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  • Acceptable Targets: Any relatively harmless modern subculture that seems scary or dangerous to the general public or the target audience.
    • Gamers and gaming in "Hitting for the Cycle." For the love of all that is holy...
    • Subverted in, of all places, the episode that dealt with actual circus freaks. The freaks are the most sympathetic characters in the episode, are not portrayed as pathetic or as people to be looked down on, and the killer turns out to be by far the most "normal" out of all the suspects.
    • In at least three different instances, sex offenders were "outed" to their neighbors (and thus had their lives ruined by the CSIs) despite the fact that in all three cases, the people involved had a) served their jail time and were now leading clean, unoffensive lives; b) were only tangentally involved in the cases, if even that; and c) police investigators aren't supposed to give out information on suspects to the general public anyway regardless of what that information is, as doing so until a conviction occurs is a serious civil rights violation.
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  • And You Thought It Would Fail: ABC turned the series down with the excuse of it being "Too confusing for the average viewer". Of course, it became a smash hit for CBS and the start of the Forensic Drama genre. note 
  • Anvilicious: The episode that centered around Internet bullying gets a bit egregious when Nick basically tries to say anyone who ever looked at the mocking videos, even if they did nothing about it or thought it was in bad taste, deserved to be put into the court system.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Sara is either one of the most compelling and woobieish characters on the show, or just plain crass and annoying.
    • Ray Langston...either he was a great character or Creator's Pet and really overused and given too much to do for a CSI 1.
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  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Sqweegel, a serial murderer out to avenge unpunished crimes... while wearing a rubber gimp suit, walking in a four-limbed hunch, and practically spitting his lines out. Despite hints he would return after escaping the cops, he was never spoken of again.
  • Bile Fascination: Not the show itself but any member of the Furry Fandom could watch "Fur and Loathing" to see how badly it is due to its poor image towards this fandom.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Creator's Pet: Ray Langston. Many fans either dislike him or thinks he's So Okay, It's Average, yet in his run he had three season finales, the 200th episode and two season-long serial killer arcs dedicated to him and his problems.
  • Critical Research Failure: "Fur and Loathing" makes some gross exaggerations, misinterpretations and otherwise wrong turns in the Furry Fandom. May be due to this series coming from Viacom, the same people behind MTV's Sex2K series.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
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    • Greg and Hodges in earlier seasons; when they were promoted to main characters the other lab rats got the same treatment, with Archie and Mandy in particular being well loved by the fans.
    • Sqweegel, the one-off Vigilante and Serial Killer from the episode of the same name, is one of the show's most popular and memorable villains, despite that being his only appearance. His interesting MO of hunting people whose hero status in their communities he viewed as hypocritical in relation to their misdeeds, his dark and creepy latex full-body suit and his knack for leaving no evidence behind, as well as for escaping without repercussions, led to him being considered one of the show's greatest and most unique villains. It's to the point where fans lamented he didn't appear after this.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: "Ch-ch-ch-changes," the 100th episode, becomes this once the viewer remembers that the villains had an adorable little daughter who knew nothing of her parents' misdeeds and is now completely alone in the world, since even her nanny (who was also her surrogate mom since her mother is transgender and can't have children) was arrested for helping the couple cover up their crimes.
  • The Firefly Effect: Character example. Sofia Curtis, played by Louise Lombard. She was hardly developed, and only really had one episode focus on her (the episode "A Bullet Runs Through It"), but it seems the writers got bored with her. This resulted in Louise Lombard quitting the series, and moving back to England.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • An episode about a very troubled person shooting up the LVPD (three dead including the gunman, a teenager; additionally the person who manipulated him into shooting was arrested, at least a dozen wounded) aired the same day a very troubled person shoots up an army base (four dead including the gunman, over a dozen wounded).
    • "The Accused Is Entitled," which had an Expy of Johnny Depp being accused of murdering two women he had a one-night stand with and the cast being exasperated by the fact that his being a wealthy celebrity enables him to hire the best lawyers, scientists, etc. to help get him off. More than a decade later the real Depp would be accused of wife-beating, which along with other contemporary scandals related to Bill Cosby and Woody Allen among others has prompted serious discussion on the propensity of celebrities to get away with crimes.
    • The Final Boss of the series, in "Immortality," is a man who uses drugs to force his victims to commit suicide bombings along the Strip for him, sending Vegas into a state of panic. Two years later, the real Strip would see the deadliest mass murder in U.S. history, with nearly sixty people dead including the gunman - TEN TIMES more than the amount of people killed in the episode.
      • Even earlier than that, the Season 15 episode "Girls Gone Wilder" depicts a mass shooting inside a Strip hotel, which leaves nearly a dozen people dead. The last scene before the opening credits (the gunman, wielding an AR-15, watching over a crowd of people on a higher perch, prepared to take his first shot) makes this all the more uncomfortable.
