Review: CSI: Miami–‘Reality Kills’

When a reality star dies at a season premiere party, her co-stars become the prime suspects.

Synopsis:

A season premiere party to welcome the show The Burroughs to Miami ends in tragedy when one of the young Brooklynite stars, Courtney Alderman, stumbles onto the stage and plummets off it, dead, when a man apparently fires a gun at her from the audience. Delko chases the man, who runs until he’s bodily stopped by Horatio’s Hummer. The man, Wayne Bullock, shows Horatio he was shooting red pellets, not bullets: Courtney had a line of hair care products that were tested on animals. Bullock planned to fire at her for promoting her products, but he didn’t get a chance. In the morgue, Dr. Loman confirms that Courtney wasn’t shot; he and Calleigh find she was stabbed in the ear with a sharp instrument, which penetrated her brain and killed her within a minute. Just prior to her death, Courtney was in the Green Room with her cast mates, so the CSIs examine Shea, Gabe and Zach. All three have potential murder weapons, from knives to nail files to combs, on them, and many clashed with Courtney on screen. The cast causes a stir when they exit the police station, and one man runs up and punches Gabe in the face. Ryan and Delko chase the man down and find his name is Dan Wilson. Dan claims Gabe sold his brother, Tyler, bad drugs the night before. Tyler is now in the hospital, and the doctors don’t know if they can save him because they don’t know what kind of drug he took.

The CSIs rule out the cast’s stalkers as suspects, but are surprised to find Courtney wasn’t from Brooklyn but Connecticut, where she was a squeaky clean student in high school. Watching footage from the show, the team observes Courtney holding her stomach after hooking up with Zach “Guns.” When Calleigh and Natalia question him about hooking up with Courtney, he denies it, claiming it was all staged. Not only has Zach never had sex with Courtney, but he’s never had sex with anyone: he’s in seminary school to become a priest, and the money he’s making for the show is going to the church. Walter discovers a man from Connecticut named James Reed made multiple calls to Courtney and was staying in the same Miami hotel as Courtney and her cast mates. Ryan and Calleigh question James, who denies stalking Courtney, and shocks the CSIs by telling them Courtney was his wife. He was skeptical when he learned she was pregnant and feared the baby wasn’t his, but after he calmed down he believed her reassurances that the baby was indeed his. James says they’d agreed that she would leave the show. Natalia and Walter go back to the Green Room to search for the murder weapon. Walter notices the ice sculpture of the Statue of Liberty is missing a lower spike. Though the weapon seems to have melted, the pair takes the sculpture back to the lab to search it for evidence.

Delko and Horatio put pressure on Gabe to get him to give up the dealer who gave him the drugs he sold to Tyler. He finally shares a name: Hannah Beckstrom. Horatio and Delko question Hannah, who denies dealing drugs until they find pot in her purse. She tells the detectives the name of the location where she picks up the drugs, a local restaurant. Horatio and Tripp find the restaurant’s proprietor, Arthur Martinez, at his establishment and immediately become suspicious of him. The man is evasive with them, and Horatio pulls out a machine gun and fires at the ceiling, causing a white powder to come falling to the floor. Horatio rushes a sample to the hospital, allowing the doctors to identify the substance and save Tyler’s life just in time. Natalia and Ryan go over the ice sculpture, and though they don’t find any prints or DNA, they do discover traces of glitter that Natalia recognizes as an ingredient in Shea’s line of self-tanner. Natalia and Ryan go to arrest the girl on camera and Shay, whose real name is Elizabeth and who has a degree from MIT, learned Courtney was leaving the show and, fearing she would have to go back to her solitary existence, stabbed Courtney in a fit of rage. Shea is arrested for Courtney’s murder. Dan Wilson thanks Horatio for saving his brother and is happily reunited with him.

