CSI/Chaos Theory

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Chaos Theory
With Warrick's assistance, Catherine prepares to rappel down a garbage disposal chute
Season 2, Episode 2
Airdate October 4, 2001
Production Number 202
Written by Eli Talbert,
Josh Berman
Directed by Kenneth Fink
← 2x01
2x03 →
CSISeason Two
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Chaos Theory is the second episode of the second season of CSI, and the twenty-fifth episode overall. The team investigates the disappearance of a young woman from a university campus.

Guest Stars: Eric Szmanda (Greg Sanders), Robert David Hall (Dr. Al Robbins), Dale Midkiff (Professor Woodbury), Clayne Crawford (Henry McFadden), Garrett M. Brown (Mr. Rycoff), Sherry Hursey (Mrs. Rycoff), Danielle Nicolet (Jennifer Riggs), Shelby Fenner (Paige Rycoff), Kate McNeil (Sharon Woodbury), Grant Garrison (Kevin Watson)

Co-Stars: Paula Francis (Paula Francis), Jon Hershfield (N.D. Student), Archie Kao (Campus Security Tech), Brent Sexton (Mark Doyle)


Plot Overview

The whole team investigates the disappearance of Paige Rycoff, a freshman at Western Las Vegas Univerity, who had just dropped out and was about to return to her parents. Her baggage and airline ticket are untouched in her room and she never made it to the cab she had called.

Catherine examines a garbage chute that leads to a dumpster in front of the building, but there are no signs that a body passed through the shaft.

A review of the dorm's internal surveillance footage reveals that somebody covered the camera that points down the hall to Paige's room. Nick notices that the person pushed off the wall while obscuring the lens and he recovers a complete hand print, which is matched to a student. When confronted with the evidence, the suspect admits to stealing some furniture from the room with some buddies as part of a pledge prank—a dead end.

Meanwhile Sara finds traces of blood and semen on one of the beds in the dorm room. A comparison with the DNA recovered from Paige's hairbrush shows that the blood isn't hers, but the tox screen reveals the date rape drug Rohypnol. Jennifer Riggs, the missing girl's roommate, had also dropped out of school a month and a half earlier. She confirms having been raped at a floor party, but as a side effect of the drug can't remember her assailant and so never reported the crime. The team collects voluntary DNA donations from all the male students in the dorm, officially looking only for the individual who abducted Paige. Kevin Watson, a student on the baseball team, is confirmed as Jennifer's rapist and arrested, but on the night of Paige's disappearance he was out of town on an away game—another dead end.

Catherine and Nick review the footage from an external surveillance camera pointing at the parking lot. Catherine notices the same car looping around six times while Paige's cab was waiting. A campus parking permit leads to Robert Woodbury, a philosophy professor. When pressed by Grissom and Catherine, he admits to an illicit affair with Paige. On further interrogation, suspicion shifts from the professor to his wife, who it turns out had known about his latest liaison all along, and who readily confirms confronting Paige but cannot be proven to have harmed the girl.

In a cruel turn of events, Paige's body is found in a cube of compacted trash. Dr. Robbins' examination shows that she had already died from internal bleeding before going through the compactor, her spleen having ruptured from blunt force trauma. The team turns its attention to the dumpster in front of the building where they find blood. Fresh paint scrapes from a car suggest a hit-and-run. The peculiar paint pattern of the vehicle leads to the driver who admits to speeding down the campus lane and hitting the dumpster—but only the dumpster. His testimonial is confirmed by a complete lack of blood, tissue, or hair on the car.

On re-examining the dorm room, Grissom and Sara realize that the trash can is missing. Slowly the pieces of the puzzle fall into place: Paige took out the trash, accidentally dropped the bin into the disposal chute, went down to the dumpster to retrieve it, was leaning into the dumpster when the car struck, and fell into the garbage and died. It was a freak accident. In the end, Paige's parents refuse to accept this explanation, which is supported by all the evidence, and vow to track down somebody responsible for their daughter's death.


Arc Advancement





The Show

Behind the Scenes

Allusions and References

Memorable Moments



  • Overall Grade: A with one review
  • Review Breakdown: A+: 0 A: 1 A-: 0 B+: 0 B: 0 B-: 0 C+: 0 C: 0 C-: 0 D: 0 F: 0
  1. This is probably the best ever mystery on CSI. The team chases down five plausible suspects, uncovering various petty and not so petty crimes along the way, before finally nailing this well-constructed case in a rather surprise ending. Only the very tenuous, if not outright nonsensical connection to chaos theory Grissom babbles about is a minor blemish. Grade: ANaddy 17:45, 11 April 2006 (EDT)