The Vegas team must discover who bludgeoned a popular WLVU football coach to death while he slept.
The morning after a big win for West Las Vegas University’s football team, Coach Jimmy Miller wakes up dripping blood, brushes his teeth, sets off the security alarm in the house, makes his breakfast and goes outside to get the paper–and drops dead in front of a campus security guard. Catherine and Langston arrive at the scene and notice the coach’s many trophies. Langston remarks on how popular Coach Miller was–a veritable god at the school. Upstairs he finds shoe impressions, which he concludes are from the killer. Catherine notes the alarm was triggered at 6:04am by the coach, but not before, indicating the killer had the code. Outside the house, Brass speaks with Pal Arnold, the president of the Booster Club who is passing out memorial armbands. Arnold tells the detective that the coach’s house was always filled with students. Doc Robbins determines that Miller died of exsanguination, the result of both blunt and sharp force trauma. The “zombie effect” was the result of the part of his brain that performed routine tasks still functioning while the rest of the brain died.
Sara and Greg investigate the death of a woman found in a submerged car. After the car is pulled out of the lake, Sara and Greg recover her wallet, identifying her as nineteen-year-old Paige Hammer of North Dakota. Greg tells Sara that the car belonged to Legacy Motors and was reported stolen six months ago. The two CSIs find evidence that someone else was in the car with Paige and managed to escape. When they get the car back to the lab, Greg finds a .38 revolver and gives it to Mandy for print recovery. Doc Robbins tells Sara the woman drowned, and recovers a hair from between her teeth. Catherine looks at a picture from the coach’s house and discovers two trophies are missing. She tracks one down on an online auction site–and ties it to the campus security guard Julian Bristol. Julian admits to stealing the football trophy, but not the other missing trophy–Miller’s Coach of the Year award, which Nick determines is in fact the murder weapon. Hodges matches the shoe impression to a size 12 Jupiter Galaxy shoe–and tells Langston that the company is a sponsor of the team, and gives the shoes to all of the players. Hodges has found one current player who wears a size 12: Calvin Crook. Calvin was planning to leave the team for the NFL Draft, until Coach Miller sent him an article via e-mail about the shooting death of a twenty-two year old named Andrew Jimenez, who was killed six months ago. Nick and Langston question Calvin, who tells them that he tossed his Galaxy shoes months ago. They ask about the Jimenez article, and Calvin tells them that the coach sent it to him to remind him life is short. He denies killing Miller, saying he was in bed at the time the coach was murdered.
Greg ties the gun found in the car with Paige Hammer to the shooting of Andrew Himenez–and the CSIs posit that Andrew was the passenger in the car. When he got free and left the car, Paige must have assumed he was abandoning her. When he came back for her, she shot him in a rage, not realizing he was trying to save her. The team digs deeper, learning that Paige had an arrest for solicitation–and that both the car she died in and Coach Miller’s car were from Legacy Motors, which happens to be owned by none other than Pal Arnold, the Booster Club President. Pal admits the girl was at a party he held for the team–but that she was with Calvin Crook. When questioned about Paige, Calvin asks for a lawyer. Greg and Sara return to the scene and find Andrew Jimenez’s shoes–indicating he wasn’t a passenger in the car, but a concerned passerby who tried to save Paige. Nick accuses Calvin of abandoning Paige in the car, but the young man insists he left her at the party, alive, after being chewed out by Coach Miller. He insists that had he been in the car with Paige, he would have done everything he could to save Paige’s life. Nick believes him.
Mandy recovers a print from the .38 belonging to Pal Arnold. Brass confronts the Booster Club President, who admits that he drove Paige home–but when the car careened off the road and into the lake, he abandoned her. “I’m not a brave man,” he tells the detective. He climbed out of the car and swam for safety. When Andrew showed up, he figured Andrew would save Paige–until he heard the gunshot. He hid Andrew’s shoes and ran home to discover Coach Miller waiting. He had to tell Miller the truth, but told the coach if he revealed what happened, he would compromise the team. Brass thinks Pal killed Miller to keep him quiet, but Pal denies it. Langston recruits Hodges and Wendy to help him search the campus for the murder weapon, positing that the killer came to Miller’s house on foot. Hodges finds the trophy used to kill the coach in a dumpster–and Wendy finds the Jupiter Galaxy shoes Calvin Crook claims he discarded months ago. Langston confronts Calvin, who fesses up: the coach persuaded him to stay on the team–and then sidelined him, causing NFL interest in him to dry up. Langston theorizes that it was the coach’s own guilt over helping to cover up Paige Hammer’s death that led him to sideline Calvin.
