May 23 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Appendicitement’

7 min read

Nick, Greg and Hodges’ surprise birthday party for Henry goes awry; Dr. Jekyll graduates to murder.

Synopsis:

Henry Andrews has the day off for his birthday, but before he can leave to enjoy it, he’s abducted from the parking lot by three masked men! His “kidnappers” turn out to be Nick, Greg and Hodges, who are intent on taking him to Harry’s Hog Hideout, a remote Nevada restaurant with the best ribs in the state. Things quickly go awry when the four are run off the road by a woman driving in the wrong lane and their car flips over. Undeterred, the four walk to the rib joint only to find it closed by the board of health because of a hepatitis outbreak–and the body of a dead man with a raccoon on his face inside! The four investigate and discover a gun in the dead man’s hand. Nick searches for a phone while Greg and Hodges discover raccoon bait in a gas tube outside the restaurant. Nick returns to Henry only to find a man named Slick aiming a shotgun at the lab tech, accusing him of killing his buddy Gomez. Nick gets Slick to drop the gun, and Greg comes back to say he knows how Gomez died: he shot the raccoon in the gas pipe, which caused an explosion which killed both man and animal. Slick seems satisfied with the explanation–and then a very drunk woman, who Slick identifies as Harry’s wife Shirley, drives up and crashes her car into the restaurant. Nick recognizes her as the woman ran them off the road earlier. Shirley laments about Gomez’s death, saying that he was a genius chef, and complains about Harry, who cleaned out their accounts and left her six months ago. She even shows Henry a postcard Harry sent her from Florida.

Nick, Greg and Hodges continue to search for some way to get a call out; their cell phones are dead, as are all the phones in the restaurant. Greg finally discovers some wires that he’s able to hook up to a telephone poll near the restaurant. Greg manages to get a call out to Catherine, and then goes back inside where he finds Henry accidentally washing his hands with acid. Thinking quickly, Nick grabs some charcoal from the fire pit inside the restaurant to put on Henry’s hand–and notices a skull among the burnt coals. Nick orders Slick and Shirley to sit tight. When the bones are transported back to the lab, it’s confirmed that they belong to the owner, Harry, who Shirley claimed was in Florida. Several of his ribs are missing, and when Nick notes that Harry had Hepatitis B, the reason behind the restaurant’s closing is clear: someone chopped Harry up and served him for dinner. Brass questions Slick and Shirley separately and each accuses the other of killing Harry. Henry solves the case when he gets prints off of the postcard from Florida that match Gomez’s mother, who lives in Boca Raton. He compared the handwriting on the postcard to Harry’s and discovered it was a forgery. Gomez was being blackmailed by Harry into working for the restaurant, and one day he finally decided he’d had enough: he killed Harry, chopped up his ribs and fed him to customers and burned the body.

While Henry’s birthday party goes hopelessly awry, Langston and Catherine investigate the murder of a young woman named Lily, who is drowned in a bathtub while her much older boyfriend Bernard Higgins dozes in another room of the house. Bernard, who suffers from Crohn’s disease and sleep apnea, insists his medical conditions prevented him from hearing the attack on Lily. He keeps passing out during his interrogation, much to Brass’s irritation–until he keels over, dead! Doc Robbins determines the cause of death has to do with sepsis, and shows Langston that someone implanted a septic appendix into Bernard’s body. Langston realizes Dr. Jekyll, the surgeon who laproscopically tied a dead man’s small intestines in “Ghost Town”, is back–and he’s graduated to murder. Remembering Jekyll took the dead man’s bow tie the last time, Langston scours Bernard’s house for evidence that something has been taken, and he finds what he’s looking for in a large book with a single word cut out of it. Doc Robbins excises the appendix and finds a rolled up piece of paper tucked inside the organ, with one word on it: Michelangelo.

