"Without a Trace" Better Angels (TV Episode 2008) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • Jack takes Samantha with him to Los Angeles to help investigate the disappearance of the COO of an airline charter business, but he also has an ulterior motive.

  • Rob Simms, CEO of a New York-based airline charter business, goes missing after an incident with fatal victims and is spotted on the way to LA, which opportunity Jack seizes to rekindle his relationship with Sam, albeit with a caveat. Rob was involved in an extortion case and abducted, but a childhood trauma apparently involving his junkie father before he went to live with his uncle, whom he confronts about a long-suppressed murder suspicion.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • A man cuts himself while shaving. Seeing the blood on his hand causes him to recall a flame-filled memory. The man, Rob, finishes dressing and leaves despite the protestations of a woman.

    Rob goes to the funeral of a man named Kyle, standing in the back and having further unpleasant flashbacks while the minster gives the eulogy. A man in the front turns around and makes eye contact with Rob, who walks out of the service and disappears.

    23 Hours Missing

    Martin and Danny converge on the funeral home and we learn that a our man, Rob Simms, is the COO of a private jet chartering company and was attending the funeral of a mechanic who died in a fire. Danny says Kyle was killed during routine work but that other employees blamed Rob for the accident. Rob recently got in a shouting match with a Dale Kinecki who Martin finds on the funeral guest list.

    Jack and Elena speak with Rob's fiancé, Brook, telling her Dale was seen following Rob always from the service. She tells them it was the CEO who ordered cutbacks which Rob implemented that may have played a role in the fire.

    Flashback to a drunken Rob telling Brook that company lawyers don't want the whole truth about the accident revealed at an upcoming National Transportation Safety Board meeting. "Not this time," he says when she asks if it can just be left alone as an accident.

    Brook tells them Rob had drug problems as a teen and the binge after Kyle's death ended 12 years of sobriety. Rob wouldn't tell her what he meant by "this time."

    Jack gets shot down for a date with Sam because her mother is in town watching the baby.

    Viv and Sam watch video of the NTSB meeting where Rob contradicts a written statement that Kyle was responsible for the accident and takes the blame himself.

    Martin meets with CEO Spence Licardi who says the accident was the result of a fire and had nothing to do with the cutbacks he ordered. He admits that Rob taking the blame for the fire opened the company up to a lawsuit from Kyle's family and tells Martin where to find Dale.

    26 Hours Missing

    Dale is brought in to speak with Elana and we flashback to his conversation with Rob: Rob told Dale he would take care of Kyle's family and give Dale $10,000 if he could help him secretly fly to Los Angeles.

    Martin views a live satellite feed of the LAPD busting into a crack house where they find Rob's backpack and wallet.

    Jack tells Sam that Rob's laptop files revealed he had been searching for a man named Roger Davis, a former member of the LAPD who retired to New Jersey. Given the connections Jack asks Sam to accompany him to L.A., which she does somewhat reluctantly.

    Jack and Sam speak with Rob's father (Charlie) and sister (Ann). Rob was in periodic contact with Ann but Charlie had not seen Rob in years, which the father blamed on his being hard on Rob when he was young. Neither knows anything about Roger Davis or why Rob might have returned to L.A.

    30 Hours Missing

    Davis comes in to speak with Elena, telling her he first met Rob a few weeks ago in regards to a 15-year-old double homicide. The victims were Bill and Emily Jackson who were stabbed to death at their home in L.A.

    Flashback to Davis's meeting with Rob. Rob says he used to live in L.A. and may have seen something related to the murders but won't tell Davis more than that. Rob says a recent event "stirred up some memories."

    Davis tells Elena Rob never followed up on the meeting with the LAPD and that Rob clearly knew the case well.

    Jack and Sam learn Rob's backpack ended up at the crack house because a homeless man grabbed it from the street after watching Rob get pulled into a car at gun point.

    Viv breaks down the Jackson murders for Martin and Danny: The couple was killed in their home with one of their kitchen knives and police at the time considered it a robbery gone wrong. The killer cleaned up after himself well, but the dead husband had a piece of shirt in his hand containing DNA which could not be matched with anyone in the database.

    While waiting to see if releasing Rob's picture in L.A. draws any leads, Sam blows up at Jack over his asking her to come out to L.A. as a back door date. As a mother she needs more stability in her life and anytime she gets together with Jack it end up being "messy." Viv breaks up the lecture with a call telling them the Jackson's daughter lives a quarter-mile from where Rob was abducted.

    Allie Jackson tells them she met with Rob, who said he might have information related to her parents' murder. Allie blew him off and called a Detective Wells of the LAPD who had made contact with her earlier by phone and asked her to let him know if a man arrived inquiring about her parents.

    Elena calls and tells Jack the LAPD has no detective by the name of Wells. But the number Allie had for the man belongs to an Ed Wells who did time for armed robbery and whose mug shot matches almost perfectly the description of the person that grabbed Rob off the street. There is no record of contact between Wells, but Wells and Charlie Simms speak almost every day.

    Ann tells Jack and Sam that Wells loved Rob and that he took care of Rob when he had drug problems. She says she hasn't seen Charlie since Jack and Sam last interviewed them and when pressed about the connection to the murders recalls a conversation with Rob years ago.

    Flashback to teenage Rob telling Ann that the morning after the Jacksons were killed that Charlie told Rob if anyone asked him where he was the night before he should lie and say he was with Charlie. During the conversation Rob noticed blood on Charlie's shirt.

    Ann says she didn't believe Rob at the time because of his contentious relationship with their father and that a few weeks later he left to live with Wells. Sam gets a call that the LAPD just picked up Charlie and Wells but they are not with Rob.

    32 Hours Missing

    Jack interviews Charlie who flashes back to that morning when Rob came to him and accused him of committing the murders. Charlie tells him not to as any more questions "for your sake," but Rob insists that he's tired of running from his father's lie.

    Charlie admits to Jack that he had Wells pick up Rob and that he committed the murders. The Jacksons were wealthy landscape clients of Wells' and Charlie needed money at the time

    Almost simultaneous to this confession Sam pushes Wells to come clean about what his friend has just admitted to, that the DNA evidence is still on record and Charlie will eventually be convicted. Wells says that Charlie didn't do anything and we . . .

    Flashback to Wells and Rob together in the car just after Wells grabbed him near Allie's home. Wells eventually admits that it was actually Rob who committed the murders during a PCP bender. Charlie found Rob covered in blood that night, muttering about the rich people. Charlie went back over to the Jacksons' home and cleaned up the crime scene. When Charlie was sure Rob had no memory of the event he sent him to live with Wells. Upon hearing this a distraught Rob shoves Wells out of the car, taking the gun and driving off.

    Eventually the LAPD find the car, Rob's belonging and a suicide note at the beach, the conclusion in Jack's words being "it looks like he decided to take a long swim until he got tired."

    The final scene is Jack and Sam sitting together on a bench discussing their future and periodically making out. Jack tells Sam his daughter will be coming to live with him soon and that he's scared he will screw it up. Sam is confident in his parenting and the two sound ready to make a go at the relationship.

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