Middle-class adulthood is the central procedure represented in procedural drama. TV cops, lawyers, and doctors aren't only shown doing their jobs; they're shown dealing with them as well. On these series, being a successful "professional" is as much about status (particularly amongst peers) as it is about competently performing tasks. In procedural drama, this personal status is often explored by how well-adjusted the professional's life is, i.e., by how "balanced" he or she is, and by how that balance is perceived by others.
While serial procedural narratives (e.g, Grey's Anatomy) typically focus most of their energies on this issue, more episodic-driven series have to squeeze it in, allowing only brief peeks into characters' after-hours, out-of-uniform lives. One of the most striking features about CSI is how it conveys its protagonists' changing lives within a predominantly episodic format. While episodes meticulously focus on the details of their work, we learn how these Las Vegas criminalists "balance" their lives not so much outside of work, but at the boundary of work and non-work: coming on or going off shift, wilting in exhaustion in the lab or field, or cracking under the emotional pressure of keeping cool in the face of human horror and cruelty.
The fifth season episode "Weeping Willows" (originally broadcast May 5, 2005) focuses on Catherine Willows at such a moment. The episode opens with a weary Catherine dropping into a bar after her shift and contemplating a one-night stand with a stranger. The man (Adam Novak, played by actor Marg Helgenberger's then-husband Alan Rosenberg) turns abusive when Catherine rejects his advances, and she flees. Later that night, however, she is called back to the bar, which is now a crime scene, following the discovery of a woman's body in the parking lot. Novak is a prime suspect, but Catherine hides their encounter from police and colleagues, fearing exposure of her private life. Ultimately, Catherine's investigation reveals another man to be the killer (who had framed Novak), but her hiding of her potential involvement with a suspect upsets her colleague and supervisor Gil Grissom, even after she has come clean.
In this scene, which closes the episode, Catherine attempts to apologize to Grissom, who, representing the ostensible ideals of her legal role (as crime scene investigator), refuses to forgive her. Catherine asks if "want a little human contact" is "a crime." Grissom's response--"I guess that's why I don't go out."--indicates the separation between the otherwise close friends, and how they each fail to find balance. Catherine's "crime" seen here and elsewhere in the series, is that she can't get the balance right; Grissom's is that he denies the need for balance altogether, and chooses not to venture "out" of his professional role. While the series argues that neither of these positions is ideal, it also never resolves the question of professional balance. Since CSIs on the series either burn out or die, such balance may be unreachable.