Review: CSI: Miami — ‘Friendly Fire’

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The death of a billionaire genius sends the team on the hunt for a high-tech weapon.

Synopsis:

Customers line up outside the Solamyrge store to buy the latest phone, while its creator Matthew Stone struggles to get out of bed. The nightstand is littered with cancer medication—this is a very sick man. A group of protestors run up and start spray-painting the windows of the store, yelling about corporate greed. Back at home, Stone wheels himself outside, where he receives a text message telling him “the time is now.” He gets subsequent texts counting down from three, and then a bullet strikes him in the forehead.

Walter locates a bug on the wall, proving that someone was keeping surveillance on Stone. A fingerprint leads back to Solamyrge’s acting CEO, Jerry Blackburn. He says the company had to keep tabs on Stone since his medication and treatments were compromising his mind and behavior.

The texts sent to Stone’s phone trace back to Heidi Taylor, one of the protestors whose group vandalized the Solamyrge store. She considers Stone the epitome of corporate greed, but she denies sending the texts, much less killing him. Dave determines that her phone was hijacked using a trojan horse virus.

The team looks for Stone’s will in his safe, but it’s not there. However, they do find a lanugo hair on the safe, which came from an anorexic person. Natalia recalls how thin Stone’s girlfriend Amanda was, and she asks the woman about the will. Amanda says that Stone was getting paranoid, and he asked her to take the will and keep it hidden. She retrieves it from a safe deposit box.

Dr Loman fishes out part of the fractured bullet in Stone’s brain, and it contains a microchip. Calleigh takes more of the fragments and determines that they’re dealing with a smart bullet, which is capable of changing direction in mid-air. She says the only person with the money and technology to make this bullet is Stone, but Loman mentions a former business partner who may have the skill as well. Raj Andari walked away from Stone’s company the day before they made it big, saying that money didn’t matter. Perhaps he changed his mind.

The team brings Raj in for questioning, and he says Stone contacted him two days ago and asked him to come over. The will has been altered using a typewriter, and Raj claims that Stone told him to change it because he didn’t trust the lawyers. Meanwhile, Calleigh reconstructs the bullet and sees the logo for Stone’s company etched on the side. They bring in Blackburn, who explains that Stone’s brother died in Iraq as a result of friendly fire, and Stone wanted to create a smart bullet so no more American soldiers would lose their lives in the same way. Blackburn says both prototype guns were stolen 48 hours ago.

Meanwhile, two gang members use the guns to rob a bank. They engage in a firefight with the police, who are able to take one perp down while the other continues firing at them. Suddenly, the gun backfires and kills the shooter. They have retrieved the prototypes, but neither gun was used to kill Stone—there must be a third weapon out there. However, they now have the ability to trace the trajectory of the bullet, and one of the options is Raj’s address. They find the gun hidden in the ceiling.

Raj says that Stone asked his former business partner to kill him in exchange for changing his will in Raj’s favor. Stone also asked Raj to hack Heidi’s phone, and he said there was a reason. The team tries to figure out what that reason may have been, and they learn that Stone sent Heidi a form letter in the mail. Ryan realizes the logo in the corner is magnetic stripping; they scan it and discover that Blackburn has been mass-producing the guns, and he signed a deal to sell the faulty weapons to the military based on falsified test results. Stone knew no one would believe him after his medication started to affect his mind, and he thought staging his own death was the only way to draw attention to what was happening with the secret weapons he created. Thanks to his actions, the team is able to stop Blackburn and arrest him.


Analysis:

Right off the bat, “Friendly Fire” makes some not-so-subtle references to the late Steve Jobs and his Apple corporation. Like Jobs, Matthew Stone is a technological genius who built his company from the ground up and fell victim to cancer. As if the parallels aren’t direct enough, Natalia is given the unenviable line, “This guy’s bigger than Steve Jobs.” While public figures are fair game, and CSI: Miami has created episodes that are “ripped from the headlines” before, this particular plot was used a bit too soon for my taste. If there weren’t as many parallels, it might not be so bothersome, but I feel like too many details match up to Jobs.

Of course, Jobs was not murdered, and the episode quickly takes the case in a new direction by focusing on the unique weapon. The gun featured in the episode seems futuristic at this point in time, but that is to be expected. All three CSI shows take real (or theoretical) technology and make it even more impressive and entertaining for the small screen. CSI: Miami in particular seems to like featuring high-tech gadgets that are a few steps ahead of what’s available in the real world, like the Solamyrge cell phones included in this week’s episode. However, smart bullet prototypes do exist, such as the self-guided bullets being developed by Sandia National Laboratories. In fact, technologically advanced guns are already being field-tested by the military in the form of the XM25, which uses tiny computers to gauge the distance fired and detonate the projectile, sending out deadly shrapnel which enables soldiers to hit concealed enemies. As technology continues to advance, the US military will no doubt find itself in possession of ever-more impressive weapons that give troops the advantage and protect soldiers’ lives in battle.

