An Amber Alert has been issue. Derek, Emily and Rossi race toward the scene of the abduction. The family, meanwhile, gives a press conference, begging for their young son to be brought home. When mom breaks down, Det. Bill Lancaster takes over. A reporter points out that the case is similar to two other recent kidnappings -- both of which ended in dead bodies being found in the woods. Lancaster doesnt' deny it.
The BAU team pulls up to the house as Lancaster is finishing. "It would be nice if there weren't so many people walking all over the crime scene," Rossi notes. Lancaster introduces himself and reveals that he is close friends with the family. Derek points out that could be considered a conflict of interest. Lancaster doesn't care.
Inside, Emily interviews the parents, Dan and Sarah. Sitting nearby is Kyle's older brother, Danny. Emily points out that kidnappings from the home are rare, but they reveal much about the unsub. "Whoever did this has good social skills," she says. "You wouldn't be alarmed if your children were talking to him." Worse: whoever took Kyle has probably been in the house before and knew the layout.
Rossi investigates the bedroom. He notices that there was a struggle, which is consistent with the other two crime scenes. However, Kyle's room looks a little more chaotic than others. Hmm. Derek, in the meantime, has found the entry point a broken window in the basement. The unsub would have to be mighty slim.
Back at police headquarters, Jennifer asks Garcia to search for names of local sex offenders who fit the preliminary profile. Our girl notices something odd: one of the "dregs" has no record of cell phone activity, credit-card purchases or cash withdraws in November and February -- the months that the other boys were taken. "He was too busy with them to make any calls or spend any money," Garcia says. The name: Hugh Rollins.
The team -- plus Lancaster -- head to the home of Rollins, guns drawn. Derek kicks down the door. No Rollins. No kids. But Emily finds child pornography on the computer, and Derek finds a trash bag full of stuffed animals. Creepy. Just then, Lancaster notices movement outside. It's Rollins! Derek bursts outside and brutally tackles the man -- but not before Lancaster takes an ill-advised shot.
Later, Derek confronts Lancaster. "What the hell was that about?" he demands. "What if you killed him? He's the only one who knows where Kyle is." Derek once again notes that Lancaster is way too close to the case. Lancaster is defiant: "I'm not going to sit still and I'm not going to stop until we find Kyle!"
Unfortunately, Emily and Rossi find no evidence of the boy. "We need to search the woods," Rossi says. Back at police headquarters, Dan Murphy and the parents of an earlier victim examine Rollins through a one-way mirror. They also look at the toys found in Rollins' apartment. A few of the toys belonged to the first victim, Jimmy -- but none belonged to Kyle. Even stranger: Rollins, a TV delivery man, had never visited the Murphy home for work. He also had previously taken boys ages 9 and 11. Kyle, seven, is a bit too young. Could the BAU have the right man for two kidnappings, but the wrong man for the third? Lancaster doesn't like that kind of thinking.
Hotch takes a turn interrogating Rollins, who has agreed to talk on the condition that he not go to state prison. "I threw him in the river," Rollins says. Hotch cocks his head. "You didn't throw him in the river," he counters. "You need to know exactly where the body is so you can go back and live it over and over." Sure enough, the unsub is lying -- and breaks down in tears. Rollins just wanted the deal. He was willing to admit to anything.
Rossi and Spencer, in the meantime, are doing some real detective work. They investigate the room of Kyle's younger brother, Danny. Turns out both bunk beds have recently been slept in. At the foot of the bed, Spencer finds a pair of boys underwear in Kyle's size. The two boys were sleeping in Danny's room when Kyle was abducted! "If he didn't sleep in his room, why was it destroyed?" Spencer asks. Growls Rossi: "To make it look like the other crime scenes."
Lancaster, meanwhile, has discovered something horrible in the woods: Kyle's dead body. "Oh my God," Lancaster cries. "That's Kyle ... that's him." Emily immediately notices that something is off. "He treated his first victims like garbage," she says. "This is different." Indeed, poor Kyle has been laid down carefully, almost gently. "Whoever did this cared about him," Derek says. That seals it. Rollins might have killed the first two boys, but he sure as heck didn't kill Kyle Murphy.
Back at police headquarters, the team wonders who knew the details of all three crime scenes. Lancaster leaps to mind. Garcia agrees to do a background check, but quietly. Lancaster enters the room and thanks the team for their help. "We're not going anywhere," says Rossi, pointing out that Rollins didn't kill Kyle. "You got a killer in custody," Lancaster argues. "Let's end it now!" No dice. Rossi and Derek demand answers. "They are my friends," Lancaster says. They?
Emily pays a visit to the Murphy home and breaks the bad news about Rollins. "Who did this, Dan?" Emily asks. Dad doesn't react well. In fact, he flies into a rage. Sarah quickly comes to his side. "You two are different," says Emily, noting that the death of a child typically pulls the parents apart. "It's like you're protecting each other." The pair is hiding something -- but what?
Sarah, Dan and little Danny arrive at headquarters. Hotch enters with news: Lancaster has just confessed to the killing. Sarah and Dan are SHOCKED. Danny, on the other hand, remains quiet (a little too quiet, frankly). Hotch leads the parents out of the room to double check their statements -- but we know that it's all a ruse to leave Danny alone with Emily. She gives Danny a bag of chips and the little cretin gets furious when he can't open the bag. "My mom says I have a bad temper," he says. Danny then begins railing against his little brother, who apparently wet the bed and broke his older bros toys.
In fact, Kyle smashed Danny's model airplane just that morning. In a FLASHBACK we see Danny flying into a rage and attacking his brother. Later, dad comes downstairs to find Kyle unresponsive. The boy is dead. The parents then call Lancaster, who tries to make it look like the two kidnap-killings in an effort to save Danny from going to juvenile prison. "I couldn't lose him too," Sarah tells Hotch. Case closed.
Or is it?
Kyle's autopsy report arrives. "Do you know what Danny did to Kyle?" Emily asks the parents. "Everything he did?" Danny apparently stuffed plane parts down Kyle's throat. She also notes that the family recently lost a puppy -- and that was probably pretty ugly too. Sarah and Dan break down. "Your son is ill and he needs help," Emily says. "The truth is that the only thing Danny isn't capable of is remorse ... the son you were trying to protect is a sociopath."