In San Francisco, Vanessa Frank and her boyfriend Daniel Lee are at a park at night. Vanessa tells Xxx that she got a full scholarship, just as a car pulls up. It parks and the driver shines his headlights, and then gets out. He's wearing a mask, and fires a gun.
At Phoenix, Mac is putting together a robot and Jack is worried about the robot apocalypse. Wilt agrees with Mac and points out that AI will probably be in health care. Jack worries that the robots will become self-aware and rise up, just as the robot sits up momentarily and Jack jumps.
Matty calls them to her office and explains that Vanessa and Daniel were found dead in a San Francisco park. An unidentified man gunned them down, and a witness saw the shooter walk away but couldn’t ID Him. When Jack wonders why it's come to them when they're spies, Matty says that Vanessa was her goddaughter. The witness says that the killer wore a black hood, and Wilt says that it sounds identical to the killings committed by the Zodiac Killer. He disappeared in the 60s and was never caught, and Matty asks them to come with her to San Francisco. She asks for their help because it isn't an official assignment, and the team agrees to help. Matty then brings up a crime video showing that Vanessa drew the Zodiac Killer's symbol in her own blood before she died.
The team flies to San Francisco and books into a hotel, and Wilt goes over the information on the Zodiac's first victim. Zodiac claimed that he killed 37 people, and the lead detective believed he was inspired by movies. Riley runs a search of cameras in the area, and Wilt suspects that it's the same killer. He figures that determining how a serial killer thinks is the way to survive an encounter with them, and has seen every serial killer movie and documentary ever made as research for a movie he was written.
The next day, Matty, Jack, and Mac go to the home of Vanessa's mother Sarah. Sarah is holding a wake and Matty goes to talk to her. She then calls the agents in and introduces them to Sarah, who tells them to ask whatever questions that they need to. Vanessa didn't meet anyone new recently or was having trouble with anyone, and Matty promises that they're going to find the killer. Mac and Jack check out Vanessa's bedroom, and Jack admits that in Chechnya he let her down and doesn't want to do it again. Checking the window, Mac notices that someone cut a branch so that they could have a clear line of sight into Vanessa's bedroom.
Jack and Mac go to the abandoned building next door and check out the room facing Vanessa's bedroom window. They find the killer's perch and a cup full of cigarette butts. Someone moves in the next room and they investigate. A homeless man shoves past them and runs out, and Jack goes after him. Mac wraps a cable around himself and jumps out the window, dropping down on the man. He says that he squats there and says that it was the first time in the unit. Some guy they call "the smoking man" moved in there, and is in his late 60s with gray hair. The description matches what Wilt knows, and they figure they might solve one of the greatest crimes in history.
The agents call in the police and question the homeless man, and Matty discovers that the killer was coming there for six weeks and nobody got a good look at him. Mac finds something and improvises an electrostatic dust print lifter out of trash. Matty demands an explanation, ad Mac explains that with Mylar and a static charge, he can bring out a boot print.
Jack sends a picture of the boot print to Riley, who says that the killer avoided being recorded. Wilt has seen it before and confirms it matches a boot style used in the 60s by the military and the original Zodiac. It's the correct size and they stopped making them 20 years ago. Riley hacks in to see who has bought them online, and discovers that one pair was shipped to a Russ Collins who lives in San Francisco.
That night, the team runs surveillance on Russ' house. As Mac and Jack wait outside, Riley calls with a background check on Russ. His record is clean, and Mac warns his partner that all they have is circumstantial evidence. Russ was born in 1949, old enough to be the original Zodiac.
A man, Ronald Winter, comes up with an envelope and says that some guy down the street offered him $100 to deliver it. The man was wearing sunglasses at night, and Jack orders him to sit down. The letter writer says that he's Zodiac, and he's watching them.
