May 28 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Miami–‘All Fall Down’

8 min read

In the eighth season finale, the Miami team receives clues from a murderer on a killing spree.

Synopsis:

The CSIs are surprised when they all receive letters without postmarks and open them to find puzzle pieces made out of plastic transparencies, which they assemble to reveal a depiction of a woman in the crosshairs of a rifle. Jesse discovers an address in the corner of the picture and the team races there, only to find they’re too late: Janice Potter is lying dead in her kitchen, shot in front of her small daughter. Calleigh finds the woman’s purse, filled with paychecks made out to Janice Garber from Dade University. Janice’s distraught husband, Craig, a divorce lawyer, fears that one of his client’s ex-spouses is responsible. He’s surprised to hear about the paychecks, claiming that his wife didn’t work. Jesse and Walter discover the murder weapon: a rifle positioned and controlled by WiFi. Delko returns to work at the lab full time and accompanies Horatio to question Melissa Walls, a grad student doing research at Dade University who employed Janice. Melissa hired Janice to administer electric shocks to students answering questions incorrectly, but it was actually Janice that Melissa was studying. Melissa thinks evil is human nature, and tells the CSIs she’s moving on to a more prestigious post to continue her studies. Craig Potter comes to the lab with an envelope from his mailbox addressed to the CSIs. Ryan finds an augmented reality tag on it, which leads him and Natalia to a website that shows a swimming pool turning red with blood. They are able to identify the location as the faculty pool at Dade University. Ryan and Delko rush to the scene only to discover the body of Professor Neal Brusatti in the water.

Dr. Loman determines Brusatti drowned, and Horatio concludes the murder weapon was the automatic pool cover, which was deployed while Brusatti was in the pool, trapping him. Horatio unrolls the cover and finds a Fleur de Lis spray painted on top of it. Professors Stephen Madsen and Bob Starling tell the CSIs that Janice accused Melissa of doctoring the results of her study—Janice didn’t want to shock the students. Stephen reveals Melissa was kicked out of the program—and that she blamed him, Bob and Neal for ruining her career. Horatio calls Melissa, who defends her actions, saying all the greats have cheated, and reminding Horatio he has no hard evidence against her. The professors are placed under protective watch, and Natalia accompanies Stephen to his apartment while he showers, but when Walter calls saying he’s discovered the Fleur de Lis is the logo for a men’s cologne, she runs to interrupt Stephen—only to see him burst into flames when he sprays the cologne on himself. She saves his life, and Delko discovers potassium in the doctored cologne that combusted when it hit the water on Stephen’s body. Horatio notes that Melissa Walls was on the guest list for a departmental party Stephen hosted recently, while Delko discovers a quote on the back of the cologne bottle from a paper Bob Starling wrote. Bob tells the CSIs he last saw Melissa the day before after she was dropped from the program. Though Bob assures the team he will be safe giving a lecture to a crowded room full of students in the afternoon, Horatio sends Tripp with him.

Melissa turns up at the station, telling Delko and Horatio they can only hold her for forty-eight hours… and that locking her down won’t prevent any murders already set in motion. She hands over her day planner as an alibi. Walter determines the Fleur de Lis was spray painted at 1:30pm—a time Melissa doesn’t appear to have an alibi for. But when Delko and Horatio question her, she turns over proof that she was at a Pilates class. Delko accuses her of misleading them, and Melissa claims she was testing a new theory. When Calleigh discovers Bob Starling was denied tenure by a committee that included both Neal Brusatti and Stephen Madsen, the CSIs’ suspicion shifts to Bob. The suspicions are confirmed when they match stamps in his possession to the ones on the letters sent to them by the killer. Horatio and Tripp arrest Bob, but back at the lab the CSIs start coughing and collapsing. When Delko arrives back at the lab, he finds everyone unconscious on the floor. He races to find Calleigh passed out as well and desperately tries to revive her….

