The Inner Crab

CSI:

[Air date: 05-11-06]

“Bang Bang”

We get a Big Band Swing-style intro this time, with a happy casino montage. Everyone’s a winner! Especially the house! A suit-and-tie security guard patrols the floor, and there’s some chatter on his radio. He hasn’t seen the “mystery guy,” and he’s heading over to BJ Pit 3. BJ meaning blackjack, of course, because this is Vegas. Elsewhere in Nevada, the BJ Pit is an entirely different experience. We get a quick shot of the casino’s security control room, with a wall of TV monitors showing many different views of the casino. It’s just like the government’s view of your house in 10 years. Our security guard, code-named Unit One, spots two men starting to fight. Since he’s not in the PPV Pit, it must be trouble. He runs over to break up the fight, and gets shot twice in the stomach by one of the men. Pkew pkew! I mean, bang bang! And we have a title. “Shots fired, main floor,” says one of the control room guys. People scamper and scream. The shooter is on the run now, and the control room TV jockeys flip quickly through the cameras until they find the shooter. He’s headed for the guest elevators. The TV jockeys follow him, fingers poised to switch to a new shot the instant he moves out of frame. They’re professionals; this is what they’ve trained for. Despite all the cameras, though, we never get a clear view of the shooter’s face. He grabs a hostage and takes her into an elevator. Control Room Guy says, “Get the police. We need SWAT. Now!”

SWAT comes stormtroopering into the casino. The casino patrons give them a brief glance and return to pissing their money away. My friend Anastasia told me about the MGM Grand casino fire in the 1980s, in which people were found dead with their hands melted to their slot-machine levers. I speculated that the slot machines were probably designed to do exactly that in case of fire, but she just scoffed at me. Snopes.com suggests that her anecdote is apocryphal, so I suppose we’ll never know for sure either way. The SWAT captain and Brass are right behind them. SWAT Prime tells Brass that the suspect is on the 3rd floor, and they’ve cleared out the floors above and below. The negotiator is on his way, but won’t be there for at least another hour. Brass sighs the mighty sigh of duty, and says, “Well, I’m here now.” He gets in the elevator with the SWAT guys, and the door closes while he puts on his game face. On the 3rd floor, SWAT is still clearing people out of the hotel rooms. This part goes slower, I suppose, because they’re not sure which room he’s in. SWAT Prime knocks on another door and announces that the police are there and would like the occupant to kindly open the door. There’s no response. He swipes a card key in the lock, and it doesn’t open. Then someone inside shoots a hole in the door. Hey, Shooty McGee, if you didn’t want to be bothered you should have hung out your Do Not Disturb sign. They’re not mind-readers, you know. Naturally, the SWAT team and Brass are now very interested in this room. “I guess this is the place,” Brass says wryly.

15 Hours Earlier…half a dozen cop cars are parked in front of a suburban-looking house. It’s a domestic violence case, and Brass wishes he had a nickel. The victim is Janice Cutler, who was shot in the mouth. With a gun. Brass gestures toward Grissom and says, “Single boy’s the only smart one.” That’s right, I forget sometimes that Warrick’s married to some woman he met in that Singles Aware of Their Own Mortality chat room last year. David is examining the body, and as far as I know he’s single, but he doesn’t count because he’s a eunuch. Doc Robbins tells the group the secret to a marriage that doesn’t end with someone getting shot in the mouth: “Counseling, separate vacations once a year…she’s never pulled a gun on me yet.” That you’re aware of – who knows what happens while you’re sleeping. Warrick picks up a 9mm shell casing off the floor. David says that it (the caliber of the gun) would account for the high-velocity spatter, and then we see the spatter all over the wall and knick-knacks. The husband is nowhere to be found, and there’s no car in the garage. Brass says he’ll put out a broadcast. Grissom wonders at the unlikely fact that the rest of the house is undisturbed, despite this apparently being a domestic dispute. “What are you thinking?” asks Warrick. “That you married people take things too personally,” says Grissom. I don’t know what the hell that’s supposed to mean. Perhaps he’s saying that a couple who are just dating would never shoot one another in the mouth simply because, say, one accuses the other of cheating, leading to a vicious and rapidly-escalating argument in which the miserable inadequacies of each is cruelly amplified and flung in the other’s face like a bucket of lye and boogers. That couple would take a walk to cool down, then have crazy-hot makeup sex. But no shooting.

Intro and commercials. People entering middle age should note that Mazda can help to reverse the slow crawl toward old age and death. Shouldn’t the FDA be looking into claims like that?

Back in Vegas, Doc Robbins and Grissom stand over Janice Cutler in the Corpse Exposition Room. Doc tells Grissom that Janice had been dead for a few hours when they found her, and there was evidence that she’d had sex not long before that, but it was apparently “amicable.” Amicable sex is by far my favorite. Grissom thinks it’s odd that the husband would have gone from friend to fiend in such a short amount of time. Doc says there was no semen, so her sex partner may or may not have been the husband. The shooter put the muzzle of the gun in her mouth, and the bullet fragmented against the inside of her skull. “This was somebody who was emotionally close to her,” says Grissom, which seems like a reasonable bit of forensic psychology to me, but it seems to irritate Doc Robbins, who asks Grissom if he’s ever been close to getting married. Because members of Group X are the only ones who can make any observations about Group X and its quirks. Marriage, parenting, playing Dungeons & Dragons…well, okay, for the last one that’s true. Grissom tells a story of the young enchantress Nicole Daley. She was in his class, and she liked bugs too. Grissom asked her to marry him, and even gave her his grandmother’s ring, but his mother made him get it back. Because they were in second grade. Oh, Grissom. He’s Henry Higgins and Batman’s love child.

