"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda (TV Episode 2008) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A man blames the anonymous sender of emailed death threats after his wife and daughter are shot. Two teens in a convertible crash into a tree; one has an inexplicable shoulder injury. Grissom attends a transfer hearing.

  • A husband accused of killing his wife and injuring his daughter maintains that he is innocent, Stokes and Hodges discover that a fatal car accident was connected to a game of "mailbox baseball," and Grissom meets with the "Miniature Killer."

  • Ridge Valley High football player Chase Bowman and his passenger, team mate Max Poole, were killed at night when his car rammed a tree. However their trajectory is as hard to explain as Max's excessive arm and other injuries. Nathan Murphy is the prime suspect in the bloody killer at his home of his wife, while their young daughter survives, as he's found to have a past as murder suspect. However the surviving family of his alleged victim, a still missing P.I., planned revenge on him. Grissom must testify at a hearing whether the serial 'miniature' killer Natalie Davis should remain in psychiatry or start her prison sentence.

  • A woman and her daughter are both lying in a pool of blood on their kitchen floor. The EMTs arrive and find that the girl is still alive, but the woman is dead. The husband shows up, and as the police hold him back, he assaults one of them, which gets him arrested. Was he filled with grief or guilt? Brass is determined to find out; and his investigation leads him to a young man and his sister, who are still grieving the unavenged murder of their father from many years ago. Nick and Hodges, meanwhile, investigate the case of two high school students who were killed when their convertible crashed into a tree. An odd shoulder injury leads them to suspect foul play. Elsewhere, Grissom attends the transfer hearing of Natalie Davis.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • "CSI" - "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" - Nov. 20, 2008

    We open on a crime scene: a young girl lays in a pool of blood as an EMT checks her pulse. She's alive. A nearby woman was not so lucky. Grissom and Greg look around. Brass arrives and announces the woman's name is Janelle Rowe, the girl, her daughter, is Nora. She's touch and go at the hospital. Their take-out is still warm. A man enters upset, crying out his wife's name. The cops try to stop him from entering and he decks one of them. They arrest him for assaulting a cop. Grissom wonders if his agitation was grief or guilt.

    Brass interrogates the husband, Peter Rowe, about a .38 revolver in his car which was recently shot. He says he was target shooting in the desert. Brass says that's great but it's no alibi. Rowe wonders why he would need an alibi.

    Back at the scene they look for the bullet that killed Janelle and wonder about a knocked-over chair, indicating a struggle. There's also blood on a counter, maybe from the little girl.

    Rowe says he didn't do it and wants to see Nora. Brass asks who would want to do this to his wife and daughter. He says he doesn't know and thinks it's Brass' job to tell him.

    We switch scenes to a couple of high school kids in a convertible, drinking, speeding, and crashing into a tree as Nick narrates the scene. We switch to Nick and a detective examining the crashed car and the dead football players inside. A group of onlookers watch and Nick figures somebody must've heard something. He notices an odd abrasion on one the victims.

    Riley finds a small jewel on the floor of the crime scene. Greg pokes around the kitchen. He notices a phone book on a shelf with a bullet hole and finds the bullet inside. He says he let his fingers do the walking and Riley doesn't get the reference. She finds the forced lock on the door and goes to search the perimeter.

    Rowe is telling Brass he didn't do it. Brass explains what a neighbor saw and heard: arguing, a muzzle flash, footsteps out the back gate. Brass says records show three domestic violence calls. Rowe says he never laid a hand on his wife. He says he loved his wife but she was a wannabe actress with a flair for the dramatic and they argued loudly. He insists he never did anything worse than shout.

    Riley finds a broken cell phone down past the back gate. It's decorated with the little jewels, just like the one she found in the kitchen.

