CSI: Miami--'Death Eminent'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 19, 2006 - 3:07 AM GMT

See Also: 'Death Eminent' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The bloated body of a man is discovered in an empty house on Cobalt Drive in Coral Gables, right alongside the ocean, by a man named Daniel Wells, who calls it in after his dog found decomposing remains. Alexx determines the man has been dead for four days. Ryan discovers an ID in his briefcase identifying him as Councilman Chad Bridges. DNA on the briefcase leads the CSIs to a man living next door to the house named Gary Logan, who is preparing to leave Miami in his boat. He admits to stealing a few things out of the case, but denies murdering the man, something Calleigh and Natalia find hard to believe when they discover a grave in his backyard with fat deposits in it.

Alexx notes the shallow stab wounds on Bridges' body, and also points out bite marks from a canine on the man's arm. Recalling Daniel Wells had a dog, Ryan returns to the neighborhood where he discovers Daniel's son Austin fighting with two deputies, who are trying to evict his neighbor, Timothy Nash. A private company, Apius Conglomerate, has bought all the houses on Cobalt Drive at fifty percent of cost after a judicial decision allowed the city to seize the homes and sell them to Apius. Ryan clashes with Deputy Biggs, the man in charge, but isn't able to divert him from his purpose. When the CSIs track down Daniel Wells, he admits his dog bit Bridges after he was caught trespassing on their property, presumably trying to decide which way to vote on the eminent domain conflict with Apius.

Horatio tracks down William Preston, the head of Apius, who shares his plans to turn Cobalt Drive into a tourist attraction, complete with hotels and spas. The Wells' are the next to be evicted, and a frantic Austin calls Ryan. Ryan again tries to reason with Biggs, but when he's unsuccessful, he shoves the deputy, causing Biggs to threaten him with a complaint. Ryan turns to newswoman Erica Sikes for information, and she tells him Bridges was against the city exercising the eminent domain laws to sell the houses on Cobalt Lane to Apius. Delko and Ryan investigate evidence in vandalism cases on Cobalt and discover that Timothy Nash was responsible. He admits he was paid off by Preston to commit crimes that would bring property values in the neighborhood down. Horatio confronts Preston about his machinations, but they're interrupted by a frantic man with a gun who claims Preston has taken everything from him. Horatio is able to talk him down and seize the gun.

Horatio confronts an old nemesis, Judge Joseph Ratner, who presided over the eminent domain case, and tells the judge he believes he profited from the case. Back at the lab, Natalia identifies the DNA in the grave in Logan's yard as belonging to a missing girl named Marta Argenta. Calleigh has the sad duty of informing the uncle who raised her about her death. He's heartbroken, and tells Calleigh she was the child of his seventeen-year-old sister. Natalia can't find a connection between Logan and Marta, but Delko discovers Marta's body in a suitcase on Logan's boat. Alexx boils the girls' bones to discover she was beaten to death, and also notes that her skull indicates she was at least partially of African American descent. Tool marks on Marta's bones match a tool Logan owned, but he refuses to admit the reason he killed her.

Horatio tells Ryan he was able to get Biggs to drop the complaint, but cautions him that next time he might not be able to help. Nick, Natalia's ex-husband, brings her a major piece of evidence in the Bridges' case: a wedding ring he found by the bodily fluids he was cleaning up in the house. Natalia traces it to Julia Wells, who admits that she was with Bridges--she asked him to meet her at the house to seduce him and get him to vote against eminent domain. She took off her wedding ring but wasn't able to go through with it. She denies killing him, and Ryan's suspicions fall on Austin. A pocket knife he carries tests positive for blood, and the boy breaks down and confesses to stabbing Bridges after seeing his mother exiting the house.

Still bothered by the lack of connection between Marta and Logan, Calleigh asks Valera to run her DNA in the system on Horatio's recommendation. The results reveal that Marta was the daughter of none other than Judge Ratner. Horatio takes the findings to the judge and tells him he's put it together. Marta's mother, Carmen, was once in Ratner's courtroom; years later, Marta tried to contact him to tell him he was her father. Horatio now knows why Gary Logan was given the full value of his property while his neighbors only got half of theirs: Ratner paid him to murder his daughter and keep his secret safe. Horatio has Ratner arrested for the crime, and Calleigh stands by Marta's uncle as her body is finally laid to rest. Horatio tells Daniel Wells that his home is safe--and that his son needs him more than ever.

