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Last Woman Standing
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Season 13
Number 16
Writer Gavin Harris
Director Brad Tanenbaum
Original Airdate February 27, 2013
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Previous Episode: Forget Me Not
Next Episode: Dead of the Class

Last Woman Standing is the sixteenth episode in season thirteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

When a serial killer targets several prominent poker players, the CSI team is called to investigate before more victims surface. One is killed with a playing card while another chokes to death on chicken hearts, all leading to an investigation of a poker tournament years ago.

Plot

Victims: Peter Coe (deceased), Trent Aldridge (deceased)

On the case: entire team

After losing in a poker tournament, Peter Coe goes back to his condo with a woman on his arm. After the woman leaves, Peter gets on an elevator alone. By the time the elevator reaches the second floor, his throat has been slit and blood is spraying everywhere.

Morgan and Russell meet Greg at the scene. Based on the blood spatter, Greg figures the victim didn't suffer too long. The team wonders how a killer got into and out of the elevator in mere seconds. Greg opens the ceiling hatch, but finds no dust disturbance or evidence of footprints. There are also no scuff marks on the elevator walls, so it would seem nobody climbed down and back up again. So, how did someone taking a 10-second elevator ride end up getting their throat cut?

In autopsy, Doc Robbins labels the cause of death as exsanguination due to a severed jugular carotid complex. The slice on Peter's neck is clean, and Finn wonders if the weapon is a razor. Amongst Peter's belongings is a bracelet from the 1997 Palermo Poker Championship, a tournament he won. Peter won $1 million in the tournament and seems to have spent all of it on plastic surgery. Doc Robbins explains that Peter underwent a procedure called "Poker Lift," where someone gives themselves the perfect poker face by having any facial twitches and ticks removed. Finally, the doc finds a white powdery substance on Peter's shirt and sends it to Trace.

Elsewhere, Nick and Sara are called to a hotel room in the Palermo, where Trent Aldridge is lying dead on a bed with his wrists and ankles tied to the bedposts. David Phillips puts the time of death at three hours ago. Trent appears to have choked on something, and he has a white substance by the corner of his mouth. Acting on a suggestion from Nick, David pulls a piece of raw meat from the victim's trachea. The CSIs figure this is S&M gone bad, with the victim getting a "treat" and choking on it.

The white trace from Peter's shirt is identified as lily pollen. Finn guesses that the mystery woman is another player from the tournament, and she discovers that the prize for "Last Woman Standing" in the tournament is a bouquet of white lilies. The woman is identified as Ava Rendell; she has her own website where she gives poker lessons and sells t-shirts.

As Greg and Morgan look on from the sidelines, Ava gets eliminated from the tournament. Afterwards, she confirms with the CSIs that she was the last one to see Peter alive and that the lobby was empty when she left. She explains that Peter was like an uncle to her, as he had been a regular at her father's poker table for 30 years. Ava's father was a dealer, so gambling runs in her blood.

A room service worker from the Palermo tells the police that a woman, who went unseen, left him a $100 poker chip as a tip. It's possible the mystery dominatrix left a fingerprint behind on the chip.

Hodges tells Russell that no metal trace was found in Peter's neck wound. Instead, he found cellulose acetate - plastic. He tests a bunch of plastic weapons, including ceramic knives and plastic plates; however, he gets no results. Hope isn't lost, though, because Hodges comes up with an outside-the-box theory.

He tells Morgan that a locked elevator has to be opened at some point, leading him to think that the killer struck before the doors closed. Based on the plastic trace in Peter's neck wound, Hodges concludes that the murder weapon is a playing card, which can be thrown at over 80 MPH if done correctly. He theorizes that the killer stood out-of-sight in a side hallway, watched Peter walk onto the elevator and threw the card before the doors closed. The card is thin enough to fall through a gap, which would explain how it disappeared. Hodges' genius is proven when Henry comes back from the crime scene with a bloody Ace of Spades.

In an empty theater, magician James "Dr. Jimmy" Nefarro rehearses a trick with his assistant, Katy Hill; the trick just happens to be slicing someone's throat with a playing card. Morgan, Brass and some uniformed officers arrive to interrupt the rehearsal. They reveal that Dr. Jimmy staked Peter $10,000 to enter the poker tournament and never got a cent back. The bloody playing card puts Dr. Jimmy at the top of the suspect list, but the magician says he was rehearsing alone at the time of Peter's death. He refuses to show his playing cards to the police, and when Brass presents a search warrant, Dr. Jimmy magically burns it. The magician is arrested on the spot for obstruction of justice.

