CSI: New York--'Charge Of This Post'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 18, 2006 - 8:52 PM GMT

See Also: 'Charge Of This Post' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Detective Flack and Lindsay join Mac at a West Village office building where a security guard, Darwin Judge, has been stabbed to death. Lindsay goes outside to retrieve a special print lifter while Flack and Mac follow a blood trail...straight to a massive amount of C-4. The two men go through the building, telling people to get out, while Lindsay clears the street near the building. As she looks on in horror, the bomb goes off--with Mac and Flack still inside. Stella, Danny and Hawkes arrive with the bomb squad, and Danny and Hawkes join the Search and Rescue team, hoping to find their colleagues alive. Ellen Fielding from the Department of Homeland Security arrives with a large team, including an eager bomb expert named Dean Lessing. Inside the building, Mac awakens and looks for Flack. He finds another survivor, a young man named Smith, before coming across a badly wounded Flack. Mac looks into Flack's gaping chest wound and spots a bleeding artery. With Smith's aid, he ties it off, but Flack's grave condition brings back memories of the 1983 bombing of the marine barrack in Beirut and a man Mac tried to save in vain. He tells Flack to hold on as Danny and the Search and Rescue team arrive.

While Flack is rushed to the hospital and Mac is treated on site, Danny photographs the remnants of the bomb, but isn't able to find the detonator. Mac realizes it may be in Flack's chest wound and tells Dr. Barnes, the surgeon about to operate on Flack, that the debris needs to be retrieved from Flack's chest. Among the remnants are pieces of a charred cell phone, and Mac realizes it must have been the trigger. He sends Lindsay to recover the phone's SIM card just as his own cell rings--it's the bomber, greeting Mac by name and promising another demonstration at 1600 hours. Lindsay and Danny access the SIM card and are surprised to find the last number that came into the phone was from a DHS line. Mac confronts Ellen Fielding--she says she answered a page from her office just before the bombing, and Mac tells her that her text code response was the trigger for the bomb. She's shocked, and reveals to Mac that a few weeks ago several laptops were stolen from DHS. Mac realizes anyone could trigger the next bomb by answering a page.

The bomber starts paging Mac with the number 10231983, the date of the Beirut bombing. Mac doesn't respond; instead he remotely turns on the bomber's cell and traces it to a library at Chelsea University. The bomber calls Mac from a pay phone, saying the bombings are a wake-up call and that Mac is part of the demo. Mac and Danny race to the library where they find a backpack full of C-4 by a payphone. Mac manages to disarm the bomb, and the bomber calls again, telling Mac that Mac is doing what he wants. Back at the lab, Mac traces the C-4 back to Fort Wadsworth, a military armory. Jane Parsons analyzes a hair found at the scene, and has found traces of a medicine used to treat schizophrenia in it, but the youngest part of the hair shows diminished amounts, suggesting that the bomber is off his meds. Mac learns the C-4 was expired and Fort Wadsworth had hired a civilian company to dispose of it. The man who picked it up had all the right papers and appropriate transportation. The CSIs find the van the bomber used in the garage of an abandoned house, along with some explosives and files on Mac and his military career, along with his badge from the first bombing. Mac gets another call from the bomber, who promises a demonstration in an hour.

Mac and Stella return to the original bomb site, where Stella notices blue ink on Lessing's shoes--evidence he was in the building, when his detail, blast analysis, should have kept him outside. He's their bomber. They pursue him to the nearby Goodmanson Theatre. He opens fire at them and aims his gun at Ellen Fielding. Lessing tells Mac that DHS isn't prepared for another attack and that his attacks are warnings. It's a tense standoff, until Mac realizes how he reach Lessing: he addresses him as a marine, tells him his warning has been heard, and orders him to stand down. Lessing responds to Mac's order and lowers his weapon and is taken into custody. The threat neutralized, Mac heads back to the hospital with Stella to check on Flack and are met there by the rest of the team. Stella reassures him that the doctors are being cautiously optimistic about Flack's condition. Mac tells her about the marine that died in his arms in Beirut, and tells her that while Lessing's methods were flawed, his message may not have been. Mac goes to Flack and tries to get the unconscious detective to squeeze his hand. To his relief, Flack does.

Analysis:

The first of the three CSI shows to have its finale, New York goes out with a bang. Literally. The idea of a bomber terrorizing New York City with bombs triggered by cell phones is clever enough, even if in some ways it feels derivative of action movies where the hero is facing off against a villain who is set up as his foil. It's either classic or clichéd depending on where you sit: the villain picks out the hero as his contact, taunts him, leads him on a chase and is eventually defeated by him. That's pretty much what happens here, though interestingly the defeat is more mental than physical.

Thankfully, with this episode the show finally departs from the two case template. Looking over the episode list for this season, it seems to be the only episode to do so--save for "Manhattan Manhunt", the crossover episode, which still created something of a two case feel by putting Mac on serial killer Henry Darius's trail while Stella and Horatio teamed up to track down another killer. Sometimes the two-case format works just fine, but for significant episodes, focusing on one case makes for a much stronger episode. Here, having just one case helps keep the story flowing and builds tension.

As with season one's finale, "What You See Is What You See", the focus of this episode is on Mac. Lessing picks out Mac as his foil and taunts him with references to the 1983 Beirut bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon. What isn't mentioned but hovers in the background is the attack on 9/11--presumably Lessing's warning is prompted by fear of another such attack on the United States. The Beirut bombing was also a terrorist attack, and provides an appropriate touchstone for Mac on a personal level.

