May 25 2024

CSI Files

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

Retro Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘I-15 Murders’

7 min read

Grissom and Catherine track a serial killer who has been abducting and murdering women along Interstate 15.

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:

When Margaret Shorey disappears from a Marty’s Market, Grissom finds a message written on bathroom stall door reading “I’ve killed 5 women. Catch me if you can?” in florescent ink. Grissom and Catherine consult a handwriting expert and are surprised to learn that not only is the killer left-handed and uneducated, but also a woman. Catherine finds four other disappearances from four other crime scenes, spread out through California and Nevada, leading she and Grissom to realize the abductions are taking place at diners and markets along Interstate 15. The body of the first victim, Joan Simms, turns up alongside I-15, and Dr. Jenna Williams determines she was frozen after death. Grissom suspects the killer is a trucker driving a frozen truck along the interstate. Catherine gets a list of female truckers working the route and she and Grissom zero in on one, whom they track down, but when they find her, her writing sample doesn’t match the killer’s. Grissom wonders if perhaps the woman’s handwriting is throwing them off; she could be an accomplice rather than a killer. Grissom and Catherine visit a truck tracking facility, eliminating trucks and drivers that don’t match the route, truck type and stores that their killer visited, narrowing it down to one truck. Brass and the police arrest the trucker and his girlfriend, while Grissom and Catherine search his truck, finding the refrigerated bodies of three women, and Margaret, locked in a trunk, but alive.

Sara is irritated to be assigned to work a murder case with Warrick after she investigated him at Grissom’s behest and learned he was gambling on the job. Warrick offers Grissom an explanation, and the CSI supervisor tells Sara he’s satisfied with it. Kenny, the brother of the murdered man, tells Sara and Warrick that his brother was the victim of a robbery, but Sara immediately suspects he’s the killer. Though she’s reluctant to work with Warrick, together the two are able to prove that glass in Kenny’s pants is a match to the broken window, and that Heckle marks on the glass indicate it was broken from inside the room, not the outside. Sara and Warrick obtain a warrant for the house, and find the gun that killed the brother stashed in Kenny’s computer—with glass from the window in it. Kenny is arrested, and Sara is surprised to learn that Warrick wasn’t actually gambling on the job; he was collecting a debt owned him at a casino to get bail money for a young friend arrested for pulling a fire alarm. Meanwhile, Nick goes to the Bellagio to sort out a fight between prostitute Kristi Hopkins, who specifically requested him at the scene, and a security guard. Kristi claims the guard grabbed her and spit on her, which she denies. In the lab, he and Greg find saliva on her shirt, and Nick is able to trick the guard into giving a DNA sample. The charges against Kristi are dropped, and she’s extremely grateful to Nick.

Analysis:

An exciting entry, “I-15” highlights some tension in the team while showcasing Grissom’s skill as a supervisor. Though Grissom’s rival Ecklie prides himself on playing the political game much better than the quieter, less opportunistic Grissom, Grissom’s actions here show exactly why he’s such a good supervisor. Though he doesn’t hesitate to come down on members of his team when he needs to, he applies the same caution and careful analysis to problems with his CSIs that he does when examining evidence. Grissom simply isn’t a man to jump to conclusions. After being asked by Grissom to investigate Ecklie’s assertions that Warrick has been gambling on the job in “Sex, Lies and Larvae”, Sara concludes that Warrick is guilty based on the fact that the casino security cameras show Warrick entering and leaving. Grissom isn’t so hasty, and rather than confronting Warrick with accusations and threats, he simply asks Warrick about the picture that shows him at the casino, and reminds him that they had a deal that Warrick wouldn’t gamble during work hours.

Warrick readily admits he was in the casino, but tells Grissom he wasn’t gambling. The scene cuts off at that point, but presumably Warrick told Grissom the reason he was there, and clearly Grissom considers the matter resolved when he talks to Sara and tells her he sees “the whole puzzle.” There’s no hostility in the exchange between Warrick and Grissom; Grissom is not a man who raises his voice lightly, and he was willing to hear Warrick out before jumping to conclusions about what Warrick was doing at the casino. Grissom is certainly a man who knows how easily evidence can be misinterpreted. In the case he’s working on in this episode, the handwriting expert concludes that the message on the stall door was written by a woman, leading Grissom and Catherine to initially suspect the killer is a woman. But when their top suspect is eliminated, Grissom reconsiders the evidence, noting that very few serial killers are actual women, and it’s possible that the woman who wrote the note was actually an accomplice, not the killer.

Sara doesn’t share Grissom’s taciturn approach. We’ve already seen enough of Sara thus far to know she’s an emotional woman, with a tendency to occasionally be hot-headed. She jumps to conclusions about Warrick, and is frustrated to be put on a case with him. Her irritation is only inflamed when Grissom appears to be dismissive of her concerns, telling her that while he sees the whole puzzle, “you see only a piece.” Grissom presents it almost as a challenge, telling Sara that he trusts Warrick and asking her directly if she trusts him. In addition to her assumptions about Warrick based on her findings, Sara seems a little hurt that Grissom asked her to investigate Warrick and then apparently dismissed her findings.

Sara isn’t one to hide her feelings, and she clashes with Warrick during the course of the case they’re working. When he joins her at the scene, he asks her, “Are we going to work together or not?” and she responds with a chilly, “I’m already working.” Later, after they interrogate Kenny for the first time, Warrick cautions Sara, telling her she showed Kenny “all your cards.” She shoots back that Kenny lost money in the market and Warrick should have recognized “a fellow gambler.” Warrick sighs, saying, “You don’t let up.” It’s not until they really start digging through the evidence that Sara finally relents. Because of Grissom’s earlier comments about seeing “the whole puzzle,” it’s not really a surprise in the end when it’s revealed that Warrick had noble intentions when he went to the casino—and that he didn’t actually gamble on the clock. Warrick tells Sara that next time she should talk to him rather than going behind his back. The “going behind his back” isn’t entirely fair since Sara was tasked with investigating him by Grissom, but the point does stand that she never actually talked to him.

Grissom also has some cause for concern when Nick is requested at a crime scene by a prostitute who claims to be a friend of his. Nick first met Kristi Hopkins in the “Pilot” on a case after she drugged and robbed a john. Nick agreed not to arrest her if she returned the man’s belongings. Grissom asks Nick about Kristi, directly querying, “Are you doing doing anything that could compromise the lab?” Nick is immediately defensive, replying, “I don’t believe this—you’ve always been so cool.” Nick declines to share any details with Grissom, and though the evidence proves Kristi is telling the truth, it’s clear Nick is definitely partial towards her. The two banter flirtatiously, and Nick looks genuinely tempted when Kristi jokes about meeting him for coffee and notes that she owes him twice over. Nick’s parting comment, “You know where to find me,” suggests that he’s not entirely adverse to a rendezvous.

Though Eric Szmanda was just a recurring guest star at this point, the rapport between him and George Eads is evident here when Nick visits Greg in the lab to get the results of Greg’s analysis of Kristi’s shirt. Greg describes to Nick how saliva naturally travels back and forth between people during the course of a normal conversation, prompting an emphatic “Gross!” from the CSI. Greg asks about meeting Nick’s “friend,” and Nick shuts him down with a firm “No.” The teasing dynamic between the Texan CSI and the lovably goofy lab tech definitely provides for laughs in this fast-paced episode.

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