The team is on the hunt for evidence to link a diabolical killer to an attack on the lab that claimed a CSI’s life in the season nine premiere.
Picking up where “All Fall Down” left off, a frantic Delko tries to revive Calleigh. He carries her towards the elevator but eventually stumbles and falls, overcome by the toxin in the lab. Horatio arrives just in time, and realizing there’s something in the air, shoots out one of the windows. He and Delko are able to revive everyone but one person: Jesse Cardoza. In the morgue, a somber Dr. Loman tells Horatio that everyone in the lab would have been dead if Horatio hadn’t shot out the window. He posits that Horatio wasn’t able to revive Jesse because Jesse hit his head when he fell and may have suffered a subdural hematoma. Knowing killer Roger Starling is behind the attack, Horatio and Tripp confront him, but Starling simply promises more violence. Natalia tries to talk to Starling’s PhD student, Melissa Walls, but the young woman blows her off. Back at the lab, the team tries to link evidence from the attack to Starling. Horatio and Delko discover someone set up three canisters of Halon gas to be pumped through the air conditioning system. They trace the gas back to Dade University, where Starling was a professor, but when Delko and Ryan determine the time it was released, they realize Starling was in class when the tanks were set up, meaning he had an accomplice.
In the morgue, Walter cleans off Jesse’s face and discovers glass in his head wound. He goes back to the lab to determine what Jesse was working on before the gas was released. He finds Starling’s camera with a shattered lens and takes it to Dave Benton to recover the deleted photos from the camera. Horatio and Delko go to Melissa Walls’ apartment to question her, only to find her tied up inside with a gun pointed to her head. The gun’s trigger is attached by rope to the front door, so Horatio breaks in through a window and rescues her. Grateful for Horatio’s interference, Melissa tells him she didn’t see her attacker. The serial number on the gun is registered to Keith Garwood, a janitor at Dade University. Melissa tells Horatio that Garwood idolized Starling. Horatio and Delko chase down Garwood, who runs as soon as he sees them. They catch him, but back at the lab Calleigh finds something puzzling: the bullet from the shotgun was filled with sand rather than gunpowder. Keith refuses to talk, so Horatio turns to the “They All Fall Down” note sent to him by Starling and uncovers hieroglyphics written on invisible ink between the words. Natalia and Delko translate the hieroglyphics to “Man marks Earth ruin,” which Travers recognizes as being from a poem by Lord Byron. Piecing the quote together with other things Starling has said, Horatio concludes the killer has left a bomb on Pier 25.
Horatio and Delko rush to the pier to find a red cooler sitting unattended. After evacuating the pier, Horatio gingerly opens it… only to find it’s a fake. The bomb was a diversion to distract from Starling’s escape attempt during his transport from the police precinct to Miami West prison. Tripp, who is escorting Starling, is shocked when someone opens fire on his car. Starling escapes in the melee, just before Horatio arrives at the scene. When the team searches for Starling’s accomplice, all they find is a rigged gun. Walter and Dave Benton find the clue to Starling’s accomplice’s identity when they finally recover the pictures from Starling’s camera, which reveal him kissing Melissa Walls. Horatio pressures Melissa, telling her all the evidence points to her, and that she’ll go down for a cop’s murder alone unless she gives them Starling. Melissa agrees to make a deal, and leads Horatio to the boat Starling is planning to escape on. Starling realizes she’s wearing a wire, but is caught off guard by Horatio and Tripp, who arrest him for Jesse’s murder. The team joins Walter for a game of basketball in honor of their fallen colleague.
The Miami team bids farewell to Jesse Cardoza in the ninth season opener, which manages to be both heartrending and thrilling. I’ll say straight off the bat that I was sorry to see Jesse go; the addition of Eddie Cibrian, Omar Miller and Christian Clemenson as Jesse, Walter Simmons and Dr. Tom Loman respectively, really invigorated CSI: Miami in its eighth season. Between the new characters and a strong batch of stories, the show had a freshness it had lacked for a while, and I think season eight was by far one of Miami‘s stronger years. Jesse in particular had a compelling backstory: his wife was murdered by a suspect he was investigating, and Jesse was determined to bring the man to justice, even if it meant crossing some lines. Jesse tangled briefly with his nemesis in “L.A.”, but the storyline was decidedly unresolved. Though it’s still possible that the storyline could be continued at some point, Jesse won’t be around to see the killer, Tony Enright, brought to justice, and there’s something more than a little sad about that.
