the visitor attacks her, knocking her to the floor, and then taking a knife from the kitchen. Lupe crawls down the hall into the bedroom, and the killer follows her, brandishing the knife.
In the Hotchner home in Virginia, Jack Hotchner is not happy. Hotchner carries his crying son down the stairs and into the living room where Haley and her sister, Jessica, are waiting. The two point to a sign over their heads that reads: "Happy Birthday Daddy." Hotchner laughs, while trying to comfort Jack as Haley goes to answer the phone. When Hotchner hands the baby to Jessica, he quiets immediately and a nonplussed Hotchner quips, "Okay, but let's see you profile a disorganized psychopath." Haley returns, all the fun drained from her face and hands the phone to Hotchner with the comment, "It's your wife." Haley, Jessica and Jack head into the dining room where the table is spread with a birthday feast. Haley thanks her sister for coming – not only did she help with the meal, but her presence meant Hotchner would actually take some time off work. Hotchner returns to tell Haley that he has to go into the office for a briefing. Although disappointed, Haley tells him she's not mad and kisses him on the cheek. Seeing Jessica glaring at him, Hotchner says, "You heard her, she said it was all right." Jessica's only response is, "You're one hell of a profiler."
JJ begins the briefing in the BAU conference room at Quantico, telling the team about the murder of Lupe Trejo in Allende del Sol, Mexico. She had been stabbed in her face, chest and genitals. Her murder may be connected to 11 other murders of elderly women that all happened within the past two years. The Mexican newspapers are calling it the work of a serial killer, but the Mexican government disagrees. JJ explains that the town is half-factory town, half-tourist town. The Mexican police have called the BAU because they have arrested the victim's son, Miguel, and they'd like the BAU to confirm that he is the killer – that it is not a serial killer. Gideon believes that they are dealing with one of the worst serial killers the country has ever seen. The team agrees to go to Mexico and begins to head out, but Hotchner remains seated, fingering his cell phone. Gideon tells him to call from the car.
Hotchner's voice is heard, saying, "Anthony Brandt wrote, 'Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.'"
On the plane, Hotchner sits facing away from the rest of the team, dejected, and JJ leans over to try to cheer him with the thought that he gets to spend his birthday in Mexico. Hotchner wants to know how to say "doghouse" in Spanish, and Reid attempts it – getting the words right, but the accent all wrong. Elle corrects him, "la casita del perro," and tells him he's only a genius in English. Morgan is surprised that Elle is fluent in Spanish. When JJ asks why there are so few serial killers in Mexico, Hotchner and Gideon tell her that there are probably many, but few are documented. "It's the Chikatilo syndrome," remarks Gideon. Reid explains that Russian serial killer Andre Chikatilo wasn't caught until he'd killed over 50 people, mostly because the soviets refused to believe that there could be a serial killer in soviet society. They assumed serial killers were a product of American culture. In Mexico it is believed that serial killers arise when the family breaks down, and there are 12 times more broken families in the USA than in Mexico. It's possible there are fewer serial killers in Mexico, Gideon states, "But in my experience, evil is not a cultural phenomenon, it is a human one."
When they arrive at the local police station, the team is jet-lagged, but ready to begin work. They are met by Capt. Navarro, who greets Gideon warmly, as they had met at a seminar Gideon gave in Mexico City a few years earlier. Navarro tells the team his reservations about trying to apply standard profiling techniques to Latin culture. The captain takes the profilers to the last crime scene while JJ meets with local newspapers. Elle tries to talk with Capt. Navarro in Spanish, asking why he believes profiling would be ineffective in Mexico, but Gideon insists they speak English. Navarro claims that profiling does not take into account the importance of the family and machismo in Mexican culture. He also explains that the District Attorney General put him in charge of the case when she found out that Capt. Navarro had a relationship with Gideon and the BAU.
