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CSI Files - CSI: New York--'Tanglewood'

CSI: New York--'Tanglewood'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 27, 2005 - 7:06 PM GMT

See Also: 'Tanglewood' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A young man is beaten to death the woods at night, and Mac and Stella arrive at the scene the next day to start work on the case. They notice three to four different foot impressions in the snow and the CSIs get to work making molds of the prints. Mac finds a large sliver of wood, which he suspects is from a baseball bat, while Stella notes tire tracks leading away from the scene. Dr. Hawkes gives the CSIs an ID on their victim: Paul Montenassi. Mac points out what looks like a scraped off tattoo and notices high velocity blood spatter on Paul's face when Stella snaps a photo of the victim.

Detective Flack leads Danny and Aiden to a car wreck that he thinks is suspcious because of the skid marks at the scene. The victim, a Hispanic woman in her 30s named Marta Santo, is carried away while Danny snaps pictures of her car. He notices silver paint flecks on the side of her car; it's a recent transfer. Danny thinks it may have been a hit and run. Back at the morgue, Dr. Hawkes tells Danny that the crash killed Marta, and that she has vaginal tearing and bruising, indicating she was raped or participated in rough sex. Danny calls in Marta's husband, Ramir Santo, to ID the body, but he loses it in the viewing room, throwing himself into the window to Danny's shock.

Mac talks to Paul Montenassi's mother, who blames herself for her son's death. She doesn't recall him having a tattoo and admits that she didn't know much about his life. He started withdrawing after she divorced his father, and was constantly looking for a sense of family after that. Mac reassures her that the only people responsible for her son's death are the ones that killed him.

Across town, Detective Flack is showing Aiden into a bodega where Mihok Lev has been fatally shot. Flack tells Aiden it looks like a robbery homicide, and the victim's brother, Harish, backs up Flack's assumption. Flack grabs the store's surveillance tape.

Back at the lab, Mac is looking at the bat fragment and the pen marks on it. He suspects the bat is one autographed by Mickey Mantle and is worth five thousand dollars. Who uses a collector's item as a murder weapon? Elsewhere in the lab, Danny tells Aiden about Ramir's outburst and runs the silver paint from Marta's car to get an ID on it. Mac finds wood shavings in the ridges of the footprint impressions and a lab tech informs him and Stella that a substance on Paul's sleeve was shuffleboard wax. Stella concludes he was in a bar. Jane Parson's has a surprising ID on the spatter from Paul's face: the blood belongs to Mihok Lev, the victim from the bodega. Paul killed Mihok, but who killed Paul? Stella looks at the surveillance tapes and learns that Hamish Lev left the store and returned an hour later--with a baseball bat in his hands. But when they question Hamish, they learn his bat was aluminum and therefore couldn't have been the murder weapon.

Danny finds various sperm samples on Marta's sleeve. He tells Aiden one matches Marta's husband, Ramir, who has six domestic violence priors in the last two years. Back at the morgue, Dr. Hawkes burns Paul's skin to read his tattoo, which reads 'Tanglewood.' Mac knows just who to go to for the information he needs: Danny. Danny grew up in the area where the Tanglewood Boys, a notorious gang, ran, and he's able to quickly tell Mac that Paul's tattoo is a fake because it has no 'in' date--the date when one is initiated into the gang. Danny tells Mac he was asked to join the gang but that he didn't want to get involved. He also mentions that the Pellham Crew are the Tanglewood gang's main rivals.

Ramir apologizes to Danny for his behavior earlier, admitting that he has anger management problems. He also confesses that he and Marta liked to have rough sex. He tells Danny and Aiden that Marta worked at a hair salon, but when they go to Marta's place of employment, it's clearly a massage parlor fronting for a prostitution ring. The manager shows them to Marta's parlor, where Danny finds a plethora of sperm samples in the wastebasket. Aiden gets a hold of the client list and notes that Marta's last client was a man named R. Lee.

Back at the CSI offices, Danny asks Mac how the Tanglewood case is progressing. He feels bad for Paul, noting that the fake tattoo was a sign of desperation. Mac agrees, but is quick to add that Paul made the wrong choice, and he praises Danny for making something of himself and making the right choice by staying away from the gang.

Jane has an ID on another blood sample from the Tanglewood case, Johnny Lucerno, a member of the Pellham Bay gang. The CSIs find Johnny at the mall, and he shows them his stitches: someone cold cocked him outside a bar. Mac asks for the name of the bar and Johnny supplies it: Billy Bass, outside of Yonkers. Mac and Stella head to the bar, where they discover the broken frame that once housed the Mickey Mantle bat over an ATM machine in the bar. They dust the frame for prints and get the name of a Tanglewood Boy: Sonny Sassone.

