CSI: Miami--'Going Ballistic'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 22, 2008 - 4:45 AM GMT

See Also: 'Going Ballistic' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Shannon Higgins, the ME replacing Alexx, shows up at the CSIs latest crime scene to determine the cause of death for a man found dead outside an abandoned building. Moments later, when she notices the man's chest rattle and calls for fire and rescue, shots are fired, killing her instantly. The shooter escapes, so the team turns to the dead body of the man, Manny Ortega, who apparently plunged to his death after crashing through one of the windows of the building. His brother, Juan, comes to claim his belongings and identify his body. Juan tells Delko his brother would disappear for weeks at a time. In the room Ortega fell from, Ryan and Natalia discover blood on a fallen ladder. The blood leads them to Evan Caldwell, an ATF agent who tells Horatio his criminal record is faked so that he can blend in among the thugs he infiltrates. Manny's death was an inconvenience; Evan was trying to get him to reveal who he was trafficking illegal munitions for, but Manny wouldn't crack. Evan claims he left Manny alive--after punching the ladder in anger. Delko gets Higgins' replacement, Thomas Wellner, to show him the trajectory of the bullets took when they hit Manny's body, allowing Delko and Calleigh to discover the shooter was firing from a nearby parking structure. The CSIs discover several unspent rounds and a broken gun grip, leading them to suspect the gun misfired and their shooter might have powder burns on his body.

After scouring area hospitals for people suffering recent powder burns, Horatio has Ron Saris brought in. The man has burns on his neck, which he claimed happened at the firing range. Prints on one of the unspent rounds from the parking garage leads the CSIs to Brad Gower, who tells the CSIs he sells ammunition and does spot checks on bullets, meaning his prints are likely on thousands of rounds. He notes that he has an independent defense contract, but agrees to help Horatio trace the shipment the bullet was in. In the lab, Calleigh examines the bullets, noticing the oxidation on them, but when she gets a call from Tripp, one of the bullets rolls off the lab table and falls to the floor, causing it to shoot up to the ceiling and start a fire in the lab. She's dejected at possibly compromising the case into Delko discovers an undamaged round in the wreckage. Calleigh examines the bullet, determining it's almost forty years old, meaning Gower has illegally been selling old ammunition. Realizing Manny must have known, the CSIs go to Gower's office. He confesses that Manny was trying to sell him prototype ammunition, but when he followed Manny, he saw him talking to a fed. Thinking Manny was going betray him, he followed Manny into the building and gave him a choice: get shot or jump. Manny jumped, but when Brad heard the ME call for fire and rescue, he opened fire, determined to finish Manny off. The CSIs arrest Brad and lead him off, but before they can take him in, he's gunned down by a shooter in a car. Tripp discovers only one entrance wound, but multiple exit wounds, which Calleigh recognizes as being the result of a fused alloy round--a deadly form of ammunition.

Calleigh confronts Evan: the ATF agent tells her he knew Brad was selling old ammo, but looked the other way because the rounds were going overseas. He tells her Manny was shopping the fused alloy rounds to buyers, and Calleigh demands the list of his potential buyers. Calleigh shows Horatio the list, and one name pops out: Ron Saris. Saris, who gloatingly tells Horatio that he and Julia Winston, the mother of Horatio's son Kyle, just got married, threatens Horatio, causing the CSI to return the gesture. After finishing with Ron, Horatio confronts Julia and tells her Ron is after her money and he suspects he'll hurt Kyle. He persuades Julia to bring Kyle and meet him at an airfield at 5pm. The CSIs discover the vehicle used in the drive-by shooting of Brad, and though its plates have been removed, they are able to get a cell phone number from the car's blue tooth interface. It leads them to Colin Madison, Brad Gower's associate. He tells the CSIs that a man coerced him into doing so, and agrees to take Calleigh to the man, who turns out to be none other than Juan Ortega, Manny's brother. Juan killed Brad in revenge for his brother's death, but more worrying is the rounds of fused alloy he's been selling. He refuses to tell the CSIs how many rounds he's sold, and threatens Horatio if he's arrested. Horatio laughs and has him taken to jail, where Juan makes a call giving Horatio's name and asking to be told when it's done. Horatio waits at the airfield for Julia but she doesn't show. A gunshot rings out and the CSI falls to the ground. At the station, Ryan Wolfe gets a text message reading, "It's done."

Analysis:

There's nothing particularly shocking about CSI: Miami's season finale until the last few minutes of the episode. Like the CSI season ender, "For Gedda", the episode lulls the audience into a false sense of security with the very familiar. Shady weapons dealers, suspicious government agents, even accidents in the lab--we've seen these things many times before in many different Miami episodes. And yes, both Ron Saris and Juan Ortega are threatening Horatio, but we've seen that happen many times before. People who threaten Horatio usually either end up dead or at the very least jailed. Ron Saris is more than a little creepy, and there was an ominous tone to the episode, but I would have expected Julia to get shot before Horatio.

