The team is on the case when eight people are killed at their favorite diner.
Officer Akers and Officer Metcalf are at Frank’s Diner, visiting with the regulars and talking to the employees before they head back out for work. The woman behind the counter, Edie, is nervous because a man is lurking across the street. The officers promise to make the man leave so Edie can head home, but when they turn around, he’s gone. They leave, but they get called back a few minutes later by one of the owners, Vincent, who accidentally got locked in the walk-in freezer. Nick, Sara and Greg have just arrived to have a meal, and the five officers walk in and discover carnage in the middle of the diner. Eight people have been shot and killed.
Three of the bodies were moved after the shooting, including Alex Brenner and Robert Rios. Rios has polar fleece fibers in his lungs, indicating he was wearing a ski mask. He also tests positive for gunshot residue—he wasn’t a victim, he was the shooter. Ballistics come back, revealing that there were two guns at the scene. The second gun belonged to Alex, who is in the Witness Protection Program. He was placed in Las Vegas a week ago after testifying against some very bad people. It seems like Alex might have been the intended target.
The team brings in the man who has been stalking Edie, Ronald Basderic, but they need to find a way to connect him to the murders. They think they’ve found the connection when a newspaper worker locates two guns stuck in the machine outside the diner, and Ronald’s fingerprints are on one of the papers. However, he only touched it because he was pushing it out of the way to get to a newspaper lower down the stack. Nick cracks the case when he pulls a foreign coin out of the newspaper slot, and he realizes that Vincent is behind it. He hired Rios to make it look like a robbery and kill his brother, Owen, but the man panicked and killed everyone in the restaurant. When Vincent came out from the back and found out what Rios had done, he picked up the second gun and shot the man before rearranging the bodies and trying to make himself look innocent.
Crime hits home for the CSIs in “Code Blue Plate Special”, after a killer shoots eight people at their favorite diner. It seems to be a popular eating place for police officers, and the team has been coming here for the past twelve years. They aren’t just familiar with the restaurant, they also know most of the victims. Owen is one of the co-owners, and Edie is a friendly face behind the counter. Dahlia is a showgirl who sits on a stool and orders a milkshake every night, and Connie is a bus driver who likes to show off photos of her grandchildren. There’s an older couple who eat at the diner regularly, and Greg notes that they always seemed “content” with each other. Knowing so many of the victims makes the senseless killings even more personal for the team. Paul Guilfoyle is particularly good at the start of the episode, when Brass storms up to the diner and demands answers from Officers Akers and Metcalf about how this happened mere minutes after they left the scene. Once inside, Brass is subdued as he takes in the carnage. He has been coming to Frank’s even longer than the rest of the team, and he stares around as he remembers 20 years of memories in the diner.
Nick seems closest to Vincent out of the team members working the case, so it hits him particularly hard when he realizes that the man is ultimately responsible for the deaths of eight people, including his own brother. Nick seems to trust Vincent from the start, but he still takes the proper precautions as he collects evidence. When he discovers the foreign coin lodged in the coin slot for the newspaper machine, it’s his familiarity with Vincent and the diner that leads him to the truth. Vincent keeps a bowl filled with foreign coins behind the counter, and he used one of them to jam the newspaper machine after he hid the guns inside. Nick’s professionalism pays off when he looks at the apron he logged into evidence, the one Vincent was wearing when the police arrived at the diner and found him locked in the freezer. When they watch the security footage from the freezer, they see that the apron he’s wearing has white ties. However, the apron Nick cut off of him had blue ties. Nick searches through the diner until he finds the bloody apron hidden in the back room. Vincent finally confesses that Rios was supposed to shoot Owen during a fake robbery, since Owen refused to expand the business by opening a Frank’s diner in the Mediterranean casino. Vincent was desperate for the money that deal would bring, but he didn’t count on Owen pulling off Rios’ mask. Rios panicked and shot the rest of the patrons to get rid of any witnesses, and when Vincent came out and saw what the other man had done, he grabbed Alex Brenner’s dropped gun and shot Rios. Vincent then tampered with evidence in an attempt to cover his tracks. He tries to tell Nick that he’s not a monster, but Nick only has to mention Edie’s name to prove what kind of person he was in the end. Edie was still alive, and she saw everything Vincent did after the shooting. She was a witness, and he shot her in the head to keep her quiet. Whatever fondness Nick may have felt for Vincent is gone. That final interrogation is intense, and George Eads does a great job of showing Nick’s anger seething beneath the surface.
