Review: CSI: New York–‘Rest In Peace, Marina Garito’

Stella is certain that the death of a young woman seeking answers about her brother’s disappearance was murder, not suicide.

Synopsis:

Stella awakens from a terrifying nightmare that ends with a car crash after learning of the death of Marina Garito, a young woman who had been calling Stella every Monday for three years, hoping for news about her brother, Luke, who disappeared fifteen years earlier at the age of eight. When Sid determines the gunshot to Marina’s abdomen was self-inflicted, Stella is incensed, and refuses to believe it. Marina had just contacted her saying she’d just made a big breakthrough in her brother’s case. Stella assembles the team to go over the evidence they have, which includes Marina’s suicide note, in the hopes of finding cause to search Marina’s apartment. Mac’s new acquaintance, Aubrey Hunter, an ER doctor who saw Marina after she was brought to the hospital, provides the key when she brings Marina’s clothing to the lab. She’s surprised to find Marina’s death was ruled a suicide, telling Mac she noticed instantaneous rigor in Marina’s left hand, as though she was clutching something—indicating she died under duress. It’s enough to allow Stella and Flack to search Marina’s apartment, and when they do, they’re surprised by a man who jumps out of one of the closets. Stella gives chase, with Flack following behind, calling for back up. Stella follows the man into a nearby recreation center, into the indoor swimming area. The man manages to catch her unawares, throwing her in the pool and attempting to drown her. He slams her head into the side of the pool and leaves her to drown. Flack manages to save Stella, but her attacker gets away.

Stella awakens in the hospital, and immediately tells Mac she refuses to go on sick leave. She recognized her attacker as Tony Dirisa, Marina’s stepfather.  He was under suspicion for Luke’s disappearance fifteen years ago, but no direct evidence was found linking him to the boy’s disappearance. Adam goes to the rec center, recovering a pillow from the pool, while Lindsay and Hawkes finish the search of Marina’s apartment, discovering a french fry that doesn’t look like the others spilled from Marina’s final meal. Sid asks for Hawkes’ help in confirming an allergic reaction on Marina’s hand, feeling shaken by his incorrect suicide ruling. Lindsay does a test in the lab, proving the foam french fry was made when the shot was fired through a pillow—and confirming Marina was murdered. Mac concludes Tony came back to the apartment to retrieve the other pillow from Marina’s couch, fearing a couch with just one pillow would be suspicious. Adam connects the bullet to a bodega robbery, while Danny finds a piece of “memory fabric” produced by Tony’s textile company. Nickel on the fabric proves that it was the item Marina was clutching in her hand when she died—proof that Tony killed her… and her brother. Marina witnessed Tony killing her brother as a child, but had traumatic memory loss in the aftermath. Stella receives a letter from Marina, written just before the young woman’s death. Flack and Danny collar Tony trying to leave town, and Stella interrogates Tony, dropping a piece of startling news on him from the letter: Marina remembered that Tony killed Luke in a fit of rage, but that she planned to let him go. She was going to move to Boston and start a new life. Stella apologizes to Sid, telling him about Marina’s plans, while Flack places a call to a man who has been calling the precinct hoping to catch his wife’s killer. Later, Mac finds Stella sleeping on her couch and tucks her in.

Analysis:

“Rest in Peace, Marina Garito” is an incredibly moving episode, one that employs a sometimes risky narrative tool in a very effective way. This is in part due to the restrained, raw delivery from Moran Atias, who pulls at the heartstrings as Marina Garito without being maudlin or melodramatic. Indeed, there’s a hopeful lilt to her voice throughout her narration, that belies the fact that, even though she was haunted by her brother’s death, she had found a way to move on. As if the death of a kind, bright young woman already weren’t tragic enough, we learn in the end that Tony ultimately killed her for no reason: she was going to let him go, to forgive him for the rash but accidental murder of her brother fifteen years ago. Though in the end, Marina and Luke’s killer is brought to justice, it’s a bittersweet victory at best. When Stella tells Sid that Marina was planning to move to Boston, it drives home the sad fact that Marina will never get the fresh start she so deserved.

The interactions between the characters in this episode are some of the best we’ve seen in a long, long time. During this season of CSI: New York especially, those great moments between the characters seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle, and things that should have had more of an impact, like Danny’s attempts to walk again or Hawkes’ financial struggles, haven’t packed as much of a punch as they could have. Here, the moments are on a smaller scale—indeed, they’re about difficulties of doing the job more than anything else—but they hit home hard because they show the characters stopping to question themselves, and think about what they do on a daily basis. That can’t happen in every episode, but this one is the perfect venue for it, and the opportunity is not wasted.

The conversation between Stella and Flack in Marina’s apartment might rank among my favorites in the entire series, in part because of the way it sheds light on a part of their jobs we don’t often see. Sure, they process fresh evidence and chase leads every week, but what about those cases that are still open, the leads that have gone cold? There are still people waiting for closure, and, as Flack points out, “everyone has a Marina Garito.” The line packs a real punch, especially coming after a darkly funny Flack food joke about Marina’s last meal. Stella opines that no one has french fries and a burger before committing suicide, and Flack quickly counters that the food is “from Shake Shack.” Flack has had something of a more cynical edge this season, and the joke feels just a little too dark, even for the food-obsessed Flack.

