Review: CSI: Miami–‘Point Of Impact’

The CSIs attempt to determine what caused an SUV to crash into a car, killing two people and leaving several others injured.

Synopsis:

An SUV slams into a Bentley, sending the car careening. A man runs up to the SUV and sees a woman dead in the front seat. He calls 911 and the CSI arrive at the scene. A teenage boy, Greg, is pulled from the car, and his younger sister, Lily, is found, alive, a ways from the car, leading the CSIs to conclude she was thrown from it during the accident. The woman in the front seat, their mother Karen, is dead. The driver of the Bentley is nowhere to be found, and when the team runs the plate they learn it belongs to a man named Billy Jones who reported it stolen the day before. Jesse and Walter examine the car and note that the front seat is pushed far back, indicating the driver was tall. The two take a look at the 6’4″ concerned passerby that called 911, Victor Emparo, and realize he was the driver of the Bentley. Victor admits he was the driver, but fearing litigation, he didn’t want to admit to it. Victor notes that he was lucky and wasn’t injured in the accident. Jesse brings him in to the station, and Victor’s sister, Marta, shows up, demanding to see her brother. She tells Jesse that she stole the car: Billy Jones is her ex-boyfriend and she fled his house the night before in the Bentley, and Victor was driving it back to Billy’s house when he got in the accident. Jesse takes her to see her brother, but before they can get to him, he collapses and dies in holding. Dr. Loman examines him and determines his brain was fatally shaken up in the accident, causing cracks and fissures to appear; Victor was basically a walking dead man.

The CSIs turn to figuring out the cause of the crash and, based on the tire patterns, determine the SUV struck the Bentley. But what caused the SUV to swerve into it? When Calleigh learns Karen Ballard had a .115 BAC, she gently questions Karen’s husband, Andrew, about whether his wife had a drinking problem. Andrew, who says he was at work at the time of the accident, insists his wife wasn’t an alcoholic. Dave Benton is able to recover data from the Ballards’ GPS, which shows that Karen was at a bar before she went to pick her children up. The waitress recalls Karen–and remembers that she met a man who wasn’t Andrew there, but only saw Karen with one drink. Karen was having an affair, but it seems she perhaps wasn’t drunk. Horatio posits that a bacteria buildup in Karen’s system could have resulted in a false positive, and suggests Calleigh test the viscuous fluid from one of Karen’s eyes. Calleigh goes back to the scene to hunt for Karen’s eye, which was severed in the crash. She finds it and confirms in the lab that Horatio was right: her BAC was only .02, well below the legal limit. Ryan finds a shoe tread pattern on the break pedal that doesn’t match Karen’s shoe. The pattern proves to match the shoe of her son, Greg. Greg insists he hasn’t driven the car in two weeks; the last time he drove it, he was busted for drag racing with his friends–and for having pot in the car. He claims his mother was driving the car. The CSI team gathers to determine who was driving the car based on fiber deposits from the various passengers’ clothes, which were left during the accident. Their results confirm that Greg was in the back of the car during the collision–and fibers found on the steering wheel match the pants of his sister Lily–not their mother.

In the hospital, fourteen-year-old Lily tells Horatio and her father that she was driving because her mother forgot her glasses. Lily swerved to avoid hitting an alligator, and feels terrible that she caused the accident, but Horatio isn’t so certain it was her fault. Horatio and Ryan go over the car again, and Ryan discovers a hose on the SUV has been cut. Horatio and Tripp interrogate Andrew Ballard, asking him why he lied about being at work during the accident. Andrew admits he was watching football, but denies having anything to do with sabotaging the car. When he learns his wife was having an affair, he’s shocked and saddened by the news. The team turns back to the car and Calleigh notices the smell of marijuana coming from under the hood. She realizes Greg must have hidden the pot in the body of the car, and inadvertently cut the hose when he did. Greg is devastated when he learns he accidentally caused the accident that killed his mother, and asks that his sister Lily be told it wasn’t her fault. Marta Emparo thanks Jesse for talking her ex out of pressing charges and tells him how terrible she feels about letting her brother return the car in light of what’s happened. Jesse tells her that her brother saved a kid’s life–that he was a hero.