Sara also has a strong emotional connection to the case. Ronald Basderic has been stalking Edie for the past six months, and Sara tried to help her get a restraining order. Unfortunately, the man was smart enough to push the limits without crossing the line, and the judge denied the request. He would watch her at work, and Edie was terrified for her life. At first, it seems like this man is behind the shootings, as he is seen across the street before Officer Akers and Officer Metcalf leave the diner. He comes into the morgue later, and Doc Robbins sends David Phillips to ‘get paperwork’, staying by himself with the man while he waits for backup. Ronald is really creepy in this scene, but Doc seems pretty calm. The man gets closer, reaching toward Edie’s body, and Doc presses the end of his crutch into the man’s chest to hold him back. Ronald pulls out an engagement ring, but Sara bursts into the morgue, gun drawn, before he can try to put the ring on Edie’s finger. They arrest Ronald for the murders, but he’s irritatingly smug and confident. When Sara orders the man to open his mouth so she can take a DNA sample, he refuses. She tells him she can get a court order, but he just smiles and points out that it might be difficult to get a judge’s cooperation considering the LVPD’s corruption scandal.
Sara is adamant that Ronald is involved; however, he’s telling the truth when he says he walked around the block while the shootings took place, returning only after the fact. He entered the diner and saw the bodies, but he didn’t call 911 because Edie was already dead. It’s always frustrating when the team can’t arrest someone detestable because they aren’t involved in the particular crime we’re seeing unfold, and this week is no exception. Ronald is a creep, and he left Edie terrified for her life. At the end of the episode, Ronald claims that he loved Edie, but Sara isn’t going to hear it. She says that Edie’s death is still his fault. Edie was supposed to get off at four o’clock, but she was afraid to walk home because Ronald was outside. If he hadn’t been stalking her, she would have been long gone before the shootings took place. Ronald is left to mull over that reality as Sara walks away. Jorja Fox always does a wonderful job with understated moments, and Sara’s grief and anger this week are palpable as she tries to arrest Ronald but finds herself unable to put him behind bars.
Elsewhere, Conrad Ecklie is finally being released from the hospital after being shot in the season twelve finale, “Homecoming”, and pulling through in the premiere, “Karma to Burn”. Morgan has been there for her father during his recovery, and she comes to take him home. She doesn’t have much time, however, because she has to get back to work. It’s obvious that there’s a big case, and she tells her father not to worry about work yet. He waits for her to leave, and he picks up his phone to make a work-related call as soon as she’s down the hallway. Later, Nick lightly scolds Ecklie for being at the diner so soon after being released from the hospital, but it doesn’t look like the undersheriff is willing to sit at home and recuperate.
Morgan and Hodges had an awkward moment in the premiere, when Morgan kissed him in the hospital after Ecklie was shot. The awkwardness extends to this week, as Hodges comes into the lab to ask Morgan about her father and stumbles over his words. It’s obvious that something is going on, and Greg picks up on his odd behavior. When Hodges leaves, Greg asks Morgan if she thinks the other man is acting more strange then usual, but she shrugs it off. I’m curious to see how this whole thing pans out as the season continues.
DB is also facing repercussions from the events of “Homecoming” and “Karma to Burn”. He visits Ecklie in the hospital just before he checks out, explaining that he has just returned from Seattle. He and his wife Barbara took their daughter and granddaughter back home after the kidnapping, and he stayed there for a while to be with his family as they recovered from the traumatic experience. Barbara elected to stay a bit longer, and it looks like DB’s marriage might be hitting a rough patch. Things seemed to be okay at the end of the premiere, but at the end of “Code Blue Plate Special”, DB has a minor disagreement with his wife over the phone. We only hear DB’s side of the conversation, but it’s obvious that Barbara isn’t keen on returning to Vegas any time soon. DB’s marriage has always been strong, not to mention an entertaining part of the show, so I hope this is only a temporary speedbump for them.
The LVPD corruption scandal is still causing problems for the team. In addition to Ronald’s comment about Sara having trouble getting a court order for his DNA, there are several other references to indicate that the CSIs are going to be dealing with this issue for a while. When they discover that Alex Brenner is in Witness Protection, Brass confronts US Marshal Karen Taylor in his office. He’s not happy about the fact that the Feds put the man in their jurisdiction without notifying the LVPD, but she explains that they weren’t sure the local police could be trusted. Another, more subtle hint, is an article in the newspaper that they check for fingerprints. The title of the article is “Police Corruption Scandal Opens Doors To Appeals”—that doesn’t bode well for the team, and time will tell if any old enemies end up back on the street.
See also: “Code Blue Plate Special” episode guide