July 21 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Miami–‘In Plane Sight’

10 min read

After a crooked financier is found dead aboard his plane, the Miami team must find out who among the many people angry at him actually killed him.

Synopsis:

After repo man Tony Connor is caught trying to steal a plane belonging to crooked Miami financier Howard Burgess, the CSIs are surprised to discover the body of Howard Burgess himself stashed away in the plane’s toilet. Tripp notes bitterly that Burgess swindled half of Miami out of their life savings–including Tripp himself. While Walter Simmons goes about retrieving Burgess’s body, Calleigh questions Connor, who insists Burgess must have already been dead on the plane when he went to retrieve it. Walter recovers a hand-rolled marijuana cigarette on the floor of the plane. The team traces Burgess’s ankle bracelet to his house, and finds his teenage son Daniel there. Daniel admits the cigarette was his–he partied on the plane a few weeks ago. Tripp notices cuts on Daniel’s hands that match a bloody file he and Horatio found in the front hall of the house. When the teen admits to helping his father saw off his ankle bracelet so that Burgess could go pay back his investors, Tripp arrests the teen. At the station, Horatio tells Daniel he’ll probably get off with just probation. Daniel tells Horatio his father wasn’t a bad man–he made some bad investments, but he intended to pay back what he could. Horatio asks where the money is, but Daniel insists he doesn’t know. When Horatio asks about his mother, Allison, Daniel tells him she’s at the mall. Horatio and Tripp find her at the tony Miami mall, but she isn’t shopping–she’s working. Though she was the VP of her husband’s company, she claims it was an empty title, and that she had no idea what he was doing with the investments. When the crowd catches wind of who she is, they start heckling her, and Tripp makes one arrest: a man named Carlos Guzman who is particularly aggressive. Horatio helps Allison to safety, taking her away in a police car.

Jesse questions Carlos, who tells him that he invested his life savings with Burgess after losing his job–and lost everything. He’s been living out of his car with his wife and young son. After Carlos’s wife picks him up, Jesse makes a call to the Coastline Plaza building. Horatio and Ryan search the Burgess’ house and find Howard’s ledgers hidden beneath the floorboards. Ryan goes over them back at the lab, finding several entries tabbed with the word “noise” but is unable to link the clue with an actual trail to the money. In the morgue, Dr. Tom Lowman shows Calleigh and Walter that Burgess was strangled, apparently with a chain. Lowman shows the CSIs that Burgess’s vertebrae were crushed, indicating the killer used a machine to murder him. Calleigh and Jesse return to the hanger and find the device used to kill him: a winch near the plane. They’re shocked to discover yet another repo man trying to steal the plane, and manage to stop him. This repo man was hired by a man named Gary Archer, who tells Horatio that he’s the rightful owner of the plane. Using the papers the first repo man presented, Cynthia Wells is able to recover the signature of the person who hired him: Allison Burgess. Tripp and Horatio confront her, and she tells them she truly thought the plane belonged to her husband. She insists that she doesn’t know where her husband stashed his money, but the two remain suspicious of her. Jesse and Walter return to the scene to search the septic tank of the toilet. Walter recovers a contact lens which the two suspect belongs to the killer. Walter recalls that Carlos wore glasses, but when he’s brought in for a comparison the prescription on the lens doesn’t match that of his glasses.

The team gets a new lead when Burgess’s car is discovered abandoned at 5th and Clover. Horatio notices motorcycle tire treads by the car and recalls that Burgess’s son Daniel owned a motorcycle. Horatio confronts the young man, who admits that after he freed his father from the ankle bracelet, he discovered his father’s passport missing. Realizing Burgess was fleeing rather than going to repay his investors, Daniel chased after his dad, confronted him and slashed the tires of his car. Calleigh turns back to the ledgers and discovers that Gary Archer was also a client of Howard Burgess–and that his company lost tens of millions of dollars to Burgess. Calleigh and Jesse bring him in and are able to match his contacts to the one found at the scene. Archer admits he ran into Burgess when he went to retrieve his plane, and was livid to find Burgess about to flee. When Burgess attacked him, Archer lost it–he fought back and killed him in a fit of rage. The murderer is arrested, but Calleigh and Horatio are troubled by the lack of leads on Burgess’s hidden money. When Horatio catches sight of the call letter of Archer’s plane–NO153–and sees how closely it resembles the word “noise,” he realizes the money is on the plane. The team rushes there and finds Daniel Burgess on the plane, emptying it of copious amounts of money. His game is up: he admits that his father promised him half of the money. Burgess double-crossed his own son, which is the real reason Daniel slashed his tires. Horatio has Daniel arrested, and consoles a distraught Allison Burgess as her son is led away in handcuffs. Outside the lab, an excited Carlos tells Jesse he got a call from the Coastline Plaza offering him a job as a manager–and free room and board. Walter asks Jesse if he made a call for Carlos, but Jesse demurs.

Analysis:

Miami takes a page from the Bernie Madoff scandal (story) by making this entry’s victim a man half of Miami would like to get their hands on. Even the acerbic but normally somewhat detached Frank Tripp is personally affected by the financier’s underhanded dealings: when Howard Burgess’s body is found, Tripp tells Horatio that he lost his 401 K to Burgess. Tripp’s comment immediately gives the audience a touchstone: if even the shrewd Tripp was swindled by this guy, he must have been really, really good at fooling people. Unfortunately, Tripp’s involvement isn’t taken any further than that, and we don’t find out much else about the swindling. Is Tripp hard up for money now? Fretting over his retirement? It would have been great to see the story taken a step further, to even see Horatio offer to help Tripp out with a loan or something along those lines.

