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CSI welcomes Fishburne in The Grave Shift

CSI, Laurence Fishburne

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

ALTHOUGH we’ve already met CSI: Crime Scene Investigation‘s Dr Ray Langston (Laurence Fishburne) in Grissom’s farewell episodes, it’s in The Grave Shift that we see his name in the opening credits for the first time.

Not surprisingly, it’s an episode that focuses on Langston’s first day as a CSI – a day that proves far from easy when a simple burglary quickly overlaps with an arson case that masks a murder.

As always, the plot is as convoluted as a coiled cobra and just as unpredictable. Yet in this first episode without Grissom, we also see how the team – now led by Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) – adapt to his departure and perhaps more importantly, interact with the newcomer. And much to CSI‘s credit, both are infused with humour.

To begin with, Langston turns up for work not only with an overly large kit bag but, to Nick’s amusement, wearing a tie. From that moment, you just know it’s going to turn out badly for Langston who, in the best traditions of CSI, ends up covered in the fire’s detritus of ash and water and with the tails of his tie lopped off. And you only have to look at his face to know what he’s thinking!

Certain procedures, the dusting for prints for example, also cause problems for the new recruit – he’s still to learn if the action is in the wrist or the fingers – and if all that isn’t enough, he’s given the run-around by Hodges (Wallace Langham ) who’s still ‘mourning’ the loss of his mentor. All of which will strike a cord with anyone honest enough to recall the trials of their first day in a new job.

It also makes Langston very human, something we see more of a little later when, full of good intent, he approaches Alex Palento, whose world has fallen apart, only to have the boy spit in his face. And he’s no pushover – by reconstructing the explosion that caused the fire, he gets back at Hodges and in the process, earns the younger man’s grudging respect. It’s a working relationship that has great potential and promises to be well played out by both Fishburne and Langham.

In the meantime, there’s an empty office waiting to be filled and it’s only after Ecklie (Marc Vann) somewhat causticly tells Catherine, “We can’t afford a shrine”, that she offers it to Nick (George Eads) who in turn, decides to share it with Greg (Eric Szmanda) and relative newcomer Riley (Lauren Lee Smith).

They say nothing lasts and here we have proof. Grissom’s reign may well be over but in his place we have Langston, a caring man who is both conscientious and willing to learn by his mistakes yet certainly no Grissom clone. True, he may not have quite the same appeal as Grissom (he wasn’t dubbed the thinking woman’s totty for nothing) but he’ll do just fine.