Camp Fear

By Patti Vickers
Posted at March 21, 2003 - 3:38 AM GMT

Plot Summary:

Horatio Caine, Calleigh Duquesne and Dr. Alexx Woods are called to the side of a dusty country road after two girls stumble upon the body of an unidentified dead teenage girl. While examining the body, Alexx notes the girl’s hair has been chopped off rather untidily and her body is covered in what appear to be insect bites. Further on-scene examination reveals the odour of beer on the victim and, more importantly, double lividity. This indicates the roadside is not the girl’s death scene, but a dumpsite. Before leaving the scene, Calleigh uses hairspray to secured an impression of some delicate tire tracks, which appear to be from an ATV.

Tim Speedle and Eric Delko arrive at a mobile home, after a woman finds the body of her ex-husband, Willie Stango. They are greeted by the strong smell of burnt flesh, commenting that he smells “well done”. Noting there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of forced entry, Speedle and Delko observe several cartons of milk and a cell phone near the body. Speedle remarks that there is considerable burnt flesh around the dead man’s mouth and nose. While Speedle swabs up a sample of the milk, Delko scrolls through the missed calls on Willie’s cell phone.

In the morgue, Alexx begins her examination of the Jane Doe. Her preliminary findings indicate blunt force trauma to the right temple, resulting in significant blood loss. Despite the fact that she smelled like beer, the tox screen did not show any evidence of alcohol in Jane’s bloodstream. Curiously, blood work also revealed that Jane’s blood was not clotting at the time of her death. If she had been taking blood thinners, there would be a great deal of bruising on her body -- however, there was none. Even more puzzling is that Jane Doe, who it is estimated was 15, was wearing a diaphragm and she suffered minor vaginal tearing, though there is no indication of rape.

With still no idea of where the primary crime scene is, Dr. Woods swabs Jane’s nose and throat, looking for some evidence as to where Jane actually died. About this time, Horatio receives word that Megan will not be into work that day and is given a letter from her. Curious about her continued absence, Horatio leaves a message for Megan at her home, asking her to call him.

Speedle attends the autopsy of Willie Stango. Dr. Woods’ findings indicate that the heat from the burns to Stango’s mouth and throat led to his airway being closed, which led to his death. Dr. Woods gives Tim a section of the stomach lining, so that he may examine it for further evidence.

Jane Doe’s nasal mucus reveals the presence of pollen. Also, the clothing she was wearing bears a single stripe and a faint laundry mark: Pharos B-2. Horatio learns that Pharos is a “tough love” boot camp for girls.

At the camp, Horatio and Calleigh meet up with Detective Sevilla, who introduces them to the camp director, Marcus Cawdrey. Seeing a picture of Jane, Cawdrey claims not to recognize her. When the laundry mark on Jane Doe’s shirt is brought up, Cawdrey that “B-2” indicates the shirt comes from someone living in Barracks Two. On the way to the barracks, Calleigh sees an ATV with which appears to have tires that could have made the tracks at the dump scene.

At the barracks, Horatio talks to a senior cadet, Valerie Barreiro, and learns that the single stripe on the shirt means it belongs to a cadet first class. In Barracks Two, there are such four cadets. While examining the belongings of the appropriate cadets, Calleigh observes that one cadet, Julie Morales, is missing one of her three issued shirts and her locker contains hair, which matches that of the victim. Horatio tells Cawdrey that they are going to have to examine the whole barracks. Cawdrey reluctantly agrees.

During the examination, Horatio sees some sort of granular material on the floor, near one of the cadet’s beds. Not knowing what it is, he takes a sample. Further examination doesn’t yield much else, but when Director Cawdrey comes back into the barracks, Horatio notices what appears to be blood on his pants and belt. Horatio asks for the items of clothing to be taken into evidence.

Tim has finished analyzing the stomach lining of Willie Stango. Mass spectrometry shows traces of gasoline, contaminated with sodium. This leads Tim and Eric to speculate that the sodium is from salt water.

