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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Swap Meet'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 29, 2004 - 9:15 PM GMT

See Also: 'Swap Meet' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

WARNING: Adult content.

A couple makes out while another couple hurries to get to a party. When the couple arrives, they are invited in. Scantily clad people swap partners with ease and hook up with others. The party continues until a woman's scream interrupts it. The body of a party-goer has been found in a fountain nearby.

The victim, Vanessa Keaton, was found by a neighbor walking her dog. Her husband, Dan, left the party early. Brass angrily tries to get the fountain's running water shut off while Sara takes pictures of the crowd. David Phillips finds an abrasion on Vanessa's head, but he suspects the cause of death is drowning. Vanessa has been dead less than two hours.

The next day, the CSIs talk to Dan Keaton and his daughter Amy. Vanessa was Amy's stepmother. Dan says the last time he saw his wife was at the party. Amy was out past her 1am curfew, but she says she didn't see her stepmother that night either. At the scene, Sara pulls one of Vanessa's high heels out of the fountain. After treating Greg to a lecture about how bad high heels are for women, she asks Greg for his take on the scene. He speculated that Vanessa may have removed her shoes and climbed on the fountain's edge and fallen in. Sara notes that she may not have been alone.

Nick and Warrick are finishing up at an arcade where the property's landlord was killed on a motorized circular saw. Marty Gleason, the crime scene clean up man is irritated to find the CSIs are still not done with the scene. He's eager to get working on it; the landlord's wife wants the scene cleaned up as quickly as possible.

Dr. Robbins tells Grissom that Vanessa died of a pulmonary edema caused by drowning. The abrasion may have knocked her unconscious. He's also found four small puncture wounds on her back, and give their location, her dress wasn't on when she got the wounds. Dr. Robbins found lubricant inside her. Grissom notes her expensive underwear and the lubricant, and says she didn't get the night she planned for.

Nick joins Detective Cavaliere, who is questioning Charlie Pinscher, who rented the arcade space from the landlord. He and a woman named Melissa Poolie ran the arcade, but the couple hadn't made the rent and the landlord has seized the place. Melissa appears to have skipped town, and Nick suspects Charlie is the one who killed the landlord. He asks for Charlie's prints to rule him out.

David Hodges interrupts Mia Dickerson, who has just put on a pair of lab gloves. When he makes a comment about being sanitary, Mia is irritated and beings her cleaning ritual all over again. Greg interrupts and guesses that Mia shot Hodges down. Hodges counters that Mia shot Greg down first before giving Greg the analysis of the water from the fountain and Vanessa's lungs. The two don't match up; the water in Vanessa's lungs contained a chlorine alternative which the fountain water did not have. Vanessa was killed in a pool.

Marty Gleason has arrived at CSI to chastise Nick and Warrick. He's convinced the pair left something behind on purpose to make the crime scene especially pungent. Nick and Warrick are baffled, but if the smell is due to decomposition, it could have been aggravated by Marty's cleaning process.

Sara tells Dan Keaton that Vanessa drowned in a pool. He's very upset: his wife was with their friends, and he assumed she'd be safe. At the house of the party hosts, Erin and Paul Brady, Brass and Grissom are getting a sample of the pool water. The Bradys tell them that Vanessa left the party alone. Erin describes the party as a "mixer." Grissom asks to see the house, and the Bradys allow him in. He discovers a case of skewers and, when he opens the dishwasher, several dildos.

Nick, Warrick and Marty return to the arcade. Marty tells the CSIs how much he pulls in a week and tries to tempt them into a career switch. The landlord's widow pulls up to the scene, upset that the CSIs are still poking around the place and the cleaning isn't complete. The men enter the arcade, where the smell of decomposition is overpowering. The smell leads them to a Ms. Pac Man game. Nick opens a panel on it and notices something amiss; the CSIs open the back of the game and discover a body of a women wrapped in plastic inside.

Greg brings Mia a batch of sex toys from the Bradys' party to analyze as well as 26 used condoms from the trash. When Greg starts to joke, Mia cuts him off by saying that Sara told her that Greg didn't lose his virginity until he was twenty-two. This makes Greg go silent.

Warrick, Nick, Dr. Phillips and Dr. Robbins unwrap the body. Dental records identify her as Melissa Poolie, Charlie Pinscher's partner in the arcade. Semen in her vaginal cavity matches her ex-boyfriend...and the landlord. The CSIs question Charlie again, but he claims he had no idea she was slept with the landlord. Nick goes at Charlie again, telling the man that whomever killed the landlord is certainly carrying blood somewhere, possibly in his watch. Nick eyes Charlie's watch, and the man finally breaks: he killed the landlord, but it was an accident. He denies having anything to do with Melissa's death.

Catherine accosts Grissom in the hall. Grissom's old rival, Ecklie, is being promoted to assistant director and Catherine wants his position as day shift supervisor. She launches into reasons Grissom should recommend her, but he finally cuts her off and tells her he already has. He tells her he hopes she gets it.

Mia has the results from the condoms. Vanessa had sex with four different men at the party. The CSIs bring the Bradys in. Erin tells brass that swinging saved their marriage. Paul admits to having sex with Vanessa. Erin explains the rules of swinging to Brass and Grissom, but also tells them Vanessa's husband, Dan, wasn't into it. Erin focuses on Grissom and tells him that everyone fantasizes.

Outside the interrogation rooms, Sara tells Grissom she's disturbed by the case. Grissom notes that the only people they could be hurting are themselves. Sara thinks it's a crime of passion; she and Grissom look at each other before Grissom's cell goes off. Hodges has matched the pool water to the pool of another couple, the Cunninghams. When they arrive at the house, Sara finds a bloodstain on the edge of the pool. Meg Cunningham tells her and Grissom that the gate was unlocked and anyone could have come in. But the CSIs note that her husband, Tom, had sex with Vanessa.

