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Under a Cloud
Jennifer Rhodes & Julie Finlay - S14 E7 Under A Cloud (1).jpg
Season 14
Number 7
Writer Elizabeth Devine,
Richard Catalani
Director Brad Tanenbaum
Original Airdate November 6, 2013
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Previous Episode: Passed Pawns
Next Episode: Helpless

Under a Cloud is the seventh episode in season fourteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

The CSI team investigates a John Doe found during torrential thunderstorm. Meanwhile, Greg is investigated and accused of framing a man for murder seven years ago.

Plot

Victim: Arman Agakian (alive)

On the case: Morgan Brody, Sara Sidle, Jim Brass

During a torrential thunderstorm, a man is pulled out of a flood channel with a suspicious head injury; a bag he was carrying got caught on a tree limb, preventing him washing further downstream. The man is taken to the hospital, where he's diagnosed with severe hypothermia and head injuries. When Sara checks the man's satchel for ID, she finds that there's an armed bomb inside. Bomb Squad technician Anthony Hurst successfully extracts the bomb from Sara's arms, takes it outside, and detonates it; the fragments are sent to the lab for analysis.

When Sara runs the victim's fingerprints, she finds that he's using a fake ID. Brass has the man's photo shown on the news in hopes that someone can identify him. They need to find out who he is and what he was planning to do with the bomb.

Morgan gets a map of the city's flood channels and hypothesizes that the victim fell in the water somewhere near his target. Thinking that the target is somewhere with a lot of people, she and Sara trace the flood channel to an area that's adjacent to three casinos.

The man awakens in the hospital, but he's speaking a foreign language. Using an app on her phone, Sara is able to determine that the man is speaking Armenian. Part of what he's repeating translates to the word "pearl," but the rest is unrecognized. When combining the fact that they have a guy with a bomb speaking a foreign language who hacked into AFIS to conceal his identity, one conclusion is reached - the man fits the profile of a terrorist. Sara notes that terrorists never work alone.

With the hospitals running on generators and not doing elective tests, the man is brought into the morgue in the hopes that Doc Robbins can narrow down where he's from. As the man continues to chant in Armenian, Doc Robbins uses his fluoroscope and finds bleeding in the his brain. He wonders if this is a case of Transient Global Amnesia (TGA), where a head trauma causes someone to speak a foreign language. The doc notes that such cases usually lasts only 24 hours.

The bomber's motel room is located; the manager tells Brass that the man checked in yesterday. After seeing the news report and calling the police, the woman went to check out the room and saw someone tossing it. Morgan and Sara search the room, finding evidence that the bomber was planning on staying there for three days. There's no evidence that the bomb was assembled in the room, but the CSIs find an American passport and a flash drive hidden. The passport is registered to an Arman Agakian.

Terri Royce, the lab's new chemist, pulls Greg aside and asks for his help in interpreting the evidence. She tells him that polyunsaturated oil from Arman's pants and his satchel was identified as peanut oil. Greg recalls that, a few days ago, a barrel of frying oil got spilled outside The Mediterranean and caught fire. Carbon ash is also found in the sample, and since The Mediterranean has direct access to the flood channel, it's possible Terri has just found Arman's target.

Sara heads out to The Mediterranean and asks Anthony to assist her. There are very few access points in the area, and Sara finds that someone cut a hole in the nearby fence. She theorizes that Arman was trying to take a shortcut upstream to the other end of the hotel in an effort to avoid security cameras inside. However, he slipped, fell in, and was swept upstream. When the two search the loading dock, they find that the fence around the gas main has also been cut open. There's also a disturbance in the dirt under one of the meters, possibly from someone removing the satchel. Sara spots blood on one of the broken fence's sharp edges; however, when running the blood in her mobile lab, she finds that it's not a match to Arman.

Officer Mitchell arrives at the scene and informs Sara that Arman died in the hospital. Sara is shocked, as Arman didn't have life-threatening injuries. When David Phillips goes to pick up the body and bring it to the morgue, he's stopped by two FBI agents who pull rank and take the body themselves. Later on, Sara is able to have the phrase Arman was chanting translated; it's translated to "pearl royal."

