Apr 122022

IMDB Aired February 13, 2003

Melinda Clarke returns as Lady Heather. (Also features a cameo of Elizabeth Berkley of Showgirls infamy.) Note that this episode’s story was co-written by Josh Berman, who also wrote the episode of Bones focusing on ponyplay, “Death in the Saddle” (S03E03).

A pair of male sex workers murdered by injections of insulin lead the CSI team back to Lady Heather’s house. It appears they got the same house for interiors and exteriors as the previous episode

Just as before, Lady Heather is completely cooperative with the authorities, and readily acknowledges the men were on her payroll. It isn’t clear what they did, however. Also, the staff and clients are completely unconcerned with police officers walking around. 

Detective Brass astutely points out that these are the second and third people in Lady Heather’s employ to end up dead in suspicious circumstances. 

Again, the investigators are allowed to walk through the house without any concern for the privacy of the staff or clients. Lady Heather has also branched into live video streaming. 

Lady Heather provides credit card records for her chat rooms where the male victims worked. Improbably enough, the victims’ clients were all ladies. They narrow it down to women with dark hair, and this leads to a wealthy couple, Steven and Rebecca McCormick.

This time, the husband is the dominant in the interview, and the wife barely speaks. 

Steven: “I guess you could say Mr. Richards [one of the victims] worked for me. We were hoping that he might help ease some of Rebecca’s sexual difficulties.”

Willows: “Extra-marital sex to help relationship problems.”

Husband: “The problem wasn’t with our relationship. It was with my wife’s lack of experience.”

Grissom: “Which Mr. Richards helped you with?”

Rebecca: “Yes.”

Flash of Rebecca in a wedding dress, bound standing at Lady Heather’s house, with one of the dead guys (in a chest harness) whipping her. “Do you take this man to be your…” The husband is crouched on the floor watching, and shouts, “Beg!”

Grissom: “And these sessions were held at Lady Heather’s?”

Steven: “Yes, Lady Heather thought it would be best if I was involved.”

This gets into the uncomfortable area of BDSM as therapy and professional dominants as therapists. As the saying goes, “BDSM can be therapeutic but it is not therapy.”

Turns out Rebecca was seeing one of the male pro-doms on the side. A flashback shows her in lingerie posing for a webcam, while one of the doms calls her a “stupid bitch.”

Grissom visits Lady Heather at her house. They walk-and-talk with glimpses of women going by in fetish costumes. 

Lady Heather: “Steven McCormick wanted his wife to have a session. That’s not uncommon. When a client achieves liberation, they often want their spouse to share that feeling. Though, in this particular instance I advised the husband to pursue avenues more suited to the temperament of his marriage.”

More pseudo-therapeutic talk from Lady Heather. 

Lady Heather: “Steven came to me three years ago in a state of confusion. I helped him clarify his need for dominance.”

Flash of Lady Heather talking to Steven who has a woman on her knees in front of him. “You will control her only as well as you can read her. Now read.” Steven backhands the woman before him. 

Lady Heather: “Our work enabled him to marry.”

Grissom: “But he chose a woman who didn’t understand the dynamics of a dominant-submissive relationship.”

Lady Heather: “Unfortunately, the language we speak in here doesn’t necessarily translate to the world out there.”

Grissom: “No, in here the submissive has the power. All he has to do is say the safety word and everything stops.”

Grissom and Heather have an intimate moment, when she observes that he may be losing his hearing. He steps forward and places both hands on her head. 

Grissom: “You can always say stop.”

Lady Heather: “So can you.”

Cut to black.

The next morning, Grissom and Lady Heather have tea together, which calls back to their conversation about tea in the previous episode. Heather mentions that she is diabetic and uses the same type of injector used to kill the two men. Grissom immediately calls for a search warrant. 

Lady Heather: “I think I just heard you say stop.”

Brass, who has been hostile to her since the previous episode, interrogates Lady Heather. This is the first time we have seen Lady Heather outside of her house.

Brass’ theory is that Steven McCormick invested in her business and in exchange she murdered the two men his wife was sleeping with. 

Lady Heather: “I could help you, Mr. Brass with your inadequacy.”

LH answers questions as if she knows Grissom’s listening in behind the mirror, which he is. 

