CSI: New York--'A Man, A Mile'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 5, 2004 - 8:35 PM GMT

See Also: 'A Man A Mile' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

After a group of miners, the Sandhogs, detonate explosives in a water tunnel, they discover the body of one of their own, Pete Riggs. Mac, Danny, and Flack arrive and examine the body. Pete wasn't supposed to be in the tunnel at all--he worked up top loading and unloading. Tom Mitford, the District Attorney, arrives and urges Mac and Danny to clear the scene quickly, as the tunnel provides crucial water for the city. Danny bristles at the DA, but Mac reigns him in. Meanwhile, Flack talks to the Sandhogs, but none of them can tell him what Pete was doing in the tunnel.

Elsewhere, Stella and Aiden respond to a call about a body that's been pulled out of the river. Stella notices the girl's high end clothes, and Aiden pins her age at around sixteen. Back at the station they get an ID on the girl: Hannah Recchi. She lived in Bronxdale, but attended the tony Chase School for Girls. When the detectives visit the school, Hannah's friends Melissa Wesley and Tina Paulson are able to tell them little except for the fact that Hannah was studious and well-liked.

Mac goes over Pete's body, noting a circular wound on his head. Danny tells him that Pete had generic steel under his fingernails. Dr. Hawkes reveals that it wasn't the explosion that killed Pete, but his asthma. This leads Mac and Danny to return to the tunnel, where they find Pete's asthma inhaler in the mud. The inhaler is empty. When they return to the elevator, Mac notes scratches on the bottom of it. Someone purposely left Pete in the tunnel.

Dr. Hawkes tells Stella and Aiden that Hannah was strangled. There are no signs of sexual assault, though Hannah's blood alcohol levels were high before she died. Hawkes pulls a gold fleck from Hannah's throat and hands it to Stella.

Mac and Danny question the Sandhogs, but they all deny seeing anything. Danny tries especially hard to get Joe, Pete's brother, to talk, but Joe is as silent as the rest, claiming, like the others, that Pete's death was an accident. Danny hands him his card just in case Joe changes his mind. Back in the lab, the CSIs go over the Sandhog's clothes. Mac finds trace on the foreman's shirt, while Danny discovers blood on the shoe of Al McGrath.

In another lab, Aiden tries to figure out just what material Hannah was strangled with. When Stella enters, she tells her it was something made out of crocodile skin. Stella analyzes diatoms from the water Hannah was in, hoping it will help them figure out where her body was dumped.

Danny questions Al, who claims he and Pete fought over the Rangers. Danny notices a bite mark on Al's ear, which Al claims was from Pete. But when Danny matches it with dental impressions from Pete, it doesn't line up. It matches the jaw of a different Sandhog, Tom Zito. Zito had a beef with Pete--Pete carelessly dropped his keys down the mineshaft months ago, and they hit Zito on the head. Zito hasn't been the same since. But Zito claims he left with Al after the scuffle.

Using the diatoms, Stella and Aiden figure out Hannah was put in the river at an illegal dump site. A new club has just opened in the area, run by none other than Tina Paulson's older brother, Matt.

The trace on the foreman's shirt is identified as medication from an asthma inhaler. Mac and Danny question the foreman, who says he sprayed the inhaler out after Pete dropped something down the mineshaft. Pete's carelessness was endangering the group, the foreman emphasizes. But he claims he didn't kill Pete. Frustrated, Danny insists the answer must lie with Joe.

Slick Matt Paulson claims he doesn't remember whether or not Hannah was ever at his club. Stella and Aiden gather surveillance cameras from the neighboring warehouses, which tell a different story. Hannah and Tina did come to the club, and at one point, Hannah and Matt kissed outside the club. They were interrupted by another girl, but Stella and Aiden can't see her head on the tape. The CSIs go to the post duplex Matt and Tina inherited from their parents, but Matt maintains he and Hannah only kissed. Stella excuses herself to use the restroom, and on the way discovers a bloody strap. Tina tells her it was from a foxhunt that her father took her and Hannah on. Her father chose Hannah for the honor of blooding--spreading the fox's blood on her cheeks.

Mac and Danny argue over how to handle the case. They've hit a dead end; Mac wants to go back to the evidence, but Danny wants to follow his hunch that Joe Riggs knows something. Mac tells Danny that if he hopes to be promoted, he's going to have to work from the evidence, not his intuition. The pair head to the hospital; Joe Riggs was beaten outside of the water tunnel and is recovering there. But Joe remains stubbornly silent, except to tell them, "it's over." Danny is visibly upset, but Mac insists they go back to the evidence. He's been puzzling over Pete's broken ring finger. Then he realizes Pete's Sandhog ring is missing.

Stella and Aiden study the tapes again. Stella notices that in one frame Tina is carrying a purse with a strap, but on another camera, the purse is strapless. They call Tina in. Her lawyer encourages her to be silent, but Tina confesses when Stella tells her a purse strap was found in her room that matched the marks on Hannah's neck. Tina compares killing Hannah to a hunter killing a fox: she watched the life drain out of Hannah's eyes, just like her father watched the life drain out of a fox's eyes during a hunt.

