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Ashes, Ashes is the fifteenth episode in Season Two of CSI: Vegas.

Csi vegas lg
Ashes, Ashes
Csi vegas
Season 2
Number 15
Writer Marisa Tam
Director Stephanie A. Marquardt
Original Airdate March 2, 2023
Navigation
Previous Episode: Third Time's the Charm
Next Episode: We All Fall Down

Synopsis[]

A silver ink note threatening Maxine Roby's life is found at the crime lab, sending the entire CSI team to crack who is behind the notes and how they connect to other murder cases.

Plot[]

Victim: Diane Auerbach (deceased)

On the case: Allie Rajan, Beau Finado, Catherine Willows, Joshua Folsom, Maxine Roby, Det. Serena Chavez

Recapping past cases, a string of murders have occurred, each being tied back to notes and postcards written in silver ink. The murders appear to be "for hire" murders, where the killer in question in each case has been blackmailed by the mastermind. While investigating a case, Catherine, Max and Penny gained access to a suspect's computer; the computer, however, was hacked into and the CSIs were caught on camera. One potential victim, Molly Tate, defended herself and handed over all blackmail information to Max. As it turns out, Molly's therapist was Dr. Diane Auerbach, and notes found with victims were printed from her printer. Dr. Auerbach is the prime suspect—until she's found hanging upside down from a cross-shaped flagpole.

A flashback shows Dr. Auerbach having a session with a young boy, who is focused on drawing pictures. The drawings are shown to be disturbing images of a figure hanging upside down and bleeding out. In the present, Allie stares at Dr. Auerbach's body and tells Max that she was certain the therapist was the mastermind behind everything. The killer was clearly holding Dr. Auerbach responsible for something that happened in the past.

Folsom looks at the body high off the ground and wonders how the killer got it up there; either the killer is very strong or extremely determined. Dr. Auerbach's time of death is put at 30 hours ago. This doesn't appear to make sense, as Allie and Det. Chavez saw someone leaving Dr. Auerbach's house the night before and driving away in a hurry. However, since nobody actually saw Dr. Auerbach, it seems that they were chasing her killer. Because the cabins in the area are mostly vacant during the week, witnesses will be hard to come by. This also means that the killer had all sorts of time and privacy to prepare the body. Det. Chavez recognizes the position of the body as a re-creation of "The Hanged Man," a tarot card. She explains that "The Hanged Man" is upside down, hanging by one ankle from a tree with his hands tied behind his back—very similar to Dr. Auerbach's position.

Allie leads Max to a nearby table, which contains four weapons—a bottle of potassium cyanide solution, a captive bolt pistol, a knife, and mirror shard. All four weapons were used in the connected cases. There's blood on the bolt pistol, but no fingerprints. Allie, however, does find fingerprints on the table; she recognizes a void in one of the prints and notes that it matches a healing cut on one of Dr. Auerbach's fingers. Based on the way the weapons are facing, Dr. Auerbach was seated at the table and forced to choose her method of death. She chose the quickest method—the bolt pistol. Allie wonders why there's no card left behind at the scene that reads "KEEP YOUR SECRETS. CULL THE ROTTEN FRUIT." The mastermind is soon shown typing up another card, only the second sentence now orders someone to kill Max.

Tests show that the bolt pistol was the only weapon used on Dr. Auerbach and that none of the weapons contain any fingerprints. The knife and the mirror shard were taken from the cabin, while the bottle of potassium cyanide and the bolt pistol are basically untraceable. After Dr. Auerbach's body is pulled down, Folsom relays that handcuffs around her ankle aren't law enforcement-issued. He also observed that there's a void on the crossbar that he can't explain. If someone hauled the body up with a rope and pulley, there would be voids on three sides; however, the void only exists on the top-most side. It's still unknown how the killer got the body up so high. The team questions whether the killer had help, possibly blackmailing an accomplice to assist.

In the lab, it's discovered that epithelial DNA from the ropes and handcuffs came back to a single donor—Dr. Auerbach. The killer used a rope that was just laying around, and paint on the handcuffs is from the flagpole. In other words, the team has no new leads. Beau and Penny dust everything from the cabin for prints, but only get partials. Penny has the idea to piece the partials together to form a usable print. While this won't hold up in court, it may help them get closer to finding the killer.

