Langston takes down serial killer Nate Haskell in the season eleven finale, and the team must determine whether Langston acted in self defense—or if he committed murder.
Picking up where “Cello and Goodbye” left off, Langston is kneeling beside his ex-wife Gloria while Nate Haskell stands in the doorway with a gun in his hand. Haskell killed his father, and now he’s the man of the house. His last few kills haven’t given him any sense of satisfaction, and he blames Langston. Langston is able to get the jump on Haskell and beats him up, but he stops short of killing him and instead binds his wrists with a pair of flex-cuffs. Langston goes back to Gloria, but Haskell expresses his disappointment. He asks if Langston can guess why he left Gloria alive—and what he did to her. Langston stands up, pulling out a knife. Instead of stabbing Haskell, he cuts the pair of flex-cuffs off his wrists. When Brass and the uniformed officers arrive, they find Haskell dead on the stairs. Brass notices the marks around Haskell’s wrists and puts a pair of handcuffs on him before heading upstairs to find Langston and Gloria.
Greg and Sara look at the scene, determining that Haskell fell backwards, breaking through the banister and falling to his death. Brass describes it as a classic case of self-defense. He adds that Langston is going to need all of the help they can give him because Internal Affairs is going to be all over this case.
Internal Affairs Detective Schultz shows up in Brass’s office, but Ecklie tells the man he’ll have to wait to do his interview with Langston. Ecklie points out that this case is straightforward, but Schultz disagrees—sometimes the cases that seem the most straightforward are actually the most complex.
Sara and Greg analyze the blood in the house, and they can tell Langston had Haskell on his back. Langston’s shoeprints go through Haskell’s blood toward the banister, but there are no footprints from Haskell—Langston had him off his feet when he pushed him over the edge. Greg insists that there is a reasonable explanation, but Sara tries to remain neutral as they unravel the evidence.
Catherine meets Schultz on his way out of the morgue. He has already spoken to Doc Robbins, and Catherine heads in to see what the coroner has to say. Doc describes all of the injuries Haskell sustained, and Catherine points out that some of them seem suspicious. Doc says it doesn’t matter—these injuries don’t affect his ruling for the cause of death: Haskell died from the fall.
There is blood spatter in Haskell’s old bedroom, but it’s not human. New wallpaper was applied over the blood, suggesting that Arvin knew his son was killing animals in his room. There’s also blood on the walls in the master bedroom, suggesting that perhaps father and son were dangerous men. The walls in the master bedroom were washed, but they weren’t wallpapered or repainted. Arvin bought a nearby house in 1976, and he left this house empty to conceal his secrets.
The team finds animal bones buried in the backyard, along with two human skeletons. The woman is Haskell’s mother, Lois Thorpe, who disappeared in 1968. She has fractures on her skull and ribs, which couldn’t have been inflicted by her 8-year-old son. Arvin killed his wife after years of abuse, and his son heard everything through the walls. The boy graduated from animals to human victims when he was 16. The first person he ever killed was a salesman for Supra Lux appliances who went missing in 1976. Greg shows Nick a mini refrigerator the salesman brought to the house. Not only did the young man kill the salesman, but he took his name as well—Warner’s first victim was Douglas Nathan Haskell.
Catherine and Sara discuss the evidence, and they realize Langston had Haskell handcuffed but cut the cuffs off before throwing the man over the banister. However, they found no cuffs at the scene; if there’s no evidence of the handcuffs, they can’t prove that any were used. Sara goes into the locker room to check Langston’s kit in case any of his flex-cuffs are missing—all three pairs are accounted for.
Catherine speaks to Brass, suggesting that he picked up Langston’s discarded flex-cuffs and replaced the missing pair in his kit. However, she doesn’t press the issue, and she hands her signed report over to Schultz. She says their investigation supports the conclusion that Langston acted in self-defense. When Schultz sits down to do an interview with Langston about the incident, he asks whether Haskell’s death was a result of self defense or murder. Langston pauses before preparing to answer…
Wow. In my review for “Cello and Goodbye”, I said I was disappointed that Langston hadn’t really given in to his darker urges during this storyline, and I wasn’t optimistic about how the finale would play out; after watching “In a Dark, Dark House”, I have to eat my words. Langston is a scary guy. He reins himself in after overpowering Haskell and handcuffing him, but the realization that Haskell abused Gloria pushes him right over the edge. Knowing what can happen when he’s pushed to the brink, his comments to Doc Robbins about telling himself to “be good” when he was a child are pretty chilling.
