Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘Girls Gone Wild’

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Finn, Sara and Morgan run into trouble on the way to a relaxing weekend, leading to a murder investigation and a search for a missing CSI.

Synopsis:

Morgan invites Sara and Finn to join her for a spa weekend in Reno, but Finn’s car breaks down on the side of the road near Larkston. A handsome tow truck driver named Darryl arrives to help, and he takes them back to town to spend the night while they wait for the car to be fixed. Finn flirts with Darryl, but she rejects him when she realizes he’s married. Angry, Darryl pulls out a knife and tries to force himself on Finn, but she is able to get the weapon and stab him in self defense. Finn runs back into the bar to get help, but when they return, Darryl’s body is nowhere to be found. Evidence at the scene suggests that Darryl is still alive, and someone helped him into a truck. The tire tracks lead them to Darryl’s wife, Valerie, who headed to Las Vegas that morning. Greg brings her in for questioning, but she denies helping her husband.

Trace in the floorboard of Valerie’s truck leads back to a hydroponic marijuana-growing operation. If Darryl was growing marijuana this way, it would require a lot of energy, so the team looks at Larkston’s electrical grid to find possible locations. A dilapidated barn belonging to an 85-year-old woman is full of marijuana plants, along with several out-of-state cars. Sara lifts the hood of one car to find a woman’s body inside. The body is taken back to Vegas for autopsy, where it is determined she has been dead less than a month. She was restrained and beaten repeatedly with a hammer, and a pubic hair in her teeth suggests sexual activity shortly before she died. The woman is identified as Brenda Whittaker, who went missing four months ago. The other two cars in the barn trace back to two more missing women from out of state, but their bodies are nowhere to be found.

Sara heads out with the sheriff when they get a tip that Darryl’s car has been found on the side of the road. The car is abandoned, but a nearby bus stop could have offered Darryl a way to Reno. Sara gets a call from Henry, letting her know the DNA from Brenda’s rape kit came back with two contributors: Darryl and Deputy Willis. When he is confronted, the deputy shoots the sheriff and fires at Sara. She is able to kill him, and his bullet only grazes her head. She calls Morgan to let her know there’s trouble, and DB and Nick take a helicopter to Larkston to find out what happened. The sheriff survived his surgery, and Sara is okay, but Finn isn’t answering her phone.

Algae trace on Brenda’s shoe indicates she was near fresh water, but there’s nothing on the map nearby. The local bartender says Finn asked him about close freshwater sources that aren’t on a map, and he suggested Stone Rock Lake. It dried up years ago, but the algae could still be there, and there’s a nearby campground where Darryl could have held the missing women. Finn borrowed a car to investigate, and Nick and DB find it when they arrive at the campground. Wires under the hood have been cut, preventing Finn from leaving, and there’s blood inside the car to indicate a struggle.

When they head inside, they find Darryl dead on the floor. He was shot, and the bullet casings are consistent with Finn’s gun. Her cell phone is broken on the floor next to a rape kit. She was documenting the evidence when Darryl arrived, and he hit her over the head with an axe handle. They fought, and Finn was able to shoot him. Without a car, she had no choice but to leave on foot.

Finn walks along the side of the road, injured and unable to call for help. When a car drives by, she tries to flag it down. The driver turns around, but instead of stopping, the car hits Finn and sends her flying off the road. DB finds her and takes her to the hospital, where Sara and Morgan process her to look for evidence. A distinct bruise on her leg leads them back to an emblem affixed to the car’s grille, indicating the driver was part of the exclusive Million Mile Club. There’s only one member in Larkston: the local physician, Dr Kinney. DNA in used condoms at the campground indicate he also raped Brenda Whittaker, and he tried to kill Finn to cover up his involvement.