Analysis:

Talk about a great cliffhanger! CSI: Miami ends the season with more than half of its team down: Calleigh, Ryan, Natalia, Jesse and Walter have all collapsed to the ground at the end of the episode, and the situation definitely appears dire. When Delko finds Calleigh, he implores her to “breathe!” suggesting that whatever was released in the lab might be fatal. There’s little chance the show would do away with five leads in one fell swoop, but should we be concerned about someone not surviving? There’s a good chance when the show returns in September that the only permanently dispatched team member will be a secondary character, like the poor girl who brings the mail to the CSIs, or maybe one of the secondary lab characters (though neither Dave Benton nor Michael Travers appears in this episode). Regardless, the situation looks grim enough at the end of the episode that we’re certainly worried about the five CSIs in jeopardy.

It’s also a great whodunit: while Starling has been pegged as the killer thanks to the stamp match, I’m still not entirely sure Melissa is innocent. Why did she show up to the precinct to turn herself in after maintaining that the CSIs had no hard evidence on her? Sure, she claimed it was to test her new theory about investigators following their initial hunches, but is it possible she paid a visit to the police station to drop some sort of pathogen off in the lab? Of course, it’s entirely possible Starling sent something deadly in one of his packages—after all, his studies involved human reactions to pandemics, so it’s entirely possible he’s created his own microcosmic study of the phenomenon in the lab. Both Kristen Hager and Roger Bart are unsettlingly sinister in their roles; Hager in particular does a great job of getting across Melissa’s sociopathic tendencies without making her a cookie cutter villain. That Melissa is evil seems pretty clear, but is she involved in Starling’s nefarious deeds… or perhaps even pulling the strings?

The psychological aspect of the mystery makes it a real nail-biter, and I found myself on the edge of my seat throughout the episode. Coming after an intense episode arc that culminated in the take-down of a longstanding recurring character, the new mystery in the finale could have easily been a letdown, but the inventive and involving storyline keeps things moving quickly—and hooks the audience in. Miami has had a particularly strong season, with the introduction of three new characters and storylines that feel fresh and interesting. The show has moved away from its previous emphasis on gang and drug violence, which was getting repetitive to the point of dullness. The murders and perpetrators have been far more memorable this year, and creatively, Miami has definitely been on its game this year. The show has always done cliffhangers well, and this season’s ender definitely continues that trend.

The episode also welcomes Delko back to the CSI fold; after being shot last year, Delko made a decision to leave the lab. He didn’t stay away for long, coming back first as a forensics specialist for a defense attorney and then performing a similar function for the State’s Attorney. But the death of Rebecca Nevins sends him back to CSI. Does Delko’s return spell doom for one of the five fallen CSIs? Three characters—Jesse, Walter and Dr. Loman—were introduced last year, and based on this recent interview with Co-Executive Producers (and finale scribes) Barry O’Brien and Marc Dube, there are plans for each of the characters in season nine. Does that mean Calleigh, Ryan and Natalia are in danger? I can’t see Miami‘s leading lady being killed off—and it’s as impossible to imagine the show without Emily Procter as it is to picture it without David Caruso. But what about Ryan and Natalia? Both are important parts of the show, but in the past few seasons Ryan hasn’t had as much to do as in earlier years, and Natalia has been noticeably absent from a handful of episodes this year. I hope both survive whatever pathogen has been released in the lab.

I’d be particularly heartbroken not to see Ryan and Walter’s hilarious bantering—these two have a jokingly adversarial relationship that makes for plenty of laughs. The episode opens with Walter eager for the arrival of the day’s mail, excited to find registration info for a seminar that he’s looking forward to. “How many nerd clubs are you a member of?” Ryan asks teasingly. Per usual, Walter has a retort ready: “Do you want to get beat up?” Ryan just smiles, knowing Walter wouldn’t make good on the joking threat. Their rapport is particularly endearing, and has given us insight in Walter’s character, as well as giving the witty Ryan someone to spar with.

I’d hate to see Natalia go, either—despite being absent from a number of episodes this season, she’s had some great development this year. She faced her hearing problems with fortitude, and when she realized Delko was investigating his former co-workers for State’s Attorney Rebecca Nevins, she not only stood up to him and voiced her concerns, but spoke to him as a friend, telling him that being a snitch—even one with good intentions—can lead to tension. I also quite enjoyed Natalia’s very apparent attraction to the handsome Stephen Madsen, played by the charming Esai Morales. I loved the bold, slightly flirtatious way Natalia told him to call her by her first name. Whether all of the CSIs survive or not, Miami has definitely ended a superior season on a suspenseful note.

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