Hawkes goes to witness an execution at the request of a prisoner and finds himself in the middle of a prison riot.
Dr. Hawkes arrives at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Center to witness the execution of Reggie Tifford… at Tifford’s request. Tifford admits to Hawkes that he killed the CSI’s older sister, Maya. Shaken, Hawkes sits down to witness the execution, but it’s halted when a guard drops dead before administering the lethal injection. Hawkes places a call to Mac, and the two conclude based on the appearance of the blood around the guard’s mouth and the smell coming from the body that he was poisoned by cyanide. The warden, Davis Ollenstein, locks the prison down and Reggie’s execution is postponed, but a bigger problem erupts when a state trooper attacks a guard and his gun goes off, hitting the controls for all of the locks on the prison cells. The prisoners immediately begin to riot, attacking each other and the guards. Hawkes spots Shane Casey among the prisoners, but gets jumped before he approach Casey, who walks off with the state trooper. He’s saved by Reggie, who leads him to a storage room. Hawkes places a call to his teammates, who have just learned about the prison riot—and about the theft of Danny’s badge by Shane Casey. While Mac obtains the blueprints to the prison with the intention of helping Hawkes break out, Reggie convinces Hawkes to change into a prison uniform in order to stay safe. Hawkes refuses to grant Reggie any absolution for his sister’s murder, and Reggie asks if Hawkes wants to know what happened. Hawkes assumed she was on drugs when she was killed, but Reggie tells him that Maya had gotten clean before her death. She tried to help Reggie but one night he killed her while high. He panicked and told the police she was killed by a dealer she was trying to buy drugs from. Reggie wants to help Hawkes for Maya’s sake.
Hawkes sends a picture of the rioting prisoners to the team, but he and Reggie are interrupted by three prisoners who have captured the warden. Suspicious of Hawkes, whom they’ve never seen before, they try to get him to beat the warden, but Reggie intervenes, pointing out that they’ll need him as a hostage. The team uses the prison blueprints to get Hawkes and Reggie to Casey’s cell, where Hawkes finds two gutted peaches—the source of the cyanide that killed the guard. Hawkes realizes Casey is going to use the state trooper to walk him out of prison, but suddenly Casey appears and slams the door of the cell shut, trapping Hawkes and Reggie inside. The deranged killer is in pursuit of liberty—and tells the CSI he has an appointment to keep before running off. Hawkes tells Danny and Lindsay why Reggie wanted him to witness his execution, and the CSIs are surprised to learn Hawkes had a sister who was murdered. Hawkes uses sulfuric acid from a battery in the device used to track the prisoners to loosen the bars of the cell so that he and Reggie can slip out. Casey has met up with the state trooper, who has an NYPD uniform for him. The trooper implores Casey to tell his associate to release his family, but when Casey hears Hawkes and Reggie coming for him, he shoots the trooper and flees—after putting Danny’s badge on his uniform. Hawkes tries to help the trooper while Reggie chases Shane, who gets outside the prison. When SWAT sees a prisoner fighting with a man in uniform, they aim for Reggie and fire at him, killing him. Hawkes runs out and tries to prevent Shane from escaping, but Shane identifies himself as “Officer Messer” and Hawkes, still in a prison uniform, is detained, helpless as Shane walks to freedom. Hawkes rejoins the team in New York, telling them the trooper’s family is safe—and there’s an APB out on Shane. Hawkes takes flowers to his sister’s grave and tells her about his life.
“I really took a very personal interest in making sure that Hawkes was an action hero at the end of the season in [“Snow Day”]. I thought that seeing a guy who was an ME that became a crime scene investigator and then goes to carrying a gun and saving the day–I love that,” CSI: NY showrunner Peter Lenkov said of Sheldon Hawkes. “Redemptio” proves that interest hasn’t waned, and here the good doctor finds himself in a situation just as scary as the third season finale, perhaps even more so, since in “Snow Day” he wasn’t quite as outnumbered. The odds really are stacked against poor Hawkes: first the sudden death of a guard halts the execution of Reggie Tifford, the man who just confessed to killing his sister; then the riot breaks out putting everyone not in an orange jumpsuit in danger; and then, if things weren’t bad enough, Hawkes spots Shane Casey in the midst of the rioting prisoners.
If it weren’t for Reggie Tifford, played by the dynamic Harrold Perrineau, Hawkes probably would have been a goner. Reggie rescues Hawkes from a group of prisoners and offers him an orange jumpsuit so that he’ll blend in with the rioting prisoners. Hawkes is none too eager to accept Reggie’s help; after all, this is the guy who just confessed to killing Hawkes’ sister while high. Hawkes seems to be in shock when he first gets the news, but when he finds himself alone with Reggie in the middle of an already stressful situation, his rage boils over and he pins Reggie to the wall, cutting off his airway. Reggie offers Hawkes the truth about his sister’s death, and even though the CSI refuses to offer him any kind of redemption, still wants to help Hawkes survive the riot, not for himself or for Hawkes but for Maya.