Sara and Warrick are at the crime scene. Sara looks at the gore-covered wedding photo of Mr. and Mrs. Cutler, and asks Warrick if it was the happiest day of his life. “You mean me and Tina? Whew…happened so fast. Time will tell.” I think you should probably already know whether it was the happiest day of your life or not, so we’ll call that a no. But we are reminded that her name is Tina, so let’s write that down somewhere in case it comes up again later. The nearby telephone escaped the splatter, but it has a bloody fingerprint on the keypad – only on the number 1. It’s too smudged to get a fingerprint from. The call to police came from a neighbor’s house, so this phone wasn’t used for that. We’ll add this to the pile of things that might come up again later, alongside Tina but not so close as to compromise the evidence. Sara is bored of talking about the phone now, and she says to Warrick, “Okay. Bedroom.” Anastasia tells me that, upon hearing “Bedroom” with Warrick on the screen, she sort of zoned out for about 20 minutes and watched a completely different episode of CSI, one without much talking in it. Whatever, as long as I don’t have to recap it. Sara goes into the room with the bed in it. The bed is messy, as if someone’s been in here fantasizing about something. Sara finds some lawn clippings on the floor of the closet, but doesn’t find grass on any of the closet’s shoes. She spots a single white sock sticking out from under the bed, and bags it. Warrick comes in and says he’s found some brochures in the husband’s jacket. They appear to be brochures for hookers, as the cover of one says “The Girls” and shows a blonde woman in a bikini top pushing her boobs together with her arms. I think any hooker with her own brochure is probably going to be out of my price range. I mean, um…what’s a hooker? Sara shows Warrick the sock and tells him about the grass (“Not the kind you smoke”) she found in the closet. “Maybe it was the missing husband,” says Warrick, “or a desperate gardener.” “…who was mowing more than the lawn?” Sara finishes for him, pursing her lips and raising an eyebrow in that way she does whenever she says something vaguely ribald. I wonder if they’re laying the groundwork for a Desperate Housewives crossover? Maybe Greg and the other cute brunette that isn’t Teri Hatcher could have a little fling. Did you know Teri Hatcher was in an episode of Star Trek? It’s true.

Brass and Sara walk and talk at the police department. Brass compliments her on the grass tip, and says they’ve brought in a guy who was mowing a lawn just down the street. Sara says he must be a very good gardener, because Mrs. Cutler was paying him “way too much.” There’s no mention of money here, so I assume she means that the sex was an overpayment. Which it might be, unless she wasn’t very good at it. They go into the interrogation room, where Brass introduces Sara to young Timmy Johnson. “I didn’t kill Mrs. Cutler, if that’s what you’re thinking,” says Timmy. Well, it’s what we’re thinking now. Timmy lives across the street from the Cutlers with his family, and he’s mowing lawns to help with his college tuition. Maybe he’s taking a Lib Ed class called ‘How to Make Love to a Suburban Woman,’ and Mrs. Cutler was his assignment. Brass asks Timmy if either Cutler ever invited him into their house. “On a cold day, yeah, sometimes she’d make me coffee,” says Timmy. Sara asks if he went in the house when Mrs. Cutler gave him his monthly check, and he says yes. “Did she hand you the check in her closet? Or in her bedroom?” she asks, and slides a picture of his grass-stained sock across the table. The captions say, “You forgot your sock” here, but no one says that on screen, at least on my TV. It seems, however, that Timmy did indeed forget his sock. Timmy cracks under the grueling interrogation and spills his guts. He was getting it on with Mrs. Cutler. It was totally her idea. The Cutlers were having marital troubles. Timmy and Mrs. Cutler were caught in flagrante delicto when the hubby came home early. There’s a flashback, and for some reason Mrs. Cutler has sex in her full-length nightgown. See what I mean when I say she might not have been very good at it? Timmy gathers his clothes and hides in the closet, but forgets his sock. Mr. Cutler finds him, hauls him out of the closet, and asks “How was she, you little son of a bitch?” My guess: so-so. Timmy flees, and as far as he knows Mrs. Cutler was still alive at that point, but she’d probably lost the mood.

