Review: CSI: Miami–‘Sudden Death’

A college football star flees the scene of a murder at a posh Miami club.

Synopsis:

Brady Jensen, a college football star being courted by agents, flees from the Dorset Club the morning after a night of partying—which left bottle girl Kristen Banks dead. After Brady flees from Delko and Ryan, Horatio catches him and arrests him. Brady insists he’s innocent, but Delko tells him innocent men don’t flee the scene of a crime. Dr. Victoria Mercier, filling in for Dr. Loman, recovers Kristen’s body from the club pool, while Walter discovers the girl’s cell phone stuck in a pool drain. Natalia is able to dry it off and sees Kristen’s last call was to a fellow bottle girl named Sara Walker. Horatio questions Sara, a single mom, who tells him Kristen wanted to stay with Brady in the cabana and asked Sarah to cover her tables. In the morgue, Dr. Mercier determines Kristen didn’t drown in the pool; her lungs were filled with alcohol. Dr. Mercier shows Delko and Ryan that one of Kristen’s teeth was chipped, indicating the alcohol was forced on her. Ryan and Natalia examine Brady but find no evidence of alcohol runoff on him. Calleigh is able to recover the last text Kristen sent from her phone to her boss, Amanda Calaveras, saying, “I’m not doing this anymore. It’s not right.” Amanda insists to Horatio that she never forced Kristen to do anything and posits that maybe the girl was tired of pushing top shelf liquor onto high-end clients. She presses Horatio about reopening the bar, but he tells her it won’t happen until he finds out who killed Kristen.

Michael Travers is able to identify the champagne that killed Kristen as a 1957 vintage, and Ryan traces the bottle through the bar system to a patron named Richard Ellison, who ordered the bottle at 11:57am the night before. Horatio goes to Ellison’s boat and asks for the jacket that he was wearing that night, but Ellison tells the CSI it’s at the dry cleaners. Horatio is surprised to find Sara serving Ellison and his clients on the boat, but she tells him her job is a 24-hour one and brushes off Horatio’s offers of help. When they’re unable to find any champagne castoff on the cabana beds by the pool, Delko and Natalia test another theory: that Kristen died due to delayed drowning, meaning she didn’t die for several hours after having the champagne forced down her throat. Newswoman Erica Sikes offers Ryan a scoop: someone is shopping a photograph of Brady’s arm by Kristen’s body in the cabana. Horatio questions Brady and his new agent, Chip Ford, and learns that Brady woke up to find Kristen dead, and that Chip persuaded him to cover it up. Chip is the one who tossed Kristen’s body in the pool, and Horatio arrests him for the act. In the morgue, Dr. Mercier recovers a piece of gold confetti from Kristen’s lungs, as well as part of her chipped tooth. After learning from Amanda that the confetti drop in the club occurs at midnight, Delko determines that this is when the champagne was poured down Kristen’s throat.

Ryan and Dave Benton determine the height of the person that took the photo of Brady and Kristen, which leads them to Sara. She admits to Horatio that Amanda forced her to take the picture, but that she had no idea Kristen was dead. Horatio goes to the club and forces Amanda to turn on the confetti machine, and the team learns that the gold confetti was released near Richard Ellison’s table. Tripp, Delko and Walter go to Ellison’s boat and find the jacket that was supposedly taken to the dry cleaners. Delko arrests Ellison, and in the lab he finds confetti on Ellison’s jacket—as well as the missing part of Kristen’s tooth in his pocket. When Horatio confronts him, Ellison claims he got angry after Kristen said she wouldn’t be his bottle girl anymore. He’s shocked that the champagne killed her, but is more concerned about possible jail time than Kristen’s fate. Brady is released, and when he’s cornered by Erica Sikes, he calls her a jackal for buying the picture of him and Kristen. In the locker room, Calleigh bids Eric goodnight, telling him they’ll always be friends and that she thinks of him like family. Horatio buys Sara and her young son a ticket to go home to see her family, and she thanks him.

