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Review: CSI: New York–’Cuckoo’s Nest’

Posted by Kristine Huntley - 19/11/09 at 11:11 am


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The Compass Killer takes another victim, but Mac has another problem on his hands–Flack has gone AWOL.

Synopsis:

A disgruntled ex-employee shoots his former boss on a boat party for the company and is about to shoot another partner in the company when the body of a man falls from the bridge above. When Mac joins Stella at the scene later, he notices that Flack isn’t there and Stella admits the detective simply didn’t show up. Hawkes finds the ID of the jumper, Richard Caldrone, on the bridge above, along with several pictures and a necklace with a cross on it. Mac calls on Danny–who is now back on his feet and walking without the assistance of the cane—to go to Flack’s apartment and his usual haunts. Mac makes excuses to Flack’s commanding officer, Lt. Sythe, who realizes Mac is covering for the errant detective. In the virtual autopsy room, Sid shows Stella that in addition to breaking almost every bone in his body, Richard Caldrone was shot, suggesting his death was a murder, not a suicide. Hawkes goes diving for the gun in the Hudson while Mac and Stella wait in a boat above. Danny calls Mac to tell him Flack isn’t at his apartment, but that his service weapon is. Hawkes doesn’t find a gun at the bottom of the river, but he does uncover a compass—pointing east. The Compass Killer is back. Stella spots a man watching them and Mac calls for back up, but when he and the cops mount a search of the bridge, the man is gone. Mac finds a note he left behind reading “I should have stayed awake. I’m sorry.”

Flack sits in a subway car, drinking, until two men board the train and, seeing him as an easy mark, attack him. One steals his wallet and the other pulls a knife—until Terrence Davis jumps on the train, grabs Flack’s gun and drives them off. Terrence brings Flack back to his apartment and drops him on the couch, noticing Flack’s phone as it rings. Flack makes it to the bathroom to throw up, but he and Terrence are interrupted by a knock at the door from two of Terrence’s former cohorts. Terrence gets them to leave before they spot Flack, but when Flack scoffs at the company Terrence keeps, Flack finds a familiar face waiting in the main room of the apartment: a disgruntled Mac Taylor. Flack tries to brush off Mac’s concern, prompting the detective to throw him against a wall and tell him the efforts the team has made to search for him. Flack starts to tell Mac about Simon Cade, the man Flack shot in cold blood after learning he was responsible for Angell’s death, but Mac cuts him off, saying he just needs to know he can count on Flack. He storms out, leaving Flack to consider what he’s said.

Stella and Danny follow up on a lead: trace from Richard Caldrone’s body, which was found to be a special organic insulation used in a psychiatric ward. The two question Louise Duke, who runs the facility, and she recognizes the Compass Killer as Hollis Eckhart, a paranoid schizophrenic suffering from PTSD who escaped a month ago. She shows them to his room, where the CSIs find sketches of his victims and his wife, Calliope, who was murdered two years ago. Back at the lab, Flack shows up for work and apologizes to Mac. After the lab confirms Hollis Eckhart’s blood matches a sample from the Compass Killer found on his first victim, Flack digs up the 911 call Calliope Eckhart made the day she was murdered. Calliope was visiting Hollis at the surveyor’s office where he worked at the time when the receptionist’s boyfriend ended a heated argument with a shotgun—and proceeded to shoot up the whole office. He shot Hollis in the face, leaving him scarred, and killed Calliope. The team recovers Caldrone’s car and finds signs of a struggle in the back. They get traces of gasoline and a water-cleaning agent off rope shavings, allowing them to trace the Compass KIller to a tour commemorating the World’s Fair in Queens. Mac and Flack go the fair and spot Eckhart, but the killer manages to escape, despite the area being surrounded by cops….

Analysis:

Flack hits rock bottom in his struggle to come to terms with his execution of Angell’s killer in a dramatic way–one I can’t help but wish was foreshadowed just a bit more. We’ve seen shots of Flack drinking a beer off duty twice since he shot Simon Cade in “Pay Up”, and he hesitated to fire his gun at a suspect in “Dead Reckoning”, but other than that one instance, we’ve not seen him messing up on the job or just not showing up. While it doesn’t take away from the shock of seeing Flack acting so out of character, it does make Mac’s reaction seem more than a little extreme. Mac has been trying to figure out what’s going on with Flack since the season began, but he’s only approached him once, in “Dead Reckoning,” after Lindsay told him Flack froze up. The audience is more or less told in the exchange between Mac and Flack’s commanding officer, Lt. Sythe, that this isn’t the first time Flack has screwed up, but I can’t help thinking the confrontation between Mac and Flack might have been a little more understandable from Mac’s point of view if this hadn’t been the first time we saw Flack drinking heavily and shirking his duties.

