Revenge is Best Served Cold
Season 3
Number 1
Writer Anthony E. Zuiker,
Carol Mendelsohn
Director Danny Cannon
Original Airdate September 26, 2002
Previous Episode: The Hunger Artist
Next Episode: The Accused is Entitled

Revenge is Best Served Cold is the first episode in Season Three of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Grissom, Sara and Warrick investigate when a poker player drops dead at the table during a high-stakes game. Meanwhile, Catherine and Nick investigate a dead body found on an abandoned air strip, which leads them to the world of street racing.


Victim: Doyle Pfeiffer (deceased)

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

There's an intense poker game going on in the back room of the Rio casino. Matt, a younger player, goes all-in against world-renown poker player, Doyle "Candyman" Pfeiffer. As he is about to call the bet, Doyle starts to convulse, then dies.

Grissom arrives and is seen in the casino listening to the slot machines; his hearing is going in and out. In the poker room, Brass informs Grissom and Warrick that Doyle sat down 18 hours before a healthy man and now has dropped dead. Though the cause of death appears to be a heart attack, the death is being investigated as a murder with suspicious circumstances because of the amount of money involved. Grissom flips over a pair of Kings that belonged to Matt. Matt yells out that those are his cards and that he won the pot because Doyle never called. Grissom flips over Doyle's cards—a pair of Aces. He curiously sees the hand through; Doyle would've won when the Ace of Spades came up on the river (last card).

Sara joins the guys at the casino and finds a green candy on the floor, which Grissom tells her to bag separately. Away from the scene, Matt is still complaining to Brass about the pot being his. Brass says that he should take issue with the gaming board; until then, the pot belongs to the police. Warrick runs a UV light over Doyle's seat and finds what he believes to be urine. Grissom informs him that during long poker games, leaving the table can be a seen as a sign of weakness. When asked how he knows so much about poker, Grissom explains that he financed his first body farm by playing poker in college.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins rules out a heart attack as the cause of Doyle's death. However, his fingernails have white lines on them, there's a milky substance in the corners of his mouth, and a single blue line going across his gums—all of these are signs of lead poisoning. An x-ray shows that Doyle had a old bullet lodged in his thigh; it's possible the lead from it eventually took over his system.

Grissom goes over the casino's footage of the poker game. He sees Doyle constantly eating candy and notices another player, Lita Gibbons, using eye drops. Greg runs a test and finds that Doyle's drink had tetrahydrozoline in it—an ingredient in eye drops. Since tetrahydrozoline is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, it could've been slipped into Doyle's drink without him noticing. Ingesting it could also spike one's blood pressure and possibly cause a stroke. Grissom notes that Lita was the last player to sit down at the table and never left. So how did the eye drops get into the drink?

Grissom and Brass interview Lita, and Grissom notices that she has one tinted contact lens in her right eye. They tell her they're going to have take her contact lens and her eye drops. Back in autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Warrick that Doyle had swelling of the brain, which eventually led to a stroke. Lower blood pressure could have prevented this, but the tetrahydrozoline in the drink caused it to spike, resulting in the stroke.

Ronnie Litre gives Grissom a tinted lens; it's the same one Lita had, only bigger. With the cards laid out on the table face down, Ronnie is able to find the four aces using the lens. Lita was cheating, as the aces had been marked with lip balm, and those marks could be seen with the lens. Sara enters and says that the tetrahydrozoline found in Doyle's drink isn't the same composition that's in Lita's eye drops, so she's off the hook. But, it appears that someone's eye drops did Doyle in.

Warrick speaks to the waitress in the casino who was serving drinks the night of the poker game. She says that sometimes Doyle didn't tip, but when he did tip, he tipped very well. Warrick asks to see her bag, and she removes a bottle of eye drops from it. Meanwhile, Brass talks to Matt, who says that he tipped well that night because he had been on a hot streak. Elsewhere, Grissom converses with the bartender and discovers that all alcohol is fed to the bar through pipes emanating from the back of the house (not behind the bar).

