February 22 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘Cello And Goodbye’

11 min read

The hunt for Nate Haskell sends the team to Los Angeles, and things get more personal for Langston when his ex-wife is kidnapped.

Synopsis:

Nate Haskell and Tina Vincent are with Langston’s ex-wife Gloria and her husband Phil Baker in the couple’s Los Angeles home. Gloria and Phil have been drugged, and Haskell hits Phil over the head. His body turns up in a dumpster, and a young woman named Morgan Brody from the Scientific Investigation Division (SID) goes over her boss’s head and contacts the LVPD about a possible connection to the Haskell investigation. Catherine and Langston fly to LA, and he immediately recognizes Phil. The group rushes to Gloria’s home and finds it empty—but there is blood all over the floor. Haskell left Gloria’s ring wrapped in a piece of sheet music for “Gloria in excelsis Deo”, and Langston tells Catherine that he doesn’t think he can handle this. She calls Sara to fly to LA, and she sends an officer to drive Langston to the airport so he can return to Las Vegas. Langston ditches his police escort at the first available opportunity. Haskell took away the only woman he ever loved, and now Langston will do whatever it takes to find him.

The team looks at security footage from Gloria’s building, which shows Tina driving the Bakers’ car with Haskell in the passenger seat. The LAPD locates the abandoned car—there is blood in the trunk, but no sign of Gloria. The team finds pictures of Gloria and Phil with Haskell and Tina from the event where they met, and Haskell is labeled as Willoughby J Willoughby. Haskell’s present for Langston included a postcard for Willoughby Observatory in addition to Gloria’s ring, so they look up the man himself and discover that he shot his wife in 1943. It looks like Haskell is leaving clues for Langston to come out and “play”.

Langston purchases a gun and laptop from a pawn shop, and he goes looking for Haskell. He finds Tina Vincent and follows her, holding a gun to her head. Catherine calls in Nick to help find the missing CSI, and Nick arrives just in time for Sosa to escort them into the hotel where Tina’s body has been found. She was shot once in the leg and once in the head, and there are signs of torture. The LAPD finds fingerprints and DNA from Langston in the room, so he’s a suspect. Sosa kicks the CSIs out, but Morgan sends Nick a picture he wanted from the scene of a ticket with “You never forget your first” written in blood on the back. It’s only then that Catherine realizes who Morgan is: she’s Ecklie’s daughter.

Nick tracks Langston down and says he’s going to help him. He knows Langston didn’t kill Tina, but Haskell is trying to isolate him and make him a fugitive. Langston says all he got from Tina was one of the tickets with the writing on the back, which she told him was Gloria’s blood. They trace the tickets to the Santa Monica Pier, and a carousel catches Langston’s eye—his first date with Gloria was on a carousel. They go inside and see Haskell, but he escapes. They give chase, but both men are arrested before they can catch him. However, Langston does learn that Gloria is still alive.

Sosa tries to get information out of Langston, but he won’t talk. The detective wants to send them all back to Vegas, but he needs their expertise on the case. Sara and Morgan analyze sand found near Tina’s body, which Morgan determines came from sandblasting. She tests the composition of sand, paint and other materials in order to narrow down the type of building it might have come from—it’s an old industrial building under renovation, most likely a school, hospital or government building.

Langston is back in Vegas, and he gets around Catherine’s restrictions by having Hodges log into the lab’s computer for him. He looks up Willoughby, and Greg walks in to discover him disobeying Catherine’s orders. Greg agrees to help, and he tells Langston that Willoughby had two wives. The first wife caught him with his second wife, and they got into an argument. Willoughby shot his first wife while his second wife and her son Arvin looked on. The first wife didn’t die, but the second wife ended up in a psychiatric hospital several years later. Arvin was sent to live with family in Nessus, Nevada. Langston connects the dots, realizing that Arvin Thorpe, the farmer from “Father of the Bride”, is Willoughby’s son. He looks through yearbooks from Nessus until he finds a picture of “Warner Thorpe”—it’s Haskell.

The team in LA goes to the psychiatric hospital where Willoughby’s wife was sent. Haskell has been squatting here, and this is the source of the sand near Tina’s body. Nick, Catherine and Sara go in with Sosa and find bloody medical equipment. They think they’re going to find Gloria’s body underneath a sheet, but it’s just bags of sand with a sign on them that says “Made you look.”

