Episode PremiereJuly 31, 2011
Show Period2010 - now
Production CompanyFox TV Studios
The sun shines down on a weathered church. A police squad car pulls up and two officers step out and walk towards the church, responding to a complaint about someone disturbing the peace. They slowly walk inside, hands resting on their guns. The cops cautiously continue down the center of the aisle, first passing a long table of casserole dishes. They hear a faint hissing noise and draw their guns. They approach the altar to find a man face down in a box with poisonous snakes, including cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes, crawling all over him and hissing.
The sanctuary is now a crime scene, crawling with FDLE uniforms and crime techs. Jim Longworth pulls up and joins Carlos Sanchez inside. Carlos kneels down and blesses himself in the aisle as Jim walks toward the table filled with food, but Carlos stops him, telling him that it's all a part of the crime scene. Carlos leads Jim to the altar (but not before kneeling down to cross himself), and tells him that the victim is Aaron Matthews, the 35-year-old Assistant Minister of the Holiness Pentecostal Charismatic Church. There are some signs of a struggle. The pulpit was knocked over and it looks like Aaron fell through a plastic covering on top of snake box. They look down into the box at the dead body still covered with live, writhing, wriggling snakes. Carlos points to Aaron's hand, which is swollen to four times its normal size, and to a ring with a Pentecostal cross on it.
Carlos tells Jim that his best guess for cause of death is snakebite. Jim looks at him curiously and asks if he's examined the body. Carlos carefully repeats that there are poisonous snakes surrounding the body and he's not touching it until Fish and Wildlife arrives. Jim, relishing in an opportunity to leave the crime scene and to annoy Carlos, tells him he can't do his job until the body has been examined. Jim slaps Carlos on the shoulder and heads out of the church, smiling.
At the station, Jim spots Callie Cargill at the end of the hallway, walking distractedly as she tears into a payroll envelope. She smiles as she pulls out the check. Jim approaches her, asking her what the good news is. She puts the check in her bag, telling him she got her Forensic Nurse check for $1,300. Jokingly, Jim suggests that they should go out and celebrate with beers and littleneck clams, her treat. But Callie lets him know that the money is going towards her medical textbooks. They share an awkward look and she asks how Sam is. Jim says she's still in Chicago and that she's fine. They ungracefully step around each other and go their separate ways.
Jim and Carlos stand over Aaron's dead body in the autopsy room. Carlos tells Jim that the contusions on Aaron's hands, arms, and legs were consistent with having knocked over the pulpit and thrashed on the snake box. He was convulsing, which made it look like there was a struggle. Although he was bitten six times by the snakes, it wasn't the bites that killed him; he was poisoned. His cause of death was circulatory collapse.
Jim enters the church as Reverend Trent Staley mops the altar and signs hymns to himself. Jim gives his condolences and Reverend Staley tells Jim that Aaron is in a better place now. He says everybody at the church loved Aaron, even though he was only there for six months. He ran all of the ministries Trent didn't have time to attend to. When Jim asks Trent for a list of everyone in his congregation, Trent says he doesn't keep track of them. Then Jim asks if Aaron might have had any enemies in the church. Trent assures Jim that in the church, Aaron was among friends. As for everybody else, Trent snaps at Jim and says that they are "Godless, non-believers. Satan's children."
Jim says that before they found the body, someone placed an anonymous call to 911, complaining about what goes on at the church. He asks Trent if he knows who that person might be. Trent says, "People don't understand the way we worship..." When Jim asks Trent for his alibi, he says that he was teaching Bible study. They were covering Thessalonians, his favorite book. He quotes the line, "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled."
Jim gets a call from Daniel Green and heads out of the church.At a beachside restaurant, Jim sits with the owner of the restaurant, Frannie Henderson, a pretty blonde in her early 30s. When Jim tells her the department traced the anonymous tip to her, she tells Jim that it didn't come from her, but from her unemployed ex-husband, whose cell phone bill she still pays for. Frannie tells Jim that her ex thinks the church is dangerous and he has called and filed complaints before. She says he doesn't understand the church's beliefs. Jim asks about the snakes. She tells him that they are incarnations of the devil and handling snakes is how they demonstrate their power over evil. The Bible says they are supposed to "take up serpents." It's the same as them passing their hands through fire or taking the poison strychnine, something Pentecostals have been doing for 100 years without harm.
