In 1954, 8-year-old Otis Petrowski last saw his mother in a mental institution. Now over 50 years later, after the death of an elderly woman who had been using Otis' mother's identity, Det. Rush sets out to discover what happened to the boy's real mother.
June 24, 1954. Bettie and her son Otis are in the kitchen having just baked and iced a cake. After the finishing touches are put on it she asks him what they should make next. Otis tells her he wants them to make every kind of sweet imaginable. The camera pans out to reveal that they have indeed made every kind of dessert imaginable. Bettie takes out another cake, pours liquor all over it and sets it on fire. She stands back and admires the beauty with Otis. Soon the other dishes catch on fire; Otis tells his mother to get some water to put it out, but she assures him the fire cannot hurt them. Cut to a scene that show's Bettie's body lying in snow. A sketch of her face is put into a Jane Doe file dated December 1954.
Present Day. Scotty tells Josie that an elderly woman, Bettie Petrowski, died of natural causes. Her son was contacted as next of kin to identify her body. However, when he arrived in Philadephia and saw the body, he told the coroner it wasn’t his mother. The real Bettie Petrowski hasn’t been heard from since 1954, so Lilly has the son, Otis, looking through the Jane Doe files. He hasn’t heard from his mother since he was eight: she was a mental patient with bi-polar disorder and almost burnt down the house with him in it so his father had her committed to the city asylum. They visited a few times, but Otis figured that she forgot about them soon after that. He comes across the sketch of Bettie and tells the team it’s his mother. Killed in winter of 1954; they had just committed her that summer. Then who does Frannie the medical examiner have in the morgue?
At the station Scotty and Josie run into Det. Gil Sherman, who Josie greets warmly then takes her leave. Gil privately informs Scotty that Sergeant White was the one that was harassing Josie and not the other way around as the rumors had it. He had been stalking her. Josie was lucky to get transferred and leave all that behind.
In the vault Stillman, Vera and Sutton are going over the Jane Doe file. She was found in Fairmont Park on Dec. 28, 1954 with no i.d,; dead from blunt force trauma to the head. The theory was that Jane Doe was a drifter killed by another drifter. Records show that Bettie Petrowski had been signed out of the city asylum two days earlier by a Nurse Olsen. Lilly and Scotty talk to Otis and his daughter who came along on the trip to learn more about her grandmother. She read on the internet that people with bi-polar disorder can have hallucinations. That seemed to fit in the situation: the day that Bettie was committed, she wasn’t able to see the other crazy people already in the institute.
Flashback Nurse Olsen assures Otis that his mother will be well taken care of. Bettie is excited at meeting all the different kinds of people; she’s sure to come home with all kinds of stories. Just then a woman named Carmen races down the hall and grabs Otis. Not another step or she’ll show her painting to the kid! Bettie asks to see the work and Carmen shows it to her: a painting of a woman with a zipper for a mouth. The painting saddens Bettie and she drops it. Carmen is dragged away kicking and screaming ”I hate you!”
Back to Present After seeing Carmen with that painting, Otis was sure that his mother would meet her end at that place. Jeffries and Vera meet up with Nurse Olsen for questioning. She was the one-woman security check for the Philadelphia City Asylum. The day that Bettie left, she was in good spirits despite the fact that no family was there to meet her. She admits that Carmen was explosive, but Bettie was truly afraid of a woman named Zelda.
Flashback In a small group Bettie talks about her son: she’s certain he’s the only thing she’s done right. Bettie also discovers that Zelda has stolen the little toy cowboy Otis gave her. In Zelda's eyes Bettie has everything, while she is stuck with a disabled husband and a baby who didn’t even make it past two months. She pushed her husband down the stairs because he had ”irked” her; maybe she should do the same thing to Bettie!
Back to Present Zelda somehow persuaded the chief of medicine to let her go. Nurse Olsen signed her out, the same morning that Bettie was released. Outside a supermarket, Scotty and Vera catch up to Zelda. She didn’t hate Bettie; because Bettie stuck up for her and made everyone else realize Zelda wasn’t as crazy as they thought.
