We open in San Francisco, where a man in his 30s has been found with a single gunshot to the head. "Call the FBI," says a cop. "It's starting again." Later, a scary looking man pulls a gun on a father and his 14-year-old daughter. "Come quiet or you both die," he says. Cut to a gym, where Sam Cooper practices martial arts to the strains of the Rolling Stones. Hotch approaches -- and the two greet each other like old friends. Cooper explains that the death in San Francisco might follow a strange pattern of young men being shot the day before father-daughter combos are executed. He suggest that Hotch's squad follow the male bodies while Cooper's squad check out the family slayings. "If I'm right, both halves of the case help solve the other half," Cooper says.
The father and daughter, meanwhile, are chained to a pole. "You give her to me and you both live," he proposes. Dad tells the creep to "go to hell."
The team flies to San Francisco. During the flight, Reid points out that all the male victims have been transients. Also, the same number of victims has appeared during the same period of days in the past few days. "All these victims are part of a larger plan," Derek notes. Hotch then breaks the news that Cooper's team will be investigating the father-daughter angle -- WITHOUT the knowledge of director Strauss. The BAU could get into trouble for aiding Sam, but Rossi (who announces that he has known Cooper for 20 years) urges everyone to play along. So they do.
Cut to Cooper's team. There is motorcycle-riding Mick Rawson, sexy computer-expert Gina LaSalle and balding genius Jonathan "Prophet" Sims. They banter and joke -- as all brilliant crime-busting teams must. LaSalle suggests a myriad of ways to narrow the search for father-daughter pairings (white, brunette teenagers, fathers who have missed work lately, etc.). "If you want to show off about it," Rawson quips. Cut to Hotch's team -- specifically Prentiss and Rossi, who learn that all the male victims came from the same few blocks. Hotch and Morgan examine the body -- and theorize that the man appears to have been in a brutal fight before being shot "execution style." What in the name of Mandy Patinkin is going on here?
The viewer is soon shown a clue. The killer forces the father to fight a vagrant in a nasty, drained swimming pool. "You win, you live. "You lose, I kill your daughter and I kill you." Dad manages to defeat the heavily tattooed drifter. So the killer shoots the loser.
Cooper's team, in the meantime, has miraculously narrowed the search to one teenage girl: Jane McBride and Ben McBride. Hotch and Cooper head to the McBride residence to find Mrs. Leslie McBride. "You just got my family murdered!" she says. The killer called Leslie and told her that her husband and daughter would be executed if she got the cops involved. As proof, he left a video tape of the male victim being shot. Later, Hotch urges Cooper to go back to Washington before he gets in hot water with Strauss. Cooper then tells a sad tale about not trusting his gut some years back -- the result being that a kid was killed. "I won't ignore my gut again -- I don't care what it costs me," Cooper says. Hotch gets a call: another body has been found.
Cut to the latest crime scene, where Prentiss grills Rawson about his boss's mysterious history (involving "psychological ops"). Rawson won't divulge details, but says he'd "die for the man." The pair then examines the latest body -- a familiar man covered in tattoos. They notice skin under the victim's fingernails as well as bruising. He has been in a fight. They quickly theorize that the unsub is holding his victims captive, forcing them to fight each other. "Admit it: I'm growing on you," Rawson says. Emily grins.
Rossi and Prophet visit San Quentin prison (the theory is that the unsub learned how to keep captives by being a captive himself, perhaps in the local lock up). Prophet knows his way around the yard because he apparently spent time behind bars here. An old friend of Prophet agrees to do some checking around. In the meantime, both teams stake out the district where all the male victims were snatched. After all, Ben McBride will soon need another man to fight. It's not long before Rawson spots a suspicious figure, who soon takes of RUNNING. The chase is on as Emily and Rawson take off after the sprinter. They final track him down in an ally -- but it turns out to be a common junkie. The disappointed agents let the scared man go free.
Cut back to fight club, where dad wins yet another round. "Why keep this up?" the killer asks. "She's better off with me. We both know it." Yells Ben: "You won't break me!" This time, however, the killer introduces a twist. Ben must KILL his opponent or Jane dies. So Ben whispers "sorry" to the stranger before slowly beating him to death.
Back at headquarters, an angry Strauss calls -- and demands that Cooper leave the city. He refuses. "Tell agent Hotchner that I'll deal with both of you when you get back," Strauss says before hanging up. Prophet and Rossi, meanwhile, head back to San Quentin where Prophet's buddy has info. Turns out a former prisoner "found out his daughter died and he went all commando." It could be the guy. Back at headquarters, the team discovers that the McBride clan recently began seeing a family therapist located in the same district where all the homeless men were taken. The therapist office also houses family services -- and the profile indicates that the killer had his daughter taken away. So is the killer scouting for fathers and daughters there?
Garcia runs the name John Vincent Bell -- courtesy of Prophet's amigo -- against the names in the family services list. Bingo. The man's daughter was taken away from him. Bell then beat a social worker to death and ended up in San Quentin for seven years. During the stretch, the daughter died in a car accident. "Bell is making these men fight to the death just like he did -- he's trying to prove he did what any father would do," Prentiss says. Growls Hotch: "We got him." They team also has an address.
Cut to the killer's lair, where Jane decides to take matters into her own hands. She tells the killer that, yes, she SHOULD be with him instead of her father. "You should if I got with you, we both live," Jane says. "I need to know you're not a liar, too." Clearly, the girl is just trying to save her pop's life. The killer unlocks her chains -- and the two exit as dad SCREAMS.
A short time later, the teams STORM the address -- and find dad bleeding and chained. "He took her!" Ben tells Cooper. Cut to SUVs and helicopters combing the neighborhood for young Jane and the killer. Sure enough, Cooper spots the pair from a helicopter. The killer spots that he has been spotted and makes a hard turn into the parking garage. John Vincent Bell drags the girl all the way to the roof. Prentiss, LaSalle and Derek aren't far behind. "You know what it's like to lose your daughter -- do you really want to hurt somebody else's?" LaSalle screams. The killer lowers his weapon ... and leaps off the edge! Prentiss rushes to look and it turns out that the killer has landed on a ledge just a few feet below. He draws his weapon and readies to shoot Prentiss when BLAM! The killer is shot dead by Rawson, who is armed with a sniper rifle on the roof of the building next door.
Later, father and daughter are reunited in a tearful embrace. "I love you, daddy!" Jane confesses. Cooper then gets a call from a forgiving Strauss. "Get back here," Strauss says. "I have a pile of cases for you." We thought she might.