CSI’s eleventh season kicks off with a targeted bombing at an LVPD funeral that kills two officers and rattles an already injured Nick.
While Langston recovers in the hospital from serial killer Nate Haskell’s attack, Nick attends the funeral of Officer Franklin Clark, who was killed when he and Nick hunted down Charlie DiMasa, the infamous Dr. Jekyll. Brass gently tells Nick that Clark’s family is uncomfortable with his presence, and Nick goes back to his car, only to notice cockroaches converging around a flower delivery van. When Nick goes to check it out, he notices wires and a detonator device. Before he can warn anyone, the casket at the funeral explodes, followed by a tombstone. When the terrified attendees, many of them police officers, run in the direction of the van, Nick wards them off, saving them before it explodes behind him, sending him flying. Conrad Ecklie tries to appease the mayor, while Catherine takes charge of the scene and sends Nick to the hospital. Brass checks in on Langston, who has lost a kidney due to Haskell’s stabbing, and sends the serial killer back to prison. Nick returns to work the scene and meets up with bomb specialist Kacey Monahan, and helps her look for the detonators from the three bombs. Catherine, Brass, Ecklie and Langston consult on the bombing and eliminate Haskell as a suspect, but surmise that someone was targeting police officers.
Catherine tries to send an exhausted Nick home, reminding him he got shot and nearly blown up in the last few days. Nick tells her he wants to work the case, and she leaves him with a psychologist’s card, reminding him it’s department mandated that he talk to someone about the shooting. In the morgue, Doc Robbins goes over Officer Clark’s body for the second time, recovering a SIM card from it, which he gives to Sara. Sara is able to pull a phone number from the card, which turns out to belong to a Thomas Rand, a young military man killed in action the month before. Brass questions the man’s widow, who tells him that she donated the cell phone to a local community center. The center proves to be a refuge for dissidents, led by a charismatic man named Dr. Huxby. The police raid the center and arrest Huxby and his followers. In the hospital, Langston studies photographs of the cemetery before and during the bombs’ detonation and notices a small remote controlled plane flying over the site. Suspecting that the bomber may have used the plane to watch the bombing, Langston sends Greg to retrieve the plane.
Greg finds a print on the plane, while Kacey surmises that the bombs were detonated via the plane’s radio controller. The print on the plane is a match to Alex McCann, the brother of one of Huxby’s followers. Nick questions the boy, sixteen-year-old Jason, who admits he bought the airplane for his brother. He tells Nick that Alex was enraged that the man who had been taking care of them was arrested for driving without a license. Alex wanted vengeance on the police. Nick manages to persuade Jason into giving him the location of Alex’s house in Henderson, and Jason tells the CSI that Alex has vowed to strike again. Nick and Kacey go to the house and enter it cautiously, finding nine empty bomb cases and an empty canister of hydrochloric acid. Suspecting that Alex went to the store to restock, Nick, Catherine and Vartann race there to find Alex coming out of the store. When Alex draws a gun, Nick, Catherine and Vartann fire at him and take him down. Catherine finds maps and plans in the trunk of his car indicating Alex planned to bomb the LVPD next. While Doc Robbins visits Langston in the hospital, Catherine sends an exhausted Sara home and takes a call with Greg to process the scene of a homeless man’s murder. Catherine senses something is off, and notices a trigger beneath the man’s body. She calls to Greg and Vartann, who have followed a blood trail into another room, to not touch anything, and they back away just in time to survive another bomb blast. At the precinct, Jason smiles….
CSI starts its eleventh season with a bang, quite literally, in this action-packed hour which manages a perfect balance between the fast-moving plot and some nice character moments dealing with the ramifications of last season’s finale, “Meat Jekyll”. Scribes David Weddle and Bradley Thompson give Nick, Langston and Catherine room to express their feelings about the turbulent last few days while moving along an exciting story that appears to be setting up an arc for the season. Did possibly sociopathic teen Jason McCann set up his brother to take the fall for his actions? Is he really a teen caught up in a cult-like group, or is he a young evil genius bent on the revenge he claimed his brother sought? Or perhaps, in pure sociopathic style, is he simply doing it because he can?
