"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" Unfriendly Skies (TV Episode 2000) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The team investigates the death of a passenger aboard a commercial airliner. Grissom, Sara and Nick explore the evidence on the aircraft while Catherine and Warrick interview the passengers. They soon realize that the the forensic evidence and passenger statements don't quite add up. An autopsy reveals that the dead passenger had a serious medical condition. But who, or what, killed him?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • As an airplane flies over Vegas, we hear the pilot request emergency personnel (police) upon landing. In first class, a little girl cries for her mother as some sort of scuffle takes place. On the runway, Brass announces that the plane is being treated as a crime scene. He and Grissom enter first class and it's a mess with a dead guy still on the floor. There are ten witnesses, nine passengers and one flight attendant. According to the crew, the dead guy had some sort of attack and died before the plane landed. Grissom photographs a bloody handprint on the cockpit door and some shoe impressions. There's also blood on the dead guy's hand and shirt, with blood on a CD nearby. Grissom says he wants the entire plane taped off.

    Outside the plane, the sheriff comes up to Grissom and tells him that the FAA has jurisdiction but since they won't be here until sunrise, CSI has "about twelve hours to be heroes." Back in first class, the rest of CSI has arrived. Sara tells Nick that the passengers in coach didn't see anything and left through the rear of the plane. The dead guy is Tony Candlewell, a communications company manager from Atlanta with no record. Looking around the plane, they think there's too much damage for one guy, but Grissom says that with ten witnesses saying Tony Candlewell went nuts, they have to rely on the evidence. Grissom has Catherine and Warrick start interviewing the ten people from first class; he also says they should assume everyone has evidence on them. He tells Nick to go with the coroner and says that he and Sara will work the crime scene.

    The first class passengers are being held in the airport lounge. Brass comes in with Catherine and Warrick, announcing that they're here to gather evidence. When a passenger protests, Catherine becomes the PR guy, saying that they'll make this as quick and painless as possible.

    Back at the plane, Grissom interviews the pilot, who says that he saw Tony Candlewell board and that he seemed like an okay guy. The pilot didn't become aware of a problem until about thirty-five minutes into the flight when the flight attendant (Shannon) asked him to come out because of a problem with a passenger. In a flashback, we see Tony Candlewell banging on the bathroom door because it's occupied. Shannon tells another flight attendant to make sure no one from coach comes forward. The pilot tells Candlewell thatthere are two other bathrooms in coach he can use; when Candlewell refuses, the pilot tells him that he needs to go back to his seat. In the present, the pilot says that Candlewell didn't seem to be drunk or on drugs and that flying seems to bring out the worst in some people.

    At the morgue, Dr. Williams takes Candlewell's temperature; it's 98.1. Nick comments that since a body's temperature starts dropping after death, he should be colder than that. He puts the temperature at the time of death at about 101.6. There's also petechial hemorrhaging behind the eyes (suggesting suffocation), an impression on the neck that looks like the heel of a boot, multiple contusions on the front and back, and a broken hand with some defensive wounds on the palms.

    Grissom and Sara map out who was sitting where in the plane. They note that the seat directly in front of where Tony Candlewell was is broken. We see Brass and Catherine interview the guy (Nate) who sat there. He says he flies first class so he can work during the flight but Candlewell kept kicking the back of the seat, although he claims he only punched the back of the seat to get Candlewell to stop. Meanwhile, back on the plane, Grissom finds blood drops away from where the action occurred. Sara finds something interesting (that we don't see) where Lou Everitt was sitting. Warrick and Brass track him down. He has a cut across his face that he claims he got when Tony Candlewell swung at his face with a CD. Brass and Warrick, however, seems to doubt his story, noting that he's had a few drinks (Everitt claims he's a nervous flier and that Shannon, the flight attendant, will back his story). Brass and Catherine interview her. She says that thiry-five minutes in, he began pressing his call button complaining of a headache, so she gave him some aspirin. She claims not to know what set off his headache. Grissom comes in and asks if Catherine's found out anything. She tells him no and suggests that they're all hiding something.

