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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Turn, Turn, Turn'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 7, 2009 - 3:00 AM GMT

See Also: 'Turn, Turn, Turn' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

It's Nick's birthday, but the CSI has little time to celebrate: a 419 call comes in from the Park Pines Motel on Freemont and Nick volunteers to take the call. When he gets there, he's chagrined to find the victim is Haley Jones, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the motel's manager, Mark, and his wife, Nicole. Nick flashes back to his first meeting with the girl, on his birthday the previous year when a man named Harry Steadwell was found dead in his motel room, the apparent victim of a fatal fall. Haley expressed interest in Nick and forensics before being called away by her mother. Her father, Mark, was the new manager--he took over a week after the old manager, Dale Durney, failed to show up for work. The old manager's fate is soon revealed when Greg discovers him dead in the crawl space above the room, a wad of money in his pocket. When Doc Robbins determines Durney died from cardiac arrest caused by electrocution, the CSIs are able to piece together what happened: knowing seedy clientele would often hide money in the crawl spaces above their rooms, Dale rigged them with a magnetic locking mechanism only he could control. Dale saw Harry hide his money and triggered the lock. Harry was arrested before he could try to get to his money, but when Dale went after it, he electrocuted himself on some exposed wires. When Harry got released from jail a week later, he went back for the money and got his gun caught on the magnet, causing it to fire and Harry to be thrown back, falling from the chair he was standing on and fatally hitting his head.

Later that year, Nick was called in for another crime: Haley's friend, Bree Lindale, claimed that she woke up in the Jones' motel apartment after being at a bonfire for her birthday, her pants on the floor and Mark Jones standing over her. Bree tells Nick that she and Haley are no longer friends--when Haley started imitating her, right down to copying her blonde locks, she dumped Haley as a friend. Nick is surprised to learn that Nicole Jones went to the bonfire after forbidding Haley to go, and she tells him she took pictures with her camera to show Haley what was going on at the bonfire. Nick asks for the camera and takes the pictures to Bree, who identifies one person who wasn't supposed to be there: Zack Fenish, a boy she claims was stalking her. Zack admits to being at the party, but it wasn't Bree he was interested in, it was Haley. Archie finds deleted photos of Bree on Nicole Jones's camera, and she admits to Nick and Brass that she had a daughter, Melissa, who died as a baby before she had Haley. Bree reminded her of Melissa, so she'd take pictures of her. She deleted them so that Haley would never find out. Henry finds GHB in Bree's system, but when Hodges finds a substance used to condition baseball gloves on Bree's body, their suspicion turns to Bree's boyfriend Dave Henkel, a baseball player. Thinking that Bree was cheating on him with a teammate of his, he drugged Bree in order to have sex with her, but she fought him off and got out of the car. Catherine brings Bree in for her questioning and she admits to wandering from the street to the Park Pines Motel. She had a key to the Jones' apartment and used the key to get in. She finally confesses that Mark Jones did nothing to her--she just didn't want her presence to make Haley think they were friends again.

117 days before Haley's murder, Nick was once again called to a case at the Park Pines Motel after Haley, now a sullen goth dating Zach, discovered the body of Tanya Carrow, the apparent victim of an overdose. At only 32, Tanya already had a record and had just been released from the penitentiary. Her father, Frank, identified her but admits he wasn't much of a parent to the troubled young woman. He leaves a memorial with flowers and a picture of Tanya holding a baby in the penitentiary at the hotel. Back in the present, David Phillips tells a stunned and chagrined Nick that Haley was stabbed, and he discovers the picture of Tanya in Haley's pocket. The police bring Zack in, who Haley dumped the day before her death. Zack claims he loved Haley and though they both dealt crystal meth, he would have happily stopped for her if it would have meant she wouldn't have broken up with him. Langston is able to identify the location the photo was taken at: the White Sands Penitentiary, and they identify the woman in it as Tanya. Nick puts it together: Haley was her baby. Mark Jones tells Nick that Tanya was babysitting for Melissa when she left the infant unattended in the bathtub and she drowned. When she learned she was pregnant, Tanya offered her baby to the Jones in return. When Tanya showed up at the hotel several months ago to see Haley, Nicole went to her room and fought with her. A regular resident of the hotel recalls seeing Nicole leaving the room carrying two coffee cups--and he could smell the meth coming from one of them. When a search of the Jones' apartment uncovers a blood-soaked shirt, Nick brings Nicole in. Nicole admits to arguing with Haley after she cut her hair to look like Tanya and brought scissors out to insist on Haley changing the style, but during the argument, Haley argued with her mother and ran into the scissors. Nick asks Nicole why she didn't call 911, and she claims she was in shock--and worn down by Haley's constant rebellion. When he tells her he knows she killed Tanya with meth from Zack's stash, she admits that she never wanted Haley--it was like living with the ghost of Melissa's killer. After the case is closed, Ray finds a crushed Nick in the locker room, crying over the tragedy of Haley's life. Ray offers the devastated CSI some solace, as well as a realization, "Everyone keeps telling me what this job isn't. How you're feeling right now is what it is."

