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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 5, 2004 - 10:47 PM GMT

See Also: 'What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

After a fraternity pledge fleeing from his fraternity brothers falls in a pile of maggots at West Las Vegas University, Eva Sontag, a professor of agriculture, calls in her friend Gil Grissom to explain the phenomena. When Grissom finds a human tooth in the pile of woodchips the pledge fell in, he realizes the mysterious gathering of maggots may be feeling on human flesh.

The university makes its own woodchips, so Grissom talks to Walter Beerley, who runs the chipper. After determining that a human body could fit into the chipper, Grissom swabs it for blood and gets a positive reading. Mia Dickerson isn't able to get DNA off of the tooth, so Grissom dissects a maggot to get the flesh out of its belly. Greg finds bits of a plastic garbage back among the maggots and woodchips, but when Catherine discovers a bit of a fingernail with blue paint on it, she rushes to analyze it. The paint is a mixture of oil-based blue paint and motor oil, to prevent the paint from drying. The Blue Paint Killer is back.

Brass and Catherine brief the department on the Blue Paint Killer. The killer has been murdering college co-eds since 1987. His MO is to apply blue paint to a railing, wait for the victim to touch it and then try to wash it off. Then he moves on her, rapes and strangles her and then puts the body in a plastic bag. John Mathers was caught and executed for the murder of one of the victims, Charlene Roth, but on the night of Mathers' execution, the real Blue Paint Killer murdered another woman.

Mia surprises the team by telling them that the DNA inside the maggot's belly belonged to a male. When Greg discovers a broken key with the Omega Zeta Pi fraternity letters on it, Catherine and Nick go to the OZP house and learn that a pledge, Jonathan Avery Haywood III, is missing. They also spot another pledge with blue paint on his hand.

Catherine and Grissom find a freshly painted railing that was apparently installed by the killer himself. At a nearby bench, he's left them a present: a bag with a female blow-up doll inside. When the CSIs examine the doll in the lab, they find a note in its mouth that reads "I have her." Beneath the words, Grissom discovers a drawing of a frightened bound woman. The CSIs analyze the drawing, determining that the woman is in a van. In the background of the drawing is the sign for the Erotica Boutique.

The CSIs race to the Boutique, where they find the van in the lot with the body of a blonde co-ed inside. Grissom enters the Boutique and sees the doll the Blue Paint Killer left for the CSIs. He also spies a bondage comic from a local artist, Zippy T, and asks the cashier about it. The cashier says local writers are paid in store credit. Zippy T did pick up a blow up doll, but the cashier isn't able to give Grissom much of a description: glasses, brown hair, average-looking.

Dr. Robbins says the girl's death fits the killer's typical MO: blue paint, strangulation. Catherine notices her blonde hair and compares it to Haywood, who also had shoulder-length blonde hair. She speculates that the killer was stalking the girl and mistook Haywood for her. The Blue Paint Killer, she realizes, doesn't take his victims at random.

Mandy Cooper identifies the victim, Kaitlin Rackish. Mandy was her roommate and hadn't seen her in a few days. Tearfully, she goes over where Kaitlin was on the Monday Kaitlin was taken, which includes a trip to the copy shop and art class with Professor Cody Lewis. Catherine immediately focuses in on Lewis, who dated the Blue Paint Killer's first victim. But when Brass questions Lewis, he denies writing the comic book and killing the women.

Greg and Nick go over the van, which contains a WLVU parking pass from 1986. Greg also finds powder in the back of the van. The CSIs go over the five victims, but they still can't find a common link between all of them. When Nick discovers Mathers' prints in the van, he theorizes that the Blue Paint Killer and Mathers were partners, not original and copy cat. But when the CSIs go over old interviews with Mathers, they can't find any evidence that the killer was in contact with him. They theorize that the Blue Paint Killer was the dominant personality, Mathers the submissive one. The killer murdered women on the night of the Mathers execution and on the two year anniversary of it.

When the powder from the van turns out to be ink from a toner, Catherine recalls Mandy telling her that she and Caitlin had been to a copy shop shortly before she was killed. They zero in on Kevin Greer, the only employee who has worked at the union copy shop for more than ten years. The team rushes to his house only to find a paint mixer machine and to hear a message from Greer himself: he's at the station waiting for them.

