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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Crow's Feet'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 22, 2004 - 9:14 PM GMT

See Also: 'Crow's Feet' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The CSIs get a scare when David Phillips summons Dr. Robbins to a Las Vegas hotel room where a woman lies dead on a bed, sores that could be caused from Ebola riddling her body. Clothed in a Hazmat suit, Robbins gingerly checks the body and looks in her eyes. Her eyes are clear; it's not Ebola. Robbins removes the suit helmet and Catherine comes up to the room to work the scene.

In the morgue, Robbins tells Catherine that the marks on the body of the woman, Julie Stern, are laser burns. She recently had a cosmetic procedure done, but complications from the surgery didn't result in her death. But Robbins points out Mees' lines on her fingernails that could indicate she was poisoned. He also found urine in her stomach.

Elsewhere, Grissom, Sara and Eric meet Brass at the scene of another crime: Elliot Beckman was found dead in his house, which is covered in an extermination tent. His house was being fumigated for termites. The CSIs examine Beckman's house and his body. Eric finds a bird feather, while Sara notices a bruise on Beckman's cheek. Ted Martin and Frank Allen tell Brass that they released the Sulfuryl Floride gas and left the house. The house would have been toxic for 72 hours after the gas was released. Brass notes a house with a tent over it would have made it a prime target for burglars, but Ted says they locked the tent down.

Catherine and Nick talk to Dr. Tony Malaga, who treated Julie. He tells them that lasering all 40 liver spots at once was completely safe. He stares at Catherine while he talks, ignoring Nick completely. When Nick brings this up, he tells Catherine she's beautiful. She tells him they'll need Julie Stern's medical records, but he refuses to turn them over without a court order.

A partially open window at Beckman's house and a trail of sand lead the CSIs to the door of Beckman's neighbor Rory Kendall. Kendall is coughing and says he's been ill for two days. Sara suspects he might be suffering from Sulfuryl Floride poisoning, which would place him in Beckman's house. She demands a urine sample.

Dr. Robbins has found arsenic in Julie Stern's system, but he can't confirm it killed her because the poisoning was chronic, apparently over the last three months. Sara and Greg talk to Julie's son, Robbie, who tells them that his mother refused to loan him the money he needed to save his vineyards. She spent thousands on plastic surgery and clothes, and Robbie clearly resented her. Sara asks for a sample of the pesticides that Robbie uses on his vineyards.

Dr. Robbins tells Grissom that Beckman drowned. The Sulfuryl Floride rushed into his lungs and caused his lungs to fill with fluid. The bruise on his cheek, however, isn't consistent with a fall. Someone hit him.

New lab tech Travis Watson tells Catherine that the arsenic in the pesticide that Robbie uses on his vineyard isn't the one that killed Julie.

Greg and Sara have matched the prints from the window sill to another neighbor of Beckman's, Zach Alfano. Alfano is in the hospital suffering from the effects of Sulfuryl Floride gas poisoning, and he tells the CSIs he tried to pull Beckman out of the house, but he was too late. He rang Rory Kendall's doorbell for help, but Rory never answered and a very sick Zach was taken to the hospital. Sara and Greg turn back to Rory, who apparently had a disagreement with Beckman over how loudly Beckman played his music. Rory maintains he was never in the house, and says he didn't answer the doorbell because he was sick.

Another body has arrived in the morgue bearing Mees' lines just like Julie's. The woman, Renita Loax, recently has acupuncture on her face. She also has urine in her stomach. Catherine and Nick go to Renita's apartment, where they find a host of anti-aging books and products. In the bathroom, Catherine discovers a bedpan and a wine glass--both of which contained urine.

While Greg identifies the bird feathers as coming from a Hyacinth Macaw, Grissom builds a gas bomb, which he and Sara take to Beckman's house. The pair set off the bombs and let the harmless gas fill the house. Over at Rory's house, Greg spies smoke seeping into Rory's house via an uncapped electrical conduit in a closet. Rory was telling the truth.

Fred Allen tells Grissom that he gave Beckman, carrying a bird on his shoulder, a ride to a hotel, while Ted stayed behind to make sure things were running smoothly with the extermination. Before leaving, Grissom asks the men if it bothers them that they make their living killing insects.

Catherine and Nick discuss why women will go to such lengths to stave off aging. Catherine points out that Nick's finely sculpted and carefully maintained muscles are similar to what women do to look youthful. David Phillips interrupts to tell them that he's found that arsenic is an ingredient of Dorian spray, which Dr. Malaga prescribed for both women. Malaga runs a spa as well as a practice, and Catherine and Nick decide to check it out. At the spa, Malaga tells them arsenic improves skin elasticity, but that there wasn't enough arsenic in the spray to kill anyone. While Malaga covertly snaps a photo of Catherine and tinkers with it on his computer, Catherine tells him they need the medical records for both women, and that they now have a court order.

