CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Season 2 Episode 2

Chaos Theory

Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Oct 04, 2001 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
294 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

The entire CSI team investigates a disappearance at a local university. A young woman vanished, seemingly off the face of the earth. Forensics leads them to possible suspects, and possible suspects all have probable motives, but nothing seems to pan out. This leads our team to discuss the "Chaos Theory." When combined, many seemingly-innocuous events may have a deadly outcome. And closure is not always within reach.moreless

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  • A female college student has decided to drop out and head home. Just as a cab arrives to take her to the airport, she disappears. Grissom and his team try to find what happened to the student, but they run into one dead end after another.moreless

    The December 7, 2009 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine named this episode as one of the best television episodes of the decade. I agree. "Chaos Theory" is one of the best episodes of the second season. The episode keeps you guessing throughout which is one of the things I like about CSI as well as its' spin-offs. Just about everything, the flashbacks, the through investigation of the disappearance of young Paige to the surprising conclusion, works perfectly here. I can't say much for fear of giving too much away, but "Chaos Theory" is definitely an episode of CSI worth seeing.moreless
  • the team investigates the disappearance of a college student that leads them down many paths and with the girl's dead body in the dumpster

    i was surprised they didnt open the ep w/ that..i mean seeing her in the dumpster would have added more suspense to the ep w/ the how and why that they were asking..but i think they did a really good job w/ building the suspense the way they did it..spoiler..they were focusing their attention on the missing girl and found something else along the way and got someone else arrested for date rape on another case w/ the girls roommate..the disappointing factor was all the dead ends they hit..but i was so relieved and the suspense built up and was finally relieved when it was all an accident..yay!moreless
  • A college co-ed disappears as she is leaving college, for what appears to be for good.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns this particular episode took, as well as the banter between the characters and the clever "historic scientific" references, if you will. Despite the sad truth of what you ultimitely discover actually happened to the girl, I think the writers attempted to try and make the whole episode a little less dark by interjecting the sarcastic comments.

    For me, I think the most heart-breaking thing about this episode was not just the tragic circumstances under which the girl dies, but that a completely innocent man's life was probably ruined due to a completely random event.

    It also brings to mind a scary thought; that perhaps we are not in control of our lives to any extent, and that our freedom of choice is a complete illusion. If that's the case, is it at all possible that everything happens for a reason? Makes you wonder.....moreless
  • The disappearance of a college student leads the team down several different routes, none of which seem to lead anywhere.

    It's a very clever story that seems to be about more than it is. When a girl goes missing, there is no shortage of evidence, but none of it seems to lead anywhere. The more they examine the different evidence, the more the team is flummoxed. Even when they have suspects, they can't quite build a case.

    I liked this episode, because it builds up an atmosphere of menace and you know something horrible might have happened to her. The clever part is that the ending is much more pedestrian and tragic than anything that was set up by the story. You can almost see how the writers would have started at the end and worked backwards.

    Oh, and just what on earth has happened to Greg's hair in this episode?moreless
  • Excellent example of the team working as a team.

    This episode centers on the mysterious disappearance of a college student and the whole team works the case. After many theories and the discovery of an actual crime (date rape) the case is solved. The poor girl died due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. No crime was actually committed. The scene at the end when her parents are told the cause of death is sad. They wanted closure but the closure they received was not enough to comfort or satisfy them. We are left with a perplexed Grissom not understanding this.

    Overall it is a wonderful team episode. All of the characters work together in some capacity throughout. There are great humorous moments interspersed over the episode. From Catherine in the “Bob the Builder” outfit going down the chute to Sara explaining the benefits of putting toothpaste into nail holes in the wall (anyone who has not gone to college seriously needs to pay attention to this because your place will be trashed and you need every bit of help you can find to get that deposit back, trust me). And the two scenes with all of them standing at the dumpsters are absolutely wonderful. Great teamwork guys.

