February 29 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: New York–‘Unusual Suspects’

7 min read

The NY team finds there’s more than meets the eye to the shooting of a fourteen-year-old boy.


Mac Taylor is introducing Aubrey Hunter to his favorite pizza in the city when they’re distracted by the sound of an ambulance rushing to a nearby location. They follow and discover a fourteen-year-old boy named Nicky Harris has been shot. As Aubrey examines Nicky and helps get him into the ambulance, his shocked twelve-year-old brother, Sam, looks on, terrified. Mac follows Aubrey to the hospital, filling Stella in when he gets there: the two boys were on their way home from school when they ran into a man who shot Nicky. Flack gently questions the boy, learning his father died of cancer a few months ago and that Nicky had been wearing his dad’s Rolex, which he wasn’t supposed to be wearing at school. Danny, Lindsay and Hawkes comb the alley, and Hawkes finds a gun on top of a trash can. The three follow the blood drops to the point where Nicky was shot, and Hawkes discovers a trail of red drops that aren’t blood leading in the opposite direction. Mrs. Harris arrives at the hospital to learn her son is in critical condition. Heartbroken, she tells Mac she used to pick her sons up from school everyday before her husband died, forcing her to find work. Flack tries to guide Sam into creating a sketch on the computer reflecting what the shooter looked like, while Adam analyzes trace from under Nicky’s nails that gets a hit in CODIS to a thug named Johnny Cook. Mac and Stella pick Johnny up and find he’s wearing Nicky’s Rolex. Mac interrogates Johnny, but he denies shooting Nicky, and tells Mac all he has him on is possession of stolen property.

Flack has Sam look at a line up, but though the boy looks right at Johnny, he says he can’t pick out the shooter. Lindsay identifies the red substance from the alley as common red dye. Hawkes reports that the gun found in the alley was not the one used to shoot Nicky. Adam is puzzled by the presence of synthetic rubber trace around the gunshot hole on the back of Nicky’s shirt, presumed to be the entrance wound. He consults Sid, who says that it could be shoring—the result of something pressing into the exit wound, causing it to look like an entrance wound. Flack, Danny and Lindsay take Sam back to the alley to see if he can remember anything. Sam tells them that the shooter ran the same way out the alley that he and his brother did, and doesn’t recall him dripping any liquid when he ran off. Flack thinks Sam is scared and confused, but Danny thinks something isn’t adding up, noting the absence of blood splatter and a bullet. Adam tries shooting a pig cadaver in the lab to confirm his theory that Nicky was wearing a backpack when he was shot. Mac and Flack question Mrs. Harris and Sam about the backpack, and Sam says he forgot that his brother was wearing a backpack. When Mrs. Harris recalls her son had a cell phone in his backpack, Mac asks for the number. The CSIs trace the phone to the apartment of a Troy Castro, who is in the system. Mac, Stella and Flack go to his apartment, but Troy flees, shooting at them as he goes. Flack gives chase, but the pursuit comes to an abrupt halt when Troy is struck by a bus and killed.

Stella finds Nicky’s backpack in Troy’s apartment, and discovers a bullet in a history textbook. They find red dye on the book, and are surprised to discover a thick wad of money covered in dye in one of the backpack’s pouches. Hawkes matches the bullet from the textbook to Troy’s gun, and notes that the same gun was used in a bank robbery at a First Federal branch a month ago. Additionally, a First Federal branch was robbed yesterday, just twelve blocks from the alley where Nicky was shot. A bank teller informs Stella and Hawkes that the robber asked for $933, and that he was younger than Troy or Johnny. She recalls him wearing a cap identical to the Derek Jeter baseball cap found in the alley. Stella and Hawkes confront Flack, who maintains there’s no way Sam and his brother robbed the bank. Hawkes thinks Castro, who had been hitting banks in the area, followed the boys and shot them for the money. Mac and Flack question Sam and his mother, who is surprised to learn the amount taken was the amount of rent money she needed. Sam admits to the robbery, telling the CSIs he overheard his mother on the phone with the landlord and convinced his brother they had to get the money somehow. Nicky found a gun and emptied the bullets inside so that it couldn’t actually hurt anyone and robbed the bank. Troy followed them and demanded the money and shot Nicky when he wouldn’t turn it over. Sam, afraid that they would get in trouble, pinned the crime on Johnny, who had taken Nicky’s watch a few days before. The DA and bank president agree not to press charges, and money starts to pour in from sympathetic people. Flack, Mrs. Harris and Sam are by Nicky’s bedside when he wakes up.


