Sad that there's so many of us, but it says something that the episode hit home - and I think the reason it did was all b/c of the backstory w/Ryan. As if I wasn't falling in love w/his character enough this season, he has to go and tell that sad story and make me identify w/him even more. I still saw it as a "team" thing, since there were more than two of them there and they were sharing a moment. However, it was definitely lacking something w/out Eric and/or Cal - it almost makes it feel as if the team is still divided into two factions like last year: Ryan, Nat and Walter on one side, and Eric and Cal on the other, with H all by himself. (Not that Eric and Cal have shared a lot of scenes this year, but it seems like Ryan, Nat and Walter are super close, and those two, since they seemed to box everyone out b/c of their relationship, are left out of the loop lately.) If Eric was there smiling b/c he got him the telescope I would in no way thinking he came off as an a$$ in this episode. I guess it's all about perception, but when the way Eric acted after the car - the tone in his voice to me sounded like he wasn't interested at all - very flat. Also that line about assuming the guy shot at Ryan, while it was a logical hypothesis, it was the WAY Eric said it that made it so annoying, like, "Oh, I see where this is going, big deal. I'm way ahead of you, and can we just get back to the case?" That was the vibe I got - and that was from the ACTING not the writing, so I can't blame TPTB for that one. Totally agree w/you about the Speed thing, JagLady. That dynamic worked well w/Speed and Eric b/c Speed knew Eric was a macho, somewhat arrogant young CSI back in the day, and was just trying to bring him back down to earth. Speed and Delko got on so well b/c they were both "suck it up" kind of guys. Bottom line - Ryan isn't Speed and Eric shouldn't be treating him like that - he should know Ryan by now and throw the man a bone every now and then. (I really liked that scene earlier in the season where Ryan "tripped" over the ledge and almost dropped to his death, but Eric grabbed him. Of course, Eric had to call him an "idiot," and while it may've been an idiotic act, Eric was still putting Ryan down, even when he almost died. It didn't really bother me then, but looking back after this ep., it does a little.) I remember the "Jake" slip, and I remember thinking how dumb Eric was for doing that (and that maybe subconsciously he wanted to...oh psychology is a finicky thing, isn't it? ). Anyhow, I can see how it might "innocently" come up, and your scenario is one I HOPE happened, but knowing Delko, it was more like Walter and Nat were exchanging bullying stories and Eric walked in and said, "Hey guys, that's nothin' compared to what Wolfe told me!" That, to me, isn't innocent. But we'll never know b/c it was left totally ambiguous. Another reason Nat's comments didn't bother me at the end is b/c she was bullied by her husband - physically and emotionally - so I knew she wasn't being malicious. She knows what it's like - and I'm sure Walter does, too. On the other hand Eric has no idea. With Eric I'm never so sure - he's never experienced bullying, doesn't know what it was like, and I would bet a fair amount of money that he played some "practical jokes" (like the kid whose clothes were stolen from the shower) back in his earlier years. Eric seems like the kind of guy who laughs, then feels bad later. He's not ALL bad, but there's definitely a mean streak in him. He's very unforgiving toward Ryan, even when Ryan didn't do a damn thing to him, except help him and befriend him all these years. OK, here's some "overanalyzing" for everyone : Maybe deep down Eric's jealous of Ryan for some reason. Remember how he pouted to Horatio in the Season 7 opener, asking why he chose Ryan and not him to help H fake his death? I really hated that scene, b/c instead of H saying the truth, he too kind of put Ryan down to spare Eric the pain of reality (that his bullet to the brain was still affecting him and he couldn't trust him to pull it off). Instead, H said he didn't want to put Eric in danger, and I was like :wtf:, so he doesn't give a #$@# if he puts Ryan in danger?? I was wondering how Ryan still had not payed his dues on this team??? Look, I'm not trying to commit character assassination here - what I'm saying is that the way Adam Rodriguez played the scene, and the way TPTB chose to end it (ambiguously and w/out him there) really touched a nerve w/me and p$#@d me off. I have an unfortunate habit of harping on something when it touches an emotional chord w/me, and I don't mean to offend Eric/A-Rod fans. As I've said, I would've preferred it if it was Eric - and Eric alone - that got him that telescope. While I loved the "team" ending, it kind of ruined the moment for me b/c I realized Eric was probably still an a$$, and an even bigger one for telling a personal story like that to the team, and not even expressing any remorse to Ryan for laughing at him. (It didn't come off to me as Eric laughing at a stupid bully - the way it played out in my perspective, Eric was laughing b/c he thought the bully was clever/funny, which is why I didn't like it. And the reason I think that is b/c Eric wasn't like, "oh, sorry, man," after he saw the hurt look on Ryan's face. Way too cold, Delko.) Alright - rant over. The episode was one of the BEST in the last four years by far, simply b/c it had that nice added touch of a subtle backstory that helped us connect even more w/the case, and w/out the "drama" of a CSI coming close to death (yet again). The story was compelling, the mystery kept me guessing, and the team interaction (for the most part) was priceless.