The CSIs find Sonny outside his house with two of his friends, Tony and Joe. Sonny shows them his Tanglewood tattoo and admits to playing with the bat but he knows his rights and refuses to let them search his car without a warrant. The CSIs promise to get a warrant and Sonny and his friends take off. The CSIs go over what they leave behind: shoe prints and tire tracks in the snow.

Tavia Greenburg, Ross Lee's secretary, shows Danny and Aiden to Ross's office. The man admits to visiting the massage parlor after Tavia leaves the room. Danny wants to see Ross's car, but Ross tells him that he drives to work and that his wife is the one who uses their car.

Mac and Stella compare the shoeprints from Sonny's house, and while the sizes match the treads do not. The young men switched their shoes. The ATM is more revealing: on it, they see Paul showing off his tattoo and Sonny and his friends arrive and take the bat.

Aiden analyzes a stone she found at Marta's parlor and determines it's cubic zirconium and was once part of a press-on nail set. The silver paint chips are from a Lincoln Navigator--the kind of car Ross's wife, Ariana, happens to drive. When Danny and Aiden pay her a visit, she admits to suspecting Ross of fooling around. She shows them her car, but when Danny notices red paint on the front bumper, she claims to have hit a fire hydrant. The lab results match her claim: the paint on Ariana's car isn't from Marta's car. But Aiden finds another clue: an 'A. Lee' signed into Marta's parlor two days before Marta's death.

Mac and Stella get their warrant for Sonny's car and begin to process it. It's clean as a whistle, until Mac catches sight of a Derek Jeter bobblehead doll and discovers blood in the head of it. But Jane isn't able to get DNA from it--it's too degraded--so Mac and Stella decide to check Sonny's house next.

Danny notices that Ariana and Ross's signatures in Marta's guestbook don't match their regular signatures. So they zero in on another woman with a Lincoln Navigator: Ross's secretary, Tavia. Tavia was also his mistress and sure enough, press on nails found in her desk drawer have cubic zirconium stones just like the one found in Marta's parlor. Tavia had been Ross's mistress for five years and wanted to marry him after he left his wife; she was threatened by Marta's involvement with Ross. She went to Marta to threaten her and claims that when she ran her off the road, she never meant to kill her. Danny doesn't care--he promises her she'll go away for vehicular manslaughter.

A search of Sonny's shed reveals a key piece of evidence: a high powered sander, which Sonny used to remove Paul's tattoo. Sonny is unconcerned when they bring him in--he waives his right to an attorney and smirks arrogantly at the Mac and Stella. He admits to killing Paul--he had Paul hit Johnny and rob the convenience store, but when Paul shot Mihok, he knew it had gone too far. He beat Paul to death and sanded off the tattoo so that Paul wouldn't be tied to his gang. When Sonny tells Mac that's how the mafia takes care of people, Mac counters that the old guard only killed people for business reasons. Sonny asserts that the Tanglewood Boys are the next generation, the new mafia, but Mac waves him off. Then Sonny says something that stops Mac and Stella cold: he tells them to ask Danny Messer what the chances are of him going away--he claims Danny knows about the Tanglewood Boys, and that they know about him. While Mac regards Sonny, shocked, Stella orders the officers to take him away. Behind the protective glass, Danny looks on, visibly shaken.

Analysis:

The mob, a sordid massage parlor, two connected murders and oh yes--one of the main characters has a naughty secret--what's not to love about "Tanglewood"? It's one of the strongest entries in New York's freshman season--further proof that the show is finding its footing. And it doesn't hurt that it was penned by the show's creator, Anthony E. Zuiker, who is also responsible for two of the show's most impressive entries: "Blink" and "Officer Blue".

For those wondering, the Tanglewood Boys are indeed a real gang. Check out Gang Land News for stories on the real life gang's exploits. The idea of the new Mafia taking over from the old is an interesting concept. I particularly liked how Mac referenced the old guard's coldly logical business sense when it came to murder; the Mafia wasn't about killing for sport back in the day. Sonny, played by the always entertaining Michael Deluise, and his pals look at Mafia life as a game, quite different from their predecessors.

