Review: CSI: Miami — ‘GO’

The team tries to track down a murder suspect and his missing victim, but they soon discover that they’re in the middle of an elaborate charade.

Synopsis:

Neal Marshall is clearly out of place in Bar 212, but he befriends a waitress named Olivia just in time to defend her against a jerk who threatens to get her fired. Neal and the other man, Braden, get into a fight, but Braden leaves when Olivia says she’s going to call security. Neal goes to clean himself up in the bathroom, and another patron walks in to see him standing over Braden’s dead body. The team arrives at the scene to discover that the suspect and the victim are both missing. Horatio speaks to Neal’s wife Jenny, who is surprised to hear that her husband was supposed to meet his brother Dean at a bar. Dean says Jenny keeps her husband on a tight leash, and he was looking for a little bit of freedom.

Neal’s car is found across the street from Olivia’s home address. Eric goes to speak to Olivia while Frank and Natalia discover a dead body matching Braden’s description in the trunk. Eric finds Neal in Olivia’s apartment and arrests the pair of them, but Neal insists that he’s being set up. The elevator breaks down, and Eric has to uncuff Neal and Olivia so they can help pry the doors open. Eric climbs out, but the elevator falls before he can pull the others out. He runs down the stairwell, but he finds the elevator in perfect working order at the ground floor—and empty. A switch was placed on the control panel to create the breakdown and then reverse it to give Neal and Olivia a soft landing.

The body in the trunk has been dead for several days, and it shows signs that it has been held in refrigeration—it’s a medical cadaver, not Braden. They find an RFID chip in the cadaver’s arm that leads back to Silas Biotech. The receptionist says the body was misappropriated, but they haven’t filed a report because they weren’t sure the body had been stolen. It was taken during transport from the hospital.

Neal calls Horatio and says Olivia is dead. He doesn’t know why someone is doing this to him, but he says he can’t trust the cops or anyone else. He leaves before they arrive, and they find Olivia’s dead body on the hotel floor. There is evidence that she was in a fight, and the fall broke her neck. Olivia’s fingerprints reveal that her real name is Lisa Blackhall. She charged the hotel room to a Silas Biotech company card, but Natalia and Horatio return to the company’s building to find it completely abandoned. Natalia finds some shredded paper in a trash chute, and Dave Benton is able to get an address for where the Silas Biotech bank statements were sent. When they go to this address, they find all of the witnesses from the bar. The so-called receptionist is actually Wendy Colton, the CEO of the LIVE Corporation, and she shows them the man Neal fought with—Braden is very much alive. She tells the team they can speak to the company’s lawyers about the cadaver and the false investigation, but she’s shocked to learn that Lisa is dead. Lisa took Neal to the hotel because it was part of the script to make it look like they slept together. Wendy gives the CSIs a folder including information about who set up this little “game”.

Horatio gets a phone call—Neal has broken into his own house. He’s holding a gun, and he’s telling his wife they have to leave. Horatio arrives, and there’s a brief standoff before Neal’s brother Dean says they’re taking this too far. He tells Horatio that Neal’s gun isn’t loaded and begs him not to shoot the man. Neal is confused—he always keeps the gun loaded. Dean has to tell the truth: he set up the game with the LIVE Corporation as a way to get his brother to step outside of his comfort zone. Nobody was supposed to die. Unfortunately, Neal called his wife while he was at the hotel with Lisa, and she thought her husband was having an affair. Jenny arrived to see Lisa at the door, and she forced her way into the room. Lisa was thrown back by the door and hit her head, which killed her instantly. The CSIs have no choice but to arrest Jenny for manslaughter.


Analysis:

“GO” certainly has an interesting premise. The LIVE Corporation exists to “solve the problem of virtual reality” by setting up elaborate games in which their clients—or their clients’ unsuspecting victims—are immersed in a scenario that feels all too real. In this case, Neal’s brother Dean thinks he needs to loosen up and learn to step out of his comfort zone since Neal’s responsible nature is hurting business at their investment firm. Dean hopes the LIVE Corporation will turn Neal’s life upside down and give him a reason to take risks and be more confident. Everything goes according to the script until reality collides with virtual reality. Neal’s wife Jenny, confronted with evidence that her husband may actually be cheating on her, tries to force her way into the hotel room and accidentally kills Lisa in the process.

