Review: CSI: Miami — ‘Terminal Velocity’

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The investigation into the death of a skydiver uncovers a multitude of suspects when the team finds out he was a regular sperm donor.

Synopsis:

Two men are skydiving, and Kevin Ramsey’s parachute is destroyed when the lines snap. He plummets toward the highway, dying on impact. The team discovers that a bag of acid was shoved in with Kevin’s parachute, causing delayed damage. They also find out that his altimeter was wrong, making him think he was higher than he really was. The pilot admits to changing the altimeter in an attempt to save money by not being forced to fly as high before letting the jumpers out of the plane. However, he denies killing the man, pointing the team to another suspect. Kevin’s car was destroyed, and evidence leads them to a young man named Cameron. He reveals that the victim was his sperm donor, and he went to see him. Kevin wanted nothing to do with Cameron, so the boy retaliated by pouring bleach in the car’s oil so the engine would overheat. A mucus sample on Kevin’s clothes suggests that the killer may have spit on him, but it isn’t a match to Cameron. It is, however, a match to his half-brother. The team checks the donor sibling registry website and finds out that Kevin has 103 children—any one of them could be a suspect. They start with the boy who revealed Kevin’s identity on the site: Scott Vance.

Scott hacked the clinic’s database and found out the name of his donor dad, so he went to meet him. Kevin told Scott they shouldn’t speak to each other again, so the boy got angry and posted Kevin’s name on the sibling registry site. Scott’s DNA matches the mucus on Kevin’s shirt, but he has an alibi: he was at a parent-teacher conference. Scott’s mother reveals that she used a surrogate, and the team visits the woman—only to discover that she gave birth to twins. She kept Trent and raised him as her own. Trent has Wilson’s disease, a genetic condition he inherited from Kevin. In need of a liver transplant, Trent went to visit his biological father after he saw his name on the registry site, and he spit on the man after he refused to even consider being a donor. He confesses to killing Kevin, but the team knows Trent is only lying in an attempt to get free treatment for his condition in jail.

Someone broke into the clinic and destroyed all of Kevin’s remaining specimens. The team discovers traces of a substance used by airplane mechanics, which leads them back to the pilot, Arnie Tice. Kevin was the sperm donor for his daughter, who died from Wilson’s disease. Arnie sabotaged the altimeter, but he denies putting the bag of acid in with the parachute.

Calleigh accidentally burns herself with nitric acid during an experiment, and they use ammonia to neutralize it. They realize the killer would have stains on his or her hands, so they check the surrogate. She didn’t do it, so the team has to bring in all of Kevin’s donor children. One of the girls claims that she spoke to Kevin’s wife on the phone, proving that she was lying when she said she didn’t know about her husband’s donor children. Meredith Ramsey has stains on her hands, and she reveals that Kevin told her he was sterile. In reality, he got a vasectomy after they got married, and he lied to her every day about it.


Analysis:

“Terminal Velocity” features twists and turns as well as a several likely suspects. What appears to be a skydiving trip gone wrong turns out to be murder, and the team is shocked to learn that Kevin has more than 100 children from sperm donations. It may seem outrageous, but it’s not unheard of—in fact, there is at least one donor father out there with 150 children or more. There are no regulations in the United States limiting the number of children that can be born from one donor father, leading many families to discover that their child has dozens of half-siblings. This type of situation could increase the chances of accidental incest among donor children or, as shown in “Terminal Velocity”, it could allow rare genetic diseases to spread more widely through the population.

CSI: Miami adds another element to the story by including a set of twins separated at birth. Jill Vance hired Amy Burton to be her surrogate, and Amy discovered that she was carrying twins. After being paid to bear children for more wealthy mothers, Amy wanted a child of her own but could not afford the associated medical costs. She decided to keep one twin, justifying her decision by saying that Jill paid for one child and received one child in return. Unfortunately for Amy, her son Trent developed Wilson’s disease, a genetic disorder in which copper accumulates in the body and causes neurological or psychiatric symptoms as well as liver disease. Trent needed a transplant, but Kevin refused to help even after Trent pointed out that he would die without the procedure.

Trent and Scott meet in a dramatic scene at the lab, when Trent goes into the bathroom and encounters his twin for the first time. Scott asks if Trent killed their donor dad, and Trent admits to spitting on the man. Scott is curious to know why, but Trent doesn’t have a chance to respond before Ryan emerges, reminding Trent that anything he says in a police station—even in the bathroom—can be used against him in court. Scott seems to regret speaking, and he’s forced to watch as Ryan leads Trent away. It’s always fun to see one actor play multiple roles, as Grant Gustin does here. Trent and Scott have lived very different lives, and it’s interesting to see them in the same scene and contrast Trent with a healthier version of himself—perhaps the version he would resemble if he’d been raised with his brother in a more wealthy family that could afford the best treatments. “Terminal Velocity” also provides a fun moment for fans of Glee: Gustin had a recurring role on the hit Fox series this past season, and Romy Rosemont, who plays the surrogate mother for both of Gustin’s characters this week, portrays the mother of one of the main Glee characters.

