Sara's replacement arrives just in time to help find a killer who thinks he's an artist

By EW Staff
October 24, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

‘CSI’ recap: Hold that pose

Though I’d love to fritter away our time together by analyzing Gil’s strange choice in hats, last night’s episode of CSI was significant in that it introduced Sara’s replacement, Riley Adams (a.k.a. The L Word‘s Lauren Lee Smith). Looking about 28, with her youthful clothing and playground pony tail, we’re supposed to surmise that this level-two CSI doesn’t suffer fools lightly, is loathe to talk about her psychiatrist parents, and has a dark and off-putting sense of humor (I’m thinking poor Phillips wasn’t entirely sure if she was kidding when she said that she’ll “never forget” how he quickly glanced at Gil after she gave him an order). Wait, lemme guess — we’re going to find out that Riley’s cold and impersonal front is just a ruse to hide a sensitive girl inside, right? Will she turn out to be the Izzie Stevens of Las Vegas, a former undies model who woke up one day and decided that she was tired of playing the blond bombshell and was finally ready to get super-serious about her career? Whatever; I’m not impressed by Smith (for now) — mostly because the cynical side of me knows that it’s painfully typical for long-running shows to cast young beauties in a (futile) effort to attract younger viewers. And that’s how I see Lauren for now — a pretty new face, who I’m not quite sure will fit into the unit. Then again, I might be aggressively adverse to change these days and therefore unwilling to give the typically imaginative producers a chance. But the wounds of Gary Dourdan’s departure are still raw, which is why I probably would have voted for Lauren’s debut to occur later rather than sooner. You?

In fact, there is plenty about this episode that I could have done without — namely, a baffling (and unbelievable) story arc about a frustrated artist who turns his victims into “works of art.” Let’s start with that odd and drawn-out walk-up to the first victim. Here we’re thinking a runner was going to discover a corpse (because it’s always the runners who find the dead bodies), but instead he uncovers a homeless guy who bolts from a bush and steals a woman’s purse in the process. Okay, no murder victim there! Desperate to find a cell phone to report the crime, the runner approaches a gal hugging a light pole — only to discover that it is some young chick channeling Kim Cattrall from Mannequin. Yep, that’s what the cadaver looked like — a creepy, discolored doll, not to be confused with the high-quality dummies that CSI usually employs to play, well, creepy, discolored dead people. Anyway, the mannequins start piling up around the city after that — a druggie impersonating a runner, a homeless guy playing a business man, an elderly couple ogling the birdies — all of whom had been forced into what one of the investigators described as “rapid onset rigor mortis.” Really? My eyes would have remained rolled up in my sockets if it hadn’t been for the surprise appearance of TV vet Jeffrey Tambor as a sullen artist named Jersey Skaggs, who — you guessed it — paints dead people. We learn that Skaggs, who was responsible for one of the few great lines of the episode when he deadpanned to Brass that he’d like to paint him nude, had actually met the perpetrator in his own studio. Some crack investigative work by Riley (she scanned the local art blogs!) leads the team to this week’s baddie, who seemed to go to an awful lot of trouble killing people (something about entombing them in a gaseous prison) in an effort to be remembered as a artist. Ga!

My ears perked up when the gorgeous Alex Kingston, guesting here as a crisis counselor, questioned Gil about his listless dog, Hank. It seems that man’s best friend may be channeling his owner’s depressive state — not that Gil’s willing to talk about it. Otherwise, the episode left me missing George Eads and wanting more Marg. What about you? Are you intrigued by Smith’s casting? Would you have preferred an older — and wiser — replacement for Sara? And what do you make of Gil’s dog?