CSI: New York--'Dead Inside'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 13, 2008 - 7:31 PM GMT

See Also: 'Dead Inside' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The body of Kevin McBride is found in a cellar, the apparent victim of a fatal blow to the head. Stella finds the crime scene miles away, in a house that has literally been upended and is being transported across the river. McBride and his wife Annie own a home relocation company, and the house Kevin was killed in is one they were transporting from Staten Island. Stella finds a bullet casing at the house, while Lindsay discovers a large carrot. Sid autopsies the body and makes several discoveries, including a crumpled up piece of paper in McBride's hand. After questioning McBride's secretary, Rita Mannete, Detective Angell tells Flack that she met his sister last night--after Samantha chucked a beer bottle at her police car. While Stella receives a disturbing call telling her to drop her investigation into the rat fisherman's death (from "The Cost of Living"), Lindsay discovers that the crumpled piece of paper is part of a picture of McBride, with the word "TELL" written on it. She also finds part of a QR code on the back--a code that when scanned, leads directly to a website. Sid gives Hawkes trace from a laceration on McBride's wrist, while Hawkes hopes patterns on the skull fragments from their victim can lead him to the murder weapon. Lindsay identifies the carrot as a "veggie pipe" used to smoke marijuana while Adam finds THC, not GSR, in the shell casing, indicating it was being used to hold the drug, not as weaponry. Adam gets DNA off the carrot, which leads the CSIs to Tanor Sommerset, who claims he went into the house to smoke up, only to panic when the house literally started moving! He claims he caused quite a commotion when he leapt from the house, which was being transported on a truck in the middle of busy street at the time.

Flack finds Sam at the bar where she works and asks about her near arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct the other night. She tries to distract him by talking about a song they used to love when they were kids, but Flack cautions her not to use his name again to get out of trouble. Danny determines the murder weapon was a rather common large hammer, while Hawkes identifies a large fish scale in the abrasions on McBride's arms. McBride's daughter, Ella, pays Mac a visit; she's upset that the CSIs have taken her father's computer and other personal effects. Mac reassures the girl, and promises her he's going to find her father's killer. Flack brings Danny the murder weapon--a hammer discarded in a garbage can not far from the house's original location. Flack notices the QR code Lindsay is working on and tells her he recognizes it from cards at his sister's bar. The two head to the bar where Flack is surprised to learn Sam no longer works; she was fired two weeks ago for drinking on the job. While Lindsay gets the cards, Flack confronts his sister about the course her life is taking. The CSIs find two potential suspects: Tanor, who used to own the house McBride was moving before his mother sold it out from under him six months ago, and Rita, who the CSIs connect to the fish scale via a high end manicure. Both deny any involvement; Rita claims the abrasions on McBride's arm were caused accidentally when she tripped on her heel and he caught her and saved her from falling. For his part, Tanor admits to buying a hammer recently but denies using it as a weapon. Lindsay gets a break when she discovers the QR code on the card leads to a website where people mail their deepest darkest secrets. The CSIs discover the rest of the card in between the floorboards of the house, and discover when put together it reads: "I'll tell her if you don't." Lindsay goes over McBride's computer and recovers some deleted files that reveal he was having multiple affairs--the most recent of which was with a girl on the internet who went by "Lola54." Lola54 cut off all contact with McBride after he sent her the photo--and is likely the source of the threatening message.

Flack goes to his sister's apartment, but Sam won't let him in. He plays the song she was reminiscing about earlier through the intercom, causing her to cry, but she still doesn't open the door. While Hawkes views a video Annie McBride made of a house walkthrough at the time of her husband's death, Lindsay uncovers the identity of Lola54: Ella McBride. The tearful young woman tells Mac she thought she'd met the man of her dreams and was horrified to discover he turned out to be her own father. She cut off all contact and sent the picture with the note, hoping he would tell her mother the truth. She swears to Mac that she didn't kill her father. Stella discovers DNA on the weapon is a familial match for Ella, and she confronts Annie: shadows cast on the street behind the house in the video Annie used as her alibi prove it was made at 2pm, not 10:30am when her husband was killed as she claimed. Annie breaks down; she discovered the picture sent by Lola54 and confronted her husband. In a fit of rage, she grabbed the hammer and struck her husband with it. After she killed him, she dragged his body down to the cellar where it remained while the house above it was moved. Ella watches behind the window with Mac, who promises to keep her secret. Flack follows his sister and learns she's joined an AA group. Angell meets him outside the building to drive him home, but he tells her he needs to walk and think about what he's seen. Before he leaves, he gives her a kiss and thanks her.

