May 20 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation–‘Man Up’

7 min read

Greg discovers a staged picture on a website led to an actual murder.

Synopsis:

Greg and Mandy are looking at pictures on the Victims of Vegas website when he comes across one he thinks is real. Nick is sure it’s staged, so the two make a hundred dollar wager and head to the trash dump where the woman’s prone body is pictured. When they arrive, they find a bunch of gawkers… and the girl, very dead, lying on the trash heap. In the morgue, Catherine tells Doc Robbins that the woman’s name is Amber Rowe and that she had priors for solicitation. The coroner notes Amber was strangled and died at 1 a.m., and that she had sexual intercourse shortly before her death. Nick and Catherine both notice discrepancies between the photo and Amber’s body: the ligature marks on her neck don’t match the placement of the lanyard used to strangle her in the photo and she’s wearing a different dress. A closer examination of the photograph reveals fireworks in the background the night it was taken, and Nick points out that the Tangiers has fireworks every Wednesday night, meaning the picture was taken two nights ago. Greg hands Nick a hundred bucks; he was right about the girl not being dead in the photo. Nick and Greg go to Amber Rowe’s apartment and find her boyfriend, Craig Higgins, lounging about in her apartment. He tells them that Amber had called to tell him she was staying out the night before—and that she’d recently resumed hooking, which he says is like a drug to her. The pair recovers Amber’s dress and a copy of the picture from her apartment.

In the lab, Greg recovers a zebra hair from the dress and connects it to a kidnapping a few nights ago, when comedian Carrot Top was abducted by fans for a few hours and discovered tied up in the trunk of a limo. Carrot Top recognizes Amber as being among the fans who kidnapped him, and describes his abductors as preppy guys. Nick and Greg go over the limo and find costume jewelry, which Catherine recognizes as belonging to the Spartacus actor’s costume at the Mediterranean Hotel. Greg talks to the actor and finds he was attacked two nights ago by two guys who stole his sword, shield and helmet when he was in the bathroom. Greg prints the stall door. Archie finds pictures on a social networking site with photos from the limo party, along with a list which spells out four things: steal a car, kidnap a celebrity, steal from a casino, and kill a hooker. Mandy matches the prints on the bathroom door to a Scott Horan from Chicago, and Brass picks up him and his friends, Hunter Ahern and Jeff Blakely. The three men, in town to celebrate their ten year college reunion insist that the picture was faked: they had nothing to do with Amber’s death. Hunter and Jeff admit they faked the picture to mess with Scott, whom they think of as a loser. When the CSIs catch Amber’s boyfriend Craig on a gambling spree, their suspicion turns back to him, but he tells them that she called the night of her murder to tell him that she was depositing five thousand dollars that she got from a man who was willing to pay double that for a night with her. Greg and Catherine go over the cash deposits from the ATM Amber used and find her deposit. Prints off the bills match Scott Horan, and he admits to falling for his friends’ prank. When he ran into Amber in a bar two nights later, she laughed at him for falling for the prank. He offered her ten grand for a reshoot and then killed her to upstage them. Brass books him for murder one, and Nick returns Greg’s hundred dollars to him, telling him nobody wins here.

While the rest of the team works the photograph case, Hodges proudly shows off his newest purchase to Langston: a motorcycle he got at a swap meet. Langston immediately notices the bike is cobbled together from some spare parts, but things turn disturbing when he discovers blood and the tip of a thumb concealed in the bike. Hodges tests both the blood and thumb and finds they come from different contributors. The blood matches a sample collected from bus collision a month ago. Hodges wonders if perhaps a motorcycle got caught in between the two buses when they collided, its rider vaporized in the crash. Vartann and Hodges head to Mars Brothers Salvage, which handled the vehicular remains from the accident. The brothers Mars, Doyle and Denny, show them the remains of the two buses, and Hodges pulls a piece of motorcycle from one of the buses. Hodges finds the owner is a man named Peter Farmer. He and Langston speak to Sandy Colfax, Peter’s ex-girlfriend, who tells them that he bought the bike after they broke up. He was going to hit the road and find himself. When the thumb part matches Denny Mars, Hodges takes the bike to Mars Brothers Salvage and demands a refund for the “Frankenstein” bike. Vartann arrests both brothers for obstruction for covering up Peter Farmer’s death and not reporting it.

