Review: CSI: Miami — ‘Blown Away’

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A tornado rips through a trailer park after a young woman is murdered, carrying off the body and destroying the crime scene.

Synopsis:

A nasty storm has settled over Miami, causing at least three tornadoes to touch down around the city. Ryan and Walter respond to a call at a trailer park, which is within a tornado evacuation zone. They find a dead woman’s body, but the crime scene gets destroyed when a tornado passes through and tears the trailer park apart. Ryan is injured and taken to the hospital, and the rest of the team works to find their victim and locate any evidence that can help them figure out what happened to the young woman.

Natalia finds a man “scavenging” through the debris, and he has a golf bag. Walter and Ryan saw this bag next to the victim, and it may have contained their murder weapon. A rescue dog locates the young woman’s body impaled on the branches of a tree. The victim is Ellie Sutton, and she was hit repeatedly before she died. Dr Loman confirms that a golf club could be their murder weapon. Ellie’s parents arrive, and they deny that the body could belong to their daughter. Ellie is supposed to be on campus at Dade University, and they had no idea she came home the night before. They walked right by her room when they were getting ready to evacuate, but they didn’t see her sleeping inside.

The scavenger from the trailer park had a strange metal dish in his possession when they caught him, so Walter and Natalia study it and discover that its purpose is to collect weather data. They tie it back to a pair of storm chasers, Ronnie and Leon. These men say they left the dish at the trailer park to collect information about the storm, but their hard drive was erased. Walter is able to recover the footage and sees a car at the trailer park around the time of Ellie’s murder. The car traces back to Travis Renner, Ellie’s boyfriend and an ROTC cadet. They kept their relationship private because cadets aren’t allowed to date. He says Ellie was homesick the night before, and he got worried about her when she wouldn’t answer her phone. He went to the trailer park to check on her, but after 20 minutes with no answer, he left. It’s obvious that he’s not telling the whole story.

Eric prepares to leave the trailer park after searching for survivors, and he sees a small dog with bloody paws. He follows the trail of pawprints back to a man who is badly injured but alive. He pulls a piece of ripstop nylon from the man’s wound, which Calleigh identifies as a parachute that would be attached to a weather-testing probe. The probe was shot from a potato gun, and the probe is still stuck inside the man’s neck. He will have to get surgery to remove it.

The probe is used to measure barometric pressure, and they can tell from the recorded readings that the man was shot a half hour before the tornado hit. This was no accident. The team speaks to the storm chasers, who identify the man as Jared Boyleston, a radio station weatherman. He was working with the storm chasers, and they say they left him behind because he didn’t come back in time—they thought he went back to his own car before the weather turned bad. The team finds a bag of valuables in Jared’s car, and it looks like he used his partnership with the storm chasers to get access to abandoned houses and rob them.

Ellie is pregnant, and Horatio contacts Travis’s commanding officer to let him know. Travis is upset—he’ll be discharged for this, and Horatio has ruined his life. Natalia wonders if he told Ellie she was ruining his life by being pregnant, and if he went after her this morning to ensure she wouldn’t get him in trouble. He admits that they fought the night before, and that’s why she went home, but he denies killing her. He went there to apologize.

A smudge on Ellie’s cheek contains ketchup, flour and steel wool. Ketchup and flour can be used to make a homemade brass polish, which is something an ROTC cadet would know. Travis finally tells them everything: he saw Ellie get attacked, but he did nothing to save her. He’s a coward. However, he can identify the people who are responsible for Ellie’s death. Ronnie and Leon were robbing the trailer when Ellie came out of the bedroom and confronted them, and Ronnie picked up a golf club and hit her repeatedly. Jared tried to help her, and he ran to call 911 when he realized what Ronnie had done. Leon followed him with the potato gun and shot him with the probe to keep him from calling the police—unfortunately for Leon and Ronnie, Jared’s call went through before he was shot.

The team picks up the storm chasers, and Ronnie tries to plant the seeds of reasonable doubt by blaming Leon for everything. He claims it will be a ‘he said, he said’ case, but Leon decides to tell the whole truth. He admits to attacking Jared, but he says Ronnie killed Ellie. He can’t be a part of this anymore.


Analysis:

“Blown Away” finds the team solving a murder after a massive supercell causes at least three tornadoes to touch down in Miami. The storm featured in the episode reminds me of the tornado outbreaks earlier this year. Hundreds of tornadoes caused devastation in the midwest and southeast portions of the United States during April and May, leaving more than 500 people dead. However, despite the deadly power of a tornado, this week’s episode focuses on a death that occurred before the storm hit.

Ryan and Walter are on their way back to the lab from Hialeah when they receive a call about a dead body in a trailer park that is within a tornado evacuation zone. They head into the trailer and find Ellie dead, and her body is still warm. She hasn’t been here for long, but they can’t dawdle. They try to preserve as much of the crime scene as they can, but they run out of time. Walter locates a closet and grabs a string of holiday lights, and he throws one end to Ryan as the wind rips through the trailer’s broken windows. Walter yells for Ryan to pull himself toward the closet, but the side of the trailer is torn away. Ellie’s body is yanked out by the tornado, and Walter loses his grip and watches with horror as Ryan is pulled out into the storm. The closet door slams, and Walter yells Ryan’s name and pounds on the door as the storm rages outside. The ruckus dies down soon, but not before a metal pipe skewers the door like a knife through hot butter, narrowly missing Walter’s head. Walter forces his way out of the closet to find the trailer park destroyed around him, and he’s in a daze as Horatio and Eric rush toward him. They ask about Ryan, but Walter has no idea where the CSI could be. They finally locate him nearby, injured but alive, and Horatio calls for a paramedic.

