CSI: New York--'A Daze Of Wine And Roaches'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 22, 2007 - 9:35 AM GMT

See Also: 'A Daze Of Wine And Roaches' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Simone DeLille, a young French tutor dressed as Marie Antoinette at a charity event meets an untimely end in a mock guillotine as her fifteen-year-old charge, Evie Pierpont, watches in horror. Mac and Stella face opposition on two fronts: newly promoted Deputy Inspector Gerrard refuses to let them move the body because of a request by the U.N., while Evie Pierpont's representatives, including lawyer Luther Vandeross and child psychologist Jackson Pillock, don't want to let them near the girl. Evie insists on talking with Stella and expresses her grief over her French tutor's death. The CSIs suspect poisoning, but Sid Hammerback has to dig deep to find evidence of it once he finally gets Simone's body, which Mac finally has removed once he learns her visa had expired before her death. The coroner finds evidence that Simone ingested a poison contained in a Dendridic Polymer, a cutting edge seal for chemicals too dangerous to be directly introduced into the body.

Flack shows Danny and Lindsay the body of Alec Green, a chef found dead in the wine cellar of his restaurant by the bus boy, Gregory Sanford. The CSIs are surprised when they discover a roach in Alec's mouth, and even more surprised when Lindsay finds expensive gemstones affixed to the roach's back. A little research reveals roach jewelry is a relatively new trend, and the CSIs are able to trace the particular piece to a restaurant critic named Clarissa Evers, who tells them that Alec took the necklace from her and that the roach escaped. She denies killing the chef. Lindsay discovers the expensive wine in Alec's cellar was a rip-off, and a print beneath one of the fake labels matches Julian Feeny. Danny confronts him, suspecting that Alec figured out the wine was fake and called Feeny out on it, but Feeny dismisses his assertions.

Stella matches bite marks on a choker Simone was wearing to a man named Charlie Cooper, but the CSIs are surprised to discover him dead in the morgue, the victim of a fatal gunshot wound, apparently at the hands of Simone. The CSIs soon find out why: a blackmail note Simone received, threatening to expose her lack of visa. Simone clearly suspected Charlie of sending the note. Stella takes handwriting samples from the entire staff at the Pierpoint mansion, and speaks with Evie again, who cries over Simone's fate and hands Stella her handkerchief, which a suspicious Stella tests and proves that Evie's tears lack emotion.

Lindsay recognizes a piece of evidence Danny and Adam have been puzzling over as a nipple marker used by women during mammograms. The CSIs zero in on Gregory Sanford, the bus boy who also works in a radiology lab. When Danny and Lindsay go to pick him up, the find his apartment overrun with roaches. Gregory tells Danny that he found Alec trying to kill the bejeweled roach and attacked him, fatally stabbing him with a wine opener. When Hawkes learns the polymer found in Simone's system is from an experimental drug being developed by the drug company run by Evie Pierpont's father, she's able to link samples of it to Evie's lawyer, Luther Vandeross. Simone learned that Luther had set up an account in her name to embezzle funds, and she demanded her cut. Luther, tired of being blackmailed, poisoned a piece of chocolate the night of the fundraiser. Luther's game is up, but Stella connects Evie to the note and realizes she told Simone about Luther's embezzling. Evie was pulling the strings behind the scenes, and Stella realizes there's nothing the CSIs can do about it.

Analysis:

I love the ending of "A Daze of Wine and Roaches." Conclusions are always tricky; writers have to walk a careful line. Avoid the obvious but don't come from too far out of left field. Go for the interesting angle but watch out for the ridiculous. Tie up the loose ends but don't telegraph the clues too blatantly or else your audience will figure it out way ahead of the CSIs. It's not easy to come to a satisfying conclusion, but good writers make it seem effortless.

Roach-lover Gregory Sanford got telegraphed early--Danny gets this look on his face whenever he notices something that will be important later in the episode--but I admit I'd forgotten about him by the end of the episode, suspecting instead the callous food critic Clarissa. I didn't see the motive coming either, which is so crazy and absurd that it actually works. Clearly Gregory is completely insane, and let's face it, not everyone who commits a murder is rational and clearheaded when they do so. Gregory has a motive, it's just one that doesn't make sense to anyone with even a little bit of sanity. Danny's completely dumbfounded reaction reflects the viewers' reaction. And yet, it works.

