A deadly casino heist leads to a high-speed motorcycle chase on the streets of Las Vegas.
The power goes out at a high stakes poker game at the Four Kings casino, and a man in a motorcycle helmet blows up the door, tossing flashing strobe balls onto the floor to disorient everyone in the room while he steals more than a million dollars worth of cash and poker chips. He shoots a security guard in the room before escaping. On the street, police chase down and fire at a man on a motorcycle who fits the description of the robber, but he dies on the street without being hit by a single bullet. The money and chips in the bag he was carrying are all fake. The man is identified as Clint Tyree, a stunt rider for the Four Kings. He was injected with snake venom, and surveillance footage proves that he couldn’t have been the one at the crime scene—he has a bad knee injury, but the man in the footage jumped easily over an obstacle to escape the casino.
The snake venom that killed Clint is from a Russell’s viper, and Julian Reese is one of the registered owners. He is a valet parker at the casino, but he’s found dead in his car, a bullet through his head. A motorcycle uniform in Reese’s trunk is the one worn by the shooter, but Henry notices a strange orange color when he puts a piece of leather into a beaker of water to extract some sweat DNA. Bruises prove that Reese was in an altercation before his death, and pumice on his collar leads back to a type of soap used by maintenance workers like Ryan Archer. Ryan is one of the only people with access to the lights in the Rialto Room. He turned off the lights, but things take a turn when the team realizes that his young son is missing. Ryan says the boy was kidnapped, and an Afghan coin outside the window leads back to the dead security guard, Paul Branston, who served four tours in Afghanistan. It looks like he was in on the heist, and there’s evidence of diaper paste in the backseat of his car.
Ryan escapes from police custody, and they realize he’s going to get his son back from the kidnappers. When they arrive in the parking garage, he runs out, covered in blood. He says the woman came out of nowhere and held a gun to his head, and it went off when he tried to get out of the car. It’s the dealer from the Rialto Room, Audrey—she was the one on the inside. Ryan’s son is in a car seat in the back of her car nearby. The team realizes something is up when they see orange sweat stains on the baby’s clothes. Father and son were taking Rifampin to avoid getting meningitis, and one of the side effects is orange perspiration. Ryan was the one in the motorcycle leathers, and he set up the supposed kidnapping to make himself look like a victim. His wife died several months ago from cancer, and he was trying to get some of the millions that go through the casino in order to pay the medical bills and take care of his son.
“Take the Money and Run” features a widower who goes too far in an attempt to take care of his child. You can’t help but feel bad for Ryan in the beginning, and Chad Brannon does a great job of making the character sympathetic for most of the hour. Unfortunately, some of the clues were a bit too obvious (the shot of Ryan reaching for pumice-laced soap, the close up on the Rifampin bottle, etc), so I knew he was going to be involved. I hoped he wasn’t the mastermind behind the whole thing, but I lost sympathy for him by the end. A desperate man trying to steal some money is one thing—killing all of his accomplices in order to cover his tracks is something completely different.
The subplot about Paul Branston is also an emotional one. Paul’s wife Karen comes to the scene at the beginning, distraught, and she tells them she needs to see her husband’s body. He refused to marry her while he was in Afghanistan because he didn’t want to make her a widow, but he was in more danger here at home. Later, when the team finds the coin outside Ryan’s home, she’s visibly affected by the sight of it. It was something her husband carried to remind him of the soldiers who died, but she quickly denies that it was his when she finds out it might tie her husband to a kidnapping. It’s not entirely clear how involved Paul was in the heist—Ryan killed him and framed him for the kidnapping, but it’s still suspicious that he traded shifts, putting him in the Rialto Room during the robbery. In any case, Teyonah Parris pulls at the heartstrings during her two brief scenes as a devastated and confused widow.
The biggest emotional hook of the episode isn’t from the guest cast, but from Brass and Morgan. After the ordeal they went through in “The Devil and DB Russell”, the fallout was unavoidable. Brass is getting endless phone calls as he tries to deal with his ex-wife Nancy’s estate, and he snaps and lashes out at Officer Akers during the episode when he lets Ryan get away—and then at Nick when he tries to step in. At the end of the hour, Brass approaches Nick and apologizes, explaining that he’s still dealing with everything that happened. The DA wants him to testify against Ellie, and Nick says that things will get back to normal eventually. I’m not sure things can get back to normal when you find out your daughter is a killer who slaughtered her own mother, but I suppose some version of normalcy is possible. Brass says he doesn’t know what normal is anymore, and perhaps the audience will see him figure it out in the coming months. It’s a really nice, understated scene between these longtime friends and colleagues, and Paul Guilfoyle continues to prove that he’s one of CSI’s biggest gems.
“Take the Money and Run” marks Morgan’s first case back after being shot in the premiere. It’s obvious that some time has passed, allowing for her to be physically healed from her wounds, but the mental healing is an ongoing process. She’s struggling in the beginning, and Greg keeps an eye on her, offering to take care of the scene himself if she needs to leave. But she’s determined to work, and she holds herself together until they’re processing the baby’s room. A missing child is a lot for anyone to handle, especially someone who is still dealing with her own abduction, so she breaks down. Greg reminds her that she’s only human, and it’s obvious that it’ll take more time before she’s back to normal—or at least, a new version of normal. At the end of the hour, Morgan heads into DB’s office. Ever the concerned boss, DB slips into his Team Dad role (which I always love) and asks if she’s going to be okay. She says, “Time heals all, right? I guess we’ll find out if that’s true.” I’m curious to see how things progress, as the team continues to deal with the longterm effects of the premiere.
See also: “Take the Money and Run” episode guide