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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Weeping Willows'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at August 5, 2005 - 9:00 PM GMT

See Also: 'Weeping Willows' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

After a long day at work, Catherine Willows heads out to a local bar, the Highball, for a little relaxation. She meets a handsome stranger there and begins flirting with him. When she gets ready to leave, he writes his number on a matchbook for her and walks her out to her car. But when she resists going further than kissing, he gets angry with her and pushes her into her car door. She pushes him away and leaves, going home to sleep. Later she woken by a phone call from Grissom and leaves her daughter in the care of her mother.

When Catherine arrives at the scene, Grissom and Detective Vartann are standing over the body of Alice Granger, who is lying dead by her apartment building, her face covered by a coat, no purse or car in sight. David Phillips determines that she was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head. Catherine is shocked when Alice's car is found at the Highball, the very bar Catherine left hours before. Catherine finds a .22 Beretta in the car before going into the bar with Vartann to ask the bartender about Alice. The bartender tells them that she called Alice a cab when she was too drunk to drive home, and much to Catherine's gratitude, makes no mention of seeing Catherine in the bar earlier. At the morgue, Dr. Robbins pulls the bullet from Alice's head wound and hands it to Grissom, who notes that it's from a .25 caliber gun, not a .22. Robbins also notes that Alice was hit at close range, and points out scrapes on her knees that indicate she was probably kneeling when she was shot.

Elsewhere in the lab, Catherine goes over Alice's clothes and finds some particulate on her jacket, which she sends to be analyzed. Sara finds a matchbook with a phone number on it, prompting Catherine to make an excuse to rush home to look for the matchbook the man in the bar gave her. While she's looking through her trash, her mother takes her to task for neglecting Lindsay. Catherine isn't able to find the matchbook. Back at the lab, Hodges has identified the substance on Alice's clothes as metals from automotive sheet metal. Alice did work at a car dealership. Greg identifies the murder weapon as a .25 Winchester, confirming that the gun in Alice's car is not the murder weapon. The gun in the car is registered to her brother Douglas, who tells the CSIs he gave his sister the gun after her ex-boyfriend, Jeff Simon, began stalking her.

Catherine and Vartann go to the auto shop where Jeff works to question him. He claims he hasn't seen Alice since she got a restraining order against him. They ask to see his truck, and he says fine, but asks them to tell Alice that he still loves her. When they tell him she's dead, he sits in shock. In his truck, Catherine finds a laptop computer with a GPS unit on it. When Grissom finds a tracker on Alice's car, Jeff is arrested. Jeff admits to being at the bar the night Alice was killed, but he claims he was trying to look out for her, and was following her to help her. He saw her get into a car with a man, but got pulled over while following them, He says he didn't protect her from the man who was with her, whom he describes as being slight, sleazy, dark-haired and wearing a leather jacket--just like the man Catherine flirted with. Mia has run the DNA from the case, but it has become contaminated with DNA from another case. Greg tells Catherine Jeff's alibi checked out; he was indeed pulled over that night. Sara tells Catherine that the man who wrote the phone number on the matchbook has been located and is on his way in.

Sure enough, the suspect turns out to be the man Catherine kissed in the parking lot, a lawyer named Adam Novak. Grissom and Vartann question him, and he admits to buying Alice a drink after he bought a redhead a drink, and as soon as he spots Catherine, he identifies her as the redhead. While Novak recounts his night at the bar, Grissom and Catherine watch from behind the glass. Grissom asks her about the bruise on her face and Catherine tells him it was an accident. In the interrogation room, Novak maintains his innocence and leaves to get a lawyer. Catherine details her encounter with Novak for Ecklie, who all but asks her directly if she had sex with the man. She says she didn't and notes that he went back into the bar. She theorizes that he may have picked up Alice after he returned to the Highball.

Warrick calls Catherine out on another case. Thirty-one-year-old Holly Pearson has been found dead near her house, a jacket over her face. Like Alice, she, too, was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head. Catherine sees two sets of shoe prints and theorizes that Holly was attacked near her house and ran for her life. Catherine also finds a courthouse keycard for the parking garage. When the CSIs question Holly's co-workers, they learn the keycard was not Holly's, but that they were at the Highball the night Holly was killed, celebrating her promotion. Holly took a cab home from the bar. When the CSIs show Holly's co-workers a picture of Adam Novak they recognize him from the bar that night, and note that they didn't see him again after Holly left. In the morgue, Dr. Robbins tells Catherine that Holly was killed by a .25 caliber bullet, just as Alice was. He also found some surface tissue from a human tongue in her stomach. Nick confirms that the bullets are on the same gun, and Warrick traces the keycard to Adam Novak.

