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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Toe Tags'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 24, 2006 - 5:04 AM GMT

See Also: 'Toe Tags' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The body of Donna Bassett is wheeled to the morgue, where she joins five other bodies. She sits up next to Rebecca McGill, who confirms her suspicions: she's dead. Donna, a security officer, was found wrapped in a towel in an elevator at the Olympia, Sam Braun's hotel, an apparent drowning victim. Marks on her body suggested she fought for her life. Catherine finds her ID and learns that Donna, a former cop, was working security for a Hong Kong businessman named Robert Hsing, who was gambling the evening of her death. A bathtub full of water, filled with rose petals, in his suite, appears to be the scene of the crime. Hsing denies killing Donna, but does mention that he went back to his hotel room to change his underwear after a losing streak, hoping it would change his luck. On the surveillance cameras from the hotel, Catherine and Archie see a man dumping Donna's body, but only his arm is visible. She's able to put partial prints from the elevator together to match them to Hsing. A deeply superstitious man, Hsing discovered Donna in the bath when he came upstairs to change, and believing she'd adversely affected his luck, killed her.

The next body in the morgue is Rebecca McGill, who died while on a hike with her husband, Gavin. The former model plunged to her death from a cliff, but was it murder, suicide or simply an accident? Rebecca's husband Gavin, a nerdy type she met at an internet convention, claims he saw Rebecca jump. A broken index finger and a video on Rebecca's cell phone tell a different story: Gavin, tired of "paying for" having a hot wife, pushed Rebecca to her death.

Jack Day is the next victim in the morgue, but he's more concerned about his wife Carol and their baby daughter than worried about himself, and is relieved to discover they're not with him on the cold slabs. The death of Russell Caris, a man who ran his car into a police car, led the CSIs to Jack's body after a bloody knife turned up in Russell's car. Jack was found at a gas station, his devastated wife standing by with their baby. Russell stabbed Jack, a marine home from Iraq to see his baby daughter for the first time, but the CSIs can't figure out why, until they discover marijuana mixed with embalming fluid in Russell's system. High on the potent combo, Russell attacked Jack. His wife is crushed by the news that her husband died for no reason, but Jack himself is grateful that he got to hold his child.

The bodies of two men killed in an apparent chainsaw attack round out the six in the morgue. Lou Beltram and Ray Gaynor were neighbors, and both were found dead in Lou's house, the furniture as wrecked as the men's bodies. When Lou's ex-wife tells the CSIs about the bitter divorce she and Lou were going through, Grissom and Sara recreate the attack and discover that Ray came upon Lou destroying the furniture and when he tried to stop Lou, Lou accidentally sliced into him. The kickback drove the blade into Lou, killing him as well. Grissom uses the six cases as examples to show a group of rookie CSIs how important looking critically at evidence is.

Analysis:

The idea of the dead talking is a departure for CSI, one that some will no doubt deem a tad too daring, but after six seasons, it's hard to begrudge the show for playing around with its strict format a little. And indeed, those that can sit back and enjoy the novelty will find "Toe Tags" a clever and gripping outing.

Much like fifth season's "4x4", "Toe Tags" involves four distinct cases. "4x4" played with time and connected all the cases; "Toe Tags" connects them as well, post mortem, through conversations the dead have with each other. Ultimately, the device doesn't interfere at all with the storytelling--the CSIs are the ones who solve the cases, from start to finish--but it does give viewers a bit of a wrap up on each case, a wry clinical analysis of what went fatally wrong from the victim him- or herself.

The cases themselves, though brief, are clever. A woman sneaking a bath is murdered by her superstitious boss. A model who thinks she's found her ideal man in a regular guy is pushed over a cliff by the insecure jerk. A solider home from the war happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, while his assailant dies in a car crash. Two neighbors meet their end when one of them can't control his chainsaw. Perhaps the only thing this bunch has in common is that each of them never saw it coming. But isn't that how it always is with murder?

Also contributing to the charm of "Toe Tags" is the talented array of guest actors. Jessica Steen, who played a steely doctor in Earth 2 has a memorable turn as the security officer who gets murdered by her boss for indulging in a relaxing bath in his suite while he was downstairs gambling. Sex and the City's David Eigenberg plays a character far removed from sweet-natured Steve; Gavin McGill is a self-centered sociopath who pushes his beautiful wife off a cliff because he can't take the pressure of being married to her any longer.

Along the way, we get small character moments from the CSIs. For starters, we learn Warrick is still married to Tina. Their union looked to be in serious trouble in "Bang Bang", when he spotted her on a casino video camera with another man--a man she claimed was helping her plan his surprise birthday party. There clearly wasn't a lot of trust between the couple, but the fact that they're still together suggests that despite Warrick telling her in "Bang Bang" to not bother coming home, they're making an effort to make their marriage work. Given that the potent sexual tension between Warrick and Catherine in seasons five and six seems to have been dropped, Warrick and Tina might have a shot.

Catherine herself is still reeling from the death of Sam Braun in "Built to Kill, Part 2. Brass expresses concern about her having to work a crime scene in Sam's hotel, but Catherine, never one to shy away from even the toughest situation, brushes off any qualms and carries on. It's the job.

The episode is framed by Grissom filling a group of young forensic scientists in on just what the job entails. Each of the four cases has something to teach about being a CSI--the importance of the evidence, certainly, but also the crucial need for the people interpreting it to be open-minded and explore all of the possibilities the evidence offers.

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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