CSI: New York--'Help'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 15, 2009 - 10:22 AM GMT

See Also: 'Help' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The "Running of the Gowns" comes to a halt when a young woman ends up dead. The CSIs quickly notice the dead woman seems out of place: she's in jogging gear, and doesn't appear to have any money on her. The woman she scuffled with, Marie Lowe, tells Flack the woman just came up to her and grabbed onto the dress. Stella notes that she was killed by a cut to the arm that severed a major artery caused when one of the beads on the dress sliced into her. Flack finds her ID, identifying her as Laurel Downs, but finds no cash on her. Stella discovers a possible explanation: a number on her back indicating she was participating in a race. Across town, Mac and Hawkes stand over the body of Eleanor Ravelle, found dead in her bathtub. Hawkes notices abrasions on her body suggesting her skin was rubbed dry on her chest, abdomen and thighs. Suspecting she was raped and then murdered, the CSIs get her body to the morgue. Sid confirms she was raped, but finds no semen, indicating her killer wore a condom. He finds traces of steel dust in her nasal passages from the subway and recalls seeing her himself--she was a subway musician. He shows Hawkes that she suffocated when the rapist put his fist in her mouth, causing Hawkes to have a sudden realization: Eleanor's killer is the same man who raped his ex-girlfriend, Kara, eight years ago. He rushes to tell Mac that he believes Eleanor was a victim of the Gramercy Rapist, who raped fifteen women in Manhattan between 1999 and 2001 and used his fist to silence them during the attacks, and then forced them to clean up afterwards.

Danny finds a GPS device in Laurel's sneaker and traces the route of her race right past where the brides-to-be were waiting for the running of the gowns. She easily could have seen Marie Lowe in line. Danny has also found a connection to Eleanor: Laurel was a victim of the Gramercy Rapist eight years ago. Though Stella and Danny find the connection too strong to be a coincidence, Mac tells them to work the cases separately until they find a definitive link. Flack approaches Mac with a discovery he's made: a tip line set up during the Gramercy Rapist's spree received 10 calls from Hawkes. Adam gets a print off a guitar slide from Eleanor's apartment and Hawkes brings him Eleanor's blouse, asking him to run DNA on the sweat on it. Mac interrupts and asks to speak to Hawkes alone. He confronts Hawkes about his connection to the Gramercy Rapist and Hawkes tells him about Kara. Mac removes him from the case. Sid comes to Danny with a possible connection between Laurel and Eleanor: cuts on Laurel's hands had Eleanor's blood in them. Lindsay identifies tiny bloodworms found in Eleanor's bath tub as a species found in Brazil, and Mac suggests getting DNA from the worms. Adam gets a hit on the prints from the guitar slide: they belong to a musician named Trey Fager, who has a history of sexual misconduct. Flack and Angell pay Trey a visit in the subway station where he's playing, but Trey insists that he and Eleanor were friends and that he gave her the slide. Danny and Stella match the pattern of cuts on Laurel's hands to a necklace Marie was wearing, and posit that it may have been stolen from Laurel when she was raped. Flack and Stella venture down to the club Marie and her fiance Colin own together and question the couple. Colin tells them he bought the necklace five years ago, and can't clearly recall the man who sold it to him, but says that it could have been Trey. After Adam discovers that Trey pawned Eleanor's guitar at a pawnshop, Flack and Angell go to arrest him, only to have him flee. Flack catches him on tracks but Trey swears he broke into Eleanor's apartment to steal the guitar, but that he didn't kill her.

Lindsay determines that the worms in Eleanor's bathtub could have come from their killer's blood after he cut himself. As Hawkes looks on, Kara tells Stella detail she recently recalled from being raped: the killer went through her jewelry box and took a ring she had. After she leaves, Hawkes tells Stella that the stolen ring was meant to be their engagement ring. Adam matches DNA from the sweat on Eleanor's shirt to DNA on the clasp of Marie's necklace, which came from Colin Clark. Mac gets upset with Hawkes when he finds out about the sweat analysis, since it isn't up to FBI standards and won't hold up in court. Hawkes is convinced of Colin's guilt, but Mac won't act until they have evidence that will hold up in court. Sheldon goes to the Colin's club and watches him from afar, but Mac finds him and tells him Colin isn't worth it. Hawkes tells the older CSI how Kara's rape devastated him, and Mac promises they'll get Colin. The team does some digging and learns that seven of the Gramercy Rapist's victims reported jewelry stolen sometime after they were raped, and confirm that Colin lived in the Gramercy Park area between 1999 and 2001. He was in Europe from 2001-2008, and went to Brazil last year to scout out a new club. Stella realizes the jewelry is a solid connection and goes to Marie to persuade her to turn it over. She's successful, but before Marie can give her the jewelry, Colin bursts in. Stella goes to arrest him, but he resists and attacks her, forcing Stella to shoot him twice. She notices worms in the blood pool from the second shot, confirming that he's the killer. Laurel's death is ruled an unfortunate accident, but Stella muses that if Laurel hadn't seen Marie wearing her necklace, they might never have caught Colin. Sid invites Mac and Stella to join him in the subway station to sit and listen to a musician.

Analysis:

I'm not usually one to rail against product placement. I don't care if a character gulps down a prominent can of Coke or if for years, Jack Bauer on 24 only chased terrorists in Ford cars. I was irked when Mac went off to play bass with CBS recording artist Will Dailey at the end of "Time's Up" after being dumped via letter by Peyton in season four, but that pales in comparison to the ending of "Help," which robs Hawkes of much needed closure of some sort in this episode. While Sid's lament that he never took the time to appreciate Eleanor's music before she was killed was a nice observation, by no means was it worthy of closing the episode when another character had such major emotional ties to the main storyline. Why was plugging Sharon Little--surprise, surprise, yet another CBS recording artist--more important than giving Hawkes some sort of emotional closure in the story?

