A young woman is killed in a hot tub, and Horatio suspects that her best friend’s memory loss could be the key to their investigation.
Monica Dow and Corinne Palmer are relaxing in a hot tub, but Monica feels like someone is watching them. She goes to retrieve her phone so she can call campus security, but she returns to find Corinne’s dead body. The killer shoved her under the water repeatedly before stabbing her. Monica pulls herself together and calls 911. When the team arrives, Horatio speaks to Monica and realizes that she seems forgetful.
Corinne has scaling on her hands, which was caused by thallium on her keyboard. The computer was a gift, and whoever gave it to her has been trying to poison her. Meanwhile, Frank speaks to the artist in residence, William Oslo, and agrees that Monica can attend a big art show if she passes a polygraph test. During the test, Monica shows signs of deception when answering questions about being in the hot tub with Corinne. However, Calleigh explains to the polygraph technician that Horatio believes Monica is experiencing memory loss. She has no previous brain injuries, but this means Monica could have witnessed the murder without remembering what happened.
Horatio gets a call from Monica, and she says something bad is about to happen. They arrive to find that she has been attacked, but she doesn’t remember anything. They process her, and Tom says the wounds look self-inflicted; however, he doesn’t know why she would use her non-dominant right hand to inflict such serious wounds on her dominant left arm.
Horatio runs Monica’s social security number, but she doesn’t exist beyond the university’s records. They believe the young woman has dissociative identity disorder, and the host personality attacked Monica—Monica is just the alter. Corinne and Monica have a third roommate, but she’s a “registration day roommate”. According to the school’s records, Alexis Taymor lives in the dorm with them, but she actually has an apartment off campus. When the team searches this apartment, they find a diary with Monica’s handwriting in it, along with very different handwriting on some of the pages. Alexis is the host personality, and Monica doesn’t really exist. They talk to Monica and explain the situation, and they show her the newspaper clipping from when her parents were killed in a plane crash. She says this could explain a lot—the world has never made much sense for her.
The team forces Alexis to come out, and she reveals that she created Monica’s personality after her parents’ death to help her deal with the pain. Up until she came to college, Monica only came out once or twice a month, but now she’s out all of the time. Alexis wanted to hurt Monica because she was taking over her life, but she would never hurt Corinne. Corinne was her friend, and she knew Alexis’s secret—she thought Alexis needed a new doctor because her medication stopped working. Alexis was the one in the hot tub with Corinne that night, and when she saw her dead body, the switch happened—Monica deals with things that Alexis can’t handle.
Oslo has been paying Corinne’s boyfriend Jared $500 a month to sabotage her medication by filling the capsules with sugar. He points out that a lot of famous artists had a history of mental illness. They test Oslo’s jacket and find chlorine on his cuff. He wanted Monica to be in charge of Alexis’s body all of the time so she could create more art, but Corinne was trying to help Alexis regain control. Oslo tried to poison her with the thallium on the computer keyboard, but it didn’t work fast enough. He says that Monica is a once-in-a-generation talent, and it was worth killing Corinne to keep her around.
“Paint it Black” is a bit convoluted at times, but I’m glad Monica/Alexis isn’t the killer. Monica acts suspicious from the very beginning, so it’s obvious that she has something to hide. Despite her questionable behavior, Horatio doesn’t consider her a suspect. Instead, he immediately assumes that Monica is an innocent bystander, and he views her inaccurate statements as proof that she’s experiencing memory loss. The memory loss is confirmed when Monica shows signs of deception during the polygraph test, but it seems like quite a leap to go from ‘troubled girl with memory loss’ to dissociative identity disorder. When Tom determines that Monica’s injuries are self-inflicted, Horatio immediately conjectures that she wasn’t in control of herself because Monica is an alter, and the host personality attacked her own body. Granted, Horatio has just learned that Monica doesn’t exist outside of the university’s records, but that still seems like a pretty big leap to make. Dissociative identity disorder doesn’t seem like the most obvious first choice to explain the situation.
Walter and Ryan share a fun scene this week while they’re processing Corinne’s dorm room. Walter snarks at Ryan a bit when the CSI stands around looking at Corinne’s trophies instead of helping check the girl’s sheets. Ryan points out that they know Corinne had a boyfriend, so they’d have better luck finding evidence of enemies on her computer. Walter agrees, and he sits down to check her email—while Ryan stands by and watches. Ryan is still reading the emails when Walter notices a shiny substance on the keyboard, and there’s a great moment when Ryan assumes that Walter is referring to the perv in the email as ‘oily’. The keys are covered with traces of thallium, which Oslo applied in an attempt to poison Corinne over time. However, if Walter could feel the oily keys while wearing latex gloves, wouldn’t Corinne have noticed the texture while using the computer?
Walter’s art expertise comes in handy in “Paint it Black”. It’s a nice nod to the character’s introduction last season. During Walter’s very first episode, “Bolt Action”, he identified unique conductive body paint used in performance art. Several episodes later, in “Dude, Where’s My Groom”, Walter analysed paint flecks with cheap green paint on one side and old red paint on the other. His mother made him minor in art history in college, so he was able to recognize an expensive painting hidden beneath a new layer of paint. In this week’s episode, Walter explains that the paint flecks found in Corinne’s neck wound are from a high end mixture, and he tells Natalia and Travers that some artists mix strange ingredients (such as copper) into their paint as a unique signature.
Later on, Walter teases Eric when they’re testing student paintings for the source of the paint flecks. Walter says there’s no celadon on Monica’s painting, but Eric is confused because he thought they were looking for light green—Walter retorts that Eric doesn’t know his color wheel. A minute later, they locate the green paint on Perry Carmichael’s work, and he hands over the tool used to make it: a palette knife. Eric asks why he used a knife, and I get the feeling Walter might have offered a snarky comment if Perry hadn’t beat him to it. Instead, Perry explains in a haughty tone that a palette knife is used for painting, and Walter says it was also used to commit murder. I guess it’s one thing for a colleague and friend to tease Eric for his lack of knowledge regarding paint supplies, but a smart aleck kid is a different story.
At the end of the episode, Horatio arranges for Alexis’s name to appear at the art show since she is the real artist, even if Monica was in control when the artwork was created. Surprisingly, Eric is the one who sits down with Alexis to have a heart-to-heart moment, and he says they are going to send her to the best treatment facility in the area. Alexis expresses the fear that Monica might take control again, and she won’t remember what’s happening. Eric writes a message to Monica on his business card and tells Alexis to tape it to her alarm clock just in case—if Monica emerges and sees the card, Eric is prepared to take the time to explain everything. It’s a really sweet gesture, and it’s also sweet when he reminds Alexis that Monica isn’t a different person, and she isn’t better than Alexis—she’s a part of her, that’s all. Eric establishes a connection with the young woman during the course of the episode, but I would have expected Horatio to be the one who offers Alexis such help. Either way, it’s nice to see someone else reach out to her—Horatio is usually the go-to guy for helping out children and women in trouble.
See also: “Paint it Black” episode guide