Mac works to close his final unsolved case as he contemplates his future with the New York Crime Lab.
Mac, Danny and Flack prepare for a raid. They bust into an apartment and separate to chase down drug dealers. Mac rushes out onto the roof after one of the men, and they get into a fight. The man grabs Mac’s gun and fires, but the gun doesn’t go off. Mac knocks his hand aside and struggles with the man, getting the upper hand just before Danny and Flack rush out to arrest him.
Later at the lab, Mac is preoccupied during a meeting; he keeps thinking back to his near-death experience on the roof. He heads into his office, which has just been put back together after the shootout in “Life Sentence”. He approaches the final unsolved case folder on his desk and picks it up. It was the first case he was assigned when he became the head of the crime lab. Kenny Hexton killed two people during a bodega robbery nine years ago, and they were never able to catch him.
Mac meets Flack at the bodega where the murders took place, and they walk through the night of the botched robbery. Hexton shot the bodega owner and a young employee, but the owner was able to wound Hexton before he died. Logically, Hexton and his accomplice should have fled out the closest door, but instead they took the far door out of the bodega. Hawkes finds the reason when he re-tests the evidence from the original case. In addition to Hexton’s blood, Hawkes locates a secondary DNA sample on a child’s change purse found at the scene. They know it isn’t just a casual transfer because the DNA matches a little girl named Olivia Dalton. Her mother reported her missing the morning after the robbery. Hexton and his accomplice discovered Olivia in the bodega after the two men were killed, and they took her with them.
Mac speaks to Olivia’s mother, who was drunk the night Olivia disappeared. The little girl left the apartment to buy some aspirin from the bodega for her mother’s “headache”, and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Olivia’s mother turned her life around, but it was too late.
Jo speaks to Hexton’s ex-girlfriend, Jackie. At first, Jackie demands that Jo leave, but she changes her tune when she sees a picture of Olivia. Jackie remembers hearing Hexton and his accomplice talk about the little girl, but she had no idea the child was standing right outside the door. She gives Jo a postcard Hexton sent her, but the writing is faded. She suspects the accomplice penned the note since Hexton wasn’t a great writer. Last she heard, Hexton was heading to Boston to meet up with a friend.
Mac takes Danny and Flack to Boston, where they locate Hexton and arrest him. Hexton says he barely knew his accomplice, Wes, and he has no idea where he and Olivia might be. After four days of running with Olivia in tow, Hexton demanded that Wes get rid of her. Instead of shooting the little girl, Wes pistol-whipped Hexton and left him on the side of the road. He got in the car and took Olivia with him, and that’s the last Hexton saw of either one of them.
Adam enhances the postcard and reveals Wes’s unique handwriting. Mac tells him to use the postcard in place of a police sketch, sending it out to media outlets in the hope that someone will recognize the handwriting. They get lucky, and a woman in Georgia tells the CSIs that Wes and Olivia stayed with her for a few years before leaving abruptly nine months ago. The woman, Samantha, is shocked to hear that Wes is on the run for murder, and she’s even more surprised to learn that Olivia isn’t his daughter—he was such a good father.
Olivia was diagnosed with a heart condition a year ago, and Samantha gives them a bottle of medication she’s supposed to take every day. They are able to use the medication to track down a girl fitting Olivia’s description in Shelby, North Carolina. Mac heads down with Flack to pick Wes up, and Wes tries to take Olivia and run. He reaches for his car keys, and the local cops open fire when they think he’s pulling out a gun. Olivia watches Wes die, and she grabs a gun out of fear and grief. Mac puts his gun away and tells the other officers to stand down. He speaks to Olivia and gets her to put the gun down, promising to take her home to her mother in New York.
Jo read about what happened to Mac on that roof, and she wonders why he put the incident in the case report but neglected to tell anyone else about it. Mac says he’s faced death a lot of times, but this was different. He wanted to get some closure by solving that final case, and he wonders if it’s time to leave the NYPD. The other characters go about their daily lives as Mac leaves the lab, contemplating his future.
“Exit Strategy” is a solid episode and a great way to end what might have been CSI: New York’s final season. At the time the episode was filmed, the show’s future remained uncertain, although CBS has since renewed the series for an eighth season that will begin on September 23. The episode focuses on Mac as he tries to decide whether it’s time to leave the Crime Lab, and it offers the character some closure while still leaving the future open-ended. It will be interesting to see where things pick up in the fall, especially since “Exit Strategy” sets up some plot threads that will no doubt play out during season eight.
There are several scenes in this episode that allow Mac’s friendship with Jo to shine. They have developed a close relationship during season seven, and that’s on full display during “Exit Strategy” as Jo confronts Mac about what’s going on, giving him a sounding board to discuss things he would normally keep to himself. Jo’s addition to the team has been pure magic, and I love the dynamic she brings to the show. I feel like I’m always saying that, but I really do adore Sela Ward and the character she plays. There have been a few rough spots since she was introduced, but overall I have no complaints about a last minute replacement who turned out to be a real bright spot in the series.