Because Allie is about the same size as Dr. Auerbach, Folsom attempts to lift her up with a pulley in an effort to mirror the killer's actions. This proves extremely difficult, and Allie ends up assisting with the body position herself. Since Dr. Auerbach wouldn't have willingly assisted in her own hanging, the conclusion is that she was dead when it occurred. Because of the difficulties they just endured, Allie and Folsom conclude that they're either looking for an accomplice or someone who is really strong.

Max and Det. Chavez meet with Dr. Auerbach's ex-husband, Bob, who has clearly spent a lot of his life in a gym. He recalls that Dr. Auerbach spent most of her career with disturbed children and would even treat them in her home office. Because she was serious about her privacy, Bob doesn't know any of the patients names. He explains away a domestic disturbance call from four years ago and provides an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of his ex-wife's death—he was, unsurprisingly, at the gym.

In autopsy, Sonya informs Max that Dr. Auerbach died upright, likely from a seated position. The killer turned her upside down after she had already died, but waited and didn't do so immediately. Sonya also points out an adhesive residue around the forehead wound. Based off the strength of the remaining residue, she guesses that it was contractor-grade duct tape, which the killer used to stop the bleeding until the stage was set. They're soon interrupted by a noise in the adjacent area. A figure dressed in dark clothing is spotted, and Sonya chases him out while alerting security. The mystery figure gets away, but not before leaving something behind for Max—a note with the same undecipherable scribbles they've seen before. Max concludes that they were just a few feet away from their killer.

Penny goes through surveillance footage and is able to find when the killer first entered the morgue and ran out of the building; his face is hidden the whole time. As for how the killer entered in the first place, Penny sees that he disguised himself as a delivery man. Unfortunately, the elevator he used has security cameras that are currently inoperable. There does appear to be one person who saw the killer—Max's son, Bryan, who was getting off the elevator at the same time the killer got on it. He gives a description to a sketch artist, but it seems to be of little help.

DNA on the note Max found belongs to a 92-year-old man with a record. Max theorizes to Det. Chavez that the killer used an envelope with the man's DNA on it. Along with Catherine, they visit the man's house. Det. Chavez relays that the man rents his house out, most recently to a "young, white guy" named "Mike Smith." They search the premises and spot a cable running from the main house to a guest house. The windows of the guest house are lined with the same scribbles from the postcards found in the other cases. Catherine and Max enter the killer's hideout, a white room with symbols written everywhere. When Max flips on the light switch to get a better look, sparks rain down from the sealing. Furniture in the room catches on fire, and the entire room is soon engulfed in flames. Catherine and Max are able to get out safely, but their evidence is literally going up in smoke.

Max hopes that the booby trap helps lead them to the person responsible, and she orders Catherine to collect everything in the room that looks like it could've come from the mechanism. While dusting for prints, Max activates the computer, which contains a screenshot of her, Catherine and Penny being recorded remotely. Allie, meanwhile, finds something even more disturbing—the note we saw earlier ordering someone to kill Max. Back in the lab, Max runs trace on the card herself, telling Folsom that it's part of the job. She believes that her name being on the card is totally off-pattern for the killer, meaning that the team is getting close and the killer is panicking.

Max later sits down with Bryan and tells him that they'll have to hide out for a little while until this all blows over. During the conversation, he shows her a drawing of the suspect's arm—he remembers seeing a scar on the arm when he passed by the killer in the elevator. Beau interrupts and shows her what he and Penny have accomplished; they've been able to "jigsaw" the partial prints from the scene and find three potential suspects. Under interrogation, two of the men say tell Folsom and Det. Chavez that they were hired as day laborers to help build a boat ramp, a job that was never completed. The man who hired them, Ted Hester, claimed that the woman who lived at the cabin went into a nursing home. After providing a questionable alibi for his whereabouts at the time of Dr. Auerbach's murder, Ted says that he recalls seeing a white pick-up truck with an extended cab on more than one occasion; the truck would drive off when someone spotted it. None of the three men have scars on their wrists, but Det. Chavez mentions that Bob Auerbach drives a pick-up truck that matches the description Ted just gave.

