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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Post Mortem'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at December 31, 2006 - 10:50 PM GMT

See Also: 'Post Mortem' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The body of sixty-five-year old Penny Garden is discovered in her house, flung over a shattered window in her living room. Dr. Robbins determines she died of exsanguination due to a wound to her jugular, but also notes that she had advanced lung cancer. The CSIs are suspicious when they find plenty of prescriptions at Penny's house, but none for painkillers. They focus their investigation on Jason Tua, a drug dealing neighbor, and Henry Briney, Penny's nephew who has been staying with her. Though Jason admits to buying Penny's painkillers, he denies killing her.

The mystery deepens when a miniature of the crime scene--like the one that depicted Izzy Delancy's death ("Built to Kill, Pt. 2")--shows up on Penny's doorstep. Grissom and Sara pour over the miniature, realizing they have a serial killer on their hands. Grissom notices glue on the back of the doll representing Penny and the chair in the living room and realizes the miniature was made before her death and that she didn't die where the killer thought she would, forcing him to move the miniature. A test of Penny's liquor reveals the killer poisoned it with nicotine and expected her to die in her chair. A neighbor's video surveillance footage reveals a nondescript man delivering the miniature to Penny's house, but his face is never visible.

While Grissom and Sara work Penny's case, Greg is forced to endure a public inquest into the death of Demitrius James, whom Greg struck with his car during a mob attack ("Fannysmakin'"). Sofia and Nick testify about the situation Greg entered into--the mob was beating Stanley Tanner and Greg feared for his life. But Demitrius James' mother and brother defend his character, and one of the jurors appears to be biased against the police. Greg defends his actions on the stand, but the judge brings up the fact that earlier that night Greg had been drinking with a D.A., though Greg does a quick calculation that proves the alcohol would have been out of his system by the time he got behind the wheel of the SUV. The jury finds the death excusable but not justifiable, and the James family has Greg served with a civil complaint.

Analysis:

For a procedural that tries to avoid serialized elements, "Post Mortem" is a bit of a departure--both storylines harken back to episodes that aired earlier in the season. And yet, there's enough background information in the episode to guarantee that viewers who haven't seen either "Built to Kill, Part 2" or "Fannysmakin'" won't be lost, though in the case of the latter, it helps to have seen the previous episode in order to fully appreciate the situation that Greg found himself in.

The case of the miniature making killer is ideal for a continuing storyline, as none of the murders seem to be connected (yet) and much of the fascination is in the detail of the miniature replicas the killer crafts. Penny and Izzy, the victim from the previous case, have little in common, save for the fact that they're older and their glory days were apparently behind them. But thus far the killer's motives remain murky to both the audience and the CSIs.

Despite their study of the miniature, Grissom and Sara only learn one more key piece of information about the killer from the diorama: he makes the miniatures before he kills his victim. It makes sense, given that the first replica was found at the scene right next to the victim: it's highly unlikely that the killer would have murdered Izzy and then had the time to create such a detailed reconstruction of the scene. But the attention to detail prior to the crime indicates the killer studies his victims in great detail, and therefore it's possible the CSIs will at some point discover a personal connection between the killer and his victims.

Poor Greg goes through hell in this episode. Those who saw the first installment will remember how brutal the beatings of both Stanley Tanner and Greg were, and viewers naturally sympathize with Greg during his ordeal in court. Bruce Ortolani, the juror who is determined to look at the situation as an instance of police brutality, seems almost a caricature in his stubborn resolve to see the incident through his narrow lens, but his attitude is ultimately more believable than the fact that he would have made it on to the jury with that blatant a bias.

More complexly drawn are the two members of the James family who show up in court: mother Marla and brother Aaron are understandably baffled as to the involvement of honors student Demitrius in a gang of teens who went around beating tourists up. Though the viewer's sympathy naturally rests with Greg--and is affected by the fact that we saw Demitrius rush Greg's SUV--it's hard not to feel pity for the James' loss. Their testimony about Demitrius--how he was an honor roll student and helped his brother clean up--humanizes the teen and adds depth to the proceedings.

Greg isn't a passive onlooker in the proceeds; he gets an opportunity to testify, and when the judge implies that a glass of wine he had at dinner may have affected his driving, he defends himself with science, pointing out that given his body weight and the amount of time that had passed, there was no way the alcohol was still in his system. Greg laments to a sympathetic Sofia that the trial is like a circus, and though he's clearly feeling the stress of the proceedings, he does have Stanley Tanner's testimony to remind him that ultimately he saved a life the night he intervened.

But that doesn't mean Greg is without remorse, and in the episode's best moment, he tells Sofia he wants to say something to the James family. Sofia, who was once under suspicion of accidentally shooting a fellow officer, can sympathize with the notion but stops him from actually going forward and doing it, not only because of Demitrius' actions that night, but because the move could open up room for a civil suit. At the end of the episode, Greg does indeed get served with the civil suit, and it will be interesting to see if things play out differently in that suit than they did here.

Greg's actions were deemed excusable but not justifiable, a murky grey area between right and wrong, leaving both Greg and the show's viewers to debate whether what the CSI did was his only option, or if he had another avenue open to him. Given the brutality of the crime and the fact that he was unarmed, I didn't see another option for Greg, at least if he did actually intend to save Stanley Tanner's life and not retreat to safety and hope backup arrived before Tanner died or the gang returned to finish what they started. The situation certainly illustrates how police officers put themselves on the line--just as the trial and civil suit show the consequences they can face for doing so.

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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