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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'The Happy Place'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 20, 2008 - 10:02 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Happy Place' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Catherine and Nick investigate the death of Sprig Grenigier, who dove to her death from the apartment she shared with her fiancé. Was it suicide or murder? Nick notices she received a call just before her death which is traced to a pay phone across the street from Sprig's apartment. Though they determine she was happy with her fiancé, the CSIs discover Sprig was trying to lose weight, and that she'd filed for unemployment after losing her job as a bank teller. She had been accused of stealing ten grand from the bank when she changed a customer's fifty dollar bills for a hundred hundred dollar bills rather than one dollar bills. To the bank, it looked like a scam Sprig was in on, but the her fiancé tells the CSIs she had no memory of what happened. The CSIs discover another bank teller who was similarly scammed and Catherine finds a connection: both women were seeing the same hypnotist to deal with various problems in their lives. Catherine and Nick pay a visit to the hypnotist, Viviana Conway, and witness how powerful her brand of hypnotism is. Catherine decides to compare the picture of the man who received the ten thousand dollars at each bank from security footage with Viviana's picture and get a match. The woman disguised herself as a man, went into the banks, gave the women hypnotic cues and stole the money. When Sprig figured out what Viviana had done, Viviana called her and gave her the cue for her honeymoon: to imagine herself in a bikini jumping into the ocean. Sprig did just that, only instead of the ocean she leapt from her balcony onto a bus full of people.

A woman is found beaten to death in an alley; the CSIs identify her as Paula Bonfilio and speak with her college-aged son, Scott, who tells them his mother gambled away his college money. He says she'd called him at 10pm the night of her murder after to say she'd be gone for the night. He also mentions she was with her two-year-old, Lexie. The CSIs launch a search for the girl while Archie studies video of Paula gambling at the Tangiers. He notices her with a man with glasses and then traces her to Pete's Pawn shop. The CSIs manage to locate Paula's car with a prostitute and find Lexie at a children's play center. The team recovers prints on Paula's car and traces them to Leon Slocomb--the man with glasses from the surveillance footage at the Tangiers. Leon admits to roughing Paula up and taking her car and kid to scare her into paying her gambling debts, but insists he left her alive. The CSIs uncover a surprising suspect when they catch Scott Bonfilio cashing in a $500 chip Paula won the night of her murder. Scott confesses to Grissom that Paula was his lover, not his mother, and Lexie was their child. At age 15, Scott ran off with Paula, his guidance counselor at school, but was dismayed to see their relationship deteriorate once he came of age and she turned to gambling for thrills. When she called him after lost the car and Lexie, he beat her in a rage. He believes Lexie is better off.

Greg calls Sara, still in town after Warrick's funeral, to the hospital where Tom Adler has just pulled the plug on his wife Pam, who had been in a coma for either years following a brutal beating and rape--a case Sara worked. Tom claims Tony Thorpe, the man who raped his wife, send him a note claiming he'd raped her again and was going to keep at it. Hoping to protect his wife, Tom pulled the plug rather than letting his wife suffer any more indignities. When Sara investigates, his story doesn't hold up: Thorpe is in a wheelchair, incapable of raping Tom's wife. Sara confronts Tom, and he admits that he just couldn't take it anymore--Pam was gone, and he was the only one suffering. Sara wonders why he couldn't just tell the hospital staff that, and Tom admits he was ashamed. The ordeal enforces Sara's belief that this life is no longer for her and she packs up and leaves both Las Vegas and Grissom behind.

Analysis:

There really isn't anything remotely happy about "The Happy Place." The team is still reeling from Warrick's death, all three cases they're investigating are depressing and Sara and Grissom's relationship disintegrates before the audience's eyes. To be fair, "For Warrick" isn't the kind of episode that can be followed up with a light-hearted turn. Warrick's loss isn't something that either the team or the audience will get over quickly, so following up the season opener with a comedic entry probably would have felt off. But "The Happy Place" is pretty grim: a woman about to get married plunges to her death after losing her job, a young man kills the mother of his daughter in a rage and Sara is confronted with an old case when the husband of a rape victim pulls the plug on her.