It’s a very thrilling opening sequence, with Ryan and Walter working to preserve the crime scene before all hell breaks loose. Their efforts prove to be in vain, and all of the evidence is scattered when the tornado hits. While I agree with Eric that Walter and Ryan should have left the body so they could get to safety, I wasn’t a fan of him calling Walter stupid. There was only a minute between the time the windows broke out of the trailer and when Ryan was yanked out into the storm. It all happened very quickly, and lest Eric forget, he and Horatio were trying to outrun a tornado in a car. They emerged unscathed, but it could have ended disastrously for them—just because it didn’t doesn’t make their actions any less “stupid”. Walter feels enough guilt over what happened to Ryan, and Eric doesn’t need to add his two cents. I’m just glad he lets it go after Walter says, with no small amount of exasperation, “It was a tornado!”

Walter remains upset throughout the episode, and he feels guilty when he learns that Horatio put a commendation in his file after Ryan told him that Walter saved his life. He starts to tell Natalia that Ryan doesn’t even know what happened, but he stops himself and gets back to the case. At the end of the episode, Ryan comes into the locker room and brings up the fact that Walter turned down the commendation. Walter says he doesn’t deserve it, but Ryan says he should get at least a pat on the back for saving Ryan’s life. Walter admits that he let go of the lights, so Ryan isn’t alive because of him. Ryan responds by saying it’s Walter who doesn’t know what actually happened. He used the string of lights to anchor himself to some pipes, so Walter gave him the tool that saved his life in the end. Besides, they survived an F2 tornado—that’s one hell of a story, and it’s bound to get them free drinks for life.

Walter cheers up eventually, and Ryan holds out a hand for a high five. Walter gestures to his bandaged palms, which were injured when he tried to keep a hold on the string of lights, so he suggests a fistbump. Ryan can’t do that, though, because his knuckles are injured. They settle for a shoulder bump, and Ryan complains that his shoulder might still be dislocated. It’s a great scene, and I like the way it mixes humor with a serious conversation between two guys who survived a major ordeal together. The friendship between Walter and Ryan remains one of my favorite personal relationships on the show, and it’s nice to see the genuine affection between them as Ryan pushes Walter to move past what happened. Ryan’s the one who got hurt—if he can forgive Walter, Walter shouldn’t hesitate to forgive himself.

Ryan and Walter also share a fun scene earlier in the episode when they work together to figure out the probe that was pulled from the wound in Jared’s neck. Ryan uses a mnemonic device to remember that Pa stands for pascal, which is a unit used to measure barometric pressure. That scene also features a reference to the tornado itself, although Ryan brushes off Walter’s attempt to discuss the commendation. When Ryan first walks in, he says the patrol officers are calling him Dorothy (from The Wizard of Oz). He insists that Walter is Toto since he went through the tornado as well.

When Eric comes across Jared’s body in the trailer park, he assumes the man is dead. He calls Loman to come pick up the body, but then he sees bubbles coming out of the man’s neck wound. He’s alive, and Loman instructs him to take a pen apart and use the tube to create an airway so Jared can breathe until the ambulance arrives. Eric heads to the hospital after he and Calleigh figure out a probe may still be stuck in Jared’s neck, and he promises he’ll be there for the man every step of the way. However, when they discover a bag of stolen valuables in Jared’s car, Eric feels betrayed. He heads to the hospital and confronts Jared, who hurts himself trying to tell Eric what really happened. In the end, Eric learns the truth: Jared was just trying to save Ellie, and he nearly got killed for being a good person. The bag they found in Jared’s car was bait left by Ronnie and Leon to shift suspicion onto the meteorologist. Jared pretends to be asleep when Eric comes into the hospital for the final time, but Eric apologizes and tells Jared the name of the young woman he tried to save. When he walks away, a tear runs down Jared’s cheek. It’s nice to see Eric form a bond with Jared after saving the man’s life, and I’m glad he returned to make things right after he figured out what really happened to Ellie.

Eric is led to Jared’s body by a little abandoned dog. Eric gives the dog a sandwich, and later in the lab, he tells Calleigh he found a “new boyfriend” for her. Animal services has the dog for now, and they’re trying to find the owner. If they can’t locate the family, Eric suggests that Calleigh could adopt the little dog since she mentioned that she missed having a dog around the house. She agrees that she does miss having a pet, but she hopes they can find the dog’s family. They don’t say whether or not Calleigh adopts the dog, but the scene indirectly addresses the situation between Eric and Calleigh. It is confirmed that they haven’t gotten back together, although it’s clear that they still have deep feelings for each other. A ‘will they/won’t they’ relationship can be an interesting storyline, but Eric and Calleigh’s relationship just leaves me wondering, “Why aren’t they?” Hopefully that question will be answered as season ten continues, and we’ll see some development between them in the coming months.


See also: “Blown Away” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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