Review: CSI: New York–‘The Formula’

Mac faces heavy opposition from the city when he threatens to postpone a car race in order to investigate what caused one of the racer’s cars to go up in flames.

Synopsis:

An exhibition race between drivers Liza Gray and Davi Santos ends in tragedy when Davi’s car ignites and slams into a wall. The driver escapes with his life, but his lungs are badly burned and he falls into a coma. Flack and Mac arrive at the racetrack and learn that Santos was receiving threatening letters. The team owner, Connor Wells, tells Mac he didn’t see anything unusual, while Dwight Bernard, Santos’ crew chief, describes Davi as “hell on wheels.” Mac decides to put the New York 400—the first car race the Big Apple has seen in a while—on hold while he conducts the investigation. Danny, Lindsay and Adam go over Davi’s car, which Adam points out was designed to be fireproof. Danny finds the car is covered in gasoline, indicating the car itself was the bomb. In the lab, Hawkes matches the handwriting on the notes to Davi to a threatening letter sent to a congressman by a disgruntled political science professor, Josh Weaver. Flack questions the man, who had a beef with Davi’s sponsor, Cietro Spirits. Weaver’s brother and his family were killed by a drunk driver who was drinking Cietro at the time of the crash, but Weaver insists he was simply trying to get Davi to stop driving for Cietro—he never would have actually hurt the man. Danny, Lindsay and Adam dismantle Davi’s car and discover a single yellow wire that doesn’t seem to be hooked into anything. Adam also discovers tool marks on the fuel line, indicating someone wore it down, allowing the gas to leak out. Danny finds a print on the gas tank, which belong to Reece Turnball, the team’s test driver. Reece tells Mac and Flack that he was in charge of inspecting Davi’s car, and that he idolized the older driver. He inspected the car four hours before the race. The two detectives go to examine the trailer where the car was kept and find signs of forced entry. Mac finds a set of tools in the trailer and takes them, suspecting one of them might have been used to wear down the fuel line.

Back at the lab, Hawkes tells Stella that oil trace on the car is a unique blend used by Liza Gray’s team. Santos last raced Liza Gray two years ago, and her car crashed, putting her in the hospital with revenge on her mind. Mac and Stella question the young woman, who admits to breaking into Santos’ trailer, but only to get a look at what was under the hood of his car—she wanted to inspect his engine. She reluctantly turns over her cell phone with the pictures of Davi’s engine on it. Stella gets a call that Santos has woken from his coma, but when she gets to the hospital, he goes into cardiac arrest and dies before she can speak with him. She talks with Santos’ widow, Tanya, who tells Stella that Davi had promised her he would quit last season, but when the time came he went back on his word. Danny comes to Lindsay with the news Liza was most likely not the one who tampered with the fuel line: she had an interview fifteen minutes after she broke into the trailer, and wouldn’t have had time to wear down the line. Lindsay notices a picture of a generator among Liza’s pictures and wonders if it had something to do with Davi’s car going up in flames. In the morgue, Hawkes gives Mac the rundown on Davi, who was full of painkillers and had apparently been injured many times while racing. Danny identifies the the generator as a VIC engine, which would have given Davi extra speed, but when Davi pushed the button to activate it, it short circuited, causing the explosion.

When the CSIs discover video footage from the hotel Team Cietro was staying at revealing Tanya Santos meeting Dwight Bernard in a room and Dwight leaving the hotel thirty minutes later, their suspicion falls on the duo. Tanya and Bernard deny an adulterous relationship, but admit that in their desperation to get Davi to retire for his own good, Dwight went to short circuit the VIC engine, hoping it would slow Davi down and convince him to retire. Tanya insists the plan was simply to slow Davi down, not kill him. Hawkes comes up with evidence that exonerates them: team owner Connor Wells’ prints are on the wrench used to sabotage Davi’s fuel line. Mac questions the team owner, asking why he wanted to get rid of Davi. Wells tells the CSI leader that he thought Davi was getting slow—Reece was faster, but Davi refused to retire gracefully and give Reece the opportunity to step up. When he saw Dwight go into the trailer, Wells saw an opportunity and seized it. He insists he was looking out for the best interests of his company, to Mac’s disgust. With the case closed, Mac indulges a personal dream: heading to the track and driving one of the cars himself. Stella gamely joins him.

