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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'The Gone Dead Train'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 7, 2009 - 5:14 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Gone Dead Train' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Doc Robbins is frustrated when a body with no known cause of death lands on his table--the third in two weeks. Brent Kelly's mother Darla told the authorities that she discovered her son having a seizure and tried to revive him after he lost consciousness, to no avail. Robbins persuades Catherine to accompany him to visit Darla Kelly, but when they arrive the woman attacks Catherine and bites her before collapsing to the ground, dead. While Brass and Langston insist that Catherine go to the hospital, Nick goes over the Kelly house. Langston joins him and finds a bottle of insulin prescribed by a Dr. Shaw. Nick goes to the clinic where Shaw works and speaks to Susan Schiff, a nurse, who tells him Darla was a patient and came in three days ago complaining of flu-like symptoms. She tells Nick that Darla's son Brent was a horrible human being who may have been beating his own mother--and that he tried to score some Oxycontin from the clinic. In the morgue, Doc Robbins autopsies Darla and realizes she's now his fourth inexplicable death. He shares his frustrations with Langston, and tells the CSI about the first three men who died, noting that unusual body modification is the only thing the three men have in common. Langston and Nick are able to find the parlor that the men used, and when they go to check it out, they're greeted by the manager, Eric Tobin. He points them in the direction of the owner, Jack Shaw--none other than the clinic doctor who treated Darla. Jack tells them he's a retired coroner from Reno. When shown the pictures of the body art on the dead men, he recognizes it as the work of Van Goe, a man he recently fired from the clinic. Brass and Nick find Van Goe working out of his shed, and arrest the man when he refuses to cooperate with them.

Back at the morgue, Doc Robbins is still at a loss for finding the pathogen that killed the four people. He and Langston look at Darla Kelly's brain and are stunned to discover the woman had rabies. Doc Robbins recalls Catherine was bitten by Darla, and Langston rushes to the supervisor's office to get her to the hospital. After reassuring her the incubation period is 72 hours, he ushers her out the door to go for treatment. Langston goes over recent cases of rabies in the US and is surprised to find an organ donation from several years ago in Reno when a woman was given a liver infected with rabies. Langston realizes the coroner at the time--Dr. Shaw--must have missed that the donor of the liver was infected with rabies. Brass goes to arrest the doctor and is surprised when the manager, Tobin, collapses in front of him. Tobin tells Brass that he got a shot of antibiotics a couple of days ago before having a procedure--common practice by Dr. Shaw at the body art shop. Once in custody, Shaw insists he's being framed and when Langston asks him about the case in Reno, he says that the rabies symptoms weren't apparent--and that the victim's family didn't mention the man had been bitten by a raccoon before his death. Shaw finally asks for a lawyer. Susan Schiff brings in bag of biologicals she found in Shaw's trash, and admits she's been dating the man. Nick takes the bag to Wendy, who tells him the needle used to administer antibiotics to Tobin was positive for rabies.

Langston and Doc Robbins take a trip to Reno to pay a visit to the coroner's office. They tell the clerk there that they're researchers from a local hospital and once granted access, they find the records of the transplant patient who died, Sandra Williams. They also see that the after Sandra's death, her husband, Eric Tobin, filed a lawsuit against the hospital. Langston and Robbins head back to Las Vegas, where they tell acting supervisor Nick that they believe Tobin framed Shaw as revenge for his wife's death. Robbins notes that with the big malpractice settlement he got, Tobin had no need to seek a job at the body art shop. Nick points out that Shaw's girlfriend brought in a bag containing a salivary gland from a rabid bat--likely what he used to make the virus. Suspicious of Susan, Langston runs her record and finds she used be Susan Williams from Reno--the mother of Sandra. Nick interrogates her and Eric separately. Susan tells him that watching her daughter die was agonizing--and that she wanted Shaw to pay for it. She claims that she and Eric only chose lowlifes to infect with the virus. Eric volunteered to take a shot of the disease to throw further suspicion on Shaw, knowing Susan wouldn't let him die. After the two are arrested, Shaw thanks Langston for believing in his innocence. Langston tells him he simply didn't assume he was guilty. Doc Robbins brings a recovering Catherine and card and flowers to apologize for her ordeal.

While the rest of the team pursues the mysterious deaths, Greg and Riley have a puzzle of their own on their hands: a dying girl has been found underneath a truck. While Riley accompanies the dying girl to the hospital to collect evidence from her body, Greg and Detective Vartann follow a drag trail to a house occupied by two girls, Rhonda and Diana, who recognize the girl as Kayla Nootens, a member of their diet club. They tell Greg and Vartann that Kayla insisted on walking home the night before after a diet club meeting. They suspect Kayla may have had a run in with her skeezy ex-boyfriend, Elvis Rodriguez, who dumped her after she gained weight. When he's brought in for questioning, Elvis admits to having sex with Kayla--which he insists was consensual--but denies murdering her. David Phillips performs his first solo autopsy on Kayla and determines that she bled out after being stabbed in the neck. Anemia as a result of extreme dieting caused the wound, which might not have otherwise been fatal, to lead to her death. Hodges examines her stomach contents and finds garlic, potatoes, apple, cinnamon--evidence she was cheating on her diet. On a hunch, Greg and Riley practice dragging Hodges, who weighs about what Kayla did. Suspecting that Rhonda and Diana did their diet club buddy in, they bring both women in and find out the three had a fight over who would go on a trip for losing the most weight. In a fit of pique, Rhonda threw a pork chop at Kayla, which pierced her neck. Threatening to sue, Kayla stormed out and collapsed. Assuming she was dead, Rhonda and Diana dragged Kayla's body under a truck and decided to pin her death on her ex-boyfriend. Greg tells them she died hours later, bleeding to death because they abandoned her.

