The cynics among us would probably argue that dogged TV reporters have taken away the element of surprise that used to come with CSI. Thanks to our own scooperman Mike Ausiello, we already knew that Gary Dourdan‘s Warrick Brown was going to be history long before his departure finally played out in last night’s season premiere, or that Jorja Fox would briefly reprise her role as Sara Sidle in preparation for Billy Petersen’s much-anticipated exit as Gil Grissom. But those cynics would be wrong. There was no way to foretell how much Gil’s anguish over Warrick’s death would truly move us, or whether the sight of him clutching his runaway fiancee (where you been, Sara?) would give us hope that these two complicated souls might just see better days ahead. Cut the crap, Emmy voters — what more does this show have to do to get your damn respect?

But I digress; we’re here to talk about last night’s premiere. Though stricken with grief over the death of one of their own, the team and Capt. Brass promise to get “all hands on deck” to solve this mystery — all except the coroner, Dr. Al Robbins (the sorely underappreciated Robert David Hall) who announces that he’s “asked the day shift to handle this one” before turning away from the sight of Warrick’s body. Crack investigative work by Nick and Catherine inside Warrick’s car (they follow the clues to a tiny print on a bullet!) lead the team to believe that the under sheriff, not the previously suspected Officer Pritchard, was the one who really pulled the trigger. Just like that, our fearless heroes had found their man.

But the whodunnit part is not the main reason you tuned in, right? I came to see the first of Petersen’s final eight episodes as a series regular (I’m already thinking this show can’t survive without him — and the dude’s not even gone yet) and to check out how Fox’s Sara would return to the man and job she abandoned last year. I choked up at the sight of those two embracing, and let out an audible gasp when I saw them cuddling in bed (!!!) during the scenes from next week’s episode. But it was George Eads — who looked so crestfallen at the funeral — who really broke my heart (uttered a great, Godfather shout-out, too, when he was snooping through Warrick’s car: “Leave the gun, take the cannoli. This was a hit!” I sure dig those CSI writers).

What did you think? Did you shed a tear or two over the final sight of the beautiful (and obviously tortured, if you’ve been reading the headlines) Gary Dourdan? Were you thrilled to see Fox back in action? Are you already dreading Petersen’s departure? Let it all out, fans: Gil and his team certainly did.

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Gary Dourdan leaving CSI