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Last Laugh
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Season 3
Number 20
Writer Carol Mendelsohn,
Bob Harris,
Anthony E. Zuiker
Director Richard J. Lewis
Original Airdate April 24, 2003
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Previous Episode: A Night at the Movies
Next Episode: Forever

Last Laugh is the twentieth episode in season three of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

A comedian is poisoned on stage and his death turns out to be connected to the death of a teenager. Meanwhile, a woman in her bathtub drowns and the CSIs don't think it was an accident.

Plot

Victim: Dougie Max (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Gil Grissom, Jim Brass

At the Comedy Hole, comedian Michael Borland is bombing badly on stage. Outside, fellow comedian Dougie Max is reciting his routine while simultaneously getting pleasured by a female. After Michael is done (to no applause), Dougie takes the stage. He finishes his bottle of water and spits it on a patron as a joke, much to the delight of the crowd.

Catherine, Grissom, and Brass are then shown entering the club. Dougie is lying dead on the stage. According to Brass, the crowd thought this was part of Dougie's act...until he didn't get up. Catherine looks over the body and sees no overt evidence of a drug overdose - foam around the mouth, discoloration of the lips, and/or dilated pupils. Grissom has someone turn down the house lights and turn up the stage lights; he wants to see what Dougie saw when he died. However, he reveals that he sees nothing.

Brass talks to the manager, Alan Sobel, while Dougie's fellow comedians wallow in their own self pity. Alan complains to Brass that Dougie got his start at the Comedy Hole, made it big, and now he has to pay a lot of money to get Dougie to come back and perform. He calls Dougie a hack who got a lucky break.

In the green room backstage, Catherine sees a half-eaten food tray and notices what looks to be cocaine on the table. Back on the stage, Grissom observes that Dougie had six bottles of water, but he had opened three and only drank half of them. The other three bottles are unopened. Catherine has every comedian and club worker open their wallets so she can observe their credit cards. She notices cocaine on one of the bartender Leah's cards. Leah (who is also the woman who was pleasuring Dougie earlier) is arrested.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Grissom that Dougie was pretty healthy. His death shows signs of a heart attack; however, this is not what Dougie died from. Grissom tells him that the tox screen on Dougie came back positive for cocaine. Doc Robbins says that he did not find the telltale signs of cocaine use - the nasal passages are normal, the lungs are clear, and there are no track marks on the body.

In the interrogation room, the waitress' attorney has informed Catherine that she will plead guilty to possession and answer any questions. Catherine tells her Dougie's system tested positive for cocaine, but the waitress tells her that Dougie was in a program. She admits that she sprinkle it on Dougie before she pleasured him, and that she did this every time before he went on stage. She says it gave Dougie an edge for his act - "go in hot and burn the place down."

Catherine and Grissom find out from Greg that Dougie didn't die from a cocaine overdose. According to the blood sample, he was killed by Naratriptamine, a migraine medication, and he had 12 times the recommended dosage in his system. Dougie was poisoned. They then go over all of the consumables from the club that match Dougie's stomach contents. They know he died from a Naratriptamine overdose and that he also ingested it. They take samples from the water bottle, fruit, a cocktail, and a chocolate candy, among other things.

Greg informs Grissom that he has narrowed down the source of the poision. Naratriptamine was discovered in Innoco water bottle #3; Dougie drank from it and collapsed on stage. The other five water bottles came back clean. Grissom tells Greg to run the bottle for trace impurities - anything that mixed in with the poison may be able to lead them to the original source. If they can identify the source, maybe they can identify the killer.

Back in the club, Catherine and Grissom talk to the bartender, Barry Yoder. Barry tells them that he is the one who set everything up for Dougie. This includes six Innoco water bottles on stage all facing the same way, passion fruit, and Choco Bees (only blue). Grissom tells Barry that one of the Innoco water bottles was poisoned, which surprises Barry. Barry starts chewing on his nails and Catherine asks him if he gets migraines. He tells her he's getting one at that moment. Grissom informs Barry that they are taking all of the Innoco water bottles back to the lab.

In the lab, Catherine tells Grissom that she looked into Barry's medical records - he's had six different prescriptions for migraines over the last two years. The medication he is currently on now? Naratriptamine. Meanwhile, Grissom has sent Warrick to a crime scene at a convenience store. When Warrick enters the store, there is a dead teenager in one of the aisles. The clerk tells him that the kid entered the store, walked down an aisle, and just dropped dead. The kid was pacing around the store looking to consume something without paying. He drank from a bottle of water before being noticed by the clerk, then put the bottle back. Warrick finds a bottle of Innoko water on the shelf. They now have a problem.

Catherine meets Warrick at the store and gets on the phone to alert the chief of police that all Innoko water needs to be pulled off of store shelves immediately. Warrick tells someone that they are going to need the names of anyone who was recently fired from Innoko, anyone who had lawsuits against the company, and anyone who has made threats against the company. Greg enters the store and Catherine hands him the bottle, telling him that he needs to check it.

