Season 5
Number 7
Writer Dustin Lee Abraham,
Naren Shankar
Director Bill Eagles
Original Airdate November 11, 2004
Previous Episode: What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?
Next Episode: Ch-Ch-Changes

Formalities is the seventh episode in Season Five of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Grissom has to work with Dayshift CSI Sofia Curtis when a high school student is found dead in a hotel room after a party. Assisted by Catherine, Nick and Warrick, they find out that another girl had been kidnapped from the party. However, the father of this girl doesn't seem overly concerned about his daughter's disappearance.


Victim: Nicole Jensen (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Gil Grissom, Nick Stokes, Sofia Curtis, Warrick Brown, Jim Brass

Catherine and Grissom are attending a formal banquet to celebrate the career of former Associate Director Robert Covallo. Sheriff Rory Atwater wishes him luck in his retirement, then praises the newly promoted Conrad Ecklie. Grissom is invited up to give a speech to mark the occasion; however, his pager goes off, alerting him to a homicide across the street. He gets up and leaves Catherine to take the fall for his unprepared praise of Ecklie, having written "What can I say about Conrad Ecklie?" on a napkin.

Grissom heads across the street to the Olympia Hotel and ends up riding up in the elevator with Sofia Curtis, a Level 3 CSI from the day shift who works under Ecklie. They're greeted by Brass, who leads to them to a hotel suite. He tells them that the McKinley High homecoming party is downstairs, but the real party is upstairs. In the suite is the dead body of 17-year-old Nicole Jensen, lying on the ground next to a pile of vomit. Sofia notices an abrasion on the back of Nicole's neck and Grissom notes the unusual position of the body indicating that she was grabbed from behind.

Brass tells Grissom that the suite is registered to Charlie Macklin, the owner of the hotel. Charlie's daughter, Janelle, is part of the homecoming crowd and the suite was booked for the afterparty; however, Brass has been unable to locate her as of yet. Inside, David Phillips determines that Nicole has been dead for less than two hours. There are ligature marks on both of her wrists along with a sticky residue, indicating that she was possibly bound with duct tape. When David turns the body over, he finds a circular impression on the cheek. Meanwhile, Sofia looks over the scene and finds no obvious evidence of alcohol or drugs; however, she believes the mixers on the table are for speeding up the buzz the drugs give. As she does this, she mouths her observations out loud, much to the confusion of Grissom.

Brass talks to Miranda, one of the partygoers. She tells him that Nicole came running into the suite and threw up on the carpet. After an unsuccessful attempt at CPR, the partygoers called 911. Miranda admits to Brass that she and Nicole weren't friends and adds that Nicole's father is a limo driver who has ties to the mob. Meanwhile, on the casino floor, Catherine and Nick arrive. Nick tells her that the front desk issued seven key cards to the suite and that five of them are accounted for; they've been unable to locate Janelle Macklin or Sean Paland. Catherine speaks to the hotel security officer and requests information on everyone who entered and exited the suite since check-in. Nick is able to locate Sean, who speaks unfavorably of Nicole. He tells Nick that Nicole always hung around people with money and wasn't invited to the afterparty in the suite until she begged Janelle. Sean adds that Janelle was in the suite when he left earlier; however, he doesn't know where she is now.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins speaks into an earpiece and records his findings—Nicole had sex before death, but he can't tell whether it was consensual or rape. The preliminary tox panel indicates the presence of psilocybin, MDMA, and THC in her system, and a green fiber was collected from the nasal passages and sent to trace. The preliminary cause of death for Nicole is given as mechanical asphyxia as a result of acute drug intoxication.

Back in the hotel suite, Sofia finds a bag of ground-up mushrooms in the toilet along with seven used condoms from the two bedrooms. She wonders if Nicole's bound wrists indicate that the kids were participating in sex games. Grissom observes the vomit on the floor and concludes that Nicole was lying down when it happened; the vomit would cover more surface area if it happened while she was standing up. Sofia guesses that the vomit could've been forced out by CPR, but it doesn't explain the bruise on Nicole's cheek or the green fibers in her nose. They both spot a green pillow on a nearby couch; when Grissom flips the pillow over, he finds more vomit. The pillow also has a button on it that lines up with the impression on Nicole's cheek.

