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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--"Snakes"

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 17, 2005 - 9:11 PM GMT

See Also: 'Snakes' Episode Guide


A young boy delivering copies of Hoynewspapers to dispensers makes a gruesome discovery in one of the boxes: a woman's hairless, decapitated head. In the CSI morgue, Dr. Robbins pulls a snake out of the woman's throat. Robbins determines the woman was in her early 30s and is of hispanic descent. He estimates she died around six hours ago and tells Catherine that her head was cut off after she died. Her hair was violently ripped from her skull. Robbins takes out her removable bridgework, noting a serial number on the piece. Catherine hopes she can get an ID from it. Nick is working on the bloody papers the head was placed on; he hopes to get an ID from the palm prints around the head. Lab tech Jessie Menken identifies the snake as crotalus simus, a breed native to Mexico. She tells Nick the snake was most likely dead when it was shoved down the victim's throat.

On the roof of the Tropical Surf casino, Brass leads Warrick to the body of Vincent DeCarlo who is found shot to death in the driver's seat of his van. David Phillips notes that Vincent was killed by a shot to the head. Sofia Curtis, who asked by Catherine to lend a hand, notes that he was shot from inside the van. The find a wheelchair in the back of the van with GSR on it, but no one else is at the scene and it does not appear that Vincent was handicapped.

The ID number on the bridgework leads Catherine and Detective Vega to the apartment of Veronica Juarez. Catherine is puzzled--a University of Texas degree on the wall indicates Veronica was well-educated, but pictures in her digital camera suggest she ran with a rough crowd. Catherine finds no signs of sexual activity in the bed, but she does find a baggie of high-end crystal meth in the woman's dresser. Vega discovers a flier for a band called Extremo--a mariachi band posing with AK-47s--who will be playing at a bar called Hacienda Corona. Vega notes that the fans of this type of music are known as Sinaloan Cowboys and they tend to be a tough and wild bunch.

Nick and Vega head to the club where Extremo is playing. The bartender recognizes Veronica's picture but knows her as Carla. Nick and Vega listen to the band for a moment, exchanging glances when the lead singer, Rafael Salinas, starts singing the lyrics, "she stole my heart so I stole her life." Nick translates one line: "I made a snake eat a snake." Nick and Vega try to question Rafael after the show but they're stopped by his manager, Javier Lileez. When they ask about the song, Javier tells them it's a narcocorrido song that was written ten years ago. Javier recognizes Veronica as Carla as well, but still won't let the pair talk to the band.

Back at the CSI labs, Sara approaches Grissom at his office. She feels guilty for what she told Ecklie before he split up the team, but Grissom tells Sara that Ecklie would have found a way to split the night shift up anyways. Sara and Grissom finally have their post counseling session, and Sara tells Grissom that he was the reason she moved to Vegas. She admits she looks for validation in inappropriate places at times, but before Grissom can reply, she cuts him off and tells him it's okay for him not to say anything. Before leaving, she reminds him to document the session for Ecklie.

Dr. Robbins tells Sofia and Warrick that the bullet that killed Vincent never left his brain. Dr. Robbins notices another wound over the man's right ear and concludes he was shot twice. While Sofia goes back to the scene to try to locate the bullet and any stray casings, Warrick and Detective Vartann track down the owner of the wheelchair: Bonnie Bakerset, a resident at a nursing home who passed away the week before. A look through Bonnie's apartment reveals she bought a plethora of merchandise from N.Z.A. Henderson. Two residents, Stuart Manslow and Betsy Lewis, happen by and tell Warrick that a salesman would call Bonnie everyday on the phone and she would buy products from him. Back at the Tropical Surf Casino, Sofia uses a laser to trace the bullets' trajectories. Greg comes to help and together the pair locate the casings in between the door and the wheelchair ramp.

Nick is investigating old cases and narcocarrido--"drug ballad"--which are songs that depict real events. Nick reads up on the older murder that matches Veronica's, but when he looks back at the paper on which Veronica's head was found, he notices something interesting: Veronica's name on the by-line of a front page story. Nick heads to the offices of the paper, where the editor-in-chief tells Nick that Veronica was working for him as a freelancer, trying to get the dirt on Extremo. She thought their music was poisoning her culture. After the first part of her investigative piece was published, a man brought in a black candle to intimidate her. Nick takes the candle and pleased to see fingerprints on the sides of it.

Nick matches the prints to Elindio Zapata, whom he locates in the back of a market in a shrine to Jesus Malverde, the Mexican Robin Hood. Zapata smirks while they search his store. Nick finds a bone which Zapata claims is a chicken bone, but when Nick finds a jacket he recognizes from Veronica's pictures with tiremarks on the back of it, he has Zapata hauled into CSI. Zapata claims the jacket was given to him by a devotee--he says he is descended from Jesus Malverde, an assertion that disgusts Vega, who says Zapata is a disgrace to their community.

Sofia has a lead in the DeCarlo case: blood on Vincent's jacket matches Dax Blanchard, a colleague of Vincent's at the telemarketing company. Warrick and Brass pay Dax and visit and when they spy a gun in his jacket, they bring him in for further questioning. Dax admits to getting into a fight with Vincent: Vincent was ripping off his grandmother. Warrick and Brass think they've got the case wrapped up, until Dax tells them his grandmother's name is Fran, not Bonnie, and Fran is still alive.

