Play Dead
Season 13
Number 5
Writer Treena Hancock,
Melissa R. Byer
Director Eagle Egilsson
Original Airdate October 31, 2012
Previous Episode: It Was a Very Good Year
Next Episode: Pick and Roll

Play Dead is the fifth episode in Season Thirteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


When a K-9 is blamed for the death of his partner, the CSI team discovers there’s more to the case. Meanwhile, Finn and Morgan investigate the death of a high-profile divorce lawyer with a lot of enemies.


Victim: Mike Nelson (deceased)

On the case: D.B. Russell, Greg Sanders, Nick Stokes, Jim Brass

On Halloween night in a seedy part of Vegas, two young women come across a dog feasting on a dead body. Upon realizing he's being watched, the dog looks up and snarls at them with his bloody snout. The dog is out of control and has to be restrained by Animal Control when Nick and Brass arrive on the scene. The victim, whose throat has been ripped open by the dog, is identified as Mike Nelson, an officer on the K-9 unit. Officer Nelson is wearing plain clothes and carrying a gun; a bag of methamphetamines is found on his person.

The dog, named Sam, is caged and brought to the lab for processing, where he continues to bark incessantly. Officer Nelson and Sam had been partners for eight years and, according to Sergeant Varanski, they were the best team in their department. The sergeant tells Nick and Russell that Officer Nelson was off duty last night and he can't explain what Officer Nelson was doing in the seedy part of town. When asked why Sam is acting the way he is, Sergeant Varanski guesses the dog is sick, possibly from getting into Officer Nelson's stash.

Officer Nelson's truck is found about a block from the crime scene and towed to the CSI garage. Greg processes it, finding blood, fur, scratch marks, and a piece of the dog's nail. Evidence suggests that Sam clawed his way out of the car after being left inside. Per Sergeant Varanski, Sam lived with Officer Nelson and the two went everywhere together, which explains why the officer would bring his dog to a drug buy. But why bring the dog for protection if you're going to leave him in the car? Nick finds a department-issued envelope in the truck's glove compartment filled with cash; it's possible the dog was taking down a dirty cop.

Sam continues to bark, and Nick is concerned the dog is going to lick all the evidence off his body. Russell advises him to wait for Sergeant Varanski before he opens the cage and muzzles the dog. However, after Russell leaves, Nick goes against this advice, giving the dog a pep talk before slowly opening the crate. Sam stops barking and sits down when Nick offers him a treat. This allows Nick to fit the muzzle onto Sam, whereupon Nick finds a piece of flesh wedged between the dog's teeth.

In autopsy, Russell swabs Officer Nelson's neck for DNA in hopes of comparing it with Sam's saliva. Doc Robbins notes that there are no needle marks on Officer Nelson and finds multiple cuts and bruises on the body, indicating that the officer tried to defend himself from someone. Russell wonders why the officer didn't pull his gun while he was being attacked, a question that's answered when x-rays show he broke his arm in two places when first attacked by the dog, rendering the arm useless.

The tox reports on both Sam and Officer Nelson both come back clean. Furthermore, the money found in the officer's truck came from his own personal bank account, disproving the earlier theory that he stole it from the police evidence vault. Henry rushes in, asking Greg and Nick where Sam is. He proclaims that the dog is innocent, as the saliva found around Officer Nelson's throat is human. They need to save Sam before he's mistakenly put to death.

Officer Nelson's killer was high on something, which would explain why he took a bite out of the officer's throat. The flesh from between the dog's teeth comes back to an unknown male. Nick is able to spring Sam from Animal Control, and the dog roams around Russell's office. The dog picks up a trinket of Russell's and won't drop it when Nick orders him to; in fact, the dog won't do anything Nick says. He takes Sam to meet Sergeant Varanski, who informs him the dog was born outside of Paris and only understands French.

Officer Nelson's phone records show that a few hours before he died, he received a call from a pay phone around the corner from the crime scene. Surveillance videos show a hooker making the call, and she has a yellow bandana in her pocket similar to the one found on Officer Nelson. The thought is that Officer Nelson got the drugs from this girl, and all hookers in the area are rounded up and brought to the station. Russell has them each grab a pipe and put it into a container, thereby transferring their scent onto it. After getting another pep talk from Nick, Sam is brought in to sniff the pipes and get the scent of the girl Officer Nelson met with.

