Viva Las Vegas
Season 5
Number 1
Writer Danny Cannon,
Carol Mendelsohn
Director Danny Cannon
Original Airdate September 23, 2004
Previous Episode: Bloodlines
Next Episode: Down the Drain

Viva Las Vegas is the first episode in Season Five of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Grissom works a nightclub shooting with Greg Sanders, who finally found a replacement in the lab and now only has to pass his final proficiency test. Catherine investigates when a stripper is found dead in a hotel room. Warrick investigates when a man is found electrocuted in his bathtub. Sara and Nick are called in when an "alien" is found in a shallow grave near Area 51.


Three different settings are shown—in a hotel room, a man and woman have sex, but later the man is seen running a bath and crying at the edge of his bed. In a restricted area out in the desert, two guys on motorbikes stop and take target practice on one of the "Restricted Area" signs; while doing so, one guy trips over a dead body. In a nightclub, a man is shot in the middle of the dance floor; the shooter then takes several shots at the disco ball overhead, drawing sparks and screams.

Meanwhile, there's a new recruit in the lab. Chandra Moore has been hired to be Greg's replacement for when Greg starts working in the field. She's introduced to the team and given warm welcomes by everyone except for Catherine, who is more concerned about her small office. Elsewhere, Sara, fresh off of a mandatory vacation following her DUI, has been advised by her counselor to talk to her supervisor (Grissom). However, a busy night in the lab prevents this from happening right away.

Victim: Unidentified victim (deceased)

On the case: Gil Grissom, Greg Sanders, Jim Brass

Brass fills Grissom in on the dead body in the nightclub. The victim was shot once in the forehead; partygoers thought they heard multiple shots, but the murder happened during the "blitz," where the lights go out and sirens start blaring. Grissom observes that there's gunshot residue on the victim, indicating a close range shot. As they're looking over the scene, their beepers go off and Brass' cell phone rings; it's going to be a busy night. Grissom sees that there's a metal detector by the entrance and wonders how the shooter got into the place with a gun. Under the body, Grissom finds a photo that has been burned. In the photo, there appears to be a body; the presence of blood points towards there being another potential murder.

The owner of the club, Manny Brazil, tells Brass that he doesn't know how someone got through the metal detector and into the club carrying a gun. He has never seen the victim before; Crystal, the girl working the section of the club where the murder took place, says that she didn't talk to the victim, either. Grissom enters with Greg. David Phillips tells Grissom that the victim had no wallet and no ID, just some money and keys that belong to a rental car. After Greg makes a joke, Grissom tells him that this is his proficiency exam and wants him to read the room. Greg does so, finding a cartridge casing on the floor and bullet holes in the disco ball. He guesses that after the shots, everyone started running, making it a perfect time for the shooter to ditch the gun.

Grissom finds the victim's car in the parking lot; there's a camera in the front seat and some wire on the floor in the back. In the club, Greg walks around the premises and eventually finds a gun in one of the light containers. Back at the lab, Grissom digitally scans the burnt photo into the computer; in the photo, he finds a prescription pill bottle. Greg enters and tells him that the gun he recovered from the club has been confirmed as the murder weapon. There's some blue trace on the gun that could be paint; however, the substance hasn't been identified yet.

Grissom was able to find out the medication on the pill bottle and cross-referenced it with the pharmacy logo. This has led them to a house in a residential neighborhood belonging to a Ken Willard. Grissom and Brass enter the house; Greg stumbles in a little later, admitting that he's late. In the living room, they find Ken's body; it's in the same position as it was in the burned photograph and he has wire wrapped around his neck. Grissom guesses that it's the same wire that he found in the first victim's car. On the mantel, Greg notices a picture of Ken and the club owner, Manny. Greg guesses that the first victim was hired to kill Ken, took a photograph as proof that the deed was done, burned it at the club, and was rewarded with a bullet to the head. But if the first victim was a hired killer, who hired him? Greg guesses that the mystery shooter hired the hitman.

David Hodges tells Grissom and Greg that the sticky substance found on the gun in the victim's car is tape adhesive. There was also blue coloring on the gun that came back as standard bathroom disinfectant. Grissom asks Greg for his thoughts, and Greg replies that he knows the water in the toilets at the club is blue. When asked how he knows this, Greg admits to having relieved himself before clearing the scene. Grissom admonishes Greg for doing so, since he could've flushed away evidence or wiped away fingerprints from the handle. The proper protocol is to use the bathroom somewhere else until the area is cleared. As Grissom walks away, he tells Greg to make sure this error is included in his field report.

