Langston testifies against serial killer Nate Haskell, and Nick tries to track down a teenager who is looking for vengeance.
Nick pulls into his driveway and hears his cellphone ring as he walks toward the house. The caller is Jason McCann, the young man Nick met after several bombs exploded at a police officer’s funeral in the season premiere. Jason warns Nick that he can’t go home, and Nick stops just in time to avoid tripping a wire connected to a grenade. He calls the bomb squad and waits for a tech named Kip to cut the wire and determine that he’s safe. Nick is livid—someone tried to attack him at his house! Catherine and Detective Vartann remind Nick that Jason must be involved in this somehow. He knew about the grenade, and they weren’t able to press charges against him for his role in the previous bombings.
Sara and Greg determine that whoever made the bomb was left-handed. Nick speaks to Jason, who tells Nick the bruise on his face is from falling down. Jason picks up a soda can with his left hand, and he tells Nick he can’t help him because someone will kill him if he says anything. Their interview is interrupted when Dr Huxbee shows up. Brass holds the man off for a minute, and he learns Huxbee is also left-handed when he signs the release form to take Jason away.
The grenade was filled with the same explosive used in the bombs at the officer’s funeral. The team is able to locate a credit card opened in Huxbee’s name, which was used to buy supplies including explosives. They also find a lease for a building in his name. Nick, Catherine and Vartann go to the building with Kip the bomb tech, and they find Huxbee’s body on the ground. He was beat over the head, and a laser underneath his body arms a bomb surrounded by lasers. The group heads back toward the only door, but they find that the way is blocked by more lasers that will trip the bomb. Phone and radio signals have been jammed. They’re going to have to find a way to defuse the bomb before the timer runs out. Vartann steps on a booby trap that shoots him in the thigh, nicking an artery. Catherine stays with him, putting pressure on the wound, while Nick and Kip take care of the bomb. They make a pile of crates, and Kip jumps down into the laser cage surrounding the bomb. Catherine and Vartann wait behind a paltry barrier while Nick kneels next to the laser cage and watches Kip work. Kip is able to disarm the bomb, and Nick runs over to hug Catherine. Their joy is short-lived, however, when the bomb rearms and Kip barely has time to tell the others to get down before throwing himself over the bomb as it explodes. Firefighters arrive and find Nick, Catherine and Vartann alive, and they are taken to the hospital. Nick tells Catherine to stay with Vartann while he gets back to work.
Greg and Sara find a surveillance video of Jason buying bomb-making supplies with an accomplice: Timothy Johnson, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist who was dishonorably discharged from the Army several years ago. Nick realizes that Jason has been playing him, and Sara points out that he, Catherine and Vartann were the ones who killed Jason’s brother—and they were the ones trapped in the booby-trapped building. Nick and Greg work to track Jason by calling his cellphone, and they are able to locate his general area. The cops set up a roadblock and stop the van containing Jason and Johnson as they try to escape to California. Johnson would rather give up than die, but Jason has other ideas. He yells that Johnson has a bomb on his body, and during the momentary confusion, Jason pulls out a gun and shoots one of the cops. Nick and the others return fire, killing Jason in a hail of bullets.
Meanwhile, Langston is testifying against serial killer Nate Haskell, who stabbed him at the end of last season. Haskell gets rid of his lawyer and decides to represent himself. Haskell asks Langston how he felt when he was stabbed, and Langston says he felt afraid for his life. Haskell felt nothing. He brings a doctor onto the witness stand who testifies that Haskell has a rare MAO-A “warrior gene” that makes him predisposed to violence, especially given that he grew up in an abusive household. His defense is that he can’t control his genes, and he had no control over the violent things he has done. Langston gets back on the stand and says he believes this study—and this defense—are nonsense, and Haskell asks for his qualifications. Langston says he has personal experience: he has the same “warrior gene”, and he also had an abusive childhood. However, the difference is that he chooses to track down guys like Haskell rather than becoming someone like him. The jury agrees with Langston, and Haskell is found guilty of attempted murder. Langston goes to see Haskell, pleased with the outcome, but Haskell says he wants freedom more than anything else—and he’s confident he’ll get it. Langston walks out to his car in the parking garage, and he sees some of Haskell’s groupies lingering nearby. When he remembers Haskell making a strange gesture to his fiancée Vivian in the courtroom, Langston rushes back inside and demands to see Haskell—only to discover that Haskell switched wristbands with another prisoner and has been transferred in a minimum security van. The van crashes, and the police escort is killed. Vivian and another one of Haskell’s groupies set him free, and Vivian promptly shoots the other groupie before she and Haskell make their getaway.
