The CSI Trilogy

CSI (2000-    )
CSI: Miami (2002-    )
CSI: NY (2004-    )
Type: Crossover
Group 33

    I think one of my dream crossovers would be a huge crime saga that would span all sorts of different crime shows on different networks and maybe even different countries. Like... the cops of DaVinci's Inquest discover a murder in Canada that starts looking like the work of a serial killer but just as they are about to catch him he escapes to America, but not before they hear from the Law & Order UK cops that he ties into one of their cases. Then he's all over the place, evading the cops in New York on Law & Order, down to Miami where the CSI: Miami gang and maybe even Dexter tangle with him. But, again, he gets away to tangle with the CSI's in Vegas, the cops of Southland in LA... and the whole time characters from the previous shows would pop up, offering their help.

   Okay, the above will never NEVER happen. But when the CSI shows announced they were doing a three part crossover trilogy with a plot spanning all three of the CSI shows, I thought, okay, this should be great. Maybe a mini version of the crazy crime spree/manhunt thing I had been dreaming of. Sadly, instead, the CSI Trilogy turned out to be a huge poopy misfire. An utterly wasted opportunity.

   I have no proof but here is what I picture happening behind the scenes on this one. Each of the CSI show clearly have their own writing staff. So I picture someone taking charge of this trilogy, coming up with the major beats for the whole event and then handing to the writing staff of each show the specs of exactly what they need them to do in their piece of the trilogy. Then they'd come back to each to double check the scripts, make sure everything did in fact line up.

   So what would be needed for this event? Well, you'd want a strong through line, elements that would carry across all the shows even as smaller parts of the story got resolved in each individual segment. So, right off, we need a villain. How about a gang that has evolved into an evil illegal corporation? Call them the Zetas! Okay... okay... if it was me I'd go with a serial killer or at least go for a single person who would be the big bad but, okay, evil gang/evil company could work. But there should be more. An evil "group" is a bit amorphous. How about a victim. Even though the bad is big group doing many evil things we will see over the course of the trilogy, how about a single specific victim we care about whose story we can follow through the whole trilogy. A girl. A girl who has fallen into the gears of the evil Zeta machine and has gone missing. You know what? She's fallen into being a prostitute for the Zetas and they won't let her leave them! And she has a mom. A concerned mom who will be the person the CSI's deal with and who they console as they try to get her daughter back. Intro the worried mom and the daughter in trouble in episode one, reunite them at the end of episode three. And we should have a specific hero to lead us through it all. Let's go with the big name star/lead character of the flagship CSI show: Laurence Fishburn's Dr. Raymond Langston of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

   Again, I am imagining this was thinking. So then the specs get handed out to each show's writing crew and... what happened?

   The action starts on CSI: Miami. As we see a young girl fleeing for her life in a car, we meet her mother as she runs to the police, begging for their help. Her daughter has gotten into bad trouble. She called saying she was coming home... but she never made it. CSI: Miami's Horatio Caine takes the woman's case, leading the charge to find her daughter. So, good start. Concerned mom, check. Daughter in jeopardy, check. Soon the Horatio and his team find part of the girl's dismembered body and... hold on... that's... uhhh... I thought we would follow the girl and her mom through three episodes. Okay, screw that I guess. Maybe the intent was always exactly what happened. But given what happens later in the story... I really don't think the girl was supposed to be bumped off. But lets move on...

   The CSI team discovers that the murdered girl was in fact working as a prostitute for the evil Zeta group. She didn't intend to, though. She thought she was signing up for something else entirely and when she tried to get out, they wouldn't let her. But that's not all! In the same area where they find the girl's body parts they also find the leg of another girl. Those parts were covered with radiation and salt, indicating she had been dismembered in a radioactive salt flat, the kind you find in Nevada where nuclear testing has happened. So now there is a tie to the original CSI series, set in Las Vegas. The team gets on the horn to Dr. Langston. They find identifying marks on leg that ids it as a girl missing from Vegas. Langston is on his was to Miami to help faster than you can say amputated cadaver leg!

   So one girl chopped up in Vegas and dumped in the everglades of Miami, another from Miami. The team looks for a connection. Who might have chopping skills and ties to Vegas and Miami? Ah ha! They discover a high class restaurateur known for chopping meat who has restaurants in both cities! Soon they are all over him and discover, yes, his restaurants were funded by the Zetas! And he confesses to chopping up the girl in Vegas! But he did not transport the remains to Miami or kill/chop up the second girl. Turns out the Miami girl was killed and dismembered by her pimp who ALSO works for the Zetas.

