February 29 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘Play Dead’

8 min read

An officer is found with his throat ripped out, and the team must figure out if his K-9 partner is responsible for his death.

Synopsis:

Two young women get lost on their way to a party, and they come across a dead body. The man’s throat has been ripped out, and the dog next to the body seems to be responsible. The victim is a K-9 officer, Mike Nelson, and the dog is his canine partner, Sam. There’s an envelope full of cash in the glove compartment of Nelson’s truck, and there’s a baggie of meth wrapped in a yellow bandana in his pocket. The CSIs bring in the leader of Nelson’s K-9 unit, Sergeant Varanski, who reveals that the man and dog have been working together for eight years. They were the best team in the unit, and Nelson was a good cop.

The cash came from Nelson’s personal account, and they discover that a hooker called the man from a payphone the night of the murder. She had a yellow bandana in her pocket, leading the team to think she was the one who gave him the drugs. They are able to identify the woman as Carly, who reveals that she was Nelson’s confidential informant. She would give him new stuff from the street so they could track down the dealers. She says Nelson was alive when she left.

Later, Doc Robbins calls DB down to the morgue, where he reveals that Carly is dead. She was found in a motel with a needle in her arm, the victim of an apparent overdose. However, she didn’t kill herself. The woman was pregnant, and a paternity test determines that the man who killed Nelson is the father. There’s a bandage in the motel room with the man’s blood on it. Sam bit him, and the wound got infected, so they check illegal medical clinics until they are able to track him down. The man, Vinnie, wanted Carly to get rid of the baby, so she went to Nelson for help. Nelson was going to give her money, but Vinnie saw them together and freaked out. He killed Nelson right in front of Carly, and she was scared. Vinnie killed her to stop her from going to the police.

Meanwhile, Finn and Morgan head to the home of a big-shot divorce lawyer, Barry Sloan. He was shot through the window while he was sitting on the bed. A neighbor heard the gunshots while she was meditating, and the woman explains that Barry was not popular in the neighborhood. She claims that property values have gone up thanks to Barry’s death, but an older woman named Marjorie interrupts to tell her that’s a horrible thing to say. Marjorie liked Barry, and he was always very nice to her.

Fingerprints outside Barry’s window belong to Brett Walsh, who hired the man as his divorce attorney. Unfortunately for Walsh, Barry started sleeping with his wife and gave her everything in the divorce. Brett does have an alibi: he was working at a casino at the time of the murder. A gun is found in the bushes, and it belongs to Sloan himself. Since Walsh’s wife was sleeping with the man, she had access to his house and gun. They bring her in, but she denies killing Barry. She did, however, find out that he was sleeping with one of his neighbors.

Lipstick from Barry’s shirt contains formaldehyde, which is no longer used because it’s a carcinogen. This particular lipstick is about 40 years old. Finn speaks to Marjorie, who confesses that she fell in love with the man but never said anything. She overheard him arguing with Mrs Walsh and decided to make her move, but Barry brushed her off. He mocked her for being too old, and she was humiliated. He’d given her the gun to protect herself, so she used it to kill him.


Analysis:

“Play Dead” finds Nick making friends with a fellow officer of the canine variety. Sam is the partner of their victim, Mike Nelson, and at first it looks like the dog killed the man. He’s standing next to the body, muzzle covered with blood, and Nelson’s throat has been ripped out. They bring in Sergeant Varanski, who says Sam has never acted like this before. However, he does admit that being sick or drugged might cause him to attack his partner.

They take the dog to the lab, and Nick needs to collect trace from him before it is all destroyed. Unfortunately, it’s dangerous to let the dog out of the cage, and DB insists that he leave him alone until Varanski arrives. Nick, however, decides to take a chance. He thinks if he shows the dog kindness and lets him out of the cage, the dog will reciprocate in kind. Nick is obviously nervous, however, and he’s definitely taking a risk by opening the cage and letting the animal out. The dog comes out of the cage calmly, and Nick moves toward him slowly and carefully with a muzzle. Once he gets it on the dog’s snout, he locates some flesh wedged between the dog’s teeth.

Tests prove that Sam didn’t bite Nelson, instead taking a chunk out of the man who killed him. As for Nelson, his throat was not ripped out by canine teeth—he was killed by a human. Brass references a previous case where a cheerleader killed her friend and ate her flesh while high on PCP (season three’s “Let the Seller Beware”). Now that Sam has been exonerated, Nick is able to use the dog fully as a partner in the investigation. Unfortunately, he has some trouble getting the dog to obey orders. It makes for a particularly funny scene in DB’s office, where the boss is discussing the case with Brass. Sam wanders in, sniffing around and grabbing a totem pole off a side table. The statue was an anniversary gift from DB’s wife, but Nick can’t get the dog to put it down. He takes Sam to see Sergeant Varanski, who proves that Sam is well-trained—Nick just hasn’t been using the right language. The dog was trained in France, so he responds to French commands. Varanski shows Nick what he means, giving the dog a quick order that causes him to drop the statue. Nick needs to brush up on his French if he wants the dog to be helpful with their case, and Varanski tells him to earn Sam’s respect as well.