Greg tells Grissom and Warrick that, because of reverse suction, Doyle's drink ended up in Lita's eye drops and vice versa. Grissom is going over all of the server's records from the casino and notes that the waitress broke protocol, ordering Doyle's whiskey sour first before the other drinks, when it should have been last. When pressed by Grissom and Brass, she says that Doyle was a stiff. She admits to putting eye drops in his drink to give him diarrhea, not to kill him.

They discover that Doyle's body had a high amount of lead in it, way too much to have come from a degrading bullet. Grissom, Sara, Warrick and Greg go over the casino surveillance footage again, with Sara saying that the drinking glasses also tested negative for lead. Grissom sees Doyle constantly eating candy and has an epiphany. He goes to the lab and tests the chocolate candies Doyle was always eating.

Grissom informs Sara and Warrick that 70% of the world's chocolate is produced in West Africa. There, the cars still use leaded gas and when the exhaust fumes get into the atmosphere, it rains lead onto the cocoa plants. Doyle had been eating the same candy since 1986, and Grissom calculates that he could have ingested a pound of chocolate per night for 16 years. This would explain all of the lead in Doyle's system. The tetrahydrozoline may have triggered the reaction, but Doyle essentially died by eating chocolate.

Victim: Jace Felder (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Cyrus Lockwood

Catherine and Nick are called to a dead body on an abandoned air strip. The body has a gunshot entry below the cheek, but there's no sign of blood or a blood pool; the body wasn't shot there. Catherine eventually identifies the body as Jace Felder, who had a rap sheet that included dealing meth. In autopsy, Doc Robbins says that the cause of death was a gunshot through the head. His eardrum is missing, having been blown out shortly before his death. Doc Robbins notes that the victim smells like gasoline and has two perimortem bruises vertically on his torso.

At the air strip, Nick brushes away dirt to find two distinct tire treads, while Catherine finds a broken side mirror from a car. They note that tire tracks like the ones they found can be caused by sudden acceleration. Due to the straight, flat land, they come to the conclusion that either illegal drag racing or street racing was taking place.

Catherine and Nick meet Det. Cyrus Lockwood at a car meet. He explains to them that the cars meet at the spot, then the drivers receive a notice of where the race is to take place. He also notes that they only race at the air strip when it rains, which it had done the night before. Catherine and Nick look over one of the cars and see nitrous oxide under the hood; the sudden burst in acceleration from it could explain the tire treads found at the air strip. Nick notes the safety harness on one of the drivers as they drive by; they could have caused the marks on the victim's torso. They then meet Thumpy G, whose personality is as loud as the music he's blaring. After being pressed, his memory of the victim starts to come back to him.

Catherine and Nick go to a garage to speak to Michelangelo, the "artist" who soups up the cars. Nick inquires about a blue Honda with blue rims and tinted windows; it was the car Jace's opponent was driving the night of the murder. Michelangelo recalls that he sold the car to someone for $100,000 and didn't keep the check, which came from a third-party insurance company. Det. Lockwood calls Catherine and tells her they found Jace's car under a highway overpass with the VIN number scratched off. The person attempting to sell the car is Steven Masters.

Catherine and Nick find the car, and Nick finds a 9mm bullet lodged in the interior with no blood on it. Catherine sprays the interior for blood and finds all of the blood localized to the driver's seat; directionality shows that he was shot from left to right. When Nick notes that the blood is everywhere, Catherine guesses that the victim was shot while driving the car and the blood ended up everywhere as the car rolled over in its accident.

Under interrogation, Steven says that he and his brother found the car in the air strip and brought it back home to clean it up, noting that the engine alone could be worth $15,000. They left the Jace's body at the strip and didn't call 9-1-1 figuring that the car would be impounded. Catherine informs him he just admitted to grand larceny and tampering with a crime scene. Afterwards, Det. Lockwood tells them that he got a name from the check signed over to Michelangelo—Tony Del Nagro.

When questioned in his home, Tony admits to Catherine that he raced Jace the night he died. Outside, Nick uncovers Tony's car and runs a test that comes back positive for gunshot residue around the front passenger's side window. He also sees that the glass has been recently replaced. Tony admits to firing a gun through his sunroof to hype himself up before the race and replacing one of his windows after it got blown out. Tony's father admits that the gun is registered to him, and is quite upset that the cops didn't give him this much attention when his wife was murdered two years ago. Eventually tired of the harassment, he kicks Catherine and Nick out of the house; the CSIs vow to come back with a warrant.

