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Review: CSI: New York–’Flag On The Play’

Posted by Kristine Huntley - 21/01/10 at 05:01 pm


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After a lingerie football player is found dead in the team’s locker room, the New York CSIs must determine if her death is connected to that of a teammate who died six months ago.

Synopsis:

A triumphant celebration for lingerie football team Manhattan Rapture is cut short when one of the players finds the star quarterback, a no-show for the game, dead in a whirlpool bath. Flack tells Mac the girl’s name is Kristen Melvoy, while Sid determines she was killed between 7 and 10am that morning—and that she was already dead when she hit the water. The team’s trainer, Alex Martin, tells Stella and Danny that Kristen didn’t have any enemies—just normal rivalries with the other girls on the team. Stella is skeptical of that after she finds a crumpled photo of Kristen that was clearly hanging in her locker. She also finds Kristen’s wallet and clothes, indicating she was killed in the locker room. In the morgue, Sid tells Mac that Kristen died of anaphylactic shock caused by an allergic reaction. Sid also tells Mac that he was approached by Leanne Baldwin, the mother of another player on the team, six months ago. Leanne’s daughter Natalie was only 22 when she died of a heart attack, and her mother was certain something was amiss about her death. The girl’s father refused to allow an autopsy, and Sid looked over the case results and found them sound. He’s now having second thoughts about that determination. Lindsay goes over a fleck of metallic paint from Kristen’s sports bra while Hawkes finds DNA from Kristen on a syringe from the trash in the locker room. He discovered traces of lidocaine and another substance in the syringe. Sid looks at Kristen’s medical records and finds the girl was allergic to lidocaine, confirming that the injection was what killed her. Sid and Hawkes find the injection site just above her left breast. Sid meets with Leanne Baldwin and gets her permission to exhume her daughter’s body.

Stella gets prints from the photo from Kristen’s locker and matches them to the second string quarterback on the team, Meredith Muir. Mac questions Meredith, who works part time as a dental hygienist and has access to lidocaine. Meredith admits to a rivalry with Kristen; she was jealous of the other girl because she was a phony and prone to bragging. Meredith denies killing her, but Mac has his doubts, especially when Meredith tells him she hated Natalie Baldwin, too, because Natalie was sleeping with her boyfriend. When Hawkes identifies the other substance in the syringe as human growth hormone, the CSIs’ suspicions turn to Alex Martin, the trainer, whose career in professional football ended because of steroid use. Flack and Danny question the trainer, but he insists he learned his lesson and isn’t doling out drugs to the women on the team. Lindsay follows up on the paint trace while Flack tells Mac that Meredith’s alibi checks out, and Alex Martin also has one, though his is his four-year-old daughter. Danny finds a picture online of Kristen wearing someone else’s triathlon medal, leading him and Flack to a pawnshop where Kristen bought the medal. They learn Kristen pawned her engagement ring for ten grand recently, but that a week later it was reported stolen, to the pawnshop owner’s dismay. Danny finds another stolen item among the wares at the shop: his grandfather’s Korean war dog tags. Flack immediately asks him what’s going on, and Danny admits his wallet and badge were stolen a week ago after acupuncture. Flack gets upset when he finds out Danny hasn’t reported the theft.

