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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'The Grave Shift'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 27, 2009 - 10:08 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Grave Shift' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Dr. Raymond Langston walks into the CSI lab for his first shift wearing a suit and tie and carting a kit so large it's on wheels. Newly appointed shift supervisor Catherine sends him out with Nick on a burglary call. Jim Hilliard came home from work to discover several items including his laptop, watch and his wife's jewelry missing from his house. Nick helps Langston find prints on the broken glass of the front door after he bungles dusting the doorknob. The next stop is a possible arson at the house of Don and Paula Kingsley; Brass shows the CSIs that one of the two didn't make it out of the house alive. Paula is shocked to find her house in shambles and her husband dead inside when she returns with her assistant, Carla Banks, in tow. Carla tells Brass that Don had a history of depression. She also notes that Paula was at one of the gyms she owns the night before. Inside the house, Langston helps David Phillips move Don's body--and ends up with a tie covered in evidence! He cuts half of his tie off and bags it. Ray brings the tie to Hodges who gives him the runaround and forces him to follow procedure to the letter. Riley, now on the burglary case, gets Archie to trace a GPS in Hilliard's laptop. She and Ray follow the tracker to the house of Richard Palento and his teenage son, Alex. Riley finds the laptop under Alex's bed, along with several other items stolen from Hilliard's house. Alex claims he got the items from some friends but won't elaborate, leading his father to get rough with him. Ray intervenes, but Riley cuts him off and apologizes to Palento. At the morgue, Dr. Robbins autopsies Don Kingsley with the help of Ray, pulling glass he believes is from a Mason jar out of Don's body. Dr. Robbins also notes the lack of soot in Don's lungs and blood from a subdural hematoma in his skull and concludes that Don Kingsley was already dead when the fire consumed his house. Catherine notes that their arson has become a homicide.

While going through the debris, Nick catches a man taking pictures of the house. The man tells Nick his name is Josh Barston and he's a contractor who was working on the Kingsley house. His company lost equipment in the fire, and he's documenting it for the insurance claim. Back at the lab, Ray discovers a pawnshop receipt for some of Mrs. Hilliard's jewelry among the items recovered from Alex Palento's room. Ray bring it to Catherine, telling her he doesn't think a fourteen-year-old kid went to a pawn shop alone. Catherine prints the receipt and gets a hit to Diane Palento, Alex's mother, who has priors for solicitation. Riley brings Richard and Alex in, and the boy defends his mother, claiming she didn't steal the Hilliard's valuables. Riley tells Brass to stake out the house in case she returns. When Nick discovers that Carla Banks made over 20 calls to Don Kingsley's cell phone in the 48 hours before he died, the team pulls her in for questioning. Carla denies an affair with Don, telling Brass he was a "loser." Their relationship was purely a business one--she invested in some herbal supplements and was mad when she lost twenty grand in the deal. Paula Kingsley angrily slaps Carla when she overhears the insult to her husband. Back at the house, Greg and Ray make some puzzling discoveries, including a cord that seems to lead to nowhere and a metal disc. Back at the lab, Hodges finds cornmeal on the metal disc, which he also found on glass found on Don's body. Ray thinks the items add up to form a bomb, but Hodges doesn't have any theories, disappointing the new CSI.

After a breakfast at the diner, Catherine and Ray stake out the Palento residence with Riley, who catches Diane Palento sneaking up to the house. To her son's chagrin, they arrest her. With Hodges' help, Ray uses cornmeal in a Mason jar and natural gas to reconstruct and detonate a test explosive like the one he believes destroyed Don Kingsley's house. The CSIs have a suspect when surveillance footage from one of Paula's gyms reveals her kissing the contractor, Josh Barston. The CSIs bring in both Paula and Josh and learn they were having an affair. Paula seems genuinely shocked at the idea that Josh likely killed her husband. Josh admits that when he realized Paula wasn't going to leave her husband, he tricked Don into turning his back on him, knocked him out and set the slow-acting explosive off, which gave him time to leave before the detonation. Ray turns back to the burglary and finds a hole in Jim Hilliard's story: why would a thief take only a few items--including Jim's watch, which would have theoretically been on his wrist during the day. Ray looks at Jim's laptop's browser history and sees Diane Palento's solicitation webpage and realizes Jim hired Diane--and then was robbed by her. Catherine tells him there's no point in pursuing it legally, but Ray does score a small victory when he makes sure Hilliard's wife knows about his lie. Ray tries to offer some solace to Alex Palento, but the boy spits on him. As Nick, Riley and Greg move into Grissom's office, Catherine leaves for the day--and finds Ray hard at work practicing dusting for prints.

Analysis:

Ray Langston's first day proves to be anything but an easy one, but then, did anyone expect it to be smooth sailing? Wisely, though, the writers chose not to make the day absurdly difficult, either--the challenges Ray faces aren't anything outside the norm, and the missteps he makes are typical of what one would expect from someone who has never done CSI work before. Ray clearly shows up over-prepared and, from what I can tell, with no arrogant assumptions that he's going to breeze through his first day or be some sort of savant to the Vegas lab. The temptation with a newbie CSI is to either make the character some sort of whiz or a complete failure, but in a way that feels more natural than either extreme, Langston is neither. He botches his first attempt at dusting for prints, but he figures out how the explosive used to destroy the Kingsley's home was put together. All in all, not a bad first day, but not a ridiculously stellar one either.