    • In the Season 7 episode "Fannysmackin," caucasian Greg kills a teenage African-American gang member to stop him from beating a (also white) man to death, which sparks a subplot running through the next several episodes where the department is sued for wrongful death by the boy's family, and it's strongly implied that the family believes race to have been a motive in the killing. Greg is ultimately cleared, but fast forward to The New '10s and police departments all over the country have been dogged by accusations of racially-motivated killings of minority suspects, with the departments covering for the perpetrators, and suddenly he doesn't look so sympathetic.
    • Two episodes from Season 15 — "Bad Blood", about a virus scare, and "Girls Gone Wilder" featuring a mass shooting — aired around the same time as Ebola scares in Dallas, Texas New York City and mass shootings in Ottawa and Washington state; coincidentally both episodes were preempted by long football games.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Pauley Perrette shows up as a random criminal in the third season episode "Lady Heathers Box". Just a few months later, she would become a forensic scientist on a similar show.. Even funnier, the character she plays here couldn't be less similar to Abby, being a drug addict who almost gets Lindsay killed and doesn't even care.
    • Season 8's "Two and a Half Deaths" was written by Chuck Lorre, and he based the character of arrogant, temperamental sitcom star Annabelle Fundt on his experiences working with Roseanne Barr on her eponymous sitcom. The role of Annabelle was played by Katey Sagal, at the time best known as Peg Bundy on Married... with Children (a role originally offered to Roseanne). A decade later, Roseanne was revived to great acclaim, but a scandal involving Roseanne Barr led to her dismissal and to the series being re-tooled as The Conners, with Roseanne's now-widowed husband Dan finding new love with his old flame Louise, played by... Katey Sagal.
  • Ho Yay: Nick and Greg. In fact, such a pairing has a large following, especially due to the subtext that occurs in their interactions.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Kelly from "Grave Danger," as she's being treated horribly in prison and it's strongly implied she didn't even commit the crime she's in jail for.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Many people tuned in to see the season 11 episode "Targets of Obsession" just to watch Justin Bieber's character get shot to death.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • "The Finger": After killing his mistress, Roy Logan sets about the perfect way to cover up a murder. Logan begins a complicated plan and has himself intentionally captured by the police before manipulating Catherine Willows into helping him give one million dollars in ransom to his lawyer who will then give it him, fooling him all the while into thinking his mistress is still alive. An expert liar with the ability to make himself seem meek and scared, Logan is able to read the CSI team to discover how much they know and plants evidence to put them off, making them think his wife and lawyer are the true murderers. Skipping out of town after everything falls into place, Logan comes within a hair's breadth of winning and proves himself one of the smartest foes to ever face the CSIs.
    • "Two and a Half Deaths": Megan Kupowski is a talented theatrical actress who decides to kill her abusive costar Annabelle by plotting the perfect murder. Secretly learning about her habit of consuming mouthwash, Megan sets about spiking it with blood thinners and gaining the thinners (medication needed for her dog). This weakens Annabelle to the point that any injury will kill her thorough bleeding, with Megan playing the caring and despondent friend of the victim to shore up support. Confronted by the CSI's Grissom and Brass about the medication, Megan keeps her cool and expertly reveals a confession while masking it as a hypothetical that confuses them, before calling their bluff that they have nothing and leaving to become the networks new star.
    • "The Gone Dead Train": Eric Tobin and Dr. Susan Williams are the grieving husband and mother of Sandra Willaims, who lost her life to rabies due to a medical error by Dr. Jack Shaw. Plotting payback on Shaw, Eric and Susan infiltrate his tattoo business and secretly infect the vilest of his customers to kill them. They then plant evidence to implicate Shaw as being the one responsible and manipulate the team into going after him. To cover their tracks, Eric infects himself to throw them off while Susan gives the invetigators fake evidence which will lead to Shaw's conviction. Coming dangerously close to beating the CSI team, they both take their defeat calmly and confess it was to avenge their loved one.
    • "Working Stiffs": Paulie Krill (played by Tim Blake Nelson) is a meek, shy office worker, who becomes highly devious after snapping from being pushed around. He is a genius who discovers a method to rob the hidden safe near his workplace using water with explosives to stop the explosion from permanently closing the safe. After killing his abusive conspirator Jason Deveraux, Krill plays Jason's mother so he can get her son's security codes for the safe and cleverly, through sleight of hand, plants those same codes on a coworker being interviewed by the CSIs to divert attention. Krill comes dangerously close to succeeding, and was only killed when the safe door accidentally bisects him. Even in death Krill simply grins at the CSIs and dies saying that "I knew... it would work" in regards to the safe opening.
