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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'19 Down'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at December 18, 2008 - 5:59 AM GMT

See Also: '19 Down...' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Two men sit in a room, watching a television when one of the men turns on the other and kills him, stuffs him in a trash bag and leaves him in a river to decompose over time. At the labs, Grissom passes out cases and drops startling news on his team: he's decided to leave CSI. Before he does, he takes on one last case, which brings him to the trash bag in the river. The remains are "soup," anywhere from weeks to years old. Nick is able to recover a Star of David pendant and some blonde and brown hairs from them, while Dr. Robbins concludes from the skull that the victim was a 5'9" Caucasian male aged 25 or older and that he was strangled. Grissom puts the details in the database along with the pendant and comes up with a hit: Joel Steiner, believed to be a victim of the Dick and Jane Killer, who killed couples back in the 90s. "DJK," as he's referred to, is a man named Nathan Haskell who was caught in Reno and changed his plea to a guilty one in the middle of his trial. Catherine notes that while seven male victims were found, each with one more stab wound than the last, the bodies of his female victims were never discovered. Joel and his fiancée were suspected to be the possible first victims of the killer. Wendy matches the blonde hairs on the body to Haskell, but Hodges has a surprising revelation: the victim's sneakers are custom-designed, and only two years old, meaning that the body isn't Joel's. The sneakers are traced back to a man named Gerald Tolliver, a criminal informant for the Reno PD who disappeared six months ago. Nick and Greg head up to Reno to examine Tolliver's house, where they find blood on the wall and floor and a bloody shoe print. The CSIs also find Joel Steiner's jacket at Tolliver's house--as well as glasses from another victim and concert tickets from concerts several of the victims attended right before their disappearances.

Back at the lab, Grissom and Greg connect one set of tickets to the unsolved murders of Ian Wallace and Justine Stefani (from "Leave Out All the Rest"). Ian had nine stab wounds on his body, suggesting a continuation of Haskell's pattern. The team is baffled--Haskell pled guilty at the time of his trial when it was even suggested that he might have an accomplice. Could there be a DJK copycat? Grissom and Brass have Haskell's phone records and correspondence collected to search for a connection to Tolliver, while Detective Vartann informs Grissom and Brass that Haskell has been corresponding with a Professor Raymond Langston at West Las Vegas University and will participating in a series of video conferences with his criminology class. Grissom decides to pose as a professor and sit in on the class, hoping to gain insight into Haskell and discover if he does have an accomplice. Grissom heads to WLVU and sits in the back, observing as Langston introduces Haskell and opens the chat up to a Q&A. Haskell reveals the disturbing way his mind works, detailing how he would give his female victims hope before killing them to make them compliant. Back at the lab, the CSIs learn Ian and Justine had tickets for all three nights of Paramore's Las Vegas shows and discover their final set of tickets were used the night after they were killed. The CSIs scan video footage of the concert and discover two men with baseball caps with a local car wash logo on them. The CSIs track the two men, Richie and Donnie, down and learn they bought the tickets from a scalper, whom one of them describes as a "skinny white dude." One of them hands a ticket stub over and Mandy is able to recover prints from it and match them to a Curtis Keesey. Nick and Vartann rush to the man's home and find a maggot-ridden body there.

Based on the maggots, Grissom determines Keesey has been dead at least a month. The tire treads of Keesey's car match the ones at Ian and Justine's house, indicating he was involved in the murders, but the shoe treads from the scene don't match his. Catherine and Greg posit that Keesey and Tolliver were partners but that when he learned Tolliver became an informant for the Reno PD, he turned on him and killed him. Grissom revisits Langston's class and witnesses Joel Steiner's mother bursting in and confronting Haskell. After she's removed, Grissom suggests to Haskell that he thinks he had help with his murders and Haskell correctly guesses Grissom is a law enforcement officer. Langston angrily ends the session and confronts Grissom and Brass, saying he would have been happy to help if asked. Grissom hands the professor his card and promises to keep him informed. Later that evening, Langston gets a call from Haskell and calls Grissom to patch him into the call. Haskell reveals the location of Joel Steiner's body, and nearby the CSIs discover a fresh male body, with ten stab wounds....

