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The Artist is Present is the eighth episode in Season Three of CSI: Vegas.

Csi vegas lg
The Artist is Present
Csi vegas
Season 3
Number 8
Writer Jason Tracey
Director Gina Lamar
Original Airdate May 5, 2024
Navigation
Previous Episode: Coinkydink
Next Episode: Heavy Metal

Synopsis[]

The CSI team investigates when a nervous system is found hanging above a local car dealership. Also, Chavez and Max search for a missing source in their ongoing investigation of the robotics factory.

Plot[]

Victim: Jesse Moore (deceased)

On the case: Allie Rajan, Beau Finado, Catherine Willows, Chris Park, Joshua Folsom, Maxine Roby, Det. Serena Chavez, Det. Carson

In a brief flashback to five weeks ago, an unseen victim lies on a table while another unseen figure studies a book about the human nervous system. The perpetrator then grabs a scalpel and prepares to make their move.

In the present day, Darya Shahin drives to the car dealership she owns and prepares to open for the day's business. Before she can do so, she's horrified to find something hanging above the door—a nervous system, painted white, complete with a brain and eyeballs. A test comes back positive for hemoglobin, confirming that someone ripped a nervous system out of a body, coated it in plastic, and painted it. The question now is: where's the rest of the body?

Darya tells Allie and Det. Carson that the dealership's security cameras had been cut by someone the week before. She believes that someone attempted to rob the place but got spooked off before they could go through with it. Since the killer would know that the cameras were inoperable, the thought is that this was an inside job perpetrated by one of the employees. Upon gazing at "Branch Man," Chris theorizes that the killer is an artist creating something new for shock value. While preparing the figure for transport, Folsom spots green paint on one of the pieces of twine being used to hold everything together.

In autopsy, Dr. Hudson marvels at the completely intact plastinated nervous system, explaining to Max that silicone replaced all of the water and fat to preserve the specimen just as it was. To Max's surprise, he explains that anyone can go online and find how plastinated specimens are typically created for medical schools and museums; the process itself also isn't overly difficult if one knows what they're doing. While tracing the silicone used might be difficult, Max notes that they can take vitreous fluid from the eye to make a positive identification of their victim. With the nervous system on the slab, Dr. Hudson spots an impression on the cranial nerve that indicates the victim had Bell's palsy on their right side. Max, meanwhile, focuses on an oily smudge on the brain that could be a fingerprint belonging to the killer.

The team starts with taking fingerprints from the dealership's employees. Mechanic Kenneth Miller says that he was on the property until 10:00 PM that night spending time with his dog, who is also the property's guard dog. Detailer Eric Chang, meanwhile, sympathizes with the victim's family, telling Det. Carson that he lost his fiancée to a drunk driving accident a few years back and hopes to help any way he can. Folsom gets the pleasure of dealing with flirty employee Sacha Thorpe.

DNA from the eye gets no hits in CODIS, meaning the fingerprint on the brain is the best lead. Allie is able to cut it out with an electric saw and process it, leading Dr. Hudson to find a foreign substance in the crevice of the cutout. When processed, the print doesn't match any of the employees from the dealership; however, it does match a Jesse Moore.

Jesse is nowhere to be found when his house is searched. The house itself is adorned with several odd-looking sculptures, seemingly confirming Chris's hunch that the killer is an artist. However, Chris finds a picture of Jesse and sees that he had Bell's palsy on the right side—Jesse is their victim. Somehow, Jesse's fingerprint ended up on his own brain, possibly the killer's way of letting the police know who his victim was. There are indications that Jesse has been gone for at least a month; however, no missing persons report was filed. There's still the question of why the body was hung at a car dealership—until Chris finds a photo of Jesse posing with mechanic Kenneth Miller.

DNA confirms that the victim is Jesse. Under interrogation, Kenneth says that his brother looked down on the rest of the family and even changed his last name to distance himself from them. He's also rather unhappy that Jesse never helped the family out financially when they needed it, adding that his brother has been dead to him for a while. When reminded that his rap sheet contains a few violent priors, including one for assault, Kenneth angrily ends the interrogation and leaves.

Chris scrolls through Jesse's online art gallery and admires the talent needed to create such work. Comments on the site show that Jesse was a harsh critic of the modernization of art, blasting those who use 3D printers for sculpting and digital touch-ups for photography. Chris believes that people like Jesse and the killer are courting an audience; the more obscure the art, the more people will notice it. He questions why the killer posed the body the way they did and why a human body was used instead of a more common medium, such as stone. Further viewing of Jesse's site seems to answer those questions, as Chris notices that one sculpture ("In One's Own Thoughts") is in the same pose as the painted nervous system, with one hand stretched out in front of the body. His belief is that the killer is either a superfan or a foe of Jesse's, someone who crossed the line from digital stalking to murder. The hope is that someone in the comments section may have revealed themselves.

