In the great tradition of "extremely unflattering CSI roles for Firefly alumni," Alan Tudyk will be playing a pedophile on CSI on Thursday (November 2). The summary I've seen describes him as "the neighborhood pedophile," which makes it sound like one of those Jane Jacobs amenities like cobblers that get driven out by gentrification: "Oh, you still have your pedophile? We had one, but then Starbucks came in."Anyway, the episode.
There was nothing that made me think, "Oh, this was an awesome episode," but there was a lot of interesting stuff going on.
We open not with a cityscape shot, which is itself unusual. We think we're looking up at grating like on stairs, probably a crime scene, but then it turns out they're window blinds and in fact we're from Grissom's POV on an office couch. Next we're in a briefing room about an Amber Alert. CSI almost never does missing persons cases. So again we're disoriented. Throughout the episode, I would argue that we're on unsure footing. They so wanted to nail the pedophile that I thought the twist would be that it wasn't him at all, and instead what we got was a collection of imperfect fathers (and one absent mother, but her role was downplayed, even though her taking away Lucas' key -- which yes I know was tied to the father's behavior, or at least her understanding of him, depending on who you believe -- heavily influenced their going to Carl's) and bad choices
As someone who has a lot of trouble saying no to people (and yes, that includes children) I have a lot of sympathy for Carl and the way things escalated. I'm not sure how much sympathy the show wants me to have for him given that we get a flash from Jordan of Carl's voice saying "I'll kill your dad if you tell." One could argue that he was panicking, but he was at least partially intentionally manipulating the child there, knowing that there's no way he could follow through on that threat but that Jason wouldn't know/believe that.
Also on the disorientation theme, not only does Alan Tudyk have that innocent good guy look to him but he's playing this character who is very well-educated (Brass: "Where do you work?" / Carl: "Feedlot off I-Eleven. I have a master's degree in English Litrature" broke me a little) and not so polished that he feels slimy. He talks about all the stuff he's done since getting out of prison, and you know there's a hint of plaintive underneath the anger when he says, "Doesn't that count for something?." I recalled Grissom's agnosticism (or at least unwillingness to commit to belief in any specific set of religious beliefs, since stuff like an afterlife is an unprovable hypothesis) when he replied, "I don't know," and then he says, "But it doesn't change anything, does it?" and that's so true. All the good things you do after something can't undo a bad something you've done, which is a really uncomfortable truth. (At CAUMC last night, Megan mentioned the idea of having to after death go before God and account for one's every action, and that idea is definitely part of what keeps me in line -- combined, of course, with an understanding that almost nothing ever really stays secret even in this life.)
Carl opens with a tale of his own abuse, and he says he's offering it not as excuse but as explanation, and I wonder if anyone can hear that as wholly not an excuse, but then I was thinking what is an explanation but something of an excuse -- even if you accept that you fucked up, you want people to understand the extenuating circumstances and think less harshly of you as a result; which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing inherently.
Grissom's usually v. objective, and I liked his eyebrow quirk at Brass' "Sometimes bad things happen to bad people" and was surprised that he was so sure Carl was involved. I do understand that the CSI's get especially troubled by crimes victimizing children. (I dislike the holding up of children as paragons of innocence beauty and light, but I do acknowledge their relative helplessness.) And nicely played, Grissom's swallowing his revulsion at Carl's "toddlers" line.
Carl: "It's a game of seduction. It's about building trust. Like you're doing with me."
I know Grissom is made creeped out ('cause hi, seducing children), but I also love Carl's awareness here.
Grissom: "Do you like mushrooms, Carl?"
Carl: "I like all the nightshade vegetables. Are you gonna buy me dinner?"
Not only is this a great line, but it also feels so Wash (which, okay, a lot of Carl's lines do, because I only know Tudyk's voice from that one character, but still... "You wanna go, little man?" / "Only if it's some place with candlelight.")
Grissom (to Brass, on Carl): "He wants something from me, or he wouldn't still be here."
I think, in retrospect, his calmness as he plays this guise of not having been at all involved in this is somewhat pathological.
Carl (to Grissom): "I need you to believe me."
tv.com trivia says, "The Karl Fischer method is an analytical technique used for determining water content in volatile substances such as gasoline. Interesting how this relates to the pedophile Carl Fisher and how gasoline was used in the arson in this episode."