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CSI Files - CSI: New York--'Cool Hunter'

CSI: New York--'Cool Hunter'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 9, 2006 - 5:57 PM GMT

See Also: 'Cool Hunter' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

After blood mixes with the water supply to a Manhattan apartment building, the CSIs are summoned and discover the body of Stacie Avida in the building's water tower. Lindsay recalls visiting the building on a “grave line” tour of Manhattan--there have been six suspicious deaths there in the last ten years. Stacie's boyfriend, the building's superintendent, tells Flack that Stacie was the building's doorman. Mac photographs Stacie's body while Lindsay documents photographs footprints in the rooftop flower gardens. Back at the morgue, Dr. Hammerback tells Mac that Stacie drowned before she bled out. He also noticed a puncture mark on her chest, indicating she was injected with something before she died. He sent both sample of her blood and a sex kit to be analyzed, as well as glass shards he found in a gash on her arm.

At a playground in Washington Heights, Stella and Dr. Hawkes kneel by the body of a young man named Ben Hatfield. Ben leans against a pole, bruises covering his face and a heavy chain around his neck. Hawkes examines the marks on his face and chest and concludes he was hit by someone with boxing experience, possibly a while before being strangled--while he was strangled less than six hours ago, the bruises appear to be eight to ten hours old. Stella collects blood samples from the sandbox. They return to the lab with Ben's clothes, and Stella enlists Danny to go over pictures with her from Ben's camera phone. All the photos are of one woman in various outfits and styles. Was Ben stalking her? Stella finds the woman, Jennifer Rodriguez, in the Washington Heights neighborhood. Jennifer doesn't recognize Ben, and she tells Stella she doesn't know the man in one of the photos with her--he's just some guy who wanted to buy her coffee. Stella returns to the lab, where Hawkes has identified a substance on Ben's shirt as tar. Stella looks at his business card, for a company called NHT. She looks it up--the letters stand for 'Next Hot Thing.' Ben was a cool hunter--he was following Jennifer to copy her style.

Lindsay shows Mac the stories about the suspicious deaths in the apartment building Stacie worked at, but Mac urges her to stick with the science. She's been to Stacie's apartment, where she discovered blood on the doorframe and a used condom in the wastebasket, as well as flowers with mucus on them. The sperm in the condom doesn't match the mucus on the flowers, leading Mac to suspect Stacie may have been cheating on Joe. Mac questions Joe, who confirms his suspicions--he saw the condom in Stacie's trash and assumed the worst. Mac is puzzled when Joe doesn't seem to know that Stacie had a daughter, and suspects there's a lot Joe didn't know about his girlfriend. When the glass in Stacie's arm is identified as stained glass, Mac and Lindsay return to the apartment building, where each unit has stained glass windows by the door. The dark gold color of the glass from Stacie's arm matches that belonging to a doctor named Craig Zimmer.

Looking at the pictures from Ben's camera phone, Danny is able to get the license plate of the car the man who approached Jennifer was driving, which leads Stella and Danny to Rico Cerda, a Washington Heights businessman who runs a business that rivals NHT. The car in the picture belongs to his company and was being driven by Elliott Stanton, one of his employees. Rico has pictures of Jennifer, too, and claims he was scouting her first. He dismisses the idea that Ben was a threat to him--his company was there first, and Rico is ahead of NHT, or so he claims. He reluctantly tells Stella and Danny how to find Elliott. When they track the young man down, they notice he has bruising on his hands and face, but it's not enough to bring him in. Back at Craig Zimmer's apartment, Mac and Linday question the doctor about the broken stained glass in his apartment, and he claims one of his kids probably did it. The CSIs search his apartment and find morphine, blood on the door and even a hair in a picture frame--it seems like it all adds up. But why did Zimmer kill Stacie? Mac wonders.