Brass has learned that Beckman tried to check into a motel with his bird, but was turned away because the bird wasn’t caged. He went back to the house to get it. Sara and Greg go back to his house to see if they can find the bird. Flies swarm in the kitchen, but it's the carcass of a rat, not Beckman's bird, that has drawn them. Grissom goes to the exotic bird store Bye Bye Birdie. Elliot bought his Blue Macaw, Bob, there and the owner of the store tells Grissom that the multiple feathers found at the scene were yanked from the bird; they didn't fall off naturally.

Travis tells Catherine that the blood cells from both Julie and Renita have burst; the samples from the women didn't separate from the serum. The arsenic didn't kill them. They go back to the women's medical records and find that both underwent hydrogen peroxide therapy on the same day. A solution with a three percent concentration was injected directly into their veins.

Grissom gets a print from Bob's feather, which leads the CSIs to the door of one of the exterminators, Ted Martin. In his apartment, they find stolen watches and jewelry--and Bob. When he came back to his house for the bird cage, Beckman surprised Ted, who was robbing the house before releasing the Sulfuryl Floride gas. Ted knocked him out, took the bird and released the gas, killing Beckman.

Catherine and Nick run tests on the hydrogen peroxide solution. The 3% concentration has no effect on the blood, nor does the 7%. Gradually, they raise the amounts until they get to the 30% concentration, which causes the blood cells to burst. The death, Catherine notes, was in the decimal. Malaga and his attorney maintain it was an accident. Though there will no be criminal charges, Catherine says she knows there will be a civil suit. As she leaves Malaga's spa, Catherine pauses in front of a large mirror, looking at her image in it.

Analysis:

"Crow's Feet" starts with a bang, though I can't help but wish the Ebola scare had been carried out a little longer. I suppose it would have felt like a cheap ploy if it wasn't revealed to be a false alarm for the first half of the episode, but as it was, it was dispelled before the teaser was done. Still, seeing the scene from the inside Dr. Robbins’ Hazmat helmet sure does create tension, especially seeing David Phillips sans protective suit on the other side.

Both cases are of equal interest, giving the episode a slight boost overall. Poison factors into both, and it's a bit ironic that the one that appears to be accidental at first turns out to be intentional, while just the opposite is true of the other case. That Julie Stern and Renita Loax both died because of a careless mistake isn't perhaps the most interesting solution to that case. The awkward resolution feels somewhat clumsy and hurried. Malaga is neither sinister enough to despise nor remorseful enough to feel sorry for. He comes across as a blank for the most part. His fixation on Catherine creepy, but it never really goes anywhere. And if the man thinks Catherine needs any work, he needs his own eyes checked.

Marg Helgenberger does a great job of clueing the audience into Catherine's insecurities without going over the top. She brought up a good point with Nick when she mentioned that men sculpt their muscles much in the way women try to sculpt their faces. Appearing attractive and youthful is what our culture is all about these days, and there's no place that reflects that more than Las Vegas.

I have a feeling, given what we've seen so far, this is going to be Catherine's season. We're only four episodes in and she's already grappled with a cheating boyfriend, her daughter's rebellion and now her own aging. Catherine is a survivor, and I suspect she'll cope just fine, but if the beginning of the season is any indication, it won't be an easy one for her.

Alias's David Anders is delightful in his two scenes as DNA tech Travis, but he doesn't get much to do. With a few notable exceptions, CSI guest stars don't often get a chance to shine. They're usually eclipsed by the case or cases at hand, and even prominent guest stars are usually only allotted a few scenes. It's the nature of the show. But I can't help but hope that the writers will find a way to utilize Anders more effectively. Maybe we could see a case through his eyes? It would add a fresh perspective. With Aisha Tyler (Mia Dickerson) moving on to develop her own series (story), it might be possible to give Anders more to do. After all, Greg needs that replacement.

Greg handled himself quite well this week. He's gradually getting more comfortable with field work. Sara took the lead, which felt natural, but Greg seemed much more at ease than he did in the premiere, "Viva Las Vegas", where he didn't seem to know what to do and then compromised the crime scene by using the rest room. It was admittedly hilarious, but if we're going to take Greg seriously as a CSI, he's got to show that's he's competent, which he did in this episode.

The Beckman case ultimately rested on a feather, which Greg found. The Beckman case was pretty much a classic whodunnit with a satisfying solution. It's a good thing AJ Buckley, who played Ted, had an innocent baby face, otherwise they mystery might have been given away before it got going. Brass pretty much had it figured out right away when he mused that houses with tents around them are often targets for robbery, though it's clear he didn't have any idea he was talking to the culprit himself.

Grissom by far got the best line of the episode. When he turned to the exterminators and asked them, "Does it bother you that you make your living killing insects?" it was a pure Grissom moment. The bewildered expressions of the exterminators made it even more priceless.

Next week: Murder at a swingers party.

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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