CSI: New York--'Officer Blue'By Kristine Huntley
Posted at December 3, 2004 - 11:18 PM GMT
See Also: 'Officer Blue' Episode Guide
Two mounted officers patrol Central Park on a sunny afternoon. One of them heads towards a scuffle when one man attacks another, but before he can intervene, the officer is shot and falls from his horse. Spooked, the horse runs off and is struck by a taxi. An agitated Don Flack, who says he heard the shot from his squad car on the 6th avenue, tells Mac Taylor the shot sounded like a sonic boom. Mac examines the body of the fallen cop, Officer Velasquez, and notes that the bullet went right through his protective gear. He was shot in the back. Looking at the buildings around the park, Mac suspects a sniper based on the bullet's trajectory.
Mac sends Flack to get statements and Danny Messer and Aiden Burn to hunt for the bullet. Officers comb the park, and Mac finds a discarded cell phone. He tells Stella Bonasera to have Danny get the surveillance tapes from the surrounding buildings. In the morgue, Dr. Sheldon Hawkes tells Mac that the shot from the high power rifle to the back was the cause of death. In the lab, Mac uses the vest and a dummy to trace the trajectory of the bullet, and realizes that it must have gone into the officer's horse, Blue.
Mac speaks with Dr. Huff, the veterinarian who treated Blue. Dr. Huff tells Mac he didn't see any signs of a bullet, but given the horse's extensive injuries, he could have missed it. An X-ray of the horse provides the answer: the bullet is located between the horse's fourth and fifth vertebrae. Mac wants it removed, but Huff says that the surgery could kill the horse. Mac believes that solving Velasquez's murder takes priority over the horse's life and tells Huff he'll get an order for the surgery.
Danny scans the park with a camera and computer to get a map of Central Park and the surrounding buildings in the hopes of figuring out which building the bullet came from. They start to analyze the map, but when another case comes in, Mac sends Aiden to handle it. Danny is able to trace the shooter to the Patterson building.
Aiden meets Detective Charlie Thacker in the alley at Lex and 94th street where the body of nineteen-year-old Lenny Starks has been discovered. Aiden notes a large burn on Lenny's cheek. She bristles when she notices Thacker paying her more attention that the victim: disgusted, she tells him to not check her out when there's a dead kid in the street.
Mac and Stella examine the empty office in the Patterson building that Danny traced the shooter to. Stella tests the window, which is positive for gun shot residue. Mac finds a print on the outside of the window, which Stella lifts and then runs through AFIS. The print matches a man named Richard Smockton who has an arrest record for unlawful assembly--he's an animal rights activist. When the CSIs question Smockton, he tells them he rented out the office several months ago, but when Mac notices a large goiter on his neck, he's able to eliminate Stockton as a suspect. The man has Graves' disease which, among other things causes tremors of the hands. Stockton couldn't have been the shooter.
Dr. Hawkes tells Aiden that Lenny died because of trauma to his cranium--the pattern indicates his head may have been in a vice of some sort. The burns on his face are second degree and recent. Aiden decides to get a tissue sample.
Using the surveillance tapes to get an image of the man who attacked the old man in Central Park just before the cop was shot. Danny matches his face to the mug shot of one Willie Chancey. Danny notes that Chancey picked a fight for no reason and also that he looked up one of the buildings before attacking the man. Mac is impressed; Danny gloats that they don't call him "Eagle Eye" for nothing.
Mac, Stella and Flack question Chancey. It was his cell phone found at the scene and they want to know about the fight. Chancey claims the old man was complaining about a handbag he bought from Chancey's stand, but the CSIs know Chancey started the fight. When they ask him about the last call on his cell phone, Chancey claims it was a wrong number, but the CSIs know that this, too, is a lie, because the call lasted for eighteen minutes.
