CSI: Miami--'Flight Risk'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 18, 2009 - 9:12 PM GMT

See Also: 'Flight Risk' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A horrific sight greets passengers waiting for their luggage from Pathways Flight 88 from San Diego: the body of flight attendant Suzanne Grady is tossed out with the baggage from the flight. While Ryan questions several passengers, Dr. Price finds Suzanne's body in sad shape: she has broken bones, torn hair and a clipped carotid artery, which caused her to bleed out. Tara also smells alcohol leading her to conclude Suzanne was inebriated at the time she died. After determining Suzanne was stowed in a water ski case, Ryan goes to take a look at the route the luggage took from the plane to the carousel. Arterial spray along the route proves that Suzanne died while her body was thrown against a sharp edge while on the baggage mover. In the morgue, Kyle Harmon prepares Suzanne's body for autopsy and Tara finds traces of a French prescription drug called Dormal in Suzanne's system, leading her to run a sex kit on the flight attendant. Kyle notices a cigarette burn on the woman's hand. Calleigh and Delko retrieve the cigarette from the plane's bathroom and prints on it lead them to Marvin Duffy, who admits to sneaking a smoke in the plane's restroom and being caught by Suzanne, but denies killing her over the incident. He claims she burned her hand when she went looking for the cigarette. Natalia and Ryan return to the plane and find an entrance to the baggage stow from the front of the plane, along with hair from Suzanne. When they check the passenger manifest, they learn only one man was sitting there: Aaron Nolan, the federal air marshal. When Horatio and Tripp bring him in for questioning, he refuses to take off his weapon, and tells the pair that he went to help a passenger in distress when the plane hit turbulence, leaving the front of the plane unguarded. Calleigh and Delko go back to the plane and find another flight attendant named Carolyn Morrow cleaning out the first class area, which was the area Suzanne was in charge of. Picking up on Carolyn's jealousy of Suzanne, the two take the trash bag from her to go over in the lab.

Horatio and Valera come up with a hit from the military database for DNA from Suzanne's sex kit: the pilot of the plane, Grant Lawson. The married pilot admits to sleeping with Suzanne and noticed she was upset about something the last time they hooked up, but says that their relationship wasn't that deep. On the plane, Natalia and Ryan discover the secret hatch leading up to Lawson and Suzanne's love nest above the plane: a romper room completely isolated from the rest of the plane. Natalia discovers two Dormal pills among Suzanne's luggage in the room. Calleigh and Tripp talk to Jenna York, another flight attendant, who says that Suzanne was still drunk from partying the night before the flight and was worried about being caught by Carolyn. Jenna also mentions that Suzanne had a stalker, and hands over a picture of Suzanne sleeping with the words "I enjoyed watching you sleep" written on the back of it. Calleigh runs the handwriting sample against those from the flight's luggage tags and gets a match to Marvin Duffy. Duffy admits to being totally infatuated with Suzanne and that he attempted to draw her attention by smoking after noticing her acting more relaxed than she had in the past, but he insists he didn't kill her. Perusing photos Duffy took of Suzanne, the team finds pictures of Suzanne partying with Carolyn Morrow. Delko questions the flight attendant, who admits to spiking an already drunk Suzanne's soda with more alcohol so that she would be hung over the next day. Carolyn insists she didn't kill the girl. In the lab, Ryan and Horatio go over the trash Carolyn collected and find a neck pillow from the plane that's been emptied of its stuffing. Horatio finds a few Dormal pills inside, leading him to realize someone was smuggling the drug on the plane.

Horatio's suspicions fall on Aaron Nolan, who could have gotten the drug on the plane. Tripp and Horatio try to get the man to admit who he gave the supply of drugs to, but he refuses to offer up any information. They arrest him for drug trafficking while Natalia and Delko return to the plane. They discover blood on the door to one of the overhead compartments in the front of the plane, leading them to suspect it belongs to Suzanne's killer. The DNA matches flight attendant Jenna York. The blood places Jenna near the access hatch Suzanne was dumped down during the turbulence, but they don't have anything to directly link her to the murder until Horatio thinks to check Suzanne's uniform and finds a gravitational blood drop from Jenna on it. Horatio has the guilty flight attendant brought in: she was working with Aaron Nolan to smuggle drugs and Suzanne came upon her stash. Not realizing Aaron was involved, Suzanne told Aaron about the drugs. The Federal Marshal turned around and told Jenna to take care of Suzanne. Jenna drugged Suzanne, waited until she passed out, dragged her to the access hatch, tossed her down and stashed her in the water ski case, figuring that once she was discovered in the luggage, no one would believe her story about Jenna and the drugs. Her intention was never to kill Suzanne. Both Jenna and Aaron are arrested and taken away, while Kyle slides Suzanne's body into the drawer at the morgue.