In the lab, Greg tests the water found in the convenience store and discovers that it also tests positive for Naratriptamine. Grissom tests the water bottle from the convenience store, but is unable to find any puncture wounds in the bottle. Under the microscope, Catherine sees traces of Naratriptamine in the thread of the bottle cap. Grissom has her look at the one from the comedy club.

Catherine informs the rest of the team that Naratriptamine was put into the threads of the bottle caps. Every time someone took a drink, the water would come in contact with the drug and wash it down into the bottle. It seems that they are going to have to test 40,000 bottle caps to see if any other ones have been tampered with.

Meanwhile, Grissom is looking over the two poisoned bottles and sees that they came from the same lot number - NV5871. He finds that the bottles from the convenience store do not share the same lot number as the poisoned bottle. However, they do match the lot from the comedy club. Grissom wonders whether the case isn't about product tampering, but the murder of someone specific.

Greg reminds Catherine and Grissom that Naratriptamine comes in pill form and that it would have to be ground up and put in a solution in order to be administered to the bottle cap. Catherine remembers that there were traces of caffeine found in the water, and Grissom is sent out to bag the coffee maker from the club's green room as evidence. While in the green room, he notices a caricature of Dougie on the wall with hateful things written around it.

Out in the club, Grissom looks at a makeshift memorial for Dougie, complete with a wreath and the last picture taken of Dougie onstage. He notices a reflecting red light in the photo which, in the comedy business, means "get off the stage NOW." Grissom asks the manager why he was giving Dougie the red light, but the manager says he would never do that to his headliner. Grissom walks over to where the light switch for the red light is located and notices blood around it. He tells the manager that he's going to need everyone's DNA.

At the station, Catherine has all of the club participants line up for a DNA sample. She notices that Barry the bartender is biting his nails. On closer examination, there is blood around one of them. He admits to giving Dougie the red light in an attempt to distract and humiliate him onstage.

Greg has good news and bad news for Grissom - the bad news is that the coffee from the comedy club does not match the tainted water. However, he is able to trace the caffeine to a specific coffee, Kopi Luwak, which is the most expensive coffee in the world. Whoever drinks that type of coffee is their killer.

Michael Borland is seen onstage at the club, bombing horribly once again. He then recreates Dougie's act, which starts to draw applause. Grissom is in attendance and he sees Michael drink from a coffee cup. He gives a nod to the manager, who gives Michael the red light. Michael then starts to break down once he sees everyone applauding his low-brow humor. He threatens the audience, then tells them that comedy is supposed to be about the truth. He admits to killing Dougie because he despised everything he stood for and regrets that a 15-year old kid died in the process. He walks up to Grissom and blames him, saying he "didn't get the joke." Grissom replies that he got the joke....it just wasn't funny.

Victim: Shelley Stark (deceased)

On the case: Nick Stokes, Sara Sidle

Brass talks to Nick in the break room and tells him about a case he had a few weeks before. The police had been called out to Green Valley, where a woman named Shelley Stark had slipped in the bathtub, cracked her head, and drowned. Brass says that there was nothing suspicious and that he ruled the case an accident without calling in the CSIs. Brass was eyeballing a man outside of the comedy club. The man is the deceased woman's husband, George. Three weeks before, he was devastated. However, George has now "traded up" and is out on the town with his new girlfriend.

Brass tells Nick that, the day after Shelley died, George called the life insurance agency asking for his money. The payout is $750,000. He hands Nick a file that has all the information he needs and tells him that he's acting on a hunch.

Nick and Sara go over the crime scene photos. Sara says they show signs of an accident, but Nick informs her that the blow to the back of Shelley's head was non-fatal. Doc Robbins oversaw the autopsy and ruled the cause of death to be drowning, which lines up with every other statement in the file. Nick is still not so sure since no CSI got to look at the original evidence. They decide to visit the scene of the accident.

At the Stark residence, Greg tells George that he and Sara want to look at the bathroom to tie up some loose ends regarding Shelley's case. George is reluctant to let them in the house, but he relents after Sara trips his car alarm causing all of the neighbors to stare. In the bathroom, Nick notices the smell of fresh paint. George tells him that the had the whole house redone in the past week to help erase the bad memories. The bathtub has not been replaced, but the fixtures have. Sara notices that there is no towel bar, and George tells her the contractor took it away because it was junk. Nick abruptly thanks George for his time and leaves. Outside, Nick tells Sara that the bathroom isn't their crime scene anymore since it's been redone. He notices an open house across the street featuring a model home and tells Sara that this is the next best thing.

In the model home's bathroom, Nick and Sara recreate the accident scene with Sara playing the part of Shelley. She pretends to get out of the bathtub, slip, and grab on to the towel bar. However, after furiously trying to dislodge the towel bar from the wall, Sara is unable to do so. She believes that there is no way Shelley separated the towel bar from the wall on her own. Nick gives it a shot and, with great force, is able to dislodge the towel bar. They conclude that someone went to a lot of trouble to make Shelley's death look like an accident.