The joke, though, isn’t really delivered in a laughing tone, and Flack turns serious when he brings up his own Marina Garito: John Brennan, who calls the precinct once a month trying to find out if there has been any movement in finding the person who killed his wife. When Stella laments that she should have done more to find Marina’s brother, Flack asserts, “You took her calls every Monday—that’s a lot.” The seriousness of the conversation is helped along by the gravity and intensity with which Eddie Cahill delivers his lines. Cahill does a great job with whatever he’s given, but he does a fantastic job of showing Flack’s conflict here. Flack is someone who cares about his job and about those affected by it, but he’s also built a guard up against it. Since the death of Jessica Angell and his split second decision to execute her killer, Flack has had to redefine his boundaries—and his view of himself. It’s gratifying in the end to see him pick up the phone to call John Brennan and offer to meet up with him to discuss the case. It feels like a breakthrough for Flack, who has been increasingly remote this season.

Stella is passionate about her duty to Marina from the get-go, listening to the girl, taking her seriously even though when Marina comes to her, the case is over a decade old, and, as Flack points out, taking her calls every week. It’s understandable why she takes Marina’s death so hard—and why she’s so certain that it’s not suicide. Marina Kanakaredes gives it her all, bringing the viewer right along with Stella in her certainty that Marina didn’t kill herself. Indeed, I was impressed at Stella’s restraint when Lindsay offered up her smarmy “I’m all for women’s intuition…” line and kept countering Stella’s points about why she’s certain Marina didn’t commit suicide. Just because the line is said by one woman to another doesn’t make it any less condescending or obnoxious… especially given that Stella isn’t going off a hunch but behavioral evidence, which, while perhaps more subjective than physical evidence, isn’t the same as her saying, “I just have a feeling she didn’t commit suicide.”

Sid experiences some serious doubt once it’s revealed that Marina was indeed murdered, calling Hawkes down to double check his work. Being pretty darn perceptive, Hawkes picks up on the real reason Sid called him down there, and immediately jumps in to reassure him, telling him, “I would have concluded suicide, too.” Hawkes is adamant in his defense of Sid, going on to add, “We’re not always right, but it’s not always because we were wrong.” Hawkes and Sid have a unique relationship in the CSI universe—one is a coroner, one a former ME, so they really do speak the same language. They’ve also known each other for years—Hawkes makes mention of learning from Sid himself that MEs have to go with what the forensics tell them. Hill Harper and Robert Joy have a great rapport, and it’s always a treat when they to share a scene.

Aubrey Hunter, the new love interest for Mac who was introduced in “Pot of Gold” shows up at the lab, carrying Marina’s clothes. Turns out she’s an ER doctor—and used to be with the Air Force Reserves. Could she be more tailor-made for Mac? Adam probably wishes it wasn’t so—as soon as she walks out of the elevator, he’s on the scene, offering her a tour and a chance to look at some epithelials under a microscope. When she tells Adam she’s actually seen plenty of epithelials under a microscope, he asks if she’s a biologist, opening up a quick bit of banter that ends with Adam asking if she’s single and her replying, with a laugh, “Cute!” Poor Adam might have no chance with Aubrey, but he’s always completely endearing.

My only objection to the episode isn’t a small one, and it’s something that pervades all three CSI shows. This is not the first time we’ve seen Stella get attacked, nor the second… nor the the third. First, she was brutalized by her boyfriend in “All Access” (the worst episode of the series to date in my book, because of the glamorization of violence against women) and then in season five she was assaulted twice, first on a Manhattan street in “The Cost of Living” and then again in the penultimate episode of the season “Grounds for Deception” in her hotel room. And in this episode, the killer throws her in a pool, attempts to drown her, and slams her head into the wall of a swimming pool. No other character—not even perpetually-in-danger Danny—has suffered so much targeted violence over the course of the show. Of course, the pat message that’s expressed is that Stella is so strong—beat her, try to drown her, you won’t keep her down. The subversive undercurrent, though, is that the strong woman must be attacked or taken down in some way… she can’t simply be strong. Does Mac get beat up or attacked every time he becomes fixated on a case? Of course not.

Thematically, it would have made much more sense for Flack to have been the one Tony Dirisa dragged in the pool and clobbered. After all, given the way Stella asked Flack if he wouldn’t mind searching the apartment with her, it was clear he was doing her a favor. If Flack had been hurt doing that favor for her, it would have added another dimension to Stella’s persistence. Something to give her pause, even if her belief in pursuing the case was unshaken. After all, it’s one thing if Stella gets attacked during her relentless pursuit of Marina’s killer, but it’s another thing if her friend and colleague, who is helping her out does. It would have been a much more novel twist rather than seeing the woman pursuing answers attacked—a cliché pulled from every paperback thriller featuring a daring heroine.

Perhaps the attack wouldn’t have felt like such an attempt to knock her around if it hadn’t been for the end of the episode. If the scene with Stella and Sid had been our final glimpse of Stella, it would have been a perfect cap. Stella commiserating with Sid, who not only felt guilty for missing that Marina’s death wasn’t a suicide, but also had some familiarity with Marina’s search for her brother, was a great closer. It had an understated emotional current to it, a quiet power. But no, our last glimpse of Stella is her sleeping on a couch as Mac arranges the covers around her, a paternal smile on his face. The imagery screams: “the little girl who solved the big case can finally rest! The big, strong man will tuck her in.” Stella is a professional woman—why is she sleeping on her couch at work and not at home, and why is her boss tucking her in? Again: we don’t see Mac sleeping on his couch after solving a tough case. I loved this episode, and I love Stella—I just wish the writers didn’t see the need to undercut her strength simply because she’s a woman.

Source: "Rest in Peace, Marina Garito"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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