CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Shooting Stars'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 17, 2005 - 4:57 AM GMT

See Also: 'Shooting Stars' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A man and his wife wake up in the middle of the night to discover a disheveled man in their kitchen. He runs into the backyard where several other similarly dirty people are, and the group flees, leaving the body of a man behind. The man was beaten to death and has been dead for over twelve hours. Grissom pulls his eyes away from the Orionite Meteor Shower to point out the trail of footprints leading into and out of the lawn. Grissom and Catherine pursue the trail and discover a burned out car, the victim of a Molotav cocktail. The CSIs continue on to discover an underground bunker. They call for backup and venture in, discovering 11 dead bodies lying on cots in a backroom. Grissom notices that a twelfth bunk is empty.

Nick arrives at the bunker and hesitates before going into the claustrophobic underground space. He collects bottles from the side of the beds as well as a funnel he discovers. Grissom wanders into another room in the bunker, noticing a wall lined with stories about aliens and celestial events. He turns on a large replica of Saturn that projects constellations across the room. Back at the lab, the CSIs work on the eleven bodies, matching them to eleven distinct shoeprints Warrick found in the backyard where the first body was discovered. Thereís still one shoe pattern from a size 8 shoe unaccounted for.

Grissom tells Catherine he believes that the people in the bunker were part of a cult like the Heavenís Gate cult and that they timed their suicides with the advent of the Orionite Meteor Shower. Two people are missing from the cultóone of the members, and the leader. Nick finds a trail of blood out on the catwalk. Using the VIN number from the burned out car, Greg traces the car to a man named Ty Bentley, who works at a travel agency. One of Tyís colleagues tells Brass she recalls Ty fighting with a client over his ex-girlfriend, Emma. Looking through Tyís records, Brass is able to obtain the manís name: Joseph Diamond.

IDs are slowly coming in on the bodies in the bunker, revealing that they were college students. Sofia Curtis questions several of the students, who recall their friend Matt Dickens was a pretty normal guy before getting involved with a young woman named Emma, who introduced Matt to the cult. In the lab, Nick learns that the prints on the bottles all belonged to the victims, but the prints are the funnel are unidentified. The compound the students in the bunker took was comprised of ethanol and Ketamineóthe type used in a veterinarianís office. Warrick pays his new wife, a doctor a visit, but their blissful interlude is interrupted when he spots her ex-boyfriend, also a doctor, down the hall.

Following a group of buzzards, Grissom and Catherine discover a BMW with a body in the trunk. The victim is none other than Joseph Diamond, the cult leader, who has been killed with a tire iron. In the lab, Warrick recovers burnt letters from the college students to their parents, asking for money. Brass pulls Diamondís rap sheet and discovers he has a habit of forming cults, getting money from impressionable young people, and then drugging them on Ďascension nightí and leaving town. Diamond was a con man. Dr. Robbins reveals that Diamond died before the college kids in the bunker, and that he was carrying a mild sedative on him. He wasnít the one who gave them the Ketamine cocktail.

Sofia and Nick pay a visit to a veterinarianís office where some Ketamine has gone missing. They request the list of former and current employees. Emmaís parents identify their daughter, but are surprised to see Mrs. Spencer, the mother of Abigail, one of the other cult members isnít present. Abigail isnít one of the dead, but she is a former employee of the veterinarian the Ketamine was stolen from. Brass and the police go to Abigailís motherís house, but Abigail flees. She swallows some Ketamine but the police find her before she dies. Her stomach is pumped and she wakes up in a hospital bed, Grissom by her side. She is envious of the others, all of whom she believes are on a higher plain of existence. When she learned Diamond was a fraud, she killed him in a fit of rage and stole the Ketamine so that the cult members could ascend. Abigail poured the doses, but when she watched her friends die she found she couldnít drink the solution herself. Grissom notes that if there are extraterrestrials out there, theyíre smart enough to stay far away from humans.

Analysis:

While it doesnít necessarily shed new light on cults, "Shooting Stars" puts an unexpected spin on them, making it a superior episode. The obvious conclusionóto have the cult leader be responsible for the death of the groupóis avoided, and rather cleverly the man is done away with by one of his own acolytes after she catches wind of his scam. Itís an inventive and unexpected twist.

The entire episode has a creepy, isolated feel to it. Itís a far cry from the glitz and the lights of the strip, and itís nice to have a reminder that there is a lot to the Las Vegas area beyond the hotels and casinos the CSIs are so often found in. The buzzards circling overhead are a particularly effective visual. They and the bunker drive home the feeling of expanse and barrenness created by the desert imagery.

Itís good to see Grissom and Catherine working together again. Their trek out into the desert has a comfortable, easy feel to it. He beckons and she follows, with a raised eyebrow but not really questioning. Thereís a moment with them by the entrance to the bunker, when Grissom decides to go in after Catherine canít get through for back up and Catherine decides to follow him that works especially well.

Thereís some nice continuity with "Grave Danger" when Nick hesitates before stepping down into the bunker. Itís nice to see that story line continued given the extreme nature of what Nick went through. It also shows us that despite that trauma, Nick is a professional and is still able to do his job. So while he was affected by being buried alive, he also has the strength to get past the dťjŗ vu feelings in order to his job.

We also get to meet Warrickís wife for the first time, and I was surprised to discover that Warrick and Tina have that rare element that so often eludes CSI show couples, and thatís genuine chemistry. Gary Dourdan and Meta Golding sizzle together, each playing off the otherís very different energy. While Warrick is cool and laid back, his wifeís natural spark brings out an enthusiasm in him. Warrickís marriage is an interesting twist, and the casting of Golding was inspired.

The always excellent Clea Duvall (Carnivale) gives a bang up performance as the deluded but fanatical Abigail. Duvall has a genuine intensity that she brings to the role, giving Abigailís appearance in the five minutes the impact it merits. The wonder on her face when the helicopter (which she believes is an alien vessel coming for her) blows the top off the roof of the shed sheís in), which would have seemed forced from a lesser actress, is completely convincing. Her scene in the hospital with Grissom is a powerful ending to a creepy and memorable episode.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.