A woman is killed within an hour after getting off a plane in Las Vegas.
Janet Riggins heads down the aisle of her plane as it makes its descent toward Las Vegas, but she’s stopped by a persistent Kenny Greene. He’s had a few too many drinks, and he tries to hit on her. She rejects him and heads toward her seat, preparing for the plane to land. When it’s time to disembark, Janet heads back to retrieve her carry-on from the overhead compartment near Kenny, and he hands it to her while trying to apologize for his previous behavior. He attempts to hit on her again, but he’s distracted when he realizes that someone stole the watch from his carry-on. This causes everyone to panic, and several more people find items missing from their bags. A fight breaks out, and Janet looks upset.
Less than an hour later, Janet is found dead along the side of the road next to the airport fence. She was hit over the head and tossed out of a moving vehicle, which sent her tumbling down the embankment and broke her neck. Brass and Finn talk to the angry passengers, who are trying to deal with their stolen items. They remember that Janet looked suspicious before she pushed her way off of the plane. Meanwhile, Sara and Nick determine that someone must have picked Janet up at the airport to allow her to leave so quickly, and the car was going 45 mph when she was thrown out—the driver never slowed down.
Janet’s carry-on is found just down the road, and DB discovers that she has a fake ID. Brass and Nick watch surveillance footage showing Janet running out of the airport with Kenny chasing after her. Earlier, Kenny claimed that he hit his eye on an armrest during a fight on the plane, giving him a bruise, but the bruise is not visible in the surveillance footage. When confronted, Kenny admits that he saw Janet at the baggage claim. He thought she stole his watch, so he grabbed her phone. She punched him and ran, but he denies killing her. He does, however, have her phone in his pocket.
Janet used the disposable phone to send one text before her death, telling someone that she’d landed in Las Vegas, but the recipient was using a disposable phone as well. Fortunately, the team gets a usable lead when they check a different number that she called ten minutes later. It leads them to Nalley Janitorial Services, and Jefferson Nalley identifies the victim as a friend from high school, Helen Morrison. He claims he hasn’t seen her in years, but they reconnected online six months before. When he found out she was married, he ended things.
Twelve passengers were robbed on the flight, and their luggage was stored in four separate bins. The thief needed to sit farther back to get a good view of the targets, and he needed to arrive early so he’d have time to pick his victims. Helen was the last one to board the plane, so she can’t be their thief—but an elderly man who boarded with the first group was perfectly placed to steal from the passengers. Hank Kasserman has all of the missing items in his hotel room, but what he stole from Janet was $30,000 in cash.
Doc Robbins washes away the dirt and blood on Helen’s body, uncovering bruises that indicate she was abused. When the team looks through her checked luggage, they realize that she was leaving her husband to start a new life. Her husband, Allen, is already in Las Vegas, and his flight was scheduled to get in 15 minutes before Helen’s plane landed. However, there were mechanical issues, and he didn’t arrive in Vegas until after midnight. Allen says Helen had a boyfriend, and she took all of their money out of the bank before she left him to go to Vegas. He identifies Jefferson Nalley as the boyfriend in question, and Sara speaks to him again. Jefferson says he set Helen up with a man who called himself “the Wolf”, who agreed to help her disappear for a fee.
Helen’s fake ID is actually a security badge, which was printed on a high quality machine. This narrows it down to a dozen facilities in the area with the right kind of printer, and the Wolf’s disposable cell phone pinged off a tower near Slots of Luck Industries in North Las Vegas the previous Friday. A talk with the company leads them to suspect someone from the cleaning crew. Jefferson Nalley used to work for the company, and a travel agent confirms he’s the one who purchased Helen’s plane ticket. He’s the Wolf, but he was in love with Helen and wanted to help her get a new start. She freaked out when she found out the truth and tried to get out of the car, and they struggled. He hit her, and she fought back because she was done being hurt. He shoved her away so he wouldn’t crash the van, and she flew out the open door.
“Keep Calm and Carry-On” is an enjoyable installment with a compelling case, and there are a number of strong character moments woven into the episode. Individually, they might not take up much time, but overall it makes for a great entry. The series stars benefit from having a strong guest cast to act with, including Jaleel White as the memorable–if not totally likable–Kenny Greene.
