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CSI Files - CSI: New York--'Down The Rabbit Hole'

CSI: New York--'Down The Rabbit Hole'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 25, 2007 - 9:51 AM GMT

See Also: 'Down the Rabbit Hole' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The dead body of a young woman dressed in a leather outfit and a bright green wig is found slain in a mannequin warehouse, a gunshot wound to her head. Sid Hammerback notes that several knife wounds to her neck indicate she was tortured, and that she's had extensive cosmetic surgery, including a facelift. The CSIs begin to process evidence from the scene: a male customized doll wearing a shirt with the name Johnny on it, a wood shaving and a tick. Adam finds a Google image match for the woman: a popular avatar named Venus from the online meta-world Second Life. Through Second Life's records, the CSIs are able to identify their victim as Cheryl Miller, but Mac has to enter the world of Second Life to find Don Juan 2-3, aka Johnny O'Dell, whom Cheryl was involved with. With Adam as his guide and intervention from Stella, Mac is able to find Johnny and Adam traces his IP address to his location. When Danny and Flack go to pick him up, he tries to run, and they are surprised to discover he has a gun.

Johnny admits he and Cheryl were involved and that he had plans to meet up with her that night, but that he stood her up because he suffers from acute multiple sclerosis and is dying. He's shocked to learn Venus is dead since he saw her avatar online only a few hours before. His gun, which he bought because of his degenerative illness, is not a match to the bullet that killed Cheryl. Mac goes back into Second Life looking for Venus and with Adam's help is able to jump through the hoops to track her down, only to find another avatar pursuing her, accusing her of being a fake. Adam is able to get the other avatar's address just before his connection is lost. The CSIs rush to the address only to discover Johnny O'Dell dead at the kitchen table, shot execution-style just like Cheryl. Based on striation markings, Hawkes confirms that the bullet came from the same gun that killed Cheryl, and also ties the gun to another crime: the murder of a one Judge McHenry in the woods of New Jersey a week ago.

While Stella and Danny visit the real Gearhead shoe designer who Venus purchased trendy shoes online from for a date with an avatar named Mr. TCB, Mac tracks her online, but she infects the lab computers with a virus, forcing them to shut down. The CSIs turn to Mr. TCB--a congressional aide named David King, but he admits to them that it's his boss, Congressman Devane, who uses the Mr. TCB avatar in Second Life. Mac puts it together: the killer is a paid assassin who killed Cheryl to gain access to her avatar and arrange a date with the congressman. Johnny was killed when he got in the way. The CSIs rush to the New York hotel where Devane is staying, but they're seconds too late. Mac catches up with the assassin--a young blonde woman--but she shoots a man she's taken hostage in order to escape, and though Mac pursues her, she slips away through a trash chute.

Analysis:

As someone who didn't know anything about Second Life before the press for the episode came out and hadn't seen the interface until tonight's episode, I have to say, I'm impressed. The graphics were cool, and the moniker "Second Life" is fitting, as the meta world Mac jumped into is just that--an entire world where people interact, attend social functions and even shop for hip new accessories. I was a little skeptical going into the episode about how well Second Life would mesh with the investigation, but with Adam chasing IPs as Mac interacted with suspects, the script sold the idea of the online world being a crucial part of the investigation.

Writers Peter Lenkov and Sam Humphrey wisely mix humor and suspense into Mac and Adam's online adventures. Mac and Adam truly represent the two different extremes: the older, by-the-book investigator and the young, hip (at least in the net-world) lab tech who has a certain geek chic quality. After all, Adam did date a Suicide Girl. The beauty of the online world that Second Life offers is that you truly can be anyone.

For the purpose of a one hour episode, Mac gets a grasp of the Second Life world rather quickly. But if one doesn't protest the instant DNA processing, it's hard to object to Mac picking up both the skills and the lingo he needs to navigate Second Life. Thankfully, when Mac is dropped into the middle of a gladiatorial fight by another avatar, Adam steps in and takes over, battling several monsters. It's the only sequence in the episode that has a video-gameish feel to it, but the fact that it allows Adam to showcase his skills saves it from feeling too irrelevant.

Gary Sinise and A.J. Buckley are clearly having fun with these scenes. The looks of skepticism and befuddlement that cross Mac's face are priceless, and it's fun to see how Adam's initial bashfulness is gradually replaced by a growing confidence as he leads Mac through his world. Adam clearly enjoys showing Mac the nuances of the Second Life world: helping him customize his avatar so that he doesn't stand out as a newbie and instantly recognizing that Caesar is challenging Mac and that Mac will have to pass his tests to proceed.

The funniest moment of the episode brings Stella into Second Life. Adam changes Mac's avatar into a female so that he can attract the attention of Don Juan 2-3, but when Mac tries to flirt with the male avatar, it's clear he's got no game. Stella observes and steps in just in time to keep the online lothario from flying off once again. The mirthful expression on Melina Kanakaredes's face throughout the scene is mirrored by the audience, and it's hard not to laugh out loud when Sinise's deep voice is changed into a woman's purr when his avatar changes sex.

The killer turns out to be a paid assassin--a female paid assassin. We don't get to see much of her, but what we do see intrigues. She cleverly takes a hostage and then ruthlessly shoots him when it becomes apparent that Mac is not going to fold easily. She manages to escape, apparently through a garbage shoot. The conclusion won't air until February, but I'm curious to see if there's more behind the woman's motives than a simple paycheck. Are the judge and the congressman somehow connected? The story came together seamlessly, with every murder logically explained, and I wonder if the second part will play our as well as last season's double-feature multi-platforming episodes, "Hung Out to Dry" and "Raising Shane".

What would an episode of CSI: New York be these days without a call from the 333 caller? Mac ignores the call, but he's clearly not on top of his game, which both Stella and Flack pick up on. Interestingly, it is Flack whom Mac chooses to confide in, telling the homicide detective that it is his break up with Peyton--and the realization that it was inevitable--that has been weighing on his mind. This is the second time we've seen Mac turn to Flack for guidance; in "You Only Die Once", the CSI asked Flack to help trace the 333 caller. What's most interesting is that this confidence comes in the aftermath of a divisive conflict between Mac and Flack in season three: Mac's decision to arrest Dean Truby, an officer under Flack who was responsible for stealing drugs from a bust and later murdering a man.

The most obvious route would have been to have the conflict continue to rankle between the two, but after Mac and Flack came to a truce of sorts in "Past Imperfect", the rancor was truly put aside, and the experience seemed to give each a newfound, deeper respect for the other. The beauty of that conflict was that both had legitimate, compelling points, and the fact that they were ultimately able to put aside their differences and really move beyond them is a testament to the complex realism the show embraces in its characters.

Stella's persistent suitor, Drew Bedford is back, this time sending her rock climbing equipment. Is he seriously not being labeled a stalker yet? Both Stella and Lindsay talk about it rather cavalierly, but Stella's caution in "Time's Up" was much more believable. Are we supposed to believe Drew is wearing Stella down? Given how horribly things went with Frankie, Drew's over-the-top persistence should be setting off warning bells, not making Stella reconsider.

On a lighter note, I have a few minor quibbles with the wardrobe this season. Yes, Danny looks luminous in his white button-down shirt, but he's been seen wearing it in at least three of the five episodes this season. It's a great look on him, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Additionally, I'm not fond of Lindsay's wardrobe this season. Her early season three outfits really suited the character; they were youthful and tasteful. The wardrobe for her character this season--the black pants and flats paired with the bright colors--really age the character and are nowhere near as flattering as the pastels were. On a more positive note, Mac's more casual look takes the years off and makes his quick immersion in Second Life more believable.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.