A serial killer inspired by The Divine Comedy goes after two members of the CSI family.
The team investigates the murders of three former sex workers and one pimp, whose bodies were posed in different ways. The victims also have strange puzzle boxes nearby, and a Great Awakenings Bible leads the team to the Fellowship for Fallen Angels, a church for people who have left their sinful lives behind in order to make a new start. All three women went here, as did several other working girls who have gone missing over the past two months—including Ellie Brass.
The victims have been staged to look like illustrations out of a 16th century version of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Each one represents one of the nine circles of hell: one young woman is in a coma, to stand for limbo; a former porn star is staged to represent lust; a woman who performed on a food fetish porn site represents gluttony; and her pimp boyfriend is dead in the freezer, posed like the illustration for greed.
Brother Larson admits to prostituting the girls out to a higher class of client, including a rich man known only as Anonymous. They need to figure out where the women are being held, so Morgan offers to go undercover when Anonymous requests another girl. She is driven to the home of Oliver Tate, who seems to have an obsession with suffering and Hell. He gives Morgan a copy of the illustration for anger from The Divine Comedy. When she tries to get him to talk about his previous conquests, he tells her to take off her clothes and yanks off the necklace camera that keeps her connected to the team. He says he’s not in the mood, and sends her away.
Meanwhile, a bible is delivered to Nancy Brass’s hotel room; inside is a flash drive in a vial of blood. The flash drive has a video of Ellie, telling the camera that “we” have sinned and are being punished. DB realizes that Morgan is in danger, so Nick and Greg hurry to retrieve her—but she has already been taken. Now the killer has both young women in his clutches.
“Skin in the Game” sets up another cliffhanger ending for the season, with another abduction scenario. This time, it’s Morgan and Brass’s daughter Ellie who are missing and in the clutches of a serial killer. Ellie being missing is bad enough, but this puts two fathers in the position of trying to find their daughters. In my review for “Strip Maul”, I commented on the way Brass and Ellie’s relationship was contrasted against Ecklie’s relationship with Morgan, and this cliffhanger brings that comparison back into focus. Hopefully both young women will be rescued, so both families will have a chance to continue growing together.
The episode also introduces Brass’s ex-wife, Nancy, who comes to town because he gives her a call. He only tells her that Ellie is in Vegas, to start with, but she finds out the girl is in trouble later on. Paul Guilfoyle and Annabella Sciorra are great in their scenes, perfectly portraying the history and tension between the characters in their very first scene, as well as the connection they feel as Ellie’s parents going through this together. Brass isn’t keen to discuss their failed marriage, but Nancy still knows him better than he thinks. She can tell he’s lying, and that something is wrong. “You were a lousy husband, but you were a great cop,” Nancy says, and for Ellie’s sake I hope he can find the girl. Over the years, his relationship with Ellie has been tumultuous at best and non-existent at worst, but maybe this will be the turning point.
Nick’s entomological expertise comes in handy this week when he identifies a spider left with the first victim. Later, he explains the smell put off by a pill bug to deter predators, and he recites the scientific name of the type of locusts found at one of the crime scenes. Merchiston admires his knowledge, and Nick says he had a good teacher. Grissom isn’t mentioned by name, of course, but the audience knows who he means. I always appreciate references to Nick’s skill with bugs, and his inspiration for learning about them in the first place.
“Skin in the Game” features a performance from Black Sabbath, who debuted “End of the Beginning” at the start of the hour. It’s extraneous to the plot, but it’s still a fun scene, especially when Ecklie mentions attending one of their concerts in 1978. Even though the cameo doesn’t push the story along, it does serve as a way to introduce John Merchiston, the journalist who is supposed to follow the CSIs around for a few days to write a story. He gets under the CSIs’ skin a little bit, but he does offer some helpful thoughts over the course of the hour that help DB figure out the killer’s signature. There’s one scene where he sneaks around and reaches for a cigarette butt that might have the killer’s DNA on it, but he gets knocked out—did he grab it? Will that be relevant later on? Is he up to something? Since the storyline carries over into the season 14 premiere, I have to assume we’ll learn more about him—and his motives—when the new season gets underway.
See also: “Skin in the Game” episode guide