CSI: New York--'Live Or Let Die'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 30, 2006 - 6:30 PM GMT

See Also: 'Live Or Let Die' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Two men disguised as a doctor and a patient head to the roof of a hospital, where they hijack a helicopter carrying a liver needed for a transplant. When Danny and Flack find the helicopter the next morning, it's been abandoned on a nearby roof, the pilot injured but alive and tied up inside. Mac and Dr. Hawkes discover the body of the intern, Ryan Elliot, who signed for the liver, by the hospital, on a lift truck by a billboard. The liver is missing. Danny processes the helicopter and takes the tape used to tie the pilot up. He also finds glass in the alley from the getaway car. Dr. Hammerback shows Hawkes that the bullet that killed Ryan was a through and through. The bullet, a jacketed round, is still missing. At the police station, Stella and Lindsay meet Charles Cooper, who they've brought in for questioning in the death of Lillian Stanwick, a twenty-two-year old hostess at the restaurant Majorica. Lillian's last call was to Charles, but he claims not to know her. The CSIs don't believe him--Lillian had his business card, and both of their prints were on it. Charles storms out, sticking to his story.

Dr. Keith Beaumont tells Mac he was waiting for the liver to transplant it into his patient, Ed Rice. He doesn't know Ryan, but assumes he was a courier. He also tells Mac that the list of people who would have known about the liver was a long one. On the roof where the helicopter was found, Mac, Flack and Danny follow a blood trail off the roof. They look down into a grate below--the bullet could have fallen into it. Luckily there's a homeless man across the street fishing for money with a homemade contraption, and Mac talks him into loaning them his fishing device. They recover the bullet and take it back to the lab, where Hawkes has surprising news: the prints of the dead intern match a pediatrics intern named Sean Hovac, not Ryan Elliot. Flack and Hawkes bring the real Ryan Elliot in for questioning, suspecting he may be involved with the conspiracy. He insists his absence was pure coincidence--his roommate called at the last minute with Knicks tickets and he talked Sean into signing for and delivering the liver.

Hammerback tells Lindsay that though there's evidence Lillian had sex before she was killed, he has found no defensive wounds. Lillian was killed by a blow to the head, which caused an arterial subdural hemorrhage in her brain. There were no prints on the bike found underneath her body--perhaps she was pushed into it? Stella pays a visit to Lillian's apartment, where she overhears an angry neighbor complaining about a painter who didn't show up to finish his work. In the apartment, Stella discovers an array of business cards from various men. In the lab, Danny works on a latex fleck pulled from the duct tape and the glass from the getaway car, while Mac maps out the case on the glass wall of his office. Mac thinks there must have been someone on the inside helping the thieves. Hawkes tells him the bullet matched a gun used in the robbery of a dry cleaner recently. Flack pays the suspect, a young woman named Angie Watson, a visit in jail. After some encouragement, she describes to him where she abandoned the gun, but won't name her partners, whom Flack suspects she left the gun for.

Lindsay tells Stella there were two different sperm deposits found in Lillian's body. Stella shows Lindsay the business cards from the men and cross-references them with Lillian's phone records. They zero in on three potential suspects: Charles Cooper, Will Graham and Dwayne Gessner. The two CSIs question the three men individually and discover from the men that Lillian called them for anonymous phone sex. They all deny meeting her or knowing her real name, but a leaf imprint on Charles' coat that matches a leaf found on Lillian's body confirms that he did in fact meet her in the tunnel where she was found. He admits to insisting on meeting her, but claims she picked the place and that they had consensual sex. She insisted he keep his eyes closed, so he only got brief glimpses of her. Lindsay stops by the restaurant where Lillian worked and notices a fishbowl filled with business cards for a free dinner prize--clearly the source of the cards Lillian had. Impatient for the DNA results on the two sperm samples, Lindsay queries Danny about anonymous sex phone calls. When she tells him about the case, he tells her that he thinks their killer might not be one of Lillian's contacts--rape is about power, and Lillian was in control because she initiated the phone calls.

Danny gets a hit on the glass from the headlight of the getaway car--it's from a Mercedes. Mac and Flack team up to search for the car and the place where Angie deposited the gun. They are surprised when they find themselves at the house of Dr. Beaumont, and see him with his ailing wife, who is being put into an ambulance. He tries to run, but Flack and Mac catch up with him. Mac cuffs Beaumont as the doctor insists that the hijackers are holding the liver hostage. Danny gets a lead on one of the hijackers when he gets a print off the latex--it belongs to one Mark Andes. Hawkes is able to locate the Mercedes, and Flack hunts it down, finding the liver in the trunk. Andes spots Flack with the car and tries to take off, but Danny steps out and stops him. Beaumont confesses to Mac--his wife, also a doctor, was gravely ill and in need of the liver, but she wasn't as high on the transplant list as Ed Rice, an alcoholic. When Beaumont found a gun in his trash can, he came up with the plan to steal the liver, but the plan went awry when the hijackers tried to take him for more money. Mac, remembering how suddenly Claire was taken from him, isn't sympathetic, and reminds the doctor that at least he had time with his wife.

After Mac closes the case, Stella has some disturbing news--the second sperm trace from Lillian belongs to D.J. Pratt, the rapist who attacked Regina Bowen twice. Pratt worked as a painter at Lillian's building and must have followed her when she went to meet Charles; he raped her and killed her after Charles left. But there's not enough evidence to bring him in. Mac is determined to not let Pratt get away again--he made a promise to former CSI Aiden Burn that he'd get Pratt, and he intends to keep his word.

