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Under the Skin
Under the Skin
Season 1
Number 3
Writer Craig O'Neill
Director Nathan Hope
Original Airdate October 20, 2021
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Previous Episode: Honeymoon in Vegas
Next Episode: Long Pig

Under the Skin is the third episode in Season One of CSI: Vegas.

Synopsis[]

As Grissom and Sara continue their investigation into charges against David Hodges, the CSIs investigate the murder of a video game developer found in a fountain before a gaming tournament.

Plot[]

Victim: Sandra King (deceased)

On the case: Allie Rajan, Joshua Folsom, Maxine Roby

While jogging, Kelly Li gets a text from her boss, Sandra King, telling her to meet her at a fountain; the two are scheduling a run together. At the same time, Sandra is getting stabbed, and her body is thrown into the fountain. As Kelly gets closer to the meeting point, she spots the shadows of two figures running toward her. She quietly crouches next to a dumpster and watches the assailants run by.

As Allie and Folsom prepare to investigate, Kelly tells a detective that she couldn't make out the assailants' faces, but she knows that one of them was wet. The CSIs look over Sandra's body and see that she was dressed in workout clothes, confirming Kelly's story. A mugging is ruled out when Allie spots a digital fitness tracker still on Sandra's wrist. When they flip the body over, they're shocked to see that Sandra was stabbed at least a dozen times.

A TV report identifies Sandra as a major video game developer, most famous for developing the game "Death Spiral". In autopsy, Dr. Ramirez tells Max that Sandra was stabbed a total of 13 times—12 times in the chest and once in the throat. Based on the wounds, the assailant thrust so hard, some of the stabs almost went through the body. Curiously, there are no tool marks, and Dr. Ramirez concludes that the murder weapon was made out of something softer than bone. DNA under the fingernails indicates that Sandra fought with her attacker and scratched him. Dr. Ramirez also shows Max an abrasion around Sandra's neck, which could possibly be from a necklace that was yanked off during the struggle. Max and her team are put under the microscope when Undersheriff Cade Wyatt gives a press conference, telling the press that the lab will handle the case in a way that will assuage fears about the David Hodges case.

At a video game expo, the team speaks with Sandra's development team. Sandra's fitness tracker indicates that her heart rate shot up in the expo's green room four hours before she was murdered; however, nobody on her team knows why. Dozens of people had access to the room, but they're unsure as to why someone would want to kill Sandra, as she was apparently well-liked. The only thought is that someone was jealous of Sandra's success and wanted to end it. As the CSIs search the room, Allie finds Sandra's ID badge in a trash can; the lanyard is torn, which would explain the mark around Sandra's neck.

A print is found on the badge. It belongs to a Lucas Kostas, a hardcore gamer who ranks among "Death Spiral's" best players. Lucas has earned a lot of money playing the game, and he claims that he had no reason to kill someone for real. However, Max pulls up a viral video of Lucas airing out his frustration over the fact that Sandra patched a weapons glitch. Sandra also blocked Lucas' account for violating the code of conduct, which cost him a lot of money. Lucas relents and admits to confronting Sandra. Out of frustration, he ripped the ID badge off her neck, but he swears that things didn't escalate. Upon request, Lucas rolls up his shirt sleeves to show Max that he has no visible scratch marks anywhere.

Back at the scene of the crime, Folsom uses a chemical reagent to make the dried-up footprints trailing from the fountain reappear. He follows the trail to an ATM machine, which has a camera installed. Meanwhile, Allie searches a dumpster near the fountain and finds two knives that test positive for blood. In the lab, the knives' material is identified as polycarbonate thermoplastic; they were printed from a 3D printer. The knives are also replicas of ones used by a character in "Death Spiral," which means Sandra was killed by a weapon from her own game. ATM security footage soon catches the killer running by, and his face can clearly be seen. The person in question is Ben Miller, one of the game's programmers. He's arrested despite his claims of innocence and the fact that there are no abrasions on his arms.

Allie and Folsom filter the water from the fountain, and Folsom comes across a contact lens. Allie's focus soon shifts to a man who's been suspiciously watching them from behind the police tape since they arrived on the scene. When they go to ask the man some questions, he runs. Against her better judgment, Allie gives chase, with Folsom and a uniformed officer trailing behind her. When the man is finally cornered, he admits that he lives nearby and saw everything on the night of Sandra's murder. He recalls that Sandra punched her attacker; however, her attacker stabbed her repeatedly before fleeing the scene. The man also says that he got a good look at the attacker, whose face was "frozen." When shown a photo of Ben Miller, the man positively identifies him as the killer. Folsom quickly concludes that the man was telling the truth, as some of the details he mentioned weren't leaked to the press. Furthermore, the man had no traces of blood on him or any scratches on his arms. The question remains: if Ben is innocent, who are they looking at in the ATM video?

