"Metamorphosis" is the fourteenth episode of the seventh and final season of Cold Case.
When a witness, then eight years old, comes forward with slight evidence suggesting that the 1971 death of an eighteen year old aerialist was a murder, the Cold Case crew re-opens her case. Moe's murder is investigated and Lilly is questioned.
October 15, 1971: the Jones Brothers Circus visited Philadelphia. The ring leader introduced an acrobat named Mia as a human butterfly. She is placed in a sheet of silk that is raised high above the center of the tent. Mia’s body fell out of the sheet where she was found dead.
In the present time, Stillman tells Rush that Moe Ktichener was shot in the back of the head the previous night and he's dead; Rush says she was home at the time. Stillman tells her the state police will be handling the investigation and will want to talk to her. Valens tells Rush that he will tell investigators he dropped off a file at her house at the time of Kitchener's murder.
Valens and Rush meet with a woman named Isabelle who was a little girl and saw Mia's act the night she died. She and her mom were psychics who worked at the circus at which Valens scoffs. She says she found a collection of photographs that detail numerous deaths under the Big Top and includes Mia's. Isabelle wonders if Mia was already dead when she fell because from the photo, it is clear she didn’t brace herself for a fall. As she leaves, Isabelle assures Valens that his mother will be fine, but isn’t sure if he will.
The team wonders if Mia was sabotaged. Vera reports that Mia was adopted by Sheldon Burgess, a clown with the circus; Rush and Jeffries meet with Sheldon and ask about Mia. He says Mia came from a long line of circus acrobats and was trying out a new stunt she designed herself. As Mia’s godfather, he gained custody after her parents died. He remembers when he suggested to the ringleader, Biggie, that they incorporate an aerial act to their show in order to draw in more crowds. He told Zelda, the knife thrower, that she can’t carry the show. Mia volunteered to perform an aerial act and Zelda threw a knife at her and warned that accidents happen. Vera and Miller bring in Zelda to the station. Zelda says she has a show to attend. She says she took care of Mia as if she was family. Zelda explains the circus needed Mia. She remembers when Mia worked on an act using silk instead of a bar. Biggie didn’t think the idea would work, but Mia insisted it would grab attention. Biggie told Mia that he took a big risk by promoting her. Zelda explains to the detectives that Mia was way ahead of the curve. She says a giant named Lester Smith worked as Biggie’s goon. She says Biggie always checked on the featured act before they went on stage.
Rush is questioned about her stakeout of Kitchener outside of the bar he frequented. They ask if she met with Kitchener the night he died, but she denies it, telling the lie that Valens dropped a file off at her house that night, providing an alibi. After the interview, Stillman orders Rush to give up her weapon since she is now on restricted duty.
Vera and Miller meet with Biggie at his trailer. He says since Mia died, he lost his money maker and his circus. He packed up the next day since they had a show scheduled. Biggie says he banked his business on Mia and insists he backed Mia’s new idea. He remembers when he visited Mia’s trailer and suggested a story to go along with her act. He describes how they will bill her as a human butterfly who morphs into a butterfly while in a silk cocoon. Lester unveiled a poster showing her as the headliner. Mia told Lester she is happy and gave him a hug. Biggie says his manager, JB Rickets, was from Florida. He says he suspects Lester is already dead since people with his condition don’t live long.
At the station, Hank Butler, the father of a military academy cadet whose death the team investigated, visits the station and says he would like to make a statement. Kitchener, an officer at the school, was implicit in her death but walked. Stillman and Rush suggest Hank get a lawyer. Hank admits he couldn’t let live free and hid in Kitchener's car with a gun waiting for him to leave the bar. Kitchener denied he killed Kate Butler and insisted putting her in a box was not personal. Hank confesses he put a bullet in the back of Moe’s head.
Lester grabs Valens as he knocks on his apartment door. Valens is able to draw his gun and hit Lester in the head. He becomes shaky as he points his weapon at the giant. At the station, Lester says he thought he was going to vandalize his apartment. After Vera confronts him about his history of violence, Lester says he was attacked. They ask him if he hurt Mia, but he insists she was his friend. He remembers when Mia got in an argument with an engineer named Eddie about her rig. Mia wondered if Eddie was high on drugs and he left the tent angry. Lester suggests that Eddie sold the carnies drugs. He says Eddie left the circus after Mia fell.
