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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Down the Drain'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 8, 2004 - 8:08 PM GMT

See Also: 'Down the Drain' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

It's a dark and stormy night in the city of Las Vegas. In the sewers of the city, a man flees a flood of rainwater. The water overtakes him, and he goes down.

Hours later, Grissom and Catherine examine his ravaged body. There is no wallet on his body, and Grissom sends Catherine and Warrick into the sewers to find out where the man came from. A little ways down, the come across what they think is another body: a homeless man floating in the rainwater in the sewers. Catherine starts to call the death in, but she's shocked when the "body" opens his eyes and says he was just taking a nap!

Warrick shows the man a picture of their victim's body, but he doesn't recognize him. When Catherine finds an expensive pair of shoes among the homeless man's things, she wonders if he may have killed their victim. The pair heads south, still searching for the origins of their victim.

Back at the CSI labs, Greg is witnessing his first his first autopsy. Dr. Robbins is opening up the body from the sewers while a decidedly green Greg looks on. Robbins finds fluid in the air passages, suggesting that the man drowned, but he notes that blunt force trauma can't be ruled out either.

Catherine and Warrick continue south and finally hit daylight, where they find a wallet identifying their victim as one Calvin Berkowitz, a lifeguard at the Tangiers hotel. An inner tube also found at the scene suggests Calvin was messing around in the sewers and got caught up in the flow of the rainwater. Pure stupidity lead to his death.

Catherine starts to climb up the wall to get out of the sewer outlet, but she slips and falls into Warrick's arms. The two laugh nervously, but Warrick doesn't put her down right away and they gaze into each other's eyes before being interrupted by a worker from above, who has found some bones while working in the sewers. They could be old, or animal bones, but Warrick and Catherine have to find out where they came from. It's back to the sewers to hunt down yet another victim. Catherine sets up a filter and comes up with a bone that's clearly human. They track the bones down the sewers and finally find the majority of the bones in a pocket under a manhole.

Dr. Robbins reassembles the body and determines the victim was a 5'6'' male. Marks on his ribs indicate possible stab wounds. The CSIs decide to canvas the neighborhood where the majority of the bones were found. A neighborhood man, Martin Kessler, offers the team coffee and notes that a lot of cats have gone missing around the neighborhood.

Greg is working on analyzing the bones when Sara approaches him and congratulates him on losing his "virginity." She confesses that she threw up after witnessing her first autopsy. When Dr. Robbins points out that the victim's dental records indicate he was likely a teenager, Catherine and Nick go over the missing person's database.

Grissom is doing an experiment to see how long it would have taken for the victim's body to have decomposed in the sewers among the corrosives and human waste. He asks Greg for specimens to help him test this theory--number one and number two.

Brass, Sara and Warrick go to the Durbin house, where the neighborhood bully, Owen, lives. They've obtained a warrant based on the fact that Mr. Durbin is in possession of illegal fireworks. Inside the house, Sara and Warrick uncover a shotgun and plenty of ammo. Sara spots blood drops on the stairs. She finds a closet door with similar stains, but while she's examining it, Warrick spots a series of pipe bombs on the closet's top shelf. Sara says she needs the door for evidence, and the two remove it, trying not to set off the bombs.

Back at the station, Brass tells Durbin that having the bombs is a class B felony. As Sara and Grissom go over the evidence, Sara attempts to talk to Grissom about her DUI. She tells him she's not a drunk, so not to worry. He says he's not worried, but concerned.

Based on his experiment, Grissom determines that the victim could have been missing for as little time as five weeks. Nick finds a likely match in Travis Giles, and asks Travis's grandmother about his case. He disappeared six weeks ago, leaving her a note saying he was going to go back to his mother, but his mother claims he never showed up. Nick asks for something containing his DNA, and his grandmother bleakly counters that she knows he's dead.

Catherine sees blood spatter on the wall in the Durbin's house and calls it into Brass. He asks Owen about it, but Owen claims it was from one of the family's dogs. When Brass calls Catherine back with the information, she tells him the spatter is too high up on the wall to have come from a dog.

