Las Vegas as the sun goes down -- just your typical panoramic shots of the Strip in its amoral splendor. The scene shifts abruptly to another kind of hell on earth -- the locker-lined stretch of a high school hallway. A bell of some sort rings, and a bunch of teenaged boys walk out. One boy bids his little friends goodbye, then proceeds to earn himself a month's worth of detention by whipping out a can of spray-paint and writing "stick" on someone's locker. I suppose that's some sort of pejorative among the under-18s? Anyway, loud rock music plays, the better to confirm our opinion that this boy is up to no good. And, since spray-painting a locker takes a lot out of a growing boy, the kid saunters into the boys' room. Once inside, he checks his hairline in the mirror, then hears a noise. Suddenly, the mirror to his right explodes; he starts, and moves to duck, but he's too slow and five gunshots pepper his back. I heroically delete my joke about harsh penalties for graffiti at Las Vegas High, and move on to note that the kid died mere inches from a urinal.
Cut to Captain Exposition, filling Gil in on what's going on: "Barry Schickel. Wallet's still on him -- with cash. A student. Recently voted class clown." Gil looks troubled by this. "Strange. People aren't usually scared of class clowns," he says. Brass calls him on the fear assessment, and Gil notes that Schickel was shot in the back. "With his zipper down and his hands otherwise engaged." "Yeah, we're looking for a coward," Gil confirms. On that note, we hit the credits. The producers pass up the opportunity to swap in "Baba O'Reilly" for this special high-school episode.
Catherine and Warrick enter the high school -- which is, of course, now swarming with crime-scene personnel -- and head down to the vandalized locker. A janitor is scrubbing industriously; Catherine puts a stop to that toute suite. After Catherine sends the janitor scurrying home to mama, Warrick comments, "I bet you were like that in high school." "Worse," Catherine confirms briskly. "Oooh. You were the girl I ran away from," he continues. "'Til you caught me," Catherine ripostes. They have a good laugh; I wonder idly if Catherine's name was on a bathroom stall in high school. Meanwhile, Brass is interrogating the poor man's Ron Silver; apparently, Schickel was a member of the football team and was just coming out of practice. Given that he was seen coming out of a classroom, I'm wondering if perhaps this was fantasy football practice where he and his little friends could sit around and pore over stats. But whatever. Brass inquires as to whether it's school policy to let the kids go to the bathroom after practice; the Beleaguered Authority Figure he's quizzing admits it is. As BAF rambles on about why the school's not in lockdown, Gil is inspecting the point of impact on the mirror. He digs out a bullet casing and sing-songs, "Brass." BFA explodes: "Excuse me -- one of my students is dead! Are we interrupting you?" Gil gives him the same mildly annoyed look a cat gives a spider and says mildly, "Yeah." BFA storms out, at a loss for rebuttal. Brass makes a crack about the nerd squad, then proceeds to head out for a round of investigation, Brass-style.
Meanwhile, a helicopter is roaring over the desert plains. The pilot broadcasts, "We have a visual, baker-one; stand by for eastern approach," and we see Sara all dolled up in a helmet, safety goggles, and a flight suit. The helicopter hovers, and I feel a digression coming on. Flash to Nicky, grinning like a kid at Christmas, in the same gear. "You're good to go," says some anonymous flight guy, and Nicky says, "Okay. He's good to go. Let's get down there!" He turns to Sara and asks, "Ready?" "I'll race you!" she screams back over the whir of the copter blades. And then they rappel down as my digression gathers force and explodes: I hate copters. I hate when shows that are typically focused on character-driven storylines (ER, Homicide: Life on the Street) resort to bringing in choppers. It feels cheap, as if someone, somewhere, didn't trust their own ability to tell a compelling story without bringing in loud toys. If you're watching MASH, where helicopters are used to impart that hey, heavy stuff frequently drops out of nowhere so deal -- fine. If you're a young Turk in an urban police department -- no. What's next: Warrick scuba-diving his way to some evidence? Gil bungeeing down to pick up a clue in a crevasse somewhere?