CSI: New York--'Grounds For Deception'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 15, 2009 - 1:27 AM GMT

See Also: 'Grounds for Deception' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Mac confronts Stella about the anonymous call she made to report finding the body of Sebastian Diakos in "Point of No Return"--after he'd expressly ordered her to drop the case. She storms out of his office, leaving her badge behind, but Mac is soon calling her back, after a man's body turns up backstage at the outdoor performance of a Greek play at Chelsea University. Stella identifies him as George Kolovos--the man she and Detective Angell sent in a shipping crate to Cyprus. Mac thinks he may have returned to New York seeking revenge--and that whoever killed him saved Stella's life. At the scene, Hawkes collects trace that Adam identifies as coffee grounds. Danny reassembles pieces of plaster found at the scene to make a mold of the murder weapon, a thick, ornate dagger. Stella tells Flack to let Angell, who is on vacation, know about Kolovos's murder and then goes to talk to her mentor Professor Papakota, who reminds Stella he urged her to let the case go. Back at the lab, Lindsay shows Mac the ornate markings that the plaster picked up from the weapon, and shows him that they represent ancient Greek philosophers and poets. Hawkes carbon dates trace from the wound and tells Mac the weapon was crafted in 300 BC. Danny has the results from a print on the plaster, which matches Professor Papakota.

When Danny and Flack go to question the professor, they find Stella just leaving his apartment. Stella returns to the apartment with the two men in tow, but Papakota is gone--as is his passport. Stella goes back to her office and takes down a painting Papakota gave her as a gift. Looking at the back of it, she finds a stamp for the Ancient Macedon Museum and realizes it was stolen. Stella leaves, and Mac finds the torn up paper from the frame in her office--along with ink from the stamp, which allows him to piece the words together. Mac tells Danny and Adam that the painting was stolen from an exhibit Professor Papakota put together at the Met in 1977. Hawkes matches coffee grounds found at Papakota's apartment with the grounds he found at the scene. Adam gets a DNA match on both sets of grounds, leading the team to believe Papakota is their man. Flack tells Mac that Papakota is in the wind--and that Stella just purchased a ticket to Thessaloniki, Greece. In Greece, Stella goes to the house of Papakota's brother, Tasso, who tells her Papakota isn't there. She leaves her hotel address with Tasso and leaves, catching sight of Papakota. She chases him, but loses him in a museum. Mac follows Stella to Greece and together the two speak to Detective Cristos Temmas and Areti Moungri, a museum curator, who identifies the painting Stella has as one stolen from her museum. Stella insists that she had no idea it was stolen, but Temmas tells her not to leave the country.

Mac tells Stella that the murder weapon dates back to the time of Alexander the Great. Stella thinks Diakos, Kolovos and Papakota stumbled upon the ancient tomb. Stella apologizes to Mac and he shows her a picture of Papakota from the time of the Met exhibit--with a blonde woman who looks like Stella. Mac thinks the woman, a restoration artist from Greece who was killed in a traffic accident just after the exhibit opened, is Stella's mother. When Mac tells her he thinks Papakota is the killer, Stella insists he isn't. When he tells her about the coffee grinds, she asks him to have Danny run the DNA from the grinds against a reference sample from Papakota, thinking that he may have been reading someone else's grinds--a tradition in Greece. Danny does as she asks and eliminates Papakota as a suspect, but finds a filial match to Papakota: the killer is his brother, Tasso. Mac goes to tell Stella but finds Tasso attacking her. Mac goes after him but the man runs. Recalling the Papakotas lost their peach-tree-filled lands to the government, she and Mac isolate a pesticide that leads them to the location of the Papkotas' lands--and the tomb of Alexander. They find Papakota and Tasso with the valuables from the grave; Tasso begins to fire at Mac and then flees. Stella confronts Papakota, who says Greece stole his family's lands from him. Stella counters that he stole from her by not telling her he knew her mother. As they argue, Tasso gets off a shot that hits Papakota rather than Stella. As he dies in her arms, he admits that he loved her mother--and that he was returning the artifacts to the land. Stella drops the dagger back in the ground before she and Mac return to New York. Back at the lab, Stella reads Mac's coffee grinds--and he returns her badge.

Analysis:

The first episode penned by series star Melina Kanakaredes is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from an actor given the chance to write an episode of the show he/she stars in: it focuses heavily on Kanakaredes' character, it's more far-reaching than the average episode and it ends up featuring a major revelation about Stella's past. All of that sounds good in theory: after all, fans of the CSI shows are always hungry to learn more about their beloved characters. The problem here is that what happens is more than a bit far-fetched, and ultimately stretches credibility beyond what the audience can reasonably be expected to swallow. It's one thing to accept that the CSIs question suspects in the course of an investigation or that they can get DNA results in a matter of minutes--those are things that simply have to happen for the story to move along at a reasonable pace, and to be driven by the main characters. It's entirely another to ask the audience to believe that Mac and Stella can jet off to Greece to investigate a case.

CSI: NY enjoys delving into its characters backstories, but the results often fall short. The 333-stalker case in season four tied into a murder Mac had witnessed as a boy but was so dragged out that it lost steam. Lindsay's dark secret was rushed and since being unrealistically neatly wrapped up in "Sleight Out of Hand" has never been so much as alluded to again. The show's strongest venture into the past was when "Tanglewood" teased the possibility that Danny had ties to the mob, and went on to reveal in "Run Silent, Run Deep" that his brother Louie was in fact a Tanglewood boy...but then the show dropped the storyline completely, to the point that Louie's fate is still unknown three seasons later. CSI: NY's strongest arcs--such as Shane Casey's reign of terror, Danny grappling with the death of ten-year-old Ruben Sandoval, and the taxi cab killer (up until the storyline's weak final episode)--have been driven by events in the present, or at least not the past of the show's main characters. Tying together a strong story from the present with a compelling one from the past isn't always the easiest thing to do, as this entry proves.