Nick and Brass talk to Doc Robbins, who tells them that Shelley had bathwater in her lungs and a blow to the head consistent with a fall. He also tells them that homicide ruled the case an accident, so there was no reason to do more than an abbreviated autopsy. Doc Robbins takes offense to them wanting to reopen the case, telling them exhuming a body is a very public ordeal and that it makes him and the department look bad. Brass talks to Doc Robbins alone and tells them that they can either let George walk for killing his wife or they can exhume the body. Brass just wants justice. Doc Robbins relents and has the body exhumed.

In the morgue, Nick and Doc Robbins are cleaning up Shelley's exhumed body. Doc Robbins notices bruising on her back and her right elbow, which Nick notes is consistent with a fall. This was not noted in the doc's report, as he notes subtle bruising may not appear until after the embalming process. When Doc Robbins removes the makeup from Shelley's face, they find bruising in the shape of fingers.

In the interrogation room, Brass tells George that something about Shelley's case never seemed right. It wasn't because of George's newfound wealth, new car, or new girlfriend - it was something he said earlier. In a flashback, Brass remembers George saying "she was my life." Brass tells him that it's very rare for a grieving spouse to use the past tense; when they do, they're usually guilty of something. Nick shows George and his lawyer photos of Shelley's exhumed body with the bruises evident.

George responds that he loved his wife. Brass tells him she loved George, and that that is why she didn't react when George walked into the bathroom. In a flashback, George is shown sitting on the edge of the bathtub, then holding Shelley's head under the water until she stopped flailing. He then ripped the towel bar from the wall and staged the crime scene. Brass tells George that it was physically impossible for Shelley to pull the towel bar from the wall, but George maintains that it was an accident.

George's lawyer says that none of the evidence provided proves that George murdered his wife, and they walk out of the police station with George a free man. However, his new Ferrari is getting towed away. Brass tells them that they don't have enough evidence to file criminal charges, but the insurance company feels that they have enough. Civil charges have been filed against George and the insurance company wants their $750,000 back. Nick tells him that this isn't over and that they will continue to investigate the case.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Tom Gallop as Attorney Randy Painter
  • Wallace Langham as David Hodges
  • Leslie Bega as Leah
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Paula Francis as News Anchor
  • Bobcat Goldthwait as Michael Borland
  • Jeffrey Ross as Dougie Max
  • Gilbert Gottfried as Stand-Up Comedian
  • Bryan Callen as Barry Yoder, Bartender
  • Alan Blumenfeld as Alan Sobel
  • Jeff Perry as George Stark
  • Sandra Purpuro as Shelley Stark
  • Maggie Wheeler as Stand-Up Comedian
  • Larry Thomas as Convenience Store Clerk
  • Molly Weber as Waitress
  • Anthony E. Zuiker as Heckler

Notes

  • One of the food samples from the comedy club that was in Dougie's stomach was a Choco Bee chocolate candy. Catherine asks Grissom if it's "death by chocolate again," referencing their case in Revenge is Best Served Cold where Doyle Pfeiffer essentially overdosed on too much chocolate. 

Trivia

  • The on-stage death of the comedian, with the crowd thinking that his death is just an act, and Grissom saying "When was the last time a comedian died of natural causes?" most probably refers to the death of famous British comedian Tommy Cooper, who, on 15 April 1984, died of a heart attack while being on live television. The crowd thought his collapse was part of the act.
  • Larry Thomas played the convenience store clerk. He is most recognizable for his role as The Soup Nazi in a very famous episode of Seinfeld.
  • Bryan Callen played Barry the bartender. He also appeared in the CSI: Miami episode Getting Axed, playing Kent Ackerman, and was a performer on the sketch comedy show MADtv from 1995 to 1997.
  • Alan Blumenfeld, who played club owner Alan Sobel, would later appear in the season ten episode Appendicitement, where he played Bernard Higgins, a victim of the later-identified Dr. Jekyll.
  • Jeff Perry, who played George Stark, would later appear in the season ten episode Doctor Who, where he played Vince Grady, a coffee stand barista who was trying to help Langston solve the Dr. Jekyll case.
  • This is the second cameo appearance of series creator Anthony E. Zuiker. He appears as a heckler at the end of the episode's final scene.
  • The brand name of the bottled water which is poisoned is named "Innoko", which is the name of a wildlife refuge in Alaska.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 3
Revenge is Best Served ColdThe Accused is EntitledLet the Seller BewareA Little MurderAbra-CadaverThe Execution of Catherine WillowsFight NightSnuffBlood LustHigh and LowRecipe for MurderGot Murder?Random Acts of ViolenceOne Hit WonderLady Heather's BoxLucky StrikeCrash & BurnPrecious MetalA Night at the MoviesLast LaughForeverPlay with FireInside the Box
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