June 19 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Field Mice’

7 min read

Hodges and Wendy try to impress some forensic minded high school students by letting them take a look at a real case.

Synopsis:

Hodges finds himself stuck with a group of high schoolers who are doing mock CSI work for the day. Impressed with two particularly eager young “crime cadets,” Katy and Guillermo, Hodges tells them he’s a CSI and invites them to the lab to help with an arson case: a woman’s unburned dead body was found in the charred remains of an apartment building. Hodges convinces Wendy to help him out, and together the two lay out the case for the high schoolers and take them to the morgue, where David Phillips reveals the woman died of an overdose before the fire started. When the building is once again declared structurally stable, Hodges and Wendy take Katy and Guillermo—who have realized the lab techs aren’t actually CSIs—on a field trip to the site. The four find a passport identifying the dead woman as Stacia Borzala. Semen stains on a pair of Stacia’s jeans lead the CSIs to Melvin Dodge, a former tenant of the building who refuses to surrender his DNA. Melvin, who had just moved into the building and was living out of boxes, met Stacia and did drugs with her. The next morning, he awoke to find her dead. Panicking, he hid her body in a box. When the fire burned down the building, he figured he’d lucked out… but the Styrofoam in the box preserved Stacia’s body, and led the crime cadets and lab rats right to him.

While the lab techs and crime cadets close the OD case, Nick and Greg get to the bottom of a case of Shigella, a bacteria that causes dysentery that has broken out among the patrol officers. The CSIs trace the bacteria back to a box of donuts given to an officer by his ex-girlfriend, a nurse who wasn’t happy about the demise of their relationship. A problem of a more personal nature distracts Hodges when Henry Andrews declares his intent to ask Wendy out and asks Hodges for his permission, which the lab tech reluctantly gives. But a series of mishaps befalls Henry: his GCMS timer is reset, his car is sabotaged and someone puts an adhesive substance in his locker. Suspicion falls on Hodges, but the guilty party turns out to be none other than Wendy herself, who regretted accepting the date with Henry and hoped the run of bad luck would convince him to back off. Her real interest lies elsewhere: with Hodges, who she kisses passionately before walking out of the lab.

Analysis:

At this point, the Lab Rats episodes have become yearly treats, a lighthearted departure from the oftentimes dark paths CSI seasons tend to run down. Beginning with season seven’s “Lab Rats”, a cleverly plotted clip show that both caught viewers up on the big arc that season and also put the quirky, lovable lab techs in the spotlight, the “Lab Rats” episodes have become an annual event, with “You Kill Me” and “A Space Oddity” following in seasons eight and nine, respectively. The episodes are always fun, in large part because the lab rats are such an offbeat, oddball group. They’re simply a riot, whether they’re bickering about minutiae or working together to solve a puzzle. They have insecurities about not being CSIs—not being the ones who get the glory most of the time—but as this episode proves, they’re every bit as sharp, able and important as their flashier counterparts in the field. Wendy worries that she’s wasting her life looking at test tubes, but the lab rats episodes show that the work the techs do is just as important—and sometimes just as exciting—as what the CSIs do.

The story for the episode came from Wallace Langham and Liz Vassey, who play Hodges and Wendy, so it’s no surprise there’s a big move forward in the relationship between the two lab techs. It’s about time! Is it any surprise that Wendy is the one who finally makes the move? Hodges has been crushing on Wendy for a while, but at the end of “A Space Oddity,” he decided to put his duty to his job over his feelings for Wendy… and this was even after finding out they share a love of sci-fi show Astro Quest. For all his supposed self-confidence, Hodges seems to be motivated by fear more than anything else. He’d never deign to go in the field because he’s comfortable in the lab. On the same hand, he holds off from pursuing Wendy because what if it didn’t work out after he put it all on the line?

