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CSI Files - CSI: New York--'Page Turner'

CSI: New York--'Page Turner'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 2, 2008 - 9:19 AM GMT

See Also: 'Page Turner' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A fight breaks out at a free Maroon 5 concert in Central Park, forcing police to intervene, shooting unruly concert-goers with bean bags. A woman named Liza Carpenter ends up dead, her trachea crushed, leading Mac Taylor to suspect the rounds may have been fatal for her. Sid Hammerback autopsies the body and makes a frightening discovery: Liza died of radiation poisoning of some sort. He immediately quarantines the morgue, but quickly falls ill himself. Hawkes accompanies him to the hospital, while Mac assigns Stella and Danny the task of finding out if the paint on Liza's body was the source of the radiation. Adam traces the art to a Kenneth Blamford, known as "Ka Blam." The CSIs investigate his studio, but find no evidence of radiation anywhere in the paint he's using. Lindsay and Hawkes examine Eliza's body at New York's Exposure Control Facility, and discover she was poisoned with Thallium 201, likely through skin contact. Hawkes calls the hospital and recommends a course of treatment for Sid. Danny discovers mold on Eliza's shoes, but he and Stella are interrupted by a call: another victim of radiation poisoning has turned up.

Mac, Stella and Flack stand over the body of horror director Dante Gunther who was in town to receive a lifetime achievement award at a horror film festival. In his hotel room, techs discover a small silver sliver of material in the cuff of his pants that's highly radioactive. Hawkes also discovers a note written on old paper with a reminder about festival dates and an address. The Mylar strip, the age of the paper Dante's note is written on and the mold lead the team to the New York Library's special collections room. Once there, they're able to trace the radiation to one book: a copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Mac pays Sid a visit in the hospital, and Hawkes informs him it's too early to tell if the treatment is working. On the television set, Mac notices a lawyer, Joel Paulson, announcing he's filing a wrongful death suit against the city and the library on behalf of Liza, Dante--and his wife, Molly Paulson. Mac pays the man a visit and he tells the CSI that his wife--a librarian who worked in the special collections department at the New York Library--died several months before. He had been told by the doctors that she died of Lupus, but her symptoms and her proximity to the radiation lead him to suspect that she died of thallium poisoning. After showing Mac a picture he painted of his wife, he gives the CSI permission to exhume her body.

Flack has zeroed in on a suspect: Timothy Pram, who visited the special collections room twice in the last month and who happens to have a prior for breaking and entering into Three Mile Island. Flack and Stella question Pram, now a Buddhist monk going by the name of Lhamo Vadhana, but he claims his criminal days are in the past. The CSIs look in another direction: Lindsay finds trace from a sea sponge with a red substance on it on the book, while Mac and Hawkes confirm that Molly Paulson died from thallium poisoning, but that unlike their other two victims, she ingested the deadly isotope. Flack learns that Molly had an assistant, Lawrence Wagner, who she wrote up several times for not showing up to work. After her death, he stopped showing up altogether. Danny discovers traces of radiation by his desk, and Flack locates the man at his mother's address. They find him in the shed, building a small nuclear reactor. They're sure they've got their guy, until none of the many radioactive isotopes in his shed are revealed to be thallium. The red substance on the sea sponge holds the key: it's paint, but not the type Ka Blam was using. Mac recalls the portrait Joel Paulson painted of his wife, and confronts the man. Joel, tired of working as a lawyer, found a foolproof scheme to get rich: kill his wife for the insurance money and then tie her death to the library--and several other deaths--so that he could sue the city and retire a rich man. The case closed, Mac, Hawkes and Flack pay a visit to the hospital to see Sid, who is well on his way to a full recovery.

Analysis:

Once again, a case that strikes a personal chord with the team makes for a winning hour of television. Granted, the fact that Robert Joy finally got his well deserved place in the opening credits made it a little less likely that viewers would really fear that Sid would lose his life, but anytime the character in jeopardy isn't Mac or Stella, viewers have to worry a little bit. Sid, a fan favorite thanks to his quirks and delightfully offbeat anecdotes, is definitely a character the audience will fret over. There's something truly lovable about the eccentric coroner, and his fate hanging in the balance helps the episode live up to its title.