“Bloodsport” bucks the trend that more often than not, the highest profile guest star is the killer. Pal Arnold, imbued with a breezy good ol’ boy confidence by John Carroll Lynch, is a killer, but not Coach Miller’s killer. Booster Club President Pal is the guy who never really let go of the college lifestyle–when Miller is murdered, he’s right outside the coach’s house, handing out armbands. No doubt he considered himself as much a part of the team as Miller himself was–hosting “soirees” for the football stars obviously made Pal feel important and essential to the team. Lynch, whose long resume includes roles in movies such as Fargo, The Good Girl and Zodiac as well as TV shows Close to Home, The Drew Carey Show and Carnivale, makes Pal both familiar and distinct. When his game is up in the end, he readily admits to being a coward, while showing little remorse for leaving Paige to drown in the lake.
Josh Henderson, who did a stint on Desperate Housewives as Edie Britt’s nephew, is equally convincing as the stymied football player who actually did kill Coach Miller. He’s steadfastly earnest enough that Nick believes him, at least about Paige. Calvin’s insistence that he would have done anything he could have to save Paige had he been in the car with her masks the fact that he has no visible remorse over the death he actually is responsible for–Miller’s. Indeed, when the game is up at the end, he matter-of-factly tells Langston why he killed the coach. I can’t help but wish this scene had taken place with Nick in the interrogator’s seat, especially after Nick believed, and connected with, the college football star.
Nick gets a nice moment with Langston when the two reminisce about football–two different kinds. While Nick grew up playing American football in Texas, Langston was raised on the European version–what we know here as soccer–in Seoul, South Korea. It’s an interesting bit of background info on Langston–while the audience had learned previously that his father was in the military, knowing that he was born and spent at least some of his formative years in a different country adds an exotic worldliness to him. Langston truly has an interesting past, which perhaps informs the open-minded way he approaches cases. And though it was nice to see him take Hodges and Wendy out on an excursion that produces both the murder weapon and the link to the killer, it probably would have meant more for Nick to have the final scene with the young football hero whose story he bought.
Nick does get a great moment in the morgue with Doc Robbins. In his colorful way, Doc Robbins describes the attack on Miller “like cracking open a hard-boiled egg.” Nick, thoroughly dismayed, replies with, “Thanks for ruining yet another breakfast for me.” It’s a great comic moment, delivered to perfection by Robert David Hall and George Eads. Doc Robbins isn’t deterred–he goes on to explain the “zombie effect,” knowing that Nick–and the audience–will want to hear just how Coach Miller was able to get up and go about his morning routine with a fatal head wound.
Indeed, that opening is one of the creepiest CSI has ever done. The alarm goes off and a gruesome-looking Coach Miller arises from his bed, seeming to be completely unaware that he’s dripping blood. The audience watches in shock as he brushes his teeth, ambles down the stairs, pours himself some coffee and goes outside to get the paper–ignoring the alarm going off in his house, and of course, that blood from his head wound. It’s one hell of a memorable opening, and indeed, when Robbins brings up the zombie effect to Nick, the audience is as eager to hear about it as Robbins clearly is to relay the information.
Viewers eager to see Catherine in more of a leadership role are given that opportunity here. Though she’s working the Miller homicide with Langston and Nick, she’s also overseeing Sara and Greg’s investigation, which eventually allows her to connect the two cases via the Jimenez shooting. While navigating the paradox of Langston being the new lead while Catherine is actually the top ranking CSI is likely a tricky challenge, it’s nice for the audience, who has been following Catherine for over nine years now, to see her in the proverbial driver’s seat of the lab. It’s a new era for CSI, but Catherine as the team leader is a nice bridge between the old days of the show and the new.