Nick reaches out to a teen boy who is the victim of a brutal beating–and rape.
A prostitute discovers a badly beaten teen boy and calls the police. Tommy Baker is taken to the hospital, where he refuses to let Nick photograph his injuries and angrily bats his camera away. Catherine finds semen and blood at the scene, while Nick discovers a bloody St. Christopher medal. Not far from the alley where Tommy was beaten, Detective Vartann, Langston and Greg investigate a murder/arson at an electronics store. The proprietor, Wayne Smith, lies dead on the floor, with two gunshot wounds to the chest. Greg finds the register empty–save for a .22 pistol beneath the cash tray–and a small white chip. He notices a serial number written on the bottom of the tray, which he posits is from one of the twenty dollar bills that was in it, in case of a robbery. Langston finds the point of entry at a window, while Greg discovers a box containing watches and jewelry–clearly stolen. Nick goes to Tommy’s house in search of the boy and finds his drunk mother, Yvette, who doesn’t even know Tommy was attacked. Tommy’s older brother, Mark, hurries her out of the house and tells Nick that Tommy came home, showered and left again. Nick is frustrated and tells Mark to get Tommy to call him. Back at the station, Detective Vartann tells Wayne’s younger sister, Jess, about his death and learns that the siblings were on their own–both of their parents are dead. Wendy tells Nick and Catherine that she found semen from an unknown male mixed with one of the samples of Tommy’s blood, leading Catherine and Nick to conclude the young man was raped.
Nick seeks the council of a counselor named April Martin, who is skeptical of his sympathy for Tommy and tells Nick most men don’t report being raped. She offers her card to Nick to give to Tommy when he does find him. In the morgue, David Phillips confirms that Wayne Smith died as a result of one of the gunshot wounds, but that he was still alive when the fire was set. Greg gets a lead on one of the stolen pieces of jewelry–a diamond ring belonging to a stripper named Pam Harris. She tells Vartann and Greg she recognizes Wayne as a patron of the club–who was dating her co-worker, Angela. Angela believes Wayne may have stolen from her as well–a sapphire necklace she thought she’d lost a few weeks back. Back at the lab, Wendy is upset when she thinks she cross-contaminated samples from the Baker and Smith cases–until the CSIs put it together that Wayne is the man who sexually assaulted Tommy. Archie is able to recover some of the footage from the burnt surveillance tape, revealing Tommy stealing the St. Christopher’s medal from Wayne’s shop the night of Wayne’s murder. Catherine and Brass tell Jess Smith they believe they’ve found her brother’s killer, but when shown Tommy’s picture, she denies knowing him–and insists she killed Wayne because he was insanely possessive and overprotective. She shows Brass that she has a black eye courtesy of her brother. Catherine finds a picture of Jess and Tommy kissing on Jess’s camera, proving she did indeed know him. Jess admits to coming up with a plan for her and Tommy to run away together–after stealing from Wayne’s store. Jess insists she was the one who shot Wayne, but Brass is skeptical.
Tommy is finally apprehended and brought in. Nick gives the boy April’s card, but Tommy denies being raped. When he learns Jess confessed to the shooting, he tells Nick he was the one who shot Wayne. Nick is skeptical, especially given that Jess’s fingerprints were found on the window. Tommy begs him to let Jess go. After Nick finishes questioning Tommy, Tommy’s brother Mark confesses to the shooting–and to starting the fire to cover up the murder. He claims he shot Wayne with a .45 after discovering Wayne raped Tommy. The team discusses the case–who really killed Wayne? Wayne wasn’t shot with a .45, meaning Mark wasn’t the shooter. Nick suspects Mark set the fire after Wayne’s murder thinking he was protecting Tommy. April Martin stops by, telling Nick that she doesn’t think Tommy would have been brave enough to confront his attacker so soon after the assault. Hodges identifies the chip found in the register as an acrylic nail, and Greg recalls Wayne’s girlfriend, Angela, had acrylic nails. Vartann and Greg track her down at the strip club and are able to match a twenty in her wallet to the serial number on Wayne’s cash register drawer. She fought with Wayne over money, he ended up pulling his gun on her–which she got away from him and shot him with. Jess tells Catherine that her brother was obsessed with her staying a virgin, and flew into a rage once he realized she’d slept with Tommy. He locked her in her room and went to confront Tommy, who was at the store waiting for Jess. Tommy tells Nick that Wayne vowed to ruin him like he’d ruined Jess. Tommy tells the CSI that he can’t look at Jess without seeing Wayne. Nick tells him they’ll work through it, but when Tommy is released and Jess embraces him, he breaks free and walks away from her.
