June 13 2024

CSI Files

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

Retro Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Too Tough To Die’

6 min read

Sara becomes emotionally involved in a case in which a woman is raped and left to die by the side of the road.

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.


A woman is found raped and shot twice in the head by the side of the road. Grissom sends Sara to process the woman while he and Nick scour the scene for evidence. Nick finds two bullet cartridges and a belt loop, which uses a scent pad on in case a dog search is necessary. Sara processes the woman, who is not expected to live, with care, and Grissom becomes concerned when he sees her speaking to the comatose woman, whom Sara is referring to as Jane. With the help of ballistics tech Bobby Dawson, Grissom and Nick match the cartridges to a gun used in a shooting in gang territory, and go over the evidence from the unsolved case. They find a baseball cap with a Snakeskin gang logo on it, which DNA matches to the man who raped Jane Doe. Grissom is concerned when he finds Sara doing an extensive search of the missing persons database to identify the woman. Despite Grissom discouraging her from getting too involved with the case, Sara perseveres, and is able to identify the woman as Pamela Adler, who went missing from a shopping mall. With no leads in the Snakeskin gang territory, Grissom decides to use the scent pad to give the police dogs a lead. The dogs take him and Nick to the house of Tony Thorpe, an arrogant teen who is missing a belt loop. Brass and Grissom bring Tony in, but he’s well aware of the law, knowing that unless the woman dies, he won’t be convicted of murder—and that he’ll go away as a juvenile. Sara and Nick match Tony’s jeans to the belt loop, confirming he’s the rapist. Sara goes to the hospital and finds Pamela’s husband Tom by the bedside. The man thanks her, and tells Sara that Pamela is expected to live. Sara returns to the lab upset, telling Grissom it’s not fair that Tony Thorpe will be out of jail in 48 months because the woman he attacked was too tough to die.

Catherine and Warrick are tasked with revisiting a case for the DA that a dayshift CSI who recently quit first investigated. Roy McCall is accused of shooting his neighbor Charlie Hastings in the back twice over a dispute over Hastings’ motorcycle, which McCall borrowed and damaged. McCall claims Hastings came at him first with a screwdriver, but Hastings’ widow Laurianne insists her husband was running away when McCall shot him. Catherine and Warrick are frustrated to find the screwdriver was never admitted into evidence, and when they speak with Laurianne, they calculate that she wouldn’t have had time to get outside to see either shot fired. McCall shows Catherine and Warrick the scar from the wound from the screwdriver on his arm, proving that part of his story, but the CSIs are still baffled by both gunshots, which Doc Robbins maintained were fired into Hastings’ back. Catherine and Warrick run a scenario with a dummy, figuring out that Hastings was charging McCall when the first shot was fired. The second shot, however, was not in self-defense; McCall fired at Hastings after the first shot felled him. Catherine’s personal life proves to be a thorn in her side during the case when her ex-husband Eddie takes out a second mortgage on the house without her permission. Catherine argues with Eddie at the lab over the mortgage and their daughter Lindsey, whom Eddie wants to take to a show. When Eddie gets physical with Catherine, Grissom pulls him off her, and Catherine’s ex angrily accuses them of having a romantic relationship.


Sara’s deep capacity for empathy and the beginnings of her feelings for Grissom come to light in this powerful episode, which shows that sometimes catching the culprit and closing the case simply isn’t enough. Though this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Sara acting compassionate towards the survivor of a brutal crime—she was similarly sensitive to a young girl who lost most of her family in “Blood Drops”—this episode really underscores just how deeply Sara is affected by her job. She talks to Pamela as she processes her, she stays up late scouring the missing persons database for Pamela’s identity even though she has very little to go on and in the end, when she learns Pamela’s attacker will be going to jail for a scant 48 months while Pamela spends the rest of her life in a vegetative state, Sara is moved to tears, letting the job get to her in the way Grissom feared it would.

Grissom has a frank conversation with Sara during the investigation, when he finds her looking through the missing persons database. He reminds her that “we meet people on the worst days of their lives” and that CSIs need something outside of work to keep them balanced. He expresses concern for Sara, who works copious amounts of overtime, listens to the police scanner at home and reads forensics texts on her own time. He suggests a diversion, pointing out that Catherine has her child, and he himself likes to ride roller coasters sometimes. The example he brings up for Catherine is legitimate, but riding roller coasters “sometimes” seems like an awfully thin diversion. Indeed, in his own way, Grissom is just as wrapped up in his work as Sara is, but the difference between them is that he’s able to maintain emotional detachment. To Grissom, everything is a great big science experiment, and while the results matter very much to him, Grissom usually has the air of someone solving a puzzle.

Grissom urges Sara to get an interest, something she does actually follow… though perhaps not in the way he meant. The beginnings of Sara’s romantic feelings of Grissom are evident in these early episodes, from when she presses him to tell her about his knowledge of the “mile high club” In “Unfriendly Skies” to this episode, when she confides in him about her anger and frustration over the Adler case despite the fact that he urged her not to get emotionally involved. That Sara feels comfortable enough to go to Grissom despite her inability to take his advice shows that a certain trust has built up between them. Sara’s interest in Grissom makes a lot of sense, given her workaholic nature: who more natural to fall for than a man she works with, looks up to and admires? Jorja Fox gives a layered performance here, making Sara sympathetic even as we realize her emotional investment in the case is risky personally for her.

The subject of CSI burnout is touched upon in Catherine and Warrick’s case, when they’re presented with boxfuls of evidence from a case originally investigated by a dayshift CSI named Franowitz, who apparently up and quit. Though Franowitz’s work turns out to be less than stellar—he didn’t collect a key piece of evidence in the Hastings case—watching Catherine and Warrick presented with boxes of evidence and folders and only four days in which to go over it all and come to a conclusion to present to the DA definitely drives home how thankless and demanding the CSIs’ jobs can be at times. Catherine and Warrick have to sift through unreliable witness testimony and make sense of conflicting evidence in order to figure out exactly what happened the day Roy McCall shot Charlie Hastings.

Catherine’s ex-husband, Eddie, shows his nasty side when he takes out a second mortgage on her house and then tries to manipulate her using Lindsey. Eddie clearing isn’t over Catherine, as his attempts to get her attention reveal. When Eddie makes a reference to Catherine’s past as an exotic dancer, Catherine hits him, and he grabs her, causing Grissom to step in and pull him off her. Eddie turns his anger on Grissom after the grave shift supervisor tells him not to show up at the lab again, barking, “I always knew you two had a thing.” Grissom doesn’t bother to deny it, just telling Eddie to go home. Grissom’s calm once again helps him maintain the upper hand in a conflict, a trait which serves him well time and again.

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