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Should ‘CSI’s’ Sara Sidle live or die?

The seventh season of “CSI” ended earlier this year with crime scene investigator Sara Sidle trapped under an overturned vintage muscle car, her hand twitching with faint signs of life. Should she live or die? The pros and cons of each outcome. By Helen A.S. Popkin
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

The seventh season of “CSI” ended earlier this year with crime scene investigator Sara Sidle trapped under an overturned vintage muscle car, her hand twitching with faint signs of life. Back at the Las Vegas lab, Sara’s boss and secret lover, Gil Grissom, finished his interrogation of a psychotic young cleaning woman who turned out to be the lab’s season-long nemesis, the Miniature Killer.

When the interview began, it seemed Grissom had the upper hand. He complimented and teased information from his unhinged suspect, using her serious daddy issues to manipulate her.  In the end, however, Grissom realized that it was Miss Miniature Killer in charge. Grissom’s confidence quickly evaporated when their cat-and-mouse conversation revealed that her latest victim was Sara.

No doubt, “CSI’s” eighth season will begin with Grissom and crew frantically searching for their lost and dying co-worker. They’ll meticulously comb through the only real clue to Sara’s location, the perfectly constructed scale model of the crime scene, complete with model car and tiny motorized hand poking from underneath the wreckage. With the killer’s obsessive attention to detail, viewers know this crack team can unearth leads. But whether they get to Sara in time is another question. And whether viewers even want Sara back alive is the biggest cliffhanger of all.

In the “CSI” (Original Recipe) chat rooms, hard-core fans battle over which fate for Sara is best — for Grissom, the CSI crew and the show in general. Haters rail against both the Sara character and actress Jorja Fox. Many find her long-foreshadowed relationship with Grissom unbelievable or just plain icky. Meanwhile, many romantics find the couple’s odd connection dreamy and divine, and want to see it explored. Others just don’t want to see the Sara’s quirky character disappear from the show. There are pros and cons on both sides of the argument. Here’s what it could mean for “CSI” if Sara lives or she dies.

Sara lives!Post-traumatic stress disorder would make Sara’s already damaged character more interesting. When Sara first joined CSI, she entered the game with an already bent-up playing deck. Freakishly intelligent, Sara had a rough childhood (her mother killed her father) and graduated high school at 16, then went to Harvard. This could explain her difficulty fitting in with the rest of the CSI team. Plus, she has that authority problem when being told what to do by anyone other than Grissom. During the short period when Catherine was Sara’s boss, the two had a major falling out.

Sara’s character has been picked up for drunk driving, and a past collection of food delivery menus hints that she doesn’t have much in the way of a social life (before she and Grissom hooked up, at least). Since Sara’s not one for counseling, who knows how this life-threatening episode will twist her further? She could come out even more introverted, or change completely, embracing life and dressing in pastels (instead of blacks and grays).

It could be a bonding experience. Sara and Nick can bond over their mutual season-ending kidnapping/entrapment/near-death experiences in the line of duty. If Sara’s predicament seems familiar, it’s because the Quentin Tarantino-directed season five finale found CSI Nick Stokes buried alive by a vengeful father, facing a lack of oxygen, a swarm of fire ants and explosives before he was finally rescued by the crew. The Miniature Killer kidnapped and trapped Sara under a car to get back at Grissom for her father’s death. Now that the two are members of what is, for now, an exclusive CSI club, they can bond and heal together, and maybe even make Grissom a little jealous.

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Sara remains a rare female character in TV crime dramas. In an era where dumpy dude detectives are partnered with increasingly younger women who look more like models than detectives, Sara is a real treat. Yes, Sara is thin and not so old herself, but she dresses like a real person, her breasts are never spilling out of her police-issue vest, and often, her hair looks like it hasn’t seen a brush in days. Sara is certainly more of a real person than any of the lab hotties found on “CSI: Miami” or “CSI: New York.”

Sara and Grissom make for great lab gossip. With Sara kidnapped, Grissom came out to the team about their secret love affair — though it’s not really clear why. Surely they would’ve believed that like Nick’s kidnap/torture, taking Sara was just another hit on the department. Maybe he felt obligated, since the Miniature Killer went after Grissom’s weird daddy’s girl relationship because he wrecked hers. Whatever. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Hodges and the rest of the creepy lab techs will be abuzz. But nobody’s going to want to gossip about it if Sara’s dead. 

There’s something else for Grissom to brood over. If Sara lives, there’s no way her relationship with Grissom can last. It’s got that creepy daddy’s girl vibe mentioned earlier, what with the decade-plus age difference. If that yuckiness doesn’t do them in, no doubt upper management will want to put the kibosh on the affair. Even if their love isn’t against office policy, neither Grissom nor Sara is any good at relationships. When Grissom was away on sabbatical, he didn’t even e-mail. He claims he loves her in a letter he never sent, but it was all he could do to send Sara an old twig with a cocoon. This extra trauma will only create a further divide. Fans of the mopey Grissom, rejoice!

Sara dies! Sara goes from co-worker to work. Catherine, Nick, Warrick, Greg, et al., are known to yuck it up pretty good over a corpse or two, laughing at the expense of the deceased. Catherine couldn’t contain her guffaws when they found a suspect caught in cement. Then there was Greg’s line about the empty decapitated head he found: “This one’s a no-brainer.” Of course, because this is television, the investigators won’t be relieved from this investigation because of conflict of interest. Let’s see how the team operates when they don’t have black humor to help them through a horrible crime scene.

More Lady Heather! Yes, “CSI” has hinted at Grissom’s age-inappropriate affection for Sara for years. When he couldn’t deal with a corpse because it resembled his favorite underling, viewers knew for sure. But frankly, it’s creepy. Grissom’s true soul mate is erstwhile dominatrix Lady Heather. Alas, whenever she resurfaces, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the law — kind of like Batman and Catwoman. Someday these crazy students of human behavior will figure it out. With Sara out of the way, it’ll be that much easier for the star crossed lovers to do just that. 

No Sara gives other characters room to grow. What happened with Warrick’s gambling problem or the wife he married on the spur of the moment? Did long work hours destroy their short relationship? Did they work it out, or can he and Catherine finally hook up? What about Catherine’s juvenile delinquent daughter? Will she turn just as bad as Det. Jim Brass’s kid?  How is Nick after his own kidnapping experience? Does he have nightmares? These are all plot lines left unfulfilled last year by writers focusing on the most forced TV pairing since Monica and Chandler on “Friends.”

No more Jorja Fox contract disputes.  Back in 2004, Jorja Fox (Sara) and George Eads (Nick) didn’t show up to work because they wanted to make more money. Instead, they were fired, then rehired with no raise. Rumor has it, Fox is doing it again and that’s why Sara got thrown under the bus — or the vintage muscle car. If Sara doesn’t make it through, you can blame Fox’s lousy management. At least we won’t have to read about it any more.

More for Grissom to brood over. With his beloved Sara dead and gone, surely Grissom will be wracked with guilt. If only they hadn’t been lovers, then the Miniature Killer wouldn’t have taken Sara! Can Grissom ever love again? Will he ever work again? After all, the profession he loves lead to the loss of the woman he loves. Fans of mopey Grissom, rejoice!