Perhaps even more interesting than Langston’s transformation in this episode is the way each of the other characters reacts to his actions. Brass doesn’t hesitate to compromise the scene in order to protect Langston, and he reminds the CSI what will happen if he tells the truth to the IA detective at the end of the episode. Brass has really put himself on the line; to be completely honest, I’m kind of surprised. Haskell was a horrible excuse for a human being, and I don’t feel bad that he’s dead—but that doesn’t excuse Langston’s actions. He snapped and killed Haskell, and he should face the consequences without Brass’s actions making the water more murky. Brass didn’t cover for a man who made a split second mistake and regretted it—Langston beat Haskell more than was strictly necessary before he handcuffed him. When he removed the flex-cuffs, he punched Haskell repeatedly in the kidney and kicked his kneecap. Haskell tried to taunt the CSI so he’d give in to his dark urges, but Langston didn’t need any persuading. He let his rage take over and threw the man over the railing to his death. Even if Brass didn’t know exactly what happened in that house when he first arrived, he got the gist as soon as he saw the marks from the restraints around Haskell’s wrists. It’s one thing to protect a member of your team, but at some point a man has to take responsibility for his own actions. Langston completely overpowered Haskell—as Catherine points out to Sara, he could have subdued the killer without taking his life.
Brass doesn’t deny the truth when Catherine confronts him about what happened. She has her suspicions about what Langston did, but she lets it remain a secret because there’s no evidence at the scene proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Haskell was restrained. Sara, on the other hand, tries to hunt down the truth—even if it means bringing in one of their own. However, Brass replaced Langston’s missing flex-cuffs, so there’s not much she can do to prove her theory. In any case, the scene with Greg in the locker room is one of my favorites in this episode. Greg approaches the investigation with the assumption that there’s a reasonable explanation for Langston’s actions, and he asks what Sara would do if it were him in Langston’s situation. She tells him the honest truth: she’d look in his case to see if the flex-cuffs were missing. They have to follow the evidence. “We have all had a moment in the dark where we had to fight our way out,” she tells Greg, and the rest of the team has to shed the light on the truth—only once they know the truth can they deal with it.
Langston’s closest friend in the lab is Doc Robbins. During Haskell’s autopsy, he finds injuries that are inconsistent with Langston shoving him over the banister in self-defense; however, he gives these injuries little consideration and focuses on the official cause of death: Haskell died from the fall. Later on, Langston opens up about the monster inside of himself and how he always told himself to behave so he wouldn’t lose control. Doc remains loyal, telling Langston that he’s a good man, but Langston doesn’t seem convinced. Even if Doc has some idea of what happened in that house, he doesn’t know for sure—Langston is the only one who knows just how far he went into the darkness while bringing Haskell down.
Nick is supportive of Langston when he processes the man in the hospital, telling him that Gloria is alive, and that’s the most important thing. Nick has little to do with the investigation into Langston’s actions, instead concentrating on searching for information about Haskell’s past in his childhood home. It’s interesting to learn about “Warner”, and the array of skeletons found in the backyard is a chilling sight—especially when the team discovers two human skeletons buried alongside the animals. Arvin Thorpe killed his wife, and Warner committed his first murder less than ten years later.
The episode provides for some nice character moments, even in the middle of the dramatic investigation into Langston’s actions and Haskell’s dark history. Greg gets to show off his knowledge of the past by discussing salesmen during the 1970s, and he uncovers the truth about what prompted Warner Thorpe to go by the name Nate Haskell—salesmen in the past would carry around a small model of the appliance they were selling, and Warner kept the model refrigerator belonging to the first man he killed. The man’s name is engraved on the bottom of the model: Douglas Nathan Haskell.
I am anxious to see how the writers resolve this cliffhanger when the new season starts this fall. They can’t move on as if nothing has happened—it would feel like a cop-out to basically forget all about Haskell and what Langston did to catch him. At this point, my first thought is that Langston should leave of his own accord, even if IA determines that Haskell’s death was self-defense. Even if I can understand his actions to a point, it would be hard for Langston to tell the truth about what happened without bringing Brass down with him, and questions could be raised about the investigation and Catherine’s decision to write off on it despite the suspicious marks around Haskell’s wrists. It was recently revealed that some of the cast members are renegotiating their contracts, including Laurence Fishburne, Paul Guilfoyle and Marg Helgenberger. I get the feeling that the characters’ fates will be determined by the outcome of this round of contract negotiations. If all of the actors return, my guess is that Langston will claim that he acted in self-defense, and IA will (reluctantly) rule in his favor.
Regardless of who stays or leaves, it will be interesting to see how the events of the Haskell storyline affect the relationships between the team members. Some of the characters may have trouble trusting Langston if he stays on the team, and I hope that doesn’t get swept under the rug. The writers took Langston to a dark place, and he did things that should have a lasting effect on himself and the colleagues he dragged into the mud with him. I’m especially curious about the relationship between Brass and Langston, as well as Brass and Catherine. Brass has really put himself on the line for Langston, and Catherine isn’t happy about it. The aftereffects of this storyline should provide some great material for Guilfoyle, Helgenberger and Fishburne to work with, and I can’t wait to see what the writers and actors bring to the table during season twelve.
See also: “In a Dark, Dark House” episode guide.