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Pipe Cleaner
Pipe Cleaner
Season 1
Number 8
Writer Safia M. Dirie
Director Benny Boom
Original Airdate November 24, 2021
Previous Episode: In the Blood
Next Episode: Waiting in the Wings

Pipe Cleaner is the eighth episode in Season One of CSI: Vegas.


When the team is called to investigate human remains found in a convention center owner’s bathtub, Sara and Grissom use the case to get close to Anson Wix's star forensic consultant.


Victim: Erik Shaw (deceased)

On the case: Allie Rajan, Gil Grissom, Joshua Folsom, Sara Sidle

Two thieves break into a house with the intention of stealing a safe and its contents. One of the men makes his way through the house and is alerted to a smell coming from the bathroom. Horrified at what he finds, he immediately calls 911. The duo admits to attempted robbery just so the murder isn’t placed on them.

Folsom leads Grissom and Sara to the upstairs bathroom. The bathtub is filled with a dark brown goo; the victim has basically melted. Grissom quickly concludes that the “brew” started hours before the thieves arrived, giving them a good alibi. The homeowner is identified as Erik Shaw, who runs a convention center off the Strip. Grissom digs through the goo and finds a watch; the back of the watch is inscribed “I love you, Erik. Forever, T.” The belief is that the killer used bottles of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide to dispose of the body; doing so wiped out any chances of retrieving DNA.

While Folsom and Sara slowly remove the goo from the bathtub, Grissom notices an indentation on the bathroom wall; the indentation is approximately six and a half feet off the ground. He envisions a struggle between Erik and his killer, with two scenarios playing out—one shows Erik getting his head bashed in, while the other has Erik ramming his killer’s head into the wall. Sara tests the glass from the broken bathroom window, but it comes back negative for blood.

Folsom is tasked with breaking apart a downstairs wall. He explains to Allie that flushing the system with water will cause them to lose evidence; the body (and goo) have to be extracted pipe by pipe before they ooze into the sewer main. Allie relays that Erik and his ex-wife were going through a nasty divorce. Sara offers to process the goo with Grissom, while Allie and Folsom set out to talk to the ex-wife.

Allie and Folsom locate Tammy Shaw and fill her in about Erik’s death. She says that they separated last year, but stayed relatively close because of their two daughters. Tammy also confirms that she still had access to Erik’s house, but she denies committing murder. She allows Folsom to take samples of her hair; the lack of certain chemicals in the hair sample will rule her out as a suspect in the body disposal. The conversation is interrupted by Chase Star, whose children’s beauty pageant used to rent a space in Erik’s convention center. Chase explains that Erik did his business in cash, which attracted some shady people. Allie and Folsom both notice that the rather tall Chase is glued to Tammy’s side.

With assistance, the team is able to gain access to Erik’s safe, which contains a few ledgers and a couple of lawsuits. Erik was cooking the books at his convention center, which would give someone motive for murder. He was at war with a couple of companies who had their conventions canceled by the Covid pandemic, as he declined to refund their “advance deposits.” One of the plaintiffs is Chase Star, while another man, Herman Maddock, sued Erik on behalf of a doomsday preparedness company. Herman has a record for attempted murder, making him the main suspect.

In autopsy, the team goes through a few buckets of goo, but finds no remnants that confirm identity or tell them the cause of death. There’s no marrow in any of the bone fragments, which also won’t help matters. Dr. Ramirez finds a toenail stuck to some cartilage, but soon makes a more interesting discovery—two femurs recovered from the goo are different lengths. This means that there was more than one victim in the bathtub.

Allie and Folsom head back to Erik’s house. There are no indications of who the second victim might be, as Erik appeared to do everything alone. Folsom theorizes that Erik was facing two attackers, one of whom donated his femur to the goo. The other attacker was tall enough to leave the dent in the wall.

Folsom digs through Erik’s tools and finds a brand new saw, which is out of place with the older tools. The saw has a logo for “The Prepper People,” the doomsday group Herman Maddock belongs to. There’s a fleck of something in the saw’s teeth, which Allie believes is linoleum. Down in the kitchen, the CSIs spot cuts in the linoleum floor. Nearby, there’s a towel that has a rivet on it similar to one that was found in the goo. Evidence indicates that the killer tried to cut up Erik’s body with the saw, but gave up after one limb after he saw how difficult it would be. It now seems possible that Erik was killed in the kitchen, not the bathroom. This is confirmed when Allie finds trace evidence on the floor and opens a kitchen cabinet. Inside, she finds a cereal box covered with blood spatter. There’s also a bullet hole in the box, and Allie digs the bullet from the adjacent wall.

