June 19 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘Pick And Roll’

10 min read

DB Russell’s son Charlie becomes a suspect after his basketball coach is murdered in the locker room.


The body of WLVU basketball coach Tom Burns is found in the locker room after being bludgeoned to death around 5:00am. The killer came in as he was preparing to take a shower, hitting him once to knock him down; he was then hit repeatedly once he was on the floor. The killer tried to clean up on the way out of the shower, and there are two sets of footprints—they might be looking at two killers. There are two distinct wound patterns, suggesting that Burns was hit with two weapons, or with one weapon used two ways.

Coach Burns was arguing with Jack Oxford the night before he was murdered. Oxford is the biggest benefactor in WLVU history, and he owns the gym where Burns practices with his team. Oxford denies killing the coach, insisting that it wouldn’t be good for business to kill the man.

Brass speaks to Coach Burns’ wife, Linda, who was in Tahoe when he was killed. She hasn’t spoken to him for several days, but she says that isn’t unusual for their marriage. He gets very busy at this time of year. She admits that they’ve been in couples’ therapy, and she says things were getting better. However, there’s evidence that the coach had another woman in his life, “Mistress Z”, who came to the coach’s house to “discipline” him the night before he was killed.

It turns out that the coach wasn’t the only one having an extramarital relationship. Linda has also been seeing someone else: Jack Oxford. They try to bring the man back in, wondering if he killed Burns over the man’s wife, but he’s dead. He was shot in the head and the groin with a gun found outside the gym, which belongs to Linda.

There’s a teardrop on Burns’ forehead, and it’s mixed with Longessa, an eyelash-lengthening product. Linda has a prescription, and she admits that she lied about being there that morning, but she insists that she only came in and saw his body. She didn’t call 911 because she thought she knew who did it; Oxford wanted Burns to put his son Eli on the team, but the coach refused. Considering that she was having an affair with the man, she didn’t want the scandal.

Evidence leads the team to Rob Austin, president of the university. He wanted Burns to recruit Oxford’s son because the man is such a major benefactor for the school, but Burns refused. Austin said he would never ask Burns for anything else, and he tried to bribe him with one of the first basketballs ever made. Burns called Austin pathetic, telling him he’s just an “Ivy League pimp” looking for handouts from rich donors. Austin lost his temper and followed Burns into the shower, hitting him over the head with the basketball’s heavy stone stand. Burns may have gotten all the glory as the face of WLVU, but Austin did all the hard work without getting any appreciation. He cleaned up after himself, and he saw Linda coming into the locker room as he was leaving. He saw an opportunity to get rid of Oxford, whom he hated, and set Linda up at the same time.


DB Russell’s son Charlie is back in “Pick and Roll”, and things get tricky for the family this week. At the start of the hour, Charlie is having a bad practice with Coach Burns, and the man sends him out of the gym. After the coach is found dead, DB heads to Charlie’s dorm room to let him know, and he discovers his son there with a lovely young woman. Charlie introduces her as Vanessa, his girlfriend. Although they have been dating for several months, this is the first time she has met a member of Charlie’s family. DB needs to speak with Charlie alone, however, and Vanessa excuses herself. Charlie tells his father that he went back into the locker room after practice to get his dorm key, and he heard the coach having an argument with Oxford.

What Charlie neglects to tell his father is that he also had an altercation with Coach Burns. When a blood-spattered jersey in the laundry basket leads back to another player, TJ Fair, the young man says the blood got on him when he tried to break up a fight between Charlie and the coach. Burns called Vanessa a tramp, suggesting that Charlie has lost focus since he started dating her, and Charlie threw a punch at the man. This is new information to DB, and when he confronts Charlie, the young man doesn’t deny it. He says he was doing stadium runs at the time of the murder; no one saw him, but Vanessa was there when he woke up, and she had breakfast with him after he was done. It’s not a good alibi, and DB is angry at his son for not telling him the truth from the beginning. Charlie tries to suggest that the information wasn’t relevant, and he’s just trying to take care of his own life. DB argues that Charlie can’t tell the difference between independence and being completely honest with his father.

At the start of the episode, DB and his wife Barbara are having breakfast together. He’s glad to have her—and her cooking—back at home, although she knows he has been eating bacon while she was away. He says she’s a detective (he later refers to her as “Madam Poirot”), and she tells him something else she figured out using her own brand of investigative skills: Charlie has a girlfriend. She can tell because he has bought new clothes to impress someone, and he washed his car. After he hears her theory, DB is not surprised to meet Vanessa in his son’s dorm room. Later, Charlie brings the young woman home to have dinner with his parents, and they learn that she is earning her masters degree in psychology. She and Charlie really love each other, and they decide that they want to move in together.

When the investigation leads Nick and DB to a placed called The Iris looking for the woman who has been meeting with Burns for “discipline” sessions, DB is shocked to discover that “Mistress Z” is actually Vanessa. She describes the meeting as “awkward,” which is a major understatement. DB isn’t just surprised, he’s angry that Vanessa has this double life—a double life that Charlie knows nothing about. Vanessa defends her choices and her job, but that doesn’t appease DB at all. She claims she is a licensed sex therapist, not a hooker, but previous scenes give the impression that the relationship between Vanessa and Coach Burns was sexual in nature. (Contrary to how it might sound, sex therapy is not meant to include sexual contact between therapist and patient.) This might be a misunderstanding on my part, but it does seem like Vanessa blurred the lines between professional and personal when it came to the coach.

