Review: CSI: New York–‘LAT 40° 47′ N/Long 73° 58’W’

The New York team tracks a killer who makes his murders look like suicides–and leaves a compass at each scene; Flack continues to struggle with Angell’s death.

Synopsis:

An apparently deranged man paces in an apartment, writing a note that ends with “I’m sorry” and grabbing a length of rope. The next morning, a tour group on Ellis Island comes across the body of a man hanging in a former powerhouse. The man is Dario Gonzales, a night shift custodian at the facility. A note reading “I shouldn’t have tried to make a fast buck. I’m sorry.” is found with his body. His death appears to be a straight up suicide, until Flack tells the team that Gonzales received a call from his wife at 8 AM. His wife said he picked up but all she heard was crying. Hawkes looks at Gonzales’ body temp and tells the team it’s impossible that he picked up a call at 8 AM: he died around 3 AM. Mac realizes Gonzales didn’t kill himself–he was murdered. The team scours the area: Mac finds a compass with a scratched-off engraving on its back in the victim’s pocket, Stella finds evidence of a struggle and Hawkes finds smudge prints where the rope was tied–and evidence the killer wore gloves. Flack recovers the victim’s phone from Battery Park and turns it over to Danny, who prepares for physical therapy while he processes the phone. In the morgue, Sid tells Mac that Gonzales was strangled before he was strung up, and that the killer was likely very strong. Mac returns to the crime scene, where he encounters crime scene technician Haylen Becall, who once again asks him for a job at the lab. She persuades him by showing him she’s won a grant that will pay her salary as a technician for a year.

Flack does a little digging and discovers Gonzales was turning card tricks in his free time–and made an enemy doing so: a man named Curtis who did eight months in prison for assaulting Gonzales. Flack and Stella hunt him down, but the man denies killing Gonzales. They retrieve a handwriting sample from him, but neither his handwriting nor the victim’s match the handwriting on the suicide note. Danny finds DNA from the killer on the phone, but gets no hits in CODIS on it. He notes that the fluid he found on the phone is from tears. At the precinct, Flack runs into Cliff Angell, Jessica’s father, who invites him over for dinner on Sunday–the day that would have been Jess’s birthday. Hawkes is able to uncover the engraving on the compass, which reads: “Happy B’day. Yours 4ever, C.E.” While the compass appears to be from the nineteenth century, the engraving is new. Lindsay has uncovered a watermark on the paper and matched it to Preston Pen Company–but she’s determined it’s over forty years old. Mac gets a package from the killer with a compass inside. This one is pointing north, leading Mac to believe there may be a second victim. Lindsay notes that the postal stamp is from the Bronx, indicating the killer might have left the victim in that area. The killer takes his medication and greets a beautiful woman: his wife. He apologizes for being tense. She reminds him that as long as they’re side by side, they’ll always be going in the right direction.

In the lab, Mac and Haylen, with Adam standing over them, examine the compass and find trace from a special orchid on it. Adam is able to locate an observatory in the Bronx that houses the orchid–and notes that the particular building the plant is kept in is closed for construction. Mac and Flack rush to the scene, but they’re too late: the body of a woman is hanging from a rope inside. Flack gets an ID on her: Carol Hillcroft, a 40-year-old widow who patronized the observatory. Mac finds a piece of asbestos in her mouth, and Stella discovers a men’s size eleven shoe print near the body. The note found with the woman reads: “I should have written the letter when I had the chance. I’m sorry.” Mac gathers his team and tells them every effort must be made to find the killer. Flack drives to Cliff Angell’s house but finds himself unable to go inside. Mac gets a message from Sid telling him Carol Hillcroft’s grief-stricken husband paid a visit to the morgue. Recalling that Carole was a widow, Mac rushes down to the morgue. The killer is gone, but he left behind a compass sitting on the table, spinning wildly.

Analysis:

The Compass Killer arc gets off to a decent start, one more promising in what’s to come than it is in this entry. Plot-wise, it feels a bit light: two bodies are discovered, we learn vaguely what the first victim’s transgression might be but nothing of the second, and we find out the killer likes/has access to old things. We also get to see him, and learn that he’s both visibly unhinged and yet has a wife who is completely devoted to him. Some of these puzzle pieces are more interesting than others, but ultimately they add up to an episode that feels like it’s setting the stage for future, hopefully more thrilling outings.

There are times when I wish CSI: NY was more of an ensemble show than it often ends up being. It’s hard to get excited about Mac and his umpteenth quest for a killer that is getting under his skin personally. Didn’t we just see that last week in “Blacklist”? And the week before that, in “Epilogue”? And why do so many killers feel the need to give Mac clues or personally involve him in one way or another? Last week Gravedigger called Mac because he was dying of the same disease Mac’s father died of. This week, the Compass Killer mails off a compass to the NYPD (thankfully, not directly addressed to Mac himself) because even though he goes to great lengths to make his murders look like suicides, he also wants to leave clues for the police. He’s also bold enough to visit the morgue, pretending to be the husband of the widowed victim, and leave a compass behind. Clearly, this latest killer isn’t all there upstairs–but then, I guess we know that from the flashes we’ve seen of him.