Reggie proves to be pretty sympathetic for a guy who’s killed three people. (He’s on death row for the murder of a married couple.) He’s sincere in his desire to help Hawkes, first thinking quickly on his feet when several other prisoners drag the warden into the storage room and demand that Hawkes, whom they’ve never seen before, beat him. Hawkes seems ready to do it but Reggie steps in with a sound reason for him not to, giving Hawkes an excuse to back down. Reggie faithfully follows Hawkes on his hunt for Casey’s cell and even chases Casey and confronts him on his own while Hawkes tends to the dying state trooper. Perrineau has plenty of experience playing sympathetic guys who’ve done bad things: he spent five years on HBO’s prison drama Oz playing a cop killer who also served as the show’s narrator, and on Lost he portrayed a single father who took seriously questionable action to get his son back from kidnappers. When he’s inevitably shot by the SWAT team, it’s a decidedly tragic moment.
Shane Casey appears to have gone off the deep end since we last saw him in “Raising Shane”. Granted, a guy who saw decapitation and eye-gouging as the answer to the injustice he thought his brother suffered was probably never what one would call stable, but he was rational enough to have a motive behind his actions. In “Raising Shane,” he wanted to clear his brother, and when Danny, the CSI he specifically wanted on the case, proved that his brother was in fact guilty, Shane seemed to concede, giving up and allowing Danny to arrest him. Jail has not been kind to Casey; he seems to have turned into a madman in the last three years, albeit a pretty crafty one. I hope there will be more to his storyline than just the rather generic “he’s crazy, so he’s going to kill/hurt a lot of people!” plotline. I assume he didn’t target Danny randomly, and I hope we get a good explanation for his selection of the one person who actually showed him some kindness, and helped him find out the truth about his brother—even if it wasn’t the truth he hoped he’d find.
Inexplicably, the theft of Danny’s badge in “Criminal Justice” is glossed over when it finally comes to light here, despite the damage it causes (and no doubt will cause down the line) in this episode. Without Danny’s badge, Shane wouldn’t have been able to escape, and yet there’s little reaction from Stella when Danny finally fesses up, nor from Flack and Lindsay, the two people complicit in hiding Danny’s secret. And Mac doesn’t even hear about it because he’s on the phone, though one presumes that either Stella or Danny must have filled him in at some point. And yet Mac, who has lost it in the past when his CSIs have kept things that could affect an investigation from him, doesn’t even reprimand Danny? If for some reason Mac doesn’t know, then there’s now a third person inexplicably keeping Danny’s secret. Maybe Lindsay wouldn’t betray her husband, maybe Flack feels enough loyalty to Danny (despite his evident frustration when he found out about the theft in “Flag on the Play”) that he wouldn’t report it, but there’s no reason for Stella not to tell Mac, especially since there’s no arguing against the fact that the badge has definitely fallen into the wrong hands.
Danny’s childishness has always been an interesting combination of endearing and maddening, but it’s been largely swept under the rug this season, presumably to make him a more suitable husband and father. Changing a character to fit a storyline is never a good idea—it really should be the other way around—and Danny has suffered this season, becoming less dynamic and interesting than he has in previous years. Perhaps the badge theft was an attempt to bring back that compelling side of Danny, but in the past when Danny was reckless or immature, there was a rationale behind it. There’s just no logical reason why he wouldn’t report his badge missing—especially once he realizes it’s in Shane Casey’s hands. That just makes Danny look dumb—did he think it would just go away? Lindsay’s complicity is baffling as well; just because she’s married to Danny doesn’t mean she should suddenly lose all of her common sense.
What is fun is seeing the team come together to help Hawkes—even though they’re not physically in the prison with him, Mac and company are with Hawkes every step of the way. Even Flack rushes in, having heard about the riot and wanting to know if Hawkes is okay. They scan blueprints of the prison and guide Hawkes past the riot to Casey’s cell. Hawkes confides in Danny and Lindsay about his sister over the phone, surprising the duo and paving the way for a little office gossip, in which the junior members of the team express surprise over the revelation. Danny and Flack admit some embarrassment over their siblings, but never to the point that they’d hide their existence from their colleagues. Adam pipes up that he doesn’t relish talking about his father. Lindsay is the lone dissenting voice, saying that she knows what it’s like to want to bury the past. The scene really resonates; it’s great to get a glimpse into the characters’ personal lives, and to see them talking about the parts of their lives they don’t relish discussing.
At the end of the day, it’s Hill Harper‘s episode. Not only does his character get to break out of prison, but he has an emotional arc that allows him to reevaluate his relationship with his sister. Unfortunately, that emotional arc doesn’t resonate quite as much as it would have if this weren’t the first time we were hearing about Hawkes’ sister. Because she’s been dead since 1999—long before the show started—and Hawkes was, in his own words, “embarrassed” by her, it makes sense that we’ve never heard of her, but it does rob the story of some of the emotional punch it might have had otherwise. And because it’s an action-packed hour, there’s no real room for flashbacks that could have given the audience a glimpse into their relationship. Still, it puts the underutilized Harper in the spotlight, and that’s definitely something to celebrate.