A murder suspect hijacks a medivac helicopter with Morgan trapped inside.
DB, Morgan and Greg arrive in the middle of nowhere, expecting to find a dead body. Instead, they learn the man is still alive. He was shot in the shoulder, and a second bullet grazed his head. They document as much as they can before the medic gets the man into the helicopter. There are marks around his wrists, indicating he was bound, and there are stun gun marks on his neck. There’s no blood pool despite the gunshot wound, so this isn’t their primary crime scene.
Nick gives DB a call, telling him that he’s pulled a double homicide and could use some help. Since they are no longer dealing with a murder, DB says he’ll send Greg to the hospital with the wounded man and then he can join Nick at the double homicide crime scene. Morgan offers to go instead, and she hops into the helicopter before it lifts off.
The victims at Nick’s crime scene are a pair of Mad 10 gang members. Plasma cutters were used to cut through the metal security door at the back of the house, and the men were strangled with a wire. The killer was trying to get information out of them. Brass speaks to the company that owns the stolen plasma cutter, learning that an assistant by the name of Frank Cafferty stole some equipment the night before and didn’t show up for work this morning.
The victim currently on his way to the hospital crawled a short distance from the primary crime scene, leaving a bloody fingerprint on a rock. DB photographs the print and sends it to Mandy for testing, and they get a name back: the man in the helicopter is Frank Cafferty. He got out of jail six months ago after doing a 10 year stint for manslaughter. Meanwhile, Frank starts convulsing in the helicopter, and Morgan and the medic move forward to help him. However, Frank is only pretending, and he uses the opportunity to grab Morgan’s gun. He tells the pilot not to hit the emergency button, and he orders the man to take them south, toward Mexico.
The team finally figures out the connection between Frank and the Mad 10 gang. They look through personal items taken from Frank’s apartment, including a letter his daughter Samantha sent to him in jail four years ago. In it, she told him there was a better man in her life who was looking out for her, and she included a picture of herself sitting in the man’s lap. It’s one of the men Frank killed. There’s a URL jotted down on a piece of paper from Frank’s apartment as well, which links to a site with a porn video featuring a drugged Samantha. Frank wanted to rescue his daughter, and he tried to strangle information about her whereabouts from the Mad 10 members. Some amateur surveillance photographs from Frank’s apartment include a picture of a Porshe Cayenne, which fits with the luxury SUV tire tracks found at the scene. They trace the partial license plate number in the picture to the car’s owner, Alexander Zadian.
A small, secondary blood pool from the desert leads back to a girl named Tiffany Bamford, who has ties to the Mad 10s. She’s in the hospital. The gang used her in place of Samantha, making Frank think they killed her before they shot him and left him for dead. If they had to pretend to kill Samantha, that means she may be alive and out of their reach. If they can find her, perhaps they can get through to Frank and convince him to let the hostages go. Luckily, Samantha saw the news on TV and comes into the precinct to help. The police have a message repeating itself over and over on the radio, telling Frank that his daughter is alive and wants to speak to him. Frank responds, and Samantha tells her father that she’s fine. She starts to tell a story, but then she quickly yells for him to head to the “wishing well” because she’s sending someone to help him escape. They police drag her away, but the message has already been sent.
Frank orders the pilot to change course, but they’re almost out of fuel. Unfortunately, it’s all just a set up so the Mad 10s can get Frank once and for all. The team needs to figure out where the “wishing well” is so they can get there before the Mad 10s do. They search through the pictures of Frank and his daughter to find a photograph of the pair of them in front of a wishing well at an old theme park. The cops race to the abandoned park, but the gang arrives first. They shoot down the helicopter, killing the pilot and medic and wounding Frank further. Morgan is able to get him into one of the buildings to hide from the gang members. The police get there in time to engage the gang members and take them out, saving Morgan—but Frank doesn’t make it out alive.
“CSI Down” is a departure from the typical CSI episode, focusing on character over forensics. There is science involved, of course, but the knowledge that Morgan’s life is in danger drives the team to solve the case. The storyline brings the newest CSI front and center, and it gives the audience a glimpse into the strained relationship between Morgan and her father, Conrad Ecklie.
Morgan tries to form a connection with Frank in the helicopter, hoping that she can get the man to put down the gun and let them land. She asks about Samantha, the name he was muttering while partially conscious. He eventually reveals that she’s his daughter, and he believes she’s dead. He says he was a bad father, and he never had a relationship with her. Morgan talks about her own life, how her parents split up when she was 14 and she went to California with her mother. She was angry at the time that her father didn’t even fight for her to stay. Frank wonders if that would have been enough, and if Morgan forgave her father. She says she thought it was worth a shot, and they can get past whatever mistakes they made. Her father is a better man now, and he deserves a second chance.