The next morning, DB and Barbara talk about their son and his decision to move in with Vanessa, but DB keeps quiet about what he’s learned. He does, however, head into their kitchen to retrieve Vanessa’s wineglass from the night before, which he collects as evidence. Finn confronts DB in the lab later on, reminding him that illegally collecting a wine glass for DNA is exactly the reason she was fired in Seattle, but DB snaps—this is not the same situation because the wine glass belongs to him, and the DNA belongs to the “hooker that’s banging my son.” Knowing this, Finn moves on with the case, letting DB know that the DNA does match the objects from the coach’s house.

DB is frustrated, and he’s worried about Charlie because the evidence is stacking up against him. He fought with the coach, he doesn’t have a good alibi, and now they know that his girlfriend was having a relationship with the victim. Finn knows that Charlie didn’t do it, but their belief won’t stand up against the evidence. Plus, DB feels like his son is keeping something from him, and it wouldn’t be the first time a kid did something stupid in the name of love. If Charlie wasn’t DB’s son, he’d already be sitting in a jail cell.

The team eventually proves that Vanessa and Charlie are innocent, but the Russell family still has things to sort through. Charlie comes to the lab to visit his father, letting the man know that the WLVU basketball program is “screwed” after everything that has happened, and a lot of the other guys on the team are planning to transfer to other schools. Charlie has gotten a few calls himself, and DB wants to know what he plans to do. Charlie asks what his father thinks he should do, but that isn’t the question DB asked. Charlie assumes that his father is angry, but DB is just disappointed. He changes the subject, starting to talk to his son about Vanessa, but Charlie cuts him off. Vanessa broke up with him out of the blue, telling him she got a job at another school. He doesn’t know why she left, but he has to deal with the fact that they were in love one day, getting ready to move in together, and she was gone the next. Charlie quotes his father, saying that “wisdom comes through struggle,” but DB knows that may be easy to say, but experiencing it is much more difficult. Charlie says he’s going to stay in Vegas and “struggle” there instead of transferring to another school, and he anticipates more good days in the future. Things seem to be mended between father and son, and Charlie promises to be at dinner on Sunday.

DB has one final scene with Barbara, and it’s clear that he’s told her everything about Vanessa. She doesn’t like that her husband has been keeping secrets from her, but he says they have a “deal”; there are certain things he doesn’t bring home with him. However, Barbara argues, this isn’t just about work—this is about their family. Besides, DB should tell her things anyway. He wants to protect her, especially considering what he deals with every day at work, but she isn’t convinced. He needs to talk to her about everything. The reality is that he is trying to protect himself, and that only causes trouble for them. She knows who she married, and she makes him promise not to keep any more secrets.

Peri Gilpin and Ted Danson are fantastic together, and I love seeing these private moments between DB and Barbara. They have such a realistic relationship, and it’s nice to see that they’re willing to work hard to keep their marriage intact. I also love the tidbits we get to see of their parenting skills. They aren’t perfect, but it’s obvious that they love their children and have raised them to be intelligent, independent young people. This week, we get to see some stumbling, but the family rights itself when all is said and done. I hope we haven’t seen the last of Gilpin and Brandon W Jones, and I definitely hope we get to see the rest of DB and Barbara’s kids at some point. We’ve met Charlie and Maya, but there are still two more Russells out there that we have yet to meet.

“Pick and Roll” contains some interesting evidence. One set of footprints leading out of the shower traces back to a pair of high heels, which offers fans the chance to see Hodges wearing a pair of the shoes in the lab to test them against the prints from the scene. This leads to a brief, amusing scene with Morgan, and they discuss the second set of shoeprints as well. They are unusual, and they might lead back to a new type of footwear that isn’t in the shoeprint database yet. Hodges suggests a shopping trip with Morgan, and she agrees—but first, Hodges has to test the prints against all of the shoes from Charlie Russell’s closet. Hodges isn’t happy about the idea of having to process Charlie’s belongings, treating the boss’s son like a suspect, but he has no choice.

It turns out that the second set of ‘footprints’ aren’t footprints at all. They are marks left by an antique basketball, which has laces because it was made before 1948. Originally, players didn’t dribble the ball, and the goal was to toss it from one person to another. For this reason, it didn’t matter that the early balls didn’t bounce evenly like modern pieces of equipment—this explains the haphazard pattern the ball made as it bounced along the floor, mimicking footprints. The knowledge that they’re looking for a rare antique leads the team to the president of the university, who owns one and used its stand to kill Burns after their argument in the locker room.

A biological fluid that dripped onto the coach’s forehead in the shower turns out to be a teardrop. Hodges is able to tell it’s an emotional tear rather than an irritant-induced tear because emotional tears contain 25% more proteins, enzymes, lipids, lysozymes and electrolytes. By testing the chemical composition of the tear itself, Hodges confirmed that whoever left the teardrop behind cried over the victim. The tear also contains bimatoprost, the key component of a prescription drug that promotes eyelash growth—a drug that happens to be used by the victim’s wife. That’s a very convenient little tear! The CSI series love to include little scientific tidbits like this, and as a viewer, it’s always fun to learn something new.

See also: “Pick and Roll” episode guide

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5 thoughts on “Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘Pick And Roll’

  1. I’m disappointed in the discontinuity between this episode and 3×11 “Recipe for Murder.” Specifically, Sara already knows that there are different kinds of tears. In 3×11, she said, “Mr. and Mrs. Damon, there are 5 types of tears: sorrow, regret, joy, fear, and allergic reaction. The one thing that they have in common is DNA.” But it was 10 years ago, so it’s understandable, I guess.

  2. I was a good episode but I can’t imagine there is little diference between a “normal” tear or a emtional one sounds like conviance but still a good epsisode I knew there was something off about Venessa ^^;

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