Review: CSI: NY–‘Battle Scars’

The CSIs endeavor to get to the bottom of an apparent robbery gone wrong that left a street dancer dead and his girlfriend injured.

Synopsis:

A young woman stumbles from the elevator into a hotel lobby, where she collapses. She’s identified as Brooke Hallworth and rushed to the hospital while Stella and Flack track down the room she came from. They follow the blood trail she left to her room–and discover the body of a man in the room–along with a pile of cash on the bed. Hawkes finds a bottle of champagne, glasses, a vase… and a ski mask in the room. Mac notices that the chain lock appears to have been forced open. Flack reports that the room was registered to Jesse Lewis–he checked in a few hours ago with a woman matching Brooke’s description. Back at the lab, Hawkes shows Stella on the 3-D autopsy that Jesse had wear and tear type injuries, which allows Hawkes to identify Jesse’s profession: he was a street dancer. Hawkes is puzzled by the weapon that killed Jesse: he found metallic powder in the fatal wound, but no bullet. He also points out an abrasion on Jesse’s neck that has a distinct fabric pattern. Stella finds that Jesse wasn’t just a street dancer–he’d gone pro. She shows Mac video from his final performance, the night he died–in which he’d won ten thousand dollars. Mac and Flack go to the club where he competed and question Dot Com–the runner up the night Jesse won the big prize. Dot Com admits to attacking Jesse after he thought Jesse stole his move, but denies killing him.

Stella has Dot Com brought to Brooke’s hospital room over the objections of her friend Nick Emerson, who is sitting by her bedside, but Brooke says she doesn’t remember the man who attacked her. Hawkes reports that she has a bad concussion and there’s no saying when she’ll remember what happened. Adam is able to recover hairs and fibers from the ski mask, and prints from the vase–one that matches Brooke, and another that matches an unknown person. Mac tells him to check employee fingerprint databases. Flack tells Danny that Jesse was robbed once before: several months ago, a man took three thousand dollars in cash off of him after he won a dance contest. A suspect named Al Santiago was arrested, but Jesse couldn’t identify him–despite the fact that the statement he gave indicated he looked the man in the eye. Flack and Danny have Santiago brought in, but can’t get him to admit to killing Jesse. Hawkes is able to identify the murder weapon as simulated ammunition–a training tool that isn’t supposed to be lethal. Adam traces the powder from the round to a training range in Brooklyn. Mac goes to the facility and questions the instructor, Greg Roberts, who recognizes Jesse as one of his students.

Hawkes is able to match the print on the vase to Nick Emerson through an employee database. He’s also learned Nick wasn’t just a friend of Brooke and Jesse–he was Jesse’s manager. Flack finds Nick working as a limo driver and questions him about the print. He admits to being in the room and partying with Jesse and Brooke–before discreetly leaving to give them some time alone. Stella brings Brooke to the hotel room, and Brooke recalls fighting with Jesse’s attacker and getting hit by him–and then him checking on her before leaving. Danny tells Mac he can’t find any evidence of Nick partying with Jesse and Brooke–no prints from him on either the champagne or the glasses. Mac and Flack find Nick in the club and get him to admit that he killed Jesse–but he insists it’s not what they think. Nick tells them the tragic story: Brooke was with Jesse when he was robbed by Santiago, and he felt guilty for not protecting her. He and Nick set up a fake robbery where Nick would pretend to rob Jesse and Jesse could be the hero for Brooke. Nick was supposed to fire a harmless round from the gun into the wall, but the gun went off when he struggled with Jesse, and the round hit and killed him. Brooke attacked the shocked Nick and pulled off his mask–and then he hit her. Nick was set to turn himself in until he visited Brooke in the hospital to apologize and realized she didn’t remember anything. Stella tells a shocked Brooke the story, and Brooke tells the CSI she loved Jesse. Stella brings Brooke back to the station to identify the man who robbed them the first time, and she picks Al Santiago out of the line up.

Analysis:

Another episode that defies expectations–following last week’s “Dead Reckoning”–“Battle Scars” is nothing short of a tragedy, a foolish plan that goes terribly awry. This is one of those episodes where viewers feel bad for all involved–while also being frustrated with their foolish choices. Episodes that offer shades of grey are always the most fun, and “Battle Scars” is no different. Jesse’s plan is ill-conceived–even if it wasn’t for the training ammo that turns out to be deadly, what kind of guy puts his traumatized girlfriend through a second ordeal just so he can play the hero? Not to mention, what kind of guy doesn’t identify the man who attacked him and his girlfriend just so that he doesn’t have to admit she was there with him when he was robbed? Wouldn’t he maybe be more concerned about getting the guy who attacked his girlfriend off the streets than his own ego, or even keeping Brooke out of the investigation? Jesse sure had some messed up priorities… and he paid for them in spades.

