The hunt for the “Miami Taunter” hits a snag when the team’s surveillance provides an alibi for Esteban Navarro.
The team is following Esteban Navarro off the clock, and Tripp and Horatio pull Esteban over when he picks up a prostitute. However, they get a call about another dead body, a prostitute named Vanessa. It looks like the “Miami Taunter” has struck again, and the team has become Esteban’s alibi because they were tailing him when the murder took place twelve hours ago.
Vanessa’s parents have not been in contact with their daughter for a while because she got into drugs. Her mother says there was a call on the answering machine that she was never coming home, and she says she’ll give the machine to them so they can listen for background noise in an attempt to locate where the call was made. However, there’s evidence of a break-in at the house, and the only thing taken was the answering machine.
Calleigh thinks they may be dealing with a tribute killer. She’s been monitoring internet activity relating to the Taunter, and she finds a post on a website with a picture of Vanessa’s body. The woman is wearing both earrings in the picture, which suggests that the shot was taken by the killer before he took one earring as a souvenir. They trace the IP address to a man at a dog pound, Phil, and the CSIs head over to pick him up—and find him wearing the missing earring. Phil says he only came after the fact when he heard about the murder over the police scanner. However, Walter and Ryan check his car and find jewelry belonging to Angela and Nikki, the two previous victims.
Ryan finds a hair on Vanessa’s earring that belongs to Esteban Navarro. He says it got there during a check-up at the clinic the day before. He claims that he wasn’t alone at his house during the time of Vanessa’s murder—he was with Elizabeth, the prostitute Eric spoke with previously and tried to help. Elizabeth tells Eric that Esteban made her lie. They bring Esteban in, but his father shows up with the answering machine and a lawyer. Ryan tests the recording and removes the voice distortion, but it isn’t Esteban’s voice.
Vomit on Vanessa’s shirt has DNA from a previously-unknown suspect, Michael Galliver, who claims he is the Miami Taunter. He recently received $200,000, which helped him avoid foreclosure on his house, and he used to work for Diego Navarro. They head to the jail to ask Galliver if Diego paid him to kill Vanessa and claim credit for the other murders, but they find him dead in his cell before they can speak to him.
“Dead Ringer” marks the return of the “Miami Taunter” Esteban Navarro, who evaded justice in “Look Who’s Taunting” after his powerful father Diego used his influence to manipulate the police investigation. Once again, the team finds itself unable to capture the killer, and this time they are unintentionally responsible for keeping him out of jail. The team has been watching Esteban, and it seems like they can at least prevent any more young women from becoming victims while they have their eye on him. Unfortunately, a new body turns up, and it has all the hallmarks of a Miami Taunter case.
The CSIs are dealing with a tangle of knots, and they have to unravel them to figure out the truth. In the meantime, Inspector O’Shay keeps calling Walter and demanding updates on the team’s progress. Back in “Killer Regrets”, O’Shay approached the CSI about providing him with information on his teammates, and Calleigh suggested that he should let the inspector think he was willing to play along. Walter avoids O’Shay’s phone calls to start with, and he tells Horatio that he has been cooperating, but he has yet to find a link between O’Shay and the Navarros. Horatio tells Walter to give O’Shay what he wants, so Walter meets up with him and casually mentions that the stolen answering machine could prove Esteban’s innocence. Sure enough, Diego shows up with a lawyer after Esteban is arrested, and they bring the answering machine with them. They claim it was found in a dumpster, but the team knows better. O’Shay thanks Walter for his cooperation, but he and Horatio quickly make it clear that Walter didn’t share the information to help the inspector. The appearance of the answering machine proves to them that O’Shay is working with the Navarros, and O’Shay realizes that he’s been set up. I hope we haven’t seen the last of O’Shay—it’s nice to see the team get the upper hand with him this week, but I’d like to see a much more satisfying end to the corrupt inspector’s time on the show.
