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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'No Way Out'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 16, 2009 - 10:11 PM GMT

See Also: 'No Way Out' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Following a training exercise addressing hostage situations, the team is called out on multiple 419s in a quiet Las Vegas neighborhood. Two people are dead, the victims of fatal gunshot wounds: the street neighborhood watch captain, Bill French, and a seven-year-old boy named Jason Morley. The apparent targets were Priscilla Hatcher, whose home was broken into, her son, Reggie, and nephew, Frankie Kirkland, but only Priscilla has been found and is on her way to the hospital. .38 caliber bullets from a 9-millimeter gun are recovered from the street and Catherine posits that the neighborhood watch captain may have fired at one of the suspects. Brass notes that neighbors saw an SUV parked in front of a house a few down from Priscilla's, and Catherine finds fresh collision damage to two cars parked near it, indicating that the SUV sped off. Nick and Ray process the Hatchers' house and Nick discovers a palm print on the television set from the struggle while Ray takes note of Reggie's diploma, which shows he was the valedictorian in his high school graduating class. Nick finds a book of checks with Reggie's address on them indicating he lives right down the street--in the house the SUV was parked in front of. Meanwhile, Brass gets a lead on a shooting victim who was dropped off at Desert Palms Hospital. By the time Brass and Catherine get to the hospital, the man, Marcus Garfield, is dead. From distinctive tattoos on his face and body, Brass is able to identify the man as a member of the Snakebacks, a dangerous Vegas gang that deals in drugs. Catherine wonders if Reggie was involved in dealing drugs in some way, and Brass says that if he was, he and his cousin are probably dead. Back at the lab, Catherine and Hodges go over surveillance footage from the hospital and see Marcus Garfield tossed out of an SUV with tinted windows. They run the plates, but the car belonged to Garfield himself. Riley recovers 27 bullets from the scene, all from a 9-millimeter gun.

Six blocks from where the murders took place, an abandoned car is discovered in a mall parking lot. When Catherine and Brass show up, they find the body of a man named Aaron Sweets, a member of the Snakebacks, in the trunk. In the morgue, Dr. Robbins uncovers four .22 bullets from the body, and determines the man has been dead for 24-48 hours, meaning he wasn't involved in the attack on the Hatchers. The team is able to identify a second suspect, Robert "Little Bobby" Danwood and determine that a stray bullet from Garfield's gun struck and killed Jason Morley during Garfield's shootout with French. Nick is able to connect Reggie to the Snakebacks when he finds four outgoing calls on Aaron Sweets' phone to Reggie's landline. Ray and Riley return to Reggie's house, which had been searched by the police but never processed. They call Reggie's landline and follow the ringing to a closet, where they discover a hidden door down to the basement. When they go down into the basement, they find an extensive drug lab with the components of PCP on various tables. While they set about processing the basement, Brass learns from Detective Vega that Reggie was pushing drugs in Snakeback territory. Greg goes to tell Jason Morley's grief-stricken father that his son's killer is dead. In Reggie's basement, Ray notices fresh blood on a pipe and signals to Riley that they need to leave, but before they can a boy, Frankie Kirkland, bursts out of a door to another room waving a gun and ordering them not to go anywhere. Behind them they can see the wounded Reggie Hatcher. Greg comes to check on Riley and Ray and a frantic Frankie orders Riley to get rid of him, so she goes to the stairs and tells Greg that "It's okay, Riley, we don't need any help." Greg catches onto the way she calls him by her name and goes to get help.

