The Grave Shift
Season 9
Number 11
Writer Bradley Thompson
Director David Weddle
Original Airdate January 22, 2009
Previous Episode: One to Go
Next Episode: Disarmed and Dangerous

The Grave Shift is the eleventh episode in season nine of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Langston's first night on the job as a CSI turns hellish when he gets assigned to investigate an arson-murder case as well as a suspicious break-in, which has dire consequences on a troubled family.


Langston arrives at the lab dressed in a suit and tie and ready for his first day of work as a Level 1 CSI. He lugs a giant crime scene kit behind him. As he walks through the lab's hallway with Catherine, Hodges gives him the evil eye. After she tells Langston how to be further prepared whenever he's on call, she gives Nick and Langston a burglary case. As they walk up to the burglarized house, an explosion rings off in the distance. Inside, Nick tells Langston that they'll head over to the site of explosion soon, as burglary cases are usually open and shut.

Victim: Don Kingsley (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Greg Sanders, Nick Stokes, Raymond Langston, Jim Brass

Nick and Langston meet Brass at the site of the explosion. As they walk through the charred and burned down house, Brass informs them that there was no accelerant at the scene. Nick questions why there's a bunch of construction equipment outside and is told that the house belongs to a Don and Paulla Kingsley. There's a charred body in the middle of the wreckage; upon seeing it, Langston stops in his tracks and tries to control his gag reflex.

Paulla arrives at the house with her assistant, Carla Banks. Brass tells her that there's a body inside, but they aren't able to identify it yet. He also mentions that Paulla called 9-1-1 six weeks earlier when Don overdoes on phenobarbital. Carla later tells Brass that Don was depressed and that the Kingsleys were having financial difficulties. Inside the charred house, Nick narrows down the fire's point of origin based on the fact that items around it have been blown outwards. Sooting around the water heater indicates that the inlet was unhooked during the fire; since the threads are still intact, the blast didn't blow them apart. The valve to the natural gas line is opened, leading them to think that Don opened it himself, lit a match and blew himself up. Langston is tasked with helping David Phillips move the body onto a sheet. The first attempt doesn't go well, as a piece of skin comes off, causing Langston to gag again. The second attempt is successful, but results in Langston getting his tie stuck in the victim's oozing chest cavity. He cuts the tie in half and bags it, as it's now evidence.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins pulls shards of glass from the charred body, which has been identified as Don Kingsley. One of the shards has the letters "M-A" on it, leading the doc to believe that it came from a mason jar. Langston enters and is informed that all of the glass shards were pulled from the feet and lower legs. One of the shards has a yellow trace on it which will be sent to Hodges. When the trachea is dissected, it's found that there's no soot in it, meaning that Don was already dead when the fire started. In addition, it's found that Don suffered a blow to the head that resulted in a subdural hematoma. Langston's first arson has also become his first homicide.

At the scene of the burned down house, Nick finds a pair of pliers in the rubble and wonders if they could have been used as the murder weapon. He tells Greg to bag everything that could have been used as a weapon or a delayed ignition source. As he walks some evidence back to his car, Nick runs into someone taking photos. The man identifies himself as Josh Barston, the contractor. He says that he's documenting his losses, as all of the burned equipment outside belonged to him. Nick asks him for all of the plans and construction photos, as well as contact information for his crew.

Nick discovers that before he died, Don received 23 phone calls from Carla in a 48-hour span. Brass pays Carla a visit at the gym. She lies about her whereabouts at the time of the explosion until confronted with one of the voicemails she left. When confronted by Paulla, Carla says that she was at the house trying to get the $20,000 Don owed her for a failed business idea. After Carla insults Don, the two women get into a skirmish, which Brass breaks up.

Greg and Langston go through the charred rubble. While Greg comes across a power cord that goes to nothing, Langston looks at a circular metallic disc. The disc has yellow residue on it similar to what was found earlier on the shards of glass. Greg wonders if the disc is a piece of roof flashing and believes that burn marks on the disc appear to be the result of an electrical arc. Langston believes that if they're looking at a detonator, they're still missing some pieces. The yellow substance is identified as corn. They've got corn, a mason jar, a piece of metal roof flashing and a power cord. When asked by Langston how these items could make a detonator, Hodges says he doesn't know, as he's still unhappy about Grissom's departure. Langston tells him that that isn't his reputation.

