Celebrity cases and manhunts rarely mix well together.
While Barnes was still handling the fallout of a row with her wife, the FBI: Most Wanted team had to track a basketball star accused of murder in a case so big that Isobel (Alana de la Garza) helped out in Gladiator.
On top of that, Gaines got some personal news that might shake up her future.
A brutal break-in
At her apartment, Gaines was throwing a family meal with her ex-husband Nick and their kids, Nick insisting on an old-fashioned blessing.
After leaving a party, Esme Langer (Christen Sharice) returned to her mansion and heard someone entering. The following day, the maid made the horrifying discovery of her severed head under the couch.
Esme was a supermodel turned lifestyle guru and millionaire businesswoman married to NBA star Sonny Langer (Romeo Brown), who was starting a big comeback. The media presence made this a priority case.
Detective Lee (Porter Kelly) shared that it looked like a robbery with scores of Sonny’s memorabilia stolen but decapitating Esme was extreme.
Given he was playing before 20,000 people in New York the previous night, Sonny didn’t seem a suspect. In New York, he was obviously rocked with agent Brosnon Styles (Peter Rini), claiming he’d stayed in his hotel all night to avoid the press. He broke down, relating he’d tried to call Esme but no answer and realized she was dead at the time. The agents left as Sonny embraced his children.
The limo driver claimed Esme was drunk when he dropped her off and that her friend had seemed too close to her. The friend talked about how Esme stopped going to games as fans blamed her for Sonny’s slumps but shared that someone was stalking her.
The team gets high profile help
Paparazzi photos confirmed Sonny was at the hotel all night, so there was no way he could have done it. Hana found a video of Esme turning the tables on a guy who kept bothering her kids at school.
Isobel (Alana de la Garza) stopped by due to the media presence. Jess decided to use Esme’s huge social media following to track the guy down. At a motel, Aaron Roe (Jay DeYonker) was calling in to identify the guy as Mike Short (Derek Mikula) just as he entered and smashed Aaron’s head through a glass table.
The tip revealed Short was a registered sex offender with Jess and Kristin finding Aaron’s body and then Short, having killed himself rather than go to prison. Jess seemed guilty that his media move had pushed this, Gaines distracting him by relating how it felt good being around Nick again but not sure if they could get together.
Ortiz and Hana found someone had been selling Esme’s wedding ring to a pawn shop and tracked down Douglas Jones (Sean Patrick Fosler). Jones had gotten a call simply to “clean and fix” the scene to make it look like a robbery, and Esme was already dead.
This time, Jess was reluctant to release the info on Jones, with Isobel pressing Short and Aaron’s deaths weren’t on him.
Was this a random killer?
The team wondered who could have hired Jones while noting that Sonny had been playing with a mysterious injury.
Esme’s sister Mindy (Gillian Glasco) shared how the marriage had been strained with Esme becoming a business star while Sonny was retired and hoped his comeback would help them. It seemed to work although Esme had a phobia about wearing jewelry because of robberies.
That meant Esme hadn’t been wearing her wedding ring, but someone planted it on her for Jones as a set-up. Gaines used some trickery to figure out that Sonny’s hotel had a secret entrance that celebrities could use to get out undetected. So while he’d had to break traffic laws, he could have made it from New York to Greenwich and back.
Bronson was with Sonny on a rooftop with Sonny erupting on how Bronson had promised to help but lied and started throttling him.
The final buzzer
The team was confused why Sonny would have killed Bronson when he didn’t know they were after him. They watched an unaired interview where Sonny revealed he’d sustained CTE in his playing days and suffered issues such as memory losses and mood swings. He claimed a special medical chair helped him fix himself.
With his own experience as a boxer, Ortiz suggested Sonny killed Esme in a genuine fit of rage and not in control of his actions. It turned out Bronson worked for the company that made the chair and conned poor Sonny into thinking he was cured.
After Sonny killed Esme, Bronson called the company CEO Nash Toledo (Randolph Curtis Rand) to cover the whole thing up. Toledo brushed off any involvement but was arrested for being an accessory to murder and fraud.
Jess and Gaines went to Mindy, who told them that Sonny had already taken the kids away. The team tracked him down to his old college arena with Sonny pulling a gun, wanting to protect his kids.
Using her own experience as a mother, Kristin was able to talk Sonny into giving up his kids. He had wanted to surprise Esme and in a fugue state, lost his temper to kill her, truly regretful for his actions. Sonny’s last words were “check my brain” before shooting himself in the chest.
Returning home, Gaines felt the weight of the case drive her to a drink. She headed up to see Nick only to find he was heading out for a date with his girlfriend. While covering by seeing her son, Gaines was clearly upset to realize Nick was already moving on from her.
It was a tough case for the team tracking a man whose only crime was loving his sport too much and a heartbreaker of an ending for Gaines.
FBI: Most Wanted Season 3 returns with new episodes Tuesday, December 7 at 10/9c on CBS.