In Wilmington, Delaware, a girls' soccer team is practicing in the park. On the sidelines, the coach is unhappy with her daughter Billie's attitude – Billie wants to be with her father on the weekend, and doesn't understand why her mother insists she attend the soccer game since her arm is in a cast. "Billie, you have a bad attitude, and I want it gone by the time we head for home. I suggest you run it off – laps, now." Billie reluctantly jogs away. Hiding behind a tree, she takes out her cell phone and calls her dad. The message she leaves tells him she and her mom are fighting – again – and she wants to stay with him. As she hangs up, a man approaches her with a leash in his hand. The children in a nearby playground watch as she walks off with the man, helping him look for his lost dog. A green SUV pulls out of the park with Billie in the backseat. Her screams for help go unheard through the glass.
In Quantico, Garcia enters Gideon's office holding a small card and thanks him for the flowers he sent her. "I know I can be challenging sometimes, but your work is appreciated – J. Gideon," she reads. "I appreciate the appreciation." Gideon looks a bit confused. Turning to go, she sees dozens of small, framed photographs on a table in his office and asks if it is his family. He responds, "Yeah, sort of." On the way out, Garcia passes JJ in the doorway. When JJ asks if Gideon sent her flowers, Gideon says, "No."
In the conference room, JJ passes out files about Billie Copeland and her abduction from the park yesterday afternoon, 20 hours ago. The reason they were not notified immediately is that there was reason to believe she was with her father, who had been unreachable until an hour ago. Although he still can't be ruled out, police are now considering this a stranger abduction. Reid gives the team the statistics on stranger abductions of children – they are extremely rare - only ½ of 1% of all the cases per year, but are more likely to be fatal. Virtually all the children who are abducted by strangers are dead after 24 hours.
Arriving at the Copeland home, Gideon, JJ, Reid and Elle spread out to deal with various aspects of the crime. Morgan and Hotchner meet with the lead detective on the case in the park, Det. Russet. She goes over the details of what has already been done on the case, including a citywide alert, canvass and grid searches, and press briefings with descriptions of the SUV and the subject. Witnesses saw the girl talking to a white male in his mid-thirties holding a leash. Hotchner and Morgan conclude that the unsub was "hunting" in the park, which is a target-rich environment at that hour. He saw she was vulnerable, and acted. Det. Russet gets a call about another possible witness, and the three head off to interview him.
At the Copeland home, Gideon looks through Billie's room – a typical little girl's room decorated in pink. He notices a shrine to her dog, including a picture, cast footprint and dog toy. Elle and Mrs. Copeland watch a television update about Billie in the living room. Mrs. Copeland isn't sure she can face the press; she is distraught and feeling guilty that the last conversation she had with her daughter was a fight. Elle asks her about the divorce, and if she is seeing anyone, if any men had been coming over to the house. Mrs. Copeland says no, that Billie was still hopeful that they would work it out and get back together. When Gideon asks her how Billie's dog died, she is surprised, but admits it was hit by a car two weeks ago. Billie had a great relationship with her father, "They were the best of friends. She calls him every night and tells him about her day." They have frequent father/daughter field trips as he is a cancer survivor and understands how precious his time with her is. Unfortunately, that leaves Mrs. Copeland to be the bad guy, insisting Billie live up to her responsibilities.
Mr. Copeland pulls up to the house in a pick-up truck. JJ and Reid are outside, approaching the vast array of media representatives, when JJ recognizes a familiar face. She speaks to a reporter from NY, who asks her for some information "For old times' sake." She tells him to rethink his tie.
The confrontation between Mr. and Mrs. Copeland is emotional. She blames him for being unreachable, for having his phone turned off, and he resents the fact that she is making this situation his fault. He angrily demands to know what the FBI has been doing since Billie went missing, and Gideon responds by asking him where he's been. He claims he was in a cabin in Brandywine Valley, but the police tried him there and didn't find him. After further questioning, Gideon wants to know why, if he loves his daughter so much, he is "wasting precious time we have left. You weren't at your cabin, or at work or with friends." "I need you to you help me understand why a devoted father who talks to his daughter every night suddenly turns his phone off and disappears for almost 24 hours." Mr. Copeland's only response is, "I was busy." Gideon pushes - he found out his daughter was missing two hours ago, but Brandywine Valley is only 15 minutes away. Finally, Mr. Copeland admits he was at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He has had a relapse, and there's nothing more they can do for him. He begs Gideon to find his daughter.
