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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'I Like To Watch'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 28, 2006 - 10:53 PM GMT

See Also: 'I Like To Watch' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The CSIs are called to Omni Condos where a young woman, Christina Hollis, has been attacked and sexually assaulted. Grissom is irritated to learn they're being shadowed by Hard Crime, a reality crime show that tails real police investigations. Sofia takes Christina to the hospital, but the young woman has no memory of the attack, though she becomes visibly upset when she looks down at her painted toenails and then notices the cameras filming. Sofia angrily sends them away and takes the sexual assault kit on Christina to process. Gil and Catherine examine Christina's apartment, finding no evidence of forced entry. Instead, they find burned candles and a drop of nail polish, indicating Christina may have been expecting a date, or on one. Catherine finds a small scrap of shiny yellow fabric. Brass takes the building's maintenance man's duct tape to compare it to the tape used to tie Christina to her bed. Hodges compares the tape using laser ablation, but it's not a match.

Going over the surveillance tapes from the building, Catherine and Archie spot a man entering the elevator at 10:32pm, but they never see him exit. Nick lifts prints from a bouquet found outside Christina's apartment and runs them. Though he doesn't find a match in AFIS, he's able to contact the store they were purchased from and gets the credit card information of the man who bought them. Dwight Reynolds. Sofia and Brass question an intoxicated Dwight, but he is devastated to learn Christina was assaulted. They were seeing each other and he assumed when he went to her door with flowers that she had found a new guy. He's distraught when he learns that she was being raped when he came over and he didn't stop it. In the DNA lab, Wendy Simms has learned that white flecks Grissom found by the bed are skin cells from Christina's feet, and also that the amount of sperm inside her indicates she was assaulted repeatedly. Catherine tells Grissom that toxicology found high amounts of Lorazepam, a sedative, in Christina's blood. Elsewhere in the lab, Hodges shows Sara that the yellow fabric found at the scene is fire retardant material from a fireman's uniform.

Brass and Sara question the captain of the Las Vegas Fire Department, Ken Hendricks. He tells them his team responded to an alarm at the building at 6:58pm that evening. Someone had places smoke bombs on three of the floors, similar to a case they saw three weeks ago at another apartment building, Oak Terrace. He angrily denies the idea that any of his men would have assaulted Christina, and he has proof--the fire retardant reflective material on their coats is orange, not yellow. Archie and Catherine turn back to the surveillance tapes and learn a fireman showed up at 6:36pm, over twenty minutes before the alarm went off. Greg goes to dust the door in the underground garage he used for prints. Christina shows up at the station to tell Sofia that she remembers the assault--she remembers being raped, and also that the man was touching her feet. Sara goes to the internet to find out where the rapist might have bought his uniform, and notices in the surveillance photos that the man's tank is rigged wrong--could he have been using it to distribute the Lorazepam?

Warrick has compared the smoke bombs from the Omni and the arson three weeks prior and found them to be a match. Dr. Robbins determined that the female arson victim died of carbon dioxide poisoning, but there was no Lorazepam in her blood. Stephanie Daniels, another woman from the apartment complex comes forward, recalling a fireman who knocked on her door. He let her leave, but for a moment she was afraid he wasn't going to. The CSIs compare notes and Catherine postulates that the rapist is a foot fetishist. It fits with another case Grissom has uncovered--a woman named Tara Weathers who was drugged in a bar and and woke up in her apartment with her toenails painted. Brass and Catherine talk to Tara to ask if there's any way someone could have seen her feet. She doesn't swim at a pool or go to a gym, but she does do yoga. Catherine spies her yoga mat, and recalls seeing a similar one at Christina's apartment. Tara does yoga out on her balcony.

