CSI: New York--'Personal Foul'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 8, 2008 - 10:34 AM GMT

See Also: 'Personal Foul' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Danny and Flack are enjoying watching the New York Empires play basketball when a fan wins a drawing to shoot a basket--and potentially win a million dollars if he makes it. Dougan Scott is the lucky winner--after kissing all of the cheerleaders, he makes the shot--and drops dead almost immediately after. Sid determines he died from atropine poisoning from the belladonna plant, but notes that it wasn't injected. Lindsay surmises it may have been ingested or delivered via direct contact. Danny questions Lamont Henford, a concession vendor who got into a fight with Dougan, but he claims after the brawl he went home early. After analyzing twelve lipstick prints from the cheerleaders lifted from Dougan's face, the CSIs determine one of the cheerleaders had the poison in her lipstick. After taking new samples of the cheerleaders' lip impressions, Danny gets a match to the head cheerleader, Paula Tolomeo. When Lindsay analyzes video from the game, she sees that the ticket Paula picked out wasn't even for Dougan's seat. The CSIs get a warrant to search Paula's apartment. In addition to finding both belladonna and its antidote, Lindsay discovers a picture of an obese woman who turns out to in fact be Paula--two years ago, when Dougan Scott made fun of her in the stands after she won the million-dollar toss. Paula dropped the weight and made the squad so she would have the opportunity to kill Dougan. Stunned, Danny tells her he hopes it was worth it.

The taxi cab killer strikes again, putting Mac in the hot seat. The body of a woman is found in a fountain in Brill Park, called in by Abraham Katz, the man in charge of removing the coins from the fountain each night. Mac angrily demands the coins Katz removed from around the woman's dead body. Mac fields a call from his stepson Reed Garrett asking for information on the taxi cab killer for his blog, but Mac refuses, telling Reed he's crossing the line. At a press conference about the serial killer, Reed questions Mac once again, this time publicly, asking if he'd take a cab in the city right now. Mac says no, angering Jordan Gates, who tells Mac he's panicking the public and jeopardizing business in the city. Hawkes traces the tarps the killer wraps his victims in to Kings County College, where he and Stella discover similar tarps at a construction site, along with tire treads. Stella traces the tires and a dispatch button found among the coins from the fountain to a cab company, where the harried manager tells her and Hawkes a cabbie quit in a rage several months ago. The manager shows Hawkes where the man punched a hole in the wall, and the CSI is able to get a DNA sample from it. He gets a hit on the DNA linking it to a case in Rochester. The case turns out to be the murder of a prostitute who was found with similar marks on her back to those found on the victims of the taxi cab killer.

Mac angrily tells Reed off for making up a story and naming him as the source. He warns Reed to be careful who he messes with. Reed gets a mysterious text naming a meeting point and promising more information on the taxi cab killer. Hawkes finds drugs in the killer's blood that indicate he was being treated for extreme psychosis. He and Stella are able to trace the drugs to a recently closed facility named Mannix Asylum, and bring the patient records to Mac. One of them looks like a promising suspect, but the lead turns cold when the only name on the case file turns out to be "John Doe." Mac decides to put his entire team on the case, making finding the killer their top priority. After trying to talk to Lindsay at the lab and being rebuffed, Danny calls her and tells he misses her and that he's sorry for shutting her out. She asks him if he has any idea how hard he is to love, but when he invites her over, she tells him she has to go. Rikki Sandoval stops by Danny's apartment with a jar of sugar for him. He starts to tell her they need to end their affair, but she cuts him off, telling him she's moving away--that the memories of Ruben are too much for her. Finished with her 'rain walk,' Lindsay heads to the subway only to find it closed. As she debates hailing a cab, Reed gets into one, disappointed the person he was supposed to meet with the tip never showed up. He tries to talk to the cabbie, but the man ignores him, driving off with Reed trapped in the back....

Analysis:

Mac Taylor is under the gun in this episode, as the taxi cab killer who first appeared in "Like Water for Murder" strikes again, this time dumping the body of his victim in a fountain rather than the ocean. The killer's profile increases exponentially with this victim, forcing Mac to give a press conference in which he admits he wouldn't get into a cab in the city with the killer on the loose. It's a bold but truthful statement from Mac, who isn't going to lie to the press--and more importantly, the public--in the face of a very real threat. It's this kind of integrity that gets Mac in trouble; unless absolutely forced to, he won't play political games or downplay the importance of an investigation.

