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CSI Files - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Goodbye and Good Luck'

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Goodbye and Good Luck'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 19, 2007 - 10:20 AM GMT

See Also: 'Goodbye and Good Luck' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Freshman Kira Dellinger plunges to her death from her dorm room at West Las Vegas University, but what first seems to be a suicide turns out to be anything but when Nick finds blood on the window hinge, indicating Kira was dragged and dropped. Catherine and Dr. Robbins recover a fragment from between her knuckles, and Dr. Robbins tells Catherine that Kira had sex shortly before she died. In her dorm room, Nick and Greg go over Kira's room, noting that she's in a Goth band and discovering a tube of lubricant. Sara, just finishing with a disheartening domestic abuse case in which a husband stabbed his wife in the back, is surprised when Mandy Webster tracks her down to tell her that fingerprints from the lubricant tube and window match Marlon West, a teen who was acquitted several years ago of a murder charge with the help of his younger sister, a child prodigy named Hannah. Sara wants onto the case, and Grissom promises to clear it with Ecklie. Sara and Brass track Marlon down in his chemistry class, where he tells them that he and Kira were in a band together. He admits they were sleeping together, and that they'd fought the night before when he'd caught her with another guy, who punched Marlon. Sara wants his DNA, but she's foiled when Hannah, now in grad school at WLVU, walks into the classroom and puts an end to Sara's questioning.

Henry discovers GHB in Kira's blood, while Greg and Archie track down the boy Kira was hooking up with: Jordan Rockwell. Jordan is in the hospital following a car accident he had after hooking up with Kira. The CSIs test his blood and find GHB in it. Nick suspects someone dosed the lube with the drug, and Hodges confirms his suspicion. Sara questions Hannah but the girl plays psychological games with her, frustrating the CSI. Nick is able to match the tooth fragment from Kira's hand to Marlon, but Sara has doubts which are intensified when she watches video footage of the fight between Marlon and Jordan and notices Hannah picking something up after the altercation. Sara confronts Hannah with her suspicions that Hannah is framing Marlon, but Hannah evades her. Sara visits Marlon in jail and he tells her Hannah got clingy after their parents' deaths, and that Kira dumped him, irritated by Hannah. Marlon got Hannah to make GHB and help him get it into Kira's lube, but he denies killing her. He's resigned to the fact that if Hannah wants him in jail, he's trapped. Sara has an idea.

Marlon, wearing a wire, gets Hannah to come to jail, but his efforts to get her to confess to Kira's murder prove futile. Disheartened, Sara realizes Hannah is out of her league. She's further devastated when she gets a phone call informing her Marlon has killed himself in jail. Sara goes to tell Hannah that she knows she killed Kira, and that Marlon is dead. Hannah breaks down, refusing to believe it, even after Sara shows her photographic evidence. Sara returns to the lab, kisses Grissom passionately and goes to the locker room, where she tears the nametag off her vest and tosses it out. Later, when Grissom goes looking for her, he finds she's left him a note, telling him that she's leaving to escape her ghosts and find some sort of peace. She tells him she loves him and always will.

Analysis:

CSI draws on an excellent sixth season episode to herald Sara's exit, bringing back the murderous West siblings from "The Unusual Suspect". Of all the cases Sara's worked, resurrecting this one was a wise choice. "The Unusual Suspect" was a memorable episode, and Hannah was a particularly colorful character, played with sharp, simmering malevolence by Juliette Goglia. If ever a case was to haunt Sara, it would be this one. For starters, she believed Hannah when Hannah insisted it was she, and not Marlon, who killed their classmate. And after Marlon was acquitted, Hannah confessed to Sara that in fact, Marlon was the guilty party.

This time around, Hannah, a veritable little sociopath, turns on Marlon and frames him for murder in a bid to control him and isolate him, in effect keeping him to herself. This time, rather than bailing him out, Hannah dooms her brother to a life in jail, and he knows it, too: he grimly tells Sara that if Hannah wants him in jail, that's where he'll be. But Hannah's plan ultimately backfires on her; Marlon, recognizing there really is no way out of Hannah's snare, opts for suicide, the only way he believes he can escape her web. Despite the fact that he did get away with murder just a few years ago, Douglas Smith creates a fair amount of sympathy for his character. Smith, a stand out on Big Love as a teen coming of age in a polygamous family, manages to convince the audience that Marlon is little more than a pawn of his conniving sister.

