“Dead Air.” From the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation series. Season 13, Episode 11. First broadcast: 16 January 2013. Regular cast: Ted Danson (D. B. Russell), Elisabeth Shue (Julie Finlay), George Eads (Nick Stokes), Paul Guilfoyle (Captain Jim Brass), Jorja Fox (Sara Sidle), Eric Szmanda (Greg Sanders), Robert David Hall (Dr. Robbins), David Berman (David Phillips), Wallace Langham (David Hodges), Elisabeth Harnois (Morgan Brody), Jon Wellner (Henry Andrews). Guest cast: Alex Carter (Detective Vartann), Daniel Roebuck (Fred Paulsen), Spencer Grammer (Ella St. James), Lenny Jacobson (Denny Jones), Abigail Klein (Rainy Days), Jacob Zachar (Chad Lane), Danielle Bisutti (Theresa Shea), Tom Choi (Director), Richard Blake (Robbie), Felisha Terrell (Competitive Reporter). Writer: Joe Pokaski. Director: Phil Conserva.


   Theresa Shea is a no-nonsense investigative reporter presently marking time as the anchor at a Las Vegas TV station. Until somebody murders her, she is hot on the trail of an arsonist who created chaos and death in the Vegas area seventeen years ago. As the CSI team will discover, Theresa was universally hated by everyone who knew her, meaning there’s no shortage of suspects.

   And her murder is no ordinary event: During a live broadcast during a major storm, while Theresa is alone in the broadcast room with only robot cameras, there is a power transient and the lights go out. When they come back on, after a moment she collapses across her desk — “really,” as they say in The Wizard of Oz, “most sincerely dead.”

   In the twenty seconds it takes to restore the lighting, somehow a murderer has crept up behind her and expertly shoved a knife blade into her neck, severing her brain stem and rendering her speechless until she dies a few seconds later. When the lights return, she’s sitting there convulsing until she finally falls over.

   Belatedly the director orders they cut to commercial, too late for the viewers at home. As head CSI agent D. B. Russell characterizes it, “We have a locked-room murder with a million witnesses.”

   But the “million witnesses” have really seen no more than the crew in the control room.

   Suspecting the blackout was no coincidence, Russell decides to track down the source of the power outage. Not far from the TV station he finds an exploded transformer, destroyed not by a lightning strike as is usually the case but by explosives triggered by a cell phone signal. “This,” he says, “took patience.”

   Add to the locked-room problem the twists and turns of lying field reporters, a brow-beaten assistant, an emotionally unstable TV station technician, and a code-breaking sequence (the code here being the outmoded Gregg shorthand system) and you have pleasant echoes of the Golden Age of Detection.