Greer is drawing in an interrogation room when Grissom and Brass arrive and he greets the men by their first names when they enter. He says he figured that if they made it to his house, they deserved to meet him. He talks calmly to the men, asking if they're disappointed in his appearance and saying that his victims misjudged his kindly appearance, thinking he would spare them. He tells the men that LASIK is what got him caught: he tried the surgery after one of the victims broke his glasses, but it didn't take.

Sara discovers memorabilia from his victims in a freezer, including one for a fifth victim: Brit Mosscoe. Greer offers to take them to her, but asks to use the bathroom first. Sara spots a calender with Miss October on it and figures out that Brit Mosscoe is an anagram for Miss October. She calls the CSIs to let them know it's a trick, but it's too late. Greer has smothered himself in the bathroom with a plastic garbage back. Grissom looks at his final drawing: a picture of Grissom himself with the victims around him and Greer reflected in his glasses.

Analysis:

A terrific episode that's almost ruined by an anti-climactic ending, "What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?" is an effective conclusion to the saga of the Blue Paint Killer. There's something about serial killer stories--there's an element of urgency to the stories that have a murderer who is likely going to kill again at large. It adds suspense to the CSIs hunt for the murderer. Granted, you can't have a serial killer every week--that would get old mighty fast--but it does make the episodes where the CSIs are hunting one especially exciting.

It's also nice to see CSI do an arc. The show, in attempt to be as accessible as possible, usually shies away from them, but I wish that weren't the case, because CSI shows do arcs rather well. The three-episode Paul Millander arc from seasons one and two was especially well done. And I don't think they're as inaccessible as the producers may fear. I never saw the first Blue Paint Killer episode, "The Execution of Catherine Willows", and though I'm certain that seeing it would have enhanced my pleasure in seeing "What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?", not seeing it certainly didn't take away from my involvement in this engrossing episode.

The episode moves along at a breakneck pace without ever losing the audience. There's a helpful refresher around the fifteen minute mark courtesy of Brass and Catherine. The scene serves to fill in the audience members who may not have seen the first episode or those who did and need their memory jogged, but it also adds urgency by underscoring the gravity of the case.

Stetler alert! David Lee Smith is one of the rare few who've appeared in two CSI shows, and though he's recognizable until the stubble and glasses, he's a far cry from CSI: Miami's slimy IAB agent, Rick Stetler. It's always fun to see a CSI "repeat offender."

Despite the really clever title (a play on the name of the Johnny Depp movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape?), this episode doesn't belong to Gil Grissom alone. The opening with the maggots couldn't be more perfect for him, though. Does anything make Grissom light up like bugs? But the whole team is involved here. Catherine gets several strong scenes, and Sara catches Greer's ruse--a little late, but still, it was a sharp observation. Even Nick gets in a good deduction with his realization that Greer and Mathers were partners.

The clues in this case are a tad difficult to keep track of, but then, the killer has amassed five victims over almost twenty years, so it's not hard to see how there's a lot to keep track of. Grissom's idea to dissect the maggot was particularly inventive; even icy Mia marvels at it. The ink pile that finally cracks the case is a tad convenient, that is, unless Greer put it there on purpose. I suspect he did; after all, the man ended up turning himself in without so much as a struggle.

When I heard his message, I admit to being underwhelmed. After such a thrilling chase, almost twenty years in the making, the Blue Paint Killer was just going to turn himself in? It was a bit of a let down, that is, until he tricked the CSIs and killed himself in the bathroom. It was obvious he had something up his sleeve with that trip to the bathroom, but I'll readily admit I didn't see it coming. In a way, his end was fitting--his greeting of Gil and Brass using their first names and his final drawing prove he saw the officers as his nemeses. If the game is up, better to go out with a bang.

Greer himself is eerily ordinary. He never seems imposing or even psychotic, and this is perhaps why he's so scary. His very ordinary qualities, and almost affable demeanor, make him scarier than chilling psychopaths who are easily spottable. Greer notes that his victims thought he would spare them up until the last minute. Now if that's not bone chillingly frightening, I don't know what is.

Next week: The CSIs investigate the death of a society girl, while Grissom clashes with a new CSI.

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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