July 20 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: New York–‘Shop Till You Drop’

7 min read

Mac and Jo work to find out who killed a department store manager during the holiday season.


Mac and Jo are watching the unveiling of Stonefield’s department store holiday window when Mac catches sight of a pickpocket. Mac and Jo apprehend the man, but their attention is diverted when the holiday window display reveals the body of a man. He’s identified as Richard Grossman, the store’s general manager, and Hawkes determines he was killed less than an hour ago by a blow to the head. Jo and Danny follow a trail of bloody footprints to a makeup counter in the store. The woman working at the counter, Tracy Parker, says the counter was so busy that she didn’t see anything, and Jo notes that her shoes don’t match the prints on the floor. Jo notices blood on the cotton ball dispenser, and, positing the killer was wounded, she and Danny go into the women’s bathroom, where they find bloody cotton balls in the trash. Mac and Flack question the pickpocket, Howie, who had blood on the arm of his jacket that matched the victim. Howie denies any part in the murder, claiming that he bumped into a woman in the store. Jo and Danny view surveillance footage from the store and Jo recognizes the woman Howie bumped into as a woman she saw just before she and Mac went to Stonefield’s. Jo goes back to the park and is surprised to find the woman still there.

The woman turns out to be Alena Maybrook, an assistant manager at Stonefield’s. Jo questions Alena, but the young woman doesn’t speak at all. Flack pulls Jo out of the interrogation to tell her that Alena cleared out her bank account several weeks ago and bought a ticket to Aruba. Coupled with the fact that Alena’s blood was found at the scene, the evidence makes it look like Alena murdered Grossman—and that it was premeditated. Adam determines that a white model tree branch was the murder weapon, while Danny matches skin cells on broken blue glass to a the window designer, Pascal Denton, who also happened to be engaged to Alena. When Danny and Flack track Pascal down, the man tells them that Alena ended their engagement six months ago—and that Grossman and he fought over the window design. Pascal insists he didn’t kill Grossman, and the evidence backs him up. What’s more, Sid finds scratches and bite marks on Grossman that indicates he attacked a woman shortly before his death. Jo uncovers multiple harassment charges against Grossman, and tries to get Alena to admit she was attacked by Grossman. Alena continues to be incommunicative, and without further evidence, the CSIs are forced to release her. Lindsay finds Alena’s hours went from forty to seventy recently, and Jo speaks to Tracy, who was one of the people who complained about Grossman. Tracy tells her that Alena was nothing but supportive, even offering to close up and balance the register so she could leave early to put her kids to bed.

Adam shows Mac that a USB drive recovered from the scene belonged to a high definition camera, and Mac and Flack return to the area outside the store to find Howie’s bag after Mac recalls Howie holding the camera. They recover the bag, but find it completely waterlogged. Adam is able to recover footage from the memory card, which reveals Alena stealing cash from multiple registers. Jo notes that because Alena stole less than $10 from each register, the store would have assumed it was a miscalculation and declared it an acceptable loss. Lindsay shares some surprising news with Mac and Jo: an analysis of Alena’s blood revealed that she has a fatal type of lymphoma. Jo meets with Alena at the playground where she first saw her and learns that Alena discovered her diagnosis and started stealing from the registers to help out employees laid off by the store. Grossman caught her and blackmailed her for sex; when she decided to cut him off, he tried to force the issue and she fought back, killing him. Jo turns the case over to the robbery division, but Mac notes that Alena might be dead by the time they decide to take a look at it.


CSI: NY gets into the holiday spirit by having Mac Taylor doing the last thing viewers ever thought they’d see him doing: going shopping. Jo has somehow managed the impossible, and even Mac seems surprised, grumbling, “I can’t believe you talked me into shopping.” Indeed, Mac seems an unlikely shopping companion, but naturally he manages to turn the excursion to something more to his liking when he spots a pickpocket working the crowd in front of Stonefield’s, and, much to Jo’s dismay, takes off after him. Jo helps Mac corner the pickpocket, and hopes that will be the end of it. As she and Mac watch the window unveiling, Jo murmurs, “Isn’t it impressive?” but it’s the pickpocket, rather than Mac, who answers with a breathy, “Yeah.” Jo snaps, “I wasn’t talking to you,” but when the window display is revealed, she’s as distracted as Mac, who proves his point about shopping when the body of Richard Grossman is revealed. “See why I hate shopping?” Mac asks, clearly feeling vindicated.

The scene is indicative of how Sela Ward‘s sassy, sharp Jo has helped reinvigorate the series in its seventh season. Not all new cast additions are good—Lindsay was a woefully poor replacement for the lively, vibrant Aiden in season two—but Ward has stepped into the second-in-command role deftly, bringing a very different element to the show than Melina Kanakaredes did, but one that is welcome rather than awkward. Ward’s Jo sparkles—she clearly has a passion for what she does, and she’s a nice contrast to the dour Mac, who more often than not doesn’t know how to let loose and have a little fun. Mac is probably the type who either does all his Christmas shopping online, or in one fell swoop a few days before the holidays. Jo seems to be adding a little more joy to Mac’s life, and consequently, the show.

The episode highlights Jo’s compassion; she clearly feels for Alena at every stage of the case, even before she has the whole picture of what was going on at Stonefield’s. She recognizes that Alena acted in self-defense, and doesn’t condemn the young woman for her altruistic acts, however misguided they may have been. What would be the point? Alena is dying, and throwing her in jail for the last few months of her life for a theft that she didn’t even benefit from seems a bit… miserly, for lack of a better word. While Jo—and the show—don’t outright condone Alena’s actions, it’s clear where the writers’ sympathies lie.

Danny gets a few humorous moments in the episode, a welcome change from the recent underutilization of the character. Since being married to Lindsay, Danny’s outlandish, humorous behavior has been cut down to a minimum, but here he snatches a free “body beauty” gift away from Jo, claiming he wants it for “the girls,” meaning Lindsay and his daughter Lucy. But even funnier is the bet Danny and Flack have going—they apparently owe each other a hundred bucks every time a suspect insists he “didn’t do anything.” The two bump fists over Pascal, telling the designer that they’re up to 2.5 million. Obviously—and not very surprisingly—Danny and Flack run into plenty of people who proclaim their innocence.

Howie the pickpocket also provides some humor when Mac and Flack question him. That both detectives disdain the repeat offender isn’t exactly a shocker, but Howie offers up a defense based on the law, much to Mac and Flack’s amusement. When Howie points out that Mac didn’t recover the goods he apparently stole and therefore can’t hold him, Mac points out that he witnessed Howie’s thefts firsthand, and going up against Howie is a chance he’s willing to take. Flack, as he so often is when confronted by absurd criminals, is completely amused.

This episode marks a milestone for CSI: NY: 150 episodes. The show has certainly been through a lot of changes this season: not only has it weathered a move to Friday, but it’s also replaced a major character. The show’s ratings are strong for Friday nights, and Sela Ward has proved to be a great addition to the cast. CSI: NY is still going strong, and the show feels fresher in its seventh season than it has in quite a while. Now paired with Blue Bloods, another cop drama set in New York City, the show will hopefully live on for quite some time on its new night.

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