Doc Robbins autopsies the body of Trent Aldridge, finding a total of seven raw chicken hearts in the victim's stomach and trachea. Ring-shaped cuts and abrasions on the trachea indicate that the killer forced a funnel down Trent's throat, which makes this case a homicide. Finn notes that the seven chicken hearts could represent the Seven of Hearts playing card. When combined with the Ace of Spades found, she starts believing that the cases are connected.

Finn's hunches are proven correct when chicken blood is found on the Ace of Spades. Whoever handled the chicken hearts also handled the playing card. The timeline indicates that Trent was choked with the chicken hearts first, the blood got onto the card and the card was used to kill Peter. A budding serial killer seems to be emerging, and Russell tells Nick to go through any old cases to see if they fit the profile. If the killer is playing with a full deck, more bodies are going to be found.

Nick and Sara go through old, unsolved case files and find a hit—Ed Ficelli, an ex-pit boss at the Palermo. He overdosed on heroin two months ago, but Nick sees that two of the four injection points don't line up with a vein. When retested, it's discovered that the heroin was laced with a species of clover; in other words, Ed was poisoned. Russell notes that clovers are also known as clubs in the poker world, and he pulls a Four of Clubs from their deck of cards. When he puts a hole punch through the clubs, he finds that the holes match up perfectly with the holes in Ed's arm.

Nick says that the cards mean nothing in poker, as all three cards are offsuit with no pairs or straight potential. Sara tells the team that the fingerprint from the $100 chip at the hotel came back to Ava, placing her there when Trent Aldridge choked to death. Finn believes that this is too convenient and that someone is setting Ava up. Brass pages Russell; Ava's body has been found in the studio where she gives virtual poker lessons - and her head has been chopped off.

Brass interrogates Dr. Jimmy, who shows no emotion when looking at the picture of Ava's severed head. The magician denies decapitating Ava despite the shock factor the "trick" would provide for his audience. He says that a magician is "an actor playing the role of a magician," while their killer isn't playing.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Finn that Ava was decapitated in one chop, suggesting an unusual and powerful weapon. Knowing the facts of the case, Finn looks up pictures of Jacks and Kings, both of whom are holding weapons on their playing cards. The King of Diamonds is holding an axe, which means he could be the next card. Doc Robbins finds a rust-like trace in the wound and notes that the edges of the wound are sharp and exhibit a rim of abrasion; Finn's guess could be correct.

Hodges confirms that the rusty metal trace from the wound is a combination of chemicals consistent with antique iron made around the 16th century. This would suggest that the poleaxe is the murder weapon they're looking for. Russell thinks back on the case and wonders why the killer left the Ace of Spades behind. It's possible the killer did so deliberately, and Russell has Hodges process the playing card, thinking the card itself is part of the message the killer is sending.

Hodges examines the card and finds a hidden watermark when the card is put under a black light. The watermark is from the 1997 Palermo Poker Classic, the same tournament Peter won. Greg shows Finn and Russell video of the tournament, which has Peter, Trent and Bo "The Snake" Mattison battling in the third round. When the flop is dealt, it shows something familiar to the CSIs - the Ace of Spades, the Seven of Hearts and the Four of Clubs. The King of Diamonds is the turn card, while the King of Spades (unseen in a murder to this point) is the river card. Bo goes all in with a full house, but loses when Peter reveals he has four Kings. Distraught in defeat, Bo kisses a medal he's been wearing around his neck. Bo isn't a suspect, as he killed himself in Tresser Park a week after the tournament. However, Bo was divorced, so Russell has Greg search for his ex-wife. If Dr. Jimmy is involved, the team needs to do more digging into his possible connection with Bo.

Bo's wife is also crossed off the suspect list, as she died in 1990 from cancer. Morgan shows Russell various pictures of Bo; in each one of them, he's kissing the medal around his neck. The medal is a St. Catherine medal, and St. Catherine is the patron saint of cancer. Meanwhile, Dr. Jimmy's credit cards are run, and it's revealed that he purchased a poleaxe four months ago from a historical society and had it sent to his theater.

