Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘Exile’

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The sister of a famous Cuban singer is tortured and killed, leading the team to investigate whether the murder was politically motivated.

Synopsis:

Silvana Cuerto is a famous Cuban singer, and she’s in Vegas to perform at the Rumbason Club. After rehearsal, she heads into her dressing room with her manager, Antonio Ficha, and they discover her sister Marta dead. Marta was tortured in a manner consistent with the Cuban police, and she was force-fed cassava leaves that released cyanide poison into her bloodstream.

Antonio works for the Cuban government, and he was sent to keep an eye on the Cuerto sisters and make sure they came back home. Silvana has received threats since she came, from Cuban exiles who want her out of the country—or dead. He says the leader of “los gusanos” is Eddie Santos, who has been following them around ever since they got to the United States.

A shard of metal embedded in Marta’s heel leads back to Eddie Santos’ chrome-plating facility, which is less than two blocks from the club. They find the primary crime scene inside the shop, but Santos denies being involved. Semen from Marta’s body and the couch in the shop lead back to one of Santos’ relatives, and Greg looks into his family tree. Silvana and Marta’s grandfather was a colonel in the Cuban army during the 1970s, and Eddie Santos was a sergeant under him. Cuerto had Santos arrested and imprisoned for six years, creating a feud between the families. Santos’ sister had one son, Estefan Mejia—the owner of the Rumbason Club. He denies killing Marta, revealing that they’ve known each other since they were children and that they were in love.

Silvana collapses after being poisoned with cassava-tainted pills, and the team discovers that the Cuerto sisters were seeking asylum in the US. They believe Antonio went after the sisters to prevent that from happening, but when they go to the hotel where Antonio and Silvana are staying, they hear a gunshot. Estefan came to the hotel and confronted Antonio, accusing him of killing Marta and attacking Silvana, but Antonio wrestled the gun out of his hand and shot him in self-defense. Antonio’s bag contains rope and cassava leaves consistent with those used to kill Marta, but a stray fiber inside the bag proves that he is being framed. The fiber leads back to a car that was rented for one of Silvana’s photo shoots, and she kept it for an extra day to transport Marta’s body after she killed her. Silvana has been in love with Estefan since they were children, and she refused to let her sister have him.


Analysis:

“Exile” focuses on the murder of a Cuban woman. Initially, the death seems to be related to politics and long-standing feuds, but in the end, it’s a matter of jealousy and rage between siblings. There’s a bit of a history lesson to be found in the episode, which presents Cuban and Cuban-American characters with very different points of view regarding the Cuban government. Featuring so many characters of Cuban descent also means a liberal sprinkling of Spanish throughout the episode, which offers Nick a chance to remind the audience that he’s familiar with the language. Finn and Detective Crawford (who appears to have received the promotion he was looking for in “Strip Maul”) also show at least a passing knowledge of Spanish. Greg mentions his appreciation for Cuban music, and Doc Robbins reveals that he spent time in Havana at a forensic pathology symposium 15 years ago. It’s nice to see that the language and culture are woven into the lives and experiences of various characters.

Donna Hoppe, the genealogist first shown in “Genetic Disorder” and brought back in “Risky Business Class”, is mentioned this week, but she doesn’t make an appearance. Instead, Greg uses the skills he has learned from working with her to help move the case along. He discovers the connection between the Cuerto and Santos families, and the relationship between Santos and Estefan Mejia. I really like this expansion of Greg’s established love of history, and I hope we see more genealogy in the future. I like Donna, so I’d be thrilled if she came back and interacted with the team, but it’s also a useful skill for Greg to have as an investigator.

“Exile” continues the ongoing subplot about Hodges’ engagement to Elisabetta. This week, we get to see him interact with Ecklie, which is interesting on several levels. Ecklie is in the lab in two capacities: as Hodges’ supervisor, and as the man dating his mother Olivia (played by Jaclyn Smith and last seen in “Homecoming”). The fact that Morgan gave a statement on Hodges’ behalf for the immigration investigation only makes things more complicated, since Ecklie doesn’t want his daughter to face the consequences if Hodges isn’t being honest. It’s interesting that Ecklie states that they’re family in a professional capacity, when they have the potential to be a literal family as well. It’s all very tangled up, but I particularly like the fact that Ecklie is straightforward with Hodges, and that he isn’t afraid to scold him for causing his mother stress.

Things between Hodges and Morgan are awkward again, which is disappointing after they seemed to be at ease with each other last week. Morgan says she’s happy for Hodges when he reveals that the immigration request was granted, but it doesn’t seem like she’s telling the truth. Even Hodges seems to be questioning his decision now that he has 90 days to marry Elisabetta or send her back to Italy. The language barrier creates some tension, and it looks like he’s starting to wonder if his impulsive decision to get engaged was the right one after all. It could go either way at this point, but hopefully everything will be worked out soon. Even if Hodges’ personal life takes longer to get settled, I hope the strange dance between Morgan and Hodges resolves itself in the near future.

The scene between Hodges and Nick is great, particularly since it also features a cameo from Nick’s retired police dog, Sam (“Play Dead”). Unlike some of the others, Nick doesn’t seem to question Hodges’ motives at all when it comes to Elisabetta—if he does, he keeps his thoughts to himself and simply congratulates the man. When Hodges mentions Morgan’s character reference, Nick states that he would have given him one as well. Hodges might not be the easiest person to deal with sometimes, but it’s always nice to see evidence of that professional “family” Ecklie mentioned, and the friendships between team members.


See also: “Exile” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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