CSI: Miami--"Internal Affairs"

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 12, 2007 - 8:31 AM GMT

See Also: 'Internal Affairs' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Natalia Boa Vista is arrested for the murder of her ex-husband, Nick Townsend, by Jake Berkeley, and the episode flashes back to the events leading up to Nick's death. The CSIs are called to the house of Benjamin Rhodes, who lies dead in the middle of his living room. Nick, still on the clean up crew, arrives early and makes sure Natalia knows he has a lunch date. The CSIs trace prints at the house to Jeff Murdoch, an AV specialist, but he claims he was in the house to sell Ben a new system. A blood smear on Ben's pants leads them to his therapist, Lauren Sloane. Ben had been making calls to the psychiatric board and the CSIs suggest he might have been reporting wrong-doing on her part, but she insists she simply dropped him as a client and her blood got on his pants when he broke a vase in her office after flying into a rage. Alexx shows Horatio that Ben was killed by a projectile--a blank fired at close range into his chest.

While Ryan goes back to the scene to retrieve the projectile, Delko answers a page: Nick Townsend has been found dead in his apartment. Horatio insists the investigation is handled carefully, calling in the dayshift CSIs and putting Jake Berkeley on as the lead detective. When DNA in Nick's bed comes up as Natalia's, Jake has her arrested, but she maintains her innocence. She and Nick were still intimate, and she had been spying on him from outside his window, but that was it. Maxine Valera comes forward with a startling confession: she admits to killing Nick. Valera was Nick's lunch date, but she tells Horatio and Jake that when he got rough with her she pushed him off and he fell. Jake wonders if Natalia and Valera planned and executed the murder together, a charge they deny.

A bite on Nick's hand lead the CSIs to Phillip Craven, a fellow crime scene cleaner. He denies killing Nick, but admits he got into an altercation with him after he discovered Nick was stealing valuables from crime scenes. The paper wadding from the blank that killed Ben Rhodes is traced back to a purchase of blanks made by Jeff Murdoch, but an earring found at Nick's apartment--lifted from Ben's house--proves to be the key: DNA on it links it to Lauren Sloane, who is in fact Jeff's wife. Lauren admits she and Ben were having an affair, but when she went to his house to end it, he refused to listen. She shot him with the blank, thinking she would scare him, not kill him. Afterwards, she admitted her husband what she'd done, and he went back to Ben's house to get her earrings, which she'd left behind. When he overheard Phillip and Nick fighting over Nick's thefts, he followed Nick and fought with him over the earrings. When the fight got physical, Jeff hit Nick with one of his tools and the blow killed him. Natalia and Valera are released, and Horatio consoles Natalia while she cleans out Nick's locker.

Analysis:

I have to say, I saw this one coming from the moment Nick Townsend walked into the lab and confronted Natalia. In my reviewfor "If Looks Could Kill", I wrote that I suspected Nick's days were numbered:

Given the circumstances, Natalia doesn't really have much of a choice other than to agree to treat Nick with civility. She's not happy about him being back in her life, and she even tells Calleigh she'd like to kill him. Foreshadowing? I could easily see an exciting sweeps episode in which Nick ends up dead and Natalia is the prime suspect. I don't think for a moment that he's turned over a new leaf, nor do I think that he'll meet a good end.

The only thing I was off about was that the episode would air during sweeps. That said, Nick's fate was pretty much the only predictable thing about the episode (aside from the fact that neither Natalia nor Valera did Nick in), and I greatly enjoyed the characters' interactions with each other in this episode, as well as the genuine suspense Corey Miller's script generated.

I'm rather fond of the shocking opening teasers that reveal the episodes' midpoint before flashing back to the beginning. The technique was used in both "Recoil" and "Nailed" previously, and lets us know we're in for an exciting episode right off the bat. While "Recoiled" was a bit of a trick--it looked like Calleigh had been shot when in fact she hadn't--"Nailed" opened with quite a shocker--Delko driving Ryan, who had a nail in his eye--to the emergency room. "Nailed" also cleverly teased the audience, including a few fake out moments during the course of the episode when Ryan was near a nail gun.