Brass questions Manny and informs him that the gun they found had its serial numbers filed off, which is a felony. The lab was able to recover the serial numbers and traced the gun back to Manny. He tells Brass that his gun was stolen from his desk the week before and says that he wouldn't kill someone in his own club, as it's bad for business. Brass reveals that Manny owns 10% of the club, while Ken Willard owned the other 90%. Manny is shocked to hear that Ken is dead, as well. Meanwhile, in the bathroom at the club, Grissom and Greg find a piece of duct tape in one of the toilet tanks. They guess that the gun was placed there earlier in order to avoid the metal detector. This seems to eliminate Manny as a suspect, as the owner of the club wouldn't have to hide his own gun in a toilet.

Greg processes the duct tape and finds a print on it. The print comes back to Crystal, the girl working in the club. It turns out her prints were in the system because she had been arrested for drug trafficking, an offense she blames Ken Willard for since he asked her to bring him back a package from Los Angeles. When pressed, Crystal admits to hiring a hitman to kill Ken. The hitman doubled the price after the job was done and, since Crystal couldn't afford that, she stole the gun from Manny's office and shot the hitman on the dance floor. Crystal says that Ken threatened to kill her if she rolled over on him for the drug trafficking. She believed she had two choices: have Ken killed or go to jail for the drugs. Grissom congratulates her, saying she got both.

Victim: Nicole Richards (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Louis Vartann

Catherine takes the case of the man and woman in the hotel room. She enters the room in the Palermo, where the woman is seen dead on the bed covered in blood. The man, Carl Johnson, is adamantly telling Det. Vartann and another officer that he has never seen the woman before and that he didn't do anything to her. Carl's shirt and hands are covered in blood. Vartann tells Catherine that housekeeping found Carl passed out next to the victim and that he just came to. There's a massive hemorrhaging of blood on the wall; Catherine can't believe that the large amount of blood came from the single wound on the victim's forehead. The victim has no ID, but Catherine guesses that she's a stripper based on her breast implants and a see-through handbag; the handbag contains a locker room key. The minibar fridge is also stocked with alcohol and its door is open. In the bathroom, there's more hemorrhaging on the wall, and the tip of the towel bar is covered in blood and hair. Based on the evidence, it appears that the woman was hit in the head with the towel bar and tried to make it back to the bedroom to use the phone and call for help. There's also a bracelet lying on the bathroom floor in a puddle of urine.

While Catherine dusts the towel bar for prints (and finds one), Carl tells officers that he must've been drugged. He also claims that he never touched the minibar. Catherine says that a blood test will prove whether he was drugged or not. In the morgue, Catherine relays the information she gathered to Doc Robbins—the victim is 25-year-old Nicole Richards, who goes by the stage name "Raven." The locker room key they found traces to the Embassy Strip Club. Doc Robbins says that Nicole's cause of death was a contusion to the brain and subdural hemorrhaging. Her blood alcohol content was .30, which is four times the legal limit. The doc says that much alcohol can thin out the blood, which explains why there was so much blood at the scene. One of Nicole's ankles is also severely swollen.

Catherine gives Chandra the blood and urine samples she recovered in the hotel room while trying to convince the new lab tech that her evidence takes priority. A clearly overworked Chandra responds that she runs things her way and takes offense when Catherine mentions that Greg used to blast music in his lab. Jacqui Franco enters and tells Catherine that the print she recovered from the towel bar is a match to George Craven, an ex-con who now runs security at the Embassy Strip Club.

George is brought in for questioning, and he reveals that Nicole (or "Raven") is his girlfriend and that he's okay with her turning tricks. He says that Carl stumbled into the strip club from the Acid Drop "ready to go." In the hotel room, Carl handed him the money; George says he was always present to count the money and make sure it's legit. He then used the bathroom before leaving, saying that he never stuck around to watch Raven in the act. Catherine notices wounds on George's hand and surmises that they're not from working security at the strip club. A flashback shows George barging into the hotel room, catching "Raven" in the act, and hitting her with the towel bar. George asks for a lawyer, while Catherine asks for his clothes.

Catherine visits the Acid Drop and speaks to her boyfriend, Chris Bezich. She shows him a photo of Carl Johnson, and Chris confirms that Carl was in the club the night before acting belligerent and groping all of the waitresses. Carl was kicked out and sent next door to the strip club. Back in the lab, Archie shows Catherine security camera footage of George leaving the hotel room. He's acting calm and collected and is wearing the same clothes he was interrogated in, which Catherine says tested negative for blood. The tox report also reveals that Carl was too doped up on triazolam to have committed murder. These findings seem to rule out both of the prime suspects.

