Retro Review: CSI: Miami–‘Losing Face’

CSI Files kicks off a summer of retro reviews with the second episode of ‘CSI: Miami”s first season, which finds Horatio investigating the death of his mentor.

With the CSI franchise in reruns for the summer, CSI Files is taking the opportunity to go back to the beginning, offering reviews of episodes from the early seasons of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami, many of which aired before the site’s 2003 founding! The retro reviews will run for the duration of the summer until new episodes of the franchise start to air in the fall.

Synopsis:

Horatio is crushed when his former mentor, Al Humphries, is killed while trying to disarm a necklace bomb placed around the neck of Colombian importer Aurelio Moreno. Determined to track down the bomber, Horatio has his team scour Moreno’s house, looking for the remains of the bomb. Calleigh finds a mesh material she identifies as French lace, indicating the bomber gained access to the house through an unlocked window. After they fail to find the trigger among the remains in the house, Megan Donner thinks to check the boots of the firemen who responded to the call, and Horatio finds a photo cell stuck in the treads of one of the men’s boots. After discovering the paper used by the bomber for the ransom note was imported from Colombia by none other than the victim, Delko speaks with US Customs officer Charlie Berenger, who shows Delko Moreno’s wares as well as a picture of Moreno’s wife from Bogotá—who is clearly not the same woman living with Moreno. Realizing Moreno had two wives, the CSIs question his American wife, Julisa, and his Columbian wife, Lauriana, and swab both of their hands. When Lauriana’s hands pop positive for TATP, which was used in the bomb, Horatio thinks she’s the culprit, but Megan is certain the two women don’t know about each other, and notes that TATP is common ingredient in hair dye and nail polish.

Megan is proved right when a call comes in that the bomber has struck again: a businesswoman named Mara Bergos was attacked in her kitchen. Horatio joins the bomb squad and guides his former colleague, Kat, through disarming the bomb only to find it’s a fake, filled with sand and nothing more. Outside the house, Horatio spots a boy on a bike with a package, both given to him by a strange man. Using a robot called ANDROS, the bomb squad targets the detonator and disarms the bomb, but the location clues Horatio in that the actual target was the bomb squad. Megan recovers a hair from the bomber from the boy, finding it’s from a toupee. Calleigh connects the French lace from the window to the hair, noting that French lace is used in toupees. That, along with the counterfeit parts used to make the bomb and the insecticide found on it, leads Horatio to US Customs, specifically Charlie Berenger, who handled the imports of both Aurelio Moreno and Mara Bergos. Horatio confronts Charlie in the warehouse where he works and finds the customs officer wearing a necklace bomb. Bitter about being ejected from the bomb squad by Al Humphries, Charlie decided to get revenge on the squad. Horatio tricks Berenger into letting him disarm the bomb, and Charlie is arrested. At Al’s funeral, Horatio thanks Megan for her help.

Analysis:

Miami‘s second outing opens with a bang, literally, when a bomb around a man’s neck is inadvertently detonated by the bomb technician trying to remove it. That the fallen technician is Horatio’s mentor adds an emotional touchstone to the exciting entry, which ratchets up the tension to nail-biting levels in the scene in which the bomb squad arrives to disarm the bomb around the second victim’s neck. The suspense is maintained throughout the entire scene, heightened rather than dispelled when the bomb around the businesswoman’s neck proves to be a hoax. Horatio rightly realizes the real bomb is nearby, and his search for it provides thrills, in part due to David Caruso‘s performance. Caruso injects an intensity into his performance that underscores exactly what’s at stake as Horatio searches the house and then the surroundings for the bomb.

There’s a prickliness to Horatio in this episode, even before his friend is killed. When he turns down Delko’s offer of coffee while watching the news in the break room, there’s a forbidding note in his tone that stands in stark contrast to the more lighthearted interactions of the rest of the team. When Delko observes of the coffee that it will “put some hair on your chest,” Calleigh responds with a lighthearted laugh and quips, “You say the sweetest things.” The more dour Speedle comments seriously, “That stuff’s no good for you; it’ll rot your stomach,” but there’s a lighthearted familiarity and camaraderie here that Horatio stands outside of, at least in this scene, which delineates the hierarchy among the team.

While he seems to hold his team at arm’s length, Horatio feels comfortable enough to confide in Megan Donner, even though the two don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye. Though he’s taken her old job, the two seem to be of equal rank, and she feels comfortable challenging him when he discovers TATP on Lauriana’s hands and immediately concludes she’s the bomber. Megan immediately asks him how many female bombers he’s come across, and when he answers that Lauriana is the first, Megan accuses him of running roughshod over the evidence. She observed the two women waiting for the elevator and is certain they don’t know about each other. What’s more, she points out that TATP is a common ingredient in hair dyes and nail polishes. As Miami goes on, there are fewer instances of Horatio being proved wrong, so it’s nice to see that at least at the outset of the show, he wasn’t infallible.

Rather than just disproving his conclusion, Megan tries to relate to Horatio, telling him that she went through something similar when she lost her husband, Sean. They’d both responded to a call: a girl had been killed by her boyfriend. Sean had pursued the boyfriend to a nearby building and found him ready to jump. The man did jump—and he took Sean with him. Megan worked the case—something she admits to Horatio was a mistake. At the end of the episode, Megan tells Horatio she was wrong about him working the bombing case, but Horatio admits he got hung up on Moreno’s wives. Their interaction shows how important Megan’s role was in the show; her departure left Horatio without someone to counterbalance him, which is perhaps why in the ensuing seasons he became a far more remote and less believable figure than his counterparts on the other two CSI shows.

Caruso’s performance in this episode is truly impressive. The shocked look on his face after the bomb goes off in the teaser, killing both Al and Moreno, communicates the devastation and disbelief Horatio feels in that moment. The audience can feel Horatio’s pain as he raises a hand to his face and finds a streak of blood on it. His determination to find Al’s killer is evinced by his insistence on working the case, day and night. When Megan greets him with a clipped “Morning” after he’s run the trace from Moreno’s wives’ hands, it’s clear Horatio has been working all night. If the final showdown with Berenger lacks the intensity we’d expect from Horatio when he finally comes face to face with his friend’s killer, it’s because Horatio realizes disarming the bomb the man is wearing has to be his top priority. All in all, Miami’s second episode is definitely a memorable one.

Source: "Losing Face"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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