When Mac gets back to his office DA Tom Mitford is there, asking for clemency for Blue, who was donated to the department by an officer's widow. The widow and her daughter are on their way to New York to say goodbye to Blue, and Mitford asks if Mac can hold off on the order for the surgery until they arrive. Mac says he can't make any promises--the investigation is a priority.
Stella has both bad news and good for Mac: Chancey is back on the street, but Danny has the number of the cell phone that Chancey connected with. The phone is on the way to LaGuardia. Flack and Stella get there just in time, catching the man, Jerald Brown, on a flight out of New York. Brown claims to have been on his way to Los Angeles to visit his girlfriend, but he doesn't say much more. The CSIs have a warrant to search his residence and Stella swabs his hands.
Aiden runs the sample from Lenny's burn and learns that baker's yeast and cornmeal, two of the components of pizza, were burned into his face. Aiden suspects a pizza parlor, and goes to the one closest to where Lenny was found. She checks the oven there and also the pizza girl's hands, which are burned. Before Aiden can get much further, the parlor owner, Nick Vincenzo, comes back and asks her if he can help her. When he shows her his gun and several shady men behind him, it's clear he has no intention of helping her. Outnumbered, Aiden backs down and leaves the scene.
Lab tech Jane Paulson is on her way out when she runs into Mac in the lab. He's making a 3-D replica of the bullet that's still inside the horse. Jane asks if he's an animal lover, but he demurs. He shows her the replica, and then leaves to compare it to a poster guide to bullets. He narrows it down to either an M-16 or an AR-15. When Stella sees what he's doing, she asks him where the real bullet is. When he tells her it's still in the horse, she gets upset: the bullet is key evidence. He says until they have the gun, they can't match the bullet anyway, so a few hours shouldn't matter. The two bicker back and forth, neither backing down. Mac finally sends her to Brown's house to search it.
She finds pieces of an AR-15 around Brown's house. She takes it back to the lab and assembles it. She takes it to Mac and throws it on his desk, telling him it's time to get the bullet out of the horse. Luckily, the widow and her young daughter have arrived, and the girl bids farewell to Blue before Dr. Huff leads him away as Mac and Stella look on.
Aiden tells Mac what happened in the pizzeria and he tells her that leaving was the right thing to do. He theorizes that it's some sort of sports betting ring. Mac tells Aiden to go back to the pizza parlor--with backup this time.
Dr. Huff tells Mac that Blue has survived the surgery, and Mac fires the AR-15 from Brown's apartment at the lab, but when Stella compares the bullets, they don't match up. A phone call from Flack reveals that they have another murder on their hands: Willie Chauncey's body has been found in the trunk of his car. Stella and Danny go over the car, and Danny notices that the radio is on, the windshield wipers and the air conditioning, despite the fact that it's winter. He suspects a secret compartment was built into the car. They take the car apart and find the compartment, which is housing an unassembled AR-15.
Aiden, backed up by Thacker and several other officers, arrives at the pizza parlor. She compares a picture of Lenny's face to the pizza girl's burned fingers, but she and Thacker look at the over and realize the pizza girl couldn't have slammed Lenny's head in the oven if she was holding him with her right hand. Someone else slammed his head in the oven. Aiden brings Nick Vincenzo in for questioning and tells him that she thinks he slammed Lenny's head into the oven over a money dispute and then stabbed him to death after he left the pizza joint. Vincenzo admits to teaching Lenny a lesson by slamming his head into the oven, but denies stabbing him. Aiden smiles--she lied about the stabbing to get him to admit to slamming his head in the oven, which is actually what killed him.
The striations on the bullet from the AR-15 found in Chancey's trunk matches those on the bullet that killed Velasquez. A print on the rifle matches Brown, who is a former marksman from the army who was dishonorably discharged from the army. Mac theorizes he killed Willie, who was used as the lure in Brown's plan, because he became a threat. Brown finally starts talking: Willie wanted to go to the cops so he shot him. Brown loathes cops--his father was put in jail on trumped up drug charges and was killed in a fight over a card game. Mac asks if Velasquez was the cop responsible for his father's arrest, but Brown smugly tells him he picked a random cop--an eye for an eye. Mac is disgusted--he believes Brown should be put to death without a trial or jury, since that's essentially what he did to Velasquez.
