Grand Master
Grand Master
Season 1
Number 4
Writer Zachary Reiter
Director Kevin Bray
Original Airdate October 27, 2004
Previous Episode: American Dreamers
Next Episode: A Man a Mile

Grand Master is the fourth episode in Season One of CSI: NY.


When DJ Banner wins a DJ contest, he is found dead in the alleyway outside the club. Deborah Gayle, a fashion designer, is found dead in her apartment pool by her unconcerned assistant due to blowfish poisoning.


Two DJs spin at a hip club in a competition. DJ Francais spins first, while the crowd cheers. His girlfriend, Monique, is especially enthusiastic in cheering on her man. DJ Banner is up next, and his mix features the voice of Monique, clearly recorded from a phone call. The crowd goes wild as Monique storms out and DJ Francais glowers. The emcee, Jayden Prince, tells the crowd a winner will be announced in half an hour. But when it comes time to crown Banner the victor, he's no where to be found. He's lying dead out in the alley next to the club.

Mac and Aiden arrive at the scene, Aiden noting that she used to sneak under the velvet rope of the club. Mac kneels by Banner's body, noting the fatal stab wound in his neck. "What do you get for second place?" he muses. While marking the splotches of blood, Mac finds a few scraps of paper, which he picks up as evidence. The blood trail indicates Banner crawled towards the club door. The killer went back in the club through that door.

Across town, Stella and Danny arrive at the apartment of Deborah Gayle, a famous fashion designer who was found dead in her pool by her personal assistant, Madison Haynes. Stella notes an abrasion on Gayle's head, while Danny picks up a broken fingernail. Stella sees the woman's cell phone in the pool.

Madison tells Stella she quit two weeks ago and that Gayle was a nightmare to work for. Madison said that she still had a key to Gayle's apartment, which she used to get in when the designer didn't answer. She found her in the pool and pulled her out. Though she says she tried to save Gayle, Madison clearly isn't remorseful about her death.

Flack talks to Jayden Prince, who tells him that Banner and he were best friends, and that the two were planning to make it big together. Mac is following a trail of bloody shoe prints into the club. Along with Aiden, he questions DJ Francais, who claims he went to the alley to smoke. But when Mac compares Francais' shoes with the prints from the stairs, they're a match. He puts Francais under arrest.

In the morgue, Dr. Hawkes, who calls Banner the Michael Jordan of DJing, shows Mac that there were two stab wounds in Banner's chest in addition to the fatal neck wound. The lack of blood on Francais bothers Mac; it would be impossible for the killer to not have gotten blood on him. Dr. Hawkes points out bruises on Banner's ankles, from either being dragged, held down or hung by the ankles. The bruising occurred two or three days before Banner's death.

In the lab, Aiden has found an isolated blood drop on Banner's shirt. It had to have fallen from above, making their crime scene bigger. Mac and Aiden go back to the club, where they focus in on the fire escape. Aiden finds a cell phone, presumably Banner's. Mac finds blood. The window the fire escape is outside of leads to the VIP lounge and restrooms. Mac concludes the stabbing began on the fire escape.

Dr. Hawkes tells Stella that Gayle died of asphyxiation due to drowning. The abrasion on her head was minor. She had foam around her mouth, and Dr. Hawkes found a piece of red paint in her mouth. The tox screen deepens the mystery: Danny tells Stella that Gayle ingested tetrodotoxin, or blowfish poison. The poison paralyzed her when she was swimming, causing her to sink and drown.

Aiden analyzes Banner's cell phone. She's found a puzzling message in his voicemail, filled with sounds from a DJ table. Danny is working on a cell phone/personal planner, too: he's taken Gayle's sopping wet cell phone and stuck it in a toaster oven. Stella enters the lab to tell Danny that the red paint was nail polish, and it contained blowfish poison. Danny removes the cell phone from the toaster and accesses Gayle's calendar, which has her at dinner at a sushi restaurant, Fuqua Sushi, the night of her death. The pair head to the restaurant, where they see customers eating off naked women, who literally serve as the tables at the restaurant. Danny and Stella question the chef, who tells them he screens the blowfish he serves for poison, so there's no way Gayle could have been poisoned by one of his blowfish. Danny says they need to examine the blowfish.

Aiden has called on the services of Disco Placid to analyze the vinyl sounds on Banner's voicemail. He educates the CSIs about the different sounds: laser, scribble, chirp, stab. The sounds end with three stabs, which Mac interprets as a threat.

The CSIs trace the call to Slick Vick Productions, where sleazy Kevin Vick tells them he signed Banner to a two year contract three days before the competition. Mac, remembering the bruises on Banner's ankles, tells Vick he suspects the producer hung him over the ledge literally to force him to sign the contract.

Danny and Stella dissect the blowfish, but they don't find any tetrodotoxin in them. Stella finds stitches around the mouths of the fish. Meanwhile, Aiden and Mac compare Banner's signature on the Slick Vick contract to an older signature. The signatures differ slightly; the Slick Vick one appears as though it may have been signed with hesitation, or even with the help of another hand guiding Banner's.

