'Creatures of the Night'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at September 30, 2004 - 9:51 PM GMT

See Also: 'Creatures of the Night' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

An upscale party is in full swing in Manhattan. Wealthy guests mingle as an orchestra plays. But one guest isn't feeling festive. A young woman, Robin Prescott, stumbles towards the entrance to the hotel unsteadily. She's bruised, battered and bloody. She stumbles up to her father who looks at her with a stricken expression. "I'm sorry, Dad, I'm sorry I'm late," she manages to say before collapsing.

Stella photographs Robin's wounds before Robin is taken away to the hospital. Mac shares the background information he's garnered on Robin with Stella: she lives alone and works for a publishing house. Stella notes that she must have stumbled out of Central Park. Mac laments that this gives them an 800 acre crime scene.

Mac assigns Danny to work trace on the case and sends Stella to talk to Robin while he answers another call with Aiden. A man named Jordan Bates lies dead in the street, apparently the victim of a gunshot wound to the chest. Mac notes crack burns on his hands and Aiden spies track marks on his ankles. He's a junkie, and the pair theorize that Jordan was the victim of a drug deal gone bad. Mac notes something very puzzling: based on the blood patterns, something exited the entrance wound.

Stella's visit to Robin doesn't prove informative, as Robin remembers nothing of her ordeal. Stella takes a few pictures of Robin and tells her she is trying to piece together what happened in the park.

Danny goes over Robin's clothes and her underwear looking for clues. He finds a peony leaf, and with the help of lab tech A. J. Dalton manages to narrow down the location in the park where Robin was attacked. When Stella shows up, Danny is able to tell her the crime scene is in Strawberry Fields.

Sheldon Hawkes has some interesting news for Mac. Jordan was indeed killed by the gunshot wound to his chest, but Hawkes notes some small bite marks on the man's body. After Jordan was killed, rats descended on his body, and one of the rats ate the fatal bullet.

At the crime scene in Strawberry Fields, Stella gathers evidence. She takes photographs of the area, uncovering Robin's shoe and what appears to be a steak covered in mud. Danny arrives, and together the pair theorize that there may have been two attackers, based on the two sets of footprints they find. One pair appears to be made my work boots. Stella also finds a nose ring.

Armed with an alloy gun that will help them locate the rat with the bullet in its stomach, Mac and Aiden head back to their crime scene. Their search leads them into a market, where Mac climbs on a ladder and finds a horde of rats in the ceiling. The alloy gun reveals the rat with the bullet is indeed among the crowd.

The steak found at the scene leads Stella and Don Flack to Ramon's Steakhouse. Stella asks the manager if any of the employees wear a nose ring, and he points them in the direction of Donovan Tracey, a dishwasher. Tracey has a suspicious bandage on his nose, and he tries to run when Stella and Don bring up Central Park. Flack easily apprehends him, and they bring him to the station for questioning.

It doesn't take much to get Donovan talking. He denies raping Robin; he says he found her after she was attacked, and that he took her purse. She ripped his nose ring out trying to stop him, and he fled, leaving the nose ring and steak behind. Stella is both disgusted and skeptical.

Mac and Aiden call on the services of expert Carl Tejeski, a rodent expert, who helps them set traps to catch and kill the rats. While they hunt rodents, Stella questions Robin about what she remembers about the night of the rape. She says she recalls taking a cab, but when the traffic proved overwhelming, she got out of the cab and decided to walk through the park. Stella runs into Robin's father on the way out, who tells her he raised his children on his own. When he tells Stella boys are much easier than girls because they're stronger and more independent, Stella reminds him that Robin dragged herself out of the park and walked to the party after being attacked.

Bad news awaits Stella at the lab: Dr. Giles tells her the semen sample from Robin's rape kit was problematic. Her attacker's semen contained no sperm, and therefore no DNA. "Catching this guy just got a lot harder," Stella laments.

Carl and Aiden leave eggs in the rat traps for the rats, which brings the rodents out in droves. But when Aiden examines the dead rats with the alloy gun, it reveals the rat with the bullet isn't among them. Aiden goes back to the ceiling in the store, where she finds one dead rat: the bullet-eater.

