Brain Doe
Brain Doe
Season 12
Number 7
Writer Gavin Harris
Director Brad Tanenbaum
Original Airdate November 9, 2011
Previous Episode: Freaks & Geeks
Next Episode: Crime After Crime

Brain Doe is the seventh episode in Season Twelve of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


The CSI team is called to investigate a car crash where they find three casualties and a human brain that doesn't belong to any of the victims. Meanwhile, Russell's son is in trouble at school.


Victims: Danny Clegg, James Marshall, and unnamed truck driver (all deceased)

On the case: entire team

A convertible rolls through a Tasty Time drive-through, and it looks like no one is behind the wheel. It continues rolling into the street, causing an accident with a Jeep and a truck that claims three lives. The man in the convertible is dead, the man driving the Jeep was ejected from the car and died, and the man driving the truck had his throat slit during the accident. Russell notices a problem when he finds a brain that doesn’t belong to one of their victims resting among the tires that fell from the truck.

The registered owner of the convertible, Danny Clegg, had a long rap sheet attached to his name; he was also the one transporting the brain in a cooler. Sara finds oxycodone pills in the car, and there’s yellow powder on a crowbar in a gym bag. They don’t find the body that goes with the brain in the trunk, but they do find a football with the number 17 on it. Nick notes that Danny ordered a number 17 at the drive-thru.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins finds several oxycodone pills in Danny's stomach along with some chicken nuggets ingested two to four hours before death. There are also track marks on his arms. The doc labels the cause of death as a drug overdose; Danny collapsed in the front seat of his car before rolling out into traffic. An analysis of the mystery brain reveals that it belongs to a male, as its weight is on the heavier side. Evidence suggests that the brain was extracted less than 24 hours ago, was skillfully removed, and wasn't being used as a research specimen (due to not being stored in formaldehyde). Brass informs Russell that only two brains have been transported in the last 24 hours and both reached their destinations safely.

Catherine heads out to a mortuary after they get a call that a man’s brain has been stolen. Lt. Theodore Seligson was Jewish, so he wasn't embalmed, as it's considered desecration. There's a yellow powder and crow bar marks on the door; furthermore, a shoe print matching Danny's is on the ground next to the body, offering further proof that Danny broke in and stole Lt. Seligson's brain. However, DNA results show the brain Danny was transporting when he died doesn't belong to the dead soldier—Lt. Seligson's brain is still missing.

Danny's employment records show that one of the odd jobs he held was grave-shift body pickup for mortuaries across town. The team narrows down the timeline of Danny's night, knowing that he was at the mortuary after 10:00 PM and at Tasty Time at 3:00 AM when he died. Somewhere in between, he swapped brains with someone. Morgan remembers that Danny had partially digested chicken nuggets in his stomach and figures that he stopped at another Tasty Time before reaching his final destination.

Surveillance from one of the 22 Tasty Times in the Vegas area shows Danny meeting up with someone else and swapping brains with them. The driver of the other car is identified as Dr. Hanson Eller, a pathologist from Seneca. Sara remembers that one of the brains being transported—belonging to a Ryan Dempsey—was being transported from Seneca and, sure enough, Dr. Eller is the one who signed Ryan's death certificate.

Russell questions Ryan's widow, Joyce. She explains that Ryan, a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, believed he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease. About a year ago, Ryan started to lose his memory, and he would physically take his frustrations out on Joyce and their son, Declan. She tells Russell that she and Declan found Ryan's body after they had been out hiking. Upon finding the body, she called Ryan's trainer, Bill Pernin. The assumption is that Bill then called Dr. Eller, who is the one responsible for removing Ryan's brain. Meanwhile, in the hallway, Brass talks to Declan. He can see that the quiet boy is a victim of abuse, and Russell soon relays that Joyce showed similar injuries.

Brass gets a call notifying him that Dr. Eller's car has been found. The doctor is found in his car with a single gunshot wound to his left temple. Based on the angle of the entry, Nick concludes that someone pulled up next to Dr. Eller in another car and fired. He finds a 9mm shell casing near the rear tire.

Dr. Eller delivered his brain to the hospital under Ryan's name; however, DNA confirms that the brain was actually Lt. Seligson's. A closer look at Lt. Seligson's brain shows that it was butchered at the brain stem and not cut cleanly like Ryan's was. The conclusion is that someone needed a brain in a hurry, broke into the mortuary, and stole Lt. Seligson's. Ryan wished to donate his brain to science following his death, but Danny broke in and swapped it out so it couldn't be studied. Since Lt. Seligson's brain was fresh, the hospital couldn't tell the difference between the two and would conclude that there was no brain disease. Someone didn't want the truth about Ryan's CTE to come out.