The finale also highlights Mac’s friendship with Flack in a more subtle way, when Flack probes gently to see if there’s something Mac wants to discuss. When Mac opts to leave things unsaid, Flack lets the matter drop and concentrates on the job. The relationship between these two has been developing for years, and I really feel like it’s at a great place this season. Flack was dealing with personal issues during season six, and Mac had to take a hard stance with him in “Cuckoo’s Nest”, but they definitely feel like equals this year.
I know I’ve said it before, but I don’t feel like I can say it enough: I love Mac, Jo and Flack in any combination, especially together. The finale focuses on Mac’s relationship with each of them separately, but the elements of both friendships are solid. I look forward to seeing what these three get up to during season eight—if season seven is any indication, it’s going to keep getting better and better.
When Mac files away his final case folder and walks out of the lab at the end of the episode, it appears that Jo is the only character who knows he might be saying goodbye. As he heads toward the elevator, he observes the others—but only Jo is observing him. Meanwhile, a montage allows each of the characters to get a moment of focus as the finale draws to a close. The song that plays during this montage, “Holding On and Letting Go” by Ross Copperman, enhances an already emotional scene. Lyrics such as “it’s one door swinging open, and one door swinging closed” are a nice touch, especially considering the show’s uncertain future at the time, and it makes the potential loss of Mac (and the series) even more poignant.
Adam is working in the lab, trying to fix a light that was acting up earlier in the episode. He gets it fixed and lurches back from the sudden brightness, prompting Mac to smile as he walks by. The moment of humor perfectly illustrates Adam’s usual role as the comic relief in the lab. Sid and Hawkes are in the morgue, looking at a body as Sid explains that the victim died between 7:00 and 11:00pm on Friday—perhaps a subtle reference to the potential “death” of CSI: NY in the Friday 9:00pm ET/PT timeslot it occupied during season seven (and where it will remain for season eight). Hawkes gets a call from his girlfriend Camille (Lesley-Ann Brandt, “Food for Thought”), and they make plans to get together. It’s business as usual for Flack, who is conducting another raid somewhere in the city. Flack seems like the quintessential New York cop, so it’s fitting that he would be shown catching bad guys and keeping the city safe.
Flack’s loyalty to the job is reflected in the scene at the very beginning of the episode when he, Mac and Danny prepare for the drug raid. Danny kisses a picture of his daughter, Lucy; Mac kisses his cross necklace, and Flack takes a long look at his police badge before clipping it to his bulletproof vest. The items they concentrate on seem to reflect what is most important to them: family, faith and duty. All three things are important to all three men, of course, but the writers gave each one the element that best fits their personality. It’s a small moment that really says a lot about these characters, and it shows how much thought and care went into crafting this episode.
Speaking of Danny’s family, he and Lindsay contemplate the possibility of Danny receiving a promotion during “Exit Strategy”. Danny took the Sergeant’s exam several months ago, and he’s waiting for the results. He kept the information from his wife because he isn’t sure it’s what he wants. It would give him a pay raise and a promotion, of course, but it would also take him away from the lab and Lindsay. At the end of the episode, Danny and Lindsay are the first characters featured in the montage: Danny comes in to tell her he passed the test, and they embrace as “Holding On and Letting Go” starts playing. The fans are left to wonder what Danny and Lindsay will decide about the possible promotion, but this plot is a good way to illustrate doors opening as other doors close—Danny might start moving up in the department, and Mac might be ready to leave. It’s a great element for a (potential) series finale, showing that life goes on even after the final credits roll. Since the show is coming back for an eighth season, however, the moment serves a different purpose: it’s a small cliffhanger, which goes along with the cliffhanger regarding Mac’s decision to stay or go. If Danny becomes a Sergeant, what will his role be in the team? Will he be around less? Or will he turn down the promotion and opt to stay where he is for the time being? It’s a very interesting question, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
I haven’t heard anything to suggest that any of the actors are leaving New York, so I have my fingers crossed that the whole team will be back when season eight gets started in the fall. With another season guaranteed, it’s hard to imagine Mac leaving, and the show would be bereft without Gary Sinise. Fortunately, Sinise has been vocal on Twitter about returning to the set, so it doesn’t look like fans will have to worry about the show continuing without its leading man.
New York was narrowly able to stave off cancellation this year, but nothing can last forever. The CSI franchise is getting a bit long in the tooth, but it’s hard to deny that all three series have left their mark. There have been 27 seasons and 625 episodes between all three shows since CSI: Crime Scene Investigation began in 2000, and it’s amazing to think that the whole franchise will return this fall. I know we’ll have to say goodbye to these characters eventually, but I’m glad we can look forward to at least one more year of Mac Taylor and the rest of the CSIs solving crimes in the Big Apple.
See also: “Exit Strategy” episode guide