Which is probably why Hodges tells Henry he’s fine with the toxicologist asking Wendy out. Thrilled at getting the green light from Hodges, Henry wastes no time securing a date with Wendy… a date he clearly takes Very Seriously. Wendy is more than a little taken aback when she learns Henry has made reservations at the Eiffel Tower restaurant in the Paris Hotel. Still, when things start to go very, very wrong for Henry, we suspect Hodges, because no matter how often he crows about his devotion to his job, the way he feels about Wendy is just plain obvious. Messing with the GCMS settings, cutting a pipe in Henry’s car, sticking adhesive in his locker—these are all things we could see Hodges doing. With each sabotage attempt, Henry becomes more and more irate, until he finally goes to Catherine to accuse Hodges of the malicious behavior. Jon Wellner has great comic timing, making Henry’s misfortune downright hilarious to the audience, but in the end, he just can’t win: even after Hodges has confessed and been disciplined, Catherine dismisses Henry with the comment that “no one likes a snitch.” To make matters worse, his date with Wendy is postponed while his face (which came into contact with the adhesive) heals.

Of course, it’s not really Hodges who’s behind Henry’s misfortunes, but Wendy herself, who hoped to make it so that Henry couldn’t go on the date. She tinkered with the GCMS machine in the hopes that he wouldn’t be finished with work in time, but when that didn’t work, she turned to his car, hoping the lack of a vehicle would prevent him from taking her out. Greg catches the GCMS error, and Henry isn’t going to be deterred by his car problems: he decides to rent a limo instead. With two failed attempts, Wendy makes a big play, putting adhesive in Henry’s locker so that the poor toxicologist will literally be trapped, unable to go on the date. She’s finally successful, but Hodges, suspecting he was being framed, put a dye on Henry’s locker, allowing him to identify the culprit. He knows it’s Wendy as soon as he sees her with her hands in her pocket, but when Henry comes in with Catherine to accuse Hodges of sabotaging him, Hodges fesses up to protect Wendy. For Hodges, that’s quite a big gesture.

Once Catherine and the downtrodden Henry exit, Wendy tells Hodges, “It’s never going to happen.” For a minute he—and the audience—think she’s talking about the two of them, but in reality she’s referring to the date with Henry. As she tells Hodges before Henry and Catherine storm in, Henry is who she should want—he’s adorable, sweet and “nice to me.” But the reality is that he’s not what she wants; Hodges, who perhaps wouldn’t be described as “adorable” and “sweet” by most, and has been downright mean to Wendy in the past, is the one she has a thing for. And because David Hodges isn’t one to take a risk even in the face of their obvious mutual interest, it’s Wendy who crosses the distance between them and plants a kiss on him before walking out. Hodges’ only response? A shake of the head and a smile. The kiss is a great payoff after years of flirtation and obvious attraction between the pair.

Part of the fun of the episode is getting to see the lead characters through the eyes of the lab techs. Hodges turns Brass into a disillusioned drunk in his recounting, to the point that the crime cadets express admiration for his apparent improvement. “Who are you and what has he been telling you?” Brass asks, referencing Hodges, when Katy praises him for putting his life back together. Hodges also switches places with Langston when he tells Katy and Guillermo about getting trace evidence, prompting Guillermo to observe that “Trace Tech Langston” is kind of “obsequious.” Hodges immediately counters with “misunderstood.” Watching Hodges “interpret” the people he works with is just a hoot.

The sharp, crisp writing offers some snappy dialogue, like Hodges and Henry’s exchange about blood types (“O?” Hodges worries. “B Positive,” Henry counters) and the dialogue between Hodges and Langston in the trace analysis sequence Hodges recounts. The only time the story loses steam is when it moves to the B-story involving Nick and Greg’s hunt for the source of the Shigella that felled a group of patrol officers. The story feels like filler, which is precisely what it is—inoffensive, but not particularly interesting, either. In an episode with so many laughs, it’s more or less forgivable, especially with the thoroughly satisfying ending in which Wendy finally gets her lab geek.

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