Unfriendly Skies
Unfriendly Skies.jpg
Season 1
Number 9
Writer Andrew Lipsitz,
Carol Mendelsohn,
Anthony E. Zuiker
Director Michael Shapiro
Original Airdate December 8, 2000
Previous Episode: Anonymous
Next Episode: Sex, Lies and Larvae

Unfriendly Skies is the ninth episode in season one of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Gil Grissom and his team investigate the death of a first class passenger on a flight to Las Vegas. Their investigation is a race against time, because after twelve hours the FAA will take over. To make matters worse, the other first class passengers are very reluctant to cooperate, leading the team to suspect that they had some involvement in their fellow passenger's death.


Victim: Tony Candlewell (deceased)

On the case: entire team

Las Vegas Air Flight 909 lands at McCarran International Airport; a first-class passenger, Tony Candlewell, died on the flight. Preliminary interviews reveal that he had a panic attack and died before landing. Grissom and Brass inspect the airplane and see many signs of disturbance, including a shattered wine bottle, a broken beverage cart, and a bloody handprint and shoe impressions on the cockpit door. They then inspect the body, which is lying between rows 1 and 2.

At the morgue, Nick learns that Candlewell had a fever when he died. The coroner also finds scraped knuckles and a broken hand, indicating aggression, as well as defensive wounds and shoe impressions on his neck and back.

Grissom and Sara use the passenger manifest to determine where each of the passengers was seated. They discover that seat 2C is broken and keeps flopping into 3C – they realize that Candlewell sat in 3C. Brass, Catherine, and Warrick interview Nate Metz, who sat in 2C, and he complains that Candlewell kept kicking the back of his seat.

Grissom and Sara find blood drops on seat 4B, where Lou Everett sat. Everett says that Candlewell’s kicking knocked Metz’s laptop to the floor, causing Metz to confront him. Everett tried to break up the fight and was cut in the process. Shannon, the flight attendant, notes that Candlewell had been complaining of a headache, and that shortly after takeoff, he became extremely agitated. Sara finds a broken neck bottle with blood on it in the seat pocket belonging to Marlene Valdez. Marlene says that Candlewell knocked over the wine on the beverage cart. Grissom speculates with Sara that Marlene actually slashed Candlewell with the bottle. Further examination of Candlewell’s body shows massive internal injuries. The CSIs begin to suspect that the witnesses are lying.

Grissom and Sara find fiber from Candlewell’s pants in the aisle, and Greg finds many shoe prints on the back of Candlewell’s jacket. The CSIs collect all of the witnesses’ shoes and discover that the shoe prints belong to Everett, Max Valdez, and Dr. Kiera Berhle. Catherine interviews Dr. Behrle, who says that she saw Candlewell pass out, used her feet as leverage to roll him over, and gave him CPR to no avail. However, Grissom and Sara find an unused defibrillator on the plane. Grissom questions Mr. Cash, who sat in 1A. Although he is legally blind and thus, could not see everything as the rest of the passengers could, he says that he heard several people trying to subdue Candlewell at once. The coroner finds that Candlewell’s brain was swollen and realizes that he had undiagnosed encephalitis. Changes in altitude and air pressure caused his brain to swell, leading to headache and altered behavior.

The CSIs realize that the physical evidence gathered by Grissom, Sara, and Nick contradicts the anecdotal evidence collected by Brass, Catherine and Warrick, so they gather in the plane and recreate the scene. They reconstruct the timeline of the incident: Candlewell, whose brain was swelling, started kicking Metz’s seat. Metz stood up and Everett joined him. Marlene pushed Max into joining the fray, and Candlewell shoved Max into the beverage cart, so Marlene slashed Candlewell with the wine bottle. Candlewell ran towards the cockpit, and when he could not open it, ran towards the exit door. The other passengers, terrified that the door would open, mobbed Candlewell and forced him to the ground.

The CSIs are satisfied with this chain of events until Sara points out that Candlewell’s body was not found by the exit, but rather, near his seat. They realize that Candlewell tried to escape, but the passengers were overtaken by a mob mentality and kicked him to death. Grissom explains the evidence to the Sheriff, but he refuses to charge anybody, saying that the passengers acted out of self-preservation. The CSIs return to the lab and each reacts differently to this announcement; some are angry that the mob evaded justice while others say they can understand the panic behind their actions. Grissom concludes that if just one passenger had asked the victim if he was okay, he would still be alive.


Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Eric Szmanda as Greg Sanders
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Glenn Morshower as Sheriff Brian Mobley
  • Judith Scott as Dr. Jenna Williams
  • Christine Tucci as Dr. Kiera Behrle
  • James Avery as Preston Cash
  • Deirdre Quinn as Shannon
  • David Kaufman as Nate Metz
  • Lorry Goldman as Lou Everett
  • Kevin Cooney as Captain Murdle
  • Douglas Roberts as Tony Candlewell
  • Dyana Ortelli as Marlene Valdez
  • Gerald Castillo as Max Valdez
  • Christina Chambers as Vicki Mercer
  • Joe Michael Burke as Carl Kelly
  • Channing Carson as Emily Berhle
  • Edmund Wyson as Michael Arrington
  • Russ Cootey as Police Officer
  • Mylo Ironbear as News Crew


  • The deceased, Tony Candlewell's, age is given as 30. One shot shows a close up of his drivers license which shows his date of birth as 06-18-75. But this episode was from 2000 meaning he was only 25.
  • While discussing the Mile High Club aboard the aircraft, Sara Sidle tells Gil Grissom she joined the club aboard Delta Airlines flight 1109, Boston to Miami. Delta Airlines flight 1109 actually services Salt Lake City to Las Vegas.


  • The plot has many similarities with Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. The investigation is forced to happen quickly, there are many suspects, all of whom were passengers with the victim, it turns out that multiple passengers were guilty, and in the end, nobody gets charged.
  • The episode may have been based on the death of Jonathan Burton on August 11, 2000, four months before the episode. On Southwest Airlines Flight 1763, Burton, who was 19, had a panic attack in the sky when the plane was flying, and was also held down by the passengers until he died of suffocation.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 1
PilotCool ChangeCrate 'n BurialPledging Mr. JohnsonFriends & LoversWho Are You?Blood DropsAnonymousUnfriendly SkiesSex, Lies and LarvaeI-15 MurdersFahrenheit 932BoomTo Halve and to HoldTable StakesToo Tough to DieFace Lift$35K O.B.O.Gentle, GentleSounds of SilenceJustice is ServedEvaluation DayStrip Strangler