Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — ‘The Lost Reindeer’

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Tragedy strikes on Christmas when Santa winds up dead.

Synopsis:

The Bonham Realty holiday party turns into tragedy when the company Santa, Brad Fante, is killed on the snow-covered lawn. It looks like he was killed when the prop sleigh ran over his legs, severing his femoral arteries, but he also has five stab wounds in his back. This was no accident.

DB speaks to Ryan Bonham, the head of the company and the owner of the house where the party took place. He left the party at 9:00pm to put his son Blake to bed. Christmas is a tough time for the Bonham family, since Ryan’s wife was killed on Christmas Eve two years ago. Blake tells the CSIs that he saw a reindeer in the hallway the night before, although they assume he dreamed up the incident.

Brad was punched before he was stabbed, and a synthetic fiber in the wound leads back to a reindeer costume that supports what Blake claims he saw. Morgan takes a look on the stairs and finds a contact lens, which belongs to Rachel Walker, a stripper Brad hired for the party. She arrived in a sexy reindeer costume after most of the guests were gone, and Brad got a bit too forward with her. She punched him when he tried to get her to have sex with himself and another guest, but she denies killing him. The other man, Fred Larkin, took Rachel to a diner, and they were there at the time of the murder.

Greg finds a piece of skin in the snow, which traces back to a Pacific bonito fish. The fish is used to make sushi, but there was no sushi being served at the party. The fish also contains traces of cocaine. Greg checks into the Winter Wonderland Company, and he discovers that when he’s not creating fake snow and throwing holiday parties, Jayson Walt makes trips from Mexico to Las Vegas transporting pacific bonito stuffed with cocaine. Some of the fish got in the ice that was then used to create the snow in Ryan Bonham’s yard. Once they discover that Jayson was wearing the Santa suit at the beginning of the party, they realize that he may have been the killer’s intended victim. Brad simply had the misfortune of playing Santa after Jayson left.

Jayson has been in touch with his brother, Gary, who is an inmate at Ely State Prison for drug trafficking. Jayson testified against his brother to protect himself, but Gary has an appeal hearing coming up. The team assumes he wants Jayson to change his story, but he also needs Jayson to give him a kidney transplant. Looking at the crime scene photos, Nick realizes that the killer wasn’t only trying to kill Jayson, he was also trying to destroy his kidneys in order to make sure Gary died too. Ryan Bonham’s wife Eva worked at a bank, which Gary was using to launder his drug money. When an executive found out and planned to go to the police, Gary ordered a hit—Eva was just collateral damage. Ryan wanted to make sure Jayson was unable to save his brother, but he killed the wrong man.

When Brass goes to arrest Ryan, they find him missing. Blake is hiding in the house, and he is able to confirm that the men took his father away in the same truck that was at the house the night of the party. Greg tests the diatoms in the water Jayson used to make the snow in order to figure out where the man might have taken Ryan, and it leads them to a small lake near Henderson. Ryan is alive, and he and Jayson are both arrested.


Analysis:

“The Lost Reindeer” opens with an actual reindeer wandering down the streets of Las Vegas. It’s a surprising sight for the tourists, although it’s obvious that the animal was filmed in front of a green screen. It’s a fun and unexpected way to set up the holiday episode, which quickly finds the team investigating the death of a man in a Santa costume, whose legs were run over by a sleigh on a lawn covered with snow despite the Las Vegas heat. It’s an interesting set-up for the show—how often are the Las Vegas CSIs likely to investigate a murder in the snow? The episode also provides plenty of opportunities for holiday-related jokes, and David Phillips in particular seems to be having fun with the Christmas references at the start of the hour—particularly his zinger at the end of the credits: “Grandma may have gotten run over by a reindeer, but Santa got sleighed.”

