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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Nesting Dolls'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 7, 2005 - 6:47 PM GMT

See Also: 'Nesting Dolls' Episode Guide


After a construction team at the site of a new housing development uncovers the body of a woman encased in tar, the swing shift is summoned. Their problems double when another woman's body is uncovered beneath that of the first victim. Back at the lab, Grissom helps Catherine remove the bodies from the tar by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. There's not much left of the bodies, but the CSIs begin working with what they have. When Sara comes into the office for her shift, Catherine drafts her to help out on the case.

Sara makes a mold of the top victim's face from the impression it made in the tar while David Phillips removes a metal wire from the top victim's skull--a wire inserted to heal a broken jaw. Hodges tells the CSIs that based on the soil samples he's determined that the bodies were buried at different times--the bottom one has been in the ground for at least five years, while the top one has been there for two. Sara goes over the records of domestic violence reports from a few years ago and finds a match to the mold she's made: Svetlana Melton.

Andrew Melton, Svetlana's former husband, is now remarried to a young Asian woman named June. Both June and Svetlana were mail-order brides--women who came over from a foreign country to marry an American man. Melton says he came home one night and was arrested for hitting Svetlana--a crime he insists he was innocent of. But when Svetlana disappeared soon after the incident, Melton didn't bother to file a missing persons report. Sara is disgusted and makes reference to Melton's new wife, leading Melton to storm out.

Afterwards, Catherine confronts Sara about her behavior during the interview and asks why Sara is always especially confrontational when working on domestic violence cases. Sara, upset that Catherine let Melton leave, threatens to go over Catherine's head, but Conrad Ecklie overhears and drags Sara into his office. Sara is no more diplomatic to Ecklie: she tells him that the only reason he's running the lab is because Grissom doesn't 'kiss ass.' Ecklie puts Sara on a one-week suspension.

Warrick finds pictures of Svetlana and a young man in her pocket and as well as a decomposed piece of paper. Using the computer, they reconstruct what was written on it: Matryoshka's--Tuesday 9 am. Lab tech Ronnie Litra tells Warrick that 'matryoshka' is the Russian term for nesting dolls--the dolls within dolls.

Brass and Nick go to Matryoshka's, a local hair salon, and talk to Chloe Endicott, the proprietor. She levels with them: Svetlana was a hairdresser, one of the many girls who came from foreign countries to work before marrying American men. Chloe sponsors their 90-day work visas, and they work in her salon before getting married. Chloe recognizes the man in the picture with Svetlana--Ken Wellstone, who lives down the street from the salon and comes in sometimes for haircuts. The CSIs stop by Ken's house. He admits to having a relationship with Svetlana but downplays their involvement. He says she told him she was married to an abusive man. Nick searches the house and cuts out a swath of carpet in the bedroom after noticing something on it.

Grissom pays Sara a visit at home. He tells her that Ecklie wants him to fire her and asks her to level with him. She ticks off her problems--problems with authority, attraction to emotionally-unavailable men, self-destructive behavior--but Grissom won't let her get off on those excuses. Tearfully, she finally tells him about her past: her mother stabbed her father to death. She wonders if there's a murder gene, and Grissom takes her into his arms as she sobs.

Nick identifies the substance in Ken's carpet as tar. Brass grills him, and he admits that he and Svetlana were in love and planning to run away together. He shows them a note she left him breaking it off--he was suspicious because the note didn't sound like her. Ken admits Svetlana begged him to punch her in the jaw so that she could make it look like Andrew Melton was beating her. He did it because he loved her.

Warrick finds blood and hair dye on Svetlana's tank top, so the CSIs get a warrant to search Madame Matryoshka's salon. Catherine bags a pair of scissors and Warrick photographs the appointment books. Warrick uncovers a face-like stain made by hair dye on the original upholstery of a re-upholstered chair. The stain matches Svetlana's face. Brass and Catherine get a warrant to search Melton's house and take a necklace from his new wife: a necklace Svetlana used to wear.

Catherine finds Svetlana's blood on the necklace, but Nick isn't convinced Melton is the one who buried her. The writing on the note from Svetlana that Ken Wellstone gave the CSIs matches the writing in one of the appointment books from Madame Matryoshka's--that of Vlad, a Russian man who works there. Warrick brings Vlad in for questioning and confronts him with information about a purchase of tar Vlad made the week Svetlana disappeared. Vlad admits he found Melton standing over Svetlana's body in the salon; because Melton was a 'good tipper,' Vlad disposed of the woman's body for him. The first body was that of a girl who snuck into the country in a suitcase and died in transit. He shrugs--both women were already dead, so there was nothing he could do.

