The team investigates the death of a bouncer while Mac and the rest of the CSIs pay tribute to the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
It has been ten years since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, and Mac thinks back to the day he lost his wife Claire. He was shaving in the bathroom that morning when Claire walked and teased him about listening to an NSYNC song on the radio. Mac teased her in return, suggesting that he was going to the opera with a coworker—but really, the tickets for him and Claire were hidden in the cotton swab holder. The pair was very much in love, and they got ready for their day with no inkling that their time together was running out. Later, they listened to a song together on the bus, and Mac got off and waved goodbye to Claire for the last time. Mac heard about the attack in the precinct, where he saw people watching news coverage after American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He spoke to Claire on the phone and learned that she got out of the building, but she kept thinking about everyone trapped inside. He told her to get as far away as she could, but they were cut off when a shadow overhead indicated United Airlines Flight 175 heading toward the South Tower. Mac yelled Claire’s name into the phone, but they were disconnected. Mac headed toward the World Trade Center, but he watched in horror as the South Tower fell and sent dust and debris billowing toward him on the street.
Danny and Flack met on 9/11, when Flack was a uniformed officer helping an injured woman down the dust-covered street away from the World Trade Center. Danny was running in the opposite direction, trying to help people. Flack grabbed his arm to stop him, telling him there was no use going back. Everyone was gone. Elsewhere in the city, Sid and Hawkes were working together in a makeshift hospital/morgue after the attack, helping the wounded and placing the dead carefully to the side. Mac helped carry a firefighter into the building and knelt beside the body with several other firefighters. Knowing the man was already gone, Mac took his hand and said a prayer over him while the others watched in silence. Jo was in Washington, DC in 2001, working for the FBI when American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon. She looked out at the smoke snaking up from the crash site as she called people in to work, and she spoke to her mother on the phone and asked her to take Tyler and Ellie until it was safe.
Meanwhile, the team works to solve a murder as they honor the memory of that fateful day. Sean Petersen was shot after a robbery at the bar where he worked as a bouncer. Two men broke in and stole everyone’s money and cellphones, and Sean was pistol-whipped at the door. He went back to the front after the men left, when they thought it was over, but someone came back to shoot him. Flack speaks to Devon, one of the waitresses who left several minutes before the robbery. She describes seeing the perps outside, but she didn’t go back and warn Sean. She blames herself for his death.
Adam is able to trace one of the phones that was stolen, and they find the robbers in a hotel room with two guns, all of the stolen property and their bloody sweatshirts. Unfortunately, neither one of the guns they find matches the bullet pulled out of Sean’s body. When they interrogate the two suspects, the men deny killing Sean. Blood at the scene proves to be the key. When Sean was pistol-whipped, blood sprayed onto the wall. Some of it was smeared by the men when they left several minutes after it splattered on the wall, but another section was smeared immediately. Whoever dragged their arm through that blood left right after Sean was pistol-whipped. They are looking for a third person, and the only person who could have left was Devon—she lied.
Jo and Flack talk to Devon, who admits that she was involved. The men were supposed to arrive just as Sean opened the door to let her out, but they were late; she put her foot in the door to stop it from closing. Sean knew she was involved, and she got freaked out. She came back after the robbery and shot him. She got drugs from one of the robbers, and she owed him a lot of money. He promised no one would get hurt.
“Indelible” is a poignant episode that offers fans a look back at September 11th through the eyes of the CSIs. Most of the focus is placed on Mac, whose wife Claire was killed at the World Trade Center. All of Mac’s flashbacks are short, and they are evocative rather than graphic in their depiction of the terrorist attack. The first two flashbacks establish the love between Mac and Claire before the tragedy strikes. Mac sees the footage on the television, but Claire is shown surrounded by panicked people and falling paper—the second plane’s approach is merely a shadow overhead, and the focus remains on her face before the scene cuts back to Mac and the others in the precinct. When the tower collapses in Mac’s final flashback, once again it is Mac’s expression that tells the story as the action occurs offscreen, sending dust billowing toward him. These scenes narrow the focus, concentrating on one person as the unimaginable tragedy plays out around him.
Mac’s personal journey has a bittersweet ending when he heads toward the beach on Coney Island as the hour draws to a close. He kept the opera tickets for the past ten years, and he symbolically lets Claire go by releasing the tickets into the waves lapping against the sand. As Executive Producer Zachary Reiter previously indicated, “Indelible” offers Mac some closure so that he can move forward and, perhaps, pursue a new relationship in the coming months. The opera tickets are a meaningful touch, but many fans are sure to be wondering about the beach ball Mac mentioned way back in the show’s very first episode, “Blink”. He came across an old beach ball in the closet of the home he shared with Claire, and he didn’t have the heart to deflate it because his wife’s breath was still inside. The opera tickets tie in to the first flashback in “Indelible”, but it would have been nice to see a more direct reference to the pilot, which ended with Mac at Ground Zero after he revealed that his wife died on September 11th.
