CSI “It Was a Very Good Year” Review

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Spoilers for CSI below

A piano is discovered sitting out in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada, containing the corpse of a well-known music history author, Allison Bailey. Greg apparently met her while researching his own book years back, and becomes an emotional sourpuss until the case is solved.

The episode begins in a very surreal fashion; wide shots of the desert, and in the middle of all that, there stands Brass, plinking away at “Chopsticks” on a very nice, very expensive looking piano. It’s really quite beautifully photographed, and it certainly makes you curious about how such an incongruous thing ended up out in the desert in the first place.

Brass plays the ivories

Greg gets all riled up over the loss of his lady friend, and while Eric Szmanda’s acting isn’t horrible, it’s hard for me to get behind the guy. Remember back in “Cold Blue Plate Special,” when I said that since the shooting took place in a diner the audience has watched the cast frequent for years, it made things feel all the more close to home and weighty? This episode is the exact fucking opposite. We’ve never heard of this Allison girl before. We’ve never seen Greg with her, and to the best I can recall, we’ve never even heard of her until now. And now they’re expecting us to get all emotional and sympathize with Greg over the loss of someone the writers have just freshly pulled from their collective ass. It feels cheap.

There are some other scenes in the episode which make a much better use of continuity, mostly to do with the aftermath of “Karma to Burn.’ Despite my general blah-ness toward Greg losing someone we’ve never heard of before, there’s one occasion where it works rather well. Rage!Greg gets very aggressive and accusatory towards a suspect, getting right up into his grill and everything, and DB drags him off into the corner to tell him to stop being a dick. Greg counters this by pointing out that going all apeshit is OK for DB when someone that matters to him is taken from him, but when it’s Greg, he’s just told not to be a dick.

I like that. Stand up to Danson, Greg. Take him to task for throwing the rulebook out the window when it suited him! DB took this quite reasonably, reminding Greg that they didn’t actually start to pick up Katie’s trail until he stopped being a shithat. Really? Because I seem to remember Danson strapping on a revolver and getting rough with McKeen well after we had our clues.

Greg takes us back to the 60s

 That said, this story does at least play on Greg’s well-established love of the 1960s Rat Pack cool and film noir sensibilities. Tailoring your stories to service your characters goes a long way towards keeping things interesting. I loved DB’s reaction to Greg looking wistfully at a Sinatra impersonator and sighing about what a time it was.

Oh, please. You weren’t even born.

I’m a little baffled by the way Morgan was quite obviously dropping elephant-size hints to Greg that she’d like to play with his hangdown. I’m not sure I quite understand this decision. I realize that her thing with Hodges was one kiss, that it was all awkward and their relationship wasn’t really defined. Maybe it’s just the Hodges fangirl in me talking, but that seemed like a much more interesting relationship than Morgan/Greg does. Hodges is, simply put, a weirdo, and Morgan clearly doesn’t know what she’s doing either. Morgan/Greg seems like they’re potentially being paired up because they’re both younger and single, chemistry be damned.

While the bulk of the episode, forensics-wise, is really quite cool, there’s a lot of moments that just don’t work. A lot of the episode hinges on DB’s music-identifying iPhone app. By itself, it’s a little bit cheesy and it smacks of an old show trying to point out how with-it it is, rather than using newer technology more organically. But on top of all that, Danson spends at least a good five minutes total going on about how amazing the app is and just how much he loves it. No kidding, he goes on about this app like its name was Elizabeth Shue. I’m not sure if this is a real app or not. If it is, it’s blatantly painful product placement, if it’s not, then it’s just awful dialogue.

Danson's beloved app
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The conclusion to all this seems like a needless twist for twists’ sake and stretches my suspension of disbelief close to the point of breaking. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but it’s pretty fuckin’ stupid. To be fair, the plot point in question doesn’t come completely out of left field; some hints are definitely sewn earlier than the last 10 minutes, in retrospect. That does not, however, stop the entire premise itself from being utterly silly. It felt to me like they had a pretty logical case, from Evidence A to Culprit B, but then decided it was much too obvious and reached back into their asses. Far, far back up into their asses, past the sigmoid colon where they found the idea for Allison, and up into the duodenum to find this gem. This metaphor might be disgusting, but so’s their writing.