CSI: New York--'Night, Mother'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at December 21, 2004 - 9:59 PM GMT

See Also: 'Night, Mother' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

At an outdoor basketball court, several men play an aggressive game. When the ball is thrown off the court, one of the players, Jason Walder, chases after it and comes upon a woman in a bloody nightgown pushing down on the chest of a dead woman. When Mac Taylor arrives at the scene, Detective Don Flack tells him that the victim's name is Rachel Camden and she lived in the apartment building near where her body was found. The woman found hovering over her is Ophelia Dichiara, but there's no apparent connection between the two women. Flack figures the case is open and shut: Ophelia was found covered in Rachel's blood with the murder weapon, a wooden stake, found right next to her. Mac isn't so convinced: it looks like a crime of passion...between two apparent strangers.

At the hospital, Stella Bonasera photographs Ophelia, who stares at her dispassionately. Stella finally asks her if she has anything she wants to say, but Ophelia doesn't respond. After she takes a drink of the water by her bed, Stella decides to take the glass.

Danny Messer and Aiden Burn have another victim on their hands: a man has been found beaten to death in an alley. Aiden notes that the man is without his wallet and his keys: he's been robbed.

Back in the morgue, Dr. Sheldon Hawkes shows Mac Rachel Camden's wound, noting that the stake went right through her. Mac then has the sad duty of telling Rachel's husband, Todd, about her death. Mac shows Todd a picture of Ophelia, but he doesn't recognize her. Hawkes goes to work on the body from the alley. He finds a wad of Australian money in the waistband of the man's underwear, which he hands over to Danny. Hawkes tells Danny and Aiden that the man died of cerebral hemorrhaging due to the attack. He hands Aiden a special implant from the victim's eye that is given to people who can't have m LASIK surgery.

Mac is looking at the substance found under Ophelia's fingernails: cardiac muscle tissue from Rachel Camden. Flack is certain that Ophelia is guilty, but Mac notes that cases that seem like slam dunks can be the most deceiving. Mac questions Ophelia in the hospital about the cuts on her legs, but rather than answering his question she begins to quote legalese about "improper disposal of a corpse." Mac asks her about Rachel Camden, but Ophelia tells him she doesn't know her. Ophelia notes how tired he looks; Mac remains puzzled. Along with Stella, Mac goes to Ophelia's apartment. Stella finds a Dr. Seuss book inscribed to a child, which is odd, because Flack told them Ophelia had no family. Mac takes note of the odd placement of items around Ophelia's bedroom and concludes that she might be a sleepwalker. He realizes she doesn't know whether or not she killed Rachel. A sleep test confirms Mac's suspicions: Ophelia is a parasomniac. As the CSIs and the doctors look on, Ophelia gets up in her sleep and acts as though she's trying to rescue someone by pushing down on the chest.

Danny gets prints off the Australian money. Some he dismisses as coming from the bank teller who doled out the sequential bills, but he matches the others to Ryan Mallone, a young Australian man with a record for possession of cocaine. Ryan tells Danny that he exchanged the money at the airport, and he doesn't recognize the victim. Aiden has a lead that proves more fruitful: she's traced the eye implant to one Lenny Cook. When the CSIs go to his apartment, they find it filled with mannequins, which Danny quickly identifies as practice dummies for pickpockets.

Back at the CSI offices, Mac gets Dr. Giles help with testing a theory. He shoves a wooden stake in a dummy and asks Giles to pull it out. When he compares the splinters, the pattern of the ones on Giles' hand match Ophelia's. She was pulling the stake out, not pushing it in.

Danny explains to Aiden that the idea is to get the money out of the dummies' pockets without ringing the bell attached to them. When Aiden tries and fails, Danny teases her. The CSIs get down to business and Danny discovers a twenty-dollar bill under the carpet. Danny notes that the pickpockets work in teams. Aiden discovers one substance that isn't blood, but the next one she tests comes up positive for blood.

The sexual assault kit on Rachel indicates she recently had sex using a condom. The CSIs determine that a substance in Rachel's hair is architect's glue, and they figure out that her hair was braided based on the pattern of the glue in her hair. When Flack and Stella confront Rachel's husband, who happens to be an architect, with the evidence, he admits to arguing with her and pulling her braid. But he's genuinely puzzled by the condom: he and Rachel were trying to have a baby.

Using Lenny's rail pass, Danny traces the man's commute and figures out that he used to work the corner at Broadway and Canal. Danny and Aiden stake the corner out from a building overlooking the intersection while Flack scans the crowd below. Danny spots two women and a man grifting a pedestrian, he calls Flack and tells him to arrest them. Flack does, and focuses in on the man, Eduardo. He notices bruises on Eduardo's knuckles, indicating he hit something hard recently.

Ophelia tells Mac that she became aware of her sleepwalking when she discovered bruises on her legs and noticed she was gaining weight from eating in the middle of the night. The odd formation of furniture in her bedroom was done in the hopes that she would wake up when running into the objects, but she learned how to navigate around them. She never consulted a doctor for fear of being deemed insane. She gingerly asks Mac if she killed Rachel, but he assures her that she did not.

Mac and Stella turn to the surveillance tapes from the Camdens' building. They see Ophelia on the tape, and Mac notices a shadow nearby. He thinks Ophelia witnessed the murder, so he magnifies the image and clarifies the reflection, which reveals the image of the killer: Jason Walder. Flack and Stella return to the basketball court and find the young man, where Stella discovers blood on his gym bag.

