CSI Season 14 Review “Helpless”

This was one of those episodes of “CSI” that can often be a lot of fun and a nice respite from the more serious fare they typically offer- or at least it seemed that way at first. On “Helpless,” we got a guy who rolled up into a neighbor’s lawn in one of those giant hamster balls: think something like “Bubble Boy,” only gone horribly wrong, as this particular guy was stone-cold dead. Naturally, it was up to the gang to figure out what the hell happened, which led to some out-there stuff in the same neck of the woods as the episodes about furries and the various ones involving the fetish community with Lady Heather.

So far, so good. This part of the episode was goofy and fairly unpredictable, involving people into something called claustrophilia, aka people who get off on being trapped in small, confined spaces. I can’t say I was even aware such a thing existed, so that alone made it kind of interesting. It got even crazier when it was revealed that a person of interest in the case had voluntarily opted to put herself in a box to be shipped to the victim’s house. (With the recent passing of the legendary Lou Reed, I couldn’t help but think of this.) That didn’t end so well, either. (Nice crack about her arriving “postal-mortem,” BTW!)

Granted, the culprit behind the bubble boy massacre turned out to be the woman’s husband, which was somewhat predictable, but the mystery wasn’t so much the point of the story. As they say, this was more about the journey than the destination. I absolutely enjoyed every minute of that case, and it would have made for a perfectly fine episode, except for the fact that the other case was so incredibly serious. I mean, serial rapists aren’t exactly the stuff of laughter under the best of circumstances (much less the worst of them, as was the case here), you know what I mean?

Don’t get me wrong, that case was intriguing, too, and unlike the main case, it actually had a clever twist on the culprit that I didn’t see coming, as it turned out to be the father of the chief suspect, not the one everyone thought it was. The connected bits about Dawn Banks (Sherry Stringfield, late of “ER”) were pretty interesting, too, as it led to a case of mistaken identity that could have been avoided if the circumstances weren’t so messed up. So, all things considered, the elements of two interesting cases were present and accounted for.

The problem was that these two cases are so clearly tonally adverse that they sort of cancelled each other out overall. By which I mean that one case was deadly serious, while the other was pretty silly. I mean, on one hand we’ve got such amusing gallows humor as “This is how he rolls” and “Have a ball” in regards to the main murder, but on the other, we’ve got a nasty bit of business about a guy who drugs women and rapes them, all in the service of “practicing” for his main event, which is completely disturbing. Needless to say, these are two things that did not go together well.

Ultimately, it was a good episode, but the juxtaposition of the two cases was haphazard and off-putting, to say the least. It was nice to see Stringfield again, and newbie Matthew Davis was far less irritating here than in his last appearance, so that was also much appreciated. The cases were both interesting as well, but they were so at odds with one another that the tone of the show was all over the place, and not in a good way. As such, it kind of ruined the episode for me for the most part, which is unfortunate.

So, I didn’t hate it, but it was a tough one to get through, and it really didn’t have to be. Obviously, that’s all on the writers, but I’m kind of surprised that at least one person didn’t say: “Hey, maybe we should hold off on the serial rapist thing for now, given how ridiculous the other case is.” They didn’t and as such, the episode was a bit of a wash. Too bad, as both ideas had promise.

What did you think of “CSI” this week? Did the diverse nature of the two plots put you off as well, or am I overreacting? Did you like seeing Stringfield again? How about Davis? Could the episode have standed a few more “ball”-related jokes? Maybe it’s just me. Let me know what you thought in the comments section, and I’ll see you next week!