C.S.I.- Sara Sidle

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C.S.I. used to be one of the few shows I never missed, partly because of one of the main female characters. Sara Sidle was once that rarity on prime time television: a geek and proud of it, had no problem standing up for herself in any situation, obviously loved her job and was extremely good at it despite being in the male dominated field of forensics and law enforcement, and we never heard a word about her personal life. Some people thought she was too cold and analytical, but I thought she provided a much needed counterbalance to Catherine, who frequently seemed to be nothing but a giant bundle of personal issues. So how did it all fall apart?

First they gave her an unrequited crush on her boss, Gil Grissom. She spent nearly two seasons moping about that, and about getting passed over for a promotion (a position which was eliminated before anyone could actually assume it anyway). She couldn’t step away enough to realize that perhaps her inappropriate crush and her general temperament- she had a history of clashing with her boss’s boss- had contributed to losing that opportunity, it had to be some sort of punishment for making Grissom uncomfortable. Then they gave her a drinking problem, which sort of magically disappeared over the summer hiatus except for a single mention in the next season’s premiere. Then we discovered that Sara had spent part of her childhood in the foster care system after her mother murdered her father. There had never been any mention of that before, although she did occasionally become emotional about female victims. I always thought that was a nice, normal touch for someone who works around violent crimes where women are frequently victims- it’s enough to make anyone mad, particularly someone who’s seeing their own gender brutally attacked on a daily basis. But no: Sara had evolved from someone who loved her job because of the science involved to someone who chases down criminals because she’s been a victim in the past. Apparently women aren’t allowed to have altruistic or intellectual motives, it always has to be personal.

In season 6, Sara seemed to have bounced back a little. She seemed to be actually enjoying the work again, even cracking a smile occasionally. I had a little hope that the show was starting on an uptick again… until the season finale, where it was revealed that she and Grissom were dating, and obviously had been for some length of time. That erased all of the progress she’d made over the season in my opinion, because suddenly it was obvious: “Of course she’s happy- she’s finally gotten the guy she was pining over.” There are a million other shows with that premise, but that’s not the show I signed up for, and it’s not a show I care to watch.

Comments

  1. SunlessNick says

    I agree with all of that, including why I always liked Sara in the past. (I still do, somewhat, but not nearly as much).

    One thing I have liked in the last few years is the way she’s been so sweet to Greg as he’s got into fieldwork – but rather than the message I suspect a “demographer” would take (that I want Sara to be more sweet and less tough), I liked it precisely because it was unlike her but still felt like her.

    The drinking problem I would have been ok with, had it A, needed more work to get rid of; and B, it been Brass (himself a former alcoholic) rather than Grissom who helped her out.

    In particular:

    I always thought that was a nice, normal touch for someone who works around violent crimes where women are frequently victims- it’s enough to make anyone mad, particularly someone who’s seeing their own gender brutally attacked on a daily basis. But no: Sara had evolved from someone who loved her job because of the science involved to someone who chases down criminals because she’s been a victim in the past. Apparently women aren’t allowed to have altruistic or intellectual motives, it always has to be personal.

    This. Making it personal serves to “demote” the daily attacks Sara sees in the horror stakes, and that shouldn’t be.

  2. MaggieCat says

    One thing I have liked in the last few years is the way she’s been so sweet to Greg as he’s got into fieldwork – but rather than the message I suspect a “demographer” would take (that I want Sara to be more sweet and less tough), I liked it precisely because it was unlike her but still felt like her.

    I forgot how much I liked those interactions. (I stopped watching after the season 7 premiere where we supposed to believe Catherine had been raped. It was the last straw for me.) It did seem like Sara, just a side of her that we hadn’t gotten to see. Considering how much she loved her job- at least in the early seasons- it made sense that she would understand why Greg wanted to make that leap into field work. It didn’t make her “sweet” it was just something that humanized her a little more.

    I wouldn’t have had a problem with the alcoholism if it hadn’t played like a stunt. There were a few small hints towards the end of that season, it was used to drag Grissom in and embarrass her when she got pulled over and breathalized, and then after a mention of counseling over the summer it was dropped. Um, no. It doesn’t work like that.

    Making it personal serves to “demote” the daily attacks Sara sees in the horror stakes, and that shouldn’t be.