Analysis:

After the tragic death of Jesse Cardoza in the season opener, it’s back to business as usual for CSI: Miami, with a flashy case about evil rich people and the struggling repressed people they push around. The trope of Horatio helping out a suffering single mother/damsel-in-distress has become incredibly overused throughout the course of the series. Sometimes it works well, and serves to humanize the increasingly remote Horatio, but here it feels like a stretch. Sara’s frantic attitude made me think her son was in danger, and while she certainly seemed put upon by her job, she was hardly a victimized damsel-in-distress. Amanda seemed like a terrible boss, but she wasn’t holding Sara’s kid hostage. Horatio’s solution to send Sara on a trip to see her family seems a bit overboard. It’s a nice gesture, sure, but is he going to do something similar for every struggling single mom in a crappy job he comes across? Horatio would be a much more relatable character if he interacted with his team on a deeper level rather than a random guest star of the week. As cheesy as Horatio’s “This is for Jesse” line was at the end of “Fallen” before he threw the basketball, at least it gave him a nice moment with his team.

Horatio’s gesture might have had more meaning had it felt like Sara was in actual jeopardy, but aside from Richard Ellison being a jerk to her, she just doesn’t seem to be in the same category as some of the other people who have benefitted from Horatio’s compassion. Richard Ellison’s guilt is obvious from the moment it’s revealed that the champagne Kristen drank was his, but the episode dithers around a bit trying half-heartedly to cast suspicion on Brady, his sleazy agent, Amanda and even Sara. James Frain actually manages to make the arrogant Ellison somewhat sympathetic when he reacts with genuine surprise upon learning his act of forcing the champagne down Kristen’s throat was actually the thing that killed her. Chalk it up to the skilled Frain’s performance since the character of Ellison is little more than a walking cliche. Peta Wilson also shines in her brief scenes as the cutthroat Amanda, who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her club on top. Brady Jensen never really seems to be a viable suspect; though as Delko points out, he looks guilty because he ran, he otherwise seems to be a victim of that oft-used storyline in which a person wakes up after a night of passion to find his or her partner dead.

The state of Eric and Calleigh’s relationship is revealed in this episode, much to the disappointment of viewers who liked the pairing. After they apparently weathered her mistakenly firing at him in “Seeing Red” and his departure from the lab in season eight, the pair now seem to have broken up. The audience is offered no explanation; indeed, we’re cheated out of any dramatic twist or tension that a break up would provide. Not only has the break up happened off screen, but Eric and Calleigh have apparently both gotten to the point where they can be civil and comfortable with each other. Given that this is one episode after the premiere—when Delko raced into the lab to revive Calleigh and staggered towards the elevator in an attempt to save her, it makes even less sense. It’s possible some time passed between this premiere and this episode, but there’s no indication that it has, and even so, the choice to have the couple break up off screen for no reason that’s shared with the audience is baffling. After so much build up to this pairing, the romance itself has been handled awkwardly and unnaturally, and the writers didn’t seem to know what to do with the couple: whether to go full steam ahead or put the breaks on. A decision should have been made and pursued, rather than this frustrating waffling back and forth. Hopefully in the coming weeks we’ll learn the reasons behind the break up, and when it actually happened.

The episode does offer up a face from the past: newswoman Erica Sikes, who spent a fair amount of time trying to get information out of Ryan during the show’s early seasons, is back for more of the same—and also to share a lead with Ryan. Erica is an interestingly nebulous character: on one hand, she does come to Ryan with the picture of Kristen and Brady, rather than just buying it and putting it on the news. But on the other, she does end up purchasing the picture and going ahead with the story, prompting Brady to call her a “jackal,” an epithet the audience doesn’t necessarily disagree with. Ryan does laugh when Erica is rendered speechless by Brady’s comment, but then, when she first showed up at the lab, his face lit up and he seemed genuinely happy to see her. Ryan’s feelings about Erica are likely as mixed as the audience’s, but it’s nice to see her back to shake things up a bit.

There’s another familiar face on the show: fans of the original CSI will recognize the new coroner, Dr. Victoria Mercier, as Meta Golding, who played Warrick’s wife Tina in CSI‘s sixth season. Mercier is filling in for Dr. Loman, who hopefully isn’t taking a long hiatus. Miami has gone through a few coroners since the departure of Alexx Woods, and while Mercier makes a good impression in her first appearance, it was nice having a regular coroner in season eight. Loman’s quirks make him a fun character to watch, and he, like the sharp and witty Walter, is a nice contrast to the more straightforward Miami team. Of all the CSI shows, Miami tends to be the least quirky and eccentric, two qualities that really enhance the other two shows. I hope Dr. Loman’s absences are infrequent.

Source: "Sudden Death"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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