CSI “Play Dead” Review

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Spoilers for CSI below

A police dog is caught licking at the torn throat of his dead handler, but Nick suspects the dog may not be the culprit. Meanwhile, Morgan and The Shue investigate the death of a greasy divorce lawyer, seemingly gunned down after a roll in the hay gone wrong.

“Play Dead” isn’t a Halloween episode exactly. It just happens to take place around Halloween, much like how Die Hard ain’t exactly about the spirit of Christmas giving. There are still some Halloweeny elements here, as the deceased officer in question was found by two women on their way to a costume party, and Brass makes snarky remarks about the zombie apocalypse.

Inspection of the officer’s corpse and vehicle reveals a LVPD envelope with nearly five thousand dollars in it and a big ol’ bag o’ meth. I know that’s how I spent my Halloween.

Mike Nelson ID
His bosses didn’t like him so they shot him into space.

Nick gets the spotlight throughout most of the episode as he starts to bond with the mutt, Sam. He (foolishly) refuses to wait for the K9 handlers to process the evidence on the dog, since Sam keeps licking all the blood off himself. Either Sam is the smartest dog to ever live or Nick is secretly Cesar Millan, because they pulled some serious Dog Whisperer shit right here.

Sam’s so very wound up Nick can’t even take a DNA sample, so, for him, the brightest move is to just let the dog suspected of snacking on his partner’s throat out of his crate, and give him a stern talking to about behaving. This being TV, it works.

A piece of human flesh is found in Sam’s teeth, but it doesn’t belong to Mike Nelson, Gypsy, Cambot, Tom Servo or Croooooooooooooow. Nick takes it upon himself to find Mike Nelson’s killer and prove Sam is a good boy worthy of a Scooby Snack.

Sam and the body
Look at that innocent puppy face.

Despite my general policy of eye-rolling whenever Nick’s down-to-earth country boy schtick is brought to the fore, it’s actually kind of cute here. It’s probably due to the fuzzy cuteness of his costar, but I really enjoyed watching those two learn to work together and start to become quite a team. It’s no Turner & Hooch but it gets the job done. I do wonder, however, why George Eads has the more chemistry with a dog than his costars. Sam’s got personality, which is more than I can say for certain other regulars.

There’s even a very bittersweet little moment where Nick finds Sam lying on the floor in the morgue, looking sadly up at the locker containing the body of his partner. Nick sit next to him and talks about how hard it was to lose Warrick and that it’ll probably always hurt. It’s little moments like this that really elevate what could have been a very silly story indeed.

I was left wondering whether the CSI writers have been eyeballing The Shield‘s playbook lately, because in addition to the McKeen corruption plotline earlier on, the wad of cash and bag of meth put Nelson under suspicion of being yet another dirty cop. As it turns out, he’s not, but like Vic Mackey before him, it turns out he’s taken a wayward prostitute under his wing, and has been giving her money regularly and had promised to take her on as a CI (Confidential Informant). In both cases you just know it ain’t gonna end well.

Nick stands over the culprit
Detective Vendrell Stokes

I felt the end of the episode was a little bit too tidy for such a gruesome story, but I can’t help but be overcome by the adorableness of Sam being retired from the police force and coming to live with Nick. I normally can’t abide such saccharine moments unless the characters involved have really been through hell to earn them.  I hope to hell we get more misadventures with that pair and that we don’t just forget about the pooch.

Morgan and The Shue’s storyline is one of the most bog-standard CSI plots there are. Guy murdered just after having sex is an old, old, old standby this late in the game, and I have no idea why they even bothered including it. It’s not even one of the many CSI episodes where the A and B plots converge near the end. Nope, it’s just a cliché outing to eat up screentime; a B story just for the sake of having a B story.

The one saving grace of this plot thread is that it gives us a scene with Hodges confronting Morgan about The Kiss from the season premiere. Morgan’s attitude seems to be that it’s just far too awkward to deal with and they should just never speak of it again. I felt so bad for poor Hodges. He was ever so optimistic and happy only to have his dreams stomped on mercilessly by someone who needs to over-analyze every little kiss. The Shue got it right when she play—-

Wait.

Wait.

I liked The Shue?

Anyway, she playfully teased Morgan about giving poor Hodges the cold shoulder and encourages her to bang him. I love it. When she’s right, she’s right.

Ultimately, “Play Dead” is quite a strong episode let down by having one of the most boring, predictable subplots I’ve seen on CSI in a long, long time. It’s almost like the two storylines had separate writers, either that or the episode simply came up short and they needed to bullshit another ten minutes out of it. That said, the interplay between Nick and Sam is more than worth the price of admission, and it’d be nice to see more of them together.