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''CSI'': Teen cop love slay! Snake in scalped head!

Teen cop love slay! Snake in scalped head! Tabloidy plots drive a week of high-quality shows on ”CSI”

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Marg Helgenberger
CSI: Michael Yarish

”CSI”: Teen cop love slay! Snake in scalped head!

CSI: MIAMI: ”COP KILLER” (MON., JAN. 17)

Crime As its bland title suggests, a police officer is murdered in this episode. The officer’s civilian ”ride-along” — a 17-year-old boy named Patrick — witnesses the crime, but he has disappeared from the police car by the time Horatio’s team arrives. A sullen 16-year-old schoolgirl named Missy (who actually looks like a 26-year-old student teacher) was riding in the killer’s car during the murder.

Best proof that Ryan will make me a great husband Look how tenderly and sensitively he checks a stolen car for fingerprints! Then, when Horatio orders him to check the car again, he practically dismantles the seats in his zeal to find a clue. He’s adorable and he takes orders well and he likes to clean! I can’t wait.

Worst line Missy’s mother — yet another clueless parent on CSI! — points out that Missy couldn’t have done anything wrong. ”Missy’s on the honor roll. She was junior homecoming queen!” Doesn’t Mom realize that on this show, such details amount to proof of Missy’s guilt?

Best villain in a while Jojo, Missy’s psycho boyfriend, never once stops smiling, even when he’s about to get shot. This makes him much more frightening than your average snarling thug.

Best coincidence The instant the CSIs realize which two convenience stores may be next in line to be robbed by Jojo, they head off to search them. The first store they reach has just been robbed by — yes! — Jojo! How cooperative of him to need cash at the exact moment the CSIs have a clue to his location.

Best Horatian bon mot Yelina says that Jojo was very good at making enemies. Horatio answers, ”The question becomes . . . which one got to him first?” Isn’t that always what the question ”becomes” when you’re investigating a murder?

I rest my case Thank you, thank you, Miami writers, for sticking to one story. (Inevitably the second-string plot suffers on this show.) Thank you, too, for listening to my request last week that CSI become more peepee-oriented. I ask, and they deliver — the 17-year-old hostage wet his pants in this episode. And most of all, thanks to Horatio for making me believe that hardboiled Rebecca’s evil lawyerin’ tactics really bothered him. When he tries, David Caruso is the king of the mournful close-up. Maybe he should play Horatio without any dialogue at all.

CSI: ORIGINAL: ”SNAKES” (THURS., JAN. 13)

Crimes A newspaper delivery boy opens a paper dispenser to find a woman’s decapitated head. Oh, how I love heads, and this one’s been scalped. Over on the rooftop of the Tropical Surf casino, Brass and Warrick find a man who’s been shot to death in the driver’s seat of his van — apparently by a handicapped passenger, who has escaped but left a wheelchair behind.

Most chilling effect This week it’s a tie. First: In the episode’s extremely effective opening (no chitchat — it’s dialogue-free!), Coroner Robbins pulls a dead baby rattlesnake from the mouth of the scalped head. (Nick calls it a ”buzzworm.”) Second: The woman’s scalp turns up as a belt later on in the episode.

Biggest ”What was that?” moment Sara walks coyly into Grissom’s office and tells him that she followed him to Vegas, adding, ”Let’s just say that sometimes I look for validation in inappropriate places.” Grissom follows with what must be the longest pause in TV history before Sara wraps up the conversation. This is all a continuation of a counseling-session plotline that began with the fifth-season opener, but you’d need to be a CSI obsessive to remember exactly what they’re talking about.

Worst line When Catherine describes the murdered-head woman as ”a gangbanger girlfriend with a degree,” Nick lamely replies, ”Sounds like a rock band.” Sounds like a line from a Brady Bunch episode, Nick.

Start paying attention! The actress playing Sofia is pregnant. Watch for the way the camera angles conceal that fact from now on — a lot of close-ups of her face and hands. (Speaking of the concealment of expanding bellies, I hope that’s not the reason Grissom was only seen behind his desk during this episode.)

Survey question Do any CSI viewers think that the software the investigators use is really, really cool? If so, let me know and I’ll shut up about how boring it is to watch all the computer screens on these shows.

I rest my case The wheelchair story line was basic, though of course it’s sort of gratifying to see telemarketers get shot. The snake-in-skull plot was great to watch but left me vaguely troubled. The last scene — a dreamy song sung by the murderer, with eerie flashbacks — is entirely in Spanish, with no translation. I guess I shouldn’t mind that, since it’s easy enough to follow the action and, anyway, we should all speak Spanish. But the total effect is so witch-doctor-ish and cryptic that you can’t help wondering if the main point of the story is, ”Aren’t other cultures weird?”

CSI: NEW YORK: ”RECYCLING” (WED., JAN. 12)

Crimes When a trainer is found dead at a big annual dog show — there’s a knitting needle in her cleavage! — her dog is taken to the pound. (This throwaway detail made me much more worried than the murder mystery. Couldn’t one of her friends take the dog home?) Meanwhile, a bicycle messenger is found dead on a city street. Contrary to what you’d expect, the death did not result from a car door’s being opened into the biker’s path but from a stab wound to his leg.

Best chilling detail There’s a bite mark on the dog trainer’s leg. A human bite mark.

Best forensics All the dogs who may have been on the scene of the crime get paw-printed by Mac. Several beagles turn up as suspects.

Worst line ”The dog world’s not the paradise people think,” says a show official. Who ever thought the dog world was a paradise?

Best product placement (I guess) The bike messenger was stabbed with half a pair of scissors from a Swiss Army knife. Second for second, the knife gets more close-ups than the victim. My own Swiss Army knife was confiscated at the airport, and this ep reminded me to get another one — so the product placement worked!

I rest my case My sister-in-law likes to shout, ”Science!” whenever a CSI episode gets too lab-confined. The bike-messenger plot has too much science; the inspectors practically never get outside. On the other hand, there’s a really scary pedophile suspect, and the solution to the story is just right. The dog-show plot bears the heavy thumbprints of Best in Show all over it — all the dog trainers are drastically over the top — but a dog show is a great locale for a New York murder, and I continue to cheer on the writers for hauling this show up out of the gloom in which the season began. I just hope that next week Aiden says, ”Oh, by the way — I adopted that dog whose owner was murdered.”

What do you think? Which actor was best in show? Which show was best?