Review: CSI: New York — ‘Identity Crisis’

The team investigates a dead con artist, and Jo’s daughter starts searching for answers about her biological mother.

Synopsis:

An old man gets on the subway carrying a cigar box, and Jo’s adopted daughter Ellie offers him her seat. A drunk man staggers over and starts to argue with the old man, forcing him to get off at the next stop. They struggle on the platform, and the confrontation ends with what sounds like a gunshot. The old man is dead, but the CSIs discover that he isn’t an old man at all—the victim is actually a young woman.

The victim’s husband, Harvin Garrity, is shocked to learn that his wife is in New York at all, much less that she is dead. She was supposed to be on a plane to Miami because she’s a flight attendant. Flack tells Mac that the information the husband gave them leads nowhere. Their victim’s maiden name is not Renee Wescott—the real Renee died 12 years ago.

Lindsay finds a fingerprint on the cigar box that belongs to a dead inmate name Quincy Willis, and Mac calls in Jo’s ex-husband Russ Josephson to find out what the FBI knows about him. Russ says the victim is probably Quincy’s daughter, Sabrina Willis, and she followed in her father’s footsteps by becoming a con artist. They can’t look for crimes committed by a young woman if they want to find out who killed her—they need to look for crimes committed by an old man. The team speaks to some of Sabrina’s victims, and they wonder if any of them knew she was actually a young woman.

Sabrina was not shot with a gun, so Hawkes tests various weapons to discover what was used to kill her. Their killer used a knife with compressed air in the handle, which is a weapon that is sometimes used by divers to fend off sharks. Danny and Adam locate trace including vanadium steel, a type of metal used to make German U-boats, and evidence of “rusticles”, which can only be found below 230 feet. They are looking for a professional diver who had access to a German U-boat found off the coast of New Jersey, and that leads them straight to Jayson Luck.

Jayson tells the CSIs how he fell in love with Sabrina while she was working as a bartender. She convinced him to take part in a scheme that was supposed to get them $50,000 from a rich old man. Jayson unwittingly robbed Sabrina while she was dressed as the old man, and he returned to the bar to find her terrified and (seemingly) injured. She claimed that they needed to give the money to a pair of thugs or else they’d kill her, but the cigar box Jayson stole had nothing inside of it but pieces of newspaper. Afraid for Sabrina’s life, he sold his belongings and borrowed money from his brother to gather up the necessary $50,000. Sabrina disappeared with the money, and it took him a while to realize he’d been duped. He recognized the cigar box on the subway, and it was only then that he realized the woman he was in love with was actually the old man. He doesn’t remember killing her, but he asks Mac to apologize to his brother for not being able to pay back the money he borrowed.


Analysis:

“Identity Crisis” features a not-so-innocent victim in the form of Sabrina Willis, a con artist who gets killed by a man she scammed out of $50,000. I don’t think she deserved to die, but it’s hard to feel bad for a criminal who has ruined more than a few lives. Taylor Kinney does a great job of portraying Jayson Luck as a sympathetic character despite the mistakes he has made—he robbed what he thought was an old man, he killed Sabrina in a moment of drunken rage, and he even took a shot at Flack when he and Danny went to bring Jayson in for questioning. The guy has definitely screwed up more than once, but you can’t help but feel sorry for him. Sabrina’s clueless husband Harvin Garrity is also a sympathetic character. Harvin looks on while Mac sits with Jayson during the final interrogation, and the audience (like the men on either side of the glass) can’t help but wonder how many other jilted lovers Sabrina left in her wake.

The murder weapon featured this week, a knife with a compressed air cartridge in the handle, is very real—and judging by the videos on this website, they are every bit as dangerous as the melon demonstration on CSI: NY suggested. The combination of such a unique weapon, along with unique trace, leads the team straight to Jayson. He owns a distinctive knife used by divers, and he has been in contact with a German U-boat more than 230 feet below the surface. Immediately after the CSIs riddle out that all of the evidence is pointing to a professional diver, the team locates Jayson with no difficulty. It’s all a bit too neat. However, the conveniences allow for more time to be devoted to Jo’s storyline, so I don’t mind.

The age progression scene with Adam, Lindsay and Danny starts out funny, but it goes a bit too far by the end. Adam using the software to make Lindsay look older is very in-character, and Danny makes the mistake of laughing a bit too hard at the results. Lindsay is not pleased, and the teasing between the three of them is fun. However, even a funny scene loses some of its humor when it goes on for too long, and the trio should have settled down when Mac walked in instead of trying to one-up each other while still cracking up. Mac wasn’t impressed, and I couldn’t help but feel the same.

The real heart of “Identity Crisis” is the storyline featuring Jo and her daughter Ellie. Viewers met Ellie back in “Do Not Pass Go”, and we learned that Jo adopted her when she was a child after putting her mother in jail. However, Ellie never knew the truth, and Jo is forced to grapple with what to say when she discovers that Ellie skipped school because she wanted to go meet her biological mother. Jo is clearly not ready to deal with Ellie’s reaction, but she explains the situation by the end of the episode. It makes for a powerful moment between mother and daughter, and Sydney Park is a gifted young actress who holds her own in the scene with the incredibly talented Sela Ward. Ward brings a great deal of depth and emotion to Jo’s confession that she didn’t just adopt Ellie because the child needed her—she needed Ellie too. The adoption storyline hits close to home for Ward, who opened the Hope Village For Children in her hometown of Meridian, Mississippi. According to the mission statement, Hope Village seeks “to provide a continuum of specialized treatment programs, services, and facilities of superior quality to meet the individual needs of neglected and abused children and their families.”

Jo’s ex-husband Russ Josephson returns this week after his previous appearance in “To What End?”, and the dynamic between the former couple is electric. As we saw in Russ’s first episode, Jo has little patience for his attempts to get back together, but there’s no denying that they still care deeply for each other. Russ helps Jo acknowledge her worries and fears surrounding the decision to keep Ellie in the dark about her adoption, and he offers to be there to support her when she tells Ellie the truth. Jo may appreciate his offer, but she says this is something that she has to do on her own. David James Elliot was a great choice to play Russ, and he and Ward bring a real authenticity to the interaction between their characters.

Jo and Mac share several scenes this week relating to her personal storyline, and I really enjoy the rapport that continues to develop between them. Russ knows her very well—perhaps too well—but Mac can provide an outsider’s perspective as a friend. He doesn’t offer much advice, and it’s clear that he knows Jo is more than capable of handling this situation on her own. She’s a strong, intelligent woman, and she really only needs Mac as a sympathetic ear.

The final scene between Mac and Jo is a bit awkward, though. Jo tells Mac that he should get married and have kids—or adopt a child on his own—because he would be a great father, and she hammers the point home a few too many times. It makes me wonder how much she knows about Mac and his wife Claire, who died on 9/11. I’m a bit surprised that the writers didn’t choose to have Mac mention Claire’s son Reed Garrett, whom she put up for adoption. Reed was introduced during season three when he went searching for his birth mother, and he appeared in multiple episodes during the show’s third and fourth seasons. Kyle Gallner reprised the role in last season’s “Pot of Gold”, and while Mac and Reed may not be family in the most literal sense of the word, it’s clear that they do have a relationship. Mac could have mentioned Reed at some point during “Identity Crisis”. The similarities—and the distinct differences—between Reed and Ellie’s situations could have provided for an interesting conversation between Mac and Jo.


See also: “Identity Crisis” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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