Nesting Dolls
Season 5
Number 13
Writer Sarah Goldfinger
Director Bill Eagles
Original Airdate February 3, 2005
Previous Episode: Snakes
Next Episode: Unbearable

Nesting Dolls is the thirteenth episode in Season Five of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


When two bodies covered in tar are found, the CSIs must try to uncover the identity and the murderers. Sara is reprimanded by Ecklie for improper conduct.


Victims: Svetlana Melton and unidentified second female victim (both deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Sara Sidle, Warrick Brown

At a construction site, a body is found buried and encased in roofing tar. Warrick notes that the roofing tar keeps the smell and the animals away; unfortunately, it makes the CSIs' job harder. Whoever encased the body had access to a lot of tar, so Warrick believes they may be looking for a construction worker. As he and Nick brush away dirt from the body, Nick finds a third foot, indicating that there's another body buried in the spot.

The large block of tar and rock containing the two bodies are brought into the lab. David Phillips is able to get x-rays of the bodies, revealing that both victims are female. One of the victims has something that looks like barbed wire in her mouth. Doc Robbins guesses that it could be dental work, but Catherine wonders if it's some kind of torture device.

Catherine has trouble determining how to get the bodies out of the large block without damaging it. Grissom, who tells Catherine he's off the clock and came into work early just to see this large block in person, has an idea. He has Catherine drill holes into the block and put funnels in the holes. Noting that tar becomes as brittle as glass at -200 degrees Fahrenheit, Grissom pours liquid nitrogen into the funnels causing the tar to freeze over. They're then able to chisel away the excess tar to get to the bodies. However, when Grissom pulls tar away from the second body, part of the victim's skull becomes stuck to the tar and rips away from the rest of the skeleton. It's at this point that Grissom conveniently remembers that his shift is supposed to start. He leaves Catherine with the mess, but offers up Sara to assist on the case.

Sara reconstructs the face of the topmost victim from the entombment. Catherine, Nick and Warrick join her and go over their findings so far. The victim's cause of death was blunt force trauma to the skull and she had blood on her shirt, which could belong to the victim or a suspect. Nick adds that the wire removed from the victim's mouth was 26-gauge stainless steel that's used to wire jawbones shut. Sara notices an x-ray of the fingers, and Catherine tells her that all of the fingers were cut off both of the victims' hands with a tool that is jagged on one side and smooth on the other. If this was done perimortem, it might be torture; if it was postmortem, it could've been done to hide the victims' identities. David Hodges interrupts and tells the group that, based on the soil samples collected, the bottom victim was buried five years ago, while the top victim has only been buried for two. Sara believes that both murders point to domestic abuse.

Sara visits multiple hospitals in Vegas to find domestic abuse victims from two years ago that match her mold. As she looks through the various photos of victims, she hears muffled voices in her head and is clearly agitated by what she's looking at. She finally comes across a photo that looks like her mold; the corresponding records indicate that the victim is Svetlana Melton.

Svetlana's ex-husband, Andrew Melton, arrives at the station for questioning along with his young Asian wife, June. As Andrew sits down for interrogation, Sara gives him a death stare. He tells Catherine and Sara that he last saw Svetlana two years ago and that he was arrested for hitting her, something he says he never did. Andrew also never filed a missing persons report, worried about how that would look after being accused of abuse. Sara continues to bluntly ask questions and make assumptions while Catherine glares across the table at her. Andrew tells them that he met Svetlana through an "agency," which he refuses to call mail-order. Sara accuses Andrew of murder point blank and guesses he got tired of white women. Catherine's jaw drops as the interview unravels and Andrew leaves with his wife.

As they walk through the hallway, Sara asks that a police officer be sent to Andrew's residence to conduct regular welfare checks despite there being no evidence that June is being abused. Furthermore, June would have to be the one to contact the police; Sara believes she doesn't speak enough English to do so. She becomes agitated when Catherine says there's nothing they can do until they build a case against Andrew for Svetlana's murder. The two get into an argument, with Catherine telling Sara that she goes off the deep end every time they get a case with a hint of domestic violence or abuse. Sara fires back and tells Catherine that she lets her sexuality cloud her judgement about men. Conrad Ecklie hears the commotion and angrily calls Sara into his office.