The episode marks the return of computer whiz Dave Benton, who was last seen in “GO” at the end of season nine. Actor Wes Ramsey was cast in the ill-fated ABC series Playboy, which also starred former Miami actor Eddie Cibrian, but the show was cancelled after airing only three episodes. I’m glad he came right back to Miami, and it feels like he never left. Dave’s enthusiasm for Stone’s genius and his technological marvels matches Ryan’s enthusiasm for the gadgets, but Walter is far less impressed than his friends—with the notable exception of the large television featured at the beginning of the hour, which allows him and Ryan to watch an exciting play during a football game. Calleigh, standing nearby when they accidentally turn the television on, rolls her eyes at their antics and gives a voice command to turn the TV off. Walter tells her to turn it back on, and he swears he has a real reason for it. At first, he and Ryan are just enjoying the game again, but Walter proves that he didn’t lie when he points out the bug he’s able to see when the television is working.

Walter and Ryan’s friendship is featured elsewhere in the episode when Walter finds out that Ryan has bought a gift for Samantha Owens to celebrate the fact that she is now a detective. Walter teases him for the thoughtful gift, which is a bracelet with a charm shaped like Texas. Sam admitted that she missed home, Ryan explains, and Walter continues to tease him by pointing out that he’s wearing cologne. Ryan seems slightly embarrassed, but it’s clear that he has a crush on the beautiful new detective. Unfortunately for Ryan, it seems like Eric might also have a thing for Sam, and he watches from afar as Eric and Sam interact in the lab.

Later in the episode, Eric invites Sam to go out in the field with him during the bank robbery, and Sam jumps at the chance. She’s been waiting for the opportunity, but things quickly take a dangerous turn when they arrive in the middle of a shootout featuring advanced weapons. Sam moves out from behind the safety of the Hummer, and Eric yells at her after the fact for putting herself in danger. She yells back, insisting that she followed protocol. I’m sure that may be true, but the fact remains that Sam has only just been promoted, and they weren’t dealing with a typical weapon—even if she followed protocol, I’m inclined to side with Eric on this one. Sam put herself in danger when she moved out from behind the Hummer; she could have drawn the shooter’s attention to herself, and seeing her yell at Eric about not trusting her is odd. Why would he trust her at this point? This is their very first time in the field together, and even if the team has known Sam for several months in the lab, it takes time to earn trust in that sort of situation.

Despite the fact that Sam was, in my opinion, in the wrong during the shootout, Eric wants to apologize at the end of the hour. He tells this to Ryan, who hesitates for a moment before pulling out the bracelet and urging Eric to give it to her. They discuss the fact that they both went after Natalia when she first joined the lab, and I’m glad that the writers specifically referenced that storyline this week—I was starting to worry that we might be dealing with the same thing all over again. Eric suggests that Ryan didn’t have a chance with Sam anyway, but it’s clear that he’s only teasing. In fact, while Ryan sees Eric hand over the gift at the end of the hour, he turns away before he can see Eric gesture in his direction. Sam looks toward him, and it’s obvious that she knows who really picked out the present.

I’m not sure if anything will develop between Sam and Ryan, but I have to say that I hope it doesn’t. Sam is new, and I’d prefer to see friendships developed before romance if she’s going to stick around longterm. She is friends with Walter from their time together on the night shift, of course, and it looks like she and Eric could develop a rapport; however, I’d like to see more of the tense relationship between Sam and Natalia instead of romance—specifically, I’d like to see that tension resolved and replaced with a genuine friendship. Things still seem a bit awkward between the two women this week, when Natalia and Eric head into the lab to find out about the hair found in Stone’s safe.

At first, Natalia is smiling and congratulating Sam on her promotion. A minute later, when the three of them determine that the lanugo hair is from Stone’s anorexic girlfriend, Sam is eager get out of the lab coat and question a suspect. Natalia, however, quickly squashes that hope by pointing out that she already spoke to Amanda and would prefer to do the questioning. Sam isn’t happy, but Natalia does have a point. I’m just curious to know if there’s more to it. Perhaps Sam’s transition to detective has her feeling a bit threatened and territorial, although I’m not sure why. After all, Walter appeared to be a lab guy before we saw him going out in the field with a gun, and there was no hoopla made about his transition to detective. (In fact, I couldn’t even tell you when it happened.) I hope the writers have something in mind for these two because as two of the only three major female characters on the show, I’d hate to see some sort of conflict drag out for the rest of the season.

Horatio has a brief personal moment at the end of “Friendly Fire”, after Dave discovers the video Stone left on his phone. As Stone discusses his actions and the sacrifice he made to bring the truth to light, Horatio can be seen chatting with his son Kyle Harmon (“Dishonor”) on the computer. It’s a nice nod to the boss’s family, and it also ties into the episode’s plot. Stone’s brother was killed in Iraq, and that has to remind Horatio of the danger Kyle is in while he’s serving in the military. Stone’s smart bullets are a good idea in theory, but they have not been perfected. To know that Blackburn was going to sell those weapons to the military despite their defects, potentially putting them into the hands of soldiers like Kyle, must make Horatio livid. It’s satisfying to see the team take Blackburn down, and it’s nice that Horatio is able to do something at home to keep Kyle and his fellow soldiers safe overseas.


See also: “Friendly Fire” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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