Episode Spotlight: Chasing the Bus (CSI)

I have been terribly delinquent at supplying new content for this blog, but since it’s the start of a new fiscal year, I’m going to treat it like a second new year and a fresh start. I want to get back to writing more frequently and that means a new feature! Every week, I am going to rewatch one of my favorite episodes and celebrate all that made them good or memorable. Some of these will be widely regarded as great episodes, others will just be ones that are close to my heart. Even if you aren’t familiar with the episode featured in any given week, that doesn’t mean you can’t join in on the fun. Feel free to rewatch one of your own favorites and tell me about it in the comments or join in with the discussion question at the end. There can never be too much discussion about the shows we individually love.

To kick off this new feature, I revisited an old favorite. “Chasing the Bus” aired in March 2002 and is the first episode of CSI that I remember watching. It may not have been the very first, but it was the one that inspired me to buy the first season on DVD and a 7 year love was born. It’s also one of my most-watched episodes of the show, though it had probably been 8 years since I last saw it.

The Plot: The CSIs investigate a bus crash outside of Las Vegas.

Significance: Especially in its early seasons, CSI was an episodic procedural. A case was introduced at the beginning of the episode and a suspect was arrested by the end in the majority of cases. The show was about the science behind the crime, so even character interactions were minimal and mostly contained to work-related discussions. There are hints at character relationships or at least general affection for the others, but nothing like what viewers are used to today in the world of Bones, Castle, and Elementary.

As a result, in the overall show canon, this is not an important episode. It was a slightly unusual one, as the whole team was working together to solve one crime instead of splitting off into an A and B crime, but a viewer could jump into this episode and know all they needed to know or completely skip it and not miss anything important.

Lasting Impressions: Despite all that, I really liked getting to rewatch this episode. I remembered the basics of how the case went and correctly identified the suspect on first sight, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment. Revisiting an show you once loved, especially one with stand-alone episodes such as this that don’t tie into a larger story arc, is like coming home and putting on a comfortable pair of slippers. They aren’t particularly stylish and they may not hold much value to anyone but you, but they are yours and you wouldn’t trade them.

When the case isn’t the important aspect, it allows you more room to remember the characters as they were and the attachment you formed to them. CSI in particular reminds me of how fascinated I was and to some extent still am in forensic science. It connects me back to a very distinct point in my life. When I watch, I get to remember the 14-year-old girl who loved and related to Sara Sidle so much. I get to remember spending too much time analyzing what Sara meant when she said the look on her face was a “Grissom look”.

Overall, I’d probably rate this episode as a “B-”. It’s honestly not the most interesting case in the world. I can’t think of a case on any other show quite like it, but as all fans who have ever liked procedural television will agree, after a point, the cases do kind of run together. Grissom’s one-liners are truly not the strongest or most original in this episode. Despite the fact that they all worked the case together, Catherine spent much of the episode on her own. These things could take away from my enjoyment if I watched TV strictly for some objective notion of quality, but since I don’t, I can overlook them and hold on to what I do love about this episode and that was a chance to see the characters I care about do what they do best. I got my couple good character interactions like Sara defending Greg or Warrick and Grissom playing chess. It’s my fuzzy slipper TV and that’s all it needs to be.

What are some of your “fuzzy slipper” episodes? Which ones do you always return to that may not have been remarkable on their own but hold a lot of emotional value?

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