June 24 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Long Ball’

7 min read

After a golfer is found dead during a tournament, the Vegas CSIs suspect his killer could be a family member.

Synopsis:

The body of former pro-golfer Russell Huntley is found sitting in a cart during a golf tournament. Doc Robbins examines the body, pointing out what seems to be a bullet hole in his neck, with no exit wound. Doc Robbins estimates he died the night before, approximately 10-12 hours ago. Brass speaks with Michelle, Huntley’s ex-wife and the stepmother of his son Danny, who took her name over his own father’s. She last saw Russell the night before, arguing with his son, who is competing in the tournament. In the morgue, David Phillips is unable to locate a bullet in Russell’s wound, leading him to believe that Russell wasn’t actually shot. Hodges recovers a bloody gambling ticket from the Eclipse, and Catherine sends him to process Huntley’s shoes and locate the primary crime scene. Langston, Greg, Sara and Nick go over the cart and recover two different kinds of golf balls. Brass questions Danny, who admits to fighting with his father at a party the night before at the golf club, but says that was the last time he saw him–and that his father’s last words to him were, “Just remember what this game is really about!” The CSIs recover prints from the Fushida golf balls that match to a caddy named John Dudek and Erin Nagano—Michelle’s sister. Nick finds Erin laboring over a laser in her workshop, and she tells him she was at the party the night before to support Danny. Her prints are on his golfballs because before every tournament, she had to buy the superstitious Danny a new box of Fushida balls.

When the CSIs learn Russell was responsible for ending John Dudek’s pro golf career by ratting him out for using a beta-blocker to reduce anxiety, their suspicions turn to him. Langston questions Dudek, who swears he didn’t harbor any resentment against Huntley. Catherine is able to decipher the Eclipse ticket and learns that Russell bet five thousand dollars against his own son. She notes that Danny had an unusually good game, leading her to wonder if Danny was cheating. Langston points out there are only three ways to cheat in golf: altering the ball, the club or one’s body. The CSIs take a blood sample from Danny, who is irate over the suggestion that he cheated, and test his clubs and balls. When Langston notices one of the Fushida balls bounces, he suspects it’s been tampered with. Because there are no marks on the outside of the ball, Nick believes it’s been altered with lasers—by Erin. Erin admits that Dudek wanted her to “juice” Danny’s golf balls, and that she agreed—in exchange for sex. She swears Danny had no idea she altered the balls’ cores with lasers, and when asked about her alibi for Russell’s murder, she shows Nick webcam footage from her workshop, showing her and Dudek having sex at the time of the murder.

After agonizing over it for some time, Hodges is able to isolate a fungus from the soil samples he has and pinpoint the primary crime scene as a training course. Sara and Greg go to the course and find a swarm of blowflies in the grass. Sara sprays it and finds blood. Looking at red and black paint trace from the fatal wound, Langston suspects the murder weapon was a broken golf club. Catherine tells a stunned Danny about Erin altering his golf balls, and he admits to meeting his father at the training course after Russell challenged him to a game. Russell angrily told Danny to admit that he was cheating or Russell would expose him. Danny left in disgust as his father continued to rail at him and slammed his golf club into the ground as Danny drove off. Danny admits to seeing Michelle on his way out, but insists she couldn’t hurt anyone. Michelle says she was going to the course to hit a few balls, but when she saw Danny leaving the course, she turned around. With no suspects left, Sara and Greg return to the scene and find the murder weapon. Langston finds a partial palm print on the club and tests a theory: Russell inadvertently caused his own death by slamming the club on the ground, causing it to break, and part of the handle to spring up and bury itself in his neck! Russell pulled it out and held his hand on his gushing neck, hopping into the golf cart in an attempt to save his own life–which did not succeed.

Analysis:

For anyone who loves golf, this was probably a dream episode. With no fewer than six golf personalities making cameos and plenty of chatter about the game, for anyone who is a fan of the sport, this episode was no doubt full of sly winks and fun anecdotes. For the uninitiated, though, listening to Nick and Langston debate the merits of golf didn’t make for the most entertaining of exchanges. The trick to bringing viewers into a world they’re not familiar with—be it golf or furry conventions—is to open it up and make it accessible. The problem here is that all the talk of technique and different kinds of balls and handicaps and high scores is meaningless to people without a rudimentary understanding of how golf works. That’s fine for the mechanics of the case, but when it seeps into the banter it takes the fun out of it for those not familiar with the game. That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty to enjoy in the episode—there is—but I found myself getting bored in spots where I think I was supposed to be amused.

I did find the resolution of the case both amusing and satisfying. According to Nick, four golfers a year die in golf-club-related accidents! Both Michelle and Danny Nagano were very sympathetic characters, and I was hoping neither was guilty of Russell’s murder. To discover that the man’s own pompous fit was the cause of his death was a gratifying finish to a case that didn’t really offer up any unlikable suspects. Michelle and Danny both come across as very sincere and forthright, and Erin Nagano, Michelle’s highly-sexed, laser-wielding sister is one of the freshest, most delightful characters to take a turn on a CSI show in a while. I loved the shameless way she flirted with Nick, and her unapologetic admission that she altered Danny’s golf balls with lasers at Dudek’s behest—in exchange for sex. Melissa Tang‘s insouciant delivery and charming smirk are pitch perfect for the lively role.

Tang is not alone in the stand out guest star category: Jason Dohring turns in an earnest performance as the likable Danny. There aren’t many suspects that I find myself hoping are innocent, but Danny was definitely one of them. Dohring, one of the stars of the late Veronica Mars and more recently CBS’s vampire drama Moonlight, has proved adept at playing surprisingly sympathetic morally ambiguous characters, but here he’s tackling a much more straightforward character, and he brings a sincerity to the role that wins the audience over. Rosalind Chao as Michelle similarly endears herself to the audience by being just as forthright as Danny. Even as I was trying to puzzle out how exactly Russell Huntley died in the golf training area, I was hoping that neither of these two characters—the last ones to see him alive—were responsible.

There’s a sly wink at fans skeptical about the health of Grissom and Sara’s relationship here in her conversation with Greg. Greg observes that golf is something that he always thought would appeal to Grissom, and Sara’s response is simply that it never came up. Greg responds that sometimes he wonders if they really are married. Sara replies, “Now that you mention it…” before adding, “just kidding.” A clever little poke at the fans who are wondering about Sara essentially rejoining the Vegas team—and being away from her new husband for so long? It definitely feels like one, albeit a good-natured ribbing. Sara certainly seems to have a healthy sense of humor when it comes to jokes about the unique marriage she and Grissom have, and it’s nice to see her genuinely happy. It’s been great having Jorja Fox back this season, and I hope she continues to stick around, even if it isn’t for every episode.

The ever-astute Hodges nearly gets foiled while on the hunt for the crime scene, much to the amusement of his compatriots. Everything Hodges has to work with at first simply points to what they know already–that the murder took place somewhere on the golf course. At one point Hodges tries to join Langston and Nick as they examine Danny’s golf balls, only to have Langston ask, “I guess you found the primary crime scene?” Hodges turns around and walks right out again. Once Hodges finally isolates a fungus that allows him to pinpoint the crime scene’s location, Catherine asks teasingly, “See what you can accomplish when your pride is on the line?” Hodges takes the ribbing in stride, clearly pleased with himself for accomplishing a tricky task.

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