By Jay Conaty
The good news is CSI is back. The better news is it’s still true to form. Maybe even better.
We are of course talking about CBS’ latest franchise spin-off CSI: Vegas, a limited series comprised of 10 part-serialized episodes that reunite some of our favorite lab sleuths in the case of their lives.
Along with the return of fan favorites Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox), Gil Grissom (William Petersen), Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle), and David Hodges (Wallace Langham), we meet those to whom the torch was passed after Gil and Sara rode off into the sunset when CSI hung up its sleuthing cap back in 2015.
The new guard comes in the form of Maxine Roby (Paula Newsome), the new head of the Las Vegas Crime Lab, and her CSI team Josh Folsom (Matt Lauria), Allie Rajan (Mandeep Dhillon), Chris Park (Jay Lee) and Hugo Ramirez (Mel Rodriguez), all capable and thorough experts as we soon discover. The lab is in good hands, guys.
The action kicks off with an unexpected attack on Jim Brass, who we learn has a degenerative corneal disease which has rendered him partially blind. Jim is still savy enough to put two bullets into his determined knife attacker, who subsequently bleeds out on the floor before he has the opportunity to be more forthcoming about his motives. However, when Maxine’s team attend the scene, they discover the would-be assassin has some old but pristine bank bills in his pocket, all with sequential numbering. An upfront payout for a job well done?
To Brass’ mind this looks like payment for a hit from an old case involving “Lucky” a kidnapper who managed to wrangle vast sums of money (all in sequentially numbered bills) for the return of 3 women, back in the day. However, when Brass set a trap in motion to finally capture Lucky, he escaped without his final payout, but also with the last woman he abducted in tow. The case, and the fate of that kidnap victim, has haunted Brass ever since, and he wonders if Lucky feels the same way?
Enter Sara, who Brass confides he trusts to get to the bottom of this personal vendetta over these newbies and their newfangled technology, and their down to earth way of doing things, and their fancy new lab, amirite? Sara is initially horrified to be called in to oversee operations, but she quickly observes that Maxine and her team are very much the real deal.
Maxine and Sarah are united in purpose when a cardboard box delivered to Maxine’s office is found to contain a desiccated human head (why is it always a head?) along with a note “Jim Brass is Just the Beginning”.
While Maxine’s team work the case of the week, Sara and Maxine identify the human remains as those of Lucky’s last kidnap victim. It appears Jim Brass was right. Or was he?
The case takes a surprising turn when DNA evidence (fancy shiny new tech!), turns fingerprints from the scene of a new kidnapping, along with some more crisp bills, and a suspect typewriter to point, not to Lucky, who we learn died behind bars two years ago, but an old cellmate of his, who also happens to be a recently paroled rapist.
Is this a case of Lucky orchestrating a posthumous revenge plot? Paying sociopaths from his secret stash to exact revenge on his behalf? It certainly seems that way … for about a hot minute.
Following Lucky’s detailed instructions about where to find a cash payout and how to deliver the head of his victim to the LVPD, our CSI team is tipped off about a storage unit “where they do it.”
Racing to the unit the gang discover they have been played. Or rather Sara does. The unit has been rented out by one David Hodges, beloved lab tech. It appears Hodges has created his very own lab from lab where he has been working diligently to stage and alter the results of a number of CSI cases over time. Evidence of tampering is rife, and Hodges fingerprints are on everything.
Things look bad. Like bad bad. And not just for Hodges. But the whole lab.
As the first lawsuits come rolling in from the lawyers of criminals our CSIs have helped put away over the years (class lawsuits are mentioned!) Sara and Brass acknowledge the final number could be in the thousands, and that every case Hodges worked on is now open for reappraisal.
We didn’t come all the way to Vegas to sit on the sidelines,” a frustrated Brass tells Sara. “What do we do now?”
Camera pan to Gil Grissom, seen for the first time in the premiere.
“What we always do Jim. Follow the evidence,” says Gil.
Cut to credits. Now that’s what I call a well executed season opener.
The pilot episode does an incredible amount of heavy lifting, while making the introduction of several new characters, the reintroduction of the core CSI team (for those who may have not seen the original series which ran from 2000 to 2015), the creation of a main serialized storyline that spans some of CSI’s most notable previous cases, AND the tossing in a case of the week, all seem effortless.
Fans of the original series will surely be charmed and intrigued in equal measure by what the next 9 hours have in store.
While some reboots just don’t work, CSI: Vegas feels like a well oiled storytelling machine that could well run beyond its initial 10 episode storyline if ratings and writing remain solid over its run this fall.
As Maxine says: when most people win, they keep playing.
CSI: Vegas airs Wednesdays, (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS.
Follow @TVPulse Magazine for more CSI: Vegas scoop this fall.