Hodges chemically tests the bomb fragments, pieces together what he can, and uses identical components to build his own bomb - without the explosives. After much effort, he still has trouble determining how the bomb was activated. Henry notices that the blasting cap is completely intact and that there's still white powder inside that should've been completely consumed by the controlled blast. When Hodges puts a flame to the powder, he determines that it's not explosive, which means the bomb was never meant to go off.

Using the address on Armin's fake ID, Morgan is able to gain access to the flash drive found in the motel room. One of the files contains a highlighted intersection at Pearl Street and Royal Avenue in North Vegas. When Sara excitedly goes to relay the information to Russell, she's surprised to find the FBI agents in his office.

While one of the agents takes possession of the flash drive, Sara notices that the other agent has a cut on his wrist consistent with the bloodied fence from the gas main at The Mediterranean. She then surmises that Arman Agakian isn't the victim's real name and that he probably isn't dead. It's revealed that Arman has been working undercover to infiltrate the Armenian mob, who had been extorting money from The Mediterranean.

Arman posed as an explosives specialist and was scheduled to plant two very real-looking bombs the night of the storm. However, while planting the second bomb, he slipped into the flood channel and got washed away. The FBI then aborted the operation, which explains why the satchel was removed from the loading dock. One of the agents tells Sara that the plan was for the bombs to be discovered publicly, then released to the media that they were very dangerous and expertly made. The Armenians would be fooled and Arman would be established as an explosives expert. Arman kept chanting about "pearl royal" because the intersection is where he met his Armenian contact and it probably stood out in his mind.

Arman was able to identify the individuals responsible for the extortion plot, and a news report mentions that five Armenian nationals were taken into custody under the suspicion that they were members of an Armenian organized crime ring.

Victims: Gus Ellis (alive - wrongfully convicted), Greg Sanders (accused of falsifying evidence)

On the case: D.B. Russell, Julie Finlay, Jennifer Rhodes

Upon returning to the lab, Greg is served papers; he's being sued for the wrongful imprisonment of Gus Ellis seven years ago. Defense Criminalist Jennifer Rhodes reminds Greg that Gus was sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of college student Claire Gibson. The case hinged on DNA, as Gus' blood was found on a crowbar next to the body. However, touch DNA was later extracted from the victim's clothes, and it matched that of serial sex offender Clyde Maroni. Clyde eventually confessed and pled to a life sentence.

Now, Gus is free, and he's looking for answers. Greg notes that a week before her murder, Claire called the police complaining that a man was looking at her through her bedroom window; that man was identified as Gus. Gus was also the one who called the police from Claire's murder scene. However, now, Gus' team is accusing Greg of planting blood evidence at the scene. Greg is put on desk duty until everything is resolved, and Finn is assigned to work with Jennifer.

Finn and Jennifer go through the photos Greg took at the crime scene. Upon entering the house, he started with the body in the bedroom. Twenty minutes later, he finished and photographed the rest of the house; however, he eventually came back to the bedroom and took more photos. Finn notes that newer CSIs tend to make more photographs than are necessary. When examining another photo taken later, Finn sees that the crowbar next to the body had been moved. Greg was alone in the house at the time, and 25 minutes earlier, he had received Gus' reference blood sample.

When shown the discrepancy in the photos, Greg claims that if he had noticed it, he would've put it in his notes; however, nothing of the sort was recorded. He tells Jennifer that he followed procedure exactly the way Grissom taught him, but doing so causes him to only focus on his own work, not what anyone else is doing at a crime scene. Greg is denied access to his notes, and Finn worries what this means for the lab and everyone that works there.

Because the department and the D.A.'s office are named in the lawsuit, Russell looks over the case files, as well. He reads that 13 women reported seeing Gus outside their homes over a two-month period. Gus was caught on three separate security cameras and, at the trial, a coworker testified that Gus threatened Claire because she started the whole investigation into him by calling the police. This would give Gus motive for murder.

