June 13 2024

CSI Files

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

Retro Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Sex, Lies And Larvae’

7 min read

Grissom puts his entomological knowledge to use when a woman’s body turns up in the desert covered in bugs.

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:

Two hikers discover the body of a woman covered in bugs in the desert. Grissom and Sara are on the case, and Grissom is intrigued by the insects on the body, knowing he can use them to determine when the woman was killed. In the morgue, Doc Robbins shows Grissom and Sara that the woman was killed by a shot to the head from a .38 revolver—and that she had fractures to the face that indicate she was battered. Brass gets an ID on the woman, Kay Shelton, and tracks down her husband Scott. Scott claims he hasn’t seen his wife in five days, just before he left for a business trip. Though neighbors claim they heard a gunshot that night and Sara finds blood on the walls of the house, Grissom is surprised when he performs linear regression on the insects and finds that the age of the insects indicates Kay died three days ago, not five. Sara is certain Scott is guilty, and Grissom redoes the test, factoring in the blanket that was wrapped tightly around Kay’s body. With the blanket factored in, linear regression proves Kay was indeed killed five days ago, but the Sheriff tells Grissom he needs further evidence. Sara finds it when she matches Teflon from the bullets belonging to Scott’s gun to trace in the wound in Kay’s head. Scott is arrested, but Grissom is troubled by a problem close to home: he’s just learned Warrick sent a day shift CSI to court in his stead so that he could go gamble.

Catherine and Warrick go to the house of Richard Ziegler, who reported a Paul Sorenson missing. The CSIs are surprised to discover Ziegler is referring to a painting, not a man. An ear print leads them to Ziegler’s son, Jason, who admits to stealing the painting, but Catherine is still bothered once the painting is returned. Catherine tries to put her finger on her unease, finally calling in a forgery expert, who determines the painting is indeed a knock off. Catherine and Warrick return to Ziegler’s home to show the collector that all of his paintings are in fact forgeries. Ziegler is shocked to discover his son has been stealing his paintings and replacing them with forgeries, and decides to press charges against Jason, who claims the thefts were a bid for attention. Meanwhile, Nick investigates the disappearance of a woman named Cheryl Applegate, whose car turned up abandoned outside a bus station. At first Nick assumes Cheryl simply hopped a bus for Los Angeles, where her husband claimed she was heading. But when he finds blood in the back of the car and evidence it was cleaned recently, Nick begins to suspect she was indeed murdered. When he credit card is used at the Four Aces hotel, Nick rushes there, only to find Cheryl in a room with her lover. The embarrassed woman tells him that the blood in her car was from a wounded dog she picked up, and adds that she hopes the CSI won’t tell her husband where he found her.

Analysis:

CSI‘s Bug Man gets to show off his savvy in this outing, which offers so much expo that viewers might find themselves sympathizing with Sheriff Mobley, who tells Grissom that he has to find further evidence after he’s used linear regression to disprove the findings he used linear regression to come up with. Though the presence of the blanket is a fairly straightforward explanation, one has to wonder how a renowned entomologist like Grissom wouldn’t have factored that into his initial experiment. The back and forth feels like a plot device used to detract from the obviousness of the husband’s guilt, and as such might not have been the best way to introduce and showcase Grissom’s love for and expertise in forensic entomology—especially given what a defining part of his character it is. It’s hard not to wonder if Sara hadn’t made such a big fuss over the case, would Grissom have even performed the second test?

The insect evidence is ultimately dismissed by Mobley, who encourages the “science nerds” to find something a jury will understand. This find is telegraphed early in the episode, when Sara deems the bullets “unusual,” and sure enough, when the insect evidence is pushed aside, Sara goes back to the bullets and discovers the Teflon in them leaves a blue trace behind, which she’s able to match to blue powder on the bullet wound that killed Kay Shelton. Scott—played with a smarmy malevolence by the always adept Mark Moses—is dragged away. It’s a satisfying if not particularly shocking ending.

This episode turns up the heat on the sexual tension between Grissom and Sara, which is every bit as apparent as Scott Shelton’s guilt. At one point in the episode, when it seems like Grissom is satisfied with the results of his first linear regression test, Sara asks Grissom, “Do you want to sleep with me?” The taciturn scientist is downright befuddled, asking, “Did you just say what I think you said?” Sara goes on to say that she means that he can reassure her when she wakes up in a cold sweat, certain she can hear Kay Shelton’s screams, that “it’s nothing, just empathy,” but the sexual implication behind her words isn’t lost. Later when Grissom decides to wrap a pig in a blanket to redo the linear regression test, Sara joins him, wrapping a blanket around his shoulders and sitting with him, offering him thanks for performing the experiment. The early episodes throw Sara and Grissom together more often than not, and it’s clear that a relationship, and an attraction, is building.

Sara takes the case very personally. Though it will be a while before the audience learns about the violence in her own past, it’s clear that she’s disgusted by Scott Shelton, and she purposefully provokes him when she, Grissom and Brass are searching his house. After she discovers blood on the wall and Scott claims he has no idea how it got there, she turns on him, telling him that the blood got there when he shot his wife. This provokes Scott into attacking her, and Brass and Grissom have to separate the two. Sara defends her actions, telling Grissom that if Scott treated her, a woman with a gun, that way, imagine how he treated his wife. Sara is nothing if not passionate, and her emotional responses stand in stark contrast to Grissom’s calm demeanor.

Grissom and Sara aren’t the only ones wrestling with a little sexual tension on the job; when Nick arrives to process Cheryl Applegate’s car, he’s met by Detective Secula, who mentions they went out the week before—and he never called. She tells Nick that she had a good time, and Nick responds that just because he didn’t call, doesn’t mean he wasn’t going to. It’s not clear yet whether Nick is supposed to come across as something of a player or if he never really had any intention of calling Secula, as there’s not a lot of chemistry between the two, and the conversation is never resumed.

Catherine is facing more serious problems: she’s thrown when she learns Warrick was questioned by Child Services about her and Lindsey, following up on a complaint made by Catherine’s ex, Eddie, in “Blood Drops”. Catherine tells Warrick that Eddie made the complaint because she refuses to let him back into her life, but Warrick makes her wait to find out what he said to DCFS until she directly asks him about it. Once she does, Warrick tells her that he said as far as motherhood is concerned, Catherine is “the bomb” and that her ex is messed up. Catherine is clearly relieved, but her earlier question to Warrick about whether he said that her job takes her away from her daughter, reveals her fear that DCFS will conclude she’s an absentee parent.

Warrick is facing some serious trouble of his own: Ecklie tells Grissom that Warrick asked one of the day shift CSIs to cover for him in court. Ecklie discovered Warrick was actually gambling at the Monaco casino at the time, news which he loftily imparts to Grissom. Grissom in turn asks Sara to look into it, and she brings back proof positive that Warrick was in fact gambling on the job: the surveillance tape from the Monaco. One would think Warrick would have learned his lesson after running afoul of a judge in “Cool Change” after placing a bad bet—one that took place as new CSI Holly Gribbs was getting shot at a crime scene Warrick was supposed to be working with her. When Judge Cohen tried to extort Warrick into tampering with evidence for him in “Pledging Mr. Johnson”, Warrick turned to Grissom and helped to bring the corrupt jurist down. But it’s clear that Warrick’s brush with career jeopardy didn’t deter his gambling habits, and the episode leaves Grissom with a dilemma that is clearly weighing on him—one that definitely intrigues the audience.

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