This angers Jordan Gates, the mayor's criminal justice coordinator, who worries about the economic impact of Mac's pronouncement on the city. Mac saved her life in "DOA For a Day", but Jordan isn't cutting him any slack here, accusing him of creating a panic. Mac counters with telling her he'd rather be unemployed than dead, and asks her if she's going to take responsibility for the next person who winds up dead. Ever the politician, she has no comment to that. Jessalyn Gilsig brings a fiery intensity to what is, at least in this episode, a rather clichéd and thankless role--the opposition for the put-upon hero.

Mac's stepson Reed, the up-and-coming blogger/journalist, doesn't make his life any easier either. Reed calls Mac early in the episode, hoping to score a hot tip. Mac is immediately frustrated, reminding Reed he gave the boy his number for personal use, not to try to wheedle scoop out him. Reed has all the enthusiasm of a young, idealistic journalist right out of college, believing he's chasing the big story and that his reporting will crack the case. It's a naive perspective, but Kyle Gallner conveys Reed's passion and drive with the authenticity needed to keep Reed from simply becoming a rather route thorn in Mac's side.

Which isn't to suggest Reed isn't an irritant to Mac; the CSI is definitely frustrated when he learns Reed has alluded to a source in the NYPD despite the fact that Mac refused to talk to him about the case. Mac cautions Reed to be careful who he messes with. Reed isn't sure whether Mac is referring to himself or to the killer, though he soon finds out when he responds to a text asking him to meet in a secluded area for information on the taxi cab killer. Not only does Reed go, but after he gets "stood up" he actually gets in a cab. Though Lindsay finding the subway closed down and contemplating getting a cab is a momentary red herring, it's Reed who ends up in danger at the episode's end. Because Reed is a recurring character and not a regular, his fate truly is in question.

The strongest lead the CSIs have on the killer at the end of the episode is that he's a patient released from a mental hospital, but I have my doubts. The taxi cab killer, at least from what little we've seen of him, doesn't seem like someone suffering from extreme psychosis. His pattern seems methodical and rational and he seems calm and collected anytime we see him in his cab, so much so that he can drive around the streets of New York City while literally killing someone in the back seat of his cab. Maybe I'm wrong and the killer will turn out to be someone from this mental hospital, but I have my doubts. I smell another red herring.

Which brings me to something that frustrated me in this episode: I hate it when the CSIs miss the obvious. I don't mind figuring out something before they do if it's a clever, subtle twist, but it's irritating when the team misses things that seem obvious. I would have expected Mac to comment on the taxi cab killer's methodology, but I can forgive him for losing a little perspective when he's literally being hounded on all sides. But how did Flack, Danny and Lindsay all walk into Paula's apartment, find large clothes, no food and a picture of a heavy-set blonde woman and not think, "Hey, maybe Paula used to be heavy!" Are all three of them really that clueless? Lindsay had to run through several databases before she thought to compare the picture of the heavyset woman to Paula's. As soon as I saw the picture of Paula, I had it figured out--the CSIs shouldn't have taken so long to catch up.

I'm rapidly becoming convinced that Danny Messer is one of the most damaged men on television. I hope at some point we find out what exactly made Danny the deeply confused and troubled man he is in the show--some extreme childhood trauma perhaps? I am starting to think that Danny likes abuse or at least self-flagellation; in this season alone, he's slept with a woman who's child died on his watch, and once again seems interested in Lindsay now that she's walking away from him and chastising him. Danny definitely appears to have abandonment issues--he got upset in season one when he felt like Mac wasn't supporting him in "On the Job", and had issues with Lindsay pulling away from him in season three. Danny clings to people who push him away or hurt him so it's no surprise that his interest in Lindsay resurfaces once he's awakened her anger.

