The Hunger Artist
Season 2
Number 23
Writer Jerry Stahl
Director Richard J. Lewis
Original Airdate May 16, 2002
Previous Episode: Cross Jurisdictions
Next Episode: Revenge is Best Served Cold

The Hunger Artist is the twenty-third episode and Season Two finale of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


The CSIs investigate when the body of an unidentified young woman is discovered stuffed in a shopping cart near a freeway underpass. Her horribly disfigured and partially decomposed face is a nightmare of blood, scabs and scars, as if she'd been shoved into a fan. The team soon discovers the victim was a fashion model and that her homeless sister is a likely suspect.


Victim: Ashleigh James (deceased)

On the case: entire team

A woman, whose face is hidden from the viewer, is getting ready to take a bath. As she prepares herself for the bath, the bathtub is shown overflowing onto a magazine. Grissom is then shown at the doctor's office; he gets a call to go to a crime scene and has to reschedule his appointment.

The same woman from before is found in a shopping cart under an overpass in a section of town overrun with homeless people. She has sores all over her face and has been wrapped in a blanket. Grissom follows a small blood trail and finds a bloody rock that could have been used as the murder weapon. He then searches the shopping cart, finding a pink handbag that contains a day planner and some syringes. Later on, Brass and Grissom are looking over the body when a rat crawls from the victim's mouth.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins sees a lot of injection marks in the forehead and believes that the victim was injected with Botox, indicating that she might not be homeless. There's no other evidence of drug use, as she doesn't have track marks on her arms. The victim also shows signs of torture and has a gash on her cheek, possibly from a sharp weapon entering the spot more than once. Grissom notes the absence of ligature marks, meaning she wasn't restrained.

Sara goes over the day planner found in Ashleigh's handbag; it's written in code and is currently undecipherable. Warrick wonders why a homeless woman would have an expensive handbag and a day planner. Meanwhile, Catherine visits Dusty, a woman in the lab who's reconstructing the victim's face from photos. After touching up the photo, Dusty says she recognizes the victim from somewhere—the cover of a magazine. The victim was a model named Ashleigh James, and somebody apparently wanted to make her ugly.

Catherine and Grissom meet Brass at Ashleigh's apartment, which has flooded from the overflowing bathtub. There are pictures of Ashleigh all over her apartment. Grissom spots a pile of white powder, which he says smells like mint. In the bathroom, Catherine notes that there's blood in the sink, but none on the floor. She also finds a package of enemas. Grissom finds a plastic bag filled halfway with some bodily fluid. In the kitchen, he finds a rack of Botox bottles in the refrigerator and a drawer full of syringes. Catherine goes through Ashleigh's closet and finds a dark brown overcoat that doesn't exactly match Ashleigh's style.

Outside, Nick and Warrick are going through Ashleigh's car, which is filled with junk food wrappers—odd for a model. Nick finds a threatening note under some of the wrappers. They see Grissom leave the apartment and go for a walk, seemingly unable to hear them as they call his name.

Grissom goes for a walk around the neighborhood, passing many homeless people along the way. He works his way around to surprisingly see Sara, who wanted to visit the crime scene herself. Nothing that Ashleigh didn't walk to the crime scene, Grissom surmises that she was pushed there in the shopping cart. Sara turns around and sees a billboard with Ashleigh on it; it seems that someone was making a point in dumping Ashleigh where they did.

In the lab, Sara continues to try to deciphering the day planner when Grissom walks in. In order to decipher the code, Grissom says, you need to know the author first. Sara notes that the shopping cart didn't belong to Ashleigh, and that it had a bunch of random garbage and newspapers in it. They soon both realize that every newspaper and magazine in the cart had Ashleigh's face on it. Whoever owned the cart was either an Ashleigh James fan or a fanatic.

