Unfriendly Skies
Unfriendly Skies
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.


The CSI team investigates 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 with a dead first-class passenger onboard. Everyone in first-class was a witness, and preliminary interviews reveal that the deceased 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 and a broken beverage cart in the aisle, along with a bloody handprint and shoe impressions on the cockpit door. They then inspect the body, which is lying between rows 1 and 2, and Grissom finds a bloody CD on the floor nearby. He tells Brass to have the entire plane taped off.

Sheriff Mobley informs Grissom that the FAA has jurisdiction; however, they won't be arriving until sunrise. This gives the CSI team 12 hours to find the culprit, or else the FAA will take things over and "receive the glory." Grissom replies that the death hasn't even been ruled a homicide yet, but the sheriff has noted that the entire plane has already been taped off, indicating that there's more to what meets the eye.

The deceased is identified as 30-year-old Tony Candlewell, and the CSI team quickly concludes that the disturbance was caused by more than one guy. Grissom informs them that the ten witnesses are all giving the same statements, saying that Tony went berserk mid-flight. Catherine and Warrick are tasked with interviewing the passengers, while Grissom and Sara will process the plane. Nick is instructed to get any information he can from the coroner.

The two co-pilots tell Grissom that they saw Tony when he boarded the plane, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. However, 35 minutes before the flight was scheduled to land, they were alerted to a disturbance. Tony was found banging on the locked bathroom door, angrily refusing to use the bathroom in coach. In the two minutes the co-pilot spent with Tony, he didn't see any signs that Tony was drunk or on drugs. The thought is that the simple act of flying made Tony agitated, as it does with many other people.

In autopsy, Nick learns that Tony had a fever when he died. Petechial hemorrhaging behind the eyes indicates that he was suffocated in some way. There's a contusion on the side of Tony's neck consistent with the heel of a boot, and Dr. Williams observes multiple contusions on the neck and back. Tony also has a broken hand, indicating aggression; however, he also has defensive wounds on his palms.

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— where Tony was seated. Catherine and Brass question Nate Metz, who sat in 2C. He complains that Tony kept kicking the back of his seat while he was trying to work. Nate claims that he did his best to ignore Tony, punching his own seat in anger. The knuckles on his right hand are scraped, confirming that he did hit something. But did he actually hit Tony instead?

Grissom finds blood drops on seat 4B, which is away from where the main incident took place. The seat's occupant, Lou Everett, says that Tony's kicking knocked Nate's laptop to the floor, causing Nate to confront him. Lou claims that he tried to break up the fight and was cut with a CD in the process. Warrick and Brass can tell that Lou had been drinking during the flight.

Shannon, the flight attendant, notes that Tony had been complaining of a headache, and confirms that approximately 35 minutes before landing, he became extremely agitated. She gave Tony a packet of aspirin, but says that she had no idea what made his attitude change from when he first boarded. Catherine and Grissom privately conclude that the passengers are hiding something, as nobody has provided any real relevant information in regards to Tony's death.

Dr. Williams relays that aside from Tony running a fever, he also had intracranial bleeding, thoracic hemorrhaging, and a ruptured spleen. Multiple miniature liquor bottles are found in the seat pocket in front of Lou's seat, confirming that he had been drinking. Elsewhere on the plane, Sara finds the neck of a broken wine bottle in the seat pocket belonging to Marlene Valdez; the bottle appears to have blood on it. When questioned, Marlene recalls that her husband Max tried to calm Tony down, only to get shoved into the beverage cart in return.

Based on the blood evidence, Grissom speculates that Marlene actually slashed Tony with the bottle. If Tony started bleeding, his next logical move would be to use the bathroom. When Grissom and Sara check the bathroom, they find evidence of sexual activity— "the Mile High Club." Meanwhile, Catherine and Warrick question Vicki Mercer and her coworker, Carl Finn. Vicki claims that she was in the bathroom while everything was going on, while Carl says that he had his headphones on and was oblivious to his surroundings. The team has ten suspects, all of whom are refusing to talk. Warrick theorizes that the killer is in the group and the rest of them are afraid to give him or her up.