Ray recognizes Reggie and offers to look at his injury. Reggie has a huge piece of glass in his shoulder from his altercation with Garfield. Ray tells Frankie they need to get Reggie to a hospital, but Frankie refuses to budge and let anyone leave. Riley manages to turn on a walkie talkie so the team, assembling above with SWAT, can hear what's going on in the basement. Frankie strikes her when he sees her fiddling with it, but assumes she has turned it off after he orders her to do so. Riley identifies the gun Frankie is holding as a .22, but when Frankie hears a helicopter above, he realizes what she's done and smashes the walkie talkie. Riley reminds Frankie he hasn't hurt anyone yet, but he tells her he killed a gangbanger--and also reveals he's only fourteen years old. The landline starts ringing and Frankie panics, but Ray tells him that if he's going to save Reggie, he needs his kit, which is in their SUV. Riley answers the phone and says she's coming up for the kit. She does, alerting Nick, who is hiding behind a car that she's okay--and armed. She returns to the basement with the kit and Ray removes the piece of glass from Reggie's shoulder, causing an artery to begin gushing. As Ray calls for help with the artery, Riley pulls her gun and tells Frankie to help his cousin--and drop his gun. Frankie reluctantly does so, and with Frankie's help, Ray is able to stop the bleeding. The four emerge from the basement: Reggie is taken to the hospital and Frankie is arrested, with a caveat from Ray to Brass that "he doesn't have to be a lost cause." Relieved their ordeal is over, Ray and Riley are reunited with the team.

Analysis:

Nothing screams, "Danger ahead!" like opening an episode with a training program addressing hostage situations. The heavy-handed foreshadowing intro is a misstep in what is otherwise an exciting, if not exactly shocking episode. Why give away the rather clever tell of Riley calling Greg by her name in the intro when it would have played out much more dramatically later in the episode without the earlier flag? I think Greg--and the audience of CSI--is smart enough to figure out that Riley is signaling that she and Langston are in trouble when she calls him by her name without the set up during the training exercise. Though previews for the episode gave away the fact that Ray and Riley would run into trouble while processing a crime scene, the opening sequence essentially does the same thing--never a good thing in a mystery series. Though it provides for a little bit of humor with Greg getting "taken hostage" by the man testing the team, overall it simply serves to telegraph the upcoming danger. The time could have been better devoted to getting a better sense of the Las Vegas neighborhood that is rocked by two murders.

The the hostage situation plays out somewhat predictably: Ray spots something that's off just as Frankie jumps out with the gun, Frankie is jumpy and likely high on drugs--the kind of loose canon likely to fire a gun in a drug lab and ignite the whole place, Riley manages to turn on a walkie talkie but Frankie figures it out, Langston is forced to perform triage on Reggie and Riley eventually gets the jump on Frankie. That being said, it's still exciting, and it gives us some insight we wouldn't otherwise have had into Ray and Riley. It's no accident that the two newest members of the team are the ones caught in this predicament. Much of the ninth season has been devoted to getting to know the new duo and integrating them in with the rest of the team, and this episode gives the audience the opportunity to see how they operate under pressure. Is it a somewhat obvious bid to spotlight the new faces? Sure, but we've had eight and a half years to get to know the rest of the team--and last week's "Turn, Turn, Turn" as well as Greg's emotional connection with the grieving father in this episode prove that the original team members aren't being sidelined.

Though Ray is the newer CSI of the two, he's much cooler under pressure than Riley is. Though Riley is able to pull herself together, it's clear she's frightened by the erratic Frankie pointing the gun at them. She's also much more rash and daring than Ray is--she is the one who turns on the walkie talkie, risking angering Frankie. And the act does anger Frankie: when he hears the helicopters above and realizes she's alerted the police to what's going on in the basement, he strikes her. To her credit, Riley in no way falls apart, and Lauren Lee Smith's layered performance allows viewers to see both Riley's fear and her courage. While Ray placates Frankie, Riley is definitely the more proactive of the two. It is she who convinces Frankie to let her go tell Greg they're fine, it is she who takes the chance of turning the walkie talkie on to give the team more info to work with and it is she who eventually pulls a weapon on Frankie and gets him to give up his gun. Was turning on the walkie talkie more risk than it was worth? After all, she'd already communicated to Greg that she and Langston were in trouble. It was a risky move, but that's Riley: she's a character who takes risks and pushes boundaries.