Analysis:

Word to the wise: Horatio Caine always gets his man. And I mean always, even if it takes him years to do it. Judge Ratner first appeared in "After the Fall" when he apparently got away with the murder of a young woman. He was back in "Under Suspicion", when Horatio became a suspect in the murder of the woman he'd been seeing. Ratner released the real killer based on insufficient evidence simply to get back at Horatio for investigating him in Donna Scott's murder.

Two years later, Horatio finally gets to put Ratner behind bars, albeit for a different murder. It's a satisfying moment for longtime fans of the show, presenting a nice bit of continuity for those who have been tuning into Miami for years. It's a rare day when Horatio isn't able to put the villain behind bars, but there was no guarantee that he would be able to collar Ratner. Bringing the judge back and tying him in with a different murder was an inspired twist on the parts of writers Corey Miller and Brian Davidson.

Will William Preston pop up again at some point in the future as well? Though Horatio is able to save the Wells' house (and presumably those of their neighbors), the sleazy developer is still at large when the episode ends. Gregg Henry imbues the developer with a larger-than-life personality, and though he's not guilty of murder this time around, he seems like the type that wouldn't hesitate at using violence as a means to get what he wants.

The makeup and FX departments deserve props for what has to be one of the coolest--and most disgusting--teasers yet. Watching Chad Bridges' body bloat in super speed over a four-day period is utterly engrossing--and completely gross. But this is one of the main reasons people watch the CSI shows--to see science in action, and of all the science-type things the shows deal with, one of the most compelling is what happens after people die. Viewers might be as grossed out as Ryan is when Alexx pops the body, but they're utterly fascinated as well.

This episode doesn't skimp on the human element in the show, thankfully, and it features one of the most heartbreaking lines I've ever heard uttered in a CSI show. When Marta's uncle tells Calleigh that "you expect to buy your baby a cradle, but never a coffin," it's a gut-wrenching moment. The simple truth, and the pain behind it, make it both a powerful and unforgettable line.

Jonathan Togo turns in a fantastic performance as Ryan grapples with the Wells family. He sympathizes with their plight, so much so that he allows himself to get into an physical altercation with Deputy Biggs, the callous officer who is physically evicting the residents of Coral Gables from their homes. Ryan isn't usually prone to violence, making the moment he shoves Biggs all the more shocking. The CSI stands his ground, willing to take the heat for something he believes in.

If it stopped there, it would have been an interesting insight into Ryan's character, but Miller and Davidson take it to another level entirely when Horatio intervenes and talks Biggs out of dropping the charges. Horatio goes to bat for his team often enough that this isn't earth-shattering, but what is novel is Austin's assessment of it. He's going to jail for killing the councilman, but he observes that Ryan attacked Biggs without consequence and wonders why certain people are above the law.

Though Ryan had the best of intentions, he did indeed commit a transgression, and Austin pointing out that he isn't paying for it adds real depth to the episode. Who pays for what, and when? Ratner will never pay for Donna Scott's death, not directly, but he is presumably going to be held accountable for Marta's murder. Preston might have lost Coral Gables, but no doubt he has other dirty dealings he'll never be taken to task for. Chad Bridges paid with his life for nearly taking advantage of Austin's mother, but ultimately he died for what was a misperception on Austin's part. And Ryan gets away with pushing Biggs, something that under other circumstances he would have been held accountable for. The underlying theme in the episode, that justice isn't always meted out the way it should be in an ideal world, is handled masterfully.

I can't help but wonder if there's some foreshadowing in Horatio's warning to Ryan that he won't be able to help him next time. Ryan's missteps are many, from taking a blood vial from the lab to court and violating protocol in "Recoil" to taking credit for evidence Delko found in "Sex and Taxes" to speaking to a reporter about a case in "10-7". Ryan is a flawed character, which perhaps the reason why he's the most interesting of the CSI: Miami team to watch. I like that he never quite trusts his teammates (something which has led him into trouble or at least conflicts a few times) and that he lets his emotions rather than logic guide him. I'll be interested to see if he does make that one misstep too many somewhere down the line.

I also like that Horatio is willing to cover for him, which adds depth to Horatio's character. Horatio is such a larger-than-life hero that sometimes he almost comes off as too perfect, but it's moments like the one he has with Ryan that remind us that even the great leader has his weaknesses. In Horatio's case, it's having perhaps a little too much faith in the people he loves. In Ray's case, Horatio had faith that his brother would change; at this point, that faith seems misplaced. In Ryan's case, it's that the headstrong young CSI will reign himself in. Whether or not that faith is misplaced remains to be seen.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.