June 13 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘418/427’

8 min read

The Vegas team races to save the life of an FBI agent’s daughter after she is apparently kidnapped by a pedophile the agent has been pursuing.

Synopsis:

A woman leaving a grocery store meets a grizzly end when she and a bag checker are shot. Though the bag checker has a gang tattoo and a record, it was the woman who was shot three times, indicating to the CSIs that she was the target. The team notices her car is gone, and they learn from another customer that she had a young child with her. Brass issues an Amber Alert on the little girl, and Nick questions the grocery store cashier, who turns over the check the woman paid with, which reveals her name is Christine Moore. In the morgue, David Phillips pulls a .22 bullet from the bagger, but he and Doc Robbins are interrupted when Christine Moore’s husband, Daniel, bursts into the morgue to see his wife. Moore is an FBI agent, and he’s convinced a pedophile he’s been hunting killed his wife… and took his daughter. Archie pulls a frantic message from Christine’s cell phone left by a Trent Moore warning her that someone is following her. Agent Moore tells Brass he’s been hunting serial pedophile Rylan Gauss for a decade. Gauss has abducted six little girls from their beds, and he shot the mother of his last victim in the eye when she interrupted the abduction. Gauss was convicted of the murder but released when an evidence analysis was called into question. Moore tells Brass that Gauss threatened him and his family. Worried about his son, Trent, from his first marriage, Moore calls his son at work and learns he never showed up, leading the FBI agent to fear Gauss has both of his children. Moore’s fears seem to be confirmed when the CSIs go to his house and find it torn up—with no sign of Trent.

Catherine and Nick go to Gauss’s apartment and find no sign of the pedophile. Back at Moore’s house, Sara is frustrated when Moore interferes with the investigation, pointing out corn starch on the windowsill is likely from cheap latex gloves Gauss uses to abduct his victims. Sara and Brass get him to leave, and Sara discovers half empty bottles of antidepressants prescribed to Trent that appear to have been discarded. In Gauss’s apartment, Catherine and Nick discover children’s books in ziplock bags hidden behind a wall. Greg and Hodges read the files on Gauss, and alert Catherine that he takes his victims from parks. Catherine and Nick go to a nearby park and find the pedophile taking a video of a little girl. Moore shows up with a gun, but Nick tackles the pedophile before the FBI agent can shoot him. Brass questions Gauss, who denies taking Holly Moore but seems none too sad to hear his pursuer’s daughter is missing. Christine Moore’s minivan is discovered, abandoned and out of gas in a seedy neighborhood. Though there’s no sigh of Holly or Trent, the team does recover a half-eaten egg sandwich from the back of the van. Hodges gets prints off of it, but they don’t match Gauss. When they fail to recover any prints from the books found at Gauss’s apartment and the pedophile’s alibi checks out, Brass is forced to release him, much to Moore’s consternation.

When Christine’s sister calls the morgue to have her body released, Doc Robbins learns that the Moores were going through an ugly divorce, and Christine was suing for sole custody of not just Holly but Trent as well. The team tracks Moore to Gauss’s apartment, where they find him standing over the body of Gauss, holding a gun. Moore insists he didn’t shoot Gauss, and the team confirms it when David Phillips determines Gauss was killed with a .22. When Henry points out that the medication Trent was on is used to treat schizophrenics, Brass questions Moore about his son’s state of mind. Moore tells Brass he rejected Christine’s assertion that Trent was schizophrenic, and Brass points out that Moore’s own behavior has been erratic. Noting that a hat belonging to Trent was found in Gauss’s apartment, Brass presses Moore to name a place Trent might go. Moore names the house he lived in with his first, now deceased wife, and Sara goes there and discovers Trent hiding out in a shed, totally disoriented, believing he’s actually Rylan Gauss. Sara gets the disturbed young man to give up his gun and takes him in. Catherine confirms bullets from Trent’s gun killed Gauss, but not Christine. Brass presses Moore, who has no alibi for the time of Christine’s murder, into confessing to his son in the hope that Trent will remember where he left Holly. Though the attempt fails, the CSIs guess that Trent might have taken his sister to a hotel in the neighborhood where the minivan ran out of gas based on bed bugs they discovered in his hat. The team scours hotels until they find the one Trent checked into and discover Holly with a woman in the hotel room next door. Sara and Brass tell Trent and Moore that Holly has been found safe and unharmed.

