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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Bull'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 12, 2008 - 2:43 AM GMT

See Also: 'Bull' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Hours after having his neck stepped on by a bull at a rodeo, rider Cody Latshaw is found dead, a coil of rope by his body suggesting that he got back on the bull and was thrown again--this time, fatally. Dr. Robbins tells Catherine that the first injury created a hairline fracture in Cody's vertebrae, meaning that any trauma would have severed his spinal cord. Catherine posits that a second ride on the bull, Windtwister, likely killed Cody, and the evidence seems to back her up. The body of twenty-seven-year old Tiffany Rigden is found outside a convenience store, the victim of a hit-and-run. Nick and Greg are surprised when they find Cody Latshaw's truck around the corner of the scene, abandoned. They find two keycards for Pike's Gambling Hall--one on Tiffany and one in Cody's car. They learn Cody was staying in the hotel and Tiffany was his guest. When Catherine and Nick visit Cody's room, they find a love poem written by Cody and a note from Tiffany saying goodbye; she was getting married. Nick checks her record and learns she has priors for soliciting. Greg goes through Cody's possessions and is surprised to find an electro-ejaculator among his things. When Wendy Simms informs him that semen stains found on Cody's jeans are bovine, the CSIs wonder if Cody was bilking sperm from Windtwister and selling it for a hefty profit.

After a witness tells the CSIs he saw Tiffany get hit by the car an hour after Cody's death, they turn their suspicions on Erik Hong, her pimp, who according to phone records tried to call her several times before her death. Erik admits to being angry when he found Tiffany was leaving the business to get married, but denies killing her. A few hours later, his dead body is found in a bathroom in a country western bar. A girl named Coco recalls Tiffany and Erik from several nights before. Tiffany approached a young man named Troy and started talking with him and a few minutes later two girls approached her and started insulting her. A massive fight broke out and Troy dragged Tiffany away. The next night, Tiffany showed up to announce she was getting married. The CSIs track down the wedding chapel Troy and Tiffany were going to get married in, but the proprietor tells them Tiffany never showed. Warrick locates Troy in a parking garage where the man is sitting with a shotgun aimed at his chin, but when Nick arrives with the back up team, he's able to talk Troy out of killing himself. Troy was the one who shot Erik, assuming he was responsible for Tiffany not showing up to their wedding.

The CSIs discuss the case, pondering who could have killed Cody and Tiffany. Hodges identifies the rope found with Cody as being made of hemp, indicating it's an older rope. Nick and Brass pick up Cash Dooley, an older rodeo cowboy who they met earlier while he was taking care of Windtwister. Brass questions Cash, wondering if he and Cody had worked together to obtain Windtwister's sperm and sell it. Cash insists Cody wouldn't have done anything like that and gives up his actual partner, Dustin Lightfoot. Dustin reveals Cody's death was accidental; he happened upon Cash and Dustin stealing Windtwister's sperm and confronted them. When Dustin punched him, the blow proved fatal. Cash and Dustin left Cody's body in the arena to make his death look accidental, and then took Cody's truck to sell the sperm they'd obtained--only to hit Tiffany, who was hurrying to her wedding. The case closed, Grissom theorizes that the poem Cody wrote wasn't for Tiffany or his ex, Nancy, but for the bull, Windtwister.

Analysis:

Delving into both country western culture in Las Vegas and the bull riding arena, "Bull" is quite a ride. The body count in the episode is no less than three, coming one right after another and keeping the CSIs busy. Two of the deaths are accidents and one is the result of a misunderstanding, which stretches credibility a smidge. What are the chances that after accidentally killing Cody, Dustin and Cash would just happen to get in Cody's car and hit his girlfriend unintentionally? It makes for a great case, but it's still hard to ignore the nagging, "what's the likelihood of that actually happening?" question that runs through the viewer's mind while watching the resolution unfold. I wondered if Nancy might have been the culprit, and while I'm rarely disappointed when my suspicions turn out to be wrong, random chance seemed like a bit of a stretch.

