The team searches for the killer of Luke Cronin, a champion debater from humble means who was wrongly believed to have committed suicide in 1999 after losing his first debate three months into his scholarship-funded schooling at a competitive top private high school.
In September 1999, a group of students arrive at the Maynard Green private school campus to prepare for the debate team competition. A girl named Alyssa quickly recites her argument, but a boy named Luke tears her down. After the event, a debate coach named Darren asks Luke if he would like to go on a national tournament by accepting a full scholarship to Maynard. Luke asks if he can take his teammate Ronnie, but Darren says they only have enough money for one student. Later, Luke is found shot dead in his car.
In the present day, a Maynard student meets with Rush at the police station. He tells her about Luke who is considered a debate team legend. He explains Luke supposedly shot himself in the head. He says he looked at old notes and found debate short hand which he figures was a threat letter. Rush tells the team that Luke was under a lot of pressure at the time. Rush says Luke just finished a debate competition when he died. Jeffries and Vera meet with Luke’s father Stan and inform him they don’t believe Luke killed himself. Stan states he was at the VA hospital when he died. They ask him if he had any problems at Maynard and he says the workload was heavy. He explains debate was the only thing that challenged Luke. He remembers when Luke came home late and said he had to read up to beat the best teams in the country. Luke told him no one wants him on the team. Stan told Luke the only person who can judge him is himself. Luke says he is a pretty tough critic. Stan asks the detectives to find the person who killed his son. Vera goes to the doctor for a checkup. He suggests he stop drinking and exercise more. He informs him that his long term outlook doesn’t look good and he should make some lifestyle changes. The doctor says he is going to send the results to his superiors with his permission. Rush and Valens meet with Darren at Maynard and show him the threat letter. He says the letter could have been written by anyone. Darren explains he never seen a debater like Luke since he had an ability to remember and apply massive amounts of evidence. Darren remembers when he was practicing with his students. After a student named Oliver gave his presentation, Luke volunteered to cross examine him and broke down his argument. After Oliver admitted he was interviewing with a college, Darren assigned Luke to the A team with Alyssa. Oliver told Luke that no one wants him on the team except Darren. Darren tells the detectives that Alyssa and Luke was the best team he ever coached. Darren says Oliver took Luke’s place after he died, but he was never as good.
At the station, Rush tells Stillman that Oliver had a record, but they were all expunged. They learn Oliver had a gun with the same caliber as the one that was used to kill Luke. Vera and Jeffries meet with Oliver at the law firm he works at. They tell him that they know he had an unregistered gun. After they tell him about Luke, he says he killed himself. He explains Luke became the life of the party. He remembers drinking with Luke and Alyssa to celebrate a debate win. Alyssa told Luke that she wants to take her accomplishments to work in environmental law. Oliver showed Luke the tub of papers he stole from his friend Ronnie. Luke took the tub just as Ronnie walked in the room. Ronnie became angry and punched Luke in the face. Oliver told Vera and Jeffries he had great times with Luke. He says after he got accepted in Brown, he didn’t care about debate. Valens meets with a worker who saw his mother get beat up. He says he saw a guy run away from the woman before he drove off in a blue Cobalt. The worker explains that the woman said she was fine, so he didn’t tell the police. Valens notices that there is a jewelry store nearby.
Rush meets with Ronnie at the school he is working at. She shows him the threat letter, but he says he can’t read the short hand. Rush asks him why his relationship with Luke fell apart. Ronnie says he regrets punching Luke. Rush tells him she knows he trespassed Maynard two days before Luke died. Ronnie explains he was trying to get Luke out of Maynard. He remembers asking Luke if he was cool after he punched him. Luke recalls seeing Luke playing with something in his pocket and saw it was a bottle of speed prescribed by a doctor named Melanie Banks. Luke told him he has a lot to deal with. Luke told Ronnie he will take care of himself just before he was escorted out. Ronnie explains that was the last time he saw Luke. At the station, Rush tells Stillman she can’t translate the short hand on the threat letter. Jeffries reports that Melanie Banks was married to Coach Darren in 1999. They learn Darren stole Melanie’s prescription pad. Melanie stated she saw Luke at her home a few days before he died. Valens and Rush confront Darren about the speed he gave to Luke. They tell him they know Luke came to his house. Darren remembers when Luke went over to his house and gave the pills back to him. Luke told him he is not the same debater he used to be. Luke told him that there are two education systems, one for the haves and the other for the have nots. Luke gave him a new case to present during a debate. Darren explains Alyssa and Luke got in an argument before his final competition.
