Review: CSI: New York–‘Scared Stiff’

The CSIs tackle a case in which a woman is found in Central Park, appearing to have been frightened to death.


In the morgue, Sid shows Mac the body of a girl in a white dress who died sitting up, arms curled to her chest. Mac notes that the girl was found by a tree in Central Park, and Sid opines that unofficially, it looks like she was scared to death. Sid shows Mac that there’s petichial hemorrhaging in the girl’s eyes, but no signs of strangulation, and though he finds mild cyanosis in her nails, he discovers no evidence she was smothered. He notes a rash behind her ear, and points out that the white dress she’s wearing is old fashioned, indicating her killer may have dressed her. Jo, Hawkes, and Flack canvas the area where the girl was discovered, but find only her footprints, and no sign of a struggle. Hawkes notes that Central Park is rumored to be haunted, and shares some ghost stories with his colleagues. Adam finds a yellow powder on the back of the dress, which Lindsay determines is from someone grabbing the back of it. With a thunderstorm on the way, the CSIs scour Central Park in search of more evidence. Lindsay catches a glimpse of two ghosts skating on the lake, while Mac encounters a man who is most certainly not a ghost exhuming a woman’s body. The man runs off, leaving the body behind… just as the rain starts to pour down. Jo looks at the body and estimates the woman was in her 20s or 30s and has been dead about two weeks from the amount of decomposition.

Hawkes brings Declan “Sully” Sullivan, a ghost hunter who films documentaries about the supernatural world, to the precinct to consult on the case. When Sully tells Hawkes, Flack and Lindsay that he uses sulphur to form a protective circle around the area he stands in before he starts filming, Lindsay realizes it was Sully who grabbed the girl in the park. He admits that he did, telling the CSIs she ran into him and that he was trying to help her, but she just ran off. Sid surprises Mac when he tells him that the second woman appears to have died in 1995; salt from the park appears to have delayed decomposition. The second woman was apparently bludgeoned and stabbed to death, and the CSIs can find no link between them other than that both of their bodies were found in the park. Jo, Hawkes and Adams view Sully’s video and of the night the first victim died, and they find the woman was running from the 72nd Street entrance. Sid discovers the woman died from nitrous oxide poisoning; the gas reacted badly with her anti-depressants. Jo realizes the woman was likely hallucinating before she died. Sid shows Jo bruises under the woman’s arms that rose to the surface. Sid notes that someone must have moved her shortly before her death, likely when she was unconscious. Jo notes that while the woman wasn’t sexually assaulted, she was likely redressed, and she wonders if the man may have left prints behind. Using superglue, Jo and Sid recover prints from under the woman’s armpits. Hawkes gets an ID on the first woman: Isabel Wilde, a fifth grade teacher, but blood trace found on her is a match to a man who died five years ago. Lindsay discovers trace in Isabel’s hair is mortician’s make-up, leading the CSIs to wonder if Isabel was in a morgue before her death.

Sid IDs the second victim as Ronnie Parker—the sister of Chief Ted Carver. Mac tells Carver of his sister’s fate, and the police chief tells Mac that he assumed Ronnie had just disappeared again, something she had a habit of doing. Ronnie disappeared one day, and Carver and his wife took her kids in. Mac vows to find Ronnie’s killer. Flack finds that Sprouse Funeral Home is near Central Park, not far from the location where Isabel ran into the park. Flack, Jo, Lindsay and Hawkes go to the funeral home and find an eerie setup in the basement, complete with nitrous oxide tanks and a mortuary table. Jo finds blonde hair on the table, while Lindsay discovers vintage dresses and a drawer full of women’s purses. The team realizes the owner of the funeral parlor was using nitrous oxide to incapacitate women and control them once they were unconscious, redressing and putting make up on them. Back at the lab, Danny tells Mac that Ronnie Parker’s credit cards are still being used, prompting Mac, joined by Chief Carver, to visit the apartment rented by the person using the cards. When they enter the apartment, no one is there—but a DVD still playing indicates someone was just at the apartment, leaving Mac to suspect the woman knew they were coming. Gordon Sprouse is arrested for Isabel’s murder, but the creepy funeral home proprietor tells Flack and Hawkes that he drugs girls and plays with them—but doesn’t murder them. He says Isabel woke up and ran off. Jo culls through the purses and contacts the women Gordon drugged and dressed up, while Mac is becoming suspicious of Chief Carver….


This year’s Halloween episode comes late to CSI: NY, airing a few weeks after the October holiday. Because of that, it’s a little less forgivable for the show to feature one of the CSIs actually seeing two ghosts skating on a lake in Central Park. A little bit of fanciful play or lore—such as Hawkes’ mention of the ghosts rumored to haunt Central Park—is fun and easy to swallow, but seeing two ghosts that are never explained by science is a bit of a stretch for a franchise that prides itself on being science-based. The zombie in CSI: NY‘s season four entry “Boo” was the focus of one of the two cases in the episode, but his condition was neatly explained by science. The same is true of the girl in this episode who is “scared to death”: she died from a bad chemical reaction between two drugs in her system rather than actual terror. The hallucinations that caused Isabel to frantically flee the funeral home are explained by the gas itself as well. But there’s no explaining those ghosts Lindsay sees, and they feel a bit silly and out of place in the episode.