Meanwhile, Dr. Woods has done further work on Jane Doe’s diaphragm – there are two sets of fingerprints on the device. One set belongs to Jane Doe, and the second set, after being run through AFIS, is unidentified.

Still at the Pharos Camp, Calleigh and Horatio examine the ATV spotted earlier. Using luminol, the investigators find traces of blood. The red spot on Cawdrey’s clothing also turns out to be blood. Horatio takes a phone call – their Jane Doe has been identified: teen model Dara Winters has been reported missing by her mother after leaving the house at 8 p.m. the night before. While at the Winters’ residence, Calleigh finds some hidden letters belonging to Dara. They are addressed to Dara at a P.O. Box, and apparently from someone named Louise.

Delko and Speedle learn that Willie Stango owned a small boat. On his boat, they find several gas containers and a length of hose. This leads them to believe his was siphoning gas from the larger, more expensive boats, which are docked around his.

As she examines the ATV, Calleigh finds traces of pollen – the same pollen that was found in Dara’s nasal mucus. Further analysis indicates that it comes from a rare Lignum Vitae tree, which does not grow on the Pharos grounds. The test results on the granular substance Horatio found on the floor of the barracks come back, indicating it is regular table salt. When it is revealed that the blood on Cawdrey’s pants matches Dara’s, Cawdrey is questioned and denies even knowing the door. He asks to take a lie detector test and is told it won’t be necessary; the investigators just want a nasal swab. Based on the voracity of his claims, Horatio believes Cawdrey may be telling the truth and that the blood on his clothing is as a result of passive transfer.

Tim tests the gas in the tanks they took from Willie Stango’s boat. It turns out to be high-octane gas, higher than can be bought at your neighbourhood pump. At the same time, Eric reviews Stango’s call display on his cell phone – 74 of the last 100 calls are from someone named “Motor” aka Timmy Diehl. People down at the pier let Eric know that Timmy owns an expensive Jet Ski, which, Eric surmises, would need the expensive gas Willie had been stealing.

Horatio and Calleigh employ the skills of the department's forensic palynolygist. She uses a complex computer program that, based on the rare pollen found on the victim and ATV, will help identify the primary crime scene, where Dara Winters died. The location turns out to be within 50 feet of a small pond on the perimeter of the Pharos grounds, approximately three miles from where the body was found. Horatio, Calleigh and Alexx head to the pond, with Calleigh wading in to see what she can find. She comes across a small bag, which contains the clothing Dara’s mother indicated she was wearing when she left their house the night before: a black miniskirt and red halter-top.

After leaving the water, Calleigh takes off her thigh high boots to put her shoes back on. Rolling up her pant legs, Alexx notices two leeches. Horatio uses some saline solution to remove the leeches – and suddenly understands why there was salt found on the floor of the barracks.

Back at the lab, Dr. Woods confirms that Dara Winters had lost as much as half of her blood. Calleigh is busy examining a sample of the leeches from the pond to see if any of the leeches contain any of Dara’s blood. Talking about the modern medical uses for leeches, Alexx tells Calleigh that when leeches attach to skin, their saliva secretes an anesthetic and hiridin, a natural anti-coagulant. The beer that was all over Dara simply acted as a stimulant to the leeches.

Horatio and Calleigh head back to Pharos. Each girl in Barracks two is asked to roll up their pant legs, at which point it is discovered that Senior Cadet Barreiro has leech bites on her legs. When pressed, she tells Horatio that she discovered the victim and Julie Morales drinking beer in the barracks. Since this is a violation of Pharos’ rules, Barreiro escorted the girl off the premises, spilling some beer on her by accident. The next morning, on her rounds, she found Dara lying by the pond. Not wanting to get into trouble for failing to report the transgression from the night before, she drove the body away. Still knowing there is another piece to the puzzle, Calleigh calls Julie Morales “Louise”, the name in the letters found in Dara’s room. Julie admits the letters are from her after Horatio tells her they know about Julie’s record for assaulting Dara’s mother. Julie tells the CSIs that Dara hated the life her mother was pushing her into, which included sexual activity to further her modelling career. In an attempt to make herself unattractive, Dara chopped off her hair and threw away her seductive clothing.