Stella runs into Mac in the hall and he senses her frustration. He advises her to use her head and not her heart. Danny has found a clue in the dirt from Robin's clothes: it contains Linolinic acid, which is used to clean statues. Since the statues on the south side of the park are being cleaned, Danny suggests they round up the workers and see if one of them is shooting blanks. Stella obtains the samples, but all of them contain sperm. The statue cleaners are exonerated, leaving Stella once again without a suspect.

While Aiden looks on, Mac dissects the rat, extracting the bullet. Mac examines the rat's body while Aiden fires different guns into water tanks. In Central Park, Stella observes the goings-on, and spies a patch of flowers. She muses that her culprit could be a gardener.

Flack and Stella question Billy, one of the gardeners in the park. He protests his innocence, saying that he wouldn't have given a DNA sample if he was guilty. When Stella asks for his clothes, he offers to turn them over--"anything to prove his innocence." After he's taken away, Stella laments that even though his semen contained no sperm, they still had no DNA evidence to conclusively prove that Billy was the one who raped Robin. Stella goes to Robin to ask her to look at a line up. Robin protests that she doesn't want to remember that night, but she reluctantly agrees to look at the line up.

Mac and Aiden learned of a deli robbery that took place just before Jordan's shooting, and they bring in the robber, Calvin. He denies knowing Jordan, but Mac theorizes that he robbed the deli for drug money, but when it wasn't enough for Jordan, Calvin shot him and took the drugs. "Tell me something," he says to Mac, "who ratted me out?"

When Robin doesn't show up for the line-up, Stella is rattled. She seems to be at a dead end. Mac tells her that he has nine unsolved cases that he revisits every week. When Stella asks him if he finds anything, he replies not much, but notes that he used to have twelve folders on his desk.

Stella goes back to the evidence. Danny, Aiden and even Mac join her in the lab. Mac wonders about the tree sap on Robin's underwear; he muses that it's probably a secondary transfer. There's a similar bit of sap on Billy's pants, from when he was cutting down trees in the park. The evidence connects Robin and Billy.

"Gotcha," Stella murmurs as Billy is taken away.

Analysis:

An uneven second offering that manages to entertain even if it doesn't completely hold together, "Creatures of the Night" suffers from a common CSI-show problem, and that is that one of the cases the CSI team is investigating is far more interesting than the other, and thus the less-interesting case feels like a distraction from the more involving case. Rats may be a persistent problem in New York City, but spending a good chunk of an episode searching for a rat with a bullet in its belly does not necessarily make good television, especially when the other team is hunting for a rapist still on the loose.

My other major disappointment with this episode was Stella. Theoretically, this episode was supposed to give viewers insight into her character, but I don't feel that I know anything more about Stella Bonasera than I did before the episode aired. Stella is determined to get this rapist, but what CSI isn't equally gung-ho about closing his or her cases? That Stella is a dedicated professional isn't exactly a deep revelation. Even her scenes with Robin aren't very revealing; Stella is vaguely compassionate, but Mac came across far more powerfully the week before opposite a comatose victim.

The case itself (vaguely reminiscent of that of the Central Park jogger) is fairly involving, and the hunt to catch the rapist a gripping one. Certainly that first moment when Robin, barely able to stand somehow manages to stumble into the party she was headed for, is an unnerving one, and the episode's best moment comes about half-way through, when Robin's father is lamenting the worries associated with having daughters and Stella reminds him how strong Robin was to survive the attack and manage to walk to safety.

The hunt for the rat provides a lighter tone, but in an episode dealing with a brutal rape, that tone might be too light. Most of Mac and Aiden's time in the episode is spent tracking this one rat in particular, and it does provide the viewer a nice counterpoint to sunny Miami or even Las Vegas (Grissom might love his bugs, but perhaps even he would blanch at the rat dissection Mac performs).

With three CSI shows on the air, setting and character are going to be key in distinguishing them from each other. New York, like its predecessors, makes excellent use of its setting. The city has a presence, and it's employed to the fullest here. But, with the notable exception of Mac, the characters remain ciphers. One could argue that this is only the third episode they've appeared in (including the Miami crossover), but establishing characters early on is key in keeping an audience. Hopefully, one of them will prove to have a healthy sense of humor. New York could use just a tad bit of comic relief.

Next week: The CSI:NY team must discover the identity of a skeleton found on a tour bus!

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.