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Lucky Strike
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Season 3
Number 16
Writer Eli Talbert,
Anthony E. Zuiker
Director Kenneth Fink
Original Airdate February 20, 2003
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Previous Episode: Lady Heather's Box
Next Episode: Crash & Burn

Lucky Strike is the sixteenth episode in Season Three of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

Catherine and Warrick try to find evidence when Isaiah, the five-year-old son of a professional basketball player, is kidnapped. Meanwhile, Grissom and Nick investigate when a man stumbles out of his car and dies from a wooden stake lodged in the back of his head.

Plot

Victim: Alex James (deceased)

On the case: Gil Grissom, Nick Stokes, Cyrus Lockwood

An erratic driver leads the police and a police helicopter on a chase before coming to a stop in front of a casino. When the driver emerges from the vehicle, he has a wooden stake sticking out the top of his head. He collapses to the ground and dies. The victim, 42-year-old Alex James, is the registered owner of the vehicle; he has no prior record. Det. Cryus Lockwood guesses that Alex might've been on his way to the hospital, but Grissom is more concerned with where he came from.

Nick arrives on the scene and asks if they should take the stake out of Alex's head. Grissom replies that doing so would eradicate any prints; however, upon closer inspection of the stake, he figures they probably won't get prints from it anyway. He scrapes Alex's fingernails and finds gold flakes in the sample, while Det. Lockwood finds a gun in the car.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins marvels at the sight of a stake embedded in someone's head. With Grissom's help, he's able to remove it. The doc says that stake probably kept Alex alive and allowed him to drive; a centimeter or two to the left or right would've caused him to bleed out on the spot. Grissom notes that Alex probably would've died in surgery had he stayed alive.

In the lab, both Grissom and Nick are looking down microscopes. Grissom identifies the substance from under Alex's fingernails as animal feces, possibly from a bat. Nick guesses that the wood from the stake is from a Douglas Fir, but he can't identify the mineral intertwined with the splinters. Grissom believes the mineral is either quartz or fluorite, both of which can be found in every outdoor area all around Nevada.

Grissom, Nick, and Det. Lockwood visit the salvage company that was owned by Alex James. In the warehouse, they find some buckshot pellets and a melting furnace used for melting precious metals. Det. Lockwood finds a plastic bag filled with some precious metals and some pawn tickets, which Nick says are easily traceable. Grissom finds a bunch of topographical maps of the Sierra Nevada mountains. One of the maps contains some blood spatter and a bullet hole. Nick finds the medium-caliber bullet on the floor and wonders if they've found their primary crime scene. Grissom notes that Alex's gun was a .38 Special, but he died from a stake to the head. They may be looking for another body.

The bullet found in the warehouse is a match to the gun found in Alex's car, while test results show that the minerals on the wood splinters were quartz fluorite. Traces of arsenic and cyanide were found, as well. Nick notes that this is what's used to extract gold from mines. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of gold and silver mines in the state of Nevada.

Det. Lockwood informs Grissom and Nick that Alex James was a landowner, exploiting an old law that allowed public land to be patented for five cents per acre. Alex simply bought and sold publicly-owned, government land. However, he bought and sold one mine over and over again. The most recent buyer was a local, Joe McPherson, who has been missing for 48 hours. Det. Lockwood provides them with the location of the mine.

At the mine site, Grissom and Nick find a ton of gold sprinkled along the mine's ceiling. Nick finds another buckshot casing on the floor, while Grissom sees what looks like impact patterns on the ceiling. They guess that Alex was running a scam—he was melting down jewelry to make gold and spreading it all over the mine. He would then sell the mine for a profit. A flashback shows the process, complete with Alex firing a shotgun worth of gold and spraying it over the ceiling, also known as "salting the mine." They notice different insects on the mine floor that are heading deeper into the cave.

As they walk deeper into the cave, Grissom and Nick find wood splinters on the floor similar to the one found in Alex's head. They also find a fuse line, indicating that dynamite might be involved. The body of Joe McPherson is eventually found in the back of the mine; he has a gunshot wound to the chest that looks to be about two days old. It's surmised that the bullet was fired from Alex's gun. Grissom guesses that with the fuse line and dynamite, Alex was trying to hide Joe's body in the back of the mine.

A flashback shows Joe holding Alex at gunpoint, furious that he got duped into buying the mine. The two fought over the gun, with Joe getting shot. Alex then transported the body to the mine and tried to blow the mine with dynamite to cover up the body. However, the fuse burnt too quickly and Alex wasn't able to get out of the mine in time. As the mine blew, splinters of wood flew around with one of them getting lodged in Alex's head. The case is closed when it's determined that the blood on the bullet in the warehouse is a match to Joe.

