The SVU is trying to track down the whereabouts of a kidnapped little boy. The surveillance camera footage shows the boy being dragged into a van for "Garry's Gooforma." Stabler and Benson locate the van but it's not running. They realize the kidnapper must have duplicated the same van to avoid being suspicious on the street. They find the real kidnapper's van torched under a bridge, with no bodies inside.
Benson and Stabler discover the missing boy is third grader Nicholas Olsen. His principal tells detectives that Nicholas is under the care of his father, Paul, and that his mother Sophie is under a restraining order to stay away. Surveillance footage from that day reveals that Sophie tried to talk to Nicholas outside the bus stop.
Stabler and Benson question Sophie, who denies having anything to do with Nicholas' kidnapping. Evidence in her apartment says otherwise. Marlowe presents Sophie with what they found, including one-way plane tickets to Beijing and passports. Marlowe accuses Sophie of hiring somebody to kidnap Nicholas for her. Sophie cracks and confesses to hiring someone and reluctantly reveals the kidnapper's identity.
Sophie hired a former Green Beret, Jason Culross, to kidnap Nicholas for her. Benson and Stabler track Jason down to a warehouse where he tells police he was hired to kidnap Nicholas, but didn't go through with it due to Sophie's being mentally unbalanced. Stabler receives a call from a motel in Long Island about a man checking in with a little boy fitting Nicholas's description.
The kidnapper slips out of the hotel with Nicholas before detectives can catch him. They hear the chase over their radios and then are alerted that the chase has ended with the suspect's car going over a bridge. When the car is brought to shore, Stabler and Benson discover the lifeless bodies of the Nicholas and his kidnapper inside.
Stabler and Benson deliver the tragic news to both Paul and Sophie. The kidnapper's identity is Keith Bradman. Marlowe and Cragen put the blame for Nicholas' death on Sophie, since she arranged for Kevin to kidnap her son. Marlowe wants Benson to get a confession out of Sophie so she can charge her with murder.
Sophie has slipped into a psychosis and still believes Nicholas is alive and well. Huang tells Marlowe that she can be like this for days, and encourages Benson to play along with Sophie's fantasy in order to get a confession. Marlowe and Benson take Sophie to the morgue to see Nicholas's body. Paul walks in and Sophie goes into a flying rage.
Sophie grabs a gun and takes Marlowe hostage. She orders Benson to drop her gun and tells everybody to leave the morgue. When Paul refuses to leave, Sophie panics and tries to shoot him, but hits Warner instead. Benson fears Warner will die if medics aren't called. Sophie says Warner can die just like Nicholas.
Cragen informs Stabler of the hostage situation and he rushes down to the morgue. Stabler tries to reach out to Sophie, who refuses to let him in the morgue. She threatens to shoot Benson, Marlowe and Paul. Meanwhile, inside, Warner's lungs are filling with blood and she instructs Benson to insert a chest tube for drainage.
Benson successfully inserts a tube into Warner's chest. Marlowe comes up with an idea to pretend Nicholas is alive to try to get Sophie to calm down. Marlowe orders Paul to apologize to his dead son and to admit Sophie loved him very much. He tells Sophie that Warner is losing a lot of blood and when Nicholas "wakes up," he's going to see a horrific scene.
Stabler searches for a way to get inside the room and finds it through a vent. Meanwhile, Sophie allows Benson and Warner to leave the morgue, but shuts the door before Paul and Marlowe can get away. Benson tries calling Sophie inside, but Sophie doesn't want the phone to ring because it will "wake" Nicholas up.
Sophie tells Marlowe that she can give up the act; she knows Nicholas is really dead. Marlowe tries to encourage Sophie to talk about her son and the things that made him unique. Marlowe opens up to Sophie about her own bout with cancer just a year ago.
Stabler listens in from the vent as Marlowe shares with Sophie that her lover left her after her mastectomy. Marlowe describes that she died inside when she lost him and she knows what serious grieving is like. She credits her new team at the SVU to helping her move on. Marlowe tells Sophie that she must find herself all over again, for Nicholas's sake.
Stabler receives a text message from Cragen: Paul was behind hiring Brad, he did it in order to frame Sophie. Stabler decides to take action and quietly slips into the morgue through the ceiling vent. He tells Sophie that Paul was behind the entire kidnapping and tries to talk her into giving up her gun. She points her gun at Paul and accuses him of getting their child killed.
Sophie is about to shoot Paul but Marlowe steps in, holding Nicholas's lifeless body and telling Sophie her son needs her. Sophie drops the gun and holds Nicholas in her arms. She sings a French lullaby to her son's body as Stabler and Marlowe look on and grieve with her.