CSI: Miami--'And They're Offed'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 22, 2009 - 3:25 AM GMT

See Also: 'And They're Offed' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A wealthy racehorse owner named Robert Banyon is gunned down in his luxury viewing suite while watching his horse, Backdraft, pull ahead to victory in the race. Dr. Price finds an entrance wound in the back of his head but no exit would, prompting Horatio to ask her to recover the bullet. Delko and Calleigh sweep the suite and Delko discovers that Banyon's pair of binoculars also functioned as a camera. Calleigh notices a box of pricey truffles from Chicago on a table, suggesting that Banyon had a visitor. The CSIs question Wayne Tully, a businessman from Chicago who owns the truffle company, and he admits to paying Banyon a visit to try to get him to sell him a stake in Backdraft. Banyon refused, saying he didn't need a partner and Tully left. Back at the track, Tripp catches Scott Aguilar, a "stooper," sifting through the trash looking for winning tickets that may have been discarded. While Tripp questions Scott, a patrol officer brings a young boy named Billy Gantry to Horatio, and shows him that the boy had Ryan Wolfe's card on him. Horatio takes Billy back to his home, only to find Ryan and the boy's father, Mark, engaged in a fight with a man sporting a Russian mafia tattoo. Before Horatio can corner and question him, the Russian man cuts his own throat! Ryan tells Horatio that Mark is his Gambler's Anonymous sponsor, and that he's been looking after Billy while Mark sorts out some problems. Ryan insists that Mark isn't involved with the Russian mafia. In the morgue, Dr. Price shows Delko there's no bullet in Banyon's wound and posits that he was killed with a weapon called a captive bolt gun, which is used to kill livestock.

Wondering if someone didn't like the way Banyon treated his animals, Calleigh and Delko go to to see his groom, Terrance Chase, who tells Calleigh that Banyon treated his animals right. Nonetheless, when Delko searches the stable, he discovers a captive bolt gun wrapped in a rag hidden in a feed bucket. Jane Bartlett shows Calleigh the pictures from Banyon's camera, which reveal that the jockey riding Backdraft was using an electric prod known as a jigger on him to get him to race faster. Calleigh and Delko question Colleen Flanagan, the jockey, who tells them that Backdraft was unusually sluggish out of the gate and she used the jigger to get him to pick up the pace. Though she begs the CSIs not to tell, Delko informs her it's too late. Ryan is surprised when Trace tech Michael Travers finds a racing program among Mark Gantry's possessions and identifies cocaine on his clothes. Ryan confronts Mark about the program and the drugs, and Mark tells him he's been using "a little" and that he owed the Russian mobster money. Ryan is floored. Though Ryan gets no ID off the dead Russian from AFIS, Horatio suggests trying the immigration database. This leads to an ID: Nicholas Brinks, and a connection to Ivan Sarnoff, the Russian mafia leader who also sponsored Brinks' visa. Horatio questions Sarnoff, but the man says nothing other than that Brinks was a "loyal friend." In the trace lab, Travers identifies a substance on the rag the bolt gun was wrapped in as a special polytrack used to replace dirt at racetracks. Only four tracks in the U.S. have adopted it, including one in Chicago. Horatio and Natalia track down Tully and become even more suspicious when they see the man's bolt gun is missing, despite his apparent surprise at finding it gone. Natalia also discovers a ticket for a different race than the one Backdraft competed in alongside the gun case.

Calleigh brings the tox report on Mark Gantry to Ryan, who is surprised to see that Mark had no trace of cocaine in his system. Calleigh theorizes that the cocaine may have been used to dose horses and make them sluggish. She believes Mark lied to Ryan about using in order to cover up a bigger lie: he was fixing races. Calleigh goes back to the stable and examines Backdraft, finding traces of cocaine under his bridle. Ryan confronts Mark, who admits than Ivan Sarnoff came to collect on a three-year-old debt. He tried to force Mark into dosing Backdraft, but Mark claims that though he went so far as to sneak into the stable, he couldn't drug the horse. Ryan promises that Mark and Billy will be able to disappear and escape the Russian mob. Natalia examines the ticket found near Wayne Tully's bolt gun case and finds an odd circular mark on it, which Tripp thinks may have come from the stooper he caught sifting through the trash. A little digging into Scott Aguilar's background reveals that he was the original owner of Backdraft. He tells Horatio and Tripp that he was tricked by Banyon into selling Backdraft, and when he confronted the man about it, Banyon just brushed him off. Tired of seeing Banyon getting rich off of Backdraft's wins, Scott decided to take matters into his own hands and grabbed the first available weapon--Wayne Tully's bolt gun--and killed Banyon. Mark Gantry meets Ivan Sarnoff in a parking garage, promising to fix a race for Sarnoff. Sarnoff says he'll be fixing a lot of races to make up for backing out of dosing Banyon. Before Sarnoff can finish his threat, Horatio comes out of the shadows: he set Sarnoff up. Ryan grabs his playbook and sees pages of fixed races. Sarnoff scoffs at Horatio, promising that the CSI is bringing a world of hurt onto himself and that trouble is coming for him and his team...all of whom he has under surveillance. As Sarnoff's men look on, Ryan helps Mark and Billy Gantry pack up and get out of town, Delko tries to call Calleigh and leaves her a box of truffles and Calleigh takes a ride with Terrance Chase.