Flashback At a painting session, everyone gushes over Carmen’s painting. Carmen once had private lessons with famous artists due to her family’s wealth, which they now use to keep her in the asylum. Zelda suddenly tells everyone to shut up: she can hear him, and all she wants to do is dance. Everybody ignores Zelda because they all know she hears Elvis Presley in her head. But Bettie can hear the music, too. The door opens and an orderly by the name of Anton steps through with the radio playing Elvis Presley and the group begin to dance.
Back to Present Zelda tells the detectives that Anton would never have stood a chance with Bettie Petrowski. A young black man having the hots for an older married white woman in 1954 wouldn’t have been accepted. Lilly and Jeffries interrogate Anton. He didn’t realize that Bettie had been bashed just over her right eye in an act of rage. He knew that Bettie was devoted to her husband and her son: they were what kept her going. A few weeks after she was committed, the hospital gave her the hydro bath treatment: the women would have to soak in bathtubs full of ice. He was the one who looked after the patients and learned about them.
Flashback Carmen, Zelda and another woman are all peering through a tiny window in which they can see Bettie soaking in a bathtub. As Anton approaches Carmen asks him to go in and take her out, it's not helping. Zelda’s had that treatment before and she knows it doesn’t work. Just before Anton enters the room Zelda gives him the toy cowboy. Once inside Anton shows Bettie the cowboy and asks her to tell him her favorite memory of Otis. They went to the park in the spring, she tells him. When it started to rain everybody ran back to their cars but not Otis so they stayed. Anton decides it’s time to get Bettie out of the tub but a moment after doing that her husband Terrance rushes into the room, asking what the hell is going on and demanding Anton to put her down and scram.
Back to Present With the look that Bettie’s husband gave, Anton thought he was a dead man. While working late that night, Scotty offers Josie a ride home. He brushes off Vera’s remarks and tells Josie that it would be easier if she set the record straight about what happened with Sergeant White because everyone here is thinking she’s something she’s not. She points out the fact that every cop she’s every worked with gets around, Scotty included, and nobody gives them grief about the choices they made. They don’t have to make a presentation about their personal lives, so why should she? She grabs her jacket and starts her walk home. When Lilly and Stillman talk to Otis and his daughter, he assures them that his mother was nuts about his father. He gave her that cowboy in order to protect her. He knew his father wouldn’t have lost his head, because by that time he knew he had to move on.
Flashback At the hospital Otis hides around a corner while his parents’ talk. Terrance can’t lie to Otis anymore about when Bettie is coming home. The doctor says Bettie has manic depression and there is no cure, not yet. They can’t wait around for Bettie any longer: Terrance has met a lady at church and says he can’t raise Otis alone. It’s something Bettie has done isn’t it? She’s being punished for something she and the women did in art class. Terrance insists that she’s just no good for Otis. She makes him promise that Otis will get the best life possible. As the two leave Otis gives her the cowboy.
Back to Present Scotty and Sutton pay a visit to Zelda and asked if she knew what the patients were being punished for around Christmas. According to Zelda, Bettie had a big wacky idea that the girls needed some culture for their brains. Carmen would be their teacher for an art class, but it was Bettie who had her heart on making this a real thing, and therefore ruining Carmen in the process.
Flashback Down in the furnace room, the women have gathered for their next art class. In the last class they focused on line drawings of the face, and Carmen announces that this time they’re moving on to drawing the body nude, with Anton as their model. Just as the women are begin to draw, Nurse Olsen rushes down and tells them the absurdity has to stop. This has been Carmen’s last chance even though Bettie insists that everything was her idea.
