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CSI Files - CSI: New York--'Silent Night'

CSI: New York--'Silent Night'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at December 14, 2006 - 9:52 AM GMT

See Also: 'Silent Night' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A deaf woman is horrified to discover the body of her nineteen-year-old daughter, Allison, shot to death in her bedroom. Mac calls in an interpreter to Gina Mitchum, who clings to her remaining child, a baby named Elizabeth. She tells Mac that the vibrations from the shotgun blast woke her, and tells the CSI that her daughter had been seeing a boy named Seth Wolf, but that they'd been fighting recently. Seth becomes even more interesting to the CSIs when DNA tests reveal that Elizabeth was Allison's daughter, not Gina's, and that blood from Elizabeth's father was found at the Mitchums' house, indicating he is the shooter. Seth Wolf is listed on the birth certificate as Elizabeth's father, but he denies the possibility--and insists he didn't kill Allison. Another boy sparks Mac's interest--Cole Rowan, a fellow student alongside Allison at the Manhattan School for the Deaf, until a hearing aid implant allowed him to hear normally.

Stella and Danny investigate the murder of McKenzie Wade, a champion figure skater. Her friend Krista discovered her body, and she tearfully tells the CSIs that she switched practice times with McKenzie. The CSIs wonder if Krista was the real target and Danny interrogates the Zamboni driver, Frank, who had an unhealthy fixation on Krista, but he maintains his innocence. A letter containing mathematical equations and a chip of an experimental type of paint lead the CSIs to Tom Howard, whose office at New Jersey Advance Tech overlooks the rink. Tom watched McKenzie skate everyday and saw her working on her technique, but when he approached her at the rink to try to offer her advice, she brushed him off, thinking he was a stalker. He tried to carve his suggestions into the ice with her skate lacer, but when she grabbed it from him, they fought for it and she fell on it. Tom fled, leaving the young skater dead in his wake. Both cases bring up troubling memories for Lindsay, who tells Stella that as a teen she survived a crime in which all of her friends were killed.

Gina is out with baby Elizabeth and her husband Dennis when an unhinged Cole Rowan pushes Dennis aside and leaps in Gina's SUV with her and Elizabeth, forcing Gina to drive at gunpoint. She gets off a call to the police, and they manage to stop and surround the car while Cole tearfully explains the shooting of Allison was an accident--he came to take the baby so that he could make sure she wasn't raised deaf like he and Allison were. Flack is able to extract the baby from the car while Mac tackles Cole. After making sure Gina and her family are safe, Mac seeks Peyton out and tells her he wants to make their relationship work.

Analysis:

"Silent Night" has the feel of a sweeps episode. Two big guest stars--Academy Award winner Marlee Matalin and figure skating champ Sasha Cohen--and the revelation of the often hinted at secret from Lindsay's past. However, comparing the episode to the actual sweeps offerings--including the excellent offerings "And Here's To You, Mrs. Azrael" and "Raising Shane"--it simply isn't as strong, Matalin's powerful performance aside.

The cases themselves were terribly predictable. The minute Gina told Mac that Allison wanted to spend time with her new baby sister rather than her boyfriend, I knew the child was Allison's, not Gina's. Knowing that made it pretty easy to guess that the killer was most likely the disgruntled father of the baby and also that the shooting had more likely than not been an accident, the result of an argument, rather than an intentional murder. I don't mind being able to figure out the killer early on--watch enough CSI shows and it's bound to happen. I was fairly sure Heather's mother was the killer in "Mrs. Azrael," but the intensity and the chilling twist at the end made the episode worth watching. Matalin's fantastic performance was the sole element that lifted the case out of the mundane.

I immediately picked out Tom Howard as the killer in the skater case--Danny was far too focused on that paint chip for it to mean nothing--but the way it played out was a bit more interesting than in the other case. Tom Howard, the ultimate nerd, had figured out exactly how McKenzie could improve her skating technique, but she was so worried that he was a stalker that she refused to listen to him. I'm surprised that Stella and Danny--a duo that rarely holds back on the biting comments, especially when together--didn't have anything to say to him after he admitted to being the inadvertent cause of her death. Couldn't we have done without a few seconds of Sasha Cohen skating in exchange for a classic Stella zinger?

Maybe she saved all her snarl for Lindsay. Faced with a colleague acting both bizarrely and immaturely, Stella handles the situation with grace and poise. First she reaches out to Lindsay, but when Lindsay sullenly tells her to leave her alone, Stella reminds Lindsay that she's got a job to do and Stella is indeed her superior. Stella was stern enough to get her message across--Lindsay does turn up for the autopsy--but not so harsh that Lindsay doesn't feel like she can't confide in Stella after she breaks down during McKenzie's autopsy.

So, the secret's out of the bag...sort of. After all the build up and Lindsay's oh-so-dramatic moments, we're only really given a few snippets to piece together what happened. Lindsay was the only survivor of an event where all her friends died, presumably by violent means. But what does that explain, really? If Lindsay was a teenager when it happened, why is she suddenly unable to cope now, as a thirtysomething year old woman? Why after years of working as a CSI (in Montana, before she came to New York) is this issue surfacing now? And why choose this line of work if she can't handle it?

Even more glaring are the inconsistencies in the character's behavior. Last season in "Manhattan Manhunt", Lindsay was upset because Mac sent her back to the lab, away from a crime scene that featured a group of teens that had been massacred. Wasn't that situation more similar to what little we understand of Lindsay's past trauma? What made her go from someone eager to be at a crime scene with a group of dead teens to one who runs away from a scene with one dead teenager and starts crying in the autopsy of another? The inconsistencies are baffling.

Lindsay is already a character it's difficult to like, so when she's given lines like the petulant "Leave me alone" to someone trying to help her, it does her no favors. There might be a truly gifted actress out there that could pull it off, but Anna Belknap lacks the natural warmth that could allow the audience to sympathize with her despite Lindsay's inconsistent and immature behavior. Still, Belknap and Lindsay were much better served when Lindsay was a more light-hearted character, shooting a crossbow or chowing down on bugs. Were she a more well rounded character, the tragedy wouldn't define her completely, but as it is I fear we're in store for more Lindsay angst once Belknap returns from her maternity leave.

One of the bright spots of the episode was Mac and Peyton's unexpected reunion. I have to admit, after Mac wrenched her hand from his face and then went on to call her by his dead wife's name in "Raising Shane," I thought we'd seen the last of Peyton. When I saw Claire Forlani in the guest cast list for this episode, I assumed it would be so that the break between the two could be made more final.

I'm happy I was proved wrong in this case. After Gina expresses concern for him, he marches right back to Peyton and, in a surprising move given his usual restraint, pulls Peyton into an embrace. He tells her he's determined to make their relationship work, and rather than pulling away, she smiles through her tears and agrees. Nothing proves how much Peyton has brought Mac out of his shell like this scene. Who would have thought that the serious stoic of season one would be pulling out all the stops to get the girl in season three?

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.