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Review: CSI: New York–’The 34th Floor’

Posted by Kristine Huntley - 28/09/10 at 09:09 am


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New CSI Jo Danville arrives at the lab to find the body of a woman on the floor in CSI: NY‘s seventh season opener.

Synopsis:

Picking up where “Vacation Getaway” left off, Lindsay wakes to find serial killer Shane Casey holding her daughter and pointing a gun at her husband. Lindsay raises her gun and fires at Shane when he turns his weapon on Lucy. The shot kills him. Five months later, Lindsay is awarded the Combat Cross for her actions. When the team returns to work, they find new CSI Jo Danville, sent in to replace Stella, standing over the body of a woman in the lab. Mac is perplexed and tells Jo that the woman doesn’t work in the lab. Danny and Hawkes start working on the elevator, which has several bloody prints in it. While the team works the case, Lindsay visits Dr. Morgan Jefferson, the department psychologist, who is concerned about Lindsay’s reaction to the shooting and the subsequent medal. The session ends with Lindsay storming out and throwing the medal in the trash. The team identifies the dead woman as Sarah Nelson, a junior associate at Westwick & Associates, the company on the 34th floor, just beneath the crime lab. Danny and Hawkes find a face print on a window and gravitational blood drops in a conference room, while Flack discovers the security cameras were malfunctioning from 12:04am to 1:24am—just around the time the ME put the time of death. In the morgue, Sid finds fibers in one of Sarah’s eyes, and determines she was killed with a double bladed instrument—likely a pair of scissors. He also tells Mac she was in the early stages of pregnancy.

Hawkes and Jo go over Sarah’s clothes, and Jo observes that Sarah was dressing beyond her means, suggesting she may have had a wealthy lover. Hawkes also finds blood splatter on Sarah’s shirt, most likely from her attacker. A package from Stella containing a framed quote, “Bravery means being the only one who knows you’re afraid,” upsets Lindsay, who runs to the roof and is consoled first by Mac, who tells her she’s starting to come to terms with the shooting, and then by Danny, who retrieved her medal from the psychologist’s office. Adam goes over Sarah’s phone records and find she used a program to avoid certain other people, based on the tracking of their cell phones. One of those people, Rudy Aronika, left messages begging to see her—which stopped abruptly two days ago. Jo questions Rudy, who admits he was seeing Sarah. Sarah picked Rudy out precisely because he was married; she wasn’t looking for a commitment. She broke it off when he tried to get serious, and he begged her to come back—until he learned she was pregnant. He had a vasectomy two years ago, so Sarah’s child couldn’t be his. He insists he didn’t kill her, and Mac, watching from behind the glass, believes him.

The blood on Sarah’s shirt matches a mugging from two nights ago. Mac and Flack question the victim, none other than Teddy Westwick, the owner of Westwick & Associates. He tells them he was mugged coming out of a restaurant and that the mugger slashed him with scissors. He managed to get the scissors away from the mugger and stabbed him in the back. When asked about Sarah, Westwick claims he barely knew her. Lindsay goes over the scissors and finds 12 hits in CODIS to high end burglaries, but doesn’t get any matches in AFIS, so she decides to expand her search. Hawkes confirms the scissors were the murder weapon, and Lindsay finally get a name to go with the prints: Alex Brodevesky. Flack and Danny track Alex down and capture him after a spirited chase. Alex tells Danny and Flack that he came to rob Westwick and found the man murdering Sarah. Alex ran when Westwick came after him, but Westwick stabbed him in the back. Alex fled down to the street and managed to get the scissors from Westwick and slashed him on the arm. Jo and Mac think his story makes sense, and Jo sets out to prove that Westwick was the aggressor with the help of Adam and Hawkes. Using two dummies, the three prove based on the location of the blood drops and splatter on the cuff of Westwick’s shirt that he was the aggressor—and Sarah’s killer. Mac and Flack chase Westwick to the roof of the Chrysler Building, but Mac is forced to shoot him when he draws a gun on them.

Analysis:

The seventh season premiere of CSI: NY starts strong and peters out storywise as it goes along, but it seems wrong to judge it too harshly given all that the hour has to accomplish. Between wrapping up the season six ender’s cliffhanger, dealing with the fallout from that resolution, introducing a new lead character, explaining another character’s departure and fitting in a mystery, there’s a lot to be serviced during the course of the episode. The case is woefully predictable—as soon as Jo noted that Sarah Nelson’s clothes were designer, I knew she had an older married lover who had killed her to keep their affair secret—but perhaps a more showy case would have distracted from the introduction of Jo Danville, who needs to (and does) make an impression in her first outing. Certainly Jo’s entrance is a memorable one: she arrives at the empty lab to find a dead body. This is by far the most interesting part of the case; even the red herring burglar isn’t enough to shed any real doubt on who the actual killer is.

