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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Big Middle'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 28, 2005 - 10:47 PM GMT

See Also: 'Big Middle' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A Hyde beetle finds its way to a body in the woods, where it's found by Grissom. Grissom determines the body, which is sporting a hole in its chest and a blasted-off face, has been in the woods for at least two weeks. Catherine is irritated to see Grissom at her crime scene, but he says he's just there to document. Grissom notices a football league ring on the corpse's finger. Catherine notes the man was shot at close range. After Grissom leaves, Nick and Catherine try to find where the chase began and Nick complains about his unhappiness over the team split. The CSIs find a significant amount of cash in a beaver dam.

Grissom and Greg stand over the body of Maurice Hudson, who lies dead in the bed in his hotel room. He hadn't been robbed, and appears to have suffocated: his chest is covered in petechia. The CSIs find a name tag near his body, apparently from a convention at the Tangiers. Grissom pulls a purple fiber from Maurice's mouth while Greg notices a table in the room is cracked. They notice ejaculate on the table and the sheets, so they turn over the sheets to Sara for processing. She finds sweat on them in addition to the ejaculate. Greg goes over the surveillance tapes from the hotel, but Maurice always seems to go to his room alone. In the morgue, Robbins shows Grissom Bulber hemorrhages in Maurice's eyes. He notes that Maurice died of asphyxia, but also determines that due to the way the blood has settled that something heavy was resting on the body for 8-10 hours after the death.

Warrick has an ID on the owner of the ring: Gabe Miller, a former football player. Robbins tells Nick that the shot to the heart killed the victim, and he was shot in the head afterwards. Based on the striations on the bullet, Nick thinks the killer used a sawed-off shotgun. But when he mentions the possible ID on the victim, Gabe Miller, Robbins tells him Miller is very much alive and is now a councilman. Brass questions Miller, who sold his ring during his football years for drugs. He's now left that life behind and has no desire to even reclaim the ring.

Hodges tells Sara the purple fiber from Maurice's mouth is silk. Detective Vartann leads Grissom and Greg to the one convention at the Tangiers that weekend: Association to Promote Acceptance of Plus-Sized People. Grissom and Greg wonder if Maurice used to be fat, or if perhaps he was just a "chubby chaser." They show his picture around, but none of the women outside by the pool recognize Maurice. Grissom notices a woman wearing a purple chemise and asks her about it: she says she got it from a woman named Regina Owens, a vendor at the convention. Greg asks Brenda Morgan at the registration table if she recognizes Maurice and she syas she'd seen him around and points Greg towards the message board where people hoping to meet others can leave messages for each other.

Nick has counted up the money and determined that it adds up to about $25,000. Warrick has found receipts for $5000 bets from four different casinos. Brass has an ID on their victim from the purchase of the football ring: Kelvin Russell, who worked for the Vegas Sports League, a company the casinos hire to predict the scores of sports games. VSL is headed up by Mitch Urbana, who tells Brass that it's been two weeks since Kelvin turned up at work. Kelvin's friend, Scott Kerwin, tells Brass that Kelvin wasn't popular. The last time he saw Kelvin, Kelvin was gloating to Mitch about a game that Kelvin accurately predicted and Mitch has been off on.

Greg retrieves Maurice's messages and meets Jill, who tells him that Maurice liked larger women but wouldn't be seen with them in public. She also mentions that he hooked up with Regina Owens. Grissom talks to Regina, who is selling lingerie, and he asks her for samples of the purple camisole.

At one of the casinos, the manager shows Warrick the man who placed the bets Warrick has receipts for and identifies him as Lou Barnes. The casino lost a lot of money on this particular game because VSL was off on their predictions. Warrick studies the numbers and Catherine comes along to tell him Brass has an address for Barnes, he explains how the betting works to her. Back at the station, Brass starts to question a pallid Barnes, who faints. After he's admitted to the hospital, the nurse tells Brass she found a buckshot in his leg. Barnes admits Kelvin hired him to place bets for him--they were going to split the money. Nick notes they're looking for a third man, but when Brass asks Barnes who shot him, Barnes asks for a lawyer.

