May 23 2024

CSI Files

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

Retro Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Table Stakes’

7 min read

Grissom and his team investigate the murder of a woman at a socialite’s house, while Warrick grapples with a case that appears to be a mob hit.

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:

Sheriff Brian Mobley is attending a fundraiser at the house of wealthy former showgirl Portia Richmond, hosted by Portia’s friends Patrick and Amanda Haynes, when the body of a young woman is discovered in the pool. Grissom and Brass arrive at the scene to discover Portia herself isn’t even attendance; Patrick says she’s in the Mediterranean with her latest boy toy. Warrick, Catherine and Nick arrive to comb the scene; Warrick finds a cufflink with the initials “CM” at the bottom of the pool, while Catherine discovers a discarded press-on nail in the garden. Grissom and Catherine quickly becomes suspicious of the Haynes, who claim they are house sitting for Portia. The dead woman is identified as Lacey Duvall, a local showgirl, and when Grissom and Catherine visit her dressing room, they find a music box belonging to Portia among her things. The CSIs return to the house and search Portia’s bedroom. Grissom finds a tooth in the fireplace, leading him to suspect Portia might actually be dead, not on vacation overseas. Catherine goes to the Liberace museum to obtain a headdress Portia wore in order to obtain the woman’s DNA for comparison. Greg is able to get a positive match, confirming the tooth belongs to Portia. Brass, Grissom and Catherine track the Haynes to a restaurant, where they catch the couple stealing a fur. Patrick agrees to a DNA sample, and, in an interrogation room separate from his wife’s, admits to having an affair with Lacey. Greg matches Patrick’s DNA to a Chad Matthews from Texas, who is wanted in the murder of a cheerleader ten years ago. Grissom realize the “CM” cufflink belonged to Patrick. Brass uncovers evidence that Patrick targeted wealthy single women, while Catherine and Nick discover he forged a check from Portia, indicating the socialite is indeed most likely dead. Grissom returns to the house and realizes the Haynes disposed of Portia’s body in the fish pool, which is filled with piranhas, a hunch that’s confirmed when he discovers cholesterol in the fish. In the morgue, Grissom takes a closer look at the strangulation marks on Lacey’s neck and notices one is fainter—as though a nail is missing.

The case takes a strange turn when Greg finds that Patrick’s DNA shares a familial match with Amanda’s, which Grissom obtained from a straw and is a match to the fingernail. Patrick and Amanda are brother and sister—and Amanda killed Lacey after finding out her brother had an affair with her, and revealed his true identity to her. The siblings also killed Portia Richmond and fed her corpse to the piranhas in her pool. Warrick is disgruntled when he’s pulled off the Duvall murder case to investigate the shooting death of a man in a glass elevator on the Strip. From the start, it’s clear the murder of Tyson Green is a dead end case: Warrick quickly identifies his shooting as a mob hit, and knows the abandoned gun will lead nowhere. Sure enough, the hit on the gun leads to a valet named Vincent Morgan, whose gun was stolen. His only possible lead—a quarter found with the body with a print on it—proves to be a dead end when Mandy matches the print to the victim. Warrick finds gambling tickets from all over town among Tyson’s possessions and realizes the man was a compulsive gambler. He visits one casino to inform the pit boss that the debts won’t be paid, and when the man suggests Warrick stay to gamble, the CSI is seriously tempted.

Analysis:

Warrick’s gambling issue rears its head at the end of this episode, when the CSI stands in the middle of a casino, eyeing the slot machines hungrily, with Grissom, Sara and Ecklie’s voices ringing in his head. Warrick promised Grissom in “Cool Change” that he wouldn’t gamble on the job, but this scene makes it clear that Warrick definitely has a real problem when it comes to gambling. Warrick’s presence in the casino is a bit suspect to begin with: would it really be a CSIs job to go to a casino to inform a pit boss that a debt won’t be paid because the debtor was murdered? It definitely feels like Warrick is playing with fire, especially after the way he looks at the gambling tickets he finds among Tyson Green’s personal effects. The revelation that Warrick was a runner in “Fahrenheit 932” made it clear that he wasn’t just a casual participant in the gambling world, but the pained look on his face when he looks at the tickets coupled with his longing expression as he surveys the casino reveals how deep Warrick is in. Gary Dourdan makes Warrick’s hunger for gambling palpable.

The B-story feels somewhat thin, more of an excuse to get Warrick into the path of temptation rather than much of an actual case. Warrick’s attitude when he realizes the murder was a mob hit makes it pretty obvious early on that he doesn’t believe the case will be solved, and his suspicions are confirmed when the gun turns out to be stolen and the print on the quarter is revealed to be the victim’s. Though an unsolved case might be as frustrating for the audience as it is for Warrick, it’s definitely realistic in the sense that there’s no way the CSIs will be able to solve every case that they’re tasked with investigating. The writers wisely choose to have the emotional investment here be in Warrick’s struggle rather than the mystery of the murder.

Lab tech Mandy makes her second appearance in CSI, making her the lab rat who has been around the longest; she predates Hodges, Wendy, Henry and Bobby. Even in this early episode, she has the same frustration with the CSIs’ impatience that she has later on: when Warrick stops by the lab to check on the results of the fingerprint analysis, Mandy testily tells him that she’s working on it—and that it’s not the only case she’s tasked with handling.

Greg is nowhere near as frazzled; in fact, he’s downright giddy when he gets a hold of the headdress Portia Richmond wore in her days as a showgirl. After removing all the hair he needs to examine for DNA, Greg puts the headdress on and dances gleefully in the halls of the lab. He’s not even phased when Catherine comes up to check on the results and tells him to get the evidence off his head; he even asks her if she used to dance wearing a similar headdress. Catherine plays along, telling him she wore nothing but skin when she danced. Greg’s gleeful little show comes to an abrupt halt when Grissom shows up to get the results of the DNA test. Clearly the lovable lab tech is intimidated by the boss!

Though Grissom doesn’t usually seem like the intimidating type, this episode proves he can be quite frightening when he’s angered. When Nick interrupts his interrogation of Patrick to share his findings, Grissom is furious, barking, “Are you looking for work?” before pointing to the sign on the door that says “do not disturb.” He goes on to tell Nick that sometimes they only get once chance with a suspect, and while he’s outside talking to Nick, Patrick has time to come up with a lie to cover his tracks. Nick is apologetic but maintains his findings merited the interruption. When Nick tells Grissom about Patrick’s real identity and his links to a ten-year-old murder, Grissom grudgingly admits, “I’m starting to forgive you.” It’s rare to see Grissom get hot under the collar, but the scene proves that it is possible to rile the normally easy-going bug man.

The case brings Grissom into contention with the politically ambitious sheriff Brian Mobley, who puts pressure on the CSI grave shift supervisor to find out whether or not Portia is really dead or simply vacationing. Once again, Grissom makes it clear that he doesn’t play the political game, snidely asking the sheriff if he’s planning to run for mayor and later joking that Mobley might get his vote. Mobley makes it clear that his interest in the case is politically motivated, pointing out that Portia was a major contributor to his campaign for sheriff, and the reason he got elected. It’s no wonder Mobley gets along better with Ecklie, who is similarly ambitious, than he does with Grissom.

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