The Las Vegas bomb squad searches the house as the CSIs gather evidence. Sara discovers dead fish in the tank in Owen's room, while Warrick discovers a big hunk of fur in the trash, and then a pile of hidden clothing in a box full of soot. In the garage, Grissom finds blood, and then a knife buried in the back of the garage. As he reaches for it, the bomb squad captain opens a refrigerator in the garage to find liquid explosives, and he immediately orders a complete evacuation of the house. Grissom is forced to leave without the knives, though he does manage to snap a few pictures before leaving. The CSIS flee the house, and the bomb squad safely detonates the liquid explosives, which destroys the house.

Grissom shows the team pictures of the knives he wasn't able to recover. Sara was able to make off with some videos from under Owen's bed, but they all seem to be home movies. She hasn't found anything fishy yet.

Mrs. Giles brings in a baby tooth from Travis that she saved, and the CSIs are able to match DNA from the tooth to the blood in the house. Owen claims it was an accident--that Travis stole the knife from him and then tripped on it. But Catherine notes that Travis was stabbed twice. Brass notes that Mrs. Durbin helped cover up the murder--no kid would fold the clothes before hiding them. Owen becomes enraged when Brass accuses his mother and threatens to kill both Brass and Catherine. Owen is charged with murder, Mrs. Durbin with being an accessory, and Mr. Durbin with possession of the explosives. Sara continues to watch the family videos.

Analysis:

There are some cute character moments in this one, but ultimately they're not enough to make up for a lackluster storyline. The CSI shows often rely on coincidences, to varying degrees of believability, but this one stretches too far. That someone would be stupid enough to try to tube through the sewers is a bit of a stretch (sadly, not a total one), but the fact that this murder would lead Catherine and Warrick right to the exact spot where a Streets & Sanitation worker has discovered bones that just happen to be from another fairly recent murder...it's just too much.

The Durbins aren't interesting enough to justify the suspension of belief. Bombs present and/or going off do not on their own make an exciting story make. We never learn why Durbin has bombs ready to explode lying around his own house. Is there any purpose to the bombs other than to add suspense to the CSIs search for evidence? I couldn't see any reason for them, nor did we ever hear any sort of explanation from Durbin. That the family was twisted was evident, but who is stupid enough to make and keep live bombs in his own house?

Disappointingly, Owen doesn't come off as especially creepy until the end of the episode, when he threatens Brass for insulting Mrs. Durbin. It would have been a more powerful moment had it been better set up, but we get so little time with Owen that he's pretty much a blank until that moment. There's nothing to set him apart from any sullen kid his age.

Greg's transition from lab expert to CSI field officer continues to provide comic relief, as Eric Szmanda delights by giving viewers a real feel for what it must be like to be thrust into settings familiar to more experienced CSIs. The look on his face during the autopsy Robbins is performing is priceless: Szmanda manages to subtly convey Greg's discomfort and disgust without going overboard. Having him lose his lunch would have been boringly predictable, but Greg's quiet composure suggests he may indeed be quite well suited for this job.

More hints were dropped tonight about Sara's secret. She watches the Durbin family videos even after the case is closed, her expression unreadable. Given Sara's comments about her family while she rehearsed what she was going to say to Grissom in "Viva Las Vegas," we know a revelation about her family is behind her secret, but what could it be? There are a myriad possibilities. I just hope what it turns out to be lives up to all of this set up.

Speaking of set up, what's with Warrick and Catherine? Had they not been conveniently interrupted (the convenient interruption: one of the most irritating and oft-used plot devices) by the S&S worker, what would have happened. The moment lasted too long to not be classified as a moment, and the way Warrick and Catherine looked at each other suggested a mutual attraction, possibly a strong one. I suspect this was a one-time tease for the audience; the CSI shows seem to delight in staying away from romance. To an extent, I understand the motivation. But romance (be it lust or love) is as much a part of everyday life as death is. The most shocking thing a CSI show could do right now would be to have two characters pair off, without fanfare or hype. You know, like people do in real life.

Next week: The CSIs search for a missing girl, as Catherine grapples with problems closer to home.

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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