Mac and Jack call the police in and they break in to search the house. Meanwhile, Matty questions Ronald and tells him that Vanessa was like a daughter to her. She wants Ronald to know where she's coming from because if he lies then she'll take it personally. Once she's done, Matty tells Mac and Jack that Ronald's story checks out. They've found nothing, and Matty says that they should regroup and figure out their next room. Jack gets an idea and says that the house looks unused and it's been staged to hide something. Mac rigs up a wifi signal detector and finds a hidden room. They go inside and find a room filled with newspaper articles dating back to the original Zodiac murders. There are recent photos, including several of Vanessa, and a laptop. Mac turns it on and finds lot of email encoded with the original code Zodiac used. Matty calls Forensics to copy the disk image, and Mac wonders who their Zodiac was corresponding with.
Wilt calls and says that he's had a handwriting expert confirm the letter that they received is a match for the original Zodiac's handwriting. He then leaves and catches a taxi to the killer's house.
Riley is unable to race the emails or crack the entire cypher. The emails that she's decoded are correspondence from someone teaching the new Zodiac how to kill. They figure that the new killer is a copycat and Riley goes to work in her hotel room. Someone comes in behind her but when Riley turns, there's no one there. She figures that she's reacting to nothing and goes back to work, and the killer grabs her from behind.
When Riley wakes up, she tied to a chair in an abandoned building. The new Zodiac says that no one has ever found him and no one is going to find Riley. The killer's phone rings and he goes to answer it.
Wilt returns to the hotel and sees cigarette butts outside. He runs inside and confirms that Riley is gone, and Zodiac has left a letter on Riley's laptop. When the others arrive, they read the letter. Zodiac knows that they've found his room, and he'll release Riley in 24 hours if they don’t give up their search. They figure that Zodiac is stalling, and Riley's laptop is password-protected. Wilt says that he knows Riley's password from when he's been near her, and he enters it. The decoding software is still running, and Riley was running a check of 50 properties all owned by Russ Orwell. Russ also owned the house they found, and Collins was an alias. Orwell was killed 15 years ago, bludgeoned to death, and Wilt gets a report from the handwriting expert. The handwriting is 100%, but it should have changed over the decades. They figure the new killer scanned the original letters and created his new font. They eliminate the occupied sites in high-traffic area, and Mac figures that since the original Zodiac was a movie fan, he took Riley to an abandoned cinema.
In the theater, Riley works at her bonds. Zodiac comes back after finishing his call, and Riley says that he can let her go and she can't tell anyone. Zodiac reveals his face and asks what she can possibly say that would save her life.
Mac and Jack drive up to the theater and run inside.
Zodiac prepares to shoot Riley, but he hesitates and she realizes that he can't do it because he wants to get the details right. Since the original Zodiac never killed a girl in a movie theater, the new Zodiac can't do it, either. As Zodiac yells at her, Jack points out that there's no cover between them and the stage. Mac rigs a distraction using old film reels and chemicals, while Riley tells the new Zodiac that if he breaks the pattern then he's not a good copycat.
Mac lights a film reel and rolls it down the aisle. It explodes against the stage, and mac and Jack run forward. Zodiac has slipped away, and they free Riley. The agents go after him and find a trapdoor leading to the basement. There are mannequins set up and they spot Zodiac. He shoots at them and runs off, and Riley knocks him out with a stanchion. Mac and Jack arrive and remove Zodiac's hood, and discover that he's the homeless man that they talked to earlier.
When the police arrive, Wilt comes with them and hugs Riley. She assures him that it's okay he knows her password. Matty explains that the homeless man is Russ Orwell's son, Wyatt. After killing his father, Wyatt lived off the grid on his father's money and properties. They traced Wyatt's calls to Dr. Madison Grey on the island of Oahu, and jack prepares to call a friend there. Matty thanks them for their help and ells Jack to make his call.
As they go to pack up, Matty keeps Mac back and admits that she still has some real concerns about his improvisations. However, she admits that what he did was short of a miracle and she's grateful that he made one happen.
Written by Gadfly on Feb 11, 2017