On a suburban street, kids are playing basketball when Det. Russet, Morgan, and Hotchner arrive. A mother confronts them, asking why convicted sex offenders are allowed to live anywhere they want. She's done the research and found two that live in the area. Connie, a blond girl about Billie's age, admits she talked to a man yesterday about finding his dog. "He said her name was Candy, but she was old." She didn't go with him because she had to go home for lunch. She says he came back later, but she was on her way to soccer practice. Her mother agrees to let her go to the police station and look through a book to try to pick the man out. Morgan and Hotchner comment on the unsub's boldness to come back twice to the same place, looking for a victim. "He's comfortable in the area," Hotchner notes.
The team regroups and compares notes at the Copeland house. Based on the information so far, they believe that the unsub is from Billie's neighborhood, knew about her, and knew about her dog. The area is crawling with uniforms, so another door-to-door search would not benefit them. Gideon believes it is time to throw out the rulebook and get creative – if the statistics hold true they only have a few hours left to find Billie.
At the local police station, the BAU team gives the profile to law enforcement. The BAU has cancelled the Amber Alert, and wants the police to pull back from the neighborhoods around the park – the most likely place for the unsub to live. When police question this action, pointing out that CARP – the Child Abduction Response Program, written by the FBI -says to do just the opposite the team explains that CARP was designed for an immediate response, not some 20 hours later. If this unsub feels as if the police are closing in, he will kill Billie to avoid detection. This man fits in: he walks his dog, does yard work, but pays a little too much attention to the neighborhood kids. He is a white male in his late twenties to thirties, has a menial job and is socially marginal. He will have an extensive collection of porn in his home – at least some of which will be child porn. He may actually own a dog named Candy. This type of unsub is hiding, he will not inject himself into the investigation, but he will be watching the news.
Morgan contacts Garcia to have her research the Sex Offender Registry for Wilmington, Delaware. Garcia is still fussing with the flowers Gideon sent her, and asks Morgan if he's jealous. There are no sex offenders in the area who focus on child victims. There is only a level one offender, Dennis Jones, who lives a mile away and was arrested for solicitation of prostitution.
Elle has stayed behind at the Copeland home. Mr. Copeland, nervously taking meds, asks her why they've pulled all the police off the streets. She explains it as his wife watches him taking the pills, realizing that her husband's cancer has returned. Elle tells the Copelands they need to have a press conference – a very different press conference. A woman comes to the door and tells Mr. Copeland there is a sex offender living just a few blocks away. He rushes to his truck and takes off as Elle tries to stop him.
A few blocks away, Dennis Jones is getting out of his car with a bag of take-out food. Mr. Copeland is lying in wait for him, and confronts him with a large metal pipe wrench, demanding to know where his daughter is. They wrestle on the ground, and he is about to hit Jones with the wrench when Morgan and Hotchner drive up and Morgan tackles him.
Gideon, Reid and Det. Russet are parked on a nearby street, watching the last of the patrol cars leave the area. Gideon and Reid tell her that the "Stranger Danger" program that was widely shown in public schools did the most harm to the country in terms of child abduction. It taught children about the "scary man in the trench coat hiding behind the tree" instead of warning children that strangers are only a fraction of the offenders. Most people who hurt and abduct children are family members, teachers, neighbors, people they see every day. Det. Russet receives a radio call about a female body found in a nearby river.
The three approach the scene, but Det. Russet can't look; she blames herself for starting the search too late. Gideon and Reid are there to watch police pull the body of a brown haired girl out of the water.
At the police station, Morgan and Hotchner tell Mr. Copeland how wrong he was about Dennis Jones. Hotchner advises Mr. Copeland to calm down, as "every minute we spend chasing you is time we're not spending on Billie." JJ tells them about the press conference she wants them to have, describing a "witness" driving a green SUV. Most people can't imagine their neighbors would be pedophiles, so have not responded to the news coverage of a "suspect" driving that vehicle. People may respond if they believe he is only a witness, and doesn't realize he may have seen something helpful to the police. If the unsub also hears that he is not a suspect anymore, it may relieve some of his stress so he won't be as quick to kill Billie. JJ leads the press conference, and the Copelands tearfully address the press with the new information.
