June 19 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Take My Life, Please!’

6 min read

The CSIs suspect murder when a comedian about to take the stage for the first time in thirty years turns up dead in his dressing room.

Synopsis:

The long awaited reunion of comedy duo Knuckles Pratt and Bernie Nash comes crashing to a halt just before they’re scheduled to take the stage when Bernie is discovered dead in his dressing room. Greg, who had tickets to the show, is dismayed. Doc Robbins determines Bernie has been dead no more than two hours, and in the morgue find his blood alcohol level was .11 and he had high levels of Oxycodone in his system. Robbins points out love scratches on Bernie’s back. Knuckles and his much younger wife, Terpsie, fill Nick and Greg in on the golden days of Knuckles and Bernie’s comedy act. Bernie quit after they made a pile of money, but he needed to do the reunion because he was broke. Knuckles tells the CSIs that Bernie was with a showgirl before he died, but he’s not sure which one. ┬áDoc Robbins determines that Bernie definitely didn’t die of natural causes: his lungs and esophagus closed up and he drowned. Nick finds a red hair on Bernie’s body, leading Greg to question the three red-headed showgirls in the production. Though they deny being with Bernie, one admits that Terpsie Pratt caught Knuckles flirting with her. None of the showgirls are natural redheads, but Hodges finds gold-flecked nail polish in the scratches, prompting Greg to recall that Terpsie was doing her nails when he and Nick questioned her and her husband.

Terpsie admits to Brass that Bernie made passes at her, which she turned down—until he caught her in a compromising position with Bingo, the young stage manager. She got physical with Bernie, but when he couldn’t perform, she gave him a drink and left when he passed out. Brass suspects she doped his drink with Oxycodone, but Terpsie won’t admit to it. Hodges finds iron in the water in Bernie’s lungs, leading Nick and Greg to search the dressing room for the source. All the pipes they find are copper, but they do manage to catch Bingo fighting with a redhead over a purse filled with Oxycodone. Bingo is arrested. In the dressing room, Nick and Greg find the source of the iron-filled water: an ice-maker with a leak. Nick wonders where the red hair could have come from and Greg offers up a possible source: Knuckles’ toupee, which contains multiple shades. The toupee proves a match and Knuckles fesses up to Brass: he killed Bernie. After he and Bernie rehearsed, he realized Bernie wasn’t funny anymore. He couldn’t let Bernie go out like that, so he snuck into Bernie’s dressing room and used ice cubes to drown him—a technique he learned when he guest starred on a show with Angela Lansbury. Bernie had lost his funny, which is death for a comedian. Knuckles maintains he did for Bernie what Bernie would have done for him had their situations been reversed.

Catherine, Langston and Sara investigate the death of a man found wrapped in a tarp in a Las Vegas alley, his body riddled with no fewer than 127 bullet holes. Sara and Langston are able to identify the man using a shot-off finger lodged in the body and learn his name is Kurtis Torse. Torse has been on the lam for 10 months after he blew up an abortion clinic. His widow tells Catherine that she hasn’t seen Kurtis since the bombing, and that she still gets harassing phone calls from people who lost loved ones in the bombing. Bullet fragments in the body lead Sara and Langston to a local shooting range, but it proves to be a dead end when they find no blood on the floor of the range. Catherine questions Daniel Peidre who lost his parents and sister in the bombing and placed dozens of harassing calls to the Torse household. Though he’s overjoyed to learn the bomber is dead, Peidre denies any involvement and readily offers up both DNA and his shoes. Hodges matches magnesium carbonite trace on Torse’s body to Peidre’s boots, leading the CSIs to a shooting range in Koral, Nevada. Sara and Langston arrive at the range and find a shootout competition in progress. The owner of the property, Delf Rod, recognizes Peidre and says he was at the range a few nights ago. Sara and Langston discover blood and bone matter, confirming that this is where Kurtis Torse died. They trace him to a van where he apparently was sleeping when he was awoken by bullets being shot through the walls. Delf insists it was an accident—no one knew Torse was sleeping in the van, and by the time they did, he was dead. Delf decided to dump the body in Vegas, thinking the police would just assume he was the victim of a gang hit.

Analysis:

CSI always comes out a winner when the show delves into vintage Vegas. More often than not, budding historian Greg is our guide, his enthusiasm palpable as he shares some story about the golden days of Sin City, when the Rat Pack ran wild and gangsters operated brazenly. In this episode, Greg fills Nick (and the audience) in on the height of Knuckles and Nash’s act, back when the comedy duo was at the top of their game. It’s no surprise to find out that Greg had tickets for their reunion show. Poor Greg—I imagine he dies a little inside every time murder claims a Vegas legend. Eric Szmanda conveys Greg’s passions with such zest; it’s always fun to watch him enthuse about his interests.

I don’t think Terpsie could have been more perfectly cast: with her breathy, little girl voice and sharper-than-she-first-seems quality, Jennifer Tilly hits all the right notes as Knuckles’ wife. She’s great at playing the victim when Brass questions her after Hodges discovers flecks of gold nail polish in the scratches on Bernie’s back. She glosses over being caught frolicking with Bingo, emphasizing instead Bernie blackmailing her into sleeping with him. She insists she didn’t give him the Oxycodone, although she seems awfully interested in getting her hands on some of the drug. In the end, it turns out she’s innocent, but she’s definitely a fun part of the storyline.

The killer turns out to be Knuckles of all people, who confesses to Brass that he killed Bernie because the old comic had “lost his funny.” Rather than let Bernie take the stage and embarrass himself, Knuckles decided to take him out himself and spare him the indignity of humiliating himself in front of people like Greg who recall the duo at the height of their powers. Extreme, yes, but it’s representative of the kind of old world values glorified and glamorized by the Vegas Greg so admires. Sure, the murder is wrong and Greg would never condone it, but who but an old comic longing for his glory days could even attempt to rationalize such a motive? Knuckles certainly sells his belief in his actions being justified.

The B-story opens powerfully, with the discovery of a man’s decimated body in a Vegas alley. Even the CSIs are shocked to find he’s been shot 127 times, and it’s always kind of fun to see the CSIs shocked by the details of a case. As Delf had been hoping for, their first suspicion is that the shooting is gang-related. Though he didn’t get away with it in the end, Delf’s thinking was pretty sound in that regard. As Langston observes at the end, most people take bodies from Vegas and dump them in the desert rather than the reverse.

That Daniel Peidre, who lost his family in the bombing that Kurtis Torse was responsible for, just happened to be at the shoot out that Torse ended up being killed at was a pretty big coincidence, though Shaun Sipos injects genuine enthusiasm into his performance when Peidre is informed of Kurtis’s death. Watching his reaction, Catherine seems be thinking she’s stumbled across the world’s dumbest killer… or that he’s not the guilty party. She still asks for his DNA and boots, which he willingly turns over—and which conveniently lead Sara and Langston to the primary crime scene… and the truth. As happens in CSI now and then, sometimes the grizzliest, most bizarre murders turn out to be what the team least expects: accidental.

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