Victim: Isaiah Jones-Tombs (missing)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Warrick Brown, Jim Brass

Catherine and Warrick arrive at the Venetian and are informed that Isaiah Tombs, the five-year-old son of professional basketball player Tavian Tombs, has been kidnapped. A ransom note was left at the hotel front desk. They enter Tavian's hotel room to find him berating his security staff. Tavian is reluctant to let the CSIs help him at first, but eventually hands the ransom note to Warrick. The note requests $5,000,000 to be delivered to a certain spot by 4 AM. All adults in the room touched the note, but the head of security says the note came in an envelope, which he discarded. Warrick believes they will have more luck with the envelope than with the note.

In another room, Brass is interviewing the nanny. She tells Brass that Isaiah and his two brothers were at the carnival. Against her better judgement, she let the kids ride the carousel. One minute Isaiah was riding it, but the next time it came back around, he had disappeared. She tells Brass she looked everywhere, but came back to the hotel with just the two boys. She then reveals that Tavian and the woman with him are not married and that she (the nanny) is Tavian's sister. Back in the living room, the casino has fronted Tavian the ransom money, which Catherine strongly advises against. Tavian won't hear it and puts the money in a bag.

In the lab, Warrick goes over the ransom note, but doesn't find anything out of the ordinary. The envelope it came in is self-adhering, so they can't get DNA from it. However, Sara sniffs the paper and notices an odor emanating from it. Warrick runs some tests on the paper to figure out what the smell is. He's also able to find numerous fingerprints on the note.

Warrick tells Catherine that everyone touched the ransom note and that some of the hotel's staff touched the envelope. The fingerprints aren't going to be of much help; however, the scent test run on the ransom note came back as menthol and nicotine, meaning they're looking for a smoker.

Warrick and Brass drive to the dump site and wait for the kidnapper to take the ransom money. They note that they're sitting there way past the scheduled drop time. Just then, they see Tavian's head of security approach the bag. As he gets surrounded, he says that Tavian just wanted to make sure the transfer got done, but Brass says that's the job of the police. Brass tells him that he probably got made, which is why the kidnappers never came to pick up the money. As the man continues to defend his actions, Brass gets a phone call—Isaiah's body has been found. Upon arriving at the dump site, Catherine and Warrick note the unnatural position Isaiah's body is in. They guess that he was thrown from a moving car.

In the police station, Tavian's girlfriend doesn't want the coroner cutting up Isaiah's body. Tavian tells Catherine that he's taking the body; however, she tells him that in a case like this, an autopsy is mandatory. There may be evidence on the body that leads to the killer. Tavian angrily walks away, frustrated that he's no longer in charge.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Catherine that there's no apparent cause of death. Foam around the mouth could indicate pulmonary edema, and the doc finds bruising around the lower extremities and the knees. He notes that the bruises are a few days old. The body has a bruise around the chest that extends to the back. Doc Robbins is familiar with the type of injury and asks if rope was found at the crime scene, but Catherine tells him they haven't found the scene yet. Meanwhile, Warrick is tape-lifting Isaiah's sweatshirt when he finds an odd fiber.

On the casino floor, Brass talks to Kevin, who works as a bellman for the hotel. He was caught trying to cash in a $10,000 gold chip; after initially saying it was a tip, he admits that he "found" it. When Brass asks him where he got it. Kevin explains that Tavian is always surrounded by people, both male and female, who want different things. Although the bodyguards are usually able to keep Tavian separate from everyone, a blonde woman got through the crowd while Tavian was gambling. The woman berated Tavian for being a lousy father to someone named Tramelle and a deadbeat; when he tried to bribe her with the gold chip, she smacked it out of his hand. Kevin, claiming low pay and anger at Tavian for never tipping, grabbed the chip off the floor before anyone noticed. He says that he tried to give the chip to the woman, but she told him to keep it. Kevin wants his chip back, but Brass rebuffs him. Brass then asks the hotel manager who the blonde was. After some pressure, the manager says the blonde woman's name is Bridget Willis and that she's on Tavian's list.

Brass and Catherine visit Bridget's house and they find that she has a son named Tramelle. Catherine notices that he was one of the boys playing video games in Tavian's hotel suite earlier. Bridget tells them that she and Tavian met in college, but she became pregnant and Tavian entered the NBA. They often fight about money, but she has come to accept that she will never be rich. However, Bridget says that Tavian has responsibilities to his son that he never follows through on. Bridget tells them that she also has a daughter named Josie; she wasn't present at the carnival because she wasn't invited. A flashback shows Bridget confronting Tavian in the casino and begging him to bring Josie to the carnival; however, Tavian said no because the girl isn't his—"It's all about what's mine." Instead, Bridget took Josie to a Build-a-Bear Workshop-type place.

