CSI: New York--'Obsession'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 18, 2007 - 9:14 AM GMT

See Also: 'Obsession' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A cold winter's day in New York brings two dead bodies for the CSIs: a barely dressed young man in a shopping cart, and an elegantly dressed one in an unused condo. The man in the shopping cart was participating in the "Idiot Run," where New Yorkers race each other in shopping carts. Danny and Detective Angell head to the after party, where a young woman named Rita identifies their victim as Bruce Abbott, a member of her team. After their cart crashed, disqualifying them, Bruce wandered off to sabotage other teams. A woman named Carla, dressed as a dominatrix, fell victim to Bruce's machinations: she tripped on a grate he covered with snow, causing her to break her heel and toppling her team. When Dr. Hammerback tells Danny and Dr. Hawkes that Bruce was apparently kicked to death by a woman's foot, they take foot impressions from both Carla and Rita, but neither is a match.

Detective Flack tells Mac and Stella that the apartment the well-dressed man was found in has been unoccupied for quite some time. The CSIs find rope and duct tape, indicating a kidnapping, but Dr. Hammerback tells them their victim, who was stabbed to death, doesn't have any marks on him indicating he was bound. The CSIs theorize he might have been the kidnapper, but where is the victim? They briefly suspect there might have been a second kidnapper involved because of a blood pool that was cleaned up in the condo, but it leads them to an ex-con named Artemis Hunt, who is able to prove he was in Atlantic City at the time of the murder. A car outside the condo gives Mac and Stella an ID on their victim: Alex Martin, a real estate agent handling the sale of the condo. Horse hairs and wood shavings in the trunk of his car lead Mac and Stella to their kidnap victim: Elizabeth Grayson, who owned a horse at a nearby stable and hasn't been seen in two days.

Danny and Hawkes turn to the shopping cart Bruce Abbott was discovered in, going over it carefully. Danny finds a white dog hair, and Hawkes is able to determine the pilfered cart came from a store called Delfina's Market. They take a trip to the store and find a white dog in the alley beside it...as well as a prosthetic female leg with nailpolish and blood on it. When Danny spots a homeless man he saw getting upset during the shopping cart race, the CSIs realize they have their killer. Bruce stole the cart from the man, and when he came across a very drunk Bruce with the damaged cart, he killed him in a fit of rage, claiming the cart was all he had. Flack talks to Elizabeth's ex-husband, Terry, who claims to still love her and is concerned about her disappearance. Elizabeth turns up at Sacred Heart hospital, claiming she was kidnapped and raped by Alex Martin. She admits to struggling with Alex and then stabbing him and fleeing, telling Mac she tossed the knife in a garbage can on her way out.

Mac is bothered by the lack of defensive wounds on Alex and the fact that there's semen evidence indicating Elizabeth slept with someone after Alex, and he decides to return to the scene with Stella. Outside the one of the condo's windows, Stella spots two large shoeprints in the snow, and bags a cigarette beside them, while Mac recovers the knife. Mac confronts Elizabeth about her lie and she admits she and Alex were lovers who were spicing things up by experimenting with rescue sex and bondage. Stella corners Terry in interrogation: she bagged a snowflake from the shoe impression that proves he was there at the time of the murder, and knows that the DNA on the cigarette and the knife will reveal him as Alex's killer. Terry has no regrets: after Elizabeth left him for Alex, he was determined to prove his love for her. He tells Stella that Elizabeth was so impressed by his willingness to kill for her that she loves him again, making the murder worthwhile in his eyes.

Analysis:

There are times when I think I've seen too many episodes of the CSI shows, and watching "Obsession" was one such time. Whenever I see an episode that breaks the mold or genuinely surprises me, I'm truly impressed, because after literally hundreds of episodes, that's not an easy thing to do. I'm at the point where I don't mind seeing the twists coming--so long as I don't spot them too early on.