Analysis:

A healthy dose of Flack family drama saves an otherwise mediocre episode of CSI: NY. There are some episodes of the show that really make either the victims or the killers come alive for the audience; think the scuzzy victims from last week's "Enough" or the slimy killer with a doll for a girlfriend in "Sex, Lies and Silicone", all of whom had distinct personalities that came through over the course of the episodes. Not so here--Kevin McBride's only distinguishing characteristic is that he's an unfaithful husband, and his wife Annie is simply the woman who can't take it anymore. Not only do these characteristics not distinguish them, but they're highly clichéd. Collectively, the CSI shows have explored so many stories involving unfaithful couples that to stand out, an episode featuring such a pair really has to have something to really make the characters unique and memorable, a la CSI's most recent episode, "Leave Out All the Rest", in which the unfaithful guy was sneaking out to an S&M club to engage in his infidelity.

The only unique aspect of the case is daughter Ella's involvement, albeit in a way that's just downright creepy. How horrified would a girl be to discover the flirty guy she fell for on the internet was actually her own father? There aren't really words that do justice to how unsettling that is. The final scene between Ella and Mac plays out all wrong: here's a girl who's just learned her mother murdered her father because he fell for another woman--Ella herself!--on the internet, and all she can say to Mac is that she misses the way the romance made her feel important? Given that her family has just fallen apart in full Greek tragedy fashion, you'd think she'd be more concerned with the fact that she's essentially lost both parents in one fell swoop than that she wants that feeling of importance back. Despite Ella's tears, the whole McBride family tragedy is devoid of deep feeling because the emotional center feels off, and this prevents the audience from connecting with the case--and the characters.

Mac has some nice moments with Ella, allowing Gary Sinise to showcase the CSI's softer side. He takes the time to explain to her that they need her father's files, and vows to solve the case. And in the end, when she worries about her mother learning the true identity of Lola54, he reassures her by saying, "It's not my secret to tell." It's all pretty standard stuff, but given that Mac can oftentimes be pretty rigid and set in his ways, it's nice to see him soften up a bit and show some sympathy to the obviously distraught girl. Casey LaBow does a nice job as Ella, holding her own in her scenes with Sinise.

Following up on Stella's attack and visit to the Greek embassy in "The Cost of Living", the CSI is the recipient of a threatening phone call and a disturbing package in this episode. The old 'intimidating packages/calls' shtick was played out last season with Mac's extended harassment by the 333 stalker, so to see something similar pop up again with Stella just one season later feels tired. Is Sebastian Diakos, the shady Greek diplomat Stella met, really so worried that the CSIs are going to keep digging into the unsolved murder of a guy who fished for rats that he's going to threaten a CSI with calls and by sending her a rat in a box? Rather than being ominous, it's just another cliché...one we saw just last year. And, really, the bad guys should be smarter--don't they know by now that threatening messages and packages just make criminalists more determined to get to the bottom of things, not less? I'm intrigued by the storyline, but I hope further exploration of it is a little more creative.

Thankfully the show's unsung hero, Don Flack, saves the day. Flack's relationship with his sister really anchors the hour and gives viewers something to care about. Flack's disappointment in his sister grows throughout the episode, as he first learns Sam flung a beer bottle at a police car and then discovers she lost her bartending gig for drinking on the job. Flack is pretty cynical, so he naturally comes down fairly hard on her, telling Angell that maybe he should have written her off like their father did and then getting angry with Sam after he learns she lied to him about still being employed at the bar. Sam definitely has some issues, but it can't be easy to be the sister of Don Flack, who has followed--quite successfully--in their father's footsteps. With a sibling as downright perfect as Flack, is it any wonder that Sam went the other direction and rebelled? Sam has some complaints about Flack, too: ironically calls Flack out on being "humorless," something regular viewers of the show know he's certainly not. But Sam's problems are no laughing matter, and when it comes to someone he cares about being in trouble, Flack takes a more authoritarian tone.

