The episode starts with Danny speeding home one night on his scooter, glad to be home before curfew for once without being held up by any ghost attacks. Faster than you can say "Tempting Fate," his ghost sense goes off as he looks up to see three ghost vultures flying in and out of several houses as if theyre looking for something. So much for being on time... "Going ghost!"
Danny flies after the vultures, who ignore him for a while before finally deciding to ask him for directions. They show him a picture (actually, the ripped corner of a photograph) of the target theyve apparently been sent to kill: Dannys dad. For obvious reasons, Danny doesnt tell them where they can find him. A short fight/chase scene ensues that ends with the three would-be hitmen flying out of town in defeat. Danny catches the photo they dropped and starts to wonder why they were after his father... but no time for that! Hes late getting home again, and his parents arent happy.
Back at home, Danny tries to hide the fact that his arms turning intangible while sitting through a lecture about how hes been neglecting his schoolwork and his chores and is always late coming home. Jazz, as usual, has to join in and starts ranting about how their parents dont communicate with Danny enough so, of course, he doesnt think they can understand him! Danny tries to warn her to back off, but its too late. Jack agrees and decides they need to spend more time with their kids. How? By taking them along for their college reunion, being held by their old friend Vlad in Wisconsin! Way to go, Jazz...
They make the trip in the Fenton Family Ghost Assault Vehicle an RV loaded with so many ghost weapons that Danny accidentally zaps several innocent birds and covers Jazz in ectoplasmic goo just by trying to open the window. (Jazz is also kind enough to inform us that, wherever Amity Park is, its a four day drive from Madison, Wisconsin.) Jack stops for the night to exposite about his old friend, roommate, and research partner from college, Vlad Masters, whos since become a famous billionaire. Apparently, Vlad, Jack, and Maddie were ¡Three Amigos! in college twenty years ago; according to Jack, they were best friends who did everything together... until the day the aspiring ghost hunters completed their first attempt at a portal into "the ghost dimension." Vlad, who insisted it wouldnt work, was standing near it when Maddie discovered the calculations werent right, just as Jack fired it up for the first time. Sure enough, there was an explosion, and Vlad took the full force of an ecto-energy blast to the face. When it was over, his face was covered with "ecto-acne," which sent him to the hospital for years and pretty much ended their friendship. Even though they havent spoken since that accident, Jacks confident his old friend will have forgiven him after twenty years. Danny, however, looks uneasy about the eerily-familiar story...
They meet the wealthy, suave, smooth-talking Vlad Masters the next day at his castle, where Jazz is weirded out by the green and gold football and cheesehead décor. It turns out the billionaire is a huge Packers fan. Jazz sarcastically wonders why he doesnt just buy the team then.
"Because the Packers are owned by the city of Green Bay, and THEY WONT SELL THEM TO ME!" After his brief outburst, Vlad quickly regains his cool, and calmly adds, grinning at Maddie, "One of two things my wealth has not as of yet been able to acquire..." Danny cant help but notice that the guy is hitting on his mother, but since shes not flirting back, Jazz doesnt care. Maddie, however, looks a little uncomfortable, and goes to let her husband in, who had the door slammed in his face. Once they come back, its obvious that Vlad still holds a grudge against his supposed old friend for putting him in the hospital for years, although he once again restrains himself and finishes by thanking Jack for the opportunity it gave him to chart out a course for his life and become the rich man he is today. Maddie thinks its time for them to go, but Vlad insists they stay with him until the reunion tomorrow. Jazz is all too eager to stay anywhere thats not their RV, but Jack isnt too keen on the idea until Vlad tells him that the ghost of the last Wisconsin Dairy King is rumored to haunt the castle.
The Fentons take Vlad up on his offer, and Danny is woken later that night by his ghost sense. He goes ghost and finds his sleepwalking dad being stalked by the same three vultures from earlier. Danny phases his dad down one floor to safety and then flies back up to the hallway to take care of the birds, who turn around, take one look at him, scream in fright, and disappear. A confused Danny comments, "Okay that was almost too easy, only to hear a voice behind him reply, "Ah bright boy."
Danny turns around to find himself facing a sinister-looking new ghost with a goatee, fangs, a Horned Hairdo, and a long white cape Plasmius. Unconcerned, Danny prepares to fight his new opponent like any other ghost, only to be stunned by how the guy effortlessly rebuffs his first two attacks and addresses him as Danny Phantom. "You... you know me?"
