A meddling receptionist is murdered during a fire drill at an ad agency.
A fire drill at Tabula Rasa ad agency almost disrupts the plans for a surprise birthday party for the office assistant, Valerie Metcalf, but the party goes as planned… until Jeffrey Lipton gets in the elevator and is hurt in an accident, which also reveals the body of receptionist Renee Dorsett, tangled in the elevator cords, an ax sticking out of her head. When the CSIs arrive on the scene, Horatio surmises that the fire drill was pulled as a distraction. Calleigh notices that the alarm contained an identifying liquid that would have sprayed the hands of whoever pulled it. Calleigh and Walter test the employees on the 19th floor and Valerie’s hands are the ones that test positive for the liquid. Valerie admits that she pulled the alarm to buy herself time to pick her boyfriend up from the airport during work hours. Though she denies killing Renee, she describes the woman as the “office Nazi,” who was always out to criticize people. Valerie suspected she was getting people fired. Ryan believes he’s found a lead when he discovers a broken piece of a ceramic mug with a child’s face on it. There’s a picture of the same child on Kent Ackerman’s desk, but Walter opens the frame and pulls the picture from it—revealing that it’s actually a page from a magazine. Kent admits that he faked having a family in order to be able to take time off from work for supposed familial obligations, and not get stuck working late like the single people at the office are expected to do. Renee confronted him and told him he needed to come clean—the mug broke during the confrontation. Kent swears he had nothing to do with her murder. Horatio and Jesse are interrupted from going over Renee’s desk by a noise in the ceiling. They follow it and are surprised to find Teddy Enwald crashing through the ceiling. The Tabula Rasa employee admits he’s been living in the corridor above the ceiling to save on rent. He ran to avoid getting found out, but the CSIs become suspicious of him when they search his living space and find bloody paper towels among his possessions.
Calleigh matches the blood on the towels to Renee in the lab, but Teddy professes his innocence. In the morgue, Calleigh asks Dr. Loman to remove Renee’s nail polish and discovers mees lines on her fingernails, indicating Renee was being poisoned. When low levels of arsenic are found in Renee’s system, Calleigh tests a food wrapper from Teddy’s hideout and find it has arsenic in it. The CSIs question Teddy, but he claims he simply takes other people’s leftovers and is disturbed to find he’s been ingesting poison. Valerie is the one who distributes the lunches. Calleigh obtains a warrant and finds the poison among Valerie’s possessions. The office assistant admits she was poisoning Renee—but only a little bit. After Renee brought up Valerie’s herpes medication in front of a bunch of their co-workers, Valerie decided to get revenge, but just by making her sick… not actually killing her. Calleigh informs Valerie that what she did is just a felony. Ryan finds a threatening letter written to Renee tucked away in one of her books reading: “You ruined my life. You’ll pay for what you’ve done.” Horatio notices the postmark on the letter is dated July 2007—before Renee came to work for Tabula Rasa. Calleigh, Ryan and Jesse go to Renee’s house to get some background on her and are impressed by the size of her abode, given her meager salary as a receptionist. Calleigh and Ryan are surprised to find a diploma on Renee’s wall from a prestigious MBA program, and the pair discovers that in 2007, Renee worked at a big investment firm as a broker. Ryan discovers that in 2007, Renee started making monthly payments to a local cemetery. Back at the lab, Jesse gets Travers to run some motor oil he found in Renee’s front yard, near tire treads from a vehicle that apparently drove on her lawn. Travers reluctantly runs the test and finds the motor oil is from an older car, likely a classic model. Horatio and Tripp find the classic car owner among the Tabula Rasa employees: Mark Bullock. They discover lemon trace from Renee’s lemon trees in Mark’s tire treads, confirming he was the one who vandalized Renee’s property. Mark admits he went to confront Renee after getting a call from HR. He assumed Renee ratted him out for bringing his dogs to work, and that he was going to be fired. But when he confronted Renee she covered for him, telling their boss that the dogs were service dogs—she was riding the employees to save their jobs, not sabotage them.
The graveyard proprietor, Luis Velasquez, tells Horatio and Ryan that Renee was paying to maintain the grave of Paige Shorehaux, who died at the age of 28. Renee visited her grave every Friday, apparently with a guilty conscience. Calleigh asks Dave Benton to look up Paige’s death report and learns the young woman committed suicide. When Calleigh sees the handwriting on the suicide note Paige left, she recognizes it as the same writing on the note Ryan found in Renee’s book. A little more digging reveals that Paige was fired from her job by Renee shortly before killing herself. Calleigh also learns Paige was engaged—to Jeffrey Lipton, who worked with Renee at Tabula Rasa… and found her body in the elevator. Calleigh and Walter try to question Jeffrey, but he puts them off. The CSIs realize they need a warrant, and Jesse finds a reason for one on Jeffrey’s clothes from the elevator. His shirt is covered in blood splatter from when Renee’s body fell into the elevator, but Jesse discovers a blood drop that isn’t like the others: it’s medium velocity splatter, from when the ax connected with Renee’s head. Horatio and Tripp confront Jeffrey: he killed Renee during the fire alarm, then dumped her body down the elevator shaft—only to be shocked by the body falling out on him in the elevator later. Jeffrey relents and admits that he took the job at Tabula Rasa to figure Renee out. When the fire alarm went off, he confronted Renee and accused her of killing Paige—and then attacked her with the ax. After he killed her and dumped her body, he cleaned up the blood and left the bloody paper towels up in the ceiling. Jeffrey is arrested and the CSIs go to leave for the day… and opt out of taking the elevator.
