Review: CSI: Miami — ‘Sinner Takes All’

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A high stakes poker game turns deadly, and Horatio and the team must determine if their victim was a target or collateral damage.

Synopsis:

A group of people are playing a high-stakes poker game when a man in a mask rappels down the side of the building and breaks through the window. He opens fire with a semi-automatic weapon, forcing the people to duck down and avoid the flying bullets. The robber steals all of the money and goes back out the window, and the chandelier falls as he gets ready to exit. When the team arrives, they see that the chandelier fell onto a man’s head, but that wasn’t what killed him: he also has a bullet wound in his neck. This is not the first time this robber has hit a big poker game, but it’s the first fatality.

The victim is a Hollywood movie producer named Benjamin Paxton. He was shot in the hip, and the bullet ricocheted off his hip bone, traveled up his body and exited his neck before getting lodged in the arm of rap mogul Isaiah Stiles, who was sitting next to him. This bullet doesn’t match the weapon used by the robber, suggesting that they’re looking for a second shooter. They search the players, which include a big actor and a housewife in addition to the producer and the mogul. The housewife, Evelyn Bowers, doesn’t fit in with the other people in the game. She reveals that her son Kevin was at one of the games this man robbed six months ago, and he hit the young man in the back of the head. This caused a hemorrhage that nearly killed Kevin, and the injury causes him ongoing problems. Evelyn wanted revenge against the robber. She took out a second mortgage on her house to get the money, which she used to convince Joey Ranzone to allow her to join high stakes poker games. She went to every game she could, waiting for the robber. There’s a gun in her purse that matches the caliber of the bullet that killed Paxton, but it isn’t the murder weapon.

The glass of the window is tempered, which should have prevented the robber from breaking his way in. However, there are grooves that have been scratched into the glass from the inside, which weakened it and allowed the robber to break in. There was someone on the inside helping the robber, and these marks could have been made with a diamond or piece of ceramic. The actor, Jason Huntsman, has glasses with ceramic on the frames, and the ceramic is scratched. It could have been used to create the groove, but Jason isn’t the killer. The bullet was fired from a vent in the wall—this is an assassination.

The face cards from the game are marked with invisible ink, which can be seen with special lenses. The actor’s lenses don’t match, but Evelyn is wearing special contacts that let her cheat. It was the only way she could afford to stay in the games and continue hunting for the robber.

There’s a mark inside the air vent from a fresh tattoo, which leads back to the Haileah Kings gang. Eric talks to Frank and gets the name Carl Raines, a guy who specializes in high-end jobs. He and Natalia head to find the man, but he shoots a uniformed police officer, and Eric is forced to fire at him. Before he dies, Carl says he was paid to kill Paxton.

Eric and Natalia look through Carl’s truck and find a flash drive with raw instrumentals from Isaiah’s new album. Carl was his bodyguard until a few weeks ago, when he stole the tracks from him and tried to blackmail him. Isaiah leaked the album himself and made the tracks worthless, removing Carl’s source of blackmail.

Joey Ranzone tells Horatio that Isaiah insisted on having the producer at that particular game, and he tried to pay the man off with a big diamond ring. Ranzone didn’t take it, though, because he only accepts cash. Natalia looks at Isaiah’s rings and finds glass particles on one of the diamonds—he scored the glass to help the robber. He tells the team that the producer got what he deserved. Isaiah was cast for a movie, and he even used his own money to produce the soundtrack. However, the producer dropped him before filming began, and he ruined his reputation by suggesting that Isaiah didn’t have the right edge for the role. In his business, reputation is everything, so he decided to hire Carl to kill Paxton. The robber didn’t even know Carl was in the vent—Isaiah set the robber up to take the fall for Paxton’s murder. Isaiah gives up the name of the robber, and Frank recognizes him as a man he saw holding up a camera phone and asking questions at the crime scene.


Analysis:

“Sinner Takes All” features a glamorous high stakes poker game, a serial robber who rappels down the side of a building in a devil mask, a mother bent on revenge, and a bevy of rich, powerful people and unscrupulous characters. In short, welcome to CSI: Miami! Miami is always the most vivid, colorful member of the franchise, but the opening this week is especially bright and saturated with strong shades of yellow, red and blue. Stacks of money are changing hands before the notorious robber (whom we’ve never seen before) bursts in and opens fire. Everyone ducks for cover until the robber leaves, at which time Paxton’s body is discovered beneath a fallen chandelier.