Analysis:

With three CSI shows on the air, there’s bound to be some overlap now and then, but two CSI shows dealing with some form of racing in the space of seven days feels like a bit much. While CSI‘s episode “Internal Combustion” dealt with the dangers of drag racing and this entry involves treachery in the world of professional racing, anyone who doesn’t share Mac and Lindsay’s enthusiasm for the sport might find it a bit much. It’s more of a scheduling issue than a fault with either episode, but it’s one that probably should have been addressed. There’s no real continuity issue with either episode, no reference to the serial killer Dr. Jekyll in the CSI entry or any mention of Danny’s missing badge in the CSI: NY one, so it seems like at some point, one of the episodes could have been switched around so they wouldn’t air quite so close to each other. Of course, it could have been worse, had the New York episode aired the day before the CSI one!

As someone who is admittedly not much of a racing aficionado, I had the same problem with this episode that I did with CSI’s “Long Ball” in that it delved into a world with lots of insider savvy, but without a real hook for those not already fascinated by it. Hearing Mac and Lindsay wax poetic about fast cars and racing superheroes didn’t really perk my interest in the sport, and unlike “Long Ball,” none of the guest characters really elicited any sympathy. For racing fans, it was probably fun to see Danica Patrick show up, and she turned in a fine performance, though no one could save the clunky line at the end about the CSIs being “the real heroes” (a sentiment better alluded to subtly than stated flat out). Santos’ widow, Tanya, in particular was off-putting, with her quips about her husband’s death being “a long time coming” and “poetic justice.” I know I was supposed to feel sorry for her, but her attitude smacked of a postmortem “I told you so.” Was she right? I guess she was, though if she and Dwight Bernard hadn’t been so determined to end Davi’s career no matter what, he might not be dead. In the end, it feels patently unfair that Dwight is the only one of the two arrested for tampering.

Mac is under big pressure from the city to close the case in time for the New York 400 to take place. I imagine the fact that Mykelti Williamson is now a regular on 24 robbed the episode of what could have been an interesting scene between Mac and Chief Sinclair, who always managed to remain mostly sympathetic when towing the company line. As it is, we only see Mac’s side of the conversation, seeing him huff and puff somewhat self-righteously as he insists, city economy be damned, that the race will not go on until he’s finished his investigation. If Sinclair is out for the season, perhaps it’s best to bring in a new adversary for Mac, to keep him from climbing up on the high horse he likes to ride too often.

There are some cute scenes between Danny, Lindsay and Adam in the garage as they go over the car, most notably the one where Danny is explaining the VIC engine and what went wrong with it, and Adam interjects with a drawn out “booooom” and the conversation grinds to a halt. Adam looks shamefacedly at the group and apologizes to Danny: “Sorry, that was your moment, I thought you were going to ‘boom.'” Given how overused Danny’s “boom” has become, I certainly forgave Adam, but Danny, not one to be upstaged, managed to get it in anyway, practically in the next breath. Adam should know by now that attempting to out-attention-whore Danny is an exercise in futility.

I’m all for the show giving Lindsay more of a fun personality, but must everything about her inevitably be tied back to the fact that she is from Montana? Hearing her go on about race cars while Danny stood by and Adam proudly talked about his Playstation racing experience gave her some cred, until Danny opened his big mouth and said, “That’s my girl. You grow up in Montana, you love race cars!” I suppose I could be wrong about this, but somehow—somehow!—I suspect not every person from Montana loves race cars. Or fly fishes. Or grew up on a farm. The Montanaisms might be funny at this point, if they weren’t so condescending in the implication that because she’s not from New York, Lindsay is kind of a hick.

Mac shares Lindsay’s love of racing, but for some reason the characters are never brought together on screen to talk about it together, which might have been more fun than to just hear them talk about it to third parties. Sure, Danny was excited that his wife knows all about cool, fast cars and Stella patiently listened to Mac go on about his love of going to races as a kid, but what might have really brought the topic alive for the audience would have been to bring together the two characters who have a genuine enthusiasm for it.

Source: "The Formula"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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