After a man is stabbed to death by his wife, the team is shocked to find evidence that she had an accomplice responsible for twenty-one other crimes.
Deborah Carter’s murder of her husband Kevin appears to be an open-and-shut case. After Kevin returned from a business trip, Deborah cooked him his favorite meal for dinner and greeted him with passion–only to discover a ring and a card from another woman in the pocket of his jacket. Deborah made good on her vow to kill him if he ever cheated on her, stabbing him seventeen times. The next morning, Deborah turns herself in. When Stella discovers another woman’s DNA on swabs taken from a piece of bread Kevin took a bite out of and the murder weapon, she calls Mac to tell him Deborah had an accomplice. Mac and Flack vigorously question her, but Deborah vehemently denies that anyone helped her. After Mac leaves the room, Flack asks her if she regrets the murder, and she tells him she doesn’t. Danny struggles in physical therapy and gives up for the day–only to receive a lecture from Hawkes, who tells him he needs to push himself if he wants to get out of the wheelchair. Sid finds a partially digested dinner in Kevin Carter’s stomach, while Haylen Becall notices that the food Deborah made him was never touched. Stella and Mac surmise he was having an affair, which might explain the woman’s DNA on the bread, but not the knife.
Hawkes searches the database and finds a shocking 21 hits in CODIS from the DNA from their mystery woman. The team has a one-woman crime spree on their hands. Hawkes ties her to eleven homicides, eight burglaries, and two robberies–in seven different jurisdictions. Chief Brigham Sinclair urges Mac to come up with a suspect–he’s under pressure to give a press conference about the case. Stella and Flack search nearby buildings for Kevin Carter’s mistress and are surprised when a pretty young woman named Zoya who tells them Kevin is her husband. When they question her, she’s shocked to find her husband of one year was actually married to someone else. Flack tells Mac he buys her story: Kevin used his dead brother’s social security number to create two separate identities for himself. Zoya’s DNA proves to not be a match to their killer’s, forcing the CSIs to look elsewhere. Lindsay gets a lead when she finds three of the victims received packages from a company called World Send with cocaine from the same batch in them. All three were delivered by the same World Send employee: Marcia Vasquez, who has a criminal record.
Flack and Lindsay track down Marcia, only to have her flee. Flack corners her in a restaurant but she grabs a knife and holds him off. Despite her threat that he’d better shoot her or she’ll kill him, Flack is unable to pull the trigger. Lindsay tackles Marcia from behind, taking her down, but at the police station she tells Mac that Flack froze. While Stella interrogates Marcia, Mac confronts Flack, who insists he’s fine. Mac notices Marcia get distinctly uncomfortable when shown the pictures of the drug dealers, but she doesn’t react to the photos of the other victims, and denies knowing the Carters. Haylen finds evidence that clears her of one of the other crimes: she was delivering a World Send package at the time. She couldn’t have been in two places at the same time. Stymied, Mac catches sight of a lab worker using a white cotton swab, and gets an idea. He heads to the factory in Brooklyn and discovers one of the young women working there touching the cotton without gloves. The “Phantom Killer” is nothing more than a factory worker contaminating the swabs the CSIs use with her DNA. Sinclair tells a relieved press that there is no serial killer. Haylen cleans up the Carters’ apartment and is confronted by a distraught Zoya, who tells her if Deborah hadn’t killed him, she would have. While Flack drowns his troubles in alcohol at a local bar, Lindsay wakes up to discover Danny in Lucy’s room, holding their daughter–standing up.
Well, here’s one we haven’t seen before! The CSIs hunt a woman on a crime spree only to discover the “Phantom Killer” isn’t a killer at all but a girl working in a factory that makes the swabs the labs use contaminated a whole bunch of them because she wasn’t wearing gloves when she handled the cotton. Kudos to writer John Dove for coming up with a story we haven’t really seen before in the CSI franchise–and building a strong story around the biggest of red herrings. It’s fun to watch the team scramble around as the case grows bigger and more perplexing only to find their diabolical suspect isn’t a vicious killer at all, but a diminutive girl whose hands were irritated by the gloves.