I was a little surprised that the grounded Hawkes was the character chosen to relay the ghost stories, given that he seems one of the least likely among the CSIs to believe in ghost stories. Indeed, after Jo shares a personal story with him about a time she believes she saw a ghost, Hawkes makes sure to emphasize, “I didn’t say I believed in ghosts.” For a non-believer, he sure knows a lot of stories, sharing with Jo and Flack some of the more famous Central Park ghost sightings, including the two figure-skating sisters that Lindsay catches a glimpse of. Though it’s somewhat of a surprise that Hawkes would pay any heed to ghost stories, it’s always nice to see the under-utilized character get something to work with, and Hill Harper gives Hawkes a charming enthusiastic energy when he talks about the stories.

I wouldn’t have been surprised had Lindsay offered her opinion on ghosts; of the CSIs, she’s one of the more fanciful ones, and back in season two’s “Cool Hunter” she entertained the idea that a building in which a victim had died was cursed. It probably would have been a better use of the character than to have her deliver the clunker of a line, “I’m smart. I’m really smart,” to the ghost hunting Sully, who seems about as guilty as some of the other suspects at whom Lindsay has inaccurately leveled accusations. I’m not sure whether it’s the line or not, but it’s one Anna Belknap should not have been given, because she’s never so grating as she is when she’s acting smug and self-righteous. Another character might have delivered the line with a little sass or charm, but not Belknap, and it makes the character come off as annoyingly arrogant.

Flack is none too thrilled to be out hunting for evidence in Central Park at night, a gripe he shares with an unsympathetic Danny, who scoffs at Flack’s worries about both poison ivy and spiders. First Danny tells the detective he’d “laugh my ass off” if the branches Flack was pushing aside turned out to be poison ivy, and then he makes fun of Flack’s concern about black widow spiders, asking, “What are you, a science guy now?” before going on to say that the black widow’s bite is rarely fatal. Danny has always enjoyed giving Flack a hard time, but his comments come across as frankly a bit nasty here. Danny has lost a lot of his edge and sense of fun since being yoked to Lindsay, and there’s something a bit off about his attitude in this scene. Sure, Danny has always enjoyed teasing Flack, but he’s never been outright mean about it the way he is here.

Flack is understandably irritated by Danny’s attitude. Though he takes it in stride for a while, by the time Danny opines, “The girl died of suffocation, not an itty bitty scary spider,” Flack has had it. “Just bag the evidence,” he replies, a definite chill in his voice. Flack has shown endless amounts of patience with Danny in the past, but it’s no wonder that he’s at the end of his rope here. Danny’s uncharacteristically cutting comments would probably get under anyone’s skin, and though Flack can be pretty easy-going, he doesn’t appreciate attitude. The scene just strikes the wrong notes, and the characters come off as antagonistic to each other, something they’ve never been before. Hopefully the writers can get the dynamic between Flack and Danny back on track, because it’s always been one of the most enjoyable ones in the show.

There’s nothing off about Flack himself, and it’s gratifying to see him show some real fire in the interrogation scene with the decidedly creepy Gordon Sprouse. Under Marshall Adams‘ direction, Eddie Cahill and Hill Harper inject such intensity into their delivery that the scene feels like it’s been lifted from a cop drama much grittier than CSI: NY usually is. Gordon is completely unrepentant, and both Flack and Hawkes are frustrated and disgusted by his nonchalance. “I know a freak when I see one,” Flack snarls, while Hawkes opines that the only difference between Gordon and a murderer is that murderers wait until their victims are dead before putting them on a slab. It’s a fierce interrogation with a lot of energy, and makes for an exciting end to the episode.

Chief Carver, set up as an opponent for Mac in “Hide Sight” is now predictably being set up as a villain, at least if the thrust of the storyline involving him isn’t misleading. Carver’s estranged sister, missing for fifteen years, turns up dead, and Carver hems and haws a bit about having lost touch with her and assuming she was dead. Then he conveniently shows up at the apartment Mac has traced the person using her credit card to, with a weak excuse about staying on top of the case. The person renting the apartment has conveniently fled, making it look like Carver tipped her off. Mac is already suspicious by the end of the episode, and the preview for the following entry makes it appear that Mac has become pretty certain that Carver has a hand in his sister’s death. I hope he’s wrong, because it seems like a waste of a storyline and John Laroquette‘s talent to write Carver off as yet another powerful villain who is simply around for Mac to knock down, a la Gerrard and Sinclair. What would be much, much more interesting would be if Mac is wrong about Carver, and suffers the consequences of going after a superior. I have a feeling that won’t be the case, but I think it would be much more interesting than seeing Mac be right once again about one of his more politically savvy superiors.

Source: "Scared Stiff"

Kristine Huntley


Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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