The BAU head to the small fishing town of Franklin, Alaska - population 1,500 - where there have been three murders in the span of a week. These three murders are the first ever in the town. On the surface, there is no similarity in either victimology or modus operandi, although each successive murder is becoming more confident in its approach. The case is made all the more difficult because everyone in town knows everyone's business, meaning that everyone is connected in some manner and if there is even the suspicion of someone being the killer, vigilante-ism could come into play. The key suspect is Joshua Beardsley, who was born and raised in Franklin, moved away to go the school and returned to town two weeks ago to help his recently widowed mother operate the town's only hotel/tavern. But when another person is murdered, the BAU not only believe they have a better profile and an understanding of why the victims were targeted, but that Joshua is the key to tracking the unsub. This case has a profound effect on Garcia, who sees more than she wants.
The team, including Garcia, go to the small town of Franklin, Alaska to catch a rapidly escalating serial killer before the locals take justice into their own hands.
- We begin with the hacking of flesh with a meat cleaver... but it's just a woman named Brenda cutting the heads off fish. She tells her coworker to head home to his wife, she'll be OK on the creepy, spooky, darkened boat by herself.
Later, she hears someone on the pier but tries to reassure herself it's probably not a homicidal maniac.
Then we see the potential homicidal maniac following her. She drops her cooler full of fish and runs... straight into someone she recognizes. They greet her with an arrow stab to the gut.
Back in BAU Land, JJ and Emily's shopping trip with Garcia is interrupted by a call about a series of murders in Franklin, Alaska.
Back at BAU, JJ lays out the victims: a hunter named John Baker, a school teacher and new victim Brenda, a first mate on a fishing boat. A new victim every two days. The man was out in the open, the women were hidden.
Hotchner says they'll fly out tonight, and he wants Garcia along.
On the plane, they work on a profile. Derek thinks the unsub is working up to more challenging kills since the first two were shot and the third was stabbed up close.
Deputy Flack greets the team at the dock where their plane lands. Sheriff Rhodes introduces himself to Hotchner and the team. They'll be working out of the local tavern.
Morgan and Prentiss run into a Craig Ramey as he's packing up to leave town, spooked by what's been going on. They talk to Keith, the guy Brenda was working with the night she was killed.
Rossi and Dr. Reed learn from Flack that a bear has been mutilating animals in the woods, so the deputies had to cover him crime scene blood to avoid drawing the bear into town. They meet with the local coroner who tells them the first victim had traces of urine on him. Reed finds post-mortem cuts on Brenda's body.
At the hotel, Garcia meets Josh Beardsley, the son of the hotel owner, Carol. She looks him up as he watches to find he moved back into town a few weeks ago.
Hotchner advises the sheriff to have a town meeting, but he doesn't think it'll help.
Back at the hotel, Rossi thinks the urine and arrow demonstrate hunting skills. Hotchner suggests a curfew to the sheriff. Garcia plans to pull an all-nighter but due to the lack of rooms, she volunteers to bunk with Morgan.
She calls Kevin and is telling him the sleeping arrangement is harmless when they get cut off. She takes her flashlight and goes to inspect the signal, which naturally is outside in a darkened, creepy area. She hears a noise and goes to investigate.
She hears a hacking sound, a muffled cry and sees a shadowy figure run off. She runs to the person on the ground just in time to see the man die.
Later, the team stands around the body of Craig Ramey, the man who was leaving town earlier. The unsub sped up his every-two-days schedule and they wonder why. Hotchner thinks dumping the body near where the team is staying is the unsub's way of taunting them and saying he's not afraid. Reed looks at the hacked up body and thinks the unsub took a piece of the victim's organs with him. Morgan tries to comfort a completely shaken Garcia. She tells Morgan she ran toward the victim because when she got shot she thought the face of the person who shot her would be the last she'd see and she didn't want the man to go through that. Morgan wants to question her, but she shuts him down.
Outside, Prentiss thinks the first victim might have been an accident, but the unsub developed a taste for killing. Reed says taking the organ represents feelings of abandonment.
The team presents the profile: an immature male, in his mid to late 20s who suffered a traumatic loss that made him feel abandoned. He knows the area and has hunting experience. They tell the sheriff to bring in anyone who seems like they have something to hide.
