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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'4x4'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 22, 2005 - 9:56 PM GMT

See Also: '4 x 4' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A man buys a taco from a taco stand and drives off in a Fiero but is literally mowed down by a Hummer that drives over his car. The driver of the Fiero survives, but the driver of the Hummer fled the scene. The Hummer is traced back to Kyle and Wilma Shaw, who won the car at a raffle shortly before it was stolen. Grissom finds a bloody headband at the location of the car's hijacking and soon has a suspect: a young man named Vernon Miller, who tried to rob a convenience store. Grissom notices Vernon's jeans are bloody and takes a sample and learns it matches the blood on the headband. Hodges tells Grissom a substance found on the airbag of the car contains food ingredients.

Remembering the taco stand at the scene, Grissom questions the owner of the stand, Frank Mejia, and learns he scuffled with two young men who tried to rob him--he cut one with a knife and threw lard in the other one's face. Grissom discovers Lawrence Lafontaine at the hospital being treated for burns. He and Vernon stole the Hummer and planned to run over Frank's taco stand but collided with the Fiero instead. Grissom deems it the dumbest thing he's ever heard.

The clock rewinds to a few hours before Grissom's case unfolds. A woman's body is discovered on the stage at the International Vehicle Convention. The woman, Lisa Schumacher, was a convention girl, and David Phillips determines that she died around 4am. He also points out petechiae in her eyes and lacerations on her neck. Warrick goes through the motorcoach room where Lisa was partying the night before and discovers a used condom in the bathroom. At the morgue, Dr. Robbins informs Catherine that Lisa was strangled, and that he discovered "mobile" sperm--sperm only a few inches in the vaginal cavity. As Kyle and Wilma Shaw win their Hummer, Warrick and Detective Vartann confront Donny Drummer, Lisa's employer, but he seems unconcerned about her death. At 29, she was practically over the hill. Another convention girl, Gwen Underwood, approaches him, clearly distressed, but he brushes her off.

Hodges tells Warrick he found spermicide and hairgel under Lisa's fingernails and that a brownish substance on her arms was self tanner. Candace, Lisa's roommate, tells Warrick that she and Lisa were among several girls entertaining motorcoach mogul Steve Daluca. He rejected Lisa's advances, saying she was too old. After that, Lisa locked herself in the bathroom. Steve Daluca tells Warrick that he caught Lisa using his used condoms to try to impregnate herself, but he denies killing her. While Warrick tells Catherine that the evidence supports Deluca's innocence, Catherine overhears Nick on a cell phone asking for records from Butterfield Academy. Warrick returns to the convention and discovers scratches on Donny Drummer's head. Donny killed Lisa after discovering she pissed off his best client, Deluca.

The clock rewinds again, and Gwen Underwood discovers the dead body of her trainer, Paul Charles, dead in his house. Sara and Greg stand over the bodybuilder's body. The doors and windows were all locked and other than a head wound and bruises on Paul's face, there's no visible sign of trauma. Greg finds syringes and a gun in the man's dresser and suspects the man used steroids. Dr. Robbins and David Phillips go over the body in the morgue and determine the laceration on his head wasn't fatal. When Robbins notices Paul's left eye is swollen, he pushes on it and black pus comes out. Sara and Greg are evacuated from the house and brought to a decontamination tent where they shower quickly. Robbins determines that Paul had Mucormycosis, a diseased caused by exposure to mold. Hodges reports that Paul was using steroids, which would have weakened his immune system. Paul's face was collapsing from the inside.

Sara and Greg return to Paul's house and pinpoint the wall where the mold was growing. Sara discovers a bullet with human tissue on it, which along with the leaky pipe in the wall allowed for the mold to grow. She posits to Grissom that Paul probably killed the one person they couldn't track down from his phone book, a prostitute named Tiffany, in a steroid infused rage.

