CSI: Miami--'Head Case'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 15, 2009 - 5:36 AM GMT

See Also: 'Head Case' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Covered in blood and seemingly disoriented, a man stumbles through traffic on a busy Miami street, his clothes covered in blood. Once the police arrive, a shrewd officer calls in Horatio Caine and his team. Horatio speaks with the man, who claims he can't recall anything, even his own name. While Tripp and Ryan try to determine where the man came from, Valera runs the blood on his shirt and gets DNA hits for three separate donors with familial matches: a father, mother and daughter. None are related to their mystery man. Tripp leans on the man, who maintains he truly doesn't remember what happened, and doesn't know if he killed anyone. Ryan gets an ID on the man's blood: Mitch Crawford, a financial advisor who did six months for insider trading. The CSIs rush to the Crawfords' house, but they find it empty save for a delivery boy trying to impress a girl in the pool in the backyard. The delivery boy was carrying legal papers to serve to Crawford, but when he arrived early that morning, he saw the Crawfords getting into a car and rushing off. Ryan notices a picture of the family and notes that the Crawfords have a son as well as a daughter. Back at the lab, trace tech Michael Travers identifies dirt in their mystery man's shoes as containing TNT and molasses, which Natalia surmises comes from a refurbished explosives manufacturing plant near to where their amnesiac man was found. Delko sits with the man and tries to jog his memory with pictures, empathizing with his plight and recalling his own memory problems after his shooting. Based on the few details the man recalls, Delko is able to narrow down the search to an area near a school. With Horatio, Delko finds a trail of bloody footprints, which they follow to a house. Inside, they find three bodies: the Crawfords, bound, gagged and covered in blood. They also discover a wallet with their amnesiac man's driver's license, identifying him as Doug Benson.

Dr. Price determines that Mitch died after his wife and daughter. While Ryan scours the scene, Delko and Calleigh take Doug to a facility in the hopes of helping him recover his memories. He doesn't seem to have any memories of the crime scene until he's shown pictures of Mitch Crawford, causing him to panic. When Delko gets back to the station, Horatio tells him that Doug witnessed the murder of his own father when he was eight, which could have contributed to his trauma-induced amnesia. Dr. Price tells Ryan that while the knife wounds in Crawford's wife and daughter were deep, the ones that killed Mitch are shallower. Ryan turns to the Crawfords' personal effects and gets DNA off Mitch's watch that matches a man named Kurt Sabin. Sabin, a client of Mitch's who lost a million dollars due to Mitch's bad investments, admits to Horatio that he confronted Mitch at his house, but denies killing him--or even suing him, as eleven other clients had chosen to do. Travers analyzes a boot print Ryan found in the dirt outside the window of the Crawfords' second house and determines the person wearing it was around 6 feet tall, much taller than 5'8 Doug. Horatio confronts Logan Crawford, the only surviving family member, a military man in training down at Ft. Lauderdale. Logan admits he was at the house; he snuck out of training to see his family and found them dead. He didn't notify the police for fear of repercussions from the military for sneaking out, but he does recall seeing Doug in a red hat at the scene.

Calleigh approaches Delko, who is having a hard time with Doug's plight. She reminds him that he's not alone and he ventures that her friendship means a lot to him. She pulls back, telling him he's going to have to spell out his feelings and he hesitates. The two go in search of the red hat and Delko discovers it beneath a grate near where Doug was found wandering. Natalia matches the DNA on the hat to Doug, but also notices black particles, which Horatio identifies as GSR, leading him to believe Doug was forced to kill the family. First they confront Logan, who admits he had a purpose for being at the house: his father promised to leave some money for him in the fire pit. When he got there, it wasn't there. The CSIs examine the pit and get a print off the grate, which they match to Kurt Sabin. When they go to bring him in for questioning, Tripp finds a shotgun in his office. Sabin arrogantly claims the money was his; Mitch's bad investing cost him his club. After killing Mitch's wife and daughter to get the location of the money, he forced Doug, a good samaritan who happened by, to kill Mitch, figuring he'd pin the crime on him. He left Doug alive thinking the CSIs would assume he was the killer. Horatio tells Doug what happened, and when Doug asks, admits he could be charged with second-degree murder. Horatio admits that he could go to jail, but also tells the young man he believes there's hope for him.

Analysis:

Miami starts 2009 off with this intriguing episode, which blends a great premise with some in depth character exploration. As soon as I saw poor, hapless Doug wandering down the street in the teaser, I immediately assumed he wasn't guilty of murder. I'm glad the answer wasn't as simple as whether or not he committed a crime; Miami has been wading into decidedly grey territory this season, much to the show's benefit. It provides much more food for thought for viewers when things aren't wrapped up in a neat package at the conclusion, and while every episode can't incorporate that complexity, it's always gratifying when one comes along that does. Even Horatio isn't certain what Doug's fate will be. He clearly has sympathy for the young man, but he acknowledges that it's possible he'll be charged with second-degree murder--and that that could result in jail time.