Analysis:

Repetition rears its ugly head in this episode of Miami, highlighted all the more because it follows up last week's much stronger entry. A nemesis who was seemingly untouchable the last time we saw him returns and makes a silly mistake that allows Horatio to capture him, Ryan's in trouble and Calleigh and Eric are dancing around their feelings. Sound familiar? That's because it all is. I realize that seven seasons into the show, not everything is going to feel fresh, and indeed, getting a glimpse into the business of horse racing is intriguing, but most of what happens for the characters in this episode feels stale. We've seen all of this before: Horatio has gone up against supposedly insurmountable evil before and vanquished it so many times I've lost count, Ryan has made so many mistakes in the past that it's about time he exercised more caution and, after seemingly making a breakthrough in "Head Case", Eric and Calleigh are back to ignoring the elephant in the room--their mutual attraction.

The by-the-book villain curse that seems to plague Miami shows up once again in this episode, making for a frustratingly pat conclusion. Russian mob leader Ivan Sarnoff was last seen in "Raging Cannibal", scoffing at Horatio after he found someone else to take the rap for a murder he'd committed. And now we're expected to believe that this evil genius, this leader of the Russian mafia who is so frightening that other people are willing to go away for murder in his place and so powerful that he has all the CSIs under surveillance is stupid enough to fall for the whole entrapment routine? Seriously? If Sarnoff really had Horatio's team under surveillance, wouldn't he have known of Ryan's connection to Gantry, as well as Gantry's stint at the station? And even if he didn't--even if he just started the surveillance after Horatio arrested him--wouldn't he have been more cautious given that Horatio had already connected him to race-fixing? It's such a stupid move on Sarnoff's part, such a predictable and clichéd ending, that it's hard to feel there's any real triumph in it. If the bad guy is caught in the second episode in which he appears, he doesn't feel like much of a threat.

Of course, as we know, somehow these villains, even after they're foiled by Horatio and sent off to jail, are able to communicate with their minions and concoct elaborate escape routes, a la Clavo Cruz in "No Man's Land", or order hits on CSIs, a la Juan Ortega in "Resurrection". By now, the path is clear; the baddies never go quietly. Indeed, at the end of the episode, we see that Sarnoff, as he all but declares to Horatio, has the team under surveillance. His minions watch Ryan, Delko and Calleigh, but to what end? To discredit the lab? To hurt them in some way? I'm sure it will be apparent not too long down the road, but I can't say I was pulled in by what was no doubt supposed to be an ominous ending to the episode. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of Sarnoff, but despite a decent start--and a consistently good performance from Andrew Divoff--so far nothing has suggested that he'll rise above the standard for the typical Miami villain.

When we saw Ryan with Billy Gantry at the beginning of "Power Trip", I was intrigued by the possibility of who Billy might be to Ryan. Though I know we were likely supposed to wonder if Ryan might have a son no one knows about when we saw him with Billy, I didn't think the truth would be quite that shocking. And sure enough, it isn't: Billy is the son of Ryan's Gamblers Anonymous sponsor. Of course, Ryan's sponsor has landed himself in some pretty big trouble related to some old debts, and rather than turning to Ryan, who he no doubt knows is a CSI, he tries to conceal the truth. Not before pulling Ryan into the fray first: when we first meet Mark, Ryan is leaping to his defense after a mobster has come to kill him. The consequences of Horatio catching Ryan exchanging blows with the mobster are no more serious than Horatio asking Ryan for an explanation, so Ryan lucks out in that regard. Another CSI boss might have been a little more thrown by seeing his employee engaged in a brawl with a mobster. Ryan helps Mark and Billy leave town, though given that he's under surveillance while doing it, it's anyone's guess as to how safe they'll actually be.

After Calleigh confronted Delko in "Head Case" about the way he's been alluding to his feelings for her without actually making any declarations, I expected these two might have a further conversation about the issue in this episode, or at least seem somewhat awkward around each other. Instead, when Delko asks Calleigh why she missed a group gathering the night before, she brightly tells him that she was tired and just went home. It seems the two are back to the same game they've been playing for a while, hiding behind their friendship rather than talking about their feelings for each other. At the end of the episode, when Delko leaves Calleigh a box of the truffles she told him she loves and sneaks away, it seems like more of the same evasive behavior. He does make an attempt to call her, but when she doesn't pick up, he hangs up without leaving a message. For her part, Calleigh falls back on an old pattern as well, turning to a man other than Delko to avoid dealing with her complex feelings for her co-worker. When Terrance Chase first offers Calleigh a chance to go for a ride on one of the horses at the stable, she demurs, but at the end of the episode she decides to take him up on the offer. It's hard to blame her--after all, she did give Delko a chance to spell out how he feels--but it's frustrating to see her turning to another man when she so obviously shares Delko's feelings.

One thing I did enjoy about the episode is the way its ending mirrored the opening of "Power Trip." In the opening teaser of "Power Trip," we got to see the CSIs just before getting called to a crime scene. Delko steps out of the shower, Calleigh goes for a jog, Ryan drops off Billy Gantry at school. Here, we get to see the CSIs at the end of their day, and how that end is affected by the case they've just closed. Ryan, having learned the depth of trouble Mark is in, helps pack him and Billy up and sends them out of Miami and to what he hopes is a fresh start. Delko, having learned during the course of the case that Calleigh loves a special kind of truffle from Chicago, goes to the trouble of getting her a box and leaves it on her desk. Calleigh, reminded of her love of horses and enjoying being around them during the course of the case, decides to join Terrance Chase for an after-hours ride on a racehorse. Paired with "Power Trip" through the revelation of Billy Gantry's identity and relation to Ryan, it makes for a nice bookend to the two episodes. It's rewarding to see that the CSIs can sneak in time for a little pleasure in their off hours.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.