Horatio gets shot just once, in the chest, and I'm willing to bet he's wearing a bulletproof vest. After watching not one but two people get gunned down right before his very eyes, it would be pretty foolish for Horatio to stand in an open airfield without a vest on, especially given that the person he's supposed to meet there is married to the man who threatened his life--and happens to have a supply of those deadly bullets. The expression on Horatio's face reminds me of Speed's in "Dispo Day". Speed took a shot to the chest, but he was wearing a vest and therefore simply had the wind knocked out of him. I imagine the same is true of Horatio, but it certainly is stunning to see the show's too-often infallible leading man lying face down on the pavement. There's no blood--another telltale sign that Horatio is likely wearing a vest--but it's a shocking image to end the season on.

More chilling is the text Ryan Wolfe receives, because what that will mean for the coming season is less clear. Even if Horatio has been shot, he's not going to die--he's the lead character on the show. But Ryan Wolfe, who has always walked the line, could theoretically be a sellout. It's a long shot: what I suspect is happening is that Horatio and Ryan are working together to set up either Ron Saris or Juan Ortega--or both--and want to make it look like Horatio is dead. The text--which looks pretty darn incriminating on the surface--could be nothing more than the result of the Miami PD bugging and smuggling a cell phone to Ortega via another prisoner or one of his men in exchange for a deal.

The more interesting possibility--that Ryan has actually turned on Horatio--is also the far less likely one. Ryan has always walked a thin line as a CSI--back in season three he got in trouble for getting a little too friendly with--and talkative to--the press and last season his gambling cost him his job as a CSI. He spent the beginning of this season first as a news correspondent and then as an expert at a firing range before finally getting his job back. Of all the CSIs working for Horatio, his record is definitely the most blemished. Since he's come back, Ryan has kept his head down and done his job, but he hasn't had a whole lot of camaraderie with the team of late; while Calleigh and Delko have been bonding and Natalia has come into her own as a CSI, Ryan has been on the outside this season.

But is any bitterness he might have over being fired last season enough to make him turn on Horatio, especially given that Horatio was the one who presumably fought to get him his job back in the first place? Much as I think it could be a daring storyline, I really can't see Ryan actually turning on Horatio. Ryan's transgressions have been the result of missteps or--in the case of his entanglements with the news media--vanity, but nothing he's done at any point has been mean-spirited or evil. I can't really see the eager young patrolman from "Under the Influence" turning on the man who gave him a chance to be a CSI.

The scene where Horatio waits for Julia and Kyle is reminiscent of the one at the end of the season three finale, "10-7", when he sent Yelina, Ray, Jr. and his brother off to Brazil. Why is it that Horatio is forced to send away everyone (outside of the team) that he's close to? Julia and Kyle never show, at least not before Horatio is gunned down. In the vein of most characters brought in to simply be love interests-cum-adversaries, Julia is frustratingly misguided. She marries Ron Saris despite obviously being afraid of him, but it only takes a few words from Horatio to get her to agree to flee from him. Is she really that weak? I wish Julia was something more than a plot device, because she could be used to give us insight into Horatio and what he was like in the past. Was he the same man he is today when they were together? I hope if Julia is around next season, she'll be more than a two-dimensional obstacle to keep Horatio from his son.

Kyle is similarly wishy-washy in this episode, first acting upset that Horatio is sending him away after they've just found each other (despite the fact that Kyle chose Julia over Horatio) and then packing his bags--and a gun, apparently--obediently and protesting to Julia that they're supposed to meet Horatio in an hour when she tells him she has to run an errand. Horatio hasn't made much progress with Kyle this season--they bonded a little when Kyle was incarcerated, but with Julia back in the picture, Horatio and Kyle have had little to no time together. I was intrigued by the idea of Horatio having a son initially, but it seems Kyle's presence has simply been turned into another reason for Horatio to suffer and brood. I object less to Kyle and his antics than I do to the cardboard baddies Julia and Ron Saris.

Calleigh is back on the job in this episode, after taking her proficiencies again. Delko thanks her for basically taking the fall for him, since the whole reason she was removed from active duty was that she got caught on camera with his crime scene procedure notes. Later on, after a rolling bullet causes a ceiling collapse and fire in the ballistics lab, Delko returns the favor, finding the only undamaged bullet in the case. The depth of feeling between Delko and Calleigh is one of the strongest points of the series; out of all the characters on the show, they share the strongest bond. The show hasn't shied away from throwing the two together this season, and I hope that trend continues next season. Miami doesn't usually explore the characters' relationships with each other to this degree, so it's refreshing to see that the storyline has been continued and enriched as much as it has.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.