Catherine is stunned when she returns home and finds Adam Novak talking to her mother and Lindsey. She dials 911 on her cell and leaves it in her car, getting out to confront Novak. She sends her mother and her daughter inside and Novak accuses her of trying to set him up. When he moves toward Catherine, she pulls her gun on him. The police pull up as he swears at her. Novak is arrested. At the station, Grissom photographs Novak's tongue and notices a discoloration on the top of it. With his lawyer present, Novak tells Grissom that he drove Alice home, had sex with her in his car, and left her alive at her apartment building. He admits that he came onto Holly and that she rebuffed his advances, but insists it didn't go further than that. Grissom asks about his keycard to the courthouse, and Adam swears it's still in his card. Nick finds no sign of the keycard in Novak's car, but he does find evidence that it's been broken into.

The prints on the door that was broken into match Jeff Simon, Alice's ex-boyfriend. Catherine lays out the case: Jeff got angry when he followed Alice and caught her having sex in her car with Adam and killed her after Adam pulled away. The next night, Jeff saw Adam at the Highball hitting on Holly and came up with a plan. He broke into Adam's car and stole his keycard, then followed Holly home and killed her, leaving the keycard behind to frame Adam. Afterwards, Catherine defends her encounter with Novak to Grissom, saying she just went out after work for a little human contact. Grissom counters that this is why he doesn't go out.

Analysis:

I had high hopes for "Weeping Willows." I like glimpses into the characters' private lives; it's nice to be reminded every so often that they do more than gather samples and examine evidence. Well, except for Gil Grissom apparently, but more on that later. It makes the characters seem more real when we see them living life outside the lab.

So why are they always punished for it? On CSI in particular, the characters' private lives always seem to be in shambles. Warrick's gambling was an addiction, Brass is estranged from his troubled daughter, Nick made an early unfortunate romantic choice and Sara seems to be in a perpetual state of misery due to her unrequited love for Grissom and her sad past. But Catherine's personal life has always been the most complicated of the group's, and not in a good way. She has a penchant for choosing men who are unfaithful to her, she discovers the identity of her father just as she learns he's a murderer, and now she's being presented as an inadequate mother.

So it isn't a great surprise that Catherine goes out to blow off steam and finds herself an undesirable man. That in itself isn't troubling; any woman can go out for a night on the town and meet a man who turns out to not be the gentleman he first seems to be. But why is there an air of condemnation hanging over the whole episode like a dark cloud. The subtext is glaringly apparent, even without Grissom's judgmental condescension, there's a sense that Catherine had no business being out in a bar.

After all, Catherine has a daughter at home, and the clear implication this season has been that Catherine is not spending enough time with Lindsey. Early in the season, we saw Lindsey getting into trouble. Catherine went after the day shift supervisor position so that she could spend more time with her daughter. But Catherine didn't get the shift she wanted--in fact, in theory the shift she got would make it even harder to spend time with her daughter as the swing shift would be on duty in the afternoon when Lindsey got home from school and late into the evening, and presumably Catherine might not get home until Lindsey was already asleep. But short of turning down the promotion, that hardly seems to be something Catherine can help.

Still, she's clearly being taken to task by her mother for not being around to spend time with Lindsey. Her mother of course chooses to confront Catherine with this in the middle of the day, while Catherine is working on a case. I'm not sure what we're supposed to get from this scene, or the earlier one where her mother expresses surprise that Catherine is going into work in the middle of the night. Are we supposed to think that Catherine works too hard? That she's a bad mother who shows no interest in changing? I have a feeling about where this is all going, by the way. Around the time Grissom gets his "guys" back, Catherine is going to realize being a shift supervisor is leaving her with no time for her daughter, and ask to be demoted back to the night shift.

But back to the present--what exactly are we supposed to conclude about Catherine's choices in this episode? It's clear what Grissom thinks from the minute he finds out Catherine spent some quality time with one of the prime suspects in their case. Now, I love Grissom. I think he's a quirky, strange, funny man and I think the life of a hermit fits him. But where does that give him the right to judge Catherine? But that's not the real problem; it's that writer Areanne Lloyd seems to agree with him. Grissom is given the last word; Catherine (and the viewer) is left in his wake to ponder, if indeed, not going out at all (and thereby shunning social contact) is the only safe way of life for a CSI. How realistic or healthy is that?

Unsettling message aside, the episode itself was entertaining, and Adam Novak was a convincing red herring. Alan Rosenberg (Marg Helgenberger's husband) portrays Novak as a convincing sleaze with not enough respect for women, and at the moment Catherine pulled up to her house and caught him talking to her mother and daughter, I was fairly well convinced that he may in fact be guilty. Kudos to Shawn Hatosy for making his reaction to Catherine's news that Alice is dead so believable that I didn't suspect him at all. I thought it might have been Channon Roe's creepily intense Douglas, Alice's brother.

Helgenberger does a fantastic job with the material; she conveys Catherine's conflicted feelings and struggles with the case masterfully. The episode is truly hers; this is more of a glimpse of 'a day in the life of' than we've gotten for any other character, at least this season. But does it do her justice? I'm not certain it does. Her relationship with her daughter remains strained and in trouble; the sole purpose behind the presence of Catherine's mother in the episode seems to be only to underscore Catherine's failings as a mother. And I'd be surprised if I'm the only one disturbed by the message that a woman going out to enjoy herself after a hard day at work is just looking for trouble.

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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