The episode begins just like any regular episode, with Nick being called to a potential crime scene. Items which could be body parts (or animal parts) are found and reported by an observant officer. Besides Nick, the only other person at the scene is the finder, rookie officer Kent, who quickly leaves the alley again to throw up. Nick doesn't mind that the young officer has to leave the area, thinking it a probable false alarm. While Nick is collecting evidence something yellow around the corner catches his eye. Nick leans over to study it, but can't quite make out what it is. As he leans in closer... he is unaware of the dark figure behind him until just before he's knocked unconscious.
Moments later, the low-priority crime scene has transformed into the center of the LVPD's world. Everyone's there: Captain Brass, giving a stern lecture to Officer Kent. Both Catherine and Grissom, disturbed to find Nick's CSI vest and cell phone discarded on the ground, and Conrad Ecklie, who promises the full cooperation of the entire police department.
Warrick brings out scent hounds, but they soon lose Nick's track as they get to the road. The most disturbing discovery comes when they take a closer look at the alley, and discover most of the evidence there is fake - someone planted a crime scene in order to trap Nick.
Nick is unconscious, he comes to, but he's got no idea where he is. When he tries to sit up, he bumps his head. When he reaches around, he bumps against a wall, very close, on each side. At least he can see a little - there are a few glo-sticks by his feet... lying right next to his handgun! Breathing heavily, Nick begins to explore every inch of his surroundings. There's no way out: he's in a coffin of some sort. Then he finds a tape recorder. He plays the tape, and hears a voice congratulating him for following the evidence to here - he's proven himself a real CSI. Now he can use his gun to kill himself, or try to conserve his breath. Whatever he does, it won't matter: he's going to die here.
Back in the crime lab, the CSIs discover Nick's horrible situation, when a courier delivers a small USB flash drive. Grissom plugs in, it provides access to an online webcam, and to their horror it shows Nick, blinking against a light in the coffin that just went on. Brass can't stand it - he manhandles the courier trying to gain information of the sender, but it turns out to be a fake address. In desperation, the CSIs try to hack into the webcam feed. But as soon as they start, the webcam is replaced with a countdown timer. It tells the CSIs to bring the ransom to a certain address within twenty minutes, or Nick will die.
More bad news comes from the mayor, who says the city won't finance a ransom. Nick's parents show up: Judge Bill Stokes and his wife Jillian. They offer to sell their farm to raise cash, but need more time to raise the full amount. All they're able to do is watch the webcam, and look on as their son slowly suffocates... Catherine goes to see Sam, she asks him daughter to father for the randsom money to save Nick.
Brass and Grissom rush over to the abandoned warehouse located at the address, where, despite Brass's objections, Grissom decides to go in alone. He walks up to the second floor, where he is met by a man named Walter. Is this calm, composed man Nick's kidnapper?
But Walter's madness quickly shows through. Grissom hands over the money, but instead of giving up Nick's location, the man begins to speak, asking whether Nick is Grissom's friend, and how Grissom feels knowing Nick is dying. While he's speaking, Grissom notices explosives strapped to the walls and a remote detonator in the man's hand. Grissom looks Walter in the eye …. then bolts. As he dives down the stairs ….. BOOM the building explodes all around him. Grissom runs from the warehouse just as it turns into a blaze of fire.
The situation appears desperate for Grissom. As burning hundred dollar bills rain down around him, he watches the warehouse go down in flames, consuming the body of the only man who knew where Nick is buried. Will Grissom be able to find his fellow CSI in time, or will he be forced to watch his friend exhale his last breath via a cold computer screen?