Review: CSI: Miami–‘Show Stopper’

The Miami team is surprised to find there’s more than meets the eye to a teen superstar’s fiery death on stage.

Synopsis:

A concert given by pop star Phoenicks ends tragically when the Phoenicks herself bursts into flames in the midst of a pyrotechnic burst. Phoenicks’ personal doctor, Allan Beckham, has her taken away by paramedics, even though it’s clear she’s already dead. When Dr. Loman does finally examine her, he finds she didn’t breathe in any of the smoke from the fire, indicating she was already dead when she burst into flames. The man responsible for the pyrotechnics display insists they’re safe, and Phoenicks’ manager Julian Diehl tells Horatio the young superstar, whose real name was Phoebe Nichols, had no enemies. In the lab, Walter and Ryan discover metal wiring on the dress Phoenicks was wearing, prompting Ryan to question the dressmaker, who insists the wiring wasn’t part of the dress she made. Travers analyzes the wiring and discovers it came from a stun gun, and was the cause of the fire: the charge from the gun ignited Phoenicks’ make-up. Dr. Loman confirms the COD was a heart attack as a result of the stun gun attack, but when Ryan approaches with Phoebe’s medical records and he and Loman discover inconsistencies between the records and the body of the dead girl, they realize that the girl in the morgue is not Phoebe. Julian Diehl admits to Horatio that the dead girl is Vanessa Patton–Phoebe’s double. Phoebe up and quit on him, so he disguised one of her back-up dancers as her and continued the tour. Phoebe’s mother, Melanie, tells Horatio and Calleigh that she hasn’t spoken to her daughter in six months, when the girl fired her as her manager.

In the AV lab, Dave Benton reconstructs the concert from pictures from people’s cell phones and sees a young man, Robbie Ferguson, stealing a bracelet from Phoenicks. The CSIs bring him in and he tells Ryan and Jesse that he used to be part of Phoenicks’ entourage–until she totally changed and shut him out. He denies owning a stun gun or actually hurting her. Calleigh searches a Phoenicks fan site on the internet and finds a house owned by Phoenicks’ production company that the CSIs hadn’t yet searched. Once she and Jesse arrive at the house, Calleigh broaches the subject of a discrepancy in the Hummer’s mileage log that Stetler asked about. Jesse was using the car at the time. Jesse promises he’ll take care of it, and gets upset when she continues to press him about it. Calleigh drops the subject and the two enter the house and discover the real Phoebe Nichols, heavily drugged and chained to a bed. While Jesse continues to search the house, Calleigh accompanies the girl to the hospital. Horatio and Tripp arrest Dr. Bennett, who was responsible for drugging Phoebe and keeping her locked up. He admits that he’d been told to keep her there for three to four months by Phoebe’s manager, Julian Diehl. Diehl tells Horatio that Phoebe didn’t want to perform anymore, and rather than letting her fade into obscurity, he found a way to keep Phoenicks going. He denies any involvement in Vanessa’s murder.

Calleigh recovers a GPS device from Phoebe’s arm, which is traced to her mother, Melanie. Melanie insists she used it to keep track of Phoebe after she felt she was losing her, and had thought the device was no longer working. She claims Julian Deal shut her out of Phoebe’s life and that she had no idea that her daughter was being held prisoner. Warren goes over the bracelet Robbie tried to take from Phoenicks and finds small micro-tags on it from the stun gun. From the tags, the CSIs get the serial number of the stun gun–and trace it to Robbie. Robbie tells Horatio that he didn’t mean to kill Vanessa–just show the world she was a fake. When he uses the word “we,” Horatio realizes he has a co-conspirator: Phoebe’s mother, Melanie. Melanie insists she did it for Phoebe, but Phoebe finally confronts her mother, saying she just wanted fame. Robbie and Melanie are arrested, and Phoebe makes the decision to go back to her roots, playing small acoustic shows as opposed to big stadium pop concerts. Jesse apologizes to Calleigh for being short with her, and finally opens up to her, telling her that he was following a woman whose husband got away with killing a woman in Los Angeles–as well as Jesse’s own wife.