Vera meets with a second doctor who approves him for service while ignoring his real health. Vera tells him he understands why he is popular at the station. Valens shows Rush video of Luke’s last debate. They see Alyssa give Luke the threat letter. In the interrogation room, Vera asks Alyssa if she ever shot a gun and she says she won’t even touch one. They show her the threat letter and say they know she wrote it. She explains Luke didn’t tell her what he was going to do. Alyssa remembers talking to Luke after the debate round. She said the judge worked at Dartmouth and she was counting on impressing him since her grades were not great. Luke told her people will listen to what they say. Alyssa tells the detectives Luke told her the only person who could judge him is himself. Alyssa explains the last message she wrote on the short hand note to Luke was he didn’t belong there. The team learns that the gun used to kill Luke was purchased by Luke’s father Stan at a gun show. The police bring Stan into the interrogation room. They tell him they know he was only seeing a psychiatrist at the VA. Stan says he was sick at the time and wanted to hurt someone, but it wasn’t Luke. He remembers when Luke came home and saw him in front of pills, alcohol and a gun. Luke asked him to hand over the gun since he looked like he was going to kill himself. Luke said after he judged himself, he didn’t like himself. He demanded his father to give up the gun. Stan tells the detectives that he put the gun in his own son’s hand. He explains that Luke gave him a pro-con list that he still keeps with him. After he hands it over to the detectives, he explains he can’t read it. After Luke died, he went into the psych ward under suicide watch.
Rush tells Stillman that she figures Luke was planning to quit the Maynard team. Vera and Rush bring in Darren and inform him that Luke was fed up with the debate team. After Darren says Luke was not serious about quitting, they tell him no one knew that he was going to leave. Valens tells him the problem with close range killing is the killer gets blood all over. Valens reports they found blood that matches Luke’s type in the car he owned in 1999. Valens tells Darren that they know he lost his own debate in the eighties after he insulted the other team. Darren remembers meeting with Luke in the school parking lot the night he died. Luke told him he wanted to quit the team. Darren tried to tell him he doesn’t care he lost his last debate. Luke told Darren that his dad tried to kill himself with the gun he has in the car. Luke asked him to let him off the hook. Darren told him he will lose his scholarship and will have to return to his old school. Darren told him he is going to regret what he is going to do. After Luke told him he is the only person to blame for his loss he had when he was on the debate team, Darren took the gun and shot him. Darren is arrested for Luke’s murder. After the case, Valens reviews surveillance video and sees a young hooded man tackle his mother in the parking lot.
- Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush
- Danny Pino as Scotty Valens
- John Finn as John Stillman
- Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera
- Thom Barry as Will Jeffries
- Tracie Thoms as Kat Miller
- Vail Bloom as Alyssa Lane (2009)
- Terri Hoyos as Rosa Valens
- Brad Hunt as Stan Cronin
- Nick Niven as Luke Cronin
- Michael J. Pagan as Ronnie Jacks (1999)
- Dash Pomerantz as Oliver Calhoun (1999)
- Cherilyn Rae Wilson as Alyssa Lane (1999)
- Miles Heizer as Keith Oats (2009)
- Matt Biedel as Oliver Calhoun (2009)
- Fatso Fasano as Emil Parker (2009)
- Nelson Lee as Dr. Andiman (2009)
- Darcas Macopson as Ronnie Jacks (2009)
- William Stone Mahoney as Dr. McKenzie (2009)
- Michael C. Adrian as Debator One (1999)
- Raquel Abrahamian as Debator Two (1999)
- Audrey Reba Povar as Debator Three (1999)
- Ian David Nelson as Debator Four (1999)
- Matthew Bartilson as Debator Five (1999)
- Steven Krueger as Debator Six (1999)
- Natalie Testa as Debator Seven (1999)
- John Watkins Clagett as Security Guard (1999)
- Smash Mouth "All Star"
- Bush "Letting the Cables Sleep"
- Foo Fighters "Learn to Fly"
- Fatboy Slim "Praise You"
- Radiohead "Karma Police"