The restaurant blowfish are a dead end. They were domesticated fish with the stitches removed so that the restaurant could charge high end prices for supposedly "wild" blowfish. Danny and Stella go back to Gayle's apartment, where Danny finds evidence that Gayle's computer was accessed after her death. Several files were emailed to Gayle's former personal assistant, Madison.

In the bedroom of the morgue, Dr. Hawkes has extracted and cleaned one of Banner's ribs, which has a stab wound on it in the shape of the weapon used to kill Banner. Mac takes the rib to a weapons closet, where he tests the indentation to see which weapon fits in it. He comes up empty on screwdrivers and scissors, but hits the jackpot with a construction file.

Mac asks Jayden Prince about the workers who struck the stage after the performances, and goes through their tool kits. He finds a bloody file in the kit of George Thomas. Flack questions Thomas, noting his lengthy rap sheet. Thomas denies any involvement in the murder. Aiden snaps a picture of his hands, but though he has bruising on the edge of his palms, Mac notes that type of bruising isn't consistent with the murder weapon. Thomas also has no motive. Mac goes back to the shreds of paper. He lines them up with the Slick Vick contract. They're a match.

Danny interrogates Madison, who admits to stealing the files from Gayle. When Danny asks her how she poisoned Gayle, Madison maintains that she only stole the fashion design files. Stella tells him there's no evidence of poison in any of the household items—toothpaste, mouthwash, water—in Gayle's apartment. The pair decide to return to the sushi restaurant and talk to the only other woman they know for sure Gayle interacted with: the human table. Mitchiko tells them Gayle was a regular customer of hers. Danny asks to examine her fingernails, but he finds nothing amiss in the red polish on her fingers. Then he asks to see her sock-covered feet. The messily-applied polish on her feet is a match. Mitchiko tells the CSIs that she used to be Gayle's personal assistant but was fired for refusing to sleep with the designer. When Gayle learned she worked at Fuqua Sushi, she began to frequent the restaurant and request Mitchiko, who loathed her. "Here we were looking for the murderer at the table...," Danny says. "...Only to find the murderer is the table," Stella finishes.

Mac and Aiden go back to their crime scene, this time to the office of Jayden Prince. Mac finds an empty shredder, while Aiden takes note of pink water in the toilet. When they life the tank cover, they find a soaked, bloody shirt inside. They bring Prince in. He claims that Banner would have never signed with Vick; Banner was going to renew his contract with Jayden. Mac tells Prince that Banner never got a chance to explain: Vick forced him to sign the contract. Prince relents and says he just wanted to protect Banner from the Kevin Vicks from the world. Mac informs him that by doing so, he became one.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Olivia Burnette as Madison Haynes
  • Chayton Arvin as Samir Persaud
  • Shi Ne Nielson as Mitchiko Muzawa
  • Long Nguyen as Mitsuo Katsui
  • Matias Masucci as DJ Francais
  • Maya Rubin as Monique
  • Symba Smith as Deborah Gayle
  • Ruel as Christopher Marcus/DJ Banner
  • Ricky Harris as Disco Placid
  • Billy Brown as George Thomas
  • Dorian Missick as MC Jayden Prince
  • Master P as Kevin Vick
  • Jaerin Washington as Club-Goer
  • Paul Vasquez as Marcus Garcia


Aiden: Yeah, like a DJ legend: Grand Master Flash or a Jam Master Jay. They paved the way for guys like Dre' and Cube, Eminem and Jermaine Dupri. You like music like that?
Mac: I prefer Crunk myself.


  • An Open Letter to NYC by Beastie Boys.
  • Break the Grip of Shame (the final call) by Paris.
  • Headsprung by LL Cool J.
  • 50ft Mole Man by Ming & FS.
  • Acetone by The Crystal Method.
  • Cool Change by Tonal.
  • Pay Close Attention by Brother El.


  • When Christopher Marcus' two signatures are being compared, a spelling mistake is clearly visible. The phrase "any breech of regulati..." is visible. It should have said "breach..."


  • The Wilhelm Scream, a stock sound effect that was developed in the early 1950's for the film Distant Drums, can be heard near the beginning of act 2 in this episode.
  • Disco Placid who is helping Aiden and Mac with the phone recording also helped Grissom in the CSI episode "Anonymous".
  • Symba Smith, who plays Deborah Gayle, also appears in the CSI: Miami episode "In the Wind".

See Also[]

CSI:NY Season 1
BlinkCreatures of the NightAmerican DreamersGrand MasterA Man a MileOutside ManRainThree Generations are EnoughOfficer BlueNight, MotherTri-BoroughRecyclingTanglewoodBlood, Sweat & Tears'Til Death Do We PartHushThe FallThe Dove CommissionCrime & MisdemeanorSupply and DemandOn the JobThe CloserWhat You See Is What You See