Stella and Lindsay learn that Scott Coleman, Kristen’s former fiancé, is the one who reported the ring stolen. Stella and Lindsay question Scott, who tells them that his engagement to Kristen broke up when they moved to New York and she started drastically changing her appearance with cosmetic surgery. Wondering if the connection between the two women’s deaths is cosmetic surgery rather than football, Sid begins the autopsy of Natalie and finds that there are massive amounts of silicone in her body, which is what caused her death. The silicon got into her blood stream and caused a clot, which caused the heart attack. Sid and Stella break the news to a shocked Mrs. Baldwin, who agrees to turn over Natalie’s cell phone. Hawkes finds the number of a “Dr. Alphonse Portero” in the recent calls list, and Lindsay traces the metallic paint to a plastic surgery clinic in Brooklyn. When Mac and Flack go to the clinic, the receptionist says she’s never heard of a Dr. Alphonse Portero, saying the only Al there is Allen Greenway, who works on the cleaning crew. When Allen sees Mac and Flack coming, he runs but Flack catches him in a tackle. In interrogation, Allen denies having anything to do with the deaths, but Mac mentions stolen Botox and Restylane packages found in his apartment, as well as the recycled syringe which has a print on it—which Mac is certain will match Allen. Allen finally gives up and insists Kristen’s death was an accident, that he had no idea she was allergic to lidocaine, but Mac has no sympathy for him. Leanne Baldwin thanks Sid for giving her closure, and offers him a football signed by the Manhattan Rapture players that belonged to Natalie. In the lab, Danny runs the prints he finds on his stolen dog tags and is shocked to find they match Shane Casey, a serial killer Danny helped bring to justice several years ago.

Analysis:

“Flag on the Play” is an episode filled with red herrings—perhaps one too many. First there’s Meredith, the lingerie football player who has a problem with not one but both of the dead girls. Then there’s the trainer who has a history of drug abuse but swears he isn’t supplying the women on the team with anything illegal. Then there’s the triathlon medal that leads the CSIs to the pawnshop (where Danny lucks into finding one of the items stolen from his locker in “Criminal Justice”), where they learn Kristen was engaged and pawned her ring. And then there’s the ex-fiancé, whose relationship with Kristen didn’t end well, but no–he didn’t kill her either. Yes, every episode has a few red herrings, or else the mystery would be over pretty quickly. But most episodes don’t leave me feeling strung along for three out of the four acts. I knew right away that the metallic paint sample Lindsay was agonizing over was the key to the whole thing—we just had to wait through most of the episode for the results of her search to come through, conveniently at the same time Natalie’s silicone-ridden body was exhumed. When the evidence points suddenly to cosmetic surgery gone wrong, it feels like a sharp left turn rather late in the game.

That aside, there’s plenty to enjoy here, most notably a personal storyline for Sid Hammerback, who too often is relegated to  simply relating funny anecdotes in the morgue over the latest corpse of the week. Robert Joy is very good at delivering Sid’s sharp lines with just the right amount of quirky flair, so it’s nice to see him take center stage in an episode. Natalie Baldwin’s case has obviously been weighing on his mind; though he deemed the other coroner’s findings sound, Leanne Baldwin’s insistence that something doesn’t add up about her daughter’s death obviously stuck with him. Sid is finally able to offer Leanne the closure she’s been seeking, even if the news that her daughter was undergoing extensive cosmetic procedures comes as a big surprise to her. Sid is obviously sad he can’t offer her more, but when she makes a note of how hard his job is, he comes back with a somewhat cheesy and pat line about parenthood being the hardest job there is. It might be true, but it’s a clunker of a line nonetheless.

Also somewhat on the saccharine side is the final scene of the show, when Sid offers to show Mac his football, but only if Mac “goes long.” Coming after what is a truly shocking reveal in Danny’s storyline, the moment not only feels out of place, but somewhat trite as well. I like cute team moments as much as the next viewer, but this one should have come before the big reveal that Shane Casey has apparently found a way to insert himself in Danny’s life—if it had to come at all. The scene between Sid and Leanne Baldwin would have been a much more powerful way to end the episode if the desire was to have it go out on an emotional rather than a chilling note. As it is, the unnecessary scene between Mac and Sid takes away from the shock of Casey’s return and also just a bit from the focus on Sid’s relationship with Natalie’s mother—and the lighthearted tone of it just doesn’t fit given the previous two scenes.

