CSI: New York--'Like Water For Murder'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 17, 2008 - 9:26 AM GMT

See Also: 'Like Water for Murder' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The partially-eaten body of a woman washes ashore alongside a dead shark, but Flack notices strangulation marks on the woman's neck, indicating she didn't die from being attacked by the shark. The CSIs are joined at the scene by Quinn Shelby, a criminalist from New Jersey who once worked with Mac and who is in town to evaluate the lab for its re-accreditation. Sid confirms the woman was strangled and points out blood in her lungs, indicating she was poisoned as well. Stella and Quinn analyze the woman's stomach contents, discovering chocolate and a substance derived from a flower known as Damiana. Lindsay is examining a piece of evidence found clutched in the victim's hand, but abandons it when she becomes emotional during an exchange with Danny. Lindsay reports to Stella that a stone found in the victim's bra is from a gravestone. Mac gets a call that another body has been discovered at the beach: this woman is intact and wrapped in a tarp. Business cards identify her as Louise Perry, a real estate agent. Stella, bothered that the other victim seemed familiar to her, realizes the first victim was also a real estate agent, who recently showed Stella a condo. From that, the CSIs are able to identify her as Chrissy Watson.

The discovery of a second body has the press on alert, and cub reporter Reed Garrett, the son of Mac's dead wife, Claire, wants the scoop. Mac promises to call him first should he have anything to share. Sid reveals that Louise died from asphyxiation due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Looking at the chart, Quinn concludes that Louise was gassed in a confined space. Louise's stomach contents are exactly the same as Chrissy's, leading the CSIs to a high end chocolate fashion show where the chocolate/Damiana mix is being used, but the designer, Charles Kohl, denies knowing either of the dead women and claims his employees all have access to the exclusive chocolate stash. Back at the lab, Quinn informs Mac about Lindsay neglecting evidence. After Lindsay identifies the piece from Chrissy's hand as an emergency release lever from a car trunk, Mac asks her about leaving evidence out. She apologizes and notes that getting involved with a co-worker was stupid. Reed confronts Mac when he discovers he's been scooped by another paper, but Mac refuses to give him anything that could jeopardize the case. Quinn interrupts with some startling news: she's identified an earlier victim, a lawyer named Ben Melvoy, who was killed in New Jersey three months ago in a similar way.

After finding similar markings on both Louise and Ben's bodies, the CSIs recover skin from Chrissy in the shark's digestive system and find a pattern that matches the other two: L2729. The CSIs round up Charles Kohl when the learn he was at an open house Chrissy had for an apartment, but he claims he simply came on to her and was rebuffed. Quinn gives the lab a passing evaluation, and admits to Mac that she still has a thing for him. Hawkes and Lindsay trace the stone used to make the markings on the victims' bodies to a church near Ground Zero and Mac, Stella and Hawkes rush there. They find no evidence of their killer's presence, but driving down a street near the church allows Mac to make a connection: all three of the victims had large advertisements on that street featuring their pictures and phone numbers. The CSIs rush to the person they believe will be the next victim, P.J. Davis, another real estate agent. P.J. is alive and well, but even as Lindsay and Danny discover trace Louise's fingernails was from a taxi cab bill of rights, the killer is claiming his next victim in his locked taxi cab, gassing the man in the back seat of his car. When the body of the victim is found on the beach, Mac invites Reed to the crime scene.

Analysis:

Taking a page from last year's incredibly successful and thrilling miniature crime scene killer arc on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: New York begins a serial killer story arc of its own. There's really nothing more creepy, more chilling and--let's face it--more fascinating than a murderer who kills complete strangers over and over again, without remorse. What is it about serial killers that's so completely intriguing? That they repeatedly carry out an act that to most is completely unfathomable? The cold, calculating and often haunting ways in which they end the lives of others? The pure evilness of their acts? Either way, I'm hooked. Just one episode in, and already I'm finding this storyline far more compelling and interesting than the '333' caller who was harassing Mac at the beginning of the season.

The pacing of the episode is pitch perfect, with what looks to be a simple tragic 'death by shark' turning out to be anything but. The discovery of the second victim leads the CSIs to realize they're dealing with a serial killer, and the revelation of an earlier victim confirms it. The sequence in which Mac discovers how the killer chose his victims is a jaw-dropper, as is the one in which Mac and Stella rush to save the person they believe is next on the killer's list. The irony is the man the audience is led to believe could be killer in fact turns out to be the next victim, and images of his struggle and death are cut with Mac's realization that the killer is a cab driver. It's an eerie, effective scene.

Because the episode is so strong, the few nagging questions that remain seem inconsequential. Would eating a victim who died from carbon monoxide poisoning really kill a shark? How did the skin make it all the way to the small intestines so conveniently in tact? The chocolate lead felt like one big, rather needlessly distracting red herring, though that's forgivable for the fact that it at least gave us some great Flack moments. Flack's one-liners come fast and furious in this episode; making reference to Project Runway at the chocolate show and earlier in the episode calling the people who found the first body the "Abercrombie Twins." It's no surprise that Flack, a man who avowedly loves his food, digs into the chocolate at the party despite its questionable ingredients. What's even funnier is that he does it moments after Stella turns down a piece, saying that she doesn't "take candy from strangers." When it comes to food, Flack clearly has no such compunctions.