Rather than giving up on his sister, Flack bends, going to her apartment to talk to her and, when she doesn't let him in, playing a song she mentioned earlier from their childhood through the intercom. I fully expected him to break down the door when she didn't let him in, so it was a nice surprise when Flack accepted that he wasn't going to get a response and sadly walked away. But Flack is nothing if not persistent--he did chase Danny all around Manhattan after Danny's gun was stolen in "All in the Family"--so at the end of the episode, we see he's following Sam around, no doubt with the intention to step in if he finds her headed for trouble. When he discovers her at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and listens to hear heartfelt confession, Flack's face registers his surprise and concern. No doubt he's relieved, but facing his sister's very real problems has left the usually unflappable detective drained.

Though her New York accent seems slightly heavier than it was in her first appearance in "Veritas",Sam Flack has the same mixture of tough vulnerability that she did when we met her. Kathleen Munroe gives real depth to her performance; Sam is by turns affectionate, disillusioned, downtrodden and raw. Though she doesn't let Flack in when he comes to her door after confronting her about losing her job, it is presumably this visit that prompts her to gather the courage to go to AA. Eddie Cahill excels at conveying Flack's pain just as much as he usually does when showcasing the detective's sharp wit. Flack isn't a demonstrative man, so Cahill goes for a more subtle performance; most of the emotion we see is in Flack's face and the tone of his voice as he tells Angell about how his father gave up on his sister. Underplaying Flack's emotion is a wise move, and completely in character; the way Sam's decline is tearing Flack up really is all in the detective's face. Another phenomenal performance from Cahill, who always hits all the right notes.

After all the grief Flack goes through with his sister, the kiss he gives Angell at the end of the episode feels a little incongruous. There's chemistry a plenty between the almost absurdly attractive pair, but a kiss feels out of place. Subtlety in romance is not CSI: NY's forte, though, so it's not exactly surprising that the fun flirting between Flack and Angell has escalated quickly. It would have been enough without the kiss to show there are deeper feelings developing between the two: Angell gently tells Flack about his sister's escapades at the beginning of the episode and is willing to go pick Flack up at the end, while Flack actually opens up and shares some of his family history with Angell. The intimacy is there before the kiss. That being said, I’m curious about the follow up, because there is a real sizzle between Flack and Angell.

It's interesting Flack chooses to confide in Angell rather than his best friend Danny, but it gives further credence to the notion that Flack has simply cast Danny into the role of someone he supports and looks out for rather than someone he turns to when the going gets rough. His one moment of lightness in the episode occurs when he goes to deliver the murder weapon, calling "Danno, Danno!" as he chases Danny down the hall. Out of the many nicknames Flack has for Danny, "Danno" is my favorite, probably because of its allusion to the iconic Hawaii Five-O catch phrase "Book 'em, Danno!" Flack and Danny share a laugh at Lindsay's comedic chagrin over the QR codes, but then it's back to business when Flack recognizes the code as one on cards he saw at the bar Sam works in and accompanies Lindsay there.

Even though Angell is the one he calls on for a ride, Flack doesn't exactly let her in on what exactly transpired, instead choosing to walk home alone. Don Flack isn't a man who easily opens up to people; he's far more comfortable being the pillar of strength than he is allowing others to see him in a moment of weakness. That's rather nicely reflected in his relationship with Sam--Flack is clearly the golden child, while Sam is the screw up. There are echoes of this dynamic in Flack's relationship with Danny as well. Might Flack have an unconscious need to be the one who walks the straight and narrow while others around him make mistakes and, in Sam's case, find they can't live up to the example he sets and go to the other extreme? Either way, it makes me even more curious about the stoic detective. I hope we haven't seen the last of Samantha Flack, and that someday we'll meet the formidable Flack patriarch.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.