Sara has five of the women from the APAPS convention brought to the station to get DNA samples from them, including Regina, Brenda and Jill. All five of the women own the purple lingerie, and Sara knows that two different women had sex with Maurice. Regina and Brenda turn out to be the two: Brenda tells Sara that Maurice refused to be seen with her, while Regina admits she and Maurice cracked the table during their escapade, but notes that she left after they had sex. Brenda tells Sara that Maurice made her feel special when they were together, but that it rankled that he refused to be seen with her. She startles Sara by claiming she went back to Maurice's room and smothering him with a pillow.

Brass tells Warrick that Mitch's car, which Mitch reported stolen, has been found. They find what looks like sawed off shavings from a shotgun in the trunk. When they confront Mitch, he insists the car was stolen. They know he didn't like Kelvin, but Mitch challenges them to prove he killed the man.

Sara tells Grissom that Brenda claims she smothered Maurice, a confession the CSIs quickly discount as Maurice wasn't smothered by a pillow. They go back to the surveillance tapes, where they observe Brenda acting inebriated before going to Maurice's room. In Catherine's office, she and Warrick bet on a game, and even though Catherine doesn't win the bet, she still claims dinner with Warrick as her reward. They are interrupted by a call: an ex-boxer named Cesar Dabo has tried to place a lost ticket claim on one of the tickets from the beaver dam.

Brass rounds up Dabo, who is high on coke at the time. Urbana was once the only judge who called a fight for Dabo, so Dabo was loyal to him. Urbana hired Dabo to follow Kelvin and when Dabo saw how Kelvin was cheating Mitch, he shot and killed him. He says Mitch didn't pay him; he threatened to kill Mitch if Mitch told anyone that Dabo had killed Kelvin.

Back at the lab, Grissom and Sara test out a weighted dummy on Greg and determine that 280 lbs would have immobilized a man Maurice's size. Brenda is about that size; when Sara confronts her with the evidence, Brenda admits she came back and passed out on Maurice, killing him accidentally, but that she didn't want to be the butt of fat jokes so she lied about smothering him.

Analysis:

My biggest reaction "Big Middle" was one of confusion. I suspect sports betting is a very complicated thing, and it's probably not the kind of thing that can be explained in a few quick exposition speeches. Given that, it probably would have been best not to attempt it, or to dumb it down for the audience. They probably did that, but it still went over my head. And I watched it twice.

Betting complexities aside, the plot line was a big mess. That Mitch would kill Kelvin for embarrassing and cheating him is not unbelievable, but that Cesar Dabo, who has nothing but a feeble reason to be loyal to Mitch--Mitch once called a fight for him against popular opinion--up and kills Kelvin because he's cheating Mitch? And then, this loyal "friend" of Mitch threatens to kill Mitch himself if Mitch tells anyone what Cesar did. To call it weak motivation is generous. And why on earth would Cesar leave all of that money behind? That defies logic as well. The twist of Cesar's involvement seems thrown in just to have an extra twist for the resolution of the episode. A twist for the mere sake of having a twist isn't necessarily the best idea.

In contrast, the B plot this week, while more interesting, is rather routine and unsurprising. In this case, the twist is too evident early on--as soon as Robbins mentioned that an object had rested on the body for 8-10 hours, I knew exactly what had happened. Like poor Brenda said--it was a fat joke waiting to happen. It wasn't an especially creative way to go. And even Brenda's story wasn't convincing--the audience knew Maurice hadn't been smothered with a pillow, which immediately discounted her story. The storyline had more potential than the A plot, but ultimately didn't go anywhere.

Allow me for a moment to praise Debra Christofferson, who played Regina. She didn't have much screen time, but as Christofferson she managed to make an impression by playfully flirting with Grissom. Her character defies the stereotype the other characters in the B plot fall into: as she does on HBO's Carnivale, the show she's a regular on, Christofferson radiates a sexy confidence that makes her a treat to watch.

The potential pairing of Warrick and Catherine continues to draw attention, especially after the TV Guide article which promised further development of the attraction between the two (story). The two flirt in the episode, and Warrick promises Catherine a dinner if she wins a bet. When she loses she tells him she's collecting anyways. These two have a fun, easy dynamic laced with a current of fiery attraction, so it will be interesting to see what happens if they do pair up.

On a positive note, "Big Middle" does have a fair amount of humor, from Catherine's crack about the beavers striking it rich in Las Vegas to the scene in which Grissom and Sara try crushing Greg under the dummy in order to figure out how Maurice died. But for the most part, the episode isn't up to snuff: one confusing story line and one predictable one do not a good episode make.

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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