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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'No Humans Involved'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at December 13, 2004 - 7:20 PM GMT

See Also: 'No Humans Involved' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Grissom, Sofia Curtis and Greg have been called to a dicey neighborhood after sixteen-year-old Tyson Plummer is gunned down. While investigating the scene, Greg notices two boys playing in an alley with a trashcan and is surprised to discover the body of a young boy inside. Tyson's brother, Leo, comes upon the scene and confronts Brass, promising to get even with the person who killed his brother. As he walks away, another man shoots him in the back and runs away, with the cops and Sofia giving chase. Grissom tells a visibly shaken Greg that it looks like their single homicide has turned into a triple.

Sara and David Phillips meet Greg at the trash bin where he found the child. Though he appears mummified, David Phillips notes that the boy has been dead less than 24 hours. The police have apprehended the man who shot Leo Plummer, and Grissom quizzes Sofia as to why she gave pursuit as well. She tells him she wasn't chasing the shooter but the evidence, and she holds up the gun that the shooter threw away during his flight.

On the swing shift, Nick and Warrick are called to a prison where a riot has just occurred. Samuel Mendez was in a holding cell with thirty four other men, and after the riot he was discovered with a cracked skull, possibly the victim of police brutality. Warrick is especially disturbed by the condition of the holding cell--it was far too small for thirty-four men, and the toilet is overflowing with excrement, which the inmates flung at the guards during the riot. The CSIs take a gun, which was found beneath the victim, for analysis. At the hospital, Catherine photographs Mendez and learns he is brain dead. She also notices a shoe print on his face.

Sara and Greg gently remove the young victim from the trash bin, and go over him for evidence. Sara pulls several hairs from his body--some short and black, one longer and blonde. Dr. Robbins autopsies him and determines he was five years old. Several fractures that Robbins finds indicate abuse, and the child died of renal failure due to starvation.

Warrick and Detective Vartan question Lt. Arthur Chan, the watch commander of the central holding cell. He tells them the riot took place on an especially bad night--the computers were down and the plumbing was backed up. Detective Vartan asks how the gun made it past security, and Chan tells him that the arresting officer must have done a poor job of searching Mendez. Warrick isn't buying it and asks why Mendez wasn't searched again. Chan bristles at Warrick's attitude and the two men argue. Warrick insists on getting the officer's weapons and clothes.

Though Sara has found no hits in the missing persons database for the child, she has found ten records from Child Protective Services that are possible matches. Sofia notes that it could take Sara a long time to go through the records, but Sara does not ask Sofia for help. Sofia says that she feels like she's starting over and misses being trusted.

Warrick brings Mia Dickerson the police officers' gear from the prison and asks her to run the batons first. When he ignores a call on his cell phone, Mia accuses him of being a player. He shows her that the caller is Greg and that he figures since he's at the lab, he'll just go see him in person. Sofia walks in and Warrick leaves. She notes that Warrick is pretty hot, and Mia rejoins that he knows it. Mia tells Sofia that she'll run the hairs found on the young boy as soon as she has something to compare it to. One of the hairs was synthetic, and she sent that down to Trace.

Sara and Dr. Robbins compare X-rays of children in the CPS to their victim and are able to ID him: Devon Malton. His last foster care home was with Lorna Tenney, but when Brass and Sara go to talk to her, she's uncooperative. She claims Devon hasn't been in her care in six months, and refuses to let the CSIs search her house without a warrant. Brass has her brought into the station.

Hodges has the trash bin results for Greg, but first he gives him a hard time about the shootout the other night, telling Greg that CSIs get shot at all of the time. When Greg bristles, Hodges tells him that the bin contained foundation make up, and that Devon had lead-based paint chips in his intestines.

At the hospital, Sam Mendez's father has been called in, but he claims that the man in the hospital bed is not his son. Catherine and Dr. Franks are confused, and Catherine decides to take the dying man's prints to find out exactly who he is. When she runs them, she finds his prints don't match the Samuel Mendez listed in AFIS who was wanted for murder.

While Brass talks to Lorna Tenney, Sara tries to build a rapport with the children in her care. One of them, Gwyneth, is willing to talk to her, but doesn't warm to Sara until Sara reveals that she, too, was once in foster care. Gwyneth tells Sara that she's been in foster care for ten years and that Mrs. Tenney is one of the good parents. Gwyneth is devastated when Sara tells her that Devon is dead, and she tells Sara that his mother came and picked him and his brothers, Kevin and Raymond, up five months ago.

