CSI Unplugged
Season 12
Number 16
Writer Gavin Harris
Director Jeffrey Hunt
Original Airdate February 29, 2012
Previous Episode: Stealing Home
Next Episode: Trends with Benefits

CSI Unplugged is the sixteenth episode in Season Twelve of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


The crime lab is forced to go low-tech in the search of a kidnapped five-year-old boy when a storm puts Las Vegas in a city-wide blackout.


Victims: Harper Riordan and Shelby Buress (both missing)

On the case: entire team

Five-year-old Harper Riordan is kidnapped from his second-floor bedroom in the middle of a thunderstorm. His nanny, Shelby Buress, is also missing. Finn and Russell arrive on the scene, noting that an hour has already elapsed since the boy's father called 911. In the bedroom, they find blood spatter on the bed sheets and on the ceiling. Finn finds a bloody fingerprint on the headboard that doesn't belong to Harper. She also finds metal particles in the bed, possible transfer from the kidnapper. Finn sends the bloody fingerprint to Morgan in the lab; however, before she can run it, the power goes out. The storm has blown out three generating stations, and half the state is without power. Finding the missing boy alive just became much more difficult.

Hodges and Henry end up trapped in the police station's elevator with the metal trace evidence, while Morgan tells Russell that the lab is now unable to use AFIS, CODIS, or IBIS. The team will have to solve the case the old-fashioned way. Back in the bedroom, Finn collects some white trace from the bedframe, but it clearly won't be processed for a while. Russell notes that there's no ladder or tree outside that would give the kidnapper easy access to the bedroom, meaning the kidnapper was already in the house. A void in the blood on the floor indicates that there used to be a rug there. The CSIs figure the kidnapper rolled Harper up in the rug and left, which would explain why there's no blood trail leading from the bedroom.

Downstairs, Sara finds no signs of a break-in, indicating a possible inside job. Nick spots blood drops on a table with a blood trail on the floor that leads to the back door. The boy's father, T.C. Riordan, provides a list of his staff and informs Finn and Russell that his wife died five years ago. He tells the CSIs that he didn't hear any intruders in the house, as he was asleep in the den. T.C. doesn't know his son's blood type, but recalls that Harper cut himself recently and that his Band-Aid may still be in the trash.

In the lab, Greg and Morgan perform ABO blood typing, a manual way of grouping blood by type based on the presence or absence of certain markers on the surface of red blood cells. Greg finds that Harper's blood type is O, which takes Morgan by surprise. Back the house, Finn expresses her doubt regarding T.C.'s innocence, as there haven't been any ransom demands from the kidnapper. Russell advises her to not get ahead of the evidence.

The blood trail Nick and Sara have been following goes cold, as the rain probably washed the blood away. They come across a model of the planet Saturn, which was missing from the solar system model in Harper's room. Nearby, they find the rug that was used to transport the body; it has a large blood stain on it. When the rug is unrolled, Shelby's body is discovered. She's been stabbed to death, and the murder weapon and knife have been placed on the body along with a note written in blood that reads "WE HAVE HARPER."

Doc Robbins is unable to perform a full autopsy without light, but determines that Shelby was stabbed four times, twice each in the chest and upper back. The width of the wounds appears to be consistent with the knife found at the scene. There's also an abrasion on Shelby's lip, which could've come from the kidnapper clamping their hand over her mouth. This would suggest a sequence—Shelby was killed first, then Harper was kidnapped. Sara believes that they could be looking for more than one kidnapper.

Morgan runs the white trace collected earlier, but is unable to identify it from a narcotics test. Greg suggests that she runs a crystal test and leads her to an old microscope the lab has locked away. Meanwhile, Hodges and Henry are still trapped in the elevator, as their would-be rescuers are trapped themselves in another location. Russell advises them to find any way they can to get the metal trace evidence to the lab for processing.

Morgan runs the crystal test and finds that the white substance is ketamine, which can be used as an anesthetic. Ketamine was also found in T.C.'s medicine cabinet. Greg processes the knife and finds blood from two contributors—Shelby's blood type (AB) is on the blade, while T.C.'s blood type (O) is on the knife's handle. This would suggest that T.C. was holding the knife.

T.C. is brought to the station for questioning. It's revealed that his wife Natalie, died under suspicious circumstances by drowning in their pool. The prevailing thought seems to be that he murdered his wife, and Brass believes he did the same thing to Shelby. It's also revealed that Shelby is actually Harper's birth mother. Brass puts forth a new theory—T.C.'s wife found out about his affair with Shelby, and T.C. killed her in order to avoid a divorce and keep his money. The same thing has now happened to Shelby. T.C. identifies the bloody knife as his, saying that his blood on it is from an offering to the dead. He explains that he made the offering during a séance in an effort to communicate with his dead wife. Those present at the séance were T.C., his mother-in-law Patricia, Shelby, and Karen, the medium. Russell is bewildered at the fact that T.C. would keep this a secret while everyone searches for his missing son.