Analysis:

“Reality Kills” is an interesting mix of a rather sharp parody of the MTV reality hit Jersey Shore and a somewhat unintentional parody of CSI: Miami itself, taking some of the show’s hallmarks a bit too far. This is the second episode this season (after “Sudden Death”) to open with Delko in pursuit of a suspect who is eventually stopped by Horatio. In “Sudden Death,” Horatio showed up out of nowhere to corner the suspect; here, he literally drives his Hummer into the guy! If that wasn’t bad enough, when Horatio emerges from the vehicle, he looks down at the suspect and utters the truly cringe-worthy line, “These parking lots can be active.” Yes, Miami has come to embrace the fact that Horatio’s one-liners are something of a cheesy staple of the show, but this one is just atrocious. Yes, Horatio is the show’s hero, but to have him miraculously show up every time one of his CSIs is engaged in a long pursuit to save the day, brandishing either a gun or a Hummer, robs the other characters of their heroic moments, and also takes all the excitement out of the chase scenes. Watching the scene, I was expecting Horatio to come out of nowhere and stop the guy; granted, I wasn’t predicting he’d do it using his Hummer, but it’s still not something the show wants to set up as something that happens so frequently that the audience starts to anticipate it.

Bad as that sequence is, it’s nothing compared to watching Horatio pull out a machine gun and shoot up the ceiling of a restaurant to reveal the owner is storing drugs in the ceiling. The whole thing is just absurd beyond belief: why would Horatio take a machine gun—as opposed to his standard issue gun—to question a restaurant owner? Horatio has never even brandished a machine gun when walking into a gang lair. His reasoning for guessing the restaurant is a front for mass producing drugs is sound, but how he would know the drugs were in the ceiling is beyond me. Martinez points out that Horatio doesn’t have a warrant, and I can’t imagine that if he’s not allowed to search the premises, it would be just fine for him to shoot holes in the ceiling! Presumably Horatio’s priority is to discover the drugs so that he can save Tyler’s life, but the whole scene is just preposterous.

The absurdities with Horatio distract from what otherwise is a pretty good episode, centered around a pretty sharp send-up of the Jersey Shore cast. The cast of The Boroughs gets up to some pretty crazy antics—at least on screen. Off screen, three out of the four cast members are not what they seem. Only Gabe, who deals drugs in a trendy Miami club, appears to live up to his seedy show persona; the others prove to be quite different from who they are on screen. Courtney was a homecoming queen and president of the drama club, while Shea’s heavy accent proves to be as fake as her tan: she’s actually a studious MIT graduate. But it’s Zach whose real story is the biggest surprise; rather than being the group’s biggest player, he’s not only a virgin, but he’s in seminary school to become a priest. Zach is so pious that the money he’s making from the show is going to his church rather than his own pocket. The idea that Snookie and The Situation might be closet scholars is definitely worth a laugh.

At the end of the day, though, Shea’s motive for stabbing Courtney is awfully weak: Shea doesn’t want Courtney to leave the show, so… she kills her? Given that Shea is actually not unintelligent, that doesn’t really seem like a very smart move. Had Shea come off as more calculating—say, had she thought in the moment that Courtney’s death would garner better ratings or extend the show while her cast mates reacted to her murder—it would have made a lot more sense, but it seems like these things didn’t occur to Shea; she was simply acting out of rage over Courtney’s plan to quit the show. The motivation just feels weak, given that the scene in which Ryan and Natalia confront Shea emphasizes that Shea is smart. It’s a no-brainer that killing Courtney accomplishes the same thing as Courtney leaving the show.

Ryan gets poked fun of more than a little for being a bit too familiar with the cast of The Boroughs. It’s not surprising that Ryan is the big reality TV fan; more often than not, he (or Walter) is usually tasked with providing the comic relief in the show. Ryan never takes being teased very well, so it always elicits a chuckle when the other characters have a little fun at his expense. Rather than offering laughs this time around, Walter proves to have some useful information about the Statue of Liberty, namely about the presence of an eighth spike beneath the torch. Walter’s knowledge allows him and Natalia to realize that the missing spike was used as the murder weapon, and that the ice sculpture is their best bet to find evidence.

Despite the outlandishness of the Hummer takedown and the machine gun, Horatio is given a nice storyline with Dan Wilson and his ailing brother Tyler. It’s no surprise that Horatio takes a personal interest in Tyler’s plight after Dan tells him of the death of their parents and how Tyler has had a difficult time dealing with the loss. Horatio clearly looks at Tyler as a kid who has been dealt a major blow and now is in jeopardy of losing his life thanks to one misstep. Horatio makes it his mission to find the person that made the drugs that made Tyler sick so that the doctors can save the boy. Sure, it’s a bit heavy-handed, but David Caruso more often than not shines in the scenes where he’s trying to help someone out, and it gives Horatio a chance to do something he does all too infrequently these days: connect with the people around him.

Source: "Reality Kills"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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