Reid is in the BAU offices watching with gleeful anticipation an upside-down film canister fizzing on his desk. JJ and Garcia are standing behind him watching. JJ comments that nothing is happening, but Reid assures her with, "Just watch."
Seconds later the lid pops propelling the canister into the air, which soars across the room and hits Prentiss in the forehead as she enters the room. "Ouch! What was that?" Garcia quips, "Don't you recognize a rocket when you see one?"
Reid apologizes and explains he was just showing them a physics law in action, which grabs Prentiss' attention and she asks if she can see it too. Reid tells the three women to turn around and says, "A magician doesn't reveal his secrets." And for a second time the canister is sent flying. This time it lands on the floor in front of Hotchner, who bends down to pick it up. Not looking amused, he scolds, "Reid, we talked about this."
Reid hangs his head, "I'm sorry, sir". But with a "you're starting to get some distance on those" and a grin on his face, Hotch places the canister back on Reid's desk.
Prentiss asks where Morgan is and Reid tells her he's in Chicago and he goes there every year for his mother's birthday.
Segue to Chicago where Morgan is standing silently in a cemetery before a grave paying his respects. The sun is low and its rays are partially blocked by the trees. Someone is taking photos of Morgan as he is shown through the viewfinder and the sound of the shutter being released can be heard.
Later, he and his sister, Desiree, leave a market where they had just bought groceries. Morgan notices a group of men who are waiting for them. One of the men, Rodney, addresses Desiree. Morgan tells him to back off, tells her to get back in the car. Rodney mocks Morgan for working for the FBI, accusing him of thinking he's better than he is because he's paid to wear a gun. Morgan contradicts him, "I've proven a long time ago I don't need a gun to take you down." They intimidate each other, then Rodney laughs and tells Desiree he'll catch up with her later and leaves. Morgan tells Desiree he will take her home and there is something he has to do.
Morgan is watching a group of boys at football practice at the Upward Youth Center. Again someone is taking photos of him from a distance. The coach calls it quits and a few moments later they all leave the Youth Center. Two boys are arguing and Morgan breaks up the fight. He knows James, one of the boys, who introduces Morgan to his friend who has heard of him and is impressed. Then a black gansta car slowly rounds the corner, driving towards them, and Morgan quickly sends the boy to the school bus as he puts a hand on his gun. The coach comes running out with a baseball bat and shouting, "Get out of here!" There are about five men in the car, the windows are open, and there is loud music. As Morgan stares the men down, the man in the passenger seat makes a "pull the trigger" sign with his hand to Morgan as he passes.
Morgan is at his home celebrating his mother's birthday with his sisters. They joke with each other about the cake and laugh about an incident that happened in 1994 when Morgan had required the help of the fire department, and so they hadn't allowed him to help bake the cake.
It is night and James' friend is lying dead in an alley. The police are there, and one officer comments, "Just like the others."
Back at the Morgan's mother's house, he gives her a remote starter for her car. His sisters leave the room and his mother tells him they miss him and she's worried because of his job. "I lost your dad, I can't lose you too. You're careful, right?" Morgan reassures her, and she smiles back at him, "Good, cause you owe me grandkids, lots of them."
Sounds of knocking on the door are heard and a laughing Morgan goes to answer. The police are outside, and Morgan recognizes Det. Gordinski, who asks him if he's armed. At Morgan's response, "No, not right now," they ask him to turn around and they arrest him as his mother and sisters watch in shock.
In the police station, Morgan demands to know the charges. Gordinski denies him that, and also refuses to call him anything other than "Derek." Morgan sits down and a second detective asks him if he wants a lawyer. Morgan tells him he wants a phone call, to his supervisor in Quantico. Gordinski scoffs, "Agent Hotchner? He's already getting a call."
And indeed Hotchner is on the phone, "Are you sure, there has to be some kind of mistake." He tells the caller they'll be on their way, hangs up, and dials another number. He asks for emergency call back for the whole team, including Garcia. He also calls Gideon, "We have to get to Chicago, Morgan's been arrested. [pause] Homicide."
Morgan still can't really believe it and is angry. He tells Gordinski this whole approach isn't working. When Gordinski brings in a file box with 'Morgan' written on the front, Morgan laughs and tells him it's just an empty file box and the FBI invented that… they teach that. Gordinski places some photos on the table, the same ones taken the day before. He demands to know whose grave Morgan was visiting. Morgan tells him he doesn't know, and that Gordinski knows he doesn't know. Gordinski tells him he gave Damien a ride home. Gordinski then says, "Damien Walters, DOA," and he shows Morgan the photo of the boy, accusing him of murdering him.
The team arrives at the Chicago police station. When Hotchner asks to see Det. Gordinski and Morgan, Det. Dennison tells him he'll have to wait. Hotchner informs him that he has his superintendent's personal cell number, but so far has refrained from calling him. Dennison leaves the room to get Gordinski.
