The once perfect team has been split asunder. It happened at the end of 5.1 when the nasty Conrad (Marc Vann) came in as their new boss and started ordering changes, more for the sake of announcing his arrival, or to get at Grissom (William Petersen), than anything else. The result, at the start of 5.2, is a little confusing, because Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) has taken over Grissom's job as head of the unit and yet Grissom is still there, running his own thing, with Sara (Jorja Fox) and the new boy Greg (Eric Szmanda), while Catherine has the more experienced Warrick (Gary Dourdan) and Nick (George Eads) working with her.

In the old days, Crime Scene Investigation was exactly that, a detective show, so technically advanced it made Sherlock Holmes look like a Sunday afternoon amateur. The mysteries and the detection was everything. You never learnt a thing about anyone's private life, except, at one point, Catherine's daughter makes an appearance and there's the whole workaholic mum guilt trip. Sara had a drink problem - or was it drugs? - and as for Grissom, he appeared to be asexual and have no social life.

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One of the good things about 5.2 is that these people, who are highly efficient professionals, become human beings. In the very first episode, Sara loses it with Catherine and Conrad takes the view that she's a loose cannon "with a gun" and should be sacked, which is typical of the way he thinks. He tells Grissom to get rid of her, which is like asking a vegetarian to shoot a roe deer. Grissom wants to find out what is behind her outburst and is very gentle with her. "What do you want from me?" Sara snaps. "I want to know why you are so angry," Grissom says. Sara breaks down and stuff from her childhood comes blurting out. "I became the girl whose father was stabbed to death." Not only murdered, but murdered by her mother. She spent her early years in foster homes.

Grissom persuades Conrad to give her another chance and says he will personally vouch for her future behaviour. For the rest of the series, Sara becomes the most interesting of the four "underlings", with Catherine and Grissom still in the lead roles. What is surprising, after all those years playing second fiddle to The Man Who Was Never Wrong, Catherine appears insecure in her new job, as if aware that she is being judged by her peers, and is extremely edgy in the cases when Grissom's team joins hers on something particularly important. Warrick spends time boosting her, making her feel all right, that she can do it, but Warrick has always been Mr Cool, never showing real feelings, happiest on the job, often with Nick, with whom he has a good relationship, a genuine friendship.

Weeping Willows is one of the two episodes that are not typical of the CSI formula - the other is Hollywood Brass, where Captain Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) goes to Los Angeles to investigate a murder, involving his estranged daughter, who works in the sex trade - OK, she's a hooker - and only Warrick from CSI Las Vegas makes the trip to help out.

Weeping Willows puts Catherine up close and personal, because it follows her off duty - an unheard of intrusion - into a bar where she flirts with an attractive stranger, who comes on too strong in the car park and next day is prime suspect to a double murder. Helgenberger does extremely well here, because this is an emotionally raw episode, involving a certain amount of humiliation for Catherine. Also, the actor who plays the barroom Lothario is Alan Rosenberg, her husband.

The gimmick, as cynics might interpret it, is Grave Danger, a two-hour thriller, "written and directed by Quentin Tarantino," which closes Season 5. It is an odd hybrid that seems neither traditional CSI, nor essential Tarantino. For one thing, he didn't write the script and that's what he's good at. He thought up the story (so full of holes, you could walk Whistler's mother through it) and directed (except for a lapse in the middle, when everyone is hanging about, the pace is taut).

Nick is kidnapped at a crime scene - when you think about it for the second it takes to swallow your disbelief, this could not have happened - and ends up in The Vanishing, (a marvellously intelligent Dutch movie, pointlessly remade in Hollywood with Keifer Sutherland) three feet under the ground in a Perspex coffin. He doesn't die immediately, because the deranged kidnapper has provided pumped air through a pipe, but does have panic attacks, which, if you are claustrophobic, is tough to watch.

The teams, led by Grissom this time, are baffled. Someone should have told Quentin, "CSI doesn't do baffled; they are too smart for that," before the $1million ransom is demanded. After this, the plot implodes and the only thing of interest is wondering whether Catherine will have anything to do and what would happen if you confiscated their torches?

There is a bizarre dream sequence, in which the pathologist (Robert David Hall) cuts up Nick's still living corpse, which looks like an outtake from Kill Bill, and a bafflingly bad final scene, which adds nothing to the already shot-to-pieces storyline.

Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2006
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CSI: 5.2 packshot
Second half of the fifth season sees the team torn apart.
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Director: various

Writer: various

Starring: William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Gary Dourdan, George Eads, Jorja Fox, Paul Guilfoyle, Eric Szmanda, Robert David Hall, Marc Vann

Year: 2005

Runtime: 537 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Canada


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