Marc Vann really shines this week, bringing emotion and subtlety to Ecklie’s reactions throughout the episode. When he first learns about Morgan being in the hijacked helicopter, the expression on his face is perfect. He hasn’t had time to fully process the information, but it’s clear that he’s facing a father’s worst nightmare. When he learns that Frank believes he watched his daughter die, Ecklie can’t help thinking about what that may mean for his own daughter. He seems relieved and hopeful when Samantha arrives at the precinct and says she wants to help. As they wait for Frank to respond to the message over the radio, he paces back and forth. DB rationalizes why they haven’t received a response yet, and Ecklie says he has become a master at rationalization when it comes to Morgan. He told himself that she didn’t understand what he and her mother were arguing about when she was 14, that she was just a moody 16-year-old and didn’t mean the things she said to him, that she was simply too busy to call—then she showed up in Vegas with a chip on her shoulder, and he knows that she hates him. DB breaks in, telling Ecklie that this could be a second chance for the father and daughter. Ecklie knows that may be true, but his voice is wavering when he says that it can’t end like this.
Ecklie and DB have several great scenes, two very different fathers trying to find Morgan and bring her home. DB is a source of support for Ecklie as they search for the missing CSI, and it’s interesting to contrast the relationships that Morgan has with each man. DB is her boss, although he has taken on a paternal sort of dynamic with the younger members of the team. Ecklie is her father, but the pair of them barely have a relationship at all. When DB tells Ecklie about Morgan’s disappearance, he points out that she’s a member of his team and therefore her safety is his responsibility. Ecklie responds that she’s his daughter, but he quickly adds that DB has been a better supervisor than he has ever been a father. The men work together throughout the episode to bring Morgan home, and they are both there at the end of the episode when she is rescued. Ecklie runs up to Morgan and hugs her. He is relieved to see her alive and relatively unscathed. Despite her conversations with Frank, she isn’t quite ready to pretend that things are 100% okay between them, so she pulls away and asks if they can leave. She walks off with DB, who puts an arm around her shoulders and tells her she’ll be okay. At first, she says she’s fine, but she breaks down as they continue walking.
It’s interesting to see things developing between Morgan and Ecklie, and I like that we’re seeing a realistic progression of their relationship. Even if they both want to be a family again, it won’t be easy. They can’t just smile and pretend nothing ever happened. Morgan has a lot of pain and anger to deal with, and Ecklie has to face up to his guilt and the fact that he hasn’t been a good father for most of Morgan’s life. I’m looking forward to what’s in store for them going forward, and I hope both actors get more great material to work with. Elisabeth Harnois has been a great addition to the CSI cast, and this storyline is bringing a new, different family dynamic to the established team.
In contrast to DB’s calm, methodical investigating and Ecklie’s subdued fear for his daughter, Greg has a very impassioned response to Morgan’s kidnapping. He’s frantic to find her and bring her home, and he lets his emotions get the best of him several times. He suggests that they should just let Frank go; even if he’s a killer, they can let him escape to Mexico in exchange for guaranteeing Morgan’s safety. You can’t blame him for wanting to do whatever it takes to protect a colleague and friend, even if it’s not a reasonable or realistic option. DB doesn’t even consider the idea, and Greg is upset when he asks why DB isn’t willing to try it. DB rationally points out that he doesn’t think Samantha is trying to help her father; sure enough, Nick and Sara check surveillance footage from outside the precinct and discover that Samantha was dropped off by Zadian, one of the Mad 10 gang members. She is leading Morgan right into even more danger. Greg storms into the interrogation room and slams his fists on the table, yelling at Samantha and demanding to know where she sent the helicopter. Samantha calmly points out that the Mad 10s are her family now, and Frank has to pay for killing two of them. Greg has to be restrained (by Ecklie, no less), and he kicks a chair over and storms out of the room. At the end of the episode, Greg is in one of the cars rushing toward the abandoned theme park to rescue Morgan. He stays back at Brass’s order, but he rushes up when the area is secured to make sure that Morgan is okay.
I’m not sure if Greg’s reaction this week is out of friendship or something more—as I mentioned in my review for “Bittersweet”, it’s clear that Greg is developing feelings for Morgan, but things are in the early, undefined stages right now. Greg’s concern this week seems like more than just a man worried about the safety of a colleague—after all, the other CSIs are more professional with their investigation of the crime—but it’s not clear just what those feelings are at this point. I’m most eager to see Morgan’s relationship develop with her father, but I’m curious about what might be brewing between her and Greg as season twelve continues.
See also: “CSI Down” episode guide