In the lab, Bobby Dawson tells Nick that the bullet found was mangled and that there's no stria to match it to a gun. However, there appears to be two types of glass on the bullet. Catherine informs Nick that Tony's mother was killed in a still unsolved hit-and-run two years ago and that the suspect was Jace Felder; however, he was released due to insufficient evidence. This gives Tony motive for murder. With Bobby's help, they're able to determine that it's possible that the bullet can be fired through the body and pick up two different types of glass. Catherine and Nick go back to the air strip to recreate the crime and determine that it was possible for Tony to shoot Jace while racing.

Under interrogation, Tony admits that Jace was responsible for the hit-and-run, crashing into their car while he was street racing. Using his mother's death benefit to purchase a car, he worked his way into the street racing ring and quickly found out who was responsible for the accident. He raced Jace and shot him in revenge—a murder for a murder.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Christopher Wiehl as Hank Peddigrew
  • Gerald McCullouch as Bobby Dawson
  • Jeffrey D. Sams as Cyrus Lockwood
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Eric Stonestreet as Ronnie Litre
  • Ian Somerhalder as Tony Del Nagro
  • Cliff De Young as Mr. Del Nagro
  • Carmine Giovinazzo as Thumpy G
  • Madison Mason as Doyle "Candyman" Pfeiffer
  • John Paul Pitoc as Michelangelo
  • Todd Stashwick as Matt
  • Donna W. Scott as Waitress Nancy
  • Brent Hinkley as Steven Masters
  • Walter Jones as Street Racer
  • Michael Bunin as Bartender
  • Andrea de Oliveira as Waitress
  • Christopher Gehrman as Adam Masters
  • Doug Jones as Grinder
  • Damara Reilly as Lita Gibbons
  • Hilary Shepard as Mrs. Del Nagro
  • Josef Cannon as Fireman
  • Anthony Vaughan as Vip Guest / Featured, Swat / Featured, Pimp Featured

Major Events[]

  • Eric Szmanda and Robert David Hall joined the show as main cast.

Episode Title[]

  • Revenge is Best Served Cold is a shortened form of the English phrase, "Revenge is a dish best served cold". It means that vengeance is more satisfying some time after the harm that instigated it.[1] It refers to the vengeous actions of Tony Del Nagro, who began street racing in order to ultimately kill Jace Felder, the street racer who killed his mother in a hit-and-run, that are investigated in this episode. It also refers to the casino waitress Nadine Miller who put eye drops in poker player Doyle Pfeiffer's drink in retaliation for tipping her too little.  


Grissom: Essentially, it was... death by chocolate.

Featured Music[]

  • The Watcher by Dr. Dre
  • Sky Blue by Peter Gabriel
  • Lapdance by N.E.R.D.
  • Just Like I Imagined You by Rick Ryan
  • Giving Up the Ghost by DJ Shadow
  • Breathe by Télépopmusik
  • You Walk Away by Filter


  • In this (and other episodes) one of the CSIs uses the metal pliers on his multi-tool to extract a bullet from where it was embedded in something. In real life, a forensics tech would never use their own multi-tool, because of the possibility of cross-contamination between scenes. In addition, bullets are never extracted with metal pliers, because they may damage the unique markings on the bullet. Typically, plastic, or rubber coated tools are used to extract an embedded bullet.


  • Grissom reveals that he played poker to finance his first body farm in college.
  • At one point, Greg asks Sara if Lita was putting the eye drops on her nipples, a callback to the M.O. of Kristy Hopkins and her associates in the Pilot episode.


  • Carmine Giovinazzo appears in this episode as Thumpy G. He would later star as Danny Messer in CSI: NY.
  • Ian Somerhalder made a special guest as Tony Del Nagro in this episode. He starred as Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries from 2009-2017.
  • The death of Doyle Pfeiffer by chocolate was inspired by a 2002 CNN story about kids dying from chocolate because of lead.[2]


  1. https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/revenge-is-a-dish-best-served-cold.html
  2. Flaherty, M. & Marrinan, C. (2004). CSI: Crime scene investigation companion. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

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