Folsom focuses on the boat ramp and realizes that one would need a hoist to bring the boat out of the water. He uses a motorized hoist and is able to lift Penny's body with very little trouble; their suspect may not be as strong as originally thought. Penny points out that there were no signs a pulley was used. Furthermore, a hoist like this would need to be pulled from above. There are no signs of a disturbance on the flagpole except for the void in the paint Folsom found earlier. Penny questions whether a motorized device was hooked up to something else, and Folsom realizes that they need to head back to the scene for another look.

Beau analyzes the components of the ignition device and the accelerant from the booby trap, but discovers that they're all common items a run-of-the-mill contractor could purchase at a hardware store. He believes there's more to the nonsensical scribbles they've been finding everywhere, and Catherine encourages him to get out of the lab and back into the field to assist. After all, he won't be able to help potentially save Max's life from the lab.

At the scene of the blaze, Allie, Beau and Catherine spray liquid latex on the walls. The process allows them to cut through the soot on the walls, as well as remove the top layer and see what's written underneath. What they reveal is a circular symbol of a snake eating it's own tail; the victims' names from past cases are written around the snake itself. Allie believes the drawing is a "wheel of death" and that they're looking at the killer's whole game plan. Back in the lab, Allie tells Max that the killer is playing a game where a player is assigned a target. Once the target is eliminated, the killer inherits the eliminated player's target as their next assignment (described as a game similar to "Assassin"). In this case, the "wheel" continues to roll until only one person remains and everyone else ends up dead.

Back at Dr. Auerbach's house, Folsom and Penny find no holes or disturbed earth in the backyard, which is odd since the rig used to hoist the body had to be anchored to something. Penny spots a metal post attached to the nearby dock; its base is rusted, but its top isn't. It appears that the top section of the post was scraped clean by something that sat on top of it, such as a boat winch. Folsom realizes that the killer used a hand crank to hoist Dr. Auerbach's body up the flagpole; therefore, no accomplice was needed. The angle between the post and the flagpole is still off, but Folsom spots a wind chime hanging from the tree. Upon inspecting the chime, he finds a green fiber embedded in one of the chain links. The angle of the chime matches up with the post, meaning that the killer fed the rope from the pole, through the wind chime, and up and over the flagpole.

A green bungee cord was collected from the scene earlier, meaning that the key piece of evidence was in the lab all along. Unfortunately, there appears to be nothing incriminating on the cord except for a few rope fibers. Max concludes that the rope the killer used wasn't long enough, so he used the bungee cord to assist in the hanging. She also realizes that a bungee cord exposes more surface area when it's stretched; therefore, the killer's DNA could've gotten caught somewhere, especially if he was sweating. The bungee cord is swabbed for DNA, but there are no results in CODIS. However, Max uses new research that expands what you can predict from a DNA assay. She determines that the killer is a male of average height who has heterochromia, or different colored eyes. Folsom realizes they've spoken to their suspect before, as Ted Hester has heterochromia.

Max and Bryan wait outside the interrogation room; the hope is that Bryan can positively identify Ted as the man he saw getting onto the elevator. However, upon seeing Ted, Bryan tells his mother that he saw someone else. In interrogation, Catherine and Det. Chavez reveal that Ted doesn't have a contractor's license, nor did he ever have one. Furthermore, the two day laborers who worked at the cabin didn't recognize Ted; he never worked there and played along to make the CSIs think he was supposed to be there. When told about the real-life game of "Assassin," Ted remarks that it sounds like a good plan—it "takes out the trash, does humanity a favor, and it keeps everyone's hands clean." However, he denies having any involvement in the murders. When told about the DNA on the bungee cord, he explains it away by saying that he touched the cord on a jobsite. Catherine accuses him of orchestrating the murders and coming after Max when the CSIs started closing in on him. Ted straightens up, gets serious, and asks if "Maxine" is watching him at that moment; he knows what Max is short for and clearly knows more than he's letting on.

The team goes to Ted's house to gather more evidence. Folsom finds a deck of tarot cards; the topmost card is "The Hanged Man." Meanwhile, Allie comes across a box of childlike drawings that are identical to the ones the young boy was drawing for Dr. Auerbach at the beginning of the episode. This disturbs Allie, and she goes outside to get some air. In the backyard, she sees that one garden plot is flourishing, while the other two plots adjacent to it are dead. Her belief is that there's a body buried under the dirt of the flourishing plot, explaining to Folsom that nitrogen from decaying tissue can cause increased chlorophyll production in plants growing over a shallow grave. Sure enough, she unearths some bones. Soon thereafter, an entire skeleton is excavated; the assumption is that it's Ted's grandmother, who had reportedly moved to Sarasota.

