February 22 2024

CSI Files

An archive of CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds and crime drama news

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'A Thousand Days On Earth'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 17, 2008 - 1:50 AM GMT

See Also: 'A Thousand Days On Earth' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Fresh off a performance, a stand up comic discovers the body of a little girl in a packing box. The CSIs begin the search for the four-year-old's identity and her killer as Brass deals with the press. Dr. Robbins determines the little girl, whom Catherine dubs "Baby Cordelia," was killed by a blow to the head. Hodges determines that a substance found on her body was drain cleaner. When mourners set up a memorial for the girl, Warrick installs a camera in case the killer returns to the scene. Hodges finds evidence that the girl's hair was dyed and curled, leading the CSIs to wonder if she was abducted and her appearance changed. Prints off the packing slip tape from the box the girl was found in lead the CSIs to Nora O'Toole, a bubbly young woman who lives with her boyfriend, Dean James. Nora says the box was from a vacuum cleaner she bought and that her boyfriend got rid of for her. Dean confirms her story. Warrick searches the missing persons database and believes he's found the identity of the little girl: Sashira Sayeed, but when he brings her parents in to identify her body, they say the little girl is not their daughter. A hair on the box matches to a registered sex offender, Leo Finley, who turns out to be none other than Dean James, Nora's boyfriend. Catherine interrogates him and he tells her he's in the database for accidental indecent exposure. He denies having anything to do with the little girl's death, but Catherine remains skeptical. The CSIs catch Leo in a lie when they learn he brought a car part in the box to a body shop near where the girl's body was found. He says he lied because he didn't think they'd believe him.

The CSIs finally get an ID on the girl when a convict named Donald Balboa recognizes her as his daughter, Inez. He tells the CSIs he suspects his former cellmate, Boyd Waldrip, of killing her. Boyd is now married to Donald's former wife, Grace, and has two children with her. The CSIs storm the house where Boyd and Grace are living, but the family is gone--and it looks like they left in a hurry. Catherine discovers blood under the kitchen sink. Boyd, Grace and their two children are tracked to a diner, and Boyd takes the customers hostage when he's recognized. He's talked into giving up, but in the chaos, Grace is fatally shot. Devastated Boyd agrees to confess that he killed Inez, but Catherine gets a different story from Inez's half-siblings, who tell her that they played a game of hide and seek while Boyd slept on the couch. Inez hit her head while hiding under the sink. When Boyd woke up and discovered her bleeding and unconscious, he took a bus to the hospital because his wife had the car. Inez died on the way, and he left her body in the box. Because of his status as an ex-con, he didn't report her death, fearing he'd be blamed. Catherine leaves for the night and is confronted by Leo, who accuses her of ruining his life and tells her he's contemplating suicide--and that it will be her fault if he does take his own life.

Analysis:

The death of a child is always a downer, and out of the three CSI shows, the flagship's tone, lighting and score lend the subject the most pathos and gravitas. There's a grimness to the Vegas show that the spin-offs don't have, which generally makes the dark episodes of CSI intense and depressing. The opening of "A Thousand Days on Earth" is reminiscent of "No Humans Involved", when Greg discovers the body of a small boy in a box in the trash. Unlike that boy, the body of Inez Balboa has not been literally thrown away in the trash but carefully arranged in the box, though she is discarded all the same. Unlike Devon Malton, Inez's death is the result of an accident, not neglect.

Boyd Waldrip isn't negligent in the same way Divine, Devon's guardian was, though like Divine he wasn't Inez's birth parent, but her stepfather. Unlike Divine, he's torn up about the girl's death, though he still makes an attempt to conceal it, assuming his status as an ex-con would prevent anyone from believing that Inez's death was an accident. David Meunier gives a great performance in Boyd's final scene, when he admits to Catherine what happened with Inez. There's anguish in his demeanor and speech, and it's no surprise when Grissom discovers Boyd and Grace on the surveillance camera the CSIs set up at Inez's memorial.

It comes as no surprise that case is an intense one for Catherine personally--she's a mother of a daughter herself. She personalizes the case in every way she can, eschewing the route "Jane Doe" or "Baby Jane" moniker for unidentified female victims in favor of "Baby Cordelia," taken from the name of the street where the child was found. In a show where murder occurs on such a regular basis, Catherine choosing a more personalized name for the child signifies an immediate investment in the case, both on Catherine's part and the viewers'.

Catherine gets snippy with Hodges when he mentions the girl's beauty, but it's clearly a gut reaction on her part. Catherine knows any mother would be devastated and is bristling at Hodges' implication that the girl's beauty somehow makes the tragedy a greater one. There's a bit of feminist resentment in there, too, no doubt--why is it that the first thing Hodges notices about the girl is her beauty? Her blonde hair and curls turn out to be a disguise of sorts, proving Catherine's point that her appearance is not the most important thing about her, and doesn't make her death any more or less tragic.

In her determination to catch the person who killed the child, Catherine erroneously pursues Dean James, the boyfriend of the loquacious Nora O'Toole, whose prints are on the box Inez is found in. James, whose real name is actually Leo Finley, turns out to have a record, and though he explains it away, Catherine comes down hard on him, suspecting him of killing Inez. This isn't unusual for the CSIs to do--how many times have we seen them question a suspect and continue to doubt the person even once he or she come up with a reasonable and convincing story for how DNA or prints have linked him or her to the crime? It's routine and what we've come to expect from the investigators.

But this time, it has consequences. Leo turns out to be innocent, but in the process of the investigation, he's lost both his girlfriend and in his job. He angrily confronts Catherine in an underground parking structure, accusing her of ruining his life. But--and this was a brilliant and judicious choice by the writers--rather than doing something cliche like attacking her or threatening her life, Leo tells Catherine that he's contemplating suicide and that if he does, his blood will be on her hands. Guest star James Jay Paulson is wonderfully intense in this scene, unhinged but not deranged. His threat is a cold and calculating one, and it's effective.

For her part, Catherine defends her actions, saying that she was just doing her job, but Marg Helgenberger subtly conveys how shaken Catherine is. And it leaves the audience to wonder if she did in fact cross the line. Despite Leo's perfectly reasonable explanation as to why he has a record as a sex offender and his insistence that he didn't kill Inez, Catherine still rakes him across the coals for concealing his identity and vows to tell his girlfriend and his employer about his true identity. Was that really her place? It's clear that in this moment--when she realizes she's ruined the life of an innocent man--that she's wondering the exact same thing.

Leo doesn't give her much of a chance to counter what he's saying, and because he doesn't attack her, she can't simply dismiss him or ignore what he's saying. One has to wonder if he'll make good on his threat to "blow [his] brains out on [her] front lawn." The speech and Leo's distraught behavior brings up the interesting question of how culpable the CSIs are for pursuing a hard line of questioning. On one hand, in order to catch killers, they have to relentlessly follow the evidence, but do they leap to conclusions too quickly? It's a fine line, and as this episode illustrates, it's easy to cross that line.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

You may have missed