July 16 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Miami–‘Mommie Deadest’

8 min read

The Miami team tries to find out who is responsible for the murder of a woman after her own anniversary party while Delko conducts a covert investigation of his colleagues.

Synopsis:

Laura and Chuck Williams’ 20th anniversary party is followed by tragedy when Laura is murdered outside the garage of their house. Horatio and Dr. Loman are surprised by the viciousness of the crime: Laura was struck nine times with a blunt object. Natalia goes over a video camera Laura was using after the party, finding that the discovery of a broken lamp drew Laura to the garage. Natalia finds the whole party on the tape, and when she reviews it, she finds Laura caught her husband flirting with another woman. Chuck identifies her as Bridget Clark, his son Cody’s history teacher, but he denies being involved with her romantically. Bridget admits to flirting with Chuck, but also denies a romantic liaison, saying that she suspected Cody was being abused. Calleigh and Dave Benton take a closer look at the videotape from the party and find an older recording that was taped over of a family Thanksgiving, which reveals Laura Williams getting violent with her teenage daughter, Andrea. Calleigh realizes it was Laura abusing the children, not Chuck. Ryan and Walter go over Chuck’s car and find blood on it, indicating he moved it after Laura was killed. He claims he moved the car to make room for the ambulance. When Horatio asks him about Laura abusing the children, Chuck denies it, but then admits he was away on business a lot. Horatio and Natalia question Andrea and her boyfriend, Logan. Andrea tells the CSIs her mother would handcuff her to the bed to prevent her from sneaking out to see Logan. Natalia finds broken glass in Logan’s shoes, which proves to match the glass from the broken light at the Williams’ house.

When Ryan discovers a bloody bat among Logan’s possessions, the young man is brought in for questioning. He admits to breaking the lamp when he snuck into the house to see Andrea, but denies any knowledge of the bat. Andrea interrupts the interrogation to confess to the murder, claiming she planted the bat, but when she says she struck her mother only once, Horatio knows she’s lying. Natalia talks to Cody, who is drawing in his sketchbook, and gets him to open up about his younger brother, Bradley, who appears in his sketches. Natalia finds that Bradley died when he was five years old after swallowing lighter fluid. Andrea tells Natalia that her mother made Bradley drink lighter fluid after she found a burn on the couch—but that it was actually her who burned the couch. She blames herself for her brother’s death, and tells Natalia that she has to look out for herself and Cody. Chuck tells Horatio that Laura didn’t mean to kill Bradley, and admits that he didn’t have it in him to kill her. Natalia finds the answer when she discovers red marker on the handle of the bat that killed Laura. Cody confesses that he got marker on the couch and was afraid his mother would attack him for it. When he saw how angry she was about the light, he hit her with the bat, and then continued to strike her. Andrea found him standing over their mother’s body and made him swear not to tell anyone. She took the bat from him to hide it. Chagrined at seeing his son being taken away by the police, Chuck tries to confess to the murder, but Horatio tells him there are other ways he can help his family—by going to court and telling the truth about Laura.

Delko continues his investigation of his colleagues for the theft of diamonds from the evidence locker for State’s Attorney Rebecca Nevins. He finds a large deposit in Walter’s account around the time of the theft and reluctantly reports it to Rebecca. Her suspicions are aroused, but Delko jumps to Walter’s defense, telling her that Walter’s rent just went up. After Rebecca questions him, Walter comes to Delko, upset that Delko mentioned the rent and dug into his personal finances. He says the deposit was a buddy paying back a loan. IAB officer Rick Stetler takes an interest in Delko’s investigation, but Delko rebuffs his offer to help—as Calleigh looks on from a nearby lab. Delko finds another discrepancy in the evidence log, and he pays Horatio’s old partner, Sully, a visit, to ask about heroin from a drug bust in 2006. A million dollars worth of heroin is missing. Sully insists he and his guys didn’t miscount—and that none of them are responsible. Delko calls Rebecca to ask her to meet him at the marina to discuss the new evidence, but she can’t meet up with him until the next morning. When he goes to see Rebecca, he drops his papers and when he goes to pick them up, her car explodes, killing her. Calleigh runs to Delko to help him as the fire rages from the explosion…

Analysis:

CSI: Miami sure does know how to create some truly nasty villains. The title is a reference to the famous 1981 film Mommie Dearest starring Faye Dunaway based on a scathing memoir written by actress Joan Crawford‘s daughter. Laura Williams is definitely a piece of work: she shoves her daughter’s face in a dog bowl for daring to taste Thanksgiving dinner before everyone is seated, she handcuffs her daughter to the bed to keep her from sneaking out to meet her boyfriend, and she pours lighter fluid down the throat of her five-year-old son. That’s not just bad parenting; it’s downright sadistic. After all of those revelations, it’s not really surprising that Cody took a bat to her rather than face repercussions for getting marker stains on her couch. If there ever were mitigating circumstances in a case, it’s definitely this one. Cody and his older sister Andrea, who tries to hide the murder weapon and then confesses to the murder herself to exonerate her innocent boyfriend and keep suspicion off of Cody, are definitely sympathetic figures.