Throughout the episode, Mac is shown away from the crime lab. He has been on leave for the past four months, and he has spent his time working at Piper Laboratories, which is trying to identify the remains of 9/11 victims. He knows what it’s like to be left without closure, so he wants to help other people like him who lost loved ones that day. Mac is adamant that he won’t be returning to the crime lab, but he does speak to Jo during the episode when he gives her a set of event passes; she and the rest of the team are invited to a ceremony at the end of the hour, which features the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance. That particular storyline is a mixture of fact and fiction. Gary Sinise helped raise money to build the wall, which honors 417 first responders who died on September 11th. Within the show, Mac has been working on the memorial for several months, and he delivers a speech at the dedication ceremony. The speech was filmed in front of the wall in New York City, and 9/11 first responders and families fill the audience.
Mac shares several scenes with Joe Vincent, a former firefighter who lost his police officer son on September 11th. Joe worked with Mac on the memorial, but he doesn’t want to attend the ceremony. Mac convinces him to go, reminding him that they did this for the families of the fallen—and Joe is one of those families. He comes to the ceremony in his dress uniform, and he and Mac embrace after Mac delivers his speech. These men have both suffered a great loss, and they became good friends during the time they worked together. The friendship has helped each man to heal, and it’s a nice moment between them during an emotional scene.
Most of the characters don’t discuss their memories with other members of the team. Like Mac, their flashbacks are moments of private reflection. Jo, Flack and Sid are triggered by their surroundings into remembering specific segments of that day. Adam and Lindsay are the only ones who share their experiences with each other. Adam slept through it all after a night of partying, and Lindsay is the first person who hears the truth. Even though he wasn’t watching from his rooftop or glued to the television on 9/11, he went down to Ground Zero to help with the clean up efforts the next day. Lindsay reveals that she was on the “bucket brigade” as well, even though she was back home in Montana when the attack happened. She saw it all on television and felt compelled to come help, even though all flights were grounded. A firetruck from Bozeman drove to New York to assist in the efforts, and she hitched a ride. She and Adam may have been working alongside each other the whole time and never even knew it. Lindsay and Adam don’t get many personal scenes with each other, so it’s nice to see a bonding moment between them. Lindsay’s personal moments tend to involve Danny, and Adam is a more minor character who hasn’t had many personal moments at all. It’s an interesting combination, and it helps to emphasize the family connection between everyone on the team.
During Adam and Lindsay’s scene, she helps him with his tie as they prepare to head to the ceremony. Out in the hallway, Jo straightens Flack’s tie, and they share a brief, personal moment as well. Jo points out that she and Flack have been working together for a year now, and she tells him he’s a great detective. Flack thanks her, but his response is teasing. “The jury’s still out on you,” he says, calling her the “interim boss” before breaking into a genuine smile. It’s a great moment, and I love the dynamic and the respect between these two.
Jo is serving as the “interim boss” while Mac is on leave. He’s been gone for four months, and some people don’t think he’s coming back. Jo, however, is convinced that he will return. Early in the episode, Adam refers to her as “boss”, but she corrects him. She doesn’t want anyone to forget that Mac is the real boss. In fact, his things are still in his old office, and she puts his nameplate back on the desk. Even if Mac doesn’t return, she says, she’s just in charge until Chief Sinclair chooses a replacement. It’s nice to get a mention of Sinclair, who was last seen in season six’s “Dead Reckoning”, and I would love it if Mykelti Williamson came back to reprise the role this season.
A little while later, Jo enters the lab with a man who is being eyed as a potential replacement boss. He’s a nerdy-looking guy, and Adam does a rather horrible impression of Jo’s southern accent as he watches them through the glass walls and provides dialogue for their walk through the lab. Lindsay is standing in the doorway for most of his little skit, and he’s embarrassed when he sees her. The scene is hilarious and so very, very Adam. Between this scene and the one at the end of the episode, “Indelible” highlights the brother-sister relationship between Adam and Lindsay, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of that dynamic in the coming months.
The case itself has a few twists and turns, but it’s secondary in importance to the 9/11 tribute throughout the hour. The best moment in the case comes when the team arrests their robbery suspects and Flack explains their confusing names to Jo. Mike White is a black man called “Black Mike”, and Mike Black is a white man called “White Mike”. Jo gives him an odd look, and she says she’ll speak to Black Mike. Flack responds that he’ll take Mike Black, and Jo seems confused until he says, “Don’t think about it. Trust me, it’s right.” It’s a great moment, and it really emphasizes how awesome Eddie Cahill and Sela Ward are in their scenes together.
Overall, “Indelible” is a special episode which focuses on character over forensics. It’s a departure from the usual case-based episodes, and the slow pace would be more ideally suited to the third or fourth episode of the season rather than the premiere. “Indelible” isn’t an indication of the general tone and pace of the series, but there was no other time to tell this story. The show is set in New York City, and Mac’s connection to 9/11 has been established since the pilot episode. The actual tenth anniversary took place two weeks ago, and it wouldn’t really make sense to wait another few weeks to feature such an important plot. I’m glad the show paid tribute to such a defining moment in New York’s (and America’s) recent history while honoring those who gave their lives on that day. It’s great to see the team back on TV, especially after the show was barely renewed earlier this year, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season as the show returns to business as usual next week.
See also: “Indelible” episode guide.