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CSI Files - CSI: New York--'Murder Sings The Blues'

CSI: New York--'Murder Sings The Blues'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 3, 2006 - 10:05 AM GMT

See Also: 'Murder Sings the Blues' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Mac and Peyton's celebration of his birthday is interrupted by a page to the subway, where a young woman has died, the apparent victim of a biological or chemical agent. Blood covers her face and body, but the cause of her death was multiple organ failure. Mac and Detective Angell trace the 911 call that alerted them to her body to a man named Randy Kearns, the organizer of spontaneous "Blue Train" parties. He maintains his innocence, and Lindsay finds DNA evidence on the woman's body that links her to a man convicted of attempted manslaughter six years ago: James McQuinn. Mac worked the case, and believes McQuinn, now a successful businessman, has something to do with the murder. The case becomes complicated when an origami crane found on the body has Dr. Hawkes' number on it, and the CSI recognizes her as a woman he met at a party and had coffee with.

Stella, Danny and Flack investigate the murder of Grant Jordan, a rich bachelor found dead in his "swim gym" by his "Roommate," a young woman from a hired maid service who cleans in lingerie. A blue contact leads the CSIs to Veronica Perez, Grant's former maid, who had a fixation on Grant and was planning her wedding to him, unbeknownst to the playboy. When he found out about her plans, he fired her. Granules of red sand and chalk on Grant's forehead lead the CSIs to Daniel Gecko, an artist who lived next door to Grant. Fed up with Grant's noisy swim gym, Gecko confronted Grant and, in a bout of rage, pushed him under water and drowned him in the swim gym.

Peyton mentions to Mac that Hawkes knew Jenny, not realizing this is new information to Mac. The angry CSI confronts Hawkes and pulls him from the case. Lindsay determines the substance that killed Jenny was Dimethylhydrazine, and finds trace elements of it on shattered glass found near the body. Mac and Lindsay reconstruct the glass, finding three sets of prints on it--Jenny's, Randy's, and an unknown person whose ridges lack detail. Mac interrogates Randy, suspecting that the poison in the flask was meant for him. Analysis of the elements in the poison leads Mac to McQuinn, who is sporting a chemical burn on his hand. McQuinn, envious of Randy's train party business, plotted to murder the man, but was foiled when Jenny seized the flask meant for Randy and drank from it. Mac tells Hawkes the case is closed before joining Peyton at the vending machines for a continuation of his birthday celebration.

Analysis:

Though the cases were on the weak side, the overall impression "Murder Sings the Blues" left me with was "it's about time." It's about time the criminally under-utilized Hawkes got some development. It's about time Mac Taylor did something less than perfect. It's about time the delightful Peyton Driscoll showed up again. Those three elements made up for the weaknesses in both cases.

Said cases felt like retreads of past CSI-type stories--someone gets killed at a party, someone gets murdered by his/her neighbor. Neither case was original, neither victim compelling. And while the idea of spontaneous train parties was somewhat of a novelty, it reminded me a lot of CSI: Miami's "Murder in a Flash" and several other CSI show episodes dealing with trendy gatherings. I'm still not sure why McQuinn targeted Randy--he was clearly a successful businessman in his own right. Did he really need Randy's train party revenue?

The B-case was a rehash of NY's own second season episode, "City of the Dolls", in which Stella and Hawkes discover a young waitress with a swanky condo was killed by her neighbor. In that case, it was because the man wanted her apartment for a nursery; in this instance, one neighbor is irritated by how much noise his neighbor makes. Both motives are downright lame; if we're to believe CSI: NY, we'd all better watch out for our neighbors, because chances are they're out to kill us.

It was fun to see former Days of Our Lives star Austin Peck show up as Daniel Gecko, the Buddhist-turned-murderer, but Mac's nemesis for the week, James McQuinn, was a cardboard baddie, void of any real zest or depth, and that robbed the moment when Mac finally collars him of any real sense of satisfaction. Mac catches him about to take off on his plane, but moments like this are best left to the more action-oriented CSI: Miami.

The cases aside, there is much to be derived from the episode on the character front. Hill Harper delivered a fantastic performance, subtly conveying Hawkes' unease early in the episode when he begins to recognize Jenny, and then going all out in the confrontation with Mac when Mac removes him from the case. Hawkes should have shared that he knew Jenny with Mac, but he has a fair point when he tells Mac that James McQuinn is clouding his judgment.

The real surprise here is finding out Mac has something of an underhanded side. Though Mac is sticking to his ethics when he removes Hawkes from the case, it's hard to sympathize with him when he doesn't tell Peyton that she's unwittingly revealed information to him that he didn't know before. It's deceptive and sneaky--two traits we've never seen Mac exhibit before, certainly not with someone he cares for. Peyton had every right to be angry with him. Interestingly, he does not apologize, perhaps a sign that sometimes the end justifies the means.

Does Mac break one of his own rules when he focuses on James McQuinn so early in the investigation? He turns out to be right, which justifies his actions but doesn't quite resolve the dilemma. Mac is always telling his subordinates to base their theories on the evidence alone, but suddenly he's telling Lindsay that the character of a suspect matters. It does, but would he ever have given one of his team such leeway? I'm not really sure he would. I like the conflict--it adds depth to Mac, who often seems a little too perfect.

His dressing down of Hawkes in front of a lab full of people is also a bit edgy, and his intent is partially to make an example of the doctor. I liked that Hawkes fired back at him; it showed a directness and pride on Hawkes' part, and a willingness to stick up for himself. Stella is really the only CSI we've seen stand up to Mac previously, and it was refreshing to see someone else call Mac out on his sanctimonious behavior.

Make that two someones. I liked that Peyton confronted him about his betrayal of her. Claire Forlani was excellent throughout the episode; she exudes a warmth and a passion that is a nice touchstone for the often cold and controlled Mac. He relaxes, even if only a little bit, in her presence, and it makes him more human. The other new addition this year, Jennifer Angell, makes less of an impression in her third appearance, so much so that she practically blends with the scenery. If she's going to be a counterpart of Flack, she needs to stand out more.

Speaking of Flack, I don't think I'll ever be able to praise Eddie Cahill's comic talents enough. Whether it's affectionately calling Danny "Danno" or sampling wedding cakes (all in the name of the investigation, of course), Flack never fails to brighten the screen when he's in a scene. The fact that he's a detective sets him apart from the CSIs, but it's his humor and frank reactions that make him such standout and a delight for the audience.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.