Dale Midkiff

Dale Midkiff

Professor Woodbury

Guest Star

Garrett M. Brown

Garrett M. Brown

Mr. Rycoff

Guest Star

Sherry Hursey

Sherry Hursey

Mrs. Rycoff

Guest Star

Eric Szmanda

Eric Szmanda

Greg Sanders

Recurring Role

Robert David Hall

Robert David Hall

Dr. Al Robbins

Recurring Role

Paula Francis

Paula Francis


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (14)

    • Grissom: You know, when a tree falls in the forest, even if no one's there to hear it, it does, in fact, make a sound.

    • (Sara taking mouth swabs from suspect)
      Sara: Are you refusing?
      Suspect: Uh.. I haven't brushed my teeth.
      Warrick: Hey mouth boy, she's not gonna kiss you, she just wants your DNA okay?

    • Grissom: Frederick Miescher requests my presence?
      Greg: Figured out my code huh? Well you know my boy, Freddie, discovered DNA.
      Grissom: He's been dead a hundred years, Greg.

    • (A lot of items are spread out on the table)
      Greg: Well, this is one way to get her DNA. Bring me her whole life.
      Sara: It's called zeal, Greg.
      Greg: Or overkill.
      Grissom: It's called protocol. Let's get on with it.

    • Henry McFadden: Paige and I dated once or twice. She wasn't my type. If you haven't noticed... I'm in the system now. The talent pool's pretty deep.
      Nick: She dumped you!

    • Grissom: We told them what happened.
      Catherine: Yeah. But we didn't give them what they needed... closure.
      Grissom: Truth brings closure.
      Catherine: Not always.

    • Catherine: No one can predict more than a few seconds into the future.
      Nick: I predict I'll still be standing here one minute from now.
      Warrick: Where are we going with this?
      Grissom: Paige was in her dorm room and then ended up in the dumpster. Somewhere between her dorm room and the dumpster is our answer. That's where we're going. Coming, Nick? (everyone leaves. Nick smiles as he's caught)
      Warrick (to Nick): Nice try, Nostradamus.

    • Warrick: Where you been?
      Grissom: I can't be everywhere, Warrick and they've banned human cloning.

    • Grissom (to Greg): Are we paying you by the word?

    • Grissom: You showered.
      Catherine: Thanks for noticing Gil, you're very observant.
      Grissom (studying a surveillance tape and inadvertently blocking Cath's view): Yeah? Well ... I can't tell what I'm observing here. What does that look like?
      Catherine: A five-foot-eleven workaholic.

    • Nick: You know, it's easier to get a master's degree than a parking spot on campus.

    • Grissom: H.L. Mencken once said, "There's an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible ... and wrong." So if the solution to our problem is not neat, plausible and wrong; then it could be messy, unlikely and right.

    • Sara: Five Hundred Dollars. That's huge money at her age if you actually get it. That's a big college racket, like buying books back.
      Grissom: Why would anyone want to sell their books?

    • Grissom: People don't vanish, Jim. It's a molecular impossibility.

  • NOTES (3)


    • Grissom: Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

      Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau; July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American author, poet, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist.

      This quote is an encouragement to pay attention to circumstantial evidence. In this case, the evidence is strong that the trout didn't get there by accident--someone put it there--milk not being a natural habitat for fish. Though, perhaps, a deed is unobserved, its execution can sometimes be safely inferred from the facts.

    • Grissom: There's an easy solution to every human problem, neat, plausible, and wrong.

      Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956), was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, acerbic critic of American life and culture, and a student of American English and the exact words are: "There is always an easy solution to every human problem-neat, plausible, and wrong". This essay was originally published in the New York Evening Mail, November 16, 1917, and reprinted in Prejudices: Second Series (1920).

    • Warrick: Nice try Nostradamus

      Warrick is teasing Nick for his attempt to predict the future. Nostradamus (born Michel de Nostredame in 1503) was a French healer and seer, who famously published a number of prophecies, many of which are supposed to have come true (though the links between prophecy and reality are often tenuous at best). Despite the fact he first published his prophecies between 1555 and 1568, they are still in print today and many people still believe he was able to predict major world events.

    • Episode Title: Chaos Theory

      The title of this episode refers to the now well known idea that the tiniest difference in the starting point of a situation can lead to huge differences in the outcome.