CSI: Miami--'Hell Night'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 26, 2004 - 5:41 PM GMT

See Also: 'Hell Night' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A group of jurors is brought to the house of Donny Lopez, a professional baseball player who stands accused of stabbing his wife, Miranda, to death. Lopez is present as well, something the jurors aren't entirely comfortable with. As the jurors are led through the house, they are interrupted by screams. One of the jurors, Ginger Wadley, lays convulsing on the floor, apparently in the middle of a seizure. The jurors are sent back to the kitchen, where they make a horrifying discovery: Donny Lopez lies dead on the floor, a butcher knife protruding from his skull. On the body is a single sheet of paper with the word "guilty" written on it.

When Alexx examines the body, she notes that he was struck from behind and likely never saw his killer coming. She's noticeably short with Ryan Wolfe, who points out that he knows that the Lopez case was Tim Speedle's and that Alexx and Speed were close. Ryan tells Alexx that he's not trying to replace Speed; he just wants to do a good job. Alexx bristles and tells him she's not looking for any new friends, but then she relents and tells him to look over the body. Ryan finds a cat hair on the victim from what he suspects is a Persian cat.

Outside the house, Delko examines the jurors for evidence. A very ticked off juror, Carl Tepper, tells Delko he believes Lopez's murder was "poetic justice." Inside the house, Horatio finds evidence that the framed photos in the house were replaced. The defense attorney admits to redressing the home, but says someone must have come back afterwards and put back the knives, which he claims to have hid. Before Horatio can continue, his cell phone rings. Yelina, on a trip with Stetler, says her mother called and said Ray, Jr. never came home. After telling Horatio that Ray has been hanging out with some troubled kids, she asks Horatio to go find him.

Horatio finds the boys near a bay, shooting a paint gun at a trash can. Horatio breaks the group up and sends the boys home. He tells Ray that his new friend, Chris Owens, is a vandal who has priors for disorderly conduct.

Delko finds a print on the butcher knife, but the blood has pooled around it, not in it, indicating the print was present before the knife was used to kill Lopez. The print matches the Lopezs' daughter, Chelsea. Calleigh talks to the girl, who seems to resent her father. Her grandparents made her visit him once a week. Chelsea has a Persian cat, so it's likely the hair transferred to Lopez when she hugged him. Chelsea admits to redressing the house before the jurors arrived. Calleigh asks for a list of the things she moved, and also for a page from her notebook.

Cynthia Wells tells Calleigh the paper from Chelsea's notebook doesn't match the one the killer left. Calleigh and Cynthia examine the paper and find indentations in the paper from writing on other pages. The writing is notes from the trial: the killer is a juror.

Horatio visits Alexx in the morgue, where he makes a disturbing discovery. Next to Danny Lopez's body is the corpse of Martin Connor, a transient with red paint splotches on his jacket. When Alexx tells Horatio that Connor was literally scared to death, Horatio's concern grows.

Calleigh and Delko go through the jurors pictures and personal items. Eric finds evidence of a page torn from Carl Tepper's notebook. When questioned about it, Carl denies killing Lopez. He says that the jurors had to leave their notebooks behind at the end of each day. Anyone could have taken that page. Carl's story matches the evidence: his handwriting isn't a match for the killer's.

Horatio has Ray, Jr. and his friends rounded up. He sends the other boys away with other officers and questions Ray alone. Ray says he and his friends were just having fun. Though he admits that they shot the homeless man with the paint gun, he won't name anyone specifically as the shooter. Ray claims all the boys, including him, shot at the man.

Ryan and Calleigh focus in on Ginger, the one person who couldn't have committed the murder. Her seizure becomes suspicious however when they learn she's not taking her anti-seizure medicine and has recently been involved in four lawsuits related to her seizures. When they question her, Ryan finds a blinking light on her key chain, which she used to induce the seizure. When pressed, she admits that she was hired to have a seizure and get kicked off the jury, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial.

Calleigh zeroes in on a suspect: Donny's girlfriend Kelly, who was with him the night of Miranda's murder. She wanted the trial ended so that she didn't have to testify and jeopardize her engagement to her wealthy finace. Her handwriting isn't a match for the killer's note, either.

Calleigh, Ryan and Delko go back to the list of jurors. Calleigh muses that the jurors all would have access to Speedle's crime scene photos of the house. Calleigh decides the CSI team has to go back to the house.

State's Attorney Rebecca Nevins, who will be handling the case against Ray, Jr. and the rest of the boys, introduces herself to Horatio. She tells him that the other three boys gave Ray up as the shooter. Skeptical, Horatio goes over the contents of the car, which includes a video camera. Horatio and Tyler go over the tape, which shows the shooting of the homeless man with the paintgun. Though they aren't able to see who did the shooting, Tyler isolates a sound wave of Ray's voice, saying "Stop it, Chris." Chris Owens was the shooter.