In interrogation, Ted tells Allie and Max that his grandmother was the one who sent him to Dr. Auerbach in the first place, likely after seeing the disturbing drawings. He says that therapy helped him control his urges for a while, then admits to killing his grandmother with a simple knock to the head. When asked why he would do such a thing, he has a simple answer: "Why not?" Ted then explains that Dr. Auerbach was supposed to fix him, but clearly failed. He claims that he decided to kill Dr. Auerbach now because the CSIs were investigating her and getting too close. This caused her to start thinking, and she called Ted under the suspicion that he was behind the murders. Ted confirms that he was the one Allie and Det. Chavez encountered in Dr. Auerbach's house; he was there to clean up everything that pertained to him. A flashback shows him forcing Dr. Auerbach to choose her method of death. He then staged the scene to mirror the fantasies he's been having since he was young.

Ted goes on to explain that "death lives inside of him" and that he's using it to make the world a better place (or "cull the rotten fruit"). He believes that his way is better than what any therapist could come up with. The plan was to find people like him and use the death inside of them to solve the problem. This set the wheel rolling, with one person killing another until there would only be one person left. Ted claims that people like Richard Sloan and Alan Herskowitz killed with just a tiny push; death was inside of them all along. When asked about the other victims that weren't pushed as hard, Ted claims that he's not perfect; however, nobody is going to miss them.

Catherine, who is watching the interrogation from the observation room, believes that they're still missing something. Max shows Ted the postcards with the silver ink scribbles on them. Ted denies having any knowledge of the work and claims that he doesn't know what the symbols mean. He tells Allie and Max that he's not the man from the elevator, nor does he have anything to do with the white room or the scribbles; however, it's the work of his "MVP." His goal was to find potential serial killers, something that he accomplished. He says that his accomplice is out there still playing the game and that he's going to win by a landslide.

It's confirmed that Ted is telling the truth, as DNA recovered from the white room isn't his. Ted tells Max that his plan of taking out the last man himself has been compromised; therefore, he gave his best player a real challenge. Folsom is then shown examining computer in Ted's house; it contains notes instructing the "MVP" to kill every CSI. Curiously, each CSI's full name is typed out (ex: "Ahalya Rajan" instead of "Allie"). Back in interrogation, Ted explains that everyone is now a part of the game. "May the best man win," he says with a wry smile.

Molly Tate is then shown getting dragged out of her house, while the broken fish tanks in her living room have spilled water and dead fish onto the floor.

Cast[]

Main Cast[]

  • Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby
  • Matt Lauria as Joshua Folsom
  • Mandeep Dhillon as Allie Rajan
  • Ariana Guerra as Det. Serena Chavez
  • Jay Lee as Chris Park (credited only)
  • Lex Medlin as Beau Finado
  • Marg Helgenberger as Catherine Willows

Guest Cast[]

  • Sarah Gilman as Penny Gill
  • Kathleen Wilhoite as Dr. Diane Auerbach
  • Luke Tennie as Bryan Roby
  • Sara Amini as Sonya Nikolayevich
  • Stephen Friedrich as Ted Hester
  • Eric Allan Kramer as Bob Auerbach
  • Bryan Michael Nunez as Diego Montoya
  • Adrian Favela as Juan Carlos Estrada

Episode Title[]

  • "Ashes, Ashes" is part of the nursery rhyme "Ring Around the Rosie", with the following episode continuing the line "We All Fall Down".

Notes[]

  • Jay Lee (Chris) is credited but does not appear in the episode.
  • Allie's full first name is revealed to be Ahalya, while Penny's full first name is shown to be Penelope.

See Also[]

  • Category:Images from Ashes, Ashes
CSI:Vegas Season 2
She's GoneThe Painted ManStory of a GunKoalaIn Harm's WayThere's the RubBurnedGrace NoteIn the White RoomEyeballsTrinketWhen the Dust SettlesBonedThird Time's the CharmAshes, AshesWe All Fall DownThe Promise


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