Analysis:

“Girls Gone Wild” starts in the middle of the action, with Morgan rushing through the lab to tell DB there has been a shooting, before flashing back to explain the events of the past few days. I never believed Finn was in mortal danger, but the teaser did leave me on the edge of my seat wondering how Finn got in that situation—and just how much trouble she’d face before the rest of the team could find her. It’s an effective way to kick off the hour, not to mention hooking the viewers in so they’ll stay to see what happens.

Seeing Finn, Sara and Morgan away from work is fun, at least until things start to go wrong. We usually only get to watch the characters solve crimes in the lab, so a glimpse of their personal lives now and then is a treat, and it’s great to see Elisabeth Shue, Jorja Fox and Elisabeth Harnois work with material that’s a departure from the usual. I’m especially glad we get to see the three women from the team hanging out and being friendly off the clock. I love the scene in the bar, especially when Morgan is singing karaoke. She seems to be enjoying herself, although Sara just seems bemused. It’s even better when Morgan sits down after her song is over; Sara might be willing to have a few drinks and listen to karaoke, but she’s not thrilled about being expected to get on stage herself. Her pleading looks in Finn’s direction are hilarious, but Finn ignores her in favor of leaving with Darryl. I’m not sure if Sara really has no idea who Beyoncé is, or if that was a last-ditch attempt to avoid singing a song with Morgan. Either way, that moment made me laugh. In addition to learning that Sara may be in the dark about hugely popular singers, the audience also finds out that Morgan studied voice in college and fronted a band back in California. This is new information for Sara and Finn as well. It sounds like these professional colleagues should spend more time hanging out and getting to know each other as friends, preferably without any dramatic detours—and I’m sure Sara would prefer to hang out without a karaoke machine next time.

Sexual assault against women is an unfortunately common occurrence. I wish Finn had not been attacked, but the storyline is realistic despite being difficult to watch, and Shue does a tremendous job throughout the episode as Finn deals with the attack and the aftermath. She’s able to defend herself before Darryl can go too far, but she can’t protect herself from the accusations and scrutiny after she stabs him to get away. The Larkston sheriff has legitimate cause to question why the three Las Vegas CSIs are processing the scene, but that doesn’t stop the man from being a jerk. His dismissal of all three women as competent professionals is grating, especially when he calls them “girls” and tries repeatedly to deny that Finn was attacked. It’s hard to watch her trying to defend herself all over again—another unfortunately common occurrence, since so many women are questioned, doubted or dismissed when they try to report being sexually assaulted.

The local doctor seems like an ally at first, defending Finn by pointing out her obvious injuries, but in the end he’s the one who tries to kill Finn with his car. I thought the sheriff might wind up being involved somehow, but it turns out he’s just not a nice person—while the seemingly-pleasant doctor is the one to watch out for. The scene between Nick and the doctor is truly creepy, when Dr Kinney suggests that he just had sex with the missing women and didn’t hurt them. As Nick says, he’s a sick man, and it’s satisfying to see him arrested. George Eads and guest star Garrett M Brown are great in this brief, understated scene.

The history between Finn and DB has always made for interesting scenes, so their interaction in the hospital at the end is a nice touch. DB jokes that he was already looking for replacements, but Finn’s not going anywhere. Another nice touch is earlier in the episode, when Nick is trying to log into Finn’s computer. DB offers several possible passwords, including the correct one: the name of a relative whom Finn adored. While it’s great to see the women of the lab get to know each other in the present, it’s also nice to be reminded that Finn and DB have been close for a long time.

The rest of the team has limited screentime during the episode, although there’s still a chance for Hodges to earn a laugh. When he and Greg are discussing the energy usage to grow marijuana, Greg points out that it takes four months to grow the plant and another month to dry it. Hodges responds, “And only minutes to enjoy.” At Greg’s look, he quickly adds, “or so I’ve heard.” It’s a funny moment, even if it’s his only real contribution to the episode. Getting to see the women focused on is a worthwhile trade-off, but I hope we get to see Hodges back in the spotlight for more than one scene next time—preferably with Henry, his partner in comedy.


See also: “Girls Gone Wild” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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