Without a doubt, the highlight of “Unusual Suspects” is the interaction between Don Flack and young Sam Harris. Flack, who revels in laying the snark down on the deplorable examples of humanity who pass through the interrogation room, is positively gentle with the boy without coddling him too much. When Sam tells Flack his father is dead, Flack says sincerely, “That’s a tough one, buddy. I’m sorry.” Flack sympathizes with Sam without condescending or talking down to him. Later when they’re looking at pictures of perps, Flack threatens to send a pic he took on his computer of Sam to every girl in Sam’s school if the boy doesn’t smile. Flack’s joking naturally elicits the sought-after smile. If Sam never really relaxes around Flack, it’s because of the big secret he’s carrying, one that he naturally doesn’t want the good-natured homicide detective to find out.

What is quite endearing is Flack’s faith in the boy and the way he defends him when Stella and Hawkes come to him with their suspicions that Nicky and Sam robbed the bank. Flack gets his hackles up pretty quickly, noting that, “Everything I’m hearing from the science guys is speculation.” Stella stands up to him, telling him that he needs to let go of his feelings for the kid, but Flack holds his ground, maintaining that “Sam doesn’t have it in his DNA to lie.” Flack’s wrong, but audience sympathy is with him, and with poor Sam, whose illegal activities turn out to be an act of desperation. Eddie Cahill deftly reveals the sensitive side behind his stoic detective’s demeanor, and Aaron Refvem is eminently sympathetic as the twelve-year-old boy who has been forced to grow up far too fast in the wake of his father’s death, his family’s financial struggles and his brother’s shooting.

I also quite enjoyed the scene between Flack and Danny in the alley after Sam has told them what happened. As Lindsay walks Sam off, Flack says his gut as a cop is telling him that Sam wants to help, but he’s too young and messed up. Danny counters that his gut as a CSI is asking where the splatter, impact marks and bullet are. Unlike later on with Stella and Hawkes, Flack doesn’t get defensive when Danny opines that things aren’t adding up. Flack finds himself at odds with the “science guys” now and then, but Danny is usually the exception because the two share a mutual respect and friendship. Though they disagree, Danny doesn’t try to bully Flack into seeing his side of things, or condescend because he has forensics on his side. Then again, Danny is certainly one who believes in gut feelings and instincts, so he’d hardly be one to take Flack to task for relying on his.

Adam provides some laugh-out-loud comic relief when he “faces off” against the pig cadaver in the lab, quoting Taxi Driver with a low voiced, “You talkin’ to me?” Of course, Mac walks by and observes Adam’s “performance” and quips that Taxi Driver is one of his favorite movies. Adam is flustered, but by now he should know that Mac is well aware of his levity in the lab, having caught him more than once. Adam’s fixation on the fibers from what the CSIs at first think is the entry wound proves to be a valuable pursuit, leading the CSIs to realize Nicky was wearing a backpack when he was shot—a detail Sam naturally left out, since said backpack contained $933 of stolen money.

Mac and Aubrey are obviously growing closer, and I have to say, I’m quite enjoying their rapport. Aubrey doesn’t feel the need to impress Mac by pretending to like his favorite pizza, but she’s definitely making an effort to get to know him. There’s something very no nonsense and upfront about Aubrey—she doesn’t mince words or give false hope, and she doesn’t downplay the seriousness of Nicky’s condition. At the end of the episode, she suggests she and Mac go to “her place” and then quickly clarifies that she means her favorite pizza place. They’re definitely in the early stages, but there seems to be a real spark there. Gary Sinise and Madchen Amick certainly have chemistry, and I hope their romance gets off the ground.

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