Ted Danson, Elisabeth Shue
On the surface, the Season 14 premiere of CSI may feel a bit familiar.
After all, the show's premiere one year ago found the team searching for a team member's abducted loved one. And while this year, D.B. Russell (Ted Danson) & Co. are trying to find kidnapped team member Morgan (Elisabeth Harnois) and Ellie (Teal Redmann) the daughter of Brass (Paul Guilfoyle), that's pretty much where the similarities end.
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"Things won't turn out quite so rosy this time," executive producer Don McGill tells TVGuide.com. "A person close to the CSI family will die. The first image of the premiere is a memorial service. If fans look [closely], they will notice some faces missing. So the question is: Who's in the casket? It's someone very close to us."
After Brass' daughter and several other girls went missing in last year's finale, Morgan opted to go undercover as bait for the suspected killer (guest star Tim Matheson). As the manhunt continues in Wednesday's premiere (10/9c, CBS), Brass will be forced to come together with Morgan's father (and Brass' sometimes-foe) Conrad Ecklie (Marc Vann).
"They are faced with a fundamental question from our kidnapper: Which daughter do you want to come home?" McGill says. "For Ecklie and Brass, that's a decision they can't really make." The crisis will also yield a strange bit of role reversal for the two fathers. "Ecklie is the person who usually keeps thing in check, but we'll see him pushed to the edge where his usual self-control falls away. And Brass, who is usually willing to bend the rules or go to a darker place when faced with this kind of situation, we'll see with a surprising level of control."
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But perhaps losing a bit of control this season is Russell, who ultimately holds himself responsible for the death in the premiere. And that responsibility could loom large over the entire season. "The darker undertones carry forward for Russell," McGill says. "He's in crisis by the end; he feels responsible. The decisions he made, he really will have to pay for. We'll see as the season progresses that there may be some questioning of his purpose."
Making matters worse, Russell won't exactly have the support system at home he's used to from his wife Barbara (Peri Gilpin). "Barbara never wanted to be in Las Vegas; Seattle really is her home," McGill says. "We've always suggested that Russell came to Vegas as a Phil Jackson-like, short-term coach putting the team back together. ... But Barbara will pose a question to Russell that is a bit of a 'put up or shut up' moment in terms of whether they will continue their lives together in Las Vegas. The purpose for Barbara to stay in Las Vegas may no longer be there."
But there are some bright spots ahead. This season's fifth hour will mark CSI's landmark 300th episode, which welcomes back Marg Helgenberger's Catherine Willows and feature a case that's 14 years old. "We're really looking back to the beginning," McGill says of the episode. A young woman murdered in the mansion of a casino mogul recluse, who committed a similar crime 14 years before. We're creating a cold case that harkens back to the first year. It's almost like going back in time. It's the one that got away."
CSI premieres Wednesday at 10/9c on CBS. Watch am exclusive sneak peek from the Season 14 premiere below.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)