Katherine McKinnon comes home with two bags full of groceries. Looking for her family to help her, she tracks down her son Sean, studying in his room. He gives her a look when she asks where his sister, Maureen, is, and says that his father Frank might be in the boiler room. Frank is the building super and a tenant complained about a lack of hot water. Kathering goes to look for Frank, and sees broken glass on the floor — the window on a hallway door to the outside alley was shattered. She opens the door, discovering Frank's body. While being led to the seen, a local cop tells Briscoe that Frank was probably trying to defend against a break in. He says that the wife moved the body cradling it. Another cop says that the criminal broke the glass trying to unlock the door. Sean, talking to Logan, is distraught. He feels it's his fault for not working on the boiler himself, and Logan sends him to talk to his Mom. The detectives guess that a crackhead did it, and doubt that they'll ever find the perpetrator unless they get good prints. The medical examiner says that Frank died from a blow with a hammer. Maureen shows up, is told about Frank's death, and breaks down. Some of the tenants tell the detectives that Frank was a great super; he fixed things other supers would charge for. Nancy Kroll, one of the tenants, reports that she heard two men arguing the night of the crime. She thought it was some of the other tenants, but it turns out those tenants are on vacation. At the precinct, Van Buren says that they have no usable prints. She points out that Frank was killed with his own hammer, which is weird because a burglar would have brought his own weapon and not needed Frank's. Logan agrees that this makes little sense, and Briscoe comes up with a problem of his own.
"Wanna look for holes, I got one as big as my kitchen. Noisy boiler room, the guy's hammering, and he hears breaking glass in the hall?"The forensic technician, Medill, says that the blood on the glass is all from Frank. Briscoe wonders if this was an evidence screwup. Medill gets a call, which he gives to Logan; Van Buren learned that Maureen has a shoplifting record. They go talk to her social worker, Bernice, who tells them about Maureen's boyfriend, Mitch Lewis. Lewis is a truant with an assault record. Bernice also says that Maureen ran away from home a few times; her relationship with her dad was apparently strained. She tells them to talk to Mitch to find out why Maureen kept running away. Briscoe wonders if Frank was molesting Maureen, and Bernice says that Mitch and Frank had a screaming argument at one point. The detectives find Maureen and Mitch in a park. Maureen shrugs off the questions about why she's not at home.
"I don't need to be home to cry."Maureen gives Mitch an alibi, saying they were together the previous night, and they leave. The detectives talk to Katherine and Ned Hughes, her brother, about Mitch. They ask Katherine if Mitch might have done it, or if Maureen might be protecting him; she says she doesn't know, but implies that Mitch could be guilty. She says she doesn't know what her daughter would do. They ask where Sean is; she says he's with Sandy, a friend. At her house, Sandy says that Sean is studying for a test. When they ask why he's studying at this point, she says that his father would have wanted him to study. If he doesn't pass chemistry, his early admission at Yale might be revoked. They ask about Mitch, but Sean doesn't think he would do it. Logan asks why Sean didn't intervene, since his window was right on the alley, but Sean says that the radio was on and he was in the kitchen for a while. Logan looks skeptical. In the precinct, the detectives and Van Buren eat and talk about the case. Logan says the mother won't admit to Frank molesting Maureen. Briscoe wonders how Frank, a poor super, could pay Sean's prep school tuition. At Tenzer Management, which owns Frank's building, the detectives talk to the CEO.
"I owned that building sixteen years. Frank McKinnon's been with me eleven. Anybody that honest, you've gotta wonder."The CEO complains that Frank fixed things for free he should have charged for, but confirms that everyone loved Frank. He adds that Frank kept having accidents; four serious ones in 18 months. He thinks Frank drank. At the hospital, Dr. Grace Henderson discusses Frank's injuries. They include a cracked collerbone (slipped on ice) and first degree burns (fell onto the boiler), and cracked ribs (fell off a ladder). The nurse says that there's no way that his injuries are consistent with legitimate accidents; someone was beating or hurting him. When the detectives talk to Katherine again, they ask about mob connections, but she says that Frank had accidents because he worked so hard. She is uncooperative, and shoos the detectives out. Outside, Logan thinks that the one fight Mitch had with Frank isn't near enough evidence that he did it. They observe that Katherine has been basically agreeing with anything they said just to get rid of them. Logan observes that both kids went off with their friends two days after their father died. Briscoe asks if Logan dislikes Sean; Logan says that his trouble with Sean is that Sean was the only one home when it happened. Talking to Nancy again, she says she didn't hear any words or make out particular voices, but she knows she heard two men shouting. Then she adds that later the arguers began throwing things — and she said it sounded like glass. This means that a random criminal didn't show up, yell at Frank, and kill him right there, as the previous theory indicated. At the precinct, Van Buren is hesitant.
