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"CSI" - "Deep Fried and Minty Fresh" - Feb. 13, 2009

It's night in Vegas and as we watch a female employee of a fast food chicken joint close up for the night -- shutting down the fryer, mopping up, counting up a wad of cash for the deposit bag -- we see a gloved figure load and cock a gun, gather materials for a break in and don a ski mask. She mops, he drives.

It turns out there are two masked perps and it seems their main interest is uprooting the huge chicken statue outside the restaurant. They unscrew it and push it into the window. Cut to Brass, Stokes, and Langston surveying the chicken. "The call did say a 419 at Choozy's Chicken," says Nick. "Not him," says Brass, "him" -- as we cut to a figure lying dead on the floor in the kitchen. It's the manager. The floor is covered in oil and the man's blood. The fryer is still on.

Phillips examines the body as Langston goes through the man's backpack, which includes a still wet-razor, a pair of men's jeans too small for the vic, and a set of keys which Langston successfully tries in a storage room door. They think the backpack belongs to another employee using the joint as a motel and was caught by the boss. But Nick wonders, if the perp had a key, why did he push the mascot through the window?

Who are you?

Riley notes the registers are empty and offers that when she worked at a fast food place in high school they put the money in a drop safe and left the registers open to show there was nothing to steal. She goes to check the manager's office.

The body has been removed and Nick and Langston examine the scene. Langston determines from drag marks and blood tails that there may have been a second victim dragged outside. Stokes is impressed.

The dumpsters and oil drum out back are empty. The oil drum, however, belongs to a Chinese restaurant. Turns out Langston reads/speaks Mandarin. They discover skid marks and a busted-off driver's side mirror in the lot.

Brass interviews the manager on call, Kiwi Long, a petite, neurotic blond. She was supposed to be on but had trouble with her babysitter. In the hands of now-dead regional manager Bob she thought things would be fine. She's struck by the thought that it could've been her.

Riley takes photos in the manager's office and finds what may be a blood splotch on the floor.

Kiwi says the only other closer the night before was Elizabeth Martin, a great employee, about whom Kiwi is worried since she called Elizabeth and it went to voicemail.

The next scenes intercut:

Riley finds and counts the deposit bag. It's $200 short.

Kiwi tells Brass that only she and Bob have the combination to the drop safe. 23-31-12.

Riley opens the safe and examines the contents including some cash.

Brass asks Kiwi for the restaurant's surveillance. She says he needs to get it from corporate.

Riley eyes the camera and follows the cable, which ultimately leads to nothing.

Brass asks Kiwi for employee contact info.

Now daytime: We cut to Katherine entering a swanky home where a man is strapped to a gurney. His blood alcohol level is through the roof and his wife is dead in the bedroom. Whatever happened, happened right after the mailman delivered an "Intent to Foreclose" notice.

The wife is handcuffed to the bed and has been dead 3-5 hours. Probably about as long as the husband, who has apparently been sleeping on the couch, not to mention has been drinking. Phillips has no cause of death but says it wasn't a fair fight since she was handcuffed, which can be fun in the right circumstances. He then apologizes for the "overshare." But she winks at him and says thanks for the overshare.

Back at Choozy's Nick pokes around, finding hand prints on the stove, draining the fryolater, and finding what might be dried blood on a "caution wet floor" marker.

Langston is rolling some cases through the halls while trying to juggle a fast food bag and drink. He rolls into the autopsy room where Stokes and Robbins are examining the vic. Langston apologizes, saying he's still trying to get organized and figure out when he's supposed to eat lunch.

Robbins reports Bob the vic had anti-mortem trauma, and Stokes advances the theory of him getting whacked in the head with the "wet floor" sign, which we see re-enacted. Cause of death was a fast trauma that severed his spinal cord, which we also see. Stokes' phone rings. Turns out Mandy got a hit on the sideview mirror, a former Choozy's employee already in the system for assaulting Bob previously.

The employee, Max, is a callow frat boy who claims he was in his frat house studying. Until he is confronted with the sideview mirror evidence. He admits that he was trying to steal the statue but he says it in a way that makes it sound like he's talking about Bob. Max says his dad will pay. Langston says he can't buy his way out of this and they advance a theory- which we see- of Max and his friends busting into Choozy's and assaulting Bob. The "funny misunderstanding" is cleared up when Max makes clear he was trying to steal the statue saying it was the only one he didn't have, unveiling a room full of fast food mascots, neon bar signs, and street signs. He says the previous assault charge from Bob was pure self-defense and that he was not fired but quit.

Catherine and Greg examine the bedroom where the handcuffed wife was. Apparently the happy couple enjoyed running, drinking wine, and brushing their very healthy teeth. Catherine concocts a scene -which we see- of the wife returning from a run, having some wine, the drunk husband with whom she hasn't been getting along coming in and not taking no for an answer and cuffing her to the bed. "Romantic," says Greg.

The employees of Choozy's are lined up in the lab giving fingerprints and cheek DNA swabs and ribbing each other. Two are missing: Elizabeth Martin and Gary Comstock.

Stokes and Brass discuss the robbery, which Stokes thinks wasn't much of one since there were thousands in the safe and only $200 was missing. Brass says the Elizabeth Martin he ran down was a desperate housewife with 2.5 kids, a silver SUV, and a house in the hills and a frequent victim of identity theft. Stokes thinks maybe it was an illegal using her name. Wendy enters saying they got a hit on one of the no-shows, Gary, who's a former junkie who is homeless. Stokes figures - and we see this- that he was the backpack guy using the Choozy's as a crash pad who when coming in to the place and getting caught by Bob, killed him. Wendy wonders where Elizabeth is then. Stokes says maybe in hiding. But Brass wonders why a drug addict wouldn't grab up all the loose cash.

