Williampetersen3_csi_nbc_240 Crossovers are tricky affairs. While it’s really cool to see how your favorite characters act in a familiar yet alien setting, too often crossovers feel like hastily written fan-fiction. The characters become two-dimensional, and the weaker are made more interesting to lure interest.

CBS’ big plan for sweeps was to pair its scripted juggernaut, CSI, with another very good show, Without a Trace. At least, I’ve heard the latter is very good; somehow, I’ve never seen a single episode. Until tonight.

We start in Las Vegas, where a woman and child share an awkward game night, complicated when both are beaten to death. Grissom arrives to find the scene six hours old. Someone, see, put a hold on processing the bodies. Soon enough, that somebody is helicoptered in: the FBI’s Jack Malone. A bloody palm print matches one from a six-year-old murder in New York City, during which a boy very much like this night’s victim was abducted.

At the risk of doing disservice to what turned out to be a neat story, let me sum up. A serial killer has been traveling the nation’s railways, but now it seems he wants a certain boy. The reason? That boy is his son, and our first victim was a case of mistaken identity. So was the years-old abduction; that boy’s body is found in Tucson. The killer is a man named Terry Wicker, and once he finds his true son, Wicker flees back to the Big Apple. Malone follows, as does Grissom, and in the end the killer shoots himself rather than harm his son.

Anthonylapaglia_withoutatrace_240 Unfortunately for CSI fans, Malone was clearly the main character for both hours, and while I love Anthony LaPaglia, I miss getting my forensics fix. Malone had at least one scene with each of CSI’s prominent characters, lab rats included, while Grissom’s time in New York was basically a cameo.

Was It Good? Sure. Wicker made for an interesting killer, because his rages were only blunted by his sister and his son. Wicker knew it, and abducted his son to try and stop killing. (Too bad he had to kill his ex-wife to do it.)

Was It True to Form? I can’t speak to Without a Trace, but the CSI half felt a bit rushed. Grissom was unusually hostile toward Malone until Gil got to New York, whereupon he acted like our favorite bug expert.

Was It Stuntalicious? The shows’ characters were integrated fairly well, though it was annoying to see a Fibbie order around our favorite techs. Fans of Without a Trace who had never seen CSI probably wouldn’t tune in next week.

Sara Sidle Watch. One more week until Sara retires, and while she got almost as much screen time this week as the other CSIs, that’s not saying much. Sara did have one scene where Wicker’s work got her sawdust going, so she stormed out the door at the unfairness of it all. Her character has become too petulant for me to really miss.

Posted by:Andy Grieser