When they get to the village, Morgan asks Deputy Borquez why the villagers are putting flowers and figures in the cemetery, and Reid answers with information on the Day of the Dead: "A three day Latin holiday where souls of dead relatives are said to return to earth to enjoy the pleasures that they once knew." He'd picked a pamphlet up about it at the airport. In the Trejo home, there is no sign of forced entry - Lupe was killed sometime during the evening Mass when there were few people around to see. They decide that Lupe let the killer in voluntarily – that she wasn't afraid of the killer. Reid finds used glasses on the table and asks if the police have run DNA analysis. Navarro comments that "the closest thing we have to a Crime Scene Unit is Detective Hernandez, he has a fingerprinting kit from 1984." Capt. Navarro doesn't believe the killer had a drink anyway, as Tamarind water is a drink for a woman, not a man, and the killer is almost certainly a man. The glasses will be sent to the FBI to at least determine the gender of the drinkers.
There is a large blood stain on the bed in Lupe's room. Gideon and Reid look around at family photos on a shelf, and Gideon opens a dresser drawer to find a photo of Miguel there. He wonders why his photo is the only one tucked away in a drawer, not displayed with the other family photos. He also wonders why Lupe felt safe enough to let the killer inside the house. In the daughter's bedroom, Elle and Morgan examine a jewelry box open on the bed – the killer took a piece of jewelry from the daughter's bedroom, probably after he had already killed her mother - but he didn't take jewelry from the mother's body.
As they leave the Trejo home, Gideon tells Capt. Navarro that they are almost certainly looking for a heterosexual male. The attack indicates sexual homicide, and these criminals target the objects of their attraction – heterosexual males go after women, homosexual males attack men. Lupe's daughter, Rosa, initially would only talk to her brother, but now has stopped speaking completely. The team wonders what she is hiding.
Capt. Navarro takes Gideon and Hotchner to meet Maria Sanchez, the District Attorney General, a formidable woman who greets them quickly and confidently, assuming that they will "dispel this nonsense" about a serial killer at work in the area. She strides off before either agent can comment on her agenda. "She's worse in Spanish," jokes Capt. Navarro. He explains the argument at the Trejo house to the BAU agents, and how they received a tip that Miguel Trejo had hired a "coyote" to take him over the border, where he was arrested. Rosa has been at the police station since her brother was brought in.
Hotchner and Gideon interview Miguel in his cell, asking about the fight he had with his mother. Miguel denies hurting his mother, and says that his mother didn't want him to go to America. Gideon sits down on the bed next to Miguel, insisting that the disagreement was about more than that – that Miguel and his mother had problems for a long time. He wonders what truth could be so terrible that he would risk going to jail for it. "When did you first know?" asks Gideon. Miguel is a homosexual, and Gideon wants to know when his mother found out. "No hablo ingles," responds Miguel.
Back in Capt. Navarro's office, Hotchner confronts Navarro about the situation – since Navarro appears to have suspected that Miguel was a homosexual, and also knew that the killer was heterosexual, he knew that Miguel wasn't the murderer. The captain explains that things are different in Mexico: the Attorney General would never have believed the sexual aspect of the crime. Hotchner is angry that the BAU was brought into the situation, but Capt. Navarro is only interested in finding the person who keeps killing women in his district.
Since the BAU has now ruled Miguel out as a suspect, the best way to proceed is to develop a complete profile of the killer. Gideon and the team ask for all the original reports on the murders, and, although Capt. Navarro is happy to supply them, he warns the team that the investigations were made by local police who are not used to this kind of killer. They also need to get the whole story from Miguel Trejo. Capt. Navarro explains that Miguel won't talk because he does not want anyone to know that he is gay. If he's taken to prison in Mexico City and other inmates find out that he is gay, he will be killed. They decide to interview Rosa, Miguel's sister. She finally is convinced to help them, and tells them that Miguel's friend, Roberto, was outside the house when Miguel was fighting with his mother. She explains that they do not understand the shame of Miguel's homosexuality – if people found out, their lives would not be the same. "La familia es todo."
When the team looks into Roberto's past, they find out that he was once married. If he is bisexual, he is capable of sexual homicide on a woman. Capt. Navarro, Gideon and Morgan track down Roberto and ask him about his relationship with Miguel's mother. He tells them that she was trying to accept Roberto and Miguel's relationship, but Miguel's uncle was against them. Roberto was watching the house because he knew Miguel was drunk, and that he might cause trouble with his uncle. While he was there, he noticed a large woman with papers going through the town – like a social worker. They decide to look for the social worker as she might have been the one Lupe Trejo invited in and she might have seen someone suspicious.