Workplace woes take center stage in this satirical outing, which offers more than a few chuckles that anyone who has ever worked in an office can likely relate to. Part of the reason The Office (both the British original and the U.S. version) is such a successful comedy is that pretty much everyone who has ever held a job can relate to having an annoying co-worker, a trying boss, or personal details that one wouldn’t want trotted out in front of office mates. Which is why the extremes of The Office and “Getting Axed” make us laugh. Who hasn’t been tempted to sneak a longer lunch or to unload on a devious co-worker? “Getting Axed” takes these desires to the extreme: Valerie pulls the fire alarm to allow herself enough time to pick her boyfriend up from the airport, Kent fakes a family so that he’s not unfairly overburdened by his boss, Mike drives his car into Renee’s prized lemon tree when he suspects she’s sold him out to HR. And then there’s poor scorned Teddy, who literally takes up residence in the ceiling and lives off his coworkers’ leftovers in order to save money. Valerie resorts to poisoning Renee after Renee spills the beans about her STD in front of the entire office. These are definitely extremes, but no doubt everyone can relate to one or more of these irritations—which is exactly what makes the Tabula Rasa employees’ reactions so funny.
The CSIs can’t show any sympathy, of course, but some of their reactions provide laughs as well, as when Calleigh questions Valerie after learning she’s the one who poisoned Renee. Valerie insists she wasn’t trying to kill Renee, and was simply using a “teensy weensy” dose. Calleigh retorts that it’s a “teensy weensy” felony. Each employee thinks he or she is justified in cheating the system. Kent is indignant that people with families get to cut out of work early or aren’t expected to work hours as long as those the single people work, so he invents a family and decorates his office with kids’ drawings that he’s done. Teddy is disdainful of his coworkers who actually shell out money in rent every month; why bother when there’s a perfectly good living space in the ceiling above the office. It’s perfect—unless a coworker commits murder and hides some of the evidence in the middle of your “living room.”
After doing a pretty good job of painting Renee as the “office Nazi”—she exposes Valerie’s STD to the office, she uncovers Kent’s fake family and takes him to task for the deception—the episode does a 180 and reveals that in fact Renee has been trying to get her coworkers in line so that they won’t be fired. After thinking she sold him out, Mark Bullock learns that Renee covered for him after he brought his dogs to work, claiming they were service dogs. We learn Renee is carrying a fair amount of guilt from her days as a high-powered investment broker, when she was forced to fire an underling who went on to kill herself. Wracked with guilt, Renee apparently decided to get off the corporate ladder altogether and opts instead to take a receptionist position. Renee’s actions are mostly explained away by her desire to protect her coworkers, save for when she calls out to Valerie that her herpes medication is ready. Was she just trying to get everyone to go back to work quickly and stop taking time away from work to flirt with the pretty office assistant, or did she perhaps dislike the calculating young woman?
The teaser has the feel of a horror movie; there’s an immediate sense of foreboding. First Valerie is summoned to the conference room by Kent and Mark, and the flash of a knife makes the audience think that this summons will spell doom for her. Fake out! It’s a surprise birthday party. Then Jeffrey Lipton heads for the elevator, leading the audience to suspect he’s the victim—especially when the elevator starts to malfunction when he’s inside. It’s another fake out—an ironic one, since Jeffrey is in fact the killer. The elevator falters and Jeffrey is knocked down—and the body of Renee comes plunging through the hatch in the ceiling, dangling from the elevator cord. As Tripp puts it in the end to the killer: “you got the surprise of your life.”
The elevator offers plenty of opportunity for humor. Ryan processes it as Dr. Loman works to detangle Renee’s body from the elevator cords. After he’s finished his task, the coroner asks Ryan to get a ladder to help him get down, but the preoccupied CSI simply wanders off, his focus on a lead rather than helping the coroner get down. At the end of the episode, Tripp steps into the elevator at the lab, ready to leave now that the case is closed. Jesse, Ryan and Walter rush to catch the door before it closes and hop on the elevator with him. The elevator quakes just a little bit, and Tripp makes a split second decision to opt for the stairs. Walter follows him, and Ryan is close on Walter’s heels. Jesse seems to be the lone hold out—until the lights on the elevator flash slightly and he, too, disembarks and heads for the stairs. It’s a cute end to the episode, an endearing little character moment—something we happily have been seeing more of this season on Miami.