    This is something that was handled much better over on CSI:NY. After the first season, one of the characters was fired for considering tampering with evidence (she didn’t actually go through with it though) to get a conviction against a serial rapist that they knew for a fact was guilty, but who had walked on a combination of technicalities and the victim’s reluctance to testify. When she handed over her badge she gave a lovely speech about how she just couldn’t watch these people who had been destroyed, and then see that no one was punished. I understand there’s a pretty high burnout rate in jobs like that, so it seemed very realistic.

  3. SunlessNick says

    I never saw the episode where Aidan actually left. I saw the one with her almost doctoring the evidence, and it looked as if she’d decided not to (I’m pleased to have it confirmed she didn’t).

  4. Nialla says

    I started watching CSI when it was repeating on Spike, so I saw a lot of it out of order, but I started watching it on CBS when I could. That stopped when they had the revelation of Grissom and Sara.

    Never cared for her all that much anyway, mostly because of her crush on him in the first place. I could handle the rude part of her nature because that’s just her and there really are people out that just that blunt. I might not like dealing with them, but it’s realistic.

    But now I don’t have much respect Grissom either. I had liked how he’d tried to kindly rebuff her advances and say it just wasn’t appropriate, now it seems he not only caved but were having the shark-jumping storyline of the secret office romance for quite a while.

    Ugh. I haven’t watched it since either.

  5. sbg says

    All I can say is…when they showed Griss and Sara together at the end of last season, it made my dilemma of whether to tape SPN and watch CSI or tape CSI and watch SPN go away. I simply eliminated CSI altogether – pretty painful, considering I was very addicted to that show (despite its waning quality).

  6. MaggieCat says

    After 8 seasons of various CSIs at that point, I had to wean myself off the habit. It became official after I taped it for a few weeks and never got around to watching it because I just couldn’t care.

  7. MaggieCat says

    Nialla:

    But now I don’t have much respect Grissom either. I had liked how he’d tried to kindly rebuff her advances and say it just wasn’t appropriate, now it seems he not only caved but were having the shark-jumping storyline of the secret office romance for quite a while.

    I know, that made sense too in the context of his character. I can believe that he wouldn’t broadcast his personal life, but I refuse to believe he would have kept his relationship with Sara a secret when there’s even the whisper of a possibility that it might affect someone’s objectivity or judgment. I remember the early seasons before Sara developed that annoying crush- the show was so much fun back then, for a lot of reasons.

    SunlessNick:

    I never saw the episode where Aidan actually left. I saw the one with her almost doctoring the evidence, and it looked as if she’d decided not to (I’m pleased to have it confirmed she didn’t).

    Nope, she didn’t go through with it. I never liked Aidan much and didn’t start watching the show regularly until she left, but I really did like that scene. I wish other shows could take note that you can find a way to make the most of someone leaving the cast. She was in one episode after that as a murder victim, and I thought that was rather well handled too- the circumstances surrounding it fit what I knew of her personality from the half dozen or so episodes I’d seen her in. (As opposed to the way CSI:Miami killed off Rory Cochrane’s character which was simply appalling.)

  8. SunlessNick says

    I did see the subsequent one, which was really well played by all involved, especially Hawkes running test after test, hoping to refute who the skull belonged to.

    And I agree completely about the death of Rory Cochrane’s character.

  9. MaggieCat says

    I found it particularly interesting since the audience had the benefit of knowing it was going to be Aidan from the commercials, but the characters didn’t- it’s one of the few times I think a network’s tendency to spoil surprises actually worked in the show’s favour. And there was something oddly appropriate about Hawkes doing a facial reconstruction for Aidan when I seem to recall that she had been the one to do those before.

    I’m starting to wonder if the better writers migrated to CSI:NY somehow. It would makes sense- it seems that nothing can kill :Original and someone on :Miami clearly made a deal with Beelzebub himself to get the ratings up. ;-)

  10. SunlessNick says

    And there was something oddly appropriate about Hawkes doing a facial reconstruction for Aidan when I seem to recall that she had been the one to do those before.

    I remember her once telling Mac that she hoped he wasn’t going to hand off a bone analysis to anyone but her – in a “don’t you dare” kind of way. He replied that it hadn’t entered his mind.

    And I agree; it felt like a kind of honoured memory for her speciality to be important in her own case.

    I’m starting to wonder if the better writers migrated to CSI:NY somehow. It would makes sense- it seems that nothing can kill :Original and someone on :Miami clearly made a deal with Beelzebub himself to get the ratings up.

    Now that you mention it, that makes a lot of sense.

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