Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘Under a Cloud’

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A man pulled out of a flood channel is carrying a bomb, and Greg is accused of planting evidence in a case from seven years ago.

Synopsis:

Torrential rain in Las Vegas flushes a man into a flood channel, and Sara heads to the hospital to process him. She finds a bomb in his bag, and the bomb squad has to come retrieve the explosives and detonate them. The man is alive, but he has been hit in the head and is only speaking Armenian. His identification in AFIS is incorrect, and the team needs to figure out if he’s working with a terrorist group. Sara and Morgan head to the man’s hotel room and finds his passport hidden beneath the carpet, identifying him as Arman Agakian, an American citizen with an Armenian surname.

There’s evidence Agakian planted a bomb outside the Mediterranean Casino, but blood on the fence doesn’t match. She hears that he died in the hospital despite not having life-threatening injuries, and the FBI take the body. It turns out that Agakian isn’t a bomber, and he’s not really dead—he was working undercover for the FBI to help them take down a group of Armenian mobsters extorting money from the Mediterranean. The bombs were never meant to go off, they were just part of a plot to secure the undercover officer’s role as an explosives expert. He planted one bomb successfully, but he fell into the flood channel trying to place the second bomb. An FBI agent retrieved the first bomb, cutting his arm in the process. Despite what happened to the undercover officer, the FBI has enough to take down several members of the mob.

Meanwhile, Greg gets served with a lawsuit. Jennifer Rhodes from the Innocence Project is in the lab to re-evaluate the evidence from an investigation he ran in 2006. Gus Ellis served seven years of a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, and Greg has been accused of planting the blood evidence that put him behind bars. Photos Greg took at the scene prove that the murder weapon was moved, and the blood drop on the crowbar has traces of EDTA, a blood preservative used when taking reference samples. The evidence confirms that Greg had access to Ellis’s blood sample and time to plant it on the crowbar, but a bloody handkerchief proves what really happened. The officer on scene, Yancy Langer, said Ellis had a nosebleed, and he gave him his handkerchief to stem the flow of blood. Langer snuck into the house to walk through the crime scene because he’d never seen a dead body before, and he accidentally knocked into the crowbar. He reached down to put it back in place, accidentally transferring a drop of Ellis’s blood onto the weapon and unintentionally framing him for murder. Greg is exonerated, and Jennifer leaves to continue the case.


Analysis:

“Under a Cloud” introduces guest star Lea Thompson as Jennifer Rhodes, a defense criminalist with the Innocence Project. She’s in the lab to look over the evidence in a case from 2006, in which Greg helped put Gus Ellis behind bars for raping and killing a woman, although later scientific advances proved his innocence and identified the real killer. As a stranger with a specific job to do, Jennifer isn’t trying to be friendly with the team, particularly when she thinks Greg might have planted evidence. Despite that fact, she’s totally focused on finding the truth, and she doesn’t seem to have it out for Greg—she just wants to find out what happened, regardless of whether it implicates him or clears him of blame.

Jennifer works with Finn on the investigation, and Finn isn’t happy to be put in that position. She confronts DB about sticking her with the job because something similar happened to her back in Seattle. In that case, DB investigated her, and she still has hard feelings over the way she was treated. She doesn’t want Greg to feel the same way about her, especially since she’s the newest member of the team, but she focuses on helping Jennifer find the truth to prove Greg didn’t do anything wrong. When she walks by Greg in the hallway at the lab, she ignores him, and this makes her seem cold and unfeeling toward him—but Greg’s reaction to the situation is different than Finn’s was when she was in the hot seat. He’s upset by her behavior and her role in investigating him, but he forgives her easily in the end. Finn comes by to apologize and explain herself, letting him know she was just trying to be impartial, but Greg lets it go and doesn’t hesitate to head out for a bite to eat with her. The episode provides some great material for Elisabeth Shue and Eric Szmanda to work with; they really knock it out of the park during their interaction with each other and the rest of the cast, particularly in the moments where they have to convey the characters’ conflict and frustration with the situation they’ve been put in.

