Catherine Willows goes out with a bang, not a whimper, when Marg Helgenberger makes her exit from the long-running hit CBS series in a two-part “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” story, beginning on Wednesday, January 18 at 10/9c on CBS.
In one of the more exciting character departures — the series has seen the exits of several original cast members including Gil Grissom (William Petersen), who is off chasing bugs; Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan), who was murdered; and Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox), who has since returned — Catherine gets caught up in a case that involves the alleged death of a childhood friend and the lawyer Catherine had recommended to her, bringing the FBI back into the Las Vegas crime lab in the form of FBI Agent Viggo McQuaid (Grant Shaud) and FBI Agent Pratt (Matt Lauria).
But not all is as it seems as the case unfolds and Catherine is quickly on the run as her life is in jeopardy from some big-time baddies in the second of the two-part exit story. It takes some tricky DNA work to figure out who all the dead bodies really are.
“Marg’s leaving allows us as writers and the actors to transition,” says Executive Producer Carol Mendelsohn. “She leaves and then, eventually, Elizabeth Shue is coming in and we get to play that: the sadness and the loss, [and the fact that ] things are never going to be the same. The CSIs get up and go to work. They’ve got a job to do. They get an unusual case with blood splatter and Russell [Ted Danson] reaches out to his past and pulls [Shue] in.”
Preview: Catherine is Ambushed:
Shue’s character — Julie Finlay or Finn — has a shared history with D.B. Russell (Danson), who joined the crime lab on the departure of Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) at the beginning of the season. Russell and Finn worked together in Seattle and, even though things didn’t go well between them, Russell reaches out to Finn, who Mendelsohn says used to be his work wife, to help them with the blood-spatter case.
“The big question is if sparks will fly and things will go well this time,” says Executive Producer Don McGill. “That is the mystery. That is what Russell is about: thinking outside of the box and making decisions and choices people don’t expect.”
So what effect will Helgenberger’s departure have on the remaining CSIs, say, for example, Nick Stokes (George Eads)?
“In some ways, Nick has inherited the mantle of Grissom — the bug expert, the same sort of approach to crime scenes, having been mentored by Grissom, so Nick is the inheritor,” McGill says.
But Mendelsohn hints that there may be a little office hanky panky in the future, saying, “All I can say is George has never met Elizabeth Shue and he met her on the set and said, ‘I absolutely love her. I think Nick should have a relationship with her character.’ That is getting a little ahead of ourselves, but Nick is the solid foundation and rock of our [crime lab] and he always has been.”
The “Ms. Willows Regrets” episode airs Wednesday, January 18 at 10 p.m. on CBS, followed on January 25 by “Willows In The Wind” to wrap up Helgenberger’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” career.