And it is only after pushing her away for most of the season and sleeping with someone else that Danny has suddenly decided he wants to talk to her and misses her. Though we finally get to hear Danny's side, there's no real revelation here: we still don't know what he made of their relationship before he slept with Rikki. His side of the conversation is all about placating Lindsay and getting her to stop blowing him off. Danny never tells her he returns her feelings; he simply says that he misses her and he's sorry for shutting her out, two things it's clear she wants to hear. Given that she doesn't seem to know about Rikki, her reaction to Danny shutting down in the face of his enormous guilt over Ruben's death is overblown and overly dramatic, but at this point would we expect anything else from Lindsay? She's said her piece, and now refuses to hear Danny's side of the story. The fact that she's heaping more guilt upon someone already coping with a lion's share of it--and telling a massively insecure and needy man that he's hard to love--just underscores her selfishness. As ever, she remains a wholly unappealing character.

Even if I liked the two of them as a couple, I don't think I'd be able to be happy about this reconciliation. If they have been together since "Snow Day", then Danny did in fact cheat on Lindsay when he slept with Rikki in "Right Next Door", and given that Lindsay has never brought up anything other than him pushing her away, presumably she doesn't know about his tryst(s?) with Rikki. The tone of the show and Danny's interactions with both Rikki and Lindsay don't suggest that Danny was unfaithful, but with no real definition to what was or wasn't going on between Danny and Lindsay this season it's hard to determine one way or another with any certainty. There's no denying that the relationship between Danny and Lindsay is the most ill defined one on television. Were they together? Lindsay seems to think so, but it's less clear with Danny. Is he trying to repair a relationship--or simply placate someone he's afraid of losing? Given that his phone call to her doesn't include any declaration of love or similar sentiment, it would seem to be the latter. Hardly the makings of a healthy relationship.

Even the scene where Rikki bids Danny goodbye further underscores Danny's apparent confusion. He opens the door thinking she's after another hook up and tells her right off the bat that it's a bad idea, but when she tells him he's leaving, Danny immediately gets upset and starts to apologize, all his feelings of guilt rising to the surface. He clearly wants to talk to her about it but respects her wishes when she asks him to just say goodbye. Rikki still doesn't blame him for Ruben's death; she gives him a jar of sugar, telling him he's a sweet man. Despite the fact that Danny and Rikki coming together was more about consolation than romance, their interactions have been deeper and far more realistically adult than anything that's ever happened between Danny and Lindsay. Rikki's comment about Danny's sweetness shows she actually knows him, as opposed to Lindsay, who wants him to act and grieve according to her desires. Sadly, this is probably the last we'll see of Jacqueline Pinol, who in only four episodes and probably less than fifteen minutes of screentime in total, managed to make Rikki a sympathetic, three-dimensional woman.

I imagine this is the last episode that will devote any focus to the Ruben Sandoval story that began in "Child's Play". For a procedural that tends to shy away from long-running storylines, the show has done an admirable job of mining Danny's gut-wrenching guilt over the tragedy, and given Carmine Giovinazzo and much deserved chance to shine. Giovinazzo does his best work with the emotional impact the job has on Danny, and this arc put the CSI in a truly untenable position: being responsible, at least in part, for the death of a child. Giovinazzo knocked it out of the park all around, showing Danny rubbed raw and completely devastated. One of the best things about Giovinazzo's portrayal of Danny is that he never loses sight of the emotional core that makes Danny who he is, which often asserts itself during the routine cases the CSIs work. This week, Danny is stunned by the effort and obsession that went into Paula's murder of Dougan. "I hope it was worth it," he tells her, sounding completely baffled and more than a little sad that this young woman has thrown away her transformation on a revenge scheme.

It's nice to see Danny happy, too, as he is in the opening of the episode with Flack. Giovinazzo and Eddie Cahill play off each other so well and so naturally that it's always a treat to watch them together. Indeed, the only instances where Danny looks at ease and happy during the course of the episode are with Flack, first at the game and then later when they watch the cheerleaders give lip impressions from behind the glass. Danny looks genuinely happy in Flack's company, even laughing when Flack tells him that he should piss off Lindsay more often. The comment suggests Flack, who's fiercely protective of his vulnerable friend, likely doesn't think much of the way Lindsay treats Danny. The friendship between Danny and Flack is far and away one of the most interesting and deep relationships in the CSI franchise; the more we see of these two together, the better.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.