That being said, because Flack’s problems have been hinted at but not completely revealed up until now, seeing Flack drunk on a train and really out of it is a powerful reveal. Though the expression on Flack’s face as he drunkenly regards his fellow passengers is a funny one, seeing him so out of it immediately alerts viewers that Flack is definitely in pretty bad shape—even before he gets his ass kicked by two random thugs. Terrence showing up when he did was pretty darn lucky–not quite as lucky as it would have been if Danny had found Flack in the nick of time after searching the city for him—but still pretty damn lucky. It’s an interesting choice, too—since Terrence became a confidential informant last season, we’ve seen him and Flack growing closer. Before this episode, it might have been a leap to call them friends, but there was definitely a rapport between them. Now, after what Terrence does for Flack here, it’s impossible not to think of them as friends—even if Flack might be reticent to admit that they are.

Terrence doesn’t just save Flack from the muggers—rather than leaving the drunk detective to fend for himself, Terrence drags Flack back to his place and hides him in his apartment, standing by as Flack throws up and then chasing away some of his former associates, knowing full well the danger he and Flack will be in if Flack is discovered in his apartment. Flack, not one to get sentimental with an ex-con, jokes to Terrence afterwards that he “should get some new friends—your boys are walking parole violations.” The line illustrates that Flack is feeling like his old self again, at least for the time being. It elicits a chuckle, but it also shows how adept Flack has gotten at hiding his emotions. No doubt if Mac hadn’t shown up, he would have glibly thanked Terrence and headed back to his apartment, or maybe even into work.

Pulling Terrence in is an interesting choice, one I think totally paid off. Ethical, righteous Flack wouldn’t have been caught dead in a thug’s apartment before this season. It shows how far Flack has fallen in his own eyes that he’s more or less able to laugh it off afterwards (at least until Mac walks in). Flack is no longer able to think of himself as better than the perps he hunts down, because after all, isn’t he guilty of the same thing that they are? Flack has always looked down on the criminals he arrests, and his crisis of faith this season seems to be coming from the fact that he can no longer look at himself as a man of unimpeachable morals. For the man who arrested his own mentor in “The Fall”, this is quite a blow. And yet, it also explains why he feels more at ease with Terrence, who seems to be in the process of trying to make good. And if Terrence can make good, maybe Flack can, too.

I have mixed feelings about Mac’s confrontation with Flack. On one hand, what we see in this episode definitely sells the fact that Flack is in crisis and needs to get his act together–even if the episodes leading up to it haven’t seeded that as well as they might have. Not showing up for work, riding the subway drunk and sporting a gun—these are actions that would be of concern no matter who was doing them. The fact that it’s grounded, judicious Flack who is falling apart this way is even more alarming. Flack’s flippant response when Mac confronts him is understandably infuriating, and remarkably similar to the way Flack dismissed Mac’s concerns in “Dead Reckoning.” After covering for Flack with Flack’s boss—and taking on some risk himself—Mac has every reason to be angry with Flack for brushing off his concerns and his attempt to help. The moment when Mac tells Flack he’s tempted to take off his badge and deal with this the old-fashioned way was quite a shocking escalation, and a totally believable one. Mac is furious—perhaps more so than we’ve ever seen him—and he’s not letting Flack get away with his reckless actions this time.

And yet, the part that I wrestle with is that Mac didn’t want Flack to confide in him. Indeed, when he finally breaks Flack down—not with his anger, but with the mention of Stella triangulating his phone and Danny searching hospitals–and Flack starts to tell him what’s been eating away at him, Mac cuts him off. “What you did is between you and your god,” Mac snarls. “I’m not your priest.” And it’s not just that Mac is fed up with Flack in the moment; when Flack comes to apologize to Mac, Mac tells him that he knows there’s something else, saying, “I don’t need to hear about it—just know that you dealt with it and it’s done.” Whether Mac is protecting himself or Flack—or most likely, both—I’m not sure, but he is making it clear to Flack that Flack can’t confide in him about Simon Cade’s murder. Indeed, it’s very clear that when Mac lays into Flack, he’s confronting him not as a friend but as a colleague. Mac doesn’t know exactly what’s going on with Flack—though he has a strong inkling by the end of the episode–but his concern is with getting Flack to straighten up at work, not counsel him through whatever is eating at him.