A CPS agent confirms that Candace Malton picked up the boys after she got out of jail on an assault charge. She has no idea where the mother is, and when Sara asks why no one checked in on the Malton boys, the CPS agent tells Sara that Candace seemed like a good mother.

Mia has the results on the police batons for Catherine, but Mendez's DNA isn't on any of them. He was not struck by an officer's baton. Catherine muses that the shoe print on Mendez's face indicates that he was already down. When she leaves the lab, she encounters Lt. Chan, who tells her about Warrick's demeanor and his displeasure with it. Catherine counters that the Samuel Mendez who was picked up on a murder charge wasn't the same man who was wanted for the murder--they merely shared the same name. The arresting officer picked up the wrong man. Chan coolly defends his unit and suggests that Warrick needs an "attitude adjustment."

Sofia visit Greg in the lab and helps him recover a print from the garbage can. She runs it in AFIS and doesn't come up with a match, but she hits the jackpot with the FBI database. The print matches Private 1st Class Philip Riley. When Brass questions Riley, he's cavalier but admits to taking out the trash for a prostitute he visited named Divine. He says he can't remember where she lives.

Catherine talks to Warrick in her new office about being more diplomatic. She reminds him that she's not Grissom and that Grissom let a lot of things slide that she won't. She informs Warrick that the evidence cleared the officers of killing Mendez and that he owes Lt. Chan an apology.

The swing shift team goes back to the evidence to figure out who crushed Samuel Mendez's skull. Warrick goes over shoe patterns to compare them to the marks on Mendez's face, while Mia and then Nick examine the gun. Warrick matches the shoe print to Vincent Mendoza, an inmate, while Nick learns that the gun found on Mendez was used in an execution-style murder.

Warrick brings Mendoza in for questioning. The inmate is surly, but Warrick is unbending: Mendoza tried to frame the cops for Mendez's beating. Mendoza had a concealed weapon that he had to get rid of, and he could tell Mendez didn't fit in with the group of hardened criminals in the cell. He kicked the man in the head repeatedly and planted the gun on him, setting off the riot. Mendoza scoffs at Warrick's story, but Warrick tells him that his meth-dealing partner was found dead two weeks ago, shot by the gun planted on Mendez--a gun with Mendoza's DNA all over it.

Brass and Sara locate Divine in a strip club and though she's uncooperative, they do manage to get a DNA sample from her. Back at the lab, Grissom presents Catherine with a gift for her new office: his fetal pig in a jar. Catherine asks if he's checking up on her, and then asks if he ever played politics. Grissom replies that he once ran for president of science club and lost by one vote. He confesses that he's never been good at politics, and that it cost him Warrick and Nick. Catherine notes that his loss was her gain.

Brass questions Divine, whose DNA proved to have several matches to Devon Malton. Sara also matches her DNA to a hair found on Devon. Brass has found several aliases for Divine, including Darlene Malton. She was the boys' cousin. Sara angrily tells her that starving a child is unforgivable, but Divine is unremorseful, complaining about how her cousin Candy dumped her three kids on her. She claims she did the best she could, but refuses to tell Brass where the other children are. Brass angrily tells her that if the other two boys die, he'll make it his business to insure that she gets the death penalty.

Brass and Sara locate Kevin and Raymond in the basement shed at Divine's house. Divine is arrested and led away; the boys' mother, Candy, is on her way to pick up the boys, but Sara isn't confident in her ability to raise them given the fact that she left them with Divine in the first place. She advises Brass to take Candace to the living boys first before bringing her to the morgue. Afterwards, Sara looks up her own case in the system: The People v. Laura Sidle, 1984. She observes Grissom and Sofia talking in his office before turning back to the screen. Catherine sees Warrick, Nick and Greg joking around together in the break room, but she doesn't join them.

Analysis:

A powerful episode that mixes emotional stories with intriguing character development, "No Humans Involved" is the first episode after the shake up in "Mea Culpa" and the changes are apparent. Grissom is in the background for most of the episode, an interesting choice given how much the changes affected him. His scene with Catherine in her new office, when he tells her how bad he is at playing politics and what it cost him, is pretty sad. Catherine isn't necessarily political (though she is more so than Grissom), but she's savvy in a way Grissom will never be. What kind of person votes for his opponent in school Science Club president election? A good person, but one ill-equipped to deal with the real world. Catherine says she was his "left hand and his right one" and it's obvious she protected him a great deal.