Even though Nick definitely did the wrong thing when he struck Brooke and later decided to sweep the whole thing under the carpet, I almost felt worse for him than I did for Jesse. He agrees to go along with his friend’s dumb scheme, ends up shooting him in the process and then injured the guy’s girlfriend while fending her off. That’s a lot of guilt Nick has to live with, and Bryce Johnson makes it clear that the weight of it is eating away at him. Once Mac and Flack corner him, he admits to killing Jesse pretty quickly. Another thing to note: Nick didn’t take any of the money on the bed, thereby not turning the tragic accident into a crime of opportunity. He was dumb to go along with Jesse’s plan, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for him in the end: his life is pretty much ruined because his best friend wanted to look like a hero in front of his girlfriend.

Mac takes a step back in this episode–this is the first case since the season premiere “Epilogue” where it hasn’t felt like Mac is making the case a bit personal, or turning it into something of a crusade. Mac has always had something of an issue with taking things too personally, but it’s been amped up since the shooting in the bar, the result of residual feelings of anger of his team being random targets, and seeing Danny shot and confined to a wheelchair. Mac doesn’t like to feel helpless, so it’s understandable that he’s been a bit aggressive over the past few weeks, but it’s nice to see him finally calm down somewhat. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s getting soft: he shows Stella a newspaper with a story about the Compass Killer on the front page, clearly irked the story is getting such prominent coverage–and that he hasn’t caught the killer yet.

After being confined to a wheelchair in the aftermath of the shooting, Danny is back on his feet, albeit sporting a cane. Something has been subtly different about Danny this season–outside of the obvious physical change–and I think I’ve finally pinpointed it: he seems depressed. Not the crying into his drink depression that Flack is struggling with–a quieter kind of sadness. One might expect with the progress he’s making that Danny would be brightening a bit, but save for a bit of banter with Flack, he seems pretty glum. His response to Adam’s joke that he’ll race him to the end of the hallway is to swat the tech with a cane and tell Adam that he’ll take door number one “because it’s closer”–all done without cracking a smile. It’s as though Danny’s energy–always the most magnetic thing about the character–has been drained from him.

He perks up a bit with Flack, reminding the audience why these two are so much fun to watch. Even Flack, who has been sliding downward since Angell’s death in “Pay Up” loses a bit of the edge he’s had over the past few weeks in Danny’s company. The two are back in their element when questioning the irreverent and sinister Al Santiago–played to perfection by Vincent Laresca, who twirls his mustache with an unabashed zeal. Though he stymies them in the initial interrogation, after Brooke identifies Santiago as the robber who attacked her and Jesse, Flack is positively gleeful as he slaps cuffs on the man. A big grin on his face, Flack looks into the two-way mirror, right at Danny, who smiles back. Their lives might complete messes right now, but both men enjoy a good interrogation and arrest–especially when they get to do it side by side.

Flack’s edge is apparent in other scenes: he’s tense when he and Stella draw their guns to enter the hotel room, and he’s bitingly sarcastic with both Dot Com and Nick when questioning them. Flack has always been sarcastic, but the undercurrent of humor that used to run through his witticisms is missing, save for in the scenes with Danny. Long gone are Flack’s neatly pressed suits and “fugly” ties–he’s looking as rumpled as Danny these days. Flack isn’t falling apart in a predictable or complete way, he’s not quiet and withdrawn the way Danny seems to be, but no, Flack is definitely not okay.

Adam’s burgeoning confidence continues to provide comic relief. He proudly announces that he’s going to start going by “AdamRoss.edu” after coming up with answers in the case. Gone is the Adam who used to stammer and hem and haw when giving the results of his lab work. This new Adam knows he’s the bomb dot com and isn’t afraid to let his co-workers know it. Even funnier is the look on Stella’s face as he makes his proclamation; the audience can just see her thinking, “I slept with this guy???” as she watches him proudly give his evidence. I’m a little surprised their hook up in “Epilogue” hasn’t even really been alluded to since that episode–was it really a one-night stand? And if so, what was the point?

Source: "Battle Scars"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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