   Okay, now I have some problems. A key element to solving this case was the fact that the restaurateur had businesses in both cities thus explaining the same chopping up of girls in two cities and explaining how the Vegas body made it's was to Miami. Only... the guy did not transport the Vegas body to Miami and he had nothing at all to do with the second dead girl. So... the CSI's key clue was utter crap and just lucked them into catching the bad guys? That's just bad writing. But the show does its way to cover that all up with flashy editing, video style, and music. I have watched CSI: Miami before and I do know they are a fan of the fancy editing but even compared with what I've seen them do in the past, this episode was out of control! I have never seen such an abuse of flashy editing. And crazy music cues! It so boggled the eyes and ears as to make you not notice the story was a bit wonky.

   The good guys do catch the two killers, both of whom cower in fear at the evil of their employers... the Zetas! So while we don't get to see the big bads, their rep is established. Okay. No worries. Two more episodes to get to that. Just establishing a good aura of evil is fine. But... we do need a link to part two. I don't think the dead girl is gonna move into part two. And that makes her mom pointless so forget her. What to do? Oh wait! I know! You know the dead girl we won't be following through the trilogy after all? Well, one of the clues was that a seemingly random girl and her boyfriend found the dead girl's purse and used her credit cards. The cops caught up with the couple and questioned them. So the show uses them! See, turns out they aren't so random! They ALSO work for the Zetas, because apparently everyone works for the Zetas. In particular let's use the girl! Let's use the two dimensional, under developed girl we barely know, have no vested interest in and who would steal from a murdered girl! Let's make her the character we feel compelled to follow through two more episodes. So at the end of the episode Generic Whore sneaks away from the guy we assumed was her boyfriend to go to the bathroom where she leaves a note reading, "Help me. He's going to kill me." Well given all the helpful information she included I'm sure someone will come to her rescue immediately. No? She's about to get dragged out of Miami and over onto CSI: New York? Awww. Next time, generic whore we know nothing about other than that you rob the dead, be sure to include some piece of actual helpful info in your note.

   So, heading into CSI: New York, we have a vague idea of the villainous Zetas (they are into prostitution and kill hookers who are quitters) and we have a victim. Not the innocent girl accidentally swept into corruption fighting to get out but instead... just some girl. Great!

   Part two gives our victim a name: Madeline Briggs. Gone is the guy she was last seen with apparently he handed Madeline off to someone else in the Zeta organization. Then he was conveniently killed. He was a low level player in the Zeta organization and because of that, disposable. Two reads I can put on that. The first is a quick fix to some sloppy scripting. The guy doesn't figure into the CSI: New York plot, he was a sloppy loose end left by the Miami guys so they bump him off with a quick line of dialogue. The second read would be he was killed off in an effort to bolster the threat and danger the Zetas represent. I think the truth is both. I think CSI: Miami left a sloppy plot thread dangling and CSI: New York did the best it could to tie it up while turning it into something to bolster the Zeta's rep.

   Anyway, CSI: New York starts with Madeline in the custody of a creepy truck driver who has her locked up in a holding cell in his truck. He is also transporting the body of a dead girl in a steel drum. While traveling through New York, Evil Trucker is involved in a bad car accident. No way to drive away from it so he grabs his hostage and runs, leaving his truck and the can full of dead girl behind. CSI arrives and in the truck's holding cell quickly discovers the missing girl's DNA on the walls where she tried to claw her was out. They also find the DNA of dozens of other girls. And the dead girl? Missing organs. This trucker is a professionally evil bastard. And the Zetas are one stop shopping for every type of human abuse and trafficking. They whore girls out, they harvest their organs for illegal transplants, they drug girls up and sell them into slavery, they rent out their wombs as pregnancy surrogates. And if any of the girls complain, they get chopped up and dumped around the country by one of their fleet of evil truckers. CSI: New York did a good job of upping the Zetas' creep factor. The crazy human trafficking they ascribe to them is so evil it could come across as way over the top. That is just a lot of organized evil craziness for a super secret organization of villains to be pulling off. But CSI: New York does a good job of selling it all as serious and real.