The whole thing does sound like the stuff of a country song: guy gets killed after his girlfriend leaves him, then his murderer runs down the girl and then her fiance kills her pimp...all that's missing is an ex-wife who stole his dog. Add to that the brilliantly funny knock-down, drag-it-out fight in the country western bar while Shooter Jennings performs and it makes for a clever send up of stereotypes about that particular community. One can't help but laugh when Jennings continues to play his set despite the ruckus erupting around him.

Jennings isn't the only superstar to make an appearance in the episode; Jewel also turns up to sing the national anthem at the bull riding rodeo. Both Jewel and Jennings turn in fantastic performances; Jewel's voice is positively ethereal and Jennings is a natural in front of the camera. In addition to the two musicians, there are several rodeo cowboys who show up in the episode, including Jewel's beau, Ty Murray. Murray is the one who informs Grissom about Cody's mishap riding the bull earlier in the evening, and he delivers a confident and assured performance. Were I not familiar with him, I would have assumed he was a regular guest actor. Seeing professional rodeo cowboys riding the bulls in the beginning of the episode makes for an impressive opening.

With his southern drawl and easy charm, Nick is a natural to feature prominently on the case, and the scene where he talks Troy down is wrought with tension. I loved how Nick stepped up and knew just what to say when he caught sight of the Texas plate on Troy's car. George Eads is wonderful in the scene; his voice is calm and casual as he reasons Troy into dropping the shotgun. He speaks to Troy not as a police officer but as a fellow Texan, telling the distraught young man that he understands that he's just a boy from Texas who came up to Las Vegas and lost his way. Nick is by far the most empathetic and warmest character of the Vegas team, and it's nice to see him get a chance to use those qualities to diffuse a dangerous situation.

Warrick pulling up right next to Troy's truck just as the broadcast goes over the police radio with the description of said truck is another hard-to-swallow coincidence, but it was probably the only way to get Warrick into the episode. Nick welcomes him back, which I presume means he's still on the suspension he received from Grissom at the end of "Lying Down with Dogs". Warrick certainly seems better than he was in "Lying Down with Dogs" or the episode that came before it, "Cockroaches". Has he given up the pills? He may have, but I doubt he'll give up his quest to bring down Lou Gedda.

Liz Vassey's Wendy Simms has really grown on me in the last year. I like her tendency to share random knowledge she has, almost like Hodges does. Is it any wonder that these two seem made for each other? In this episode, Wendy tells Nick and Greg a story about a farmer who copulated with his livestock, even as the two CSIs beg her not to go on. It's a hilarious scene, and Vassey delivers the tale with such gusto that it's impossible not to admire her enthusiasm. The more I see of her, the more I hope she will take the CSI proficiency exam that she mentioned she was considering in "You Kill Me". The more Wendy, the better.

The episode ends on a rather clever note, with Grissom realizing the cowboy love poem found in Cody's hotel room was written not to Tiffany or Nancy but to Windtwister, the bull he rode. Earlier in the episode, Grissom associated the poem with Sara, when Nick hypothesized that Cody might have written the poem to "try to make sense of a girl." When Grissom answered that poetry was good for that, his look lets the audience know the comment struck a personal chord with him. Grissom has been dealing with Sara's absence in just the way we'd expect him too--quietly, playing his cards close to his chest--but now and then he shows flashes of the loneliness that her leaving has thrust him back into.

"Bull" is the final episode of CSI written before the WGA strike halted production--and therefore possibly the last episode of the eighth season of CSI if the strike isn't resolved soon. If this is indeed the last episode of the eighth season, I hope that Warrick's crusade against Gedda won't be forgotten; I imagine that's a thread that will be reasonably easy to pick up once the show goes back into production. But I wonder if there will be any more references made to Sara's departure and its effect on Grissom. Her somber presence certainly is missed, but I suspect if the show doesn't return until the fall, the writers will look to move beyond her. While I understand the impetus for that, I can't help but want to see more of the effect her leaving has on Grissom. It took him so long to open up to her and come around and when he finally did, he truly did embrace having her in his life. What is it like for someone like Grissom to finally let another person into his life, only to lose that person? Hopefully after the break in episodes--even if it's a long one--we'll get a clear picture of what Grissom's going through.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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