Thursday, August 20, 2009

Captain Jim Brass

Wisecracking, deadpan Jim Brass is an ex-New Jersey cop turned CSI turned cop again. When we first meet Brass, he is the Las Vegas CSI night shift manager, with Gil Grissom his second in command. Upon the death of newcomer CSI Holly Gribbs, Brass is taken out of the lab and put back in the Homicide division, putting his objectives potentially at odds with his old CSI team. The tension between the groups most often leads to mutual excellence, but occasionally to frayed tempers and political fallout during high-media or particularly gruesome crimes.

Before moving to Vegas, Brass was married, with one daughter, Ellie. Over the course of the series, we learn that Brass' marriage broke down over mutual infidelity, and that Ellie is in fact the biological daughter of his ex-wife's lover, a dirty cop whom Brass later helped expose. Brass himself had an affair with a fellow cop, Annie Kramer, now a captain in the LAPD, and chose, quixotically, to take the blame for his divorce, rather than point to his wife and her lover. Brass raises Ellie as his own, but buries himself in his work, remaining distant from her and from his wife.

Ellie Brass remains unaware of her biological status, though her increasingly delinquent behaviour may well have begun in her unsettled childhood. To Brass' sorrow, Ellie becomes a street hooker and drug addict in LA. Their paths converge once more in Vegas, when Ellie is brought in for questioning during the investigation into the murder of a travelling drug pusher. It is not until this point that the CSI team learns of Ellie's existence. Brass attempts to convince Ellie to move back in with him and clean up, but she turns him down, telling him that it's too late to make amends, and that she's going to go back to her mother. We meet Ellie later on in LA, after her roommate is murdered, and again in Vegas, when Brass is shot and lies near death. The pair are shown to make the smallest of steps forward each time.

Taking his return to the badge philosophically, Brass tries his best to be a good cop and a good man while attacking the underbelly of Las Vegas' seedier culture. While he still has an eye for the ladies, he is shown to live a solitary life, married to his job, and occasionally indulging in a heart-to-heart over single-malt with Grissom, or telling war stories to the CSI team. He is a particularly talented interrogator, moving between sincere sympathy and provoking angry, revealing outbursts from suspects.

Despite being shot in the chest during a hostage situation, Brass' worst career moment comes when a young officer in his line of fire is killed, in a harrowing case of suspect surrender appearing as attack. He is shown dealing with both instances emotionally as well as pragmatically: he has the date of his shooting tattooed around the bullet scar to remind him of his mistake, and although he takes the news quietly enough from Grissom, he breaks down while trying to apologize to the wife of the officer he killed.

Brass is an idealist at heart despite his gruff exterior. He jokes grimly about being nicknamed "Squeaky" after trying to clean up the Newark PD from within, and later describes how any thought of fast-tracking his career withered after he let it be known he was not open to police graft. His estranged daughter Ellie remains a sore point in his life, and he reaches out to her more than once with little hope of return. And while his colleague and friend Grissom tends to deal with the roughest cases by staying emotionally distant, Brass finds his way forward in renewing his determination to clamp down on all those who seek money, power and revenge upon the backs of their fellow citizens.


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