June 24 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: New York–‘Vigilante’

12 min read

A rapist is found bound and gagged like the women he attacked, and the team has to determine if one of his victims is responsible for his death.

Synopsis:

A man lurks outside a gym, watching a woman work out. When she leaves, he follows her down the street. While the man is stalking his victim, a male voice connects with a 911 operator. The voice warns that someone is about to be murdered and reveals where the body can be found. Mac and Flack arrive at the scene to find a body beaten, bound and gagged. The scene is reminiscent of the Prospect Park rapist who has been leaving victims within a mile of this location, but this time the victim is a man—and his prints match the elusive rapist. It looks like someone got revenge by attacking him with pepper spray, beating him and shooting him three times before dumping the body where he once dumped his own victims. The rapist’s victims become suspects, and the CSIs are forced to bring the women in for questioning. Lindsay speaks to Kate Price, whom she met at a support group meeting the year before. Kate says she was home alone at the time of the murder, and she doesn’t have any male friends or family members who could have killed her rapist.

The 911 call came from a disposable cellphone, and a strange extra frequency will make it difficult to isolate any background noise. The victim’s discolored tongue gives them more to go on: the strange color is caused by long-term exposure to pyrethroids in pesticides. Their John Doe worked at a pest control company, and Jo is able to locate a company that worked in the rape victims’ apartment buildings. Hudlin Exterminators identifies the rapist as Garland Clarke. The duct tape used to bind his hands was from the same roll as the tape used on the rape victims. The killer identified Garland, stalked him and killed him using his own supplies. Hawkes gets a DNA hit on a hair found on the duct tape around Garland’s wrist—it matches Kate Price’s rape kit. When the team searches Kate’s apartment, they find pictures of Garland. Lindsay tries to talk to Kate again, but Annie Cartland barges in before the interrogation can continue. She is Kate’s lawyer, and she demands to speak to her client alone. She heard about Kate being questioned through the City Victims Network and came to help.

The police locate Garland’s van and tow it to an impound lot. Danny, Flack and Hawkes go over the van and discover blood and bullet casings that prove this is their primary crime scene. Biological fluids, duct tape, scissors and locks of hair identify this as the place where Garland attacked his victims and took souvenirs. Kate’s DNA is all over the van from when she was raped, so they can’t definitively tie her to the murder using the strand of hair—it could have been on the tape since she was attacked.

The male voice makes another 911 call leading the police to a parking garage and a second victim. Craig Tomlin was released from jail several weeks ago after a 5-year stint for sexual assault. The CSIs can tell that things didn’t go according to plan with the second murder. The pepper spray didn’t work, and a void in the blood spatter indicates that someone was underneath Tomlin when he was shot in the back of the head. They’re looking for at least two suspects. A broken voice distorter at the scene was used for the 911 calls, and they are able to reverse-engineer the killer’s real voice. The caller is a woman, and Adam compares her voice to sexual assault victims who called 911. He gets a match to Heather Marist, and a special type of sport cream found on Tomlin’s clothes contains sweat that matches Heather’s DNA.

The key to identifying Heather’s accomplice is a tiny crystal found at Tomlin’s crime scene. It is tagged with microdot technology that traces back to a pair of gold earrings owned by Annie Cartland. When Kate came to the support group with pictures of Garland Clarke and said he was the Prospect Park rapist, Annie and Heather saw their chance to get back at a sexual predator. They set it up so Garland would go after Heather, and they attacked him. They went after Tomlin because Annie was the one who helped him get a measly five-year sentence while she worked as a public defender. Annie tells Mac she got what the system couldn’t give the victims: justice. Mac corrects her: she got retribution. Kate tells Lindsay she has a second chance thanks to those women.


Analysis:

“Vigilante” deals with a sensitive subject, and it isn’t the first CSI: New York episode to tackle the topic of rape and victims seeking justice. There are a number of similarities between this episode and season four’s “Commuted Sentences”, which featured two rape victims who went after a pair of sexual predators in an attempt to become “arbiters of justice” for those wronged by the system. One of the victims in this week’s case, Garland Clarke, picked out women while working as an exterminator in their apartment buildings, stalked them and raped them. His M.O. sounds similar to DJ Pratt, the rapist former CSI Aiden Burn (Vanessa Ferlito) gave her life to catch in season two. Pratt would pick out his rape victims while painting apartments. “Enough” from season five featured a trio lawyers who killed their clients after they attacked a young woman to prevent her from testifying in their murder trial—those disgusted lawyers are reminiscent of one half of this week’s murder duo, Annie Cartland, who quit her job as a public defender after she helped Craig Tomlin get a paltry 5-year sentence for kidnapping and raping a young woman.