When the darkened theater is searched, Dr. Jimmy's assistant, Katy, is found lying still on a couch. She's still alive, though, and she startles Morgan when the CSI goes to check for vitals. Katy says that Dr. Jimmy was in the theater five minutes ago and, before he left, he told her to lie still. She confirms that the magician uses an poleaxe in his show, and the weapon is found in the nearby weapons cabinet with blood on the blade. Dr. Jimmy, however, is in the wind.

Tool marks from the poleaxe match the marks from Ava's neck wound; the team has their murder weapon. Greg shows Russell footage of the 1997 tournament again, picking up on even smaller details. He believes something is off because Peter kept betting heavily before the last two Kings were even revealed. The running theory is that everyone at the table cheated and collaborated against Bo. Both Trent and Peter gave subtle signals to each other, indicating that they were going to trap Bo with raises and re-raises. Trent had been betting high all game and losing, feeding Peter his chips each time.

Greg spots that the dealer, Glenn Heidbredder, was dealing the second card in the deck instead of the top, showing that he was in on the plan, too. Glenn died a year after the tournament and left behind one survivor—a daughter named Ava. Meanwhile, Ed Ficelli (Mr. Four of Clubs) was banned from casinos in 2002 for running collusion scams at Hold 'Em tables. Ed was the idea man, and everyone involved cheated Bo and drove him to suicide.

Russell poses a question to the team: which victim gets the King of Spades? Greg and Morgan figure the hand is complete, and that Dr. Jimmy's last trick was a disappearing act. Russell shoots this theory down and wonders if the final victim is Dr. Jimmy himself. He has a history of staking players in the tournaments, and could have been Bo's money man in 1997; it's possible he supplied the patsy with the buy-in money. This would make Dr. Jimmy a co-conspirator and the next one to die.

Henry gets a partial profile off the epithelials on the poleaxe; they show a familial match with Bo. Since Bo was an only child, the contributor is likely his daughter. Morgan realizes that Bo wasn't kissing the St. Catherine's medal to honor his wife; instead, he was honoring someone with the same name - Catherine "Katy" Hill, Dr. Jimmy's assistant. Katy had access to the poleaxe and set the magician up as a form of misdirect. When the LVPD finds Dr. Jimmy's car abandoned at Tresser Park, Morgan remembers that it's the same place where Bo committed suicide. Katy is going to kill Jimmy there, and the CSIs head there to prevent it.

Dr. Jimmy's car is empty and an unused shovel is found in his trunk. Morgan searches the playground and is eventually confronted by Katy. Katy refers to Dr. Jimmy as "the river card" and says that after her mother died last year, she found a note that Bo wrote. In it, he admits to figuring out that he had been cheated. Katy begins to cry, saying that she's been cheated as much as her father was. Morgan tries to convince Katy to reveal Dr. Jimmy's whereabouts, but the young woman refuses to "show her cards."

Morgan realizes that Katy is slow-playing her, just like Bo used to do with his opponents. She calls Nick at the theater and tells him that Dr. Jimmy is there. Nick finds Dr. Jimmy tied up in the weapons cabinet with a spade-tipped weapon pointed at his chin. When Nick radios Morgan and confirms that Dr. Jimmy has been found alive, Katy screams and draws her gun. Morgan reacts quickly and fires her gun, shooting Katy. Before she dies, Katy congratulates Morgan for being the "Last Woman Standing." As Morgan's hand shakes from the adrenaline, Greg takes her gun from her and tries to calm her down.

In the station locker room, Morgan sits by herself, distraught that she's killed someone. She admits to her father that she's never had to shoot someone before, As the conversation continues, Ecklie reveals that he signed the paperwork that will make him the new sheriff of the LVPD.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

Goofs

  • When Russell asks Morgan what happened outside the crime scene, she says a man was murdered in an elevator and the last person to have seen him was a woman in a purple dress. This was false because she was seen wearing red when she said goodbye to the poker player.
  • After punching holes in the Four of Clubs, Russell puts it with a photo of the victim, Ed Ficelli. When he does so, one of the clubs is missing its hole punch.

Music

  • Young Girl by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap

Notes

  • This is the first time Morgan fatally shoots a suspect.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 13
Karma to BurnCode Blue Plate SpecialWild FlowersIt Was a Very Good YearPlay DeadPick and RollFallen AngelsCSI on FireStrip MaulRisky Business ClassDead AirDouble FaultIn Vino VeritasExileForget Me NotLast Woman StandingDead of the ClassShelteredBackfireFearlessGhosts of the PastSkin in the Game


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