Back to Morgan in the interrogation room, Gordinski shows him photos of a murdered boy from four years before, a John Doe, just like the boy in the grave Morgan visits every year, who was murdered 15 years ago. Morgan tells him this is crazy, and also tells him Rodney Harris had been following him around town since he came back. Gordinski mocks him, "You're telling me you think a gangbanger did this, Mr. FBI ?" Dennison, who informs him the FBI team has arrived, interrupts him. Gordinski tells him he'll be there in a minute, then turns to Morgan, "You're gonna have to come up with something better" and leaves the room.
Gordinski meets with the team and tells them he thinks Morgan is a serial killer, with four murders over 15 years and they haven't charged him yet. JJ and Reid both express their disbelief, and Hotchner asks to see Morgan. Det. Dennison leads him to Morgan, while Gordinski shakes Gideon's hand and thanking him. Gideon is surprised, but Gordinski quickly explains they had no suspects at all until the FBI sent him a profile. Everything points to Morgan. Prentiss explains a profile is more suitable to eliminate suspects, and Gideon tells him he's sorry if he confused him, but if anything in the profile points to Morgan, it has to be coincidence.
Hotchner meets with Morgan in the interrogation room. Morgan shows Hotch the photo of the dead boy. "I drove him home. They say I was the last person seeing him alive."
Gordinski is still talking to the team.
15 years ago, a black kid, a John Doe, was strangled. No one reported him missing. Four years ago another body turns up, same MO. No leads. Gordinski tells Gideon he attended one of his seminars, and that Gideon agreed to look over the case files, after which he sent him a profile. The unsub is a black male, 25-35 with a knowledge of the area, nonthreatening to children. He either knows them or doesn't scare him. Probable criminal record. Body placed gently on mattress. Consumed with guilt, especially over the first victim. The unsub still may visit the place of the crime or even the victim himself. "And guess who visits my first victim every time he's in town?"
Gordinski continues. "You also said the unsub might try to inject himself into the investigation, keep tabs on it. Morgan has called headquarters often about the case. In fact, he had just left Chicago when the other body turned up."
In the interrogation room, Hotchner asks Morgan to tell him the whole story. Morgan begins with "I guess it started when I was 15, I was coming home from football practice one day. Me and my boy, we were goofing off, throwing a football around." And he found the body of a boy, his own age. The only person he'd ever seen dead before that was his father, when he was 10. No ID, no one reported him missing. "I felt responsible because I found him. I went door to door and got enough money to buy him a headstone." Hotchner asks him what he put on the headstone. "Just the date, I left room for a name. He deserves to have somebody caring for him. Gordinski has had it in for me my entire life."
Gordinski is still trying to convince the team it is Morgan because the profile seems to fit him. Reid points out that there are key points of the profile that don't fit. For one, the age, Morgan was 15, not 25-35. And he wasn't even in the Bureau yet. "No," Gordinski says, "but he definitely had a criminal record." This information surprises everyone.
Gideon, "We're dealing with a desperate detective here." He's using facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. Gideon tells the team they need to figure out who really did it before they charge Morgan. The last victim was someone Morgan was seen with. Someone probably set him up, knowing he was already considered a suspect for the first two. Consider Morgan a victim, talk to his family. Dennison offers to drive them there. At first Prentiss turns down his offer, but when Gideon points out that's not such a bad idea she takes him up on it.
Hotchner and Gideon discuss the situation. According to Morgan he's got a bad history with Gordinski. Gideon replies he has a bad history generally. He shows Hotchner Morgan's rap sheet: arrest, vandalism, aggravated battery. This is Morgan as a juvenile. Hotchner is surprised that Morgan hadn't told him. Gideon suggests he either lied or thought it was not relevant. Hotchner, "Since when is the criminal history of a suspect not relevant?" Gideon, "You just called him a suspect." He tells JJ to put Garcia on Morgan's life.
Hotchner goes back to Morgan, who explains he left out the information about Rodney Harris following him around. Hotchner confronts Morgan with a copy of his criminal record. Morgan wants to know where he got it and says it was supposed to be expunged and that his record was. Hotchner asks, "Aggravated battery?" Morgan explains, "I was with some guys, I got into a fight with some other kids. Rodney needed some stitches in his head." Hotchner points out he still should have told him, reminding him how important it is for the victimology to get accurate information. Hotchner tells him the last victim was probably an attempt to set him up. Morgan asks Hotchner if he is profiling him. Hotchner points out Morgan's in trouble, but Morgan is getting very angry now and tells Hotchner to profile the victims, not him. Hotchner, "Is there something else you don't want us to find out about?" Morgan replies that he doesn't need the people he works with to get into his entire world.
