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Third Time's the Charm
Csi vegas
Season 2
Number 14
Writer Erika Vázquez
Director Eduardo Sánchez
Original Airdate February 16, 2023
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Previous Episode: Boned
Next Episode: Ashes, Ashes

Third Time's the Charm is the fourteenth episode in Season Two of CSI: Vegas.

Synopsis[]

The CSIs investigate the mysterious death of a competitive eating contestant, and Chavez partners with Allie to prove where the mysterious silver ink notes have been coming from.

Plot[]

Victim: Michael Webber (deceased)

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

Mike Webber calls 911 and informs the dispatcher that he has been stabbed by someone he had a confrontation with in a bar. He stumbles through an alleyway and sits on a bench, all the while covering his bleeding abdomen. Mike is last seen getting up from the bench and stepping in a puddle; when the paramedics arrive, he's lying face down in the alleyway. Attempts to revive him are unsuccessful.

When Folsom arrives on the scene, he becomes fixated on the hole in one of the victim's shoes. Mike's driver's license shows that he's an out-of-towner from Phoenix, and Det. Chavez mentions his 911 call. Chris notices that the ground around the body is wet, while Folsom questions why there's a lack of blood at the scene. If Mike stumbled around and bled out, there should be a blood trail somewhere. Chris pulls a flyer from Mike's pocket advertising an eating competition called "Gorge-A-Palooza"; Mike was apparently a contestant. A closer look at the body shows bruises around the stab wound; if the knife is found, they might be able to match it to the bruises from the hilt. Folsom swabs a substance off the body that turns out to be barbecue sauce.

In autopsy, Dr. Milton Hudson (who is filling in for Sonya and Jack) identifies the barbecue sauce as "Kansas City style" due to the presence of ketchup and molasses. The sauce actually escaped through the stab wound in the body, pulling out stomach contents (pulled pork) with it. Dr. Hudson shows Max that Mike's stomach was three times the normal size; he ingested 15 pounds of food.

Directionality of the blood drops at the scene indicate that Mike was walking while he was bleeding out. Chris and Folsom follow the blood trail and come across a large area of blood spatter; there's also a partial bloody shoe impression nearby. The trail leads to a dumpster, which Chris unfortunately has to search by himself. He finds a knife at the bottom of the dumpster.

Folsom heads to the Antaeus Hotel, site of "Gorge-A-Palooza." Host Jason Ketchum informs him that Mike competed in the previous day's "BBQ and Brew," where he lost to fellow competitor Rita DeBenedetto. Following the loss, an upset Mike left with a woman that was assumed to be his wife. Folsom takes shoe impressions from both Jason and Rita. Afterwards, he and Det. Chavez speak with a despondent Sheila Webber, Mike's wife. She admits that she was worried about Mike eating too much, as it was unhealthy for him. However, Mike, a failed athlete in his prime, wanted to feel like an athlete again.

Det. Chavez informs Max that witnesses from the bar saw Mike get into an argument with Calvin Dupree, a repeat offender who has multiple arrests for assault with a knife. It's determined that the shoe print found in the alleyway doesn't match either Jason or Rita, and the knife Chris recovered contains no usable prints or DNA. However, analysis of the knife's hilt marks forensically puts the knife in Calvin's hand.

In interrogation, Max shows Calvin a picture of the bruise on Mike's body. The hilt marks match the ones on a knife Calvin used in a prior assault four years ago. A shoe found in his closet also matches the bloody shoe print left at the scene. Calvin soon admits that Mike started the altercation. After they got kicked out of the bar, Mike jumped Calvin, forcing Calvin to defend himself. Calvin adds that Mike was "messed up"—he was twitchy, sweaty, and "red as a monkey's butt." The interrogation is interrupted when Max gets a page from Dr. Hudson.

In autopsy, Dr. Hudson informs Folsom and Max that Mike wasn't stabbed to death; there's no evidence of significant internal bleeding and the aorta is intact. Mike had eaten so much food (17 pounds, to be exact) that it acted as a shield between the abdominal cavity and the heart, meaning the knife was blocked from full penetration. Therefore, Calvin has admitted to assault, but is off the hook for murder. Dr. Hudson observes that Mike has a contusion on one knee, discoloration on his right big toe, and a matching bruise on his left hand. The causes of these markings is still undetermined. When informed that Mike was sweaty and red faced, Dr. Hudson runs another test. It's revealed that Mike's blood contains spores from inky cap mushrooms. Mike Webber wasn't just stabbed, he was poisoned.

Dr. Hudson later explains that Mike's blood contains aminocyclopropanol, a toxin that forms when two substances combine. In this case, the inky cap mushrooms (which contain coprine) were combined with alcohol. The toxin produces nausea, agitation, and a red face, as well as elevating one's blood pressure. However, Dr. Hudson doesn't believe that this would be fatal, as no deaths have ever been attributed to the toxin. Since Mike was required to drink beer in the eating competition, Folsom wonders if someone poisoned Mike in an effort to slow him down.

