Cal's burning toast at 4 a.m. awakens his daughter, Emily, who asks how the book he's writing is coming along. Cal doesn't answer. Emily suggests hiring a ghostwriter.
The next morning at the Lightman Group office, Cal is interrupted by the hearing-impaired new hire, Sarah. He commandeers Eli's computer and orders Sarah to take the red dot test.
Then Cal confronts Gillian, who is meeting with a new client, Candice McCallister, the director of a teenage beauty pageant. Cal accuses Gillian of hiring Sarah to spy on him, and he orders his assistant to hack into Gillian's computer.
Cal invites himself to rehearsals for the beauty pageant. He's about to be thrown out when Gillian and Candice arrive, explaining that the Lightman Group has been hired to ensure that the contestants are free of drugs and plastic surgery. Gillian is unhappy that Cal broke into her computer and is spending his time on this job instead of writing his book.
Cal calls the pageant a freak show and zeros in on one contestant, Megan Cross, in particular, telling the pageant director that Megan needed help yesterday. Meanwhile, Eli steals Cal's laptop and finds more fuel for his anger, much to Ria's disapproval.
Cal and Gillian interview Megan and her domineering, lookalike mother, Laura. Gillian thinks that they're a little too close; Cal thinks that Laura is making Megan miserable and that she's hiding something - it turns out to be a bruise on her shoulder for which Megan claims another contestant's father, Mr. Fletcher, is responsible.
Cal asks Detective Wallowski to lend some authority to his investigation of Fletcher and keep it quiet. Fletcher says that Megan's lying, and Cal believes him but knows that he's hiding something.
When Cal and Gillian question Laura, who refuses to press charges, Gillian notes that she uses "the royal 'We' " when referring to herself and Megan. They're a united front. When Cal questions Megan separately, she repeats Laura's "We don't dwell on negatives" answers verbatim.
Back at the office, Cal smells Eli's cologne on his laptop and - after threatening disqualification for non-cooperation - watches Gillian question Megan in the cube. Cal says that Megan's description of her molestation shows not pain but rather a pleasure that comes from tormenting her mother. But the pageant director says that two more contestants now claim Fletcher molested them.
An angry crowd of contestants' parents have gathered around Fletcher's motor home. After Wallowski takes Fletcher's daughter, Deedee, to child protective services, Fletcher tells Cal that Megan's bruises stem from his defending himself when she attacked him with a pair of scissors.
When Cal asks Fletcher to repeat this story to the pageant director, one of the contestants' mothers slaps Fletcher. Cal cites Fletcher's lack of retaliation as proof of his innocence.
Ria then shows videotapes to Cal of a previous pageant where Megan took an intentional fall to ensure that she lost - and the joy she displays from this. When Cal remarks that constant criticism and lack of affection will create a disturbed personality, Ria suggests that he's doing the same thing to Eli.
Cal and Fletcher confront Megan and Laura, while Fletcher, desperate to get daughter Deedee back, begs Megan and Laura to tell the truth, and we learn that Fletcher and Laura recently had an affair that he called off.
As Gillian and Wallowski interview the girls who claim to have been molested by Fletcher, they realize that these stories are completely identical - and that Megan has disappeared.
Eli trails Cal to the crowd that again surrounds Fletcher's motor home and notes that one of these people knows Megan's whereabouts. Wallowski again hauls Fletcher away, claiming that Deedee has been hospitalized.
Cal's already sitting on what would be Deedee's hospital bed when Megan arrives and - razor in hand - comes on to him. When Cal disarms her, Megan displays the self-inflicted slashes on her thighs and threatens to say he attacked her. Cal shows Megan that Laura and Wallowski overhead everything, and Megan runs away.
Deedee hands over Megan's diary, which contains the description of molestation that all the girls have been using. But it's actually Laura's diary, and Megan's been using this information to torture her mother.
Cal finds Megan standing on a ledge wearing an angel costume and - using his own mother's suicide as an example - convinces Megan that suicide won't ruin Laura's life. He adds that he knows about her using Laura's diary and if she really wants to inflict pain on her mother, he's just the guy to help.
With Gillian and Cal watching from the wings, Megan takes second-place in the pageant - and Laura slinks away. Later, Cal finds Laura sitting on the post-pageant stage, returns her diary, and explains how Megan was using it. Then Megan appears and tells Laura that there'll be no more pageants.
Back at the office, Eli tells Ria that he's applied for a job at the Pentagon and if he gets it, he's gone.
Cal comes home and tells Emily that he's uncomfortable because he spoke ill of her grandmother. When Emily replies that she wouldn't forgive him if he committed suicide, Cal explains that his mother was mentally ill. It wasn't her fault, and he's OK with that.
Emily says that she's writing a foreword to Cal's book, and the first sentence is: "It's not easy growing up in a house where someone knows your every thought - or thinks they do."
I've got a foreword, but no book, says Cal. Later that evening, he types, "Let me be clear: I understand very little, least of all the people closest to me."