May 23 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Ghost Town’

9 min read

The team hunts a killer in a quiet Las Vegas neighborhood while Langston and Doc Robbins make a surprising discovery during an autopsy.

Synopsis:

Ray Langston and Doc Robbins peer into the body of Joseph Bigalow, shocked to discover someone has neatly tied his small intestine around his spleen… without ever opening him up. They find evidence that it was done laproscopically through the man’s belly button–but Bigalow apparently died of natural causes. Across town, Marnie Bennett finds the dead body of her boss and sometimes lover, Ryan Lester, in her shower. She runs out into the street but is saved by Harvey Wincroft, a neighbor driving by who manages to avoid hitting her. Both have blood on their clothes, which the CSIs collect. Nick finds a print on the breaker outside, leading him to believe someone turned off the power before committing the murder. Sara find a single bloody footprint and estimates it’s from a man with size 10-12 feet. David Phillips recognizes the house–the girls who live in it are featured on a pay-per-view webcam show. The prints on the breaker prove to be a match to Marnie, who tells Sara that the power frequently goes out at the house… and that she’s heard about a peeper being on the prowl in the area. Greg and Nick isolate the peeper on the webcam footage, and Nick goes back to reexamine the area at the house, finding traces of white makeup by the hole, and a hanger from Diamond Star Cleaners. Nick and Sara go to the house of Faith Mason–the only person in the area who uses that cleaning service. Nick and Sara find her teenage son, Craig, a potential suspect: he’s a goth kid who wears size 10 and a half shoes. When they find a model of a hand beneath his bed, Sara recalls he’s the adopted son of Judge Mason… AKA Paul Milander, a cunning serial killer Grissom locked horns with years ago.

Back at the lab, Catherine tells Langston that she remembers Joe Joe Bigalow from his lounge act at the Riv. She says Joe fell on hard times and was on the streets–but that he’d never camp out anywhere that wasn’t on the Strip. Since Joe’s body was found west of the I-15, she thinks that may be where the “surgeon” lives. At the station, Sara goes to take Craig’s DNA despite his mother’s protests that he’s not like his father. Another sample of blood on the knife that killed Ryan Lester leads the CSIs to the house of Cliff Kilo, whom Nick is shocked to find dead in what is obviously a drug lab. Like Ryan, Kilo’s throat was cut. Sara turns back to Craig, who admits to peeping but denies having anything to do with the murders. Catherine pulls Langston off the “Dr. Jekyll” case to consult on the two murders the rest of the team is grappling with. Upon hearing the details, Langston has doubts about Craig jumping from peeping to murder. Langston notices Craig’s rubber hand has a congenital malformation in the thumb and forefinger–which Milander didn’t have. That indicates Craig made the mold of his own hand–and that he wouldn’t have been able to hold the knife securely enough to make the deep cuts that killed Ryan and Kilo. Langston visits Craig in his cell to test his theory. Langston tells Craig about his own father’s violent nature and persuades Craig to try his test to clear himself as a suspect. After Craig cuts into a gelatin dummy, Langston confirms his suspicions–Craig’s cuts don’t match the killer’s. Langston makes a breakthrough in the Jekyll case as well when he sees Ecklie wearing a bow tie and recalls that Bigalow didn’t have one on. The CSI suspects Jekyll took it as a souvenir–and that Jekyll is likely on his way to being a serial killer.

Sara and Nick turn to Marnie and Wincroft’s clothing and find arterial spatter on Wincroft’s shirt, indicating the blood on his clothes wasn’t secondary transfer from Marnie as they first suspected. Nick and Brass go to the man’s house. Wincroft comes to the door holding his daughter–and a gun. Wincroft complains about how the neighborhood has gone downhill–and with it, his property values. Nick is able to talk him into giving up his daughter, and then his wife and finally surrendering to the police. Sara tells Craig he’s free to go, and apologizes for making him feel like he has to pay for his father’s crimes. He tells her that his dad used to take him to Milander’s shop as a child, so when he lost his father, he lost both his dad and his idol. Nick views the footage of Langston talking to Craig about his father while Langston goes over his father’s belongings and finds blood on the pin of his father’s bronze star, which he swabs.

Analysis:

CSI has started doing something interesting this season: offering small cliffhangers at the end of each episode to hook the audience in and get them to tune in next week. I’m curious to see if it’s a trend that will continue. It’s a bit of fun for regular viewers that doesn’t really take away from the episodic nature of the show–just a little nugget to pique curiosity for the next episode. Last week, it was the discovery of something shocking inside the body of Joseph Bigalow–which we learned in this episode was that the man’s small intestines were neatly tied around his spleen. This week’s hook is Langston swabbing the blood off his father’s bronze medal. Does Langston suspect his violent dad is not actually his biological father? Or is he just hoping that’s the case?

