May 25 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘All That Cremains’

10 min read

The CSIs are on the case when a man’s dismembered body is found scattered in boxes of thrift store donations.

Synopsis:

A man’s head and foot are found inside two boxes of donations at a thrift store. Cremated remains, aka cremains, are found inside the man’s mouth, and the team looks through the other boxes that came with the shipment to find the rest of the man’s body. Doc Robbins determines that the victim was dismembered using a flexible saw, and there are ligature marks around the wrists and ankles consistent with wire. There are also contusions on the victim’s chest. When Doc checks the victim’s esophagus, he determines that the man died by choking on the cremains. He had high levels of alcohol and zolpidum in his system. After he passed out, the killer tied him up, choked him and then cut up the body to dispose of it.

The cremains are a mixture of two individuals, including a death row inmate who died of a heart attack two years ago. The crematorium was cutting corners by burning two bodies at once, so they pay the business a visit. They are able to get a name for the unknown female cremains: Sabrina Pose, who was cremated the same day as Joe two years ago after dying in a car accident. The team goes to her house, which she shared with her husband and daughter. The DMV photo of Sabrina’s husband Ron Pose matches their victim. This house wasn’t on the pick-up route for the thrift store, but the house across the street is on the list.

The urn is missing from the mantle in the living room. Nick and Sara find pills and alcohol on the nightstand in the master bedroom, along with ligature marks from wire on the bedposts and ash on the lampshade. Ron was dragged feet-first off the end of the bed and into the bathroom, where he was dismembered in the bathtub. The parts were boxed up in the garage, where Nick finds a flexible saw.

Fingerprints from the bedroom come back to the victim’s ex-girlfriend, Sydney Preston. She was living with him and his daughter Camryn, but she left when she found out Ron was cheating on her. She hasn’t been back to his house in the past two weeks, and the items in the thrift store boxes belonged to her. Sydney is shocked to hear that Ron has been killed and cut up, and she says that she loved him in spite of everything. She thought he was “the one”, but she discovered that he had a lot of women on the side. Sydney asks about Camryn, telling the police that the girl can stay with her.

Greg speaks with Reverend Rebetti, who lived across the street from the Pose family for 15 years. His house was foreclosed, and he donated what he couldn’t take to the thrift store. He says Camryn basically raised herself since both parents worked all of the time, but that all changed when Sydney came along. He also says that Sydney put a smile on Ron’s face for the first time since his wife died. It was an ugly break-up, and Sydney told the minister that she ended it after she found videos with other women on them.

Greg locates the videos in question in a safe in the house. There’s a whole stack of “casting” videos featuring dancers, but tape #15 is missing. They bring in the casting director from the studio who produced the videos, Vince Trufant. He told the girls they were auditioning for a hip hop musical, but it was really auditions to get Ron a girlfriend. Ron would pick out the girls he liked, and Vince would set up dates for him and told the girls Ron was the executive producer. By the time they told the girls the “project” fell through, they were already interested in Ron. Vince wants to know what kind of charge he’s looking at, but he’s shocked to find out that Ron is dead.

The missing tape #15 features Sydney, and the guitar she’s using in the video is the one they found among the thrift store items. The guitar is missing four strings, which is consistent with the ligature marks around Ron’s wrists and ankles. The bruises on Ron’s chest match the knee pads Sydney was wearing in the video. They find Sydney filing for custody of Camryn and bring her in to ask more questions. She admits that the guitar and knee pads were hers, but she left them at the house. When the CSIs process the knee pads, they find DNA from Sydney and Camryn. Sydney says she let Camryn use her things, and Langston tells her the killer has to be one of them. Sydney swears she didn’t kill Ron, but she refuses to believe the other option. She wants to talk to Camryn.

Camryn says her father got mad when he found her playing Sydney’s guitar, and she got angry. She says she didn’t have parents until Sydney showed up, so when he said Sydney was “dead” to them, she wanted him dead. She went into his room after he took his sleeping pills and killed him. Sydney doesn’t believe her, so Camryn pulls out the missing urn to prove it.


Analysis:

There’s something tremendously creepy about a young, remorseless killer. I’ve been watching all three CSI series for years, so I’ve become desensitized to so much of the content, but a kid killing someone in cold blood never fails to give me chills. The killer in “All That Cremains” is a 13-year-old girl who killed her father in a gruesome manner: she tied him up, poured her mother’s cremated remains down his throat to choke him, dismembered the corpse, boxed up the pieces and put the boxes with a stack of donations for a thrift store. Children are supposed to be innocent and uncorrupted, so seeing a child commit a heinous crime makes it twice as chilling.

Madison Davenport is a very talented young actress. When Nick and Frankie first meet Camryn, she’s just a scared kid. Throughout the episode, she’s nervous and upset about the way her life is being turned upside down, and it’s clear that she and Sydney have a close bond. When the final scene with Sydney starts, Camryn is scared and reluctant to tell the truth. The reality of her actions, combined with the flashbacks to the night of Ron’s murder, shows a very different side to this seemingly innocent girl. The look on her face during the flashbacks, particularly when she’s standing in the garage with blood splattered on her face, is downright sinister. After Sydney gets up to walk away, Camryn asks if she’s mad, and she breaks down in tears after Sydney leaves. The contrast between the two different aspects of her personality is quite scary—she may seem like a normal child, but she has a dark side.

