On Massanutten Mountain in Virginia, a high-school aged couple is on a run through the woods. The girl begins to get a cramp, so they agree to split up and meet at the point. As she rests, she hears strange noises from the woods, and thinks the other runner, Adam, is trying to scare her. Frightened, she runs frantically through the woods and stumbles on Adam's body on the trail. He has a bloody head wound. As she tries to revive him, someone approaches her and she screams.
Later, Adam's body is discovered by Sheriff Bridges and his department. Adam is a local football player. A deputy draws the sheriff's attention to something else off the trail in the woods – a human skeleton, with a similar head wound to Adam's. Whatever Sheriff Bridges sees next to the skeleton alarms him and makes him immediately want to call in the FBI.
At the BAU, Morgan is teasing Reid about putting too much sugar in his coffee. Reid's trying to wake up after a long night, and Morgan continues to playfully wonder what would keep Reid awake at night: "Memorizing some obscure textbook, no, working on cold fusion, no, I got it, watching Star Trek and laughing at the physics mistakes." Reid is actually having nightmares, and reluctantly asks Morgan's advice. Morgan suddenly becomes serious and tells Reid he should go to Gideon. Reid changes the subject as the team is called to the conference room by Elle.
JJ updates the team on the two bodies found in McAllister, Virginia – one a skeleton – with similar head wounds. The BAU has been called in because there is evidence that a satanic cult was involved. Morgan and Hotchner look at a photo of what Sheriff Bridges found near the skeleton: an inverted pentagram and the message "Satan Lives LOD."
Sir Peter Ustinov said: "Unfortunately a super abundance of dreams is paid for by a growing potential for nightmares."
On the BAU jet, the team discusses why this must be kept out of the press. The "Satanic Panic" was a nationwide scare that happened in the 1980s when thousands of people came forward to say that they had been abused by satanic cults. Most Satanism is found to be juveniles damaging property, and there has not been one case proved of a satanic cult killing.
At the scene, JJ, Gideon and Reid meet the local sheriff and examine the message. Reid identifies the body as that of a man, and finds melted wax nearby. Morgan, Elle and Hotchner discuss whether or not the unsub is organized or disorganized – did he lie in wait to murder this victim intentionally, or did he come across him and kill him with a weapon he just happened to find nearby? Morgan draws a parallel to the Manson killings – an example of classic disorganized behavior. If this was a cult ritual site, why weren't the two bodies found together?
As the team regroups to discuss the unfamiliar acronym LOD, a distraught woman approaches, shouting that her daughter, Cherish, was running with Adam and she is missing.
The team decides the killer, or killers, must be from the area as the woods are thick and confusing. Gideon asks JJ to get the Sheriff to use volunteers from the area to help search the woods for signs of Cherish. He knows that it is probable that the unsub will try to join the searchers, "to inject himself into the investigation," and the team may be able to identify him from his involvement with the volunteer search. JJ keeps the real reason for the need for local volunteers a secret from the sheriff.
JJ and Reid ride back to town with the sheriff – there is no cell service on the mountain and Reid needs to research the LOD acronym. At the Sheriff's office, a local pastor, Rev. Paul Burke, approaches to offer help. Reid notices the football "shrine" in the office, and is approached by Cory Bridges, the sheriff's son. Cory is on the football team, but is also carrying the book Thus Spake Zarathustra written by Frederick Nietzsche, which is an odd choice for a small town jock. Cory tells Reid he is very interested in profiling, and Reid tells him about the murdered boy and the missing girl. Cory goes to bring the football team and cheerleaders into the search.
The search party develops, and an agent or officer is sent with each team. The pastor, the football players, and a local "mountain man" named Henry volunteer along with most of the town. Gideon notices one of the high school girls seems fascinated by the spot where the skeleton was found. JJ takes the list of volunteers back to the sheriff's office to analyze the names on it with Garcia. Garcia finds nothing suspicious about any of the names, except for Rev. Paul Burke who had been in prison for embezzlement – he is in Reid's group. Garcia also finds information on Henry Dent – the mountain man – who has been in and out of trouble, and was once arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. He is in Elle's group.
Henry approaches Elle from behind, but only to introduce himself. He asks odd questions and makes odd comments, but they find a message tacked to a tree together. "Satan commands a virgin be sacrificed at the next full moon." The paper has blood on it.
At the sheriff's office, Reid is yawning and Hotchner casually mentions that everyone on the team gets nightmares sometimes. Reid is angry, and looks over at Morgan as if to accuse him of telling Hotchner. Reid puts Hotchner off and the team gives the profile to the Sheriff's department. Although there has never been a proven human sacrifice, there have been cults that kill, just not in a ritual fashion. They give examples such as Jim Jones and Charles Manson – these killer cults are always headed by a "charismatic megalomaniac." The leader will be memorable – strange, weird, scary. He may be a teenager who listens to heavy metal music, the cult may be into sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, the leader will be slightly older than his followers, and they are definitely local. Cory Bridges admits that he knows someone who fits the profile. He describes Mike Zizzo.
In the woods, a dark car pulls up to a cabin, and Mike Zizzo emerges, smoking and playing heavy metal. The cabin is full of teenagers dancing to metal in dark, candle lit rooms, doing drugs, surrounded by satanic images. They are called the "Lords of Destruction" – LOD. Cory admits to having been there. The team heads off to the cabin. As they enter their vehicles, Gideon notices the same girl from the search waiting outside the sheriff's office. He decides to seek her out instead of going on the raid. The team takes Mike Zizzo into custody.
