Chaos Theory
Season 2
Number 2
Writer Josh Berman,
Eli Talbert
Director Kenneth Fink
Original Airdate October 4, 2001
Previous Episode: Burked
Next Episode: Overload

Chaos Theory is the second episode in Season Two of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation


The CSI team suspects foul play when WLVU student Paige Rycoff vanishes into thin air. The team soon discovers she had an affair with a married professor, along with a lot of other seemingly unrelated events. When her body is found in a trash heap, the team has to find out what led to her death.


Victim: Paige Rycoff (missing)

On the case: entire team

WLVU freshman Paige Rycoff stares out her dorm room window and gazes upon the rain. Aside from a packed suitcase and some unmade beds, the room is empty. She receives a call informing her that the cab she called for is downstairs waiting for her.

Four days later, Grissom arrives on the scene. He's informed that Paige was dropping out of school and returning home to Colorado; however, she's now missing. Her purse and suitcase still sit in the middle of the room, and she never took the cab she called for. Grissom notes that after 24 hours, missing persons cases become much more difficult to solve. There are no signs of a struggle; even the lamp in the room is still on. Grissom finds out that the door locks automatically from the outside. Paige's keys are missing, and if she had them, she could've walked back into the room.

While processing Paige's room, Grissom spots something on the wall and tastes it. When he describes the taste as minty, Sara figures it's toothpaste, which Paige used to patch up the holes in the wall and get back her security deposit. There are two beds in the room, and Sara mentions that Paige's roommate, Jennifer Riggs, left school two weeks into the semester. The CSIs soon spot a large void in the middle of the room that could've come from an area rug. This leads Sara to wonder if someone wrapped Paige's body up in the rug and disposed of it. When processing the room by herself later, Sara finds blood and semen on one of the unfurnished mattresses.

The building has eight floors and four cameras per floor. Nick goes to the campus security office and looks over surveillance video feeds with the tech. Upon going back to the night of Paige's disappearance, they spot someone covering up the camera positioned in the hallway on Paige's floor. When the video is zoomed in, they see someone using their hand as leverage to prop themselves up, and Nick figures he can get fingerprints from it. He soon prints the wall and recovers a handprint. Meanwhile, Catherine volunteers to search the trash chute on Paige's floor. She finds a red stain that turns out to be pizza sauce, but otherwise comes up empty.

Paige's parents confront Grissom, concerned about their daughter's whereabouts and whether enough people have been assigned to the case. He asks them to just let him think, telling them that the only tangible link between them and their daughter is the evidence his team is collecting. That evidence will be interpreted and be used to help find Paige.

Back at the lab, Grissom closely observes the security camera footage and spots someone carrying something, possibly a rolled-up rug with someone inside of it. Nick identifies the recovered handprint as belonging to student Henry McFadden. Under interrogation, he admits that he and his fraternity brothers covered up the camera and "borrowed" furniture from the student lounge as part of a prank. He explains that the fourth floor was targeted because it has "primo goods" and fewer stairs to climb down than the fifth and seventh floors. When asked about Paige, Henry says that they dated once or twice before she broke up with him because she was also seeing a "more mature" man. With no evidence to hold Henry, the young man is released.

Catherine and Nick watch the security footage from the dorm's parking lot. They see the frat boys load up the "borrowed" furniture and also observe Paige's cab arriving and waiting for 13 minutes before driving away with no passenger. Meanwhile, DNA from Paige's toothbrush isn't a match to the blood found on the mattress in the dorm room. Furthermore, the blood contains Rohypnol, a date rape drug. The vaginal contribution from the semen is also a match to the blood. Not only do the CSIs have a missing persons case, they also have a rape case.

Grissom, Sara and Brass speak with Jennifer Riggs, who admits that she left school because she was raped by someone after a floor party. She can't remember who raped her, which is a side effect of Rohypnol. Because she lived with someone who attacked her, she felt her best choice was to leave the school because she would never find out who it was.