   Once the New York CSI's ID Madeline Briggs as a victim, the word goes out and Dr. Raymond Langston quickly contacts them from Miami. Turns out he has spoken to Madeline's mother and has sworn to do what he can to find her daughter. We never see the mother in this episode. Again, if the mother/daughter from the start of CSI: Miami had been left in play, all this might have had more impact. It would concern a mother and daughter we knew and cared about. That said, CSI: New York works hard to turn lemons into lemonade. They add in a scene between Langston and CSI: New York's top CSI, Detective Mac Taylor. Langston knows he has to call the mother and tell her the latest bad news. Langston and Taylor get into an emotional conversation about the situation and in the process give us a reason to care about this missing girl. Up until now she's just been two dimensional and, from what we've seen of her, kind of unlikable. Their conversation makes her into someone's daughter. She's someone with parents who love and miss her. Even if we don't see those parents, it's something very relatable and gives us a reason to really care. Also, the show establishes that it's not just Madeline in jeopardy. Turns out she's pregnant. More reason to care.

   The episode then becomes a chase to find the truck driver and recover the girl. Simple but effective. Not nearly as convoluted and confused as CSI: Miami's chapter. In the end, they catch the guy, but they catch him too late. He's already passed on the girl to the next truck driver in the chain. They've lost her. But the truck driver's capture gives him a chance to evilly elaborate on JUST how evil and terrible the Zetas are. BWAHAHAHA!!! Langston swears to continue his quest to find Madeline Briggs!!! If only he knew... the trucker who now has her? He's taking her to Langston's home town of Las Vegas. Convenient that since the last chapter of the trilogy will happen on the main CSI which is set in Vegas. If he was taking her to Detroit they'd have to start a new Michigan based CSI show to deal with it!

   So, keeping score. On CSI: New York, we started to care more about the victim even though she and her mother really remained non-entities. We saw more lower level bad guys fall. The breadth of the Zetas' evil was expanded and elaborated on but, really, as villains the Zetas still remain faceless and vague. All of this is not good. By now we should really be connected to and rooting for the victims. The villains should have some sort of real face, some real physical presence. There should be someone or some group of people we've seen up to no good who we are just waiting to see the cops catch and throw in jail. Instead, once again, this crime spree has been brought to you by the letter Z. Even as a letter Z is less scary than it is boring. The Zetas? A group of Zs? That equals, "Zzzzzzzzz..." Well, maybe CSI: Crime Scene Investigations will solve the problem. Vegas is a town that never sleeps. (Really though, the final chapter doesn't fix the flaws. Didn't want to falsely get your hopes up.)

   CSI: Crime Scene Investigations gets back to some of the confusion of CSI: Miami but works a little bit better. It all starts with the murder of what appears to be a hooker but turns out to be a TV weather girl from Barstow. Before that plot really gets going we cut to Langston walking the streets of Vegas showing around a picture of Madeline Briggs, asking if anyone had seen her. Initially this seemed like a mistake. The end of the last episode had Madeline heading to Vegas but with Langston unaware of this fact. SO for a moment it's like... is he so desperate he's just searching Vegas for her out of desperation? Nope. Turns out someone snapped a picture of Madeline at a casino in Vegas so he knows she is in town. I wonder though if this scene was a late addition to the story though as it isn't essential to the case. The weather girl case ends up by chance connecting to Madeline's case so technically there was no need to have Langston out on the streets. But it does add an emotional element to things, showing like they did in the New York episode that he's invested in the case.

   Back to the dead weather girl, Dede Chase. In examining her they discover she is wearing an earring owned by Madeline Briggs that has some of Madeline's blood on it. So they crossed paths at some point. Going to at this point try to lay things out more straight forward and less twisty-turny than the show did. Dede was in fact just a weather girl who was visiting Vegas. She unfortunately chose to take a ride back to hotel from a hard core pimp who abducted her and tortured her into being his whore. This same pimp also bought Madeline off of the Zeta's human trafficking ring. At some point (they don't show how) Dede ended up with Madeline's earring. Dede convinced her pimp she was on board with the whole hooking thing and then, on her first time out, she made a run for it. But her pimp, Anthony, had his top ho' (his bottom bitch) following her. When Dede tried to run, Anthony's girl murdered her.

