The CSI Trilogy: Las Vegas

This episode opens in a security office, as cameras show a woman frantically trying to escape from someone. You’d think that she was safe once she reached the elevator, but no, after a group of drunks get on with her and press all the buttons, she flees to the stairs rather than waiting around. I don’t know, unless there’s a bomb about to go off, it seems like that’s a pretty safe place to be.

The fleeing girl heads for the lobby and then runs out the front door, putting on her shoes and then being attacked by a woman who stays just out of frame so as to prevent us from being able to identify anything but her long dark wavy hair.

Also she seems to be wearing a dress and carrying a purse. But it’s not on the camera, so the cops don’t know anything yet. The hooker is dead on the ground with her throat slashed, but the CSIs can’t start investigating because they don’t know where Larry Fishburne is. I thought there was a rest of the team, but whatever.

So where’s Larry? He’s randomly walking down the strip, showing people pictures of Maddy, hoping that one of them will have seen her. Yes. They will have seen the woman who’s being held as a slave by a cabal of evil truckers. Because they’d risk having someone who’s acting as a surrogate mother working the street for a few extra dollars.

No, wait, I’m wrong. It seems that she was kicked out of a hotel for soliciting in Vegas, and that’s how Larry knew she was there.

Seriously? There had better be a good explanation as to why she didn’t just call for help. Because ten days ago (this is set ten days after CSINY) she crashed a truck to try and escape.

Nick picks Larry up and takes him to the crime scene, where they discover that she was killed with a razor, and that she’s a famous meteorologist from out of town! So what was she doing working as a prostitute in Vegas? Or was she? Find out after the credits!

Rather disturbingly she was, in addition to the neck wound, utterly coated in bruises that had been covered with makeup. She’d also received threatening phone calls from a producer on her news show that she’d been sleeping with.

Is this going to be one of those situations where, ironically, another prostitute had mistaken the victim for a semi-pro moving in on her turf and then murdered her? God, I hope it’s not an ironic result.

The boyfriend, in addition to being suspected of the murder, offers some decent information – the victim had gotten a tattoo recently, but she hated tattoos. More confusingly, the blood on the victim’s earring turns out to have been Maddy’s. Huh?

It seems that the tattoo was associated with prostitutes, meaning that it’s possible Maddy and the victim (who had a successful job as a weathergirl, remember) were both working for the same pimp. So here might they find that pimp? At a ‘playa’s party’, where a DJ has assembled a bunch of pimps and their girls.

Um, I’ve heard these things actually exist, which leads me to a question – why hasn’t someone locked all the doors from the outside and burned the place down?

Would it be sad if the prostitutes died in the blaze? Of course it would. But you’ve got to ask yourself – is there any price not worth paying to rid the world of a pimp, nature’s most deplorable criminal?

Anyhoo, one of the pimps they walk by and don’t talk to is played by Badger from Firefly, so I’m guessing he’s the one working with the Zeta Street Kids.

The team pulls in one of the hookers by testing some of her money for cocaine, then arresting her for drug possession. She, of course, is stupid enough not to know that all hundred dollar bills have a little coke on them, and she can’t be charged with anything, so she goes along with them.

Meanwhile back at the lab Larry is talking to Maddy’s mother, who’s played by the ghost of Lee Garlington:

They do the standard bit of wondering why Maddy didn’t call when she was thrown out of that hotel by the cops – which is an incredibly good question, BTW.

They follow the bailed-out hooker to her pimp’s house, and it turns out to not be Badger, but rather some black guy. I don’t know, I’m sticking to my theory. A background check indicates that the black guy is the son of a long-time whore, who groomed her child to grow up to become a successful pimp. They get a warrant to search the place after they see he’s wearing one of Maddy’s earrings – could she be in the house? Nope. But the jailed whore has been brutally beaten, so he’s going away for a while, hopefully.

Also in the house is a bloody mattress, along with some blood-soaked weapons and a fireplace that contains some cash and the meteorologist’s wallet. So this was definitely his thing, I guess, and my Badger theory goes right out the window. The pimp claims to have an alibi for the victim’s death, but admits that Maddy was at the house at some recent time in the past. He insists that she didn’t work for him, though, and claims she left the earring there voluntarily. The beaten whore goes through the standard refusal to tell on her pimp, and drops the information that she used to work for a Russian. They check her ‘branding tattoo’, and see that her former slavemaster used a butterfly logo. Could it be Badger’s?

Okay, at this point the story is falling apart. They check the bloody mattress, and discover that Maddy had a miscarriage, and that’s what caused all the blood. How do they know this? Because it was her own child that she miscarried. Their working theory is that, after buying Maddy from the slavers, pimp discovered that she was pregnant and beat her into a miscarriage as punishment.

Where to start? We were told, quite explicitly, by CSINY (which looks like a Polish word, come to think of it) that a common practice among the slavers is that they use the girls as surrogate mothers before selling them for parts. They went into exceptional detail about the fact that it was the trucker’s job to keep her alive and relatively healthy until they arrived at their holding location. So why would the child have been hers?

More to the point, we’re told the price of buying a person – ten thousand dollars. Yeah, I’m not naïve enough to think that people are exceptionally valuable, but this is an organisation that slaughters people left and right, then kidnaps ordinary young women and drives them across the country before dicing them up for parts. There’s no way they would sell one for just ten thousand dollars.

More to the point, why would the pimp buy one when he could just recruit somebody? Isn’t Vegas a big market for desperate mid-western women who need money to support their drug habits?

And, seriously, what happened to the Zetas, and their nation-spanning supercrime ring? Why am I now watching the team go to interview Badger at his day job over at LVU? If, by LVU, you mean that LA-area university that every show films at.