Analysis:

One of the best episodes of the season, "Live or Let Die" features two compelling cases that the audience is invested in, as well as nice character interactions, and strong continuity with previous storylines, notably Mac's loss of his wife, Claire, and Aiden's pursuit of the serial rapist, D.J. Pratt. My lone major complaint with the episode is that the CSIs give up too easily on convicting Pratt. Wouldn't Stella and Lindsay have gone back to the scene to look for more evidence, or at least had Pratt brought in for questioning? I know the writers are setting up for a May sweeps episode with Pratt, but this episode would have felt more complete if they had at least hauled Pratt in for questioning and not been able to find any other evidence to arrest him, or have the DA throw out the case. It seems like Stella just kind of gave up.

If there was any doubt that Vanessa Ferlito's Aiden Burn is the returning character series showrunner Anthony Zuiker mentioned showing up in interviews, it seems to be totally erased now. Aiden is seen is flashbacks from "Grand Murder at Central Station", the episode in which she was caught by Mac for slitting open an evidence bag and fired for jeopardizing the integrity of the lab. In what capacity will she come back? I can't wait to find out, but I hope it won't be as a victim of Pratt. I'd like to see her help catch the guy, and it would be nice to see some closure brought to her character. Have she and Danny, close friends on the show prior to her departure, kept up their friendship? Has Mac followed her career or helped her get another job? It's heartening to see Mac determined to keep his promise to her, which suggests he doesn't resent her for what happened.

The flashbacks of Aiden made me a little nostalgic for her character--she was a big part of the show's New York vibe, and her absence is still felt. It doesn't help that Lindsay's concern for the plight of Lillian Stanwick rings a lot less true than Aiden's did for Regina Bowen. Aiden clearly was depressed by the case, and enraged at Pratt's arrogance and dismissive attitude, something Ferlito conveyed very effectively with both her tone and her demeanor. For whatever reason, Anna Belknap just isn't as convincing--her line about how seeing Lillian's body in the morgue made her feel so vulernerable made me cringe. She needed more emotion to sell the line, along with the earlier one about how she couldn't get the image of Lillian out of her head.

One thing I am convinced of is Lindsay's interest in Danny and it should surprise no one that the two have a brief scene together. It seems to be standard since "Fare Game" that there is always a scene that pairs these two up, even if they're not working on the same case together. After asking Danny out for drinks twice, you'd think Lindsay would have gotten somewhere with the handsome CSI by now, but Danny's, "Slow down, Montana" and hasty exit from the room after they discuss the phone sex aspect of the case might serve as a suggestion to the writers that sometimes less is more. Even if this isn't red herring sexual tension, it might be good to slow it down a bit, lest next season open with Danny suddenly married and Lindsay crushed, a la CSI.

The questioning of the three men at once in the Lillian Stanwick case is an especially effective scene--it's surprisingly not jarring to jump from man to man, and the cuts are so seamless that we get a decent picture of all three men without getting them mixed up. Both Melina Kanakaredes and Belknap do their best work in these scenes. Stella is always an effective and confident interrogator, and Lindsay seems to be warming to the task, drawing from the men how they felt about Lillian's calls without putting them on the defensive too much and thereby hampering attempts to get useful information from them.

The twists in the primary case are what make it exciting--the hijacking of the helicopter, the theft of the liver, the clock ticking on how long the liver is useful, the mix up with the identity of the intern--all make for exciting developments early on in the case, and guarantee the viewer's investment in it. The revelation of Beaumont's involvement is also surprising and sad--despite Mac's condemnation of him, he remains a somewhat sympathetic character. It must have been hard for him as a doctor to sit by and not be able to do anything for his dying wife. Though Mac is correct in that he had time to reconcile himself to her death and enjoy the final months with her, it's a little short-sighted of Mac. Losing a loved one is never easy, be it a sudden loss or one that one observes over months or years.

But then, Mac has never been the most empathetic character. Like Stella, he doesn't have a lot of sympathy for hard luck cases. Because Beaumont was essentially condemning a man to death by stealing the liver, Mac pretty much saw him as he would any other killer, and Mac is someone who believes in a very strict defintion of right and wrong. I still can't help but wonder, if Mac had had some sort of opportunity to save Claire that would have violated his strict ethical code, would he have taken it?

Speaking of Mac's beliefs, he apparently has loosened up on the one that believes CSIs shouldn't go by their gut instincts. Hawkes tells him flat out that he doesn't believe in his gut that Ryan Elliot was part of the conspiracy. True, he backs it up with facts about Ryan's career aspirations, but it's still just a hunch. Mac accepts it, even though back in the first season, in "A Man a Mile", Mac told Danny that CSIs had to go on the evidence, not their own gut feelings or instincts. Granted, Hawkes' instincts seem better than Danny's, but it's still a discrepancy.

It seems we finally have the answer to why Mac always has glass walls in his office: so he can write on them! I hope he used erasable ink when he mapped out the case on the wall of his office, otherwise he's going to be living with that case a very long time. Viewers will also be interested to know that Gary Sinise, along with Michael Daly, came up with the story for this episode (the teleplay was penned by Pam Veasey). If he produces episodes this good, Sinise's input should definitely be sought on future CSI: NY outings.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.