CSI “Cold Blue Plate Special” Review

CSI Logo
Spoilers for CSI below

After a hard night no doubt spent cleaning up other people’s viscera and scanning for semen, the CSIs are called in to a gruesome murder at their favorite diner. Customers and employees alike lie dead, shot full of holes. TED DANSON WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS.

Eight people dead, save the owner, Vincent, who had accidentally locked himself in the walk-in freezer at the time of the shooting. The crime seems, at first glance, indiscriminate. Staff members, customers, old people, young people, white, black, cisgender and trans………..

Transgendered diner customer
All right, already.

Oh lord, a transgender person. Okay, let’s take a look.

Every time I see a tranny on TV I automatically cringe, because chances are the portrayal is going to be ignorant and insulting (I’m looking at you, “Quagmire’s Dad”).  At first, I was gearing up to facepalm pretty hard, given Dahlia here is of course deep of voice, square of jaw and broad of shoulder. Typical television tranny. I have no idea why this is the stereotype exactly, because most of us don’t look or sound like that. The majority of trans people I know personally do not resemble the “man in a dress” look the media seems so sure of. It’d be nice to see a trans person on TV who looks like me or my friends. Well maybe not me since they’d have to shoot me in 2.35:1, but you get the idea.

Thankfully as the episode wore on, other than her appearance, I realized Dahlia’s portrayal wasn’t really standard network fare. She’s obviously some flavor of trans, but none of the characters remark on it at all and she’s always referred to by the correct pronouns. These are really positive things, so I’ll give CSI a grudging tip o’ the hat for that. I also had a good laugh at Dahlia wasting no time in trying to slo-mo fucking tackle the shooter, and Brass later remarks, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Good stuff.

Ted Danson and his lasers

The story is a pretty solid little mystery with plenty of twists and turns. With such a large amount of carnage, the CSI team has plenty to sink their teeth into, especially since the harder they look the fishier it seems. It might be standard procedure by now, but the CSIs combing through evidence, using laser pointers to determine bullet trajectories and acting out the scene is still very entertaining stuff.

It’s no secret by now that the CSI formula means that any theories put forth before the last act or so are going to be wrong. This episode does a good job of incorporating everything into the conclusion rather than just tossing early theories aside. It’s not so much that initial assumptions are flat out wrong, but rather that the pieces fit together differently than we thought they did.

Doc Robbins, Nick, Finn, and a corpse
“Let’s draw dicks on him!”

I’m very, very happy that “Cold Blue Plate Special” contains several visits from the continuity fairy, more than I thought we’d ever get. There’s the obvious follow ups with Ecklie leaving the hospital sooner than he should and limping about, as well as DB’s wife staying in Seattle with their daughter for a while longer. There’s also more subtle references like Wallace Langham and Elizabeth Harnois playing their characters as still awkward around each other because of the kiss from last episode.

Keeping these things in a rather body-of-the-week type episode is an excellent move. It helps non-arc episodes to feel like they aren’t so throwaway and that what happens to these characters week to week still matters, even if the plot is unrelated. I loved that the fallout from McKeen and the LVPD corruption scandal is still being felt even in a standalone episode to the point of hindering the investigation. One suspect brushes off the threat of a court order for his DNA sample because he knows that after the McKeen incident, the department’s having a tough time getting off the system’s shit list.

Sara and Brass with an unimpressed suspect
Not a single fuck was given.

Not only that, this episode is tied to the series’ history in another way, by having the diner of death in question be one we’ve actually seen the CSIs eat at frequently throughout the entire run of the series. It may be a standalone episode for now, but having the shooting take place somewhere we’ve seen before, somewhere that means something to the characters again helps give it weight.

Greg and some dead old people.

I must admit I’m getting more and more tired of Elizabeth Shue’s Finn. She arrives at the diner, where other CSIs are already working the scene, and then demands that everyone leave so she can have an hour to work on the blood spatter by herself. Excuse me? Then she goes so far as to tell DB to not bother coming because she can handle it herself. Yes, a diner with eight dead people in it. What makes her so damn special that no one else could possibly be of any use? What makes her so sure she can analyze the blood better than any of the older, more established characters?

Severed finger
Give ‘er the finger!

Thankfully, she isn’t granted this request, but the dickery continues with her super-spatter analysis powers kicking in just in time to tell a police officer not to step on a severed finger that was lying behind the counter. Which she hadn’t even looked behind yet. That’s all well and good; if you see a body with a severed finger and look at the blood spatter you can probably guess where the finger went. But I’m sorry, I call bullshit that she can correctly deduce in her head that the finger would be ten inches from the officer’s boot. No. Just no. About the only moment I liked from Shue this week was when she was running through the order in which the victims were shot with DB.

Everyone else got some nice moments this week, like the aforementioned Hodges/Morgan awkwardness. Greg locks himself in the freezer by accident like Vincent did and doesn’t want to admit it to Finn, Nick is visibly quite shaken with what’s happened to his favorite restaurant, Doc Robbins gets to be a right badass and Sara lays an epic verbal beatdown on a stalker. We were a little light on the Danson this week, but everyone else more than made up for it. EXCEPT YOU, SHUE!

It’s familiar territory in a lot of ways, but nice touches of continuity make the episode much stronger than it would have been otherwise. I was genuinely intrigued by the mystery and I was pleasantly surprised by many of the twists, which is always a good sign. Looks like Season 13 is off to a rock-solid start. At its worst, body-of-the-week CSI makes the resolution painfully obvious far too early, at its best, you get an engrossing episode like this one.