Beau is tasked with going through the garbage from the hotel's kitchen. He finds that none of the sandwiches recovered contain coprine or traces of mushrooms, nor were there any traces in Mike's stomach contents. Therefore, someone poisoned Mike before the competition started. Beau also discovers that six sandwiches weighed less than the others, meaning that one contestant ate three-quarters of a pound less than the other contestants, but got credit for eating the whole sandwich. While it's impossible to tie an individual to a specific sandwich, Beau does find a plastic gemstone amongst the trash.

Rita is then shown posing for selfies at the competition's meet and greet; two of her teeth have the same decorative gemstone. She's irate when told that she cheated. Folsom and Det. Chavez then accuse Jason of rigging the competition; after all, he acts as a sort of supervisor who has access to the kitchen and the stage. Jason refuses to give up his DNA to help make sense of the unidentifiable evidence so far. Det. Chavez points out that while Rita is a performer with a social media following, Mike was a middle-aged gym teacher; in other words, Rita is more marketable. Folsom informs Jason that rigging a competition is fraud and a felony. If Mike was poisoned, second-degree homicide is getting added to the charges. Jason clams up and threatens to get a lawyer for both himself and Rita. Afterwards, Det. Chavez notes that they have no evidence of Jason poisoning Mike. They need to find out how the poison got into Mike's system.

Folsom informs Shelia Webber that her husband was both stabbed and poisoned. She doesn't remember seeing Mike eating anything earlier that day, adding that he didn't eat for 18 hours before a competition. Sheila also can't remember whether she was with her husband the entire time.

Dr. Hudson examines something extracted from Mike's small intestine that used to be some sort of food. Mike definitely ate something in the 18 hours leading up the competition, and that something was laced with inky cap mushrooms. Unfortunately, the sample is too digested to analyze, so they can't tell what the food started out as. However, Dr. Hudson believes they can determine precisely when the food was eaten based on where it was in the small intestine and how quickly Mike's system processed the other food he ate in the competition. Since Mike's phone tracked where he went that day, the team can match the time he ate with the location on the phone.

Dr. Hudson determines that Mike ingested the mushrooms between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM on the morning of the competition. The geolocation from Mike's phone shows that he was in hotel room up until 11:00 AM, which means someone brought the mushrooms to his room. Unless he ordered room service, the only person in the room with him was his wife. Sheila is brought in for questioning. She conveniently remembers that Mike had a protein smoothie, which he used to coat his stomach. Max sees right through Sheila's shaky demeanor and gets her to admit that she killed her husband. She says that Mike was always training for the eating competitions and that the risks far outweighed the rewards, monetary or otherwise. He agreed to quit if he lost the next competition, and Shelia decided to help make that happen by slipping inky cap mushrooms into his smoothie.

Sheila has confessed to murder, but Max believes she'll only be tried for involuntary manslaughter. Folsom is still skeptical, as he recalls Dr. Hudson's earlier statement about inky cap mushrooms never killing anyone. His belief is that the circumstances surrounding Mike's death are incredibly unlikely and that they're about to send Sheila to prison based on a theory. Dr. Hudson notes that Mike was in good health and that there were no signs of a chronic disease. So, why was he the first person to ever die of inky cap mushroom poisoning? Folsom, who is about the same height and weight as Mike, decides to test the theory by ingesting the mushrooms and drinking scotch himself. The experiment gives him the same symptoms Mike had, but it doesn't kill him. Therefore, Mike Webber didn't die from inky cap mushroom poisoning.

Folsom and Dr. Hudson head back to the alleyway where Mike's body was found. Only four minutes eclipsed between Mike's 911 call and his death, yet there were no signs of massive blood loss in the immediate area. A still inebriated Folsom spots a live wire near the wet ground and remembers that Mike had a hole in his shoe. He now believes that Mike was electrocuted. Dr. Hudson says that the voltage would've had to have been quite low, as Mike's cells showed no signs of electrocution. Folsom notes that Mike was under a great deal of stress thanks to the poisoning, the competition, and the stabbing. With the body in a weakened state, it might not have taken a lot of voltage to stop Mike's heart. Folsom recalls the marks on Mike's knee, toe, and palm; they could all have been caused by low-voltage electricity.

Folsom fills Max in on his new theory. Mike sat on the nearby bench and waited for the paramedics to arrive. He was protected from the electricity because of the rubber soles in his shoes. However, at some point, he got up and collapsed to the ground. In the process, his exposed big toe came in contact with the electrified pool of water. Mike got up and tried to steady himself on the nearby fence, closing the circuit and completing the flow of electricity. Dr. Hudson is also on board with the theory, confirming that the marks on Mike's body are consistent with low-voltage electricity and concluding that electrocution was the official cause of death. Sheila Webber is released from custody. Despite being innocent of killing her husband, Folsom informs her that she may still be charged for poisoning him.