Catherine and Vartann go back to the bathroom in the hotel room. She has Vartann hit the lights and sees that there's a streak in the urine puddle on the floor. Remembering that Nicole/"Raven" had a swollen ankle, Catherine guesses that the bracelet they found was actually an anklet. A flashback shows Nicole slipping on the urine puddle and slamming her head into the towel bar. She had drugged Carl to make him more docile, but was now having trouble waking him up to help her. Blood continued to gush everywhere, including on Carl. Nicole tried calling for help, but died on the bed before she could do so. Vartann asks why Carl lied to them, and Catherine replies that it would be hard for Carl to explain this to his family back in Ohio.

Victim: Lance Frazer (deceased)

On the case: Warrick Brown, Chris Cavaliere

Warrick heads to the Tod Motor motel. As he and Det. Cavaliere walk down a darkened hallway, the super says that the power went out an hour ago. He checked the fuse box, found the room the circuit was blown, and came across a dead body. In room 39, a male victim lies in a bathtub full of water with a hot plate down around his feet. The super identifies the victim as Lance Frazer, a "loser" who has been staying in the motel for four weeks, but only paid for two. He apparently wore the same clothes every day and had no family or friends. As the lights come back on, Warrick photographs Lance's wrists, finding evidence of past suicide attempts. Det. Cavaliere finds a packed suitcase and guesses that Lance was getting ready to leave; inside the suitcase, he finds a Bible. There's also an empty wallet in Lance's pants pocket. Upon emptying the pockets, Warrick and finds a pack of cigarettes, some sweetener, and a hot dog wrapper. He also finds a fake flower lei on the nightstand and photographs it.

In the Golden Nugget Casino, Warrick watches a woman hit the jackpot on a slot machine. As the bells go off, the casino manager places a flower lei around her neck; it's quite similar to the one found in Lance's room. Warrick talks to the manager, who recognizes Warrick from his gambling days. The manager confirms that Lance hit a $50,000 jackpot on a slot machine around midnight the night before.

In the lab, Warrick process the hot plate and finds a burned substance stuck to it. He uses a computer to reconstruct the material. Later, Det. Cavaliere tells Warrick that there's no sign of the $50,000 in the motel room, nor in Lance's bank account. They note that the super said the power went out at 12:30 AM, a mere 30 minutes after Lance won the jackpot. Warrick guesses that there's no way someone as broke as Lance would lose all of that money in a half hour, with Det. Cavaliere adding that it would probably take Lance ten minutes just to walk back home. Warrick looks over the evidence and guesses that Lance was a creature of habit and that he'll have to go for a walk in his shoes.

Warrick stands outside of the Golden Nugget and looks around. He walks up to a cigar vendor and asks the vendor if he sells Clark cigarettes, which is the brand that Lance had in his pocket. The vendor says that the brand isn't a popular seller and that only one guy buys them regularly. He recognizes Lance from the photo Warrick shows him, saying that Lance would buy a pack every night and pay in quarters. As he walks down the sidewalk, Warrick passes a café with sweetener on the table—the same sweetener found in Lance's pocket. He then happens upon a hot dog vendor; he notices that the uniform is a match to the substance he pulled earlier from the hot plate. The vendor tells Warrick that the young man who ran the spot quit the night before.

The young man's name is Daniel Halburt, and Warrick and Det. Cavaliere get a warrant to search his place. The shoddy-looking apartment is filled with brand new electronics, and Warrick comes across a hot dog vendor uniform with a burn mark on it. Daniel is also wearing a fancy chain around his neck. A flashback shows Lance buying a hot dog and showing Daniel that he finally hit the $50,000 jackpot. He waves his money around and heads home. Daniel eventually left the stand and went to Lance's room looking for the money. He asked Lance where the money was, then electrocuted him with the hot plate. Daniel says that he had been gambling his whole life and had never won anything. Before being hauled away, Daniel reveals that the money was hidden in the Bible.

Victim: Edward Thomas (deceased)

On the case: Nick Stokes, Sara Sidle, Det. Travis

Nick and Sara take the case in the desert, where a bunch of alien enthusiasts are lined up behind the crime scene tape. They meet Det. Travis who leads them to the body—an alien buried in a shallow grave. It turns out that they're as close to Area 51 as they can get while still being on public land. Nick finds a short-handled shovel and notes that the killer wouldn't have been able to dig down very far; there's also something that appears to be paint on the shovel's tip. Sara adds that since the desert is made up of compact dirt and not sand, the killer would probably have given up very quickly.

In autopsy, David Phillips is washing his hands when he hears a weird sound coming from the "alien." He continues to hear the sound in intervals until Nick and Sara startle him by saying that the noise is probably from a hearing aid that's running out of batteries. Sure enough, Nick pulls a hearing aid from the body; he mentions that hearing aids have serial numbers and has David get it to Det. Travis. Sara pulls a watch from the victim's arm; the watch has the initials "E.T." etched into the back of it. Nick finds a piece of paper tucked in the victim's clothing; a poem or some sort of wedding vow seems to be written on it. Sara finds the edge of a mask and peels it back to reveal the "alien" is a costume from Big City Costumes.

