The FBI heads to Las Vegas when a stolen military weapon is used in a local homicide.
The team is called to a cabin where they find a pool of blood and strange bullet casings—but there is no sign of a body. Evidence suggests that Michael Newbury let his killer in, and they shared a beer at the kitchen counter before Newbury was shot. A tall piece of furniture in the living room has moving disks under the legs, and they pull it away from the wall to reveal a door leading down to a basement filled with guns. Newbury was a gun expert and collector, but none of these weapons could have fired the unusual bullets used to kill him.
When the sun comes up, uniformed officers locate a secondary crime scene. Blood and hunks of human flesh cover the ground, and there are a lot of bullet casings nearby, but Newbury was already dead when the killer pumped him full of bullets. There is a grommet torn from a shower curtain, explaining how the killer removed Newbury from the house without leaving a blood trail.
The ammo used to kill Newbury is not available in the United States. Xiomara discovers that the same bullets were used in a shooting in Pakistan, and the search sends up a flag on the FBI database. Federal agents arrive, and they offer to help the LVPD; however, they won’t reveal the full details of their own investigation. They will only say that they’re looking for a missing weapon that was stolen from a military weapons supply.
Catherine is assigned as the lead on the case, and DB sends her and Agent McQuaid back to Newbury’s house to look for more evidence. They determine that Newbury was “zippered” for ease of transport; the killer used the strange gun to shoot the body multiple times until it was cut in half. These halves were then shoved into garbage bags and tossed into the back of a truck. Catherine knows that garbage bags can leak, so they follow a blood trail until they see vultures in the distance. They find the bags containing Newbury’s body, and they also find a broken beer bottle that was used to mutilate a tattoo on the victim’s arm.
Special Agent in Charge Pratt tells DB about the full details of the raid on the US military supplies in Pakistan. The investigation report was done by Ceressus Logistics, a military contractor. DB suggests that someone from Ceressus is behind the theft, and Pratt admits that it looks that way—if insurgents stole the supplies, they wouldn’t have ended up in Nevada. When the CSIs get called out to another shooting, Pratt grows visibly uncomfortable. The shooter in this case is a 16-year-old kid trying to rob a store, and he says he found the gun behind a dumpster. Nick and DB are pleased to get the strange weapon off the street, but Pratt has no choice but to tell the team the true extent of what’s going on: the gun they have is only one of 144 guns stolen. There are still 143 of these dangerous weapons out there.
The mutilated tattoo leads to the 532 Airborne Division, and the team cross-references people from that division with locals. The name Lenny Wesson pops up; he’s a truck driver, and he found the guns while transporting Persian rugs for some old members of the division who got a job with Ceressus. The team knows that Wesson still has the remaining weapons, so Catherine and McQuaid track him down to a truck stop to retrieve them.
The team interrogates Wesson, who saw the guns as his golden ticket. He took one of them to Newbury to out what it was, and he killed the man after Newbury said they needed to return the stolen weapons to the military. They need him to say that Ceressus is involved, but he will only agree to help them if he gets immunity. Wesson dies on the way to a holding facility, and it looks like Mark Gabriel, the head of Ceressus, was covering his tracks. The case isn’t over, but Pratt and McQuaid have to return to Quantico—it’s the FBI’s problem now.
“Zippered” marks the beginning of the end of Marg Helgenberger’s time on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This episode sets the storyline in motion, and it will be concluded in January before Helgenberger makes her exit. Viewers are introduced to several important characters this week who will continue play a role in the storyline, including two FBI agents who work the case: Special Agent in Charge Pratt and Agent Viggo McQuaid. DB is friendly with the FBI, although the rest of the team is less than thrilled to have the federal agents “helping” them with their case. Despite his jovial manner, DB makes it clear that he won’t allow the FBI to compromise their case in any way. He accomplishes this by making Pratt his “new best friend” and pairing Catherine with McQuaid.
There is an immediate spark between Catherine and her temporary FBI partner. Catherine points out that Pratt, despite being the boss, is much younger than the other agent. McQuaid explains that he’s training Pratt to take over for him, and he suggests that he’s planning to change jobs soon. He expresses curiosity about Catherine’s position in the lab, referencing something DB said earlier in his office: “Catherine was me before I was.” Catherine explains that she was demoted, and McQuaid wonders if she’s waiting to take her old job back. She admits that she isn’t sure she wants it, but she doesn’t offer any more information than that.