Langston sneaks into the house on Arvin’s farm where the team previously located the bodies of several people killed by Tina Vincent. He finds Arvin bleeding on the floor, and he asks where the man’s son is—but Arvin dies before he can say anything about “Warner”. Langston finds Gloria shackled in the next room, and he tries to release her. Haskell walks in and points a gun at Langston, welcoming him “home”.


Analysis:

“Cello and Goodbye” marks the second part of the season-ending hunt for Nate Haskell. The episode continues the search for the elusive serial killer, and it also includes references to a previous storyline as well as the introduction of a new character. It’s an action-packed hour, and it answers some major questions about Haskell.

The team follows the evidence to Los Angeles, where Langston’s ex-wife and her new husband have become Haskell’s latest victims. Gloria’s husband Phil has been killed, and Haskell stabbed him 12 times in the back after he died. This continues the pattern established with Haskell’s previous victims as the “Dick & Jane Killer (DJK)”. The number of stab wounds indicates the order of the kills. The last victim killed by Haskell’s accomplice in “19 Down” was stabbed ten times, and Catherine points out that Haskell skipped the number 11. Langston disagrees—he was Haskell’s eleventh victim, regardless of how many times he got stabbed in “Meat Jekyll”.

I was almost surprised to be reminded of Haskell’s previous victims. So much of the emphasis this season has been on Haskell’s obsession with Langston, and the actual DJK storyline seems like it took place so long ago—even if it has only been two seasons. In addition to referencing Haskell’s pattern with the DJK victims, “Cello and Goodbye” features clips from the season nine episode that introduced Haskell’s character, “19 Down”; specifically, it features several glimpses of the first video conference between Haskell and Langston’s criminology class at West Las Vegas University. It’s nice to see such overt references to the storyline that started it all—both Haskell’s debut and the introduction of Ray Langston.

This episode answers some questions about Haskell, as well as explaining some elements of last week’s episode. The plastic surgeon angle remains a mystery since Catherine and Sosa confirm that Haskell doesn’t look any different, but the ties to the farm in Nessus become clear. Not only does Tina have connections to Arvin Thorpe, but Haskell does as well. Haskell’s real name is Warner Thorpe, and he is Arvin’s son. The investigation in Los Angeles reveals the history of Willoughby J Willoughby, a bigamist who shot one of his wives in the 1940s. Willoughby’s son Arvin witnessed the shooting, and the child ended up living in Nessus, Nevada. Last week, it seemed like Haskell was trying to convince the team that he was still in Las Vegas by leaving a trail of victims for them to find, but now it’s clear that the location of the body parts on the Thorpe farm was important—Haskell was giving Langston a piece of the puzzle, even if he didn’t realize the truth at the time.

The Willoughby Observatory pictured on the postcards in the episode is actually the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles. The story of Willoughby J Willoughby in “Cello and Goodbye” contains some obvious similarities to the life of Griffith J Griffith, an industrialist and philanthropist who donated land and money to the City of Los Angeles. The land would become Griffith Park, and the money would pay to build the Greek Theatre and the Griffith Park Observatory that are located there. While the money laundering and bigamy attributed to Willoughby on the show are fictional additions, one major aspect of the character is true to life. Griffith shot his wife in the head in 1903 at the Arcadia Hotel in Santa Monica, California. As in the show, Griffith’s wife survived the attack. He was only sentenced to two years in San Quentin State Prison after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

CSI, like the two spinoffs in the franchise, is primarily filmed in Los Angeles despite its Las Vegas setting. For eleven seasons, LA has stood in for Vegas, so it’s fun to see the city stand in for itself this time. Similar to the CSI: Miami episode “LA” last season, “Cello and Goodbye” celebrates the Los Angeles setting by emphasizing elements like the beach and the palm trees—elements that are normally hidden when the city is pretending to be Las Vegas.

