A little girl is the only witness when three men are murdered in her home.
Molly Goodwin makes herself breakfast and carries the plate and a book out of the house, past three dead bodies on the floor belonging to her uncle Steven and two other men. It looks like a home invasion, but DB isn’t convinced. Molly’s mother Grace is missing, and she’s found beaten to death in a dumpster. There’s evidence that Grace headed down the dead-end hallway and stopped—she gave Molly a signal to stay in her room during the attack, but the little girl doesn’t say whether or not she saw the men who hurt her mother.
Some of the case details match a series of home invasions the day shift has been investigating. Two of the victims, Duke and JD, left their fingerprints at the previous crime scenes—they were two of the robbers. Steven’s prints weren’t at the other homes, but they test all three victims’ DNA against a woman who was sexually assaulted during one of the home invasions. The DNA doesn’t match, and they still need to locate the third burglar.
A fingerprint on the tarp wrapped around Grace’s body leads back to Connor Durman, who works at the Spearmint Rhino strip club. The assault victim, Allison Liss, is the niece of the owner, Tony Lash. Durman is the one who raped her, and he was the third man doing the home invasions. He told Dave, a man who works for Lash, about what happened, but he claimed JD was the person who raped Allison. Nash sent Dave to kill the men. It seems like Steve and Grace were collateral damage in this revenge plot, but DB discovers a motive for their murder when he finds a CD in the back of the book Molly had with her when she called police. It contains a confession from Bruce Goodwin, Grace and Steven’s father, who sexually abused his children. Bruce’s mother is dating Lash, and she would do anything to protect her son—even if it meant having her own grandchildren killed.
Meanwhile, the body of Burt Markell is found in the trunk of his car. He was hit over the head before being burned alive. An ID in the car belongs to Sandy Larken, who recently broke up with Burt. He tried to commit suicide by ingesting mole killer, but Sandy accidentally texted him instead of her new boyfriend. Thinking she wanted to get back together, he rushed to the emergency room to get his stomach pumped. He ran out of gas and pulled over to get the gas can out of the trunk, but the mole killer interacted with his stomach acid and caused him to belch—the phospine gas ignited on contact with the oxygen in the air, causing Burt to hit his head on the trunk and fall inside, where the gas can ignited.
“Backfire” opens with a little girl in the middle of a horrific set of circumstances. It’s shocking to see a child walking calmly past three dead bodies, and then she’s sitting on a bench in her pajamas, clutching a book while police and onlookers swarm over the scene. Doc Robbins sits with her for a while, explaining that her uncle is dead and trying to comfort the child. A bit later, DB goes to speak to Molly in the hospital to ask some questions, and I’m reminded of his very first appearance in “73 Seconds”, when he got through to the son of one of the victims. DB tells the little girl his name is Diebenkorn, to get her to laugh and relax a little bit in the middle of this chaotic situation. When Grace’s body is discovered, DB has to break the news to her that her mother is dead, and the little girl clings to him. At the end of the hour, he’s the one who talks to her before sending her off to live with her family in Virginia, and it’s a nice way for the episode to come to a close. It’s a hopeful scene, and DB makes sure Molly has his phone number so she can call him if she’s ever scared. His wife Barbara even made her a bag of chocolate chip cookies for the plane ride, and Molly gives him a hug before waving goodbye. DB’s a great father and grandfather, and I always enjoy seeing that side of him on the show.
The case hits close to home for DB, whose granddaughter Kaitlyn was kidnapped in the season 12 finale, “Homecoming”, and rescued in the season 13 premiere, “Karma to Burn”. Things had been getting better, but Kaitlyn started having nightmares again. DB wants to head up to Seattle to see her when he gets some time off. At one point in the episode, DB doesn’t answer the phone when Barbara calls, and Nick comments on it. When Finn comes into his office later, she reveals that Nick told her about Kaitlyn. They talked behind his back, in a sense, and they’re both worried about him. Things seem to be okay, but I like seeing the characters support each other as friends as well as colleagues. Finn and DB have history, of course, but I enjoy the fact that Nick has been added to the mix. It’s an interesting dynamic, and one I hope we see continue to evolve.
Things aren’t going so well for DB’s family, but his personal experiences as a father and grandfather give him a clue about their case. When his kids were growing up, he tried to make sure they were prepared for an emergency, coaching them to call 911 and run to the neighbors’ house. It seems like Grace did the same thing with Molly. While it makes sense for DB to do this as a police officer who encounters tragedy on a daily basis, this is a hint that Grace was afraid of something happening to herself or her daughter. It’s one thing to follow the evidence, but I like when a character’s unique perspective helps solve the case—the evidence is the most important thing, but the CSIs are the ones who have to interpret that evidence and put the pieces of the puzzle together.
The episode’s B-story brings back a case from season 11’s “Man Up”. In that episode, Hodges purchased a motorcycle, only to discover that it was cobbled together from parts of different bikes—including parts that contained traces of blood. It was eventually revealed that a man was taking his motorcycle on a roadtrip to get over a bad breakup, and he got into a freak accident where he was crushed between two colliding buses. This week, when Hodges recognizes Sandy, he becomes convinced that she’s a “black widow”. This case, like the original, is both tragic and amusing, and once again Sandy really has nothing to do with it. The best part is seeing Hodges confronting Sandy while Morgan tries to keep him in line. It’s a fun subplot, and Amy Acker is perfect in her role as a hapless woman whose ex-boyfriends keep dying in bizarre ways. Hodges says at the end of their final scene that he’s going to prove she’s a black widow some day. Time will tell if that’s actually the case, but I look forward to any future episodes that might feature another one of Sandy’s dead ex-boyfriends. If that happens, Morgan will have even more trouble holding Hodges back!
See also: “Backfire” episode guide