February 22 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘The Lost Girls’

9 min read

The big CSI crossover event concludes in Vegas as Langston continues his desperate search for the missing Madeline Briggs.

Synopsis:

Security at the Tangiers catches sight of a prostitute being murdered in back of the hotel. When Brass arrives at the scene, he’s irritated to find Langston isn’t answering his phone. Nick finds the CSI on the strip, showing Madeline Briggs’ photograph around, hoping to find someone who has seen her. She was spotted in Vegas a week ago, when she was escorted out of a casino by police after she was caught hooking. Langston arrives at the scene close to the same time David Phillips does–and the coroner recognizes the victim as a weather girl from Barstow named DeDe Chase. Once they get her back to the morgue, Catherine finds evidence DeDe was either raped or engaged in rough sex shortly before her death. She also notes multiple contusions on the woman’s legs. David Phillips refuses to believe DeDe was hooking. Nick and Langston view surveillance tapes from the hotel and see DeDe picking up a man–and then parting company with him five minutes later. It appears to the two CSIs that she tried to run. Hodges discovers twenty-eight calls on DeDe’s cell phone over the last few days placed to a Brett McDowell–who is staying in town. McDowell is brought in and Brass plays his angry voicemail messages to DeDe back to him. McDowell tells the detective he’s DeDe’s producer, and admits to having an affair with her. He’s shocked to learn she’s dead, and he denies killing her–he says they had a fight three days ago and he kicked her out of his car. When Brass asks him about a tattoo on DeDe’s back, McDowell is surprised, telling Brass DeDe hated tattoos.

Wendy gets a hit on blood on DeDe’s earring–it’s a match to Madeline Briggs. Wondering if DeDe and Madeline had the same pimp, Langston and Brass visit a strip club frequented by pimps. They can’t get anyone to talk willingly, so they arrest one of the strippers, Diane Jasper, after finding cocaine on a bill she has. Langston is confronted by an angry Mrs. Briggs, who is upset he didn’t inform her that her daughter was spotted in Las Vegas. Catherine and Brass listen in on a jail call from Diane to her pimp, Anthony Samuels, and canvass his house after his mother Susan bails Diane out of jail. Spotting Anthony wearing Madeline’s earring gives them probable cause to storm the house, which they do–finding Anthony and his mother surrounded by prostitutes. Catherine discovers Diane in a closet, tied up and badly beaten. The CSIs process the house: Nick finds a bat with blood and a print on it, Greg discovers a hidden suitcase filled with money and DeDe’s ID while Langston finds a mattress covered in blood. Brass interrogates the pimp, who tells him that DeDe parties with his girls. He was at the strip club the night she was killed. Catherine questions Diane in the hospital, and the girl tells her Anthony loves her. She says Anthony saved her from her previous pimp, a Russian. When Catherine tries to see her tattoo, Diane gets agitated, forcing the nurses to sedate her. Noticing her tattoo is larger than the other girls’, Catherine looks at it under a florescent light and discovers a tattoo of a butterfly beneath it–a brand from her old pimp.

Wendy tells Langston that the blood on the mattress is from Madeline–but also a second donor, who shares alleles in common with her. Langston realizes Madeline has miscarried her child. The butterfly tattoo is traced to a Russian pimp named Dimitri Sadesky, who teaches Russian literature at a local university. The CSIs interrupt Dmitri during a lecture and search his car. Langston discovers dust on it from the salt flats–the same salt flats where the body of Stephanie Matthews, whose leg was discovered in Miami, was traced. Langston and Greg process the car back in the lab, finding a drop of blood inside. Catherine looks at the surveillance tapes from the Tangiers again and spots Diane on the tape, watching DeDe. Catherine confronts Diane in the hospital, who tells her that she and Anthony found DeDe walking on the strip and offered her a ride. Anthony forced DeDe into prostitution–making the same promises to her that he once made to Diane. Knowing DeDe wasn’t truly broken, Diane followed her, and when she caught her trying to escape, she confronted DeDe. DeDe urged Diane to flee with her, but Diane, totally in love with Anthony, stabbed her over the betrayal. Langston and Nick go to the salt flats and uncover the mummified remains of four women. Dimitri’s lawyer informs the CSIs his client is willing to cut a deal. When asked about Madeline, Dimitri says Anthony gave him the girl in exchange for Diane, but seeing the sorry state Madeline was in, he let her go. Langston sends a text out via the “ho vine”–to the phones of the prostitutes–asking Madeline to come in to the station… that her mother misses her and wants her to come home. As Langston leaves work that night, a woman steps out of the shadows: Madeline. She embraces Langston gratefully.

Analysis:

The crossover concludes on a much smaller scale than “Bone Voyage” and “Hammer Down” led us to believe it would. “The Lost Girls,” like the previous two entries, is a mixed bag. On one hand, the villains, played with sinister, deceptive charm by the incredibly effective Brandon Jay McLaren and the always excellent Mark Sheppard, are not without personality in this entry. Paul Guilfoyle gets a great scene with McLaren after Brass, comparing himself to the pimp, notes that he, too, went into the family business–he comes from a family of cops. “If I was in your family, I’d be a sorry ass, sleazy pimp like you,” Brass concludes. It’s a great zinger, and Guilfoyle delivers it with zest.