Back at the house, the CSIs go over Speed's sketches, which the killer must have used. But the house isn't quite the same as when those sketches were made a year ago. A broken pocket door was fixed, and a face print indicates the killer collided with it, not knowing it was fixed. The face print matches one of the jurors: Jim Wilson. Wilson tries to claim he wen to the bathroom, but Calleigh quickly points out that the water was shut off in the house. Finally, he breaks down and admits the trial was ruining his life: his wife left him, she took his children, and he lost his job. While Wilson explains his motives, Calleigh studies the photo of the murder weapon from Miranda's case, and is surprised by how little blood is on the knife. She tells Delko she doesn't think Danny killed his wife.

Calleigh hashes it out with the states attorney for the case, Bob Villa. He's angry that she wants to go back and reevaluate the case, but Calleigh holds her ground. Calleigh and Alexx go over the case together, and Calleigh points out that the shallow stab wounds indicate that someone without a lot of upper body strength killed Miranda. Her killer was probably a woman, which leads Calleigh back to Kelly. But Kelly was with Donny while Miranda was being killed, outside with him in his car.

Calleigh goes back to Chelsea. Chelsea first claims she was asleep in her room, but then she relents and admits she saw her father out in the car with Kelly. She went in and told her mother about it, but Miranda wouldn't believe her. Calleigh says the evidence indicates Miranda was asking Chelsea to give her the knife, her hand outstretched. Chelsea breaks down and says she just wanted her parents to be happy. She says she misses her mother everyday.

Horatio and Ray, Jr. talk about Martin Connor, whose face Ray can't stop picturing. Ray sadly notes that Horatio never comes around anymore, and Horatio tells him that he's trying to give Yelina some space. But Ray lights up when Horatio suggests the two go on a fishing trip over the upcoming weekend. Yelina and Stetler arrive and lead Ray off. Stetler takes Yelina's hand as Horatio watches quietly.

Analysis:

Miami is on a winning streak this season and it continues with this gripping episode. Again, we get a nice blend of character development with intriguing cases. Again, we have a nice pairing of cases: one interesting based on its own merits, the other because it personally affects one of the CSIs. In "Under the Influence", Calleigh grappled with her father's drinking problem; here, Horatio is forced to face his nephew's delinquent behavior.

The episode wasn't flawless, partially because the eventual explanation for Donny's murder is rather weak. Jim Wilson's list of grievances reads like a bad country song: his wife left him, took the kids, he got fired...did his wife kill his dog, too? To say all of that is implausible is being generous; it just doesn't make any sense. Leaving a note on the body only adds to the idiocy. Wilson may have been mad about his life being put on hold indefinitely for the trial, but where is he now? He'll probably be in jail for the rest of his life. And if he really didn't want to get caught, leaving a note was about the stupidest thing he could have done. Surely a better solution to Danny's murder could have been found. Kelly paid one of the jurors to fake a seizure--why not pay one of them to kill Danny? Surely that would have been a more believable twist.

Poor Speedle. First he doesn't clean his gun and gets himself killed, and now it turns out he missed crucial evidence in an old case. Sometimes you just need a fresh set of eyes, but couldn't they have picked out something less obvious than the fact that the amount of blood on the knife indicates a tiny woman, and not a strong baseball player, killed Miranda? The twist itself--that Donny wasn't guilty at all--was a good one, but surely it could have been done in a way that didn't make Speed look like an airhead.

That said, it was nice to see the team pay some lip service to Speed, even if Alexx is the only one who shows any emotion. Her hostile reaction to Ryan might not make sense on a logical level, but it rings true on an emotional level. As does Ryan's frank response to her. He tells her he's not trying to replace Speedle, something Alexx (and a lot of Miami fans) is clearly relieved to hear. She's not going to be taking him under her wing anytime soon, but she at least relents a little bit. It was a nice scene--likely the most moving in the whole episode.

Horatio has some very nice moments with his nephew as well. Ray, Jr. was a nice mix of sullen and rebellious and still very young boy. He could go the way of a Chris Owen, and Horatio sees this. But he's also still a boy who is yearning for a father figure and wants to spend time with his uncle. The writers manage to stay away from the cliche of the rebellious child by having Ray skirt the this delicate line. If they do continue along these lines with Ray, I hope they also continue to paint his difficulties in shades of gray.

It's clear from the way Ray says Stetler's name that he's no fan of the man. The one character the writers desperately need to develop is Yelina. With each episode, she becomes more and more unsympathetic. She didn't get much development second season, but she's in the main credits now. In this episode, she calls someone else to take care of her own child. What mother whose child is missing doesn't come rushing home? She strolls in at the end, with Stetler, to collect her child who was on the verge of being charged with murder. I realize the writers wanted to give Horatio a chance to shine, but it would be nice to see a little more of Yelina other than she a) relies on Horatio, who clearly carries a torch for her and b) dates Stetler. In just a few episodes, Ryan Wolfe has more depth than she does.

Speaking of Ryan, Jonathan Togo made his debut in the credits with this episode. Alas, his wardrobe remains dismal. This week, we're treated to Ryan in a cobalt blue t-shirt, black pants, and a black jacket with a zipper. Now that he's a regular, maybe the show's costume department can show him some mercy.

In two weeks: A tsunami hits Miami!

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.