The plot on Wednesday night’s CSI was irrelevant; the crimes committed could have been ones we’ve seen a thousand times before. What mattered this night was the impression Elisabeth Shue made in her first appearance in joining the series. She was awfully good.

Shue’s Julie Finlay — don’t call her “Jules,” call her “Finn” — is a blood-spatter expert so good, Ted Danson’s D.B. Russell called her “a blood whisperer.” And that, readers, is one reason this show isn’t as good as it used to be: lousy turns of phrase such as that. Nope, what’s propping up CSI these days is Danson, the comforting steadiness of George Eads’ Nick, and now Shue.

The hour was only engrossing when Shue was on screen. The camera came in for close-ups of Shue’s gleaming intelligence, the fine lines on her face, and her sly smile. The camera pulled back to allow Shue to use her long fingers to gesture where the blood had spattered, to deliver the usual CSI-speak about “10 to 12 blows to the head,” and to banter with Danson’s D.B.

Old friends — or more than that? — he tried, successfully, to get her to join his team. She had ground rules. “We are never going to talk about the past.” When D.B. slips into the amiable Zen goofiness the rest of us have come to enjoy, Finn wanted a “safe word” to get him to stop. The safe word is “Stop.”

From Adventures in Babysitting to Cocktail to Leaving Las Vegas to the (yes, I insist) underrated The Trigger Effect, Shue has maintained a fine assurance, an undimmed charm. I’m glad she’s back in weekly television.

Oh, and she dropped what I think is the dime on D.B.’s real first name: Diebenkorn. A nod, I hope, for the painter Richard Diebenkorn.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
  • TV Show
  • 15
  • 71681