It turns out that the costume was specifically designed for a wedding chapel that has an extraterrestrial theme. Nick and Sara speak to the Alien Minister, also known by the human name Brian. He removes his costume, which is quite similar to the one they found the victim wearing. Neither Brian nor his wife recognize the initials "E.T." outside of the obvious. Nick and Sara leave the chapel; on the street, they're surrounded by different wedding officials and venues, ranging from a mobster theme to an Elvis theme.

Nick and Sara visit Chandra, who is starting to look a little frazzled. She has a clear way of doing things, which she lets Sara know; the "alien" case wasn't high on her priority list. Hodges enters and says that the paint found on the shovel is car paint from a vintage 1960's General Motors car with a hot pink color. Sara remembers seeing a pink Cadillac when they left the wedding chapel earlier. Det. Travis interrupts and says that they got an ID off of the hearing aid. The victim is Edward Thomas, a reverend from the extraterrestrial chapel. Det. Travis asks that if the reverend is dead, who is running the chapel?

Nick and Sara look over the pink Cadillac and find evidence that the shovel made contact with the car, leaving scratches in the side. They enter the Elvis-themed wedding chapel to find Brian, now dressed as Elvis, performing another ceremony. Brian immediately recognizes them. In interrogation, Brian admits to having a war with Edward, as the wedding business in Vegas is cutthroat. After a rock went through his stained glass window, Brian went to Edward to negotiate a truce. He claims Edward was lying dead in his chair and that he took him out to Area 51 to bury him because that's what Edward would've wanted. Brian then took over Edward's business to help continuing to "spread the love."

It turns out that Edward suffered from Marfan Syndrome, similar to Abraham Lincoln; this results in abnormally long fingers, arms, legs, and scoliosis. The syndrome weakened Edward's abdominal aorta, resulting in internal bleeding. Edward wasn't dead when Brian found him; he was just unconscious. Nick reveals that the coroner found dirt in Edward's stomach, upper airways, and underneath his fingernails and that Edward died from asphyxia that was post-burial. Without knowing, Brian buried Edward alive.

At the end of the episode, Catherine visits Chris at the Acid Drop and catches him with another woman. Grissom informs Greg that he failed his proficiency exam since he compromised evidence at a crime scene, which could cost them a conviction in the future; however, he gives Greg another chance since he found a suitable replacement for him in the lab. Greg is happy to have a second chance until he happens upon Chandra, who quits after a frustrating first day. She tells Greg that everyone in the lab wants him and that all of the work was too much for one person to handle. Nick and Warrick look on, and Warrick hands Nick some money—Nick has won the bet as to how long Chandra would last.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Major Events[]

  • Greg has finally found a replacement named Chandra Moore to take over his position in the DNA Lab, allowing him to begin working in the field.
  • As a result of not clearing the restroom and peeing in a toilet at the nightclub, Greg fails his final proficiency test but Grissom decides to give him another chance.
  • Unable to cope with the rest of the team comparing her to Greg, Chandra abruptly quits on her first day, resulting in Nick winning a bet he made with Warrick.
  • Catherine's relationship with Chris Bezich ends when she catches him with another woman.

Episode Title[]

  • Viva Las Vegas is a reference to the 1963 Elvis song and 1964 musical starring Elvis of the same name. 


  • Spitfire by The Prodigy
  • 99 Problems by Jay-Z


  • Jonathan Penner, who portrayed Detective Travis in this episode, would later become a three-time contestant on the reality show Survivor.
  • French Stewart played an Alien Minister, as well as "Elvis." He also portrayed an alien, Harry Solomon, in the 90's show Third Rock From the Sun.
  • When first being introduced to Chandra, Grissom asks Greg if he had gotten Chandra's blood yet. Grissom did the same thing in the Pilot episode, collecting blood from new recruit Holly Gribbs.
  • This is the first episode where the CSIs are working 4 cases simultaneously. The next episode to feature this is 4 x 4.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 5
Viva Las VegasDown the DrainHarvestCrow's FeetSwap MeetWhat's Eating Gilbert Grissom?FormalitiesCh-Ch-ChangesMea CulpaNo Humans InvolvedWho Shot Sherlock?SnakesNesting DollsUnbearableKing BabyBig MiddleCompulsionSpark of Life4 x 4Hollywood BrassCommittedWeeping WillowsIcedGrave Danger, Part 1Grave Danger, Part 2