The dog identifies the hooker from the scent. Carly Green is brought in for questioning, and she admits that she gave Officer Nelson the drugs; however, she didn't kill him. It's revealed that Officer Nelson previously arrested Carly for possession and prostitution, for which she served nine months in prison. Having the officer killed would be some act of revenge, but Carly says that Officer Nelson was the only one who cared about her; he even visited her when she was behind bars. She tearfully says that she was the officer's confidential informant, letting him know when a new drug would hit the streets and turning it over to him. On the night Officer Nelson was killed, she says she gave him the drugs, told him what she knew, and left him—alive.

Doc Robbins pages Russell down to the morgue; a body has been brought in, and the fingerprints match a person of interest in the case. When the body is pulled from the freezer, Russell sees that it's Carly. Doc Robbins says she was found at a motel with a needle sticking out of her arm, the victim of an apparent overdose. Amongst the things taken from her motel room are a bloody bandage and an LVPD envelope similar to the one found in Officer Nelson's truck. There's $800 in the envelope, so Officer Nelson was paying Carly for something; however, Nick finds out that Officer Nelson hasn't worked in the Narcotics division for over a year.

Doc Robbins performs Carly's autopsy and concludes she didn't commit suicide. He shows Russell that the needle Carly was killed with didn't hit a vein, something an experienced drug user like Carly wouldn't miss. A needle mark was also found in the middle of her back, something she couldn't do herself. Doc Robbins also reveals that Carly was ten weeks pregnant; since Officer Nelson is the only one who cared about her, it seems likely he was the father of her unborn child.

The DNA from Carly's fetus isn't a match to Officer Nelson; however, it's a match to the flesh pulled from Sam's teeth. Whoever killed Officer Nelson also killed Carly and is the father to Carly's unborn child. The bloodied bandage recovered from the motel room tested positive for the killer's DNA, and there were bacteria and leucocytes found in the blood—Sam bit the killer, and that wound is now infected. Nick knows the killer will need medical attention and figures he went to a back alley clinic somewhere near the motel. He can't search every clinic, but knows someone who can help—Sam and his super sniffer. When Nick goes to enlist Sam's help, he finds the dog missing. Sam is eventually found in the morgue mourning the loss of his owner, and Nick vows that, together, they'll bring the killer to justice.

With Sam in tow, Nick, Brass and Officer Mitchell traverse the run-down areas in town looking for the clinic and their killer. Sam gets a whiff of the bloody bandage and eventually picks up a scent, which leads them to their killer, Vinnie Barso. Vinnie runs when he sees he's been spotted. He blindly fires his gun behind him while Sam and the officers give chase. After a long chase, Sam blindsides Vinnie and pounces on him, sinking his teeth into Vinnie's arm. Nick lets Vinnie writhe in pain for a bit before ordering Sam to let go. Vinnie, who has a dog bite on his leg, is arrested. When Nick congratulates Sam for his hard work and pets him, he finds the dog has been shot.

Vinnie confesses to the murders, saying that he wanted Carly to get rid of her baby. When he saw that she went to Officer Nelson for help, Vinnie, high on drugs, killed the officer right in front of her. Carly was too scared to talk to the cops, but Vinnie didn't take any chances and killed her and her unborn child, as well.

Nick goes to the hospital and anxiously waits for Sam to get operated on. The operation is a success, and Sergeant Varanski tells Nick that Sam was going to retire from police work at the end of the year. Since Officer Nelson had no family, Sam needs someone to take care of him. Nick happily agrees to adopt Sam and is thanked with kisses from the dog.

Victim: Barry Sloan (deceased)

On the case: Julie Finlay, Morgan Brody

Finn and Morgan investigate the death of big-shot lawyer, Barry Sloan, who's been shot in the chest in his home. When the police responded to a 911 call, the shower was still running; however, Barry's body is dry. Blood is confined to the area where the body is, indicating that he was on or near his bed when he was shot. The shooter missed with at least one shot, as Morgan finds a slug in the wall. The window is also broken, and radial cracks show that the shot was fired from outside.

