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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'All In'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 19, 2009 - 10:50 PM GMT

See Also: 'All In' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Langston's pro-bono trauma work is interrupted by a call to a crime scene. The body of a man has been dumped in the desert, the victim of a fatal gunshot wound to the head. Comparing the skid marks from the car that dumped him and the location of the body, the CSIs are able to determine the man was likely the driver of the car. Riley isn't able to find the man in AFIS, so she puts his prints in the system. Langston shows Greg two distinct sets of shoe prints leading away from the car, one wearing sneakers and the other boots. Greg notices a blood trail with one of the sets of prints, leading him to conclude the man wearing sneakers was wounded. During the autopsy, Catherine examines the bullet and notes that the murder weapon was either a .38 or a .357 revolver. Langston returns to the lab in time to see Nick before he leaves for an entomology conference and stops by his office to find a box of items from a woman named Gloria Parkes, which contains a medal of valor and a picture of a Corporal John Langston. Riley is able to identify the victim: an Elba resident named Huston Dobbs. Brass goes to the diner where Huston worked as a fry cook and speaks with Barb Aubrey, the owner of the diner, who is surprised to learn Huston is dead. Between Barb and the diner patrons, Brass learns that Huston hung around with a guy named Bruno Curtis, and that the fry cook said he was looking for work up north. A deputy in Elba finds Huston's car abandoned and on fire and the CSIs claim it, going over it and discovering evidence Huston was living in his car. They also find a Hux Club casino chip, which Hodges recognizes as being a tribute to an out-of-print gentlemen's magazine. Riley recovers a gun from the car, a .22 and Hodges finds a large belt buckle that was used to conceal the gun.

Riley matches a print on the buckle to a collectables dealer named Wiley Schindler who is in Vegas. Brass and Langston find Schindler at his hotel, trying to broker a deal. He claims he bought the Hux chips from two guys at the diner for $200, and that he gave them his belt buckle to seal the deal. A skeptical Brass puts him under arrest, and the team recovers 172 of the Hux Club casino chips, worth over $150,000. Schindler maintains that he didn't kill anyone. Langston learns Huston and Bruno were recently doing an odd construction job that took them to an abandoned factory that used to belong to the now-bankrupt Blue Bird Button Company in Elba. Langston and Riley go to the factory and find evidence someone has been living in the defunct building. They catch sight of the wounded Bruno, who runs from them. They chase him and find him hiding under a tarp. Langston approaches him cautiously, taking his gun once he gets close enough. After Bruno is taken away to the hospital, the team discovers a plethora of Hux Club chips in the mounds of dirt at the site. Hodges realizes the company must have buried the chips rather than destroying them, as they were supposed to do once the chips were decommissioned. In the hospital, Ray gets Bruno, whose infected leg has been amputated, to talk. Bruno tells the CSI that Barbie found him and Huston a buyer for the chips: Wiley Schindler. They claim Schindler stole their chips and when they lured him in with more, denied taking them. They went for a ride with Schindler, but he shot them, wounding Bruno in the leg and leaving Huston dead. Ray goes back to the lab and matches the .38 gun Bruno was carrying to the bullet that killed Huston. Mandy finds only Bruno's prints on the gun.

Clayton Ferris of the Gaming Commission pays a visit to CSI to urge the team to find the chips; Las Vegas will be forced to pay the value of the chips if they're turned in. After Schindler is released, Langston goes to speak with Barb and finds her dead in her home, surrounded by chips. David Phillips determines that she was killed by a single large caliber gun shot to the head. Schindler is caught trying to leave town with two carry-on bags packed with Hux Club chips. Brass questions Schindler, who tells the detective that he bought the chips in his possession from Barb for $2,000. He swears he left her alive. Back at Barb's house, Langston finds her cell phone and discovers an angry message on it which is from Walter Ellis, a bus boy at Barb's diner. Catherine notices his address is the same as Barb's and wonders if Barb stole the chips from Bruno and Huston--and then Walter stole them from her. In Barb's garage, Langston finds a car with a trunk full of chips and also discovers the $2000 in cash and a plane ticket for Walter Ellis. Suddenly, Ellis jumps out at him and starts firing. Langston fires back and hits the man in the chest. As Ellis dies, he mutters, "Thirteen years of living with that bitch! I'm getting out" and dies.

Analysis:

Not all finales have to be "event" episodes. One of CSI's finest finales, "Bloodlines" was a regular standalone episode, with a great plot and a sinister villain. "All In" isn't a bad episode of CSI, but it's a very, very average one at best, and doesn't make much of an impact as a season finale. As a capper for a season that's seen quite a bit of change and some significant upheaval for the Vegas team, it simply underwhelms. Some interesting bits are dangled in front of us--economic hardship hitting the lab, the box Langston receives with a picture of a man who is presumably his father, burgeoning conflict between Langston and Riley--but these tidbits don't quite make up for what essentially is a weak story.

