CSI
Gentle, Gentle

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Sobell: B- | Grade It Now!
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Hello, Dolly

We're just going to skip over the desultory Vegas-at-night-shots. You know they're there, I know they're there; let us never speak of them again.

The episode opens at night, starting with an exterior shot of a stately colonial McMansion. This is the type of place where the occupants probably have at least one kid named after a county in Ireland, a leased BMW in the garage, and the sort of subconscious suburban anhedonia that spawns movies like American Beauty. Or I could be reading too much into one pristine exterior shot. Anyway, the camera pulls in to guide the viewer through a house that's one part Pottery Barn, one part Restoration Hardware, and eight parts Martha Stewart Living. Oh, crap -- we're in for an hour of Dark Family Secrets, if the usual signs and portents are correct. Remember, readers: the neater the house, the more dysfunctional the occupants. It's all ironic, see?

Anyway, we end up in the master bedroom, where a woman flings back her flax-and-cream linen comforter and sits up, face screaming nameless dread. Perhaps she was awakened by the ominous background music. She leaps out of bed and races down the hall to a baby's nursery; we see a shot of the crib through the doorway, and the window facing the crib is open with the curtains blowing menacingly. I roll my eyes at the heavy-handed symbolism of it all, then decide that I should probably cool the skeptical expressions; it's only 9:02, the credits haven't rolled yet, and I've got another fifty-eight minutes of show to get through.

So, the woman barrels on through the doorway, heading for the crib while making little panicky noises. She rips apart the eight hundred yards of bedding in crib. Doesn't excessive bedding constitute some sort of hazard for an infant? It's not like they're capable of flinging off a comforter if it drifts over their faces. This woman's not going to be worrying about asphyxiation yet; the crib holds no baby. It does, however, have a neatly-typed ransom note. Mom lets the note flutter from her frozen fingers and heads over to the window, mouth working in silent panic. She looks down at the ladder propped next to the window and screams, "No!" over and over while the camera pulls back.

Cue the husband, who runs in looking mildly alarmed. Either he's not too bright, or the prospect of his wife standing in a nursery and screaming doesn't raise the proper alarm bells. He walks over to the empty crib and picks up the note; the expression on his face practically says, "I don't get it. Someone traded our baby for a letter?"

In the next scene, Gil is threading his way through the inevitable gross of law-enforcement vehicles that precede his arrival. Just as he walks through the front door, Mom flings herself into her dim husband's arms. Gil awkwardly introduces himself, and she says, "Please help us." "I'll certainly try," Gil says in a rare moment of actual human empathy. He looks over at Dimbulb Dad and asks, "Is that the ransom note?" "Yeah. They don't even tell us how much money they want. They just tell us they're going to call in six hours," Dimbulb Dad replies. Gil reaches over and takes the note; it reads, "I have your son. I don't want to harm him. Don't make me. I'll call in six hours with instructions. I advise you not to call the police." Okay, so Mom and Dimbulb Dad aren't so good with instructions, if the eight hundred police cars out front are any indication. Let's hope that kidnapper talks slow when he calls. Dimbulb Dad asks why Gil, who is investigating the kidnapping, might want to actually see the ransom note. Gil patiently answers, "Because the last person who touched this note is the person who has your son. And he's just left us the first piece of the puzzle."

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