As Robbins lifts out organs from the dead wife he tells Catherine there's no sign of sex, forced or otherwise. Langston enters to get his kit and Catherine asks after the Choozy's case. Confusing, he answers. He asks after hers. Ditto, she says and offers to let him stick around for the autopsy. They discover a gastric ulcer. They squeeze some nasty blue stuff through the perforation and Catherine asks incredulously "Death by Smurf?" She wonders if they've seen anything like this. Robbins sniffs it and says, "minty" and Langston follows adding, "fresh."

Mandy brings some inconclusive fingerprint evidence to Nick. The handprint from the stove belongs to a large man, none of the employees. A set of fingerprints, in an attacking grip, on the sign could be Elizabeth Martin's.

Wendy and Riley puzzle over the bloodstain Riley found in the manager's office: it was menstrual. And doesn't belong to any of the Choozy's employees. Except of course they have no sample from Elizabeth Martin. Since it didn't look like a rape scene, they wonder what she might have been doing in the manager's office with her pants off while Aunt Flo was visiting.

Langston is speaking in Chinese to someone on the phone, Archie is impressed. The owner of the Chinese restaurant was so annoyed about his barrels being stolen, he installed surveillance. They look at the tapes and see a couple of guys in a white van stealing them. They get a hit on the license plate.

Cut to the van, outside it's owner Timothy's crash pad. On the walk in we learn that Brass missed the whole hippie thing while serving in Vietnam. We come across a chick on a yoga mat named Silver who leads them to Timothy in his workshop. Turns out he's making bio-diesel from the discarded oil, which he doesn't think should be considered a crime since they put it out with the trash. Turns out he hasn't checked his most recent liberation of oil, however, since there's a dead body in it: Gary.

Turns out the blue stuff in the dead wife was toothpaste. Greg and Catherine squeeze out a bunch of toothpaste into a beaker trying to figure out how you'd force that much down someone's throat. Hodges enters to inform them that the toothpaste in the lady contained a bleaching agent but the tubes they collected from the scene didn't. They're confused. They go back to the house and go through the trash, where there are no toothpaste tubes. Greg notices shoe rubber on the fence. They go through the neighbor's trash and discover the toothpaste tubes and antihistamines, which the husband probably used to make the wife sleepy so he could force the toothpaste on her.

Stokes asks Mandy about the handprint. She says she already put it through the database. He asks if it's possible that the print got distorted. He asks her to run it against Bob's again. She does, it's a reversal. She apologizes for missing it. He says it's okay.

Brass calls Stokes and tells him that Elizabeth Martin is an illegal and he's going to interrogate her. Her real name is Rosa Gonzalez. He asks her to tell him what happened at Choozy's. She says she didn't mean to kill him and we see her description: She goes to Bob who says her deposit is short. She says she checked it twice. He asks if she wants him to call the police. He leans in and tells her he has to do a strip search. We cut back to Rosa and Brass with her telling him Bob made her take off all her clothes. He put his hands on her. But before he could assault her, cut back to the memory: Gary the homeless junkie showed up in his boxers. Bob asks what he's doing there and Gary says he is clearly not the issue here and he wonders what Bob is doing to Rosa. Bob tackled Gary as Rosa got dressed. She went out into the kitchen where Bob was holding Gary's head over the fryer. She whacked Bob with the sign to get him to stop. Gary yelled at her to get out of there. Bob got back up and forced Gary's head into the fryer. Rosa says she ran but she swears she was just trying to help. Brass tells her it wasn't the whacking with the sign that killed him. She's relieved and wonders if she can go home. He says that's up to INS.

Stokes and Riley eat Choozy's chicken as they and Langston try and figure out who killed Bob. Langston wonders how they can eat that stuff. She says it's the power of suggestion. Nick says he can't help himself. Langston looks at the photos and wonders if the room is the suspect. He says the whack Elizabeth/Rosa gave him might have been enough to upset his equilibrium, and with 20/80 vision without his glasses he would've been too blind to see the wet floor after dragging Gary's body out. He fell and killed himself. (Which we see). Langston wonders who to put on the suspect line in his paperwork. Stokes says there was no suspect, it was an accident.

Greg tells Catherine the prints inside the latex gloves from the trash were the wife's. As they reconstruct we see: The wife spiking her own wine with antihistamines, eating the toothpaste, climbing the fence and dumping the tubes, and cuffing herself to the bed and waiting to die, in an effort to frame her husband for her murder. Catherine wonders what a husband could do to make a wife hate him so much she'd be willing to frame him and die. Cut to the interrogation room and the husband saying they used to make a great team: she'd find a house, he'd handle the mortgage. But she got too friendly with the clients, who in turn got mad at them when the loans went bad and they were kicked out of their homes. The husband blamed the wife for getting buddy-buddy with them. The marriage then went belly up. He never thought she'd kill herself. She tried to kill him a few times when they couldn't afford to sell the house or get a divorce. He can't believe she set him up.

Robbins shows Langston down to a dingy old storage room in the morgue saying it can serve as his office until they find him something. Langston says it's perfect and he'll be right at home here.

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