CSI “Pick and Roll” Review

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Spoilers for CSI below

DB’s son’s basketball coach is brutally beaten to death in the showers one morning, and it looks like Danson Jr could be the culprit. Can the CSI team comb through the mountains of jock straps to discover the truth?

It’s always nice when CSI focuses on the personal lives of its cast. Early on, the series’ mandate was that the crimes were the star of the show, and the characters existed almost solely to solve them. Over time, personal drama crept in more and more, and it really made the show that much more human. I’m glad “Pick and Roll” gives us another look at DB’s family dynamic, especially a relatively normal family dynamic. This isn’t a season premiere or finale with all the upheaval and drama that goes along with it; this episode begins with an average day.

As weird as it was initially to see Roz from Frasier married to Becker, the two have some undeniable chemistry. They just seem comfortable with each other, like an old married couple should. There’s a rapport there the younger characters just don’t have at this point in their lives. At first I was concerned that relationship was about to be destroyed, what with Roz staying in Seattle for so long after the premiere. I began to fear that she might not come back at all.

dead coach
I suppose we can rule out slipping and falling, then.

It’s indicative of the different kind of energy Danson has brought to CSI during his tenure as the leading man. It’s a breath of fresh air to have someone who has a relatively comfortable, stable home life. It’s a far cry from the shipping of the younger characters, Brass’ prostitute daughter, Laurence Fishburne’s broody Dr Langston, or the unending GSR (Grissom/Sidle Romance).

I’ve continually harped on the need to have the stories be entwined with the characters in nearly all my CSI reviews and I’m very glad they’ve kept on this track by and large. Sometimes it’s in quite a big way, like it was this week, sometimes it’s more subtle. Making these crimes revolve around people we’ve seen and heard of before, people we may care about and the characters may care about gives it an extra bit of richness.

Sure, it’s silly that DB would still be working a case where his son is the prime suspect, but CSI does like to disregard that kind of thing in the name of drama, and honestly, if you’re still watching, you probably don’t mind. Danson does a great job playing a man who’s got this ugly gnawing feeling in his gut that someone he loves may have done something terrible. While our own friends and family may not be implicated in killing someone, it’s a feeling we can nevertheless relate to. Everyone knows what it’s like to have that sinking feeling that someone close to us may not be the person we thought they were.

Danson later decides to spare his son that same feeling upon discovering that the girlfriend he was about to move in with was actually a “sex therapist” by night, disciplining some naughty boys, including our dear departed coach. It’s not something I ever saw coming, and again, it plays on that theme of someone you’ve come to like displaying a shocking aspect of themselves. Perhaps I should have seen it coming, given CSI‘s frequent use of various kink, fetish and alternative sexuality cultures to tell its stories, but “dead guy in a gym shower” didn’t seem like the setup for a kink episode to me.

kinky toys
Looks like a good time to me.

CSI‘s handling of these fetish elements seems to depend on the writer. Sometimes it’s held up as an example of how depraved modern culture is, sometimes it’s simply a case of “Hey, look how weird there people are,” and others still it’s treated as perfectly okay and just another part of being human. Grissom in particular was often accepting of fetishes and practices that the mainstream may find weird, as shown with his friendship with recurring dominatrix Lady Heather.

This is very much DB’s story. The other characters don’t get much focus, but then, I don’t think they need to. Danson himself hasn’t had much of the spotlight since “Karma to Burn” and it’s nice to get more than a few snippets with him. Sometimes writing for an ensemble cast in a one hour series means characters will at times drift into the background so we can focus on another, and that’s perfectly fine so long as they’re not forgotten.

“Pick and Roll” thankfully subverts the more puritanical urges the series sometimes has, and while the uptight old white dude that is the university president may be shocked at the late coach’s array of S&M gear, it ultimately has nothing at all to do with his murder, and it was just something he liked to do with his free time. Points off, though, for using the term “man-cave.” Tut tut.

Underneath these layers, the skeleton of this story isn’t anything particularly fresh or even surprising. Well, maybe Hodges in heels is quite an eyeful, be he’s a goofy bastard anyway. It doesn’t go anywhere we haven’t been before, and while the above twist of Danson Jr’s girlfriend being a secret bondage queen was pretty surprising, most of the episode isn’t. While it’s never made painfully obvious just whodunnit too far in advance, the reveal at the end isn’t so much holy shit as it is a simple hmm.

It’s for this reason I feel it’s so important that personal lives come into play more often than they did in the past, why it’s so important to have arc episodes which broaden the scope of the series beyond what it has been. Thirteen years is a long, long time, and the simple body of the week with no connection to anything by itself just doesn’t cut it anymore. We’ve seen this kind of thing before. We as an audience knows what to expect from a forensics focused crime series because we’ve had nearly a decade and a half of the CSI franchise and its imitators.

Had this just been some coach found dead in some school, there’s a good chance I would have been rather bored indeed. But this being Danson Jr’s coach, well now that’s interesting. It’s not interesting because of the blood spatter or shoe impressions. It’s interesting because it provides an avenue for us to explore family relationships and how important it is to us that our loved ones adhere to the ideals we have of them. That is what’s important, and that’s what keeps me tuned in for this long.