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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Hollywood Brass'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 23, 2005 - 12:07 AM GMT

See Also: 'Hollywood Brass' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

In Hollywood on the walk of fame, Ellie Brass, going by the name Jersey, and her friend Dakota are working the block. Dakota approaches a car and gets in. Hours later, she's still not back and Ellie is concerned, but the police officer she tells brushes her off. So she calls her father, Jim Brass, in Las Vegas and he decides to come down to Los Angeles to help her. Sheriff Burdick is reluctant to give him time off, but Brass presses and he grants it. Brass flies to LA and heads straight for the LAPD where he meets up with Annie Kramer, an old colleague of his from his days on vice. After they reminisce about the old days, she breaks the news gently to him that Ellie and her friend Dakota are prostitutes. She gives him Ellie's last known address and he goes to the run-down apartment complex. He calls Ellie from below and she tells him she's fine and lies about where she lives and what she's doing. Through the window, he sees a tall African American man with Ellie.

Annie calls Brass: the BMW Ellie saw Dakota get into has been found in Koreatown. Two teen boys were caught trying to hotwire it, but they insist the windows were already broken. Brass notices a sticker on the car's windshield with the initials B.H.G.C. on it. The trunk of the car has been stripped clean, though there are two bullet holes in it. Annie summons CSI Matt Glazer who arrives with none other than Warrick Brown, who is in town for a HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) conference. Brass is happy to see Warrick, who notices blood in the car. He tells Brass he's in town all weekend and offers his help. Brass goes to see Ellie and tells her they need Dakota's blood to match to their sample and she tells him that she and Dakota visited a free clinic to get tested the week before. Brass is disappointed to learn she doesn't always use protection when she has sex, and she storms out when he tells her she's smarter than that.

Annie and Brass go to the clinic where Dr. Norma Sepulveda is reluctant to give them the sample. They tell her they need it for a DNA match and she hands it over. Annie gets a call--the car's owner has been found. Annie and Brass go to the house of Todd Piccone, an assistant city attorney, who admits his car was stolen. He says he didn't report it because he was with a prostitute when he was carjacked. He assumed she was with the guys who carjacked him and didn't want to risk his reputation by reporting the crime. He refuses to let the detectives search his home, so Annie improvises and tracks down Judge Silvio Peters, who is dining with several friends including Vic Patterson, a television star turned mayoral candidate, in the hopes of getting warrant. Peters turns down her request while Brass talks to Patterson and notices the man's tie clip bears the same initials--B.H.G.C.--that Piccone's car sticker had.

Frustrated, Annie and Brass go to Ellie's apartment and question her. She says she and Dakota don't have a pimp, but that Dakota hung out with a guy named Ronnie who lives above them. Despite the fact that they don't have a warrant Brass breaks into the apartment and discovers a plethora of drug-making paraphenalia. He calls Warrick who comes to the scene and confirms that it's a meth lab. Ronnie, strung out and hysterical, bursts in with a gun but Annie talks him down. Another call comes in: Dakota's body has been found in a river by a jogger. Brass and Ellie go to the scene, where Ellie tearfully identifies her friend. Burdick, furious to learn from Judge Peters that Brass is working a case in LA, calls and demands Brass return to Vegas, but Brass refuses.

Annie interrogates Ronnie, who denies killing Dakota. Brass watches from the other side of the window as Ronnie describes having sex with both Dakota and Jersey. Angrily, Brass confronts Ellie, telling her it was only luck that it wasn't her who was killed. He tells her she's turned herself into a "disposable human being," and when she counters by attacking his parenting skills, he says he was just trying to do the best job he could, which is more than he can say for her. Warrick and Glazer confirm that the blood in the car was Dakota's, and they set out to examine the bullet holes. Warrick notices one of the bullets never exited the car, and they find it in the gas tank. The bullet is a .45, while Ronnie's gun was a 9 millimeter.

Brass calls Dr. Robbins to get his take on Dakota's death. Looking at a diagram, Robbins theorizes that she was beaten to death--she likely died from exsanguination. He also tells Brass that the LAPD coroner noted a waxy green substance under her nails. Annie and Brass finally obtain their warrant to search Piccone's house, and together with the CSIs, they begin their search. Warrick notices a fashionable shag carpet is wet and they pull it up to discover a large bloodstain. Because the carpet has been cleaned Warrick doesn't think they'll get a clear DNA read. Brass turns the television on the wall to a blue screen channel and notices a streak of blood on the television screen. In the kitchen, Warrick discovers empty booze bottles in the trashcan, including one of absinthe with fingernail scratches on it. It's enough to call Todd in for questioning. He admits to introducing her to a "friend" but won't go beyond that. He asks Annie to turn the microphone off and she does for a moment. When she turns it back on, Todd is lead out and she tells Brass that he "invoked."

