Big Middle
Big Middle
Season 5
Number 16
Writer Dustin Lee Abraham,
Judith McCreary,
Naren Shankar
Director Kenneth Fink
Original Airdate February 24, 2005
Previous Episode: King Baby
Next Episode: Compulsion

Big Middle is the sixteenth episode in Season Five of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Grissom and his team are looking for a murderer at a convention for plus-sized people. Catherine and her team investigate the world of sports betting when a man is found dead in the woods.


Victim: Kelvin Russell (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Warrick Brown, Jim Brass

A dead body lies in Rainbow Canyon with its face blown off and a hole in its chest. Various animals come and pick away at the body until it's found and processed. Grissom takes photos of the body and, based on the insect activity, states that the body has been there at least two weeks. He also finds buckshot in the victim's chest wound. The victim's pockets are empty; there's no wallet or any form of ID. Catherine arrives at the scene surprised to see Grissom there; he tells her that he's documenting the body, then leaving. She spots a ring on the victim's hand; it's from the Las Vegas Greenbacks, a team from the AFFA football league that folded 20 years ago. Based on the fact that the shotgun pellets are in a tight grouping, Catherine guesses that the victim was shot at a very close range.

Catherine and Nick find shot cups and shell casings, which are out of the ordinary for a close-range shooting. After Nick digs a bullet out of a tree, Catherine concludes that the victim was being chased. A flashback shows the shooter trying to hit the victim several times and missing. The victim then tripped, making himself an easy target. They take a walk to see where the chase started and come across a beaver dam. Nick finds a $100 bill tangled in the twigs; when he looks in the dam, he sees several more bills, most of which are $50s.

The dam is brought into the lab, where Catherine has techs remove the money and double-count it. Warrick tells her that he thinks he has an ID on the ring the victim was wearing. Since the AFFA league wasn't in existence very long, only one person wore #12 for the Greenbacks—a wide receiver named Gabe Miller.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins concludes that, based on the minimal hemorrhaging around the head wound, the victim's heart was hit first. Nick believes that the striae on the bullet indicate that the shooter used a sawed-off shotgun, leaving a burr on the edge of the barrel during the sawing. The shot cup then scraped up against the burr when a shot was fired, leaving a distinctive mark. When Nick mentions that the name of the victim is Gabe Miller, the doc laughs and says that it's the same name as the new councilman that was just elected. The councilman also happened to play football for the Greenbacks when he was younger. Nick mentions that they found Gabe's ring on the victim's finger, leading the doc to conclude that the victim was misidentified because Gabe Miller is alive and well.

Gabe confirms to Brass that the ring found on the victim's finger used to belong to him. He admits that when he played football, every dollar he made went to drugs or betting on dog racing. That life is in the past, he says, and he has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. He shows Brass the pawn ticket for the ring, saying that he used the money for betting. Brass tells Gabe that he can file a claim and get the ring back anytime he wants; however, he tells Brass that he doesn't need trophies anymore.

Nick and Warrick go over the cash found in the dam. There's roughly $25,000 present along with money bands from five different casinos. Two betting stubs were also recovered for $5,000 each on college basketball games. Based on the money bands, Warrick guesses that the victim was a classic "runner," placing bets at the various casinos. Brass interrupts and tells them that he was able to track down the ring from pawnshop records. The ring was purchased by Kelvin Russell, an employee of the Vegas Sports Line (VSL), a company that sets the spread for almost every book in Vegas. Brass adds that, as an employee of VSL, Kelvin would be legally prohibited from sports gambling.

Warrick and Brass visit Mitch Urbana, the man in charge at VSL. They inform Mitch that Kelvin is dead and they're going to need statements from everybody. Mitch has them start with Scott Kerwin, since Scott knew Mitch best. When questioned, Scott denies this, telling Warrick and Brass that he was the only one that would talk to Kelvin. Kelvin was new around the office, but he was incredibly cocky, rubbing his victories in everyone's faces. While being questioned, Scott keeps squinting and rubbing his nose; he tells Warrick that he's on medication for his Tourette's. Scott says that the last time he saw Kelvin, he was coming into the office to gloat to everyone about being correct about the spread of the Duke-Louisville game. He left shortly afterwards.

