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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Deep Fried And Minty Fresh'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 14, 2009 - 3:02 AM GMT

See Also: 'Deep Fried and Minty Fresh' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

It's a bad night at fast food restaurant Choozy's Chicken: the signature chicken statue crashes through the restaurant's window and Bob Graham, the head manager is found dead in the kitchen. Langston and Nick examine the area, discovering that someone has been living in the kitchen of the fast food joint. The two find a blood pattern that indicates a body was dragged outside, suggesting that there's a second victim. They follow the blood to the dumpsters and grease containers, but Langston notes that the container for Choozy's chicken is missing--and has been replaced by one for a Chinese restaurant. They also discover skid marks and a side mirror broken off from a vehicle. Riley looks in the drop safe in Bob's office to see if the restaurant was robbed while Brass talks to Kiwi Long, the usual night manager, who says Bob was covering her shift. She mentions an employee named Elizabeth Martin was closing up the night before, but that she hasn't been able to reach her. Nick finds blood on a 'wet floor' sign in the restaurant while Dr. Robbins conducts the autopsy, determining that a strong blow to the head that severed Bob's spinal cord was the cause of death. Nick and Langston get a lead with the side mirror, leading them to a frat boy named Max Stanton, who has a prior for assault against Bob. A former Choozy's Chicken employee, it quickly becomes evident to the two CSIs that the only thing Max is guilty of is theft: he was attempting to make off with the Choozy Chicken in his truck but failed. The team prints all of the Choozy's Chicken employees, but two are missing: Elizabeth Martin and Gary Comstock. Brass finds evidence that 'Elizabeth Martin' is an assumed name, while Wendy finds Gary, a former drug addict, is in the system--and that his epithelials were in a razor found at the restaurant, indicating he was the one living in the kitchen. Mandy runs the fingerprints found next to the broiler but doesn't get a match to Bob or any of the employees. She matches prints on Elizabeth Martin's closing receipt to prints on the 'wet floor' sign, but without Elizabeth's prints for a comparison, she can't say for sure that they are Elizabeth's. Riley finds menstrual blood in Bob's office, but no sign a sexual assault or struggle took place.

The team turns to surveillance footage from the nearby Chinese restaurant's camera and sees several people getting out of a van and stealing a grease container. The plates are registered to one Timothy Rand. Langston and Brass go to Rand's house in the desert and find him distilling grease into biodiesel fuel. Langston opens up the container from Choozy's and finds a male body inside. The man is identified as Gary Comstock, and Dr. Robbins determines the man was asphyxiated in hot chicken grease. Hodges finds the remnants of glasses and nine 20-dollar bills in the grease Gary was dumped in. Langston, Riley and Nick return to the scene and posit that Bob killed Gary and dumped his body, but are baffled by the print next to the broiler, which didn't match Bob. Nick asks Mandy to run the print again and she does, noticing this time around that it's inverted due to pressure. Once that is factored in, the print proves to be a match for Bob. Brass calls Nick: INS has found Elizabeth Martin and determined she's an illegal immigrant. Brass questions Elizabeth, whose real name is Rosa Gonzales, and she tells him she was indeed closing the night Bob was killed. Bob claimed her receipts didn't add up and forced her to undress so he could do a strip search. Gary walked in and caught him feeling Rosa up and confronted Bob. Bob went after Gary and Rosa dressed and ran out to find Bob winning the fight. She picked up the 'wet floor' sign and struck Bob in the head. Gary told her to run and she did. Brass tells her the blow from the 'wet floor' sign wasn't what killed Gary. Langston, Nick and Riley ponder the question and Langston posits that without his glasses (which fell in the chicken grease) and suffering from a blow to the head, Bob's balance may have been off--he likely slipped in the chicken grease and tumbled backwards--hitting his head on the floor hard enough to sever his spinal cord.

Catherine and Greg investigate the death of Melinda Tucker, who was killed handcuffed to her bed while her husband Scott, a real estate agent, was passed out drunk on the couch. Catherine takes the wine in Scott's glass back for processing, while Greg notices two tubes of toothpaste in the trashcan. Dr. Robbins shows Catherine and Langston, who stops by to observe, that Melinda's stomach was filled with toothpaste. Hodges confirms her death was due to fluoride poisoning and points out that she was fed twice the amount needed to kill a person her size. Greg and Vartann question Scott, who had the key to the handcuffs in his pocket. He's fallen on hard time and his wife had a large life insurance policy--did he decide to get rid of his wife? Scott claims that he and Melinda hadn't had sex in months, and also notes that Melinda was a dental hygienist before they married--she would have kicked him where it counted before letting him feed her a fatal amount of toothpaste. Greg starts squeezing out the toothpaste from the Tuckers' home, but stops when Hodges tells him and Catherine that the toothpaste that killed Melinda had a bleaching agent in it, which the toothpaste the Tuckers had did not. Catherine and Greg return to the Tucker house but don't find any toothpaste with whitening on the premises. Greg notices a shoe mark on the fence and thinks to check the eighty-year-old neighbor's trash--and comes up with two tubes of whitening toothpaste and a pair of used latex gloves. Back at the lab, Greg makes a startling discovery--the DNA in the gloves is Melinda's. She fed herself a fatal dose of toothpaste, spiked her husband's wine and then handcuffed herself to the bed to frame him for murder. Scott tells Catherine that his wife was deeply unhappy when his clients started to lose their houses and blamed the Tuckers. The clients she'd socialized with and became friends with blamed her--and she blamed Scott. Dr. Robbins approaches Ray--he's found an space in the morgue he can use for an office. It's not much, but Ray is quite pleased with the accommodations.