Warrick is harvesting fingerprints from the ho-chure he found in Mr. Cutler’s jacket. He’s using the fishtank-and-superglue method for some reason; I’m not sure why he couldn’t just dust the thing like normal, but what do I know. There are several women featured in the brochure. Sally, the blonde bikini-wearing gal from the cover, has a thumbprint next to her. She’s holding up a little American flag, and her bikini top is blue with white stars. She’s the All-American Girl. Read whatever you like into that, the more cynical and biting the better. On the flip side there are four fingerprints, so Warrick figures Sally is the one Mr. Cutler was looking at as he gripped the brochure. Nick comes in while Warrick is examining the brochure. “So,” Nick says, “I hear your marriage is on the rocks and you’re shopping for hookers?” Warrick chuckles slightly, not wanting Nick to know just how close to the bone he’s cut. He shows Nick the picture of Sally. Her tagline is “Sweet Apple Pie.” Nick is unsure that sleeping with women who advertise in flyers is a good idea, but Warrick counters that there’s not much sleeping involved. Unless that’s your thing, of course. He invites Nick to call Sally. You know, for, uh, forensic stuff. And junk. Nick calls her and introduces himself as “Dirk Diggler,” which was Mark Wahlberg’s porn name in the movie Boogie Nights. He banters with Sally for a bit, and they settle on a price of $2,000 for a “date.” He gives her the CSI lab’s address. She asks what he looks like, and he tells her he’s got “a little Tom Cruise thing going.” So he plans to brainwash her into marrying him to squelch the rumors of his aberrant lifestyle? Sally says she’ll be there in a half-hour, and Nick chuckles his way out the door while Warrick takes off his gloves and shakes his head.

Transition shot of Vegas, and then Sally’s here. She’s amused at the gall of calling her down to a crime lab under false pretenses, and tells Nick it’s entrapment. He assures her that she’s not here because of prostitution; he needs her help with a homicide case. She gets a slightly dejected look on her face, like, “So I’m definitely not getting paid, then?” Nick sits down across from her and shows her Willie (a.k.a. “Mr.”) Cutler’s picture. I think this is the first good look we’ve had at him, and also I think he’s got a little Kevin Spacey thing going. Sally tells Nick that she and Willie “dated.” We flash back to her “dating” Willie, while she VO’s that he enjoyed playing the high roller but his Wal-Mart habiliment was a dead giveaway that the wad of money in his pocket was new. She played along, though, and remarks that he seemed harmless. Her boobs seem important to the flashback, judging from the camera angles in play here, but if they’re a clue to something, I can’t put my fingers on it. “He was kind of sweet, actually,” says Sally. “He offered me a deal on a vacation.” It turns out that Willie worked for a travel agency called Cowboy Dan’s Neon City Excursions, and had given Sally a flyer for a Hawaii vacation. She’s still got it in her purse, and she pulls it out and gives it to Nick. “I’ve never been to Hawaii,” she says as she hands it over. “Me either,” Nick says as he pulls out a hankie to grip the brochure with. “I’d let you take me to Hawaii,” she purrs at Nick, who smiles and says that he’s working. “So am I,” she says, and keeps beaming her flirty smile at him. Kelly Carlson, who plays Sally, really is quite lovely. I would have expected a hooker from a brochure to be much less impressive in person, overly made up and haggard. If I were a hooker and she were my client, I’d probably let her take me to Hawaii too.

Catherine and Detective Vartann are down at Cowboy Dan’s, which has a banner advertising tours of “historic Vegas.” Catherine is skeptical; “It’s probably just a drive past the Flamingo where Bugsy Seagal took his leak,” she says. Well, now she’s ruined the surprise for the rest of us. The office’s “Closed” sign is hung, even though it’s daytime, but the door is unlocked so they both go in. There’s no answer to their hellos, and the lights are off. Suspenseful music plays quietly in the background, just in case something suspenseful happens. Which it does. Vartann spots a man taking a power nap on the floor of his office, and draws his gun. He checks the office for hidey-shooty types, then goes to the body. Catherine calls Dispatch on her cell phone/walkie-talkie and tells them what’s going on, then hangs up without waiting for an answer. I hope she dialed the right number. She and Vartann look around the rest of the office, guns still drawn. They find another dead person in another office. There’s a gun on the floor near him. While checking the new dead guy’s pulse, they hear a noise come from another room. They enter the room in that guns-drawn, high-alert sort of way that there’s probably some tactical name for but I don’t know what it is, and they find a man hiding under his desk. It’s Willie Cutler. He’s holding his bloody ribs, and is very keen on the idea that the Catherine and Vartann should not kill him. Catherine tells him they’re the police, and he sighs in relief. Then there are commercials, because after all that tension we need to relax with some messages about products or services that might interest us.

If car makers want us to buy hybrids, maybe they should stop giving them such stupid names. The five people on the planet who are going to buy a fuel-efficient hybrid because it’s the sensible thing to do have already bought one; the rest of us you’ve got to sell on it. Yaris? Prius? No. You’ve got to bridge the enormous gap in perception between “environmentally responsible” and “manly.” How about Sexus or Engorgium? Those two are freebies, car makers. If you want more, I’m available for consulting.