In order to identify which hooker called Nelson and gave him the yellow bandana, they bring in all of the women working in that area and have them touch a section of pipe that is then placed inside a jar. They are hoping that Sam will be able to determine which woman’s scent matches the bandana. Before they get started, Nick kneels down beside the dog in the hallway. He knows that Sam misses his partner, but Nick says they need his help to catch the killer. Nick asks if the dog is willing to put on the K-9 harness and get to work, and Sam places one hand on the harness to indicate his consent. It’s a bit cheesy, but it’s sweet to see Nick growing closer to the dog as the hour goes on.

Later, Nick tells DB that the dog hasn’t been eating, and DB points out that he’s grieving. When Nick goes back to get the dog, he discovers that Sam has chewed through the leash tying him to a desk in the lab. Nick is frantic for a moment, until he gets a call from David letting him know the dog is in the morgue. He’s lying on the ground beside the drawer containing Nelson’s body. Nick sits beside him, stroking the dog’s head and telling him that he knows what it’s like to lose a friend. He is making an indirect reference to Warrick Brown, who was shot in the season eight finale, “For Gedda”, and died in the season nine premiere, “For Warrick”. It will always hurt, Nick says, because he’ll never see him again. However, Nick tells Sam that they can both get justice for Nelson, and the dog places his head on Nick’s knee.

They have the suspect’s bloody bandage from the motel room where Carly was killed, so they visit illegal clinics in the area. Sam is able to track the scent to Vinnie, and the man takes off running. Sam starts to chase him, with Nick and some uniformed officers in hot pursuit. Vinnie climbs over a fence, forcing Sam to run around. The man pulls out his gun, and it goes off as Sam takes the man down by grabbing his arm. When Nick finally calls the dog off, he pulls up Vinnie’s pant leg and sees the infected bite marks Sam left after the man killed Nelson. As a uniformed officer arrests the man, Nick heads over to pet Sam and discovers blood—the dog has been shot. They rush him to the vet for surgery, and Nick is anxious as they wait to find out if he’ll pull through. Sergeant Varanski comes in and lets him know that Sam will be fine, and Nick is very relieved. When they wheel the dog out, Varanski can see the bond that has developed between man and dog, and he reveals that Sam was supposed to retire at the end of the year and live the rest of his life as a regular dog with Nelson. Since Nelson doesn’t have any family, Nick can adopt him. Nick likes that idea, but he has to lay down a few house rules: no drinking out of the toilet, they watch football on Sundays, and Sam has to sleep on the floor when Nick’s girlfriend is at the house. The dog licks his face, which seems to be his way of saying, ‘Yes, I’ll come live with you.’ It’s a cute scene, and I have my fingers crossed that we might see how Nick and Sam are doing later in the season.

Hodges is always fun to watch, and this week is no exception. When the GCMS breaks, he decides to fix it himself—a decision which, Morgan points out, could be disastrous for the entire lab if he doesn’t know what he’s doing. However, Hodges insists that he’s qualified, and he tries to change the subject; he wants to talk about the spontaneous kiss from “Karma to Burn”. Morgan doesn’t want to discuss it, and she suggests that they should just forget it ever happened. She leaves quickly, but Finn has already spotted the awkward exchange from the hallway. When Morgan walks away, Finn asks if she and Hodges are sleeping together. Morgan is quick to deny it, but Finn thinks it would be great because Hodges is funny, charming and smart, like an “awkward Jimmy Stewart.” Morgan confesses to kissing him once in the wake of her father’s shooting, and she says things are awkward now. She changes the subject, and Finn doesn’t push it. I’m definitely curious about whether those two really will pretend it never happened—so far, the kiss still seems to be a constant presence in the background, but time will tell if they actually move on or decide to revisit the situation again. Between her awkwardness with Hodges and the slight romantic tension with Greg in the previous episode, “It Was a Very Good Year”, Morgan’s love life has several interesting possibilities just within the lab.


See also: “Play Dead” episode guide

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4 thoughts on “Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘Play Dead’

  1. Morgan’s love life has several interesting possibilities just within the lab.
    Christ, what is this, CSI or Beverly Hills 90210?? What a crappy Analysis. Who cares about love lives?? Either get the original cast members more storylines, or fire this Harnois China doll already!

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