The male and female partygoers are separated. Brass talks to Gavin "Rex" Layne, who has been identified as the drug dealer. Grissom enters and tells Gavin that if the water is still enough, submerged fingerprints can last for quite a long time. He sprays the bag of mushrooms and reveals a print. Gavin admits to bringing the mushrooms for everyone in the party, but Nicole "dove in there with both hands." He also admits to having sex with Nicole, but denies bounding her in duct tape and forcing her on the couch. Meanwhile, Sofia looks over the female partygoers' wrists and finds evidence of duct tape on some of them. Grissom gets a call from Catherine, who has found Janelle Macklin in the hotel security footage. However, Janelle is shown being rushed into an elevator with two masked gunmen and is still unaccounted for.

Brass interviews three of the kids who attended the party. They recount that two masked gunmen barged into the suite, tied everyone up with duct tape, and kidnapped Janelle. After some of the kids got themselves free, a drunk Nicole freaked out and tried to leave. Some of the kids subdued her by putting a pillow over her mouth, but accidentally killed her instead. They were under orders from Charlie Macklin not to report the kidnapping to the police. Meanwhile, Catherine and Sheriff Atwater talk to Charlie, Janelle's father and owner of the casino. Charlie is convinced that they're all playing a game and that Janelle is just trying to get her father's attention. He admits that she has squandered every one of the expensive gifts he has given her over the years and that he's done playing along. Charlie says that he last spoke to Janelle the day before when she asked to have the suite comped. When he dials her cell phone to prove that it's all a ruse, a digitized voice says that the kidnappers have Janelle and want $1 million wired to the Cayman Islands. A still unfazed Charlie says that Janelle knows her trust is set up in the Caymans and that this is part of her game.

Greg goes through the eight hours of surveillance footage Catherine provided and finds that Janelle and her friends rode the VIP elevator up to the suite around 8:00 PM. The only other time Janelle was in the elevator was when she was getting kidnapped. Interestingly enough, there's no footage of Janelle taking the VIP elevator down, nor did she take the service elevator or the stairs. Greg wonders if Janelle is somehow still in the suite. Back at the hotel, Nick processes the VIP elevator and finds some blue fibers wedged in the elevator door. Elsewhere, Warrick handles the linen hallway and, while sifting through some laundry, finds the jumpsuits and masks the kidnappers wore. Catherine photographs the masks and Warrick thinks of two reasons why the kidnappers would remove them—either Janelle was in on the whole thing or the kidnappers knew they were going to kill her. Catherine walks into the service elevator and curiously takes a picture of an unmarked wall.

Catherine visits the casino surveillance room and sees that the same elevator is being used in two different shots. She finds out that security monitor Kenny Bristol has one of the videos on a tape delay, leaving the service elevator absent from the surveillance overview. Kenny quickly breaks down and admits to Catherine that Janelle asked him to do her a favor. He says that Janelle wanted to sneak some guys up to her suite that her father wouldn't approve of and, since she's the boss' daughter, he complied. Catherine asks Kenny where Janelle is, but Kenny maintains that he has no idea.

Grissom, talking to himself out loud a la Sofia, discovers that the fibers Nick pulled from the elevator are from a Merino sheep. Wool from the sheep is used for fine fabrics and, since the wool has been dyed black, Grissom has Catherine round up any guys from the suite that were wearing tuxedos. It's eventually found that the tuxedo belongs to Dean Tate and he's brought into interrogation. He admits to Brass that Janelle hired Kenny Bristol to knock out the eye-in-the-sky cameras in the service area. Dean adds that he refused to take money from Janelle, as they had been friends since grade school; he simply assisted with the fake kidnapping when she asked him to. He refuses to say who his partner is, but he tells Brass where Janelle is now. Back at the hotel, officers enter Room 1503 to find an overturned lamp and a TV with the volume up high; however, Janelle is still nowhere in sight.