Frannie tells Jim that her ex is now living in Georgia looking for work and that he blamed Aaron for his and Frannie's break-up. But she says all Aaron did was show her the way and what was really important in this life and the next. Her husband wanted Frannie to choose between her marriage and her faith and she chose her faith. After Jim asks about her whereabouts that morning, she tells him she was at the restaurant going over the menu and checking inventory at her butcher shop, where she sells exotic meats and specialty cuts. She was alone.
In the evidence lab, Daniel, who is going over files, tells Jim that the alibi for Frannie's ex checks out. Even though he made the call, he's been on jury duty the last three days. Apparently he was upset because he had just received word that his divorce from Frannie was finalized. As Daniel talks, Jim watches Callie wrap up a conversation with another detective, noticing how attentive and comfortable Callie is with him.
Jim barges in on Carlos, who is in the middle of analyzing Aaron's stomach contents, and asks if he's figured out what poison killed Aaron. Carlos says he's figured out which poison did not kill him: strychnine. Carlos tells him that it's harder to figure out than Jim thinks, but he's realized Aaron must have ingested a colorless/odorless poison. Jim looks at the Mason jars lined up in front of Carlos, filled with yellowish liquids. He picks one up as Carlos tells him that it's Aaron's stomach contents. Jim spits out the apple he's chewing as Carlos goes through the contents of each jar: sausage, green bean, sweet potatoes, chicken and mushrooms, and mac and cheese. Jim realizes that these were all items in the casseroles at the church that morning and if they were poisoned, the whole congregation could be eating them right now. Jim rushes out.
Jim arrives at the church, where the service is already in progress. People stand in the aisle dancing and praying, their arms raised up to heaven. Trent stands on the altar praying in front of a man that's waiting to be "healed." Trent smacks his palm against the man's forehead. The man falls backwards onto the floor. Jim looks around at the congregation and in a panic runs to the stage and grabs the microphone, telling the churchgoers that if they ate the food they might have been poisoned. But they don't listen and continue to pray. Trent tells Jim that the people aren't sick from poison, but that they're filled with the Holy Spirit. Trent reaches into the snake pit, walks toward Jim holding out a snake and asks if he believes. Trent tells Jim that he must have faith but Jim backs away. Then Trent turns away from Jim, about to hand the snake to a little girl saying she has more faith than him. Jim grabs the snake before the girl can, trying to protect her. The snake rears back and bites Jim in the forearm. Jim screams, drops to his knees and writhes around on the floor in pain.
Callie, Carlos, and Daniel rush through the door of the church office and help Jim onto a desk. Jim screams, telling them that he can't feel his arm and that the poison is paralyzing him. Jim tells them he can't breathe and that he can "see a light." Daniel chuckles in the corner. Callie takes Jim's blood pressure and pulse and finally puts a bandage over the bite. She tells him that the snake didn't break any skin and didn't even release any venom - it was a dry bite. Daniel says that snakes don't like to waste their venom if they aren't threatened. Also, the snake could have been milked earlier or had its venom removed. He says he will investigate.
Jim, slightly embarrassed at his overreaction, decides to get back to work and spots Aaron's nameplate on a desk. Inside is an old day desk calendar. Jim flips through it to find that Aaron had a meeting the previous day with Peyton Robinson, a prisoner who was a part of the Righteous Way program. Callie explains that Righteous Way is an organization that helps prison chaplains find religious advisors. Jim hands Daniel the book, who takes a second look at it, pointing out the meeting Aaron had earlier that day, two hours before he was killed, with "FH." Jim recognizes the initials of Frannie Henderson.
Jim exits the church, looking for Frannie, but is approached by Trent. He says that his prayers for God to spare Jim were answered. Jim says it was Trent's fault that he was bitten in the first place. He walks away and confronts Frannie about the meeting she had with Aaron that morning. She admits that she met with him, but only to talk about meals for the church, since she provides the food. She says she wasn't lying when she spoke to Jim earlier, it's just that he never asked about Aaron. She swears she had nothing to do with Aaron's death. Jim looks concerned that Frannie catered the meals for the church, but she tells him to look around at everyone else and he'll see they ate her food and they're all fine. She asks to leave.
Jeff does his homework at the kitchen table while Callie unloads a stack of her new used textbooks. Jeff grabs a book and is stunned by the price: $400! And it's used! The doorbell rings and Callie, expecting it to be the pizza guy, opens the door to find Jim, holding their order. He awkwardly asks her to take a look at his arm because it's starting to irritate him again. Callie, clearly irritated by his request given his arm is neither swollen nor discolored, takes the pizza box and tells Jim to come in.