When CSI returns, we’re in a hospital. Willie sits on an examining table while a nurse removes his shirt. Sara has replaced Catherine for some reason, and she bags the shirt. A doctor bustles in, gives him a very cursory going-over, and notes that his wound – a graze along his left ribs – could have been much worse. The doctor gives the nurse some instructions, then he’s off. He’s late for a meeting with the pretty sales rep from Big Pharma, and he’s excited because he’s pushed enough of their product to earn “Big Sloppy Mouth-Whoopee” on her sales reward chart. Let’s not speculate about whether Sally, the doctor, or the Big Pharma rep is the biggest whore here, especially since I made one and a half of them up. Chilly Willie wants something to wear, but he’ll have to wait for Sara to take pictures of his wound. The wound looked much worse before the close-ups; now it looks like it was drawn on with a grey crayon. While she snaps away, Vartann asks him to tell them what happened. Cowboy Dan had been working his crew hard for the last week, putting together a campaign for a new tour. Willie doesn’t say what it was, but judging from the research materials Warrick found earlier, I’d say it was probably “Historic Vegas: Prostitute Extravaganza!” We flash back to Earlier That Day (But Later Than Before), where Willie had just returned from breakfast and was sitting in his office, probably thinking about hookers and jam. He hears shots coming from elsewhere in the office. He gets up from his desk, and a stray shot pokes a hole in his closed office door. He’s hit! Travel Agent down! He hides under his desk just in time, because the unknown shooter opens the door and looks around, gun drawn, then leaves. He looks a little disappointed as he goes. End flashback. Willie tells Sara that he stayed under his desk until Catherine and Vartann showed up. Sara hands him a blue blankie to wrap himself in. She shows him a diagram of his office building and asks him to show her where he was standing when he got shot. He points to a spot between the desk and the door. He does not ask her how she got a diagram of his office so fast, but I would have. “I really need to call my wife,” he says. “I should have been home by now. She’s probably worried.” Well, there’s good news and bad news…the good news is she’s not worried. Vartann asks him when he was home last, and Willie says it was yesterday morning. So either Cowboy Dan’s a real slave driver, or Sally is. “Why?” he asks. It’s about here, were I in Sara’s place, that I’d be excusing myself for a potty break or something, and letting Vartann field that one. Sara is very sorry to tell him this, but his wife is dead; she was found shot last night in their home. Willie is now very sad.

Ah, here’s Catherine, back at Cowboy Dan’s. She’s taking pictures of the various corpses while David examines them. Cowboy Dan was shot once in the forehead at close range, he says. “At least he died with his boots on,” says David, which is really all a man nicknamed ‘Cowboy’ can ask for. Catherine imagines how it went down: the shooter shot Cowboy Dan first, then chases the other terrified employee through the office and shoots him in the back. That would be kind of scary, I think. Call me a wuss if you must. Greg is examining this room, and he tells Catherine that the second victim is named Roger Banks. There’s a big “Congratulations” banner on the wall and balloons on Roger’s desk. Greg tells Catherine that Roger was getting a promotion. “At least his day started out on a good note,” says Catherine. You know, I could wake up snuggled between Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley, and that still wouldn’t be enough to offset being chased through my office and shot to death. It’s close, though. Maybe if Winona Ryder brought us all breakfast in bed. Anyway. Greg says the gun has been wiped clean, and he doesn’t think they’ll get any prints off it. He’s collected five shell casings, and there are two bullets in the bodies and three embedded in the walls, so all the shots are accounted for. She moves to Willie’s closed office door, which has a red directional straw poking out of it. Willie must have been standing along the straw’s path, she says, and that’s consistent with his statement to Sara. She opens Willie’s door as Greg keeps taking shots of Roger’s desk. She ponders Willie’s office. “If the shooter never saw him, he got under the desk really quickly,” she says. “I sure would have,” says Greg. Duh. Catherine wonders out loud whether Willie was the luckiest guy in the world or the unluckiest. “I wouldn’t want his luck either way,” says Greg. Again…duh. Greg takes one last photo – of a bloody smudge on Roger’s phone. It’s on the number 1.

Watching a show this closely is kind of tiring at first, but after a while it sort of grows on your brain. I took a break and watched a TiVo’d episode of Lost while working on this recap, and I caught myself recapping that show in my head as I watched. I also recapped when I took the dogs out to pee. I’ll post that one later.

