June 14 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Lost And Found’

7 min read

A cold case heats up when the blood of a victim is found on a flashlight owned by his mother.

Synopsis:

A car carrying three partying girls careens off the highway, crashing into a woman standing by the side of the road. Brass recognizes the injured woman, Janet Marie Marsh, and he fills Nick in on her sad story: three years ago, her husband, Mike, their fifteen-year-old daughter Emily and their nine-year-old son Andy went missing. Their SUV was found abandoned, with a bloody pajama top belonging to Andy inside. Janet’s brother, Bill Cornwell, was a suspect in the case, but he had an airtight alibi. Janet admits to Nick that she was following a lead on the case from a psychic, who told her Andy was dry but near water. Wendy comes up with a lead of a different kind when she discovers Andy’s blood on the flashlight Janet was using to look for her son. Suddenly, Janet is a suspect in the deaths of her family. Brass, Nick and Greg arrive to search her house while Catherine and Langston review the case at the lab, noting that Janet and her husband were having problems, and that Janet didn’t report her family missing until 4am—four hours after she arrived home from work.

At the house, Greg finds Emily’s journal and an impression of Emily’s hands made into an art project. When Janet’s brother Bill comes to the house, Nick questions him about a boyfriend mentioned in Emily’s journal, and Bill tells him Mike was a protective father. He leaves, and Langston arrives to provide an extra set of hands. Nick and Langston search the garage and find an army crate in a crawl space above the garage—with the decomposed body of a young boy inside. In the morgue, Doc Robbins determines the boy was killed by a blow to the head, the marks on the wound compatible with the flashlight. Ecklie demands that Janet be taken into custody, and along with Catherine, questions the grief-stricken woman. Janet is gutted when she realizes they think she’s responsible for the deaths of her family. In the lab, Langston is able to identify fifteen prints on the army crate as Mike Marsh’s, but a sixteenth print eludes him. Greg runs it against Emily’s prints from the art project, and though it doesn’t match, the prints pop in AFIS—on a work card for a young woman named Hope Wilson. Her picture in the system proves she’s actually Emily Marsh.

Brass goes to the address on her work card and finds Emily with a three-year-old boy she identifies as her son, Connor. Nick gets Connor’s DNA from a sucker, while Catherine tries to persuade Emily to give up her DNA—and her father. Nick and Langston find Emily is married to a man named Doug Wilson, who happens to be the same age as her father. When they look up Doug’s driver’s license, they confirm the man is indeed Mike Marsh. Brass fills Janet in on Mike and Emily, telling her it looks like Mike is the father of Emily’s child. When Mike comes to the station to turn himself in, Janet grabs a gun from an officer and fatally shoots Mike. A devastated Emily cries over her father’s body. Lab results prove that Mike isn’t the father of Emily’s child; Bill Cornwell is. Emily confesses that Bill had been raping her for years. Her brother saw her with Uncle Bill and threatened to tell, and panicking, she hit him with the flashlight, accidentally killing him. When her father got home, she told him everything. They hid Andy’s body and fled, abandoning the SUV to make it look like they were attacked. Emily killed her brother; her father was innocent. Brass tells Janet that the DA decided not to press charges against Emily, and the chagrined woman tells Brass her daughter will make a better mother than she was. Janet and Bill are arrested, and Emily is reunited with her son. Brass closes the folder on the case.

Analysis:

By far the most powerful episode of the season, “Lost and Found” packs an emotional punch and offers up several unexpected twists. Sure, brother Bill is a fishy figure from his first appearance, but there are several unexpected twists, most notably that Emily and her father are still alive. The revelation of what happened the night of the Marsh family’s disappearance is a shocker as well. There’s nothing that’s not tragic about that night: first Emily is raped by her uncle and then she accidentally kills her younger brother when she lashes out after he—not really realizing what’s going on—taunts her. Her father comes home, and, presumably not wanting to lose his daughter as well, makes a split second decision to hide his son’s body and flee with his remaining child. The move isn’t without cruelty; after all, he’s leaving his wife behind to wonder what happened to her entire family. But no doubt Mike Marsh in part blamed his wife for what her brother did to their daughter.