Cross-referencing the neighboring apartment building with the list of people who have purchased a fireman's uniform leads the CSIs to Richard McQueen, who lives in a building across the way. The CSIs execute a warrant with the Hard Crime team following them, but McQueen isn't home. Not only does he have a complete pedicure kit, but he also has a camcorder, and on it is a recording of him painting Christina's toenails before he raped her. There's no sign of McQueen or his fireman gear, and indeed, the CSIs are tragically too late. McQueen has started another fire, and raped another woman--and this time killed her. He's apprehended and Brass obtains a confession, but he's not appreciative of the Hard Crime host's intensive questioning, which includes bringing up the shootout Brass was involved in a few months back, which left an officer dead. Grissom is none too pleased by the show host's query about whether or not forensic shows teach people how to commit crimes--he reminds them it's up to the individual how the knowledge gained from these shows is used.

Analysis:

"I Like to Watch" is an interesting mix of a serious story lightened somewhat by some clever self-parody. Grissom's line in the teaser about there being "too many forensics shows" is a shot at the phenomenon CSI itself started. The episode takes a shot at another (and in my mind, far more irritating) trend--the proliferation of reality TV. The cameramen are in the faces of the CSIs, the detectives and even the victims throughout the episode, underscoring the invasiveness of reality TV, especially to those who don't choose to be on it. The camera crew takes several cheap shots, including trying to get Christina Hollis on camera as she's trying to recall her ordeal and asking Brass about his accidental shooting of a fellow officer earlier in the season ("A Bullet Runs Through It"). No way around it--there's no love lost between the CSI team and the reality show producers.

But shots at reality TV are nothing new (even if they are certainly deserved), so it's really the in-jokes that are most enjoyable. Hodges preens for the camera, but when Nick tells him that no one is going to film the lengthly evidence processing stage, Hodges corrects him--they'll film it, but they'll cut the six hour process down to a thirty second segment. Sure enough, the next CSI scene shows just that. It's a pointed but effective dig at those who complain that the CSI franchise depicts the time it takes to solve crimes unrealistically. As CSI: NY actor Hill Harper pointed out, who really wants to watch the GCMS machine spin for eight hours?

But the episode takes some more somber shots at its critics, notably when Grissom tells the Hard Crime host that the knowledge imparted by the forensics shows isn't the problem, but what certain people do with it. And he's absolutely right--to blame CSI or its spin-offs and imitators for trends in crime is downright foolish. Criminals were eluding police long before CSI and no doubt they will be long after. And, as Grissom would certainly point out, the few members of the audience who are inclined to commit crimes would do so anyway. Most of CSI's 25-30 million viewers are not taking notes on how to commit the perfect murder and elude capture.

It's no surprised that the Hard Crime crew gets under the CSIs skins--they try to invade both the victim's privacy and the investigation in general, at one point giving Catherine a flashlight with a videocamera in it to take in to McQueen's apartment. The host asks Sofia if she prefers being a CSI or a detective, which she dismisses by reminding the man they're all on the same side. Brass takes more heat when the man interrogates him about how he slept after the death of Officer Bell and learning he was responsible for it in "A Bullet Runs Through It." Brass stalks off, clearly affected by the haranguing.

The only person who seems to love the spotlight is Hodges, who happily mugs for the camera and makes a production out of explaining everything he's doing, to Nick's amusement. Nick is easy-going about the whole thing and takes the time to explain how the CSIs were able to trace a print from a bouquet back to a man who wasn't in the system. Warrick is none too pleased to discover the camera crew eavesdropping and recording a conversation between him and Tina. Is his marriage in trouble already? It would seem so, which is a shame, given how little we've seen of Tina, and how much chemistry the two seem to have.

But it is Catherine who sums up why CSI and crime shows in general are so popular and haunting. "Bad things happen to people who never expect it everyday," she muses as she looks at McQueen's final victim. And really, isn't that the crux of why people tune into CSI and its fellow crime dramas every week? There's something inexplicably fascinating and horrifying about murder at the same time. Both the victims and killers on the CSI shows are more often than not ordinary people, people the viewer recognizes and can perhaps even empathize with. It's the message, "it could be you" that viewers can't turn away from.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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