Brass and Willie are chatting in the interrochat room. “You lose your wife, your boss, your co-worker, all in 24 hours – that’s rough,” says Brass. “My heart goes out to you, pal. Really.” It’s hard to tell, sometimes, if Brass is being suspicious or sincere, but I think he’s more sincere than suspicious here. Slightly. Willie thanks him. Brass says it looks like someone’s out to get Willie, and a lot of innocent people are getting in the way. Willie latches onto this theory awfully quickly. Fool! Never take the first offer! “Who’d want to kill you?” asks Brass. “I don’t know,” says Willie. “Some nutcase…guy sees me on the street, and I remind him of someone he hates.” Brass nods. “That’s a pretty good theory,” he says. “Wanna hear another one?” Willie gets an oh-shit look on his face. Brass tells Willie about his wife and the lawn boy. Willie acts surprised, and starts to cry. Brass is not impressed. “According to Timmy, you found him in the bedroom, and you dragged him out of the closet,” he says. Willie says Timmy is lying; Willie wasn’t home. “That’s right…” says Brass. “You were on the love boat with Sally the hooker.” Don’t you watch this show, Willie? You can’t beat Brass at this game; you might as well fess up. Willie concedes that he and his wife had their share of marital troubles. He was up for a promotion at work, or so he believed, and he threw himself a little party with hookers and cake to celebrate. Mmmm…cake. Brass asks Willie why he was passed over for the promotion, and Willie says that mean old Cowboy Dan couldn’t bring himself to give a promotion to a felon. So call Workforce Services on him, you big baby. Brass has reviewed Willie’s record, and his felony is from a joyriding incident when he was 19 – “minor league,” in Brass’s view. “Stupid kid stuff, you know,” Willie agrees. “Follows you around the rest of your life.” Brass sums it all up for him: his boss is dead, the guy who got Willie’s promotion is dead (don’t forget the wife! She was banging the gardener!), and Brass thinks Willie’s the one with the most motive to kill. Willie protests that he got shot too. “Well, you know…kinda,” says Brass. Snerk. Brass pulls out another sheet from his Pile of Damning Evidence Which Must Be Revealed Dramatically, and shows it to Willie. Apparently, Willie wired $50,000 from his home equity line to create a marker at the Lucky Dragon casino last night. Brass suggests that maybe Willie hired a professional killer to whack his wife, his boss, and his co-worker. Willie protests, but Brass continues. “Told him to take a little love bite out of you, make you look nice and innocent.” Willie says that he didn’t kill his wife, and that he lost this money at the tables. Then he gets agitated. “This has been the worst day of my life,” he says, “and I still haven’t seen my wife’s body. I want to leave.” Brass says they’re not done, but Willie insists that Brass has nothing to charge him with because he’s innocent. He stands up and demands again to see his wife’s body. Never underestimate man’s powerful need for closure.

Brass and Grissom stride through the corridors. Brass tells Grissom he pushed Willie as hard as he could, but because the media is watching this case closely, he had to let him go. I’m totally on Brass’s side here, but it’s kind of a scary thought that the decision to keep someone in custody when you don’t have anything to charge them with is mitigated by whether anyone else is watching. “He’s got a bullet wound and a dead wife,” says Grissom. “For now, the evidence says he’s a victim.” Brass says that’s what he told the unit he assigned to shadow Willie.

Greg’s in the Light Table Room, looking over his stash of evidence. He notices the two telephone pictures and the blood on the number one, and imagines someone dialing a string of ones. On the other end of the imaginary line, a cab dispatcher answers. We shift to the offices of Sunstar Cab, and on the side of one of the cabs is their phone number: 702-111-1111. I don’t think 111 is a valid phone prefix, but whatever. The cab dispatcher tells Vartann and Greg that they had several pickups that morning from the office park where Cowboy Dan’s resides, but the drivers who did the picking-up are all off now, and they’re not likely to answer the phone if they see it’s the cab company calling. I’d say use a cell phone to call them, but as a man who enjoys his sleep, I’m inclined to leave them be. Vartann asks about drop-offs, and the dispatcher introduces them to Nicco. Nicco has an interesting story to tell about a “drive-around-all-night guy.” He picked up a fare around 2:45 in the morning near Viking and Pecos, which Greg notes is right near the Cutler house and about the time Janice would have been shot. Greg asks Nicco if he can poke around in his cab. Nicco says sure, then goes back to telling Vartann his story. “He didn’t know where he wanted to go,” says Nicco, “but he says I should drive anyway, so I drive. He sees a store; he says stop. Buys a beer. Then he says drive, stop, cigarettes, and drive some more. I’m all around town, five, six hours.” Nicco is very succinct. I like that. I bet he could recap this whole episode in under five minutes. Meanwhile, Greg has hooked up a laptop to the cabbie’s webcam, which apparently takes brief videos of all the people who get in the cab. Very handy. Vartann asks if Nicco got the man’s name, and Nicco thinks it was Sammy. “Sammy” asked Nicco to wait for him by an office complex, but by then it was the end of Nicco’s shift and he wanted to get home to his wife. “Then he asked me, do I love my wife? And I told him, hey, she loves me. He said I was a lucky man. Which I am. Then he left. Gave me a big tip.” Greg brings his laptop over so Vartann and Nicco can see what he’s found. The man who called himself “Sammy” has a ball cap and shades on. Vartann says he looks a lot like Willie. Greg zooms in on SammyWillie’s front pocket, and there’s a gun poking out. Commercials.

I hope MasterCard paid Richard Dean Anderson very well to reprise his role as MacGyver to shill for their product. I like him, and I even like the commercial, but I hope this doesn’t mean he’s spent all his Stargate money already.

When we return, Detective Vartann is looking through his notes and researching Willie on his computer. Willie has a brother named Sammy, says the computer. Brass picks up the thread in the hallway with Grissom. Sammy did time in Chino for stealing the car that got Willie a joyriding felony. Willie got off easy because he was a first-time offender; the judge was harder on Sammy because he had a record (for burglary, according to Vartann’s computer). Sammy got into trouble in prison, we don’t learn how, and his sentence was extended. He got out just six months ago. In Brass’s office, he shows Grissom a fax from the cab company. They got a call for a pickup at Cowboy Dan’s with a destination of the Lucky Dragon, but the fare was a no-show. Grissom thinks it might be a revenge story: Willie was able to go on with his life while Sammy rotted in jail, and now that Sammy’s out he wants to get even. Brass wonders why Willie would keep quiet about something like that. “He’s his brother’s keeper,” says Grissom, which gets him a pointed look from Brass. “It’s in the bible,” Grissom replies. So are most of the other bad things in this episode: adultery, murder, gambling, prostitutes, travel agents. Or…wait, does the bible mention travel agents? Maybe I’m thinking of real estate agents.