On the other hand, Ray is as calm during the hostage situation as he is when he works a crime scene. Ray is very much focused on placating Frankie: he knows that the team is aware that they're in danger, so his goals are to calm Frankie down as much as possible and do what he can to save Reggie's life. Langston is imminently practical about the situation; while he wants to help Reggie, he's not going to endanger himself or Riley to do so. He's willing to accede to Frankie's insistence that he work on Reggie in the basement because he knows that going along with Frankie for the moment is the best way to keep himself and Riley safe. It's a very Grissom-esque response, and indeed, Laurence Fishburne exudes a grounding calm similar to the former CSI team leader. Langston's calm might also have to do with his background as a physician: part of being a good doctor is appearing collected and grounded so as to underscore medical authority and put the patient at ease. Ray behaved similarly with the daughter of the murder victim in "Miscarriage of Justice" when he realized she was being poisoned. He calmly got her to the hospital, stressing the seriousness of the situation without panicking or frightening the girl. Similarly, in this situation he's able to distill some of Frankie's hostility and nervousness with his demeanor. And in the end, he sees through the angry young man with a gun to the frightened fourteen-year-old boy. He tells Brass that Frankie "doesn't have to be a lost cause." Ray is a very compassionate character, whose interest in CSI work clearly goes beyond closing the case.

Greg reaches out to Brian Morley, the father of the slain little boy in the neighborhood, first to get the man to give up his son's body and then to tell him that the man who killed his son is dead. In the first scene, Greg speaks to Morley quietly, telling him that his son, Jason "is no longer with us" and that "you have to let us take him so that we can figure out who did this." He also tells Morley that Jason is in "a better place." Though I'm not sure those were the right words to use--and indeed, in a situation like this, there really are no words that are sufficient--Greg is trying as best he can. The incident also shows how far Greg has come; he's no longer a rookie CSI, more accustomed to the lab than the field. It's been four seasons since Greg passed his field proficiency exam to become a CSI in "Who Shot Sherlock?", and he has clearly come a long way. Later Greg goes to inform Morley of the fate of Marcus Garfield, the man who shot and killed Jason. Morley asks Greg if this is something he has to do often and Greg answers him honestly, saying it's not a part of his job. Greg is probably the most softhearted member of the team, the most sensitive, so seeing him trying to comfort Morley feels natural.

Rob Benedict is an interesting casting choice as the grieving father. Perhaps best known for his roles as college student Richard Coad in Felicity and a scientist on Threshold, Benedict is often cast as goofy, comic relief type, and does quite well in those roles. But in this episode he shows that he's just as skilled at playing a more serious character. In just two short scenes, Benedict limns the scope of Morley's loss with depth and restraint. He's never over-the-top, but Benedict leaves no doubt of the complete and utter devastation his character is feeling. When Greg comes to tell him the man who shot his son is dead, Morley tells the CSI that his wife died last year and that he had been raising his son alone. Totally bereft, Morley reaches out to Greg, inviting him in for coffee, a gesture that seems to be a mix of gratitude and a desire for a little company.

There's little humor to be found in this somber outing, but Hodges manages to provide it with his envy over Archie getting a few days off to go to a conference, which Hodges claims is code for a snowboarding excursion. Anyone else might have dropped it at that point, but Hodges presses on, much to Catherine's amusement. Grissom held Hodges at arm's length and didn't know what to make of him much of the time, but Catherine has his number. Hodges is very much a man who likes to ingratiate himself with his higher ups, and Grissom's departure has definitely shaken things up for him. He's all about hierarchy and pecking order, as we saw in "The Grave Shift" when played a power game with Ray, and no doubt he'll now be focusing much of the attention he gave to Grissom on Catherine. Catherine is going to be a very different supervisor than her predecessor was, but I have faith that Hodges will carry on his awkward attempts to ingratiate himself with Catherine, just as he did with Grissom. Some things never change!

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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