An ex-cop is killed in prison, and the team must figure out if another cop committed the murder that put him behind bars.
Guards walk two rival gangs of prisoners down the same hallway, and they attack each other. When the fight is over, a man is dead on the ground. The victim is an ex-cop named Vance Tolsom. He and Brass worked together a long time ago, but Vance was arrested for killing his wife, Anne-Marie. The improvised knife next to the body is wrapped with medical tape, so it will be hard to get fingerprints. Instead, they’ll have to collect the prisoners’ clothing and let the blood tell the story.
Greg watches a video of the fight, but they aren’t able to see what happened in the melee. However, they can see that two men, Carlos Salavar and Jose Casita, initiated the fight on purpose—Vance was targeted. The team uses the blood stains on their uniforms to determined that Carlos and Jose held Vance down while a third man, Tomas Molinez, carried out the hit. Tomas doesn’t deny it. He tells Brass that he killed Vance in an attempt to raise his status in the prison because he’s stuck in here for 30 years. He also says he heard the hit was done as a favor for someone on the outside.
Vance was filing for a retrial based on new evidence: The List. Anne-Marie’s sister Jody visited Vance in prison and found out that her sister was seeing other men in the police department. Once she started looking into it, she realized that a lot of the cops who worked Anne-Marie’s murder case were involved with her, and that was grounds for a retrial. She compiled the names for Vance, and Brass and Vartann are on The List—they were in charge of the LVPD’s portion of the investigation. Jody also says that Anne-Marie was in love with another cop before she died, but she doesn’t know who it was. She’s convinced that Vance was innocent.
Catherine meets with Vartann, who doesn’t appreciate her questioning his ability to do his job. He tells her what he knows about the case, and she says it’s all too neat. A cop who killed his wife and hid her body should have been smart enough to get rid of such damning evidence as the matchbook tied to the arson of her car. Greg tests all of the evidence from Anne-Marie’s case, and he discovers that the blood in the car contained an anti-coagulant. The blood was planted, which confirms Vance’s claim that he was framed. Whoever did this was a cop or a CSI. Nick takes a good look at the matchbook. The way the match from the arson was tied to the matchbook is similar to a previous case. The lead investigator on Anne-Marie’s case in Brime County was Lucas Martin, who was also the lead investigator on two interesting cases in the past—one in which a match was confirmed to have come from a certain matchbook, and the other involved planting blood that was mixed with an anti-coagulant. Martin’s name isn’t on The List, but he becomes the lead suspect.
If Martin used previous cases as reference while framing Vance for Anne-Marie’s murder, they wonder if he used a similar technique to hide her body. This leads them to a place in the middle of nowhere, where a man once killed his girlfriend and dumped her body. The team suspects that Martin might have buried Anne-Marie here hoping she’d never be found. Instead, they find the body of Anne-Marie’s sister Jody. She was shot twice in the back of the head, and the bullet wounds indicate that she was shot by someone with training. The bullets come back to a secondary gun that belongs to Lucas Martin. He says he sold the weapon at a gun show out of state, but Brass arrests him. Langston finds duty logs indicating that Martin was working when Jody was killed. Catherine points out that they could be faked, but it’s an alibi nonetheless. They need Carlos Salavar to admit that Martin was the one who put out the hit on Vance. Langston pushes him by threatening to have his sister arrested, which would send her kids to foster care. Carlos tells him they have the wrong cop.
The epithelials under Jody’s fingernails come back to Anne-Marie. She isn’t dead after all. The evidence was planted to cover up her disappearance, and they know that Martin worked with Anne-Marie to frame her husband. Martin says they were in love, and he was supposed to follow her at some point after her disappearance. In the meantime, he has been sending a thousand dollars a month to an “orphan fund” in Mexico—the money was really for Anne-Marie. When he told her he was retiring soon, she stopped returning his phone calls. He didn’t even know she was in town until Jody was killed with the gun he gave Anne-Marie.
The team checks Jody’s financial records, wondering if Anne-Marie turned to her sister for help after dumping Martin. Jody had $500,000 in the bank from Anne-Marie’s life insurance policy, and half of the money was transferred to the “orphan fund” in Mexico around the same time that Jody started visiting Vance in jail. Jody also sent multiple payments to lawyers, and there was one final transaction after Jody was killed—Anne-Marie cleared out the account.
Anne-Marie came back to prevent Vance from getting a new trial, and she killed Jody to keep her secret. They still need to figure out who put the hit out on Vance, and Vartann offers a suspect. He knew Anne-Marie while they were in the police academy, and he remembers a guy named Jarrod Malone. Jarrod didn’t cut it as a cop, but he was close to Anne-Marie. He became a corrections officer at the prison, and he worked on Vance’s cell block. Meanwhile, Jarrod calls Anne-Marie and says they need to make a run for it. He leads the cops right to her, and she is arrested.
