'CSI' justifies intense Ebola fears with rural outbreaks — October 13, 2014

It is hard to believe the " CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" writers specifically meant for an episode surrounding panic around an Ebola-like virus to land on the schedule exactly when Ebola panic has permeated the US consciousness at yet to be matched levels of cable news attention. Even so, with multiple references to Ebola in the first fifteen minutes alone, the comparisons are too timely and specific to be a complete coincidence.

This week’s episode “Bad Blood” (Oct. 12) centers around the death of a former viral researcher and doctor found in his home by Sara and Greg. A bullet to the head after a long battle with the unknown illness originally masks the cause of death, exposing the two investigators to a disease with an 80% mortality rate and no know cure.

The way the show embraces the panic and rural outbreaks of Ebola is part shameless co-opting of a real problem for drama’s sake and part easy promotion for the veteran show. Much of the episode is a Mad Libs version of any contagion movie or show, but mines some emotional material from the case that it rarely gets to do outside of a season finale.

Greg’s video call to his grandmother is sweet, but it is he and Sara’s conversation that spurs the call that gets at the heart of why the connections between the CSI’s are still so potent after so many years on the air. Jorja Fox and Eric Szmanda are entwined in the fabric of the show, and their mutual reflection on what they’ve left unfinished in life is poignant in a way that many procedurals are unable to reach in such a true way. As the final scene proves it may be obvious that these team members love each other, but it is nice for the show to remind everyone of such every now and then.

Ted Danson is at his best when he is in “protect the team” mode, and even though he takes part in minimal field work this episode he has the chance to take a bite out of suspects when they stand between Russell’s investigation and the team’s safety.

In all likelihood, “CSI” wouldn’t stage a major outbreak before the case is solved or kill Sara off without promoting Jorja Fox’s sendoff day and night for a month, and in fact the outcome is obvious from early on. Even so, there are enough suspense-filled and relationship-building moments that they more than outweigh the lack of surprising developments in the case.

“CSI:Crime Scene Investigation” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on CBS.




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