Review: CSI: New York–‘Uncertainty Rules’

Mac and the team must get to the bottom of a multiple homicide after a man is found in the street wielding an axe covered in the blood of his friends.

Synopsis:

A disoriented young man wanders into the street covered in blood and wielding an axe. The police take him down with tasers, and when Mac and Flack go to the hotel room he was staying in, they find the bodies of four people: two men and two women. Flack interrogates the young man, James Roberts, who claims he was attacked by clowns and doesn’t remember anything after that. Flack asks what kind of drugs James took, and though clearly high, James insists he doesn’t remember doing any drugs. Flack scoffs at James’ story of recalling swimming with sea horses and throws his hands up in disgust. Mac and Stella watch from behind the mirror and posit that James must have taken LSD. Stella tells Mac that James is a physics major at Chelsea University. Mac notices eleven missed calls from someone named Sara on James’ phone, and has the girl brought in. Sara insists that James has never done drugs in his life, and says he was out the night before with his two best friends, Mark Turner and Daniel Vaughn, to celebrate his 21st birthday. The girl asserts that James is not the partying type. Danny and Hawkes collect evidence from the hotel room, noticing a gap in the blood splatter pattern on the wall, indicating a person other than the killer was in the room. Hawkes also finds a gun. Danny is able to at least confirm part of James’ story: he finds clown masks in the room with DNA from James’ friends, indicating they surprised him in costume. The two women are identified as Jackie Wright and Lacey Deshane, but while all the men tested positive for LSD, neither woman did. Hawkes goes over the clothes, finding shampoo on James’ jeans and an unidentified substance on Mark’s shirt–but no blood splatter cast off on James’ shirt. Adam pieces together the order of events, and looking at the bathroom door, Stella notices there’s no blood on the edge, indicating it was shut at the time of the murders. She and Danny go back to the scene and find a shower curtain with sea horses, and, recalling the shampoo on James’ jeans, realize he must have been in the bathroom at the time of the murders. He’s not the killer.

Mac questions James, telling him he knows that he didn’t kill his friends. He asks James about where he met the two girls, and James swears he doesn’t remember. He tells Mac there’s no way he would have done LSD, and gets increasingly agitated. Stella, Danny, Flack, Hawkes and Adam try to piece together the order of events of the boys’ evening. Danny notes that DNA hadn’t yet come back from a bite mark on James’ calf, but Adam has managed to recover a photo from the evening: the three friends at an assisted living home. Danny and Flack pay the home a visit and learn that the boys played bingo with some senior citizens and won some serious cash: $25,000. When DNA from the bite matches Calvin Moore, a 3’9 wrestler, Danny and Flack track him down and are surprised to find Calvin admitting he “did it” for a grand—until they learn that Calvin merely agreed to wrestle James. Calvin says the boys weren’t acting like they were on drugs, and doesn’t recall any women with them. Mac continues to try to jog James’ memory, taking him out of the station for a cup of coffee when James spots a poster of a bull and freaks out. He tears it from a vendor stand, remembering that he rode a bull the night before—one without a face. Flack tracks down the bar James was at and the bartender recalls James and his friends—and the two women that were with him. She admits that the girls might have put something in the three guys’ drinks. Flack calls Stella to tell her the news, and she reports that the substance on Mark’s shirt as antifreeze from a taxi. Stella and Danny head to the cab depo where they find a driver, Gerald Gordon, dealing with a heavily damaged cab. Gordon admits that the boys were in his cab—and not just as passengers. He let one of them drive the cab for $100, which ended in a crash. The guys paid him $1500 for the damage.

Stella and Hawkes go over the footage from the video camera in the cab and discover that the boys stopped to pick up the two girls randomly. Stella posits that the women saw the kind of cash the guys had on them and drugged them intending to steal it. Stella notices Jackie slipping a gun in her purse. Danny and Flack go to the building where the girls were picked up and knock on the door of sleazy drug dealer Rufus Knox, who is nursing a nasty gunshot wound to the face. Danny and Flack surmise that the girls sold drugs for him and decided they wanted out, shooting him in self-defense to get out. Rufus insists he has “nothing but love” for the two women, and says he heard their killer was caught. Danny and Flack tell him that the guy they caught proved to be innocent, but they have nothing to arrest Rufus on… until Hawkes gets DNA results back on epithelials from the axe that match Rufus. Stella, Danny and Flack go back to arrest the drug lord, but he’s not at his apartment. Rufus and his bodyguard have tracked down Mac and James, and take aim, but Mac spots them first. He takes down the bodyguard and James gets a hold of his gun, recognizing Rufus as the one who killed his friends. He prepares to fire the gun, but Mac talks him down and arrests Rufus. Stella and Mac muse about the sad twist of fate: Rufus went looking for the women that James and his friends randomly picked up, and killed everyone but James, who was tripping in the bathroom. Mac reassures James, who feels guilty about what happened to his friends. Mac reunites the boy with his parents and girlfriend and watches as they leave the station together.

