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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation character
Marg Helgenberger as Catherine Willows
Catherine Willows
City Las Vegas, Nevada
Rank CSI Level 3
Position Night Shift Supervisor
Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Portrayed by Marg Helgenberger
First appearance The Pilot

Catherine Willows (née Flynn) is a fictional character on the CBS television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She is employed as a crime-scene investigator supervisor (a "CSI-3") and forensic scientist for Clark County, Nevada, which contains the city of Las Vegas. She is played by Marg Helgenberger, who has received two Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for the role.[1]. Catherine appeared in every episode, with exception of "Random Acts of Violence" from season three, "Hollywood Brass" and "Committed" from season five.

Catherine Willows is listed as number 82 on Bravo's 100 Greatest TV Characters, along with her close friend and colleague Gil Grissom[2].


Early Life and Childhood

Catherine Willows was raised by her single mother, Lily Flynn, a cocktail waitress and showgirl. Due to the nature of her mother's jobs, Catherine was constantly moved around the west coast of America as a child and because of this, she found it difficult to settle in school. Consequently, she failed to excel to her full potential in school, despite her high intelligence and razor-sharp mind. Catherine left school and began work as an exotic dancer in order to support her boyfriend's career and rock 'n' roll lifestyle. She became interested in crime solving when she befriended a regular at the dance club; Detective Tadero, who also encouraged her to return to school in the hope of her gaining a better lifestyle. She attended West Las Vegas University where she graduated with a degree in Medical Science. Catherine joined the CSI team at LVPD as a lab technician, after which she worked her way up to the role of supervisor under the watchful eye of Gil Grissom.


Catherine has one daughter, Lindsey Willows who frequently appears in episodes of CSI. Lindsey's father and Catherine's ex-husband, Eddie Willows, also falls into storylines before being murdered. Catherine also discovers that her absent father was, in fact, her old family friend and big casino boss, Sam Braun. After coming to terms with her new father, Sam was tragically gunned down. Catherine's known family members are:

  • Lindsey Willows - Daughter (First Appearance: The Pilot; Season 1, Last Appeareance: Let it Bleed; Season 9)
  • Lilly Flynn - Mother
  • Sam Braun - Father: Deceased (Built To Kill Part 2; Season 7)
  • Eddie Willows - Ex-Husband: Deceased (Lady Heathers Box; Season 3)

Fictional Character Biography

The character's original CBS biography (which has since been removed) stated that she was born in Bozeman, Montana in March 26, 1963 and raised by her mother, Lily Flynn (Anita Gillette), a former show girl ("Weeping Willows", "Kiss-Kiss, Bye-Bye"). This biography was later revised. The new version states that the character was born in Las Vegas and raised by her single mother, who worked as a cocktail waitress and showgirl at various jobs along the west coast.[3] The seventh season episode "Living Legend" established that Willows was 16 years old (portrayed by Amy Scott) in 1975, the year the movie "Jaws" was released, which places her year of birth in either 1958 or 1959. She had occasional contact with her biological father, casino owner Sam Braun (Scott Wilson), but knew him only as a family friend. Sam Braun nicknamed her "Muggs." She did not learn he had fathered her until she was an adult and compared his DNA sample with her own as part of a murder investigation in the episode "Inside the Box". Willows herself worked for a time as a dancer/stripper and briefly had a cocaine habit, dropping it before pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from the University of Las Vegas. Like the other characters on CSI, she has a wide knowledge of odd facts that help in their investigations of crime scenes.

Willows has one daughter, Lindsey Willows (originally portrayed by Madison McReynolds, as of 2006 by Kay Panabaker), and had a stormy relationship with ex-husband Eddie (Timothy Carhart) until his murder ("Lady Heather's Box"). Prosecution of Eddie's killer proved impossible due to ambiguous evidence, something she took rather hard. The show's writers advanced Lindsey's age several years after the death of Eddie, turning the character from preteen to teenager. Willows' relationship with Lindsey soured somewhat after Eddie's murder, and the girl's behavior took a turn for the worse; she would get in fights at school and was once picked up for hitchhiking. Willows took Lindsey to the morgue and showed her the body of a murder victim to impress upon Lindsey the danger of her behavior. Willows later enrolled Lindsey in Butterfield ("4 x 4"), a private school that would keep a tighter rein on her. Lindsay's birthday was mentioned in Season 1, Episode 3 Crate 'N' Burial October 20, 2000.