Jo herself is far more interesting than the first case she works with the New York CSIs. Played with aplomb by the always appealing Sela Ward, Jo brings a much-needed energy to the show. It’s hard to keep things fresh in the seventh season of any show, and while Melina Kanakaredes will certainly be missed, adding a new face to the cast in a prominent position should definitely help add some spark to CSI: NY. Sharp and observant, Jo immediately distinguishes herself by looking at evidence that can paint a picture of the victim: scuffs on her shoes, how expensive her clothing is, how much makeup she wears. Jo is something of a profiler, able to come to conclusions about people based on physical observations, and it’s no surprise that in her first case, she’s dead on about the people she’s analyzing. First, she immediately deduces that Sarah has an older, wealthy, married lover and then when interrogating another of Sarah’s lovers, Rudy Aronika, she puts a box of tissues on the table and correctly bets the ploy will get him to open up.

Jo also has a bit of fun with the team, particularly poor befuddled Adam, who is thrown when she rattles off his parents’ names and claims to have read a thick FBI file on him. She goes on to make a crack about the websites Adam visits, causing the lab tech to get even more flustered. Jo certainly reads Adam—who has a propensity for having crushes on attractive female co-workers (think Kendall and Stella)—like a book, and clearly enjoys having a little fun with him. Later, Adam gripes to Danny about Jo being “evil,” but I have a feeling in time he’ll definitely come to appreciate her. There also seemed to be a spark between Jo and Flack when they first met, though I wonder if CSI: NY would ever opt for a relationship where the woman was significantly older than the man. Flack seems more laid back than he has in a while, and much of the anger he felt after the death of his girlfriend at the end of season five seems to have dissipated. Jo and Flack certainly share a similar sharp wit.

CSI: NY‘s leading man can be a little dour at times, making his bantering exchanges with Jo all the more fun. Mac and Stella had a friendship and working relationship that pre-dated the show, so right off the bat his relationship with Jo is bound to be different and it is, more like the banter he’s had with his love interests without the undercurrent of romance. Gary Sinise is an understated and gifted performer, but sometimes Mac comes off as low energy, so it’s nice to have someone opposite him who can bring out his lighter side. Unfortunately, Jo’s opening line of “I didn’t do it!”, which was featured in the previews for the episode was cut, perhaps because it was feared it would come off as too flippant, but she and Mac do exchange some funny banter as Jo reacts to the oddity of finding a body in the lab on her first day as a New York CSI. It’s definitely a memorable introduction to a character that promises to be a big asset to the show.

Stella’s departure is referenced more or less in passing, when Lindsay receives a package with a framed quote from her. Stella, now heading up the New Orleans CSI lab, tells Lindsay she’s getting used to being the boss and to stay strong. Given the abrupt way Kanakaredes’ departure unfolded, it’s understandable that the obligatory reference to her whereabouts feels a little awkward. Would it really take Stella five months to acknowledge that Lindsay shot and killed a homicidal maniac in her apartment? Probably not. But the decision to not kill Stella off was a sound one, and the mention of her new job is shoehorned into the episode about as well as it most likely could be. It will be interesting to see if Mac will address her departure and his feelings about it in a future episode.

The resolution to the cliffhanger is almost as predictable as the case—did anyone really think Shane would kill Lucy or Danny?—but gratifying: even though one has to wonder how on earth Shane Casey survived the fall from that lighthouse, it’s refreshing to see Lindsay is the one who takes him out. Aside from being Danny’s girlfriend and then wife, Lindsay has had little development on her own since season three. While Anna Belknap lacks the range of her co-stars, she does a good job with the material she’s given here. I especially liked that Lindsay defended her feelings about her actions, saying that she wouldn’t have done anything differently. There is clearly supposed to be a parallel between Lindsay shooting Shane and Mac shooting Westwick at the end of the episode; taking a life, even when necessary, is never an easy thing. Somehow, I doubt we’ll see Mac in counseling, and I wonder if we’d have seen Danny in counseling if he had been the one to shoot Shane. There’s a strong undercurrent of sexism in the way the shooting is dealt with: because Lindsay is a woman, surely she must be having issues with killing someone—even though he was threatening both her husband and child at the time. Has there ever been a more justified shooting on the show?

It’s baffling as to why Danny isn’t also in counseling, given that he was the one the serial killer was actually stalking, and that he survived not one but two (or four, if you count the earlier episodes, “Hung Out to Dry” and “Raising Shane”) encounters with Shane Casey. While Lindsay is getting her blood pressure checked after the shooting, Danny is huddled up on the curb, holding Lucy and looking pretty traumatized. My biggest complaint about the storyline is that it has shuffled Danny’s emotional response off to the side, when in fact he was the object of Shane’s obsession. I did like that it was Lindsay and not Danny who actually shot Shane; Danny does have a history of needing to be saved, so it’s nice to see continuity there. But Danny is also the show’s most emotional character, and while seeing him support his wife is sweet, it feels wrong to not see more of the fallout for him from what happened with Shane in the apartment.

Source: "The 34th Floor"

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