June 19 2024

CSI Files

An archive of CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds and crime drama news

Review: CSI: Miami–‘Kill Clause’

9 min read

A murder at a charity event draws the Miami team’s suspicions to the company hosting it–and to Jesse Cardoza, who appears to be following a woman at the party.

Synopsis:

Ryan Wolfe, moonlighting as part of a security detail at a charity event for Renovation Warehouse, is surprised to spot Jesse Cardoza as a guest at the party. Jesse tells Ryan he’s there as a guest of someone else, but before the two can talk further, they hear the screams of a man who is hanging from a rail on the second floor, about to fall. The man plunges into a gigantic fish tank and though Jesse tries to save him, he’s stung to death by deadly box jellyfish, one of which also stings Jesse. When the team arrives, Calleigh finds the man’s wallet, identifying him as Jeff Lofton, a custodial employee for Renovation Warehouse. Calleigh catches sight of Jesse’s eyes following a beautiful woman, but he deflects her questions. Horatio and Walter recover a palm print from the railing where Jeff fell, and question the company’s CEO, Max DeSalvo, who is wandering around upstairs. He has cleaning fluid on his pants, which he claims came from tripping over Jeff’s cleaning bucket. Horatio has Walter take the man’s palm print. In the morgue, Dr. Loman observes that Lofton did indeed die of the jellyfish poison, and points out that the man had a bad knee and bruising on his body that indicate he was in a fight shortly before his death. Lofton’s wife, DeeDee, comes into the station to get her husband’s death certificate in the hopes of collecting on a life insurance policy taken out in his name that she found among his things. Calleigh offers to take a look at the policy for the desperate woman, to see if she can hurry the process along. Ryan is going over the palm prints of everyone at the party and has yet to find a match–until Jesse thinks to lift DeeDee Lofton’s print off the envelope she gave Calleigh. Sure enough, it’s a match, but DeeDee tells Calleigh and Jesse that she had come to help her husband clean before the party. His knee was bothering him, and the company medical insurance didn’t cover his leg issues.

Calleigh asks Jesse to impersonate Jeff and make a phone call to the insurance company to find out who took the policy out on Jeff. When he does, he learns that it was Jeff’s employer, Renovation Warehouse. Horatio speaks to DeSalvo, who tells him that the company takes out policies on all of their employees and offers the CSI access to the company’s employee records–but nothing more. Jesse and Ryan return to the scene and drain the jellyfish tank. Jesse discovers a small strand of black sequins in the tank and decides to call back the women from the party to come into the station–with their dresses from the night of the party in hand. Jesse and Natalia examine the dresses, and Natalia notices Anna, the woman from the party that Jesse seemed to be observing, watching him. She accuses him of following her from Los Angeles, and storms off in a huff after he clears her. Natalia asks Jesse about Anna, and he tells her it’s business, and offers to explain over drinks if she’ll get everyone in the office off his back. She agrees. The two don’t find a match to the sequins, but Natalia notices one woman didn’t come in: Caroline Berston. Tripp and Walter go to retrieve the files from Renovation Warehouse and the CFO, Garrett Yates, turns over more than a hundred boxes to them. The team goes over the records and notices a high number of employee deaths each June–the end of the company’s fiscal year. The find several accidental deaths and one recent suicide–a young secretary named Hannah Wilcox. Hannah’s brother, Aaron, tells the CSIs that Hannah wanted her body donated for scientific research prompting Walter and Dr. Loman to take a trip to the local university to recover the body. Loman notices petechial hemorrhaging in Hannah’s eyes, which is typical of manual strangulation–not death by hanging.

Horatio and Walter visit Hannah’s house and find evidence that someone strung Hannah up. They go back to the evidence from the case and examine the rope, matching epithelials on it to Gabriel Yates, the CFO of the company. Yates confesses in exchange for a deal, telling the CSIs that he was offered lifetime employment in exchange for knocking off some of the company’s employees. He isn’t responsible for the death of Jeff Lofton, however. Natalia and Jesse manage to track down Caroline Berston, whose dress proves to match the sequins Jesse found in the jellyfish tank. She’s afraid of losing her job, but she admits to the CSIs that she’s DeSalvo’s girlfriend, and that Lofton caught the CEO giving her an expensive diamond bracelet and got angry with DeSalvo. She hurried away, part of her dress catching in DeSalvo’s watch. Horatio and Jesse have DeSalvo brought in and the CEO claims Lofton attacked him, and that he fought back in self-defense. Finding they have nothing concrete to hold him on, they’re forced to let DeSalvo walk, though Horatio notes these things have a way of working themselves out. His statement proves prescient: Hannah’s brother, Aaron, tracks DeSalvo down and shoots him. Natalia orders drinks and waits for Jesse, who is sitting in his car outside Anna’s house…