Skeet Ulrich doesn’t have much to do aside from act crazy, which he does fairly well, although I’m not sure I buy that his wife wouldn’t realize there’s something seriously wrong with him based on his behavior. Lindsay posits that he’s killing people he believes should have killed themselves, which is a good a theory as any. He doesn’t seem particularly malicious, and also appears to feel a fair amount of remorse, so I am curious as to what his motives really are. I just hope it’s not a big letdown like the resolution to season four’s Taxicab Killer arc, which built up serious momentum before totally fizzling in the finale, which revealed the killer to be nothing more than a religious fanatic nut job. I hope the continuation and eventual conclusion to this case will be much more novel and inventive.

With the case lacking a certain intensity, the personal stories for the characters in this episode prove much more compelling, particularly Flack’s on-going struggle with Jessica Angell’s death at the end of last season. He’s by turns disheveled, angry and forlorn in this episode–all things not typical of the normally composed and together Flack. There’s always been something of a smooth toughness to Flack–he cares about justice and his friends, but very little actually gets under his skin. All that changed with Angell’s death. Stella points out to Mac that Flack “used to shave everyday,” but his uncouth appearance is only a symptom of the bigger problem. Mac brushes aside her concern, telling her that Flack will be fine, which seems pretty shortsighted given that Mac himself has expressed concern for Flack in the aftermath of Angell’s death. Is Mac burying his head in the sand, or is he simply taking Flack’s word that Flack is indeed okay? Mac probably wouldn’t buy that from emotional Danny, but Flack has always been remarkably even-keeled. While Mac might be playing ostrich a bit given Flack’s appearance and manner, he’s also probably basing his conclusion on his years of experience with Flack. Fair enough–I think he’s wrong, but fair enough, for now.

Flack is able to put on a good front when Cliff Angell, Jessica’s father, pays him a visit at the precinct and invites him to dinner on Sunday. Before Cliff can even mention what the occasion is, Flack jumps in: he know it would have been Jess’s birthday. In the end, Flack actually makes it so far as driving to the Angells’ house, but when he sees the merriment inside, he can’t bring himself to go in. He recalls his first flirtation with Angell in “Commuted Sentences”, when he busted out his “game” on her and she called him on it–and then went on to say his line wasn’t half bad. Though it feels a little off to see her family laughing and  celebrating while Flack sits outside still mourning, the flashback highlights what a lively and joyous person Angell was. Her family is most likely embracing those memories of her–which Flack doesn’t seem yet able to do.

Though it couldn’t be further from the way we’re used to seeing him, Flack looks good in wrinkled shirts and sporting a few day’s worth of stubble. There’s a darkness to his character, an edge that hasn’t been there before. I’m a little surprised Stella didn’t react more strongly to him, given his evident anger both when they were chasing down Curtis and during his interrogation. The writers are giving the gifted Eddie Cahill some fantastic material to work with this season, and it’s no surprise that he’s running with it, revealing layers to Flack that we’ve never seen before.

Danny is taking a much more positive attitude with regards to his trauma: Lindsay comes into the lab to find him doing pull ups, attempting to prepare for physical therapy. Initially she seems concerned about him getting his hopes up in case he simply isn’t able to walk again, but in the face of his hopeful determination, she decides to simply be supportive. Danny is endearingly earnest in the scene: he mentions that Lucy is ten months old and about to walk… and that he wants to make sure he’ll be walking right alongside her, ready to do everything from chase away would-suitors to dance at her wedding. It’s not surprising that Lucy is Danny’s primary motivation for wanting to walk again–almost since the moment he learned about Lindsay’s pregnancy in “The Box”, Danny has been completely focused on being a father. It makes sense that his goal isn’t to chase suspects again but to run with his daughter in the park.

There seems to be a major timeline problem with Lucy’s age, though–if “Epilogue” takes place only one month after “Pay Up” and this episode is only weeks after “Epilogue” (according to Haylen Becall), how did Lucy get to be ten months old? Was there really a gap of months between “Greater Good” and “Pay Up,” when there was only one episode between them? Realistically, Lucy shouldn’t even be six months old yet–let alone ten. Hopefully she won’t get aged up too quickly–the last thing we need is a bratty adolescent Lucy next season, or a surly teen Lucy in season eight.

Haylen Becall finally wins the position at the lab she made a bid for in “Epilogue,” and thankfully it’s not at the expense of Adam’s job, though it’s enough to make him extremely wary. A.J. Buckley brings back some of that nervousness he’s had in previous seasons to his performance as soon as Adam learns Mac has hired Haylen. Though the more confident Adam has been fun to watch in the past few episodes, it’s nice to see the character hasn’t undergone a complete change–that insecure nerd is lurking right there beneath the surface. Haylen remains a stereotype in her second outing–we still no nothing about her aside from the fact that she really, really wants to work in the crime lab. I hope she proves more interesting in coming weeks, because right now it feels like there’s little to justify her presence on the show.

Source: "LAT 40° 47' N/Long 73° 58'W"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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