When they go after Wesson, McQuaid veers into a truck stop. They find Wesson’s truck and call for back-up, but they don’t wait for it to arrive before they open up the back and climb inside. They don’t see any guns, only Persian rugs, but they see movement and locate Wesson tied up. The door closes, and Catherine shoves McQuaid out of the way as bullet holes start peppering the sides of the truck. They move toward the cab, but the bullets are getting closer. Catherine focuses, and time seems to stand still as she figures out the direction of the bullets and fires her gun through the side of the truck to hit the shooter. DB and Pratt arrive a moment later to take out a second man, and they pull open the door to let their colleagues out of the back of the truck.
Catherine and McQuaid interrogate Wesson, who wants immunity in exchange for his cooperation. Catherine refuses, pointing out that he killed Newbury—a man who was supposed to be his friend. McQuaid goes over Catherine’s head and agrees to give the man immunity if his information turns up anything substantial, and Catherine is clearly upset when she leaves. McQuaid shows up at her house at the end of the episode. He brought beer with him, and he apologizes for blindsiding her in the interrogation. It’s clear that he would like their relationship to take a romantic turn, but they are interrupted by the news of Wesson’s death. The chemistry between the pair is palpable, and I expect to see more of it when the storyline resurfaces.
Catherine also interacts with her old friend Laura in “Zippered”. Laura is married to Mark Gabriel, the leader of Ceressus Logistics, and Catherine sees her waiting while her husband speaks to Brass, DB and Pratt about the raid in Pakistan. The women haven’t seen each other in decades, but they laugh comfortably with each other. Laura leaves quickly, but they make plans to see each other before Laura leaves town.
Laura visits Catherine at the end of the episode, but her demeanor is completely different in this scene. Catherine can tell that something is up, and Laura admits that she overheard a conversation by accident. Catherine guesses that it involves Mark’s company, but Laura tries to laugh it off. She gets up to leave, and Catherine jots her number down on the back of a lawyer’s business card. Laura asks about the card, and Catherine points out that the man was the lawyer for her father, Sam Braun. If Laura needs help, he’s the one for the job.
DB spends more time with Agent Pratt, and they have a really interesting dynamic. Pratt is quite young, but he is smart and talented despite his lack of experience. DB, ever the father figure, brings plenty of experience to the table, and the contrast between the older CSI and the young agent is both glaring and fascinating to watch. DB immediately picks up on the fact that Pratt graduated from Brigham Young University within the past decade, but he never condescends to the man. When Pratt admits that there were 143 more guns out there, DB and Nick are shocked, but they quickly get to work tracking Wesson down. During the scene where the LVPD and the FBI are working together to find Wesson’s truck, DB and Pratt find a moment to trade a few jokes. DB says that it’s nice that all of their “kids” are working together, and Pratt explains the “citizen broadcast” system they are using: drivers from all of the private companies on the road become the FBI’s eyes and ears. DB says it’s like a “CB radio on steroids”, and Pratt—who to this point has mostly been on the receiving end of the jokes—teases DB by asking what a CB radio is. It’s funny, especially given the earlier references to Pratt’s age.
The final scene between Pratt and DB is fun as well, and DB offers the young agent a mushroom as a parting gift. He says it’s an edible mushroom he can put on sandwiches, but Pratt wonders if this is a ploy to make him fail a routine drug screening. DB’s response is, “You should be all right with that, I think. I’m pretty sure.” This guy is a hoot, and I really like his interaction with Pratt. I hope we get to see more of that as the storyline continues.
The relationship between Catherine and DB is also highlighted at the start of the episode, when the pair discusses their children. Catherine wakes up and goes into work early because her house feels empty without her daughter Lindsey there. DB immediately understands, pointing out that he and his wife are still dealing with “empty nest” syndrome since their youngest son moved out three months ago. Catherine is clearly sad to see her daughter grow up, but she points out that this is Lindsey’s time to find herself. Catherine also seems to be searching for herself right now, and this episode makes it obvious that she is slowly but surely on her way out the door. Sheriff Liston’s job offer in “Brain Doe” is at the back of my mind, and it certainly seems like a valid possibility. I am curious to see what will finally push her to leave the crime lab.
See also: “Zippered” episode guide