The boys and their mothers have motive to want to hurt Kevin, but they are not responsible. Instead, the team learns that Kevin’s wife Meredith killed him after she found out about his donor children. He told her he was infertile, and she spent years trying to get pregnant. She’s older than her husband, and her child-bearing years are behind her. When she found out Kevin had a vasectomy after they got married, she felt betrayed. He became a sperm donor in his youth, helping countless other women become mothers, but he lied to her every day because he didn’t want to raise a child himself. I do feel bad for the woman, but there are many ways to be a parent, and if she wanted to raise a child, she could have found another way before it was too late. Killing her husband doesn’t fix the problem, and it only ensures that she will probably never have the chance to be a parent.

Ryan interacts with Meredith in the first half of the episode, when he is forced to tell her about Kevin’s children. The woman tells him that she’s glad there’s still a part of him out there in the world, and she asks if she can meet the kids. Ryan promises that, after the case is over, he’ll see if he can arrange a meeting with one or more of Kevin’s biological children. Later, however, when the team discovers that Meredith killed her husband, Natalia is the one who calls her to come to the morgue and shines a light on her hands to see the stains proving she was responsible for Kevin’s death. It’s a good scene between these women, but I do wish Ryan had been the one to confront her about the crime. It would have been interesting to see how the dynamic changed when the truth came out, and what she might have said when her previous statements were revealed to be lies.

At the end of the episode, Natalia leads Scott and Jill out to a van to take them home. Scott wants to know what’s going to happen to Trent because of his illness, and Natalia admits that it doesn’t look good. However, she claims they only had one van to transport both families home, and the door opens to reveal Trent and Amy sitting inside. The brothers settle next to each other, smiling as Jill sits beside Amy. There is more awkwardness between the mothers, which is understandable considering the history between them, but it allows the episode to end on a high note. Scott is the ideal candidate for a liver donor, despite the fact that he’s very young. You must be at least 18 for a living donor transplantation, but perhaps the characters will have a birthday soon.

It does make me wonder about why one twin inherited a genetic disease while the other brother apparently did not. It could be that both of them have the disease, but it has only presented in Trent so far. I found a medical paper that discussed a pair of 17-year-old identical twins, one of whom showed severe symptoms of neurological Wilson’s disease, while his brother was asymptomatic. The paper suggested that a minor environmental difference could have caused the situation in the real-life twins, so growing up separately could theoretically create the situation seen with Trent and Scott in “Terminal Velocity”. Even if both brothers have the disease, or if Scott is too young to provide a liver transplant, it’s obvious that Scott’s mother is more wealthy and could perhaps help with Trent’s medical expenses—and Scott’s, should it be determined that he also has Wilson’s disease. The episode does not make it clear whether Jill or Amy is the biological mother of the twins, but if it happens to be Jill, she’s another candidate for a liver transplant—if Amy is the biological mother, I’m sure she would have no qualms about donating part of her liver to her son. I don’t know how the situation would turn out in real life, but I’d like to think the show’s storyline had a happy, healthy ending for both boys and their mothers—on a show like Miami, which revolves around death week after week, happy endings are a definite plus!

I always love team moments that show the friendship between the CSIs, and this episode offers two that are right up my alley. The first features Ryan and Walter when they’re looking over evidence from the case, seeing brain matter inside of Kevin’s helmet and the destroyed remnants of his shirt. Despite the horrendous fate that befell this skydiver, Ryan still seems eager to jump out of a plane. He asks Walter when the pair of them are going to go up, but Walter clearly thinks he’s out of his mind. Jumping out of a functioning plane is stupid, he says, but Ryan insists that it’s actually pretty safe—statistically speaking, at least. Walter suggests that they ask Kevin how safe it is, calling Kevin’s name out loud before pointing out that he can’t answer because, of course, he’s dead. Ryan responds, “Walter, too soon. Too soon.” I love their banter, but I have to agree with Walter here. If you want to go skydiving with him, Ryan, you shouldn’t ask when you’re investigating the death of a man whose parachute failed!

The other team moment also features Ryan, this time with Natalia. The pair is in the lab looking up Kevin’s biological children on the sibling registry site, and Natalia says, “Can you imagine not knowing how many kids you’ve got running around out there?” Ryan says that they aren’t technically Kevin’s children, and they aren’t his responsibility. Natalia laughs, announcing that his opinion is typical of “a single dude.” Ryan laughs along, reminding her that Kevin signed away his parental rights because he didn’t want the responsibility, but Natalia thinks there’s a “higher law at work” when it comes to children. She doesn’t understand how someone could turn away their own flesh and blood when the kid showed up on their doorstep. Ryan quips, “If the kid had my nose, I’d be able to.” Natalia laughs, stating that she thinks his nose is “cute”. These two have such a great dynamic, and I love the humorous moments they share on the show.


See also: “Terminal Velocity” episode guide

Rachel Trongo

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