Nick proves once again that he has the biggest heart on the Vegas team when he goes above and beyond to reach out to Tommy Baker. Even before discovering what really happened to the teen, Nick doesn’t get frustrated when Tommy breaks his camera, and is very patient in his efforts to track Tommy down. Though frustrated when he goes to the Baker house and can’t find Tommy, he doesn’t express anything more extreme than a mild irritation at not being able to speak with Tommy about the assault. And once he does find out what happened to Tommy, his first stop is a victim services counselor–one who quickly jumps to the wrong conclusions about him. When Nick actually sits down with Tommy, he’s relatively gentle when questioning him, despite the fact that Tommy might be guilty of killing Wayne. And in the end, once Tommy actually opens up to him, Nick promises Tommy that no one has or will tell Jess what Wayne did to him–and suggests he try to make things work with her. George Eads imbues Nick with a good-hearted warmth that shines through in all of his interactions here.
April Martin, the victim services counselor, lays into Nick pretty strongly, and though the audience knows she’s wrong in this particular instance, her comment about the CSIs making jokes over dead bodies isn’t completely off the mark. After all, we’ve seen them do just that–and oftentimes we laugh right along with the CSIs. There’s a grim humor required to do the job the CSIs do, but there’s a big difference between offering a grim quip at a crime scene to lighten an otherwise somber moment and laughing at the plight of a live victim. Nick calls her out for making assumptions about him–and as we know, she’s pretty far off base. Though the perpetrator was a female babysitter and not another man, Nick was sexually assaulted as a child. Of all the CSIs, he’s the most likely to be sympathetic to Tommy’s plight.
Indeed, though Nick’s laid-back Texas attitude and slight twang might suggest he’s a “good ol’ boy,” Nick is anything but a stereotypical meathead. More often than not, he’s the most compassionate member of the team: whether it be relentlessly pursuing the trail of a little girl lost in “Gum Drops” or empathizing with a man who believes his neighborhood is going downhill fast in “Ghost Town”, Nick is not one to look down on or mock others. He’s often the first to offer compassion where it’s merited. After Nick chews her out, April relents and offers her card up–one for Tommy, and one for him. And later she shows up at the station to offer her professional opinion on Tommy, clearly having thawed out towards Nick. She accepts his sincerity–but is there something more there? It’s been a long time since Nick’s had a love interest, and the sharp-tongued but well meaning April–played by Camille Guaty (Cupid, The Nine)–could be a good match for the easy-going Nick. Given her long look after him and small smile, it’s certainly possible there’s something there.
The revelation that neither Mark, Tommy nor Jess was the one who fatally shot Wayne defies expectations, but the flashback to the murder–and the fact that it was Wayne’s stripper girlfriend who killed him–feels a bit out of left field. Still, it allows for both Tommy and Jess to be exonerated, paving the way for a potential happy ending for the pair… which unfortunately appears not to be. The episode deals with the rape in a sensitive and realistic way, with, despite April’s scoffing, nary a joke cracked about the assault on Tommy. Nick takes April’s advice and doesn’t treat Tommy like just another victim (not that he’s prone to doing that anyway) and Tommy does open up to him, admitting he sees Wayne every time he thinks of Jess. Nick offers well-meaning advice, but Tommy isn’t able to take it, walking away from Jess after she embraces him.
The stereotypical machismo in the episode comes from Tommy’s brother Mark, who tells Brass that it would have been better if Wayne had killed Tommy rather than raping him. It’s an extreme point of view, especially from a man who clearly loves his brother. Mark goes to kill Wayne, and finding him dead already (or so he thinks), he sets fire to his store on the assumption that Tommy was the one who shot him. Viewers who follow CSI: NY as well will recognize Bryce Johnson from that show’s recent entry “Battle Scars”. Johnson has a sympathetic demeanor that makes him an unlikely killer, though in both this episode and “Battle Scars,” there are mitigating circumstances behind his actions.
The lightness in this otherwise dark episode comes from the ever reliable Hodges, who, when he finds Wendy upset about being denied a chance to work in the field, gallantly offers to go to bat for her with his good buddy “Conrad.” Apparently Hodges and Ecklie are in the same book club, where Ecklie respects Hodges’ opinion–at least where Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is concerned. The idea of Hodges and Ecklie in a book club together–let alone one that reads Pride and Prejudice and Zombies–is good for a hearty laugh. Knowing Hodges and the way he likes to ingratiate himself to those in power, Ecklie is a big part of the reason he’s in the book club in the first place. There’s an undercurrent of pride in Hodges’ voice when he refers to Ecklie by his first name; Grissom might be gone, but Hodges still has a higher up to fawn over!
His offer to use that currency on Wendy’s behalf is a genuinely sweet one, though, especially since, as Wendy points out, he objects to her desire to “pull a Sanders” and venture into the field. Hodges no doubt would like Wendy to stay put in the lab, where he can interact with her on a daily basis, but when he sees how upset she is, he puts his own concerns aside. “I just want you to be happy,” Hodges says. Hodges and Wendy are by far one of the most endearing and offbeat would-be couples on TV right now, and Wallace Langham and Liz Vassey share a sweet and appealing chemistry.