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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Empty Eyes'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 10, 2007 - 2:49 AM GMT

See Also: 'Empty Eyes' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The CSIs are horrified to find five Las Vegas showgirls dead in the house they all share. All five are bound and with the exception of one, have had their throats slashed. Sara is shocked when she stumbles across a sixth victim, Cammie, the final housemate, and finds the girl is alive. Sara calls for help but the girl dies in front of her, trying to tell her something about wine. The CSIs find a wine bottle in the kitchen with a custom label. Dr. Robbins determines five of the six victims died of exsanguination; the final victim, Becca, was stabbed to death after being raped. Two of the other victims, Emily and Laura, had sexual intercourse prior to their deaths, but Dr. Robbins can't tell if the acts were rape or consensual. He also notes a C-section scar on Cammie's stomach. Warrick is surprised to recognize one of the victims, Emily, as a girl from his old neighborhood and takes on the sad task of telling her grandmother that she's dead. Hodges is also forced to deliver bad news when the mother of Libby, another of the victims, calls her cell while it's in his lab.

The CSIs question Lewis Greyberg, a reporter who did an article on the showgirls when they did a charity drive for another showgirl battling breast cancer. He admits he sent the wine to the girls, but he claims it was a thank you to the girls for the article. When he mentions a kitchen-themed swag bag they gave away at the charity event, the CSIs ask to see the knife that was included in it. Mandy gets a hit off prints on the wine bottle and matches them to a man named Chris Mullins, who DJs at the club where the girls' danced. A trip to Mullins' home proves fruitless, but when they head to the bar he frequents, they find a man in the alleyway, his throat slashed. Sara comforts the man, whose name is Marlon Frost, and rides with him in the ambulence.

The CSIs track down Chris, who tells them he was seeing Lauren and met up with her that night. He claims he drank the wine then, and tells them that when Lauren was running late, he hooked up with Emily. DNA evidence backs up his story. The CSIs sit down to discuss the evidence and Sara has a revelation: Cammie wasn't trying to tell her about the wine, but a wine-like birthmark on the killer's chest: a wine-like birthmark that she recalls from Marlon Frost's chest. The killer has been right under their noses. His throat slashing must have been a failed suicide attempt. The CSIs piece it together: he followed Becca home from a bar where she stopped for cigarettes and threatened the roommates with a fake gun. Sara tracks down Corey, the man who fathered Cammie's baby, and tells him about Cammie's fate. Afterwards, shaken by the case, she admits to Grissom that she lost perspective.

Analysis:

"Empty Eyes" is a haunting, powerful entry in what has been without question a truly stellar season of CSI. Faced with steep competition--the most buzzed about drama on TV, Grey's Anatomy--the CSI writers have more than risen to the challenge and proved over and over that CSI is not only fresh after seven years, but it's also inventive and innovative, tweaking its own formula and changing with the times without giving in to flash in the pan trends.

In some ways, "Empty Eyes" reminded me of last season's stellar "Gum Drops" in which Nick became convinced, initially more by his instincts than the evidence, that a young girl whose entire family was slaughtered was still alive. Both episodes have openings that mirror the CSIs' stunned reactions, and spend significant time at the crime scene, allowing the audience to absorb the magnitude of what's taken place. I defy anyone who dismisses the CSI shows as "slick crime dramas" to watch either episode and persist with that assertion.

In this episode it is Sara who is haunted by the crime scene after she finds one of the victims alive but isn't able to help her. Sara watches the girl die, and, as disturbing as the scene already is, it takes on another dimension for her. Like Nick in "Gum Drops," whose belief that the young girl is still alive drives him on, Sara is now personally invested in the case. The audience, already drawn in by the horrific carnage, is similarly invested now that one of the characters has a personal stake in the case.

As haunted as she is by Cammie's last moments, Sara is equal parts horrified when she realizes she's offered solace to the girls' killer. What first seems like a chance for her to offset in some way the moment when Cammie died by allowing her to be at the scene in time to save one of the killer's victims turns into a cruel joke of sorts when Sara realizes the man she offered comfort to is in fact the killer himself. She's understandably horrified by the revelation.

The emotional turmoil Sara goes through provides for a tender moment between her and Grissom at the end of the episode, when she confesses to him that she lost perspective and he wipes away her tears with his hand before putting an arm around her shoulder and leading her away. These two are so understated that any small gesture is significant, and this scene belies the deep emotional connection the two have.

Jorja Fox turns in an impressive performance, allowing the audience into Sara's psyche. Oftentimes Sara plays her cards close to her chest and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is bothering her, but not here. Fox rightly chooses to expose Sara's raw emotions, which are understandably close to the surface. She's just witnessed a human being die, and Sara's reaction allows the audience to become closer to both the story and to Sara.

Warrick, too, is affected by the case. He can't put his finger on why Emily looks familiar to him at first, but when he sees the newspaper article he realizes she's someone he knew growing up. He takes on the sad duty of telling her only living relative, a grandmother who recognizes him immediately, that she was murdered. It's a classic 'tug on the heartstrings' scene, but Gary Dourdan does so well in these moments, and exudes such compassion, that it would be miserly to begrudge him the scene.

Hodges also has a significant moment in this episode when he answers a cell phone belonging to one of the dead girls and has to tell the girl's mother what happened to her. It is clear that he doesn't have to pick up the phone, but when he sees "Mom" flash on the caller ID he makes a choice, "the right" choice he says later on, but one that he doesn't feel good about. Wallace Langham proves in this episode that he plays comedic and somber moments with equal finesse, and I'm looking forward to seeing him, along with the rest of the supporting cast, shine in "Lab Rats".

We apparently haven't seen the last of the Demetrius James case, which began in "Fannysmakin'" and continued in "Post Mortem": Grissom tells Greg that the city agreed to pay out a settlement. Though Grissom assures him it's a political move, Greg is upset: he tells Grissom it's like they're saying he's guilty. With this arc, Greg has really grown up a great deal, and the formerly sunny lab geek has been replaced by a somber, more mature field agent. Though I think it's only natural that the events have changed him--he did, though it was essentially in self-defense/the line of duty, kill a man--I do miss the nerdy jokester and his hilarious exchanges with Hodges. Here's hoping the lighter side of Greg isn't gone for good.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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