LH: (to Grissom) “I’m disappointed, but not surprised. Because I’ve committed the one unforgiveable act. […] I know you, and I know that in your heart you don’t believe I did this.”

Brass: “Lady Heather, this has nothing to do with the heart. It’s all about the evidence.”

This is a recurring theme in the series, often voiced by Grissom himself, and critiqued by his subordinates.

Rebecca McCormick turns up dead, strangled by a feather boa, which Grissom links to one of the women he saw at Lady Heather’s, named Chloe. 

Lady Heather: “She uses it as a garotte. A way to control her breathing, to heighten the experience for the dominant client.”

Given breath control’s controversial status, it’s surprising this goes unremarked.

They link Chloe to the other deaths. 

Grissom: “I owe you an apology.”

LH: “Apologies are just words.”

She just walks out.

Chloe is arrested and confesses that she did it for Steven, who is also arrested. Steven denies telling Chloe to do anything. This means both Steven and Rebecca were having affairs with people they met via Lady Heather’s house. 

Grissom: “Chloe thought that killing your wife’s lovers would please you. And it did please you.”

Steven: “I told her to stop.”

Grissom: “But she didn’t obey you. She killed your wife. You couldn’t make Chloe do what you wanted. All that time at Lady Heather’s and you never learned that the submissive is the one in control.”

That night, Grissom sits in a car outside Lady Heather’s house, looking at it. 


Another CSI episode which reiterates the idea that, if you have a non-normative sexuality or gender expression, you’re almost certainly a killer or a victim. Just as before, people who step into Lady Heather’s dominion get entangled in infidelity, jealousy and death. This highlights the limitation of the investigative procedural as a framework: if no one has been murdered, there’s no reason for the procedural to talk about it at all. 

Even more so than the previous episode, “Lady Heather’s Box” emphasises the trope of dominatrix-as-caregiver. Lady Heather talks about the McCormick’s like she’s a professional therapist and they’re her clients. The thing is, she’s not supposed to be responsible for their marriage or mental health. If she was responsible, the three dead people are indirectly her fault. Lady Heather is presented as a responsible and intelligent professional, but she is never legally or ethically implicated in the three deaths in this episode. 

The BDSM-as-therapy trope has another problem in that it implies BDSM practitioners are “sick” and need help. This ties back into the pathologizing, paranoid “eye” of these programs.

Exactly what happened between Grissom and Heather is unclear. It starts with him touching her hair, a strongly dominant gesture, and she doesn’t object. Does that mean they had a scene with Grissom as the dominant and Heather as the sub? At tea the next morning, it’s he who serves her, but this may be more politeness than submission. Grissom certainly fits the stereotype of the nerdy, somewhere-on-the-autism-spectrum kinkster, and it makes sense that he would have a rapport with someone who is remote yet hyper-observant. And then he spoils their connection. 

It’s said there are two kinds of people: the ones who feel better when the cops show up, and the ones who feel worse. Sex workers generally fall within the latter category. Even pro dommes who technically operate within the law are not immune to harassment and prosecution from police. As I said before, the most implausible part of “Slaves of Las Vegas” is that Lady Heather wasn’t even slightly wary of Grissom and company. Even when interrogated by the hostile Brass, Lady Heather does not call her lawyer. 

When suspicion turns to Lady Heather, this reality finally intrudes in the world of CSI. Though she and Grissom have some kind of intimate shared experience, he immediately calls the authorities the moment he learns of even circumstantial evidence that might tie her to the murders. He’s one kind of person, she’s another. 

In her one-sided conversation with Grissom, she says this is all about emotion: his fear of intimacy, and his failure to trust. As always, Grissom takes refuge in dispassionate science. This clears Heather of suspicion, but she does not accept Grissom’s apology. She wants something deeper to show his sincerity.

The episode ends on another open-ended scene, of Grissom sitting in a car parked outside Lady Heather’s house. It will be a few years before she returns to the franchise, so Grissom’s relationship with her will remain a mystery.

  One Response to “CSI S03E15 “Lady Heather’s Box”: The Celluloid Dungeon”

  1. […] therapists and may even have psychological or psychiatric backgrounds. E.g. Lady Heather Kessler in CSI retired as a pro-domme and became a therapist, and Tiff in Bonding becomes a pro-domme to pay for […]

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.