This episode marks the return of Reed Garrett, the now grown son Mac's dead wife Claire gave up for adoption. Last seen in "Some Buried Bones" working for his college newspaper, Reed has apparently since graduated and gotten a plum job at a New York City paper and somehow gotten his own blog. It's a tad unrealistic to say the least, but it's so nice to see Kyle Gallner's Reed back that the circumstances of his return being slightly implausible are forgivable. Gallner certainly has the hungry, eager look of a reporter on a beat down pat. Mac is sympathetic to Reed's desire for a scoop, but he's not willing to do anything to compromise his investigation--or cause a panic in New York--to help out the cub reporter. When Reed accuses Mac of letting another reporter scoop him, Mac firmly puts him in his place, with a firm message not to try to take advantage of their relationship. In the end, however, Mac delivers, bringing Reed with him to the beach when the fourth body is discovered.

As if pressure from the knowledge that a serial killer is loose in New York wasn't enough, the lab is being evaluated by Quinn Shelby, a former colleague--and rival--of Mac's. Played with sass and sharp wit by Kristen Dalton, Quinn makes a splash, not only assessing Mac's team but also helping out on the case. She examines evidence with Stella, weighs in on the autopsy of the second victim and comes to Mac with crucial evidence about an earlier victim in New Jersey. It's great to see CSI: NY once again bucking the stereotype with a character who could have easily been painted as a two-dimensional adversary. Despite the fact that she competed against Mac for the supervisor position at the New York crime lab, Quinn clearly isn't at the lab to cause trouble. She aids the CSIs with their current case and even finishes her evaluation early. Her one quibble is a legitimate one: she observes that Lindsay leaves evidence unattended and questions Mac about Lindsay and Danny's relationship.

Sparks are clearly flying between Mac and Quinn during the episode, and towards the end we learn why: they once kissed back when Mac was married to Claire. Because he was married and deeply in love with his wife, that's as far as it went, but despite Mac's insistence that some things should stay in the past, there's a definite mutual attraction at work. Quinn readily admits that she still has a thing for Mac, and though she's presumably heading back to New Jersey to return to her lab, it would be a shame if this is the last we see of Quinn. She fit in quite well with the team, and Dalton and Gary Sinise share some serious chemistry. There's definitely more between Mac and Quinn than there is between Mac and Jordan Gates from "DOA for a Day". Much like Peyton was, Quinn has an outgoing, feisty personality that fits well with Mac's simmering intensity.

After seeing her yell at a suspect and storm out of an interrogation in "All Access", ditch a crime scene in "Silent Night" and angrily shove a folder into Danny's hands in front of Hawkes and storm off after Mac specifically asked her to brief Danny in "Right Next Door", it's gratifying to finally see someone point out Lindsay's unprofessional behavior when she leaves evidence unattended in the lab after getting upset at Danny's suggestion that they rent Jaws. Lindsay is totally unable to separate work from her personal issues, something most people learn to do long before they reach her age. The character's immaturity and self-centeredness are just two of the things that make her massively unappealing, but they're her most distinct traits. She throws out a line that suggests she recognizes the importance of what the CSIs do, but the next minute she's lamenting getting involved with a co-worker, which is clearly at the forefront of her mind. At least, after briefly trying to fob off responsibility onto Danny, she admits she made a mistake. Mac is relatively lenient with her, though he does point out that she can't let whatever "is or is not going on with Danny" affect her job.

As viewers, we're still not quite clued into what exactly is going on between Danny and Lindsay, or whether they're on the same page about it. One minute they're joking in the lab about Jaws, and the next he's suggesting they rent it. Given the events of last week's episode, "Right Next Door," where Danny slept with Rikki Sandoval and blew Lindsay off, which prompted her to confess that she's in love with him, Danny's behavior is a bit perplexing. Is he offering her an olive branch, trying to salvage their friendship? If so, Lindsay clearly isn't ready, telling him "this is hard" when she storms out and confessing to Mac that it was "stupid" of her to get involved with a co-worker. The way Danny looked at her when he made his suggestion conveyed that he wasn't sure it was going to go over well, but it's clear from his behavior in the rest of the episode that what's going on between them isn't weighing on his mind nearly as heavily as it is on hers.

But how involved were they? Danny seemed perplexed by her behavior last week, and didn't appear to feel any guilt over sleeping with Rikki. On the other hand, Lindsay, who presumably doesn't even know about Danny's tryst with Rikki, got mad at Danny for turning down her offer for lunch and not confiding in her, which led her to conclude she needed to get over being in love with him. It sounds like the two may have been casually seeing each other and Lindsay took it more seriously than Danny did. That trend seems to be continuing, with him offering a gesture of friendship and her not being able to handle it. It would be nice to know exactly what was going on between the two: murder mysteries are great, but the audience shouldn't be left wondering about the extent of two main characters' involvement with each other for weeks on end.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.