The episode begins in a park where a street singer is singing with her guitar. At the end of her song, a man arrives and gives her a good top. She is happy and she gets into his car. She finds it weird that the seats are covered with plastic. The man then repeatedly stabs her. Next, Amanda calls Rossi and tells him that his book is great but the dedications page is missing. Garcia briefs the team about their present case; three charred bodies that showed up in the pier of Santa Monica and they haven’t been identified. Two are male and the latest is a female. Since the unsub is crossing gender line, it can rule out sexual assault.
It also shows that the victim is not only sadistic but also patient. He has chosen a popular spot so it means that either the victims are tourists or the unsub is trying to scare them away. Looks like the unsub wants to be noticed and Rossi and Hotch feel that the pier is somehow important for the unsub. Garcia manages to find out about the latest victim; Lindsey Leeman, and she is 19. She has been in Santa Monica only a couple of months and her mother used to send her money. So how did she afford an ocean view avenue address? Her cell phone shows that all communication is with Minnesota numbers and not one from CA. Garcia then calls Hotch and says that there were no utilities under Lindsey’s name and that the address is of a meal center. And her mother had no clue where she was living. The coroner says that Lindsey was dead before she was burnt.
So the burning is only a forensic measure. Her mother tells Hotch that she took up a second mortgage in order to send Lindsey some money. Rossi and Hotch arrive at the meal center and the woman at the centre recognizes Lindsey. Rossi sees someone familiar; an old acquaintance from Vietnam, Sergeant Scott. Scott recognizes him; he reads Rossi’s books. By the time he goes to get his card for him, Scott is gone. Next, a guy stops a man and tells him if he wants his portrait made as he already got started, it looks like him. We then see that the man has tied up the artist and shaving his head; he is the unsub and the artist the next victim. The team arrives to check on their next victim and they realize that the unsub was a homeless.
This time the victim’s head is shaved and the burns are from a chemical; bleach. It is a total change in MO. Scott is at the scene and he tells Rossi that the victim’s name is Jeremy. Scott then has a theory. He mentions a colleague from Vietnam who had his eyes, ears and arms removed by the enemy but they kept him alive. This was done to instill fear. The same thing is happening here. The team then address to the homeless that the unsub is trying to scare them; use of bleach indicates that and shaving of the head is to humiliate the victim. He could be a local and is extremely meticulous. He blends in and it is possible that he is aware of the investigation. Later, Rossi and Scott take a walk and Scott says that Rossi was a screw up initially, but he did show potential.
Cut to the flashback, where one member of the troop, Hernandez is shot in his leg during a fight and Scott asks his guys to pull back and asks Rossi to shield Hernandez. Rossi isn’t sure. One man comes close to Hernandez and Scott slits his throat. But then another enemy appears and Rossi takes him down. In the present, Rossi wants to help Scott but Scott doesn’t need any. If he did, he would have asked him. The coroner tells the team that the victim was drowned in bleach. So, the earlier victims were incinerated post mortem and this time there is torture. They infer that the victim is trying to eradicate the homeless. Next, at night a man approaches the lady from the meal center. Scott is nearby and is listening to the conversation.
The unsub then attacks her and Scott tries to protect her. the unsub attacks Scott and pins him to the ground. Scott is old to fight the unsub and he manages to take the lady with him and Scott is helpless. Scott is in Rossi’s office and he Rossi tells him that his drinking problem is what rendered him helpless. Scott says that this wasn’t his fault and he tried to help Sarah. Rossi wants him to help him solve the case. Rossi the tries to ease Scott and asks him to place himself in the alley and tell him what ever happened that night; it is like a cognitive interview. Scott manages to identify the smell of the unsub, he was wearing driving gloves, the car he drove was a Mustang and three letters from the license plate. Garcia runs the partial information on the plate and comes up with eight people; one of them is a fire fighter.
That could explain his proficiency with fire. His name is Chad Mills and there is an article where he has saved homeless people off duty. He was terminated from the department two months ago and that is when the murder started. We then see that Mills is stitching up his wound that he incurred during his tussle with Scott. He then cleans the sink and pulls out a can of bleach. The team is outside his apartment. Mills pours the bleach on Sara. Mills hears the gates creaking and he stops and quickly leaves. The team finds Sara. Reid makes her drink something that would help with the bleach she ingested. Derek goes around the house to find Mills. The med team arrives. Mills is missing. We then see that Mills hot wires a car and drives away. He then goes to pick up Scott as he is the one who ruined everything. The team sees that Scott is missing and Rossi feels guilty as he didn’t see this coming.
Alex and Reid are at Mills house and they infer that Mills displayed an OCD. Reid infers that his germ phobia would make him look at the homeless as a virus and him as the cure. Garcia finds out that Mills as terminated as he developed a drug resistant form of TB and he caught it from the homeless he saved. By this he thought that he could stop the spread of TB by killing the entire homeless population. They infer that mills would have taken Scott to the warehouse where he caught the TB from. They ask Garcia to text the address. Mills is about to set Scott on fire when the team arrives. He tells them that no one cares about Scott. Rossi says that he is wrong. They try to talk to him but it doesn’t work. They then trick him and when Mills sees that he has been entrapped he sets himself on fire. Next, Rossi wants to know what Scott is running away from.
He during the war, when Rossi walked into a trap, Hernandez saved Him and Scott by jumping on the bomb while they ran. Rossi got hit by a shrapnel and got a concussion and was sent home. He didn’t know what happened and Scott was awarded for heroic bravery. All credited was give to Scott as he was ordered to take it so that they had a living face to parade around and gather support for an unpopular award. Hernandez, the brave marine, gave up his life to let the weak live!! Rossi asks Scott to come with him.
We then see that they honor Hernandez’s death by handing over his grandson the bravery award. Rossi then tells Scott that his new home is going to be New Directions; a center that helps the war vets to get back on their feet. Rossi then writes the dedication for his latest book; it is dedicated to Sergeant Harrison Scott and Private First Class Anthony Hernandez. The episode ends.