Review: CSI: New York — ‘To What End?’

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A clown shoots a bakery owner, and the case gets personal for Flack when the evidence points to a man he convinced to testify against several drug dealers.

Synopsis:

A man puts on clown makeup and picks up a gun, heading to Cressida’s Bakery. The owner, Gino Cressida, is decorating for his son’s sixth birthday, and he is startled when the clown arrives so early. The clown pulls out the gun, shooting Cressida before calmly walking out. The police arrive quickly, and they run off in search of their killer. They start to arrest a man in a clown costume, but then they see a whole group of clowns arriving at the scene. The killer posted an ad online, offering $500 to anybody who showed up in a clown costume at that particular time—and there was an extra $50 if they matched the picture posted with the ad. The costume worn by the killer is found in a dumpster five blocks away, proving that questioning all of the clowns on the street is a waste of time.

The bullet fragmented inside Cressida’s chest, so they’ll need to retrieve the pieces and reconstruct the bullet to make a comparison to the gun found at the scene. Mac and Lindsay do an experiment to compare the wound tract created by the gun to the victim’s wound, and they determine that this isn’t the murder weapon. Following a different lead, the team uses the picture posted with the online ad to identify the clown who registered that particular makeup pattern: Stan Ridgeway. Danny and Flack arrive at Stan’s apartment to find the door unlocked, and Stan is tied up and injured. The killer took Stan’s costume and left cash to replace the money he would have made working that day. Danny finds a fingerprint in the face makeup, which Adam traces back to a man named Bobby Renton. The only thing Bobby ever did wrong was jump a turnstile on the subway after he lost his wallet, and his prints have been in the system ever since. It seems unlikely that he would have committed a premeditated murder, but the fingerprint is a definitive match. Bobby hasn’t had a license, credit card or any other form of identification for five years, and it’s like his whole life disappeared in one day.

Jo realizes that Bobby was in the Witness Protection Program, and she waits for the FBI to show up. FBI Agent Russ Josephson says the CSIs must be mistaken because Bobby is in protective custody outside the state of New York, and there’s no way he committed murder. In fact, the FBI placed him under witness protection as a favor for the NYPD—specifically for Flack. Bobby was a witness who helped put away the Foley brothers, three PCP dealers who killed his friend, and Flack is the one who convinced him to testify and go into witness protection. Flack insists that Bobby is a good guy.

Lindsay reconstructs the bullet fragments pulled from Gino Cressida’s body and matches the bullet to one used to kill a man in Memphis two days before. Russ admits that Bobby was being held in witness protection in Memphis, so he’s looking more guilty by the second. Elmo Vidivic was shot in each knee as well as in the chest—Bobby was trying to find out who sent Elmo to Memphis to kill him. After getting the name Gino Cressida, he killed Vidivic and headed to NYC to kill Cressida. The team has nothing on file to indicate why Cressida would order a hit on Bobby.

There were traces of cyanide on Cressida’s clothing, and they found traces of ether in Elmo Vidivic’s lungs. These are two components of PCP, so Hawkes and Mac wonder if Cressida was somehow involved with the Foley brothers. Hawkes runs a utility usage check on Cressida’s bakery, and it is using 50 times more power than nearby buildings. The bakery is a front for a PCP lab, and Cressida was supplying the Foley brothers. Not only that, but Cressida was the godfather of one of the brothers, which provided more than enough motive for him to go after Bobby.

Flack speaks with Bobby’s girlfriend, and when he returns to his car, he sees the mirror pushed back. Bobby was there, and he left him a sign. Meanwhile, Danny identifies strange dust found inside the clown shoes, which contains crushed bone and ash. This mixture matches a sample from a crematorium in Brooklyn. Flack gets there before the NYPD and goes in after Bobby. As soon as Flack puts away his gun, Bobby steps out with a weapon aimed at him. Flack tells him he might still have a life and a chance to be a father to his son if he stops, but if he kills a cop, that’s it. They get into a scuffle, and Flack gets the upper hand and arrests him.


Analysis:

“To What End?” is a great episode that offers some background information on newcomer Jo as well as some insight into one of the original team members. Flack has a personal connection to the case because he’s the one who convinced Bobby to testify against the Foley brothers. Flack told Bobby that he was doing the right thing, and that the cops would protect him, but Bobby was the one who had to give up everything to help the NYPD. He entered the Witness Protection Program and got sent to Memphis, Tennessee, and he left his girlfriend Ainsley behind. He didn’t want to make her give up her own life because of him, and he didn’t want to put her in danger by bringing her with him. Instead, he left her and their unborn child in New York and never even said goodbye.

When Bobby’s name first comes up in connection with the murder of Gino Cressida, Flack is adamant that he couldn’t be involved. When it becomes clear that Bobby did kill the man, however, he goes to visit Ainsley at the diner where she works. She’s angry when she sees him, blaming him for Bobby’s absence in her life. Flack asks Ainsley to call him if Bobby contacts her, but she refuses. If Bobby comes to see her, Flack is the last person she’ll tell.