Questioning Timmy Diehl, Eric notes that his Jet Ski would require high-octane gasoline. Timmy admits to buying gas from Willie, but says that it wasn’t of the quality promised at that it cost him significantly to repair his engine as a result. The investigators then speculate that Diehl knew he was being cheater and, angry at the deceit, killed Willie. Diehl denies this, and says that he couldn’t even get in touch with Willie – of the many calls he placed to Stango, only one was answered. Using a different caller ID, he called Stango but when Willie answered the phone, it went dead. Based on Diehl’s story, the CSI’s surmise that because of the amount of gasoline Stango had ingested while siphoning gas, answering the phone is what killed him. Gas fumes from his mouth were ignited by the lithium battery of the phone, causing flames to form inside his body.

Back at the office, Horatio gets a message from Megan that she no longer wishes to speak to him. He’s confused by this, but moves on to question Margie Winters, Dara’s mom. She admits to having argued with Dara before Dara left the house the night before. Guessing where she would have done, she drives to Pharos to find Dara. They met on the road after Senior Cadet Berreiro had kicked Dara out Pharos. Running from her mother, Dara fell and hit her head on a tree root. She fell half into the pond, which gave the leeches opportunity to drain her blood.

Both cases solved, Horatio opens Megan’s letter: she’s quit. The work reminds her too much of her husband’s death. Alexx stops by to invite Horatio for a beer with the rest of the crew, and they both remark what a good criminalist Megan was.

Analysis:

There is a lot crammed into this episode, including a lot of science. And while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I felt like I was constantly playing catch up. From the leeches to the gas, it seemed that in an effort to get everything in the episode – including Megan’s departure – the whole show was on fast-forward. For example, instead of showing us how the leeches killed Dara, we’re told: we’re told that beer acts like “catnip” to leeches but we don’t know why or how. And that’s the highlight of CSI – the whys and the hows. And still on the subject of leeches, it seems odd that Dr. Woods, an experienced ME, can’t tell a leech mark from an insect bite. Surely she’s seen them before, having worked in marshy Dade County for several years. At the death scene, no one seems to notice any blood, even on the tree root where Dara hit her head? It seems like we've missed a step - we can't believe they'd miss evidence like that, so it must be, for the sake of time, that we've not seen it on screen.

Dara’s life and death were complicated – too complicated too be told with another reasonably complex story, such as the death of Willie Stango. Once again, I think they glossed over the facts in the case, in order to move the story along. It’s almost like they were watching the clock saying, “We’ve got six minutes left, wrap it up!”. The investigators, not having any facts about Timmy Diehl’s relationship with Stango other than hearsay, show up to talk to him with the police in tow – talk about jumping the gun. For all they know, the Timmy and Stango could have been legitimate business partners and Stango missed an important meeting – hence the reason for Diehl’s excessive calls.

Lastly, Megan’s departure: Yes, Kim Delaney was grossly miscast in CSI: Miami. She’s a solid actress, but this just wasn’t the part or cast for her. That being said, I still think more should have been made of her leaving. After all, she was the female lead, and to simply have it come down to a comment by Horatio that she has resigned isn’t enough. It perhaps would have been more appropriate for the CSIs all to have been handling Dara’s case, leave Willie Stango for another episode and expand Megan’s departure into a full blown “B” storyline. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sorry to see Megan go – it means more of Detective Sevilla, played by the wonderful Wanda De Jesus – but it just seems that a departure of your second in command should warrant more screen time.

Despite its flaws, 'Camp Fear' is still a decent episode – not stellar, not even very good. But still worth watching and easily enjoyed. I just wish they had slowed down a pace or two, and given us more of the tiny forensic details, such as why beer makes leeches react, that are the marker of CSI.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Patti Vickers reviews CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami episodes for CSI Files.