CSI: Miami--'Cheating Death'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 19, 2008 - 7:17 PM GMT

See Also: 'Cheating Death' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A woman wakes up in a posh Miami hotel room with the dead body of a young man handcuffed to the bed beside her. The woman, Christina Dodd, claims she was drugged, and Horatio has her sent to the hospital for tests. Ryan finds the man's ID, identifying him as Steve Howell, and notices the handcuffs binding him to the bed have the hotel's logo on them. The concierge, Mario Vega, tells Delko that he brought the handcuffs to a woman in the room. After she finishes up at the hospital, Calleigh and Delko question Christina, who confesses to the CSIs that after an illicit encounter with a man in a hotel room who mistook her for a prostitute, she began having sex for money at the Tremaine hotel. She swears she didn't kill Steve, but Calleigh reminds her solicitation is a crime as well. Dr. Price is frustrated after Delko and Ryan play a practical joke on her that involves moving Steve Howell's body, making it more difficult for her to determine the weapon used to kill him him. She sends Delko up to the lab with scrapings from under Steve's fingernails. Valera is able to uncover multiple DNA hits from under his fingernails--the biggest contributor being a woman named Audrey Yates, who has a prior for pandering. Horatio questions the former madame, who claims she got out of the business after her arrest. She tells Horatio that Steve was her tanning butler, and suggests that perhaps one of Christina's other clients got jealous and killed Steve. Valera gets the results of Christina's sexual assault kit and finds another major donor: a man named Dan Becks, who is in the system for assault with a deadly weapon. When the CSIs track him down, Dan tells them he's Christina's husband--and that he was at their son's little league practice at the time of the murder. Ryan and Delko determine Christina was dosed with GHB in the room, while Calleigh helps Dr. Price recreate the position Steve was in when he was killed to make impressions of the stab wounds he sustained, in hopes of identifying the murder weapon.

Delko gets prints off tiny shards from a shattered glass vial found in the room and assembles them, matching them to a woman named Lisa Radley. Lisa, who tells the CSIs she had a personal shopping appointment at the time of the murder and shows a receipt to prove it, admits to getting a hotel room to sleep with Steve despite the fact that she's married. She tells the CSIs Steve drugged her and robbed her, even going so far as to steal her wedding ring. The CSIs realize that if Steve was drugging and robbing married women, one of them could have been his killer. Christina must have surprised him by handcuffing him--and then passed out, leaving Stephen a sitting duck for his killer. Calleigh and Natalia search Steve's house and discover pictures of Stephen's targets. Using state-of-the-art technology, lab tech Jane Barrett is able to get an image of the photographer off of reflections in the pictures: it's Audrey Yates. When questioned, Audrey admits to being frustrated that these soccer moms were horning in on her business, so she helped Steve find marks so that he could rob them. Horatio notices she's wearing Lisa Radley's wedding ring and confiscates it. Using a silicon mold, Dr. Price determines that the murder weapon was a double-edged knife with a single serrated side. Delko determines it's a combat knife, causing the CSIs to turn their attention back to Dan Becks, a former marine. Becks admits to following Christina, finding her in the hotel room passed out and to threatening Steve, but denies even hurting the man. When the CSIs learn that the hotel concierge was selling fake receipts as alibis, their suspicions fall on Lisa Radley, who gave them a receipt from a personal shopping trip. They question the woman, who says she went to the hotel room to get her ring back. When Steve mocked her, she picked up the knife Becks had left behind and stabbed him in a rage. She said he had to be stopped, but Horatio reminds the distraught woman that it wasn't her job to stop him.

Analysis:

Suburban housewives must be really bored in Miami. Is the shopping really so lousy that they have to turn to infidelity and prostitution to get their jollies? Are book clubs totally passé now? And wouldn't most women be insulted by being mistaken for a prostitute? Miami can at times be rampantly sexist--save for the crime scene investigators, most women in the show are either helpless victims or femme fatales (or sometimes both)--but there's something uncomfortably demeaning about the way Christina embraces the role of prostitute. Men don't fare much better on this show. Anytime a handsome young man is murdered, it turns out he did something to deserve it. Miami doesn't just play into sexual stereotypes, it embraces them shamelessly. Sometimes it's easy to overlook this amid the frothy fun, but every so often it just really grates beyond reason.

Lucy Lawless manages to rise above the melee, coming across as elegant and classy, even though she's playing a madam. Still, there are few sexual clichés this episode doesn't embrace: the sexy experienced madam, the soccer mom married to a guy who doesn't excite her looking for a little racy fun, the repressed married woman who pays heavily for her night of passion...not one of them transcends the cliché in any way. Steve is similarly a cardboard stereotype: a handsome young man who uses his looks and charm to seduce women and swindle them. The episode isn't horrible, but it never rises above its by-the-book premise.

We finally get a glimpse of the new ME's personality when Delko and Ryan pull a practical joke on her, moving Steve's body and substituting it for a moving dummy in its place. Dr. Price is not amused; their little joke jeopardizes her ability to get an accurate mold of his wounds that can be used in determining the murder weapon. It's yet another gender cliché--boys will be boys after all--and one that doesn't quite ring true. Oh, I fully believe that Delko and Ryan would play a prank on the new girl, but would they compromise a corpse to do it? Not likely. Both men have been CSIs too long not to know better than to move a body in the morgue. The move allows for some nice friction between Delko and Tara, but it makes Delko and Ryan look like clowns. Surely the two could have come up with a practical joke that didn't jeopardize their case?

We learn from the incident that Dr. Price takes her work seriously (not exactly a shocking revelation) and that she's inventive when it comes to recovering evidence, something we first saw in her first appearance in "Won't Get Fueled Again". Tara clearly thinks outside the box when it comes to retrieving evidence; she's got a creative, whimsical side that makes her a good fit with the Miami team. Crossing her, however, is a bad idea: she comes down pretty hard on Delko for the prank he pulls on her. Calleigh does suggest he send flowers, which leads to a charged moment when Calleigh tells him girls like flowers and Delko casts a long look at her. Though he might be playing boyish pranks with Ryan on the new ME, it's very clear Delko's feelings for Calleigh aren't wavering. How long are the two going to play the will-they-or-won't-they game? It's probably time for something to happen between these two.

What's with Ryan's bright pink tie? I realize the Miami team dresses in brighter colors, but some of Ryan's outfits lately are just pretty outlandish. One good thing about him dressing in bright colors: he gets noticed. The poor guy hasn't really had a storyline since he was rehired last season. I hope both Ryan and Natalia get decent character arcs this season, because the two aren't doing much more than processing evidence. I miss the edginess they had when he was the rogue in the lab, his ego conflicting with his job, and she was the former mole looking for redemption. Surely something more could be done with the two?

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.