Review: CSI: New York–‘Hammer Down’

The case of a missing Miami girl brings Vegas CSI Ray Langston from Horatio Caine’s city to Mac Taylor’s.

Synopsis:

After a car and a truck smash into each other head on, Flack finds a dead girl in a barrel that came from the truck. Inside the truck, Danny and Lindsay find evidence that the driver, who fled the scene after the collision, was keeping someone prisoner in the back. The CSIs recover a container of urine and notice the door was locked from the cab side of the truck. Back at the morgue, Sid shows Mac that the girl in the barrel bled to death–after her liver was removed. Mac realizes she was the victim of an illegal organ trafficker and goes to find out who in the city with the same blood type as the girl–AB–is receiving a liver. Lindsay gets a match to prints found on the steering wheel of the truck: an ex-con named Casey Steele. Flack finds a man Steele carjacked in the hospital: Joseph Winston stopped to help Steele after the accident and Steele pulled a gun on him, shoved a terrified girl in his car and forced him to drive ten miles before shooting him and leaving him for dead, taking his car, cell phone and wallet. Lindsay gets a DNA hit on the girl from the back of Steele’s truck, identifying her as Madeline Briggs, a girl who went missing in Miami. She discovered a sedative in Madeline’s urine–and the pregnancy hormone. Adam has found evidence of multiple women being held in the back of Steele’s truck, many of whom are in the missing person’s database. Adam pulls up the pictures of the women and Lindsay recognizes the dead girl among them–Debbie Menzel from Atlanta. Stella interrupts to tell them that Ray Langston is on the video phone. Mac takes the call and Ray tells him about his time in Miami and his vow to Madeline’s mother that he’d find her. Mac invites him to New York, and Ray rushes to join him.

Ray arrives by helicopter and discusses the case with Mac, telling him that the Zeta gang is behind the abduction of young women ages 19-25, who are then used as sex slaves, surrogates and eventually organ donors. The two bond in front of the World War II memorial, both remembering their fathers. Hawkes tracks down a patient with type AB blood who was waiting for a liver who was removed from the organ donation waiting list the day before. Flack goes to the clinic where he’s being operated on and catches the doctor, Harvey Fuller, right before he goes into surgery on the man. After the surgery, Flack arrests him and brings him to the station where Fuller tells him and Hawkes that he would make a call to a number and leave a message saying what organ he needed and it would show up. Hawkes lays into him, accusing him of betraying his Hippocratic Oath as a doctor. Fuller insists he’s never seen Casey Steele before. The team gets a hit on Joseph Winston’s stolen phone and traces Steele to a local pharmacy. Flack and Hawkes race to the scene, but Steele escapes. The team finds the car he’s been using and Lindsay recovers soil from the brake pedal, which the team compares to reference samples and matches the soil to Corona Scrap Junkyard. Mac, Langston and Flack race to the junkyard and find Steele, whom they apprehend after a chase. Langston urges him to take a deal, but Steele refuses to give them any information. Langston calls Madeline’s mother to tell her the girl is still missing. Mac reassures Langston that he will find Madeline, who as they speak is in the back of a truck headed to Las Vegas…

Analysis:

Following CSI: Miami‘s “Bone Voyage”, the second entry of the big CSI crossover adds some depth to the ongoing story even while hampered a bit plot-wise by being the middle of the three episodes in the trilogy. If the overarching story isn’t advanced all that much–Madeline, the girl who is becoming the poster child for human trafficking is missing at the beginning of the story and remains missing at the end of it–the episode still manages to offer up an entertaining yarn for an hour, albeit one with a somber tone. The black market organ trafficking had me more intrigued than anything else has in this storyline thus far, in part because it’s so dark and inhumane, and in part because it adds another angle to the same old sex trafficking story we’ve seen done over and over again in the CSI shows.

CSI: New York is the most character-driven of the three CSI shows, and indeed, something about the conversation between Mac and Langston in front of the WWII memorial feels unique to the show. The conversation lasts several minutes and doesn’t serve to advance the plot in any real way; rather, it establishes an immediate bond between Mac and Langston, offering a rationale behind why the two take to each other straight away instead of just making it a given. Mac isn’t a man given to trusting outsiders right off the bat, but seeing Langston at the war memorial and hearing a bit about his father gets Mac to open up about his own father, and how he was the inspiration for going into the military. It breaks the ice between the two men, and brings Mac to comment on how burdened Langston feels. If there’s anyone who can relate to taking a case personally, it’s Mac Taylor. It’s nice that we get to see this moment between the two men, and that a bond is established between them before the action kicks into high gear. Like David Caruso in Miami, Gary Sinise shares a nice rapport with Laurence Fishburne, and it’s fun to see the two CSI leads interact. Like Barry O’Brien did in the Miami entry, scribe Peter Lenkov does a great job of keeping Langston in character throughout the episode.

