May 25 2024

CSI Files

An archive of CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds and crime drama news

Review: CSI: Miami–‘Sleepless In Miami’

7 min read

Natalia goes undercover after a man apparently murders and dismembers another man under the influence of some sort of drug.

Synopsis:

A young man named Jason Reger experiences a terrifying waking dream as he flails in the Everglades. When he becomes aware of what’s going on, he finds himself surrounded by the CSIs. Natalia tells him he called 911 to report his own murder. Horatio looks to see where Jason was digging and finds the severed head of a man in the mud. Recalling his dreams, Jason is able to lead Walter to the man’s body, which is stuffed into a trunk, and the man’s hands, which he tossed in a garbage dump incinerator. Back at the lab, Jason tells Delko he’s been off drugs for a year, and that he’s been trying to get his life back together. When Natalia attacks his story, he clams up and asks for a lawyer. Delko is frustrated with her for pushing Jason, but she tells him that her ex-husband Nick used the same defense after attacking her. She takes a hair from Jason’s victim to Travers to find out what part of the man’s body it came from. In the morgue, Dr. Loman tells Walter he hasn’t yet determined the cause of death, but he points out hesitation marks on the cuts that severed the victim’s hands. Dr. Loman removes one of the victim’s fingers and gets an ID on the man: Brandon Garrett. Horatio and Tripp pay his widow, Stacy, a visit and learn that the couple was divorcing, though the split was amicable. Stacy owns a holistic clinic business, and Horatio points out that she wasn’t happy with Brandon’s desire to take ownership of half of the business.

Ryan and Delko go to Brandon’s house and find the primary crime scene in the bathroom, which is covered in blood that someone tried to clean up. Ryan discovers a small Magic Fish with the name of a psychic, Elena Manus, written on it. Delko and Ryan question Elena, who says she’s a healer and that she gives out the Magic Fish to potential clients. She’s able to identify the owner of this Magic Fish just by touching it: Jason Reger. Jason also recognizes it as his own based on a tear in the back fin. Natalia tells him that the hair from Brandon found on him was from Brandon’s body—not his head as Jason initially claimed. Even Jason starts to wonder if he killed Brandon, but his lawyer cuts him off before he can say any more. When Walter discovers Stacy withdrew fifty thousand dollars in cash the week before, Horatio and Delko go back to Stacy’s clinic and find her in the middle of a passionate romp with one of her employees, Peter Truitt. Stacy tells Horatio that she paid the fifty grand to Elena Manus, the psychic, to do a fertility chart for her. She informs them—and a shocked Peter—that it worked and she’s four weeks pregnant. The CSIs consult on the case, positing that perhaps Elena was hired to kill Brandon. Natalia offers to go undercover as a client to see if she can glean any information. Natalia visits Elena in the guise of an unhappily married woman, and the psychic notices her hearing aid. She has Natalia lean over a candle while she speaks to her soothingly. Horatio and Ryan, listening in on the session, become concerned and burst in, only to find both Elena and Natalia gone, and a tape recorder set on repeat by the wire. Realizing Natalia’s cover was blown, they track her car to a warehouse and find her disoriented and hallucinating. When she hears Horatio and Ryan, she pulls her gun and opens fire on them, thinking they are her ex-husband, Nick. Ryan manages to tackle her and disarm her before she hurts one of them.

Natalia wakes up the hospital, surrounded by her teammates. When Ryan tells her she was drugged with Datura, Natalia realizes the same thing must have happened to Jason: he was telling the truth about his confusion and disorientation. Horatio and Walter take Jason to Elena’s home office, and he recalls their sessions, remembering the same candle Natalia leaned over in his last session. Horatio opens the candle up and finds Datura baked into it. When Horatio and Walter find the cash Jason paid Elena, they decide to stake out the office, realizing she’ll come back for the money. Walter catches her when she does return, and she’s brought back to the station. She insists to Horatio that she didn’t mean to kill Brandon, and claims that Stacy hired her to suck the life force out of him and he died. She then drugged Jason and used him to dispose of the body. Delko and Ryan share Brandon’s symptoms before he died with Dr. Loman, prompting him to go back to Brandon’s hands. He finds evidence of neurotoxin poisoning in them, and discovers a tiny injection site in one of the dead man’s hands, likely administered during a handshake, and probably so light Brandon didn’t even feel it. Horatio and Delko go back to Stacy’s clinic and accuse her of her poisoning her ex using venom from a fish from the clinic, but it is Stacy’s lover Peter who pulls a gun and confesses to the murder. He decided to rid Stacy of her ex so they could be together. Peter flees the clinic only to get hit by a truck and killed. Though Jason is being charged in connection with Brandon’s death, Natalia promises him the CSIs will be with him every step of the way, advocating for him. Horatio tells Ryan that no one can ever know Natalia fired her weapon at them—especially Natalia.