The paint that coated the plastinated nervous system is a mix of two different kinds of paint: polyurethane white and a green house paint. Chris believes that the killer mixed this shade special for "Branch Man" and that disentangling the two paints might provide the team with a significant lead. The green paint on the twine found around the body is a shade called Gateway Green, a common house paint that can be purchased at any hardware store. Meanwhile, the substance Dr. Hudson found on the brain earlier is identified as fluorocarbon grease.

Allie, Chris and Folsom visit a university science department to speak with Dr. Lydia Amato, an expert on plastination. They're met by Frank Pappas, one of Dr. Amato's socially awkward underlings, who's fascinated as to whether the work the killer did is "any good." Dr. Amato tells the trio that her belief is that the killer is someone outside the plastination community. She echoes Dr. Hudson's earlier assessment, saying that an amateur could perform the work if they followed the six-step process exactly: fixation, dissection, dehydration, impregnation, positioning, and curing. The body would have to be clean and devoid of contaminants, meaning that the fluorocarbon grease found earlier was a mistake. Frank, who's quite interested in the whole thing, defines a clean body as one with no trauma, adding that asphyxiation would be the ideal manner of death when it came to keeping the body intact. Dr. Amato says that the killer could buy all of the equipment needed over the counter, meaning that anyone with the drive and dedication could pull off something like this.

An unseen figure sets a small fire in the car dealership during the middle of the night. As the fire burns, we see another plastinated body hanging from the ceiling; this one has been painted red. The following morning, Chris observes that the fire trigged the fire suppression system, destroying all prints and trace evidence at the scene. Getting the perpetrator on camera will also be impossible since the cameras were disabled the previous week during the botched robbery attempt. Chris scrolls through Jesse's online gallery and finds another sculpture ("A Charitable Heart") that mimics the position this body is in. Det. Carson relays that the people in the comments section on the site all checked out so far and have no priors.

In autopsy, Dr. Hudson observes the plastinated circulatory system. Based on the dilated blood vessels on the right side of the face that indicate the presence of Bell's palsy, he concludes that this, too, is Jesse Moore. Someone was able to disentangle the nervous and circulatory systems from Jesse's body without ruining either one of them. Max spots a metallic sheen in the red paint used, leading the team to think that the killer used auto paint. There are stitches around some of the veins, which Dr. Hudson believes happened postmortem before the formaldehyde was pumped in; the killer was repairing some burst veins. When combining that with the enlarged heart and petechial hemorrhaging in the cerebrum, Dr. Hudson concludes that the cause of death was suffocation. This resonates with Folsom, who notes Frank Pappas's earlier statement about asphyxiation being the ideal cause of death for plastination.

Under interrogation, Frank tells Catherine and Det. Carson that he was "simply pontificating on what kind of death would preserve the systems for optimal presentation." He claims to have face blindness, so he has no way of recognizing Jesse from his photo. Catherine plays into Frank's wheelhouse, picking his brain about how one would go about getting two complete systems from one cadaver, what type of paint and thread he would use, and how he would prepare a body for plastination.

Tests on the thread used to sew up the burst veins reveal that it's thread from car upholstery. The red paint on the circulatory system is indeed a car paint that goes by multiple trade names and is used by several car companies. Since the team knows that the white paint on the nervous system was part polyurethane, it could be car paint from the same manufacturer. Chris tests the white paint and finally finds that it's "Brilliant White," a shade that's only used on Alfa Romeos. Kenneth is once again a suspect, as his specialty is exotic cars. There are five shops in the Vegas area that do that type of work, and the team sets out to investigate each one.

Three of the shops are dead ends. Chris and Det. Chavez end up at the Aurelia Body Shop and notice how deserted it appears to be. As they look around the garage, Chris finds the paint used by the killer along with a plaster cast of Jesse's face. Unbeknownst to them, someone is watching them from the adjacent room. That person grabs a crowbar and prepares for his next move.

With backup on the way, Chris finds an unlocked door and opens it. He and Det. Chavez enter the room with guns drawn. A table in the middle of the room shows evidence of where Jesse's body was mutilated. There's also a sculpture that could be the inspiration for the killer's next project. Chris approaches a workbench and flips on a switch. What's they see next is horrifying—Jesse's skin wrapped around a fan system a la one of the inflatable tube men often seen outside car dealerships.

A shadowy figure approaches Chris from behind, but he's able to get Det. Chavez out of the way before fending off the attack, injuring his arm in the process. Det. Chavez breaks up the struggle by firing her gun into the air, revealing that the attacker is Eric Chang. Eric drops the crowbar upon request and is arrested on the spot.

In the interrogation room, Eric stares off to the side with a rage-filled look in his eyes. Chris reads a comment made on one of Jesse's sculptures by an "EC84" complimenting Jesse on his ability "conjure rage." As Eric remains silent, Chris tries to get him to open up by asking if there were any other victims he practiced on. Eric finally says that after his fiancée Mandy's accident, he took to sculpting as a way to bring her back to life. When he found out Kenneth's brother was a sculptor, he reached to him and wanted to show him "his Mandy."