Jim sits at the table, next to Jeff who asks him about his snakebite, as Callie works on putting a new bandage on him. Jim kids and says now he has anther excuse to put off mowing his lawn, but Jeff eagerly steps up to the challenge, telling Jim that if he paid him, he'd take care of it. Callie finishes up bandaging Jim and tells him to take Ibuprofen. Jim jokes that he never had to worry about snakebites back in Chicago. Callie gathers her books and tells Jim "once bitten, twice shy" and leaves the room. Jim, attempting to figure out exactly what she meant, looks at Jeff, who doesn't have a clue.
Back in the evidence lab, Daniel tells Jim that that according to Fish and Wildlife, the cottonmouth that bit Jim was milked earlier. Daniel also says that the prison where Aaron preached has closed circuit television to broadcast religious programming. He pulls up the footage from inside the prison chapel. In the video, Aaron stands in prayer with prisoner Peyton Robinson, who begins speaking in tongues. Jim tells Daniel to email him the footage as he heads out of the office.
In the autopsy room, Carlos tells Jim that he tested all of the food from the church, and while none of it was poisoned, he did find out what poison was used to kill Aaron: sodium nitrate, which looks and tastes just like table salt. It would only take one or two teaspoons to kill a man. Carlos tells Jim that it's used to cure meats.Jim walks into the restaurant kitchen to find Frannie cooking a breakfast of pigs in a blanket, made with antelope meat. She offers him some food, but he politely declines. He asks her if she makes her own sausages or cured meats. She tells him no, but Jim spots a stack of sausage boxes with her logo on them and points them out. She explains that she doesn't make them on the premises, but rather buys them from a local outside vendor.
Frannie walks into the dining area while Jim looks outside. He spots a delivery truck pulling up to the door. Jim steps outside to see a prisoner and a guard step out of the truck, bringing boxes of food to the restaurant. As they get closer to the door, Jim recognizes the prisoner as Peyton Robinson.
Jim and Peyton sit in the interrogation room, across from one another. Peyton, a 45-year-old weasely, middleweight of a man with short cropped hair, tries to look professional by sporting black-framed glasses. Peyton tells Jim that the last time he was in an interrogation room, he got slammed for a murder he didn't commit. Jim reads through his record, which includes robbery, assault, "alleged" manslaughter, and asks why a criminal like him, doing 25 years to life, was given so much freedom outside of the prison walls. Peyton tells Jim that he earned it by cooking in the kitchen, working in the prison farm and slaughterhouse, and acting as a medical orderly where he saved another prisoner's life. For doing all of that he received community custody, the lowest level of supervision in the prison.Jim just looks at him, not buying everything he says. Peyton tells Jim that Frannie seems like a good God-fearing woman and even has a younger brother in prison, which is how they connected. Jim tells Peyton that he knows that he delivered the meats to the church where Aaron, both the church minister and Peyton's spiritual adviser, turned up dead. Peyton says he figured that was coming but that a correction officer was with him the whole time. Peyton tells Jim that he and Aaron was a good man and that they were friends and confided in one another. Aaron told Peyton that he was having doubts about the church and his faith. The Spirit wasn't speaking to him anymore. Peyton was having the same issue. Peyton looks at Jim and asks why he'd kill the only friend he had in the world.Jim enters his office with his nose buried in files, as Carlos and Daniel watch a video from behind Jim's desk, attempting to hold back laughter. Jim says that Peyton was lying because the prison farm's records show that he was at the church an hour before Aaron was killed. Also being at the farm gave him access to sodium nitrate. Jim says he also has motive, but he just hasn't found it yet. Carlos tells Jim that he might have evidence for him. The church records all of their sermons and posts them online. He turns the monitor around so Jim could watch and they play the footage from the service Jim interrupted. On camera we see a repeat of what happened with Jim and the snake. Carlos and Daniel are clearly enjoying how ridiculous Jim looks and they replay the footage, but the second time around, Jim notices something. He stops the video at the beginning on Frannie, who is speaking in familiar-sounding tongues. Jim tells Daniel to get all of Peyton's prison files, from his intake to medical records. Jim looks at Carlos and tells him he was right - the footage was better the second time around.
