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"CSI" Tonight: Goodbye, Sara

By admin Published: November 15, 2007

Jorja Fox departs "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" tonight, and she is given a good send-off. ...

While the setup is rooted in the kidnapping and near-death of her character, Sara Sidle, the bigger and better arc involves unfinished business: the Season Six episode "The Unusual Suspect," where Marlon West (Douglas Smith) beat a murder rap thanks to the brilliant and devious intervention of his sister, Hannah (the eerily compelling Juliette Goglia). As is noted in flashbacks during tonight's show, Hannah not only outsmarted Sara, she smugly told Sara that the investigator had been tricked.

So tonight's episode includes a death on a Las Vegas college campus that soon enough leads us to Marlon, and to Hannah. And that all comes as Sara is fighting a case of burnout so severe that, in the episode's other case, she can't bring herself to offer minimal help to a victim. The early scenes don't ask if Sara can keep doing her job; they just make us wonder when she will give it all up.

But there's that West case. It offers Sara a chance at redemption, a chance to clean up an old mess. When it comes up, it even teases us that, if Sara can sort this out, she can also sort out a way to stay on the job.

Only this is "CSI," which is still a show sufficiently remarkable that, on those occasions when I do watch it, I think that I should be tuning in a lot more often. And it's a show that understands that the messiness and complication of murder extends far beyond blood and clues. Much of the time, the pain is seen in the killers and their victims. But it has also seeped into the bones of the investigators. Grissom's coolness is at its core a severe emotional denial.

And you have to feel that kind of denial because there is always unfinished business. A solution is not the same as resolution. No matter how the West case turns out (and I'm not telling you here), it cannot be tidy. (In fact, the show leaves one part of it dangling, an aside to the main case where viewers have to fill in their own blanks.)

But I've gotten away from the reason CBS sent out this episode, and that I watched it, which is Fox's departure. I've drifted away from that because, while it may be important to Fox's fans, and while it does provide her some fine moments, it's not the best reason to watch the episode. The best reason is that it is stark, and troubling, and captivating. That Goglia is scary-good, playing Hannah's brilliance but also playing the child within the prodigy. It's "CSI" at its best.

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