One neighbor tells Finn that she heard two gunshots, but didn't see anyone or anything. Her gut told her the victim was Barry, as he had created a lot of enemies from his work as a divorce lawyer. Another neighbor, Marjorie Randell, says that Barry was a good man who loved his job. She wonders if one of his current cases could be the reason for his death.

In the bedroom, Finn finds evidence of sexual activity on the bed sheets and lipstick on the sleeves of one of Barry's shirts. Outside, Morgan lifts a fingerprint from the windowsill under the broken window. A clump of dirt on the ground leads her to some plants, where she finds a gun that's been hidden. The gun, a .38 Special, matches the slug removed from the wall. Finn and Morgan theorize that someone saw Barry sleeping with someone's wife or girlfriend, which got him killed.

The fingerprints from the windowsill come back to Brent Walsh, a casino worker in the middle of a divorce; Barry was his lawyer. Under interrogation, Brent tells Morgan that he caught Barry having sex with his ex-wife. He admits to sneaking into the side yard and watching the action through the window; however, he denies killing Barry, only wanting him disbarred. Brent provides an alibi for the time of the murder, and Morgan asks to speak to the ex-wife, Sabrina.

No fingerprints are recovered from the gun, but it's definitely the murder weapon, as its striations match the slug pulled from the wall. The gun is actually registered to Barry, meaning he was killed with his own gun. Brent's alibi checks out, and the focus is now on his ex-wife, who would have had access to Barry's house and his gun since she was sleeping with him.

Sabrina Walsh denies having had sex with Barry until Morgan confronts her with the evidence. There's evidence that Barry was sleeping with more than one woman, and Sabrina admits that she found another woman's underwear in his bed. Barry couldn't remember the woman's name, but mentioned that it was one of his neighbors. Sabrina tells Morgan that she got angry at Barry and the two had a fight; however, she went home afterwards—right around the time Barry was killed.

Hodges finds that the lipstick smudge on Barry's shirt contains straight formaldehyde, which hasn't been used by lipstick companies for a long time. Furthermore, the lipstick was manufactured by a company that went out of business in 1972. Finn realizes she's spoken to someone that would use lipstick that old.

Barry's elderly neighbor, Marjorie Randell, is brought in for questioning. She explains to Finn that her husband left her for a younger woman ten years ago and she eventually fell in love with Barry from afar. While getting her mail that morning, she saw Barry having the argument with Sabrina, and Marjorie felt bad that he was on the receiving end of it. She later dolled herself up and went over to Barry's to see if everything was alright. After Barry complimented her, Marjorie made her move—only to get rejected by Barry, who said she was old enough to be his mother. Having already been rejected once by her ex-husband, this humiliation pushed her over the edge. She came back later and shot Barry with the gun he had given to her to protect herself.

Marjorie tearfully tells Finn that she only wanted to be loved. "Is that so bad?" she asks, as Finn looks back at her sympathetically.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Larry Mitchell as Officer Mitchell
  • David S. Lee as Sergeant Varanski
  • James Hyde as Barry Sloan
  • Caroline Lagerfelt as Marjorie Randell
  • Michael Bunin as Brent Walsh
  • Brianne Davis as Sabrina Walsh
  • Kim Richards-Umansky as Ms. Young
  • Elizabeth Abrams as Hooker #1
  • Tauvia Dawn as Hooker #2
  • Johanna Braddy as Carly Green
  • Mike Alexander as Vinnie Barso
  • Brigette Davidovici as Jen
  • Katie Leclerc as Christine

Episode Title[]

  • The episode was previously titled "Once Bitten."


  • Jorja Fox (Sara) is credited but does not appear in this episode.
  • When Brass is talking to Russell, he mentions a case where a cheerleader ate another cheerleader's stomach while being high on PCP. This is a reference to the Season Three episode Let the Seller Beware.
  • Morgan reveals to Finn that she kissed Hodges in a moment of weakness, which happened in the episode Karma to Burn.
  • Nick tells Sam that he, too, lost a partner in the line of duty. This, of course, is referring to former CSI Warrick Brown.
  • In a later conversation with his new furry friend, Nick mentions his girlfriend. It's unknown at this point whether he's still dating the nurse he met in the Season Twelve episode Seeing Red (LV).


  • Kyle Richards-Umansky, who played Ms. Young in this episode, is an actress and philanthropist most known for her acting roles in Little House on the Prairie (as a child actor) and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

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