“The List” is a great episode, although the big twist is obvious from pretty early in the hour. As soon as it is revealed that Anne-Marie’s body was never found, I suspected that she was still alive. I also knew the fact that she was a cop was going to be relevant—as soon as the team realizes that Jody was shot by someone with training, I knew that Anne-Marie killed her sister. None of that really matters, though. It was still fun to watch the team unravel several interconnected cases, and the character moments in the episode were CSI at its best.
Doc Robbins teasing David about his wisdom regarding the horrors of prison was worth a laugh, and the scene where he tells Langston that his wife usually gets started (on dinner) without him is even better. I love Doc Robbins, he’s such a hoot. It’s always a treat when Robert David Hall gets fun material to work with. Catherine’s scene with Vartann is very different, but it’s nice to see the pair of them butting heads a bit while still taking a very mature approach. Vartann is offended by the suggestion that he did anything wrong on the Anne-Marie Tolsom case, but he still finds the key piece of information that leads the team to their prison connection. I also enjoyed Catherine’s reaction to finding out that Vartann’s name is on The List. She might not like it, but it’s in the past—she’s too smart and mature to get upset over it. The relationship that has developed between these two is a welcome addition to the series, and I’m curious to see where things go as season eleven winds to a close. If Marg Helgenberger does decide to leave the series soon, it will be interesting to see how the relationship with Vartann plays into Catherine’s decision to move on from the Las Vegas Crime Lab. I just hope Vartann doesn’t become a casualty! Losing someone she cares about could definitely provide incentive for Catherine to move on, but I’d rather see the pair of them stay together once she makes the transition out of the lab.
Langston’s behavior in the prison is interesting. He’s not intimidated by the convicts, and he doesn’t care that they might hate him for putting them in jail in the first place. He barks orders at the prisoners and makes sure they know he’s the dominant one in this situation. I did expect more defiance or contempt from the white supremacist who mouthed off to Langston while handing over his clothes, but the point of that exchange was clearly to show that Langston is a pretty badass dude who isn’t cowed by bigots—in fact, he can be a pretty scary guy on his own. I don’t think it’s a mistake that Langston is processing the guys from the Aryan Brotherhood. Sure, it was obviously arranged that way by the writers in order to facilitate just that sort of confrontation between Langston and the prisoner, but in terms of Langston’s characterization, it fits. I could see Langston deliberately taking that group of prisoners, if only to prove that he’s the top dog and to remind these guys that they’re in prison, no matter how much power they may have on the inside. In light of Langston’s dealings with escaped serial killer Nate Haskell, his attitude toward the prisoners makes even more sense.
“The List” also features some great continuity. Catherine teases Greg about his past stripper—excuse me, burlesque dancer—troubles from “A Kiss Before Frying” earlier this season. Vartann also brings up the death of former CSI Warrick Brown back in the season nine premiere, “For Warrick”, as well as the fact that Nick nearly killed the man responsible, Undersheriff McKeen (Conor O’Farrell). Warrick and McKeen aren’t the only familiar names to crop up in this episode. The List in Vance’s jail cell features quite a few names that longtime CSI fans will recognize, including Detective Vega (Geoffrey Rivas, “Hog Heaven”), Detective Cavaliere (José Zúñiga, “Sin City Blue”), Sheriff Atwater (Xander Berkeley, “Formalities”), Sheriff Bastille (Kurt Fuller, “Ending Happy”) and Sheriff Brackett (Michael McGrady, “Gum Drops”).
Catherine’s conversation with Brass and Ecklie about their relationships with Anne-Marie is slightly awkward (as it should be), but I’m really glad none of our guys were involved in the end. I don’t think the episode set out to vilify Anne-Marie for her promiscuous behavior—as Catherine told Nick, she did the same thing all of the guys did. Then again, none of the guys used their sex appeal to get a cop to fake a crime scene and frame someone for murder, or to convince a corrections officer to put out a hit on an ex-cop in jail. With that in mind, my assessment that Anne-Marie wasn’t vilified might be a bit inaccurate. Even if it wasn’t intended to seem that way, it’s ultimately the manipulative, scheming, sexually-confident woman that’s behind it all. She even killed her own sister in cold blood to clear out her bank account and to prevent the possibility of betrayal. When Anne-Marie gets arrested, she shows no remorse, and she even suggests that her sex appeal will help her in the courtroom because she’ll be able to charm the men on the jury.
In the end, it’s nice to see Brass and Vartann take Anne-Marie down instead of one of the CSIs. They’re the ones who have history with her, so it makes sense that they get to be the ones making the arrest. The recent relationship storyline with Catherine has given Vartann a bit more focus, but he has always been a more minor presence on the show. Brass doesn’t get many chances to be front and center, which is a shame since Paul Guilfoyle is such a wonderful actor. It was a great decision to give these two such a pivotal scene to close the episode.
See also: “The List” episode guide