A tech crew prepares to film another episode of Final Confession, a talk show hosted by TV personality Rick Mason. Mason walks the camera into a restaurant and sums up that day's guests: Dr. Joseph Vinton, a therapist who molested young patients, Scott Fisher, one of his victims (eleven at the time of the crime, now fifteen), and Sarah Fisher, the boy's mother. Mason mocks Vinton and establishes that he got off easy for the crimes; he only did 18 months for abusing seven victims. The show is quickly derailed when, after Vinton apologizes for his crimes, someone in the audience shoots him. The shooter is shot by a security guard and quickly restrained, but the audience panics. Mason screams "COMMERCIAL!" as chaos ensues.
Briscoe and Logan arrive and Logan interviews Mason, who says that Scott's father, Sid, was the shooter. He says he tried to get Sid to appear with the rest of the family, but Sid (now divorced from Sarah) refused. Furthermore, the location was secret; Sid couldn't have known where to go to shoot Vinton. The guests were sequestered in a hotel before airing, and even the crew was kept in the dark. Mason also says that Vinton died in surgery. Meanwhile, Briscoe talks to Sarah, who says that Sid has anger issues. When the two detectives meet up, they say that the security guard who shot Sid (the head of security for the show, named Barry Talbot) is back at the precinct. Logan wants to talk to Talbot about how Sid knew where to go; Briscoe isn't terribly concerned, thinking that Sid was justified. They also discuss the new Lieutenant, Anita Van Buren.
Van Buren takes Logan's side, even when Briscoe protests that Sid's Army training could have enabled him to track Vinton on his own. Logan protests that, if that were true, Sid would have shot Vinton somewhere away from four million TV witnesses. They agree to give the case a day, and to talk to Talbot. Talbot, though, says he doesn't know anything. He claims that, while he knew from Sarah that Sid had anger problems, he was surprised to see Sid show up. This tips Briscoe off — an ex-cop like Talbot would know to suspect trouble from someone like Sid — and the two go to talk to Sid.
Sid is in the hospital, and he claims that he shot Vinton without help. He thinks that no jury will send him to jail for shooting Vinton, and even with his lawyer disagreeing, he won't say any different. Mason, Sid says, deserved to die.
"I shot an animal. Call the vet."
— Sid Fisher
The detectives talk to Sarah, who says she went on the show to get closure. She also says that Scott wasn't in touch with Sid. She denies telling Sid where Vinton was. Later, Briscoe and Logan are discussing the case, when Logan sees a paper saying that it's sweeps and Final Confession is getting a huge ratings boost. Briscoe mocks the idea that Mason was behind it. The two argue and decide that the most likely suspect is still Talbot.
Investigation of the hotel where the guests stayed and the telephones reveals that a call was made from the hotel's pay phone to Sid's house while Talbot, Sarah, and Sid were in the hotel. Furthermore, Mason had visited the hotel shortly before the call. Van Buren shows up with information that Talbot was forced out of the police after evidence surfaced that he was taking bribes; they decide to bring him in.
Van Buren threatens Talbot with an accessory to murder charge, and Talbot cracks. He protests that he has four kids to feed, and then says that at the hotel Mason was on the phone with his lawyer. Sid's known issues were making Talbot nervous. Talbot heard Mason say that he couldn't cancel the show and that, should something happen, he would need his lawyer's help to known what trouble he'd be in. Talbot got spooked.
Mason, of course, denies this, and says that he's already fired Talbot for the security breach. His lawyer shuts down the interview, but she looks nervous. Later, the police talk about the case, but still can't determine who made the call. They decide to talk to Olivet about Sarah. Over lunch, Olivet protests about diagnosing someone she's never met, then does it anyway. She says that Sarah needed to do the TV circuit as part of her recovery and Vinton was essential for that, so she wouldn't kill him; it's more likely that Scott called Sid and Sarah is lying for him. When the detectives talk to Sarah and Scott, Scott almost confesses, but Sarah stops the interview. She does let slip that she should have expected an event like this from watching the show.
Back in the precinct, Briscoe says the DA won't indict yet. They decide to watch Final Confessions to see if this sort of thing had happened before. They first talk with a Mr. Hudson, a TV manager, who exposits that TV ratings go up when people die and that they're trying to broadcast executions in Nevada. He directs them to an ex-employee of Mason's, Debbie Curio.
Curio says she couldn't handle Mason, so she quit. She denies being fired. She brings up an old show where a mob trial juror went on his show and then went missing; Mason promised the juror safety but didn't deliver. Another time, Mason got Tommy, a drag queen to sing on his show, then invited his family without telling him. She gets them the tape.
The new assistant DA, Claire Kincaid, complains that the prior acts aren't admissible. Van Buren says that the tape goes to motive, then shows the tape. Mason lies to the guest that his family supports him and wants him to come clean on TV; he then brings them in and the family can't believe it. Briscoe says that the father had a heart attack almost immediately and the drag queen committed suicide a week later. Kincaid is unconvinced.