Russell asks why Greg would frame someone, and Finn replies that maybe the new CSI was trying to impress people. This theory is rejected by Russell, and he tells Finn that he chose her to investigate Greg because she's been in his shoes before. Finn says that the crowbar in question belonged to Claire's brother, Joe, who had come over to fix a broken gutter the morning of the murder. The D.A.'s theory is that Gus used the crowbar to break into the house, cutting himself in the process; however, only one small smear of blood was found in the entire crime scene. Gus' attorney only has to show access and opportunity to implicate Greg, and defense attorneys will bring this up every time Greg takes the stand to testify in a case. In other words, Greg will be a liability on every case he works and his career could be in jeopardy.

Much to Henry's disappointment, EDTA, a blood preservative, was detected in the blood on the crowbar. This would be consistent with blood collected in an EDTA tube, which is how a sample of Gus' blood got into Greg's possession. Unfortunately, the EDTA in the blood from the crowbar is confirmed to be consistent with the hospital blood tube.

Finn and Jennifer go back through the photos Greg took and try to nail down a timeline. At one point, Greg exited the house to receive Gus' reference blood, which is when he could've decided to frame Gus. Finn goes through the notes on the case and sees that former DNA tech Wendy Simms received the blood sample sealed and initialed. Before leaving the scene, Greg took some exterior shots of the house to document the condition of the crime scene after the police left. Jennifer notices blood drops on the sidewalk that weren't present when Greg took exterior photos upon arriving at the scene, meaning someone bled outside the scene after the perimeter was set.

Wendy had also processed a bloody handkerchief that was found in Gus' pocket when he was booked; the blood on it was his. However, the doctor at the hospital noted that Gus had no injuries. So, how did the blood get on the handkerchief? In his report, the doctor wrote what looks like the word "NOBLE" in all caps. Finn sprays the handkerchief with amino black, revealing a fingerprint with ridge detail. She explains that Wendy didn't process the fingerprint the first time because there was no context for it; the only useful evidence would've been to find Claire's blood on it. When the fingerprint is run through AFIS, it comes back to a Yancey Langer, and access to his file is restricted.

Yancey, now a state trooper, is questioned by Finn and Jennifer. He identifies the handkerchief in question as is, saying that he gave it to Gus when his nose started to bleed. Finn realizes that the doctor's note actually reads "NOBL" for "nosebleed." When questioned further, Yancey admits to sneaking into the house because he never saw a dead body before. Inside, he accidentally tripped, moving the crowbar. He put the crowbar back in place, but while doing so, he transferred Gus' blood onto it.

Jennifer tells Yancey that Gus spent seven years in prison because he went into a crime scene unauthorized and contaminated the evidence. Yancey tearfully apologizes and says that he never knew Gus was convicted of the crime.

Greg is off the hook. In the station locker room, Finn congratulates him and apologizes for being hard on him. She explains that she only did so to seem impartial and never believed that he did anything wrong. Greg completely understands where she's coming from, and the two head off to breakfast to celebrate Greg's exoneration.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Larry Mitchell as Officer Mitchell
  • Scott Connors as Arman Agakian
  • Mike Moonves as EMT
  • Jason Gerhardt as Anthony Hurst
  • David Figlioli as Green Poncho
  • Lea Thompson as Jennifer Rhodes
  • Deidrie Henry as Terri Royce
  • Derek Webster as Ben Parker
  • Derek Smith as Yancy Langer
  • Assaf Cohen as Doctor Lownis
  • Shelli Bergh as Nurse Shelley
  • Jeffrey D. Stevens as ER Nurse
  • Paula Francis as Paula Francis

Notes

  • George Eads (Nick) is credited but does not appear in the episode.
  • Flashbacks are shown of the case from seven years ago; however, the original case was not part of a previous episode.

Trivia

  • Lea Thompson played Jennifer Rhodes in the episode. She's an established television and film actress best known for her role as Lorraine Baines-McFly in the Back to the Future film trilogy. Elisabeth Shue (Finn) played Jennifer Parker in the last two movies of the franchise.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 14
The Devil and D.B. RussellTake the Money and RunTorch SongLast SupperFrame by FramePassed PawnsUnder a CloudHelplessCheck In and Check OutGirls Gone WildLost ReindeerKeep Calm and Carry OnBoston BrakesDe Los MuertosLove for SaleKiller MovesLong Road HomeUninvitedThe FallenConsumedKittyDead In His Tracks


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