The bullet that hit Erik was jacketed; however, the jacket broke off in the body. This means its somewhere in the buckets of goo the team has to sift through. Since the bullet’s core has no grooves, this is the only way of identifying it. Dr. Ramirez uses a metal detector to narrow down which bucket contains the bullet; however, they soon realize that the salt and iron content in the dead body is what set off the detector.

Allie and Folsom visit Herman Maddock at his makeshift shooting range. They inform him of Erik’s death, but Herman denies having anything to do with it. When told that his saw was found in Erik’s house with his fingerprints on it, Herman explains that he gave the saw to Erik as a bribe; he needed space at the convention for his doomsday group. He also shows the CSIs that he melts his own ammo, meaning the “store-bought” bullet found in Erik’s house came from someone else.

Sara digs through a tub of goo and pulls out a tooth; since it has no roots, Dr. Ramirez concludes it’s a porcelain veneer. Because the porcelain used resists acid, the assumption is that the rest of the teeth will soon be found. This is indeed the case, and Folsom does a digital bite reconstruction. Upon recreating the victim’s smile, he gets the feeling he’s seen it before. He pulls up the children’s pageant website and finds a picture of a beaming Chase Star—the smiles are identical. Chase is one of the victims, which makes sense since he was suing Erik. However, Folsom says that he spoke to Chase recently at the pageant. How was the victim in two places at once?

It turns out that Chase has an identical twin, Grayson. Allie and Folsom confront Grayson at the pageant and confirm that he’s “filling in” for his missing brother, who he assumes is detoxing after ingesting too many pills, a common occurrence. The CSIs tell Grayson that his brother is dead, as dental records have confirmed that Chase was the victim. Grayson provides an alibi for the time of the murders, saying that he was covering for Chase at the pageant rehearsal, which included helping Tammy Shaw and her girls.

Tammy confirms Grayson’s alibi and also admits that she knew Grayson was the one by her side when the CSIs first questioned her. She kept quiet because she didn’t want any problems with the heads of the pageant. Allie informs her that a .45-caliber bullet was found at the crime scene, and Chase owned a weapon of the same caliber. As they continue to talk, Allie notices a burn mark on Tammy’s knee. Tammy claims that it came from a hot glue gun, but both Allie and Folsom believe that it’s a chemical burn.

A swab of Tammy’s wound confirms that the was burned with sulfuric acid. In interrogation, Tammy claims that she went right home following the pageant rehearsal. It’s revealed that she’s a secretary at a paper company; therefore, she would have access to sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide, both of which are used in paper manufacturing and recycling. Since she knew both victims, Tammy is now in the crosshairs. She soon admits that Chase asked her to steal the chemicals, admitting that she did so because she and Chase were in love. However, she had no idea what Chase was using the chemicals for, and doesn’t know what happened in her ex-husband’s bathroom. When the interrogation ends, Tammy is left alone; she sobs in disbelief that someone could think she’s guilty of murder. Grissom, watching from the observation room, looks over the photographic evidence and asks the same question.

Grissom, fixated on the evidence board, asks Sara how a petite mother of two could make the dent found in the bathroom wall. He soon realizes that there are no other marks around the dent; if it was made with the back of the head, the shoulders and back would’ve also made impact marks. The conclusion is that the dent was made with the crown of someone’s head, and someone (or something) would’ve needed a lot of strength to make that happen.

Grissom conducts an experiment, filling a bathtub with one of the chemicals, while a dummy holds a bucket containing the other chemical. When the experiment starts and the bucket is dumped, the two chemicals cause an explosive reaction, propelling the dummy into the adjacent wall. The dummy then slips on the floor and falls into the bathtub.

The conclusion is that Chase Star shot Erik Shaw. After Chase gave up trying to dismember the body, he came up with a different solution. However, the reaction of the chemicals blew Chase back, then bounced him off the wall and into the bathtub. This was a case of a murder and an accidental death, with the CSIs unknowingly solving the killer’s death the whole time.

Folsom returns Erik’s watch to Tammy, but tells her that he’s still unconvinced she’s completely innocent in all of this. An incensed Tammy replies that she loves her daughters and that she would never do anything that would cause them to be taken away from her.