Dean voluntarily takes a polygraph test in an effort to clear his name. He admits that the kidnapping was a prank and that he didn't sexually assault Janelle; however, he doesn't know if his partner did. Dean adds that he didn't kill Janelle and says again that he doesn't know where she is. The polygraph results indicate that Dean is telling the truth. In room 1503, Nick finds evidence of sexual activity on the bed sheets while Warrick finds a ripped dress. There's a tray of half-eaten French toast, and Warrick is able to get a print from the food tray cover. The print ends up being a match to Sean Paland. In interrogation, Nick presents enough evidence against Sean that leads him to admitting his guilt. Like Dean, Sean admits that the kidnapping was a prank and that he participated because he needed the money. After the kidnapping was over, Janelle kissed him, leading him to think there was something more to it. He got French toast ordered to her room, but when she heard a voicemail on her phone, she flipped out and left the room. Sean says he left the suite to head back to the party and he hasn't seen Janelle since.

Catherine and Greg go over the surveillance footage from the elevator and confirm Sean's story. Greg is able to pull up the voicemail Janelle received and they find that it's from her father, Charlie. In the voice mail, Charlie angrily tells his daughter that he knows the kidnapping was a ruse and orders her to go home. In the department lounge, Catherine and Grissom give Sofia their findings—Janelle took the service elevator down and there was no crime committed since the kidnapping wasn't real. Sofia is unsatisfied with the results and says that the events indirectly led to the death of Nicole Jensen. Grissom can only reassure her that they're looking for Janelle's car and, when Janelle turns up, she'll have some questions to answer. Just then, Catherine gets a text message to go to McCarran Airport. She and Warrick meet Brass there and find the car with a deceased Janelle bound and gagged in the trunk.

In autopsy, Catherine photographs the body while Warrick removes a scarf from Janelle's mouth. Charlie talks to Brass and says he got a phone call from Janelle a few hours ago saying that she was tied up in the trunk of her car. The call then cut off. He admits to not believing her and questioning why kidnappers would let her keep her cell phone. Brass replies that he should let the police answer that question. Elsewhere, Nicole's father, Bobby, is pulled over in his town car and he's clearly intoxicated.

Bobby is brought in for questioning and refuses to account for his whereabouts for the last six hours. He's also quite upset that Janelle's kidnapping has taken precedence over his daughter's death. Brass tells him that they have a witness that saw Janelle get into his town car earlier in the evening. They impounded his car and found Nicole's bracelet, placing her in the car. Bobby says that he simply got a call to pick someone up and he did; it just happened to be Janelle. A flashback shows Janelle apologizing to Bobby and offering her bracelet as payment; however, Bobby slapped it out of her hand and it dropped to the floor. He admits to Brass that he told Janelle he was going to kill her as a way to make her father know how he felt. After being threatened, Janelle got out of the car and ran away.

Doc Robbins tells Catherine that Janelle's cause of death was asphyxia; the scarf was lodged all the way down her throat, cutting off her air supply. The tox results came back positive for benzodiazepines, which suppress the gag reflex and knock someone out at the same time. Warrick enters and says that the only DNA recovered from the gag and ligatures belongs to Janelle.

Catherine looks over the photos of Janelle's body and notices that the scarf tied around her wrists has the knot on the inside, not the outside. She tells Brass that the knot indicates that Janelle tied it herself and the saliva on the ends of the scarf confirms it. They conclude that Janelle accidentally killed herself in another effort to get her father's attention, hoping that he would save her in time.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Major Events[]

  • Sofia Curtis is introduced for the first time.
  • Conrad Ecklie is officially promoted to Associate Director. Grissom puts in a good word for Catherine and recommends her for day shift supervisor.


  • Jorja Fox (Sara) is credited but does not appear in the episode.


  • Catherine tells Charlie Macklin the story of the kidnapping of Steve Wynn's daughter, which actually happened in real life. In 1993, Kevyn Wynn was kidnapped and her father paid a $1.45 million ransom for her return. The kidnappers were apprehended when one attempted to buy a Ferrari in Newport Beach, California with the cash. Kevyn was found unharmed several hours later.
  • Jonathan Banks, famous for his role as Mike Ehrmantraut in the shows Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, played Bobby Jensen. He played the same character in the Season 6 episode Kiss-Kiss, Bye-Bye and also appeared in the CSI: Miami episode Long Gone, where he played Oscar Duante.
  • Kate Mara, who played Janelle Macklin, also appeared in the CSI: Miami episode Murder in a Flash, where she played Stephanie Brooks.

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