Nick and Warrick visit the house of Frank McBride, Ashleigh's ex-boyfriend who wrote the threatening note found in her car. In the trash can outside, they find a ripped up picture of Ashleigh. Meanwhile, Catherine, Grissom and Brass visit Rod Darling in the middle of a photo shoot. He's Ashleigh's former manager, but admits to leaving some of his stuff in her apartment because she was in need of a father figure. Just then, someone in the crowd runs forward and attacks Rod, slicing his hand with a knife. The attacker is Frank, and he yells out that Rod killed Ashleigh.

Under interrogation, Frank says Rod did everything to make Ashleigh dependent on him and that he watched her throw away everything that made her special. As a result, Ashleigh shut Frank out of her life. Catherine interrogates Rod in another room. He says that he never slept with Ashleigh ("protecting his asset") and that she needed constant supervision, which is why he had some of things in her apartment. Anything could happen if she was left alone for just a minute.

In the lab, Sara finds that the brown overcoat found in Ashleigh's closet had crabs. Crabs don't usually appear on clothes, but they might if the person wearing the clothes had substandard hygiene. Grissom believes that one of Ashleigh's homeless neighbors visited her apartment. That person is missing a jacket and possibly a shopping cart, as well.

Grissom visits the homeless alley near Ashleigh's apartment again. He finds a man named Tookie wearing a scarf that has a blood stain on it. Grissom trades his jacket for the scarf. A woman, Cassie, comes running up to Grissom, upset that he's taken Tookie's scarf. He notices that she has a ring on her finger, and he trades her his flashlight for the ring and a kit she has in her box. When the woman removes the ring, it shows a scar on her finger.

The blood on the scarf matches Ashleigh's; however, her blood isn't on Frank's knife, nor did the knife make the wounds on Ashleigh's face. Nick notes that the beauty tools found in Cassie's kit hadn't been cleaned in a while, as they all tested positive for blood. Greg lets Grissom know that the epithelials found on the ring Cassie was wearing are a familial match to Ashleigh—Cassie is Ashleigh's sister. Grissom talks to Cassie and asks her about Ashleigh and the scarf that she gave Tookie. Cassie admits that she should have stolen the scarf from Ashleigh, as Ashleigh stole her life.

At the modeling agency, Rod admits to Catherine and Grissom that Cassie was a model as well, but he had to cut her loose. Ashleigh was the only one that would care for Cassie, bringing her food and making sure she could shower. Rod shows them a picture of Cassie on a magazine cover that was taken three years before. She hung out with the wrong crowd and got into drugs. A flashback shows Cassie at a photo shoot freaking out and storming out while Ashleigh worriedly looked on. Rod liked what he saw in Ashleigh and immediately made her a model instead. Cocaine had already made Cassie paranoid, and when her sister started modeling, everything became a conspiracy to Cassie. Grissom remarks that "Cassie threw her life away and her sister Ashleigh recycled it."

Sara is able to crack some of the code in Ashleigh's day planner, with letters and numbers corresponding to where the photo shoot was being taken and by which photographer. Ashleigh's employment contracts indicate that she stopped going to photo shoots a few months before. Under interrogation, Cassie says she tried to save Ashleigh, as Ashleigh never thought she was pretty enough or skinny enough. A flashback shows Ashleigh having a breakdown similar to the one Cassie had. Grissom guesses that Cassie saw Ashleigh in herself, which is why she was trying to stop her. Just then, Cassie leaps across the interrogation table and attacks Grissom. Brass has her restrained and arrested.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Grissom that he found blisters in the back of Ashleigh's throat. Add in worn enamel on a tooth and a red mark on Ashleigh's middle finger, and Doc Robbins concludes that Ashleigh was both anorexic and bulimic. She would gorge on food then expel it until her body was in a state of shock; after that, the body starts feeding on its own muscle. Doc Robbins concludes that Ashleigh died from a blood infection; she had anemia which helped form the scars on her face and she was septic, as well. She had been dying for quite a while.

The psych report on Cassie comes back labeling her as a classic paranoid schizophrenic. This explains why she went ballistic in the interrogation room, as the tight space made things unbearable for her. Grissom wonders who inflicted Ashleigh's facial wounds—there's no evidence against Frank McBride, her agent wouldn't jeopardize his asset, and Cassie seems to be getting ruled out as a suspect.