Despite the similarities between “Vigilante” and previous CSI: NY episodes, the case stands out thanks to character moments between members of the team as well as the bond that develops between Lindsay and Kate Price, one of the rape victims who becomes the main suspect in Garland’s murder. Before the episode aired, I was unsure about the writers’ choice to use Lindsay as the team member who connects with Kate. Lindsay isn’t always the most effective character in emotional scenes. As Kristine Huntley said in her review for the season four episode “Admissions”, Anna Belknap seemed “flat” in the scene in which Inspector Stanton Gerrard’s daughter Natalie asked to be alone with the CSI so she could explain what happened when she was raped. Perhaps it is due to the extended interaction between Lindsay and Kate in “Vigilante”, but Belknap’s delivery seems much more natural this time around. Despite my hesitation, I enjoyed seeing an episode that showcased Lindsay without focusing entirely on her family—so much of the development for Danny and Lindsay these past few years has been centered around their marriage and the birth of their daughter, which is to be expected when two main characters get together, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Lindsay spend the whole hour separate from her husband. Married or not, each character deserves to be developed on an individual basis, and I really hope this episode is an indication of what’s to come during the rest of season seven (and hopefully season eight and beyond).

Most of the characters offer their opinion about the vigilante justice perpetrated by the killers. Lindsay is adamant that she is a cop first and foremost, and she will arrest Kate if she’s guilty because that’s her job. Despite her insistence, however, she seems to have trouble reconciling her obligations with her personal feelings over the course of the episode. Mac expresses the opinion that a man like Craig Tomlin should have died in prison, but he denies that Annie and Heather sought justice when they killed the sexual predators; instead, he says they got retribution. This is similar to something he said back in “Commuted Sentences”: “Killing out of vengeance is not justice… Justice is conscience. When you lose that, you have nothing.” Danny tells Jo he respects the killers’ determination—he agrees that what they did was wrong, but he admits that he might have done the same thing in their position. Despite sympathizing with the rape victims, they all agreed that the killers made the wrong choice by going after Garland and Tomlin.

In fact, Hawkes is the only character who openly speaks out against arresting the people who took down two sexual predators. As we learned in season five’s “Help”, Hawkes’ former girlfriend Kara was raped by a man who evaded justice for eight years, and he felt powerless to help her deal with the aftermath. As Hawkes mentions here, their relationship fell apart. “Help” revealed that Hawkes became obsessed with finding the rapist and as a result pushed Kara away. Out of the whole team, Hawkes is the only one (that we know of) with personal experience dealing with the effect rape has on its victims. While I don’t condone murder, this is one case where it’s hard not to sympathize with the killers. It’s not a matter of right or wrong, it’s a matter of right and wrong. For me, the most important message presented by “Vigilante” is something Annie says to Mac at the end: “Rape is an under-prosecuted crime.” When you strip away the specific details of this episode and the fictional case it presents, the fact is that rape is an under-reported and under-prosecuted crime, and the victims deserve justice from the legal system.

The scene between Lindsay and Jo was my favorite of the ‘team’ scenes during the episode. Like Lindsay, Jo is adamant that they need to put aside their feelings to do their job, even if the results seem unfair. She knows from experience how hard it can be, and she makes sure Lindsay understands that the anger and frustration directed at them isn’t always personal—they meet people on the worst day of their lives, and sometimes all they can do is listen. We also learn more about Jo’s background with the FBI when she relates the story of her last case before she left the bureau. A rapist got off because the FBI mishandled evidence, and Jo knew the victim felt betrayed by the people who were sworn to protect her. Viewers saw Jo’s daughter Ellie (Sydney Park) in “Do Not Pass Go” earlier this season, and that adds a definite weight to Jo’s comments about how she would feel if the victim were her daughter. It’s also a powerful moment given that she and Lindsay are both mothers. It was disappointing to lose Melina Kanakaredes after season six, but Sela Ward has been a wonderful addition to the show. She brings a real warmth and charm to the series, and scenes like this highlight Sela’s talent as an actress. Ward might have felt uncomfortable with the CSI aspect of her character when she first joined the show, but there’s no denying that she’s an expert at portraying the human element.

