CSI: New York--'All In The Family'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 24, 2008 - 9:50 AM GMT

See Also: 'All in the Family' Episode Guide


A young woman named Emily Miller is killed by a shotgun blast while buying flowers in New York City, but Mac is quickly able to determine her death was an accident, the result of a shotgun being tossed off the roof of a nearby building. The intended victim is just two buildings away: Julio Riverton, a family court judge whose badly beaten body was found by his teenage daughter, Madison. Madison tells Mac she'd met her boyfriend Jake and his brother Charlie at the movies and had come back to get money when she came back to find her father dead. A tooth found in Emily's chest matches one broken off from Judge Riverton's mouth and Dr. Hammerback confirms that Riverton died from blunt force trauma. Lindsay tests the shotgun and finds that one of the barrels is faulty and only fires under extreme impact. She also finds red oil based paint on the gun. Stella traces a black sunflower seed used as bird feed to Jonas Stark, a neighbor of Riverton's that the judge was trying to evict, claiming Stark's birds were unclean. Stark denies ever being in the judge's apartment and when she learns Stark dumps the seeds out the window, she realizes one of them must have gotten into Riverton's apartment below through his window. He's cleared when his palm isn't a match to a palm print Hawkes discovered on a napkin by Riverton's body.

Drywall powder on the judge's shirt leads Stella and Angell to Larry Rose, a surly contractor who lost everything in his divorce, a case Riverton presided over. He admits to tracking the judge to his building and grabbing him by the shirt, but left after that to track down his ex-wife, which landed him in jail at the time of the judge's murder. Puzzled by the lack of forced entry, the CSIs turn back to Madison, who Stella learned wanted to live with her mother, not her father, after her parents' divorce. Madison denies killing her father, but when the CSIs go back to examine the evidence, they realize they're looking at a footprint, not a palm print, with the black sunflower seed embedded in it. Lindsay and Hawkes examine the scene again and realize the killer was naked and showered after the murder. The CSIs' suspicion turns to Jake and Charlie when they find traces of popcorn topping on the shower curtain. When they learn the boys have gone from foster family to foster family after Judge Riverton took them away from their father, they know they've found their killers. Charlie and Jake are brought in; they concealed the gun at the movie theater and snuck out to go kill the judge. The older boy, Jake, who wormed his way into Madison's affections, actually committed the murder while Charlie stood by. Mac notes that their crime had five victims: Riverton, Emily Miller, Madison and both of them.

Lindsay asks Flack to track down Danny, who hasn't shown up for his shift at work. She covers for him with Mac, and Flack gets Danny's superintendent to let him into Danny's apartment. He finds a webpage on Danny's computer revealing that Ollie Barnes, who robbed a bodega several weeks ago and inadvertently caused the shooting of Danny's ten-year-old neighbor, Ruben Sandoval, was released on bail. Flack tracks Danny down, and Danny tells him that Ruben's mother Rikki, upon learning about Ollie's release, visited his apartment earlier and stole his gun. Flack agrees to help Danny try to find Ollie before Rikki tracks him down. The pair find Ollie just as Rikki is aiming the gun at him and Danny steps in between them, claiming Ruben's death is his fault. Rikki lowers the gun and allows Danny to take it from her. Flack gets upset with Danny when Danny refuses to arrest Rikki, giving him one hour to bring her in. Danny finally complies and as Angell leads Rikki away, Flack tells Danny he has to stop blaming himself for Ruben's death. Danny sadly replies, "How can I do that?"


An excellent episode that features both character drama and an involving case, "All in the Family" does a better job than most episodes of merging high stakes for one of the characters with a routine case. Danny's drama doesn't really come into play until the second half of the episode, and it mostly plays out in the third act. Indeed, we don't even see Danny until thirty minutes into the episode when Flack tracks him down at the beginning of his search for Ollie Barnes. That being said, once Flack does find Danny and Danny tells him that Rikki has his gun, it's a lot harder to concentrate on the main case knowing (because this is television after all) that a showdown between Rikki, Ollie, Danny and Flack is inevitable.

Wisely scribe Wendy Battles chose to make the episode a one-case outing. The murder of Judge Riverton is tragic for exactly the reason Mac states: it produces so many victims. Poor Emily Miller is, as Flack puts it, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Judge Riverton may have been arrogant, but didn't deserve to die because of it. Madison lost the opportunity to tell her father she didn't hate him at all. And Jake effectively ruined his life and Charlie's by plotting the murder and bringing his little brother along to witness it and thereby making him an accessory. It's a grim reminder that murder always has more than one casualty, for murder victims always have loved ones.

If anything, this episode is a reminder that every action has a consequence. Judge Riverton's act of taking Jake and Charlie from their father without taking a good look at their circumstances leads to his murder years after the act. Jake's decision to toss the shotgun carelessly off the roof led to the completely inadvertent death of Emily Miller. Carried over from "Child's Play", Ollie Barnes' robbery of the Scott's bodega led to the death of Ruben Sandoval. Danny's decision to send Ruben home on his own took away the chance of Ruben getting medical treatment for his gunshot wound and possibly surviving.

Though I felt for Danny in "Child's Play", I did find him partially to blame for Ruben's death. In my review of the episode I noted:

Much as I sympathize with Danny's plight, to send a ten-year old whose mother hasn't even given him permission to ride his bike on his own home alone was a stupid move. The stupidity is compounded by the fact that Danny sends him home on his own while an armed suspect is fleeing the scene. I don't care that Danny's a cop; his first responsibility was to that child. He could have easily kept Ruben with him and called 911. So while I sympathize with Danny, I also do believe he's in part to blame for Ruben's death. Sending Ruben home on his own was the wrong decision.