In the lab, Greg tells Warrick that the fiber pulled from Isaiah's sweatshirt came back as rope, likely from the restraint tied around him. The sweatshirt was also covered in many different breeds of dog hair. Greg wonders if the kidnapper used dogs to lure him. Meanwhile, Doc Robbins shows Catherine that he found pill casings in Isaiah's stomach. The doc couldn't find the manufacturer in the database; however, armed with the knowledge that dogs could be involved, Catherine checks to see if the pills are in a veterinary pharmaceutical database. The result comes back as Acepromazine Maleate, a tranquilizer. Doc Robbins says that the pills are 25 milligrams, and that a dose that small wouldn't be fatal for someone Isaiah's size. He believes that, based on Isaiah's blood levels, the pills were probably a second dose. Warrick guesses that the money drop isn't what made the kidnapping go bad, it was the fact that Isaiah died. Catherine says she'll tell Brass to extend the search radius from the dump site to include veterinary clinics, kennels, and pet supply stores.

The police locate an animal kennel three blocks from where Isaiah's body was found. In the kennel, Catherine finds a shoe likely belonging to Isaiah. She also finds some rope tied in a knot. Catherine and Warrick find an open medicine cabinet with the same bottle of the drugs found in Isaiah's system. Brass interrupts them and shows them the body of Jacob Price, who worked the night shift at the kennel. He has been bludgeoned on the head with a shovel.

In his office, Brass tells Tavian that Jacob kidnapped Isaiah. Not being used to dealing with children, he tied Isaiah up after the boy tried to escape. When that didn't work, Jacob drugged him, upping the dosage when the drugs didn't have enough of an effect. Brass accuses Tavian of murdering Jacob out of revenge, but Tavian denies it, saying he doesn't even know who Jacob is. He does admit that if he had gotten to Jacob first, he would've killed him. Meanwhile, while searching the kennel's property, Catherine finds some stuffing—the same used to fill stuffed animals.

In the lab, Warrick compares the stuffing that was found to what is used in the store; they're a visible match. Brass, Catherine, and Warrick go to Bridget's house and find Tramelle sitting by himself watching TV. He tells Catherine that Bridget left with Josie and that Tavian would come by to pick him up. Brass confirms that Bridget is nowhere to be found.

Back at the station, Catherine tells Warrick that Tavian was paying Bridget child support to the tune of $3,000 per month. Warrick notes that this is chump change to someone making hundreds of millions of dollars like Tavian, and assumes that Bridget knew Tavian would pay a mere $5,000,000 to get his son back. The thought is that Bridget killed Jacob at the dog kennel because he accidentally killed Isaiah, leaving a piece of stuffing behind in the process. In an act of redemption, she gave Tramelle to Tavian. At the end, Bridget hasn't been found, while Tramelle is shown being welcomed into Tavian's family.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Jeffrey D. Sams as Cyrus Lockwood
  • Joseph Patrick Kelly as Officer Joe Metcalf
  • Dwayne Adway as Tavian Tombs
  • Tracy Middendorf as Bridget Willis
  • Leslie Silva as The Nanny
  • Mahershala Ali as Tombs' Security Guard
  • Cameron Daddo as Hotel Manager
  • Sam Jaeger as Kevin the Bellman
  • Loren Lazerine as Alex James
  • Christina Christian as Kenisha Jones
  • Tequan Richmond as Tramelle Willis-Tombs
  • Alexandra Lee as Josie Willis
  • Jimm Giannini as Joe McPherson
  • Steffon Sam Jr. as Isaiah Jones-Tombs
  • Angela Casassa as Blonde at Blackjack Table (uncredited)

Episode Title

  • Lucky Strike comes from one of the more historically popular brands of cigarettes dating from 1916. It relates, from before that, to gold prospecting, and encountering a valuable "strike" by chance rather than knowledge or experience.

Notes

  • Warrick sits out Isaiah's autopsy, saying he didn't want to look over another dead child. This is in reference to the episode Random Acts of Violence, which involved the random murder of young Aimee Phelps. 

Quotes

Nick: There's a sucker born every minute.
Grissom: Yep, and they all come to Vegas.

Music

  • Get Free by The Vines
  • No Sugar Mama by The Von Bondies

Goofs

  • When Nick and Grissom enter the mine, they turn on their flashlights. In the camera angles facing them, they have medium sized flashlights, but in the shots looking at them from behind, they have very large sized flashlights.

Trivia

  • In this episode, Grissom states that many people didn't leave the scene of the 1980 fire at the MGM Grand Casino, claiming that many of the people who died didn't leave their slot machines in the hopes they could win a jackpot. This is not at all true in real life. In a 2015 retrospective on the fire in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Captain Jon Sabol (ret.) stated that nobody died at any of the MGM Grand gaming tables or slot machines. In fact, all of the 61 recorded deaths were on the upper floors of the casino.

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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