Warrick tells Dr. Robbins that Charlie confessed to killing the landlord, but denies killing Melissa. Dr. Robbins points out that Melissa was died due to a blunt force trauma. The weapon was something sturdy, possibly a pipe.

Brass turns the screws on Meg Cunningham. She wasn't with Tim at the Bellagio: the maid remembers her being there with a blonde woman. Meg admits that Tim begged her to say they were together that night. She has no idea what went on with Tim and Vanessa.

Sara and Grissom go back to the Cunninghams' house. Sara finds porn, but nothing extraordinary until Grissom comes across a photograph of a woman's body in lingerie that matches Vanessa's.

Back at the arcade, Nick and Warrick find the weapon used to kill Melissa: a baseball bat. The prints on the bat turn out to be the landlord's wife. She killed Melissa and hid the body. Marty is disgruntled; he wishes the CSIs would have waited to arrest her until after he'd gotten paid.

Grissom and Sara compare the photo to Vanessa's body, but the bodies don't match. Dr. Robbins points out post mortem bruising around the puncture marks that indicate Vanessa was stabbed twice with a two-pronged instrument as opposed to four times with a skewer.

Greg finds a BBQ fork with blood on it at the Cunninghams' house. Sara goes through the Cunninghams' e-mails and finds e-mails exchanged with the Keatons--specifically, e-mails between Amy, Vanessa's stepdaughter, and Tom Cunningham. When asked, Tom says Amy came on to him. The picture of the woman's body matches Amy's; she e-mailed it to Tom. Amy was having an affair with Tom. When the CSIs match Amy's fingerprints to the ones on the handle of the BBQ fork, Amy admits to stabbing her stepmother in a rage when she found her in the pool with Tom. The wounds caused Vanessa to fall forward and hit her head; she drowned while Tom and Amy argued. Tom, Amy argues, was trying to protect her, so they moved Vanessa's body to the fountain.

Analysis:

If there's one thing the original CSI does particularly well, it's seedy sex cases. After all, the show is set in Las Vegas. Despite the ubiquitous mantra, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," CSI delights in blowing the cover off social and sexual subcultures. And with good reason: CSI's scandalous episodes are rarely anything short of entertaining. "Swap Meet" doesn't buck the trend.

The opening scenes are presented in lush, sexy Vegas style, but after that, the episode does a good job of making the couples appear surprisingly average. Unlike the plushies in "Fur and Loathing" or the vampire wannabes in "Suckers", the couples in "Swap Meet" are portrayed as terribly average in the light of day. Grissom even notes how clean the Bradys' house is after the swingers party; whereas the night before couples frolicked on the couch and in the pool, the house is sparkling clean and quite ordinary the next day. That is, until Grissom opens the dishwasher to discover several freshly-cleaned dildos.

It's fun to see our CSIs react to it. Not surprisingly, Sara is uncomfortable with the concept of swinging. Grissom is characteristically clinical in his approach to it; at points he seems almost slightly tickled (like when he finds the dildos in the dishwasher), but it never goes beyond that. If the banter between Sara and Grissom in the hall after the interrogations of the Bradys is supposed to reveal anything about either Sara's past or Sara and Grissom's dynamic, it doesn't succeed. However, as a light scene, it's effective and enjoyable.

I have to wonder why Catherine was left out of this case. Catherine often has the most interesting and emotive reactions of any of the CSI team, and she's particularly good at delivering them in the sex cases. Why sideline her here? The only explanation I could come up with is because she's played such a prominent role in the previous episodes of the season, but that's a shoddy reason to essentially write her out of this episode. She could have easily been a part of the action without being the focus of it.

Catherine is allotted only one paltry scene that feels out of place in the episode. The scene with her and Grissom where she asks him to recommend her for the promotion to day shift supervisor works well in isolation, but it doesn't gel with the rest of the episode. Given that it's the only time we see Catherine in the episode, the scene feels as thought it was cut from another episode and inserted here, either because it didn't fit in another episode, or because the writers didn't want to completely shaft Catherine. That aside, it's still a good scene: Catherine rides in, guns blazing, prepared to convince Grissom to recommend her for the position only to find he's already done so. Still, it's clear he's less certain about her reasoning for wanting the job. Catherine cites needing to spend more time with Lindsay as her motivation for seeking the job, and Grissom, before telling her he's already recommended her, reminds her it's an important position that requires leadership and patience.

The scene between Mia and Greg in the lab is slightly awkward as well, though it does provide for a humorous moment. Was Mia trying to rebuff Greg by telling him that Sara spilled the beans to her about when Greg lost his virginity? Was she trying to tease him? Mia is one of the most socially awkward characters to grace a CSI show--she makes Grissom look suave. She's a quirky character, and it's too bad Aisha Tyler won't be sticking around longer to develop the character further. One has to wonder what Sara was doing sharing such personal information with a new lab tech. For someone who is so private about her own personal life, one would think she'd be a little more discreet in what she said about others. Presumably Greg's confession was given in confidence.

The B-story this week is lifted only by guest star Pruitt Taylor Vince's inspired turn as colorful Marty Gleason. Gleason is a delightful opportunist, even stirring up business for his cousin by recommending him to the landlord's widow for the funeral. It's also hilarious to see Gleason trying to pitch a career change to Nick and Warrick. Somehow, given Nick and Warrick's reactions, I doubt the CSIs will be turning in their lab coats anytime soon.

Next week: The Blue Paint Killer is back!

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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