The reporter JJ spoke with previously asks the Copelands if the body of the girl that had been found in the water was Billie. Since the Copelands weren't told about the body, they react with panic. JJ rushes the Copelands out of the room, and tells the reporter that a positive identification of the body had not yet been made, and he was completely out of line. Gideon arrives in time to calm the parents – the body was not Billie, it was a much older girl who had been dead a number of days. The team is fatalistic about the odds of finding Billie alive, but Gideon is impatient with their attitudes. "Come on, a little hope, please," he insists.
Reid and Morgan are going over the initial canvass the police made of the neighborhood, thinking that the police may have spoken with the unsub then. Reid then wonders if the unsub would have even answered the door when the police came – they would make him nervous and jumpy. He suggests they compare hotline tips with anyone who was not at home, or who did not answer the door, to identify the unsub. Gideon and Elle sit with the parents, helping them get through the waiting. Gideon compares this fight – fighting to hold onto hope for Billie – to Mr. Copeland's fight with cancer. Neither is an enemy he can fight physically, he must find the internal resources to face this for Billie's sake. Gideon gives Mr. Copeland his word that "the men and women I work with are the best in the world. They will not rest until they [find her]."
A policeman tells Reid and Morgan about a tip just received from a Mr. Lomax who has a neighbor with a green SUV. They immediately go to speak with Mr. Lomax, who tells them about his neighbor, Don Curtis, who is at the park all the time and may be a witness. His SUV is usually in the driveway, but isn't there today. He used to have a golden retriever named Candy who died six months ago. Morgan calls the team, and they respond to Curtis' home – no one has answered the door, but he's definitely in there. Gideon tells them to break down the door even though they don't have enough evidence to get a search warrant; they cannot wait to find out what he may be doing to Billie. When the detective hesitates, Gideon runs to the house himself and breaks a window. Morgan breaks the door in and the team goes in, guns drawn. All Gideon can think about is Billie and what he's seen of her in her room. He finds Curtis and puts his gun to Curtis' head, demanding, "Where is she? Where is Billie Copeland?" Morgan takes a stammering Curtis outside and the police search the house, but they can't find a trace of Billie in the house or the garage.
Reid has found extensive files on Curtis' computer, and is uploading any child pornography sites to Garcia so she can shut them down. Gideon goes through his books as Morgan examines his videotapes. One tape in particular shows a child abduction. Reid suggests that, since the team was 20 hours late getting involved, he may have moved Billie to another location. Gideon doesn't agree, and advises them to keep looking. Outside, Hotchner confronts Curtis with the child pornography they've found in the house. Curtis asks if they had a warrant to get that evidence. Hotchner insists that Curtis is going to prison, and it's in his best interest to help them. He appeals to Curtis to "make it right." Curtis is upset, but will not respond except to say he wants a lawyer.
Inside the house, Det. Russet tells Hotchner they should have waited, that all the evidence they have found will be no good without either a warrant, or the presence of Billie in the house, to allow them to enter and search it. Gideon is still confident they will find her, and notices some small pieces of insulation on a broom in the living room. He had noticed the same thing on Curtis' coat when he found him. In the hallway, Gideon sees a large vent in the ceiling with pieces of insulation sticking out. Climbing into the crawl space, he spots Billie on a dirty mattress in the corner. Gideon carefully crawls over to her, unties her, and tells her he is there to take her home. He gives her dog's toy to her, which he'd taken from her room "for luck" and hands her out through the vent to Hotchner.
On the BAU jet flying back to Quantico, Morgan, JJ, Hotchner and Reid are playing poker. Reid wins the hand – one of many he has won – and Morgan accuses him of cheating. Reid insists poker is about "mathematics and statistics," but Hotchner reminds everyone that Reid is from Vegas. Gideon asks Hotchner if he sent flowers to "that tech-room girl, Garcia" and said they were from him. Hotchner admits he did, as Gideon doesn't always know how to show appreciation to people. Gideon had already sent her a gift – an MP3 player. He wonders, "What if she thinks I'm sweet on her?" Elle tells Gideon the Copelands are getting back together, and she wonders if a reunion with a father who is dying is the best thing for Billie. Gideon knows it is.
Back in his office, Gideon pulls a framed picture of Billie from his bag and places it on a table with many other pictures – pictures of children and families from many places and many backgrounds – pictures of other people he has saved.