Grissom, Sara and Warrick head back to the dorm. They know a rapist won't voluntarily give up his DNA; however, the thought is he might if he thinks it's to help find Paige. As long as the students participate voluntarily, the CSIs can use the DNA however they see fit. Grissom notes that it's better if someone refuses; that way, they would have a de facto suspect. Sara and Warrick collect DNA from all the males on the floor and, back at the lab, a positive match is found: baseball player Kevin Watson, who lives down the hall from Paige. When questioned, Kevin denies any involvement with either girl; however, the evidence shows that he raped Jennifer. He's placed under arrest for the rape, but he was on a road trip with this team with Paige disappeared. The CSIs have another dead end, and Paige's trail is getting colder.

Catherine and Nick continue to watch security footage from the parking lot and notice the same car circling the lot six times in a span of 20 minutes. Upon zooming in on the picture, they see a WLVU parking permit hanging from the car's rear view mirror. The silver Volvo is registered to Robert Woodbury, a philosophy professor at WLVU. When the trunk of his car is searched, the CSIs find a blanket covering something up; however, it's only a bag of golf clubs. Grissom tells Nick to tow the car back to the garage and process it.

Catherine, Grissom and Brass question Professor Woodbury, who confirms that Paige was a student of his. Grissom finds a piece of pottery on the floor of the professor's office and believes that this indicates there was a struggle at some point. When the professor gives the CSIs, the runaround, Grissom bluntly tells him to explain his presence outside Paige's dorm so the investigation can move forward. Professor Woodbury remains silent, which seems to indicate guilt. He soon admits that he's a married man who was in an amorous relationship with Paige; however, she never set foot in his car or his home. On the night of Paige's disappearance, he went to her dorm to talk to her before she left, but he claims that she never came down.

In the CSI garage, Nick processes Professor Woodbury's car and finds some strands of light-colored hair lodged in the passenger's seat headrest. The hairs are a match to Paige, and the roots have skin tags, meaning they were ripped out at the root.

Under a formal interrogation, Professor Woodbury reiterates that Paige was never in his car and suggests that the hairs may have been transferred from his sweater. He can't explain the hairs being ripped out at the root. When told about a four-minute phone call from his home phone to Paige's dorm room, the professor says that he only used his cell phone when talking with Paige. The call was on the day of Paige's disappearance, and it lasted for four minutes in the afternoon. Professor Woodbury has an alibi; he was a faculty lunch at the time. When asked about his wife, he suddenly realizes she was home at the time.

Sharon Woodbury confirms that she shares the car with her husband, but seems hazy on the details regarding the day of Paige's disappearance. She soon admits to knowing about her husband's multiple affairs with students, and she also admits to taking Paige for a ride and explaining the "facts of life" to her. During the conversation, Paige confirmed that the relationship was over, as she was moving back home. Sharon denies getting physical with Paige, explaining that Paige's hair got caught in the headrest when she tried to leave the car.

Grissom gets a call, and he meets Warrick at a garbage facility, where a homeless man searching for "hidden treasure" has found a body. They find Paige's body in a compacted bundle. In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Catherine and Grissom that Paige was crushed post-mortem; the yellow tissue around her wound indicates that blood wasn't flowing at the time. Paige's death was caused by a ruptured spleen due to blunt-force trauma to the rib cage. However, Doc Robbins can't identify the weapon used and cautions the CSIs that he may never know, as her body is so twisted that it's hard to tell.

The team heads back to the dumpster outside Paige's dorm. Warrick finds some blood inside the dumpster, while Nick finds fresh paint transfer on the outside. Paint chips on the ground nearby are the same color as the transfer on the dumpster, and the team wonders if they're looking at a hit-and-run. Due to the high ground clearance of the transfer, they figure the vehicle in question may be an SUV. This would also explain Paige's blunt force trauma, as the height of the transfer is equal with Paige's abdomen. The theory is that the driver tossed Paige's body in the dumpster to hide their crime. Sharon Woodbury is a viable suspect, but the black paint chips don't match the Woodbury's silver Volvo. Later on, blood analysis confirms that the blood in the dumpster is Paige's.

