Dottie asks Ricky for a job that she can handle alone, since an incident with Brandi and a parking meter has landed the younger Thorson in anger management classes. Ricky sends Dottie after a burglary suspect, Marty Bates, who is a confirmed gambler with a known liking for redheads. Dottie traces him to a motel, where she confronts and handcuffs him, but just as she's about to take Bates away, his 10-year-old daughter Melissa appears. While going to the bathroom, Bates slips out the window, leaving Dottie with his daughter. She takes Melissa to social services, but not liking what she sees there, Dottie takes the girl home with her for temporary safekeeping.
At her class, a guy named Eric shows a great deal of interest in Brandi. Although she refuses to go out with him, she does allow him to take her home in his flashy car. When she arrives at her house and finds out about her mother's new charge, Brandi is not at all happy, thinking it's an unnecessarily risky responsibility to be taking on. Dottie and her new young houseguest are getting along just wonderfully, however. Ricky drops by wondering where his skip is. He tells the Thorsons they must bring him in by midnight or he's out a considerable amount of money. The women then track Bates to a gambling club. Dottie tells Brandi to wait in the car with Melissa. Brandi is adamant that they go in together in case of trouble, so Melissa stays alone. When they find out Marty will not arrive for hours, they go back to the car to find that Melissa is gone.
Dottie and Brandi scour the immediate area for Melissa. Brandi feels guilty, assuming that her dissatisfaction with the young girl's presence caused her to run away. They find Melissa and are both very apologetic and solicitous to her. They take her to Tiny's bar to get something to eat. While there, Brandi begins to bond with Melissa also. A phone calls comes in from Ricky. Melissa's mother Chloe has shown up, threatening to file kidnapping charges. The Thorsons leave for Ricky's, entrusting Melissa to Tiny's care. Tiny is dismayed; he's not comfortable with children, but soon he is forging a bond with Melissa also.
Melissa's mother Chloe is anxious to be reunited with her daughter, whom she says she hasn't seen since her divorced husband took her away four years ago. She's also upset to learn that Dottie left her daughter at a bar in the care of an ex-convict. Mother and daughter are soon reunited and the Thorsons bid warm goodbyes to Melissa. They then head for the card club to pick up Marty Bates. He sees them there and runs. The Thorsons are unable to catch him. Brandi and Dottie return home to find that there house has been thoroughly burgled.
They call off-duty Det. Forbes who comes out, not too happily, to take the information. While discussing the crime with Tiny and Brandi, Dottie comes to believe that the whole Bates family pulled a scam on them, including Melissa. Her clue: one item that wasn't taken was a valuable silver picture frame containing a picture of Dottie and Brandi, an object of obvious sentimental value. They trace the family to a motel, where Dottie chews out the parents for the life they're making their daughter lead. Still, rather than break up the family and have Melissa placed in state custody, Dottie agrees to bring Marty in only on the bail-skipping charge, provided the family returns all their belongings. In the epilog, Brandi finds out that Eric doesn't need to take the anger management class, he just is using it as a way to meet assertive women. Brandi tells the class leader and some other students about this and also about Eric's low opinion of the participants. They all forget about the lessons they learned in class and turn their wrath on Eric.