June 19 2024

CSI Files

An archive of CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds and crime drama news

Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Working Stiffs’

7 min read

The Vegas team tracks a killer… while the audience watches him go about his daily business at work and try to elude capture.

Synopsis:

The audience witnesses Paulie Krill, an office drone in the support ops department for the Tangiers, kill a man in the woods and then sees him go to work the next day, while the CSIs are called in to investigate the case. In the morgue, Doc Robbins concludes that the unidentified man was killed by several blows to the head. He also finds lacerations on the victim’s wrist, indicating that someone was trying to remove something from inside it. Catherine recovers a subcutaneous ID used by some trendy clubs as a way to gain admittance. The story flashes back to five weeks ago when the victim–a suave IT guy named Jason Deveraux shows his co-workers, including Paulie and a pretty woman named Belinda–how the device in his wrist works as a security key. In the present, Paulie’s sleazy boss hits on Belinda and Paulie defends her, impressing the young woman. In the lab, Hodges examines the murder weapon–a thick piece of metal–and posits that it may have been a piece of something that was destroyed by a pipe bomb. Catherine gets an ID off the implanted chip: Jason Deveraux. Nick and Greg find his car abandoned outside of his apartment building. While Brass questions Jason’s co-workers at the Tangiers support department, Nick and Langston go over Jason’s workspace and find it’s set up to remotely access his laptop. Brass speaks with Belinda, who placed frequent calls to Jason in the evenings, and Paulie, who openly admits he didn’t like Jason. The team also discovers Jason was accessing the computer information of several of his co-workers.

The team traces Jason’s stolen computer to a hapless neighbor, who claims he found Jason’s door wide open. Hodges finds RDX trace laced in the fingerprint on the metal murder weapon, indicating an explosive was used. The story flashes back to three weeks ago, when Jason approached Paulie to be his partner in crime on a plan to blow up a safe full of money at work and make off with the cash. In the present, the CSIs discover Jason had a penchant for blowing things up as a child–and also had an uncle at a mining company. A flashback to ten days ago reveals Jason showing Paulie the safe, his way in and the escape route–a dusty crawl way which Jason convinces Paulie to get in–and then pranks him. In the present, Paulie sees Jason’s mom visit the office to clean out Jason’s things and offers to help her. The CSIs learn another piece of metal has been found near the scene–this one with blood and a serial number on it. DNA in Jason’s bed links him to Belinda, and Brass finds her with Paulie when he goes to bring her in for questioning. Paulie covertly drops a flash drive with security codes that belonged to Jason in Belinda’s purse. Belinda admits to having a fling with the charming IT tech, but vehemently denies killing Jason. ┬áThe team learns from the serial number on the metal that it was a part of a safe, and traces it to Paulie Krill and puts an APB out for him. The final flashback takes place two nights ago, when Paulie told Jason he couldn’t go through with their plan to blow up the safe at the Tangiers and steal the money. Jason berated him, calling him “empty space” and Paulie killed him in a rage. In the present, the team rushes to the Tangiers support ops office… just in time to witness Paulie detonate his bomb. The safe explodes, the money showers down–and a piece of the safe slams into Paulie, slicing into him and trapping him. “I knew it would work,” he says, just before he dies.

Analysis:

With three CSI shows and a combined twenty-one seasons between them (not even counting the three current seasons), novel ideas are getting harder and harder to find. The concept of revealing the killer to the audience at the outset and watching as he or she tries to elude justice has been used before, but it’s a fun game-changer and works pretty effectively here. Tim Blake Nelson, best known for film roles such as O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Minority Report, is very effective as the disgruntled Paulie Krill. He’s by turns creepy and sinister, and though the audience never goes quite so far as to root for him, Nelson does a great job of conveying Paulie’s grim glee at the end of the episode when Paulie does indeed bust open the safe and sees his perfect escape… which is denied to him thanks to the laws of physics and downright rotten luck, which sends a huge piece of the safe careening into him.

Though Paulie might at first seem to be somewhat of a downtrodden office worker cliche–think the serious version of The Office‘s Dwight–writer (and director) Naren Shankar puts a small but key moment in the episode that proves that Paulie is much more cunning and ruthless than he first seems. Sure, he kills Jason in a fit of rage and then presses forward with Jason’s plan, but his true devious side comes out when he slips Jason’s flash drive in Belinda’s purse. Before that moment, it seemed like Paulie was pretty smitten with Belinda–to the point that it initially seemed like his motive for killing Jason could have been jealousy. The first flashback shows Paulie longing after Belinda… as she flirts with smooth player type Jason. And the moment before Paulie slipped the drive in Belinda’s purse, she was suggesting they go get a drink, hinting that–at least in Paulie’s eyes–he may have had a shot with her. The move even more than the murder (which seems like an act of rage rather than premeditation) paints Paulie as a cunning sociopath rather than an accidental killer.

Indeed, the murder seems to bring out Paulie’s dark side. He flatly asks Belinda early in the episode, after a run in with their scuzzy supervisor Terrence–played with aplomb by Wayne Knight–if she doesn’t think “some people would be better off dead?” Later, when Jason’s forlorn mother comes to clean out his desk, Paulie doesn’t avoid her; rather, he approaches her, offering her his condolences and his help with packing up Jason’s things. No, Paulie is not a killer with a conscious–he’s a sleeper sociopath who was spurred into action by Jason’s plan and then his putdowns. Once Paulie commits to evil by killing Jason, he’s in it to win. And he almost does–the fantasy plays out in Paulie’s mind even as he expires, saying with no small amount of pride, “I knew it would work.”

The potential for violence within is mirrored in a brief scene in which Langston tests his own DNA for monoamine oxidase A–a gene that Wendy points out has been linked to violent behavior. Langston gets mad when she brings this up, pointing out that it’s genetics, not a certainty. Langston talked a bit about his father’s violent behavior in last week’s “Ghost Town” and in the premiere, “Family Affair” was bothered by the fact that he didn’t feel worse about shooting and killing Walter Ellis at the end of “All In”. That shooting, and his lack of remorse over it, is clearly weighing on Langston and causing him to wonder if he’s more like his father than he wants to believe he is. I suppose Langston having the genetic predisposition for violence is an interesting question, but I find myself more curious about why his mother’s name was left blank on the DNA profile he was examining. Was he simply only curious about a connection on his father’s side, or does it mean more? Is it possible that Langston doesn’t know his mother?

While the gimmick is fun and presents a different perspective, it’s hard not to notice that the main characters, save for Langston, are a bit lost in the shuffle. This episode is largely carried by the guest stars, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when the likes of Nelson and Knight are making appearances, but doesn’t exactly satisfy viewers hungry for development for their favorite characters. Sara doesn’t show up this time around; it probably would have been a waste of one of Jorja Fox‘s five contracted episodes to use her in this plot-heavy entry. But the show still feels somewhat in flux, missing an anchor somehow. It’s hard to lose a lead, and though William Petersen was a low key presence, he was definitely a strong one. Laurence Fishburne has a similar energy, intense but understated, and he’s a worthy new lead. But I find myself less interested in some fancy DNA explanation for what might make him angry or violent than I do about, say, the lingering feelings and wariness he might have from working alongside an Angel of Death (which does get alluded to here). “Family Affair” hearkened a return to a stronger cohesiveness among the team, and although change like that can’t come overnight, let’s hope it does come sooner, rather than later.

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