CSI: New York--'Not What It Looks Like'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at September 28, 2006 - 8:28 AM GMT

See Also: 'Not What It Looks Like' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

When three women dressed as Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's rob a jewelry store, they leave the assistant manager dead in their wake. Stella quickly determines the death was an accident--the security gate hit the trigger of one of the fallen guns, causing it to fire at the hapless man, but Lindsay notes it's still murder since it happened during the robbery. The CSIs discover that the women escaped out an old air vent that no one employed in the store knew about. Inside it, Lindsay discovers the discarded disguises and rifles. Danny puzzles over the lack of stress marks on the shattered glass from the jewelry cases, and brings in his dog to prove a theory he has. He thinks the women used a sign wave generator to shatter the glass, and he proves his theory when his dog reacts to the wave generator and a piece of glass he's testing shatters, leaving no stress marks. When a young woman is caught trying to get a necklace appraised, the CSIs think they have a real lead, until it turns out she was at the scene and simply picked up a necklace that dropped by her when the robbers were collecting their bounty.

Mac and Detective Angell arrive at the site of a building demolition, where the mummified body of a woman suspected to be Pauline Rayburn, the wife of Councilman Matthew Rayburn, has been found. Peyton Driscoll and Sid Hammerback confirm her identity, and assess that she's been dead for three to four weeks. A cadre of reporters and an eager young ADA named Jeremy Bloomfield are eager for Mac to confirm she's been murdered, but Mac refuses to jump to conclusions. When Peyton declares the young woman died of a heart attack, he urges her to go back and reassess the COD, and she counters that he needs to bring her evidence that will give her an idea of where to start. Mac and Adam return to the apartment to take a computer image of it. Mac finds a dead beetle stuck to the wall. Prints in the apartment lead them to Sal Bavado, who admits he was hired by Rayburn to dump the body, but he denies killing her. ADA Bloomfield is eager to arrest Rayburn, but Mac urges him to hold off until they have conclusive evidence of something more than a body dump.

Adam and Mac try to puzzle out conflicting evidence: the body is mummified, indicating low humidity, but the presence of the beetle indicates the humidity was high. The body was placed right in front of the air conditioning, suggesting someone was hoping to mask the smell from it. Mac realizes the power must have gone off at some point, allowing the beetles to enter, and then come back on. The fluctuation in temperature could have thrown Peyton's autopsy findings off. He shares his findings with her, and she reexamines Pauline, this time finding evidence of fatal blows to the jaw and neck, as well as the distinct imprint of a Claddagh ring identical to the one Rayburn wears. The evidence is finally conclusive, and Rayburn is arrested.

Blue ink on the gloves from the jewelry store robbers proves to be Prussian blue print ink, and the CSIs realize the robbers used the blue prints to the original building to plan their heist. Sure enough, an engineering student named Natalie Letterman checked out the prints from the library not long before the robbery. The CSIs head to her apartment where they are shocked to find Natalie lying on the bed, a bullet in her chest. She was shot at close range, execution-style. Hammerback, disturbed by the girl's resemblance to his daughter, shows Stella red granules he found in the girl's eye. The granules prove to be powder from blood diamonds, unique to the Congo river area. When the CSIs view surveillance footage from the store, they spot an African man who appears to be attempting to sell diamonds to the store manager. The CSIs turn to airport surveillance and records and discover a man named Mosi Gheti flew into JFK from the Democratic Republic of the Congo two days prior to the robbery.

Realizing the remaining three women are in grave danger, the CSIs track his rental car and rush to his location where they notice a frightened, frantic woman rushing to the building. Stella stops her, recognizing her from a picture in Natalie's room. She's one of the robbers, Beth Larson, and she tearfully tells them unless she takes the jewelry up to Mosi, he'll kill the third woman, Dana. The CSIs refuse to let her, and Lindsay quickly agrees to go undercover to make the drop and secure Dana. Armed with a light grenade in the jewelry bag, she cautiously enters the room where Mosi and his associate are holding Dana, but he quickly realizes she's not Beth. Lindsay drops the bag and the rest of the team rushes in, securing Mosi and freeing Dana. A concerned Danny locates Lindsay and they embrace.

Analysis:

Is it just me, or are the writers at CSI: New York working a little bit harder to make the episode titles a bit more meaningful? It seems flat out (and rather dull) titles like "Jamalot" or "Super Men" are out. In "People with Money", both cases dealt with the corrupting influence of wealth; this time around we're treated to a healthy dose of appearance versus reality. What first appears to be an accidental death turns out to be anything but, while a seemingly straightforward robbery actually has hidden complications only revealed on further examination. It's nice to see CSI: NY digging a little deeper with its titles.