Judging by what Danny says in this episode, he clearly feels the same about his actions that day. When Rikki is pointing the gun at Ollie, he slowly, slyly moves between them, telling her that had he stayed with Ruben that day, Ruben would still be alive. He's right, but Rikki can't hold him accountable in the same way she does Ollie. It's Danny's words--and his physical presence between her and her intended target--that causes Rikki to lower the gun.

Jacqueline Pinol delivers yet another outstanding performance as Rikki. It's not an easy thing playing a woman who has clearly lost everything that matters to her without venturing into pathos and melodrama, but Pinol pulls it off with grace. Even with the limited amount of screentime she's had, Pinol manages to make Rikki real, and her intense grief seeps through the screen. Pinol allows us to see the rapid-fire emotions Rikki is feeling as she points the gun at Ollie and comes face-to-face with Danny. Ollie, sleazy jerk that he is, is much easier to blame than the obviously guilt-ridden and grief-stricken Danny.

Danny is the picture of desperation throughout the episode, his voice frantic and wavering as he talks to Flack when Flack tracks him down. He's unwilling to let Rikki take a fall for her behavior, knowing it comes out of her anguish over losing her son. Danny feels he's to blame for everything; not just Ruben's death but Rikki's subsequent actions. In his mind, it's not her fault that she stole the gun from his apartment and went after Ollie, it's his, and if she kills Ollie that will only be more blood on his hands.

It's hard to look back over all of Carmine Giovinazzo's powerful performances and choose the best one, but this one is definitely in the running. As Danny in this episode, he positively emanates anguish, guilt and devastation, but his final words to Flack as he's leaving the precinct that are positively haunting. When Flack tells him he has to stop blaming himself for Ruben's death, Danny replies, "How? How can I do that?" Something about the cadence of his voice, the tone of utter and abject hopelessness with which Giovinazzo delivers the lines, makes them utterly unforgettable. Danny will never forgive himself for Ruben's death.

If stoic Don Flack has one weakness, it has to be Danny Messer. For whom else would Flack bend the rules like he does in this episode? Flack might talk a tough game, but he's clearly susceptible to Danny's pleading because he goes along with Danny's plan to track down Ollie and doesn't report Rikki's theft of Danny's gun, splits the list of Ollie's possible haunts with Danny and doesn't call it in even after Danny ignores his phone call. And then when Danny refuses to take Rikki into the police station after he gets the gun away from her, rather than cuffing her himself, Flack gives Danny an hour to bring her in. This is the man who arrested his own mentor in "The Fall" and challenged Mac in "Sweet 16", but here he's willing to go out of his way to help Danny.

That's not to say Flack lets Danny off easy. Eddie Cahill, who is as gifted at playing intense scenes as he is at delivering snarky one-liners, conveys frustration with and worry for Danny in his tone. Danny and Flack's friendship is far and away the most interesting relationship on CSI: New York, and the strongest friendship in all of the three CSI series. Characters on CSI shows don't usually do for each other what Flack does for Danny here. When Danny, upset at having to bring Rikki into the precinct, tells Flack he should have minded his own business, Flack barks back that Danny being his friend "makes it my business." Essentially breaking into Danny's apartment and having his cell phone traced might be a bit overbearing, but Flack knows Danny well enough to realize Danny needs him, even if Danny himself doesn't realize it. If Flack hadn't been present, Danny might have beat up Ollie, jeopardizing his career and the department's reputation. And he certainly wouldn't have brought Rikki in had Flack not insisted, again leaving both himself and the department open to scrutiny and perhaps even a lawsuit. As he always does, Flack is looking out for Danny.

Flack deserves a superhero cape for what he does for Danny in this episode--essentially saving Danny from himself and his bad decisions--but all the thanks Flack gets is a "you should have minded your own business." Flack trying to save Danny from himself is nothing new--he didn't get a lot of thanks for it in "On the Job" either, but Danny actually did accept his decree that they weren't going anywhere in "Run Silent, Run Deep". Even Flack, patient as he usually is with Danny, shows signs of frustration here, telling Danny he should have reported Rikki's theft of his gun and reminding him that she has to be arrested for what she did. Interestingly, Flack assigns no blame to Danny for Ruben's death and can't understand why Danny feels responsible for her actions. As hard as other characters are on Danny at times, Flack always sees the best in him, even when he clearly finds Danny's actions maddening. Cahill and Giovinazzo play off each other so well; it's a treat whenever they're given meaty material to tackle together.

Danny appears to have gotten rid of the pool table he and Lindsay consummated their lust on it in "Snow Day"; has he gotten rid of Lindsay as well? They haven't shared a scene together since he stormed out on her in "Child's Play" after he talked about Ruben's death with Mac. She does cover for him in this episode--perhaps as a payback for when he covered for her in "Snow Day"--but the emotional bond in this episode is between Danny and Flack, not Danny and Lindsay. It's a wise choice; Giovinazzo and Cahill hit all the right notes together, while Anna Belknap is out of her depth in emotional scenes. Her nervous, irritated eye flutter after she lies to Mac about Danny being sick is the most emotion we get from Lindsay in the episode.

If Danny and Lindsay are on their way out, another couple might be waiting in the wings to take their place: Flack and Jessica Angell (who finally has a confirmed first name after a season and a half), who share far more chemistry than Danny and Lindsay ever will. The look that passes between Angell and Flack when she notes how quickly Flack, Mac and Hawkes got to the scene is electric, and it's no surprise that at the end of the episode they're talking about going out for coffee. Angell has a quick wit, and when she spars with Larry Rose in his dingy apartment, it's clear that she'll be able to keep up with snarky, sharp Flack. Emmanuelle Vaugier brings intelligence and sass to her portrayal of Angell and shares a natural, easy rapport with Cahill. I can't wait to see where this coffee date leads.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.