Analysis:

Even though there's been plenty of build-up to this moment--indeed, Grissom tiring of the job can be traced as far back as season seven--it was still jarring to hear him speak the words, "I've decided to leave CSI." His departure truly marks the end of an era and the way the team grapples with the news in what is the first of William Petersen's final two episodes as a regular on CSI definitely drives it home. In typical Grissom fashion, he slips the announcement in after divvying up the evening's calls. He calmly tells the team the news that he's leaving, that Catherine will be stepping up into the supervisor position following his departure and that he and Ecklie are searching for a new Level 1 CSI all at once as their faces register the surprise. Then, before anyone can really take in the news, he takes a call himself. It's a typical Grissom way to handle the situation.

But if the long-running and much-beloved CSI supervisor thought he was going to get off easy, he was wrong. During the episode, he's bombarded with the emotional response to his decision. Dr. Robbins gruffly tells Grissom he's crazy after Grissom observes he's going to have to find someone else to tell his old jokes to. Hodges is clearly upset by the news when he's with Catherine and Nick, asking them anxiously if Grissom may have been just referring to a "leave of absence." But when he's with Grissom, Hodges is downright angry, telling Grissom "it's too late" when the CSI supervisor tries to tell him about his decision. Hodges is obviously hurt that he didn't hear the news straight from the man he's obsequiously idolized for years. His hurt runs deeper than that; when he huffily tells Grissom that he's "gotta do what [he] has to do" and tells him to have a nice life, it's clear that he's upset at the idea of Grissom's departure itself.

Grissom has much gentler exchanges with Wendy and David Phillips, both of whom he offers words of encouragement to. Wendy thanks Grissom for his support and encouragement over the years, and his response is simply, "You earned it." It's quintessential Grissom--of course he wouldn't give either his support or encouragement if she hadn't earned it, but he also probably didn't realize how much it meant to her. David Phillips tells Grissom he's going to miss the job after he identifies the maggots on Keesey's body, but Grissom unsentimentally observes, "There are bugs everywhere." He makes up for it when he tells the coroner, "I will miss you, though." David looks up, clearly moved by Grissom's words.

His interactions with Catherine and Brass are decidedly more complex. He actually broaches the subject with Catherine, telling her he knows he surprised her with the news. For once, Grissom is wrong: she tells him she knew before he did. In her own way, Catherine is every bit as astute as Grissom is, and no doubt she picked up on Grissom's growing weariness and the daze he's been in since Warrick died and Sara left. When Brass brings up Grissom's impending departure, Grissom reassures him that they'll see each other. Brass tosses off a few suggestions, the Fourth of July, going out on the boat. Grissom turns to Brass, surprised, asking, "You have a boat?" Brass's response is no. The exchange shows that no matter how close they've become on the job, the two don't really know each other socially. Will that change after Grissom leaves?

The episode also introduces the man who will step into Petersen's shoes as CSI's leading man, Laurence Fishburne. I've long been a fan of the commanding, gifted Fishburne, who brings a solid, grounded presence to any role he steps into. Dr. Raymond Langston is no different--he makes you sit up and take notice the minute he walks onto the stage in the lecture hall. We learn a little about his past when Grissom tells Brass that Langston is a former pathologist who worked at a hospital where a colleague was killing patients. Langston didn't connect the dots to catch the man before he'd killed 26 patients, but rather than turning his back on the failure, he explored it in a book Grissom admires.

It's obvious right off the bat that Langston isn't a man to get tangled up in his own pride. Though he is upset that Grissom deceived him, his response isn't one of arrogance. "I would have been happy to help," he says to Grissom and Brass. Indeed, though he's convinced Grissom and Brass are brushing him off, he immediately calls Grissom when Haskell phones him up. Like Grissom, Langston clearly doesn't have an ego that gets in the way of doing what's right. Though I'm sure it will become clear in the coming weeks that the two are very different men, this is one trait that I'm glad to see they share.

Though I was disappointed by the lack of resolution in "Leave Out All the Rest," I'm glad to see the case revisited here, and tied into what promises to be an intriguing mystery. Serial killers don't get much more chilling than Nathan Haskell, who clearly took a great deal of pleasure in the killings--and is getting a thrill from the effect he has on Langston's students. Bill Irwin is perfectly cast as the sadistic Haskell; he brings a true menace to the serial killer, which isn't as easy as it looks in a television landscape that is literally littered with sadistic characters competing for the title of "most evil." Thanks to Naren Shankar and Carol Mendelsohn's haunting script, along with Irwin's eerie performance, Haskell is definitely in the running for the title. The conclusion, set to air in January, will reveal if he's a true contender.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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