Analysis:

A visually stunning opening sets up a pretty wild episode, which includes decapitation, a psychic, a trippy hallucinogenic and a deadly neurotoxin. Miami has always had somewhat outlandish episodes, but lately the writers have done a great job of selling the premises, no matter how out there, making them entertaining rides rather than yarns that feel far-fetched and just out there. A lot of that has to do with the creative resurgence of the show, which began in earnest last season, and has carried on into this. Not only are the stories fun and clever, but the guest characters—who used to fall neatly into cliched roles, like snarling gang leader or haughty rich suspect—are being developed with far more depth. They’ve become people we actually care about, with real layers, rather than simple caricatures.

Take Jason Reger, who is introduced to the audience via a powerful dream sequence that sucks the audience in right from the get-go. The imagery, including a faucet running sideways and a man with his eyes covered over by mounds of skin, is such that the audience can’t look away. Some dream sequences feel cheesy or too close to life, but not this one: it has just the right mix of the familiar and the bizarre. Later, when it’s Natalia who is dreaming, the stage for the dream is even more familiar to the audience: the CSI lab. It’s creepy to see Natalia wandering through the lab, only to encounter her ex-husband, his eyes skinned over just like Brandon’s in Jason’s vision. Kudos to director Sam Hill for pulling off such chilling imagery.

Initially, Jason looks guilty to both the audience and the CSIs, and he could have come off as simply a bumbling fool who stumbled into a bad situation and got in over his head. Instead, writer Brian Davidson gives him some depth: he’s a former drug addict making a good faith effort to get back on his feet. Throw in Sean Hatosy‘s sympathetic performance and we’re given a character we can care about. Though our sympathies naturally lie with Natalia, we can also see she’s probably not seeing the whole picture when she gets angry with Jason and accuses him of lying. Jason later accompanies Horatio and Walter to Elena’s house, revealing a sad memory that haunts him: telling his father to drop dead, and hearing a week later of his father’s death. Reveals like this make the guest characters more real, and therefore more sympathetic and memorable, to the audience.

That Natalia ends up affected as well makes for a memorable twist. She volunteers to go undercover only to be made pretty quickly by Elena, who drugs her and sends her off to likely find herself in harm’s way. Natalia, under the influence of the drug, mistakes Horatio and Ryan for her ex-husband, Nick, who was emotionally and physically abusive. Natalia aims her gun at both and fires, luckily missing the two men. Ryan takes her down after she gets off several shots, and when she wakes in the hospital all she remembers is seeing Nick. Horatio and Ryan make a pact not to ever tell anyone that Natalia fired at them… including Natalia herself. It’s moments like this—and the one in the lab where the team is discussing the case and Natalia volunteers to go undercover—that make the Miami team feel more cohesive than they did in the show’s mid-run seasons.

There’s a nod to Ryan’s troubled past here as well. When Elena touches him, she brings up his money woes and tells him something is keeping him from full prosperity, but that he’ll come into some money soon. She’s pretty spot on, so Ryan apparently follows her advice to put a little oil on his forehead, and by the end of the episode, Elena’s prophecy comes true in a somewhat surprising manner: when Ryan puts some coins in the lab coffee machine, rather than dispensing coffee, the machine churns out quarters! The shocked CSI looks at the money and muses, “No one’s going to believe this!” Alas, it probably won’t make Ryan’s fortune, but at least he’s set for a couple month’s worth of trips to the laundromat. A nice cap on a zany but thoroughly involving outing.

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