Badger, with an unconvincing Russian accent, naturally pleads innocence, but starts to freak out when he sees them investigating his car. There had been stories of him planting people in the ground, so they investigate the dirt. And guess what? It’s just as radioactive as the salt flats dirt that they found on the body from CSI Miami! You know, I’d hoped that Horatio would make it to Las Vegas, but I think this single shout-out is as good as it’s going to get.

While the team takes apart Badger’s car and finds a drop of blood, Catherine scours the surveillance tapes from the hotel bar before the victim was murdered, looking for evidence that he was there just before the murder. He wasn’t, but you know who was? The beaten whore! That can’t be a coincidence, can it?

Nope. They search it and find the victim’s blood. So they solved the case because the woman that they completely randomly chose to roust from the playa’s ball turned out to the be killer.

Yup. Utter coincidence solved the crime.

Let's say they'd solved the case by writing the names of ever single person who lives in Las Vegas on slips of paper, putting them into a (very big) hat, and pulling one out. Yes, picking a name out of the phone book and having that person turn out to be the killer would be a difference of degrees, rather than a conceptual one.

So, are we ready for the story of how the meteorologist wound up in that situation? It’s a stupid one!

After being left by her boyfriend in Vegas she (unbelievably stupidly) accepted a ride from pimp and beaten whore. Yes, she got into a car with strangers rather than taking a cab. This led to days of rape and vicious beatings, until she got it into her head to pretend to go along with the whole ‘being a whore’ scheme. Then when she got to the hotel she planned to escape, and ran outside, which is where the beaten whore attacked her for trying to leave the pimp.

Which raises the question – why did she run off? She was in a public place, surrounded by strangers. The only person who could prove a threat to her was the beaten whore, and she was safe as long as she remained inside. Why not just call the police, or really anyone at all for that matter? She’d been kidnapped, raped, and assaulted, and was neither a whore nor a drug user, in point of fact, she was a local celebrity in a nearby city who was no doubt already considered missing. All she had to do was call the police. And she didn’t because…

You guessed it… terrible writing. I knew there was a reason I stopped watching CSI. Awful writing without any of Miami’s unintentional humour.

The rest of the team heads out to the salt flats – there was Maddy’s blood in the SUV, and they’re looking for her body. They don’t find it, but they do come across a number of other corpses, each buried just six inches below the surface. When confronted with his DNA evidence left on one of the bodies Badger finally confesses, and agrees to turn on the Zeta syndicate. According to the brief E-mails that Larry receives from Horatio and Sinise it seems that Badger’s information they were able to destroy the entire slavery operation in one night, discreetly off-camera.

Badger also has a line on Maddy. He claims that pimp had turned her over to him a few days earlier, and he’d let her go. So why hadn’t she gone home to Miami? Apparently because she felt guilty about being a victim of slavery. Larry puts the word out to all the whores in LV that Maddy’s mother wants her back, irregardless of her status as a ‘fallen women’, and the word gets to Maddy.

Happy ending! Score!

Except that this was an incredibly poor excuse for a ‘trilogy’. The plots didn’t mesh up at all. In any story like this you should be ramping up the tension right up until the end – in the first episode Horatio dealt with some evil pimps and butchers, and let us discover that the Zeta syndicate had a mysterious ‘fixer’ who picked up bodies and disposed of them in another state to make them harder to identify. Maddy made her first appearance, as the drugged-out hostage of a scummy guy.

In the CSINY episode the stakes were raised much higher, as we learned that the syndicate, in addition to running slaves across the country also regularly cut them to pieces in order to sell the parts to the highest bidder. Through the character played by the man who killed Brandon Lee, we were also shown that the syndicate was kept safe by the fact that no one knew anyone else’s names, and that the truckers didn’t know who they were picking people up from or delivering to, so that even if someone were caught they wouldn’t be able to give any information against the group. Maddy was more key this time, when we learned that she was pregnant, presumably being used as a surrogate mother for someone paying a lot of money to the slavers. See how the syndicate is now a bigger, scarier organization than the one introduced in Miami? Raising the stakes. Was the man who killed Brandon Lee the ‘fixer’ who moved body parts, or was he still out there? Also, truckers rolling around the country with girls tied up in the back – scary. The man who killed Brandon Lee murdered at least twenty – and those are just the ones whose prints they could identify!

Then the CSI episode drained every bit of threat out of the enterprise. The episode featured no truckers, no syndicate, and no mention of a ‘fixer’. Instead it revolved around the entirely parochial concerns of a group of pimps working the strip. And seriously, who cares about them? So what happened to the syndicate, which was so terrifying and compartmentalized that no one knew enough to stop it, and if they did they’d have been killed instantly? Yeah, it seems that some random pimp had enough information on them that it could be rolled up over the course of two text messages. And now Maddy was just back to being a slave forced into prostitution, who, after all that talk of truckers and organ theft and forced pregnancy, was just let go by the same part-time pimp who knew everything about the organisation.

Yes, let’s be clear on this – the whole organisation was brought down because Badger was stupid enough to put the location where he buried his victims into his car’s GPS system.

Here’s a tip, CSI writers – if you’re graphing the threat level over the course of a three parter, it should look kind of like the first hill of a roller-coaster. Increasing stakes until they reach a fevered peak, and then a sudden drop to wrap things up. You did that, except you made one mistake – the sudden drop in stakes occurred at the beginning of the third part, rather than the end, where it should have been.

Other than that you were close, though.

Also, there was literally nothing for the lab people to do this week. And I love those guys.

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