Sara and Nick have a fun scene at the start of the episode. Nick says being at the airport makes him want to catch a plane, and Sara mentions the “excitement of the unknown” that would come with taking a random flight out of Vegas. Nick, however, has a specific destination in mind: Morocco. Sara seems amused, wondering if he’d open up a bar in Casablanca, and Nick tells her to call him Rick–a reference to the main character in the 1942 film Casablanca. They laugh, and it’s an interesting little interaction between them. Despite being such a small moment, the exchange offers a hint about the characters and highlights their comfort and familiarity with each other. Even better is the scene a short while later, when Sara does a complicated math equation to figure out how fast the car was traveling when Helen was thrown from the vehicle. Nick jokes that physics majors are show-offs, and Sara just smiles. I love the friendships between all of the characters, but there’s something special about the relationship between original cast members. Jorja Fox and George Eads are always effortless in their scenes together, and I can’t help but smile with them.
Nick’s scene with one of the stoners is pretty hilarious too, and Officer Mitchell plays a role in making it a memorable moment. The officer puts the boy in a room with some tough-looking guys to make him a bit more cooperative, and the added fear—plus the threat of having to do thousands of hours of community service—jogs the boy’s memory about seeing Nalley’s cleaning van the night of the murder. Matthew Shively is great as “Stoner #1”, and he makes the most of his limited screentime with Eads and technical consultant/recurring actor Larry Mitchell. I love Officer Mitchell, so I always enjoy seeing him get a few lines here and there.
When Finn and DB try to piece together the truth about the robbery on the plane, it’s Brass who offers up his knowledge of criminals to point them in the right direction. It’s interesting to compare Brass with their robber, Hank—both men are observant, they both know how to read people. The difference, of course, is that Brass uses his skills to solve crimes and track down criminals, while Hank uses his knowledge of people to identify vulnerable marks to rob. Despite his actions, Hank is a pretty sympathetic character. He’s not a great guy, of course, but he does recognize that Helen is an abused woman. He seems unhappy when he describes the way she reacted to Kenny, and especially when he mentions that she kept applying makeup to cover a bruise on her face. Joel Grey is another one of the fantastic guest stars in this episode, and Paul Guilfoyle never disappoints.
Doc Robbins is clearly affected by the discovery that Helen was abused. Even though she was murdered, it’s the evidence of these injuries that truly disturbs him, and he comes face to face with her abusive husband in the morgue when the man demands to see his wife’s body. Allen is rude, and he gets physical with Doc Robbins when the coroner refuses to obey his request immediately. Nick is much more composed when dealing with the man, while it’s obvious that Doc Robbins is on edge when confronted with a scumbag like him. The character set my teeth on edge, even though he seems like too obvious of a suspect to be the killer. The fact that he’s not guilty is almost disappointing, just because it means that there’s no reason to arrest the jerk. Fortunately, Nick is able to get the man in the end—not for hurting his wife, but for shoving Doc Robbins. The man tries to laugh it off, but even if he doesn’t get charged with felony assault, he’ll be stuck in prison over the weekend. It’s a slightly more satisfying conclusion, and it seems like a fitting end to the episode to see Eads skillfully portraying Nick’s restrained anger opposite Todd Cahoon, yet another excellent guest star.
It would be a mistake to discuss the casting for “Keep Calm and Carry-On” without mentioning Ethan Embry. Jefferson is an interesting character. He seems sympathetic and genuine when talking about his feelings for Helen and his hapless role in her death, but there’s another side to him too—the side that is manipulative and opportunistic, creating a fake ‘hero’ to rescue Helen and get her husband’s money in the process. His actions when planning for Helen to run away (buying the ticket from a travel agency without cameras, printing the ID, using disposable cell phones) proves that he’s much more clever than he might let on, and his reaction to her not having the money speaks volumes—as does the fact that he drives off after he accidentally shoves her out of the car. It’s a nuanced character, and Embry does well at depicting the different sides to a man who seems harmless in the beginning, but ultimately proves to be the biggest threat to the victim.
See also: “Keep Calm and Carry-On” episode guide