Analysis:

“418/427” starts out as a tense, taut thriller and devolves as it goes on, gradually getting buried under the weight of its convoluted, overly complicated plot line. It’s too bad, because the first half of the episode is one of the most exciting and nail-biting storylines CSI has done in a while. From the moment Christine Moore appears on the screen, checking out with too many items in the grocery store and clearly upset and jittery, the tone is one of building malaise. The old man pestering Christine as she finds she has no cash and has to write a check, the gang bangers with their music too loud, the eerily lit parking lot… the opening scene is a masterful combination of elements that heightens the tension that is only broken once the inevitable gunshots ring out. It’s one hell of an opener, and it sets the tone for the scenes the follow.

There’s something off about Agent Moore from the beginning, though his actions do seem in line with those of a grieving husband and worried father. The CSIs and Brass show him surprisingly little sympathy—which is often an unfortunate giveaway in the CSI shows that a grief-stricken survivor isn’t all he or she appears to be—but his interference is potentially jeopardizing their work. Bursting into Doc Robbins’ autopsy and dripping blood at what looks to be the scene of an abduction certainly isn’t going to win him any points with the team, and that coupled with the natural rivalry between local police and a government agency like the FBI make the friction somewhat understandable. Jason Butler Harner turns in a great performance as the unhinged Moore, keeping the audience off balance just enough that they don’t really know what to make of his character.

Bodhi Elfman is just as good as the creepy Rylan Gauss, who boldly sits in a park and takes video footage of a little girl. When he’s arrested, he doesn’t express either surprise or remorse about the death of Moore’s wife or the abduction of his daughter. He brings up Moore’s other child, making it clear that he’s as familiar with the particulars of Moore’s life as the FBI agent is with his. When Gauss turns and offers a wide, sinister smile to the two way mirror, it’s a truly frightening moment.

Unfortunately, this is where the story starts to go off the rails. Gauss’s alibi checks out. His prints aren’t on the sandwich recovered from the Moores’ minivan. The CSIs have to cut him loose… which naturally doesn’t end well for him. He dies at the hands of Trent Moore, but when the CSIs arrive at Gauss’s apartment, they find Daniel Moore standing over the body, holding a gun. Trent’s schizophrenic break is the least objectionable part of the twist—it’s interesting that his father’s obsession has become such a big part of his life that he actually comes to think he is Rylan Gauss—the very man he believes is responsible for his stepmother’s death. Though he became an obvious suspect as soon as Henry mentioned the drugs found in his house were used to treat schizophrenia, Trent’s psychotic break is at least believable.

What’s harder to swallow is Daniel Moore’s behavior. If he was following Christine as Trent, thinking it’s Rylan Gauss, asserts, how did he not know his daughter was with her at the grocery store? And if he knew that she was in the car, why would he think Rylan Gauss had her? Why would he have just left his daughter alone (since he didn’t realize Trent was in the van) in a grocery store parking lot at four in the morning after shooting her mother? The episode tries to play it off that Moore is mentally ill just like his son, but it’s just not quite convincing given how calculated some of his other actions are, like shooting Christine in the eye the same way Gauss shot one of his victims. Moore trying to frame Gauss for Christine’s murder makes sense, but leaving his daughter in a minivan alone doesn’t.

It wasn’t until the tension started to drain out of the episode that I realized Langston wasn’t in it. Though it’s always a little jarring to have an important cast member sit out an episode, it’s a testament to how tightly plotted the first half of the episode is that Langston’s absence doesn’t register immediately. Once it does, though, he is missed, in the same way Catherine, Nick or Greg would be if they were missing from an episode. Langston’s calm presence and curious nature does bring something to the show, and even if it’s not the same kind of energy team leader Grissom brought, it’s still a welcome addition.

Both Sara and Nick have stepped up in Grissom’s absence. Nick is the new bug man; when Hodges discovers small bugs in Trent’s hat, he brings them to Nick, who immediately recognizes them as bed bugs. Sara has softened a good deal since marrying Grissom and returning to the show; she’s become a character much more comfortable with herself and her past. She’s able to reach out to the troubled Trent and talk him down when he believes he’s the man his father is hunting, and is responsible for the death of his stepmother and half-sister. Sara reasons with the boy, and is able to get close enough to him to get the gun out of his hands. Later, in the hospital, she’s the one who comes to tell him his sister is safe. Though she’s always had a great deal of compassion for those affected by crime, Sara seems much more at home than she ever has with reaching out to and connecting with them.

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