Gideon has followed the young girl into a church where she sits in the first pew, reading the Bible. He sits next to her and she begins to ask him about his faith, whether he believes in God, whether he believes God punishes people for doing bad things. Gideon tells her different religious scholars believed Hurricane Katrina was either sent when it was as a punishment or as a gift of mercy. She says Cherish's abduction was her fault.
Hotchner, Elle and the Sheriff interrogate Zizzo. He explains that he is a Satanist in the sense that he opposes the hypocrisy of the church-going adults. He is an atheist and knows nothing about the murders. Zizzo claims to never have seen the pentagram, the candle wax, the LOD acronym and the body.
At the LOD cabin, Morgan and Reid send the deputy off for coffee. After he leaves, Reid confronts Morgan about their conversation, angry and hurt that Morgan would tell Hotchner about his nightmares. Morgan believes Hotchner and Gideon needed to know about them, and told both of them. Reid is afraid they will pull him from the team, and tells Morgan he had no right to tell them – he trusted him. Morgan admits he has his own nightmares – they began six months after he started with the BAU. During a particular case he had made an offhand comment about needing more victims to give an accurate profile. When a young girl was murdered, he found the body, and her open eyes seemed to be accusing him of her death. He saw those eyes every time he closed his eyes – waking or sleeping. Gideon helped him overcome the feelings that accompanied those dreams, and he tells Reid that, if he'll let him, Gideon will also help him. "I still have the nightmares to this day, just not nearly as often. But when they come back, I know how to handle them better."
Cory drives up, upset and anxious about finding Cherish. The agents tell him they haven't found her, and they don't know what Zizzo said as they've been at the cabin. Cory asks if they've searched the outbuilding, and takes Morgan and Reid there to check.
The young girl tells Gideon that the skeleton was a tourist who had fallen off the trail and cracked his head. All the kids on the football team and the cheerleaders knew about it. They would take trips out to the woods to watch the body decompose, like it was their private spectacle. Gideon reminds her that man was a human being. She says she knows, and that's why they are being punished.
Cory leads Reid and Morgan to a small outbuilding painted with a pentagram and LOD. Morgan goes in to check and finds Cherish's body – and her eyes are wide open. He rejoins the other two. Reid tries to console Cory about her death, and Morgan attempts to get a call out to the team, but there is still no cell service.
Zizzo insists that all the members of the LOD do is get drunk, do drugs and listen to metal. Gideon interrupts.
In the woods, Morgan tells Reid to go back to the cabin and see if the deputy has come back – they need to contact the team and get the crime scene unit out to the body. Reid goes off through the woods, and Morgan stays with Cory. Morgan begins talking to Cory about profiling – he's read all the profiling books. Cory said he'd like to be one some day.
Gideon tells the sheriff and the team about what the girl said about the skeleton. The only kids in the area who didn't know about the body were Mike Zizzo and the LOD. The pentagram and the candles had been added recently by someone who wanted the authorities to believe that the LOD was responsible for the death. Gideon tells Sheriff Bridges that this kind of unsub wants to be in on the investigation, and reminds the sheriff that his son, Cory, is the one who gave them Zizzo – he was right there with the information they needed when they needed it. The Sheriff tells the team that Cory went out to the cabin to find out if Morgan and Reid had found Cherish. A deputy interrupts to ask the sheriff if he'd opened the gun locker, as a revolver is missing.
Morgan tells Cory, as a profiler, he looks at a crime scene a specific way. He knows this unsub is a disorganized killer, but an organized killer can make it look like a crime has been committed by someone disorganized. This unsub would be smart, manipulating the scene and the people around him as he enters the investigation. Cory walks a few paces away. Morgan continues, telling Cory this unsub would especially want the body found at a certain time, by certain people, in a certain way. Cory says, "You mean me? I was only trying to help."
Not knowing the situation, Reid comes back and distracts Morgan, allowing Cory to grab him from behind and threaten him with the gun he had stolen. Morgan pulls his own gun. Cory tells them he never meant to hurt Cherish, he was only after Adam. He threatens to shoot Reid if Morgan doesn't let him go. Morgan drops his gun. Reid quotes Nietzsche, the "Superman" argument that the regular morals of society don't apply to someone who is superior to that society. He asks Cory if that is what this is about. Morgan curtly comments that Cory is just a horny teenager trying to get laid by the cheerleader. Responding in anger, Cory points the gun at Morgan, but Reid knocks his arm away before he shoots. Morgan tackles them both, and pins Cory down.
On the jet going home, most of the team is sleeping, but Morgan lies awake, listening to his iPod. Reid is sitting up, almost as if he is afraid of sleep. Gideon is watching him. He pulls a photo out of his wallet of Debra Louise Addison. In 1985, she was 13 and had been abducted. Gideon was on the case, profiled the unsub and was able to locate her and get her back safely. Debra writes a letter every year updating the BAU on her life. Gideon tells Reid they all have bad dreams, everyone on the plane, who wouldn't? Reid describes his dream – about a baby that Reid cannot save from a monster. Gideon looks at Debra's picture every night, and it helps him think more about the people they save than the people they capture. "We don't always beat the monsters to the babies, but we do enough to make the job worth it and keep the nightmares bearable." He gives the picture to Reid who, looking at it, can finally shut his eyes.