At the Orleans casino, Warrick speaks with the sportsbook manager. Based on the time stamp on the betting stubs, the manager identifies the bettor as Lou Barnes, a local runner. She explains to Warrick that the minute the Duke-Louisville line was open, everyone got in line to bet on Duke to win by at least 15 points. The betting line fluctuated throughout the week and caused the sportsbook to lose over $1 million on the game; however, there were no indications that the game was fixed. Warrick asks for a printout of the line movements.

Later, Catherine meets up with Warrick, who is still looking over the printout. He tells her that these are some of the craziest line moves he's ever seen. The line on the Duke-Louisville game opened with Duke being favored by 15 points. As bettors placed their money on Duke, the line went all the way up to 25 points. However, by the end of the week, money started being bet on the underdog, Louisville. Catherine wonders why someone would bet on both teams and Warrick shows her why. Kevin Russell had made Lou Barnes bet Duke -17 (they had to win by at least 17) and Louisville +23 (they had to lose by less than 23). Louisville lost by 22 points, meaning that Kelvin won both bets. Warrick explains that all of the betting action created a "big middle," allowing him to win on both sides. He guesses that Kelvin sold VSL's numbers and got killed for it.

Lou Barnes is brought in for a short round of questioning; while Brass talks to him, Lou loses consciousness, falls off his chair, and hits the floor. In the hospital, a surgeon gives Nick the buckshot she removed from Lou and tells him that Lou is lucky to be alive, as the bullet was in his body for at least a week. Nick and Brass figure that Kelvin knew the lines were going to move on the game, but couldn't bet on it because of his job. Therefore, he hired Lou to place the bets. Both men cashed in on the game, which angered someone. A flashback shows the mystery shooter killing Kelvin and pursuing Lou through the woods and shooting at him. Lou dropped a bag of money in the river and continued running, while the shooter stopped to pick up what was dropped. Nick and Brass now know they're looking for a third person. Brass yells at Lou, waking him up. He asks him who shot him, but Lou replies that he wants a lawyer.

An abandoned vehicle is found on the side of a road; the registration belongs to Mitch Urbana. Warrick meets Brass at the scene and the two pop the trunk. There's nothing inside except for some metal shavings. A flashback shows Mitch sawing off the barrel of a shotgun and the shavings falling into the trunk. Test results show that the shavings are high carbon steel mixed with chrome, which is consistent with a shotgun barrel.

Mitch is brought in for questioning. He tells Brass that he only reported his car stolen and that the person who stole it must have left the shavings in the trunk. Brass asks him about Kelvin, and Mitch says that Kelvin was all mouth. Oddsmaking, Mitch adds, is part art and part science. He goes into a story about what he does and how he looks at every detail to come up with the final line on a game before it's sent to the sportsbooks. Seeing his hard work in lights up on the boards gives him satisfaction. Brass says that Kelvin nailed the Duke-Louisville game and made Mitch look bad. For someone with an ego as big as Mitch's, this would be motivation for murder. Mitch tells Brass to prove it.

While watching a basketball game with Catherine, Warrick gets a call from the sportsbook manager; someone filed a claim for the lost betting tickets that were found in the dam. That person is Cesar Dabo, who lives near Rainbow Canyon. He was a professional boxer for seven years before retiring and working various jobs in Vegas. As a boxer, Cesar's biggest fight was against Archie Archman, resulting in a split decision; the only judge who called the fight in Cesar's favor was Mitch Urbana. A flashback shows the interior of Mitch's meeting room adorned with a giant poster promoting a boxing match involving Cesar. Catherine and Warrick guess that Mitch hired Cesar to do his dirty work for him.