The rest of the team is at his mother's house, eating birthday cake and going through his things. Morgan's mother, Sarah, tells them Gordinski has been harassing Morgan ever since he was a kid. Prentiss tells her someone might be trying to make it look like Morgan hurt those kids. His sisters do not believe any of it, and Reid informs them that law enforcement people are just as likely to commit a crime. Prentiss interrupts him, "He's not actually saying we believe Derek is involved in this." Reid quickly confirms, and Desiree asks him if he's Dr. Reid. Sarah adds, "Derek talks about you." Morgan's mother tells them Derek always visits the Youth Center. Reid doesn't phrase his question on if there's something in it for Morgan, and Sarah verbally attacks him as if he was accusing Morgan of molesting children. Prentiss explains they need to know everything so they can help him and again asks if there is some special significance to the Youth Center. His mother tells them the Youth Center had saved his life.
Hotchner and Gideon know Morgan is hiding something else, they are watching him through the one-way mirror. Hotchner says this has wider implications; they can't have someone on the team who has secrets. But Gideon points out that they all have secrets and asks if Hotchner would like to be the one being profiled.
Garcia talks to JJ on the phone, who wants to know why they are looking into his life like this. JJ says she doesn't know and to remember they are trying to help him. Garcia learns Morgan had a full athletic scholarship and graduated cum laude from Northwestern Law and he was the star quarterback. He severely injured his left knee in his sophomore year and he never played again. JJ tells Garcia to look further back and she finds a newspaper article about Morgan finding the body in a vacant lot in 1991.
Morgan's mother tells the team her husband was killed when he tried to stop a robbery. A year later, Morgan started to get into trouble. He started hanging with gangbangers, running errands for them, not drugs. One night he got into a fight with another group of gangbangers. And from then on every time something went wrong in the neighborhood Gordinski picked up Derek. Until Carl Buford stepped in, who runs the Youth Center and had taken Derek under his wing. Buford had become a surrogate father and he taught him football. He changed his life. Prentiss asks Dennison to take her to the Youth Center and tells Reid to stay there going through Morgan's things.
JJ then asks Garcia if there is a criminal history. Garcia is about to tell JJ to not be silly, but then finds a sealed file. JJ tells her to open it. Garcia hesitates, but opens it when JJ reminds her they are helping him. She finds a juvenile criminal record that the judge had expunged and sealed after receiving a letter from the Youth Center director. As Garcia looks up the name for JJ, Carl Buford arrives in the police with Damien's mother.
Gideon tells Morgan he had been the one who provided the profile that got him arrested. He tells him he can't let him go because that would appear as though he was covering something up. He tells Morgan is he is hiding something he needs to tell them what it is and trust them. Morgan explains it's not about trust, that it's about having a little privacy. He doesn't want to tell Gideon. Gideon nods, then tells him the best way to clear him is to find the real unsub.
Gideon talks to JJ and learns the story about Buford and Morgan. Buford is there at the station.
Meanwhile Prentiss has arrived at the Youth Center looking for Buford and sees many awards on the wall. A teenaged boy walks up to her, and introducing himself as James Barfield. When Prentiss tells him Morgan is a friend, he tells her he has been trying to call him because someone had killed a friend of his. Derek had told him if he needed help or wanted to talk, he could call him there.
Gideon talks to Buford. "Morgan is one of the finest boys I've ever known. Will I get in trouble over that letter? Stan said there was all sorts of evidence." And Gordinski interrupts and tells Buford in a familiar manner that he can take Damien's mother back home now. Buford continues. "I still have a hard time believing it, but Derek had a charming way of making people look past his deficiencies." JJ asks Buford what deficiencies he means. Buford replies he means his records, and then leaves.
Gideon asks Gordinski about his friendship with Buford, and he confirms they are close. Buford had straightened out quite a few kids. Gideon asks him if Buford has also asked about the investigation. Gordinski senses where this is going and tells Gideon that Buford is a local hero.
Hotchner talks with Morgan about Carl Buford. Morgan gets angry when he finds out they have been looking into his personal life. Hotchner asks why Morgan visits the Youth Center but never talks to Buford, the man who had made his career. "Dammit Hotch, it's none of your business." Stonefaced, Hotchner informs Morgan that it was Buford who told the police Morgan was with Damien. Morgan exclaims, "I'm warning you Hotch, back off."
Gideon and Gordinski are now discussing the possibility of Buford being the suspect. Gordinski tells him he hasn't been the slightest bit suspicious. Hotchner joins them and tells them Morgan won't even talk about Buford. Gideon is surprised. Prentiss has returned from the Youth Center and is surprised to learn they are talking about the same man whose office she had just visited. Then Dennison shouts, "Hey! Did we turn him loose?"