After seeing the episode, I'm still not entirely sure who killed Huston. Are we supposed to take Bruno's word that Schindler was the guilty party? Schindler was certainly a swindler, but does that make him a murderer as well? He tries the forthright approach with Brass after being arrested, telling him that he hasn't called a lawyer because he's innocent. Was he just trying to con the cop, or was he really innocent? And if so, why would Bruno point the finger at him? Presumably if Schindler is not the one who murdered Huston and shot Bruno, Walter Ellis is, and there's no reason that I can see for Bruno to protect Ellis. This is one mystery that the audience shouldn't be left wondering about after the final credits have rolled.

Cynthia Watros, who played Libby on Lost in its second season, shows up in a brief role as Barb Aubrey, the diner owner who ends up becoming a murder victim later in the episode. It is Barb's husband, Walter, who does her in, apparently with the intention of taking the $2,000 Schindler paid her, and the chips in the trunk, and running away, presumably to live off the chips for the rest of his life. Why? Because thirteen years of being married to Barb was apparently hell, so much so that he kills her and thinks it's a good idea to fire a gun at an armed CSI. This sets up the climactic moment for Langston, when he instinctively fires back at Ellis--and kills the man.

Like every episode has done since we first met Langston in "19 Down", "All In" furthers Langston as a great humanitarian, a man of science with a keen desire to help others. At the beginning of the episode we learn Langston is still doing pro bono medical work, helping out in an ER in his down time. Is Langston in danger of becoming too much of a goodie two shoes to be believed? Perhaps, but there are so many characters on television with anger issues and dark pasts and haunted psyches that in some ways it's very refreshing to see a character as downright earnest as Langston is. Laurence Fishburne's portrayal of the doctor turned CSI always stays far away from the "holier than thou" attitude a character who strives as hard as Langston does could easily have. There seems to be a need in him to do good, to do the right thing, which is perhaps why it's such a crushing blow for him at the end when his survival instincts kick in, causing him to fire at Ellis.

Going up against this paragon of virtue, Riley Adams runs the risk of being unsympathetic, but I'm as drawn to her darkness, the anger simmering just below the surface, as I am to Langston's apparent need to help others. I love her wild child tidbits and her gentle teasing of Greg and Doc Robbins. Riley is a character that an actress less gifted than Lauren Lee Smith would make brittle and abrupt, but Smith imbues Riley with charisma and energy. She and Langston have a serious clash here, one that perhaps has been brewing since she criticized him for intervening between a father and his son in "The Grave Shift". Riley gets upset when Langston jumps into the pit where Bruno is hiding and walks up to the injured man, despite the fact that Bruno is holding a gun. Riley later tells Catherine Langston is "reckless," causing him to tell Catherine that Riley is "trigger happy." I'm not sure that's the phrase I'd use to describe Riley--cynical or mistrustful, perhaps--maybe even impatient. But "trigger happy" implies she acts rashly without considering her actions, and that's not quite what we've seen from Riley thus far. But if Langston is incorrect in his assessment of Riley it can only be a good thing: it shows a real human flaw in a character that at times can seem a little too good to be true. I hope Langston and Riley continue to butt heads next season.

There's a hint about Langston's background in this episode: he receives a box from someone named "Gloria Parkes"--his mother? sister? aunt?--with a medal of honor and a picture of a soldier, presumably his father, named John Langston. Did Langston's father die before he was born, or perhaps when he was very young? Or is he still alive, but not in contact with Langston? There's no follow-up in the episode to the contents of the box, but presumably we'll learn more about what it means to Langston next season. While it's nice to have a character that isn't haunted by his demons, it will be gratifying for the audience to learn more about Langston's past and where he comes from.

There are a few treats here for longtime fans that amuse, the first being that Nick heads off to an entomology conference, telling Catherine that the lab needs a new "bug man." No character will ever love bugs in quite the way Grissom did, but entomology literally saved Nick's life in "Grave Danger", so his interest in stepping into Grissom's shoes in that regard is a nice nod to his mentor. Nick's departure does take him out of play for the episode's duration, but his absence is likely explained by the back injury George Eads grappled with for the last several months of the season (story). It will be fun to see if Nick puts the entomological know how he gains in the seminar to use next season.

Fans might also recognize Hampton Huxley, the Hugh Hefner-esque publisher who met his demise in season eight's "A La Carte". The mention of Huxley gives Hodges a chance to show off his knowledge of the gentlemen's magazine Huxley was famous for publishing as well as allowing Greg the opportunity to share some of his beloved Old Vegas knowledge. Catherine even gets a mention in of her late father Sam Braun, recalling him burying defunct casino chips in the base of one of his hotels. Little details like these ground the show, and enrich the world it inhabits. The music in the episode, which includes songs such as "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" and "These Boots Were Made For Walking" similarly adds an atmosphere unique to Vegas.

Is the lab in financial trouble? The ubiquitous economic crisis definitely looms over the episode. Catherine tells Ecklie that she's cut expenses by 10% across the board--and tells him to make sure to cut crime by 10%, too. Later Catherine notices Doc Robbins being very pensive during the autopsy, and when she asks him what's up, he tells her "things are tough." Hodges naturally cracks a joke, noting that "conflict in the Middle East, recession, war" indicate not much has changed since the 70s. Will the grim economic conditions follow the Vegas team into the next season? Time will tell.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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