Shane Casey’s return is indeed Big News, sandwiched awkwardly between two emotional scenes or not. Introduced in “Hung Out to Dry” as a serial killer with an axe to grind with the system and last seen in “Raising Shane” when he framed Hawkes for murder and focused his bid for a fair assessment of his brother’s case on Danny, Shane is one of the most compelling killers ever to surface on any of the CSI shows. Played with a mixture of seething resentment and heartbreak by Edward Furlong, Shane lashed out at the people he believed were responsible for his brother’s wrongful conviction and subsequent suicide. In “Raising Shane,” Danny took on the unenviable task of proving to Shane that in fact his brother was guilty of the murder for which he stood accused. Danny, who like Shane has a troubled older brother, reached out to Shane after he and Flack arrested the young man, telling him he understood what it was like to want to defend a troubled sibling. Shane latched onto this moment of compassion from Danny, telling Mac in “Raising Shane” to send Danny to meet him at the scene of the murder his brother committed. Danny went, and managed to convince Shane to stand down. The last we saw of Shane Casey, he was taken away in handcuffs.

After the prints on the dog tags come up as a match to Shane, Danny seems genuinely baffled, recalling aloud that Shane is supposed to be serving a life sentence for the murders he committed. Given that Shane managed to escape from custody once before, you’d think Danny would be a little more worried that not only does it appear Shane has somehow gotten out of jail, but that he’s also fixated on Danny for some reason. I sincerely hope this storyline won’t lead to some clichéd nonsense about Shane kidnapping Danny and Lindsay’s child, or targeting Lindsay. Shane’s obsession with Danny is interesting in that it stems not from the fact that Danny arrested him but from a simple act of kindness, a few heartfelt words Danny spoke to Shane when he could have stayed silent and said nothing. I hope that whatever reason he has for coming after Danny now is as interesting and complex as Shane’s motives were in the previous two episodes.

I find myself just as frustrated as Flack seems to be with Danny’s refusal to report his badge missing. It was surprising to see Flack, who seems to have endless reserves of patience when it comes to Danny, lose his cool after Danny tells him he doesn’t “want to make a big deal” out of his badge being stolen. “It is a big deal, dammit,” Flack positively seethes, and actually storms out. Has Flack finally run out of patience for Danny’s endless problems? He certainly isn’t acting like the guy who chased Danny all over Manhattan after Danny’s gun was stolen in “All in the Family”. In his most recent CSI Files interview, Eddie Cahill said of Flack in the wake of Angell’s death and Flack’s shooting of her killer: “I just think he’s changed. I think sometimes we tend to nip it up and close it, and we have to, I understand that, but from a personal standpoint, I think he changed and now he’s different.” I can’t help but wonder if this is one example of how Flack is different; in the past, he’s dropped everything to help Danny, but here he seems to be washing his hands of the whole situation based on Danny’s absurdly childish response. I’ll be curious to see whether or not Flack ends up pressing Danny about the missing badge later on, or if he really is going to leave it to Danny to handle his own mess this time around.

Danny’s refusal to report his badge missing is incredibly childish, and shows that for all his supposed growing up when he became a husband and father, he still hasn’t totally changed. What’s much more baffling than Danny’s refusal to report the badge missing is Lindsay’s complicity in it—for a character who is such a by-the-book type, she’s being awfully lax about something that could have serious ramifications, especially since Danny has waited to report the theft. Lindsay presses him about it a bit early in the episode, telling he has to report it because it’s been a week, but doesn’t go any further with it. I imagine being married to Danny can’t be easy given how stubborn he is, but I’m surprised to see Lindsay just letting the issue go knowing what could be at stake. At worst I would expect Danny to be reprimanded for leaving his badge in an unlocked locker, but it seems like the consequences for not reporting it missing and having it used by someone like, say, Shane Casey, would be far, far worse. Now that Danny knows who has his badge, hopefully he’ll hightail it to Mac’s office and tell the CSI supervisor what happened. I can’t wait to see where this is going, and hope the return of Shane Casey injects some needed excitement and urgency into the season.

Source: "Flag on the Play"

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