Lindsay Price, Megan Ward and Eve Mauro are outstanding in their scenes. It’s nice when the viewer can develop a connection with characters who only appear in a single episode. Price has the most demanding role, and she does a wonderful job of expressing Kate’s pain and frustration throughout the episode. Mauro’s character is defiant and unrepentant, and she is great as a strong woman who doesn’t back down—even if I don’t agree with some of Heather’s actions, I can’t help but admire her guts. Megan Ward conveys Annie’s conviction, as well as the guilt she feels over her past as a public defender, with a great deal of skill. The differences between Heather and Annie provide an interesting contrast in the interrogation scene. Annie wavers more than Heather, but her disillusionment with the system is clear.

There were moments of levity sprinkled throughout the episode to lighten the mood a bit, but they were few and far between this week. As usual, Adam can be counted on for a laugh or two. In this case, both humorous scenes relate to the 911 calls. First, Danny tells Adam to isolate background noise from the recordings despite Adam’s insistence that it won’t be easy, and later Mac lightly scolds Adam for participating in the conversation with Lindsay about the voice distorter rather than working on the 911 call. Mac also gives Adam the undesirable task of trying to locate a voice match in the 911 database, and Adam’s open-mouthed reaction is amusing. Ultimately, the 911 call is the key to identifying Heather Marist, so at least he gets to make a break in the case. Danny tries to crack a joke about going to ‘grab a bite’ after Hawkes discovers a lot of biological fluid in the back of Garland’s van, and it provides half a laugh—but the reality of what happened in the van keeps the moment from being too funny. The scene with Danny and Jo where she asks him to guess a substance based on the ingredients is humorous too, mostly due to Danny’s facial expression when he suggests “an incendiary device or perhaps a new facial cream.”

The scene in which Flack and Lindsay go to pick up Heather Marist certainly has its humorous moments as well. Flack seems pleased to be surrounded by beautiful women pole dancing, and he explains to Lindsay that it’s good cardiovascular exercise—or so he’s heard. When the pair of them approach Heather, she punches Flack and kicks Lindsay in the chest, trying to escape before Lindsay yanks her down and cuffs her. It’s nice to see someone other than Danny chase a suspect with Flack (although I do love their chase scenes), and it’s always good to see one of the ladies take someone down. Lindsay grabbing Heather and knocking her down to handcuff her is reminiscent of the Lindsay Monroe we saw early in season two, and we’ve only seen that side of her sporadically since then. Flack’s quip about Heather hitting hard is fun, especially when Lindsay asks for clarification. She doesn’t just hit hard “for a girl,” she hits hard for anyone, and Flack doesn’t hesitate to admit it.

Speaking of pole dancing, the opening scene focusing on the women working out on poles in the gym is gratuitous. Garland lurking in an alley and stalking Heather down the street sets up Heather’s apparent peril without the necessity of fun music and sexy gyrating bodies. In an episode centered around men who attack women, it seems in poor taste to open with such blatant objectification. It feels like a lot of episodes lately have started with ‘sexy’ scenes: “Holding Cell” and “Party Down” featured clubs scenes in the beginning, and even “Smooth Criminal” made sure to zoom in on the bodies of several women while Ne-Yo’s character walked into the bar (not to mention the scene in the club later on in the episode). Sex certainly sells, and New York is a sexy city if ever there was one, but three of the last five episodes have started with a sexy scene filled with half-naked women. It wasn’t necessary for the trend to continue in this particular episode.

Overall, “Vigilante” is a thought-provoking entry with more character moments than forensics to keep the audience interested. The episode featured several excellent guest stars, and it was a good storyline for Lindsay that wasn’t all about her marriage or family. That’s something we’ve rarely seen since Anna joined the show in season two, and it’s a welcome change of focus. It was great to see Lindsay share a bonding moment with Jo—I never totally believed that Lindsay and Stella were close, so I hope this is a sign that we’ll see more of the show’s two women bonding with each other so they aren’t solely defined by their interaction with the men.


See also: “Vigilante” episode guide

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