CSI Season 15 Review “Merchants of Menace”

CSI Merchants of Menace Season 15 Episode 14 06

On the first of a double dose of “CSI,” we took a visit to one of the more deplorable cons out there, the Collectors’ Murderabilia Swap Convention, which revolves around the selling and trading of materials involving famed serial killers, in the aptly-titled “Merchants of Menace.” In this particular convention, the big ticket item was a car previously owned by the now-dead “Sin City Slasher,” aka Lucas Reem. However, it came with a decidedly unexpected bonus item when revealed to the blood-thirsty masses at the con: a dead body.

The dead guy in question was Damon Harlow, co-creator of the con, who turned out to have been killed inside said car, rather than placed there for all to see. As sicko young people tried to take selfies with the corpse (!), the CSI team moved in and shut things down, much to the attendees’ dismay. Among them: one Kyle Jessup (Richard Harmon, “The 100”) of Dead Owl Creek- yeah, that’s not suspicious.

Prints on the dashboard of the car lead to a surprising source: Nora Waters (Mekenna Melvin, “Chuck”), herself the victim of serial killer Reem, who killed her sister right in front of her while she was hiding in the closet. Even more surprising, she was dating Damon, despite his less-than-tasteful line of work. After she was brought in for questioning, her father Bruce (Greg Evigan, “Melrose Place”) also came in of his own accord to chastise the CSIs for involving her.

Meanwhile, a bone fragment with decidedly unexpected origins was found within Damon’s wounds- it belonged to none other than Reem. Apparently, the weapon used was actually fashioned from the bones of Reem by some weirdo, and then subsequently stolen from Damon’s show table. But how, as the body was supposed to have been cremated? They brought in the mortician, Roy Narvin (Dominic Hoffman, “Grey’s Anatomy”), who claims that the body was stolen, and he was too afraid to report it, fearing for the closure of the families affected by Reem- or so he said.

He did offer up one piece of evidence, however, a bottle of booze left outside the night the body was stolen. Fingerprints on the bottle lead to Todd Spanna (Rob Estes, also of “Melrose Place”), the man who lays claim to having brought Reem down when he spotted him behaving suspiciously and called the cops, directly resulting in Reem being captured. He claims to have been framed by one of the murderbilia types, who resent his part in getting Reem busted. He also directs the team towards an even shiftier bunch of fans: the blood market, where serial killer fans buy and trade more overt memorabilia of the less-than-legal sort online.

An investigation leads to another surprising source- Bruce Waters, aka DesertSky60. It seems that Bruce was buying up the knives fashioned from Reem’s bones, in order to destroy them and finish what Narvin did not. The middleman for the sale? None other than his daughter’s boyfriend, Damon. What’s more, his DNA was found on the tablecloth used by Damon at the convention, and he has currently been MIA for some time, according to Nora, who confirms that he was set to buy the rest of the knives that very night. A visit to the location reveals that Bruce is indeed also dead, with an unloaded gun near the body. Apparently, he threatened the seller, who called his bluff and stabbed him to death, likely with one of the knives he was there to buy, ironically enough.

Found in Bruce’s mouth, a piece of black suede, likely from the fringe on Reem’s jacket, which also caused irregular blood stain patterns on the car Damon was killed in. Clearly, the killer was a hardcore fan of Reems- a little too hardcore. Stokes sets up a meet with the blood market people, this time looking to trade: a bona fide model created by none other than the “Miniature Killer.” (We also saw a fan in a Nate Haskell “Murder Tour” t-shirt at the con, which were nice, black comedic nods to “CSI” past.) Stokes busts the head honcho of the crowd, Gunnar (Chris Kerson, “True Detective”), whose name is likely a nod to Gunnar Hansen, aka Leatherface, of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” fame.

Gunnar confidently confesses to the crimes at hand, but turns out to be a wanna-be, wearing a replica of Reem’s jacket, but not the real deal. The bone knives he possesses also turn out to be fakes, save one belonging to another serial killer, Gerald Palmer. The man in charge of Palmer’s body? None other than Roy Narvin. Narvin cuts a deal to have charges dropped against him, in exchange for his client list, which leads to the revelation that one buyer bought all the knives in question made from Reem’s bones: a certain resident of Dead Owl Creek. Naturally, the team finds him back at the convention, with all the Reem stuff in his car, no less, and he’s arrested and lead out, as he basks in the instant fame of his deeds amongst the murderbilia faithful.

Pretty creepy stuff, but also sadly believable, in this day and age of serial killers being better-known than their victims, the occasional Sharon Tate notwithstanding. Serial killer merchandise is indeed readily available online, and I’ve no doubt that there really is some sort of buy/trade circuit online or otherwise, in which aficionados pick up stuff belonging to their fave killers. Sick but true. I also really enjoyed this episode, despite the fact that I saw the real culprit coming a mile away. The only real surprise was that it took actor Harmon this long to finally play a serial killer, if I’m being honest.

That said, I loved the nods to “CSI” past, as aforementioned, and the central conceit really was a neat idea, even if the culprit was obvious. I liked the whole notion of a seedy serial killer fanboy/girl fanbase that met up to discuss and talk shop about their fave killers, as icky as it sounds. This is exactly the sort of offbeat plotline that “CSI” does best, and this was no exception to that rule. What it lacked in surprises, it made up for in atmosphere and pitch black humor. Pretty crazy, sick stuff, to be sure.

What did you think of this episode of “CSI”? Did you, too, get a kick out of the general premise? Would you go to a serial killer convention? Do you own any serial killer merch? (I will admit to having heard Charles Manson’s unreleased album online, which is pretty freaky.) Did you figure out who the killer was, as well? What did you think of the convention? Or the “blood market” scene? Does Nora have the worst luck ever, or what? Sound off below and see you later on, for review number two!