Like the aforementioned "People with Money," "Not What It Looks Like" is penned by executive producers Pam Veasey and Peter M. Lenkov, and like that episode, it's a superior entry in the series' oeuvre. Not only does it feature some nice character moments, but it leads up to an exciting ending, a nice departure from the typical scenes where the CSIs put the case together and zero in on the bad guy. It's a nice change of pace.

The opening scene where the three women dressed as Holly Golightly stroll into the jewelry store and pull out their guns is masterfully done. It's a great teaser; certainly the sight of three women dressed as Audrey Hepburn's iconic character is surprising, but the last thing the viewer expects them to do is to pull out rifles and hold the jewelry store up.

The idea that the robbers are three smart college students trying to pay their rent and tuition might have ended up being humorous if one of the girls hadn't been found dead halfway through the episode, raising the stakes. What started out as an investigation to find the women quickly turns into a desperate race to save their lives. Even the excellent Robert Joy, often used for offbeat comic relief, gets a somber moment when he admits to Stella that he's shaken by Natalie's resemblance to his own daughter. I'm glad Peyton's presence didn't sideline Hammerback; he's too good a character to let him fall to the wayside, and will only become more compelling if the writers continue to add layers of depth to his character.

That's not to say the episode is without comic relief. Both Hawkes and Stella clearly get a kick out of Danny bringing his dog into work. To Danny's consternation, Hawkes points out that dogs often come to resemble their owners, making for a nice transition when Stella enters the lab and a pouty Danny quickly heads her off before she, too, can make the comparison. The humorous exchanges lead to an impressive demonstration in which Danny proves his theory about the glass being shattered by a sign wave generator.

The CSIs are able to trace Mosi Gheti awfully easily in what is perhaps a nod to the efficiency of Homeland Security. Not only are they able to find out his name via the passport he used to check in at JFK, but they also track his purchases and are able to learn he rented a car and access its GPS. It happened awfully fast, but at that point in the story, I frankly didn't care--I was completely and totally absorbed.

The final moments were thrilling, and I found myself for once impressed with the character of Lindsay Monroe. Usually the character is far too taken with her own cleverness, but I didn't sense any selfishness or desire for glory in her snap decision to pose as Beth and deliver the jewels to Mosi. I also liked her resolve when he aimed the gun at her; she froze momentarily but then coolly dropped the bag to the ground and set off the light grenade.

Still, I can't help but wish the title applied to the burgeoning romance between Danny and Lindsay, which remains unconvincing and turgid. Ending the episode with their hug took away from Lindsay's heroic moment; Danny was an unnecessary element in the scene, as he has been much of the time in her character's development. I would have rather seen Lindsay take down Mosi or free Dana. So much of her character development has been wrapped up in her relationship to Danny, and I would have preferred she have this moment to herself. Still, it was kind of cool to see the guy waiting on the sidelines while the girl goes in to save the day.

The B-story is less exciting but no less engaging. The fact that Pauline Rayburn's body was dumped in a building scheduled for demolition made it pretty likely that she was indeed murdered, but there was enough confusion to the situation given Peyton's initial findings that her death was due to natural causes. I liked following the back and forth of the story and trying to follow the very complex conditions that caused the confusion.

Mac as ever is typical Mac, unwilling to get ahead of the evidence. But even Mac relies on his hunches, at least enough to question the autopsy results. Though Peyton is convinced Pauline died of cardiac arrest, Mac can't ignore the fact that her body was found in a building that was about to be torn down. Nor does he allow the eager young ADA to get ahead of himself. True to form, Mac is determined to listen to the evidence alone--all the evidence.

Claire Forlani once again proves she's a great addition to the cast; she sparkles vivaciously in every scene she's in. She and Gary Sinise have fantastic chemistry, and I like that his disagreement over her findings didn't lead to a petty fight. Like Mac, Peyton is a scientist; she coolly tells him to bring her some idea of where to start.

Emmanuelle Vaugier's Jennifer Angell is also a standout. She's clearly still a little wet behind the ears; she's thrown by the mummified body (though it's hard to imagine Flack wouldn't have had some choice words had he been on the case). With fresh faces like Angell and Peyton and smart, gripping stories, New York feels reinvigorated this season. May the trend continue.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.