Rush brings Valens a case of beer to thank him for giving her an alibi. Valens explains how he almost shot Lester. Rush regrets not being with him on that call and says she can’t believe Hank killed Kitchener. Valens says he thinks what Hank did was justified. After Rush asks Valens about his mom, he says he might need her to cover his back some day.
Vera and Miller meets with Eddie and go over his record of crimes. They accuse him of killing Mia, but he says he loved her. Eddie remembers when Mia apologized to him for getting him demoted to elephant poop scooping duty. They shared how they grew up and he suggested they get high on LSD and she agreed. They spent the night hanging out in the circus while tripping out. Eddie asked her to leave the circus, but Sheldon pulled Mia away. Eddie says the next day he saw Mia with a busted up lip. Rush and Valens confront Sheldon about his relationship with Mia. He insists he saw Mia as his own daughter. He says he never hurt Mia and she fell while she was tripping. Sheldon says he wanted Mia to leave the circus. He remembers when Mia performed her silk sheet acrobatic show. The crowd was dazzled and gave her a round of applause. Backstage, Sheldon commended Mia for her performance and suggested she leave the circus. Sheldon says Mia died the next day and the circus left a week later. The detectives figure that Biggie lied to them.
Miller and Vera bring Biggie to the station. He says he had to leave town since Mia’s death killed their business. Miller says she found out that Ringling Brothers wanted Mia and she was going to leave but Biggie insists he wouldn’t hurt Mia. In the other room, Valens and Rush ask Lester if he put Mia in her sheet after Biggie forced him. Lester insists Biggie didn’t kill Mia. He remembers when he and a group of others called and overbooked tickets under the guise of charity. Mia confronted him, but he told her she knows that Ringling approached her. Biggie claims that his manager didn’t like that Mia was going to another circus, but Vera and Miller tells him they know the management story is phony.
Valens and Rush ask Lester to cut a deal in exchange for putting away Biggie. Lester explains that Biggie was a monster, but Valens doesn’t believe he is mentally diminished. They tell him they know he is the circus management since he is really a millionaire. Lester snaps out of his dumb persona and admits that he was scamming the audience. Lester remembers when Mia threatened to expose Biggie of being a con man, Lester became angry, strangled Mia to death, and put her in the silk sheet. Lester and Biggie are arrested for her murder.
- 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
- Tracie Thoms as Kat Miller
- Sharni Vinson as Mia Romanov
- Daniel Baldwin as Moe Kitchener
- Michael John Anderson as Nathaniel "Biggie" Jones (2010)
- Joshua DesRoches as Eddie Armstrong (1971)
- Dakin Matthews as Sheldon "Cleo" Burgess (2010)
- Roger Morrissey as Lester "Gargantuan" Smith (1971)
- Mark Povinelli as Nathaniel "Biggie" Jones (1971)
- Shiva Rose as Isabel de Luca (2010)
- Carel Struycken as Lester "Gargantuan" Smith (2010)
- Matthew Walker as Sheldon "Cleo" Burgess (1971)
- Peggy McCay as Zelda Panay (2010)
- Justina Vail as Zelda Panay (1971)
- Matt O'Toole as Eddie Armstrong (2010)
- Alicia Herranz as Isabel de Luca (1971)
- Christopher Weir as Heat Merchant (1971)
- Joyce Lee as State Detective #1
- Michael Raynor as State Detective #2
- Brielle Bourgeois as Veronica Miller (Uncredited)
- Thom Barry does not appear in this episode.
- Last appearances of Brielle Bourgeois as Veronica Miller, Daniel Baldwin as Moe Kitchener and Joe Penny as Hank Butler.
- The song "Riders on the Storm" was also heard in the episode "The Woods".
- Co-Star Danny Pino also is credited with co-writing this episode, he previously also co-wrote a Season Six episode "Stealing Home".
- Michael J. Anderson, credited in this episode as Michael John Anderson, has also played circus managers in The X-Files and Carnivale.
- Roger Morrissey and Carel Struycken are cousins.
- Both Michael J. Anderson and Carel Struycken appeared in David Lynch's Twin Peaks as "The Little Man from Another Place" and "The Giant".
All music featured in this episode is by The Doors.
- Light My Fire
- Waiting for the Sun
- Love Her Madly
- Wild Child
- Riders On the Storm
- Moonlight Drive
- People Are Strange