Unfortunately Justin Bieber‘s performance doesn’t really shed light on Jason’s inner workings. While a teen pop sensation was no doubt a big casting coup for CSI, if Jason is really going to be a central figure in an arc, casting a young actor with experience would have been a better route. Bieber’s baby face and innocent demeanor lend themselves to Jason’s innocent appearance, leading the audience to believe, like Nick appears to, that Jason is simply an innocent caught up in his guardian and brother’s twisted beliefs. But his delivery when he tells Nick that Alex vowed that, “the show at the funeral was ‘fireworks’ compared to what’s coming” is rushed and robs the line of the chilling effect it should have. No doubt the popular Bieber has plenty of appeal, but he might have been better served by a story in which he played something closer to home, a la the Rascal Flatts’ turn in last season’s “Unshockable”. It’s a risky venture to hang a crucial performance on an inexperienced performer.
Faring better is Sienna Guillory as bomb tech Kacey Monahan. With her lilting accent she could be a cousin of CSI: NY‘s former ME Peyton Driscoll, and Kacey shows here she’s equally as sharp and observant. When she and Nick go to Alex McCann’s house in Henderson, she stops Nick from rushing in, knowing that Alex may have booby trapped the house. She spots a wire when she checks the house, but is relieved to find it unarmed. If the bombing storyline is going to be an arc, I expect we’ll see Kacey again.
Haskell, having done his damage, is rather quickly dispatched, though I suspect this won’t be the last time we see him. He’s proud of his attack on Ray, and casually tells Brass that he hopes Langston lives a long life so that he’ll be reminded of Haskell anytime he sees the scar from the stabbing. Bill Irwin is chillingly sinister as the conniving villain, and I look forward to his next appearance. Brass certainly won’t, though; he’s downright furious with Catherine for her decision to bring Haskell to the station and makes no bones about telling her she made a mistake. Catherine is clearly thrown by his fury, especially when he blames the death of the officers at the funeral on her decision to bring Haskell to LVPD. Vartann has Catherine’s back, telling her after she finds Alex’s plans to bomb to the LVPD that she saved the lives of a lot of cops. Earlier in the episode, Catherine seemed to be holding Vartann at a distance, leaving viewers to wonder whether their relationship might be cooling off.
In her own way, Catherine seems almost as shaken as Nick is by what’s happened to Nick and Langston. After urging a reluctant Nick to see the department shrink, she levels with him, telling him that after Warrick died, she thought she could push aside her feelings by throwing herself into work. It didn’t work. Nick is surprised by her admission, telling her he never noticed. She counters that she’s a private person, but that she needed to talk to someone. Catherine has been doing an admirable job of leading the team since Grissom’s departure, but part of being a good leader is making sure the people who work for her are healthy mentally as well as physically. Though she recognizes Nick’s need to throw himself into his work and doesn’t try to force leave on him, Catherine is frank and forceful about her desire that he seek counseling.
Nick is definitely struggling, in a way many viewers hoped he would after the events of the big season five ender “Grave Danger”. He’s clearly crushed when Brass gently asks him to leave Officer Clark’s funeral, and though he is quick on his feet after discovering the bomb in the flower delivery van, drawing a gun while running towards a bunch of already frightened officers is a risky move, to say the least. Though Nick initially brushes off Catherine’s suggestion he seek counseling, the shooting of Alex McCann illustrates he’s clearly in need of it: after he fires at Alex, Nick ducks behind a police car to reload, obviously flashing back to the shooting in the restaurant with Jekyll. At the end of the episode, Nick picks up the card Catherine gave him and looks towards Grissom’s fetal pig—a symbol of his mentor if there ever was one—and reaches for his phone. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of Nick’s struggle.
Langston, hospitalized after losing a kidney from Haskell’s attack, is similarly throwing himself into work. Frequently conferenced in from his hospital bed, Langston helps to track down the detonator for the bombs while in recovery. At the end of the episode, Doc Robbins pays Langston a visit, bearing a gift: a cane to help him walk once he’s back on his feet. The doctor also opens up to Langston about the accident that robbed him of his legs, saying that he had to give up some things after he lost his legs, but that he can still dance with his wife. Langston laments that he’ll never be a kidney donor, and Doc Robbins quietly opines that there’s only so much in life we have control over, prompting Langston to pull him in for a hug. Langston and Doc Robbins’ friendship is evolving into one of CSI‘s more moving and deep relationships, and the hug is easily the episode’s sweetest moment.