The yellow powder in Danny's gym bag and on the floor in the mortuary is a type of high-end talcum powder used at gyms—including Bill Pernin’s Power Center, where Ryan learned to fight in the MMA along with Danny before Danny was kicked out of the league for using drugs. Sara remembers that Bill is a family friend of the Dempseys and was the one Joyce called after Ryan's death. Bill has an energy drink that he's trying to market, and the team realizes that it would look bad for him if one of his fighters was diagnosed with CTE. Greg and Sara question Bill, who is surprised that Danny and Dr. Eller are also dead. He says that he last saw Danny a few months ago and claims his innocence in the ongoing case.

A check on domestic violence calls made by the Dempseys comes up empty. However, Brass shows Russell photos from Ryan's suicide, and both men notice a lack of gunshot residue on Ryan's shirt. This means the gun had to have been at least three feet away, leading to the conclusion that Ryan was actually murdered.

Russell goes over the findings so far with Nick and Sara. He questions what would happen if Ryan's brain was studied and found to have CTE. It would be bad for Bill, but would it be enough to kill for? Nick wonders if there's something else going on, and notes that Danny overdosed on drugs, including DMT, a painkiller. From this, there's reason to believe that Bill was doping his fighters, which would give him motive for murder in order to keep his fighters quiet.

Hodges tests Ryan's brain and finds that it also contains DMT. Sara and Brass interrogate Bill, revealing that he called the Dempsey house consistently over the last four months—when Ryan was at the gym. The quick conclusion is that he was having an affair with Joyce. Ryan found out and attacked her, which led her to shooting him in self-defense. Phone records also show that Joyce called Bill after the murder, and he called Dr. Eller two hours after that. This allowed the two of them time to clean up the scene and get their stories straight. Bill clams up and asks for a lawyer.

Nick and Russell are still confused about the football in Danny's trunk, and they ponder the significance of the number 17—right before he died, Danny ordered a number 17 triple cheeseburger from the Tasty Time menu even though he always bought chicken nuggets. They know that Danny never played football, but Ryan did, and they wonder if the ball belonged to him. Russell notes that Danny was driving around with his old friend's brain and game ball. Since there's a police station two blocks away from the Tasty Time, Russell guesses that Danny was planning on going there to bust Bill for drugs, but he died before he could do so. Curious about what secrets the ball might be hiding, Nick cuts it open and finds syringes inside with Bill's fingerprints on them. This enables the team to get a warrant to search Bill's house, where they find a gun. Ballistics proves that it was the gun that killed Dr. Eller, and Bill is arrested.

Bill is easily tied to Dr. Eller's murder, but he refuses to flip on Joyce. Brass talks with Declan Dempsey again, encouraging him to remember the good times he had with his father. Declan insists that there were never any good times and that his parents were always fighting. He recalls that his father was choking his mother and screaming at her. Brass warns Declan not to say another word, but Declan admits that he's the one who killed his father—and that he's never felt better.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Major Events[]

  • Sheriff Sherry Liston visits Catherine and tells her that she recommended her for a job in Washington, D.C. This helps lead to Catherine's eventual departure from the lab.


  • Look Around by Red Hot Chili Peppers


  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE) is more popularly known as Pugilistic Dementia (or dementia pugilistica) and affects mainly athletes of sports known for brute force (also called contact sports), such as football, professional wrestling, boxing, rugby, ice hockey, association football (soccer), and in the case of Ryan Dempsey (one of the victims of the episode), Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
  • Robyn Lively, who played Joyce Dempsey, is perhaps most recognized for her role in the mystery-horror drama series Twin Peaks.
  • Erik Audé, who played Ryan Dempsey, is famously known for being mistakenly arrested in 2002 in Pakistan for transporting opium (he believed he was transporting leather shirts and jackets) and for the famous international court battle led by several American news sites that ensued to free him (a fact which only occurred in 2004).

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 12
73 SecondsTell-Tale HeartsBittersweetMaid ManCSI DownFreaks & GeeksBrain DoeCrime After CrimeZipperedGenetic DisorderMs. Willows RegretsWillows in the WindTressed to KillSeeing RedStealing HomeCSI UnpluggedTrends with BenefitsMalice in WonderlandSplit DecisionsAltered StakesDune and GloomHomecoming