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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Fannysmackin''

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 8, 2006 - 7:41 AM GMT

See Also: 'Fannysmackin'' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Two people are brutally beaten one night in Vegas--one, Vasco Ruiz, a dishwasher at a casino, does not survive. Jessica, a young woman on vacation in Vegas at the time of the beating, only remembers bits and pieces of the attack. The CSIs find multiple shoe prints on Ruiz's clothes, and Dr. Robbins confirms the man was literally beaten to death, suffering multiple fractures and blunt force trauma. When a gang robs a liquor store, the CSIs think it might be the same group of assailants, and Grissom sends Greg to collect a sweatshirt the owner pulled from one of the robbers. En route, Greg comes across the gang attacking another victim, and drives his car into the alley to break up the group, hitting one of the men who rushes his car in the process. The gang returns and pulls Greg from his car, kicking and punching him once they get him to the ground.

The CSIs arrive on the scene, shaken to see one of their own so badly injured. When one of the locals starts mouthing off to Nick, Nick punches him. Greg's interference saved the life of Stanley Tanner, the man the gang was beating, but the life of the Demetrius James, the gang member he drove his car into hangs in the balance. A phone call made from Ruiz's stolen cell phone leads the CSIs to a girl named Cha Cha, who the gang called after the beating. Cha Cha admits her friend Tara called her to join in the beatings, and tells the CSIs the gang goes around beating up tourists--a pastime they refer to as "Fannysmackin'."

A man shows up at the station with his friend claiming to be a victim of the gang, but the CSIs quickly see through the charade, discerning that the wounds on his face match the impressions of his own shoes. The men pocketed money they were supposed to use for a bet, and figured if they pretended it was stolen, the man they were supposed to bet for wouldn't retaliate. Sofia, disgusted, fines them for filing a false claim. Brass puts the pressure on Tara to give up the gang. She refuses, but agrees to text them for a false meeting. The CSIs storm the warehouse the gang gathers in, and the ringleader, Pig, turns out to be the guy who incited Nick. In the hospital, Stanley Tanner thanks Greg for saving his life, but Greg is surprised to discover Demetrius James has died.

Analysis:

"Fannysmackin'" is a disturbing and powerful send up of how the youth of today can dehumanize those around them. They don frightening contacts and masks, but what's really scary is how callous they are about human life.

Kevin Federline (aka the soon-to-be former Mr. Britney Spears) guested as the ring leader "Pig," and though the anticipated roasts have been pouring in, I actually found Federline to be quite convincing as the soulless Pig. He's got a gruffness to him, and conveys Pig's empty but unrelenting hostility quite effectively. The role suits him, and I doubt that had his reputation not preceded him, anyone would have commented negatively on his performance.

Grissom's haunting speech at the end of the episode about how without a conscious to guide them, what's to stop people from doing whatever they please, resonates. The utter detachment with which the kids chose their victims and descend upon them is utterly chilling. It's a game to them from start to finish. Even when the CSIs zero in on them, the kids remain completely flip about the people they've brutalized. Both Cha Cha and Tina, teen girls one would expect to be angsting about boys and test scores, brighten only when they discuss the beatings.

Brass has a particularly powerful retort for Tara, whose help he needs to catch the male members of the group. Cleverly and bruitally, he reminds her that to the group of guys she's protecting, she's no more than an object--not unlike the people they're attacking. He's right--people vicious enough to savage other human beings probably don't care much for each other, either. One can't help but wonder if Tara reminds Brass of his daughter, Ellie, and her own cruelty towards him. (Of course, the audience knows Ellie isn't quite as hard as she seems after her breakdown in "Way to Go".)

Poor Greg really suffers in this episode, proving the adage that no good deed goes unpunished. Greg was smart to use his car rather than pulling his badge--given that the gang had so little regard for life, I doubt they would have stopped beating Tanner if Greg had just jumped out his car and told them to stop what they were doing.

Greg made a controversial choice when he ran into Demetrius James. Did he actually have a choice? Was ramming his car into the boy any more controversial than say, if he'd drawn a gun and fired at him if he hadn't backed down? Did Greg actually have a choice? I don't believe he did. His survival instinct kicked in and he reacted like any cornered animal would. Yes, he had a sizable weapon--the car--but as we saw when the pack descended upon him and pulled him from it, numbers trump weaponry, at least in this instance. The decision, if one can call it that--I don't think his thoughts were that clear--was the only one he could make.

Another thing I liked was the use of the spit on Greg's vest as evidence. Sometimes suspects do something so incredibly silly that it stretches credulity--such as discarding gum or half-eaten food right in front of the CSIs, conveniently after the scientists have asked for a DNA sample and the suspect has refused. It's all too easy and stands out as a crutch, but not in this episode. I absolutely believed that the teens would spit on Greg--not just to show their disdain for him, but also because they didn't care (or think) about getting caught. Their costumes weren't so much disguises but reflections of their savagery.

Any episode that deals with the inhumanity of today's youth risks being heavy-handed. CSI: Miami was on the right track with the sentiment in "Urban Hellraisers"--the theory that young people become desensitized to violence because of the graphic nature of video games is certainly worthy of exploration. But the episode ended up straying a bit too far into fantasy-land, making the teens it depicted cardboard stereotypes being played like puppets by a conniving businessman. "Fannysmakin'" wisely keeps the focus on the teens. Even Pig, who isn't a minor, is only a little older than the others, making him a fitting ringleader rather than a criminal mastermind. The teens aren't attacking people with any motive in mind--they're just so incredibly bored and empty that they find it "fun." And that truly is terrifying.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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