Eddie Cahill is wonderful in this scene. He’s sure that Bobby did the right thing by agreeing to testify, but he’s confronted by the reality of what that decision meant for the other people involved. Bobby had something the police wanted—the NYPD got their witness, but Bobby and Ainsley were the ones who suffered. Cahill can say so much with his facial expressions, and “To What End?” showcases how talented he is without even having to say a word. He’s also great when Flack is speaking with Ainsley, trying to be firm with her but coming up against a wall when she tells him off for daring to ask her for help after everything else he’s done. When Flack sees Bobby and Ainsley’s son at the end of that scene, it’s clear that he’s starting to realize just what Bobby gave up—just what he persuaded Bobby to give up in the name of justice.

Flack speaks to Mac after Bobby is arrested, pointing out that justice was served five years ago at Bobby’s expense. Mac says Bobby testified because he knew deep down that it was the right thing to do, and it’s a necessary evil if they want to put people like the Foley brothers away. However, it’s obvious that Bobby’s sacrifice still weighs heavily on Flack’s mind at the end of the episode. He says he’ll bring Bobby in himself, and he makes a stop on the way to the precinct. He removes the handcuffs and gives Bobby ten minutes in the diner with Ainsley and their son, and he watches from outside as the family shares an embrace.

It’s an emotional scene, with Bobby and Ainsley seeing each other for the first time in five years, and Bobby lays eyes on his son for the very first time. Bobby looks out the window at Flack, and Flack’s feelings are written all over Cahill’s expressive face. Flack’s a good man, working every day and risking his life to protect the citizens of New York, and sometimes all he can do is give a man ten minutes alone with his family. Earlier, when Bobby asks if this is what happens when you do what’s right, Flack tells him, “Yeah. Thieves get rich, saints get shot, and God doesn’t always answer your prayers.” It’s a great quote, based on song lyrics from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along, and it really emphasizes the fact that being one of the good guys doesn’t mean you’ll always come out on top.

The other major personal storyline in “To What End?” is the introduction of FBI Agent Russ Josephson, Jo’s ex-husband. I adore Jo, and it’s a lot of fun to see her trying to avoid her ex-husband and then trying to keep him in his place when it becomes clear that she can’t avoid him. The dynamic between these two is fantastic, and it’s great to see Jo interacting with someone from her past. David James Elliott is the perfect choice to play this character, and he and Sela Ward have amazing chemistry.

The first scene between Jo and Russ makes it clear why they got married, but it’s also clear why they are no longer together. The way Russ refers to their “separation” several times in the episode is telling, as is his comment that he wanted Jo to take his name so the other guys would “know you were mine.” Jo doesn’t let Russ forget that they are divorced, plain and simple, and she points out his “ownership issues” with regard to her taking his last name. It’s obvious that she won’t be persuaded to see things his way. No matter how much chemistry they have, they are incompatible when it comes to what they need and want in a marriage. Elliott returns later in season seven, in “Identity Crisis” (review), and I’d love to see Russ pop up from time to time during season eight to flirt shamelessly with his ex-wife and keep Jo on her toes. Ward is great in her scenes with Elliott, and I love Jo’s snarky, strong-willed response to Russ’s intrusion into her life.

One of my favorite moments in the episode comes when Lindsay walks into Jo’s office and stumbles across Russ and Jo in a relatively intimate position. Jo introduces them, and Lindsay points out that she really knows nothing about Russ, but Jo immediately prompts her to return to the subject at hand: lab results. It’s clear that Lindsay is a bit awkward in the situation, but it makes a nice contrast to Russ and Jo’s longterm comfort (and annoyance, in Jo’s case) with each other. Both of the personal scenes between Russ and Jo are fun, but I particularly like seeing an outsider’s response to them.

Another fun scene features Danny and Flack, who arrive in front of Stan Ridgeway’s door with a hint of apprehension. They’re still thinking about their run-in with Mitch Barrett in “Justified”, which started with Mitch firing several shots through the door and ended with the pair of them trying (and failing) to subdue the man. There’s a bit of banter between them about it this week, when Danny suggests that they don’t have to worry about a clown putting bullet holes in the door. Flack points out that Danny, like him, is standing off to the side, and Danny admits that he’s a little bit scared. These two are always great together, and I love even the smallest scenes between them.

Perhaps the funniest moments in the episode come courtesy of Colby Glass, the man who runs the New York Clown Registry yet seems to have no sense of humor. First, we see Adam arguing with the man on the phone, losing his temper as he tries, unsuccessfully, to get a name to go with the unique clown face-paint worn by the killer. He’s still agitated when he hangs up, and Mac is clearly amused as he observes Adam’s frustration. When Mac and Jo arrive at the clown registry, however, they and the audience get to experience Colby’s charming personality firsthand. Jo tries to be friendly with him, but he shuts her down by calling her “Kentucky”. Jo points out that Colby isn’t very nice for someone who works at a clown registry, and Colby responds, “Not all clowns are happy.” Jo’s expression is priceless, and the whole scene is hilariously awkward. Ron Glass is a gem. I loved him as Shepherd Book on Firefly, and it’s always fun to see actors I recognize guest-starring on one of the CSI shows—especially when they take part in such memorable scenes.


See also: “To What End?” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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