Morgan has escaped. Dennison calls out an APB for him. Gordinski is furious and shouts, "You're standing here trying to tell me that my local hero is our killer, while you're letting my suspect dance out of the back door?"
Morgan is seen hiding in the shadows as a marked car passes him, then he runs along the sidewalks.
JJ tries to convince Gordinski to tell his officers Morgan is not a threat, but he won't do it. JJ returns to the team. They have to find Morgan before the police do. Prentiss repeats what she has learned, that Buford became a surrogate father, and took Morgan on trips and camping. Hotchner then says that he thinks he knows what Morgan was afraid they'd find.
At the Youth Center, Morgan watches James practice for a few moments, then speaks up. "Looking good there, kid." James stops and turns to him, "I've been trying to call you. Morgan says, "I'm here now." James tells him that someone killed Damien. Morgan tosses the football to him and replies, "I know. James, we need to talk about Carl Buford." James asks, "What about him?" Morgan continues. You're a star player, right? Center of attention? To this James says, "Yeah, I guess." Then Morgan says, "You know, I use to be that guy." James says he knows, but is beginning to feel trepidation. Morgan continues, "It's a lot of pressure, isn't it? Always wanting to make him happy. Impress him." James mutters, "I can handle it." Then an understanding Morgan says, "Oh, I'm sure you can, kid. Has he ever taken you to his cabin?" James stammers "what?" Morgan continues, "Fishing in Wisconsin. Camping? Do things with you wish you had a real father for?" James concurs, "Sometimes," Morgan says, "Yeah, he's good like that." Then James realizes what Morgan is talking about. "You know about the cabin?" Solemnly Morgan replies, "James, I told you I use to be you."
James asks what he means. Morgan takes a few steps closer and faces him. "The first time you weren't even sure what was going on, he brushed up against you. You thought it might just have been an accident. But then at the cabin he let you sit and drink with him. You thought it was kind of cool, made you feel grown. Maybe a little shot of something harder. And then he took you swimming, only he told you to jump in without your swimsuit. He did things to you James, didn't he? He did them to me too. You do whatever you think you gotta to do to keep him happy, because he's the closest thing to a father you've got. But what he's doing is wrong. You don't have to let it continue man." James contradicts with, "Yeah, I do. My brother is in jail. My 8-year-old sister was paralyzed in a drive-by. I'm all my mom's got left. I gotta get us out of here. Carl's gonna make sure I'm getting into college." Morgan tells him, "You are something! Without him. You have to believe that. Look at you, man. You're out here in the dark running pass downs. That ain't got nothing to do with Carl. What you got inside of your heart is what's going to get you off these streets." James points out that Morgan never told anyone this story. Morgan replies, "Not until right now." James, "Damien always said I should call you." Morgan is surprised, "Damien knew?" James explained why he didn't call, "I didn't think you've believe me." Morgan tells him, "James, I got your back, for him."
Morgan then enters Carl Buford's office and confronts him, pretending the police had let him go. "Gordinski told me you were the one telling them I drove Damien home." Buford replies, "Was that supposed to be a secret?" Morgan stares at him, "No, that wasn't." Buford pretends not to understand.
Morgan continues, "All these years I kept my mouth shut. Carl Buford, the hero, my mentor. I was so afraid of you. Of the police. Afraid of losing everything." Carl still pretends not to know what he's talking about, "I don't know what you remember." Morgan gets to the point. "It's not what I remember that's gonna hurt you. Our business is way too long ago to matter. You set me up. You killed them because you knew I'd come after you. I should have told someone about you when I was a kid. But you know what always happens in cases like this? One dam breaks the flood comes. One kid steps up, and then another, and another … they know they're not alone. James is your dam."
But Buford still thinks he can escape this safely. "You would have been dead by now, I pulled you out of the gutter." Morgan, tearing up, mad and hurt, "Yeah, well, it wasn't for free – was it? I pulled myself out of the gutter, all the way to the FBI! I did that!" Buford asks him if he had nothing to do with who Morgan is now. Morgan tells him that he actually had everything to do with making him who he is. That because of him he is a guy who makes sure for the rest of his life that guys like Buford go down. Buford, "Derek, I never hurt you. You could have said no."
Morgan is silent as Gordinski and Dennison appear behind Buford and arrest him. "The neighborhood won't be the same without me". Well, he's got that right. Morgan starts talking again, saying the neighborhood will keep the center running, he will make sure of that. Buford still fights his arrest and asks Morgan if there is nothing he can do for him. Morgan tells him to go to hell. As Buford is being led away, Gordinski nods an apology to Morgan. Gideon and Hotchner walk in, looking at him. They know. Morgan closes his eyes.
Everyone pays their respects to Damien Walter at his funeral, laying flowers at his grave, which is beside the grave of the first victim. Instead of just the date, there are now words on the headstone: "The lost children. You are all loved and missed."