Back to Present Zelda tells the two detectives that after that incident, the hospital and her family decided that it was time for Carmen to have a lobotomy. Needless to say, Carmen wasn’t too pleased: it was the end of her world. Down in the vault, Scotty apologizes to Joie for the other day. The two acknowledge there’s something going on between both of them but know they can’t afford to have something like this happen. Lilly joins Vera and Frannie with the two mystery bodies. According to the hospital records, Carmen never checked out after her lobotomy and disappeared. Why? Because Carmen ended up stealing Bettie’s identity and died as Bettie Petrowski though dental records identified her as Carmen. However, there is no sign of a lobotomy on Carmen; those scars were found on Bettie’s remains and had been mistaken for the cause of death back in 1954. There was no way any of this could have gotten past Nurse Olsen, so she must have been in on the whole thing. Nurse Olsen tells Jeffries and Scotty that she made a decision as a medical professional to have a lobotomy performed on Bettie. At the time, they thought it was the cure.
Flashback Bettie and Carmen track down Nurse Olsen in the hallway. Bettie’s the one that needs this lobotomy; she’s the one who needs to be cured. There’s nothing wrong with Carmen other than the fact that she’s trapped here by her family and can’t show the world her art. All Carmen wants to do is paint, and all Bettie wants to do is to be able to get better and see her Otis again before it’s too late.
Back to Present Nurse Olsen confessed that the snowstorm ruined their plans. Instead of going off to the private hospital that Carmen had paid for, Bettie was brought back to the asylum. That’s when Dr. Pickett, head of the hospital got involved. In order to protect the hospital and his reputation, he made Anton clean up the mess. Though Dr. Pickett didn’t tell Anton to kill Bettie, Anton admits to Lilly that he was told to get rid of her: otherwise, Dr. Pickett would use the art class against him and turn it into a sexual allegation. If he went to jail there would be nobody to take care of his sisters. He takes out the toy cowboy and gives it to Lilly. That day, he tried to be merciful.
Flashback Anton’s truck rolls through the dark and snowy night until they stop in the park. After reminding her about that time she and Otis went to the park in the rain, Anton manages to get her out of the car, assuring her that it’s springtime with the warm rain so she won't be cold. After picking up the toy cowboy out of the snow, Anton retreats to his car as Bettie dies from the cold.
Back to Present Lilly and Jeffries escort Anton and Nurse Olsen out of the interrogation rooms. Josie is given access to Carmen’s shed which is crammed full of paintings. The Jane Doe file is replaced with the name of Bettie Petrowski. Stillman, Scotty and Josie leave the police headquarters. Scotty and Josie go their separate ways, each one glancing back at the other. An art show has been set up displaying all of Carmen’s paintings. Zelda comes across a painting of the four women dancing in the hospital. On the other side of the room Otis gets dragged by his daughter to another painting: one of a smiling Bettie and the words ”for Otis” painted on the portrait. Bettie watches over her son and granddaughter as Lilly approaches the pair with the toy cowboy.
- Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush
- Danny Pino as Scotty Valens
- John Finn as John Stillman
- Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera
- Thom Barry as Will Jeffries
Special Guest Star
- Rebecca Lowman as Bettie Petrowski
- Natasha Gregson Wagner as Carmen Hays
- Sarah Brown as Josie Sutton
- Lauren Birkell as Zelda Amatuzzi (1954)
- Susan Chuang as Frannie Ching
- Lauri Johnson as Nurse Anika Olsen (2005)
- Kevin McCorkle as Gil Sherman
- Charles Robinson as Anton De La Rosa (2005)
- Megan E. Whyte as Nurse Anika Olsen (1954)
- Matt Corboy as Terrence Petrowski
- Jake Johnson as Otis Petrowski (1954)
- Al Pugliese as Otis Petrowski (2005)
- Keri Safran as Young Nurse
- Karen Zahler as Annie
- Last appearance of Sarah Brown as Det. Josie Sutton.
- Last appearance of Kevin McCorkle as Det. Gil Sherman.
- This episode used some elements from the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
- In CSI there is also an episode titled "Committed" and in both cases the investigation is in a Mental Institution.
- The Crew Cuts "Sh-boom"
- Thelonious Monk "Bags Groove"
- Charles Mingus "Haitian Fight Song"
- Elvis Presley "That's Alright Mama"
- Abbey Lincoln "Let Up"
- MasterSource Music Catalog "Midnight Serenade"
- Messy "Sold Again"
- Julie London "Cry Me a River"
- Closing Song: The Platters "Only You"