Back at her restaurant, Jim confronts Frannie about the video from the sermon and asks why she and Peyton were reciting the same lines. When people speak in tongues, the "words" are different each time and from person to person, but it sounded like Peyton was just reciting something he had heard before. She tells him that she and Peyton have prayed together before. But Jim beats her to the chase and tells her that he knows that Peyton submitted paperwork to the prison, requesting to get married to Frannie. But Aaron also submitted a letter to the prison, objecting to the engagement. Frannie admits that the engagement to Peyton was a spur of the moment thing and she only did it because she was lonely and scared after her divorce. She says that Peyton is a good Christian man but that the time just wasn't right for them to get married. Aaron helped her see that. Frannie stresses that Aaron was a wonderful man and that he always knew what he was going to do next. He was going to leave Trent's church to start a congregation of his own, which is why she co-signed on a mortgage for him. She asks Jim why she would poison him and risk taking on such a big financial burden. Jim asks Frannie whether Staley knew about Aaron leaving and she said she didn't know, but that she didn't say anything to him because she felt it was Aaron's responsibility to break the news and that she knew Trent would be upset.
Trent and Jim stand in the backyard behind the church. Trent is feeding the snakes mice while Jim tells him of Aaron's intended plans before he was murdered and how he couldn't afford Frannie, the wealthiest person in his congregation, to leave his church for Aaron's. That would give him motive for killing Aaron. Trent, in complete disbelief, tells Jim to leave and starts accusing him of being disguised as the devil.
Trent moves forward, still accusing Jim of falling for Satan's trickery. He grabs hold of Jim's shoulders and tells him he wants to "lay hands on him" and then smacks him in the middle of the forehead. Instead of falling to the ground in a healing frenzy, Jim rubs the sting on his forehead and shouts "Owww!" Armed FDLE uniforms emerge from the overgrowth and handcuff Trent for assaulting a police officer.
Jim flips through an old bible in the evidence lab as Carlos shakes his head in disbelief that Jim actually arrested a preacher. He rummages through the evidence box and pulls out the Pentecostal cross ring Aaron was wearing when they found him and sees that there's an inscription on the inside, "TS 16." Carlos grabs the bible and flips to 2nd Thessalonians, Chapter 1, Verse 6. He reads the same quote Trent quoted to Jim, "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled and to us as well." Daniel chimes in that maybe the verse was comforting to Aaron and Trent because they were both struggling, Aaron with his faith and Trent with his finances.
Jim and Carlos look through Trent's files and W-2 forms, and find that he took a significant cut from his paycheck for publicly displaying the snakes - he has to have a $10,000 bond for that. The average pastor's salary is $60,000 but with all the expenses, he makes less than half of that. To compensate, he took a lot of "odd jobs" to make money. Daniel finds a W-2 form from Stark Prison, which was for a volunteer job, but Trent still got paid $150. Jim looks at Carlos and they both realize that there's only one "volunteer" job that pays you that...death row. He was an executioner.
Jim enters the interrogation room, where Trent sits, not pleased. He says "As God as my witness, I did not kill Aaron." Jim sits across from him and shares the news he just found out: two years prior, Trent killed Leon Earl Montrose by lethal injection at Stark Prison. Jim says that wasn't a "very Pentecostal thing to do." Trent, visibly shaken up, tells Jim that the warden promised him that he would remain anonymous and asked how he found out. Jim says he didn't know for sure until Trent admitted it. Jim says that after that execution Trent probably got a taste for murder. When Trent says Leon deserved to be executed, Jim says that even the warden said Leon was railroaded and intellectually incapable of committing such murders. He asked for crayons and a coloring book with his last meal. Trent said he had to be there for the execution because the hand of God would work through him if God decided to spare him. He says he's at peace with what he did. He then quotes the same line from Thessalonians as before - the same one on the ring. Jim then realizes the ring is Trent's, since it contains his initials. Trent says he gave Aaron his ring for guidance, so it would remind him not to stray. Jim says Aaron was milking the snakes before every service. Trent says that's because Aaron was afraid of getting bitten. But Jim counters that Trent was afraid of Aaron leaving the church. Trent says he was afraid for Aaron's eternal soul. But Jim says it was Trent who had the most to lose.
In the hallway, Carlos shares more interesting news with Jim. Aaron wasn't the only recent death by sodium nitrate. The other victim was Marcus Jordon and his death was listed as an accident so it was never investigated. And he had a connection to Aaron: Stark Prison. Marcus was the other "volunteer" at Stark who administered the lethal injection with Trent.
Carlos and Jim realize that the even though both men should have had their faces concealed during the execution (no one except for the warden is supposed to know who they are), something else might have been revealed, like their hands. Jim realizes that the killer must have seen the ring on Trent's hand and then later met Aaron, thinking he was the executioner. So maybe the killer was after Trent, all along.