I have to give a nod to writers Danielle Nathanson and Timothy Lea for the clever naming of the killers. Gregory Sanford is too close to Gregor Samsa, the hero of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, to be a coincidence. Naming a killer with a rather frightening obsession with cockroaches after a fictional character who wakes up one morning as a cockroach is a nice touch. I'm a little less clear on what late R&B singer Luther Vandross did to inspire the character of Luther Vandeross, but the name definitely made me perk up and pay attention to the character, even if ultimately he was the puppet of a very devious fifteen-year-old girl.

Like Stella, something about Evie rubbed me wrong from the get-go. As Evie, Shailene Woodley conveys an eerie detachment from what's going on around her even as she puts on a show for the CSIs. That's not an easy thing for an actress of any age to do, but the fact that Woodley is so young makes it all the more impressive. I figured that Evie was the one behind the blackmail note, but I also thought she was the actual killer. Evie apparently was cleverer than that.

I liked the final ending of the episode, when Stella puts together all that Evie has done, and realizes there's nothing Evie can be charged with. As Stella points out, it's not a crime to manipulate people...or to be a sociopath. There's simply nothing they can charge Evie with. Again, it's realistic that some people are able to slip through the cracks, and the evidence in Evie's case implicates Simone and Luther because they actually committed the crimes; Evie just pulled the strings.

I do wish the initial confirmation of Stella's suspicions hadn't come through something as fragile as a tear. It's an intriguing notion and no doubt based on real scientific study, but like the snowflake in "Obsession" it felt like a real stretch. The handwriting analysis was a much more solid connection.

I love conflict on the CSI shows, but why did Captain Gerrard, introduced in "Raising Shane" as Flack's captain, have to get promoted? The conflict set up in "Raising Shane" between the detectives and the CSIs was an intriguing one, and wholly unique in the CSI universe. We haven't really seen much of cops and CSIs clashing in CSI or Miami, and what better setting than New York for the tough street cops to clash with the scientifically minded CSIs? "Raising Shane" presented the potential for a continued conflict in the show.

But now that Gerrard has been promoted, New York has fallen into the pattern the previous two shows have already established: the justice-minded CSI running afoul of a more political-minded superior. It happened in CSI when the ambitious Ecklie beat out Grissom for a key promotion, and in Miami we routinely witness Horatio locking horns with IAB agent Stetler. Both conflicts are well established and in each show, and those relationships are painted with shades of grey that prevent them from becoming clichd or route.

That's not to say that the emerging conflict between Mac and Gerrard couldn't obtain that depth; I just found it a bit more original and interesting when Mac and Gerrard were equals with the same end goal in mind but who found themselves on opposite sides of the fence in a particular case. That said, I think Gerrard is a worthy adversary for Mac, and I like his bald-faced admission that Mac's actions pissed him off both because they made the diplomatic situation more difficult and made him look bad. I suspect this won't be the last time Gerrard will be a thorn in Mac's side.

The cast all turned in solid performances this week. Gary Sinise always delivers when Mac faces opposition, and he keeps his cool in this episode in order to get around Gerrard's mandate. I loved seeing Stella's thought process as she zeroed in on Evie, and got enough evidence to prove her hunch but nothing to convict the girl. It's always a treat to get to see Hawkes flex his medical muscles, a reminder of the vast amount of knowledge he brings to his job. Danny is at his bantering best, engaging Flack, Adam and Lindsay in light-hearted exchanges while again providing an emotional touchstone for the audience at the end. As ever, Flack brings the humor, playing the heavy with Evie's people and then turning around and teasing Danny. Even Anna Belknap, relieved of the weight from Lindsay's dark past storyline, is better than she has been in a while, focusing on both Lindsay's lighter side and her fascination with the science. The writers would be wise to stay this course with Lindsay and avoid the unnecessary drama that made her an unpleasant character for much of the season; Belknap fares much better with the lighter material.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.