CSI: Vegas EP And Actress Discuss The Powerful Episode's 'Satisfying' Ending And The 'Wonderful' Moment That Had To Be Cut

Regina Taylor as Raquel Williams in CSI Vegas
(Image credit: CBS)

Warning: spoilers ahead for Episode 17 of CSI: Vegas Season 2, called "The Promise."

CSI: Vegas never shies away from serious and sometimes gruesome cases for Max and the rest of the team to investigate, but the hit show tapped into the powerful story of a mother still dealing with the death of her daughter more than forty years after she was killed and her body taken. The First Lady's Regina Taylor guest-starred as Raquel Williams in the emotionally-driven episode, and she was joined by executive producer/episode co-writer Anthony Zuiker to discuss with CinemaBlend the heartbreaking but "satisfying" ending, as well as the moment that had to be cut from the finished product. 

The case of the week began on an already-somber note with the discovery of the remains of a young girl in a barrel that had been beneath the water of Lake Mead for 41 years. A reconstruction of her face enabled her mother Raquel to recognize her daughter, although deeply upset by how the skin tone made her look different. It took a lot of effort and work late into the night, but the team found the evidence they needed to finally get justice for Phoebe, decades after her murder. 

And they couldn't have cracked the case if Raquel hadn't agreed to have the bullet in her chest removed to be used as evidence, after Max spent the episode building a rapport and trust with her. Tragically, Raquel died by the end of the episode, but it wasn't entirely heartbreaking for some emotional reasons, wonderfully portrayed by Regina Taylor. When I spoke with her for CinemaBlend, the actress shared her thoughts on her character's journey from beginning to end:

It is powerful. It is charged. It is about a mother's love for her daughter, and the loss over years, this longing – you don't have your child's body to bury, and you don't know what happened. That haunts, and that creates a mental challenge for you each and every day that you get up. I thought the material was deep, and I could just put myself into that, just to step into that scenario and go with that. I really loved working on the show. Everyone, from top to bottom, were so kind and generous and wonderful… They know exactly what they're doing, and they encourage you every step of the way, and I needed that support in delving into this material. I felt that support.

Given that the emotional weight of this episode fell on Regina Taylor's shoulders as a newcomer to CSI: Vegas, I'd say that it's very good to know that she received the support she needed! After all, Raquel had a tragic backstory to convey within the course of less than an hour to make her death pack as much of a punch as it did. 

EP Anthony Zuiker, who is also the creator of the original CSI, co-wrote the episode that ended with Raquel's death without getting all the answers she'd been waiting 41 years for. He revealed that he spoke with former BET president Richard Gay, and explained that they "talked about the African American community and this type of storyline" to be sure to get it right. The executive producer continued:

The one thing he told me about the community is [for] a woman like this, who deals with this kind of blow with a loss, the second that she has a little bit of emotional closure would be the second she would pass. That's why we chose to do that. She held on there, the bullet came out of her chest, she dropped it into Max's hand, and then after that she really couldn't hang on any longer. It’s so sad, because you want her to hang on and get the good news. But like everything else, when you lose someone you love so much, you go there and you're blindsided and it's already too late. But the satisfying ending is they both get buried side by side, and they both end up in heaven. I think that is a beautiful ending.

While the episode didn't actually show Raquel and her daughter in any form of the afterlife, it did end with mother and daughter in caskets next to each other, with Max having kept her promise to make sure that the reconstruction of Phoebe truly looked like the little girl before being laid to rest. The bond between Max and Raquel grew as Max stepped up in a way that the cops back in the 1980s didn't, and was at the heart of the episode. Regina Taylor addressed that element:

I think it's really wonderful to delve into this in terms of race, that this is a Black woman who has lost her child. She does not feel that the police department cares about her, has cared about her or her child. And Maxine comes in and flips the script, and we see this joining. Bottom line, whether you're Black or whether you're blue [as law enforcement], you see these women joined in this mission.

Raquel didn't immediately trust Max after what she'd been through the first time that she'd hoped for an investigation into what happened to Phoebe, but Paula Newsome's character found a way to get through to her. Anthony Zuiker explained how the women came to be on the same page:

Max's biggest line of the episode is, 'This is my watch, and my watch don't need winding.' It's like, 'There's a new sheriff in town, lady, and I know you don't trust us, but this is the face now.' And then she goes to hell and back trying to make it right, and she does, and Max is victorious at the very end. And by the way, we punish her badly in this episode. She breaks up with the husband. She misses the appointment [with her son] for the art thing. I mean, she's getting hammered the whole episode. But at the very end, she's victorious, and it's a great victory lap at the end.

As Anthony Zuiker pointed out, Max had a rough time in "The Promise" both personally and professionally. There was originally a moment of levity scripted for Max and Raquel, but it ultimately had to be cut from the finished product. He explained what viewers ultimately didn't seen in this episode: 

The sad part is we lost half a scene, Laura, when [Raquel] is going in for surgery. The dialogue is, 'I want you to make me that promise' and Paula says 'I promise,' but the scene continues. The next thing Paula says, Max is like, 'And you've been so mean to me!' [laughs] And they start laughing together, and then she's like, 'All right, get the damn doctors in here. Time to get the show on the road!' That's how we ended the scene. That was wonderful, but for time, we had to cut it. We couldn't put that in there. It was a great, great piece of levity.

Sadly, there just wasn't time in "The Promise" for Max and Raquel to share a laugh. The emotional impact was there, but the episode didn't have a lot of humor to offer. Even with that moment having to be cut, I think it's safe to say that this hour of television will be one of the standouts of Season 2 as it heads toward its finale.

The episode also brought back an O.G. CSI star, with Eric Szmanda reprising his role as Greg Sanders. He joins fellow CSI veteran Marg Helgenberger, who returned as Catherine Willows in Season 2 following the departures of William Petersen and Jorja Fox. Given that the show has already been renewed for Season 3, it's not too soon to start speculating if more O.G. stars might sign on! 

For now, fans can keep catching new episodes of CSI: Vegas on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS, and revisit past episodes streaming with a Paramount Plus subscription.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.