Episode Title: "Unleashed"
Writer: Ed Whitmore and Anythony E. Zuiker
Director: Brad Tanenbaum
Langston (Laurence Fishburne) and Sara (Jorja Fox) arrive on the scene in the woods where a young woman appears to have been killed by a mountain lion. However, the wounds on her body suggest it wasn't a lion who killed her.
Meanwhile, Nick (George Eads) and Doc Robbins (Robert David Hall) are stopped while driving by a man who tells them a young girl is dead in a nearby house. Nick and Robbins enter the home and find the girl dead by hanging in her closet. However, the baby she is carrying is still alive. Robbins performs a miraculous c-section and saves the infant's life.
The woman from the woods is identified as Iona Vale. Sara and Langston pay a visit to the woman's shelter where she worked. Her co-worker tells Sara that Iona quit several weeks ago after breaking up with her boyfriend.
Doc Robbins tells Nick the pregnant teen girls appears to have been involved in a struggle, prior to death. When her mother arrives, Nick tells the woman, who was admittedly not close with her daughter, Maria, that she was pregnant. She tells Nick she can't handle it and storms off.
After looking through Iona's belongings, Sara learns that she paid a visit to a Dr. K. She quickly realizes it's Heather Kessler, otherwise known as "Lady Heather," the dominatrix Gil Grissom has had a complex relationship with over the years.
Langston and Sara visit Dr. Kessler (Melinda Clarke), now a licensed therapist, who tells them of Iona's visits. Through therapy, Iona imagined herself as a cat. Her boyfriend was skeptical but participated in the sessions with Iona. However at their last session, Iona bit him, refusing to come out of character. That was the last time Kessler heard from Iona.
After searching Maria's bedroom, Nick learns that she was involved with the Homecoming King. He brings her cellphone to Archie (Archie Kao), who deciphers their coded text messages.
Though Iona's dental remains, Sara and Langston learn that she'd been visiting veterinary dentist, Dr. Tyrell (Tony Curran), who happens to have a fetish for animal roleplaying. He admits that Iona stayed at his mansion but insists it was voluntary and that he did not harm her, though she did run away.
Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) talks to Maria's boyfriend, who admits to engaging in a struggle with her that morning but did not kill her. He tells Brass that everyone had it out for Maria, as she was the victim of extreme cyber-bullying.
After recreating Iona's burns wounds on a dummy, Sara realizes she was burned with her own stun gun. That coupled with a piece of fabric found on the scene lead Sara and Langston back to the shelter, where Iona's co-worker admits to attempting "rescue" her friend from Tyrell, just like Iona rescued her from an abusive relationship. However, Iona did not want to be rescued and ran off into the woods, where she died.
Nick heads to Maria's school and arrests the cheerleaders who terrorized her online, leading to her suicide. Meanwhile, Langston pays a visit to Dr. Kessler, to talk about Nate Haskell and his own violent tendencies.
"Unleashed" was that rare gem of a "CSI" episode that had it all; two sensational(ized) cases, a number of interesting character flourishes and the return of a great recurring character, adding another layer of complexity to a storyline (Langston's pursuit of Nate Haskell), that really needs it.
While Langston's ongoing saga with the serial killer, Haskell, at times, seems like a "Silence of the Lambs," rip-off, the good doctor's revelation of his own animal instincts adds a whole new dimension to the story arc. We know Langston's got a dark side and now, "Lady Heather" is encouraging him to "unleash" it, in order to catch the elusive serial killer.
Of course, in the end it will be the "good" Dr. Langston who collars Haskell, but I'd love to see how his darker side begins to emerge in the cases to come. Unfortunately, this is where straddling the line between an hour-long procedural and a serialized crime drama starts to get messy. Typically, we'd get lots of expository reminders regarding Langston's history with Haskell, but it would still make for a great build-up to the final confrontation.
As for the cases this week, the exploration of the Iona's feline underworld was equally fascinating and ridiculous. I've got to hand it to the writers, they sure do try to keep this routine police work stuff interesting.
And Nick's crusade to see Maria's cyber-bullies taken down was also intriguing. Just last week, "CSI" explored the issue of "cyber-murder" with the obese gamer whose seizures were induced by a rival player online. This week, the issue of prosecuting a group of teenagers who drove a girl to suicide was on the table. Whether or not Nick's arrest of the girls is actually plausible is unclear, but it's certainly an interesting case that's complex and disturbing.
Really, this hour of "CSI" felt more like a feature film than an episodic police procedural. The groundwork has been laid for a great season finale, thanks to one of the strongest episodes of the season.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.