Nick tells Catherine that Zapata's palm prints don't match those found on the paper where Veronica's head was placed. Catherine and Nick trace the tire treads on Veronica's jacket back to a tire store that specializes in a particular kind of retread. The CSIs spot Rafael Salinas working at the store, and Catherine pulls him aside. He tells them he was seeing "Carla" but that he put two and two together when Veronica's article came out. He tells Catherine she did drugs, but Catherine quickly counters that no drugs were found in her system. Rafael dismisses Veronica as a "traitor."

Sofia confirms Dax's innocence when she reports that bullet casings from his gun don't match those found at the scene. She notices that the bullet casings are odd: they're a match for pre-World War II ammunition. This sends Warrick back to the nursing home, specifically to Stuart Manslow. Stuart was disgusted by the way Vincent was taking advantage of Bonnie, so after Bonnie died he lured Vincent to his door with the promise of a sale. In order to make himself look weak, he got in Bonnie's wheelchair and told Vincent that he needed a ride to the bank. He then pulled his gun and got Vincent to drive to the top of the Tropical Surf. The shakes caused Stuart to miss the first shot, but the second one was right on target. Stuart surrenders his gun to Warrick.

Nick comes up empty with Rafael's palm prints as well. They decide to go back to the Hacienda Corona and look for tires that match their evidence instead. They match the tires of the truck that ran Veronica over to one Juanito Concha--the bartender. Nick and Vega track down Juanito, but when they notice his belt contains human hair, Juanito starts to run. The crowd moves to protect him until Nick shouts in Spanish that Juanito killed an innocent woman. The crowd backs off and Nick hauls him in. Juanito admits to killing Veronica to impress the Sinaloan cowboys and in the hopes that a narcocorrida would be written about him. Nick tells him he's a sad copy, but Juanito is undeterred, and as Nick looks on in disgust, begins to sing the song he's composed about his deed.


"Snakes" is another one of those fairly average CSI episodes: it's certainly entertaining while you're watching it, but for the most part it doesn't leave much of an impression one way or another. As I've said before, there's nothing wrong with an average episode of CSI, but this probably isn't going to be rated among the best CSI outtings.

The opening scene is creepy enough: no words are spoken after the young boy discovers the head of Veronica Juarez and the CSIs start to work the scene, including removing the newspaper box and examining the head. As the score plays, Dr. Robbins removes the snake from Veronica's throat. It's an effective opener: the sight of the severed, mutiliated head combined with the snake Robbins discovers is disturbing imagery. The decision not to include dialogue was a wise one.

Two particular guest stars stand out in this plot: Yancey Arias, who plays Rafael and Tony Plana, who plays Zapata. Arias, who also appeared in CSI: Miami's second season opener, "Blood Brothers" is an arresting blend of suave and sinister. He's magnetic on stage and even in the tire shop talking to Catherine. As Zapata, Plana is as oily as a snake and as mesmerizing as one. Both he and Arias make a lasting impression.

The ending is equally effective: the look on Nick's face as Juanito sings his own narcocorrida is one of disgust and horror as well as rage. It mirrors the audience's reaction: the idea that this young man murdered and mutiliated this woman in order to get in good with the Sinaloan Cowboys is nauseating. The Spanish in this scene and in the previous one where Nick arrests Juanito is untranslated and though it's somewhat frustrating for viewers who don't speak Spanish, to have a translation or even subtitles might have taken away from the creepiness of that final moment.

The secondary case is most interesting for its resolution: the idea that someone would kill a telemarketer for taking advantage of an elderly person probably appealed to many. At best, telemarketers are irritating: hence the beauty of the "do not call" list. At worst, as seen in this episode, they can take advantage of the lonely and elderly. Murder is of course going too far, but it's hard not to feel for Stuart Manslow when he laments about how Vincent was calling Bonnie twice a day and taking advantage of the fact that she had Alzheimers and didn't remember that she'd already made a purchase that day.

I'd be curious to learn what feverent fans of the Sara/Grissom pairing thought of their scene together in his office, but I for one wasunderwhelmed. After the promise in the season five opener "Viva Las Vegas", that Sara was considering revealing details about her past to Grissom, it was a tad disappointing to see their conversation cut down to her admitting he was the reason she moved to Vegas and that she seeks validation where she shouldn't. Both are interesting revelations--the first moreso than the second since the latter is somthing the audience can deduce for themselves--but Sara shouldn't have let Grissom off the hook. I would have liked to have heard his (likely fumbling) response to her admission.

Grissom and Sara are the two who are sidelined this week, and for all intents and purposes so is Greg, though he does get one scene with Sofia. Again, this is the apparent cost of splitting up the team: sometimes some of the leads aren't going to have much to do. I don't think the dramatic payoff has been worth the shakeup. Sticking Grissom behind a desk seems like a pretty big mistake to me. I'm also not sure why Sofia Curtis has been brought in. I don't think her character adds enough to the group ensemble to warrent pushing regular characters aside to make way for her. Louise Lombard always gives a great performance, but there's no reason that Sara couldn't have been asked by Catherine to help out with Warrick's investigation.

Splitting up the team made for a shocking end to "Mea Culpa", but I don't think the payoff since has been big enough to warrant the move. Hopefully the odious Ecklie will get knocked out of his new position before too long and things can get back to the way they should be.

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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