The following contains spoilers for CSI: Vegas Season 2, Episode 7, “Burned,” which debuted Thursday, Nov. 10 on CBS.
CSI: Vegas is clearly developing Josh Folsom and Allie Rajan as its marquee couple. Interoffice romances are practically a requirement for procedurals; shows like Chicago Fire get huge traction from their ships. In Josh and Allie’s case, the rapport between actors Matt Lauria and Mandeep Dhillon was being leaned into by the middle of Season 1. CSI: Vegas Season 2 is continuing to tease viewers with the idea that Josh and Allie will end up together both professionally and personally.
That’s what makes Season 2, Episode 7, “Burned” so interesting. The entire setup of the episode seems telegraphed for the Josh and Allie fans, and there are several moments that may as well be on a shipper checklist. But the script by Tom Szentgyorgi — the producer’s first for CSI: Vegas — does everything it’s not supposed to do. And the characters are much better for it.
CSI: Vegas Doesn’t Force Josh and Allie to Have a Moment
“Burned” telegraphs itself immediately; Josh notices his girlfriend Serena Chavez being friendly with someone at the crime scene and finds out the woman is her ex-girlfriend Jocelyn Lozando. From that moment on, shippers have two expectations: there will be tension in Serena and Josh’s relationship, and Josh will somehow get pulled toward Allie. Instead, there’s just one scene where coroner Sonya asks Allie if she and Josh were romantically involved, and it’s played for laughs.
There are no lingering looks or overly long moments; instead, the emphasis is placed on Josh and Allie’s professional relationship and the value they have to each other is communicated through how they complement each other as CSIs. CSI: Vegas established their rapport in Season 1 and “Burned” shows how they bring different points of view to a common goal. Allie brings Josh’s attention to his leaky coffee cup, which prompts him to deduce how the fire was started — and that makes her realize evidence may be on the ceiling. While Josh is skeptical, he doesn’t hesitate in helping her search for it. The only time their personal bond is acknowledged is when Allie respectfully tells Josh that she doesn’t want to give him relationship advice, and she doesn’t have to explain why — either to him or the viewers.
Szentgyorgi knows something about writing authentic relationship beats. Before he was a consulting producer on CSI: Vegas, he started his career on Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece Sports Night. He co-wrote Season 2, Episode 7, “Kyle Whitaker’s Got Two Sacks” and Season 2, Episode 14, “And the Crowd Goes Wild.” The former featured touching moments between another “will they, won’t they” couple as Casey McCall and Dana Whitaker dealt with her brother being involved in an NFL scandal. The latter (which Szentgyorgi also had a “story by” credit on) included the breakup between Natalie Hurley and Jeremy Goodwin. The honesty of the former is seen again in Josh and Allie’s scenes in “Burned,” while the latter comes up in Josh’s interactions with Serena.
CSI: Vegas Doesn’t Break Up Josh and Serena
Josh and Serena’s relationship hangs in the balance during “Burned” as Josh discovers Serena wasn’t honest about the extent of her relationship with Jocelyn — they lived together for two years — and Serena is incensed by Josh looking for details behind her back. They seem poised for a breakup, which would uncomplicate CSI: Vegas‘ love triangle. The episode subverts expectations by not only allowing them to work through the issue like mature adults, but having Allie be the one to push them back together.
After hearing Josh and Serena fight in the locker room, Allie approaches Josh and tells him not to worry about Serena, because she’s seen the way Serena looks at him. Josh subsequently apologizes to Serena and reconciles with her. It’s a more realistic resolution than most TV couples and shows that CSI: Vegas values Josh and Serena’s pairing as more than a plot device. The show is investing in that duo. It also speaks to how Allie perceives them. She doesn’t see Serena as a rival or Josh as an object to fight over. Her only concern is what’s best for Josh. “Burned” shows that she does care deeply for him, but that’s conveyed through being a loyal and supportive friend, as he was for her in Season 2, Episode 2, “The Painted Man.”
There are undoubtedly some viewers disappointed that Josh and Serena didn’t break up — or that CSI: Vegas didn’t at least give viewers a quasi-romantic moment beween Josh and Allie. But the way “Burned” plays its obviously ship-friendly subplot is more authentic to all of the characters involved, and adds another layer to how they interact. If and when Josh and Allie become a couple, it’s going to feel earned due to episodes like this instead of CSI taking the easiest and most obvious route.
CSI: Vegas airs Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. on CBS and streams on Paramount+.