I initially thought Jayson Walt seemed like the most obvious suspect, but it turns out he was the intended victim due to his incarcerated brother’s role in the death of Ryan Bonham’s wife. Ryan’s desire for revenge is understandable, but his actions ultimately deprive his son of his second parent. It’s the kind of plot that frustrates me when I imagine a similar real-life situation. Who wouldn’t want to get back at the person who hurt their family? At the same time, however, what good does it really do if you only end up hurting your family more in the process? In the case of “The Lost Reindeer”, Ryan’s actions don’t actually achieve his goal since he kills the wrong man. Brass is the one who facilitates a mix-up in Jayson’s records, ensuring that he gets sent out of state and won’t be back in time to save his brother’s life.

The storyline is a tragic situation all around, one with a sympathetic killer and more victims than just the one left dead in the snow. Blake Bonham, Ryan’s six-year-old son, is one of those unintended victims, and I really enjoy his interaction with Hodges. At the beginning of the hour, Hodges seems uninterested in the frivolity of the holidays, and he describes the way his scientist father kept him from enjoying the magic of Christmas when he was a child. It’s sad, but it’s also amusing—particularly when Morgan tells him that she hopes he isn’t her Secret Santa for the lab’s party. When the pair of them head up to speak to Blake, Morgan seems comfortable chatting with the boy and gently questioning him about the night before. When Blake claims he saw a reindeer in the hallway, Hodges jumps in to suggest that the boy was merely dreaming. He goes into a scientific explanation of REM sleep and concludes by telling Blake that nothing he saw was real. When the boy asks if Santa is real, Hodges starts to speak, but Morgan quickly cuts him off to say that yes, Santa is real. The looks she gives Hodges throughout the scene are hilarious, especially at the end. I think he got the message!

Later, Blake asks for Hodges (aka “the funny science man”) after his father is kidnapped. Hodges seems awkward at the prospect of interacting with the child again, and he all but begs Morgan to help him deal with the boy. She has more confidence in him than he does, though, and he heads in to talk to Blake alone. Ultimately, it’s Hodges’ knowledge of science—and big words—that made the boy want to trust him. Once he figures out what Blake is trying to tell him, Hodges seems much more comfortable. He offers him reassurance that his father will be okay, and later he waits with Blake before he’s sent to live with his grandparents. DB is always great with kids, so it’s nice to see someone else interacting with a child—it provides some insight into Hodges’ character while showing us a situation we don’t normally get to see on the show. Wallace Langham is, as always, a treat to watch in his scenes.

The Secret Santa subplot is great, and I especially enjoyed the little hints about each character that you can gather from the gifts they bought. The first present we see belongs to Doc Robbins, although Nick opens it since his hands are, of course, covered with blood. Nick seems amused by the box full of herbal tea, and he suspects that DB was Doc Robbins’ Secret Santa. It’s a good (and correct) guess. The scene with Finn and DB talking about her new bracelet is fun too, when DB acknowledges that she’s wearing a new piece of jewelry and she thanks him for his generosity. He denies giving her the present, which is too bad for him since she’s his Secret Santa, and she was planning on giving him a gift worth the same amount of money. Morgan’s gift of red fingernail polish comes with a cute label: “for your mistle-toes”. Greg wonders who gave it to her, and she suspects it might be him—but the truth will only be revealed at the company party.

The party itself is a fun, if brief, scene at the end. DB and Doc Robbins enjoy cups of herbal tea, Nick has a drink with Finn while she’s wearing an elf hat, and David Phillips is seen laughing with some of the other members of the lab. Morgan opens a card that confirms Greg is the one who gave her the present, so she laughs and gives him a hug. Later, Hodges opens his present to reveal a Las Vegas snow globe, and a note from Morgan calling him her hero. It’s always great to see moments with the team off the clock, especially when we get glimpses of the family dynamic that has developed between these colleagues during their years working together. The cast has changed quite a bit since the show began, but I love of all of the characters. Seeing them in this setting makes me feel a surge of fondness for them in keeping with the holiday spirit of the episode.


See also: “The Lost Reindeer” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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