Danny brings Ryan back in for questioning, and the man claims he was pick-pocketed. Ryan plays with his watch nervously, and Danny notices fibers in the band, which fall to the table. Danny examines them and determines they match the fibers from the carpet in Larry's apartment. Danny and Aiden examine Ryan's clothes and though they don't find blood on the clothes, Aiden does discover a bloody dime in the cuff of a pair of Ryan's pants.

In the interrogation room, Stella pulls splinters from Jason's hand and finds a condom in his wallet. A CSI shot reveals that Jason killed Rachel in a rage after she told him she was breaking off their relationship. He tells Stella he fell in love with Rachel, and Stella, disgusted, tells him he'll get plenty of love where he's going.

Danny and Aiden turn the screws on Ryan and Eduardo respectively. Danny informs Ryan that the blood on the dime in his pants matches Lenny, while Aiden tells Eduardo that they found the twenty he left behind when he ransacked Lenny's apartment. Danny points to Ryan's rash and says it was caused by the substance on the back of the carpet. Aiden tells Eduardo that he and Ryan set Lenny up because they suspected he was scamming them. Eduardo beat him to death while Ryan looked on.

Afterwards, Danny finds Mac in his office and tells the older CSI that he and Aiden solved their case. He asks Mac if he wants to grab a drink, but Mac has something else to do. He's learned that Ophelia Dichiara's son was killed in a car accident that Ophelia witnessed. After she found Rachel's body, Ophelia was trying to save her in the same way she tried to save her son's life: by massaging her heart. Mac visits Ophelia and tells her that she was trying to save Rachel's life.

Analysis:

Though I did find parts of "Night, Mother" quite enjoyable, I couldn't help but feel brought down by yet another gloomy CSI: New York episode. I can't quite put my finger on it, though it may be that New York is trying to inject more emotion into its stories than its predecessors do. That's not a bad idea, given that the CSI shows often get the adjective "slick" lobbied at them, but it makes for depressing viewing. The sets are all very dark, Gary Sinise is very glum and even most of the suspects are sad sacks.

The saddest one this week is the un-subtly named Ophelia Dichiara. Heather Kafka gives an understated and sad performance playing a woman we quickly understand is deeply damaged, though we don't learn until the end by what. Even though she's found over Rachel Camden's body in the opening scene, it's pretty obvious to everyone but Detective Flack that there's more going on here than meets the eye. It is equally obvious that she's supposed to be a mirror for Mac's own inner torment. Like him, she's lost someone close to her. Like him, she's having sleeping problems.

Is this the second or third time we've seen Mac losing sleep over a case? Stella clucks over him like a mother hen in a rather irritating manner, just as she did in the premiere, "Blink". And Ophelia joins in here, too, telling him he looks tired. This could be because Sinise looks more disinterested than tired. I don't know if "Night, Mother" was filmed earlier than some of the more recent episodes, but it was originally scheduled to be the third or fourth episode, so that could explain the inconsistency, since Sinise has definitely perked up in the episodes prior to this one. Either way, I don't want to see Stella following him around and asking him if he's tired all of the time. The point that the job has become his life has gotten through.

We're also supposed to pick up on parallels between the fact that Ophelia and Mac are both haunted by the deaths of her son and his wife, respectively. This is likely why Mac is so certain there's more to Ophelia's story: he recognizes a kindred spirit. Ophelia likely picks up on the same vibe from Mac, which is why she comments on how tired he looks. Other than to emphasize Mac's grief, I'm not really sure what Ophelia's purpose in the episode is. She's not much of a red herring. Like Mac, I was pretty certain she was a big red herring at the beginning.

The actual killer, Jason, sure must have been surprised to have come across her pushing down on the chest of the woman he just killed. And how long before the basketball game did Jason kill Rachel? It couldn't have been that long, as Ophelia witnessed the murder. What kind of killer goes and plays basketball after driving a stake through someone's heart? Few people are actually that callous, and Jason, while obviously selfish and unbalanced, didn't come off as a complete sociopath.

The B-story isn't that terribly exciting in and of itself, but it's lifted by the mere fact that Danny and Aiden are on the case. These two have the spark that Mac and Stella are missing, and it makes them much more fun to watch. I loved the scene in Lenny's apartment where they tease each other about pick-pocketing: Aiden tries and fails, Danny makes a crack, she hits him playfully on the head. Vanessa Ferlito and Carmine Giovinazzo have a natural, easy chemistry together. Their relationship has a brother/sister quality: there's a fair amount of teasing, camaraderie and competition thrown in the mix. These two are just fun and are so far the most interesting ones to watch in the show.

I'm reluctant to be too hard on "Night, Mother" as I do suspect it was filmed before episodes such as "Officer Blue" and "Three Generations Are Enough", which I believe are superior outings. "Night, Mother" isn't a bad episode exactly--it's just more of the same, and a little too glum for my liking. I want to be engaged by the show, not depressed by it. That's not to say that some episodes won't be downers--this is, after all, a show that deals with murder--I'd just like to see more spark in the stories. For instance, one thing that stood out to me at the end was the motives. One murder by a spurned lover, another by a pair of criminals that thought they were being scammed--that's fine and believable, but not very interesting. A little more creative spark would go a long way.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.