The team’s investigation leads them into the word of human pets, and Doc Robbins gets the chance to save a life.
A woman is found dead in the forest after being attacked by a mountain lion. The CSIs discover that she was in a fight before she died, and there is evidence that she had restraints around her ankles. She has a broken jaw and broken teeth, and Langston finds marks indicating that she was hit with a stun gun. They are able to identify the victim as Iona Vail, and they learn that she worked at a shelter for battered women.
Sara finds appointments in Iona’s datebook with a ‘Dr K’. She looks up the phone number and realizes the victim was going to see Lady Heather. Lady Heather is now Dr Kessler, and she is a sex therapist. Sara and Langston learn that Iona was exploring her feline side, and she got prosthetic teeth from a Dr Tyrell Neth. They pay a visit to Dr Neth, and they arrive during a party filled with people playing the role of human pets. Some of the ‘pets’ have restraints around their ankles, but Dr Neth says they are easily removed—everything that happens here is totally voluntary. He points the CSIs in the direction of the tree where Iona slept while she was staying with him. It looks like there was a struggle near the tree, and they find a piece of fabric stuck on a sprinkler that matches the clothes Iona was wearing when she died.
Dr Neth owns a stun gun, but it wasn’t used on Iona. The marks on her skin match a stun gun purchased by Iona herself. The fabric from the sprinkler doesn’t give them any DNA, but it does offer up a print that matches Debra, a woman Iona helped at the women’s shelter. Iona saved Debra’s life at the shelter, and Debra wanted to return the favor by saving her from the life she was living with Dr Neth. Iona didn’t want to leave, so Debra used the stun gun on her and put her in the car. When Iona woke up, she struggled with Debra, and she fell down the steep incline on the side of the road and hit her head on a rock in the forest. Debra thought she was dead and drove away.
Meanwhile, Nick and Doc Robbins are driving through a residential neighborhood when a gardener runs up to their car. The man says he saw a young woman’s dead body through the window of her home, and the pair rushes in to find Maria Diorio hanging from a belt in her closet. The teenager died very recently, and Doc Robbins realizes the girl is pregnant—and the baby is still alive. The coroner performs an emergency C-section and saves the baby’s life. Maria’s mother had no idea her daughter was more than eight months pregnant, and she refuses to see her granddaughter. Nick talks to Maria’s boyfriend, Nathan Culver, whose father is shocked to learn that his son was going to have a child. Nathan admits to getting into an argument with Maria because he changed his mind about raising the baby, but he denies killing Maria and trying to make it look like a suicide. The investigation takes a different turn when Nick learns that everyone at school hated Maria. There’s even a website targeting her, and she received messages from millions of people telling her to kill herself. Archie traces the story: after Maria started dating Nathan, his ex-girlfriend and the rest of the cheerleading squad went after Maria, and everything spiraled from there. Maria did kill herself, but Nick convinces Ecklie to go after the cheerleaders for starting the cycle of bullying that ultimately led to her death.
“Unleashed” marks the return of fan favorite Lady Heather, played by the always-amazing Melinda Clarke. There was a great deal of excitement after it was announced that Lady Heather would be back, but the episode fell far short of my expectations. Much of the appeal of Clarke’s character was always the spark between her and Grissom, and that is completely absent here. Heather is great on her own, but her appearance in “Unleashed” pales in comparison to her past episodes. Without Grissom, the dynamic just isn’t the same, and Heather barely even interacts with Sara. Instead, she makes the biggest connection with Langston, and by the end of the episode it seems like Heather is less of a cherished guest star and more of a plot device to further the Haskell storyline.
Continuity is great. I love seeing references to previous or ongoing storylines, characters or events. However, you can definitely have too much of a good thing. I’m not even sure how Lady Heather fits into that storyline. Why is she so invested in Langston’s interaction with Haskell? And why in the heck does she basically tell him to go over to the Dark Side, track Haskell down and kill him? I’ve suspected for a while that Langston would kill Haskell, and this episode seems to confirm that Haskell won’t survive the season, but I always assumed that Langston would kill Haskell in self defense—now I’m not so sure. How far are the writers going to push Langston, and what kind of repercussions will he face for his actions? I guess we’ll see. There are only three more episodes left in the season, and the description of the next episode, “Father of the Bride”, indicates that the Haskell storyline will be kicking into high gear later this month.
Heather shows up on the CSIs’ radar this week due to her connection with Iona Vail. The victim was visiting Heather to work through her issues. Roleplaying as a cat helped Iona learn to demand affection, although her boyfriend Carter was not a fan of Heather’s methods or the doctor herself. Carter expresses disdain for her background as a dominatrix. Sara seems skeptical of the whole idea of animal roleplay as a legitimate form of therapy, especially when confronted with a party filled with human pets. The party is one big sexy, slightly bizarre example of the human pet phenomenon—which is a pretty common treatment for alternative lifestyles on CSI.
One of my favorite things about Heather has always been her complete lack of judgment toward other people for their needs and desires. It’s no surprise given her background, but I like the character’s straightforward and insightful opinion on topics like animal roleplay. She has a very different perspective than those who might deride anyone who doesn’t fit into society’s narrow definitions for “normal” human behavior. It makes her a very interesting character to watch, and I’ll bet it’s a lot of fun to write for her.
It’s great to see Melinda Clarke on the show again, and it’s also great to see Robert David Hall get a chance to bring Doc Robbins out of the morgue and into the thick of the action. I loved watching him in the car with Nick—it reminds me of the time Doc and Langston went on a road trip during season nine’s “The Gone Dead Train”, which also made for some awesome character interaction. Doc’s lines usually revolve around revealing the cause of death or perhaps the occasional philosophical discussion, and it’s fun to see him chatting with Nick in such a casual way.
Things take a drastic turn mere moments later, when a man runs up to the car and the pair hurries into a house in a vain attempt to save a teenage girl who died by suicide. They are too late to save Maria, but Doc is able to save the life of her unborn child. It’s a sad moment, knowing that a young woman is dead, but it’s also a triumphant moment for the viewers and for the two men in the room when the baby starts crying. It’s rare to see one of the CSI coroners save a life, and that makes the scene even better.
Nick tells Doc that what he did was “incredible”, and you can really tell how much Nick respects and admires the coroner. Nick is deeply affected by the experience of watching the baby come into the world, and he develops a strong connection to the case. It becomes his personal mission to make Maria’s classmates pay a price for the role they played in ending her life. Bullying is a real problem, and you can’t underestimate the damage that cyber bullying can cause. “Unleashed” may take things to an extreme, and some of the scenes treat the episode’s message with all the subtlety of an anvil, but the message itself comes through loud and clear: bullying is dangerous, and it should not be tolerated.
Nick’s personal connection to the case extends to Maria’s baby. He is clearly disappointed when Maria’s mother doesn’t want anything to do with her granddaughter, and he shares a great scene with Nathan Culver at the end of the episode. It’s nice to see the young man with his little girl, although I do question the decision to name her after her dead mother. “Unleashed” doesn’t really delve into how being a teenage father will affect Nathan, but the show can only deliver so many messages in one hour.
Fans of CSI: New York will no doubt recognize the actor who plays Nathan, Cody Longo, because he appeared on CSI: New York less than a week before his guest starring role in this episode. Longo played Jo’s college-aged son Tyler Josephson in “Identity Crisis”, and it’s kind of funny to see him on two CSI shows within such a short span of time. The actor didn’t have much to do on New York, but his role in “Unleashed” proves that he’s a very talented young man.
See also: “Unleashed” episode guide.