"That's a lovely view of human nature."
—Tenzer CEO and Lennie Briscoe
"Is the woman reliable?"They agree that Sean probably killed Frank. Van Buren tells them they need to find who smashed the window. Medill reports that the glass was broken from the inside; they matched a broken piece to one still in the window. Briscoe theorizes that Sean broke the window, then moved the glass inside when he realized that the glass would need to be indoors so that the crime would look like a burglary. Briscoe then wonders why Frank was outside if there was no break-in. In the house, a technician with luminol reports that Frank was killed in the boiler room and then dragged outside. They wonder who else knows and guess that Maureen does. They talk to Maureen and try to get information about Sean killing Frank, but she's unresponsive. She's clearly scared and refuses to help the police. They next try Ned Hughes at his house; they get him to admit that Sean probably beat up Frank. Ned recounts a story:
"Unless she was smoking dope on those back steps instead of cigarettes."
—Anita Van Buren and Mike Logan
"There was this reception, the Princeton club. It was for applicants and their parents. I went in Frank's place. Katherine said I'd make a good impression, because I'm an accountant. When we got home that night, Frank was upset. He said 'I'm a super and proud of it.' And Sean said, 'Oh, a super, that would really help me get in.' Frank was shouting. Sean told him to shut up. And then, and then Frank went right over to the boy, right up in front of his face, and said, 'Do it in front of your uncle. Let him take a pop at me. See what this family's really about.'"The detectives interrogate Sean, who maintains that there was a break-in. Logan tells him exactly what happened during the crime, including that the window was knocked out from the inside. Van Buren enters with Roger Easton, Sean's lawyer. When Easton says he wants Sean to leave interrogation, the detectives go out of the room and talk to Kincaid. She doesn't believe the motive, but Van Buren convinces her that they have overwhelming physical evidence. Sean is arrested. In court, the judge pokes fun both at Kincaid and Easton, and then sets bail at $50,000. Back in Stone's office, Easton says that Katherine will admit that Sean killed Frank. They are arguing self defense — they claim that Frank was abusing Sean, and that he'd abused them too. Katherine says that Frank had attacked Sean that night and Sean defended himself. She says that she blames herself for not stopping Frank. When Kincaid points out that Frank was in the hospital often, Katherine says that Sean was too — Frank broke Sean's arm, according to Katherine, and another time beat him so hard he couldn't go to Europe with his choir group. She also references a black eye; they told the hospital it was from a basketball, but now she says Frank did it. Schiff says that it's a good defense, and Stone points out that Katherine could be being honest. Kincaid doesn't believe Sean's new defense. Stone thinks that the defense could hold water. Schiff tells them to have Olivet check out Sean, and to verify the hospital story. Talking to Olivet, Sean sounds apologetic. He says that he's sorry and that he feels bad. He says that his dad thought that Sean didn't respect him, Frank, because Frank was only a super. Sean sounds disappointed.
"He lived in the basement... as if that was all you should have."Sean restates that he wasn't really ashamed of his father, and says that all he wanted was his father's pride. He claims that his father was angry that Sean got into Princeton, saying that Sean thought that he was better than Frank. Sean recounts a time when Frank went to his school in work clothes, which he says is something that isn't done at his prep school. When Olivet asks if that matters, Sean says it doesn't, but that he wanted a different life. Later, Olivet gives a pessimistic report to Stone.