Analysis:

What if Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift woke up one day and decided she didn’t want to be a pop superstar anymore? CSI: Miami has a guess what might happen in this entertaining first entry of 2010. In the episode, pop star Phoenicks is such a money-maker for the team that helped create her that rather than let her retire, they opt to replace her with a double and chain the real girl up for a few months while the new one finishes out her world tour. Twisted and over-the-top? Sure. But also, in the wake of Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson‘s deaths—caused or at least helped along perhaps by the drugs their handlers procured or prescribed for them—not entirely outside of the realm of possibility. Fame is a profitable venture, not only for the star, but for the people surrounding that star—including managers, doctors, and even mothers.

Lucy Hale, formerly of Privileged and Bionic Woman, turns in a sympathetic performance as the pop star, who seems desperately normal when not on stage wearing sunglasses and surrounded by back up dancers. Though it sometimes stretches credibility when victims or survivors immediately cling to the CSIs, in this case it makes sense that Phoebe immediately bonds with Calleigh. The girl has been betrayed by the people closest to her–even her own mother. Calleigh is probably the first person she’s met in a long time that doesn’t have some sort of agenda or angle with her–she simply wants to help. The episode concludes with Phoebe singing and playing acoustic in a small venue—with Calleigh in attendance. Hale gets a chance to show off her impressive vocals in the scene.

Unfortunately, co-star Alan Ruck of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fame, isn’t similarly featured–the notable guest star is only in two scenes in the episode, and probably warranted a bigger role. Though he’s one of the villains–responsible for keeping Phoebe imprisoned and drugged up, but not ultimately the master mind. That would be slimy but smooth manager Julian Diehl who, like Ruck’s Dr. Bennett, cares more about the money Phoebe—or rather, Phoenicks–can make for him. Phoebe’s own mother is no better—she seeks to expose Vanessa not out of worry for her daughter—presumably she would have gone to the police had she actually been concerned about Phoebe’s well-being—but because Vanessa is impersonating Phoebe, and likely reaping the financial rewards. It doesn’t seem that there was a single person in Phoebe’s life who genuinely cared for her.

Phoebe is not the only one who warms to Calleigh in this episode–enigmatic Jesse Cardoza finally opens up to her about his own demons. After Calleigh confronts him about the “air of mystery” about him and flat out tells him she feels like she can’t trust him, Jesse tells her that the woman he was following in “Kill Clause”, Anna, is married to the man who killed Jesse’s wife. Finding out that Jesse had a wife, and that he came to Miami presumably because her killer did shows just how close to the chest Jesse has been playing his cards. It might have been nice to have had some hints that Jesse is a widower dropped along the way, but as it is, it’s a shocking revelation that definitely garners sympathy for the character and shines a new light on him following Anna. Though his interest in her never seemed sexual–their exchange in “Kill Clause” definitely suggested something other than a romantic interest–his borderline stalking was definitely questionable behavior.

Jesse’s complete unwillingness to open up was equally questionable. He shucked off both Calleigh and Ryan’s questions in “Kill Clause,” but seemed half-willing to confide in Natalia—until he stood her up to sit outside Anna’s house. At the time, his callous treatment of Natalia, especially given the fact that it seemed fairly obvious that she was developing a crush on him, seemed somewhat cruel and even slightly manipulative, but now knowing that Jesse lost his wife tragically sheds new light on his actions. It’s entirely possible he made the date in good faith and then realized he wasn’t ready to go through with it. I’m definitely interested in seeing how this new revelation opens up Jesse’s character.

Ryan and Walter exchange some banter in this episode–mostly at Walter’s expense. When Walter asks Ryan if he was a fan of Phoenicks, Ryan comes back with a sarcastic, “I’m not an eleven-year-old girl.” Later in the episode, when Walter finds the micro-tags on the bracelet Phoenicks was wearing and calls Ryan to take a look, the CSI responds with an exasperated, “It’s a very nice bracelet. Remind me to get you one for your birthday.” Ryan has definitely turned up the snark this season, and Walter seems to be his new favorite target. Luckily Walter is about as good-natured as they come, and takes the teasing with good humor. These two are definitely fun to watch.

It was also a treat to see Stetler make an appearance, however brief. Naturally he showed up with a quibble: the mileage log on the Hummer was off by 118 miles. Calleigh thinks out loud for a moment before realizing she’s sharing her thoughts with Stetler, and then retracts her comment about Jesse borrowing the Hummer. Poor Stetler is always going to be the odd guy out, even when up against the new CSI Calleigh doesn’t quite trust. Stetler is definitely on my shortlist of characters I’d like to see pop up on the show more often.

Source: "Show Stopper"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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