Jesse's critique of Eric's work, however, was less than complimentary; the sculpture was called emotionless, superficial, and plastic. "Well, I showed him who's plastic," Eric says, adding that he showed Jesse what it was like to create from the heart. He denies that this was about revenge, saying that cancer took Mandy from him once and that he wasn't going to let a stranger take her from him again. Catherine and Chris correct him, noting that her earlier cause of death was said to have been a car accident. When pressed, Eric can't answer any questions about his fiancée, only saying that he has a million pictures of her. As the questioning continues, Eric repeatedly shouts out "I WANT TO GO!" before hauled away.

Chris watches from a distance as Max informs Kenneth that his brother's killer has been arrested. The despondent CSI tells Allie that he was hoping to see something in Eric's eyes when he confessed, but got nothing. When told that everything about Eric's life was fake (the girl, the engagement, her death, and the pictures of her), Chris says that there was no reason for any of what happened. Allie encourages him by saying that there always isn't always a straight line you can draw to explain why people do what they do. The only way to get past it is by turning the page and solving the next problem.

Victim: Valerie Hammond (missing)

On the case: Beau Finado, Catherine Willows, Maxine Roby, Det. Serena Chavez

Recapping past episodes, a murder at a robotics factory led the CSI team to their main suspect, Cliff Roland. Cliff was killed in a mysterious car accident, and a piece of film found in his camera revealed that someone else was there on the night of the first murder. That someone was Valerie Hammond, who was interrogated and refused to open up about the case. Det. Chavez went undercover to work with Valerie. Under the guise of being Cliff's sister, she was invited to Valerie's apartment, where it appeared that she was going to spill the details about the case. However, Det. Chavez arrived too late, as the apartment was broken into and Valerie was kidnapped.

In the present, the CSIs search the apartment. Max notices all of the clothes in the closet pushed to the side and instructs Beau to take photos and lift fingerprints. Det. Chavez knows that Valerie was taken because of what she was going to reveal, but Max tells her to focus on what they do know. Evidence shows no signs of forced entry, and the conclusion is that the abductor was already in the apartment when Valerie got home from work. They hid in the closet and waited for her to get comfortable before making their move. A struggle ensued, causing damage to furniture and broken glass to be strewn all over the floor. Despite Valerie's valiant efforts, she was overpowered and taken. Det. Chavez notes that the wine Valerie was drinking is still wet, meaning they missed the incident by minutes. It turns out that Valerie's real name is unknown, as a fake ID is found in a drawer. When run, the name comes back to an alias that Valerie was using. She's wanted by the FBI for insurance fraud, meaning the Feds might be taking over the case. Before that can happen, however, Max spots some blood on a broken piece of glass and has Beau photograph it.

It turns out that the blood found doesn't belong to Valerie, nor are there any hits in CODIS. Max analyzes the DNA and discovers that there's scarring present, meaning that it isn't natural. She tells Det. Chavez that someone altered the DNA, further blurring the line as to whether the assailant is a human or a robot.

Further examination of the blood shows that the DNA is neither natural or edited, meaning that it's synthetic DNA. Max explains that someone took real blood, erased parts of the gene sequence, and then created a different sequence in its place. Her belief is that whatever is encoded in the DNA might provide some type of signature the killer is using and get them closer to solving the case and finding Valerie.

An even deeper dive into the DNA shows that the sequences are actually encrypted. The entire sequence appears to be some type of computer code or text file, and Max was able to find one odd-looking chunk of information. This chunk turns out to be a piece of classical music. As the music plays, files begin to get deleted off the computer one by one. Beau identifies this as malware and pulls the plug, shutting everything down. Max tells Det. Chavez to call it in—the lab has been hacked.

Cast[]

Main Cast[]

  • Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby
  • Matt Lauria as Joshua Folsom
  • Mandeep Dhillon as Allie Rajan
  • Ariana Guerra as Det. Serena Chavez
  • Jay Lee as Chris Park
  • Lex Medlin as Beau Finado
  • Marg Helgenberger as Catherine Willows

Guest Cast[]

  • Derek Webster as Dr. Milton Hudson
  • Abraham Lim as Eric Chang
  • Gabe Fonseca as Frank Pappas
  • Dahlia Salem as Dr. Lydia Amato
  • Natasha Hall as Valerie Hammond
  • Sean Alexander James as Detective Carson
  • Craig Gellis as Kenneth Miller
  • Zabeth Russell as Darya Shahin
  • Wyni Landry as Sacha Thorpe
  • Travis Richey as Jesse Moore

Music[]

  • Against the Blade by The Horrors
  • Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves
  • Das Rheingold: Entrance of the Gods Into Valhalla by Richard Wagner

Notes[]

  • Chris brings up his "ChrisSolves" social media account. The account, which he created to give viewers a "slice of the CSI life," was heavily featured in the Season Two episode Eyeballs.
  • Chris reveals why he wears a key around his neck at all times as a reminder: "There's a key for every lock, every problem has a solution, and I can be that solution."
  • This isn't the first time the lab has been hacked, as the "Silver Ink Killer" did the same thing via webcam in the Season Two episode In the White Room.

See Also[]

CSI:Vegas Season 3
The Reaper
Scar Tissue
Rat Packed


See A[]

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