Mac and Stella change out of their dress garb after Velasquez's funeral. Stella apologizes for giving Mac a hard time about the horse and says she's glad to see him acting like the "old Mac." Mac says she's a fine CSI and he wouldn't do the job without her. She says he would, but he wouldn't be as good. He smiles and allows, "Maybe." They shake hands as friends.
"Officer Blue" is one of the best New York episodes to date, because not only does it have a good, solid story and decent character development, but it also has character conflict. Because Gary Sinise is usually so soft-spoken and even-tempered, when he gets upset, viewers sit up and take notice. When he argued with Danny in "A Man A Mile", Danny backed down, but Stella doesn't here, giving them the opportunity to delve into their differences. Mac, though he didn't seen entirely concerned about the horse's plight and tells Jane he's not an animal lover, defends letting the horse live a few more hours. I suspect the reason is the officer's widow and her young daughter, rather than the horse. Mac's attitude changed subtly after Mitford told him about her. There's no overt mention of Mac's wife in this episode, but the message comes across all the same. Mac wants to help out in any way he can someone else who has suffered a similar loss.
But to get that point across there needs to be someone on the other side of the fence, and unsurprisingly, it's Stella. Though it didn't make me like her character any more, I didn't find Stella's attitude as off-putting as I have in past weeks, perhaps because I'm starting to understand her character better. In a way, of all of the characters on the various CSI shows, she's closest to Grissom in personality. She just doesn't seem to relate well to other people. Stella is all business, and it's not so much that she's not compassionate, but that she simply doesn't view the world in those terms. She's not thinking about the widow and her daughter saying goodbye to the horse--she's thinking about solving the case, period. I'm not sure if I'd call her a scientist in the way Grissom is, but she's a methodical person, which is perhaps why she's so easily frustrated when the evidence doesn't show her what she expects to see.
Aiden also gets a tough case on her plate this time around. The first scene in the pizza parlor was intense and she was wise to back down. Aiden strikes me as someone with especially sound judgment. And she's brave--she went back to the shop and caught Vincenzo with a clever lie. But what's with Thacker? I hope they're not setting up a romance here, because he came off as sleazy. Good for Aiden for setting him straight when he was checking her out at the crime scene.
Flack doesn't get much to more to do in this episode than he did in previous weeks, but he makes a strong entrance, his anger seeping through his words when he tells Mac that a mounted officer was shot. I hope the writers give Eddie Cahill more to do; he's an expressive actor and deserves more to work with.
I chuckled a bit at Danny's mention of his nickname, "Eagle Eye," but it's good to know he has a special talent to make up for what a poor judge of character he is. I was glad Mac didn't arbitrarily assign him the case he gave Aiden, because I think if Danny had been threatened in the pizza parlor he wouldn't have backed down, and Mac would have an injured or dead CSI on his hands.
Hill Harper is given even less to work with than Cahill is, but he's getting across Hawkes', well, weirdnesses, for lack of a better term. Hawkes is clearly fascinated by each case that's brought before him--almost enthusiastic. Not in a morbid way, but he, too, is like Grissom in that he clearly is consumed by what he does. Harper deserves more to work with, too.
The only complaint I have about this engaging episode is that Brown's confession at the end of the episode that he just picked a random officer to shoot. It makes it sadder, yes, and allows Mac to get enraged, but it's not quite as satisfying as I'd hoped. Maybe if Brown had showed more contempt for the CSIs or Flack it would have been more convincing, but as it was he acted like any other sullen suspect. I was surprised by Mac's outburst that Brown deserved to be put to death. It's rare to see a character make this kind of strong statement, but it fit: Mac is utterly horrified by what this man has done, as he well should be.
Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.