CSI: Miami--'Golden Parachute'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at August 27, 2008 - 1:59 AM GMT

See Also: 'Golden Parachute' Episode Guide

With the CSI franchise in reruns for the summer, CSI Files is taking the opportunity to go back to the beginning, offering reviews of episodes from the early seasons of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami, many of which aired before the site's 2003 founding! The retro reviews will run for the duration of the summer until new episodes of the franchise start to air in the fall.

Synopsis:

A small jet with eight people aboard crashes in the Florida Everglades. Horatio Caine and his team are the first on the scene, and Megan Donner, the woman who used to have Horatio's job, arrives soon after, reminding Horatio that the feds have jurisdiction over the scene. The CSIs quickly learn the crash wasn't an accident: Calleigh discovers a bullet in the plane's wreckage. Horatio presses on, making two shocking discoveries: a woman's body 5 miles away from the rest of the wreckage, and one survivor is discovered: Scott Sommer, the president of the insurance company to whom the plane belonged. The woman is identified as Christian Maria Calucci, Sommer's senior accountant; the team also discovers an empty briefcase with her name on it. Alexx notes that there are no friction burns on Christina's body, indicating she wasn't wearing a seat belt when she was thrown from the plane. Horatio notices odd marks on one of Christina's hands. At the scene, Calleigh examines the door of the plane and notices scoring around the bayonet pins. She suspects they have been tampered with but when they talk to the man who distributed the pins, he admits they were old and had to be shaved down to fit the plane. When Horatio realizes the plane only achieved a 4000 ft. altitude, he surmises that someone on the plane opened the door.

The CSIs question Scott Sommer in the hospital after learning his company was under investigation by the SEC. Sommer at first claims to have been in his seat, but under pressure from Horatio admits he wasn't. He tells Horatio and Megan that Christina had been drinking and opened the door and jumped from the plane. He insists he tried to stop her, and appears genuinely baffled when asked about a gunshot. After learning Christina attempted suicide several months earlier, Horatio suspects she may have been a whistleblower, but Megan reminds him it's just a hunch, not fact. They turn to the prints on the plane door belonging to Christina and Sommer. Horatio thinks Christina was holding on. Speedle and Delko are charged with recovering the plane's black boxes, which Speedle correctly surmises were stolen by the fishermen who called in the plane crash. The team listens to the recordings on the black box, noting the lack of a gun shot. Horatio dispatches Speedle to Christina's apartment and Calleigh to solve the mystery of the gunshot. Speedle discovers a courier receipt from the morning Christina left, and Calleigh learns that the bullet isn't a bullet at all but a rivet that shot into the pilot's chair when the door opened. It was Christina's shoe that killed the engine--it flew from her foot as she fell right. Horatio and Megan recreate the accident and realize that the marks on Christina's hand were from the fire extinguisher which Sommer used to strike her hand in order to make her let go of the door. When the CSIs go to arrest Sommer, they find him hanging from his balcony, dead. Horatio tells Christina's mother that she sent papers chronicling the company's wrongdoing to the SEC on the morning of her death.

Analysis:

The first bona fide CSI: Miami episode delves into the Everglades, a large area of wetlands found in southern Florida. Is there any setting that could be more effective in reminding viewers that this new CSI show is taking place in a region far different from that its parent show takes place in? Climate-wise, the lush, green Everglades are a far cry from the sandy, dry desert climate of Las Vegas. With all eyes on the new spin-off, the show was charged with the task of staying true to the basics of CSI--the evidence is what makes the case--while finding its own footing and distinct voice in its freshman year.

In an effort to bring a little gravitas to the more "fanciful" Miami, the character of Megan Donner was brought in to be the Grissom to Horatio's Catherine. Unlike Horatio, who goes by his gut, Megan is more focused on the evidence, reminding the CSI that he needs to have the evidence to back his theories up. The dynamic between the two was clearly meant to ape Grissom and Catherine, with a role reversal--in this case, the man is the one guided by his instincts, the woman the more practical and cautious one. Much has been made of Delaney's exit from the show only ten episodes into the first season, but I think Horatio Caine is a character who could certainly use a more reserved character balance him. Loose cannons are interesting, but if not reigned in a little bit they tend toward being over-the-top. Could the X-Files' Mulder have been as effective if he didn't have Scully to ground him and cast a skeptical eye on his more outlandish theories?

The same is true of Horatio, who, since Megan's departure, has never really had that counterbalance. That this was a detriment to the show wasn't immediately evident, but by season five, Horatio is going off half-cocked to Brazil in "Rio", intent on avenging his wife's death with no one to suggest to him that maybe it's not the best idea. In the sixth season's "To Kill a Predator", he goes so far as take out his anger on a pedophile in an episode where the team has been hunting a vigilante hunting pedophiles. Horatio has come to believe his badge entitles him to mete out justice rather than to simply be the person who does his part in making sure justice is served. The way Horatio has evolved as a character shows the dangers in not having a system of checks and balances, in not having a more reserved, cautious, skeptical character to reign in the more mercurial and hot-tempered one. In this episode, it is Megan's voice that most ties Miami to its parent show and reminds us that we are indeed watching a CSI show, where the evidence is the crucial key that will lead us to the perpetrator.

Kim Delaney's character is a little edgy in her first appearance, which is explained by two nuggets of information dropped during the episode: Megan lost her husband two weeks prior to the episode, and Horatio took over her job in the MIPD. Speedle in particular seems to have a bond with Megan: he expresses surprise at her return to work so soon after her husband's death, and shows concern for her state of mind. He even defends Megan to Delko, calling Delko an "ass" when makes a comment about Megan "waltzing back in" and taking control back from Horatio. It's a rare moment of tension between the close friends, who are much more amiable throughout the rest of the episode. Delko teases Speedle about taking his time with the photographs of the various items found at the crash site. Speedle, who is on the surface the more serious of the two, is clearly unsettled by the personal effects of the people who lost their lives in the crash. For all his sarcasm, Delko is equally upset when he learns the man he saved, Scott Sommer, was in fact the man responsible for the crash.

Horatio and Megan's interactions are less warm, but there's not a lot of resentment on either part that's evident in the first episode. Megan has returned to find the power has shifted at work, but Horatio readily offers to cede his position to her when she questions his methods at work. Though Megan has lost her position as head of the team, it doesn't seem in this first episode that she's in any way Horatio's subordinate; she speaks with a good deal of authority when she reminds him that hunches alone aren't enough to solve the case. Her interactions with Speedle also suggest she's still in a position of authority, at least so far as the more junior members of the team are concerned.

The one aspect of Horatio and Megan's relationship that does fall flat is any purported sexual tension. Their clashes are interesting on a philosophical level, but there's no spark or undercurrent to Horatio and Megan's interactions, even in the scene where they reenact what might have happened on the plane between Scott and Christina. It's unclear as to whether we're supposed to sense sexual tension in the scene, but usually when a man and a woman are in close quarters alone, touching each other or getting in each other's personal space, the intention is to produce a jolt of sexual energy. There's none here.

With her pretty blonde braids and honeyed southern accent, Calleigh seems impossibly girlish--until she opens her mouth and shows the NTSB inspector that she knows exactly what a bayonet pin is. She does mistake the pin for a bullet, but given the circumstances, it's an understandable mistake. In what quickly becomes her trademark, Alexx continues to talk to the bodies she autopsies. It's a love-it-or-hate-it technique, but it does highlight Alexx's compassion and the sensitivity with which she handles her work. One thing can be said for the Miami team overall: there's nothing bland about them.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.