CSI 11.11 – Man Up

Nick pays off Greg

Worth $100?

One of the truly great things about Las Vegas (in myth, and to an extent, in reality) is its invitation to let it rip. “Sin City” beckons, and we can’t resist. “C’mon. Go for it!” This license is still one of the most compelling aspects driving CSI, enabling hapless characters to embroil themselves in all manner of ostensibly “bad” behavior. When the fatal “bad” decision crystallizes years of frustration and inadequacy, as has been the case many times throughout the series (including already this season), the moment, and consequences, are even more intriguing.

Such is the case for this episode, a mid-season trifle, but a pretty tasty one nonetheless. While the broad threads of the A-plot have certainly been seen time and again on CSI (guys from out of town go a little wild, local sex worker ends up dead), as I indicate above, I never tire of this plot. And here we get an oddly arch treatment of the whole endeavor. Not comic, per se, but faintly ironic. The whole thing starts from a level of detachment, with Greg, Hodges, Mandy and Nick at the lab, debating whether or not a “body” appearing in a photo on sleazy Vegas true crime website is real or not, with all the zeal of discussing a mildly entertaining YouTube video. Nick and Greg have a $100 bet over this, and it sets off the whole investigation; they wouldn’t have even discovered the body otherwise.Throughout the episode, Nick, Greg and Brass have seen this all before, and although they’re never outright dismissive, they pursue the case with a detached bemusement. Seeming far from his usual empathy, Nick basically shrugs and nods at the killer’s confession.

That is, he lowers the stakes, further undermining the killer’s ridiculous motive (i.e., he was tired of being branded a “loser”). What really makes this work is the emptiness and joylessness of the Vegas adventure plotted by the three Chicago guys. Like all hopped-up frat boys in Vegas (even ones in their 30s, as these three are), they think they’re doing their own version of The Hangover, when really they’re just being massive pains in the ass. The casting here worked particularly well, with Rich Sommer more or less channelling a 21st century version of his Mad Men sad sack Harry Crane (gone homicidal), Kevin Weisman giving us a pathetic, hungover, “F it all” take on the lovable Marshall Flinkman (from Alias), and–swear to God it works–freakin’ Carrot Top, as himself, apparently a bored, hard-partying Vegas celeb who lets his fans drink him into a stupor in a limo and post the photos on Facebook.

As with the plot, so with the narration. Again, like the regulars, we’ve seen this all before, but director Alec Smight and the cast and crew still get a little more out of even the usual investigation montages (the sequence with the cash from the ATM was particularly well done). Accordingly, this is perhaps my favorite episode this season: far from great, but standard-issue CSI at its best.

That said, the B-plot, involving Hodges busting a couple of textbook redneck salvage yard operators, is pointless and so dull that even a spectacular head-on bus collision is wasted as an aside. It could have been plopped down anywhere this season. Appearing suitably bored, Ray just stands around letting Hodges do the heavy lifting (fair enough: every lead should have a few “mail it in” opportunities each season, I suppose). Still, Hodges, out in the field, actually gets to be Grissom-like in his final confrontation with the greasy pair.

NOTES:

Obligatory Grissom Reference: None. Hm. Maybe they’re finally moving on?

Going Off Shift: Hodges’ vintage motorcycle infatuation is apparently part of his post-Wendy crisis, which he realizes when questioning the dead biker’s ex (a Wendy lookalike), much to Ray’s embarrassment. Sara does not appear in this episode.

Morbid moment: The gore was light this week. That said, the fake murder re-enacted in an actual murder (of the same woman) a day later was a nice wrinkle.

I remember this one time…: Catherine claims to have come up with the idea for the Greek warrior costume (at one of her Dad’s casinos) when she was a kid.

CSI coverCSI

by Derek Kompare

available now from Wiley-Blackwell


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