The two-part season 5 “CSI” finale is something that has stuck with fans for a long time. There’s no shortage of high stakes moments on the show, but this one in particular is devastating to watch.
These episodes, directed by none other than Quentin Tarantino, titled “Grave Danger,” involved Nick Stokes being buried alive. Stokes initially gets kidnapped at a crime scene, later revealed to be staged. The assailant stows his body in a plexiglass coffin, along with his gun, glowsticks, and a Dictaphone. The mystery villain buries Stokes alive. On the Dictaphone tape, a haunting voice leaves Stokes a message, telling him he’s going to die there. Stokes panics, and his reactions are devastatingly real.
Meanwhile, the CSIs get a package labeled RE: Stokes. Inside is a USB with a message demanding one million dollars in 12 hours or Stokes dies. The message also includes a link to a video feel inside the coffin. The other CSIs watch in horror as Stokes struggles and fights to get out.
With the city refusing to fund the ransom, Catherine Willows goes to her father, Sam Braun, who reluctantly gives her one million dollars. When Grissom goes to the drop-off, he meets the kidnapper, who asks him, “What does Nick Stokes mean to you? […] How do you feel, knowing that there’s nothing you can do to get him out of that hell? Helpless? Useless? Impotent? Good. Welcome to my world.”
At this point, the kidnapper actually blows himself up, leaving Grissom bloody and unconscious. In the second part, the CSIs finally find Stokes, but not before the coffin breaks apart and he’s ravaged by fire ants. But, those ants lead Grissom and the team to the burial site. They find Stokes, and save his life.
‘CSI’: Why ‘Grave Danger’ Was So Terrifying
I’m sure no one ever wants to be buried alive; it’s probably a serious fear for a lot of people in the world. And “CSI” tapped into that fear when it put Nick Stokes through that. It’s a visceral episode, it digs into what we’re really scared of and shows it to us.
So why Nick Stokes? He’s a sensitive character, who often embraces his emotions. He definitely wasn’t going to be level headed in a situation like that. He does a little problem solving, but he also panics multiple times throughout the ordeal. He’s fully entrenched in the moment, feeling everything.
The series of episodes demonstrates Tarantino’s unique style of directing. It’s extremely visual, with many close-ups during Stokes’ scenes that make up feel trapped as well. The non-linear narrative lends itself to loss of time, and a feeling of helplessness. All in all, these two episodes are devastating, terrifying, and so successful.