   Meanwhile, the CSIs are all over Anthony's place trying to find Madeline. Now, CSI: New York established Madeline was pregnant. Turns out Anthony was not happy to have bought a pregnant whore. He beat the crap out of her. But Anthony had another problem. He had stolen his top girl from another pimp, a Russian who in addition to being a pimp was a professor of Russian literature (I don't know why) named Dimitri. As a peace offering for stealing Dimitri's girl, he gave Madeline to him. Dimitri accepted the offering but just as a business move. He didn't really have use for her though and set her free. Meanwhile, the CSI's also discover that the tattoo Dimitri uses to mark his girls matches the tattoo on one of the severed limbs found in Miami. Also, it seems he has been burying some of his girls in the same radioactive salt flats where the Miami victim was cut up. Dimitri cuts a deal with the police and gives them the names of the people involved in the human trafficking ring. Around the country we are told the bad guys have been rounded up and arrested. And then as a final shout out to the other shows, as they get that news, they are sent tacky Miami and New York souvenirs from the teams in those cities.

   Now before I get to the finish of the episode which unlike much in this mess makes some sense, at least emotionally, let me point out what a mess the main plot resolution I just described REALLY is. So... Dimitri has all the info on the trafficking ring. Really? First off, Anthony was the one in the story who is actually directly connected to the trafficking ring, having bought Madeline from them. To cover that the writers have to throw in some crap about the severed leg in Miami being connected to Dimitri burying girls in the desert. Only that doesn't really jive. The Zetas have an elaborate system in place to dispose of bodies. Part of that had them cutting up people in the Vegas desert and then NOT burying them there but instead taking the parts and disposing them all over the country. It would seem they did that with a girl who was one of Dimitri's. Only Dimitri doesn't do that to his girls. They find a big hooker graveyard in the desert where he dumps his bodies. So, trying to make this work, adding details the show did not provide, I would guess that the chopped up Vegas girl found in Miami must have been a girl Dimitri sold to the Zetas and who they then, coincidentally, ended up chopping up in an area similar to Dimitri's disposal area. But, fine, whatever. There is enough circumstantial crap in place that we can assume that they Zetas had dealings with Dimitri as well as Anthony. But Dimitri and Anthony are both, relatively speaking, small time Vegas pimps who have dealings with this giant corporation of evil. Realistically, I'd think they'd have very little info on the Zetas. Maybe info on a few contacts they'd do business with. But this episode would have us believe that nobody Dimitri somehow has detailed information on the entirety of the Zeta's nationwide operation, enough so that he is single handedly able to bring the whole thing down. Yeah. Pull my other leg. That's crap.

   So now less address the monumental conclusion to the this saga, where the huge overarching bag guys are defeated! Yeaaahhh... still a bunch of anonymous faceless people who we hear via emails have been arrested off screen. Wow. Could there be a duller, less satisfying finish? Well, in a way, yes! Because in the final episode they even forget the bad guys as a group had a name. They stop referring to them as Zetas and just call them "the human trafficking ring". So we don't even get the minor joy of hearing someone say, "The Zeta organization has been destroyed!" Nope. Just, "We arrested nearly all of the traffickers." Not that calling them Zetas would have made it much better but... really, they couldn't even be bothered to maintain the name of the evil organization???

   To try to keep from utterly depressing myself, I will end on the one final bit that worked. This episode did have Madeline's mom showing up to scold Langston for not informing her her daughter had been spotted in Vegas. Then, at the end, as things are all rapping up, Langston is confused as to what happened to Madeline. He believes she was set free. But then, where did she go? He realizes that with all that has happened to her, she probably feels dirty, used, and no good. She's too ashamed to come forward. In the course of the investigation Langston discovered that the Vegas hookers use a text message grapevine (dubbed the ho-vine) to alert each other to things like when cops are coming. Hoping she still has her cell phone from when she was a hooker, he puts a message out on the ho-vine addressed to her, telling her that her mother misses her and doesn't care about what she's done. In the end, Madeline gets the message and does show up. Langston coaxes her out of her fear. She stumbles towards him and collapses in his arms in tears. She's been saved. That scene actually had some nice emotion to it. Not enough to redeem the whole three episode mess but it was nice. And it would have been even nicer to, oh, I dunno, show her ACTUALLY reunited with her mom! That was the point of that plot, right? And, to bitch about this one last time, imagine how big a moment they could have had if they started CSI: Miami by introducing the mother trying to find her lost daughter and then ended the final chapter with their tearful reunion! That would have been an ending. But, oh well. At least some nameless, faceless, evil as sin, dumb as crap bad guys we never actually saw were arrested. And it only took three freaking hours.

Other CSI Crossover Links
CSI and CSI: Miami
CSI and Without A Trace

Other CSI: Miami Crossover Links
CSI: Miami and CSI
CSI: Miami and CSI: NY

Other CSI: NY Crossover Links
CSI: NY and Cold Case
CSI: NY and CSI: Miami

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