Willows' relationship with Sam Braun occasionally created conflicts in cases where he was involved in some way with an ongoing investigation (i.e., "Inside the Box"). Willows however accepted a large monetary gift from Braun, despite some ethical qualms, and became more financially stable. Grissom expressed some misgivings when he learned of this, but no lasting negative repercussions occur. In episode 702 ("Built to Kill, Part 2") Braun is shot and dies moments later in Willows' arms. She, in episode 705 ("Double-Cross"), lights a candle in a Roman Catholic church in Braun's memory, crosses herself, and whispers, "This one is for you, Sam." It remains to be seen what Willows will inherit from Braun (she was asked about it by fellow investigator Nick Stokes in episode 711 ("Leaving Las Vegas") but beyond describing Braun's large estate as being tied up in land development, she seemed indifferent and not anticipating a large legacy) as he cared very deeply for her, even when she was his legal opponent.

Willows dates in several episodes. The earliest occurrence was a brief fling with a city engineer Paul Newsome played by Brad Johnson across three episodes ("$35K O.B.O.", "Justice is Served" and "Scuba Doobie-Doo"). A later brief flirtation, in the episode Weeping Willows, ended when the man (Adam Novak, played by Marg Helgenberger's real-life husband, Alan Rosenberg) became overly aggressive. In Seasons 4 and 5 she dates an owner of nightclub Chris Bezich played by Nicholas Lea that she meets while investigating a murder that occurred at his night club. Their relationship ends when she meets him in his office one night and he is fooling around with one of the club girls. No long-term romantic relationships have otherwise been established, though there was a brief flirtation with fellow CSI Warrick Brown, ending with his marriage, which she described as the end of a "fantasy". Willows and fellow CSI Nick Stokes were originally meant to have a romantic relationship, as a scene in The Pilot shows the two passionately kissing at a car wash. However, the scene was later cut, and as a result never aired. Willows maintains a close friendship with the other investigators on the night shift, especially supervisor Gil Grissom, though she has occasionally criticized him for his lax attitude toward paperwork and office politics. When newcomer Sara Sidle arrived they briefly butted heads, but have become friends since then.

After Greg Sanders is injured in an explosion in the lab in "Play with Fire", Willows visits him in the hospital so that she can tell him personally that she was partially responsible for the accident. Several years later, she also expresses a deal of concern for Sanders when he returns to work not too long after being the victim of a brutal beating in the episode "Fannysmackin'".

After Grissom goes on sabbatical, Willows welcomes his temporary replacement Michael Keppler, accepting Keppler quite quickly into his new role on the team (episode 712, "Sweet Jane"). Despite some misgivings on her part, she is ordered by the Undersheriff McKeen to follow his suggestions in performing an unorthodox investigative style known as "reverse forensics", which, although successful in luring out the suspect, fails to produce charges because of a lack of communication between the undersheriff and the district attorney. It also serves to create a great deal of hard feelings when the other members of her team discover that she and Keppler deceived them and created a false crime scene (episode 713, "Redrum"). After Keppler goes rogue during an investigation, she is the first to express concern to and about him. Unfortunately, she locates him just moments too late, after he takes a fatal bullet meant for a murder witness. When the paramedics declare Keppler to be dead, Willows collapses in tears into (the recently returned) Grissom's arms ("Law of Gravity").

Catherine takes Warrick's death in "For Warrick" rather hard, and is possibly the character to show her pain the most, as she breaks down when she sees his body, where as the others try to keep calm.

After Grissom's retirement, Catherine succeeded him as Supervisor of the Night Shift. As Grissom leaves in, "One to Go", she is the only one to look up as he leaves, she winks at him realizing where he's headed, showing the close friendship they share.


  1. ^ IMDB - Marg Helgenberger - Awards Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2008-06-04.
  2. ^ Bravo > 100 Greatest TV Characters Bravo (television network). Retrieved on 2008-06-04.
  3. ^ Marrinan and Parker (2006), p. 34


  • Marrinan, Corinne and Parker, Steve. Ultimate CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2006). DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7566-2353-7

External links



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