The big news about the episode is of course Danny's involvement with the gang. Even after the episode ends, I'm still not sure just how involved with them he is, but at the end of the episode Danny looks like man who has worked hard to get his life together and might just have witnessed the beginning of it starting to come apart. Whether or not anything will come of it next week or whether we'll have to wait a while to see the fallout is anybody's guess, but this is the first real background information we've gotten on one of the characters since Mac talked about his dead wife in "Blink," and it's most welcome. It's not terribly surprising that Danny fell in with a bad crowd once--I suspect he grew up in a pretty tough neighborhood and that he ran with a wild crowd. It also fits with Danny's poor judge of character--he can pick out the really bad guys, like the child molester in "ReCycling", but when it comes to general intuition about people, he's a pretty poor judge of character.

What doesn't sit well with me is that one of the main characters is essentially a liar. It's a great development drama-wise, but I have to wonder what Mac is going to do with this knowledge. How can he not fire Danny? At best, Danny downplayed his involvement with the Tanglewood Boys. My guess (and the episode left it vague enough that it really is just a guess) is that Danny's sporting a Tanglewood tattoo, with both an 'in' date and an 'out' date. After all, he made a point of mentioning that most don't make it out of the gang alive, but that some do. My guess is that Danny is one that did, but can you ever really sever ties like that? The end certainly implied that the answer is no.

I'm bothered not so much by the fact that Danny didn't tell Mac he was part of the Tanglewood gang--I can understand him not volunteering that kind of information--but it seems he went out of his way to lie to Mac and claim he wasn't part of the gang. It's the difference between a lie of commission and one of omission, and while some not find much of a difference between the two, I think in this case, there is. Danny has a right to be private about his past--he could have simply given Mac the scoop on the Tanglewood Boys and left it vague, without going into his involvement.

I think I know why Danny did elaborate, though. It seems like everyone's inclined to think the worst of the poor guy--in the past, we've seen Stella shut down his innovative ideas and Mac criticize him (rightly so) for working cases based on his gut feeling rather than the evidence. In this episode, Aiden implies that she thinks Danny's visited prostitutes. Danny sets her straight in a pretty good-natured way, but it was a pretty nasty thing for Aiden to imply. So I do understand why Danny lied to Mac. The guy is so desperate for a little positive reinforcement that while he's eager to give Mac the goods on the Tanglewood Boys, he also feels the need to tell Mac that he didn't want to get messed up in all of the things they were.

Later, when Danny comes to Mac's office to find out how the case is progressing, Mac only drives the knife in deeper by telling Danny how good and wise he was to not be lured into the Tanglewood Boys' web. Ouch--there's nothing worse than having someone praise you for making one choice when you actually made the exact opposite. Gary Sinise and Carmine Giovinazzo play well off each other; Sinise projects just the right balance of a boss, mentor and friend, while Giovinazzo subtly gets across Danny's desire for approval without making it too obvious or desperate.

The last scene is especially powerful, with Danny having to witness Sonny blowing his story to smithereens, as well as Mac and Stella's reactions. Mac looks both startled and shaken, while Stella doesn't bother to keep the anger out of her voice when she orders the officers to get Sonny out of the room. Whether she's disgusted with Sonny's cavalier attitude towards the law and his suggestion that Danny might have anything to do with him, or that it's Danny's possible involvement with the Tanglewood gang that angers her isn't clear. Danny's look of devastation is, though. Giovinazzo plays this scene perfectly: he expresses Danny's anguish without going it over the top.

The B-case understandably pales in comparison to the main case, but it's also a strong entry. My main objection to it is coincidence: Ariana Lee just happened to hit a red fire hyrant around the time Tavia Greenburg slammed her identical car into Marta Santo's? The fact that Ariana and Tavia had the same car was nicely explained away--Ross Lee bought both cars--but the fire hydrant was just a tad coincidental. Also, the signature bit was somewhat confusing as well: Tavia signed in as Ariana but also signed Ross's name as well? That was confusing, but the purpose behind it wasn't: to get the CSIs back to Ross Lee's office. A minor point, but it stood out.

The C-story--the Mihok Lev murder in the bodega--is really just an extension of the A-story. This episode has a nice circular feel to it: the Tanglewood Boys decide to toy with Paul, who ends up killing Mihok and then is in turn himself killed by Sonny and the rest of the Tanglewood gang. The episode has a very natural, even feel to it: just enough time is devoted to each plot line.

What's up next? One can only guess when this storyline will be revisited, but after that ending, all I can hope is that Danny's sordid past doesn't get swept under the CSI carpet.

In two weeks: The CSIs visit the circus!

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.