Plasmius knows more than his name, too he phases through the wall into the next room, where Danny follows him, and taunts him about how he uses his powers to protect people, asking him why he doesnt try sucking him into his thermos like he always does. Danny tries to say he doesnt want to fight, only to be blasted across the room. He fires back, but Plasmius, unimpressed, raises a shield that easily deflects his attacks. Once Danny gives up on that, he gets another surprise when Plasmius, continuing to tease him about his inexperience, splits into four clones of himself, surrounding him. They all blast him at once, and Danny screams in pain as he falls to the ground.
Were then taken back to the hallway where were treated to the sounds of Danny getting the crap beat out of him on the other side of the wall. When he phases through the wall again, hes in bad shape, too weak and in too much pain to even move. He loses consciousness just before Plasmius comes after him, right on time to see him revert back to his human form. Plasmius is intrigued to find that Danny Phantom is Jacks son, and promptly powers down to his own human form: a highly amused Vlad Masters.
Dannys screaming in terror when he wakes up and finds himself back in his bed, in human form, in his pajamas, seemingly uninjured, with no sign of a ghost. Hes wondering how he got here when Vlad comes in and asks him if hes all right. Danny pleads a nightmare due to jet lag and apologizes for the scare, but Vlad simply remarks, "Oh, whats a little scare between friends, son?" and tells him to sleep tight, indulging in an Evil Laugh once hes outside the door.
Danny joins his parents for the reunion the next day, seemingly untroubled by his encounter last night, perhaps truly believing it was All Just a Dream, but Jazz decides shed rather watch a marathon of Packers games than "watch a bunch of old fossils pogo to New Wave music" and keeps her distance. Danny no doubt regrets he didnt do the same, as his dad proceeds to set a new standard for Amazingly Embarrassing Parents that night; even an old friend of his, Harriet Chin (or Harry, as Jack calls her... Harry Chin), is as mortified as Danny is when Jack starts jumping... er, pogo-ing around the room with his wife, knocking over everything and everyone in his path.
Unsurprisingly, Danny ends up sitting a table alone, sulking for who-knows-how-long, most likely counting down the hours until this torture is over, when Vlad approaches him: "Well, son, youre looking much better. I was wondering if you could do me a huge favor?" Danny says, sure, but asks him to call him Danny, not "son." Vlad apologizes and then asks Danny to go to his lab and bring down a present for his father. The completely unsuspecting Danny heads off to get it, while Vlad leers at Maddie standing across the room, vowing to change tonight what that lab accident ruined for him twenty years ago.
Danny makes his way to the lab but doesnt see a present anywhere. What he does see is a framed photo of Vlad, Maddie, and a third person with no head. Suspicious, he puts the torn photo of his dad in the corner and finds that it fits. But if this came from Vlads picture, then... the implications are still sinking in when his ghost sense goes off. He goes ghost just before being hoisted into the air by a tentacle. He fights off the two ectopusses, whom he recognizes as the first two ghosts he fought, only to get snared and shocked by a net courtesy of another old friend: Skulker.
Danny breaks free and kicks Skulker across the room. He asks how he got his suit back and how he got here; in reply, the hunter tosses a small cube across the floor. It lands at Dannys feet and promptly expands and unfolds into a much bigger box that builds itself around him, enveloping him until only his head is sticking out. Danny tries to phase out of it, but the box glows a ghostly green as it prevents him from escaping. Skulker presses a button on his wrist that makes it shock him, as well, which doesnt stop until Danny powers down. Skulker ejects a blade from his wrist and seems ready to slit his captives throat, until theyre interrupted by Vlad, who angrily reminds Skulker he didnt free him to kill the boy. The hunter is called away by his schedule and is flown off to the library to check out a book on purple-back gorillas (AGAIN!), leaving the two humans alone.
Danny is too flustered to figure out whats going on. Vlad explains that he was the one who sent the ectopusses and other ghosts after his father, never expecting theyd be stopped by "the second ghost hybrid" Jacks invention created. Danny is confused by what he means by "second"... until Vlad transforms into the same ghost he fought last night. The same type of Freak Lab Accident gave him the same powers as Danny twenty years ago! Danny tries to go ghost again but cant. After mocking his battle cry, Vlad informs him that Skulkers Spectral Energy Neutralizer stops him from transforming or using his powers.
