Hotch is called into a meeting with Tony Axelrod from the NSA. He tells him that one DEA agent is dead and two more are missing. They were participating in a joint NSA-DEA anti-drug operation against the LIbertad cartel. Axelrod believes the assistant DEA director in charge of the operation, Bernard Graff, is involved with the cartel and was responsible for their deaths.
Axelrod is worried that an open DEA investigation would sabotage his hunt for Graff, and that the BAU can investigate more covertly, as they are already involved in a dark net investigation involving "the Dirty Dozen."
Axelrod tells Hotch that Graff has a flash drive attached to his wrist that he believes contains the access codes to key Llibertad servers involved in the investigation.
Hotch tells Rossi about the hunt for Graff but swears him to secrecy. The team will be hunting for the agents, and the cartel's connection to the dark net but he will be hunting for Graff covertly.
One of the DEA undercover agents, Mark Bowers, disappeared three weeks ago. Five days ago his body was found in Mexico, just across the border from his base of El Paso Texas. He was strangled, and was found with the skinned face of another man draped across his own.
The team learns that John Corbin went missing a week ago, and Sarah Miles went missing yesterday. Both are undercover DEA agents.
Hotch sends the team to El Paso to hunt for the missing agents, while he conducts the cyber hunt from the BAU home base.
John and Sarah are being held captive in a barn. An unsub pours salt water in John's mouth.
Graff tells Hotch that his DEA specialists have been posing online as buyers and dealers. He tells him about one of their confidential informants, Simon Kahn, who knows who the number two leader of the cartel is, but not the person who runs it, known only as George Washington.
Hotch learns that Simon alerted the DEA to the dual nature of the drug cartel, which operates both on the dark net, as well as a ground operation.
Simon wants to get out of the drug ring, but isn't being allowed to quit. He says he's being threatened, though Graff has no evidence of that.
After Hotch leaves, Graff tells Agent Adrienne Mitchell that she needs to find out why Hotch is really there.
Lopez says that Sarah's husband received a hang-up call from an unknown number three days, on the anniversary of their first date. The call came from a bar just outside of town.
JJ and Lewis pay a visit to the bar from where the hang-up call originated. The bar owner tells them that Sarah had been in the bar, talking with a soccer mom, but that she hadn't stayed very long.
Graff tells Hotch there are multiple dark nets, Tor only being one of them. He says there are over 2,000,000 users on Tor which is slowing it down and making it vulnerable. Many are jumping to other dark nets, like Hornet.
He tells Hotch he believes he's there because he believes they have undercover access to a Hornet router. He says they don't but are working on it. He doesn't realize Hotch is actually there for him.
Hotch tells Graff that his team found evidence that a serial killer is working in El Paso, and is using drug violence as a cover.
The unsub comes into the barn and drags John out.
The FBI finds John's body, and his face is missing. Lopez tells Rossi and JJ that he was severely dehydrated and had been subject to electrical burns.
A man comes shuffling into the barn. Sarah thinks it's John. The man straightens, and John's severed face falls to the ground, off the unsub's grinning face.
Graff calls Hotch, asking him to meet him at a bar. He tells him it's urgent. Hotch remotely starts his car, worried there might be a bomb.
Graff gets into his car. Someone shoots him, making it look like a suicide.
Axelord tells Hotch the USB drive wasn't on his dead body.
MItchell tells Hotch that Graff was the one to alert the NSA that a DEA insider might be running the cartel. She says that her and Graff thought it was Hotch coming to tie up loose ends. She gives Hotch the USB drive.
Garcia alerts JJ and Rossi to the "soccer mom", Jillian Carter, who met with Sarah in the bar. They interview her.
They present evidence to her of her involvement with the cartel. She is uncooperative and threatens to have her husband sue them.
Hotch confronts Axelrod, telling him that evidence points to him as being the head of the Libertad cartel.
Axelrod denies any involvement, and tells Hotch that his boss tipped him off about Graff.
Jillian Carter finally admits to being the nexus between the dark net and ground operations for the Libertad cartel. She is Ben Franklin.
Though she doesn't know the actual name of "George Washington", she tells Rossi and JJ about the routine she was to take whenever she had concerns about someone. She was to set up a meeting with that person, telling them to take the number eight bus to the last stop at Esperanzo Valley. She wouldn't show up for the meeting. Presumably George Washington would take care of the person from there.
Morgan and Lewis travel to that location at Esperanzo Valley. Lewis picks up a payphone, but it doesn't work. A remote camera activates, and the unsub sees the two agents. Morgan tells Lewis he's going up the hill to see if he can better cell reception.
The unsub turns to Sarah, telling her that she's about to have company.
Garcia tells Morgan that the unsub is Jacob Dufour. She tells him Dufour has a history of mental illness, which includes behavior such as cruelty to animals, skinning them and then wearing their skins. She says he lives in a farmhouse very near to the site where Lewis is waiting.
Morgan rushes back. Meanwhile Lewis is walking around, checking out the farmhouse. Dufour shows up. He introduces himself to her. She goes to shake his hand but he tazes her.
Morgan shows up and fires a shot at Dufour, who flees.
Dufour runs to his truck, takes out a rifle and shoots at Morgan. Morgan returns fire, killing him.
Lewis discovers and rescues Sarah.
Hotch confronts the NSA director and identifies him as the George Washington of the cartel. Axelrod and his agents take him into custody and charge him on multiple counts of racketeering and conspiracy to murder a federal agent.