Jim approaches Callie at the nurse's station and fills her in on the situation. Jim tells her that somebody at the prison tried to avenge Leon Earle's death, someone who was at the execution and saw the executioners that day. Callie says that when there's an execution the executioners are shrouded in secrecy and the whole prison goes into lockdown. Jim says that if he can figure out when or where someone may have seen the executioners, then he can figure out who may have seem them. Callie suggests that Jim tell Trent that somebody is intending to kill him, that way he can retrace his steps from the day of the execution and give any potential clues to reveal the killer.
Jim and Trent stand inside the death chamber at Stark. In the room there is an IV stand, with an empty saline bag hanging from it. Next to the IV is a stainless steel tray with five large syringes and hanging from a hook on the wall is the executioner's robe and mask. The executioners needed to be covered from head to toe. Jim picks it up and tells Trent to put it on in hopes that it jogs his memory about that day. Jim takes out the Pentecostal cross ring and hands it to Trent, who then begins going through each step in the injection process. He says the first two lethal injections paralyzed his muscles and put him to sleep and the third was potassium chloride, which stopped his heart. He says it's a terrible thing to watch a man die. Visibly shaken and looking ill, he is unable to continue, and rips off the robe, gloves and mask. He begins calling for the guard as Jim approaches him, asking if he got sick on the day of the execution. Trent, failing to remember and becoming increasingly uncomfortable, rushes out of the room.Back at the office, Jim gets off the phone with Stark's warden as Carlos enters the room. He tells Carlos that the day of the execution, Trent got nauseous. Before Leon was executed the prison hosted a reception just for the witnesses in one of their meeting rooms. When Trent got sick after the execution the Warden took him into that meeting room and gave him a can of soda to calm his stomach. That's when Trent took off his gloves and revealed his hands to the only other person in the room, the caterer. Frannie.
At the church the next day, Jim stands with Trent by the long table in the back, again filled with various types of food. Trent says he doesn't think Frannie is guilty but accepts the fact that he put Aaron in harm's way when he sent him to minister at the prison and gave him his ring to wear. He asks God every day to forgive him for that.Trent tells Jim that he can't go against God's will and brings up the fact that when Leon Earl was shanked and almost died in the prison infirmary, God sent an orderly in who helped save his life. Just then, Peyton walks through the church's front door, followed by an armed guard. Holding a platter filled with meats, he hands Trent a sandwich off of it. Peyton turns around, surprised to see Jim. Jim tells Trent to think twice before taking a bite out of the sandwich because Peyton was the one who killed Aaron.
Jim tells Trent that Peyton was working with Frannie in the prison kitchen the night of the execution. Although the prisoners were on lockdown, Peyton had special clearance. One of the executioners, Marcus, gave his phone number to the warden and the other executioner, Trent, took off his gloves to drink a can of soda and that's when he saw the ring. Jim points to Trent's hand and Peyton looks, realizing that he killed the wrong guy. Jim says Peyton was the orderly who nursed Leon back to health. Peyton punches Jim and grabs a knife from the table, but Jim tackles him just as he lunges at Trent. Peyton screams at Trent and says that if he were a half a Christian, he would have yanked the tubes out of Leon's arms. Leon didn't even know what was going on.
When Jim tells Peyton he poisoned Aaron instead of Trent, he said it wasn't a big loss because Aaron was a hypocrite too. He stood at the pulpit and preached but didn't believe any of it. And neither did he.The guard drags Trent out of the front door and back to prison. Trent, shocked by what just happened, sees Jim taking a bite out of the sandwich Peyton originally made for Trent. Jim assures Trent that he has faith that the sandwich is fine.
Jim sits by the pool, enjoying the sun, while Jeff swims, waiting for his mother to arrive. Jim thanks him for helping with the lawn and Jeff jokes that he has to do a good job since he's is overpaying him. Callie arrives and while Jeff runs into the house to dry up and get his clothes, she and Jim share an awkward moment. She asks Jim again about Sam and how he feels about her being gone. She says, "It's okay to be bummed about Sam." Jim, attempting to downplay how he really feels about the situation, assures her that's he's fine and Sam made the right decision. He would be doing the same thing she's doing: prioritizing.
Jeff returns and they both head off towards Callie's car. She turns around and trades one last look with Jim, telling him that things usually work out the way they're supposed to.
Jim, with a slight smile, watches her leave, wondering exactly what it is that's supposed to work out.