Review: CSI: Miami–‘Bad Seed’

Delko is thrown when he sees a young woman die in the ER and her boyfriend collapse soon afterwards–both the apparent victims of some sort of deadly pathogen.

Synopsis:

Eric Delko runs across Alexx Woods at the hospital where he’s just been cleared to return to work. Alexx notices he doesn’t seem happy about the prospect, but before she can question him further, a young woman named Lauren, who is accompanied by her frantic boyfriend, Ethan, is rushed into the emergency room. As Alexx works to save Lauren’s life, Ethan tells Delko that Lauren hasn’t been feeling well for a week–and that he was planning to propose once she got to feeling better. Alexx comes in with tragic news: Lauren has died–and she thinks it’s homicide. She calls for Horatio and tells him that Lauren died of renal failure, which she believes is the result of poisoning. Delko suspects Ethan, but Horatio doesn’t want to jump to conclusions just yet. He asks Delko to stay with the young man. Ethan tells Delko that he and Lauren went to a restaurant a week ago, around the time she got sick but that he can’t recall the name. He has the receipt in his wallet, but when Delko starts interrogating Ethan, the young man gets upset–and collapses. Back at the lab, the team gathers to discuss the case. Lauren tested positive for E. coli bacteria–a new and deadly strain. Horatio says they have to find the source–and treat this like any other homicide case. Delko finds the receipt for the restaurant Ethan and Lauren dined at before she got sick, Sam Bello’s, and Calleigh questions the manager, who tells her that E. coli starts with the grower.

Ryan, Jesse and Walter head to the restaurant’s supplier, Aunt Sally’s, in Sweetwater. The owner, Seth Ellers, refuses to let the CSIs search until Jesse threatens to check his workers to see if they have their green cards in order. The produce is taken back to the lab and tested, but it comes up negative for E. coli. The CSIs turn to the delivery truck company, which is owned by a man named Al Wayons, who tries to run but is tackled by Tripp. When the product in Wayons’ truck tests positive for E. coli, Wayons insists the bacteria originated with the grower and flourishes in his trucks, which he doesn’t have enough money to refrigerate. Calleigh learns both the truck company and Aunt Sally’s are subsidiaries of a large company called Bixton Organic Foods. Jerry Mackey, the CEO of Bixton, and his lawyer, Sheldon Parks, place the blame on the subsidiaries, who they claim are independent contractors. Horatio wants to check the irrigation system at Aunt Sally’s, but Parks refuses, saying Mackey has called on the Health Department to do a study. Horatio sends Jesse, Ryan and Walter back to Aunt Sally’s to do an illegal search in the hopes of getting enough evidence to go to the Health Department themselves. Jesse runs into Gavin Webb, an angry farmer with a gun, who tells him that seeds from Bixton’s genetically engineered corn blew onto his land, allowing Bixton to force him into becoming a subsidiary. Jesse, Ryan and Walter find the source of the E. coli… a field of cows whose feces are contaminating the water that is used to irrigate the plants.

Horatio takes the evidence to the head of the Health Department–who also happens to be a former Bixton VP. She refuses to do anything other than conduct a study. In the lab, Calleigh tells Delko she’s glad he’s back, but he doesn’t feel the same. They learn Ethan is totally paralyzed as the result of a biotoxin. He ate a veggie burger and corn at Sam Bello’s. Jesse recalls Webb telling him that the corn made by Bixton was genetically engineered and gets a sample from Webb. Natalia finds a toxin added to the corn to keep aphids from eating it as well as a bacteria that eats cellulose in it, to make it more digestible–and can cause Botulism. Horatio brings Mackey back in and shows him pictures of Ethan, telling the CEO that Ethan is brain dead as a result of the genetically engineered corn Bixton makes. Mackey defends the process, saying that the risk was analyzed and determined to be “acceptable.” Though he can’t press criminal charges, Horatio vows that there will be a civil trial when Ethan’s family sues–and pulls out a recorder to show Mackey he’s got plenty of ammo to give them. Calleigh approaches Delko and tells him she’s realized he’s leaving CSI. He doesn’t deny it–and doesn’t answer her when she asks about them. They embrace and he walks out.

Analysis:

With its slick production value, snazzy split screens and bevy of aesthetically appealing victims and suspects, CSI: Miami is usually the last CSI show to bring me to tears. And yet, the scene in which Delko slides the ring Ethan intended to give Lauren onto her finger as both she and her would-be fiancé lie in morgue drawers, I found myself tearing up. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking moment. Indeed, Brian Davidson‘s script feels like a progression for the show, and I hope it’s a herald of things to come rather than a departure. There was a real energy to this story, a personal stake for the characters that was more appealing than fancy plot twists or high-energy shootouts. The episode felt really fresh, something that’s not that easy to achieve after seven full seasons.