I can’t say I’m sorry the Vegas entry goes with two small time pimps over the Zeta gang mentioned in the Miami episode. Given their absence from both New York (save for a single mention) and CSI, the Zeta gang seems to be an element unique to Miami. That’s a good thing, because gangs as a collective are simply not as interesting as villains as individuals are. And it makes the sex trafficking trade really look like more of a business–rather than one gang operating everything, it seems like the girls are given or sold to truckers who sell them to pimps. And yet, I keep getting stuck on the logistics of it all. Since so much of the case is driven by the hunt for Madeline Briggs, her “rescue” at the end of the episode should be much more satisfying than it actually is.

It’s unfortunate Madeline isn’t given more depth as a character, because it really is hard to sympathize with someone who is in police custody not once but twice and doesn’t ask for help. Then she’s actually set free… but continues to wander the streets of Las Vegas until she receives a text from Langston on the “ho vine.” What irritates me so about the sex trafficking storylines is that the girls are painted as such victims–and not very smart ones at that. DeDe gets into a car with complete strangers. Presumably DeDe is making a decent living as a weather girl–did she really not have the funds to call a cab after being dumped by her married producer? And Madeline, who twice has the opportunity to escape, doesn’t take it either time. One CSI remarks that these women are treated like cattle, but it’s insulting to see them acting that way. It’s one thing to show someone as obviously beaten down by life as Diane Jasper is acting in a completely irrational and erratic way, but a weather girl from Barstow getting into a car with complete strangers? Or a girl who has been missing for a matter of weeks not taking two opportunities to save herself? It’s frustrating and unrealistic. We’re supposed to believe she’d bang relentlessly on the doors of a truck and risk irritating one of her captors, but not take the opportunity to reach out to a female officer at a police station when she locks eyes with her?

The gang element being removed from this episode serves to muddy matters further. I kept expecting that it would be revealed that the people holding Madeline were so powerful that she feared they’d be able to find her and exact revenge on her no matter where she went, but ultimately we find she’s been sold to a low level sleazy pimp in Las Vegas. In previous sex trafficking episodes, the victims were foreign or illegal immigrants, and their passports are held hostage by their captors. At least DeDe makes an escape attempt–that’s more can be said for Madeline. And that’s the problem with centering the whole crossover around Madeline–at the end of the day, she’s simply a plot device because we know nothing about her personality. And because of that, the audience isn’t as invested as we otherwise might have been.

Diane Jasper feels like a far more realistic character than either DeDe or Madeline, because the audience is given a picture of her life and therefore can understand her motives. She’s a sad figure, poor Diane, played with an air of tragic desperation by Annie Burgstede. She clings to Anthony not because she’s terrified of him or because she feels she has no other choice, but because she actually sees him as her salvation. “He told me he loved me,” she tells Catherine. “Nobody had ever said that to me before.” It’s a heartbreaking confession, and feels like the most genuine moment in the whole trilogy. It’s Diane, who has had such a difficult, loveless life that a pimp’s false promises of love sound like the salvation she never thought she’d find, that tugged at my heartstrings, more so than Madeline, who really is little more than a passive prop.

There is something undeniably sweet about the way Langston is standing on the strip showing Madeline’s pictures to passersby and prostitutes, hoping someone has seen the girl. It’s endearingly earnest, as is Nick’s offer to help him after hours. One of the biggest treats this season has been the developing friendship between Nick and Langston. They often approach cases from vastly different perspectives: Nick is more of a gut instinct guy, while Langston is a scientific study devotee. Yet both men have incredibly big hearts and are caring people, and that naturally draws them together. When Nick finds Langston on the strip, he doesn’t chew him out for not answering his phone but rather offers some good-natured advice, telling Langston the next time he wants to go AWOL, he should leave his department phone at home, as it’s equipped with a GPS device. George Eads and Laurence Fishburne both bring a genuine warmth to their characters, and seeing the bond between them grow and deepen is very rewarding.

The verdict on the crossover? Having seen all three episodes, I can say the thing I enjoyed the most about the trilogy is the character interactions. It was fun to see Langston mix it up with Horatio and Mac. Wouldn’t it be fun to see all three together at the same time, working the same case in the same city? It would have been a treat if Horatio and Mac had actually shown up in Vegas in person to help Ray, rather than just getting brief mentions via text message (Horatio and Mac don’t really strike me as text messaging types, really). It wouldn’t have been especially realistic, especially given the budget constraints in New York, but it certainly would have been fun. The story itself wasn’t quite as intricate and threaded as I expected it to be; Madeline Briggs and the sex trafficking business writ large were the only things that really connected the episodes together–as well as Langston, of course.

Will there be another crossover? Each show certainly saw a ratings bump, indicating that the crossover effort was certainly a success. I wonder if viewers who only watch one or two of the shows will now be more inclined to check out the others on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I think the answer is probably no–what usually draws viewers into procedurals is the characters, and the characters tend to take a back seat in event episodes like this. With so many procedurals on the air, ultimately what draws people to one over another is the characters–which of the many procedurals has the characters they like best? Of course, the stories matter too–which is why ultimately I wish this one had been stronger and more unique. Let’s hope the next crossover event offers up a better yarn to grab viewers.

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