    Brass returns with a folder containing Rowe's rap sheet. Apparently, he was a suspect in a previous murder 12 years ago and changed his name to Mark Reading. Rowe interrupts to point out that he wasn't charged. Turns out, Brass, continues, that his first wife Amy hired a private eye, Trevor Murphy, to find out if he was cheating. He was. The PI consoled the wife - Biblically, as Brass puts it - and Rowe found out. Then the PI disappeared. The body was never found, so he wasn't charged. Rowe says he didn't kill that guy either. He tells Brass he thinks he might know who killed Janelle. He's been getting anonymous email death threats. He reads one to Brass; it promises he will die and rot like Trevor rots. Rowe thinks whoever was gunning for him killed his wife accidentally instead.

    The football kids lay on the slab at the morgue as Robbins details to Nick their horrible injuries, consistent with the accident. Robbins points out that he also found odd injuries, like the shoulder injury Nick noticed. It included a broken arm and torn rotator cuff. He shows him an X-ray that indicated something bent the arm back.

    Grissom is reading a memo at his desk about Natalie Davis' transfer hearing. She is set to be transferred from the hospital to prison. She was the Miniature Killer; we get flashes of her crime scenes as they presumably flash through Grissom's head. He gets up with a start.

    Nick examines the smashed car and uploads the computer data about when the airbags deployed and recreates the scene of the car crashing into the tree. The ABS deployed four seconds before the crash. It was neither wet nor oily on the road. Hodges talks about gravel in the road and why that would activate the ABS. But since the shoulder injuries were untouched at the scene, Nick thinks they're still missing something.

    Robbins is examining Janelle when Riley comes in for the report. The bullet was the cause of death but she also has a face abrasion that indicates a possible pistol whipping. They also banter about Facebook.

    Brass speaks with Trevor Murphy's daughter. She remembers him being very nice to her. He tells her that they have Mark Reading in custody. Turns out the IP address from which the email threats were coming was hers. She says she didn't send them and he probably sent them to himself. He asks her for an alibi. She gets angry. Brass says they have a warrant for her computer. She leaves her laptop and tells Brass to leave her alone.

    Greg and a tech are looking at the memory card from Nora's phone. The photos were all taken around the time of the shooting including one shot of Janelle's kitchen. They theorize that the muzzle flash the neighbor saw was actually a camera phone flash and that the killer took the phone because they thought the photo Nora took had their face in it. (It doesn't.) Riley arrives and reports that the ballistics on Peter Rowe's gun came up no good as the murder weapon. The tech theorizes he didn't do it. Greg says maybe it was like Rowe said, Janelle and Nora got caught up in the revenge for the death of the PI.

    Catherine is looking at wood splinters under the microscope. Hodges explains some came from the tree they hit; others came from another source, possibly a baseball bat. Nick figures out the boys were playing mailbox baseball, which he recalls as being great fun. They would explain the arm and shoulder injuries if one of the mailboxes bit back. Hodges tells about a silly, nerdy prank he played as a nutty teenager in chem club. Catherine wonders why there was no baseball bat at the scene and how an empty mailbox shattered an arm.

    Grissom enters a prison. He goes into a hearing room where a lawyer is detailing all of Natalie's horrible crimes in front of a judge. The verdict: she was guilty but mentally ill. Now that she's been on meds, the lawyer says she's no longer ill, just guilty and should be moved from the psych facility to real prison to serve her sentence. Natalie looks over her shoulder at Grissom.

    Natalie's lawyer (played by Josh Malina of "West Wing" and "Sports Night" fame) says that Natalie's psychopathic personality itself is an illness and has a doctor testify that as she gets used to her meds, the evil tendencies could come back. And so she should stay psych-side.

    After the hearing, the prosecuting attorney asks Grissom to testify at the next hearing since he knows her, and saw her psychotic break. He would only have to testify about what he's observed with his own eyes, then and now. The lawyer arranges for Grissom to see Natalie, which he says he would like.

    Riley tells Greg they found out the emails were being sent from a halfway house downtown. The resident list includes a Nathan Murphy, son of PI Murphy, brother of the girl brought in earlier.

