CSI
Snakes

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The Young Turks in winter

What? No shot of the Strip at night? What manner of fever dream is this? I...I am disoriented. I don't believe this is CSI, even though we're getting a panoramic view of Las Vegas' suburban sprawl and some sand dunes thrown in for effect.

As we take in the sunlit terrain, some Spanish-language music with a pretty sharp beat is playing. This is probably not your abuelita's music. It does, however, remind me of a totally excellent video I saw on Univision, wherein a Spanish-language rap group tooled around East L.A. on tricycles, picking up chicas who rode on the back, and intimating to the viewers at home that it was indeed possible to be a menace even when reduced to transportation that caused one's knees to bob around one's ears.

In the neighborhood we see onscreen, however, the tricycle gang would be getting their handlebars shoved somewhere that handlebars aren't normally meant to go. We see a boy in the back of a truck; the song is playing from the truck. I can tell they're singing something about someone's heart, but I'm terrible with translating music. It's what makes Sabado Gigante such an intriguing TV-watching experience for me. Anyway, the kid hops out of the truck to restock a newspaper machine with a fresh bundle of tabloids (name of said tabloid: Hoy). This goes on until he opens one machine and sees a bloody, bald head resting on the stack of papers.

The music abruptly switches from the Spanish-language stuff to the "Synthesizer? No! This is the Aughties! We have better computer-generated musical montages now!" soundtrack. We see Catherine hanging out, and Vega talking to folks, and two extras picking up the machine to take it away. Then we zoom to the autopsy bay, where David the Backlit Coroner is taking the head -- the livid, bare red scalp indicates that the head did not normally traverse through life bald -- and putting it on the examining table. He inspects it. Catherine comes in to take photos, and when we get to a point where it's time to open the head's mouth, David pulls out a tiny, dead rattlesnake. Catherine makes a horrified face…

And we go to credits. A totally silent pre-credits opening? But then The Who have no idea how to determine who the people work are!

When we get back from commercials, David is explaining that the head belonged to a woman in her early thirties, probably of Latina descent. He adds, "Vitreous potassium was 11.74 milli-equivalents per liter, so PMI's approximately six hours." For those of you wondering why this dialogue is relevant: PMI means "post-mortem interval." As you can imagine, this is helpful in deducing when someone went from ante- to post-mortem. Now, about the potassium and the vitreous humor: in a dead body, potassium levels rise. However, the vitreous humor's potassium levels don't rise the same way, so they can be tested to determine an accurate PMI by comparing the potassium ratio against the normal range using any one of a number of formulae (see also: Journal of Forensic Sciences, 46:2, pp. 209-214, 2001). Using one of these, David and Catherine conclude she died at one in the morning. They also conclude that she was beheaded after she died. Death and beheading -- that seems like a combination even the most stalwart optimist would have a hard time salvaging. Because the scalp shows naked follicles without any accompanying inflammation, it looks like the hair-pulling that left the head bald was also done post-mortem. "Ripped out in chunks," Catherine says, and we get a sepia-tinged flashback just in case we're unclear as to what any of those words mean. David decrees, "It takes time and dedication to do something like that." "And a lot of hatred," Catherine adds. You think? What was your first clue, Catherine? She also notices the dead woman's eyebrows have been shaved off and penciled back in, and "I know that's popular among Latinas on 28th Street. She could be a banger, or a girlfriend of one." David's all, "Gang activity aside, girlfriend had excellent bridgework." Catherine notices the number carved into the inside of the bridge and asks if it's a Social Security number; David tells her, "Dentists usually put down some form of identification on removable bridgework. It's better than a license plate." Well, it's more discreet.

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