Back at the police station, the team has ruled out a family fight as a motive for the murder. Garcia calls, and, with a very bad Spanish accent, talks to Morgan – "Garcia" is her step-father's name, she explains. She has the DNA results from the drinking glasses found in the Trejo home – one drinker was a woman, and one a man. A man would not normally be offered Tamarind water, but, Reid asks, what if Lupe did not know it was a man? What if the social worker was really a man dressed up to look like a woman? He would have easy access to any older woman's house that way – they would feel safe letting a woman inside.
The team gives a complete profile to the police, asking them to look for a man who dresses as a woman. They believe that this killer progressed from other crimes – peeping tom incidents, and rapes – to sexual murders. He will be dominated by a strong female figure. He has been committing sex crimes for years, and is between the ages of 35 and 50. The team asks local police to re-interview all the witnesses, asking about a man dressed as a woman, and to look into all sex offenders who fit the profile.
Another elderly woman is found dead in her home. Sabe Santiago was stabbed, and has abrasions on her neck where a necklace might have been torn off. The killer is escalating his timeline – for the past two years there was a killing every 9 weeks, now there have been 2 in three days. Elle asks the dead woman's daughter, Anna, about the necklace. The necklace Sabe had been wearing was actually Anna's.
Hotchner and Gideon leave with Navarro to check out a disturbance at the police station. When they arrive they find that the police have brought in every transvestite in the area, attempting to follow the orders of the BAU. The Attorney General arrives to confront Navarro, telling him to get rid of the BAU – they are making the Mexican police look like a joke.
Capt. Navarro tries to explain the situation to the BAU team, telling them about the frustration of the local police – they are being called ineffective, and they want to prove that they are not. When the BAU asked the police to look into sex crimes, the obvious choice was to go after transvestites as rapes are rarely reported in Mexico. Most rapists have some kind of power over their victims – they are family members or even members of law enforcement. The women do not want to talk about these crimes. Elle offers to help, and JJ suggests they hold a press conference asking the women to come forward. JJ briefs Capt. Navarro on what to say and how to say it. She suggests that he forget about the killer for the moment and try to make the women who may have been raped by this man understand that the police care about them, and want to hear their stories.
The BAU explains to Capt. Navarro that it is easier to catch a rapist than a serial killer, and, since they know their killer must have escalated to murder from rape, the logical course is to look for rape victims – witnesses. This will also give them a chance to discover the reason he began killing; what stressed him enough to make him need to kill rather than rape women. Each murder victim's name and the date of her death is listed on a chalkboard in the police station. Elle points out that the first killing was about two years ago – one of the typical stressors probably happened to the killer at that time – something like loss of job, loss of love, release from prison – something that made him feel impotent. They are most interested in finding women who reported rapes from just before the first murder. JJ knows that the press conference will help, but they also need to go out into the communities to interview people. When she suggests they use all of their female police officers, Deputy Borquez admits they do not have any. "You do now," states Elle.
Elle and Deputy Borquez team up to speak to women in the community. They interview Milagros Villanueva, a waitress at a local bar. She is angry, and tells Elle the police aren't interested in helping women, that's why no one talks to them. "What can the police do if when a crime is committed no one comes forward?" asks Elle quietly, sending the deputy off so she can talk to Milagros alone. Milagros tells Elle that the man who raped her came up to her from behind, but when she finally was able to fight him and turned around she saw that he was dressed as a woman, and she laughed in his face and called him pathetic. He ran away. The rape happened two years ago, in August.
Back at the station, the team realizes the first murder happened in September two years ago, so this attack may have been the stressor they were looking for. He may have tried to rape again, and all he could hear was Milagros' laughter – he may even have tried to rape older women, thinking that would be easier. When he found he couldn't, he got frustrated and began killing. The agents turn to find Milagros has brought six other women to the station – six women who were all raped by the same man. "Now prove to us that you will finally do some good," she demands.