“Targets of Obsession” marks the return of two storylines from the start of the season, as well as two very different guest stars. Justin Bieber is back as troubled teenager Jason McCann, whose brother was gunned down at the end of “Shock Waves” following a series of attacks against the LVPD. Bill Irwin reprises his role as the “Dick and Jane” serial killer Nate Haskell, who attacked Langston at the end of last season’s finale, “Meat Jekyll”, and caused him to lose a kidney. Nick and Langston are the “targets of obsession” for Jason and Haskell in this episode (and the reverse is true, to a much lesser extent). Jason is after Nick as retaliation, and Haskell continues to antagonize and taunt Langston about his attack. Nick and Langston have grown close since Laurence Fishburne‘s addition to the show during season nine, but this episode finds them working individually to take down their man. There are some similarities between the two storylines, but in some ways they are polar opposites. Langston’s courtroom battle with Haskell is psychological, while Nick deals with a much more physical (and physically dangerous) chase.
Bieber always seemed like an odd fit as a guest star. His fans seem to run a bit young for a show like CSI, which contains plenty of graphic death and violence. It certainly puts CSI on the radar of younger viewers, but it doesn’t seem like a ratings boost that can last. For all that “Targets of Obsession” has been advertised as the return of Justin Bieber, the singer only appears in a few scenes during his second (and final) episode. Bieber’s acting is passable, but George Eads really carries the storyline. However, the end is rather abrupt, and it feels a bit unfinished. This storyline could have taken up a whole episode by itself. The Haskell trial was definitely ‘b-case’ material that fit alongside another storyline, but the McCann story could have used the extra minutes to fill in some blanks or expand on Jason’s characterization.
One of the best parts of the McCann storyline is seeing Nick and Catherine interact. At the beginning of season 10, Nick became Catherine’s second-in-command in much the same way she herself had been Grissom’s second-in-command for so many years. It’s nice to see them working together and showing concern for one another. The quiet moment between them in the hospital is a wonderful example of how close they are, and I’m disappointed that Marg Helgenberger will probably be leaving the series after this season—scenes like that remind me how much I love the rapport between the original cast members. That said, the scene does indicate a subtle shift in the relationship between them. Could Nick offering to care for Catherine (essentially taking over Catherine’s usual role) be an indication that he might receive a promotion in the near future following Catherine’s departure? Nick has grown a lot as a CSI over the past 11 seasons, and I can’t imagine a different member of the team taking Catherine’s place once she leaves the crime lab.
Langston’s interaction with Haskell is very different than the strong, supportive friendship between Nick and Catherine, but it is no less interesting to watch. Langston tested his own DNA for the monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A) “warrior gene” in “Working Stiffs” last season. When Wendy pointed out that this gene is linked with violent behavior, Langston told her, “MAO-A deficiency doesn’t make you violent…Just because something might happen doesn’t mean it will. It’s genetics, it’s not destiny.” Langston expresses the same opinion on the witness stand here after Haskell blames the gene for his violent actions, and he emphasizes his point by naming himself as an example of someone with the same gene who chose a very different path in life. Despite any genetic anomalies or predispositions, he is his own man, and he is responsible for his own actions—and so is Haskell. The jury agrees with his assessment of the situation, and I hope this means Langston will remain confident in himself.
Langston’s satisfaction after the verdict is short-lived, however, and Haskell’s odd assurance that he will be a free man proves true by the end of the hour. I’m not sure if Haskell’s fiancée will last long now that she has served her purpose, but I will be curious to see how CSI brings Haskell back at a later date. Has his obsession with Langston been deepened by this newfound connection between them? It might be interesting to see how far Haskell will push Langston—and how Langston will respond to the pressure. Haskell’s return will be accompanied by dead bodies, that much is certain, but beyond that it’s anybody’s guess what the creepy killer might have up his sleeve.
Speaking of dead bodies: poor Kip! The bomb tech should have worn a red shirt. It was never a question of whether he’d die, just when and how it would happen. That does provide some added suspense throughout the episode, but it wasn’t a surprise when he got killed. It is a shame, though—Kip could have been a fun recurring character. His banter with Nick was nice, and I sensed a good bond between them when Nick chose to stay next to the laser cage surrounding the bomb while Kip worked to defuse it.
Overall, both storylines were intense and interesting, but they didn’t necessarily mesh together. Nick’s storyline built up the tension, and switching to Langston’s storyline drained some of that tension away as the focus shifted from imminent physical danger to a legal battle waged with wills and words. Also, as I said, the storyline with McCann could have been expanded to fill the whole hour on its own, and the climactic scene where Nick shot Jason would have been more effective without an unrelated cliffhanger ending. However, Haskell’s escape does provide us with something to look forward to later this season. As CSI Files previously reported, we haven’t seen the last of Haskell. I’m curious to see what he has in store for the CSIs—and the viewers.
See also: “Targets of Obsession” episode guide