July 20 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Miami–‘Spring Breakdown’

8 min read

The Miami team has their hands full when spring break revelry produces three victims at a posh hotel.

Synopsis:

The Miami team has their hands full with three dead people at the swanky Ciel Blue hotel: a young man is impaled on a poolside seating area, a young woman turns up dead in a washing machine and another young man is found drowned, buried up to his neck on the beach. Ryan wonders if the victim on the beach died accidentally, the tragic result of a prank by friends, while Walter wonders if the impaled man committed suicide. Calleigh is horrified that someone tossed a young woman into a washer. She recovers several items from the machine’s debris collector. In the morgue, an overwhelmed Dr. Loman determines the impaled man was shot with a flare gun, and glass found in the wound suggests he was shot through a window. Horatio and Walter find a room at the Ciel Blue with a broken window. The man staying there, Dean Butler, tells the CSIs he shot at someone with a flare gun the night before—a belligerent guy who wouldn’t leave his party, but he didn’t hit him. When the CSIs show him a picture of the man who was impaled, Dean doesn’t recognize him. Horatio takes the flare gun and performs an experiment to determine the trajectory the victim took, concluding that he fell from the roof—and happened to get shot by the flare gun on the way down. In the morgue, Dr. Loman tells Calleigh that the female victim was dead before she was thrown in the wash, likely from a blow to the head. He recovers a room key from the girl’s pocket, and the CSIs learn that the room it’s for belongs to Courtney Haywood. Tripp and Calleigh question Courtney at the hotel bar, but she doesn’t recognize the girl, though she admits she’s been pretty drunk for the past few days. She tells them she dropped her key on the beach at some point.

Ryan and Jesse are surprised to hear Dr. Loman pronounce their case a murder: the young man was kicked in the head and knocked out before he drowned. Loman also points out a burn mark on his ear, identifying him as the guy Dean Butler shot with the flare gun. Dean recognizes this guy, telling Jesse and Ryan that he introduced himself as Paul “The Program” at the party. An ID bracelet from Walter’s victim and a print on a bead from Calleigh’s victim’s shirt lead them to the same place: the site of the Manic Beach Party. There, they talk to bouncer Ricky Halprin, whose prints were on the girl’s bead. Ricky recognizes her picture, telling the CSIs he had to kick her out of the party the previous day because of her drunken antics. He gives Calleigh the credit card she was running a tab on, identifying her as Alexis Wilkes. He also recalls her leaving with a hot blonde girl. Calleigh and Walter go to Alexis’s hotel room and find a large pool of blood—along with a picture of Alexis and the other two victims. Realizing they all went to the same college, the CSIs are finally able to identify the two men: Brad Donner was the one who was impaled, while Paul Arnett died on the beach. The CSIs get into Alexis’s social networking account and find a video showing Brad sleeping with a heavy blonde girl—and then mocking her, joined by Alexis and Paul. The bracelet found on Brad’s body leads the team to blonde Hillary Swanson, who tells Horatio and Walter that Brad and she fooled around—and then he got violent and punched her when she changed her mind. She denies killing him, telling the CSIs that the other girl, who stuck around after she left, might have. She identifies the other girl as Courtney Haywood. Courtney denies killing Brad.

Dr. Loman shows Calleigh the marks left by the weapon used to kill Alexis, and Calleigh is able to match the marks to an iron from Alexis’s room. Ryan recovers a blonde hair from Paul’s shirt, and Calleigh recalls the bouncer at the beach party mentioning Alexis left with a blonde woman. Courtney gives a DNA sample, but when Walter tries to get a swab from Hillary, she refuses, claiming she fears a false positive. Travers analyzes the blonde hair from Paul’s shirt, noting that it’s badly degraded by bleaching and dyeing. Travers opines that the three victims didn’t sound like very nice people, and Tripp notes that Jill Quinn, the girl from the video, filed a complaint against Brad after the incident. Travers finds evidence that the person the hair belonged to took acne medication and was using an appetite suppressant, leading Tripp to wonder if Jill might have changed her appearance. Dave Benton takes an old picture of Jill and alters her weight and hair color—and Tripp and Ryan recognize her as Courtney Haywood. Horatio confronts Courtney, who first tries to deny it, pointing out that she’s not blonde. When Jesse points out she was before she dyed her hair that morning, she relents, saying she pressed charges against the three, and nothing was done, so she took matters into her own hands. When Horatio asks her if spending the rest of her life in prison is worth it, she answers, “It is.” “Fair enough,” Horatio says, as she’s led off to prison.

