Something has changed in Will Graham. The sickly and tortured loner imprisoned and put on trial for his life has hardened into something vengeful, a man who tries to manipulate others to do his bidding. He has become exactly what he is pursuing, minus the cannibalism of course. But with his recent attempt on Hannibal Lecter's life having been thwarted, he must figure out another way to prove to the doubters that the psychiatrist is really the murderous Chesapeake Ripper.
Hannibal is composing a new piece of music on his harpsichord. A musician, an artist, a gourmet chef, a creative and prolific serial killer...is there anything this man can't do?
Jack Crawford remains unconvinced about Hannibal's guilt, but certainly not for lack of trying on the part of those around him. Will makes the effort again when an angry Jack comes to see him after the failed attempt on Hannibal's life, and this time raises the specter of cannibalism. The Ripper kills in batches of three or four in quick order because otherwise the meat spoils, and "If the Ripper is killing you can bet Hannibal Lecter is planning a dinner party," Will says.
In fact, Hannibal might be doing just that. In musing to Alana Bloom about what he needs to get past his near-death experience at the hands of the hospital orderly Will sent after him, Hannibal mentions that he needs to get his appetite back. He pulls the business card of a Baltimore city councilman from his Rolodex and a recipe for steak and kidney pie from his recipe box. Some people invite you to dinner, Hannibal invites you to be dinner...
A body that will turn out to be the city councilman's shows up in a vast parking lot, serving as the trunk of a tree with vines and branches entwined through the corpse. His chest cavity is split open and all his organs except his lungs are gone, replaced by poisonous flowers. Over brandy at Hannibal's house, Jack tries to tell the psychiatrist about it but Hannibal won't listen. I have to pull back from this, he says in doing a good impression of a traumatized victim. I can't think about death anymore. I'm going to celebrate life. First step: a dinner party! Jack stares at him. Maybe Will's theories are starting to break through...
Later on, Dr. Chilton plays Jack a recording of a conversation between Will and Abel Gideon, during which Abel, knowing full well that Chilton has bugged his cell, describes in detail the night he was in Hannibal's dining room and Hannibal suggested he kill Alana Bloom. Hannibal does fit the Ripper's profile, Chilton says. Jack's starting to think about it. If he wasn't this might be a Saturday Night Live sketch.
At the BAU, Zeller and Price have identified the victim and are chainsawing the branches off him. The councilman died from drowning, and in the water in his lungs the team finds diatoms, a type of unicellular algae. Since no two water sources contain the exact same type of diatoms, that allows the team to narrow the source down to a fifty-mile radius in Virginia
Meanwhile Alana and Hannibal are distancing themselves from Will. Hannibal goes to the prison to say goodbye in person, doing his impression of a man with wounded feelings. Geez Will, just because he murdered people you cared about and framed you for it, do you have to be so harsh with the guy? You might just have pushed Alana closer to him.
Jack questions Abel Gideon about the recording Chilton made of his conversation with Will. Gideon denies ever being in Hannibal's home and accuses Chilton of making it all up. On the way back to his cell, Gideon is trash-talking the guards about the nurse he blinded and killed during a previous escape attempt, so the guards beat the crap out of him and throw him off a staircase to fall and land atop the metal cage over an orderly station. Never taunt men who are bigger than you and carry collapsible batons.
Hannibal's dinner party arrives. Alana is there, looking fetching. Jack shows up but tells Hannibal he can't stay but he'd love to take some food to go. Hannibal looks upset - nervous that Jack is going to test to see if it's human meat, or just sad that he went to all this effort to prepare the food and his guest of honor isn't going to eat it in front of him? Hannibal is not too upset to give Chilton a creepy wink from across the room. The serial killer grows cocky.
He's right about one thing, though - Jack is going to find out Hannibal's food to see if it is made of humans. He drops it off at the lab and orders Zeller and Price to test it.
After the party Alana and Hannibal sit at the harpsichord and talk about Hannibal's being a suspect and Will's accusations. They kiss, continue kissing. Later, lying in bed, Hannibal watches her sleep. He snaps his fingers over her ear and she doesn't stir. He gets up, wipes something off the rim of the wineglass on the nightstand next to Alana. Did he drug her?
Abel Gideon lies in his hospital bed. The curtains part, a doctor in a surgical mask enters and pulls down the mask. It's Hannibal. "Hello Abel," he says. Goodbye Abel, we say.
The next morning, Abel Gideon has been replaced by the body of a hospital security guard suspended from the ceiling above Gideon's bed with fishing line, hooks and fishing lures just like Will Graham used to make. The man has been eviscerated, his intestines and his badge left in a pile on the bed. The FBI knows Gideon couldn't have done it - his back was broken and he couldn't get out of bed. So where is he?
Back at Hannibal's house, Alana wakes up to find Hannibal lying next to her. The guy doesn't look tired at all, considering he had a busy night. When the doorbell rings, Hannibal wants to ignore it, but then the bell rings a second time. It's Jack Crawford, here to ask Hannibal about his whereabouts the night before. When Hannibal says he was home all night, Jack asks if anyone can verify that. A voice behind him says "I can." It's Alana, looking fetching but angry, wearing one of Hannibal's dress shirts. "I was with Hannibal all night," she tells Jack, perhaps forgetting that she was asleep for several hours of it.
Perhaps upset at being accused by his friend Jack, Hannibal prepares an elaborate roast, seasoning the meat, wrapping it in an enormous bay leaf and clay and setting it in his oven. He brings it to the table to serve his guest...Abel Gideon, clad in a bathrobe and hooked up to an IV.
"Shall I carve?" Hannibal asks, knives poised over the roast.
"I think you already have," Gideon says as the camera pans down to reveal his missing leg. Lucky Gideon. He gets to be both the guest and the meal.
The BAU has identified the meat from Hannibal's party as all being from animals. But the fishing lures used on the hospital guard are different. They are all made with pieces of humans...people killed while Will was in jail. Jack realizes Will must have been framed, and the Chesapeake Ripper is now claiming credit for his work.
The team found something else in one of the lures - a piece of bark peeled recently from a tree. The bark comes from a rare tree, hardly found on the East Coast - but there is a stand in Virginia, within the circle where earlier they determined the water in the city councilman's lungs came from. Jack drives to the area and finds an abandoned building. As the sounds of Hannibal's harpsichord float over the scene, Jack examines the building. He finds a cistern and pulls the cover off to find a young woman cowering before his flashlight. It's Miriam Lass, his trainee who went missing while searching for the Ripper two years before. As Jack stares at her, the music crescendos. Hannibal has figured out the end of his new piece of music. He smiles to himself, very pleased with this symphony he is composing