Glenne Headley is the glimmer of light here; while not exactly carefree, she's fascinatingly defiant when she tells Catherine and Nick she robbed the banks her clients worked at because she could. Viviana's calm voice and comforting appearance belie her cold nature. There's not a bit of remorse in that smooth voice when Catherine and Nick confront her with her call to Sprig. Headley is a recognizable face; it's nice to see her show up on CSI, and the role is tailor-made for her.

The case Grissom works fits somewhat awkwardly in with the other two; it feels like it should have been the A-case in a different episode. Finding out that Scott is not actually Paula Bonfilio's son, but her once under-aged lover whom she seduced when she was employed as a guidance counselor at his school was a whopping revelation, but its impact wasn't what it should have been given all the other things going on in the episode. Poor Scott is a very damaged boy, but we don't get much time to take in the revelation of what he's been through and the motive behind his actions. It's a shocker of a twist and a great case overall--one that deserved more of a spotlight than it got in this busy episode.

Though Sara's not working as a CSI anymore, Greg calls her in on a case anyway, one that ties back into a case Sara worked back in the show's first season in the episode "Too Tough to Die". Tom Adler has pulled the plug on the life support of his wife Pamela, who survived a brutal rape and beating in the season one episode but never regained consciousness. Played by Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, who is currently doing a stint on Heroes as a mysterious African visionary, Tom's haunting voice and desperate demeanor make the audience want to believe him as much as Sara does, even as we, like her, have our doubts about the circumstances Tom claims exist. Why would Tony Thorpe come back for Pam after all this time? When Sara finally sees Thorpe in a wheelchair and realizes he couldn't have raped Pam again, she turns back to Tom, knowing he's lied to her. His confession that he couldn't take it anymore resonates with Sara.

CSI's star-crossed lovers don't have an easy time of it in this episode. They're essentially at an impasse: Grissom can't leave because the team is already down several people and he's needed there. Sara can't come back because, as proven again by this episode, she no longer has a stomach for the grimness inherent in the work. Their conversation about the Adlers is telling: Sara says the husband should have walked away when he couldn't handle it anymore and Grissom responds that maybe he needed her to leave him. Rather than pretending they're still talking about the case--as so many people on TV frustratingly do--Sara confronts Grissom directly, asking him, "Who are we talking about?" Clearly, the answer is them, not the Adlers. Grissom, who was so reluctant to get involved with Sara in the first place, can't bear to be the one to end the relationship now that he's given himself over to it.

And so Sara once again is the one to sever the tie, in a way that feels even more definitive than her exit in "Goodbye and Good Luck", where she at least left a letter for Grissom. This time around, she simply packs up and leaves, presumably for good. It's certainly a depressing end to a downer of an episode. Of course, knowing William Petersen's own departure is on the horizon, was it really necessary? Or is it simply a set up for him to follow her when he does exit the show? The most satisfying resolution is to send him off with Sara. The two have the same kind of low-key personality; they're perfectly suited but generate little heat. Is there any less scintillating couple on television? Even when we finally see Grissom and Sara in bed together--the first time since they were revealed as a couple in "Way to Go"--they're fully clothed and lying together chastely on top of the covers. Their romance suits their characters, but a little passion now and then couldn't hurt.

To be fair, it's hardly the time for a torrid hook up. Though Warrick's death isn't referenced much, the shadow of his absence hangs over the whole episode like a shroud. The one moment it is directly acknowledged is a powerful one: Catherine flips open her cell phone to make a call and recoils in shock when she spots Warrick's number in the phone's address book. It's so effective because it's such an everyday little detail. It's not a big reminder of the loss in the way the video of Warrick's session with his psychiatrist was in "For Warrick"; it's one of those small, visceral moments that reminds Catherine--and the audience--that Warrick is gone. Her subtle shocked reaction shows us that his loss hasn't quite sunken in yet for her, just as it hasn't yet for the audience.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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