Though the return of Adam Rodriguez‘s Eric Delko to the team likely necessitated the elimination of one of the newer cast members, I can’t help but wish there’d been some sort of workaround. Jesse was certainly a character with a lot of potential, and Cibrian had a great rapport with the rest of the cast. That being said, Jesse is given one of the best send-offs of any departing CSI from any of the three shows in the form of a touching monologue from Walter, who sits by Jesse’s body in the morgue and gently washes his face. He reminds Jesse they had a basketball game that afternoon, and jokingly tells the Jesse he was going to “kick his butt.” Then Walter turns serious, telling Jesse he called his mom and that she wants him back in California. Walter vows he’s going to make that happen, and he tells Jesse he’s going to miss him. Miller handles the material masterfully, conveying Walter’s heartbreak over his friend’s death with a beautiful, moving sense of sorrow.
Eva La Rue also gives a powerful and moving performance when Natalia tries to revive Jesse and realizes he isn’t waking up. Her heartrending shock makes the loss of Jesse immediately palpable to the audience, and gives the scene a great deal of emotional weight. Over the course of season eight, Natalia and Jesse grew fairly close. Natalia developed a crush on the handsome CSI, and it seemed like he might be moving towards reciprocating, though he was very obviously still grieving over the loss of his wife. After Jesse stood her up in “Kill Clause” while pursuing what he hoped would be a lead in his wife’s murder, their flirtation hit a stumbling block, but it’s easy to see how something might have developed between the two characters down the road.
Much as I like Delko, and enjoy his romance with Calleigh and his friendly rivalry with Ryan, I am a little disappointed his return to the show full time was at the expense of a new character, and I wonder if the show will feel as fresh and rejuvenated this season as it did last if the focus is going to shift back to Horatio and Delko out on the hunt while the other characters are mostly relegated to lab duty. Save for a few instances here and there, Horatio has never regained the empathy and down-to-earth attitude that made him such an appealing character in the show’s early seasons. I miss the Horatio who used to sit with his team and go over evidence with them. Though we saw that happen a few times last season, in this episode Horatio can’t even be bothered to pick up a book of hieroglyphics to help out Natalia and Delko, who are poring over the books in hopes of finding hieroglyphics that match the ones on the card sent by Starling to Horatio. The computers are down, making the search more time consuming and tedious than it otherwise would have been, but Horatio simply stands by while Natalia and Delko do all of the work! The scene only serves to make him seem more removed from those he works with.
The team is certainly up against one of the most fascinating and creepy villains they’ve ever come across: devious, homicidal mastermind Roger Starling. Played with a sinister menace by Roger Bart, Starling’s disillusionment after not getting tenure at his university gives way to a full out homicidal mania. Sure, he’s an over-the-top villain in pure Miami style, but the creativity put into Starling’s evil acts definitely keeps the CSIs on their toes—and the audience completely engaged. As Starling’s equally deviant PhD student and lover Melissa Walls, Kristen Hager is every bit as compelling as Bart. Though I had my suspicions about Melissa when Horatio managed to rescue her from Starling’s supposed murder attempt, Hager was incredibly convincing when Melissa tearfully thanked Horatio for saving her, despite her unwillingness to help the CSIs. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of this sociopathic duo.
The episode ends on a touching note, with Walter on the basketball court alone, keeping his appointment to meet Jesse. He plays a solitary game until the rest of the team shows up to join him. Though Horatio’s line, “This is for Jesse” as he shoots a basket is cringe-worthy cheese, it’s always fun to see the team in action together. Ryan immediately opts to be on Walter’s team, a nod to the strong friendship that has built up between the two over the course of the last season. Delko naturally passes the ball to Horatio, who of course goes on to make a perfect basket after uttering the aforementioned line. The team must go on, as will the show, but I have a feeling the loss of Jesse Cardoza will be felt for some time.