The case seems to be falling apart in a suspicious way--Warrick tells Brass he was ushered out of the lab just as the print results came back from the bottle. Brass calls Ellie and asks her not to go out tonight, fearing for her safety. Warrick tells him the print results came back to six people, including Todd, Judge Peters and Vic Patterson. Brass wonders why they would all be in AFIS and Warrick calls Nick to ask if any of them were printed for a concealed weapon permit. Sure enough, Vic Patterson was--he's a member of the Beverly Hills Gun Club. Recognizing the initials from the tie pin and the car sticker, Brass and Warrick pay the range a visit and learn Patterson does shoot there. Warrick sees a wall mount with one of Patterson's guns from his television show--a gun with a small eagle on the handle--and a .45 bullet. Nick checks IVIS and tells him that the newly entered bullet from the gas tank of Piccone's car matches Vic's gun. Warrick realizes a gun with an eagle on the hilt--Vic's trademark from his television show--was the murder weapon when he matches up a picture of the gun with some markings on Dakota's head.

Brass meets Annie in a bar to talk about what she's going to do about the case. She laments that a woman came in six months ago claiming Vic had assaulted her, but Annie didn't believe her and sent her away. She knows if she pursues the case it could cost her her career. Brass recalls their old colleague, Mike O'Toole, a good vice cop who went bad. Brass also says the man was responsible for breaking up his marriage. Annie had thought her affair with Brass was what did it, but he shakes his head. He confesses that Ellie is not his child--she's Mike's. Annie says regardless of Ellie's parentage, it's Brass who has been a father to her. Before leaving town, Brass stops by Ellie's apartment and leaves a small gift and a rehab center card with this promise written on it: "When you're ready, I'll make it happen. Love, Dad."

Analysis:

It's the sign of a good show when one or two of the show's characters can carry an entire episode. It's the sign of a great show when it works. After all, Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows are considered the anchors of the show. As the show's detective character, Jim Brass is more often than not in the background, usually showing up, like his counterparts Tripp on Miami and Flack on New York, to arrest a suspect or interrogate a suspect. To place the responsibility of carrying an episode is both a risky and wise move.

Allow me to praise Paul Guilfoyle for a moment. His character is in an untenable position. He's just learned the child he obviously adores and yet is estranged from is walking the streets, hanging out with drug dealers and having unprotected sex. It's enough to make any parent scream and rage. And yet Guilfoyle doesn't do that--his disappointment and worry comes out in a much more straightforward manner. With more chagrin in his voice than anger he tells Ellie in no uncertain terms that she's throwing her life away. And in the end, rather than confront the daughter who has spent the entire episode running away from him, he leaves her the small gift he bought for her with a peace offering of help for when she's ready.

All this is made more poignant by the knowledge that comes at the end of the episode that Ellie is not in fact his biological daughter. It's clear that doesn't matter to Brass--she's his child no matter whose DNA she has. It's a heartening message after the grim one in Miami's "Identity", where the father threw his son to the wolves after learning he wasn't actually the young man's biological parent (to be fair, the young man in question was bad to the bone and a killer to boot). As his behavior does throughout the episode when dealing with Ellie, it speaks to Brass's character: his love for her trumps everything, even his job in Las Vegas.

It is no great revelation at the end of the episode when Annie and Brass make mention of their affair. Donna Murphy and Guilfoyle share an easy, familiar chemistry. They're clearly not just former co-workers. Murphy's Annie Kramer is a good counterpart for Brass--whereas he tends to be understated, she's much more aggressive. She doesn't hold back, whether she's questioning strung out Ronnie or slimy Todd Piccone. Though at the end of the episode she's agonizing over what to do with the case, given her character throughout, it's clear she'll do the right thing. Perhaps if she does end up losing her position at the LAPD, she can head to Vegas. She and Brass make a great team.

The episode is not without flaws. There are a few key things left unexplained: was Piccone's car ever really carjacked? Are we to assume he and Patterson staged that? And what about the bullets fired into the trunk? They are left unexplained and ultimately only serve to give the CSIs something to compare Patterson's gun to. I don't know if I've just been watching too much CSI, but I knew Patterson was guilty the minute I saw his campaign sign in front of Todd Piccone's house. My suspicion was cemented as soon as Patterson showed up as the fourth person at the judge's dinner table.

Despite its flaws, the heart of the episode is Brass's relationship with his daughter and this is what makes it a superior outing. Lesser writers would have attempted to patch up Brass's relationship with Ellie, but Carol Mendelsohn and Sarah Goldfinger aren't interested in wrapping up Brass's personal problems in a neat little package in the space of a few days. Brass's act of leaving the small gift--a mug with various nick-nacks in it--is symbolic of his willingness to be patient and wait for a reconciliation with Ellie and his faith that that reconciliation will indeed take place.

The rift between them is clearly a deep one. Though there are few direct references, Ellie makes mention of both the fact that Brass wasn't around for her as a child and also that he was overprotective even in his absence. Her current situation can be read as an act of rebellion--her father's job is to uphold the law, hers violates it, but it probably goes deeper than that. The presence of Ronnie in her apartment suggests she is doing drugs, though she displays none of the symptoms of a meth user (if Miami is a benchmark for judging what one is like). But she's clearly a deeply angry young woman, and Brass is wise not to push her too far. One can hope at some point in the future, we'll see a reconciliation between the two. For now, the way it was left feels like the only natural conclusion.

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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