Sara goes through the fast food wrappers found in Ashleigh's car and is able to deduce that she was keeping track of what she ate as well as what she threw up—also known as BDD or Body Dysmorphic Disorder. BDD sufferers are convinced that their bodies are not symmetric—that one side of the body doesn't match the other. Ashleigh meticulously recorded everything she ate, then threw up and used the enemas to evacuate her bowels. She would weigh the enema bag to see if she was even.

Catherine is able to match one of Cassie's prints to the prints found on the water faucet in Ashleigh's apartment; Cassie was definitely there at some point. When the DNA found under Ashleigh's fingernails comes back as her own, Grissom concludes that Ashleigh attacked herself because she was convinced everything about herself needed to be fixed. Since she couldn't fix her mind, she tried fixing her body, which explains all the picking around her face. This would be why Rod cut her loose from the agency and why Frank blamed Rod for ruining Ashleigh's image. Cassie's fingerprints were found in Ashleigh's apartment and shopping cart because Cassie found her and wheeled her to the alley where she could see herself on the billboard.

Grissom meets up with Cassie on a Vegas street while she rummages through trash bins. She refuses Grissom's offer to put her in a shelter, saying she prefers to stay outdoors and find things she may need. As the exchange ends, Grissom watches her walk away with her shopping cart muttering things to herself.

Later on, Grissom is shown walking down the Vegas strip with all of the sounds muffled. He visits the doctor he was trying to previously; she tells him he has Otosclerosis, meaning that a bone growth is preventing vibrations from reaching the inner ear, effectively neutralizing sound waves. Grissom says that it's hereditary and he got it from his mother. The doctor tells him there's no way of knowing when it will show up and there's no way of reversing it. She doesn't know how long it will be before Grissom loses his hearing.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Eric Szmanda as Greg Sanders
  • Robert David Hall as Dr. Al Robbins
  • Susan Misner as Cassie James
  • Bill Sage as Frank McBride
  • Mark Sheppard as Rod Darling
  • Tricia Helfer as Ashleigh James
  • Catherine MacNeal as Grissom's Doctor
  • Jimmie F. Skaggs as Tookie
  • Bonnie Burroughs as Dusty
  • Keith Allan as Fashion Photographer
  • Erin Guzowski as Lola the Model
  • Nicole Randall Johnson as Nurse

Major Events[]

  • Grissom begins experiencing problems with his hearing. He finds out that he suffers from Otosclerosis, the same disease that made his mother deaf.

Episode Title[]

  • "A Hunger Artist" is a short story by Franz Kafka. The story discusses the plight of a professional hunger artist who experiences a decrease in appreciation of his performance medium.[1] Hunger artists, also known as starvation artists, starved themselves for prolonged periods of time for the amusement of paying audiences.[2] In this episode, the victim, Ashleigh James, is a professional model who suffered from anorexia and bulimia and self-mutilated. 

Featured Music[]

  • Wild Horses by Natasha Bedingfield
  • Gave Up by Nine Inch Nails
  • Me and Jesus by Stellar Kart
  • Smiling Faces by Stellar Kart


  • The scene in which Grissom and Brass watch a rat come out of a dead woman's mouth was based on a real experience writer and technical advisor Liz Devine had.[3] 


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Hunger_Artist
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunger_artist
  3. Flaherty, M. & Marrinan, C. (2004). CSI: Crime scene investigation companion. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 2
BurkedChaos TheoryOverloadBully for YouScuba Doobie-DooAlter BoysCagedSlaves of Las VegasAnd Then There Were NoneEllieOrgan GrinderYou've Got MaleIdentity CrisisThe FingerBurden of ProofPrimum Non NocereFelonious MonkChasing The BusStalkerCats in the CradleAnatomy of a LyeCross JurisdictionsThe Hunger Artist