Warrick is at the Lucky Dragon, handing out pictures of Sammy Cutler to the assembled security staff. The security guys disperse to hunt for Sammy, and Warrick goes to the control booth. He repeats his spiel about Sammy to the booth guys, and also gives them a picture of Sammy from the cab. One question here…Sammy and Willie’s joyriding incident took place about 20 years ago, so why are both of their mug shots in the computer current? Perhaps the Vegas PD is testing that new software I read about, a joint venture between the NSA and CitiBank that automatically ages your photos and projects your purchasing habits at each stage of life. Fancy.

Doc Robbins drops in on Sara, who’s going through the crime scene photos in the lab. He hands her the autopsy reports Grissom asked for, and then he looks over the photos Sara’s got strewn about. “Did somebody at the office get knifed?” he asks, and points to the photo of Willie’s wound. Sara tells him that Willie had said he was grazed by a stray bullet. Doc puts on his Gory Crime Scene Photo glasses and examines the picture more closely. He medi-babbles that the wound isn’t a bullet wound. Sara asks what might have caused it, and he tells her it could be lots of things as long as they were sharp. He notices that there’s some blue discoloration in the wound track, and Sara thinks it looks like ink. She picks up a nearby evidence bag with a ballpoint pen in it. It has blood on the tip. She tells him that Catherine found it under Willie’s desk, but thought the blood was incidental.

A few minutes later, she’s swabbing the tear in Willie’s bloody shirt while Grissom watches. She tests the swab for traces of lead, but the test is negative. Willie wasn’t shot. Grissom takes us to a flashback of Willie grabbing a ballpoint pen, ripping his shirt, and digging a furrow in his side. Ouch. Grissom notices that there’s blood on the inside of Willie’s shirt-sleeve cuff. “Did I miss something?” asks Sara. “I don’t know,” says Grissom. “We’ll find out. But if you did, you’re totally getting a spanking, my naughty lab monkey.”

In the casino control booth, the head booth guy tells Warrick that the casino is hosting a major poker tournament this week. The losers get baseball caps, which means there are many, many people wearing baseball caps in the casino at the moment. Warrick gives a slow blink of dismay. “Keep looking,” he sighs. As he watches the monitors, he notices an African-American woman talking to a man by a craps table. I mention her race here not because it matters at all, but to point out that, if you hadn’t seen Tina before, you might assume she was black because Warrick is, which you shouldn’t do. Even though she is. Also, there will be some other lessons about assuming things shortly. Warrick pulls out his cell phone and calls her. Well, at least he has her on speed dial – that’s something, right? She answers as he watches. “Hey baby,” she answers cheerfully. He asks her where she’s at, and she tells him that she’s at the Venetian getting a manicure. “Hope you’re in for a good back scratching session tonight,” she says. The man she was with waits patiently, hands clasped behind his back. Warrick wants to know who she’s talking about – him or the guy she’s with. Busted! He tells her to wave to the camera in the ceiling, and says that he’s in the surveillance booth watching her lie to him. “Don’t even bother coming home tonight,” he says, without waiting for an explanation. “I’ll just text you the storage space your stuff’ll be in.” Man, that’s cold. She tells him that her companion is a VIP host, and he was helping her plan his birthday party. “I hope you enjoy spending it alone,” she says, and hangs up. She shrugs sadly at the ceiling camera, and walks away. Warrick is dismayed. Well, maybe they’ll get a divorce now and Anastasia can console him.

In the lab, Grissom cuts a teeny weeny piece of cloth from Willie’s bloody shirt and puts it on a slide. Then he cuts another piece from the bloody cuff and puts it on another slide. The lovely-but-pale Captain Wendy comes in and asks what he’s doing. “Serology,” he says. Wendy tells him she’s read about it in her History of Forensics science classes, but she’d like him to explain it for the audience. He’s setting up to perform the Lattes Crust Method on his samples, to determine their blood type. Wendy tells him that she’s happy to “clear the decks” for him, which I’m going to pretend is a euphemism for “take off all my clothes,” but he says he needs his answer fast, and doesn’t need a full DNA profile anyway – just the blood type. She asks if she can watch, and he counter-asks whether she has anything better to do. “Yeah, I do,” she smiles, “but some guy’s using my lab.” That’s you, Grissom. He’s got several bottles of pink liquid out, and he eyedroppers some of the liquid onto the cloth samples. Wendy recalls that the reagents for this spell have to be fresh, and wonders where he got them. “I keep some in my fridge for emergencies,” he says. Of course he does. “You got anything else in there?” she asks bemusedly. “A bottle of tequila, perhaps? Severed head?” Grissom stoppers the last bottle. “I don’t keep tequila,” he says. Isn’t that a party rule? A bottle of tequila, once opened, must be drunk? He puts his tray of samples on the Machine Which Gently Rocks To and Fro, and we get a close-up of blood cells floating around. Grissom looks at the blood samples under the microscope, and makes a startling discovery! Well, that’s what his expression says. Flashback to Willie’s shirtsleeve helping to shoot the missus, who spatters some of her blood on it and falls over dead. Grissom shakes off the flashback and calls Brass. “Hey baby,” says Brass cheerfully. Grissom tells Brass to bring in Willie. Brass says his men failed to keep a firm grip on their Willie, and he slipped away. Been there. Grissom explains about the wife’s blood on Willie’s shirt. “He was in the room when she was shot,” he says. “He could have been holding the gun. Maybe [Sammy and Willie] were working together.” All roads lead to the Lucky Dragon; Brass supposes that Willie has unfinished business there.

