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Overload
Overload.jpg
Season 2
Number 3
Writer Josh Berman
Director Richard J. Lewis
Original Airdate October 11, 2001
Navigation
Previous Episode: Chaos Theory
Next Episode: Bully for You

Overload is the third episode in season two of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

When a construction worker takes a fall from the 12th story at a construction site, Grissom is convinced the victim was electrocuted. But as the sheriff and a lot of others have no trouble believing it's a suicide and the evidence doesn't immediately support his theory, he has to go through a lot of trouble to prove murder. Meanwhile, Catherine and Nick look into the death of a teenage boy who apparently suffered an epileptic seizure during a therapy session, and the case takes a personal effect on Nick.

Plot

Victim: Roger Valenti (deceased)

On the case: Gil Grissom, Sara Sidle, Warrick Brown, Jim Brass

At a construction site, a body falls from the 12th floor of a building and lands on top of a passing car. Grissom is on the scene, but so is Sheriff Brian Mobley, who just happens to be on a first-name basis with the foreman, Robert Harris. Robert and the sheriff are convinced that the death of Roger Valenti is a suicide, as he was unhappy in life and was alone on the 12th floor. Grissom questions why someone who planned to kill themselves would come to work at all.

Up on the 12th floor, Robert explains that Roger worked alone and was in charge of drilling the holes for the safety cables. Nobody else is allowed to walk on the floor until the cables are looped around the perimeter. Grissom peers over the edge of the building and visualizes Roger's fall; in the process, he finds a drill hanging off the side. He sees that the drill is shorted out and quickly deduces that Roger was electrocuted. Robert believes that the GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) would've prevented shock, but Grissom soon finds out that the plug in the outlet is missing its third prong. The third prong grounds the drill; without it, the GFCI is useless. Grissom notes that the prongs just don't snap off by themselves, so someone apparently tampered with it. He finds a pair of metal cutters on the ground nearby and fumes them for fingerprints.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Grissom that Roger's ear bones are the only ones not broken in his body. Grissom asks to see the entry and exit points on the body, and is surprised when told that there's no physical evidence of an electrocution—there are no burns marks on his palms, nor is there a fern-like burn pattern on his chest. The body of Roger Valenti contradicts the crime scene, but Grissom is sure that this was no accident.

As Grissom turns his efforts to the drill, Sara questions what exactly she's looking for. She mentions that the body always tells a story; in this case, it says there was no accident. However, Grissom encourages her to "break the rules" by starting with a conclusion and working backwards. His persistence pays off, as he discovers that the wires in the drill are crossed, reversing the polarity. Roger's rubber-soled boots should've insulated him against electrical shock; however, there's a nail in one of the soles. Someone tampered with the drill and may have done so with the boot, as well.

Warrick lines up the ridge details from the palm prints on the cutters and is able to form one complete palm print. When run through AFIS, the print comes back as Robert's. Robert claims that, as the project manager, his prints all over everything at the construction site. He adds that he's vigilant about safety and always checks the tools himself. Sheriff Mobley orders Grissom to drop the investigation so the construction site reopens, and Grissom agrees to after all evidence is processed. Brass privately informs Grissom that Roger had been elected as the union representative three days before his death and had pressed for a walkout if overtime pay wasn't increased. This would give someone motive to silence Roger for good. When questioned about this, Robert says that he's a union man himself and wasn't opposed to Roger's activities.

As Grissom walks to the police station, he's stopped by a man who claims to have information about Roger. He explains that he was the union representative before Roger and that he was the one who came up with the idea for the walkout. However, he says that Robert threatened him and his family, which is why he gave up his position. The man believes he could've been the victim instead of Roger.

Grissom heads back to autopsy and asks to see Roger's body again; however, Doc Robbins informs him that the body was released six hours ago. The final coroner's report contains nothing supporting the idea of electrocution. Grissom convinces him to read through his notes again and identify anything out of the ordinary. Roger's troponin enzymes were elevated; however, the doc points out that troponin is found in all victims of cardiac arrest, regardless of whether they've been electrocuted. There was also an elevated concentration of iron in Roger's blood, but not enough to be life-threatening. Roger's skin was also jaundiced, caused by deoxygenation of the blood. Grissom asks to see Roger's testicles, something Doc Robbins admits he didn't focus on during the autopsy.