Back in the tunnel, Danny and Mac discover Pete's Sandhog ring. The explosion, Mac realizes, was meant to cover up evidence. Mac has Joe brought in, and accuses him of breaking the Sandhog code. He went too far in teaching Pete a lesson after the fight with Al and Tom; he left him down in the tunnel with an empty inhaler. When he discovered Pete was dead the next morning, he used the explosion to cover up Pete's death. Joe asks Mac if he has any idea what it's like to always have to look out for someone else and be responsible for them. Mac doesn't answer.

Analysis:

The set up of interesting character dynamics lifts what would otherwise be a fairly routine episode. Neither the accidental death of Pete Riggs or the strangulation of Hannah Recchi is especially inspired. The Sandhogs are virtually indistinguishable from one another; with the exception of Joe, none of them are memorable or anything other than clichéd stereotypes. Joe's motive for leaving Pete in the tunnel is murky as well: was it because of the fight (which Pete didn't start) or the fact that he dropped something down the shaft (which the foreman had already chastised him for)? And just how did Mac finally figure out it was Joe who left him in the mine? Process of elimination? Or did Mac perhaps finally just have a hunch? A little more explanation would have been nice.

The Hannah Recchi B-story is perfectly serviceable, if not particularly interesting. This isn't the first time someone has killed on a CSI show just to "see the life drain out of their victim's eyes;" it happened last season on CSI: Miami's "Extreme". That case also involved a smug, privileged young killer. Aren't psychopaths diverse anymore? Sarah Foret, who plays Tina, is plenty creepy, but it seems almost a wasted opportunity to relegate her to the B-story and give her such a pat motivation.

The characters carry this episode, primarily Mac and Danny. Writer Andrew Lipsitz establishes an older brother/younger brother bond between the two men that subtly mirrors the Riggs brothers' relationship. When DA Tom Mitford arrives on the scene, Mac has to reign in loudmouth Danny, who seems hell bent on ticking Mitford off. The DA's comment, "I never check up on Mac," suggests that it is the younger CSI's presence that concerns him. Mac also has to keep reminding Danny that it's the evidence that must guide him, not his intuition. (One can't help but wonder if Danny would get along better with CSI: Miami's Horatio Caine, who follows his intuition as often as he follows the evidence, usually with good results.)

Danny's hunch that Joe Riggs is the key to the case turns out to be right, though not in the way Danny imagined. When Joe finally talks to Mac in the interrogation room, he wearily asks Mac if he has any idea what it's like to always be responsible for another person. The camera lingers a little too long on Mac for the audience not to make the connection that Joe's feelings for Pete mirror Mac's feelings about headstrong Danny. Danny's absence from the scene is also notable; not only does it allow for Mac to reflect on Joe's words, but it drives home the fact that Danny was ultimately wrong about Joe.

Mac's earlier outburst about Danny's possible promotion and Danny's need to focus on the evidence rather than his intuition shows that Mac cares about the younger man's career, as well as his genuine frustration at Danny's stubbornness. The first signs of anger that we've ever seen from Mac are directed at Danny when Danny tells Mac he can't do things Mac's way. Mac is quick to counter that Danny can't continue to do things his own way either if he's going to continue to be a CSI. Gary Sinise and Carmine Giovinazzo play off each other effectively, and it will be interesting to see their contentious relationship evolve.

Stella and Aiden also display a nice dynamic in this episode. While Stella treats Mac as a superior officer (albeit one she feels close to as a friend) and treats Danny as a subordinate, she and Aiden interact as equals on this case, the first we've seen them work together. Aiden's "chameleon-like" abilities surface in this episode; I readily admit I believed her when she told the snooty prep school girls that she went to a school like theirs until Stella's line revealed that she didn't. Later on, when Aiden breezily told Matt Paulson that she'd been to his club, I found myself wondering if she had, or if she was just trying to cut through his attitude as well. Stella appears to respect Aiden's savvy and sharp observations. When Danny uncovers a major clue, Stella praises him like a school teacher, but with Aiden, Stella seems to admire the woman's ease in interacting with witnesses.

Lipsitz does an excellent job of mixing up the characters and introducing just the kind of depth I've been wanting to see in them. But given recent rumblings about a CBS mandate demanding that CSI: New York stay the CSI course and not focus too much of character development, I have to wonder how much we'll ultimately see these characters evolve. The success of the CSI shows has proved that people are hungry for the forensic science and clever mysteries that the shows deliver on a weekly basis, but numerous fan sites have also proved that people want to know about the investigators' lives as well. Surely there's a way to balance it? Right now, CSI: Miami is doing it best, and I firmly believe its status as the franchise's colorful middle child is what's allowing the writers to do so. Maybe when CBS's eye turns to a fourth CSI series, Anthony Zuiker will have more freedom to explore the characters in New York.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.