His suicide is the ultimate act of defiance, and a definitive escape from her. It's a possibility Hannah clearly didn't predict. Up until the moment Sara shows her the pictures of his body, Hannah is smug and self-satisfied, needling the CSI during her interrogation, making reference to Sara's ordeal in "Dead Doll". Hannah's psychological ploy rattles Sara, but in the end it's a draw between the two. Sara devastates Hannah with the news of Marlon's death, but Hannah once again gets away with a lie, and, at least this time, with murder. Hannah may have lost the game she was playing with her brother, but despite her outburst of genuine despair, it's unlikely she'll feel much remorse in the long run. Most sociopaths don't, and Hannah is more upset about a loss of control over Marlon than the boy's actual death. Either way, she's managed to beat the system twice.

Sara's faith in the system is clearly waning. Her jaded attitude towards the battered woman whose life she and Ronnie save stands in direct opposition to Ronnie's more optimistic outlook. Even after Sara tells Ronnie that helping Mrs. Jimenez is an exercise in futility, Ronnie persists, getting the woman to come in and go to a shelter. She's determined to try even if her efforts might be in vain; Sara's clearly past this point. Sara has always been something of a cynic, but seeing her opposite the young, vivacious, optimistic Ronnie this season has really highlighted her jaded perspective. Sara's dismissal of Mrs. Jimenez might seem callous even if she speaks from experience, but Ronnie's determination to try to help is much more palatable--and relatable--to the viewer.

So is it all enough to drive Sara from Las Vegas--and her true love, Grissom? As powerful as the case is, and as much as Hannah trumping the law again might grate on her, in isolation it's probably not. But regular CSI viewers who look past the single case, back to the beginning of the season and even before, can see that the seeds for Sara's departure were laid as far back as season seven, when a victim died in her arms in "Empty Eyes". Sara was truly rattled by watching the girl expire before her very eyes, the icing on an already gruesome cake--a brutal multiple homicide. Unlike Nick, who rescued the final victim in a multiple murder in "Gum Drops", what seemed to be a redeeming moment for Sara turns to tragedy when the woman she hopes to help dies right in front of her.

If anything, I think "Empty Eyes" has more of an effect on her decision to leave than her abduction and near murder at the hands of Natalie Davis. After all, Sara survived the abduction and it was her tenacity that allowed the CSIs to finally find her. Traumatic as it was, it was ultimately a triumph. The aftermath of her rescue brought problems; Sara was separated from her team--her chosen family--after her relationship with Grissom became public knowledge. In "A La Cart", she switches to the swing shift in order to preserve her relationship with Grissom, and at the end of the episode, she watches her former teammates race around on go-carts, clearly already feeling isolated and separated from them.

Is it enough to make her leave Grissom? In essence she's already left the team with her move to the swing shift, but Grissom is a different story. The two are very much together up until the moment she leaves. She joyously accepts his marriage proposal in "The Case of the Cross-Dressing Carp"; now just three episodes later, we're supposed to believe she's willing to walk away from him? Sara leaving her job is somewhat easier to swallow than her leaving Grissom; it's not hard to understand how constantly being confronted with death and dark side of humanity could overwhelm someone. But Sara has wanted Grissom from the moment she met him, and as she notes in her letter, the home they've built together is the happiest she's ever known. While I'm glad we didn't see their relationship implode, it is a little hard to swallow that someone would walk away from a happy, healthy relationship.

After a year and a half of teasing, we finally get an on-screen kiss between Sara and Grissom. It's passionate, bittersweet and tragic because we as the audience know it's a goodbye kiss, even if Grissom doesn't yet. Grissom's face crumbles as he reads her goodbye letter and one has to wonder how the reserved scientist will cope with the blow. It took so long for Sara to draw him out of his shell; will he retreat back into it now that she's gone? The final scene, where he reads her letter as she takes a cab out of Las Vegas, is a tear-jerker, played to perfection by both Jorja Fox and William Petersen.

Allow me a moment to pay tribute to Fox, who after putting in over seven years on this show, is truly going to be missed. The overabundance of press on Sara's departure has been so overwhelming that I don't think viewers will really get a chance to digest her exit until they're faced with her absence. She was much more than Grissom's love interest; she was a friend to and at times opponent of Catherine, she was a foil for the persistently optimistic Nick and she was someone Greg both looked up to and harbored a crush on. In short, she was an integral part of the team, and her absence will be felt in the coming weeks.

I'm glad the writers chose not to kill off her character. Killing a character is always risky and not always satisfying. Speed's character is still missed on CSI: Miami, and killing Aiden off after she was fired in CSI: New York was a misstep. Killing a character off closes off all possibilities of a return (well, save for Speed's posthumous appearance in Delko's visions) and definitively ends any open storylines with a resounding slam. Sara might be gone for now, but let's hope at some point she'll return to Las Vegas having exorcised her ghosts and found the peace she left to seek.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.