A family hurries to church, where the service is already underway. A man clad in black slinks in behind them -- and pulls on black, leather gloves. He slits the throat of the young father, who bleeds out in front of his screaming daughter. It's all just business as usual for the BAU (and its faithful viewers), who break down the case. Jennifer explains that dead daddy was a decorated war hero -- and the third in a recent string of victims. All of the dead bodies have been randomly chosen. "Anyone is a potential target," Rossi explains.
One jet ride later, the team arrives in Rhode Island. Derek and Jennifer head to the home of the recent widow, who hides inside from the press. The little girl claims to have shaken hands with the unsub during the ceremony. "He touched my baby!" mom cries. Jennifer volunteers to stay with the wife and mother, while Derek's wheels turn. "This unsub isn't psychotic and he's not going to go on a spree," he says. "He's too patient." Rossi, meawhile, visits the church, where he meets a grief-stricken Father Kendellen. The good father walks the FBI agent through the crime scene, but it yields little new insights.
Is the team hopelessly stuck? Perhaps not. Emily and Detective Morehead investigate a Laundromat where an earlier victim was murdered. Soon, it becomes clear that the sites of murder -- including a restaurant -- are long-established in the neighborhood. "Each location has a history in this community," Morehead explains. Continues Emily: "He wants to scar the places everybody knows and goes to." Rossi takes it one step further, suggesting that the killer thrives on the attention the public crimes attract. "He's found a way to keep the murders fresh because they're always on the city's mind," Rossi says.
Back at the first victim's home, Jennifer warns the widow that the press presence outside her home could bring the killer back for another visit. "He won't shake my daughter's hand this time if he does," mom promises. Back at headquarters, the team briefs the cops. "His locations have been pillars of the community," Spencer says. Emily further explains that the victims aren't important -- they're just tools "no different than a can of gasoline and a match." Hotch warns that the killer's next crime will be even more public. Sure enough, we cut to the unsub, who stalks a vendor at a farmer's market. Uh oh.
Turns out the team is too late. The man's throat has been cut ear to ear. As expected, a crowd and the press has assembled. Emily quickly discovers that the unsub changed his clothes. "He knew he would be bloody this time," observes Rossi, who suggests that the cops search the crowd for anyone matching the body type of those clothes. Later, a cop confronts a skinny man hiding in the darkness. The man makes nice -- for a moment. He then produces a knife and stabs the officer in the throat. It's the unsub! Back at headquarters, the BAU and the local fuzz attempt to regroup. Rossi suggests setting a trap for the unsub by rallying the community around the church and the dead dad. That way, he theorizes, the killer will feel compelled to return to the site and murder again. Rossi then suggests using the widow as bait. Jennifer objects, but is overruled.
Alas, the widow refuses to read a prepared statement. Furthermore, the mayor refuses to hold a press conference outside the church. Hotch and Rossi then develop a new theory: what if the unsub is feeding of the grief of the police department? "If so, then he's found something new to get off on," Rossi says. Morehead then provides a list of places where the Providence cops hangout. Garcia then runs checks on employees at these establishments -- and almost immediately comes up with a name. Connor O'Brien comes from an abusive home and works at the local café. "It's across the street," Morehead says. The team BURSTS into the diner, but they're too late. O'Brien has fled. A S.W.A.T. team breaks into the unsub's house to find ... nothing. "He's not coming back here," Derek says. "He's going to make his last stand." Emily discovers newspaper clippings detailing the death of the unsub's mother in a fire. Turns out the fire was set by O'Brien's father, who was sent to prison thanks to young O'Brien's testimony.
But before the team can find the unsub, he kills again -- this time a mother inside a library. Jennifer fumes. "We have to go to our original plan: create an event he can't resist coming to," Rossi barks. He suggests lying to the press, telling them that the dead mother is still clinging to life. Then, the team can organize a candlelight vigil, which will draw the killer out. Just then, the widow arrives and offers to read a statement encouraging folks to come to the vigil. Later, the public gathers to pray for the (already dead) mother. Almost immediately, O'Brien appears. Derek tackles them man and cuffs him. Case closed, but not the episode.
On the plane ride home, the BAU team discusses the events of the past few days. "Does the son of a sociopath ever really have a chance?" Jennifer asks. Derek notes that it's only a matter of time before the son is put in the same prison with dear ol' dad. THAT could get messy. And indeed it does. We cut to a prison, where O'Brien confronts his pops. "Does your mother know you're here?" dad asks with a sneer. To answer, O'Brien pulls out a shank and commits patricide.