The Return is focused on a 25 year-old woman named Joanna Mills (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a travelling rep for a trucking company, dedicated to her successful career but something of a loner. Since the age of 11 she has been a troubled person, with episodes of self-mutilation and menacing visions. Normally she avoids returning to her native Texas, but agrees to a trip there to secure an important client. During the trip her visions, which take the form of memories of events not from her life, increase in intensity. She sees a strange face staring back at her in the mirror. Her truck radio develops a will of its own and insists on playing Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams" no matter what station she selects. She stops at the scene of an accident that, on the following day, seems not to have happened. Joanna cuts herself in a bar restroom and is narrowly rescued by a friend. She visits her father, who observes that from age 11 she was "a different girl". The visions continue, becoming both more specific and more threatening, centering upon a menacing man she does not recognize and a bar she has never seen, but a picture of which is in one of her catalogs.
Drawn by the catalog image to the Texas town where the bar is located, a place she has not been since childhood, Joanna meets a man named Terry Stahl, whose wife, Annie, was stalked, brutally assaulted, and left to die fifteen years before, a crime of which Terry was suspected but not convicted. Joanna continues to have visions of this event and the events that led up to it, and to discover other links between Annie's life and hers. Eventually Joanna meets the real killer and is led by what she has seen in her visions to recover the knife he used. She is then herself stalked by the now suspicious stalker. Inevitably, she finds herself drawn into a repetition of the crime, but this time she stabs her assailant with the recovered knife, using the original weapon to avenge the original crime.
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