Maybe I wouldn't have been so annoyed by the ending if what had come before hadn't been so good. Of all the characters, Hawkes has long been in need of a really significant, hard-hitting storyline and this episode certainly gives Hill Harper a much deserved chance to shine. We truly see a different side of Hawkes here: the brilliant scientist can't box up the feelings of helplessness and despair he felt when Kara was raped. It's obvious that all of those feelings have come rushing back for Hawkes; he's been thrown back eight years, back to the time when the person he loved the most was hurt in a way he couldn't fix. As he tells Mac, he could sew up the cuts but he couldn't make the pain both he and Kara felt go away. Hawkes is a healer and what happened to Kara was something he didn't know how to make better. Harper conveys Hawkes' agony, still clearly very fresh and near the surface, in a moving, powerful way.

"It happened to both of you," Stella reminds Hawkes after he's watched her speak with Kara. Though the CSI shows collectively have told a fair amount of stories involving rape, seeing it from the man's perspective is much more rare. While not meaning to at all, Hawkes pulled away from Kara, focusing on the hunt for her rapist as a way to push aside the pain and find something active to focus on. The fact that he made ten calls to the tip line and was deemed overly persistent by the people running the line shows the desperation of his actions. In some way, Hawkes likely thought catching the rapist would put an end to what he was feeling or at least give him closure of some kind. Would it have? Sadly, we never get to find out Hawkes' feelings at the end of the episode, after Colin Clark is arrested. The absence of that scene is unforgivable from a storytelling standpoint.

We also never get to see Hawkes and Kara interact in the present. We see them after her rape and then after their break-up when they meet as friends years later and she tells him she wanted to marry him, but never in the present. Much preferable to the CBS music plug we got at the end of the episode would have been a scene between Hawkes and Kara. The rape is something neither will ever get over, but I would have loved to see how they reacted to Colin getting arrested after all of those years have passed. Would they have felt relieved? Or simply drained after having to relive the painful memories? Was there a chance for them to rekindle what they had together, or had too much come between them? Did Hawkes bring her that ring back? Or did he reach out to either Mac or Stella? I realize the decision to end the episode with a musical performance almost certainly came from CBS and not the writers, but it seems a shame that there wasn't some way to work in a final scene with Hawkes.

The big clash between Mac and Hawkes feels somewhat familiar initially, perhaps because something similar happened in "Murder Sings the Blues". Mac handles the situation much better this time around at least. In "Murder Sings the Blues," Mac chewed Hawkes out loudly and in front of Lindsay and several lab techs, but here he asks Adam if he can have a word alone with Hawkes and waits until Adam has left the room to speak with Hawkes about his ties to the case. The result is still the same--Hawkes is off the case--but Mac handles it much more sympathetically and diplomatically than he did the last time the two clashed over something like this. For his part, Gary Sinise makes it clear that Mac sympathizes with Hawkes, while refusing--and really, rightfully so, if they're going to make a successful case against the rapist--to bend the rules.

Hawkes isn't able to stay away from the case. Stalking a suspect is behavior we'd expect from hotheaded Danny or even possibly Stella, but not Hawkes. He's lost perspective, which is of course exactly why Mac removed him from the case (along with the direct connection he shares with it). Mac sympathizes but drives home the need to wait to arrest Colin until after they have definitive proof of his guilt--proof that will hold up in court. Hawkes is at his most raw when Mac confronts him outside Colin and Marie's club; he confesses that what happened to Kara broke him, and clearly there's a big part of Hawkes that still is broken. His pain is palpable, and even though we know Mac is right, we want to see Colin go down.

And go down he does, courtesy of Stella. Stella clinches the case by telling Marie about just what it was that led Laurel to attack her: seeing Marie wearing the necklace stolen from her when she was raped. Marie doesn't want to believe Colin is the Gramercy Rapist, but she has a whole box of jewelry Colin gave her--and brand new bracelet from him that Stella identifies as belonging to Eleanor. Before Marie can turn over the jewelry to Stella, Colin walks in, forcing Stella to go forward with the arrest. Of course, Colin resists, causing Stella to shoot him not once but twice. It makes for a tense few moments and allows Stella, having noticed worms in the blood from his second gunshot wound, to tell him with certainty in her voice that they're not going to have any problem making the rape--and murder--charges stick.

In any other episode, I might have found Lindsay's coincidence stories amusing, despite their unappealingly smug delivery. But the light tone in which they were delivered was jarring given that the CSIs had just connected both victims to the Gramercy Rapist. Lindsay often appears to be lacking a sensitivity chip, but this seems a bit much even for her. Usually the occasional moments of dark humor are deftly integrated into the show, but the hammering in of random coincidences felt out of place in an episode that was grimmer and more personal for one of the characters than most. Sid's contribution to the theme of Coincidence is briefer and feels more natural for his character, but overall the use of the stories to drive home the theme felt heavy-handed. In another, lighter episode they probably would have worked well--they are kind of cool stories--and Lindsay and Sid would be the right characters to share them, but they feel out of place here.

One unexpected treat in the episode? Alex Band. Musicians trying their hands at acting don't always fare well (think Nelly Furtado's stiff turn in "Some Buried Bones"), but Band acquits himself well as a struggling musician with a drug habit that caused him to steal from one of his few friends. Even better than Band's performance, though, is the fact that we get to hear him sing. Might an album from his band The Calling be forthcoming? If so, at least the placement of his music didn't interfere with the story.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.