Analysis:

Doc Robbins gets out of the lab to chase a particularly baffling case in this entertaining entry. While it doesn't quite qualify as a lighter episode of CSI, there are definitely some entertaining moments seeded throughout, and the B-case is more than a little amusing. The real treat here is seeing the little moments between the characters, the camaraderie and gentle teasing that gets dropped in during the investigation. CSI might be the granddaddy among the plethora of crime dramas that populate the networks now, but loyal viewers are as drawn in by the characters as they are by the mysteries. There isn't always time for much of that beyond the occasional quip here and there, but this episode gets in more than most do.

At the center of it is Doc Robbins, who steps into the foreground with his dogged determination to get to the bottom of what killed the four dead people in his morgue. While Shaw at the end of the episode confesses to Langston that he was good--just not good enough, the message behind this episode is that Doc Robbins absolutely is good enough--and then some. He's not content to chalk up the deaths to mysterious circumstances and leave it at that--nor is he so rash that he'll jump to a hasty conclusion by assuming foul play where they might not be any. Instead, he launches his own investigation, taking first Catherine and then later Langston along for the ride with him. In the morgue, he and Langston discover they share a love of the blues, and in the car Langston throws on some music he knows Robbins will love: "Gone Dead Train" by Randy Newman, the song the episode takes its title from. Robbins and Langston bend a few rules during the course of their investigation, namely in impersonating doctors from a local hospital to get a peek at the Reno coroner's records. The clerk, Fred, is unimpressed, telling "Ebony and Ivory" that they'd better not remove or xerox any files.

Robbins and Langston make a great team, and it's fun to see the two, who have already bonded over their medical backgrounds, get a chance to get out of the lab and pursue a case. Robert David Hall and Laurence Fishburne have a great rapport, and their characters seem more at ease with each other than with any of the other lab denizens. Robbins has finally found an equal, a fellow medical man he can discuss cases with and who happens to share his appreciation of the blues. Robbins protégé, David Phillips, makes a big leap in the episode as well, performing his first solo autopsy on the body of Kayla Nootens. Despite Robbin's gruffness with David--he storms in and barks "Go!" at the man and when David finishes his only praise is "I concur"--anyone who has seen them interact in previous episodes knows that Robbins is without a doubt proud of the younger man. Indeed, his "I concur" is not faint praise at all, but the highest compliment Robbins could pay David. Hall makes the coroner both prickly and lovable at the same time.

Catherine's trip out of the lab with the good doctor isn't nearly as enjoyable as Langston's is--she's attacked by a woman and later finds out that she's been infected with rabies. Not pleasant news for anyone to hear, even if Catherine falls well within the seventy-two hour incubation period during which rabies is treatable. Langston takes no risk, hurrying her to the hospital and telling her that she'd better make the call to Nick to tell him that he's in charge of the lab while she's gone from the car. After Catherine returns to work, an shamefaced Doc Robbins shows up at her door with flowers and a card that reads: "Catherine, I know you got rabies but at least it solved the case." The apology is quintessential Doc Robbins, but Catherine isn't about to let him off the hook that easily. "Remember that solid you owe me?" she asks him. Doc Robbins correctly guesses that she's going to want more than show tickets.

Moments like this scene between Robbins and Catherine really distinguish this episode, and there are more than a few of them. When Nick and Langston go to the body art shop to try to find a connection between the dead men, Eric Tobin offers them the matching heart tattoo special. The two are quick to point out they're from the crime lab. Later in the morgue, Riley stops by to see if David Phillips has come up with a cause of death for Kayla yet and the tense coroner's assistant snaps at her...sort of. He quickly apologizes for being abrupt, telling her that his wife calls him a "snappy alligator" when he gets like this. Rather than being offended, Riley is amused, commenting, "Your bad temper is better than my good one." Little moments like these are always fun for the audience--and what keep faithful viewers tuning in week after week.

The B-case is pure satire, with three diet club members getting into a vicious fight over a competition to win a trip for the most dedicated dieter and a guest. When the fight turns ugly, Rhonda kills her dieting compatriot Kayla by chucking a pork chop bone at her, which lodges in neck. The case not-so-subtly parodies the lengths people will go to in the name of dieting. Despite the humor in the plight of the diet club, there is a sadly ironic note at the end when Greg points out to Rhonda that Kayla was alive when they abandoned her--and that she would have survived if Rhonda and Diana had taken her to a hospital rather than abandoning her under a truck and trying to pin her death on her ex-boyfriend.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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