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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Dead Doll'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 2, 2007 - 3:57 AM GMT

Synopsis:

Picking up where last season's finale "Living Doll" left off, Grissom and co. begin a frantic search for Sara, who was abducted by Natalie Davis, the miniature crime scene killer. As the CSIs scour Natalie's apartment and the garage where Natalie abducted Sara, the episode flashes back to the moment when Natalie surprised Sara in the parking garage, just after Sara had learned of the killer's identity from Grissom. Natalie tasered Sara, but when Sara woke up in the trunk of Natalie's car, she was able to free herself and make her way into the main section of the car by tearing off the speaker. She fought with Natalie but ended up tumbling from the car, allowing Natalie to recapture her. Sara tried to reason with the killer, but Natalie drugged her and when Sara next woke, Natalie lowered a car onto her, trapping one of her hands between the car and a rock. Natalie left her and Sara struggled to escape as a heavy rain started.

The CSIs are at their wit's ends. Natalie has gone catatonic and isn't talking, and Grissom has realized that the rainwater will eventually drown Sara if she remains under the car. Natalie's apartment seems like a dead end until Nick stumbles across a phone number for an auto yard. Brass races there and discovers that the car that was lowered onto Sara was purchased from the yard. The owner tells Brass he towed the car to Ice Rocks Canyon and the CSIs race there--only to discover the car is buried in mud. Grissom breathes a sigh of relief when they discover Sara is not under the car--she escaped. The story flashes back to reveal that Sara continued to struggle as the water rose, and just as it was about to overwhelm her, was able to free her hand and escape the car.

The desert sun is shining down, and the CSIs know they only have a matter of time before Sara dies of dehydration. As she struggles through the desert, the CSIs frantically search for her. When they find a body in the desert, they fear for the worst, but it turns out to be an unfortunate hiker who was last seen three days ago. As he drives along with Sofia, Nick spots Sara from the road and rushes to her. He's not able to find a pulse and when Medivac arrives, they fear for the worst. Grissom insists on going into the helicopter with her, and he's relieved when she opens her eyes and meets his.

Analysis:

CSI's eight season opener was a triumph in every way: creatively, story-wise, character-wise--even in the ratings, where the show ousted "It" show Grey's Anatomy from the top spot in total viewers (story). The show was up from last year's premiere and brought in the most viewers overall last week. The show is in its eighth season; isn't it supposed to be losing steam by now? Clearly no one told the CSI writers (or fans) that: nothing about the show feels tired.

In the age of the internet, it's gotten really hard to keep a secret and Jorja Fox's contract dispute has certainly played out in a high profile way in the media. With all the will-she-or-won't-she-be-back, it's a wonder that the question really didn't get answered definitively before the premiere aired. There was almost even more suspense in "Dead Doll" than there was in the fifth's season's nail-biter of a finale, "Grave Danger", in large part because the very public contract dispute really put Fox's character's fate into question.

And here's where the "Living Doll"/"Dead Doll" duo wade into dangerous territory: as the third finale to feature a main character in danger (in sixth season's "Way to Go", Brass was at death's door following a shooting in a hotel room), it ran the risk of feeling routine. Indeed, I turned on the episode with some trepidation; would this simply be "Grave Danger, Part Two"? There are certainly similarities: someone with a grudge against the CSIs concocts an elaborate plan, abducts one of the CSIs and puts him/her in a situation where he/she will probably die.

But there's one important distinction: Sara essentially saves herself from the situation. There wasn't much poor Nick could do buried in a plexiglass coffin under the ground; his only option was to wait for the team to save him. But Sara has to be more resourceful; if she'd waited for the team, they simply would have been too late. Are we supposed to think that Natalie knew rain was forecast and that part of her plan was that Sara would drown? Presumably, given the detail put into her miniatures and her planning in general, the possibility is a strong one. Either way, "Dead Doll" breaks the mold of its predecessor by having Sara free herself and start a long trek across the hot desert.

There are a few fake out moments in the episode. The first comes when the CSIs discover the car buried under sand, just before the episode flashes back to reveal how Sara escaped from the car. Astute viewers most likely noticed that the episode was only at the halfway mark when Grissom ran up to the car, so I doubt the first fake out fooled anyone. The second was a little more convincing, though: when the CSIs found the body of a brown-haired person, I started to worry--could it be Sara? In fact, it's actually a man with long hair, and the mystery of his death is solved in under two minutes. The quick resolution gave me a grim chuckle; there wouldn't be much of a show if all cases were solved so easily, but I guess it would have been out of place for the CSIs to stop their frantic search to collect evidence.

It is Nick, not Grissom, who finds Sara. Earlier in the episode, there's a nice bit of continuity with season six's "Gum Drops" in which Nick and Sara discussed whether or not a ten-year-old girl whose entire family had been murdered might still be alive. Nick clung to hope, while Sara thought he was being affected by the emotional fallout of what had happened to him in "Grave Danger." "When it's your time, it's your time," she told him at the time, and at that moment I believed Sara was probably a goner. In the next--when Nick, once again refusing to give up, found the drawing with the auto yard number on it--I was convinced of just the opposite. Nick was once again going to prove that sometimes not giving up leads to a happy outcome.

Of course, in the past few years, Nick and Sara have had vastly different experiences with this. Nick did indeed save the little girl in "Gum Drops," while in "Empty Eyes", Sara implored a woman to hold on only to watch her die in her arms. Nick himself was saved by the whole team; Sara had to pull herself out from under the car and walk across the desert in the scorching sun and heat. When Nick finds her, it's almost too late.

Almost, but thankfully, that word stands between Sara and oblivion. In the medivac helicopter, Sara opens her eyes and the first thing she sees is the name "Grissom" on Gil's vest. There's nothing as profound from Grissom as his realization in "Living Doll" that Natalie intended to take the one person he loved from him in revenge, but William Petersen's taciturn scientist is more energized in this episode than usual. Now that the relationship between these two is out in the open, they might be the hot topic around the watercooler at work.

Or will they? Rumors that Sara is set to exit during November sweeps are running rampant (story). If the rumors are true, I have to wonder how her exit could possibly top what it could have been at the end of "Dead Doll." Not that death is always the best way to handle an exiting actor; both CSI: Miami and CSI: New York both dispatched popular characters to fans' dissatisfaction. But it's hard to imagine an exit for Sara that would be as memorable as a grimmer ending to "Dead Doll." That said, there's a benefit to keeping the character alive--Sara has been with the show for seven years, and even if she leaves now (and it's impossible to fault Jorja Fox for wanting to leave after putting seven years into the show), the possibility exists for her to return at a later point for guest stints. Any character who can get herself out from under a car when her hand is crushed between the car and a rock and then can make her way across the desert is worth keeping alive.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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