Allie and Folsom take a closer look at the ATM footage with the belief that the person on screen isn't Ben Miller. They suspect that the killer purposely ran past the ATM and turned his face towards it in order to get Ben's face on camera. When the image is run through chromaticity software, they see that the killer has one brown eye and one blue eye. This lines up with the brown contact lens Folsom found earlier in the fountain. The thought is that they're looking for a killer with blue eyes. Max is skeptical that someone went through all this trouble to frame Ben, but Folsom points out that high-end 3D printers are able to make anything, even faces. If the killer used a printer to make the murder weapons, they likely used it to make a mask of Ben's face, as well. This would explain why their eyewitness said the killer's expression never changed.

Allie and Folsom recreate the attack, trying to replicate some of the odd-angle stab wounds on Sandra. After some experimentation, they determine that Sandra likely scratched her attacker on his left forearm while trying to fend him off. Meanwhile, Max goes through footage of a company party. Noting that no two people move the same exact way, she compares the killer's stride model on the ATM video to the gaits of the various party guests. The masked man is soon identified as developer Ron Kean.

In the interrogation room, Ben is in disbelief that his face is on video the night of the murder. When asked about Ron, Ben says that he knows more about photorealistic rendering than anyone, which is why he was hired to work at the company. 3D printing takes time, and Ben acknowledges that Ron set his own hours because he's also taking care of his elderly mother who lives in Red Rock; therefore, it's possible he had time to print the face and murder weapons in private. Ben then recalls that the company recently had a contest, where the winner would get their game put into development. Ron lost to Kelly and didn't take the rejection lightly, vowing to get the game made "somehow." After Ben is hauled back to his cell, Folsom tells Max that they need a warrant for Ron's car and another for his DNA to compare against the skin under Kelly's nails. Max replies that they don't have enough evidence to compel, as no judge has ever issued a warrant based on the new field of gait analysis. She suddenly remembers that Ron was blowing his nose during their first interview and heads back to the green room at the expo.

Max searches the trash can in the green room, but it's already been emptied. She then remembers that Ron wiped his nose on the sleeve of his jacket, which just happens to be draped over the back of a chair. Upon examining the jacket, she finds a piece of trace evidence and bags it before Ron arrives. The two have a brief conversation, with Max hinting that Ron caught a lucky break, receiving a promotion because of Sandra's death. Ron replies that he worked very hard to get to where he is, but Max is somewhat skeptical. She asks Ron to show her his left forearm; however, he refuses to do so without a warrant.

The trace pulled from Ron's jacket turns out to be a bee's stinger. Grissom's entomological expertise determines that the stinger is from a digger bee. He explains to Max that the young are raised underground and that the bees very rarely sting unless their ground nest is disturbed. Max wonders if the nest was disturbed by someone burying something and remembers that Ron's mother lives in Red Rock Canyon. She guesses that Ron buried something up there the morning after the murder and sets out to determine why.

The team heads out to the property in Red Rock, which is littered with digger bee nests. Ron's mother surprisingly allows them to search the property without a warrant. Allie soon comes across a nest that was recently disturbed, with evidence suggesting that someone dug at it with a shovel and packed the dirt back down again. When the dirt is moved aside, a burned-up mask is unearthed.

Back in the lab, the mask's material is determined to be made from the same material as the knives. However, because the material is used in many other items, the evidence is circumstantial. All is not lost, though, as Allie finds salivary amylase on the mask remnants, which means they have DNA.

In interrogation, Ron denies having anything to do with Sandra's murder. When told that the mask was found on his mother's property, Ron says that anyone could've worn it. However, he's informed that the epithelial cells found in the mask were his. The torch he used to burn the mask didn't burn hot enough to destroy it, so he buried it instead. Max deduces that the red eyes and runny nose Ron had were reactions to the digger bee venom. Finally, Ron is forced to roll up his sleeve (with a warrant this time), revealing a fresh scratch mark on his arm.

As he's arrested, Ron angrily says that Sandra and Ben strung him along for years, only to pick Kelly's game in the end. He insists that Kelly's game was picked because female coders get more press no matter how well their game does. Max tells him that his face will be on the front page soon enough.