In his office, Ecklie tells Sara that he expects her to conduct herself as a representative of the lab and the city. Sara, clearly not having any, shuts Ecklie down before he can give one of his "for the good of the lab" speeches. He pulls out her file and tells her that she berates witnesses, disrespects the people she works with, and was able to luck her way out of a DUI. After Sara tells Ecklie that he's only in charge of the lab because he couldn't make it in the field and because Grissom doesn't kiss ass, Ecklie suspends her for a week without pay.

Warrick processes Svetlana's jacket from the night she was admitted to the hospital. Most of the blood on the jacket is Svetlana's, but there's some blood from an unknown male contributor. Catherine guesses that the blood belongs to Andrew; however, Warrick tells her that Andrew voluntarily submitted a DNA sample on the night of the incident and that it doesn't match the blood on the jacket. Warrick has also found a dictionary with certain romantic words highlighted. A set of camera booth photos featuring Svetlana and another guy is being used as a bookmark. Catherine tells Warrick that the guy in the pictures isn't Andrew.

Nick processes Svetlana's blouse and jeans, noting that the large amount of blood on the blouse is likely from the gushing head wound. There's a piece of paper in the jeans pocket; however, the elements have erased away the writing. Warrick shows Nick the pocket of the jeans and they see that the ink from the note bled onto the lining. Nick has Ronnie Litre process the writing on the lining and they see that it reads "Madame Matryoshka's. Tuesday, 9 AM." Ronnie explains that matryoshka are Russian nesting dolls.

Nick and Brass visit Madame Matryoshka's, which happens to be a beauty shop. They're introduced to the owner, Chloe Daniels, who remembers Svetlana working there as a hairdresser. She soon admits that she hires women as hairdressers but they are, in reality, wives-to-be for her clients. The women are sponsored on a 90-day visa and taught a trade, which is cutting hair for men. Chloe tells Brass that she doesn't screen the guys that the women end up with, and Nick tells her that Svetlana ended up dead. She recognizes the guy from the camera booth photo as Ken Wellstone, but says that Ken only came in for haircuts and wasn't interested in the other "service" provided.

Nick and Brass pay Ken a visit. He remembers Svetlana and says that he took her out for ice cream one day, but nothing more. Svetlana then gave him a story about having an abusive husband and begged him for help, but he did nothing. They ask Ken for a DNA sample, and Nick searches the apartment. Nick finds a black spot on the carpet under the dining room table and cuts a swatch to bring back to the lab for analysis.

Grissom visits Sara and tells her that Ecklie wants to fire her. He wants to know why Sara lost her temper and notes that it has been happening quite a bit recently. Sara admits that she has a problem with authority and is self-destructive. She tells Grissom that she also crossed the line with Catherine and was insubordinate to Ecklie. Grissom asks her why, but Sara wants him to leave it alone. He doesn't, and he wants to know why she's so angry. Sara opens up about her past and growing up in an abusive household, culminating in her mother killing her abusive father and getting taken by Child Services.

In the lab, David Hodges processes the piece of carpet taken from Ken's apartment. The spot on the carpet tests positive for the same tar Svetlana was buried in; furthermore, the unknown male DNA on her jacket is a match to Ken. He's brought in for questioning, where he shows Brass a note from Svetlana telling him that she was running away. Ken finds it odd that the note refers to him as "Ken" because Svetlana always called him "Kenski." He tells Brass that he and Svetlana were in love; however, Andrew had bought her, so he thought he owned her. Svetlana wanted to divorce Andrew and frame him for abuse, so she had Ken hit her in the face. This explains her broken jaw and Ken's blood on her jacket.

Warrick informs Catherine that the blood on Svetlana's shirt belonged to Svetlana herself with no contributions from Ken. He also found traces of "Aubergine Sheen number 315," a professional grade hair dye. Warrick believes that some of the patterns look like cast-off. Catherine, Nick and Brass head to the hair salon with a warrant to search the premises. There, Catherine finds a pair of scissors that are jagged on one side and smooth on the other. Nick finds an appointment book and snaps a photo of it. There's blood spatter on the wall next to the aubergine hair dye that seems too low for Svetlana's height. Nick wonders if Svetlana was sitting when the attack happened. They see that the two chairs next to each other don't match; when Catherine removes the vinyl from one of the chairs, a large smudge is revealed.