Sara and Warrick are surprised when told that the case hasn't been closed, despite Sheriff Mobley putting an end to the investigation. Grissom tasks Sara with dusting the nail in Roger's boot for fingerprints and comparing them against Robert's. He also has Sara process the metal cutters further in order to determine whether they were used to sever the drill's grounding prong. Meanwhile, he and Warrick go to the funeral home and speak with funeral director Randy Gesek. Roger's body is laid out, and Grissom examines his testicles, noting that they're atrophied. Combined with the yellow skin, Grissom concludes that Roger was ingesting trace amounts of iron over a long period of time. While this doesn't prove that Roger was poisoned, it gets the CSIs one step closer to solving the case. Before he and Warrick leave, Grissom asks Randy to collect a pint of Roger's blood, which will be analyzed back at the lab.

Per Grissom's instructions, Warrick has Roger's blood packaged in plastic. In the lab, Grissom strips and rigs the electrical wires on a lamp. He then attaches the wires to the bag of blood, hoping to prove that Roger had enough iron in his blood to conduct electricity. The experiment is a success, as the light bulb in the lamp lights up.

Grissom takes the experimentation one step further by electrocuting a pickle. The pickle lights up, and when Grissom ends the experiment, he shows Sara and Warrick that the pickle sustained no burn marks. He explains that pickles are high in sodium content and, just like iron, sodium is conductive. Normally, the flow of electricity through a body would conduct heat and produce visible burn marks; however, if the body offers up no resistance, no burn marks will appear. The CSIs conclude that Roger's body offered up no resistance because of the high iron content in his blood. Therefore, the iron conducted the electricity, which made Roger one big wire from path to ground. Roger didn't have any burn marks, but he was definitely electrocuted. The team has proven murder, but Greg interrupts and informs them that the fingerprint Sara recovered from the head of the nail isn't a match to Robert Harris.

Grissom relays this information to Sheriff Mobley, who is less than pleased that his friend's name was drug through the mud. The sheriff orders Grissom to give a formal apology in a newspaper article. Grissom refuses, but is told he has no choice. In his office, Grissom peruses the database of the Electrical Workers Union and finds the man who confronted him the parking lot earlier: Ian Wolf. Since Ian wanted the police to focus on Robert, Grissom and Brass believe Ian may be the one responsible for Roger's death.

Ian is brought into interrogation, where it's revealed that he took a pipe to Roger's head four days before he died. Though the incident wasn't on the foreman's report, Roger's widow told Brass about it. Grissom and Brass figure that Ian tried to frame Robert, but Ian stops the interrogation and asks for his union lawyer. While Ian gets up to leave, Grissom eyes his toolbelt, focusing on the metal cutters. They know Ian is guilty, but they can't make the same mistake they did with Robert. However, the partial fingerprint from the head of the nail is a match to Ian, so the team is getting closer to "nailing" him for murder.

Warrick compares the striations from the grounding prong and is able to prove that Ian's metal cutters were used to do the trick. At the construction site, Grissom has Ian arrested, telling him that they know he stuck the nail in Roger's boot, reversed the polarity in the drill, and cut the grounding prong. Sheriff Mobley congratulates Grissom, informing him that the tenor of the newspaper piece will be changed; however, Grissom won't be made out to be the hero. Grissom and the sheriff reach an understanding, and Grissom walks away.

Victim: Dylan Buckley (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Ray O'Riley

Catherine and Nick are called to the house of Dr. Leigh Sapien, where 14-year-old Dylan Buckley lies dead in her living room. Dr. Sapien is a psychiatrist, and she explains that she was conducting a session with Dylan when he started to have a seizure. She claims that she tried to revive him using standard CPR; however, by the time he stopped seizing, he was dead. As Dr. Sapien recalls what happened, Nick spots some tan fibers on her sweater and has Catherine tape lift them. When Nick examines Dylan's clothes later, he finds the same tan fibers on his boxer shorts.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins labels the cause of death as cranial-cerebral injuries, including fractures of the occipital bone. He believes the injuries could be consistent with a Grand Mal seizure, but more analysis is needed. Nick and the doc observe that Dylan's body is covered in bruises, possibly from being thrashed around during the seizure. There were also tan fibers all over the body, similar to what was found on Dr. Sapien's sweater and Dylan's boxer shorts. However, there were no fibers on Dylan's clothes, so at one point, he was alone with his psychiatrist in his underwear.