    • "Crime After Crime": Detective Stanley Richardson is a soft-spoken, beloved Las Vegas police officer who, when he discovers he's dying, decides to set up the killings of murderers who've escaped justice before he dies. Recruiting his friend Detective Sam Vega, Richardson uses him to track down and then kill brutal murderers who've escaped justice in the same way they killed their victims while making sure everything goes smoothly. Upon the CSI's finding him, Richardson calmly confesses his crimes and tricks them into finding his lockbox with a knife which was used by Vega to kill an informant. Richardson was aware that Vega was dirty and so has secretly set him up to be killed by the police. Richardson dies in complete peace with his mission to punish the guilty complete and stands as one of CSI's most successful and courteous villains.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Misaimed Marketing: The kids' science sets, even though the age range is tweens and teens, probably counts. Also the Club CSI chapter books.
  • Narm: The particular fetish of the dead Casino owner in the episode King Baby took an otherwise serious murder plot and brought a level of disbelief to viewers who took to the internet to see if it was, in fact, a real fetish.
  • Narm Charm: Happens to a lot of characters played by comedians who are allowed to improvise some dialogue, such as Wayne Knight's character, a sleazy office manager that is pretty much Newman/Dennis Nedry if they ran a casino support office.
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize: Happens a lot with regards to guest stars. One episode of the final season had Greg Grunberg pop in for a brief role. Turns out it wasn't as small or brief as previously thought.
  • Padding: The video games REALLY make you work to match fingerprints, DNA, and chemical samples.
  • Retroactive Recognition: A lot of secondary guest stars eventually found fame after their appearance on CSI. Rainn Wilson and John Krasinski both had guest spots before their own hit show, with Wilson having a memorable bit in one of the more popular episodes ("The Strip Strangler") as a possible suspect. And CSI: NY 's Carmine Giovinazzo was a guest star on here before becoming a regular on the spinoff series. But, Word of God says the guest appearance wasn't an influence in casting him. A.J. Buckley, also from CSI: NY, appeared on this show before becoming a regular on the spinoff.
    • Norm was the killer (sort of) in "Dog Eat Dog." The best example, however, is Eric Stonestreet as Ronnie Litra, the lab's questioned documents expert, who disappeared without explanation around the middle of Season 4... and is now quite famous as Cameron Tucker.
    • A year after playing a small guest role as a robbery witness in “Paper or Plastic?”, T.J. Thyne went on to land a regular role on another forensics series, Bones.
    • Josh Holloway appeared in an episode as a character getting questioned by Catherine, a year before landing the role of Sawyer on Lost. Notably, he and Catherine's actress Marg Helgenberger would reunite in 2014 in the short-lived series Intelligence.
    • One of Corey Stoll's earliest acting jobs was as a snarky sex shop clerk in Season 5's "What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?"
  • Seasonal Rot: The first few seasons received much more acclaim than the later ones. To be fair it's hard to avoid going stale when you have to keep making episodes for 15 years and the show is locked into a rather strict formula. One could make a case with show growing stale as early as Seasons 6/7, but it was likely Grissom's departure in Season 9 that really accelerated things.
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: Since the show is set in "Sin City," the victims and killers are frequently just as evil as each other. For example, the secondary crime in the very first episode featured a man who killed his slovenly, drug-addicted cousin who had been mooching off him for three years. Can you truly say anyone is in the right in a situation like that?
  • Uncanny Valley: Somewhat discussed in "Lab Rats." See its quote under All Psychology Is Freudian on the main page.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The episode "Coup de Grace" involves an officer accidentally killing another in the midst of duty. After the shooting officer kills himself, an autopsy discovers that he suffers from retinitis pigmentosa which forced him to view the world in severe tunnel vision. Langston concludes that there might not be a bad guy in this, but the shooting officer's refusal to retire due to pride arguably makes him less sympathetic, especially considering that his disability severely impacted his job performance, which is no joke since it involves shooting firearms.
  • The Woobie: All of the main cast have their moments, but Nick, Greg and arguably Sara get hit with it the most.
    • Heather in the Grand Finale. Having already lost her daughter to a crazed Neo-Nazi, she loses her little granddaughter to a random accident, shuts down both her therapy practice and her fetish club out of grief, is framed for multiple murders by a crazed stalker, and finally, at the very end, lets the man she loves go. One legitimately worries that she has nothing left in her life at all, especially since she's attempted suicide before.
    • Poor, poor Gloria. Langston's ex-wife, she gets kidnapped by Nate Haskell, raped, and tortured horribly for days (when they rescue her, we see some torture devices hanging from the wall, we also see a flashback of him torturing her by sticking a bunch of fishhooks in her flesh and stretching them with strings, which wouldn't be out of place in a Hellraiser film. Even after she's rescued she's going through a massive Heroic BSoD and just sits with a blank stare on her face.
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