"It's a great act, but he's a sociopath."Olivet says that Katherine won't admit that Sean is sociopathic because she would have to admit that she raised a monster. She gently reproves Stone for not wanting to believe that Sean is guilty. She also says that Sean admitted to paying the family bills; she quotes from a textbook saying that adolescents handling family finances can indicate a sign of sociopathy. Kincaid comes in with a newspaper; the McKinnon's are telling the media that Frank abused Sean. Kincaid also checked the medical records; they can confirm he had a broken arm but not that Frank did it, and same with the black eye. Stone says that they should check to see if Katherine's original explanation about the black eye being caused by a basketball accident pans out. On the courts, Kincaid talks with one of Sean's friends. He admits that he accidentally hit Sean in a game of one-on-one. When she tells Schiff, Schiff says that Katherine will say she mixed up black eyes and that Frank gave her another one. Stone points out that all the evidence could either point to Frank being abusive and Sean defending himself or the other way around.
"...a jury could give this kid a college going away party."Schiff wonders what the sister thinks; Kincaid says that she's been avoiding attempts to contact her. Schiff tells them to try again. At Hughes's house, Kincaid tries to get Maureen to say whether or not Frank really beat everyone in the family. When Hughes tries to help, Maureen gets mad at him for not intervening earlier. Maureen says that Frank never hit anyone, and then breaks down sobbing. In a conference room, Katherine says that Maureen has problems and is unreliable. Sean says that Maureen resents him for his brilliance, and Katherine says that she doesn't want Maureen to send Sean to jail — it would haunt her forever. Stone is unmoved. Katherine then says that jailing him will destroy Sean's hard work, but Stone still refuses to drop the charges. On his way out, Easton taunts Stone.
"Who does a jury believe? A girl with a felony record or a young man brutalized by his father?"In court, Dr. Henderson testifies that she's certain that Frank was being beaten and not having accidents. Easton gets her to admit that she's not an expert on forensic medicine and so the events could have been accidents. Later, Hughes talks to Stone — Maureen fled after talking to Katherine. Kincaid goes to the park where they first met her, and finds Maureen and Mitch. Mitch explains that Katherine will throw Maureen out if she testifies against Sean, but then tells Maureen that if she doesn't testify, Sean gets away free. In court, Maureen testifies that Sean hit Frank all the time, and Katherine blamed Frank. Maureen says that Sean broke Frank's collerbone with a tire iron after Frank complained that Sean had spent $200 on clothes. The burn happened when Frank refused to ask the landlord for a vacant apartment so they could get out of the basement. Sean shoved him up against a hot pipe in the boiler room. She said she didn't ask for help because she was scared that the family would disintegrate if Sean was arrested. On cross, Easton insinuates that Maureen is envious of Sean, and gets her to admit to running away from home. Easton asks if she's making the whole thing up, and says that her testimony is all due to jealousy and envy until Stone objects and the judge shuts Easton down. Katherine testifies that Sean never defended himself, and that Frank was often violent towards the family. Stone asks about Dr. Henderson's testimony; Katherine says the doctor is lying. Stone asks about Maureen; Katherine says she's also lying. When Stone asks if Katherine has any reason for them to believe her over them, all she can say is that she's Sean's mother, and Stone points out that this might induce her to lie for him. Sean testifies last. He says his father beat him but that he doesn't blame him. He also says that he liked helping Frank with the super duties; it made him feel useful. Sean says that Frank lost his temper and attacked Sean when he, Sean, dropped a piece of equipment. After two blows, Sean says, Sean grabbed the hammer and hit Frank, but doesn't remember anything else. Stone asks how Sean felt when he moved the body and broke the window; Sean claims not to remember any of it, nor any of the events Maureen testified to. Stone then brings up a financial aid form in which Sean filled in 'Building manager' and not 'superintendent' under the 'father's occupation' section. Sean says he just wanted the scholarship and that it sounded better — it was just something he had to live with.
"Didn't you have to live with the fact that he paid for your prep school tuition and that he worked twelve hours a day to out expensive clothes on your back?"Stone gets Sean to admit that he thinks he got into Princeton 'in spite of' his poor background. Then he continues.
"I worked hard too."
—Ben Stone and Sean McKinnon
"How did you show your father your love? By hiding him from your friends and telling him he wasn't worth anything? You may call that love. Most of us call that shame."Sean McKinnon is convicted of murder in the 2nd degree. On the courthouse steps, Kincaid muses that Sean would have been off to college in a few months, solving all the problems. Stone says that Sean would have assaulted someone else.