Greg determines that the mystery fibers are angora, or processed goat hair. This is enough to get a limited warrant to search Dr. Sapien's house; however, Sgt. O'Riley cautions Catherine and Nick that they're lucky to get such a warrant, as there's no evidence that something criminal occurred. The only reason a warrant has been obtained is because Dr. Sapien had her licensed suspended years back after having sex with an underaged patient.

In Dr. Sapien's house, Nick gives the psychiatrist the cold shoulder as he searches the living room for evidence. Catherine finds a tan-colored blanket in the linen closet, and the CSIs quickly conclude that Dr. Sapien was having sex with an unwilling Dylan. She denies this and explains that her earlier transgression should've been expunged from her record, as the patient she had sex with was 17 years old. Despite what things look like, Dr. Sapien insists that she did nothing wrong; Dylan had a seizure, hit his head, and she called 911. Outside, Catherine can see that Nick is beginning to take the case personally, but he refuses to say why.

Nick process the blanket square by square, swabbing for DNA in each quadrant. He also gets Dylan's test results without including Catherine in the process. The results show that Dylan's blood tested negative for Creatine Kinase, which would be elevated post-seizure. Dr. Sapien was lying, and Nick sets out to solve the case solo. When Catherine threatens to have him removed from the case, he admits that he was molested by his babysitter when he was nine years old. This explains why he's had it out for a psychiatrist abusing her patients.

Greg tests the swabs from the tan blanket and finds epithelials from three contributors: Dr. Sapien, Dylan, and a third person who shares a familial relationship with Dylan. Since Dylan's father is deceased, the focus shifts to his mother.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Catherine and Nick that he found tan fibers in Dylan's mouth, nasal passages, and lungs. The boy was wrapped in the blanket, and the CSIs have to figure out why.

Under interrogation, Dr. Sapien and Mrs. Buckley explain that they were performing a therapy technique known as "Re-Birthing," where the idea is to turn back the clock and have the patient "reborn" in order to re-bond with his mother, with the blanket representing the birthing canal. Dylan was instructed to lie down on the floor in the fetal position. His mother and Dr. Sapien wrapped him up in the blanket and tied it. Despite Dylan claiming that he couldn't breathe, they pushed on the blanket to mimic the birthing process. Dr. Sapien insisted that Dylan's complaints were part of the technique, and the two women continued to push harder on the blanket. Inside, Dylan struggled more, and the women ended up banging his head on the floor. When the blanket was opened, Dylan's eyes were closed and he had stopped breathing.

Mrs. Buckley says that she begged Dr. Sapien to perform the Rebirthing technique, as she just wanted her son to love her. Dr. Sapien adds that Dylan was a willing participant. Both women confess to hiding what really happened, knowing that nobody would understand. Nick excuses himself from the interrogation room while Catherine stares at them in disbelief.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

Major Events

  • Nick reveals that he was sexually abused by a last-minute babysitter when he was nine years old.

Music

  • Free by VAST

Trivia

  • The story of Dylan Buckley was inspired by the death of Candace Newmaker, a 10-year-old who died of asphyxiation during the rebirthing script of an attachment parenting session in Colorado in 2000.[1]

References

  1. Flaherty, M. & Marrinan, C. (2004). CSI: Crime scene investigation companion. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 2
BurkedChaos TheoryOverloadBully for YouScuba Doobie-DooAlter BoysCagedSlaves of Las VegasAnd Then There Were NoneEllieOrgan GrinderYou've Got MaleIdentity CrisisThe FingerBurden of ProofPrimum Non NocereFelonious MonkChasing The BusStalkerCats in the CradleAnatomy of a LyeCross JurisdictionsThe Hunger Artist
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