Analysis:

Taylor Swift acquits herself gracefully in this tragic story, which highlights how difficult the job can be when a case gets under a CSI's skin. Over the course of a year, Haley goes from being a fresh-faced, sunny brown-haired girl to a haunted blonde to a sullen punk and finally to a look that emulates that of her dead birth mother--and ends up bringing about her death. Swift slips into each persona effortlessly; rather than feeling like we're watching singer doing a high profile guest spot, the episode truly facilitates Swift disappearing into the role. Ironically, the persona closest to Swift, at least in appearance, is the one that is least Haley--the aloof blonde glamor girl look she takes on to imitate Bree never quite feels like the Haley we first met, the earnest girl who approached Nick and brought up an interest in forensics--as well as flirtatiously observing that Nick looked nothing like her chemistry teacher. Zack Fenish sees through the blonde persona as well, noting that he's attracted to Haley because he can see the wild child just waiting to break through. He's spot on: the next time we see Haley, she's a sullen goth girl, kissing Zack defiantly, and, as we learn after her death, helping him deal. Which persona was the real Haley? The answer, of course, is all of them: like other girls her age, Haley is simply a girl trying to find who she is--a quest that is cut tragically short.

Haley's role in the episode is a pivotal one--though Nick only encounters her briefly during his work on various cases he's working at the Park Pines Motel, we have to believe she was able to make a significant impact on him. Swift is a natural in the role, making it a lot easier than it looks to slip into the persona of Haley. Lest anyone think stunt casting is always a success, they need look no further than Nelly Furtado and Sasha Cohen's wooden performances in CSI: New York's "Some Buried Bones" and "Silent Night", respectively. And Swift isn't just passable--she's downright good, earnest without being over the top and showy. Though I'm familiar with Swift's music and her career, I didn't feel like I was watching Taylor Swift playing a role--she inhabits Haley, bringing the audience along on the young girl's tragic journey. We watch her transition from an upbeat, precocious teen to a jaded girl on the cusp of womanhood--and we see how, each time Nick meets her, she's just looking for a place to belong. First she is drawn to Nick, clearly attracted to the handsome CSI, then to popular Bree, who she emulates, then to outsider Zack who does truly seem to love her and finally to her own birth mother.

This episode also does something few episodes of CSI get to do: it establishes the motel as a regular setting. The CSIs are frequently going from crime scene to crime scene, and though we sometimes see a Vegas casino more than once, it's rare that a locale is established in the way the seedy motel is in this episode. We even get a familiar face outside of the Joneses in the form of the unnamed junkie who cleans himself up in the space of a year and gets admitted to WLVU, a fact he proudly tells Nick. Did Nick have anything to do with that? After the Steadwell case was closed, Nick offered up some of his own cash to the man, who had previously asked him for a whopping five bucks for coffee. The man shows up each time Nick comes by to work on a case, his beard getting progressively shorter and his appearance improving. As much as Nick laments that he wasn't able to help Haley, his small gesture of giving some money to this man clearly made an impression on the guy, to the point that the man remembers Nick and goes out of his way to tell him he's cleaned up his life--and to offer up a crucial clue in the case.