There were two things I picked out in "Obsession" right away. One was the supposed fatal female foot that killed Bruce Abbott. I was fairly certain Bruce wasn't killed by a woman kicking him to death with her foot. Though Danny hypothesized Kung Fu, I wasn't surprised when it turned out in fact to be a man that killed Bruce. More often than not, when a killer on a CSI show is suspected to be female, that assumption turns out to be erroneous. Granted, nothing will ever surpass the eyebrow raising genetic mutation from "The Dove Commission" where the male killer just happened to have female DNA, but in this case I had serious doubts that the killer was a woman...and I was right.

The same is true in the second case--once again, a murder that first appears to have been committed by a woman turns out to have in fact been perpetrated by a man. Though I suspected the besotted ex-husband from the moment he appeared on screen, that's not what irritated me. It was the "twist" that Elizabeth and Alex were acting out their fantasies that was perhaps supposed to be shocking but really wasn't at all. Maybe it was the champagne and strawberries, or maybe it was the fact that people in CSI shows are often into kinky sex.

That predictability might have been forgivable had more of the focus been on the diabolical Elizabeth rather than her hapless lover or smitten ex-husband. Chad Morgan (who has now appeared on all three CSI shows) clearly has the range to make Elizabeth truly chilling and soulless: she switches with ease from traumatized victim in the hospital with Mac and Stella to a callous spectator who watched her ex-husband kill her lover and then was impressed by it. Keeping the focus on her would have made for a disturbing ending.

Instead, we're treated to an absurd scene in which Stella pins the murder on Terry using a snowflake. This is one of those twists that probably looked great on the page, but should have never seen the light of day in an actual episode. I realize the writers face a pretty difficult challenge in not falling back on DNA or fingerprints all the time, but...a snowflake? How about the depth of the shoe impressions in relation to the amount of snow that had fallen? Anything that didn't require Stella to consult the national weather service would have been easier to swallow.

"Obsession" is by no means a terrible episode (save for that snowflake speech). But it's missing the elements that could have made it rise above the predictability of the cases. Why didn't we see Stella connect with Elizabeth more initially, given how similar Elizabeth's situation seemed to be to her own in "All Access"? Or, why not go the other route and have Stella, rather than Mac, be the one skeptical of Elizabeth's situation rather than Mac? After all, she believed the woman who claimed to have killed her attacker in "Open and Shut" only to be proved painfully wrong. An opportunity for some great character work was missed here.

There are still a few nice character moments in the episode. Eddie Cahill once again proves how important Flack's snarky humor is to the show when he tells Mac and Stella he locked up the kids who found Alex's body "for fun," and again when he gleefully arrests Artemis because he doesn't like him. There's something so quintessentially New York about Flack--he's smart, sarcastic, tough and funny. His clever lines give the show some of its funniest moments.

The friendship between Danny and Hawkes is always fun to watch as well. Chatty Danny and the normally reserved doctor are an unlikely duo, but as "And Here's to You, Mrs. Azrael" and "Raising Shane" proved, there's a deepening bond between the two characters. Danny inviting Hawkes over to his mother's house for dinner so the good doctor can sample mozzarella might not have been a crucial plot point, but it was a cute moment.

As was Danny teasing Adam about the cold. A.J. Buckley's nerdy Adam is becoming a crucial character in his own right. Just as Sid Hammerback made an increasing impression with his quirks, Adam is likewise drawing attention with his anecdotes, be they complaints about enduring the New York cold after growing up in Arizona or confessions about Suicide Girls.

Speaking of the Suicide Girls, there's a nice bit of continuity in this episode that fits in with Nixon Suicide hitting on Danny at the end of "Oedipus Hex". This time around it's the dominatrix Carla making a pass at Danny, which he bashfully turns down, claiming he's not into "fun." It seems that Danny attracts strong women like honey attracts bees. Since Lindsay in no way fits the bill, might there be a strong woman waiting in the wings that he will say yes to?

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.