February 25 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘Hitting For The Cycle’

7 min read

The team is one natural death away from “hitting for the cycle”, and the CSIs investigate two cases that are more complicated than they appear at first glance.

Synopsis:

The grave shift has logged a suicide, a homicide and an accidental death in the same shift. If someone on the team investigates a natural death before the shift is over, the team will hit “the cycle”. Nick, Greg and Hodges place bets on who will pull the natural death case, and the rest of the lab gets in on the action.

Greg and Sara meet Doc Robbins’ new assistant Kevin in autopsy, and Greg hopes the coroner will say his latest victim died of natural causes. Unfortunately, the woman was accidentally killed after swallowing a paperclip that pierced her intestine and caused a deadly infection. The CSIs get called out to another crime scene, and Greg remains hopeful that he can come across a natural death by the end of the shift. He and Sara go to the home of Steven Pyles, aka Dv8Avenger, an overweight man who died while playing a video game. Initially, it looks like the man died of a heart attack or stroke, but Greg can’t celebrate his victory just yet. A fellow player set off a series of flash bang grenades in the game to give Steven a seizure, but that didn’t kill him. In fact, he wasn’t even conscious when the flash bang grenades went off on the screen. He had a combination of zolpidem sleeping pills and ipecac in his system—the zolpidem was put in his drink, and the ipecac was all over his pizza. The combination caused him to pass out and choke on his own vomit. The prescription for the zolpidem was under the name Evan Ferrari, Steven’s girlfriend, but she loved him and says she wouldn’t kill him. The killer was Evan’s ex-girlfriend Monica Gimble, who was angry about Evan leaving her for a guy like Steven. She didn’t think the cops would even look into his death after seeing his weight, his lifestyle and how he died. The homicide is solved, and Greg doesn’t win the bet.

Nick and Langston investigate the death of Benjamin Fowler, a recently divorced man found dead at the bottom of his friends’ pool. He was housesitting, and the home has been robbed. He was tied up, and he was shot while his mouth was open, causing the bullet to exit the back of his head. It looks like a homicide; however, things are not as they initially seem. Ben was having a rough time after his divorce, and he owed money to a loan shark named Carl Jansen. Ben killed himself and tried to make his death look like a homicide so his ex-wife would get the money from his life insurance policy. The case is ruled as a suicide, so Nick also loses the bet.

At the end of the shift, Doc Robbins and David Phillips are dealing with one last body. This man was killed during a robbery, making it a clear homicide case. They went the whole shift without a single natural death. David goes to find Kevin so they can prep the body for autopsy, but he finds Kevin dead from an aneurysm. The cycle is complete, and Doc Robbins wins the bet—he put his money on David finding someone who died from natural causes.


Analysis:

“Hitting for the Cycle” opens with Nick, Henry, Greg and Hodges talking about the “cycle”, and Hodges gets the ball rolling on the office betting pool. That first scene is evocative of the fun rapport between the four men in last season’s “Appendicitement”, when Nick, Greg and Hodges took Henry out for his birthday. Nick and Greg are gung ho about the bet, and Hodges is a staunch supporter of Team Stokes. The whole lab gets involved, which isn’t much fun for poor Henry, who is forced to play bookie.

The bet creates some fun moments in the episode, but the final scene between Doc Robbins and David Phillips goes too far. Even for someone who deals with death on a daily basis, Doc’s reaction to Kevin’s death is pretty cold. He doesn’t seem the slightest bit sad or concerned when he learns that Kevin had an aneurysm and died in the morgue. Kevin worked for him, even if it was only for a day. That being said, Kevin was a total jerk, and I couldn’t stand the guy from his very first scene. I guessed early on that he would be the ‘natural death’ to round out the cycle, and it was only a matter of time before he actually died. In the meantime, he managed to be insulting and offensive practically every time he opened his mouth. Was his behavior a symptom of his illness? I’m no expert, so it might be, but as a fan I’m just glad I don’t have to watch him in another episode.