Under investigation: Dr. Diane Auerbach (alive)

On the case: Allie Rajan, Chris Park, Joshua Folsom, Maxine Roby, Det. Serena Chavez

Recapping past cases, a string of murders have occurred, each being tied back to notes and postcards written in silver ink. The murders appear to be "for hire" murders, where the killer in question in each case has been blackmailed by the mastermind. Therapist Diane Auerbach, who is currently out of the country, is the common link between the cases, having treated the suspects and victims in the past.

Allie calls Det. Chavez and informs her that Dr. Auerbach got an early flight and is coming back to Vegas earlier than expected. She hopes to be waiting for Dr. Auerbach when she arrives home so she can bring her to the station for questioning. Det. Chavez leaves her scene and goes to meet up with Allie, cautioning her not to do anything until backup arrives.

Upon meeting up with Allie, Det. Chavez informs her that they're not bringing Dr. Auerbach in, claiming that it's the wrong move. There isn't enough evidence against Dr. Auerbach, as she can claim that handwritten notes used against her were willingly provided to the police and/or stolen from her office. Making the wrong move will tip Dr. Auerbach off that she's a suspect, making her more likely to flee. Det. Chavez advises that they need a search warrant to collect all of the evidence in the house first. To make matters worse, Dr. Auerbach is a therapist, which means her notes and files are privileged information. Therefore, a judge won't approve a warrant unless it's airtight.

In an effort to get a search warrant for Dr. Auerbach's house, Allie has assembled and set up a large quantity of printers (and ink). She shows Max a recent photo Dr. Auerbach posted to social media; there's a printer in the background. Because the printer used on the silver ink notes distorted the characters in a unique, identifiable way, the hope is that they can prove that Dr. Auerbach's printer is the only make and model that could've produced the notes. The efforts are successful, as Allie is able to procure a warrant to search Dr. Auerbach's house.

Allie and Det. Chavez head to the house and attempt to confront Dr. Auerbach before LVPD backup can get in place. Knocks on the front door go unanswered, and Allie believes that Dr. Auerbach is home and is destroying evidence as they speak. Det. Chavez breaks a window in the door frame and enters the house with her gun drawn. While Allie searches the office, Det. Chavez finds a cup of tea on the kitchen counter that's still hot. Suddenly, the lights in the house go out and a hooded figure runs out the front door. Dr. Auerbach drives away in her car while Det. Chavez gives pursuit.

Dr. Auerbach eludes the police and is in the wind. Folsom and Max arrive at the house to assist. In the office, Max informs Allie that Dr. Auerbach has a mother and sister; the LVPD is checking in on them. Allie fixates on a copy of the Voynich Manuscript, an illustrated codex from the Middle Ages that was written in an undecipherable language. The symbols in the book are quite similar to the ones written on the postcards in silver ink. In the basement, Folsom examines the fuse box and breaker panel, which Dr. Auerbach used to kill the lights. There's damp mud on the floor, which Folsom guesses just fell off Dr. Auerbach's shoe. The mud might be able to tell the team where she was last.

Dr. Auerbach's family is a dead end, as her sister is out of the country and her mother is in a nursing home. Meanwhile, the trace from the mud found doesn't help narrow things down further. When Chris mentions that there was plant matter in the mud, Allie realizes that they can use the plant's odor to identify the species and pin down a location. The experiment is successful, as the plant is identified as Charleston Beardtongue, which grows in the Spring Mountains. Despite that fact that Dr. Auerbach doesn't own a home there, the team double-checks their records.

It turns out that Dr. Auerbach has a cabin in the Spring Mountains that's listed under her mother's name. When the team arrives, they find the cabin empty. Out back, they find the body of Dr. Auerbach hanging upside down from a very large wooden cross. There's no way she got up there herself, ruling out suicide and ruling her out as the "Silver Ink Killer." Allie screams out in frustration upon reaching another dead end in the case.

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 (credited only)

Guest Cast[]

  • Derek Webster as Dr. Milton Hudson
  • Kathleen Wilhoite as Dr. Diane Auerbach
  • Brandon Keener as Jason Ketchum
  • Abigail Marlowe as Sheila Webber
  • Sandra Hinojosa as Rita DeBenedetto
  • Anthony Fernandez as Calvin Dupree
  • Aaron Blakely as Michael Webber

Notes[]

  • Marg Helgenberger (Catherine) is credited but does not appear in the episode.

Trivia[]

See Also[]

  • Category:Images from Third Time's the Charm


CSI:Vegas Season 2
She's GoneThe Painted ManStory of a GunKoalaIn Harm's WayThere's the RubBurnedGrace NoteIn the White RoomEyeballsTrinketWhen the Dust SettlesBonedThird Time's the CharmAshes, AshesWe All Fall DownThe Promise


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