Sure enough, Willie’s in the casino. He’s kind of prowling around the fringes of the crowd like he’s looking for something. When he crosses the room, he bumps into a random guy who gets in his face about it. They get into a fight. This is starting to seem familiar. Cue Unit One, who tries to break up the fight again, and gets shot again when Willie grabs his gun. You’d think that, between the start of this episode and now, the head security guy would have shown them all the replay of this and made them explain what Unit One did wrong. Unit One’s off the team now for sure. Pandemonium again, and Willie runs away. He’s knocking people over left and right as he goes. A woman comes out of the elevator just in time to be thrust back in by Willie. She seems unpleasantly surprised by this turn of events, and screams mightily. The security guards who didn’t get shot charge the elevator, but the doors close just as they arrive. Commercials. CSI is sponsored by Plavix, which has something to do with blood clots. Makes more of them, I think.

We’re back, and SWAT is assembled in the hallway outside Willie’s room. Brass calls the room’s phone from his cell. Willie is inside on the bed, looking pensive, while his hostage sits on the floor looking bored. Plus sad, I guess, maybe a little terrified. While the phone rings, Brass does a radio check to make sure the SWAT guys can hear him through his clip-on mike. “The kill word is Jim,” he tells them. Willie finally picks up the phone. “Hey Willie, it’s me – Jim Brass,” says Brass, at which point the SWAT team shoots him and then each other. Well, that’s what would’ve happened if I’d been directing. Willie immediately threatens to blow both his and the hostage’s heads off. As long as he tries it on himself first, I don’t see the problem with that. Brass tells Willie he just wants the situation to end peacefully for everyone. I don’t. He offers to come in and talk, and tells Willie he’s unarmed. I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Brass – he’s got a gun. Brass invites Willie to check his unarmedness through the peephole, then hangs up his phone. Willie opens the door a crack, and Brass walks slowly through. Willie is standing by the bed with the hostage on his arm. They make a cute couple. Brass reminds Willie, who seems a little jittery, that he’s alone and unarmed. He leaves the door open behind him, but Willie tells him to close it. He does. Willie wants to walk out of there right now or the dame gets it, see? “Nobody’s gonna die, Willie. Not you, not her, not me, not Sammy, not anyone,” says Brass. “You sure about that?” asks Willie. Brass is sure, because he forgot that it’s sweeps month. Willie wants to talk to his brother, and Brass fibs that Sammy’s in custody downstairs. “You’re lying!” says Willie, and points the gun at Brass. It’s true that Brass is lying, but I think God would understand, given the circumstances. “Hey, you’ve got the gun,” says Brass. “I wouldn’t lie to you, but I need you to do something for me.” Brass wants Willie to let the woman go, and then he’ll call down to the casino’s basement holding room and have Sammy brought up. “He was just trying to help me,” Willie says, which we will file away and analyze later. Brass says that he’s also trying to help Willie, and encourages him again to let the woman go, or at least point the gun at him instead of her. Willie asks again if Brass really has his brother, and Brass says he’ll call now. Willie says he wants to talk to Sammy. Brass puts him on hold for a minute while he calls Warrick, who’s still in the control room. Brass tells Warrick to go down to the holding room and get Sammy on the phone, which is of course only a fiction for Willie’s benefit; Warrick tells Brass that they’re still combing the casino but they haven’t found him yet. It’s a good thing Brass doesn’t have him on the speaker phone. Willie threatens to kill the hostage again. “I need you to get Samuel Cutler up here as soon as possible,” says Brass, and Warrick tells him they’re doing the best they can. The TV jockeys and security chief in the background around Warrick seem pretty tranquil for people trying their damnedest to find a potentially armed suspect to appease a definitely armed suspect with a hostage. Maybe the director forgot to tell them their motivation. Warrick tells Brass to take care of himself, and Brass thanks him and hangs up. “He’ll be here,” Brass assures Willie, and encourages him again to point the gun at him instead of the woman. “It’s just you and me here,” he says. “I’m the hostage, alright?” Willie shoves the non-Brass hostage out of the way, and she crawls to the head of the bed and sits quietly while the drama unfolds. I bet she’s wondering how it will end. She probably also hopes it’s not going to be a two-parter. Brass asks her name, and she tells him it’s Jackie. He assures her and Willie that everything is going to be okay. When you fall off your bike and skin up your knee, you’re probably happy to have someone comfort you and tell you everything’s going to be okay; when you’re watching an unarmed cop and a gun-toting maniac engage in a battle of wills, I don’t think it’s quite as reassuring a sentiment.