Police barge into Cesar's apartment while he and a female companion are doing drugs. He's handcuffed and questioned by Warrick and Brass outside of the apartment. Cesar tells them that nobody paid him to kill Kelvin and Lou, only that Mitch told him what Kelvin was doing and asked him to follow Kelvin. He says that he used Mitch's car because his car was out of commission. A flashback shows Kelvin and Lou celebrating their winnings while Cesar watched them from the car. Cesar admits to bringing them out to Rainbow Canyon and killing them because they were bringing in money and making Mitch look bad. He says, however, that he did this all on his own and that the job wasn't a hit. Cesar adds that he took the money and called Mitch to tell him what happened, threatening to kill Mitch if he told anyone. Warrick asks Cesar why he didn't take the ring on Kelvin's finger. Cesar replies that he thought it was a Super Bowl ring and was bummed when he saw it was an AFFA ring instead.

Victim: Maurice Hudson (deceased)

On the case: Gil Grissom, Greg Sanders, Sara Sidle, Louis Vartann

The body of Maurice Hudson lies face up on a bed in a hotel room at the Tangiers. Det. Vartann hands Grissom and Greg a plastic bag containing Maurice's credit cards along with $14,000 in cash. W-2 forms on a nearby table indicate that Maurice was a gambler and had won, and a printed name tag nearby means that he was possibly in town for a convention. Grissom has Greg assess the scene. Greg finds signs that the body has been in the same position for a while and that Maurice died from lack of oxygen. Grissom silently removes a purple fiber from right above the victim's mouth; however, there's nothing purple in the room. He also notices a table against the far wall that has a crack in the top of it. Grissom walks over to get a closer look and sees evidence of semen around the drawer handle. Greg confirms that there's semen on the bedsheets, as well.

In the lab, Sara processes the sheets and cuts out the semen-stained areas. Meanwhile, Greg goes through the casino surveillance footage and never sees any evidence that Maurice was with anybody. Sara says that there was an unusually large sweat stain on the bedsheet, meaning Maurice was with someone at some point. Surveillance shows Maurice always alone with no cell phone, and no calls were made out of his room. So, who was he with? Elsewhere, in autopsy, Doc Robbins finds evidence that Maurice died from compression asphyxia and that there was something on top of him for eight to ten hours. However, there was nothing on top of the body when CSI arrived at the crime scene.

David Hodges identifies the purple fiber as acid-washed, dyed, tussar silk. The color is unique, as it's not found in either the lab database or the feds'. Meanwhile, Vartann informs Grissom and Greg that there was only one convention going on at the Tangiers that weekend—the APAPSP, or the "Association to Promote Acceptance of Plus-Size People." They pass a woman on the escalator wearing the same type of name tag that was found in Maurice's hotel room. Outside, Grissom and Greg wonder if the heavy object on top of Maurice was a person. Grissom shows Maurice's photo to various convention attendees, while Greg speaks to the woman at the registration desk. One of the women Grissom questions is wearing a purple undergarment consistent with the fiber they found; she tells him that she bought the item at the convention. Inside, the woman at the registration desk, Brenda Morgan, recognizes the photo of Maurice that Greg shows her. She doesn't believe Maurice was with anyone, but she has Greg check the nearby message board.

Greg talks to Jill Paisley, the woman in charge of the message board. She hands him the messages that were left for Maurice and tells him she knew Maurice well enough to keep her distance. It seems that Maurice liked having sex with large women but didn't like being seen with them. Jill adds that Maurice was playing message tag with Regina Owens, a vendor at the convention that sells intimates. Grissom wanders through the vendors and finds Regina at the intimates table. He spots a purple nightie that Regina confirms is made from 100% silk. She tells him that she's sold 19 nighties altogether and is wearing another one of them at that very moment. Grissom asks her for copies of her customer receipts.