    Brass interrogates the very angry Nathan, who can't believe he's been hauled in while his dad's alleged murderer walks free. Nathan found Peter Rowe/Mark Reading via the Internet with his inherited sleuthing skills. Nathan just wanted Rowe to be afraid. In another interrogation room the sister tells Riley she gave her laptop to her brother awhile back. The sister says they are no longer close. Nathan says he wanted to kill Rowe/Reading and gets very agitated, saying his dad would be upset that he didn't do that. Nathan's alibi is he was on the strip alone last night. Brass tells him about Rowe/Reading's wife and daughter. Nathan asks for his phone call and a lawyer.

    Catherine walks out to the parking garage where Nick and Hodges are re-enacting mailbox baseball. They discover a mailbox wouldn't have been enough to do the damage so they go investigate phone poles and signs around the crime scene for dents. Nick spies a shiny red mailbox that is intact. Underneath it are pieces of gravel and red flecks of something. He calls Hodges about the gravel: it was concrete. Nick pulls up the mailbox and sees a guy in the house. He goes to talk to the guy, named Jackman, and they look at the property.

    He notices a fresh bag of concrete in a wheelbarrow and asks about the removable feature of the mailbox. Jackman says it's cheaper to take it down every night because kids come through smashing them. Nick follows a concrete walkway to a new piece and they pry it up and underneath they find a decoy mailbox filled with concrete. Nick notes that Jackman really taught those boys a lesson, as we flash to the scene of one boy whacking the mailbox, breaking his arm, screaming, crashing into the driver, who then crashed into the tree. He says they knocked off his mailbox four time, but he didn't mean to hurt them. He heard the crash, went out and there was nothing he could do. Via flashback, we see him go to the scene, grab the bat, and switch the mailboxes. They arrest him for negligent homicide.

    Grissom goes to visit Natalie at her prison job. She says she understands why he wants her to be punished. He says she's already being punished and says he wanted to see the person she really is. She apologizes for the wrongs she did, knowing it might be hard for him to believe her since psychopaths can perfectly mimic real emotions.

    Greg reports to Riley that a gun that the PI used to kill a robber on behalf of a client was the same gun used to kill Janelle Rowe. Riley thinks this points to Reading/Rowe.

    Grissom testifies at Natalie's hearing. He says to the prosecutor during their first interview that Natalie became unresponsive and describes how. He says now she appears more responsive, logical, present, and remorseful. The defense attorney asks what Grissom hopes to get out of being there: to punish Natalie, to get for revenge for what she did to Sara? He says he doesn't care about revenge and has no stake in the proceedings since whether she stays psych-side or heads to the slammer is up to the discretion of the court. He says he's been trying to believe that even damaged people can change, but he doesn't know if they can.

    Greg and the tech are looking at surveillance video of Rowe/Reading visiting his daughter since they couldn't find him at his house. On the video they see Kelsey Murphy, daughter of the PI, visiting him outside having a smoke. It looks like she takes him by gunpoint. (She has something sticking in her pocket). They check out what kind of car she drives and it has an auto-shadow GPS system. They activate it and cop cars arrive at a scene in the desert where Kelsey is holding a gun on Rowe/Reading, who is digging. Brass asks her to put the gun down. Kelsey says to tell them what he did. Rowe/Reading says he killed Trevor Murphy and buried him here. Kelsey admits when she found out where Rowe/Reading was she freaked out, staked out his house but that his wife and daughter weren't supposed to be there. We flash to the original crime scene with Kelsey as the perp, pistol whipping and shooting Janelle, and shooting and injuring Nora, both by accident. Brass tries to talk her down, as she keeps telling Rowe/Reading to dig. He has uncovered the skeleton. Kelsey is upset, she shoots Rowe/Reading dead and the cops shoot her.

    Natalie is getting transferred to prison. Grissom apologizes that he couldn't be more helpful. Natalie says she really has changed and says emphatically that she believes that people who did bad things need to be punished. Grissom looks around her room after she is led away in chains and notices a scooped-out bar of soap. For some reason this leads him to dig up a floor tile, on the bottom side of which he finds a small female figure outfitted in a prison uniform with a rope around its neck.

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