Supervising Producer Joe Pokaski joined the staff of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation this season, and he has already penned two episodes of the hit crime drama, “Tell Tale Hearts” and “Zippered”. His third and final writing credit for the season is this week’s episode, “Malice in Wonderland”, and Pokaski answered some questions for CSI Files’ Rachel Trongo about his time on CSI, his latest creation for the series, and what fans can expect in terms of friendship, romance and family relationships during the episode. (Minor episode spoilers after the jump!)
CSI Files: This is your third and final episode of the season, and you’re approaching the end of your first year on the show. Do you feel settled in by now?
Joe Pokaski: I think so. I can’t imagine a more welcoming place than the CSI writer’s office. I was a little intimidated coming in, being a big fan of the show, and having to meet a living legend like [Executive Producer] Carol Mendelsohn. But early into our first conversation about the show, I realized that she was simply the biggest fan of CSI, and that’s why she is so good at what she does. And that’s what’s so beautiful about this place. From Carol to [Executive Producer] Don McGill, to all the writers down, the whole crew is filled with people who just love the show and want to make something that lives up to the name. It’s a great place to be settled in to.
CSI Files: CBS has already announced that CSI has been renewed for a thirteenth season. Do you anticipate being back next year?
Pokaski: I believe so (fingers crossed). Now that I have my CSI legs, I have a lot more stories to tell with these great characters.
CSI Files: “Malice in Wonderland” is your latest CSI creation, an episode with an Alice in Wonderland backdrop. What can you tease about the installment?
Pokaski: Hmm. I guess it’s fair to say it’s my attempt at Classic CSI. I wanted something distinctly Las Vegas like weddings (did you know there are about 300 a day there?), and something fun like robberies. In the spirit of “Fur and Loathing”.
Alec Smight directed the heck out of this episode, so I can unabashedly say it’s one of the more visually stunning hours of television I’ve been a part of. The first shot is incredible. The last shot is moving. Hopefully everything in-between is just fun for the audience.
CSI Files: It also introduces the long-mentioned Olivia Hodges, David Hodges’ (Wallace Langham) mother. How did you guys reach the decision to cast her?
Pokaski: Carol wanted to meet Mother Hodges this season, after all the great mentions of her throughout the show, and Jaclyn Smith was the first name I heard mentioned for the role. She seemed perfect to everyone. So we jumped on the phone with her and explained the role, and she was game. I remember hearing Jaclyn say something along the lines about “well, being a mother is the job that was most important to me in life, so it sounds right up my alley.”
CSI Files: Hodges has often said that his mom is a very old woman and snores in her sleep. Jaclyn Smith does not seem like the type to do that.
Pokaski: Yeah, she doesn’t seem that old, does she? In fact, upon meeting Jaclyn, there is exactly nothing old about her. Looks. Spirit. Enthusiasm. In fact, I’m fairly certain there’s a painting of her aging in an attic somewhere. (As for the snoring, I’ve got no comment.)
CSI Files: Hodges and Morgan Brody (Elisabeth Harnois) have a complicated working relationship that was touched on in “CSI Unplugged”. Is more on that development brought up in this episode?
Pokaski: Oh boy is it. Morgan starts from a place of annoyance, but then gets a rare look under Hodges’ haughty exterior. The two actually lean on each other in the episode, and it pays emotional dividends for both in terms of their parental-relationships. Elisabeth Harnois and Wally Langham take what could have been a silly storyline and really infuse it with a great humanity and nuanced humor. Wally, I knew was a comic genius, but Elisabeth, wow. Her timing and instincts were honestly [Mary] Tyler Moore-esque.
CSI Files: Speaking of working relationships, “Malice in Wonderland” marks Elisabeth Shue’s fifth episode as Julie Finlay, and she’s fitting in great with the rest of the team. Can fans expect any more tidbits about Finn’s past with DB Russell (Ted Danson) this week?
Pokaski: Absolutely. This week platforms everyone’s attitude towards marriage, and Russell and Finlay are on distinctly different parts of the spectrum—based on their marital track records. We subtly reference a lost love in Finlay that we’ll explore later, and we’ll get under her shell a little by the end of the hour.
CSI Files: There’s word that Gil Grissom will somehow factor into the episode. Will there be an appearance by William Petersen before the end of the season?
Pokaski: I can’t speak to the end of the season (or I might not make it past it myself), but part of Wednesday night’s story is dedicated to understanding Married life between Sara [Sidle, Jorja Fox] and Grissom. How it works, and why it works. And the last image in that sub-story makes me smile every time I see it.
Rachel Trongo is the news and review writer for CSI Files, and you can find her on Twitter @RachelTrongo.