Hotchner and the sheriff talk to the dead teacher's colleague and ask if she had a student who seemed to enjoy hunting too much. She mentions the tavern owner's son, Josh, who came back a few weeks ago after his dad died. Rossi talks to him at the jail, showing him pictures and asking why someone would take a victim's spleen. Josh says it's a Native hunting tradition to eat part of the kill and gain some of its spirit. He killed his first deer when he was seven and ate its heart. He says hunting is his favorite thing to do.
Rossi tells Hotchner that Josh fits the profile but doesn't seem to have anything to hide.
Back at tavern HQ, going through the profiles Garcia pulled together Reed has found all the victims had hunting licenses. Garcia joins them and says she doesn't think Josh is the unsub. His mom overhears them. Garcia says Josh knew she didn't carry a gun and if he were the guy she'd be dead.
Carol demands answers from the sheriff. He tells her they'll hold Josh for the night and he's free to go if nothing happens.
In tavern hq, Garcia looks at the profile, specifically the part about abandonment issues. Craig Ramey was leaving town, the teacher was retiring to Florida, the hunter just bought property in Fairbanks and Brenda just took a job in Seattle. She searches for anyone else who might be leaving and finds Kat Allen, who just got accepted for a summer job at the University of Bloomington.
Prentiss and Morgan go talk to her at her waitress job. They find she's pregnant. She says the dad is a guy she met on a cruise. They want to put her somewhere for the night.
Carol comes home and finds the power out. She goes down to the basement and finds that the fuse was tripped. Next thing she knows, someone's hacking at her.
Later, Morgan and Prentiss examine her body and note that the unsub has gone from random kills outdoors to breaking and entering. He played with her organs and smeared blood on her face. They think it was personal.
Back at the jail, Rossi and Reed greet Josh in the morning and give him the bad news about the latest victim - his mom.
They want his help. They pepper him with questions about anyone who might have had a grudge against him or his mom or felt abandoned by them. He seems to think of someone but says nothing and leaves.
The sheriff has someone tail him.
Garcia looks into Josh's college records for a clue. When Rossi hears Carol was mutilated he remembers Flack saying someone about a bear mutilating animals in the woods. He wants to see the pictures.
Later, the team tells the sheriff they have to adjust the profile. The animals were killed by a person, a teenage boy who practiced on animals and moved up to people when the hunting accident excited him.
Garcia calls Hotchner to tell him that Josh wrote a college essay about being his brother's keeper, even though he has no siblings. Hotchner asks the teacher if that describes anyone. She immediately thinks of Owen Porter, a boy who is now home schooled and who the sheriff says is abused by his dad.
They go to his house where Hotchner keeps the dad in line while the mom tells them her son came home covered in blood last night and she's washed blood out of his clothes before. She says he wasn't like other boys as a kid and she was afraid of what he'd do if he ever left town.
They get a report that Josh shook his tail and someone saw a hunting party going into the woods: They're hunting Owen.
A teenage boy runs through the woods followed by Josh and several other men with hunting rifles. The team races behind.
Hotchner tries to get Owen's mom to tell them where her son might be hiding. She tells them Lake Lafayette, which means he's going for a boat. They call Morgan. Owen keeps running with the four men on his trail. Josh knows where he's going.
Owen jumps on to a boat just as Hotchner and the sheriff catch up followed by the mini-angry mob including Josh and Brenda's coworker Keith. They want the sheriff to leave Owen to them since he's only 16 and they don't think he'll be punished. Josh asks him why he killed his mom and Owen blames Josh for leaving him behind.
Josh isn't showing any signs of backing down when Morgan and Rossi run up behind him on the dock and the other townspeople lower their guns. Josh is still angry and raises his rifle back up. A shot rings out. Josh is hit. Rossi winged him, but notes that he'll live.
The team packs up to leave town. We see Owen's abusive father in a jail cell next to his son the serial killer, with Josh staring him down.
Morgan tells Garcia they couldn't have done any of it without her. He says he's proud of her. She says she doesn't want to lose who she is just so she can do the job. He reminds her that she sees the beauty in everything and that won't change.
They hug it out with a couple friendly "I love yous."