My only real quibble with the episode is more of an overall problem with the show: the near-divine wisdom of Mac Taylor. To see him look across the lab and notice a tech using a swab and have an a-ha! moment rather than say, going through the boxes of evidence and finding all the DNA was collected using cotton swabs or even reaching for a swab himself to examine, feels ridiculously convenient. Yes, Mac is sharp and observant, but lately he feels like the second coming of Horatio Caine, who can practically tell a guilty party just by looking at him or her. With prescience like that, who needs forensics? The original managed to avoid this problem (at least until the departure of Grissom; the jury is still out on super-CSI Langston), but the spin-offs tend to make their leading men unrealistically infallible.
The rest of the episode is pitch perfect, starting with Mia Kirshner‘s brilliant turn as a woman scorned. I loved her calm certainty–she didn’t have a single regret about stabbing her two-timing ex-husband to death. “Was it that many?” she asks absently when told that she stabbed her husband seventeen times. Not only did she kill him, but afterwards she took herself to the Ritz, had some wine and stayed the night–and then woke up the next day and turned herself in. She’s definitely a cool customer, to the point that after Mac leaves the room, Flack asks her if she would do it again. “All seventeen times,” she answers, going on to tell him regrets are a waste of time and that it’s impossible to change the past. Flack tells her that when she closes her eyes, it’s going to haunt her.
Flack knows what he’s talking about; he’s haunted by two deaths–that of Jessica Angell and that of her killer, whom Flack shot point blank. Though he seemed dead certain of what he was doing when he shot Simon Cade in “Pay Up” after realizing Cade was the man who killed Jessica, that shooting has been eating away at him this season. There’s no question Flack is different, but Eddie Cahill manages to get that across without changing his mannerisms in a way that’s too extreme. Flack is more tense, angrier, and in some ways more thoughtful than he was before. Flack has never been a character that has much use for grey areas, but lately he’s been living in one–how else could he justify what his old code of ethics would define as murder?
His question to Deborah isn’t the only indication that the shooting of Cade is weighing on him: when he confronts Marcia Vasquez, who is wielding a knife and threatening him, he finds himself unable to shoot her. I’m not sure the situation was as dire as Lindsay paints it to Mac–though Marcia was verbally threatening Flack and wielding the knife, it’s not like she lunged at him or made a move to stab him. Indeed, knife versus gun at that range seems like a fairly uneven standoff. It’s not clear how it would have ended had Lindsay not tackled Marcia, but I’m just not sure about her assertion that Marcia “easily” could have killed Flack.
When Mac confronts Flack, the detective is cagey and defensive. He’s irritated that he’s being “second guessed for not killing someone.” Mac tells him if Lindsay hadn’t acted, he and Flack might be having the conversation in the emergency room–or not at all. Despite Mac’s appeal, Flack retreats behind a professional shield, saying to the CSI that unless he wants to make it official, he’s got nothing else to say. Flack isn’t an easy person to get to open up if he doesn’t want to, and Mac isn’t especially skilled at initiating deep heart-to-heart conversations. Stella and Danny, the more emotional, warm characters on the show, are much better at reaching out in that way than Mac is. But Mac tries anyway, because it’s pretty obvious that Flack is not okay, though he does a good job of pretending he is. Unlike Mac, whose anger can get out of control, or Danny, who just falls apart, Flack puts up a pretty good front.
The episode leaves Flack at a bar, drinking a beer alone. While seeing a character in a television drama drinking alone is never a good thing, I don’t get the feeling Flack has fallen too far… yet. He’s drinking a beer, which hardly feels like the choice beverage of an alcoholic. But he’s drinking alone, isolated, wrestling with feelings of anger and guilt. Flack is going down a dangerous path, but gradually–and realistically. People like Flack, who pride themselves on being in control of every situation, rarely come apart all at once. Rather, they come apart piece by piece, slowly but eventually–if they don’t stop themselves–totally. The writers and Cahill deserve praise for giving Flack’s plight the gradual build it needs.