Hammerback brings Hawkes trace from a tooth implant in Ben's mouth, and Hawkes sets to analyzing it. Danny and Stella have hit a roadblock--Elliott seems like the most likely culprit, but they need an eyewitness to testify that Elliott and Ben fought. Danny comes up with a novel idea to get a witness to talk. Returning to the Washington Heights neighborhood, Danny challenges a local kid to a game of handball. If Danny wins, the guy will tell Danny what he saw; if Danny loses, he'll release the crime scene. After a long game, Danny returns to the lab triumphant, with the much-needed eyewitness testimony. The CSIs now have enough to get a DNA sample from Elliott. Hawkes has also gotten trace results on the substance on the tooth implant: reptile skin. In an interrogation room, Flack and Lindsay confront Zimmer with the damning evidence against him. The man, clearly suffering from morphine addiction withdrawal, can't explain the evidence against him. Lindsay is troubled by Zimmer--his name came up in connection with three of the seven suspicious deaths in the building: his children’s nanny, a young girl who choked to death on the roof while Zimmer tried to save her and Stacie's. Mac tells Lindsay they need to put him on the roof to prove he killed Stacie.

After a print on the photo frame proves to be almost a month old, Lindsay turns to the footprints in the dirt in the rooftop garden. Lindsay enlists Danny in an experiment. He's about the same size as Zimmer, so she has him put on Zimmer's shoes and carry her across the dirt, and then she compares the depth of the two sets of footprints, thinking Joe Green, the superintendent, may have tried to frame Zimmer. But to Lindsay's surprise, the prints made by the killer are actually shallower than the ones Danny made. Mac and Lindsay look at the shoes again and Mac discovers an aqua fiber that matches the color of the socks Stacie was wearing when she died. Why was Stacie wearing Zimmer's shoes? Stella interrogates Elliott while his lawyer looks on, but Elliott denies killing Ben. When he goes so far as to tell Stella when he left Ben, Ben was alive, the lawyer cuts off the questioning.

Lindsay has gone back to the past deaths at the building and to her surprise has discovered the girl who choked to death was Stacie's daughter, Gina. Zimmer had been high on morphine and inadvertently killed the girl when he tried to save her. Two months after Gina's death, Stacie quit her job in publishing and took the doorman job in Zimmer's building. Elsewhere in the lab, Stella and Hawkes turn to the blood in the sandbox. They can't find a match in the system, but a specific, unusual allele in the blood is unique to people from the Dominican Republic, leading them back to Rico Cerda. Danny and Stella go to arrest Cerda--he sent Elliott to kill Ben, but when Elliott couldn't do it, Cerda went back to finish the job. Rico resented the new company's intrusion into his neighborhood, and he wanted to teach them a lesson. Mac and Flack tell Joe and Zimmer respectively how Stacie died: she went to great lengths to frame Zimmer, the man she held responsible for her daughter's death. The men are shocked: Flack tells Zimmer it's time for him to get help for his addiction, while Joe tells Mac he still loves Stacie.

Analysis:

Like "Fare Game" the week before it, "Cool Hunter" is anchored by two strong cases. I was a little worried at the halfway mark when it seemed like the two killers were apparent and all that was needed was for the CSIs to gather the evidence that would add up to an arrest. While this can be effective sometimes, if not done properly it can kill the momentum of an episode, given that a lot of the excitement comes with the revelation of the killer's identity. In this case, I was quite happy to be proved wrong.

The A-case revolving around the death of the doorwoman was by far one of the strongest cases CSI: NY has ever done. Everything came together in the case, even Lindsay's focus on the six murders that have occurred in the building over the last ten years. Mac initially dismisses her curiosity about the building's "curse" as unscientific, but it ends up providing the clue that allows the CSIs to cinch the case--that one of the deaths was Stacie's young daughter, and Zimmer bungled an attempt to save her. Lindsay was very effective in this episode--her interest in the curse and New York history added depth to her character, while her theory about the curse on the building ends up providing the missing puzzle piece that shows her and Mac that the case isn't as open-and-shut as it seems.

Interestingly, Mac gives her some leeway to explore her theory. Mac isn't a big believer in intuition--he pretty much shut Danny down in "A Man a Mile" when Danny was relying on his hunches rather than the evidence. Mac is likewise reluctant with Lindsay, too; he reminds her that science and the evidence must support any theories a CSI comes up with, but Mac is willing to hear her out, a courtesy he didn't really extend to Danny. Mac and Lindsay have really developed a fantastic dynamic--I always look forward to the episodes when they work together. Mac is a cool scientist, but he lightens up around Lindsay, who brings in a fresh perspective that he clearly appreciates.