Analysis:

A far-fetched concept that nonetheless makes for an entertaining episode, the idea that a company would actually take out insurance policies on their employees and then do in a bunch of them at the end of the fiscal year adds a whole new dimension to the concept of big business being evil. The corporate baddies are caricatures of evil, from the CEO who is predictably having an affair with a much younger secretary to the CFO who turns over an excessive number of records when asked to turn over paperwork to the CSIs. Chris Eigeman has a bit of fun with his unapologetic killer, who cuts a deal but doesn’t seem to have any remorse over killing multiple people in order to secure his own employment. Eigeman conveys a real smarminess in his character’s first encounter with the CSIs and a cutthroat sense of self-preservation in his second. DeSalvo escapes legal repercussions but conveniently gets his in the end, when Aaron Wilcox–played by the incredibly sympathetic Ian Anthony Dale, who makes the audience feel for his character in just a few brief scenes–hunts him down on his boat and kills him.

Death by jellyfish is definitely one of the more creative ways to go, and makes for a creepy opening to the episode. Seeing both Ryan and Jesse outside of work and at the same event, albeit in very different roles, made me wonder for a moment if they were perhaps both undercover. Apparently not–Ryan has picked up an extra job. Is he trying to climb out of the hole after his gambling problems from a few seasons ago, or is Ryan in real financial straights? I’m as curious about the reason he’s picked up an extra job as he and his colleagues are about Jesse’s secret, and I hope we learn more about why Ryan has a second job sometime in the future–and that it wasn’t just set up for him to observe Jesse’s puzzling behavior.

Jesse’s secret is at the heart of the episode, and it’s refreshingly realistic to see all of the characters trying to figure out what’s going on with him rather than not noticing or keeping quiet about it. The Miami team has always been a bit on the gossipy side (though never in a nasty way). Three of Jesse’s colleagues ask questions about his strange behavior. Calleigh asks him directly about the woman he’s “stalking”–a term that definitely has a negative connotation. But then, Jesse’s behavior is decidedly odd. He lies to Ryan about the party, claiming he’s there as someone’s guest. Ryan catches him in the lie after learning that Jesse donated ten thousand dollars to get into that party. I imagine that stuck in Ryan’s craw a bit, especially given that Ryan has been working a second job just to make ends meet. There’s an undercurrent of hostility in their exchange and it concludes with Jesse firing a shot that seems to be only half-joking: “If you were this curious about the case, you would have solved it by now.”

It’s only Natalia that Jesse offers an explanation to, or rather the promise of an explanation. After she observes a confrontation between him and Anna, he insists that it’s “business,” despite the fact that it looks to be anything but. Jesse makes a surprising offer: he suggests he tell Natalia everything over drinks if she’ll get everyone else off his back. The move smacks slightly of manipulation, given that he doesn’t make the same overture to either Calleigh, who is in a relationship already, or Ryan. Jesse is basically suggesting a date in return for her getting the others to back off. We never find out if he would have told Natalia the truth because he doesn’t show up, leaving Natalia sitting alone in the bar while he spies on Anna. Natalia ordered them both drinks, but when Jesse doesn’t show, she opts for his beer over her own fruity blue drink. Poor Natalia! At this point it’s hard to know if Jesse has any genuine romantic interest in her, but it seems pretty clear that Natalia was hoping he did.

And who is Anna, and what is she to Jesse? When Jesse checks her dress at the station, she asks incredulously if he followed her from L.A. When he hands her dress back to her, she spits out that “it’s always a dead end with you, isn’t it?” It’s hard to tell from their conversation exactly how they know each other, but it seems like Jesse is either concerned about her or suspicious of her–or possibly both. But the fact that he’s sitting outside her house at the end of the episode, having either forgotten about or willingly blown off his date with Natalia, suggests a real fixation. Calleigh’s use of “stalking” might seem harsh at the beginning of the episode, but by the time we’ve reached the end and learned that Jesse dropped ten thousand dollars to attend the event, lied to Ryan and is sitting outside Anna’s house, the word “stalking” does appear to fit. Still, I have a feeling all is not what it seems, and I’m eager to learn what’s really behind Jesse’s interest in Anna.

Dr. Loman has been out-quirking his counterparts on the other CSI shows with his eccentric ways, and I have to say, I’m thoroughly enjoying his character. He’s so delightfully weird that it’s just fun to watch what he’ll do or say next. He clearly enjoys his excursion with Walter to the medical school, telling the lab tech that the students aren’t allowed to know the real names of the people they’re cutting up, and are encouraged to give them names of their own. Rather than taking Hannah’s body back to the morgue right away, Loman opts to examine her right in front of the curious medical students, who gather around him with interest. Christian Clemenson‘s colorful coroner is a great addition to Miami, and I hope he eventually gets bumped up to regular status.

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