Analysis:

One of the most engaging episodes of CSI in a long time, “Appendicitement” offers up something CSI has been sorely lacking this season: a genuine sense of fun. Sure, not every episode can offer up consistent laughs–this is a crime drama after all–but sometimes CSI gets mired down in its own grimness. In part that’s because of its success: it’s so incredibly, consistently well-written, such a piercing commentary on the terrible things human beings are capable of doing to each other that it often ends up being a powerful but not exactly uplifting hour. Sure, Brass or Nick might make an amusing quip that elicits a chuckle, but for the most part CSI is pretty serious show–except, of course, when it isn’t. The episodes that focus on the lab rats are riotous fun, and this entry gets the guys out of the lab–with decidedly funny results.

Poor Henry Andrews definitely doesn’t seem up for the adventure–he’s seriously scared during the “abduction” and once he discovers who’s behind it and why, he’s quick to point out that he hates his birthday and looks decidedly skeptical when Greg vows it will be the best birthday of his life. And Henry’s right–the tense lab tech finds himself in a car that rolls over, hurts his ankle, discovers a dead body, is accosted by a horny older woman and burns his hand with acid. All in all, not a great birthday for poor Henry! But great fun for the audience, who get more than few laughs out of the predicament. After he sees Harry’s Hog Hideout has been closed by the board of health, he deadpans, “Nice. You were going to give me hepatitis for my birthday.” Later, when Shirley comes on to him, he first claims to be engaged, then married–then to have syphilis. None of these excuses deter Shirley, who exclaims at the last one, “Me too!” Jon Wellner takes the comedic material and runs with it, garnering plenty of laughs as things get worse and worse for poor Henry.

Though the birthday boy definitely gets the best material, it’s a total treat to see Nick, Greg and Hodges out of the lab and on a road trip with Henry. Realistically, after the car rolled over, that probably would have been the end of their little excursion, but Greg points out that their beloved ribs are a mere mile away… and off they go, on foot and armed with flashlights. Dramatic music plays as the four men leave the car behind and make their way on foot to their destination–only to be greeted with disappointment once they arrive. The restaurant is closed, and wouldn’t it figure–there’s a dead body waiting for them. These poor guys can never seem to escape work! George Eads, Eric Szmanda, Wallace Langham and Wellner are clearly having a blast with the material, making the wacky adventure a delight for viewers.

The cases at the restaurant flow together pretty well, and though the revelation that Gomez killed Harry feels like it comes a bit out of left field, it at least allows the episode to avoid the cliche of having either Shirley or Slick be the killer. The ill-fated Gomez doesn’t profit from his crime for long: he and his own personal white whale, “Raccoonzilla,” die together after Gomez inadvertently causes an explosion by shooting at the animal. Though it doesn’t make for a fun birthday for Henry, it’s definitely a wild, thoroughly enjoyable ride for the audience. While excursions like this can’t happen too often, it’s definitely a treat when they do: it gives the audience a chance to see the characters they love outside of the job, and also gives the characters–and the writers–an opportunity to let loose.

The B-case is more serious–it’s a continuation of the mystery that was teased in the final moment of the season opener, “Family Affair”. Dr. Jekyll, as Langston nicknamed the surgeon who tied a man’s small intestine’s in a bow in “Ghost Town,” has upped the ante here, this time performing a gruesome surgery on a live patient–one that Jekyll certainly knew would be fatal. Many people have their appendices removed, but the unfortunate Bernard Higgins has a second appendix inserted into his body via a tiny laproscopic incision. Jekyll leaves a clue inside his handy work: the word “Michelangelo.” Does the clue mean Jekyll considers himself an artist? The nickname “Dr. Jekyll” is a reference to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, a novel about a man who is literally living a dual life. Calling the killer Dr. Jekyll is a bit of a misnomer, since it was Mr. Hyde who personified the evil and unsavory characteristics while on the surface Dr. Jekyll was an upstanding member of society. But the reference, and the killer’s proclivities definitely intrigue, and I’m definitely looking forward to where this arc will lead.

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