    Grissom heads back to the plane and tells Sara that, according to Nick, when the coroner cut open Tony Candlewell, she found intracranial bleeding, thoracic hemorrhaging, and a ruptured spleen. Sara finds a broken bottle with what looks like dry blood on it next in 2E, which was occupied by Marlene Valdez. Brass and Catherine interview her and her husband, Max. She's complaining about her blouse, saying it's ruined. She thinks her husband owes her for saving his life. She says that Tony Candlewell was wandering around sweaty with his eyes glazed over and she was sure he was going to hijack the plane. We see this in a flashback, with her telling Max to do something before she does. Max gets up and tries to get Candlewell to return to his seat. Candlewell responds by shoving Max into the drink cart. Back on the plane, Grissom finds the other half of the broken bottle that Marlene slashed the victim with. They figure he would have headed to the lavatory to wash up. They head over there; there's no visible evidence, but Sara brings over an alternative light source (?) and Grissom's Christopher Columbus, which shows evidence of sperm. Warrick and Catherine interview Vicki Mercer and her "business partner." She says she was in the lavatory (alone) and he claims he was asleep with his headphones on the entire time, so they don't know what happened.

    On the plane, Sara finds khaki fibers from pants similar to the ones Tony Candlewell was wearing caught in one of the seats. At the lab, Greg and Nick are working on getting evidence from the victim's clothes. Greg says that there is no blood or saliva but Nick finds shoe prints on the back of the jacket. Grissom tells Nick to bring the jacket up and tells Catherine to get prints off of everybody's shoes. Three people's shoes match the impressions on the jacket-Lou Everitt, Max Valdez, and Dr. Kiera Behrle.

    The interview the doctor first. She has a black eye that she claims she got during the fight. Catherine asks why her shoe impressions were on the victim's jacket. In a flashback, we see her get elbowed in the face, which is when she accidentally steps on Tony Candlewell's body before she starts to give him CPR. On the plane, Sara checks the defibrillator on the plane-it was never used. She figures that even if Dr. Behrle didn't know about the defibrillator, the flight attendant should have. She claims that by the time she thought to grab the paddles, it was too late, and besides which, she was scared. She thought he was going to bring the plane down. In a flashback, we see her try to get everyone to return to their seats. Candlewell pushes her out of the way and starts hitting and kicking the door to the cockpit. Everyone is accounted for during the struggle except for the guy in 1A, Mr. Cash.

    Warrick and Grissom go to interview Mr. Cash. He was in his seat the whole time but didn't see much-he's legally blind. He could hear a lot of shouting and dimly see the victim being pulled away from the door. He identifies the voices as Lou Everitt, Max Valdez, and Nate (the guy who's seat was being kicked). He hears a struggle, people shouting ("Get him away from the door!"), and dimly sees a group subdue the victim. Grissom's beeper goes off-it's Dr. Williams. Tony Candlewell was suffering from undiagnosed encephalitis and that's what set him off.

    All the CSIs are now at the plane carrying dummies to represent several of the passengers so they can act out the murder. They have ten minutes before they have to turn the plane over to the FAA. They start out with Tony Candlewell taking his aspirin and uncontrollably kicking Nate's seat, causing him to drop his laptop and confront the guy. They figure that Lou Everitt got up and took a swing at the victim, causing him to take a swipe at him with the CD. They figure that Max gets up to confront Candlewell and get shoved, which is when Marlene slashes at him with the wine bottle. He then goes for the cockpit, but the door is locked so he heads for the exit and attempts to open that door. They figure that Lou, Nate, Max, Marlene, and Dr. Behrle jump the victim before Sara interrupts and tells them that "if you jump a guy at the exit, he dies at the exit." Since Candlewell was found several feet away, they figure that he must have tried to escape. After he died, Dr. Behrle turned him over and attempted CPR (probably to cover for herself).

    It's now sunrise and the plane belongs to the FAA. Unfortunately, when Grissom tells the sheriff what happened, the sheriff decides to turn the passengers loose, saying that a jury will never believe that five strangers got on a plane and killed someone. Grissom and Catherine watch as the passengers are bused to their destinations before returning to the crime lab where Warrick, Nick, and Sara are watching the news and discussing the outcome of the case. Warrick understands why the passengers did what they did, says that it was self-defense and he would do the same thing. Nick and Sara say that it was murder; Nick's on the fence about how far he would go, but Sara says she could never take a life. Nick asks Catherine what she would do if she and Lindsey were on the plane; she says she would go all the way. Grissom points out that they're all speaking from the point of view of the passengers. He says that everyone just assumed that Tony Candlewell was a jerk and a threat. He says that it took five people to kill him but it would have only taken one person to ask what was wrong and save his life.

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