Out in the hallway, more SWAT guys show up. One of them is carrying a portable battering ram.

Back in the room, Brass has broken Willie’s spirit to the point that he’s seated on the bed spilling his guts. “Yesterday I spent five thousand dollars on a hooker because I thought I was getting a fifteen thousand dollar promotion,” he says. Perhaps it’s naïve of me, but I’m unclear what a woman could do to a man that would be worth five thousand dollars. Maybe he was buying in volume, and they had sex fifty times that day. When he went to work, he found he didn’t get the promotion after all. Isn’t there an Aesop’s fable about not buying expensive hookers before you’ve received your expected raise? Brass says that left Willie five thousand in the hole, but Willie sees it as being fifteen thousand in the hole. He went to an ATM and took every penny he had and sent it to the casino. “For a second, I was up,” he says, “I was killin’ em. And they were bringing me cocktails and calling me ‘Sir.’” And then the CHUDs came. I mean…and then the pit boss got involved. He hit a bad streak and decided to call Sammy. There’s a flashback of him busting several blackjack hands at once. He roars in frustration and thumps the table, and the pretty woman sitting next to him gets disgusted and leaves. Ain’t that always the way. In the flashback, Sammy comes and takes Willie away from the table. “What happened when you got home?” asks Brass. “Things got worse,” says Willie. That’s a significant amount of understating, right there. Another flashback, in which Willie confesses to his wife that he’s gambled away their life savings. Sammy stands off to the side. “You stupid lowlife,” she says. “That was my money too! You are such a loser. Just like your degenerate brother.” The degenerate brother then comes over and shoots her. Well, I think we all saw that coming. “Sammy told me to stay put,” says Willie. “He said I should clean up the mess. He said he was gonna take care of me.” Brass asks why Willie didn’t call the cops. “I can’t turn him in,” says Willie, “and I knew I’d get blamed.” Brass looks nonplussed.

In the lab, Catherine and Grissom are reviewing last night’s surveillance footage from the casino. Grissom says that Willie’s marker was signed by a blackjack pit boss. In the video, we see Willie get a little stressed, pounding on the table and jabbing at the dealer. A pit boss tosses him out of the casino, leaving Willie’s money behind. Grissom estimates that there’s about ten grand left on the table, and they figure that must be why Willie went back later – to collect what was left of his money. “What about Sammy?” asks Catherine, and Grissom shrugs. “Haven’t seen him,” he says.

Back in the hotel room, Willie continues his story. He finally went looking for his brother, figuring he could “get him to Mexico or something.” When he couldn’t find Sammy after searching for several hours, he went back to his office. When he found his dead boss and co-worker, “I knew what Sammy meant when he said he was gonna take care of me. He was gonna give me a clean slate. He was gonna kill everyone who’d wronged me.” Brass segues to Jackie, pointing out that she hasn’t done anything to hurt him, so why not let her go? Brass starts digging in with the psychology tools, warning Willie that if he kills someone – even by accident – he can’t take it back. People will never look at him the same again. He won’t be able to look at himself again. I’d listen to him on this one, Willie: he definitely knows what he’s talking about.

Sara rushes into Grissom’s office with an article she found on the internet. It’s a news story about a fatal car crash in Tijuana, the victim of which was one Samuel Cutler.

Willie tells Brass that he and Sammy used to be very close, before the car theft. Sammy felt guilty about getting Willie involved, but Willie insists to Brass that it wasn’t Sammy’s fault. Brass’s phone rings before he can reply, and Willie leaps up and draws a bead on Brass. Brass points out that it’s just the phone. He stands up and takes it out of his pocket, showing it to Willie before opening it. It’s Grissom. “Jim, Sammy Cutler’s dead. He died in a car crash in Mexico two months ago.” Not the news Brass was hoping for. How’s that for understatement, Willie? “Willie had to know,” Grissom continues. “He’s been playing us.” And doing a pretty convincing job; that, or the actor who played Sammy croaked before they finished filming this scene, and the writers had to work around it. “I got it, yeah. Thanks,” says Brass, and hangs up the phone. “Hey Willie…” he pauses, “Sammy’s not coming up. But I guess we both know that, right?” Willie agrees. “It’s a good thing I have the gun,” he says. I think that’s a matter of some debate, but let’s move on. Jackie looks scared. Willie looks mad. Brass looks calm, and chews loudly on his gum. “JIM,” he shouts, and Willie shoots him in the non-Kevlar-covered part of his shoulder and upper chest as the SWAT team bursts through the door. They blow several holes in Willie, and Jackie curls up on the bed and screams. “Man down, man down,” say some fading voices in the background as we zoom in on Brass. He’s spitting up blood, and his gum is nowhere to be seen. I hope he didn’t swallow it.

Roll credits! Will Brass survive? Will there be internet chatter about Brass’s self-sacrifice as a means to atone for accidentally shooting a fellow officer? Will they drag out his death to make an annoying cliffhanger for next season? Tune in next week and find out! It should be noted that I did not make a single reference to the movie Free Willy anywhere in this recap, because that Willy is spelled with a y.

 

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