Similarly, this time around, we're looking throughout the episode for people who might want Nick dead. I zeroed in on Jake Busey's Phillip Craven right away. Fellow crime scene cleaner, clearly none too fond of Nick--well, it wouldn't have been a surprise if it had turned out to be him. Which is precisely why I'm glad it didn't--he was far too obvious and easy a solution, but proved to be a good red herring.

Natalia's arrest made for an exciting opening, but there was little real chance that she'd actually committed the murder. Eva La Rue is in the opening credits after all. But Natalia still manages to shock the audience: she was sleeping with Nick. At first, I found this revelation both shocking and detrimental to her character, but the moving final scene does much to explain her actions, and gets to the heart of her conflicted feelings for Nick. Though perhaps it's not a situation that many in the audience can empathize with, it's impossible not to sympathize with Natalia when she breaks down crying over the box of Nick's personal items. La Rue's handling of Natalia's breakdown at the end of the episode is graceful and poignant.

If there's one thing I can't praise this episode for enough, it's for the return of the Horatio Caine that I fell in love with when Miami premiered. Horatio is a love-him-or-hate-him character, with little middle ground among the fans. I've always fallen in the former camp: I love when Horatio snarls at the bad guys, comforts bereaved children, puts his hands on his hips while delivering a quip and yes, even when he slides his sunglasses onto his face before delivering a serious pronouncement. Horatio is larger than life, yes, but that has always fit with Miami's tone.

But this season, since he returned from Rio, it's been pretty by-the-book with Horatio (with a few exceptions). Sure, he's still saving women and children from horrible fates, but it's routine by now, and frankly, after four and a half seasons, what we've come to expect from the character. But the final scene of "Internal Affairs" gives David Caruso and Horatio a chance to shine. Caruso gives his all in the scene, allowing the audience to feel the full impact of Horatio's compassion for Natalia.

And therein lies the complexity of the episode. We as an audience are apt (and eager) to dismiss Nick much in the way Delko does: as an abusive brute not worth Natalia's time. And there's much to be said for that perspective: any man low enough to break a woman's arm deserves plenty of contempt. But in this scene, we're reminded that Natalia's feelings are naturally more conflicted. She fell in love with Nick and married him--as both she and Horatio point out, it wasn't always awful all the time. Nick and Natalia shared some happy times, and though we as viewers weren't privy to them, it adds depth to both the episode and Natalia's character to see her mourn Nick and the good times they did share.

Horatio, while normally the first one to be contemptuous of men who mistreat women, shows Natalia nothing but compassion when he sees how devastated she is. Though he probably didn't think much of Nick, Horatio is discerning enough to see that Natalia needs support in that moment, and sagely settles on calling her attention to the happiness she and Nick shared, thereby allowing her to express her grief. It was exactly the right thing to do, and reminded me why Horatio is so good with people.

While Natalia's conflicted emotions and even actions are understandable, it's hard to make sense of Valera's. I was pretty surprised when Valera accepted a date with Nick in "Come as You Are". Even if she didn't know Nick was abusive to Natalia, she still knew he was Natalia's ex-husband. Given all the drama that occurred in the lab last season, I'm surprised Valera would risk stirring up a lot of trouble at work between her and Natalia in order to date Natalia's ex. Natalia handles it quite gracefully and even tries to warn Valera, but Valera comes off as impossibly dense by telling Natalia she likes dangerous guys after Natalia attempts to warn her.

Jake Berkeley isn't quite as charming as he has been in his past two outings, but he is given the rather thankless task of having to investigate under hostile conditions. The dayshift CSIs don't quite distance themselves from the case as much as they probably should have, but they are careful not to compromise the case in any way. Jake makes a misstep when he opts for the obvious answer; as anyone who watches the CSI shows knows, making assumptions about the evidence before all of it has been examined is often misleading and produces erroneous conclusions. Horatio is quick to point this out to Jake when he removes him from the case.

This has been a tough year for the CSIs personally--Greg killed a vicious teen with his SUV when trying to help a victim on CSI; Dr. Hawkes was framed for murder on CSI: New York; and now Natalia went through the ordeal of being suspected of homicide. It might be hard on the CSIs themselves, but it sure does make for entertaining television.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.