Stacie goes to great lengths to set Zimmer up, and the final reveal puts it all together quite effectively, with Lindsay retracing Stacie's steps while Mac and Flack tell Joe and Zimmer respectively what transpired. I did wonder about Stacie injecting herself with the morphine in Zimmer's apartment. Though I'm sure she wanted to leave the needle and morphine in the apartment, if she has ten times the recommended dose in her bloodstream, would she really have been able to function well enough to get up to the water tower? And I assume she made the footprints with the shoes before injecting herself with the morphine, since the shoes were back in Zimmer's apartment. Lindsay's experiment with the footprints was a clever way to open the case up. Like the CSIs, I was expecting the shoe prints left by the killer to be deeper than the ones Danny made while carrying Lindsay. It was a truly clever twist to have the footprints prove just the opposite and set the CSIs on the path to figuring it all out.

One of the concerns people have voiced about the CSI shows is that they educate criminals on how to commit crimes when they show how the evidence that leads the CSIs to a killer's door is left, and Stacie certainly seems to be a primary example of this. Stacie covered all the bases--she broke a unique panel of stained glass in Zimmer's apartment, leaving glass shards in her wound. She stole a condom from his wastebasket and put it in her own, knowing the conclusions investigators would draw. She left a strand of her hair in one of the photo frames hanging on Zimmer's wall. She left footprints in the dirt using Zimmer's shoes. Of course, the message here is that despite the fact that she did all of this, the CSIs still figured out the truth. Score one for the CSI: NY writers against the franchise's detractors.

The final scenes alternating between Mac and Joe, and Flack and Zimmer are especially effective. That Mac takes the time to explain to Joe exactly what happened with Stacie shows Mac's kindness and decency, which we saw in the first season in episodes like "Blink", "Supply and Demand" and "The Closer". Seeing Mac getting personally involved in a case after his detachment for much of the season adds more weight to a case that has already made quite an impact. Even the normally snarky Flack softens a bit when he tells Zimmer he's cleared. Flack notes that he's let the Medical Board know about Zimmer's addiction, but their is no condescension in his voice.

In the face of such a strong primary case, the B-case is somewhat overshadowed, though it's a delight to see Stella and Danny teamed up and on the same page. As the show's most energetic and passionate characters, Stella and Danny created some serious heat when they worked together in season one. That was somewhat diminished in the beginning of season two, but in this episode the two are back to their old dynamic. There is no "good cop" when Stella and Danny team up; both are equally disdainful of criminals and murderers. Unfortunately, Hawkes, who works so well with either Stella or Danny individually, fades into the background a bit when faced with the combination of the two.

The idea of competing cool hunting agencies was a clever concept, and like in the A-case, I was happy to learn that the person who seemed to be the killer early on wasn't actually responsible. The killer's identity in this case was less of a surprise than it was in the A-case; after all, who but Rico could it have been? It would have been pretty surprising if it had turned out to be Jennifer, but given the nature of the murder, it was pretty obvious a man had committed the murder.

Though I'll readily admit I thoroughly enjoyed the scene where Danny takes on the local kid at handball, I did wonder if any real CSI would go that far to get an eyewitness. But it was a fun scene in an otherwise pretty serious episode, and once again, the writers are using Danny to add the entertaining character moments to an episode, which he does with aplomb. Danny seems to have an understanding of the neighborhood, and how to best reach out to a potential eyewitness. The scene is also a nod to Danny's status as the breakout character of the show--look for Carmine Giovinazzo's arms to get their own billing in the opening credits soon.

Robert Joy's Sid Hammerback continues to delight. As we saw in "Fare Game," Sid makes a very clear distinction between what he as an ME has to do, and what the CSIs do. He continues to do so in this episode when he brings Hawkes a piece of trace he's found, reminding the ME-turned-CSI that it's not his job to figure out what the trace is. Hawkes laughs, but he clearly doesn't mind; he's enjoying his new gig.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.