If only the same was true of Danny Messer’s recovery from the gunshot wound that left him paralyzed in “Epilogue”. A mere three episodes after finding out Danny was shot and wheelchair bound in the aftermath of the shooting in the bar, Danny is in physical therapy–and already walking again. It feels too soon–a storyline that had plenty of promise being rushed. When I saw Danny in a wheelchair in the first episode of the season, I expected his recovery would make for a big arc for the season, and to see it compressed into the space of four episodes–two, really, since we didn’t see him making an effort to walk until last week’s outing–feels rushed. It’s not much of a journey for the character to have him struggle through a few episodes only to more or less be walking in the space of a month or so (from the audience’s perspective). I have a feeling he’ll be walking by next week’s episode, and it just feels like it’s coming too quickly. Surely there was more to play in this arc than just a few scenes between Danny and Lindsay in which he’s dejected and she’s supportive, and one kick in the butt from Hawkes?
That being said, what we do see here is very compelling. Danny struggles at physical therapy and then gives up when it gets too hard, prompting Hawkes to give him a good talking to. Hawkes refuses to let Danny feel sorry for himself, telling Danny that he’s seen plenty of trauma patients who would gladly trade places with Danny. Danny sulks and talks about how much pain he’s in, but Hawkes refuses to relent, telling him about a fireman whose back was broken who managed to recover. Though Danny tells Hawkes to take him to work, later we see Danny go back to physical therapy and says he’s done whining: he’ll do whatever it takes to get out of the chair. Hill Harper and Carmine Giovinazzo play off each other well during the confrontation–though Danny and Hawkes are each irritated with the other, they’re good enough friends that they’ll listen to each other, even if they don’t see eye to eye.
After Danny gets back to the lab, he and Lindsay share an enlightening scene that highlights how different these two really are. While Lindsay wonders, amazed, how Deborah could stab her husband seventeen times, emotional Danny gets it, pointing out that if she hadn’t loved him, Deborah would have tucked the ring back in Kevin’s coat and shared a dinner with her rich husband. Lindsay cracks a joke about it being “obvious” that Deborah stabbed her husband because she loved him. It’s an interesting way to show how they don’t quite speak the same language. While Danny is all passion and emotion, Lindsay is logic and reason. Not to say Danny would ever stab someone he loves to death over a betrayal–indeed, unlike Flack, I don’t think Danny is capable of murder in any form–but Danny understands, better than anyone, actions based solely on strong emotion.
It is Danny’s passion that gets him through physical therapy and to the point where, at the end of the episode, he’s able to get up out of his wheelchair and lift his daughter into his arms and hold her–standing up. In what is an undeniably sweet scene, Lindsay wakes to hear Lucy crying on the baby monitor and goes to check on her, only to find Danny standing with Lucy in his arms. Anna Belknap deftly conveys the pure joy Lindsay feels in the moment as she takes in Lucy’s smile and Danny on his feet for the first time in months. Standing in the darkened room holding his daughter, Danny looks both vulnerable and happy, realizing it is indeed possible that he’ll be able to walk again.
New lab tech Haylen Becall is apparently pulling double duty, working at the lab by day and continuing to clean up crime scenes by night. After working the Carter murder case, she’s stuck cleaning up the scene after the book is closed on it. She’s surprised when Zoya Carter, Kevin’s other wife, walks in to look at the apartment and confesses that if Deborah hadn’t killed him, she would have. Haylen says nothing during Zoya’s confession, which is frustrating given how little we know of the character. It seems like her response could have provided some insight into her, but perhaps her lack of one indicates she’s not totally prepared for the part of the job that brings CSIs into contact with the families of victims–or suspects. It’s still hard to get a read on the character–so far she’s still just the eager newbie trying to prove herself. I hope future appearances shed more light on her.
Source: "Dead Reckoning"