The episode begins at Bronson Springs, Colorado ’88, where Bronson Springs has been declared the “City of the Future”. To celebrate this victory, the Mayor decides to bury a time capsule. It will be opened 25 years later and this will provide a snap shot of what made Bronson Springs so special in 1988. In the present, Mayor Lindsey Winters is happy to drill out the time capsule. She asks Sam Wakefield (Mayor ’88) to pull out the first bag. It contains floppy disks. The young faces look confused. Winters pulls out the second bag and a skull rolls out. Everyone is shocked and a man coolly walks away from the crowd.
At BAU, Garcia updates the team that the skull once belonged to a 23-year-old, Wade Burke. As of two hours ago, another decapitated body was found in Bronson Springs. It belongs to a 63-year-old Charlie Figg, a retired Deputy. The team feels that 25 years of dormancy is highly improbable. They think that either there could be other victims or this is the work of a copycat killer. Either way, Bronson Springs is getting a lot of attention. Elsewhere, the unknown subject neatly wraps his victim’s head in plastic and places it in the freezer. On the flight, Morgan tells the team that Charlie was shot first and decapitated postmortem. Hotch and Alex go to meet Sheriff Bob Collier.
Bob tells them that Charlie took him under his wings and trained him. He says that Charlie liked to hunt. That is probably why he had gone to the remote area where he was killed. Morgan and JJ go to meet Wade’s mother. She tells them that, weeks before Wade disappeared, he told them that he wanted to move out because he wanted a change. Wade was an electrical engineer, but he worked for the family carpet business. Wade’s mother tells them that his father was controlling and wanted to keep Wade close. Morgan wants to know why, but she doesn’t answer further and leaves.
Reid and Rossi meet Sam, and Sam hands him the list of 20 people who put the bags in the tube. Sam introduces them to Wanda Sullivan, who worked for the newspaper back then. She had taken some pictures of people putting the bags in the tubes. Wanda is not happy that the FBI is in town. She tells Sam that it is a mistake and leaves. Sam tells them that back in ’88, the moment Wanda knew that Bronson Springs has been shortlisted for the award, she made it her business to keep the townspeople in line. She wrote special columns in her newspaper about people who broke laws. Rossi wants access to those columns.
Garcia tells the team that Wade had six intoxication charges against him and one hit and run but, because his father’s big fat bank account always came to his rescue, none of them showed on his record. This explains why Wade’s father wanted to keep him close. Hotch tells the team that it was the same saw that cut Wade’s and Charlie’s heads. So, there is a change in MO because Wade’s body wasn’t found and Charlie’s was found shortly after he was killed. This means the unknown subject wants an audience. There is a Town Hall meeting tonight, and Hotch thinks this will give them a chance to observe those who attend. The unknown subject waited for 25 years and that distinctiveness might show in other ways. At the town hall, things don’t go exactly as planned and Wanda walks out of the meeting. The unknown subject watches Wanda leave.
Later, he arrives at Wanda’s house and shoots her. The next day, the team and the cops find Wanda’s decapitated body in her house. Hotch thinks that she was targeted. Wanda was a big anti-drug crusader, but JJ points out that she was growing a nice patch of marijuana in her garden. The team thinks that the unknown subject is killing people whose personal lives don’t add up to their public image. They decide to take a closer look into the victims’ personal lives. The team finds out that Charlie had a secret family outside Bronson Springs. Hotch confronts Bob about this. Bob tells him that Charlie had personal issues, but he was a good cop.
The team profiles the unknown subject. They tell the cops that the unknown subject is very patient, and this means he could be an artisan or in a profession where he works in solitude for long hours. He is also collecting the heads. This means he is going to make his next statement and this one is going to be a bold one. Elsewhere, the unknown subject kills his next victim. Garcia tells the team about an interesting fact from ’88. One month before Wade disappeared, there was a sexual assault reported. There are three interesting things about this report. The officer who responded to the assault was Charlie, only this incident was omitted from Wanda’s columns, and the address, where the assault was reported from, was near to Wade’s workplace. Bob arrives with the news of their latest victim, Todd Backus, 72 years old and a widower.
Rossi states that all of the victims circle back to Wade Burke, and he wonders how Backus would fit in. Garcia digs into Todd’s life and finds out that Todd moved into Bronson Springs and, ten days after the sexual assault incident took place, Wade’s father gave him a job. Garcia also says that the address where Todd lived is very close to where the assault took place. This means that Todd witnessed the assault. So, Wade committed a sexual assault, Charlie was the officer on rounds, Wanda omitted it from her column, and Todd witnessed the assault.
At home, the unknown subject’s wife sees the heads in the refrigerator and freaks out. The unknown subject locks up his wife. Garcia tells the team that Wade’s father made a 30k payment to a Clarence Tipton and charged it off as consulting fee. Clarence and his wife, Arlene, moved out of town after that. Alex and Rossi go to meet the Tiptons. Arlene tells them that Wade raped their daughter and the 30k was cover up money. Their daughter moved to the other side of the state when she turned 18 and they never heard from her. Arlene shows them a picture of their daughter, Leanne. It is seen that Leanne is the unknown subject’s wife, who is locked up in the room. Leanne manages to break open the door, but the unknown subject, Tory, arrives and stops her from making the 911 call. At the precinct, Bob hands the rape case file to Alex and Hotch.
Hotch asks him if the precinct had undergone any renovation since 1988. He feels that it could be someone from the precinct because the unknown subject knew all the details from the case. Hotch looks around the precinct and figures out that the current storage area was a holding cell during ’88. This means that the unknown subject overheard Leanne’s statement and also witnessed the cover up. Alex tells Garcia to look for the arrests made on the night of July 18th. Garcia goes through the records and tells them about Tory. Hotch asks her Tory’s address. They go to Tory’s house, but don’t find anybody. They see a wedding photograph and learn that Tory married Leanne. Elsewhere, Tory is driving around with Leanne, explaining his actions. Leanne tells him that there is something about that night that he doesn’t know.
At the precinct, Alex goes through Leanne’s statement and feels that something is off. They figure out that it was a false accusation. In the car, Leanne tells Tory that she was in love with Wade and, that night, they had a fight. She says that she was scared that her father would beat her up if he found out about Wade. So, she made up a story. She also tells him about the 30k. Tory is pissed. At Tory’s house, Rossi figures out where Tory could be. They head towards the courthouse where the bags were put inside the time capsule in ’88. In the hallway, Tory is about to kill Leanne. The team arrives and saves Leanne. They arrest Tory. The team heads back home. The episode ends.