Brass is finally able to pin Melton down. Melton says the way men looked at Svetlana was driving him crazy, so he refused to let her leave the house. She got lonely and faked the beating, so Melton, in a rage, tracked her to the salon, threw hair dye in her face and beat her to death. He laments that she never appreciated him.

Grissom tracks Ecklie down and refuses to fire Sara. He says her behavior is a direct result of his management. Ecklie throws his hands up and tells him she's a loose canon with a gun, but he accepts Grissom's decision.


It's been a long time coming, but there was a big payoff in this episode for fans who've been clamoring to know Sara's big secret since she nervously considered fessing up to Grissom in the season opener, "Viva Las Vegas". The scene between Sara and Grissom, which occurs in the middle of the episode, is one of the strongest between the two of them. For once, he doesn't shy away from asking the hard questions. For once, she doesn't hold back and make light of the fact that he doesn't seem capable of returning her affections.

As with any good reveal, there are plenty of questions left despite, or rather, because of, what Sara says. Her mother killed her father and things weren't peachy before that, but we still don't know everything. Was Sara's mother insane, abusive or both? Was her father abusive, or was he just a victim? Hopefully, we'll find out more as the season goes on, but for now, Sara's revelation says a lot about why she's the way she is. Domestic abuse and battered children strike a chord too close to home.

It's no shock that Grissom refused to fire her, though I have to wonder why Ecklie didn't force him to. Perhaps Ecklie's last words to Grissom, "She's a loose canon with a gun...and she's all yours" explain it all. Ecklie wants Grissom to fail at every turn--that's why he split up the team after assuming the assistant director position. He's clearly hoping Sara will implode on Grissom, and that Grissom putting his faith in her will backfire. But is his final line foreshadowing? It certainly sounds ominous.

With news of William Petersen's health-related decreased involvement in the show breaking last week (story), it's not really fair to blame the writers or producers for the fact that he's all but faded into the background in the last few episodes. The problem is that in some ways he's taken the night shift with him. It feels like Sara and Greg have been around less as well, and while this giving Sara a chance to explore her personal demons, the show feels off kilter. I wouldn't be surprised if the decision to split the team up was a creative decision born out of necessity (given Petersen's reduced schedule), but I hope Sara and Greg don't fall to the wayside along with Grissom.

The case itself is fairly involving, even if Andrew Melton is pretty clearly guilty from the time he stepped on the screen. The man was already on his second mail order bride--there was no way he was a good guy. Especially given that when his first wife disappeared he couldn't be bothered to file a missing persons report. Granted, we find out why before long, but it's a big red flag early on in the episode. Was it there to make the audience agree with Sara when she calls Catherine out?

Speaking of that scene, both Jorja Fox and Marg Helgenberger did a great job in that scene. In a world where every argument between women is condescendingly dismissed as a "cat fight," they delivered a disagreement that while heated, couldn't be disregarded. Both women had valid points--Sara did go too far and Catherine is getting more political by the day. These two have always had a somewhat contentious relationship; while they're both strong and intelligent, they're very different people, and an explosion between the two has probably been a long time coming.

If Melton is an easy pick, he was at least extremely well cast. Zeljko Ivanek, a recurring player from NBC's crime drama Homicide: Life on the Street clues us in to Melton's deep-seated anger even as he protests his innocence. As previously mentioned (story), Ivanek and Misha Collins, who plays Vlad, previously portrayed brothers in the first season of 24. Crime has brought them together once again, but I have to wonder why Vlad would bother risking his freedom just to bury the wife of a good tipper (or a refugee who died in an accident).

That website Nick and Warrick are looking at on the internet is probably a mock-up of a real website. Just type 'mail order brides' into Google and you'll see a sizeable list of sites just like the ones the CSIs were looking at. Newsweek recently ran an article about the reality many of these women grapple with.

What's next (besides that bear from the preview)? Sara and Grissom are growing closer, and if he sincerely wants to help her, he's going to have to let down his emotional barriers more than a little bit. I'm not worried the plotline will be dropped (too much has been invested in it at this point), but I do wonder if Ecklie's foreboding words will come to pass in a future episode.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and a reviewer.

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