Nick reaches out to support Camryn several times in the episode. He’s the one who breaks it to her that her father is dead, and he tells her he’s sorry when she starts to cry. George Eads does a great job of showing how much Nick feels for this little girl, who has now lost both of her parents. CSI sticks to the science most of the time, so it’s always nice to see small, more personal moments like this. Later in the episode, Camryn says she doesn’t want to be left alone with Child Protective Services after Nick and Frankie arrive to take Sydney back in for questioning, and Nick offers to stay with the girl. He’s very friendly, suggesting that they order some pizza and watch a movie. At the end, he and Langston are standing behind the glass while Camryn speaks to Sydney in the interrogation room, and he’s shocked to hear her confess to her father’s murder. When Frankie handcuffs the girl and leads her out of the room, Nick is silent as he watches her go.

“All That Cremains” marks the third and final guest appearance of Katee Sackhoff as Detective Frankie Reed. Frankie is tough and snarky, and I enjoy the way she interacts with the regulars. I’m always a fan of funny little character moments on CSI, and Frankie gets one this week when she heads to the crematorium with Nick and Greg and stumbles across the shady workers getting ready to burn several bodies at once. The men flee, and one of them knocks over a table, sending cremains billowing through the air toward the cops. Frankie pauses and says “gross” before she and Nick pursue the men; it’s hard to blame her, knowing what’s all over her clothes and in her lungs, but I can’t help but laugh at the way she says it. Later, when Frankie joins Sara in the interview with Vince, she’s very no-nonsense and intimidating, and I like the way she leans down and looks Vince in the eye when she explains the severity of his situation. Sackhoff is so great on CSI, it’s a shame we only got to see her in three episodes.

The scene in the crematorium features a brief appearance from rappers Yelawolf and Paul Wall. Co-Executive Producer Dustin Lee Abraham wrote “All That Cremains”, and he documented the guest appearance with a lot of pictures on Twitter. The men don’t say any lines during the scene, but it’s a fun bit of trivia. It’s also fun to see Greg take them out with a board after they knock a stack of body-filled boxes over on top of Nick and Frankie. I have nothing against the men in real life, of course, but it’s hard not to enjoy watching one of the team members bring down a pair of unscrupulous characters.

Speaking of enjoyable moments, Hodges can always be counted on for a laugh. As he and Nick pick through the cremains, he remarks that he doesn’t want to be cremated. He doesn’t like the idea of being “portable” and getting passed around from relative to relative. It doesn’t matter if being buried is more expensive, he wants a tombstone. After all, a tombstone is a place where people can “worship” him. My usual response to Hodges is to shake my head and chuckle at the random stuff he says, and this week is no exception.

The secondary story in the episode features the introduction of Langston’s ex-wife, Gloria. When she first arrives in the lab and speaks to Nick, he’s glad to finally meet her. It becomes clear immediately that the team assumes Langston and Gloria are still married, and Gloria is slightly uncomfortable with this fact and the sight of the wedding ring on Langston’s finger. It’s interesting to see the team’s reactions to seeing Gloria for the first time. Nick is friendly, and Hodges immediately tries to ingratiate himself by mentioning how close he and Langston have become since they started working together. Langston is surprised to hear that she’s getting re-married, and the conversation between them is slightly awkward. It’s obvious that he’s still deeply in love with her. When she leaves, she walks by the lab where Nick, Sara and Dave are going through the boxes containing Ron’s body parts. They discuss how little they know about her, but the scene makes me laugh—specifically, it makes me laugh that Nick is holding up Ron’s head like it’s nothing, casually talking about Gloria as she walks by and looks in at him. Nothing phases a CSI.

I really enjoy the friendship between Langston and Doc Robbins, so it’s a bit surprising to learn that Doc had no idea Langston has been divorced for two years. Did Langston talk about Gloria as if they were still married, or did he avoid mentioning her and let the ring on his finger tell the story? I feel bad for Langston in this scene, when Doc mentions bringing Gloria over to have dinner with (presumably) him and his wife. The coroner is clueless, and he has no idea that Langston just found out the only woman he’s ever loved is marrying another man. The casual reference to his happy marriage must sting for Langston.

Langston meets up with Gloria’s new fiancĂ© Phil later in the episode. It’s an awkward exchange, but Phil is excited to finally meet him. When Gloria arrives a few minutes later, she’s surprised to see that Langston actually came—and she’s not entirely pleased to hear her fiancĂ© mention Langston coming to the wedding. At first, it seems as though she doesn’t want Langston there, and she points out that he barely made it to his own wedding on time. She immediately apologizes, but Langston doesn’t deny it. She’s right, but he promises he’ll be early to watch her marry Phil. As soon as he says this, Gloria’s demeanor changes, and it’s clear that she does want him there after all.

At the end of the episode, Nick is the one who learns the truth when he comes into the locker room to find Langston putting on a suit. Nick is surprised to hear Langston refer to Gloria as his ex-wife, and Langston explains that he wears the ring because it’s a symbol of the best part of his life. However, he can see how happy Gloria is with Phil, and he’s happy that she’s happy. Nick tells him he’s a good man, but he reminds Langston to take off his wedding band before he leaves. Re-watching this episode when I’ve seen the rest of the season is bittersweet, but it’s nice to see Langston overcome his own heartache so he can support Gloria as she prepares to move forward into a new stage of her life.


See also: “All That Cremains” episode guide

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