Several women from the convention are brought to the station for questioning and a DNA sample. Officers crack jokes at their expense, which Sara condemns; she apologizes to the women. Sara tells them that, during their investigation into Maurice's homicide, they have recovered evidence consistent with the custom-made lingerie that the women own. DNA evidence at the crime scene also indicates that Maurice had sex with two different women. Sara wants to collect DNA from everyone to rule them out as suspects, but they all initially refuse. Jill Paisley finally relents, saying she doesn't want to spend any more time in the police station and make her humiliation any more public than it already is.

In two separate interrogation rooms, Sara interrogates Brenda Morgan, while Grissom questions Regina Owens. Regina admits to going up to Maurice's room and having sex with him at around 7:00 PM. Brenda also admits to sleeping with Maurice, but is distraught at the fact that he wouldn't even ride the elevator up with her. She tearfully admits that she had been rejected for all of her life, but Maurice leaving a note in her slot on the message wall made her feel sexy and wanted. Brenda admits to seeing another woman leave the room when she got there, but went through with sleeping with Maurice anyway because she doesn't get that many chances. After the deed was done, she felt angry at herself for letting Maurice take advantage of her. She admits to Sara that she waited for Maurice to fall asleep and smothered him with a pillow.

Sara tells Grissom that Brenda's story doesn't line up with the evidence—the cause of death was compressed asphyxia. Brenda has admitted guilt, but is clearly hiding something. In the A/V lab, Greg shows Sara the elevator security footage. The video shows Brenda leaving the elevator at the same time Regina got into it. Brenda is next seen getting into the elevator the next morning, meaning that she spent the night with Maurice. Since the time of death was between 9:00 PM and midnight, it seems that Brenda slept with a dead guy. Sara sees something and has Greg back up the tape. The video shows Brenda in the elevator just before she left it to go to Maurice's room; in it, she seems to be drunk, as she's using her hand to steady herself. Greg asks how drunk you need to be sleep next to a dead body, but Sara wonders if Brenda passed out on top of Maurice.

Grissom, Greg and Sara run an experiment, with Greg playing the part of Maurice. A weighted dummy is placed on top of him until he has trouble breathing. It's determined that it would take 280 pounds for this to occur, and Sara notes that Brenda is just shy of 300 pounds. Brenda is questioned again, and Sara tells her that there was enough sweat on the sheets to run a tox panel. Sara notes that Brenda had been drinking and was on medication, adding that it wouldn't take a lot of alcohol to cause her to pass out. She guesses that Maurice's death was an accident. Brenda tearfully admits to passing out on top of Maurice and finding him dead when she woke up. She tells Sara that she would rather admit to murder and go to jail than be a comedian's punchline.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Episode Title[]

  • "The Big Middle" refers to both of the cases in this episode. It references the death of a man at a convention for plus-sized people, as well as the murder of a man who had recently won a large sum of money by betting on "the middle". Betting on the middle occurs when you bet on both sides of a sports game and have a chance to win both bets.


  • I'm Every Woman by Whitney Houston


  • Grissom tells Greg that what he finds attractive is someone who doesn't judge him. 


  • The sports book manager is played by Melora Hardin, who had a recurring role as Jan Levinson in NBC's The Office and also appeared in the films 27 Dresses, 17 Again, and Hannah Montana: The Movie.
  • The Arizona State University point shaving scandal is mentioned. This was a real-life event that occurred in 1994 when Benny Silman bribed two players on the ASU basketball team to shave points in four end-of-season games. Silman served just under four years in federal prison after pleading guilty to fixing the games in exchange for money from gamblers. A total of $568,000 was wagered by professional sports handicappers on the approval of Silman.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 5
Viva Las VegasDown the DrainHarvestCrow's FeetSwap MeetWhat's Eating Gilbert Grissom?FormalitiesCh-Ch-ChangesMea CulpaNo Humans InvolvedWho Shot Sherlock?SnakesNesting DollsUnbearableKing BabyBig MiddleCompulsionSpark of Life4 x 4Hollywood BrassCommittedWeeping WillowsIcedGrave Danger, Part 1Grave Danger, Part 2