The clock rewinds again. A prostitute discovers the body of a thirteen-year-old boy on a bench near a laundromat. David Phillips tells Nick the boy has likely been dead no more than eight hours and has definitely been moved. In the morgue, Nick discovers various fibers on the boy's body and a black substance in his hair. He also finds a Butterfield Academy lunch program card and calls the school to get information, but they refuse to give him any help. Dr. Robbins tells Nick that the boy had a skull fracture and first and second degree burns, but that it was positional asphyxia that killed him. Catherine, who overheard Nick's fruitless call to Butterfield, approaches him with the phone book for the academy. Her daughter Lindsay attends the school. Nick gets an ID on the boy: Chase Ryan and goes to his home. His sister Jackie opens the door, but their parents are out of town. He asks where Chase was the previous night, and she tells him that Chase was spending the night with his friend Andy Jones.

Nick has Andy and his mother come into the station, and Andy admits they tried to sneak into a party Jackie was having in her parents' absence. She caught them after they had a few drinks and sent them back to Andy's house. Hodges tells Nick there were all sorts of fibers on Chase's body and that the black substance was rubber from the sole of a shoe. Nick pays a visit to the laundromat and finds a black substance similar to the rubber in one of the dryers. He lifts prints from the handle and takes a cart out of the laundromat only to have the wheels lock up on him. The manager, Jared, tells him that the carts lock up so that people don't steal them. Only he can release the lock. But cart treads indicate someone moved Chase in one of the carts, and since only Jared can unlock them, Nick zeroes in on him. Jared admits to chasing the boys out of the store and then dealing with an irate customer only to return to discover Chase dead in a dryer when he returned. Nick has Andy brought back in: at Chase's request, he put him in the dryer and turned it on. His mother is horrified, and Andy throws up right at the table. Case closed.

Analysis:

Though at times it seems deceptively simple, it's clear that a lot of thought and planning went into "4x4." Each case features a shot from another case--sometimes more than one--and each case connects back to the other ones, going backwards. The Hummer used in the first case had been won a few hours before in the second case. Gwen is upset in the second case because she just discovered the body of her trainer in the third case. And Catherine overhears Nick on the phone during the second case calling Butterfield and is thus able to help in out in the fourth case.

Those are the obvious ones. But there are more subtle ones, too. For instance, the victims all died relatively recently before being found, allowing for the cases to dovetail each other nicely. The cases overlap rather gracefully, giving the viewer the feel of an actual day in the life of the CSIs more naturally than perhaps a regular episode, which usually shifts back and forth between two cases, does. Though what were nightshift CSIs Sara and Greg doing investigating a case in the bright morning light? Maybe the writers weren't ready to throw Catherine and Warrick in the shower together just yet.

The cases themselves are fairly routine. As with the fifth season opener, "Viva Las Vegas", the cases go by quickly. It's hard to present, explore and wrap up a mystery in around ten minutes of airtime, though, so writers Sarah Goldfinger, Naren Shankar,Dustin Lee Abraham and David Rambo deserve to be commended for being able to do just that.

The weirdest twist in the episode is a tie between the second storyline and the third. I honestly can't decide which is more disturbing: the girl trying to impregnate herself with the used condoms or the guy whose eye pusses black. They're both supremely gross, but I think I'm going to give the edge to the black pus. There's also a nice bit of poetic justice in that storyline: Paul Charles died because tissue from the woman he murdered mixed with water and created the mold that did him in. It was a cleverly cyclical explanation.

Grissom calls it when he tells Lawrence Lafontaine that Lawrence's motive is the dumbest thing he's ever heard. It's the acknowledgment of Lawrence's absurd motive that makes that segment. Appropriately, the final case--the death of Chase Ryan--is the most sobering of the four. Andy's reaction to his mother's words is a counterpoint to Lawrence's flippant attitude towards his actions in the first case. Nick's gravity as he closes the case contrasts with Grissom's frustrated puzzlement and annoyance. The unusual structure of "4x4" and clever writing makes it an enjoyable departure from the show's regular format.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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