The Los Angeles setting also gives the team a chance to interact with new characters, and the episode introduces fans to a woman with connections to the crime lab. Morgan Brody is a bright young SID investigator, and she works with the CSIs throughout the episode. Catherine eventually realizes that Morgan is Undersheriff Conrad Ecklie’s daughter. After her parents divorced, Morgan took her stepfather’s name—that explains why Catherine didn’t connect the dots sooner. As CSI Files previously reported, Elisabeth Harnois has been added as a series regular for CSI’s twelfth season, so fans can look forward to seeing more of the young woman when the fall rolls around. It will be interesting to see Morgan interacting with the team on their own turf (assuming she moves to Las Vegas, which seems like the most logical course of action if she’s going to appear on a regular basis), and I’m looking forward to seeing how things play out between Morgan and her father. When Catherine points out that she’s Ecklie’s daughter, the young woman says that was true “before the divorce.” The father and daughter are clearly estranged from one another, and it could add a fascinating new dynamic to the Las Vegas Crime Lab. Anything that gives Marc Vann more material to work with is a major bonus in my book.

Speaking of relationships, “Cello and Goodbye” features some wonderful interaction between members of the team. Langston’s phone call to Doc Robbins and his scene with the coroner at the airport later in the episode are both great. The hug at the airport is a particularly nice moment. I love their friendship, and I love that Langston considers Doc to be someone he can trust.

Langston’s friendship with Nick is also showcased in this episode. Catherine sends for Nick to help locate Langston after he ditches his police escort, and Nick has no trouble tracking him down. Instead of bringing Langston in or sending him back to Vegas, Nick promises to help Langston with his search. It earns him a stern reprimand from Catherine later on, and she says she’d stick him on the plane back to Vegas with Langston if she didn’t need him in LA to help track Haskell down. I love this scene—it’s great to see Catherine asserting herself as their boss, especially since they’re in a different state. They should all be working together to help the LAPD catch this guy, not running off in another direction until they get brought in by the local cops for waving their guns around at an amusement park.

I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed with how things have played out with Langston going after Haskell. I knew he’d track the killer down himself, but I thought it would involve the CSI giving in to the monster inside of himself (as he suggested to Dr Kessler in “Unleashed”)—instead, it seems to involve Langston being obsessed and running around like the rules don’t apply to him. He buys an illegal gun and avoids the cops while he’s looking for Haskell, but nothing about his behavior is particularly dark. He’s just being reckless and kind of dense. Judging by the setup at the end of the episode, Langston killing Haskell will probably be a simple matter of self defense. Sure, he made some bad decisions that led to him being in that situation in the first place, but the episode ends with Haskell pointing a gun at Langston—taking out the serial killer who is aiming a gun at you and your ex-wife (whom he kidnapped) isn’t dark or evil. It’s self-preservation. That’s not to say that I don’t think Langston will get in trouble for his behavior (I’m sure he will), but after so much time was spent talking about “warrior genes” and Langston being afraid of his violent nature since the character was introduced, I expected something a bit more shocking or groundbreaking.

Now, if Langston had tortured Tina for information, that would be a very different story. Langston said he didn’t hurt Tina, and they confirmed that the bullet that killed her wasn’t from Langston’s gun; however, they didn’t say anything about the non-fatal bullet wound in her leg—it would be very interesting if the team found out that some of Tina’s wounds were inflicted by Langston. I don’t expect that to happen, but it would definitely be a shocking twist. It’s not that I want Langston to be a bad guy, but this storyline has been built up so much that the conclusion won’t be very satisfying if it’s simply a case of ‘one man turns his back on the laws he has sworn to uphold in order to track down his enemy.’

“Cello and Goodbye” ends with yet another “To be continued” message. Next week is the finale, so I’m not surprised that the storyline will stretch into the final hour of season eleven. However, I’m not sure how the plot is going to fill another episode—the most obvious outcome of the last scene this week is that Langston manages to hurt or kill Haskell. Perhaps the finale will provide the shocking moments that have been lacking in the storyline so far. If Langston kills Haskell, how will he do it? Will he lose control and take out his rage and frustration on the serial killer’s body long after he’s dead? More than anything, I’m curious to see where Langston stands at the end of the season. Will his actions in the past two episodes—not to mention his actions in the finale—put his job in jeopardy? Next week’s finale will provide some answers, and I hope the loose ends are tied up before season eleven draws to a close. This storyline has gone on for a while, and I’d like to see the series head into new territory when the twelfth season gets underway.


See also: “Cello and Goodbye” episode guide

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