During the episode, Greg is obviously stressed out. He barely remembers the investigation, which was one of his earliest cases as a CSI. He’s worked hundreds of cases since then, but he gets frustrated feeling like his fate is being decided without his participation. He wishes he could look over his notes, but he just has to sit on the sidelines while Finn and Jennifer go over the evidence themselves. The one thing that really makes him look suspicious is a photo of the bedroom crime scene that was taken much later than the rest of the bedroom photos—a photo in which it is obvious that the murder weapon has been moved. Greg doesn’t remember, and it wasn’t mentioned in his notes, but along with the smear of blood that seems to have come from Ellis’s blood sample, the crowbar makes him look guilty. Fortunately, Jennifer is the one who spots the drops of blood on the curb that lead them to the truth, and Greg’s name is cleared. I never had any doubt that he’d be exonerated, but it’s still good to see that Grissom’s old adage remains true: the evidence never lies. It’s also great to see the rest of the team standing behind Greg during his ordeal, from Sara promising to check up on him, to Henry insisting that Greg would never intentionally compromise a case when Finn comes into the lab for her results.

Sara also has a pretty big role this week. She heads to the hospital to get the personal effects of a man who was found near death in a flood channel, and she’s shocked to discover a bomb in the bag. She freezes and tells the doctors to get out of the room, and she must stand still while she waits for someone from the bomb squad to come retrieve the device and make it safe. She’s obviously shaken, and she shares great moments with several other characters. Brass asks how she’s doing, and they reflect on the intense experience; Morgan is glad to see her in one piece, and she picked up a veggie burger for her to eat when her appetite returns. In the end, Sara was never in real danger, and she learns that it was all part of a plot by the FBI to bring down an Armenian organized crime ring. CSI focuses on solving murders week after week, so it’s always different and interesting to see them working cases that don’t result in homicide.

It’s nice to see the characters being friendly this week. The first scene, in which Sara and Morgan send Greg out for food in the rain (and Henry wants to call and ask for Greg to pick up something for him as well), is fun, and it emphasizes the relationship between the characters as friends and not just colleagues. The concern the rest of the team shows for Sara and Greg during their separate situations is great, and I particularly liked the scenes with Sara and Greg. As two of the original characters, moments like these serve to reaffirm the friendship we’ve known about for years.

In addition to Thompson’s character, “Under a Cloud” introduces several other new faces. Anthony Hurst is a bomb tech who remains cool and calm while he takes the satchel from Sara, and he comes back later on to offer his expertise when she’s looking for the bomber’s target. He seems like a nice guy and a worthwhile character to bring back if they ever need an explosives expert, although he isn’t quite as memorable as the new lab tech. Terri Royce is a chemist, and despite the fact that she only has one scene with Greg, I can already tell that I like her a lot. She’s talented, funny and easy-going, and I really hope we get to see her around the lab again. Hodges and Henry are great, but a few more recurring lab techs would be even better. (Although I’d love to see some old faces too, like Mandy or Archie.)

Speaking of Hodges and Henry, it is becoming more and more obvious that these two are a dynamic comedic duo in the lab. I love their scenes, and Henry’s story about having a bad reaction to anesthetic when he was 18 is hilarious. When Hodges puts together a replica bomb, minus explosives, Henry is wary and promises to come back and haunt him if something goes wrong. Wallace Langham and Jon Wellner are a treat to watch week after week, and I always know something great is coming when I see the pair of them in a scene together.

As I noted in my review for “Passed Pawns”, these two episodes were filmed simultaneously, along with the next episode, “Helpless”. Bringing in outside characters serves several purposes; it shows a larger group of professionals working to solve crimes in Vegas, and it also gives the leads someone to work with while the cast is stretched thin by the “triple up”. I like the different dynamics we get to see in these situations, and I’m really enjoying the more limited focus that is an unavoidable result of filming three episodes at once. I’m sure it was a very stressful situation for the cast and crew, but the episodes are turning out to be great to watch. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for “Helpless”.


See also: “Under a Cloud” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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