The first casualty of Langston's maiden voyage into the world of crime scene investigation is his tie. That the new CSI shows up wearing a tie causes more amusement than his over-packed kit. Catherine suppresses a smile, while Nick tells him he only has to wear a tie when going to court. Langston wonders if there's anything wrong with wearing a tie, and of course he finds out soon enough when his tie gets tangled up with Don Kingsley's charred body and literally becomes evidence. Poor Langston, who clearly takes such pride in his appearance in a professional sense, is forced to cut off half of his tie and drop it into an evidence bag. The incident illustrates that Langston is no longer in the relatively civilized world of academia. His new profession is going to require him to get his hands--and his tie, if he chooses to continue to wear one--dirty. I imagine that Langston will have done away with his tie by the next installment of the show.

The good professor's first day isn't without personality clashes either. Hodges, who was as devoted to Gil Grissom as an employee could be, has no desire to make things easy on the newbie CSI. When Langston brings him the remains of his tie for processing, Hodges tells him that he'll need to log it in with the evidence clerk--and then promptly informs him that the evidence clerk is never around. Though he tries to dismiss Langston by telling him that it's his problem, Langston holds his ground until Hodges reluctantly unlocks the evidence clerk's office...and then makes him go through the procedure of checking it in. Hodges certainly isn't cutting Langston any slack, but the professor cleverly (gently) hits Hodges where it hurts when he tells the tech he expected better of him after Hodges claims not to have any ideas about the explosive and how it might function. Langston includes Hodges in the process of reconstructing it, prompting a grudging, "OK, I'm impressed!" from the trace expert. Hodges' loyalty to Grissom and general aversion to change prevent him from being easily won over, but the fact that Langston clearly thinks highly of him is enough for the professor to make some inroads with him.

Riley might not be as easily won over. For someone who was just a newbie to the Vegas team herself a few months ago, she's awfully hard on Langston, getting frustrated when he tries to intercede between Richard Palento and his son. "We're not social workers," she barks at him after she smoothes things over with Richard. While Langston clearly sympathizes with Alex Palento and feels bad for the boy, Riley is all business, threatening that Alex will be put in juvie if he doesn't give up his mother. It's clear that Langston and Riley have vastly different styles, and it's important to remember that while Riley is new to the Vegas lab, she's not a new CSI--she's already a Level 2. Riley has likely gone through many of the trials Ray will face, and the experiences have toughened her. Unlike Catherine and Nick, who can look back on the distant memories of their first days as CSIs, it's fresher for Riley, and she no doubt still feels the need to prove herself.

Though the arson/murder might be the bigger case, it's the robbery that pulls at Langston's heartstrings. He sits with Alex Palento in the police station and tries to suggest a rehab program for his mother--only to have the boy actually spit in his face. The moment causes the audience to positively ache for Langston, who truly had the best of intentions when he approached the boy. The episode illustrates, in a quiet way, that Langston is a good man, who opted for Grissom's suggestion in "One to Go" that he apply for the job so that he could help people. Though his encounter with Alex is heartbreaking, Langston gets something of a win with the Hilliards. He's told by Catherine that the only action the department could take against Jim Hilliard would be for filing a false report, but Langston creatively thinks of another way for Hilliard to pay for his perfidy by clueing the man's wife in that the prostitute her husband was with was the one who actually robbed him. Langston stands by as the couple argues in front of him, a look of satisfaction flitting across his face. Laurence Fishburne plays both the humor in this moment and the shock and hurt of the one with Alex with subtlety. Langston isn't a man who gives a lot away, but it's clear he's a man of deep feeling.

On a lighter note, Ecklie offers Grissom's office to Catherine. Catherine doesn't want to take it herself, but the new Undersheriff tells her that they can't afford to leave the office as a "shrine" to Grissom. It's nice to see Ecklie hasn't changed too much--he still does love micromanaging! Catherine decides to give the office to Nick, who in turn decides to share it with Greg and Riley. It's a nice solution to the problem of who should inherit Grissom's old digs. A rather charming little triumvirate is forming between Nick, Greg and Riley, bucking the trend of CSIs pairing off in partnerships based on a close best friendship or romantic tension. This trio is just fun to watch--they banter, they tease each other, they work well together. Obviously Nick and Greg have a long-standing friendship, and Riley seems poised to start forming close friendships with both. I hope this isn't setting up for a love triangle; thus far, the CSI shows have avoided that contrivance among their regulars, and there's no reason to start now. I can't wait to see what will come out of these three sharing an office.

Langston's first outing as a CSI is also writing team David Weddle and Bradley Thompson's first CSI entry. The pair come to CSI fresh off of Battlestar Galactica, Sci Fi channel's dark, brilliant drama about the human race's struggle to survive after a near genocide carried out by their own creations. In Battlestar, like CSI, the little moments are often as or more important than the big ones, making Weddle and Thompson a great fit for this show. Indeed, for Langston's first day as a CSI, we don't see him making any terrible, critical mistakes--he doesn't leave evidence unattended or cause an explosion at the lab. Rather, his missteps--incorrectly dusting for prints, trying to intervene on behalf of a suspect--are minor and sympathetic ones. As an audience, we sympathize with Langston--the mistakes he makes are the mistakes any of us might make on a first day at a new job. I look forward to seeing what the second day holds for him.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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