And though that might be understandable, it also comes off as fairly cold on Mac’s part. I imagine it’s that Mac would feel obligated to turn Flack in if he knew for sure that Flack had shot Cade in cold blood and that is his reasoning behind cutting Flack off before the detective confides in him. And that’s understandable—though he was able to let the grieving mother who hired the hit man in “Greater Good” go, Mac is not generally one who gives people free passes, even those he cares about. Still, the way Mac spits out, “I’m not your priest!” feels unduly harsh, especially given that in “Dead Reckoning” it did seem like Mac was urging Flack to confide in him. Mac is prone to coming off as overly righteous at times, and this is definitely one of those times. Yes, he covered for Flack, but he didn’t seem to be willing to help Flack in the way Flack really needed help. And that brings me to my biggest problem with the episode—the too neat wrap-up between the two men. Not unexpectedly, Flack comes running back to work, tail tucked between his legs and plenty contrite, telling Mac he’s “dealing with” his issue and wanting nothing more than to regain Mac’s trust. Flack is a proud man, and though I’m sure he’d want to make things right, the implication that he’ll deal with it and everything will be fine now feels a little pat. This is obviously a major crisis of faith for him—I can’t really believe that one wake up call from Mac Taylor made everything more or less okay, especially when Mac didn’t even want to hear his confession.

All three actors involved in Flack’s breakdown in this episode are phenomenal. Nelly shows a sensitive side to Terrence without getting sentimental or out of character in the slightest. Terrence is still a tough, slick guy, but he’s concerned about the normally straight-laced detective–perhaps a bit to his surprise. The expression on his face as he apologizes to Flack for letting Mac in conveys that his concern is indeed very genuine. Gary Sinise is excellent during Mac’s confrontation with Flack—really, does anyone do angry with quite as much passion as Sinise? He makes it obvious that Mac is way past the point of concern—he’s simply livid, especially when he makes the trek down to retrieve Flack and finds the detective as blasé as ever. But this is Eddie Cahill‘s chance to shine and he runs with it, segueing with subtle grace from a defensive flippancy to genuine pain over the fact that his two closest friends in the department have been desperately searching for him. Flack isn’t a man who shares his pain and guilt easily, and Cahill makes this clear even as Flack is brought to the brink of confessing all to Mac. Cahill is equally adept at handling Flack’s drunk scene, conveying so much with his expression and wisely not overplaying the inebriation. Flack is the kind of character in whom still waters run deep, and it’s wonderful to see Cahill get the opportunity to peel back the layers of his reserved character.

With everything going on with Flack in this episode, it’s definitely a good thing that this is the middle episode of the three devoted to the Compass Killer, and that the big news on that front is the team learning his identity. Hollis Eckhart’s story is achingly tragic, and after hearing it I’m definitely more invested in his story and finding out what his victims did to warrant the brutal revenge he’s exacting. I’m relieved he’s not just another crazy evil guy like the Taxi Cab Killer in season four turned out to be, and I’m eager to find out what will happen when the team finally catches up with him in the next episode—or if he’ll somehow slip through Mac Taylor’s fingers once again. And who will his final victim be? Unless I’m mistaken, Stella and Danny didn’t find any clues to the person’s identity in Eckhart’s room.

Danny is walking without the aid of a cane and seems to be more or less back to normal—at least physically. Emotionally, he still seems more reserved and less energetic than he used to be, and I’m not sure if that’s because his accident and having a baby at home have slowed him down or if Danny is just depressed. His life has changed a lot in the last year, and the only times he’s seemed genuinely happy have been when he’s with his daughter or talking about her. Lindsay is completely absent from this episode—the second time this season that she hasn’t appeared at all (the first being “Battle Scars”). Though the character is no longer offensive in the way she was in the heyday of her screechy, painful-to-watch emotional outbursts, I don’t think the show would lose anything if Lindsay decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Lindsay has never really become an integral part of the team, and these days she’s little more than Danny’s love interest (which, given that her storylines always lead back to him, is really all she’s ever been). Given the choice, I’d definitely rather see more of Adam and Sid.

Source: "Cuckoo's Nest"

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