Kincaid talks to Stone and Schiff, who take the detectives' side. They say that Mason is at least guilty of facilitating the murder. Stone wants to offer Sid a deal for manslaughter 1, which he's going to get anyway, in exchange for his testimony. Stone says they can threaten to charge Scott if Sid doesn't take a deal. Sid has fired his lawyer so they can probably bluff Sid about charging Scott. Schiff says they're not indicting Scott no matter what, but Stone says Sid doesn't know that.
Sid doesn't think Sarah will testify against Scott, but Stone's threat of charging Scott shakes him. Sid first lies and says that Mason called him directly, when Stone calls him on it Sid again refuses to involve Scott. He denies contact with anyone.
"I cannot let you commit perjury."
"I didn't get any calls. I didn't talk to anybody."
— Ben Stone and Sid Fisher
Exasperated, Stone decides to bring the whole family together. In the DA's office, with only Sarah present, Scott confesses — Mason told him the show's location, and he called his father. Stone brings in Sid and uses the confession to get Sid's testimony. Later, Schiff is unhappy about all the dealing, and afraid they'll look ridiculous. Stone doesn't care about that.
"I'd wear clown makeup if I thought it could get me a conviction."
— Ben Stone
Mason is arraigned for manslaughter 1 and criminal facilitation. Mason tries to make a speech about his greatness as a journalist, but the judge shuts him and his lawyer, Alice Sutton, up.
"Sir, I have no idea who you are."
—Judge Walter Schreiber
Later, Mason berates Stone for the courts letting Vinton go free so quickly. He's contemptuous of Stone and walks out on Stone's offer to drop the manslaughter charge in return for a plea to facilitation. On her way out, Sutton says she'll have the phone call Talbot overheard excluded. This turns out not to be the case — later, Judge Steinmann says she'll allow it. Stone threatens Sutton with disbarment and accessory to murder charges based on the call, but she laughs it off. Stone exorciates her for helping Mason plan a murder.
In court, Stone's opening is about Mason's motive; he says Mason was desperate for ratings and so instigated the shooting. Sutton's defense is that Mason didn't do anything, not even coerce anyone to come to his program. She brings up Sid's past in which he assaulted Vinton at the original trial four years back, and says this is a more sensible motive than Mason convincing him to do it.
On the stand, Talbot repeats that he got scared from the phone call — he thought Mason was guessing that Sid would come. Mason wouldn't let him hire extra security for the show. He says, if Sid showed up, he'd let things play out. Sutton points out that Mason never called the police, and tries to bring up Talbot's being forced out of the police, but Judge Steinmann blocks that line of questioning. Sutton then points out that Talbot lied to the police and was fired by Mason.
"We're doing a show. Things are supposed to happen."
—Talbot, quoting Mason
Sid testifies next, saying that he threatened Mason that he'd show up if Mason put Scott on the show. He says Mason incited him to come. On cross, Sutton brings up the deal with Stone that Sid made — Sid got a reduced sentence and Scott wasn't charged. Sid admits the terms of the deal, and Sutton says that this could be motive to lie. Sid screams that it's all Mason's fault. Stone, on redirect, brings up the time when Sid wanted to lie in his testimony but Stone disallowed it.
Scott testifies that Mason told him the location so that Scott could tell Sid. Scott says that Mason specifically told him to call his father and tell him where the show was. Sutton wants to know about Scott's history with Vinton, bringing up that Scott kept quiet about being molested for three years for his mother's sake. Sutton tries to get him to admit lying to please her, but Scott won't bite. Later, Stone brags that Scott beat Sutton, but Kincaid shows up to say that Mason is suing for false arrest and held a press conference saying he was innocent. Schiff says they should be cautious; Mason is taking the stand and he's an experienced orator.
"Who said that all cases are made by prepping the witnesses?"
"You did, I think, about 400 times."
—Adam Schiff and Ben Stone
Mason says that he visited Scott to make sure he was ready for the show. He denies telling Scott the location and also denies stopping Talbot from hiring additional security. Mason expounds on his own journalistic credentials; he says he's an ethical journalist, moreso than mainstream reporters. Stone disputes all his statements and brings up Tommy, but the judge blocks that line of questioning because it's irrelevent. In response, Stone gets Mason to say that he never knowingly put anyone in danger; this allows him to talk about the previous incidents to challenge the credibility of that statement. The judge allows this.
Curio testifies about the juror, Davis, from the mob trial. The juror they chose was the one who pushed for conviction, and was willing to go on, but was very concerned about security. Mason said they'd alter his voice and hide his face. Mason then invited the convicted mobster's son onto the show and didn't tell Davis. Davis vanished quickly thereafter. Stone brings up an incident in which Mason did a show on prostitutes in New York; when one prostitute was tired, Curio says, Mason gave her money to buy cocaine. She almost died; it was a bad batch.
"What a waste. Too bad you didn't OD on the show... what we really needed was for someone to die on the air."
—Curio, quoting Rick Mason.
Mason is convicted of criminal facilitation, but not manslaughter. He gets 18 months. On the way out, Stone and Kincaid remark that this is the same as Vinton's sentence.
- Note: First appearences of Lt. Anita van Buren and ADA Claire Kincaid