Under investigation: David Hodges

On the case: Gil Grissom, Joshua Folsom, Maxine Roby, Sara Sidle

Max has been demoted and suspended with pay due to her actions in the David Hodges case—she called the head of the Washoe County Crime Lab, making it seem like she was trying to help cover up Hodges’ alleged crimes. Not only is Anson Wix the man responsible for framing Hodges, he’s also the one who forced the lab to punish Max accordingly.

Max is soon seen sitting courtside at a pick-up basketball game. She’s much more focused on a player named Guillermo, who she snaps candid photos of with her phone.

Grissom and Sara go through three weeks’ worth of Anson’s trash, finding nothing incriminating. There’s only two days left before Hodges’ trial, and the team isn’t making much headway. Grissom suggests expanding the search to possible accomplices, and they focus on Janice Woo, Anson’s new expert witness. Janice is a former forensic artist, and Sara believes she would have the expertise needed to forge Hodges’ fingerprints. They employ Janice for help in the Erik Shaw case. Sara sees that she’s able to digitally reconstruct a finger, replicate a fingerprint, and gain access to Erik Shaw’s locked safe.

Max gets files on potential suspects sent to her. She then invites Folsom over to her house to help with the case, telling him that she trusts him the most.

Max revisits the basketball court to take in another pick-up game. While doing so, she snaps more candid photos, this time catching Guillermo interacting with a shady character.

After conferring with Grissom, Sara volunteers to go to Anson’s house and steal his most recent trash load as evidence. While doing so, a garbage bag breaks, leaving garbage all over the sidewalk. Anson emerges from his house, and Sara hides behind her car. When Anson notices the mess, Sara emerges and confronts him. She expresses confidence that he’ll slip up at some point, and he responds that this smug certainty is why he hates CSIs. He claims that it’s his job to fight the “special effects” the CSIs generate in order to eliminate doubt in the eyes of juries. “Anson,” Sara replies, “there’s not gonna be any doubt.”

Back in the lab, Sara tells Grissom that she met Anson accidentally. Grissom is in shock, as any cover they were operating under is now blown. While Sara didn’t get any information from Anson himself, she did find a lipstick-stained tissue in the garbage. Because it was amongst floss and men’s deodorant, Sara assumes that it came from Anson’s upstairs bathroom, a place his wheelchair-bound sister wouldn’t be able to go. The hope is that the lipstick is from Anson’s accomplice. Because the DNA is too degraded, Max (in the lab illegally due to her suspension) uses modern technology to repair the broken DNA. It comes back to two contributors—Anson Wix and Janice Woo.

Grissom and Sara assume that Janice is Anson’s accomplice. The thought is that if they can get Janice to flip, they might be able to exonerate Hodges. When they enter the courthouse, they spot Anson and Janice arguing; Janice has been fired from the case and whatever relationship they had is likely over. Grissom and Sara conclude that if Janice knew anything, she wouldn’t have been fired—she would’ve been killed, instead. Hodges is due in court at any moment, meaning the CSIs have run out of time.

Max attends another pick-up basketball game; this time, Folsom is one of the players. Folsom “accidentally” elbows Guillermo and goes to “apologize” for it after the game. There, he and Max reveal that Guillermo’s lawyer is Anson Wix, who represented him on drug trafficking charges. Max shows him the supposed drug deal she witnessed earlier, but has a more pressing issue to address—Guillermo is the link between Anson and a hitman. He paid Esteban Ruiz to kill Jim Brass, and the CSIs are now going to use him to help them take down Anson.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Jamie McShane as Anson Wix
  • Robert Curtis Brown as Undersheriff Cade Wyatt
  • Luke Tennie as Bryan Roby
  • Julie Berman as Tammy Shaw
  • Jason Plotnick as Chase/Grayson Star
  • Adam Johnson as Herman Maddock
  • Calvin Clausell Jr. as Ronny
  • Antwon D. Jones as Sean
  • Noelle Perris as 911 Operator
  • Johnny Rey Diaz as Guillermo
  • Cathy Wu and Janice Woo


  • Console 215 by Jack Fascinium
  • Murda by Sharma Bass
  • Half Truths by Eswine

See Also[]

  • Category:Images from Pipe Cleaner
CSI:Vegas Season 1
Legacy (Vegas)Honeymoon in VegasUnder the SkinLong PigLet the Chips FallFunhouseIn the BloodPipe CleanerWaiting in the WingsSigned, Sealed, Delivered