That Stella's investigation of the Greek coin thefts should lead back not only to someone she knows well but to the truth about what happened to her mother and why she ended up in an orphanage verges on preposterous. I don't think we're supposed to believe Papakota is her father; if he was, why wouldn't he have taken custody of young Stella? Still, as he's dying he confesses to Stella that he loved her mother, which at least hints at the possibility that he was more to Stella than just her "guardian angel." He must have felt a strong connection to the little girl to visit her in the orphanage and to get close enough to her to tell her about his family's misfortunes. Though it's nice for both the audience and Stella herself to finally learn how she ended up in an orphanage as a child, it's a revelation that would have had a greater impact in a quieter story.

But there's nothing quiet about this story: from George Kolovos' violent death during a student production at Chelsea University to Tasso's attack on Stella in her hotel room to the absurd shootout at the end of the episode, it's consistently over the top and cliched. We're told by Detective Temmas that Tasso attacked Stella because she was "closing in on him," a standard bad guy act if ever there was one. The final climax is even more ridiculous: Tasso is running around with a gun, shooting wildly at Mac and Stella until--of course!--Papakota gets in the way and takes a fatal bullet to the back. With his dying breath he confesses to Stella that he loved her mother and that he was going to do the right thing in the end--put back the artifacts from the tomb. It's one clichť after another, and on top of all of that Stella is able to toss the dagger back in the hole, ensuring the tomb of Alexander remains a secret. In addition to that, we never do find out who killed Diakos--or why Papakota never told Stella anything about her mother.

The problem at the heart of all of this is that the story is taken out of New York. It's been said by producers and actors associated with the show that New York City is a major character in the show, and an episode like this proves that is indeed true. Without that character, the bright, bustling, vibrant city, something is definitely missing. Beyond that, it's hard to believe Mac and Stella would be given the free rein they're apparently allowed in Thessaloniki. The journey does provide some nice moments for Mac and Stella, who have a friendship that can survive even Stella's willful defiance of the CSI supervisor. After Stella finally apologizes to Mac for defying his order and admits to him that the case is something she felt she needed to pursue because of her personal connection to it, Mac tells her he didn't follow her out of anger but concern. The final scene between the two, when she reads his coffee grains, is a nice cap to the episode, and provides Stella with a roundabout opportunity to ask for her badge back.

Back at the lab, the first CSI baby makes an appearance in what has to be one of the show's silliest contrivances. Because both Carmine Giovinazzo and Anna Belknap are still series regulars, both have to show up on screen--and therefore at work in the lab. But did the baby have to come along for the ride? Couldn't there have been a throwaway line about Danny's mother looking after the child while Lindsay fulfilled her part-time commitment to the lab. Better yet, couldn't Lindsay have stayed home with the child and phoned in to tell Danny how things were going at home? Contrary to Lindsay's assertion, the lab wouldn't fall apart without her, and has somehow managed to soldier on both times she's jetted off to Montana. Maybe the new parents need the money, but it makes them look irresponsible to bring their baby to a crime lab, where dangerous chemicals abound.

Danny is every bit the overprotective father one would expect him to be, pouting over a lab tech bonding with baby Lucy and claiming that he's "the only man" in his daughter's life. Is anyone really surprised that Danny's name choice won out over Lindsay's? Danny is still something of a child himself, bouncing in excitement and pouting when he doesn't get his way, so it's still an adjustment to see him as a parent. But there's no doubt Danny will be a doting one--his focus is on his child when she's around, and he proudly straps a carrier on so Lucy is with him while he delivers lab results. Lindsay, on the other hand, is so eager to get back to work that she drops the baby off in the break room and jokes to Mac that Lucy is in the ballistics lab running tests. Perhaps Danny is the one more suited to being the stay-at-home parent? Though if he did that, it would rob the lab of its most interesting character. Let's hope Danny and Lindsay find someone to care for their baby while they're at work.

Another thing that was definitely unnecessary: Lindsay comparing Danny to Priapus, the Greek fertility god who sports a constant erection. Talk about an overshare! Lindsay has a habit of bringing personal business to work: in "Can You Hear Me Now?" she teased a clearly uncomfortable Danny by tucking condom spray into his lab coat, and in "Right Next Door" she took her anger out at Danny for an earlier brush-off in front of Hawkes. Lindsay doesn't have the best sense of what's appropriate at work and what's not, and I imagine Adam doesn't want to think about how virile Danny is in the sack, even if he did crack the first joke about the weapon. Still, given that they're now parents, it's a relief that Danny and Lindsay are no longer at odds.

The best scene in the episode occurs between Stella and Flack when she goes looking for Angell at the precinct. Flack is instantly concerned, pulling Stella aside to question her about Angell's involvement in Stella's investigation, telling her that "he cares about" Jess. The way Eddie Cahill lowers his voice and focuses his gaze conveys just how much Flack is invested in his relationship with Angell--and also that he's concerned about Stella. Flack is nothing if not a man of action, so it's no surprise one of his questions is about what he should do. It's a refreshingly realistic, grounded scene, and it's too bad that the rest of the episode doesn't have a similar tone.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.