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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Grissom's Divine Comedy'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 4, 2008 - 11:48 PM GMT

See Also: 'Grissom's Divine Comedy' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

When the body of the key witness in Deputy District Attorney Maddie Klein's case against gang leader Emilio Alvarado turns up dead twenty feet from a burning car, Maddie insists on getting Gil Grissom on the case, even though he's home sick with the flu. Though Don Cook's body is badly burned from the waist down, Dr. Robbins determines the man was killed by a gunshot to the back. Catherine and Nick spot the letters LAT painted on the bumper of the car--the letters of the gang Cook was going to testify against. Brass talks with Cook's wife, Cody, who tells Brass she last saw her husband the night before and that they argued. She knew Cook was set to testify before the grand jury, as did her parents and best friend. Greg and Nick start in on processing the car, determining the victim was shot after exiting the car. Maddie and Grissom try to assuage the fears the grand jury members, who are nervous when they learn about the death of the key witness. Brass admits to Grissom that he feels guilty for convincing Cook to testify about seeing Alvarado coming out of Little Gordo just after Little Gordo was murdered. Warrick relieves Nick, who is fighting a cold, and finds a gun in glove compartment of the car registered to a Richard O'Malley, Cook's father-in-law. O'Malley claims he gave the gun to Cook after the man asked for it for protection.

Grissom concludes the fire heated the gun up and caused it to fire, killing Cook. With Maddie's help, he obtains a warrant to search Alvarado's apartment, but as he and Warrick are going up the stairs, the apartment literally explodes before their eyes. The cops catch the culprit, Roddell Gomez, but he refuses to give up anything, though he does threaten the DDA, which tips her off that the LATs are aware of the grand jury. Warrick searches Alvarado's cell, but can't find anything incriminating. When Grissom more closely examines the LAT stencil on the back of Cook's car, he notices its been painted with a paintbrush rather than spray paint, suggesting that it's a fake. The CSIs turn back to the O'Malley family. Cody fought with her husband the night of his death, but adamantly denies killing him. It is her father's prints that are found on the brush used to paint the letters on the car; he refuses to talk to the CSIs, but he yells at his enraged daughter that he did it for her.

Catherine is disappointed that the murder didn't lead back to the gang, but Grissom is bothered by the fact that Alvarado's gang knew they were heading to the leader's apartment. He subpoenas the grand jury's phone records and learns Marie Leahy was calling disposable cell phone numbers. She confesses that the LAT gang contacted her and offered to get her brother Petey out of prison in exchange for information. Warrick and Nick are convinced Alvarado has been contacting his gang somehow. Grissom goes to the prison and looks at the books Alvarado has borrowed from the prison library, noticing some are missing pages. He examines the book in Alvarado's cell, Dante's Divine Comedy and notices some of the pages are soiled. The CSI lights a flame and shows the guard that Alvarado has been sending messages in urine--only visible when the pages are heated up--to his gang. The latest one threatens the DDA, and it's enough to stop Alvarado's release. Maddie thanks Grissom, noting that the CSI has never let her down.

Analysis:

Dropping viewers into a story in the middle is a tricky thing to do. If done right, it feels thrilling, like the episode is starting out at sixty miles per hour, rather than building up to it. Miami has played with this a bit during its run with episodes like "Recoil" and "Nailed". The episodes began at a frantic middle point in the case and then flashed back to the beginning. This allowed the viewers a little taste of the excitement to come without being overly confusing.

Sadly, the same is not true of "Grissom's Divine Comedy," which throws a great deal of information at the audience in one phone call made by a character we're unfamiliar with, all in the space of a minute or so. It's an exposition-heavy first minute, and gives the episode a convoluted feel right from the get-go, which is never a good thing. The audience has to untangle a dense web of information--a gang leader who committed a murder but is in jail for another crime, a grand jury assembled to assess the evidence against the gang leader, which comes from the man just found murdered on the highway. That's a lot of information for the audience to digest in the space of a minute, and it's delivered by a character we're just meeting.

Perhaps because of that, I found it difficult to invest in the case. We didn't learn much about the victim because so much of the emphasis was on getting Alvarado before he was released from prison. We didn't see much of Alvarado either, except when he was making cryptic comments, in either English or Spanish, to one of the CSIs. The only real emotional touch point in the episode was when Brass came to Grissom's apartment, feeling guilty that he'd convinced Don King to testify against Alvarado in front of the grand jury. Paul Guilfoyle masterfully conveys how saddened and beat down Brass is by his inability to protect Don Cook as he'd promised. He clearly feels guilty for convincing the man to testify, noting that Cook was murdered just two days after he agreed to testify.

Of course, Brass is exonerated when it turns out that it was in fact not the gang that went after Cook but his own father-in-law. The twist might have been more interesting if it hadn't seemed to come out of left field. Richard O'Malley killed his son-in-law because his daughter was always complaining about him? It seems like an awfully weak motive for murder. It didn't even seem like O'Malley had a personal grudge against Cook; in the shouting match with his daughter as he's being led away, he tells her he did it for her. But...why? Because Cook railed at her for buying an expensive dress? O'Malley noted earlier that his daughter had the same temperament as her mother, so you'd think he would have sympathized a little more with Cook.

I'm still trying to figure out what the point was of having half the team sick in this episode. We got to see Grissom's apartment, but we didn't need Nick and Greg to be sick for that. Watching three characters sniffle and moan their way through an episode isn't really fun, and didn't even provide for many laughs. The sight of Greg in a scarf was the sole funny moment, save for Hodges' disdain for the CSIs who came to work sick. Like Hodges, I was a tad grossed out by all the sneezing and snot. The CSI flu outbreak did give us a glimpse into Grissom's abode, and we got to see his dog again. The phone call at the end of the episode was a nice touch--it's obvious who is on the other end of that call: Sara. Grissom, who has been avoiding calls for much of the day, picks up as soon as he sees who it is, his whole face lighting up. It's nice to know that Sara is still part of his life.

Bonnie Bedelia turns in a fiery performance as Deputy District Attorney Maddie Klein. When a TV show snags an actress of Bedelia's caliber for a guest spot it's always a coup, and she delivers, making Maddie a memorable character from the get-go. We meet Maddie in the first minute making that exposition heavy phone call, and while the information is a little much to digest, we get a feel for who Maddie is right away. She's tough, opinionated and has no problem bossing Conrad Ecklie around. She tells him she wants Grissom on the case and she's not taking no for an answer.

Which isn't to say Maddie is a sucker for Grissom either. When he tells her his team is working on the case, she's dismissive, bringing up their past transgressions, going as far back as season one, when Nick was suspected of killing a prostitute he spent the night with. Even though Maddie is a new character to the audience, this scene coupled with the level of familiarity in her interactions with Grissom establishes their relationship, and it helps that Bedelia and William Petersen have such a natural rapport. Maddie, a recovering alcoholic who boldly declares to Grissom at the end of the episode that he's either "a classic enabler or her soulmate" is by far the best thing about this episode, and hopefully the writers can find a way to bring her back.

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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