Under investigation: David Hodges

On the case: Gil Grissom, Maxine Roby, Sara Sidle

Grissom wakes up early and is seemingly disoriented. He repeatedly holds his hand to his right ear as if his past hearing issues have returned. In the lab, Max gets a visit from the undersheriff, who introduces her to Nora Cross, an Internal Affairs detective. Nora has been made the lead of the Hodges investigation and has done her homework on everyone involved. She informs Max that Hodges' trial is going to be set quick and she may be running the investigation out of Washoe County, which is seven hours away. This is to avoid any appearance of a cover-up.

Grissom and Sara test the blood found on the tooth of the deceased dog buried next to Emma Hodges' house. While there isn't enough DNA left on the tooth to run through CODIS, Max uses modern technology to get a phenotype of the suspect. The DNA comes back to a 45 to 60 year old male of South American descent. Max relays the information about the quick trial date and the fact that Nora plans to run the investigation out of Washoe County. Grissom replies that he prefers his evidence under a microscope, not on the back of a truck.

Grissom and Sara search the perimeter of Emma's house, and Grissom finds a rock with blood on it. The thought is that whoever is framing Hodges used the rock to kill the neighbor's dog. Grissom's focus shifts to a door, and Emma tells him that their spare bedroom is on the other side of it. The bedroom is going to become a nursery for their child; however, it's currently being used to store more moving boxes, something that slipped Emma's mind. It's assumed that this is the perpetrator's point of entry; however, there's no real evidence to indicate this. As Grissom and Sara go through the boxes, they're informed that one of Hodges' picture frames is missing. Grissom guesses that the perpetrator stole the picture frame, lifted Hodges' print off of it, and planted the prints everywhere—in other words, latent fingerprint fabrication. Emma is unable to identify a white smudge on the lid of one of the boxes, which Grissom says is a good thing; it may belong to the perpetrator.

Neither the rock nor the smudge are able to give the team anything useful. However, the mass spectrometer identifies the smudge on the box as makeup, which can be used as a body concealer for arms and legs. Sara wonders whether the South American man in question was covering up a skin condition. The same person also knows their way around the LVPD evidence vault, for the evidence against Hodges had to have come from somewhere. Max later goes over her boss' heads and provides Grissom and Sara with a list of everyone who visited the evidence vault in the last year. She's insistent in restoring everyone's faith in the lab and offers to take the fall if there's blowback for her actions.

As Sara goes through the visitor log, Grissom attempts to find a new home for his boat in Peru. While charting inaccurately, his vision starts to get blurry; however, he plays it off, telling Sara that perhaps he didn't hear the person on the phone clearly. They're interrupted by a TV news report stating that for the trial against Hodges, all wrongful imprisonment claims will be rolled into one case—good news for as many as 8,000 inmates. The law firm of Anson Wix and Associates will be appointed as lead counsel.

Allie provides Grissom and Sara with a digital database of all evidence vault visitors, complete with photos. They narrow down their suspect list to ten age-appropriate males of South American descent. As he focuses on the photos, Grissom's sight becomes blurred again. He finally admits to Sara that his hearing isn't what's bothering him—he's land sick. The fear is that since the symptoms haven't gone away in a few days, they may never will. Sara hugs him and says that they'll figure things out together.

As she prepares to leave for the night, Max gets a text message from Undersheriff Wyatt telling her that Nora is taking the case to Washoe County.

Cast[]

Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Robert Curtis Brown as Undersheriff Cade Wyatt
  • Kat Foster as Det. Nora Cross
  • Jon Fletcher as Ben Miller
  • Joe Adler as Ron Kean
  • Phillip Garcia as Chuck
  • Chelsey Crisp as Emma Hodges
  • Tiffany Chen as Kelly Li
  • Kyle Collin as Lucas Kostas
  • Lauren Shaw as Sandra King
  • Rafael Torres as Steve Davis
  • Michelle Haro as Coroner's Assistant
  • George Knapp as News Anchor

Music[]

  • Run This Town by Yez Yez, Beginners
  • How Not To Drown by CHVRCHES, Robert Smith

Trivia[]

  • The episode appears to take inspiration from the Gamergate harassments targeting women with major standing positions in gaming.
  • The M.O. of a 3D-printed mask and weapons appears to be inspired by the horror novel and subsequent slasher film adaptation There's Someone Inside Your House.

See Also[]

  • Category:Images from Under the Skin
CSI:Vegas Season 1
Legacy (Vegas)Honeymoon in VegasUnder the SkinLong PigLet the Chips FallFunhouseIn the BloodPipe CleanerWaiting in the WingsSigned, Sealed, Delivered


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