Analysis:

Miami goes for a simpler story and comes out a winner in this latest installment, which highlights team interactions and believable turns rather than non-stop action and over-the-top twists. For the most part this season, Miami has taken it down a few notches–and that’s a very good thing. Miami might be known for its high-octane action sequences, but the show is at its best when its team is working at unraveling a complex mystery rather than getting into shootouts with gang members. This particular story is powerful in part because there are no real bad guys–just a bunch of people trying to protect their loved ones not because they did something completely terrible, but because a series of small mistakes has led to a terrible tragedy. Greg covers for his mother, who lost her glasses, and his sister, who was driving at fourteen. Victor covers for Marta, returning the car she took from her ex-boyfriend so she could flee his house. Even the secrets here aren’t that scandalous–Andrew doesn’t answer his phone because he’s watching a football game, Victor doesn’t want to admit to driving the car but doesn’t leave the scene. The one that is–Karen’s affair–doesn’t end up being a big factor in the accident at all, which is a pleasant surprise.

The result is characters that are wholly sympathetic, which is a refreshing change of pace from the one-note sleazeballs who pop up on Miami all too often. Indeed, Andrew Ballard is one of the most sympathetic guest characters I’ve ever seen. Played with incredible depth by Henry Simmons, Andrew is a man we instantly feel sorry for–and continue to sympathize with as the episode goes on and he discovers his wife had a lover–and one of his children might be responsible for the accident. Simmons, who spent several years on NYPD Blue, gives a dynamite performance, making the audience feel Andrew’s shock and devastation as he grapples with the loss of his wife, his guilt over not answering her phone call when he was watching football, and the news that his wife was having an affair. Simmons is just brilliant in the role, a real standout.

Of course, the big guest star news generated in this episode was from LA Laker Pau Gasol, who played the ill-fated Victor, who walked away from the accident only to drop dead later. Gasol gives a passable performance; stunt casting rarely results in the dynamite guest turns, unless the person cast is actually an actor, and not a singer or athlete (the memorable franchise exception was Taylor Swift on CSI last season). Gasol’s height factors into the case usefully, though, and Paloma Guzman gives a sympathetic performance as Victor’s forlorn sister. I can’t help but wish we’d seen more of Sherri Saum, who portrayed the ill-fated Karen Ballard, but she only appears in flashbacks. Saum and Eddie Cibrian shared the screen once before, in the Aaron Spelling daytime sudser Sunset Beach.

The writers are working in more humorous moments with the characters this season, and that too is a welcome development. Newbie Walter gets teased a lot about his size, but he’s more than willing to give as good as he gets. When Jesse points out that the driver of the Bentley is a “big guy” like Walter, Walter retorts with a correction: “tall guy.” Walter gets in a joke at Ryan’s expense, wondering as he watches Ryan slide out from under the SUV, “How do you fit under there?” The writers are definitely getting a lot of mileage out of the noticeable difference in height between Ryan and Walter, and Jonathan Togo and Omar Miller bring good humor and a sense of fun to their interactions. Ryan loves jousting back, too: later in the episode he jokes that Walter’s promotion to the night shift has made him think he’s “god’s gift to forensics.”

If not forensics, certainly CSI: Miami: Walter is offering the show some much needed comic relief. I can’t remember laughing out loud so many times during an episode of CSI: Miami since Speed and Delko bantered back in the early seasons of the show. Calleigh gets to have a little fun with Walter when he insists she keep the eyeball away from him if she does find it. “Eyeballs are my Kryptonite,” he shudders. Of course, this prompts Calleigh to gleefully bring her finding over to Walter after she’s boxed it for transport, prompting the poor lab tech to jump at the sight. Walter is just a fun character, and Miller a fount of charm and charisma. He’s a welcome addition to the show.

On a more serious note, Calleigh actually opens up to Andrew Ballard about her father’s alcoholism when trying to get him to confront the possibility that his wife was an alcoholic. Despite her sunny demeanor and warm, open smile, Calleigh is not a person who shares those kind of personal details readily. Andrew insists he knows his wife, but Calleigh makes clear she knows what she’s talking about when she tells him, “I have an alcoholic in my family.” She knows the tricks and the way alcoholics try to hide the addiction. But when the science proves Andrew right, Calleigh is quick to tell him flat out that she made a mistake and apologize. Emily Procter makes it clear that Calleigh takes the apology seriously–she of all people knows the gravity of the implication she made earlier.

Source: "Point of Impact"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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