Grissom is a scientist first and foremost and though he's a kindly leader, he has toughened up somewhat, especially in regards to Greg and his training. Catherine, in contrast, has always been more grounded, and I suspect she'll be able to play the politics game much better than Grissom could ever hope to. Getting Warrick to apologize to Lt. Chan was her first test, and she managed to do it without making Warrick feel like he was being dressed down too much. She also set boundaries by reminding him that she's a very different supervisor than Grissom was.

I was disappointed to see the tension between Warrick and Catherine all but gone. After their near kiss in "Down the Drain", I'd hoped the sexual attraction between the pair would be gradually explored and built upon. But there's almost no trace of it in this episode. Rather, the writers seem to have decided to have Warrick and Mia engage in a tense flirtation. It's rather underwhelming and ordinary--she accuses him of being a player, he contradicts her by showing her he's actually a good guy who's concerned about his friend. Given that Aisha Tyler probably isn't going to be around for many more episodes (she's developing her own show), this seems like another CSI-style cop out to avoid developing a real, lasting relationship between two of the show's primary characters.

The heart of this story belongs to Sara and the foster children. The revelation that Sara was in foster care is probably the big thing she was trying to tell Grissom in "Viva Las Vegas". It may have been what Ecklie made reference to in "Mea Culpa", though I can't imagine why Sara would be under any obligation to tell her supervisor about being in foster care unless perhaps it directly affected her performance on a case. At any rate, it's clear that Sara spent some significant time in foster care, and hopefully she will eventually tell Grissom, if just so the audience can learn more about her experience.

The grim reality of the foster care system is explored without resorting to sensationalism. Lorna Tenney is argumentative and hostile, but Gwyneth is very frank when she tells Sara that she's one of the better foster parents. After being in ten different families, Gwyneth certainly must know of what she speaks. She also talks with the authority of a child who has had to grow beyond her years in order to survive. She's very direct with Sara, and cuts off Sara's attempts to bond with her. Her response to Sara's admission that she was in foster care is one of mutual understanding and a kind respect, but not necessarily warmth. In a way, she reminded me a bit of Sara of herself: quite serious, poised, and somewhat cold, almost by necessity.

The scene at the end with Sara at the computer highlights her isolation. She watches Grissom and Sofia talking in his office for a moment with a look of sad resignation. Has she finally given up on breaking through his defenses? Or maybe she realizes she has to work on her own first. I'm glad the writers haven't resorted to playing up a petty jealousy between Sara and Sofia--both are too interesting and complex as characters to resort to that. Sara is chilly to Sofia, but Sara takes a while to warm up to people. And Sofia, who is understandably feeling quite isolated on the new shift, has already made overtures of friendship by being frank with Sara about how difficult the transition is.

Louise Lombard turns in a terrific performance as Sofia in this episode. I love how she joined the chase with the police officers while Grissom and Greg hung back. And her cheeky reply to Grissom after she came back with the evidence in hand was just perfect. Grissom is clearly intrigued by her, perhaps because she's so different than he is. Like Catherine, she's perceptive about people in a way Grissom isn't. But she's also honest and honorable like he is, as she proved in "Mea Culpa" when she didn't give Ecklie the news he wanted to hear. Seeing her try to fit in with the team will be interesting.

Catherine is also feeling isolated in this episode, something that comes hand-in-hand with a supervisory position. When she looks in on Warrick, Nick and Greg in the break room, laughing and relaxing, it's fairly clear that she won't be joining them. Catherine has always held her own among the boys, but now she's officially supervising several of them, and can't afford to relax with them as much as she used to. It further underlines how qualified she is as a leader.

I was happy to see that Greg wasn't used for comic relief in this episode. He's clearly more disturbed than anyone about the shootout. When the creepy Hodges tries to further intimidate him, Greg won't have any of it, but he seems genuinely shaken. Greg's journey from the lab to the field remains a compelling one because viewers can empathize with him, especially given the spike in the interest in forensics that the CSI shows have brought about. Armchair forensic scientists or those with more concrete ambitions can vicariously live through Greg. His grief on finding the child also emphasizes his relative newness; unlike the other, more seasoned CSIs, he's not as familiar with making such tragic discoveries, or as hardened as the others have had to become to do their jobs.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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