Sure, we’ve seen the team go after big business before, but what kept the episode truly grounded was that there was no one for Horatio to arrest in the end. Impending civil suit aside, Bixton Organic Foods more or less got away with it, which felt more real–and more chilling–than if Horatio had found some brilliant loophole to take Mackey down on and charge him with murder. Though we’ve seen Horatio and his team go after powerful people before, they’ve never quite felt like the underdogs in the way they do here, and it really gets the viewer invested in the story. In the end, the team gets a win with the tape recording Horatio gets for Ethan’s family’s civil trial, but Bixton more or less gets away with it.

The message that we know very little of what goes into our food–and how easy it is for something to go wrong–comes through very powerfully with a sequence that shows the cow feces slipping into the water supply, the water being sprinkled on the plants, which are transported in the unrefrigerated truck, and then brought to the restaurant, where they’re rinsed and put into a meal–and then served to unsuspecting patrons. The lack of accountability comes through loud and clear–no one wants to take responsibility for the contamination. The restaurant manager passes it off on the supplier who passes it off on the truck driver who turns it back on the supplier. With so many hands in the pot, is it any wonder that they’re each pointing fingers at each other?

My favorite scene in the episode is a rarity for Miami as well: the team gathering in the lab to discuss the case. Until I saw Horatio, Calleigh, Delko, Ryan and Natalia all together, I don’t think it registered how rarely we ever see more than two or three of the characters in one room together. Though the Vegas and New York teams will frequently gather around the evidence to discuss it, in Miami this almost never happens. I certainly don’t recall it in recent seasons–perhaps in the early ones. It’s so nice to see the team actually feel like a team, a group of people who come together for one purpose. It’s nice to see Horatio actually leading and guiding his people, too, rather than feeling remote and isolated from them. It’s a great scene that highlights that even though we rarely see them together like this, there is a real cohesiveness among this team.

Sadly, it looks like they’ll be down yet another member: Delko acknowledges to Calleigh at the end of the episode that he is indeed leaving CSI. Calleigh apparently isn’t the only one who has picked up on it: early in the episode, Alexx is able to tell that Delko isn’t thrilled about going back to work, and Horatio leaves a note on his car in the end that reads, “I’ll always be here.” Apparently Delko’s malaise is as evident to his friends and co-workers as it is to the audience. Delko is burned out, and who can really blame him, after he has his second brush with death in the space of just a few years? Adam Rodriguez does a good job of conveying Delko’s weariness, as well as how affected he is by the death of the young couple at the center of the story.

Still, I can’t help but feel like Delko’s answer to Calleigh’s “why?” is a cop out. “A lot of reasons” doesn’t tell her or the audience what’s going on in his head. Nor does his non-answer when she asks “What about you and me?” Viewers have invested a lot in these two as a couple, and the show built up to them getting together for a significant amount of time. The audience–and Calleigh–deserve some sort of answer. Emily Procter plays this scene very well; Calleigh has moments of vulnerability, but at the end of the day, she’s a strong woman and she’s survived a lot. This isn’t going to break her either–but it’s definitely making her sad.

Her comment that “CSI’s not the only game in town” can be read either way, really. It can be a dismissal–leaving the job isn’t a big deal, there are other opportunities and it doesn’t have to affect them or rock their world. Or it can be seen as an acknowledgement that he’s moving on and it’s not the end of the world. Given their perfunctory kiss after the talk and her sad look as he walks away, I suspect it’s the latter, but it would have been nice to get a little more clarity here. Relationships are not the CSI franchise’s strong suit–often the characters talk around things real people would be more direct about. Calleigh’s direct question about them is believable, but his lack of an answer and her acceptance of that is a little less so. But then, sometimes no answer really is an answer.

Jesse, Ryan and Walter get to have a little adventure when Horatio asks them to go to Aunt Sally’s a conduct an illegal search. It’s another surprising moment for the show–usually the team is hampered by the inability to get a warrant or to search a premises, but here Horatio opts for breaking the rule rather than fighting a losing battle to obtain the evidence legally. It’s another fun, unexpected twist in the story that defies the norm.

Also unexpected: Ryan’s somewhat ignorant comment about the farmers as he, Jesse and Walter approach Aunt Sally’s the first time. When Walter worries about how they’ll be received, Ryan dismisses his fears, saying, “We have badges. These guys are barely educated.” It’s an awfully snotty comment. Coming on the heels of Ryan’s dismissive treatment of Jesse in last week’s “In Plane Sight”, I can’t help but wonder if the writers are actually trying to make Ryan less sympathetic. He’s always been something of a prickly character, but the comment about the farmers just comes off as condescending and arrogant. Is Ryan becoming jaded? Or is there something going on with him?

Source: "Bad Seed"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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