Thallium poisoning is serious business, though thankfully it does have a cure: Prussian Blue, which Hawkes quickly calls to prescribe for Sid as soon as the radioactive substance is identified. It's touch and go for Sid for a while; by the time the hospital administers the medicine, they have to give it to him via a feeding tube as he's too ill to take the medicine any other way. The other characters continuously check in on Sid: Mac and Hawkes both pay him several visits, and Flack joins them in the end, quick to turn on the Rangers game and settle in. The final scene with Mac, Hawkes and Flack visiting the recovering coroner, is a sweet one: it's a nice little bit of team bonding.

Maybe it's because radiation poisoning is downright frightening, but the case is a particularly memorable one. CSI: Miami's first season entry "Dead Woman Walking" remains one of my favorite installments of the show, and I found the radiation poisoning storyline in season two of 24 to be one of that show's most compelling and tragic twists. There's something truly frightening about the idea of something that essentially dooms someone after a brief but deadly exposure, but takes weeks to kill. Both CSI: Miami and 24 did a great job of driving home the deadliness of radiation poisoning, and knowing how easily fatal contact with radiation is amps up both the jeopardy for Sid and the general urgency of the case.

Though I had my suspicions about Joel Paulson the minute he appeared on screen, crazy Larry Wagner certainly was a credible red herring, especially since he showed up as late in the game as he did. Usually when the CSIs nab someone with less than ten minutes to go in an episode, they've gotten their guy. And though Larry, who comically asked the CSIs if he could get one of their suits, seemed an unlikely killer, it wouldn't be the first time that someone a little off his or her rocker turned out to be the killer. The only flaw was that random reference Joel made to the painting he did of his wife; anytime a character drops a detail like that that seems to be insignificant, it usually isn't. The comment stuck out in my mind as a fishy one, though Edward Kerr projected enough genuine earnestness to give me pause in my suspicions, until that red trace was revealed to be paint.

Hawkes finally gets a little more to do in this episode than just spouting the usual impressive obscure knowledge. We know the man is smart; it's nice to see him take charge and also delve back into the medical world. Hawkes displays a take-charge attitude throughout the episode; he tells Mac he's going to take over for Sid in the morgue. It's notable that he doesn't ask his boss's permission, but rather informs Mac of his plan. Perhaps Hawkes knows Mac would approve the move without even having to ask, or maybe his rapport with his boss is strong enough that he feels confident making executive decisions in times of crisis. Hawkes displays a similar sense of authority when he identifies the isotope as Thallium 201. He knows the cure and wastes no time calling the hospital and telling them what treatment to begin. It's fun to see Hawkes take the reins, and display both his medical savvy and his talent as a CSI.

Flack gets a nice moment early in the episode when it seems as though one of the police officers' soft rounds might be responsible for Liza Carpenter's death. He's immediately defensive, asking Mac if one of his guys will take the heat for her death. Mac is noncommittal, but for Flack the line is drawn: he's protective of his men in the same way Mac is of his team. Flack tells the CSIs the beat cops don't have an easy job, and Mac is quick to remind him that the CSI's don't, either. Coupled with Stella's comment that it's not their job to tell Flack what he wants to hear, it seems like the wagons are being circled. Though Flack is usually on their side, and, as we know from past experience, will always do the right thing even if it's not the easy thing, it's realistic to now and then have a reminder that sometimes Flack's loyalties don't lie first and foremost with the CSIs. Eddie Cahill expresses Flack's unease well in this scene.

Flack also drops a few reminders that CSI work isn't for him. He complains about having to wear the protective suit (though to be fair, so does Danny), and he opines that he'll happily keep his distance from Larry Wagner's radioactive desk. Danny snaps back that he'd prefer that, partly in banter and perhaps in concern as well. Danny doesn't like seeing his friends get hurt, and he's already seen one sent to the hospital thanks to this deadly radiation. Flack's reaction to Larry's nuclear reactor provides for laughs as well. What would this show be without Flack's clever quips?

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.