Analysis:

While I'm a big fan of the grimmer episodes of CSI, I always enjoy entries where we get to see the dark sense of humor the show has, whether it be with wacky characters a la Kiwi Long or clever gags, like the Choozy Chicken's head falling off at just the right time, leading the automated voice to offer up the company spiel. My favorite one in this episode was the very well set up 'Dead End' sign that greeted Langston and Nick when they got to see Max Stanton's room of collectables, including fast food mascots and road signs aplenty. The camera focuses in on the 'Dead End' sign--a very literal metaphor in this case--as the music cues the act out is upon us. Little moments like that are such a treat because while CSI does take itself seriously--and even this "lighter" episode still has its somber moments, particularly with regards to the plight of Rosa Gonzales--it's fun to see an episode where the bizarre trumps the tragedy.

Kooky characters abound here, and the guest stars are particularly apt this time around, spouting deliciously offbeat lines. The aforementioned Kiwi Long--played to perfection by Megan Hilty--first piles Brass with plenty of extraneous information before asking him whether he'll be notifying Bob's family or whether that's her job. Then there's Alexandra Krosney's young hippy Silver, who pauses before she takes Brass and Langston to Timothy Rand, observing that she feels "unfriendly air." Timothy, portrayed by John Ales, emphasizes the importance of what he's doing--recovering biodiesel from the chicken grease out of the "valuable resources" the restaurants were just "throwing out with the trash." The guest stars do a great job with Corinne Marrinan and Sarah Goldfinger's witty script, creating zany, offbeat characters in brief but memorable scenes.

Of course, much of the humor comes from the regular characters, who also get their share of comic material. Paul Guilfoyle, whose deadpan delivery is always pitch perfect, has fun with Brass's "maybe he can tells us" what happened line after Choozy Chicken loses his head--literally. Poor Langston can't find anywhere to eat his lunch--food is banned from the morgue and the trace lab as a "biohazard," as Langston woefully notes just as he brings his lunch into an autopsy. Hodges gets a chance to one-up Greg with the news that the toothpaste Greg is diligently squeezing into a beaker is not in fact the toothpaste that led to Melinda Tucker's death. Hodges hasn't gotten as many opportunities to get his digs in with Greg since the latter became a CSI, and Wallace Langham makes it clear that Hodges still likes showing up his former lab-mate. Normally reserved David Phillips lets it slip that he thinks handcuffs can be fun in the bedroom, and then, mildly mortified, apologizes to Catherine for the "over-share." Not one to be embarrassed by frank discussions of sexual expression, Catherine gives David her trademark wink and says, "Thank you for the over-share."

As is the case with the lighter episodes of CSI, the ways in which the murders happen are played more for curiosity or humor than pathos. Melinda Tucker, so angry at her husband and so unhappy about the way her life has turned out, actually consumes two whole tubes of toothpaste and handcuffs herself to a bed in order to frame her spouse. Everyone has seen the warnings on tubes of toothpaste, but I have to say, it's one of the more novel ways to kill off a victim! After killing Gary Comstock by shoving his head in boiling hot chicken grease, Bob Graham gets rid of Gary's body only to slip and take a fatal spill in that very same chicken grease. In a more serious story, these motives might not work as well--the idea of a woman consigning herself to a horrible death just to try to frame her husband is a little hard to swallow when pills would have been just as effective, and that Bob would go after and kill his former friend Gary just because he walked in on him taking advantage of a woman is a bit far-fetched, but because it plays out as a farce, the over-the-top motivations and methods of the characters work within the story.

There's definitely a moment of seriousness in the episode when the law finally catches up with Rosa Gonzales AKA Elizabeth Martin, who was taken advantage of by the slimy Bob. When Rosa tells her story to Brass, it definitely makes us glad Bob is dead--and causes a momentary pang for Gary, who died helping her. Her story only gets more tragic when she tells Brass INS is deporting her and her entire family. Brass clearly feels bad for her, but he tells her sadly that there's nothing he can do--it's out of his hands. No doubt Rosa's worst fears when she was called into Bob's office and told that her tally didn't add up was that Bob would fire her and jeopardize her ability to stay in the country. It's a sad irony that we see how far she was willing to go not to risk losing her job and yet, in the end, what she was fearing in that moment was exactly what happened. Like the other memorable guest stars, we only see Rosa in one scene (save for her going through the motions of closing up the restaurant in the teaser), but Danielle Alonso makes an impression as the sad, scared woman.

Laurence Fishburne has definitely adapted to the tone of CSI, making the most out of the small moments that allow us glimpses into Langston's character. Ray's attempts to find a moment and a place to eat his lunch remind us that he hasn't yet found a physical home at the Vegas lab, something Robbins is able to give him at the end. It's a small office--it looks more like a closet than an office, really--but Ray is clearly grateful for the space and tells Dr. Robbins, who has thoughtfully scouted out the place for him, that he thinks he'll "be right at home" in the small room. Ray is definitely finding his place among the team as well--Hodges isn't giving him grief for not being Grissom, Riley seems to have backed off him, and Nick is enjoying the role of teaching the newbie the ropes. Doc Robbins is poised to be a genuine friend, so much so that Ray feels comfortable enough observing and even participating in autopsies for cases outside of the ones he's directly working on. Robbins' gesture at the end of the episode is a touching one--in the fast-paced world of crime scene investigation, there are few opportunities to take the time to make someone else feel welcomed or comfortable. Robbins goes to the effort to find Ray a room of his own, and it's clear from the smile on Ray's face when he does that it means a lot to the newest CSI.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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