Janet Marsh is a tragic figure from the moment we see her: a sad, desperate woman who consults psychics and wanders desolate Las Vegas roads at night, looking for her lost family. Julia Campbell effectively plays her as a woman who has been consumed by the unimaginable tragedy that in one fell swoop robbed her of almost everyone who mattered to her. Going to psychics and searching for her family is all she has left. It’s as though her life froze the night her family disappeared. When searching her house with Greg, Nick observes that Janet renewed her son’s subscription to Zoo Planet magazine, even though he’s been missing for three years. A sad, heartbreaking detail that drives home just how trapped in the past Janet is… and how desperately she’s been clinging to the hope that somehow her family is alive.

That the focus of Janet’s search seems to almost exclusively be on her son is a subtle indicator of the dysfunction in the family. Emily remarks on her mother’s fixation with her brother, and Janet herself acknowledges that she didn’t really know how to connect with her daughter. The darkest element, of course, is Uncle Bill’s abuse of Emily and Emily’s fear that her mother wouldn’t believe her: a typical abused child’s fear magnified by a lack of connection with her mother. It’s impossible not to feel for Emily, who lost her innocence and then had to live with the guilt of unintentionally killing her younger brother. To add to that, she witnesses the death of her only protector, her father. It’s not surprising that Janet’s greatest wish in the end is that her daughter can find a way to forgive her.

Despite her many flaws, Janet is a sad, sympathetic figure as well. Is it any wonder that her tragic case was the one that was able to pierce Brass’s grizzled, seen-it-all exterior? For all of his toughness, Brass is an incredibly compassionate character. His sensitivity is often revealed in small moments, such as his gentle handling of the bereaved grandmother in “World’s End”, but here we get to see just how deeply Brass has connected with Janet. She knows about his daughter Ellie, and feels close enough to him to ask if he would ever give up on Ellie were she to go missing. What’s even more revealing is Brass’s candid answer: “In some ways, I think she gave up on me.” There probably aren’t many people Brass would feel comfortable opening up to in that way, and speaking so frankly with. The conversation reveals just how close Brass has gotten to Janet, and how much he feels for her. Paul Guilfoyle is a wonderfully understated actor, and he conveys Brass’s compassion for Janet and her sad plight with remarkable subtlety and nuance.

George Eads gets a chance to play up Nick’s softer side in a scene with Connor, Emily’s son, when he offers the boy a choice of two lollipops. At first I couldn’t figure out why he was so determined to get the boy to try the red one despite his preference for the green, and then I realized it was a ploy to get the boy’s DNA. Well played, Nick. Despite his agenda, Nick handles Connor with incredible delicacy. He’s calm and relaxed, no doubt a welcome change from the frenzy surrounding the boy and his mother. It’s a small, sweet scene that speaks to Nick’s ability to maintain humanity even when doing the more difficult parts of his job, like getting DNA from a child.

“Lost and Found” is the kind of episode CSI needed more of this season; though CSI can do dark humor well, the show ultimately is at its strongest when it rolls out heavy hitters like this gut-wrenching entry. CSI has been accused of slickness and putting style over substance, but I’d challenge anyone to level those charges at the show after watching an episode like “Lost and Found” or season five’s “No Humans Involved” or season seven’s “Empty Eyes”. At its best, CSI mixes dark, powerful episodes with a few lighter ones sprinkled in here and there—one of the best developments of the later seasons of the show has been the inclusion of a Lab Rats episode each season. Sure, not every episode can be as tragically moving as “Lost and Found,” but if CSI has felt a bit lackluster this season, it’s perhaps because there have been too few similarly moving entries. “Lost and Found” definitely stands out as a superior offering, not just in season ten, but in the CSI oeuvre as a whole.

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