Setting up games to bend the lines between fiction and reality can be a slippery slope. If clients sign up for it themselves, that’s one thing—they know what they’re getting into. However, Dean’s decision to set up a scenario with Neal in the middle of a supposed murder investigation just seems like cruel and reckless manipulation. People who are put under that kind of pressure can do desperate and/or stupid things. At the end of this episode, Neal is pointing what he thinks is a loaded gun at a police officer. There are so many ways this scenario could go wrong. Neal may be in the middle of the game, but he doesn’t know the script. He has no reason to believe that it is anything other than a terrifying reality. The LIVE Corporation may be confident in their ability to set up these games, but they can’t control how unsuspecting people might react. Neal is being accused of murder, he thinks he’s being set up, and he spends most of the episode being encouraged to run away from the police—is it any wonder someone gets hurt?

Poor Jenny, she has every reason to believe that what’s happening is real, and she sees her marriage falling apart right in front of her eyes. Her relationship with Neal has been strained lately as it is—helped in no small part by Neal’s irresponsible brother—and she isn’t going to sit idly by when she hears a woman’s voice over the phone. Why is this even part of the game? Scaring Neal to increase his confidence and encourage him to take risks makes at least a bit of sense; what good does it do for him to think he’s cheating on his wife? Dean may think that Neal got married too young, but I’m not sure what the goal is with this part of the scenario. Is it supposed to drive a wedge between husband and wife? If so, Dean is a really crappy brother and uncle. If two people choose to get a divorce on their own, that’s their business, but what kind of brother tries to hasten the process along knowing that it’s not just the adults who are affected? Neal and Jenny have three young daughters, and it seems cruel to put unnecessary strain on a fragile marriage just because he doesn’t like it. That may not have been his intention, of course, but it doesn’t seem likely that he was trying to bring Neal and Jenny closer together. Did Dean even know what the plan was before he handed over the money and signed the contract, or did he simply take Wendy at her word that their little game would work?

As interesting as the reality-meets-virtual-reality premise may be, having a flawlessly-executed “game” requires more than just planning; there would have to be a lot of luck involved. The scene where Eric arrives at Olivia/Lisa’s apartment and arrests the pair of them is a good example. There could only be one cop at the apartment—otherwise Neal and Olivia/Lisa would remain handcuffed together in the elevator while the officers pry the door open. Plus, one or more of the cops could stay in the elevator while the cop in the hallway reaches in for the suspects, compromising the plan to escape once the elevator reaches the ground. The LIVE Corporation also has to know Neal won’t freak out and get himself shot—and he almost gets himself shot several times, so it’s a good thing the MDPD isn’t trigger-happy. It’s all well and good in theory, but in reality there are a lot of elements to take into consideration. Actors can adhere to a script, but Neal and the police (not to mention Neal’s wife) are unknown variables in this situation.

I also can’t help but wonder whether Neal was ever supposed to find out the truth. It seems inevitable that he would have to know about the game, especially since he’s being accused of murder. Did the script include a Big Reveal in which the LIVE Corporation explained its purpose and what Dean was trying to do? Did Dean think Neal would be grateful for the experience? Does Wendy really think a fleet of lawyers would negate any ill effects of lying to police, faking a murder and leaving a medical cadaver in the trunk of a car? Even when she learns that one of her employees is dead, she seems surprised that she’s going to be arrested for her part in this so-called game. She sets up scenarios that would blur the line between reality and virtual reality, but does she really expect to avoid facing real consequences? Overall, the episode is entertaining, but the premise doesn’t hold up under much scrutiny.

“GO” devotes the majority of the hour to pushing the plot forward, but there are some nice scenes for several of the characters. Natalia is not happy when she realizes that she’s being played for a fool, and she’s determined to figure out the truth. I particularly like the scene where she and Dave Benton scan shredded strips of paper to locate the bogus Silas Biotech company. Earlier in the episode, Eric shares a great moment with Walter and Ryan after the thrilling experience in the elevator. The scene is mostly centered around the plot, but the rapport between the three characters is evident—even with Ryan communicating via cellphone from a different location.

Dr Loman is one of the unsung heroes of Miami. I love the way he seems so excited about unusual discoveries (such as the fact that the body found in the trunk of Neal’s car is actually a medical cadaver), and he brings a real energy to morgue scenes that could seem rote. The scene later in the episode where he looks at Olivia/Lisa’s body to determine cause of death is much more subdued, and Christian Clemenson brings compassion to the character as he laments that she was denied a long life. Clemenson has been a great asset to the cast over the past two seasons, and I hope we see a lot more of him in season ten.


See also: “GO” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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