As season four of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation drew to a close, it appeared as though a contract dispute would rob the series of two of its most popular characters, Las Vegas PD forensic specialists Sara Sidel (Jorja Fox) and Nick Stokes (George Eads). At the last moment, however, a suitable financial arrangement was worked out, and both characters -- and the actors who played them -- were retained for the whole of season five. Reiko Aylesworth stars in the first episode ("Viva Las Vegas") as Chandra Moore, a dedicated, no-nonsense lab tech who is to replace Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda) when Greg is promoted to CSI field duty. Both Chandra and Greg prove to be worthy of their new responsibilities, though both are somewhat nonplussed by being dropped head-first into a whole new world of investigation. (Aylesworth's character was dropped after Fox and Eads resolved their contracts.) In a major mid-season development, a storm of controversy attending the apparent bungling of a murder investigation prompts CSI boss Ecklie (Marc Vann) to split the forensics bureau into two teams, with senior officer Gil Grissom (William L. Petersen) heading one team, and his former assistant Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) heading another. The arrangement is hardly to the liking of either party, especially when the efficiency their investigations is compromised by radical and often arbitrary budget cuts. Other demons plaguing the CSIers this season include the return of a particularly vicious (and brilliant) serial killer from the earlier episode "The Execution of Catherine Willows," the revelation that a man with whom Catherine flirted in a bar is the prime suspect in a high-profile murder case, and the unpleasant childhood memories of Sara Sidel. The Grissom and Willows teams are reunited for the season's unbearably suspenseful finale, "Grave Danger" (a two-parter directed by Quentin Tarantino) as the combined officers search for their colleague Nick Stokes (George Eads), who has been buried alive in a casket filled with red ants by a maniacal murderer.
by Hal Erickson synopsis