- Danny: Let me out of here!Vlad: Why? So you can go back to stumbling through your adolescence, desperately trying to get control of your powers? Powers, by the way, that Ive had for twenty years...
While showing off each of his abilities, Vlad brags about his experience and the money and power hes obtained using his powers, not for foolish heroism, but for personal gain. Danny could be that powerful, too, with the right training. He offers to make Danny his apprentice, take him under his wing, teach him everything he knows, inviting the ghost boy to renounce his father and join him. Unfortunately for Vlad, Dannys no more interested in that offer than Robin, calling him "one seriously crazed-up fruit loop" for thinking he would even consider it. Vlads undeterred, thinking hell change his mind once his fathers out of the way. Vlad disappears in a swirl of green energy and another Evil Laugh, leaving Danny trapped with no way to stop him.
Vlad returns to the reunion, where he possesses Jack and begins causing chaos. Jack tries to fight him from within, but can do more than tell Maddie to run. She does, dragging Harriet to the RV while the other guests flee in terror.
Meanwhile, Danny is struggling futilely to escape the box when the ghost of the Dairy King appears. Danny expects him to attack him, but all he does is push the button that opens the box, freeing him. Danny thanks him and asks if hell help him fight Plasmius, too, but the king declines not all ghosts are evil, but some of them do want to be left alone. He disappears, and Danny goes ghost and flies downstairs, where Maddie is also on her way with the RV and Vlad is doing his best to terrorize everyone so that theyll blame it all Jack.
- Vlad (in Jacks body): If you live to tell the tale, remember that big, fat Jack Fenton did this to you!Danny: Guess again, cheesehead!
Danny turns intangible and flies right through his father, pushing Vlad out of him. They phase through the wall into an adjacent room and begin fighting again. Vlad sincerely tries to tell "Daniel" to stop and think about the opportunity hes throwing away he shouldnt be fighting him, he should be joining him! Together, they could rule the galaxy as father and son! (Okay, that last part isnt said, but its definitely implied.) Danny turns him down again, shooting another energy blast for emphasis. Vlad simply reflects it back at him, grinning smugly, completely unthreatened by his teenage opponent. Danny protects himself with a shield of his own this time and reminds Vlad he knows his secret and can tell everyone. Vlad, however, points out he knows Dannys secret, too, leaving them at a blackmail stalemate neither of them can expose the other without exposing himself as well.
Danny has no response for that how can he possibly beat this guy? Before he can think of anything, his parents burst in with the RV, causing the combatants to separate. Vlad decides to go after his other target now; he phases through the roof, grabs Maddie, and pulls her out, vowing never to let her go. Jack races out after his wife, and Danny phases into the vehicle, driving it while invisible. He fires weapon after weapon at Vlad, who holds Maddie with one hand and backhands each blast away with another... until Danny hits the ectoplasmic goo, which, as Jazz can testify, is not so easy to avoid. Vlad drops Maddie as he gets Covered in Gunge, and Danny flies forward and overshadows his dad, making Jack catch her.
Still in his dads body, Danny sends Maddie back to the RV to check on Harriet while he takes care of the ghost. Based on what he knows about Vlad, theres only one way he can think of to stop him. He tells Vlad to give up, or hell go ahead and expose them both right now. Vlad thinks hes bluffing, but Danny makes him see why its not an empty threat: "My parents will accept me, no matter what, but if I expose you... well, what would my mom think of you? Youll be miserable and alone for the rest of your life unless you call a truce."
Vlad realizes hes right... and admires such an expert display of cunning and manipulation: "Using your opponents weaknesses against him... I am teaching you something after all. Very well truce." He doesnt mind. "Eventually, you will join me by choice you and your mother. For now, hes perfectly satisfied with todays outcome, and overdramatically declares Jacks victory for the benefit of the crowd without batting an eye. After hes made it sufficiently clear that Jack is a hero, he disappears... but not before telling Danny, "Until next time, son..."
Danny releases his dad, his job done for now. But the battle between him and Vlad Plasmius has only just begun.