The idea that Burgess scammed half of Miami is a bit over the top, as is the scene where Allison Burgess is heckled by the crowd once they realize who she is. Though the angry mob builds awfully quickly, the scene is incredibly well shot by director Larry Detwiler, who manages to build so much tension in the shots of the crowd that the audience is bracing for a shot to ring out. When something is fired at Allison, it proves to be a piece of fruit rather than a bullet, but it’s jarring enough to make viewers jump. The scene is incredibly effective, and has more of an impact than it might have otherwise because it does defy expectations so deftly.

Allison is played by the gifted Andrea Parker, who is very convincing as the downtrodden wife and mother trying to pick up the pieces of her life in the wake of her husband’s machinations. Shawn Pyfrom, who plays the Burgess’ son Daniel, has a much trickier role, and isn’t quite as successful at pulling it off. Though he’s incredibly good at pulling the wool over both the audience’s and Horatio’s eyes, he doesn’t quite nail the shift at the end, when Daniel is revealed to be just as bad as his father–exactly what Horatio warned him against becoming in their previous scene. The scene in which Daniel is discovered tearing up the plane to get at the money doesn’t quite pack the punch it should. Daniel gives up easily–after all, it’s not like there’s really another option–but he isn’t quite smarmy enough to really hate. It is nice to see that for once Horatio’s instincts were off about someone, and it gives the audience a chance to really sympathize with him. It’s refreshing to see even Horatio can be wrong about someone–it humanizes him.

Jesse Cardoza becomes more endearing with each appearance. He immediately sympathizes with the downtrodden Carlos Guzman, to the point that he’s clearly reluctant to bring the man in again once the contact is discovered. Jesse believes in Carlos’s innocence–and unlike Horatio, he turns out to be right. Jesse goes above and beyond for Carlos after he finds out the man has been living in his car, calling up someone he knows at what sounds like a tony apartment building and securing Carlos a job offer. Ever the modest hero, Jesse says nothing about his involvement–not even once Walter Simmons asks him about it. Eddie Cibrian is definitely playing Jesse as incredibly low key and humble–and also as someone who plays his cards close to his chest. There might even be a little mystery to him: when Calleigh asks if a woman is what brought him back from L.A. to Miami, he replies yes–but not in the way she thinks. This immediately intrigues–is the woman his mother? A sister? An ex-wife? A daughter? My curiosity is definitely piqued.

Ryan Wolfe might be feeling a bit territorial, though. He tries to establish a pecking order in the beginning when he tells Jesse he gets to fish Burgess out of the toilet–“first come, first served,” he says, a bit snidely. Jesse rises to the challenge, bristling a bit himself when he picks up on Ryan’s attitude. He challenges Ryan to a game of Rock Paper Scissors for the task, claiming it’s the L.A. way. Ryan promptly beats him, smugly claiming it’s the “Miami way.” Jesse snarks him right back, telling him that it’s good Ryan didn’t lose the challenge; he “wouldn’t want to get that sweater vest dirty.” It’s a fun little in-joke for longtime viewers of the show, who have no doubt taken note of Ryan’s penchant for wearing bright colors and sweater vests. Ryan has never been the most easy-going guy, and he’s clearly in the process of sizing Jesse up–while making sure that Jesse knows his place. Jesse obviously doesn’t appreciate Ryan’s attitude, and counters it with some of his own, which makes me wonder if we’ll see the same kind of friction between them that we saw between Delko and Ryan early on.

Jesse and Walter are on their way to becoming something of a delightful odd couple. As soon as Ryan wins the Rock Paper Scissors challenge, Walter shows up–unlucky timing for him, as Jesse immediately passes the task of fishing Burgess out on to him. The genial lab tech takes it well, teasing them and promising next time one of them needs to get a beaker from a high shelf, he won’t offer assistance. Jesse takes it good-naturedly, while Ryan grimaces a bit, illustrating the differences in their personalities. Walter and Jesse spend a fair amount of time together in this episode, as they did last week, and there’s an easy chemistry between Cibrian and Omar Benson Miller. These two are just fun to watch, and bring a unique, and notably different, dynamic to the show.

The same is true of the ghoulishly funny Dr. Tom Lowman, played with zeal by Christian Clemenson. I love the way he used a banana to illustrate the way Burgess’s vertebrae were crushed. Lowman is obviously a little quirky–something we see all too little of on CSI: Miami, where the characters tend to be straightforwardly earnest rather than slightly oddball. Miami could use a little more oddball behavior–it’s what makes characters like Greg on CSI and Adam on CSI: NY so endearing, and it spices up procedurals more than a little bit. It’s no coincidence that NCIS is the highest procedural right now–the show mixes the right amount of quirky humor in with its mysteries. I hope this episode isn’t Clemenson’s last.

Longtime viewers may recognize lab tech Cynthia Wells, who hasn’t been seen in an episode since season five’s “Triple Threat”! Unlike CSI, which has built up a really solid group of lab rats, and CSI: NY, which has a great character in A.J. Buckley‘s lab tech Adam, Miami has something of a revolving door when it comes to lab techs. Even Boti Bliss‘s Valera, who has gotten some juicy material to work with in the past, hasn’t been seen in a while. Brian Poth‘s Tyler essentially disappeared; at least Brendan Fehr‘s Dan Cooper got a proper exit, albeit an ignominious one. I hope Walter Simmons sticks around in a more permanent capacity.

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