June 17 2024

CSI Files

An archive of CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds and crime drama news

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Internal Combustion’

7 min read

The mysterious deaths of two teens puzzle the Vegas CSIs.


Doc Robbins and Ray Langston puzzle over the body of seventeen-year-old Trevor Beck, who dropped dead at Sagebrush Valley High School after a minor scuffle with a classmate. As far as the two doctors can tell, the teen wasn’t killed by a blow to the head. Trevor’s mother tells Brass her son wasn’t a troubled kid, but that he’d been grumpy and forgetful lately, complaining about losing his car keys and then finding them in the ignition of his car. She mentions that her son had just started dating a girl named Cindy the week before. The CSIs trace Cindy’s cell phone to Sagebrush Valley High, and question Renata Clarke, who shares a locker with Cindy. Renata tells Sara she’s been texting Cindy frantically, trying to get a hold of her, with no luck. Nick finds Trevor’s car in the school parking lot and discovers a fresh yellow paint scrape on the modified vintage car. Sara recovers Cindy’s cell phone from the car and finds pictures of Cindy with Trevor on it, and earlier shots of her with another guy, who her phone address book identifies as Miyamoto Takahashi. Brass finds Miyamoto at his job and questions the boy about a fight with Trevor the day before that Cindy recorded on her phone. Miyamoto insists that Trevor attacked him, and seems surprised to learn Cindy is missing. Back in the morgue, Langston determines that a pre-existing condition that caused Trevor’s brain stem to sit right up on his spine contributed to his death—most likely the boy had no idea he even had the condition. He confirms that the anti-depressants found in Tyler’s car could have contributed—as could some sort of trauma to the head.

The CSIs track Trevor’s car’s final trip and discover Cindy’s body along a road in a tree, both of her legs badly broken. Nick wonders if her body was dumped, and Greg observes that it’s as though she was dropped from the sky. In the morgue, Sara notes that the fractures are pedestrian ones, indicating Cindy was struck by a car, and could have been thrown as far as the length of a football field. Nick and Greg backtrack to find the site of the crash and discover two distinct tire treads. They’re able to identify one set as Trevor’s tires, while the other is a mystery. Nick concludes that the cars were involved in a drag race, and one swerved into the other—possibly causing it to hit Cindy. Catherine tracks down the kid who sold Trevor the anti-depressants and learns that the yellow scrape on Trevor’s car could have come from a car belonging to a member of the Demons gang—yellow is their color. Brass thinks to check the LVPD sponsored speed race that takes place on a weekly basis, and Nick and Sara head to the race and quickly spot a group of Demons there, standing around a yellow car, which belongs to Miyamoto. The boy tries to run when the CSIs spot him, but he’s quickly taken down and arrested. Nick and Greg go over his car, but Greg quickly eliminates it when he finds the headlights are plastic, inconsistent with the glass shards found at the scene from the headlights of the car that struck Cindy. Sara views footage of an LVPD race nine days ago and sees Trevor win a race, and then swerve his car, giving him whiplash and perhaps causing his unusual condition to act up. Catherine surmises his death was an accident. The CSIs are surprised when the identity of his opponent in the race is revealed to be Renata Clarke.

Sara and Nick go to the auto shop owned by Renata’s legal guardian, her uncle Gus Davis. Though Renata protests she was with friends the night of Cindy’s death, the CSIs impound her car, which the girl has been detailing. The CSIs track down the old parts Renata removed, and Greg discovers fibers from Cindy’s sweater on the car’s grille. The CSIs wonder why Renata would have raced Trevor again in an illegal race when Sara comes in with some interesting news: video surveillance from one of the roads the racers took reveals that Renata was actually at the wheel of Trevor’s car! A piece of gum stuck to the steering wheel of Renata’s car proves the key—it indicates her uncle, Gus, an admirer of old school racers, was behind the wheel of Renata’s car. Gus wanted to show Renata that it was the driver not the car that mattered in the race, and convinced her to have Cindy get Trevor’s keys so that Renata could drive Trevor’s car while Gus raced her in hers. Renata was in the lead, but Gus’s competitive streak came out, and he swerved the car he was driving to throw her off—and inadvertently hit Cindy. Gus swears he looked for her, but couldn’t find her. He convinced Renata to cover it up and swears she’s innocent, but both are charged with the crime.


A healthy dose of humor and team camaraderie distinguishes this entry, which, despite the fact that it deals with the deaths of two teens, never ventures into maudlin territory. The only time the humor seems a little off is at the end, when, after discussing how drag racing ended the lives of the two victims and will likely send Gus and Renata to jail, Catherine and Nick give in to the primal urge to have a race in the parking garage! It’s a funny moment, and a bit of lighthearted fun between the two characters, but it feels a little off tonally given the discussion the two were having right before getting into their respective cars. Perhaps that’s the point, that the urge to indulge in a race is just too much to resist, even when it’s perhaps not the wisest course of action.

Catherine and Nick aren’t the only CSIs to indulge in a little wicked behavior; Greg reveals to Nick that he went joyriding in his uncle’s car when he was twelve. Nick is heartily amused by the story, a grin plastered on his face as he teases Greg about being “a little car thief.” It’s a cute moment between the two, and highlights their easy rapport. George Eads and Eric Szmanda always play off each other well, and it’s fun to watch them joking around together. It’s nice to see the show take time for moments like this, for Greg to relate with glee his memories of driving around the block three times in his uncle’s car before almost running over his own foot. Anecdotes like this really make the show fun.

Wendy gets a good jab at Hodges in as Nick tells them to go over Renata’s car. When Hodges remarks that the car is pretty sophisticated for a teenage girl, Wendy quips, “Definitely more sophisticated than the ones you chat with on the Twilight message boards.” Oh Hodges! It’s so easy to see him hunched over a computer, dissecting the latest casting choice for the upcoming movie in the teen saga, or even getting into a nitty gritty plot point in one of the four books. Hodges, no doubt, is one who takes Twilight very seriously. I presume Wendy’s teasing also suggests Hodges has yet to come down to earth and take a chance by acting on their mutual attraction.

There is a point in each episode when I’m reminded of what a gifted actor Paul Guilfoyle is. It tends to be in the delivery of a line or a raise of an eyebrow, just a little reminder of how completely he inhabits the role of Jim Brass. This week’s moment comes in the scene where he gently questions Trevor’s distraught mother, trying to find out what might have led to her son’s death. When he lands upon Trevor’s new girlfriend Cindy, he asks Trevor’s mother if she has the girl’s phone number. The grieving woman does not, and Brass immediately reassures he, “That’s okay, we can find it, that’s easy for us.” Guilfoyle delivers that line with an easy assurance that’s both comforting and natural.

Both Trevor and Cindy’s deaths are ultimately accidental, and in Trevor’s case, possibly not one that could have been prevented. As Langston described it, Trevor’s condition was something of a ticking time bomb, more likely than not to be set off by something before being caught by a doctor. Cindy’s death is a different story—the girl stood in the middle of the road to judge a drag race between two very determined individuals. Perhaps her death couldn’t have been predicted—had Gus not swerved in anger to throw Renata off, Cindy might still be alive—but she was certainly taking a risk standing in the middle of a road during a drag race at night. But, as the final scene of the episode shows as Catherine and Nick race each other out of the garage, who among us is immune to taking a little risk now and then?

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