Langston’s background is dealt with a bit heavy-handedly in this episode. Last season we learned his father was a soldier; in this episode, we find out he was a troubled man who brought the war home with him, picking fights in bars and reveling in the mayhem. That would have probably been enough for the episode–a big, forthright confession from the usually taciturn Langston–but having him (presumably) test his father’s DNA feels like a leap. Why does he now suspect that his dad might not be his biological parent? Is it because Craig is adopted? Clearly Langston, who abhors violence, doesn’t feel a kinship with a man who used to charge into violent fights with relish… or is he worried that he does? Last week in “Family Affair” he told Nick that he was bothered that he didn’t feel worse about killing Walter Ellis in “All In”. So is it just simple wishful thinking on Langston’s part that his father’s DNA isn’t a part of him, or does he really suspect the man might not be his father? The question is intriguing–it just feels like a bit of a leap based on what we see here.

Langston is still something of a wunderkind, always seeming to have the answer or the right way of looking at things. This might not be so frustrating if it didn’t require the other characters to look like they lack insight and perception in comparison. Is Langston really the only one who could make the leap that it’s unlikely that Craig Mason would graduate from peeping to murder? Yes, Langston is the newbie and yes he needs chances to shine, but as in “Family Affair” when he came to the conclusion that it was unlikely that Wilkes went after Olivia to kill her, lately it feels like Langston is the only one doing any critical thinking. Yes, it makes him look smart and insightful. But why must it be at the expense of the other characters? Especially in this episode, it would have been nice for Sara to have doubts about Craig’s guilt, and for her or Nick–both of whom were familiar with the Milander case–to catch the discrepancy in the rubber hand. I like Langston, I really do, and this storyline about his father and his struggle with the possible violent instincts within himself promises to be very interesting, but he doesn’t always have to be the guy who sees things the right way while the other characters miss big clues and go for the obvious–and erroneous–conclusions.

Sara has fit back in seamlessly with the team. It’s great to have Jorja Fox back–I don’t think I realized how much I appreciated her until she was gone for a while. She tries to reach out to Craig early on only to be rebuffed, but undeterred, she makes an effort again at the end of the episode, which Craig is a bit more receptive to. Might Sara, the daughter of a woman who murdered her husband, feel some kinship for the angry young man whose father was a serial killer? Though Sara, who is much more reserved when it comes to talking about her family than Langston is, doesn’t bring up her history, it seems clear that she does sympathize with the teen. Craig opens up to her a bit as well, admitting that he looked up to both his father and Milander, never knowing they were the same person.

The Milander connection and Sara’s return are both meant to do the same thing: bring back longtime CSI fans who may have drifted away from the show. Indeed, with the Milander reference, the writers are definitely aiming to hook the die-hard original fans: Milander showed up in two season one episodes, the show’s “Pilot” and “Anonymous”, and one season two episode, “Identity Crisis”. Milander may be old news in a sense, but he was one of the big hooks of the show’s inventive first episode, and one of the more memorable bad guys in CSI’s run. Bringing back Milander isn’t just a reference to the good old days of the show, it’s also a nod to CSI‘s humble beginnings, when it was an unexpected underdog hit on Friday nights. Similarly, Sara’s return is also meant to remind viewers of the good old days of CSI–even if she’s now Mrs. Grissom. Though the pairing was controversial–and still is–it’s rather nice and refreshing to see a happy ending on a procedural, where characters rarely go off to live happily ever after. Fox is currently slated to do five episodes in total, with the possibility of more–I for one hope she signs on for additional episodes.

I might have enjoyed the case a bit more had I not pegged Wincroft as the killer right away. The genial neighborhood watch captain who just happens to show up as Marnie is running from the house, having just discovered Ryan’s body? A little too convenient, as is his friendly chat with Nick about housing costs at the police station. Any time a guest character stands out that much early on and isn’t a suspect, chances are he or she is the killer. Brian Howe does a good job of making the man sympathetic, even as he’s holding his wife and child hostage and bemoaning the way his neighborhood has been sliding downhill. This gives Nick Stokes a chance to step up, and for George Eads to showcase one of the CSI’s most appealing qualities: his caring side. Yes, he wants to rescue Wincroft’s family, but he does feel for the man, even though we know he’d never condone Wincroft’s actions. Nick is the heart of the show, and his appeal does get through to Wincroft. There’s a nice bit of continuity here, too: Nick is still clearly uncomfortable in hostage situations around guns. No, it’s not the same obvious fear that he showed in “Who Are You?” when the gun was pointed at him, but his discomfort and unhappiness with the situation is written all over his face after he successfully rescues Wincroft’s little girl.

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