The question isn't why Quentin Tarantino is directing tonight's season ender of CSI (8 pm/ET on CBS). The better question is, what took him so long? The series' dark stories, nifty visuals and twisted dialogue seem a perfect match for the man behind the slick hit movies Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. But despite requests from producers, this longtime fan of the series never found time to direct an episode until he spent a day hanging out on the set in Las Vegas one weekend in January. That convinced him to sign on. TV Guide caught up with Tarantino for an exclusive sneak peek at what he promises will be a "cool end-all episode that I've wanted to see for a long time."
TV Guide: How did CSI's producers finally persuade you to do the show?
They said, "Do you have an episode in mind?" So I described it. My thing was a member of the team getting kidnapped by a mastermind and being buried alive, so the team has to find him or her. In less than an hour, we had it all talked out. And it was so good, I thought, "I have to direct this!"
TVG: What else can you say about the plot?
What happens to this CSI team member is going to be horrific. Everyone will put themselves in that character's place and say, "How would I handle this?" And most will say, "I couldn't." The bad guy even buries a gun with this character.
TVG: So who is this bad guy?
He is one of the things I brought to the story. His motivation is that his daughter was arrested and thrown into jail. It was evidence that CSI uncovered that made her an accessory to murder. She's a normal girl put in the criminal justice system for five years, and she's been raped and turned into a slave in prison. After what she's been forced to endure, her father is going to do the same to the CSIs. He'll be giving them clues, but they all lead to another dead end.
TVG: What will happen to the CSI team, which has been on split shifts courtesy of cranky commander Conrad Ecklie (Marc Vann)?
The team has to combine to get this [case] done because one of their own is gone. I also think the character of Ecklie has been given a harder time than he deserved. I've always liked the character. I'm going to bring him out a little more.
TVG: With all those microscopic views of the evidence, CSI charted new territory on TV. Was the show's unique look what interested you?
The reason I wanted to do the show wasn't to do a montage of dandruff. I like that stuff, but I wanted to do this because Grissom [William Petersen] is one of the most amazing characters on television. He's TV's best detective since Columbo.
TVG: Did you run into any trouble with the censors during the shoot?
The only thing that was negative came when I had an idea for a joke that CBS wasn't down with. They got [the joke], and said at 10 o'clock, maybe I could do it. But not at 8 o'clock [when the show's two-hour finale will begin]. It was this funny piece of dialogue between Greg [Eric Szmanda] and Hodges [Wallace Langham]. The producers loved it, but told me CBS didn't think bestiality was a fine topic for prime time.
TVG: How often do you watch CSI?
I saw the pilot when it aired. I'd been a big William Petersen fan, so I thought, "Oh, wow! He's got a series!" I thought it was this cool little show I'd found. And suddenly it was the biggest thing on TV. It plays all over the planet. I remember watching it in Beijing while I was making Kill Bill. I was in a pub in England just before I started making my episode, and fans [of the series] burst into stories about the show.
TVG: You directed an episode of ER, now CSI. Will we see Pulp Fiction: The Series soon?
I'm interested in doing a show of my own. This was testing the water. There are some ideas that I've had for movies that are too long. Most people aren't down with four-hour movies, but TV has caught up with my aspirations. You could truly do these stories as a TV show.
TVG: Are there any perks that come with directing the No. 1 show on TV?
Marg [Helgenberger] hooked me up with a CSI cup. She designed special ones for the cast and crew. Which is great. That's all the swag I wanted.