Nick finds a fingerprint on the kidnapper's note. He and Sara manually compare the fingerprints from the note and headboard to T.C., but find that they're not a match. No prints are found on the bloody knife, either, but Finn and Brass are still convinced that T.C. is involved in some way. Just then, the kidnapper calls T.C.'s cell phone with ransom demands. T.C. is able to get proof of life and is told to bring all the jewels from his safe to the Palermo parking garage by 8:00 A.M., where he will meet a guy wearing a red hat.

T.C. reveals that he keeps $2 million worth of jewelry in the safe, most of which belonged to Natalie. He adds that his mother-in-law also knows about the jewelry. Russell speaks to Patricia, who confirms that they were at a séance the night of the kidnapping. When asked how she can still be close to the guy who supposedly murdered her daughter, Patricia explains that she withdrew a wrongful death suit against him after Natalie spoke to her through Karen.

Brass questions Karen, who says that she left the Rierdon house with Patricia a little after 10:00 PM. Her belief is that T.C. didn't go to bed after they left, as he had become agitated during the séance. A flashback shows Natalie speaking to T.C. through Karen and accusing T.C. of betraying her again. When T.C. got called out for grieving out of selfishness, he ended the séance and sent everyone home.

Nick and Brass sit in wait at the Palermo parking garage while T.C. waits for the man in the red hat to show up. The man emerges from a nearby car and escorts T.C. into a van. As the van drives away, Nick sees that the back window is missing. He runs over to the parking garage ledge and sees that someone jumped out of the van with a harness and landed on the ground below. The van is stopped by the police, and T.C. emerges from it wearing the jacket and hat the kidnapper was wearing. T.C. says that he was given the address where his son is being held and that the police presence just got him killed.

Nick and Brass hear gunshots near the parking garage and race to the scene. There, they find a car's driver dead with two gunshots to the chest. Nick recognizes the man as the one T.C. was meeting in the parking garage. The briefcase full of jewels is still in the car, but Harper is nowhere to be found. It seems that the victim had an accomplice who left without being paid.

The victim is identified as Trevor Raymond, and the address he gave to T.C. turns out to be bogus. His prints match the ones found in Harper's bedroom and on the ransom note, confirming him as one of the kidnappers. Trevor wasn't on the list of T.C.'s employees, meaning the team is still looking for an insider. Sara provides photos of the jewelry from before the exchange and compares it with what they have now. There's only one item missing—a wedding ring they assume belongs to Natalie. Greg informs the team that the blood types for Harper and Shelby aren't compatible, meaning that she isn't his birth mother.

Russell speaks with T.C. privately, concluding that Shelby was a surrogate and T.C. didn't have an affair. T.C. prefers to keep his past private, but Russell has him open up, telling him that the ring is important to the person who kidnapped his son. T.C. says that the ring is the reason his wife died, as they had a drunken fight and she threw it in the pool. When she went to retrieve the ring later in the night, she drowned accidentally.

Finn believes that the insider is Natalie's mother, Patricia. She was in the house that night, knew about the jewelry, and likely knew that Harper is her grandson. Therefore, Harper should be living with her and not her daughter's murderer. Kidnapping the boy and killing his nanny would likely make T.C. the prime suspect thanks to his history.

A search of Trevor's house turns up a receipt for a $10,000 wire transfer—signed by Natalie Rierdon. The metal trace from Harper's bedroom is identified as a specific composite of magnesium used in the production of mag wheels, and there just happens to be a mag wheel factory across the street from the wire transfer office. Nick finds the fake I.D. used to make the wire transfer; it's a picture of Karen Chevera, the medium, who was using Natalie's name.

Karen's place is searched, and Nick and Sara find a wall covered in photos of T.C. and Natalie along with the newspaper articles about the trial that ensued. Natalie's perfume and some of T.C.'s medications are on a nearby table. Sara finds a handwritten note addressed to T.C. and signed by "Natalie" that admits to murder and kidnapping. Nick believes that Karen became Natalie. When she thought T.C. was having an affair with Shelby, she murdered her and took "her son" away. The CSIs are alerted to a thumping noise and find Harper locked in a closet, alive and well.

Nick radios Russell, telling him that Harper has been found, but that Karen is still missing. Russell replies that Karen has been found—floating face-down in T.C.'s pool wearing Natalie's wedding ring. She blurred the lines of reality and joined Natalie in death. Harper is returned to his grateful father, and T.C. thanks the team for their help.


Main Cast[]

Guest Stars[]


  • Cocoon (Nocturnal Sunshine Remix) by Alpines


  • "Natalie's" letter to T.C. reads:

Dear T.C.,

By the time you read this, Harper and I will be gone. I thought we could be together. But again you rejected me. Gave your love away to Shelby. Even Karen who reunited us. You left me no choice but to take them away from you. Now you feel my pain.



  • Natalie Riordan's murder appears to be based on the drowning of Florence Unger, with suspicion placed on T.C. likely referencing the conviction of Florence's husband for her murder.

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