Earlier in the episode, Walter and Ryan go through Phil’s car and find jewelry belonging to the previous Miami Taunter victims. Walter suggests that O’Shay may have a point about the circumstantial nature of their evidence against Esteban, and Ryan doesn’t appreciate the insinuation that his friend might be on O’Shay’s side. Walter simply points out that Esteban might be innocent, and Ryan goes to look for evidence that will prove Esteban’s guilt. It doesn’t seem like the team has to worry about Walter switching sides, and I really hope it remains that way.
Things don’t go so well for newcomer Samantha Owens, who was first introduced in “Sinner Takes All” as a friend of Walter’s from his time on the night shift. She’s working the day shift now, and she makes a costly error when analyzing a piece of evidence. Ryan found a piece of wood stained with blood at Vanessa’s parents’ house after someone broke in to steal the answering machine, and Sam inadvertently destroys the DNA while testing the wood using UV radiation. Natalia is livid, and Sam is devastated that she made a mistake that could ruin their case. Natalia suggests that Sam should quit, and she plans to do just that until Walter changes her mind. Quitting won’t help catch the Miami Taunter.
Sam takes Walter’s advice, and later on she finds a key piece of evidence to move the case forward. Natalia sees her analyzing Vanessa’s shirt in the lab, and Sam reminds her that there is vomit on it that could be from the killer. Natalia is prickly with Sam; she points out that stomach acid destroys DNA, and the salt water would have finished the job. Sam says the DNA may have been preserved if the killer ate shortly before vomiting, and the cotton material may have helped protect the DNA in the salt water. Natalia realizes that she has a point, and Sam hands her the DNA swab so she can run it through the computer. Natalia asks if Sam is coming, and they work together during the rest of the scene. I like Samantha, but I hope she and Natalia don’t remain adversaries as the season continues. It’s understandable for new members of the team to have a bit of trouble finding a good balance with the other CSIs, but I’ll be disappointed if Samantha continues to butt heads with one of the only two lead female characters on the show.
Eric’s relationship with Elizabeth, the prostitute he met in “Look Who’s Taunting”, is revisited this week. I’m not sure what the writers are aiming for with these characters, but I have to admit that I’m not a fan. Esteban claims that he was with Elizabeth when Vanessa was murdered, and Eric is angry at the suggestion that she fell back into her old lifestyle after he “stuck his neck out” to help her. He confronts her and expresses his disappointment, calling her “stupid” and even grabbing her arm when she turns to walk away. She tells Eric that he doesn’t get to judge her, but she finally admits that Esteban made her lie by threatening to kill her. There are romantic overtones to the interaction between Eric and Elizabeth, although there’s nothing to confirm whether or not they’ve actually been together. Eric still seems to want to “save” Elizabeth, and they hug at the end of the scene when he promises to protect her. As I said in my review for “Look Who’s Taunting”, I’d prefer to see Elizabeth save herself instead of needing Eric to swoop to her rescue.
Elizabeth may not provide a solid alibi for Esteban, but the man does not need her help to avoid being arrested for his previous crimes. Galliver confesses to killing Vanessa, and he is killed in custody before they can question him about evidence which suggests he was paid to say he was the Miami Taunter. Navarro’s chauffeur, Terrence, was arrested earlier in the episode after punching Tripp. The reason for this unprovoked attack becomes clear at the end, when he slices Galliver’s wrist while they are stuck in adjacent cells. He claims he killed Galliver because he was a serial killer, but it’s obvious that he is also working to protect the Navarros. This family must be very powerful if they can convince—or coerce—several men into committing murder to get Esteban off the hook.
At the end of the episode, the team has no choice but to look on as Esteban gives a press conference about his so-called unfair arrest. The public seems to be on his side as the news reports that Galliver is the Miami Taunter. The evidence boxes for the Taunter’s victims are labeled “solved”, but Horatio personally relabels the Angela Olsen case as “unsolved”. It will be interesting to see how the CSIs bring Esteban and Diego down when the slippery duo crosses their path again.
See also: “Dead Ringer” episode guide