But is Chuck Williams really that much less to blame for what happened in his house than his wife? Sure, he was on business trips, but he clearly had some idea of what was going on in the house. And when he came home to find his five-year-old son was dead because his wife poured lighter fluid down his throat? That was a red flag that shouldn’t have been ignored. And yet, the writers afford him no small amount of sympathy in the end, showing him attempting to confess to save Cody from jail, and embracing his daughter as his son is led off. Men can be victims of domestic abuse, too, but it’s not totally clear whether Chuck was being subjected to some mistreatment (his daughter does suggest that he was as afraid of his wife as she and her brother were) or if he was just being willfully ignorant, sticking his head in the sand to avoid acknowledging how deeply disturbed his wife was. Mark Moses delivers an earnest performance, but I wasn’t quite sure what to make of his character.

Natalia gets to take center stage in this episode, reaching out to both Andrea and Cody, clearly feeling deeply for both of them. She passionately tells Andrea that she shouldn’t have been responsible for protecting herself and her brother—that was the responsibility of their parents, one they’d clearly both failed at. Young Olesya Rulin gives a brave performance as the scared teen who has been forced to grow up way too fast. Natalia is also able to reach Cody, commenting on his drawing and asking about the figures in it. Recognizing they’re likely personally significant to the boy, she’s able to identify both him and Andrea in the drawing, and zeroes in on the third figure. Her questioning helps reveal the truth about Bradley’s fate, but it also allows her to put together who the real culprit is when she finds a red substance that’s not blood on the bat and realizes it’s ink from one of Cody’s markers. Eva La Rue makes it clear that Natalia gets no joy from piecing together this particular puzzle.

Though by in large it’s a more serious episode, the humor here comes from the delightful interaction between Ryan and Walter. Ryan has gotten to be quite a little diva this season, oversensitive and territorial. When Walter arrives to go over the garage area with him, Ryan tries to send Walter over to deal with Chuck’s car on his own, saying, “Maybe you should go take a look.” Walter is having none of it, though, shooting back, “Maybe we should go take a look.” A glance is exchanged between them, and then Ryan acquiesces and accompanies Walter to the car. It’s fun to see Walter hold his own with Ryan, and their exchanges are just pure gold. Jonathan Togo and Omar Miller play off each other well, and their rapport hearkens back to the early days of Miami, when Delko and Speed would trade good-natured barbs.

Delko himself runs afoul of Walter when he lets slip some information Walter told him in confidence to Rebecca Nevins. Sure, he did it while defending Walter, but from Walter’s perspective, Delko was putting him in the hot seat by casting suspicion on him for the diamond theft. Natalia was onto Delko as soon as he began his investigation in “Meltdown”, and it seems that others are following suit. Stetler gets wind of Delko’s investigation and offers to help, though Delko rebuffs him, assuming he’s just in it for the glory. Stetler doesn’t deny it, either, pointing out that he does look good on camera. Despite Stetler’s levity, Delko doesn’t really warm to his overtures, though he does tell him something that we, the audience, don’t get to hear, because we see it from the perspective of Calleigh, who is eavesdropping from the lab. Calleigh no doubt picked up on Delko’s shifty behavior that morning, when she offered to proofread his work and then to drop it off for him, only to have him decline twice—and try to hide it from her. Eric Delko is not a good liar, and I wonder if his investigation is going to end up coming between him and Calleigh. The two seem to be on solid ground, but it remains to be seen if that will be the case once Calleigh finds out what Delko has been up to.

The episode ends with a bang that effectively dispatches Christina Chang‘s Rebecca Nevins, who has been a recurring character since season three of CSI: Miami. Clearly the bomb that decimated her car wasn’t a random crime—and there’s little doubt that it’s linked to Delko’s investigation of the lab. Is he getting close? His latest find revealed a million dollars worth of heroin had been stolen from the lab, leading him to question Horatio’s old partner, Sully. Sully seems like a stand up guy, but is it possible he’s behind the bomb? Or one of his former fellow officers, since Sully is retired and wouldn’t have had access to the bomb? Or was there some significance to the snippets of conversation between Delko and Stetler that we didn’t hear? Either way, it’s an intriguing mystery, and an effective cliffhanger leading into the penultimate episode of the season.

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