Analysis:

There’s something fun about an episode that opens with one of the CSIs surfing the internet at work, landing on a site that supposedly features dead bodies found in Las Vegas, and actually finding a real victim. The premise opens up a chance to revisit the fun, bantering rivalry between Nick and Greg. Greg thinks the shot is real, while Nick is certain it’s a fake. Greg bets him a hundred that the photo is real, and though Nick jokes, “I don’t even think you have a hundred bucks,” he takes Greg up on the bet. When the woman on the trash heap does in fact turn out to be dead, it looks like Greg has a lock on that money, but both Nick and Catherine notice discrepancies between the photo and the body, meaning the photo on the internet was in fact staged, but someone had gone back and actually killed the girl. Nick is technically the winner.

By the end of the episode, though, Nick gives Greg his hundred bucks back, noting, “Nobody wins here.” There’s something a little grim about betting on a photograph of a possible murder victim, but it’s been pointed out on more than one occasion by writers and actors associated with the show that people who deal with murder day in and day out are forced to develop a pretty caustic sense of humor to cope with their jobs. Nick and Greg betting on the veracity of the photo doesn’t seem so extreme when viewed in that context, but after seeing how the murder of Amber Rowe played out, Nick doesn’t have much of a taste for “harmless” wagers, telling Greg, “All bets are off” before returning his money to him.

Scott Horan and his friends are all pretty reprehensible. Hunter and Jeff decide to prank Scott because he’s a “loser,” which seems pretty mean-spirited given that he’s supposedly their friend. Scott isn’t in the dark about the way they see him, and when he spots Amber, alive and well and having a laugh at his expense, something in him snaps. Mad Men‘s Rich Sommer does a great job with the role, simmering with resentment and rage over the prank and the fact that a decade after college, his friends still think of him as a loser. He gets no sympathy from Brass and Nick; when Scott claims that he won, Brass tells him the only thing he’s won is a longer jail sentence than his friends; while they’ll be charged with misdemeanors, he’ll be going away for murder one.

Carrot Top has a cameo in the episode, playing himself as the victim of a prank perpetrated by Scott and his friends. Brass and Nick manage to keep straight faces as they question Carrot Top, who thought he was hanging out with fans only to wake up tied up with the free passes he’d given them for his show. Carrot Top asks the pair if he can make one phone call, and Brass tells him he doesn’t need a lawyer. Carrot Top replies that he knows that; he needs his publicist! The scene is definitely a funny one.

The B-case focuses on Hodges’ latest attempt to get over Wendy: he’s gone out and gotten himself a motorcycle, which Langston immediately recognizes as not being the valuable original Hodges thinks it is. When the two examine Hodges’ new bike a little more closely, Langston finds both blood and part of a thumb hidden in the bike, indicating that Hodges is dealing with a bigger problem than being ripped off at a swap meet. Naturally, Hodges is eager to get to the bottom of the mystery, and jumps into the investigation with Langston by his side. Interestingly, Langston takes the backseat in this one; Hodges is the one driving the investigation forward.

Hodges finds out he has more in common with the victim in the case than he might have first assumed when he and Langston speak to the dead man’s ex-girlfriend, who fondly quips, “We’ll always have Comic Con,” and describes her ex as unable to commit, and laments that he loved his mother more than he loved her. When she tells Hodges and Langston that Peter hit the road to find himself on his new motorcycle, Hodges sees himself in the lovelorn, lonely man who only made it as far as a nearby highway. There’s comedy here for sure—Hodges is nothing if not a comedic figure—but also an air of solemnity when he tells the brothers Mars, who covered up Peter’s death in order to sell the bike, “I saw a man who needed to be spoken for.” The line nicely encapsulates what the CSIs do, and thanks to Hodges and the rest of the team, the two victims in this episode who might have otherwise fallen through the cracks are given the justice they deserve.

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