Warning: the following interview contains major spoilers from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation‘s Season Fourteen premiere “The Devil and DB Russell.” If you’ve yet to watch Wednesday’s premiere, avert your eyes now. Everyone else, read on…
CSI returned from its summer hiatus with a jaw-dropping hour that featured two notable deaths, and a lot of characters with emotional scars.
The hour’s main casualty–Captain’ Brass’ ex-wife, Nancy (played by Annabella Sciorra)–was a family affair in every sense of the term. Managing to escape captivity thanks to the help of Morgan Brody (Elisabeth Harnois), Ellie Brass (Teal Redmann) shot Morgan and claimed it was done by their captor in a struggle. When Morgan wakes up in the hospital with her father Conrad Ecklie (Marc Vann) at her bedside, she warns him that Ellie has been involved the entire time. It’s when Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) arrives at his home, thinking his family is whole once again, that he comes across the harrowing scene of his ex-wife dead in a pool of blood by the hands of Ellie. With a gun trained on him, Brass and Ellie engage in an emotional and devastating standoff that ends once LVPD busts in and takes the troubled daughter into custody.
Here below, Shane Saunders talks with co-writer and supervising producer Christopher Barbour about the shocking turn of events.
CSI Files: When did you start planning the events that occur in the premiere? How did you settle on Nancy Brass as the one who would meet her maker?
Christopher Barbour: When Don [McGill] and I were working on that we came up with a couple of scenarios, one was the idea of testing Russell [Ted Danson] and who might test Russell’s faith or affect him without necessarily going to the obvious with Ellie as the person in the coffin. We wanted there to be a consequence with this case for the CSI team in some way and the question was how damaged would Morgan be or how emotionally or physically, and the question that maybe we would lose Ellie. But it evolved into that we would take Paul’s character on a journey this year with consequences of someone we didn’t know much about, but he did care about and regrets his past.
CSI Files: We’ve seen CSI’s make it out of kidnapping situations unharmed in year’s past, but was there ever any consideration as to killing Morgan?
Barbour: There was never any serious talk. In terms of storytelling I do feel like we did want to test our characters, so I wouldn’t say there was serious contemplation but we did want to try to approach the emotional impact of what if we lost Morgan. At the end of the day we didn’t want to lose Morgan, but Don and I thought that perhaps the consequences of Brass would be something that Paul would enjoy playing and evolving over the season. There’s an emotional scar that will linger for some time.
CSI Files: I personally found the premiere shocking but anticipated that Morgan would survive the events. So for me it was more about the journey of getting to that point, and the twists and turns along the way. Is that how you and Don approached the hour?
Barbour: I think it is true. I think the twists in terms of the shock–I’m a fan of Game of Thrones and The Red Wedding– [laughs] is that you think it’s going to be Ellie in the casket and it’s not her, and the ‘how’ it’s not her and that’s it’s Nancy, I think that was worked to give the audience a shock and something that, emotionally, there would be consequences. I think the audience early on will think it can’t be Morgan, but we did want to show that there are stakes to what will happen. On some levels, the bigger shock is Ellie shooting Morgan; that’s something you don’t see coming.
We wanted there to be a sense that Brass gets his family back, that there is a reunion. He gets a moment in heaven and then is thrown down into hell. A year ago I sort of wanted to reunite them in a happy way, but then I thought for the longevity of the evolution of Paul’s character, I thought it would be a challenge to put him in that situation and have our characters ask “why do we still do this job?”
CSI Files: It’s probably his best performance since “A Bullet Runs Through It.” What does this story mean for him going forward?
Barbour: Immediately what we’re dealing with is almost like the new normal forward. In the second episode he has a line that he’s trying to get things back to normal, but he doesn’t even know what that is. At first it will be the emotional consequences of that and I think there may be a possibility of the adjudication of the case in the future. I think there are some stories to mine from that.
CSI Files: How will Morgan being shot play out with her father?
Barbour: Certainly emotionally. Physically she bounces back almost as quickly as her father did. She might find herself bonding a bit more with Brass in the future over what transpired here. I think that every couple of episodes we might touch base with where that is.