In front of a mirror, a man is applying lipstick, and smiling, talking to himself in a female voice. A moment later he grimaces in anger and smashes the mirror. He approaches an elderly female figure who sits in a chair watching television, and slowly strokes her gray hair as she sits motionless.
As Elle, Morgan and other officers and agents interview the women who have come forward, Gideon sits watching – and thinking. His eyes move between the chalkboard showing the names of the murder victims, and the living women who have also been this man's victims. The team comes together again to compare the women's stories, which are very similar: the man approaches them from the back, blindfolds them, takes them out to the desert and rapes them. He also kissed their necks while raping them, and, when he was finished, he asked them "How did I do?" Gideon identifies it as standard power-reassurance behavior. Elle clarifies for Capt. Navarro: power-reassurance rapists can't have normal relationships with women, they lack confidence, are non-athletic and passive. Reid continues, telling the captain that the rapist daydreams that the victims are his girlfriends, and, of all the types of rapists, he's the most likely to run if the victim screams or struggles. Before Reid can tell him the final characteristic of this type of rapist, Deputy Borquez interrupts with the fact that four of the rape victims work in the same factory. "He most likely lives or works near the victim," adds Reid. The team rushes off to the factory.
Morgan and Hotchner interview the manager of the factory – Consuelo Ramirez - a strong confident woman. She insists that she does not allow the men who work there to abuse her female employees. Morgan tells her that this man would not be abusive in the work-place – he would be shy with women, especially with her, and would not be able to look her in they eye. "The only way I can be a woman and run this plant, is to make sure that every man feels that way," she maintains. They ask her for employee records on the 50 men who works there. When Reid skims through the records, he finds 3 dozen men who fit the age profile. Capt. Navarro finds only one name from the factory in the criminal records – one man beat up a prostitute. The team knows this cannot be their killer as he would not have the confidence to do that. They need to narrow down the profile. When Hotchner asks what would make this guy stand out, Capt. Navarro states "He completely lacks machismo. He has none of the confidence of the typical man in Mexico." He'd lack that confidence at work as well as socially. Elle asks Senora Ramirez about a male employee who may constantly ask her about his performance, "How did I do?" She immediately knows it is Pablo Vargas. He's been on vacation for four days, since Lupe Trejo's murder.
The police surround Vargas' house as Elle goes to the door to knock. When no one answers the door, the police break in but find no sign of Vargas. Elle approaches the gray haired woman sitting in front of the television, but she doesn't respond. Elle turns the chair around, and finds it is the corpse of Vargas' mother, and around her neck are the necklaces he'd stolen from his victims. On the opposite wall are copies of the employee pictures of all of his rape victims.
That evening, two elderly women leaving church urge each other to remember to lock their doors.
The only way to catch Vargas is to examine his victims and try to figure out why he chooses them. Deputy Borquez has listed all of the rape victim's names on another chalkboard, and, as he moves it through the squad room, Capt. Navarro notices something. The maiden name of one of the rape victims is the same as one of the murder victims' last names. Gideon and the team sees the patterns – he's killing the mothers of the women he'd raped, and he's doing it in the same order. The next rape victim in line is Milagros Villanueva – the killer is after her mother.
It's after dark when the police arrive at Nina Villanueva's house. They burst in and find signs of a struggle and a trail of blood on the floor. Elle and Morgan follow the trail out the back door where an elderly woman lies face down in the dirt. Morgan yells for the rest of the team and flips over the body, only to find it is Pablo Vargas in women's clothing. Vargas is coughing up blood, and has a large blood stain over his groin. From the darkness, Milagros leads a group of rape victims into the light. They carry make-shift weapons, but drop them at their feet when they see the police. Milagros holds a bloody knife. "He pretended to be a woman. Now he doesn't have to pretend."
The District Attorney General speaks to the women at the police station, placing an encouraging hand on one's shoulder. These women won't be charged with any crime, she tells Capt. Navarro, as they were only defending their homes. He quotes a Mexican proverb, and she agrees. As the BAU takes their leave of Capt. Navarro, he thanks them, and Hotchner's voice translates the proverb: "The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman."