CSI: NY--'Communication Breakdown'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 26, 2009 - 8:21 AM GMT

See Also: 'Communication Breakdown' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

An altercation on a train reveals the dead body of a Native American man. The man is identified as Amos Delaware, the chief of the Montiquan Indian Nation. The man appears to have been killed by a bullet that was fired outside the train and slammed into Delaware. Using the trajectory and speed of the train as well as the time the bullet hit Delaware, Hawkes and Adam are able to come up with an origin location for the shot. Mac and Stella knock on the door of the apartment the shot was fired from and speak with the Paiks, whose daughter Gahee tells them her father fired his gun at her boyfriend that morning. Mac and Stella arrest Lee Paik, but Sid and Hawkes soon learn that the case isn't as clear cut as it seems when they perform the autopsy and discover that a thin, black string-like object caused sepsis in Delaware and apparently led to his death. While Hawkes works on identifying the item, Danny, who is fixated on picking out a name for the baby he is certain will be a boy, and Stella go to the hotel room where Chief Delaware resided. They find a maid cleaning it and Liam Connover, the hotel's I.T. expert in the process of removing Delaware's computer. Stella puts a halt to both processes and the two scour the room for clues. Stella finds a diary and a torn blueprint for a Montiquan Cultural Center.

Back at the lab, Hawkes is able to ID the black object as baleen from a whale's mouth. It was tied up in a neat little bow and inserted into food--likely an oyster--and given to Delaware. Hawkes has found one company licensed to sell baleen in Manhattan: Agra Imports. Stella finds a motive in Lexus Nexus when she discovers that Agra Imports and the Montiquan Tribal Nation were in a dispute over a piece of land. Flack and Angell pay Leila Vara, the current owner of Agra Imports, a visit and are surprised to learn that she bears no ill will towards Chief Delaware: he visited her a few days ago and promised to return the piece of land. Mac and Danny pay a visit to the building owned by the Montiquan Tribal Nation, but without a warrant, they can't go inside. Danny notices a sophisticated new telecom connection on the side of the building. Stella pores over the Chief's diary, but she's not able to translate most of it, though she does encounter one word several times: tehonzuk. Adam has identified splinters in Delaware's leg as coming from a stick used in a hurling game, and he zeroes in on Finn Wexford, the captain of the Queens Hurling Club, who lost his practice field to the Montiquans. Flack and Angell go to question the aggressive young Irishman, who tells them that Delaware came and broke his stick when Finn threatened him. But after doing so, the Chief told them they could continue to use the field. Finn gets aggressive with Flack and finds himself in cuffs.

Adam determines the baleen sample is 300 years old, sending Stella back to Delaware's hotel room. When she discovers baleen was used as a method of killing wolves by the Montiquan, Mac gets a list of Montiquan tribe members and finds only one in New York: Liam Connover. Stella recalls meeting him briefly at the hotel. Danny and Adam crack the case: they've discovered the Montiquan building is being used as a house for servers hosting online poker games, which are illegal in the U.S. Danny points out that a company named LCV--Liam Connover Ventures--paid for the servers, and Mac notices a user named LCV cheating at poker. Mac, Flack and Danny go to the building and apprehend Liam. Mac and Stella interrogate the young man, telling him they know Chief Delaware figured out what he was doing and decided to pull the plug on the operation. Liam pretended to make peace with Delaware, but poisoned him with the baleen. Mac and Stella join the rest of the team in the break room where Danny is continuing his search for a boy's name--until he gets a text from Lindsay informing him that the baby is a girl.

Analysis:

Overkill meets obvious to the Nth degree in the latest episode of CSI: NY, which has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The show has more or less blissfully ignored the multicultural heart of Manhattan for three and a half seasons--the first season had a much more authentic feel to it that the lighter and brighter version mandated from season two onwards has lacked. Trying to cram all that diversity into one episode comes off as ridiculously false and forced. For a show that has unrealistically focused on Caucasian, upper class crime to the exclusion of everything else, to suddenly feature so many people of different ethnic backgrounds speaking in their native tongues feels not only false but vaguely condescending. It's as if, after three and a half years, someone suddenly remembered that New York is made up of an incredibly diverse population and decided to feature them all in one episode. No doubt by the next episode, the show will return its focus to the wealthy and the white, but hey, this week we got to see ethnic folks riding the train!

Perhaps it wouldn't seem like such overkill if the show hadn't devoted so much of its focus to upper class crime; if we'd seen, here and there, people speaking in languages other than English, the plethora of non-English speakers wouldn't feel so jarring in this episode. Has there ever been another episode of CSI: NY that featured subtitles? Other than Stella--and Diakos in "The Cost of Living"--speaking Greek, has there been another foreign language spoken on CSI: NY? Let's face it: this show has never done justice to the diverse, multicultural population of New York City and to suddenly try to fit it into one episode is too little, too late. It also feels gimmicky--the case has to do with a Native American victim and his tribe, so is there really a point to having random witnesses and suspects speaking French, Korean and even Gaelic? English speakers take the train, too.

As if the audience hadn't been bludgeoned over the head with the message of the episode that New York is a diverse place, Mac and Stella have a preachy conversation at the end of the episode after Stella makes a call to get Chief Delaware's belongings into a Native American Cultural museum. "Sometimes we don't notice other cultures until they're gone," Stella laments. Add to that Mac's admonishment to Liam that he betrayed not just a good man, but "your heritage" and it's impossible to miss or misinterpret the message being sent. Let's face it: it's not the audience that needs the message that New York City is filled with people from many different cultures that should be celebrated and respected. Let's hope that this episode is just the first of many to showcase more diversity in CSI: NY--and that its integrated with a much lighter touch in a more natural way.

Also painfully, terribly obvious? That Danny Messer is going to be the father of a baby girl when Lindsay gives birth. Danny's certainty that he's having a son based on the fact that he's got a brother and Lindsay has three is obviously misguided. It's Danny after all--since when has he ever been right about anything upfront? Throughout the episode, Danny is fixated on picking out a boy's name, and by the time he tells Stella that he's certain it's going to be a boy, the audience has already figured out that certainly means he's having a girl. Astute viewers probably already suspected the baby was going to be a girl when Danny made a comment in "Green Piece" about how he wouldn't let any guys near the baby if it was a girl. Throughout this episode, Danny proceeds to pester Hawkes, Stella and Mac about helping him pick out a baby name and at the end of the episode is even holding court in the breakroom with a book of boys' names when he gets a text from Lindsay announcing--to no one's shock but Danny's--that the baby is a girl. Danny's dazed expression says it all: the idea of having a daughter terrifies him.

The ridiculously telegraphed conclusion aside, Danny's enthusiasm about picking out the baby's name makes for some cute scenes. I particularly loved how he cracked a joke about Hawkes' name after Hawkes told him that it took his parents six weeks to pick out his name. "They waited six weeks to name you Sheldon?" Danny deadpans. "What's wrong with that?" Hawkes counters. Carmine Giovinazzo and Hill Harper play off each other so well in this scene that it alone justifies Danny's persistent baby name quest. Danny does truly have terrible taste in names: Clymenza? Alphonse? Amos? I dread to think what he'll come up with for girl's names. Flack's suggestion of Crockett might take the cake, though. It's fun to see Danny surrounded by the team while he pours over the baby name book--the first CSI baby is definitely getting a lot of attention, and she's not even born yet.

Danny's fixation on finding a name for the baby further underscores his disconnect from Lindsay. Generally, couples pick out baby names together--they make lists and discuss the pros and cons of each name. But when Mac asks Danny if he's discussed any of the names with Lindsay, Danny's response is "Yes--kind of--no." What's more, Danny and Lindsay don't find out the sex of the baby together--she does it in Montana. She doesn't even call to tell him the name of the baby; instead, she sends a text message! Could these two be any less connected? A lack of communication has always been the hallmark of Danny and Lindsay's relationship, and that has continued despite the fact that they're married. Even Mac seems to have picked up on the fact that these two just don't talk to each other.

Flack and Angell provide a refreshing counterpoint as a couple. Eddie Cahill and Emmanuelle Vaugier have an easy, natural chemistry that Giovinazzo and Anna Belknap have never developed, and their relationship feels authentic and natural. I loved Flack's casually whispered, "Sexiest thing I've ever heard" to Angell as he walked by her speaking French on the train and her invitation into the translator for Flack to "stop by my place later and I'll show you the true meaning of international relations." These two sizzle together, but they're also able to put aside their flirtation in order to get down to business. Their relationship isn't front and center during their questioning of Leila Vara or Finn Wexford.

Another couple--this one of the non-romantic variety--that I enjoy? Sid and Hawkes. It's nice that the fact that Hawkes is a former ME has never been forgotten or swept under the rug, and I love the scenes where he and Sid team up to figure out some sort of medical mystery. The two do some pretty impressive detective work together. While the 3-D autopsy still seems like something out of science fiction, it was fun--and visually impressive--to see Hawkes literally spreading the dead man's intestines out in order to find out what exactly killed him. Once Hawkes found it on the image, he was able to tell Sid exactly where to look for the small but deadly murder weapon. Now that's teamwork!

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.