Sara collects fibers embedded in one of the seats; they appear to be a match to the khakis Tony was wearing. When shoe prints are found on the back of Tony's jacket, Catherine has every suspect hand over their shoes for a comparison. It's discovered that there are three separate impressions on the jacket that belong to Lou Everett, Max Valdez, and Dr. Kiera Behrle.

When questioned. Dr. Behrle, who is a surgeon, explains that she got the black eye she's sporting from the ruckus. She claims that she tried to prevent the other passengers from fighting, but got accidentally elbowed in the face by Lou. As for her shoe impression on the back of Tony's jacket, she says he was already on the ground when she accidentally stepped on him. After making the passengers back off and give her space, she gave Tony CPR, but was unsuccessful in reviving him. Dr. Behrle's young daughter, Emily, also tells Brass that she didn't see what happened.

Onboard the plane, Grissom is told of Dr. Behrle's statement and he instructs Sara to find the defibrillator in the first overhead compartment. The paddles appear to have never been used, which is quite negligent for a doctor. At the very least, the flight attendant would also know where the paddles were stored. Shannon tells Catherine that by the time she got the paddles, Tony was already dead. She also claims that she's trained to use the paddles if someone is having a heart attack, which Tony didn't appear to be having.

The man closest to all of the action was sitting in seat 1A. Preston Cash was front and center, but he reveals to Grissom and Warrick that he's legally blind. He's only able to see shadows; however, he's able to identify Lou, Max and Nate from their voices. The CSIs need to know everything that happened from the time Tony banged on the cockpit door to the time he died. Preston recalls hearing Tony banging on the cockpit door, then hearing several people trying to subdue him at once. After a brief ruckus, the entire section of the plane fell eerily silent.

Dr. Williams pages Grissom to autopsy and relays her findings. Upon opening Tony's skull, she found that his brain was incredibly swollen, and not from one or two blows to the head. His spinal fluid also had abnormal protein levels, which leads Dr. Williams to conclude that Tony was suffering from undiagnosed encephalitis, aka swelling of the brain. She explains that the symptoms can manifest like a heart attack; when adding the altitude and the air pressure changes, Tony was probably out of his mind.

The CSIs realize that the physical evidence gathered by Grissom, Sara and Nick contradicts the anecdotal evidence collected by Catherine, Warrick and Brass, so they gather in the plane and recreate the scene. They reconstruct the timeline of the incident: Tony, whose brain was swelling, started kicking Nate's seat. Nate stood up and confronted Tony, while a drunk Lou joined him. When Lou swung at Tony and missed, Tony sliced him with a CD in retaliation. Marlene pushed Max into joining the fray, and Tony shoved Max into the beverage cart. Defending her husband, Marlene got up and slashed Tony with the wine bottle, which explains the defensive wound on his hand. Tony ran towards the cockpit door, and when he couldn't open it, he ran towards the exit door. Blood underneath the latch handle shows that Tony tried to open it. The other passengers, terrified that the door would open, mobbed Tony and forced him to the ground.

Everyone is satisfied with this chain of events until Sara points out that Tony's body wasn't found by the exit, but rather, near his seat. They realize that Tony tried to escape, but the passengers were overtaken by a mob mentality and kicked him to death. The thought is that Dr. Behrle rolled Tony onto his back to cover for herself and the other passengers.

Grissom explains the evidence to Sheriff Mobley and tells him that five people need to be arrested for murder. However, the sheriff refuses to charge anybody, saying that the passengers acted out of self-preservation. Furthermore, a jury would see it the same way, no matter what the evidence says.

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 Behrle
  • 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 tells 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.
  • James Avery, who played Preston Cash, is best known for playing Phillip "Uncle Phil" Banks in the show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and "Shredder" in the animated show Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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