CSI: New York--'Hostage'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 22, 2008 - 9:54 AM GMT

See Also: 'Hostage' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Mac walks into a live crime scene when a robber asks for a crime scene investigator to prove he didn't kill the manager of the bank he was in the process of robbing. The man, who tells Mac to call him "Joe," insists he didn't shoot Walter Sutherford, the man who lies dead in the bank. As Stella and Flack try to keep the news crews outside at bay and the Hostage Rescue Team from shutting off the air conditioning inside the bank, Mac examines the body, asking for a CT scanner to be brought in, allowing Sid and Hawkes to perform a virtual autopsy of the body. Though there's only one entrance wound, the doctors are surprised to discover two bullets in the body. Mac recovers the bullets from Walter's body while the hostages search for the round Joe claims he fired into the ceiling. Adam, Danny and Lindsay examine photos Mac sent them from the scene. Adam notices a void in the blood pool around Walter, and Danny discovers Joe's image reflected in a computer screen at the bank. Mac examines the void in the blood splatter and notices it's the size of a phone. Stella turns to Homeland Security official Brett Dunbar, who identifies the gun that would have allowed the shooter to fire two bullets at exactly the same point: the Kriss Super V, a state-of-the-art firearm developed by Ridgeline Defense Services.

Mac notices money missing from the bank, but Joe swears he didn't have time to lift any. Mac persuades the robber to let him look at the bank's surveillance tapes, and he notices the cameras were disconnected for a while starting just before 8am--over an hour before Joe entered the bank. Stella consults with the team about the gun via teleconference, but Flack breaks in with shocking news: the wife of the bank manager has been found murdered in their home, tied to a chair and shot point blank in the head. Mac persuades Joe to allow a hostage to deliver the three bullets to his team, and he manages to sneak a strand of Joe's hair in the packet as well. The CSIs are able to match the bullets in Walter and his wife, proving they came from the same gun and Joe couldn't be responsible for both deaths because he was in the bank at the time Walter's wife was killed. Prints from the duct tape on the woman's wrists are a match to a man named Derrick James, who used to work for Ridgeline. Stella surmises James must have kidnapped Walter and his wife and forced Walter to take him to the bank, where something went wrong. But how does Joe fit in?

HRT finally kills the air conditioning in the bank, giving Mac the opportunity to jump Joe. He manages to get the gun from Joe, but Joe finally breaks down and confesses that the robbers are holding his family hostage. He was sent into the bank to retrieve the phone they accidentally left behind--the only thing that ties them to the crime. Mac empties the gun of bullets and allows Joe to walk him out as though he's still a hostage and the two get into an unmarked car. Joe convinces Mac to send the helicopters following them away, saying his family will be killed. Stella, Flack and Danny go to the house Joe claimed was his--right across the street from Walter's--and burst inside, but find no one there. Inside the car, Joe loads the gun with a single bullet and demands Mac turn onto a bridge. Mac realizes Joe saved a bullet, and has been lying to him all along.

Analysis:

I'll say this straight out: it would be hard for this season's finale to top "Snow Day". The suspense in last year's season ender was positively nail-biting, and it managed to involve the entire team: Mac, Stella and Hawkes had to keep the mobsters from stealing the cocaine, and Danny and Adam were held hostage and brutalized while Flack negotiated for their release. This season's closer is more or less Mac's show: he's the only one in any danger, and the team is pretty much reduced to going through whatever evidence he manages to send their way. Stella gets to take the lead on the murder weapon and Flack does a little negotiating, but Mac is the one driving the episode, more or less.

And that's part of the problem with the episode: right up until the end, there's not a real strong sense of danger. This is in large part because Elias Koteas does such a great job of convincing us that Joe really is a (relatively) innocent guy caught up in a bad situation. He gives Mac just about everything he wants, caves in when Mac puts pressure on him, releases several hostages and argues earnestly with someone on the phone. This of course makes for a great reveal at the end when we learn Joe has been playing Mac all along--it's truly not a twist the audience sees coming, especially after Mac gets the gun and Joe breaks down and "confesses" that his family is in danger and he's been sent in by the real robbers simply to get the phone. Mac--and the audience--figures this is the final puzzle piece falling into place.

While it works brilliantly as an unexpected twist, it also means that for the first forty minutes of the episode, Joe doesn't come off as very threatening. He demands a CSI right off the bat to prove he didn't kill the dead man in the bank. That immediately tells the audience--and the ever-astute Flack--that Joe isn't going to kill anybody. I didn't ever really believe Mac was in danger in the bank. After all, why would Joe even call for a CSI if he'd killed the manager? And if he's so determined to prove he's not a killer, he's hardly going to invalidate all that hard work by killing a hostage simply to get HRT to turn the air conditioning back on.

Joe simply isn't threatening. He accedes to all of Mac's demands, from taking the weight off his foot to sending a hostage out with the bullets. Mac even gets to pick the hostage! Again, this does trick the audience--and Mac--into trusting Joe, and makes for a truly surprising ending. At the same time, the episode leading up to that ending isn't as suspenseful as it could be because we simply don't take Joe seriously as a threat. Apparently the hostages did, though--not a single one of them tried to run in the beginning when Joe went into the back of the bank to let Mac in. You'd think at least one person would have tried to make a break for it.

I can't say the ending left my jaw on the floor, either. It's hard to put a main character--especially the show's lead--in jeopardy and have the audience convinced that anything serious is going to happen to him. CSI: Miami's finale "Going Ballistic" suffers from the same problem: I'm not even convinced Horatio Caine was wounded, let alone in grave danger. Let's face it: we all know Gary Sinise is coming back next year, and Mac will be leading the team. I wasn't really worried about him coming out of the building at the end of "Snow Day" either, but everything leading up to that moment was damn suspenseful.

Mac being in the bank gives Stella a chance to step up to the plate, which she does with gusto. Watching Stella take charge--organizing the team, running video conferences, tracking down the gun used to kill the bank manager--I can't help but wish that Mac won't turn up for a few episodes so Stella can be in charge. It would be nice if one of the CSI shows had chosen to go with a woman as the lead rather than a man, and no one is more worthy than Stella. Melina Kanakaredes gives Stella a commanding presence and a take-charge attitude. The team follows her orders without question because she's every bit as strong a leader as Mac is.

Flack's negotiating isn't much more successful here than it was in "Snow Day," but I do love the confident ease with which he speaks when dealing with a hostage situation. He's much less rattled here than he was in "Snow Day," likely because he realizes a man who wants a CSI to prove he didn't commit a murder isn't going to be in a rush to off any hostages. Eddie Cahill gives Flack a focused confidence that makes the detective a force to be reckoned with on the show. There's really not much that can rattle Flack.

The scene in the morgue where Sid and Hawkes perform the virtual autopsy is great; it's nice to see the two working together, and Sheldon continuing to get to utilize his medical knowledge now and then. But for the most part, the team is left on the sidelines while Mac processes evidence in the bank. After seeing how well "Snow Day" worked as an ensemble piece, utilizing all the members of the team, it's a little disappointing to see everyone but Mac left with nothing much to do save to wait for scraps of evidence and--like the audience--watch and wonder how it will all turn out. Let's hope everyone has a bigger part to play in the conclusion.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.