The episode definitely deepens the arc in that it establishes that this case has become personal for Langston. He’s made a promise to Madeline’s mother that he’ll find her, and though this is a reason we often see motivating the CSIs–especially for Horatio in Miami–it’s a completely believable one. As Flack told Danny in “…Comes Around”, a lot of times the CSIs have to take their motivation from the occasional thanks they get for finding a loved one’s killer. And during their conversation by the war memorial, Mac shares a story about a mother who thanked him through tears for finding her child’s killer. It’s gut-wrenching business, and it’s clearly starting to wear on Langston. Mac reassures Langston that he’s doing everything he can, and the moment reminds the audience that Ray is still a relatively new CSI. He hasn’t been doing this for years the way Mac and Horatio have. Langston’s connection with Madeline’s mother, and his determination to find the girl alive give the case more of a personal hook than it had in the first outing.

Most of the New York team takes a backseat more to the plot than to Las Vegas visitor. Danny, Lindsay, Adam and Sid don’t have much to do aside from processing the evidence, though Danny is given an out of place, throwaway line to clue viewers tuning in for the crossover that he and Lindsay are married. When Lindsay asks what Danny is thinking about in the truck, he quips, “That you and I never had a honeymoon.” It feels like a complete non sequitur, one that wouldn’t be needed at all if these two generated an ounce of romantic chemistry together. Adam’s quirky behavior is sidelined as well, which unfortunate because he brings a unique element to the show. If the crossover did cause viewers of the other two shows to sample CSI: NY, it’s unfortunate that they weren’t treated to some of the more engaging character elements the show has, like Adam’s goofiness, Flack’s biting wit, Danny’s emotional outbursts and Sid’s off-beat stories.

Viewers who watch the show regularly know exactly why Flack is more somber than usual, and it fits into his arc this season: his grief over the death of his girlfriend and his pangs of guilt over killing the man who murdered her in cold blood. Indeed, for a guy who is usually quick with an off-the-cuff scathing remark or sarcastic retort, Flack is notably muted in this episode, though he does have one joke in the opener about “putting my Mac on this morning,” which, as he tells Stella, is better than Spidey-sense. Though he takes a backseat to Hawkes in the interrogation of Dr. Fuller, the look of disgust and revulsion on his face as Hawkes interrogates Fuller says it all. Though he’s a master of delivering those sharp lines of Flack’s, Eddie Cahill can also say a lot without uttering a word. Flack’s expression says it all.

Hawkes is equally horrified by Fuller’s actions, and really lays into the doctor, reminding him he took an oath to do no harm. What kind of doctor calls a phone number to request organs and sees them show up days later–and truly expects this could be in any way legitimate? Fuller doesn’t, of course, but because he has no contact with anyone directly, he’s able to avoid giving too much thought to where the organs he obtains came from. Hawkes, who in last week’s entry, “It Happened to Me”, was so riddled with guilt over not recognizing that a patient he saw in Central Park on volunteer duty had been poisoned, is a man who takes the oath he took very seriously. Hill Harper offers an impressive intensity in the scene where Hawkes goes after Fuller, making the interrogation a memorable one.

Michael Massee, who played the sinister Ira Gaines in 24’s first season, brings some swagger to his role as the villain of the piece, but in the end the character is no different from the villains of the other sex trafficking case–he’s just unrepentantly evil. And this is the problem with the sex trafficking stories–they fall into the helpless women/sniveling bad guys cliche all too easily. Indeed, all we see of Madeline in the episode is that she’s tied up and helpless. Steele is good at evading capture, but once the CSIs finally get him, all he has to say is that he doesn’t recognize any of the girls because there are so many of them. Evil, sure, but in a way that doesn’t really delve into his psyche. And Madeline is really just a representation of all of the helpless girls who are forced into the sex trade. Topical, perhaps, but worthy of being the subject of the first CSI crossover involving all three shows? So far, I can’t say I think it is.

Source: "Hammer Down"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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