Mac and his team are on the case when a former fighting champ’s body is found buried in concrete.
A fight between striking workers and a foreman at a construction site takes a bizarre twist when blood starts to seep through recently laid concrete. The CSIs excise the body and Sid and Hawkes set about chipping away at the concrete in the morgue. They find bruising on the dead man’s face and determine he was asphyxiated when the concrete was poured on him. Lindsay finds two sets of tread marks at the scene, one from a small sports coupe and a larger one from a vehicle that likely broke through the chain fence at the site. Adam identifies trace from under the victim’s nails as marijuana and an enhancer sometimes paired with the drug. Though there’s nothing in AFIS on the man’s prints, Adam is able to trace the marijuana to medical center in New Jersey and identify the patient most likely to be their victim: Colby Jenkins. Danny and Flack go to Colby’s apartment and find it in a messy state, but when a spacey Colby returns home, it’s obvious he’s not their victim. Danny shows Colby a picture of the victim and Colby recognizes him as “The Gladiator.” When Sid and Hawkes finish removing the body from concrete, they find the man is indeed dressed in gladiator clothes. Hawkes pulls glass from the outfit, and Sid finds a large hole in the man’s chest. The coroner determines the man died forty-eight hours ago and that there was bleeding in his brain. He also recovers a bone fragment that didn’t belong to the victim. Mac recognizes one of his injuries as a common one for boxers and wonders if the man is an amateur fighter named Joe “The Gladiator” Carthage.
Mac makes a trip to see Joe’s trainer, Telly Gines, who confirms the dead man is Joe and tells the CSI that Joe couldn’t fight anymore. He had three brain contusions that could have ruptured and killed him. Telly tells Mac Joe was working as a bouncer at Dirty Drew’s Bar. Mac stops by the bar, where the bartender tells him that Joe defended her from some sleazy patrons who were hitting on her. Flack and Stella find the guys, a pair of wealthy brothers named Alex and Rick Contoursi, and match the tires of their car to the sports coupe treads found at the construction site. The young men admit to following Joe to continue the fight, but when they found him in gladiator gear, they backed off, assuming he was crazy. Danny and Hawkes discover the glass found on the body is a unique tinted variety not available on the open market, and trace it to a vacant building. Once there, they discover a broken window, blood and security cameras pointing to one area of the room. Hawkes finds blood from multiple sources, and Adam finds the bone fragment found in the body was whalebone. Lindsay identifies the impression of a battle crest from a Viking war shield on the wall. The answers lead the team to a website: Blood and Guts Brawling, where boxers dress up and duke it out for show.
Stella and Flack question Al Branson, the owner of the website, who tells them he doesn’t attend the fights, just organizes them. He claims he’s sorry to hear about Joe, but insists both Joe and his opponent walked away from the fight alive. Flack arrests Al for organizing illegal fights, but on the murder front, his story checks out. Stella wonders if Joe suffered a cerebral hemorrhage after the fight and his opponent panicked and hid his body. The CSIs find Joe’s opponent, Erik Overson, but he swears he left Joe alive, and had no idea the man had a brain injury. When Hawkes discovers an amateur fighting pendant belonging to Telly Grimes in the concrete, Mac realizes it was the trainer who buried Joe. Mac confronts Telly and learns Al convinced Telly to get Joe back into fighting. Al texted Telly the night of the fight: he found Joe sitting on a bench, totally unresponsive. Assuming Joe was dead, the two drove to the construction site and buried him. Mac angrily accuses Telly of taking advantage of Joe’s passion for fighting—and tells him the fighter was still alive when Telly and Al buried him in the concrete.
A sad case revolving around a man’s passion literally doing him in, Joe’s plight is eminently sympathetic. Lured back to fighting by his trainer and a businessman looking to make a quick buck, Joe’s brain injury does indeed end up flaring up, though ultimately what kills him is Telly and Al deciding to bury his body at a nearby construction site. The fact that they decided to dump him and give him a concrete burial rather than taking him to a hospital or leaving him where he was speaks to how they saw Joe: a tool for them to make money, a performer who was only useful so long as he could fight. Mac accuses Telly of manipulating Joe, and even though Telly admits to what he’s done and doesn’t try to weasel out of the charge, the way he disposed of Joe speaks to how little regard he actually had for the man and his well being.
Branson is equally unrepentant; when Stella and Flack go to his office, he tells them that he doesn’t even attend the fights he sets up. For Branson, it’s all business, and he must have panicked when he found a combatant whose fight he’d just broadcast out over the web sitting dead on a bench. Neither Branson or Telly thought to actually check to see if Joe was in fact definitely dead, a cold-hearted reaction if there ever was one. There’s something incredibly sad about Joe, who we learn was a decent human being through his defense of the female bartender. In the end, all that’s left of him are his gloves and a poster from the heyday of his career, which Mac stares at sadly before leaving the gym.
In addition to being a racing aficionado, which we learned in “The Formula”, Mac is apparently also a boxing fan. His familiarity with Joe is what leads to the ID of the boxer, rather than DNA or fingerprints. While it’s always nice to have a personal hook for one of the characters, this season more than any other, the supporting characters have faded into the background and everything seems to be about Mac. Hawkes was rumored to be getting a long-overdue love interest this season, but instead Mac met an attractive ER doctor. The elusive killer in “Blacklist” took an interest in Mac. Mac talked the Compass Killer down in “Manhattanhenge”. Yes, Mac is the lead, and it’s expected that he’ll get a good deal of focus. But couldn’t another CSI have taken a special interest in the case this time around? Couldn’t Danny, Hawkes or Flack have had a special interest in boxing? Lindsay expressed a love of racing in “The Formula,” but it was largely overshadowed by the focus on Mac’s passion for the subject. On a purely practical level, it’s hard to imagine someone who is as big a workaholic as Mac having time to keep up with all of these outside interests.
Danny, who has largely been a shadow of his former self this season, shows some signs of life when he dismisses the Contoursi brothers as “clowns” and “wannabes.” His reason for saying so? They’re on the Dean’s List at their university. It’s nice to see a reference to Danny’s street smarts, something we haven’t gotten to glimpse much lately. Then again, this season has definitely done Danny no favors—first the gunshot injury that left him in a wheelchair was glossed over and more or less resolved in a handful of episodes, and then when his badge was stolen, he inexplicably did nothing about it, even after finding it had likely fallen into the hands of serial killer Shane Casey. Danny used to be the most interesting character on the show, but this season he’s been oddly dull and passionless, which is a real shame.
Poor Adam has been relegated to the background this year for the most part as well, but he too gets to show a little spirit here. Joe’s prints get no hits in AFIS after Adam runs them, but not to be deterred, Adam follows another lead: the marijuana found under Joe’s fingernails. Adam is mighty proud of his detective work, proudly telling Hawkes, “I have an address” and following it up with a charmingly self-satisfied, “What up?” It’s fun to see Adam on his game, and he certainly deserves props for the complex detective work. Sure, it leads (rather humorously) to the wrong guy at first, but it does pave the way for the CSIs to identify Joe, since it’s the stoned Colby Jenkins who gives them the gladiator clue.