Note: This episode is from the current season ending Spring 2012 and the full plot is discussed below.
CSI has had some excellent abuse related episodes in the past, even when “Blood Drops” from the very first season employed cheap shock twists. Sadly after many excellent episodes, with this episode from the latest season just ending for the US and starting for the UK, CSI takes two steps back with a return to the cheap cliché approach, ruining an excellent episode with one single scene.
It starts off well enough in the lead case, with a serial killer’s accomplice due for parole having had a softer sentence than her partner and some parents of missing or dead children up in arms about this. On top of this, one survivor has tried to get on with her life and it’s Sara Sidle’s job to update the girl about the upcoming release.
The whole episode becomes a race against time when another kidnap happens and this builds with the occasional cutaway to the second case (which is also concerned with body image and transformation but only metaphorically and played almost for laughs), to the ending. The shock as intended doesn’t work, the real shock is that the writers decided to hang out the vampire myth about child abuse victims becoming perpetrators that hasn’t been seen in a Bruckheimer-produced TV show since Cold Case eight years ago. That twist was lazy back then and is downright backward after all the improvements on American television to date in the portrayal of abuse survivors culminating in the makers of Private Practice collaborating with RAINN for their Military Sexual Trauma episode. Clearly next to zero research took place for this one as once again, a measured and researched figure of 30% is painted out to be 100% for victims becoming perpetrators to somehow make CSI’s audience feel safe in their ignorance. The “it’s just a drama” excuse does not apply to a show that regularly hits 10-13million viewers in its own back yard and easily the same number again when exported overseas.
Since the most recent and high profile real-life survivor involved in this type of kidnap-and-return scenario has not abused her children, it’s frankly slanderous and abusing the ratings base of the show to serve up prejudicial myths. It’s the not the first time CSI has served up prejudices for entertainment and it’s frankly wasteful of a show of this standard. Unlike Law and Order there’s no three year wait to see when this show misfires, episodes like this which are ruined by a single scene stick in the mind just as much as “Lost and Found” and “Death and The Maiden” from previous years. The only upside is that “Bittersweet” is the only the second bad episode in this vein since the show started, so hopefully it won’t become a trend.
Other information: TV.com