CSI “In Vino Veritas” Review

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Spoilers for CSI below

Oh, lord. Okay, so there comes a point in every multi-show franchise’s life when a crossover simply must be done. There’s no avoiding it. Crossovers are to network executives as lithe Panamanian boys are to pederasts. Frasier and Cheers did it. Buffy and Angel. The Whoniverse. Lord knows the Star Trek universe is one tangled fucking web. So now it’s CSI’s turn. Again.

See, we’ve already had a couple of crossovers before. There was “Cross Juridictions” which served to launch the then-forthcoming CSI: Miami. The word “yeah” was never the same again. There was the “Who and What”/”Where and Why” crossover with Without a Trace, and then the aptly-named CSI Trilogy which was as close to Crisis on Infinite Earths as a forensics procedural franchise will ever get. Hell, there was even a kind of crossover with (ugh) “Two and a Half Deaths” written by the moronic chucklefucks that brought you Two and a Half Men, while the CSI writers wrote an episode of that show in return, though no characters crossed over between the two.

So now it’s that time again, and we’ve got “In Vino Veritas” kicking off a two-part crossover with CSI: NY. A man dressed in a tuxedo is found dead in a wine barrel that was left in an alley someplace, while Gary Sinise’s character, Mac Taylor, comes to Vegas to meet up with his wife for a holiday, but he mostly ends up spending his time paling around with Ted Danson.

Oddly, it’s the wine plot that takes precedence in this episode rather than being a B-story to the crossover. It turns out there’s a rich white man who invites other rich white people to parties at his mansion, where they will bid on rare wines and revel in their own excess. I’ll admit the world of the wine connoisseur isn’t something I know much about or have any interest in, but neither the script nor the guest actors seem to be making much of an effort to make it interesting, the way good entertainment should. It’s an hour spent with rich fat men in love with fermented grapes. No thank you.

It does Hodges a lot to do, and while that’s usually a good thing in my book, I can’t say I’m pleased with what the series has done with him lately. Most of his scenes involve him being a smarmy asshole, and not in the usual Hodges way, no, this is all tied in to the incredibly ill-advised engagement storyline he’s currently mired in. The writers would like to have you believe that because the man has an Italian fiancée from nowhere, he has somehow picked up a refined palate for wine and can suss out that this wine is one of the rarest in the world, with something like 600 extant bottles.

Hodges being a dickhead

I really have to stop for just a moment to whine about just how much I loathe Hodges’ engagement to the Italian Woman from Nowhere. I’m not upset that Hodges is engaged, I’m not even particularly upset his sexual tension with Morgan is on the back burner for now. I’m annoyed because this woman was just dropped into the story abruptly, and I’m annoyed because Hodges is completely head over heels for her like a 12 year old with his first crush. I’m reasonably sure that this storyline won’t actually make it all the way to the altar, or if it does, it won’t last much longer than that.

Yes, I’m a terrible person. Yes, people with broken hearts can make for compelling television. Making Hodges act much stupider than he should to facilitate something as transparently slipshod as this does not.

The vintner whose family made this very old and expensive wine is found in short order, down in the rich guy’s basement smashing his own wine all over the floor. He’s taken in for questioning, and surprise surprise, he’s French, and he’s an asshole. He was in the wine cellar, he says, because dick-mothers  are counterfeiting this particular wine and bringing disgrace upon his family. So, of course, the natural thing to do was to break into someone else’s house and throw things.

Well, it turns out the wine supplier is to blame. He’s got his own little bottling area set up in a warehouse someplace, complete with fake labels, and a rack full of spices. He and his lady friend had been hoodwinking Rich Fat Guy into thinking he was getting a rare wine for ages, until our unfortunate barrel-victim came in and mucked it all up by falling in love and getting greedy. Or something. It’s never explained very clearly.

DB and Mac
My god, their necks!

The actual crossover plot takes up only a very small percentage of the episode, with Sinise finding his wife’s hotel room trashed with blood all over the place and his wife gone. Sinise and Danson kind of end up in their own little plot-bubble away from the wine thing as they try to track her down, eventually getting their hands one of the employees at Mac’s wife’s restaurant, who spills that the wife has been kidnapped by some scumbag he owes money to, and that she’s being held in New York. So off goes Sinise with Danson in tow, heading for Part 2 over on CSI: NY.

The whole episode is just bland and muddled. The wine storyline isn’t compelling in the least. It feels like it doesn’t really get the most of its premise; it’s just yet another murder to be solved and it limps along towards its ho-hum conclusion. In short it feels like a procedural that’s been on the air for thirteen years, which is a shame, because otherwise CSI‘s age hasn’t been a detriment.

The crossover, meanwhile, gets so little focus it ends up feeling perfunctory and more than a little flat. There just wasn’t any tension to it, likely because it wasn’t given enough time to develop into an interesting chase. I’m not saying it needs to be 24, but it lacks the sense of urgency something like “Who and What”/”Where and Why” had.

With the action, and I use that word loosely, moving to New York, hopefully the second part will get its shit together. Or not. For all I know it could be fifteen minutes of looking for Mac Taylor’s wife and 45 spent on The Case of the Missing Hair Dryers.

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