'Not Landing'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 5, 2004 - 9:21 PM GMT

See Also: 'Not Landing' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

As beach goers frolic on the beach, the sound of an approaching airplane gradually gets louder. People turn to look, and their expressions turn to panic as they see the plane plummeting out of the sky, headed right towards the beach. A lifeguard blows his whistle and people scramble to safety. The plane crashes down, miraculously hitting no one.

When the CSIs get to the scene, Alexx announces that only casualty was the pilot of the plane. While examining the plane, Horatio discovers a blown-off valve. Yelina asks him if he thinks it was sabotage, but he corrects her: he suspects murder.

An NTSC officer theorizes that it could have been pilot error that caused the plane to go down. But when Horatio discovers a suspicious substance, they realize Decker was probably smuggling something to Mexico. Calleigh swabs a red thick substance from the severed pipe. It turns out to be Potassium Permanganate, which is used to purify cocaine. The finding confirms Horatio's smuggling suspicions.

Yelina comes up with the victim's name: Adam Decker. He co-owned the CESSNA plane with his business partner, Wes Gallagher. Decker lived in tony Rockwater, and Horatio tracks Wes down there, too. The two created Dolson Treatment labs. When Speedle examines Wes's hands, he finds traces of explosive on them--the same explosive found on the plane's fuselage. The explosive detonated, causing the illegal chemicals to blow out and disorienting the plane, possibly leading to the crash.

Gallagher admits to planting the explosives, claiming he didn't want Decker to make the drug run. He didn't want his partner to get arrested for smuggling, but he insists that Adam was a good enough pilot to survive the explosion. Wes says he didn't want Adam to die; the two were going to build a state-of-the-art plane. Wes is off the hook when Horatio learns that it was carbon dioxide poisoning that killed Adam, not the explosion.

When Delko and Speedle examine the plane, Delko discovers a scratch on the plane, not from the crash, but from a key being scraped across the side of the plane. Delko questions Adam's wife, Wendy, who mentions that their neighbor, Jeff Latham, hated her husband. Horatio and Delko go to Latham's house to question Jeff and his wife, Heddy. Jeff admits to taking a swipe at Decker's plane, but not to killing him. He claims their disagreements were just a neighborhood dispute.

Elsewhere, Alexx and Speedle arrive at the scene of another death, that of a valet. During Alexx's examination of him at the scene, a small explosion rocks the body. Speedle notes that if someone was trying to kill the guy, they were too late.

Delko and Calleigh discover a hole in one of Decker's plane's pipes, allowing CO to leak into the cockpit. They determine Adam would have passed out in the cockpit. The officer from NTSC tells them one of Decker's neighbors called the FAA.

The neighbor in question was Tony Macken, a young man who is can't fly himself and therefore monitors FAA channels. He claims Decker called to say he was making an unscheduled stop. His story doesn't add up: he called the FAA at 9:35, but Decker would have passed out from CO poisoning at 9:20. What happened in those fifteen minutes?

Macken admits to being with Adam Decker's wife, Wendy, at the time. She asked him to turn off the radio when she heard her husband's voice. When Horatio asks Wendy about the incident, she claims she was embarrassed because she was in bed with Tony at the time. She claims her tryst with Tony was revenge for an affair she was certain Adam was having.

Horatio starts to walk around the house, and focuses in on one of the speakers of the stereo system. He finds a video camera recording device in it. Delko examines the camera--it came from an outside source. Wendy suspects Wes, but there's a camera in his house, too. The same is true of the Lathams. Calleigh and Delko find a transmitter in a tree and follow its signals to Tony Macken's house.

Alexx tells Speedle their dead valet was killed by a brain aneurism. The bomb was in a cell phone, a high end one. Speedle suspects it was stolen, and believes he'll be able to trace it using the serial number.

Delko and Horatio arrive with a warrant to search Tony Macken's house. Sure enough, the CSIs find a VCR and a set of tapes, "Amateur Wives." They also discover a tool kit, with one drill bit missing--the one that matches the size of the hole in the pipe of Decker's plane. Tony claims he loaned it to Jeff Latham.

Latham says he doesn't know enough about planes to have drilled the hole. Horatio is still suspicious, and tells Latham that the plane was sabotaged overnight. He informs Jeff that he'll be looking at Macken's video tapes.

Speedle traces the stolen cell phone to a rich teen boy, who he has brought in for questioning. Speedle tells the kid he knows that he was the one who put the explosive in his own phone. The kid says he was just messing around, but Speedle tells him he's looking at three to five years in jail.

Calleigh and Delko watch the tape and learn that Latham had bedroom problems. His wife throws a pillow in frustration at the clock radio where the camera was located, thus obscuring the camera's view for the night.

Speedle examines a pillowcase from the Deckers' house, where he discovers traces of vegetable oil. A formula had been written on it, in mascara. Mascara that matches a sample from the Latham's house.

Horatio's suspicions have landed on Heddy Latham. She tells him that she and Adam Decker were in love. But Horatio realizes that the formula on the pillow was the formula for the state-of-the-art plane that Wes and Adam were planning on building--and that it was Heddy's idea. Adam betrayed her, and that is why Horatio is convinced she killed him. But she's not under arrest yet.

Delko goes back to the hanger to get the final crucial piece of evidence--Decker's goggles that Heddy used while drilling the hole. When Horatio goes to arrest her, Heddy gets in her plane and makes a run for it. Horatio cuts her off in the CSI Hummer. As she's being cuffed, Horatio tells her, "Almost."

Analysis:

A whodunit in the classical sense, "Not Landing" is a treat to watch. We're given a handful of unsavory characters in a posh setting and get to watch as suspicion leapfrogs from one to the next. From the business partner reluctant to be part of a drug run to the truly creepy neighbor who planted the cameras, we have quite a list of suspects, and the CSIs dutifully follow lead after lead until Horatio gets his woman.

There are a few too many coincidences to make the episode perfect, but it's so much fun that I believe it transcends them. Still, it's awfully convenient that there just happens to be a creepy neighbor that puts cameras in the houses of all of the suspects. And it's also terribly convenient that Heddy just happens to throw a pillow over the clock radio with the camera in it. The cameras ultimately don't come to much other than to expose Macken as a first class creep, but having Heddy's pillow land on the clock radio was a bit too convenient. Not that it matters--Horatio caught her anyway.

The B-plot with the dead valet was pretty much utterly pointless. It took away from a complex A-story that didn't really need the support of a secondary plot. In fact, the B-story is so thin that one has to wonder if the writers needed to fill about five or six extra minutes in the episode. It's a pity because another twist in the A-story--perhaps one that showed Heddy and Macken in cahoots with the video cameras (it would also explain the convenient pillow throw)--would have been far more intriguing.

The guest actors were strong this week, especially Anson Mount as Macken, who comes off as creepy and flip even before we learn about the video cameras. It's no wonder Calleigh bet that it was him, not Latham, who planted the cameras when Delko suggested a wager. Susan Misner also gave Heddy an easy arrogance that befit her station. She probably never thought she'd get caught. Her getaway attempt at the end was exciting to watch, even if there wasn't much doubt about the outcome. It's a rare day when Horatio doesn't nab the bad guy (or gal).

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a writer for Trek Today and CSI Files.