Drea de Matteo’s performance helps make Evelyn a very sympathetic character. She wants revenge for what happened to her son, and she ends up creating more chaos in her family’s life in the process. Despite her plan to kill the robber, we see her hesitate and pull her hand back when she starts to reach for her gun at the beginning. Even when she finally has the opportunity, she doesn’t go through with it. She’s an angry, grieving mother trying to deal with the toll Kevin’s injury has taken on their lives, but she’s not a killer.

The audience meets Kevin later in the episode, when the young man bums a ride to the precinct to bail his mother out of jail. Evelyn is surprised to see him there, and she tells Horatio that the boy doesn’t even have any money. He gets confused sometimes, and she doesn’t have a way to get him home. Horatio offers to take the boy home himself. Evelyn is grateful, and Horatio sees Kevin’s forgetfulness firsthand when they arrive at the house and he must prod Kevin gently to remember to put the key into the lock first and turn the handle to open the door. Horatio sees that most of their furniture is gone, and Kevin reveals that his mother sold it all.

When Horatio asks why Evelyn hasn’t bailed herself out of jail yet, she says she tried—but her bank account has been emptied. Kevin is the only other person with access, and Horatio discovers Joey Ranzone using Kevin’s forgetfulness against him to manipulate the boy into giving him stacks of cash. He told Kevin he could get back into gambling if he gave him money, and Kevin obediently drained his mothers account to hand it over. Horatio arrives and puts a stop to the transfer, and at the end of the episode he demands that Ranzone pay back everything he took from the family. Evelyn is at home when Kevin arrives with a backpack full of money, and the young man apologizes for the trouble he has caused his mother. She tells him not to apologize, and the audience can see Horatio sitting in his Hummer outside while mother and son embrace. Considering that Kevin is confused and easily led since he was injured, I do think Evelyn should have asked more questions about where the young man got the money. There was a lot of money in that backpack!

While Evelyn is a sympathetic character, and Horatio is always eager to help those who need it, once again we see Horatio Caine rescuing a woman who has gotten in way over her head. He takes it upon himself to stand in as Kevin’s protector while his mother is being held by the MDPD, he threatens Ranzone to make him give back the money, and he escorts Kevin—and the money—home at the end. It’s good to see that the family is getting closure and can move on with their lives, but they couldn’t do it without Horatio. I know it’s part of Horatio’s characterization to be the hero who saves the people of Miami, but it always seems to be women and children who are the most helpless and in need of rescuing.

Walter shares a few scenes with Samantha Owens, a new lab tech who transferred over from the night shift. Walter was on the night shift before transferring to the day shift back in season eight’s “Bolt Action”, so it’s nice to get a reference to his time before joining the team. Walter and Samantha are obviously old friends, and they even share some comfortable jokes between them. Samantha refers to Walter as “Teddy Bear”, which is hilarious—and I totally believe his colleagues on the night shift would call him that. He should be careful that she doesn’t use the nickname around other members of the team, though. They might have a bit too much fun with it—especially “Wolfey”. A lot of new lab techs have been introduced over the years on Miami, and plenty of them disappear after a single episode. However, given her connection to Walter, I’m curious to see if Samantha returns. I hope so, if only to hear more about the night shift and the time she and “Teddy Bear” worked together.

At the end of the episode, Walter and Natalia are the ones interrogating Isaiah when Natalia discovers that his ring was used to cut the tempered glass. Walter wants the man to tell them the name of the robber, but Isaiah doesn’t seem eager to give it up. Walter looms over him, demanding the name and threatening to hurt more than Isaiah’s “reputation” if he doesn’t fork it over. It looks like Walter is learning to channel Horatio. I like when Walter is assertive, but I think Horatio’s methods are best left to Horatio. It’s one thing for the leading man—who often seems like a larger-than-life superhero—to be aggressive and push the envelope, but it’s a bit much when other, more grounded members of the team follow suit.


See also: “Sinner Takes All” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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