Why does Haley's death affect Nick so? It's clear he felt for the pretty outsider--after all, he saw the environment she lived in and witnessed the way her best friend coldly rejected her. He met her three times before her death, and had brief encounters with her each time. But in the end, it seems to be the shock and even the guilt that gets to Nick. "She didn't have to die, Ray," he says to Langston, clearly going over his past encounters with Haley in his mind. If Nick had figured out what had happened to Tanya Carrow right after her death instead of assuming she'd simply overdosed, could he have prevented Haley's death? Nicole Jones would have been arrested for Tanya's murder and never would have gone after Haley with the scissors to get her to cut her hair--and consequently, Haley never would have run into those scissors and died. Is it fair of Nick--or the audience--to hold himself responsible? Though Tanya Carrow's case is dismissed as an overdose rather quickly, it certainly looked like an open-and-shut case. Even the woman's own father didn't question her death.

Is there more to Nick's breakdown than just Haley's death? We never did see much of a reaction from Nick to Warrick's passing. Nick seemed to process it and move on, not in a cold or callous way, but in a manner that suggested he was putting his feelings aside in favor of burying himself in work and focusing on the job, first of finding Warrick's killer and then of helping to keep an understaffed department afloat. There are several stages of grief, and we certainly saw Nick wrestling with the anger phase when he caught up with Warrick's killer, the dirty Undersheriff McKeen, in "For Warrick". But until this moment, we hadn't seen Nick break down from the loss of his best friend, and though Warrick is never directly referenced in the present storyline (there's a mention made of the college fund Nick has set up for his son by David Phillips in one of the past cases), it's clear that if Nick is thinking back to how things could have gone differently for Haley, it stands to reason that he has the same thoughts about his slain best friend. George Eads shines in this episode, whether it be displaying amusement as precocious Haley tries to flirt with him or shock at the discovery of Haley's body or grief in the face of what he could have done to save Haley.

The person who reaches out to Nick is Ray, who has been struggling with trying to figure out the job. "Everyone keeps telling me what this job isn't," he says to Nick, the realization dawning on him as he watches the more experienced CSI struggling. "What you feel right now tells me what it is. I'm so sorry." Indeed, much as CSI might make forensic science exciting, sexy and even on occasion funny, the long and the short of it is it's a difficult job. These people see death and the worst side of human nature on a daily basis, and now and then, it's bound to get to them. Ray describes both himself and Nick as masochists, and--in what is no doubt a sly swipe at critical fans on the internet--says his form of self-flagellation is going to sites on the internet to read discussions about his favorite movies and find out why he's wrong and has terrible taste for liking the films he does. Ray, as much as he's clearly in the job to do good and still carries a fair amount of optimism with him, is also able to offer Nick a realist's perspective, saying that Haley died because a series of events was set in motion. There's no changing that series of events now, no way to go back and solve Tanya's case and save Haley, and it's the fact that he has little to offer outside of the realization of the toll the job can take on a person's soul that prompts Ray to offer a heartfelt "I'm so sorry" to Nick.

The story is framed by Nick's birthday--his first encounter with Haley was exactly a year ago, on his birthday the year before. In the present, we see Catherine bringing him a cake, Ray offering him a tie and Riley telling him that Panda Express offers a free birthday brunch and offering to take him, "my treat." The writers have done a good job of showing how the team, despite the fact that some old faces have left and new ones have joined, is still a family. In the flashback from a year ago, Nick received a call from Grissom wishing him happy birthday. Though I'm enjoying Langston's presence on the show, and the way the team is restructuring itself, hearing Grissom's voice on Nick's phone definitely brought a twinge. I can't help but miss the warm, reclusive CSI team leader, and I'd be lying if I said the sound of his voice didn't make me a little nostalgic for the early days of CSI. The show must go on, though, and episodes like "Turn, Turn, Turn" show that even after the departure of three regulars, even nine seasons into its run, CSI is still going strong--very, very strong.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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