May 28 2024

CSI Files

An archive of CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds and crime drama news

Retro Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Blood Drops’

6 min read

A quadruple homicide in a quiet suburban neighborhood unsettles the CSIs.

With the CSI franchise in reruns for the summer, CSI Files is taking the opportunity to go back to the beginning, offering reviews of episodes from the early seasons of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami, many of which aired before the site’s 2003 founding! The retro reviews will run for the duration of the summer until new episodes of the franchise start to air in the fall.

Synopsis:

The CSIs are deeply disturbed by a quadruple homicide at the home of a family in a quiet suburb of Las Vegas. The father, mother and two teenage boys have been brutally slain, and the only survivors are the teenage daughter, Tina Collins, and her young sister, Brenda. Brenda is too shell-shocked to say anything, save for the words “the buffalo,” which she utters to Grissom when he tries to talk to her. Tina claims she heard footsteps in her house and hid in the closet until they left, only to discover the rest of her family slain save for Brenda when she emerged. Grissom and the grave shift team scour the house, and he and Catherine posit that Mrs. Collins was killed first in her bed, followed by Mr. Collins, who appears to have been on his way to Brenda’s room when he was killed. Grissom discovers several circular symbols, but he has reservations about jumping to the conclusion that members of a cult killed the Collins family. Facing pressure from both the Sheriff and rival Conrad Ecklie, Grissom zeroes in on Tina, doubting her story that she ran to embrace her parents because of the lack of blood on her clothes.

Tire tread impressions and a match found outside the Collins house lead the CSIs to a quartet of boys who time share a scooter that made the tread marks. When Nick is able to place the match in a book owned by Jesse Overton, the CSIs realize they have their killer. Jesse confesses, claiming that Tina implored him to kill her parents so they could be together. The polygraph shows Jesse is lying about the motive, and Catherine finds the answer in the blood drops in the crime scene photos, which reveal that Mr. Collins was killed coming out of Brenda’s room, not going in. Sara snaps ultraviolet photos of the girl, which reveals deep bruising on her body. Grissom confronts Tina, who reveals the shocking truth: she was sexually abused by her father for years, and she hired Jesse to kill him to prevent him from harming Brenda—who is Tina’s daughter, not her sister. She gave birth to Brenda when she was just thirteen years old. She wanted to Jesse to kill her mother and brothers for not protecting her when they should have.

Analysis:

Murder is rarely a light-hearted affair, but this powerful early episode established just how dark CSI was willing to go. The murder of four members of a family—including two children—is chilling enough on its own, but the motive is decidedly dark territory. It’s pretty obvious early on that Tina Collins is somehow involved in the deaths of her parents and brothers, but her motives—the fact that her father had been sexually abusing her for years and now was starting in on their daughter—take the episode to another level altogether. Earlier episodes established CSI as a somewhat offbeat, quick witted, tech savvy show, but “Blood Drops” proved that the franchise wasn’t going to shy away from heavier storylines.

The episode features an early performance from child star Dakota Fanning, who at the time was just six years old. Her only line as traumatized Brenda Collins is “the buffalo” which she blurts out to Grissom when he first checks up on her. The words refer to her father’s necklace, which Grissom realizes once he recovers the personal effects found on the victims. Though Fanning has few lines, her big blue eyes and timid demeanor speak to the depth of the trauma Brenda has endured. Even in this early performance, Fanning’s talent as a performer shines through, and her scenes with Sara are poignant ones.

Though Sara protests to Brass that she’s not good with kids, and objects to being put in charge of Brenda, Sara’s instincts are better than she realizes. She’s unwilling to leave Brenda with the brisk child services worker, recognizing Brenda’s reluctance to go with the woman. Though it will be a while before viewers learn Sara herself was in foster care as a result of violence in her own home, Sara’s compassion for Brenda and empathy for her situation are evident here. Later in the episode she tells the team that she left Brenda in the car with the windows cracked, her tone so matter-of-fact that for a moment everyone looks worried. Jorja Fox shows her range in this episode, highlighting Sara’s emotional awkwardness as well as her biting sense of humor.

The episode introduces Conrad Ecklie, the day shift supervisor who is Grissom’s chief rival at the lab. It’s clear from the get-go that the animosity between these two is pretty heated: while Grissom is only concerned with the science and the job he’s tasked with, Ecklie is far more political, eager to kowtow to the Sheriff in the hopes of advancement. Played with a ruthless pragmatism by Marc Vann, Ecklie makes no apologies for his ambitions, even going so far as to poach some evidence from the case in the hopes of giving the day shift an edge. Grissom doesn’t take this well, storming into the break room and demanding the Ecklie turn over the ill gotten evidence. Ecklie tells Grissom that keeping the Sheriff out of the loop is a “career killer,” and Grissom shoots back that it’s “sad” that Ecklie thinks of the job simply as a career. It takes a lot to get under the usually even keeled Grissom’s skin, but this case and Ecklie’s behavior definitely succeed here.

Catherine is facing a personal problem of her own: her husband Eddie reports her to child services after she fails to show up at school to pick their daughter Lindsey up. It’s the audience’s first real glimpse of Eddie’s duplicitous nature: when Catherine hurries home after realizing she forgot to pick Lindsey up, Eddie is sweet as can be, even offering to make her pancakes. He doesn’t seem put out at being called to the school to pick Lindsey up, even reminding Catherine that Lindsey is his child, too. But Eddie clearly sees Catherine’s mistake as an opportunity to win custody from her, calling child services and initiating an investigation that no doubt will be a thorn in the single mom’s side.

The normally easy-going Nick is rattled by the case, punching a doorframe when the body of one of the slain teen boys is carried out of the house. In a scene that highlights the bond between the two CSIs, Warrick quietly asks him about his hand and by extension if he’s okay, and Nick tells him that he is. Nick is definitely one of the more emotional members of Grissom’s grave shift team, and arguably the most sensitive, but he’s not the only one affected by the case. Even the normally unflappable Grissom sighs and has to look away when he sees the bloody handprints left on the wall by the youngest victim.

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