May 16, 2013



As of this week, there’s just one CSI left standing on CBS, and after 13 years, it’s the original recipe.  Having survived the bump in its creative road a couple of seasons ago when the misguided hire of Laurence Fishburne was repaired with the arrivals of Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue, the show has consistently won its hour in the ratings all season (beating Chicago Fire and Nashville, neither of them negligible competition), and appears ready to go on for years to come.

As a virtually pure procedural, CSI has little use for continuing storylines.  The closest thing to one this season was about Hodges (Wallace Langham) and his mysteriously gorgeous Italian fiance (Catrinel Marlon), a story that kept feeling like it was heading to a punchline that never arrived.  There was also the (mostly off-screen) revelation that Sara’s (Jorja Fox) marriage to Gil Grissom (original star William J. Petersen) had ended.  For most shows, that would have meant subplots about Sara’s entrance into the dating pool, but on CSI it was little more than background static.

This being a season finale, though, the guest star presences were amped up, with Eric Roberts, Annabella Sciorra and Tim Matheson making appearances (not to mention Ozzie Osbourne and the rest of Black Sabbath, who have a new CD out).  In addition, the episode’s crime put daughters of two series regulars in cliffhangered danger.  The script, by Executive Producer Don McGill and Co-Producer Christopher Barbour (directed by Alec Smight) presented a serial killer who was murdering people in homage to Dante’s circles of hell, the 10 commandments and mortal sins (even one of the CSI team said they’d already seen this movie).  Roberts was the lead suspect, a street minister who turned out also to be a pimp.  But the murderer certainly seems to be Matheson, who was introduced only in the last act and will presumably return for next season’s premiere.  Morgan (Elisabeth Harnois), daughter of now-sheriff Eckle (Marc Vann), went undercover as a prostitute to catch Matheson and was abducted at the end of the episode, and the killer also had the long-lost drug addict daughter of Detective Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) in his clutches.  The latter meant the return of Sciorra, who plays Brass’s ex-wife, in from New Jersey.  (About 30 seconds of personal conversation marked this reunion.)

Those aspects aside, the episode was typical CSI, with examination of hidden spiders and lockets inserted in human tissue and crime scenes elaborately staged to send a message.  CSI paces all of this very well, clearly and yet quickly, with exposition delivered either on the run or over a corpse or microscope, interspersed with montages of the actors scrutinizing computer screens and measuring instruments as though they know what they’re doing.

As accomplished as CSI is, it remains something of a shame to see Danson and Shue operating at about one-third of their talents in a series that’s all craft, no art.  But a paycheck is a paycheck, and this one is about as safe as they come.  Maybe this is the CBS show that should have the title “Survivor.”


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."