Langston does some research and discovers that the device was a cornmeal timer. He enlists Hodges' help to recreate the bomb on the police station's roof. On the roof, he explains to Greg that the bomb is an old military trick - the cornmeal absorbs the water in the jar, which pushes it up to the metal disc. The disc then comes in contact with the exposed wires and creates a bomb. He explains that the process is slow, which would give their killer time to knock Don out, fill the room with gas and leave before the explosion.

Archie shows Langston and Nick surveillance video from the gym's garage, where Josh and Paulla are seen kissing two hours before the explosion. Under interrogation, Paulla says that their relationship is platonic and that Josh is a good listener. Brass figures he must have heard Paulla complain about her financial situation and about how much of a loser her husband was. In a separate interrogation room, Josh tells Brass that he and Paulla were in love and that Don was taking her down with him. He built the detonator, knocked Don out in the garage, unhooked the gas line and left. "Don was holding her hostage," he says, "and I set her free."

Victim: None (stolen items)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Raymond Langston, Riley Adams, Jim Brass

While Nick goes with the owner to see what was stolen and from where, Langston prints the doorknob. Convinced he's not getting a good enough print, he eventually uses too much dust and degrades the print. After finding out that a laptop and some jewelry was stolen, Nick assists Langston and shows him how to recover a print from the front door's broken glass.

Riley tells Langston that the stolen laptop from the burglary has a cell phone card in it with a GPS. The laptop is traced to the bedroom of teenager Alex Palento. Along with the laptop, a lot of other stolen items are found. Alex says that he got the items from some neighborhood kids. His father, Richard, smacks him upside his head, which causes Langston to admonish him. They get into a brief verbal altercation before Riley steps in between them. After Richard is led out of the room, Riley tells Langston that they're there to collect evidence, not be social workers.

In the layout room, Langston empties a duffel bag that was found in Alex's bedroom; it contains a lot of female belongings. He finds a receipt for a pawn shop stuck in a hair clip; the receipt is for a Cameo watch and a diamond ring, the last two items yet to be recovered from the burglary. when the receipt is fingerprinted, it comes back to Diane Palento, Alex's mother. She has priors for shoplifting and narcotics possession. With his father sitting next to him, Alex is interrogated and shown a video still of his mother at the pawn shop. Alex admits that his mother gave him the stolen items and that she's been staying with him until she gets on her feet. Riley tells Alex that receiving stolen property is a crime and has Brass put some officers on a stakeout to help bring Diane in. Diane is eventually found and arrested.

Langston continues to go through the evidence and believes that they're still missing something. He tells Catherine that a rock through a window doesn't appear to fit with Diane's way of doing things. Furthermore, the owner's laptop was still in the house and not at work with him and his watch had been removed, which one does when having sex. A search of the owner's web history shows that he visited a website called "Massages by Diamond," and "Diamond" happens to be Diane. They figure that the husband hired Diane and after they had sex and he got in the shower, she ripped him off. Langston theorizes that the husband staged the break-in and wants to go arrest him, but Catherine tells him that they can only get the husband for filing a false report.

The ring is returned to the wife, who is aware of what her husband did while she was out of town. As the two argue, Langston wisely backs away. In the hallway, he finds Alex and tells him that his mother is going to need his help. He recommends some rehab facilities, but Alex responds by spitting in his face. After his shift ends, Langston practices lifting his fingerprints in order to avoid further mistakes down the road.


Main Cast

Guest Cast


  • Nick and Riley both move into Grissom's old office. Grissom had given his old irradiated fetal pig to Hodges for safe keeping, and Hodges places it back in the shared office "where it belongs."


  • This is the first episode to star Laurence Fishburne as CSI Raymond Langston--his third actual appearance--and the first episode in which William Petersen does not make an appearance in the main titles.
  • Victoria Pratt had previously worked with Lauren Lee Smith on the show Mutant X.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 9
For WarrickThe Happy PlaceArt Imitates LifeLet It BleedLeave Out All The RestSay UncleWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaYoung Man with a Horn19 Down...One to GoThe Grave ShiftDisarmed and DangerousDeep Fried and Minty FreshMiscarriage of JusticeKill Me If You CanTurn, Turn, TurnNo Way OutMascaraThe Descent of ManA Space OddityIf I Had a Hammer...The Gone Dead TrainHog HeavenAll In