The Ben Fowler case reminded me of season two’s “You’ve Got Male”, which featured a suicide staged to look like a homicide. The man in that episode also took out a life insurance policy before he killed himself. He named his wife as the sole beneficiary, and he tried to make his death look like a hunting accident so she would be able to collect the money.

Other elements of the plot reminded me of previous episodes as well. Ipecac was used in “Fur and Loathing” during season four to make the victim sick after he cheated on his girlfriend by joining a group of fellow convention-goers wearing fursuits in a “fur pile”. An overweight man wore a diaper in season five’s “King Baby”, although he and Steven Pyles wore diapers for very different reasons. I can’t help but mentally connect Steven choking to death this week with the overweight victim who choked on a game tile in “Bad Words” back in season four.

You rarely see an overweight victim on any of the CSI shows, and when they show up, they’re usually accompanied by snide references to their weight. Steven is referred to as “Moby Dick” and “Jabba the Hut” this week, and he chokes to death on the remnants of a pizza. Jealousy is a standard motive for CSI, but Monica doesn’t think the police will bother to investigate when they see that an overweight man choked to death. The victim in “Bad Words” was forced to eat letter tiles after an angry opponent lost the word-based game. That victim had the number “735” written on his t-shirt, which referred to a high score he achieved during a tournament game, but Brass quipped that the number might stand for his “goal weight”. The characters are two very different gamers appearing in episodes airing nearly seven years apart, but they were both overweight, and they both choked to death.

“Hitting for the Cycle” doesn’t portray gamers in a positive light either. Greg shows a significant knowledge of gaming this week, but it doesn’t overpower the image of a slovenly guy wearing a diaper so he doesn’t have to get up to go to the bathroom during his game. The only other hardcore gamer given significant focus in this episode is the guy who set off the flash bang grenades to give Steven a seizure. He fits neatly into the nerdy gamer stereotype, and he even cites “Wikimeds” as his source when he states that a seizure couldn’t kill Steven. In reality, gamers cover a broad spectrum and come from all walks of life. To be fair, any group portrayed on CSI tends to get similar treatment because it’s a crime-of-the-week show, and it usually highlights the most entertaining or bizarre portion of any given community—be it gamers, furries, or those with paraphilic infantilism (as in “King Baby”). CSI can’t show every aspect of a given community in an hour-long episode, but it can get frustrating when the series features a certain group and only focuses on trite stereotypes or a fringe segment of the group.

My favorite part of the gamer storyline is Brass’s reaction to the tournament. When Greg mentions that Brass could shoot people in Aeron’s Legion, the man’s response about real war versus a war-based video game is insightful, but it’s the humor that really stands out. The best moment comes when he walks up to interrupt the tournament so they can speak to ‘Ninja Assassin’ about the flash bang grenades. He echoes the DJ by saying “Game’s over, bitches,” and he wags his finger at the booing crowd. Paul Guilfoyle can say so much with just a look. Later on, Brass and Greg return to the tournament to speak to Evan Ferrari, and Brass describes the search for Evan as trying to find “a nerd in a haystack.” When Monica points out Evan, and Brass and Greg realize they’re actually looking for an attractive woman, Brass refers to Ms Ferrari as a “sweet ride.” I love his snarky brand of humor, and Guilfoyle nails the delivery each and every time.

“Hitting for the Cycle” features some significant foreshadowing for the rest of season eleven. Serial killer Nate Haskell is gone but not forgotten, and Langston will have to confront the escaped convict before the season is over. Haskell is mentioned by name this week, and the episode also makes a less direct reference to Langston’s ex-wife Gloria. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she was introduced in “All That Cremains” or that Langston talked about his failed marriage in this episode. It’s obvious that he still cares about Gloria, and Haskell will probably figure that out before he resurfaces. Hopefully Gloria and her new husband will survive the final showdown between Langston and Haskell.


See also: “Hitting for the Cycle” episode guide

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