In the lab, Warrick tells Catherine that the smudge on the chair was Aubergine Sheen hair dye; however, the blood stains on the wall were too degraded to get a DNA match. He's able to digitally match the smudge to Svetlana's face from her camera booth photo. Catherine notices that the necklace Svetlana is wearing in the photo is the same one that Andrew's new wife, June, was wearing when she visited the police station earlier. This is enough for a warrant to search Andrew's home. There, they find that Andrew has locked the doors to the refrigerator and the kitchen cupboards, seemingly as a way to control his wife's weight. The cord has also been detached from the phone, so she can't make any calls. In the living room, Brass removes June's necklace while Andrew angrily looks on.

Catherine processes the necklace and finds Svetlana's blood on it. She, Nick and Warrick meet up to recap the case. Nick guesses that after spending a night in jail on a phony abuse charge, Andrew immediately went looking for Svetlana. Warrick adds that Andrew found Svetlana and killed her, taking the only thing he valued—the necklace. They know that this evidence won't hold up in court, so they need to find the murder weapon. Catherine says a murder weapon will be hard to find since the crime is over two years old. Nick wonders if Andrew is even the one who buried the body, as there was already a pre-existing grave at the site. They figure that the girls' fingertips were removed by blending shears from the salon, and the only people with access to the salon are Chloe and her receptionist, Vlad.

Ronnie Litre compares the handwriting from the appointment book and the note Svetlana wrote to Ken. He finds that the letters are a match, meaning that the handwriting on both is Vlad's. In the interrogation room, Warrick reveals that Vlad's credit card receipts show that he bought large amounts of tar two and five years ago. Vlad admits that he worked for a certain family when he was in Russia, and when they wanted a body taken care of, he would go to the oil field and bury it in tar. He tells Warrick that Svetlana was already dead; a flashback shows him walking in on Andrew kneeling over the body and removing her necklace. Andrew then paid Vlad a lot of money to clean up the scene and bury the body. After burying the body, Vlad wrote the fake note and left it in Ken's apartment, tracking tar onto the carpet. Warrick tells him that there was another body in the grave, and Vlad reveals that five years ago, another girl had come over from Russia hidden in a suitcase because she couldn't get a visa. She got crushed to death as other luggage was piled on top of her, and Vlad buried her in tar in the desert. Vlad insists that he only does this with the girls that are already dead and that he didn't kill anyone.

Brass interrogates Andrew and pretends to sympathize with his situation, eventually bringing up the fact that Svetlana made up the story about being attacked. Andrew admits to eventually not letting Svetlana leave the house because he felt other guys were ogling her when they would go out. He tells Brass that Svetlana eventually got lonely. A flashback shows Andrew entering the salon and confronting Svetlana for the bogus abuse charge. He threw the dish of hair dye in her face, hit her, and pushed her into the chair. The confrontation ended with Andrew beating Svetlana to death. "She never appreciated me," Andrew unsympathetically tells Brass before being hauled away in handcuffs.

Grissom visits with Ecklie and tells him that he's not firing Sara, saying that her behavior is a direct result of his management. He tells Ecklie that Sara is a great criminalist and that he needs her. Ecklie calls Sara a "loose cannon with a gun," but relents and lets Sara keep her job under Grissom's supervision.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Major Events[]

  • As a result of clashing with Catherine, Sara is suspended for a full week without pay.
  • Sara reveals to Grissom that she had a traumatic childhood in which her father was very abusive towards her and her mother until, one day, her mother stabbed her father to death.
  • At the end of the episode, Grissom confronts Ecklie and Catherine about Sara's suspension. Ecklie recommends that Sara be fired due to her undesirable behavior towards Catherine, but Grissom covers for her and decided against it.

Episode Title[]

  • Also known as Russian "nesting dolls," matryoshka dolls are sets of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed inside one another.[1] The phrase refers to the double grave site of two Russian women that's investigated in the episode.


  • What Becomes Of Us by Cinephile
  • Burqa by Constanza


  • In the beginning of the episode, Greg is dressed up in a suit for his first court appearance. He tells Sara that it's for the "Sherlock" case, referencing the episode Who Shot Sherlock?.
  • Ecklie brings up Sara's DUI charge, which she received in the season four episode Bloodlines.

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