Nick analyzes the paint transfer, discovering that it's multi-layered—the car was originally painted white, then red, and now black. The paints are all factory stock and belong to a 1989 or 1990 Jeep Cherokee. Grissom is called to the interrogation room where Mark Doyle, an expectant father, sits with Brass. He explains that his wife, who is nine months pregnant, beeped him. To bypass traffic, he cut through the alleyway outside Paige's dorm, side-swiping the dumpster in the process. The CSIs process Mark's car and find no evidence that he hit Paige.

Grissom suggests that since the solution isn't "neat, plausible, and wrong," then perhaps it's "messy, unlikely, and right." He expounds upon chaos theory and wonders if the team is looking at a series of random events. Paige was in her dorm room and ended up behind a dumpster; Grissom believes the answer is somewhere between those two points.

Grissom and Sara go back to Paige's dorm room and recreate the evening of her disappearance. Sara guesses that Paige saw her cab waiting for her and grabbed her suitcase; however, Grissom notes that it was still in the room. They figure that Paige had been cleaning all day because she wanted her security deposit back. Everything in the room is as it should be—except the trash can is missing. Sara notes that the last thing one does after cleaning is take out the trash.

In the hallway, Sara dumps some trash down the chute and is surprised by how quickly the door snaps back. Grissom wonders if Paige wasn't quick enough and accidentally dumped her trash can down the chute. Down in the alleyway, Grissom brings the team up to speed, saying that Paige came down to retrieve the trash can. But the question still remains: how did she end up in the dumpster? As there's no easy way into the dumpster, Catherine guesses that Paige improvised and climbed onto the back of it, positioning herself between the dumpster and the wall. In the process of doing so, she pushed the dumpster further out into the alleyway. At the same time, Mark Doyle drove by and clipped the dumpster, pushing it back into Paige. This ruptured her spleen, and she fell into the garbage and bled out as a result.

Grissom tells Paige's parents that their daughter's death was an accident; however, they refuse to believe that nobody is responsible. They insist on hiring a private investigator, saying that they won't rest until every question is answered. After they leave, Grissom tells Catherine that they told the Rycoffs the truth; however, Catherine says that the grieving parents didn't get what they needed—closure. Grissom replies that the truth brings closure, but Catherine points out that that's not always the case.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Eric Szmanda as Greg Sanders
  • Robert David Hall as Dr. Al Robbins
  • Archie Kao as M. Blaze
  • Paula Francis as News Anchor
  • Dale Midkiff as Prof. Robert Woodbury
  • Clayne Crawford as Henry McFadden
  • Garrett M. Brown as Mr. Rycoff
  • Sherry Hursey as Mrs. Rycoff
  • Danielle Nicolet as Jennifer Riggs
  • Shelby Fenner as Paige Rycoff
  • Kate McNeil as Sharon Woodbury
  • Grant Garrison as Kevin Watson
  • Jon Hershfield as N.D. Student
  • Brent Sexton as Mark Doyle

Featured Music[]

  • Glory Box by Portishead
  • Inhaler by Hooverphonic


  • This episode marks Archie Kao's first appearance, but in this episode, he appears as WLVU security technician "M. Blaze." In future episodes, he's known as "Archie Johnson" when working in the crime lab.
  • The disappearance of Paige Rycoff was inspired by the real-life disappearance of Michael Negrete, a freshman at UCLA, in 1999. His clothing and shoes were still in his room, and his body was never found.[1]


  1. Flaherty, M. & Marrinan, C. (2004). CSI: Crime scene investigation companion. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 2
BurkedChaos TheoryOverloadBully for YouScuba Doobie-DooAlter BoysCagedSlaves of Las VegasAnd Then There Were NoneEllieOrgan GrinderYou've Got MaleIdentity CrisisThe FingerBurden of ProofPrimum Non NocereFelonious MonkChasing The BusStalkerCats in the CradleAnatomy of a LyeCross JurisdictionsThe Hunger Artist