That Mac heeds Lessing's message despite his reprehensible tactics for delivering the message makes for interesting discussion fodder. Are the writers trying to send a political message here, suggesting the U.S. is still vulnerable to attack? Perhaps, but I think the focus here is still Mac--he's been portrayed as a man who cares very deeply for his country. He served in the military and he's spoken of his admiration for the country on many occasions. Mac's heroic nature sometimes makes him feel a little larger than life, and also gives credence to the notion that Lessing would fixate on Mac for his "demonstration."

There's not really a lot of time for emoting amid the chase, but Gary Sinise turns in a fine performance in the quieter moments, and is particularly good in the final stand-off, when he realizes how he can reach Lessing. Eion Bailey stood out from the first moment as Lessing, but I didn't have him pegged as the bomber until right around the time Stella noticed the blue ink from his shoes. I did know that blue ink was going to be significant as soon as Mac and Smith discussed it; when something random and seemingly insignificant gets pointed out at such an odd time, it's got to matter.

Right now really isn't a good time to be a detective on a CSI show. First Brass gets shot in last week's "Bang Bang", and now Flack has his guts spilled (literally) in this episode. Watch out, Frank Tripp! I knew Flack was going to be hurt in the explosion, but I wasn't expecting anything nearly as gory as Flack's wound turned out to be. It was far more effective than a bump on the head and a well placed cut here and there ever could have been, and seeing Mac have to do triage on Flack to prevent him from bleeding to death right then and there was downright thrilling.

While I can understand the need to extract the debris from Flack's wound and give it to the CSIs as opposed to the team, I was pretty surprised at Mac's insistence on photographing Flack before they bandaged him up after surgery. Wouldn't the emphasis in that case be on saving Flack's life and preventing infection as opposed to getting evidence from him? Once the debris has been retrieved, are pictures of Flack's unbandaged wounds really going to be all that helpful?

Stella says the doctors are "cautiously optimistic" about Flack's recovery, and Flack does squeeze Mac's hand in the final scene, so here's hoping he's out of the woods. I suspect by next season's opener he'll be back on his feet--usually it seems a few months pass on the CSI shows between the end of a season and the start of a new one. But the severity of Flack's wound really did have me wondering for the episode's duration if he was going to make it. Without resorting to cheap mid-surgery flat-lining, writer Timothy J. Lea managed to put a main character in jeopardy and create actual suspense as to whether he'd recover or not.

Though it was nice to hear Mac talk about the Beirut bombing, I would have liked to see more from the entire team in this final scene of this episode. Danny, Lindsay and Hawkes are relegated to the background for most of the episode, and after showing her tough side during the first bombing while Mac is still inside the building, Stella falls back into the sidekick role once Mac's been rescued. I think this is a large part of the reason I like to see Stella and Mac separately rather than together--Stella gets to shine when Mac isn't around, but when he is she often ends up playing second fiddle to him. That's true here as well--both Stella and Danny have been shown on screen to be closer to Flack than Mac is, but "Charge of This Post" only really focuses on Mac's reaction to Flack's condition.

That could have been remedied in the final scene, but it isn't. Hawkes hurries off to consult with the neurologist about Flack, which was a nice touch; I loved the enthusiasm in Hill Harper's voice when he delivered the line. I guess you can take the doctor out of the morgue, but not the MD out of the doctor. Still, it was nice to have that little reminder that Hawkes is a doctor, and is apparently still pursuing his medical interests, even if it does take him out of the hospital hallway where the team is gathered.

Danny and Lindsay are also rushed off screen to make way for Mac telling Stella about the marine he couldn't save in Beirut. Thankfully the scene that Carmine Giovinazzo said "opens up Danny and Lindsay's relationship more than it has before" seems to have been dropped, or, if it's actually the ride mention, simply shows nothing romantic is going to be going on between them. Either way, I'm hoping that's a sign that the writers are done with this chemistry-free pairing. Both actors have better chemistry with others (Anna Belknap with Sinise and Giovinazzo with Kelly Hu, who plays Maka), and let's face it: crushes and high school-level fishing for information are better left to One Tree Hill and The O.C.. Pairing CSIs is risky, but the New York writers should look to the deep connection between Sara and Grissom or the sexy simmer between Catherine and Warrick on CSI as examples of how it's done right. Let's hope next season we won't have to endure "flirting" between Danny and Lindsay in every episode. It was overkill by halfway though the season, and pained by the end.

With the show heading into its third season, I hope it will manage to find an even keel between the overly slick stories of the first half of the season, and the overly dramatic ones of the second half. But what I want most is the return of the emotional weight given to stories in the first season of the show. Remember the episode "The Closer", when Mac went to such great lengths to reassess evidence that might exonerate a man convicted of murder? Episodes like that connected with viewers on an emotional level, something that, with a few exceptions, has been missing this season.

New York's strength is its characters, and episodes like "The Closer," "On the Job" and "Run Silent, Run Deep" prove that it's possible to combine great character work with the forensic science that has and will always be the anchor of the show. As much as I hated the exploitive nature of "All Access", at least it did give Melina Kanakaredes and Eddie Cahill a chance to shine, something both richly deserve.

I hope that the third season brings more rich moments for the characters. Hawkes may have moved into the field, but he still needs more screen time. I hope next season sees Flack grappling with the aftermath of surviving the bombing. Lindsay is the character that needs the most work--she needs to become a character in her own right, and not a mixture of clichés. Danny and drama go hand-in-hand, and that is what has made him the show's most popular character; he can grow up a little and still react emotionally to anything and everything. Stella is perfect--just please, no more psycho boyfriends. And cold Mac is slowly warming up and becoming both a stoic and compassionate leader, proving the two are not mutually exclusive. New York needs to find its heart, and I for one suspect it lies with these characters.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.