Analysis:

With a combined twenty-four seasons between them, the CSI shows are bound to repeat a few storylines, but this one is awfully close to CSI: New York‘s season four episode “Personal Foul”, in which a pretty cheerleader who used to be heavy arranges for a former tormenter to win a chance to shoot a basketball on the court during halftime at a game, allowing her to plant a fatal kiss on his lips. At the end of that episode, one of the CSIs tells the killer, “I hope it was worth it.” That sentiment is echoed here by Horatio, who asks Courtney if spending the rest of her life in prison is “worth it.” I’m sure the writers of this episode probably didn’t see that episode of CSI: NY, and even if they did, didn’t recall the New York CSI’s final line, but it does illustrate how similar the spin on it is here. Apparently, fat girls are spurred into losing weight not to feel better about themselves, but to get the opportunity to gain the upper hand over their tormenters—and then kill them… thus throwing away all that hard work. Sure, it could be argued that the girls expected to get away with it, but Courtney is downright defiant, holding her head up high… until she actually lands in the jail cell.

Travers does have a point when he points out that the three victims were pretty nasty people—while no one would argue that they deserved to die, it is nice to hear some discussion about it, and a dissenting viewpoint. It presents a nice contrast to Calleigh’s disgust over Alexis being tossed carelessly into the washer like a discarded doll. Both have valid points: the victims’ deaths don’t automatically qualify them for sainthood, but just because they were nasty pieces of work while they were alive doesn’t mean they deserved to be murdered. Even Horatio seems to have mixed feelings about Courtney’s actions, not coming down as hard on her as he usually does when he catches a killer, nor offering much disdain. When she maintains that it was worth it, his response is a relatively mild, “Fair enough.” He doesn’t agree with her, but he’s not going to push it.

Having three victims turn up in the teaser, separate but clearly connected from the get-go, is a novel start for an episode. It’s no fun for poor Dr. Loman, who is overwhelmed at having three bodies land in his morgue all at once. He prioritizes accordingly, starting with the one that seems to be a real mystery, Brad Donner. Did he jump, or was he pushed? Next he turns to Alexis, who was obviously murdered, literally peeling back Alexis’s face to reveal the marks made on her skull by the murder weapon. Paul is last, because initially his death seems accidental, but when Loman takes a closer look, he discovers evidence that Paul was kicked in the head, meaning that his friends didn’t bury him as a joke and then leave him, not realizing he was in danger. Christian Clemenson has fun with Loman’s prickly personality; he’s truly a unique figure in the world of CSI: Miami.

Ryan, who is equally prickly in his own way, doesn’t appreciate Loman’s attitude, at least not in this episode. When Ryan calls Loman for an update on Paul, Loman huffily reminds him that he’s having a busy morning—and Ryan hangs up on him! Ryan is equally bullheaded about his belief that Paul’s death was an accident, the result of a drunken prank on the part of Paul’s friends. When did Ryan become such a know-it-all? He’s become increasingly arrogant this season, and his assurance here feels simply dismissive rather than as though it’s based on any real read of the evidence. Ryan takes a look at Paul buried in the sand on the beach up to his neck, and just assumes that Paul’s death is exactly what it looks like. Jesse seems more hesitant to jump to conclusions.

I’m not sure why Ryan’s attitude has been so amped up this season. Is he being set up for a big fall? Ryan has always been the CSI on the show to make missteps: his loose lips with the press in season three, his gambling problems in season five and his well intentioned attempts to help his gamblers anonymous sponsor last season, which culminated in a nasty run in with the Russian mob in “Wolfe in Sheep’s Clothing”—which led to Ryan making some questionable choices. He’s always been a little hotheaded and defensive, but this season it’s definitely been bordering on arrogance. Is he still feeling threatened by new recruits Jesse and Walter? Or is there something more behind his attitude? I hope we find out soon, because last time I checked, leaping to conclusions and hanging up on coroners weren’t advisable things for a CSI to do.

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