Doug is a sympathetic figure throughout the episode, save for one moment that confused me: after Doug is questioned by Tripp and Horatio for the first time, he lets slip a decidedly sinister smile as he's led out. I'm not sure whether director Sam Hill meant for the moment to mislead the audience, but it stuck in the back of my head throughout the remainder of the episode. After seeing it, I half expected to find out at the end that he'd been playing the CSIs all along. I was happy to see that wasn't the case, but the inclusion of the smile is puzzling since it really does make him appear conniving. Aside from that moment, Thomas Guiry's performance is completely sincere and sympathetic. As tragic, traumatized Doug, Guiry exudes a kind of shocked resignation: he's pretty sure he's killed someone, and though he can't remember the circumstances, he thinks he should pay for it.

Delko connects with the young man, in part because of his own memory issues resulting from getting shot in the head in "No Man's Land". He sympathizes with Doug when Doug can't remember, clearly recalling his own frustration at being unable to recall his memories, either of the shooting itself or the details of processing a crime scene. Delko knows firsthand how frustrating and frightening it can be to not remember a traumatic event. Delko remains sure of Doug even while Calleigh and Ryan are more skeptical. Delko even goes so far as to get defensive when Ryan tells him that he thinks a tread in the dirt outside the Crawfords' second house will prove Doug watched them from the window, waiting to strike. Delko snaps at him, telling him to "process the evidence" and to not "jump to conclusions." Calleigh, as she usually does with Delko, picks up on his mood and asks him what's wrong. She immediately makes the connection that he's empathizing with Doug and suggests they take the young man to a facility to jog his memory. The scenes with Doug give Adam Rodriguez a chance to show just how immediate Delko's struggle to regain his memories and a sense of normalcy in his life is for him.

One of the most refreshing elements of this episode is that we finally get to see Delko and Calleigh talk about the tension between them in a direct way. It's been brewing since Delko nearly died in "Man Down", with significant looks and a greater closeness developing between the two. But up to this point, they've both been talking around their feelings rather than directly addressing them. Yes, yes, we know each values the other's friendship, which is why it's such a relief that after Delko tells Calleigh that her friendship means a lot to him (and how many times have we heard one of them say something along those lines?) that she finally alludes to his feelings (albeit in a somewhat coy way). The subject is seemingly dropped, but Delko picks it up again in a bashful manner and Calleigh finally lets him have it, asking him what it is he wants. She goes on to tell him he's going to have to say it, telling him that, "Until you say the words, I don't know if you believe it yourself."

After two seasons of flirting and the growth of what are obviously deep feelings, it's both surprising and gratifying to see Calleigh just come out and hit the nail on the head. Both Delko and Calleigh have gotten used to hiding behind their friendship in the face of their burgeoning romantic feelings for each other, so it's ironic that it's a comment that Delko has probably made dozens of times before about her friendship meaning a lot to him that prompts Calleigh to up the ante by telling him she didn't realize he felt that way. He falls back on the files he knows Calleigh saw from his psychiatrist's office in "And How Does that Make You Kill?", but later brings it up again, prompting Calleigh to call him out. It's out there now; Calleigh has basically thrown down a challenge for Delko. Are those feelings of his real? And is he ready to take the very big step of vocalizing them? Calleigh's told Delko exactly what she needs from him; the question is, will he be brave enough to speak those words?

Another treat in the episode, one I never tire of, is seeing Horatio in the lab. Of all the CSI team leaders, Horatio far and away logs the fewest hours in the lab, and generally when he dons the white lab coat and gloves, it means a case has touched him in a personal way. Indeed, the CSIs all react to Doug in a rather decisive way. Tripp, Ryan and Calleigh clearly doubt his story and think that it's possible his amnesia is faked, while Delko empathizes with him and Horatio clearly feels for him. Horatio offers Doug both the truth and a fair amount of sympathy in their final scene together. While Doug despairs over his situation, Horatio is there to offer him the one thing he needs most: hope.

I admit, I pay less attention to the lab techs on CSI: Miami than I do on the other two CSI shows because more often than not, they're much more transient. Save for Valera, who has somehow managed to survive the revolving door of Miami's lab, techs usually show up for a handful of episodes before fading away, never to be seen again. I hope that doesn't happen to Michael Travers; though I can't say I paid much attention to him in either of his previous appearances (in "And How Does that Make You Kill?" and "Raging Cannibal"), Christopher Redman's charismatic British lab tech caught my eye this time around. How can a pale Brit with a charming accent fail to stand out among the bronzed Miami denizens? Travers might be worth keeping around beyond the usual handful of episodes most lab techs on the show are granted.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.