Analysis:

CSI: NY takes on The Hangover in this cleverly plotted entry, albeit with a much more tragic event anchoring it than last summer’s hit comedy. In The Hangover, three friends woke up in Las Vegas after a wild bachelor night with their soon-to-be married friend, whom they somehow managed to lose. The three friends had to retrace the night, none of which they remembered, using clues as varied as a hospital bracelet, a tiger in the bathroom and a baby in the closet. Here, the CSIs are the ones following the clues, trying to piece together what happened over the course of the night, and how James and his friends ended up meeting up with the two girls found dead in the room as well. Obviously with four dead as a result of whatever happened on James’ birthday, the tone of the episode isn’t very light, though there is some humor seeded throughout the hour.

There’s an obvious bit of humor when Danny and Flack go to question Calvin, the little person James wrestled with, and get their signals crossed. Danny and Flack think Calvin is talking about the murders, while Calvin’s answers are based on taking a grand from James’ friends to let him into the ring for a match. The increasingly baffled expressions on Danny and Flack’s faces as Calvin flippantly discusses the transaction definitely garner a laugh, as does Calvin’s own huffiness when he realizes they’re not talking about the same thing he is and asks, “What are you talking about?” It’s a great little scene, as is the one before it where Danny and Flack pay a visit to the retirement home, much to the delight of the elderly Mary Riesling, who is enjoying the parade of young men coming through the senior center. It’s fun to see Danny and Flack working together, something that has happened far too infrequently in recent episodes. These two play off each other too well for the show not to utilize their dynamic.

However, the funniest scene in the episode is one I suspect is completely unintentional. After it’s clear James isn’t guilty of the murders, Mac reaches out to the young man, trying to form a bond with him and get him to remember what happened the night of his birthday. In order to do so, Mac reaches out to the boy, finding a commonality in their love of science. Deciding to get James out of the police station for a little while, Mac takes him outside to get coffee and starts asking him about the paper he was writing, which James tells him was an open letter to Albert Einstein. Mac then starts to go on about Einstein and physics theories—and suddenly James takes off in a sprint. Now, I knew there had to be a reason James got spooked, but as the episode cut to commercial I couldn’t help chuckling, thinking that it seemed like James got so tired of hearing Mac drone on about physics that his only option was to make a break for it.

All joking aside, it is nice to see Mac reach out to James, and try to make a connection with him. Mac can be terribly awkward when it comes to relating to people, especially young people, but here he immediately gloms on to the fact that James is a physics major. When Mac realizes they’re both science guys, suddenly he’s much more at ease, which leads to him going on about Einstein and not picking up on the fact that James has seen something that upsets him until the young man has literally bolted out from under his nose. Because Gary Sinise is such an understated performer, the bonding scenes with James aren’t the over-the-top variety that procedural shows sometimes employ, where at the end of the hour, the cop and victim are suddenly bosom buddies. Indeed, at the end of the episode, Mac simply offers a few words of comfort and calls in James’ family and girlfriend, rather than behaving as though he’s fixed all of James’ problems simply by catching the person responsible for the death of his friends.

Given the similarity of James’ plight to Lindsay’s backstory, it’s a little surprising to see her completely absent here, but it was probably a wise dodge. Were Lindsay around, it would have been necessary to connect what happened to James’ friends to her in some way or another, and the quickest way to tank a storyline is to hang it on your weakest performer. Instead, James shares scenes with Sinise, and with Eddie Cahill, who in the initial interrogation of James channels such intensity that it bursts off the screen. Flack isn’t just disgusted—he’s actually angry that four people are dead in a hotel room because (he thinks) James partied too hard and took drugs that made him lose control. Flack’s rage gives weight to the deaths in the hotel room, and James’ explanations about clowns attacking him and swimming with sea horses only serve to further revile the literal-minded detective. Cahill is so good in this scene, so full of passion and fire, that he turns what could have been a routine interrogation scene into a fantastic character moment.

The only scene that’s a bit much in the episode is the one in which Rufus Knox and his bodyguard track down Mac and James and get into gun fight with them right in the middle of a busy Manhattan street. How did Rufus even find Mac and James in the first place? And how did Rufus know what James looked like if he never saw him in the hotel room? The whole shootout scene was nonsensical. CSI: NY tends to sit somewhere between CSI and CSI: Miami in terms of realism, and this out of the blue firefight was something I’d expect to see in a Miami episode, not a NY entry. Dominick Keating, virtually unrecognizable to those who knew him as the straight-laced security chief on Star Trek: Enterprise, turns in a memorable performance as the offbeat, sleazy drug lord.

Source: "Uncertainty Rules"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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