Writers’ assistant Michael FX Daley has written two previous episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, season eight’s “Lying Down With Dogs” and “Man Up” from last season. This week’s installment, “Split Decisions”, is his third credit for the series, and he co-wrote the episode with Co-Executive Producer Richard Catalani. Daley answered some questions for CSI Files’ Rachel Trongo about the writing process, CSI’s transitional twelfth season, and a unique forensic process that will be featured in “Split Decisions”.
CSI Files: “Split Decisions” is your third writing credit for CSI. Congratulations!
Michael FX Daley: Thanks! It’s amazing to write for such a high caliber show. The writers, cast and crew on this show really make you look good.
CSI Files: You co-wrote the episode with Richard Catalani. This is in contrast to “Man Up” from last year, which lists you as the only writer for the episode. How does the writing process differ when you’re crafting the episode with someone else, and do you prefer writing alone or with a partner?
Daley: Rich pitched a concept at the beginning of the year, which I loved. I came up with an idea that complimented it, so I asked him if he wanted to write together. My part of the idea was pretty out there, and Rich is the real life CSI, so I thought if I could sell it to him, we could get it on the air. So that’s what we did.
Writing with a partner keeps you open to different perspectives. In season 8 I wrote an episode with [Executive Story Editor] Chris Barbour. That was a great experience as well. Television’s a collaborative process, and I embrace that. I’m aiming to have a solo career, but always embrace the chance to write with another writer.
CSI Files: What can you tell us about the plot for the episode?
Daley: Lots of fun twists and turns in this one. It starts with a shooting, right out in the open. Something we don’t do often, mainly because it ruins the mystery. But in this one, what we see is just the beginning of the mystery.
It leads to a CSI first—We lock down the casino. The entire casino, including the hotel towers. Our team has to go door to door to find the suspects. Along the way we get to see what’s going on behind those closed hotel room doors… In one, it’s enough to make Officer Mitchell (Larry Mitchell) blush.
CSI Files: CSI tends to focus on the science, but “Malice in Wonderland” offered fans a glimpse at several characters’ personal lives. (The plant from Gil Grissom [William Petersen] was a particularly nice touch!) Is it back to business as usual this week, or will some of those personal storylines carry over?
Daley: Our episode doesn’t do much to further personal lives. We don’t have much time in it. And science really drives it. We use a process we’ve never used on CSI in all 12 years. It’s called “antibody profiling”.
CSI Files: What’s antibody profiling?
Daley: Antibody profiling is like a DNA process, but instead of going to the genetic code, it maps out a person’s antibodies in their body fluids. Your antibody profile is set by the age of two, and no two profiles are the same. It’s more like fingerprints than DNA in that way. It was a process that competed with DNA back in the late 80s, but lost out. DNA formed the national database, so labs opted for DNA over antibody profiling. At one point in the script we called it the “betamax” of identification.
CSI Files: As season twelve draws to a close, what are your thoughts about the season as a whole? Is there anything you can tease about the last few episodes?
Daley: This season was one of true transition. As Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) was leaving, our team realized how important they were to each other, and they embraced D.B. Russell (Ted Danson) as their new head of the family. Julie Finlay (Elisabeth Shue), a member of Russell’s old family, was brought to help. So the family has changed, but the show remains the same. It’s still about solving crimes through the smallest bits of evidence.
CSI Files: CSI has been renewed for an impressive thirteenth season. Will you be back next year? If so, is there anything—or anyone—in particular that you’d like to see on the show next season?
Daley: Hoping to be back next year. I feel like I’ve just begun to explore stories for this show and have lots more to give. Season 13 of 25, I like to say…
I must say I’ve truly enjoyed working with Ted Danson. He’s really brought new life into the show, and I love the character [Executive Producers] Carol [Mendelsohn] and Don [McGill] created for him. I’m eager to work with him again… As well as the rest of the gang. It’s such a great cast. We have an embarrassment of talent.
Rachel Trongo is the news and review writer for CSI Files, and you can find her on Twitter @RachelTrongo.