Analysis:

Miami has been turning out some great stories this season, but the ball is dropped somewhat with this slow-going episode, which rolls out too many of the clichés that the show has been moving away from. First and foremost among those are the all-powerful Horatio moments, when the fearless CSI team leader looks at someone, deems him or her a bad guy and...turns out to be absolutely right about the person. Federal Air Marshal Aaron Nolan doesn't do anything more than refuse to take off his gun before coming into the precinct, but Horatio takes one look at the man and is convinced he's done something wrong. Of course, Horatio is right, and Nolan didn't just leave his seat for the sole purpose of attending to a nervous passenger: he did it to give Jenna, whom he was trafficking drugs with, the opportunity to stash the drugged Suzanne in the luggage stow. Granted, Aaron is something of a jerk: he claims he's there to protect the passengers, not the flight crew and gives Horatio and Tripp attitude when asked to give up his gun in order to come into the police station. He's obviously arrogant, but it's Horatio's certainty that he's involved that clues the audience into the fact that he must be connected to the murder somehow.

That might be more forgivable if the episode were a little more exciting. How many times do the CSIs go back and forth between the plane and the lab, each time discovering something that they conveniently missed? No one thought to pull down the overhead container bins until the very end? And then a little bit of blood on an overhead container leads the CSIs to connect Jenna York to the crime. Of course, it's a thin, tenuous connection, until, conveniently, a gravitational blood drop on Suzanne's uniform makes it more concrete. Save for Sarah Buxton's lively and convincing red herring character, I didn't really have any investment in the case. Buxton, a vibrant red-head who guest-starred on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation twice during that show's fourth season, immediately stood out as a likely suspect because of her obvious jealousy over Suzanne's plum first class posting. And indeed, Buxton's character Carolyn Morrow did add alcohol to the soda she brought over to Suzanne at the party the night before they flew out. I thought for sure that Carolyn had offed Suzanne, so I was pleasantly surprised to find she was a red herring, and not the actual killer. Buxton was definitely the bright spot in an otherwise plodding entry.

I was actually more pleased by what was left out of the episode than what was included. In last week's "Divorce Party", we learned Dr. Tara Price stole Oxycontin off the victim of a fatal car crash. Presumably, Tara has some sort of prescription medicine addiction that is leading her lift the pills. Of course, illegal (at least in the U.S.) prescription drugs factored heavily into the storyline for this episode, but thankfully we were spared any reference to Tara's problem. One issue the CSI shows have had in the past has been the tendency to rush storylines--Horatio had barely exchanged rings with his new bride Marisol in season four's "Rampage" when she's gunned down by an assassin's bullet. Slow builds can be tough in episodic shows, but it's generally worth it, because the payoff is always bigger after storylines have been given the chance to really develop. So I was especially glad to see that Tara's drug issues weren't referenced despite some small parallel potential between her situation and the prescription drugs in Suzanne's system. But the parallel isn't really an apt one, given that Suzanne didn't willingly ingest the drugs, so the choice to avoid it was a wise one. There will be plenty of time to deal with Tara's issues, but the episode right after the revelation wasn't the one to do it in.

Restraint is also being shown in Kyle's storyline. When Horatio gave his son keys to his own apartment and got him a job in the morgue, I was worried that we'd be in for some major father/son tension. Hasn't there already been enough of that between these two? Thankfully, there has, and instead Kyle's stint at the morgue has grounded the boy and also allowed for him to have some nice quiet moments with Horatio. The two share a scene together when Horatio comes to the morgue to look for gravitational blood drops on Suzanne's uniform, and the scene is notable because the two just work together quietly, without fanfare or strife. David Caruso and Evan Ellingson have built up a convincing father/son bond between their characters, and I'm quite enjoying Kyle's stint in the morgue.

One thing that certainly should have been left out? Delko's little fantasy about riding in first class and sipping champagne with Calleigh. Fans learned in "Sink or Swim" that the two have finally gotten together, and while it's nice to get glimpses of their relationship here and there, are silly fantasy sequences really necessary in the middle of an investigation? Delko and Calleigh are in the honeymoon period of their relationship and are clearly totally smitten with each other, and it's nice to see that come out naturally in their interactions, like it did in "Sink or Swim" with their playful banter. But we probably don't need to see Delko mooning over her to the point that he's fantasizing about the two of them in first class sipping champagne. Sure, it's cute, but it feels out of place in the middle of a case in which a girl has died a fairly brutal death.

The gossipy scene between Ryan and Natalia in the plane's romper room comes off a little better, if just because it shows the characters aren't totally in the dark about what is going on between their co-workers. They joke about the lab needing a room like it and converting firearms, leading Ryan to make a quip about Delko and Calleigh. Natalia seems surprised by the revelation, but I could have sworn she picked up on Delko's feelings for Calleigh in a past episode. After the way Delko sat by Calleigh's bedside in "Smoke Gets in Your CSIs", could anyone be in the dark about Delko's love for Calleigh? Natalia and Delko seem to both have moved past their fling back in the fourth season, to the point that viewers new to the show would never guess that the two had been romantically involved. It's nice that the jealousy card hasn't been played with either woman; Natalia seems genuinely surprised but not angered or put off by the idea of Delko and Calleigh dating. As for Ryan, he's a fairly observant guy, though his big mouth has gotten him in trouble in the past, like when he said too much to reporter Erica Sikes in "10-7". It's not surprising that he'd indulge in a little office gossip, just as it's not shocking that Natalia wouldn't want to hear about two of her co-workers--especially one she had a fling with--hooking up.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.