This episode provides examples of the following tropes:
- Absentee Actor: The only episode Sam and Tucker do not appear, not even a brief mention.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The first time this is subverted: The Dairy King's ghost lets Danny out of the cube.
- Always Night: Almost the entire episode, including all fight scenes, takes place at night.
- An Aesop: Danny tries to invoke one to cheer up Jack, that it's not who he and his friends were then, but what they made of themselves today.
- Arch-Enemy: Danny gains his in this episode.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Vlad when he loudly surrenders, giving Jack credit for defeating him.
- Be Careful What You Say: Nice going, Jazz...
- Call-Back: The ectopusses from the very first scene of the first episode make a return, along with Skulker, who is still bound to the schedule in Tuckers PDA.
- Cassandra Truth:Danny: I cant believe they fired Harry.Jazz: Of course they fired her. She tried to file some crackpot story about ghosts.
- Chekhov's Gun: Specifically, the one that fires ectoplasmic goo.
- Chekhov's Gunman: The Wisconsin Dairy King, though it's implied at first that Vlad made him up so that Jack would stay at his castle long enough for Vlad to kill him.
- Cool Car: The Fenton Ghost Assault Vehicle no ghostbusters should be without one.
- Covered in Gunge: Done to Jazz (twice) and Vlad.
- Darker and Edgier: The tone of this episode is rather darker and more serious compared to its predecessors.
- Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Jazz warns Danny not to press ANY buttons in their parents RV. (He doesnt listen.)
- Esoteric Happy Ending: Sure, Danny saves his parents, but hes also introduced to his own dark side when Vlad manages to force him to stoop to his own level to beat him. As far as Vlads concerned, The Bad Guy Wins.
- Evil Mentor: Vlad wants to be this for Danny, who insists hes not interested, but, as Vlad points out, by the end of the episode, hes already learning something from him.
- Foreshadowing: Vlad's college accident being similar to the one Danny had when he got his ghost powers is no coincidence.
- Going for the Big Scoop: Harriet, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal, is thrilled to have found a great story about ghosts and ghost hunters at her college reunion... which gets her fired.
- Gory Discretion Shot: We get to hear Vlads No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Danny but not watch it.
- Guile Hero: The first time we see this side of Danny.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Jack never catches on that his best friend is trying to kill him and steal his wife and son and wont until the very end of the series.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Vlads goal. Danny manages to stop him, but theres always next time.
- Never My Fault: Jazz blames Danny for being cramped in the Fenton RV for four days even though it only happened because of her comment.
- New Super Power: After seeing Vlad do it, Danny learns how to create ecto-shields of his own in this episode.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Forms Plasmius Establishing Character Moment.
- No-Sell: Vlad, as a half-ghost, doesn't trigger Danny's ghost sense.
- Not So Different: Vlad attempts to use this on Danny as an incentive to join forces with him. Of course, Danny refuses with good reasons.
- Plot Parallel: Fans of Teen Titans, which aired at the same time, found this Story Arc very familiar.
- Real After All: It turns out Vlad wasnt lying about the Dairy Kings ghost who knew?
- Scared of What's Behind You: Unlike most heroes, Danny doesn't smugly assume the vultures were afraid of him and wonders why they flew off so fast (before he learns Vlad was behind him).
- Secret Keeper: Danny and Vlad both know each others secret, which cancels out any potential use for blackmail unless one of them is willing to reveal their own Secret Identity.
- Tempting Fate: Harriet thought reporting news about the ghost happenings at Vlad's mansion would boost her career. According to a cut scene, she was fired.
- Terms of Endangerment: Vlads insistence on calling Danny "son." Hes also the only person in the series to call him "Daniel."
- Toilet Humor: Danny tells the ghost vultures at the beginning to not crap on any windshields. So what do they do? Crap on Danny's head instead.
- Villain: Exit, Stage Left: The most Danny can do is get him to call a truce for now.
- We Can Rule Together: Upon learning that Danny is also part-ghost, Vlad tries to make this proposition.Vlad: You, Danny Phantom, and I, Vlad Plasmius together, we could rule!
- You're Insane!: "Dude, you are one seriously crazed-up fruit loop."
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: In contrast to the villain Vlad has become, Danny lauds Jack as an awesome ghost-hunter, a decent father, and an all around good person.