CSI: New York--'Rain'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 18, 2004 - 8:22 PM GMT

See Also: 'Rain' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The CSI team is summoned to a Chinatown bank after a man who is literally aflame runs into the street on a rainy New York morning. Inside the bank, Mac and Stella discover the man's partner in the bank's vault, also burned to death. The two men were apparently in the process of robbing the bank's safety deposit boxes when one of the bank's guard's, Tony Fenn, surprised them in the vaults. Gunfire ensued, and a fire-extinguisher was hit, causing it to burst into flames. A blood trail leading out the back door indicates a third robber escaped.

Neither clerk Joanne Cho nor surviving guard Marvin Hummel is able to shed much light on the robbery. The CSIs comb the scene, looking for evidence. Mac is able to dig a bullet out of the wall. The CSIs note that the robbers likely gained entrance from the empty storefront next to the bank. They waited until the bank opened and the alarms were turned off to make their move, but they were interrupted by Tony and the gunfight began, leading to explosion of the extinguisher, which set the two robbers on fire. Tony didn't survive his wounds.

The realtor, Rob Bloom, claims he locked up the empty space and stopped showing it when he received a letter from the owners. Mac finds a hole in the back door and when he finds a stripped umbrella in the alley behind the store, Mac realizes that the robbers put the umbrella through the door and opened it, pulling on the handle and gaining them access

Dr. Hawkes examines the first robber's body and determines he suffocated--after he breathed in the super-heated air his lungs were closed off and he suffocated instantly. Hawkes also finds something in his closed hand, which he gives to Stella. In order to get a print, Hawkes severs the corpse's fingers.

Stella cleans off the items and find a small jade monkey charm and a gold clasp. There's a partial print on the clasp. Aiden and Mac view the bank's surveillance tapes, which reveal that the robbers were wearing odd masks that closely molded to their faces, making them indistinguishable from each other. Aiden hopes to get a facial match from the second robber's mask. The first robber has been identified as Carlton Hines.

The randomized security deposit boxes that the robbers hit all had contents valued at ten grand or more. The robbers must have had someone on the inside. When Stella matches the print on the bracelet's clasp to Joanne Cho, the CSIs haul her in. She denies involvement, but when they learn about her daughter Doris and realize the bracelet belonged to the baby, the plot thickens. Tearfully, Joanne reveals that the robbers abducted her child and sent her a note demanding that she help them or her child would die.

Stella goes over the ransom note, which is comprised on letters cut from magazines. One of the letters, an X, is missing. At her apartment, Joanne tells the CSIs that the men burst into her apartment the day before the robbery when she went out to get the morning paper. She feared they would kill her daughter if she called the police. Joanne asks if Stella thinks her daughter is still alive, but Stella doesn't have any answers for her.

Danny is in the lab trying to get a handle on the trajectory of the bullets fired in the vault. He and Flack question Hummel again, asking about the shot he fired. Hummel can't remember; he says he was frightened and fired without thinking. Danny tells Flack he believes Hummel, but the evidence is puzzling and can't be dismissed.

Aiden has an ID on the mask: it matches the facial structure of Luther Willett, a convict who just recently got out of jail. But when Mac questions him, Willett has an alibi. He claims he had "followers" in jail, and one of them may have modeled the mask off his face. In the lab, Stella examines the baby's sweater that the killers left behind, and finds what she first believes to be diaper residue. Back in the vault, Danny uses the laser to determine the exact trajectory of the bullets.

Mac has narrowed the origin of the ransom note letters down to three magazines. Stella tells him that the substance she first believed to be diaper residue is also used to make fake snow in theater productions. Given that one of the magazines on Mac's list is Playbill the two follow the lead to a closed-down theater. A similar hole is found in its backdoor, and when Mac and Stella enter, they discover the bloody body of the third robber, with a tiny handprint in the blood. The baby was there at one time.

Stella find a few long black hairs on the dead man, most likely from a woman. She also finds the missing X from the ransom note on him. The CSIs identify the dead man as Kevin Moretti, who was in jail at the same time as Luther Willett. But there's no sign of the baby. Mac fears their kidnapping might turn into a possible homicide.

Dr. Hawkes tells the CSIs that Kevin died from the gun shot wound to his neck: he bled to death. Hawkes also found glass fibers in his lungs, not unlike the ones found in the lungs of people near the World Trade Centers on 9/11. But these fibers are more recent than that.

A ransom note demanding $200,000 arrived at Joanne's building, and the bank is willing to front her the money so that Joanne can pay it. Despite the CSIs' misgivings, Joanne wants to pay it, so Stella and Flack drop the money in a free newspaper box and retreat to Flack's car to watch. But as soon as they spot a likely suspect--a man in a black hooded sweatshirt--police sirens erupt around them and squad cars flood the road.

The suspect retreats and Stella is angry until she learns the cars were part of a police terrorist response drill. The kidnapper didn't get the money, but he did leave a mask similar to the ones used in the robbery behind, as well as a print on the newsstand handle. When they get back to the station, Flack leaves Stella to tell Joanne that they didn't get her child back.

Aiden got a name from the etching to reveal what was written on the pages ahead of the second ransom note: Nina Chang. Using a partial zip code from the back of the letter X from the note, the location of construction sites that could have been responsible for the glass deposits in Kevin's lungs, and a gang symbol on a bag of drugs found on Kevin, the CSIs narrow forty-five Nina Changs down to one.

The CSIs go to her apartment, but there's no sign of the baby. After they present her with the evidence, Nina admits to helping Kevin, and admits that she left him at the theater to avoid being implicated in the crime. She doesn't know where the baby is. Mac has he write down the pledge of allegiance to get a sample of her writing. It's a match for the ransom note to Joanne and for the note Bloom received telling him to stop showing the empty storefront next to the bank.

A frustrated Danny is continuing to go over the bullets and casings. He can't make any logical sense of the bullet fired from Hummel's gun. When Mac matches the partial to Hummel, it all falls into place. Danny and Flack pick him up and find the baby at his apartment. Mac quickly breaks down Hummel's story: Hummel shot at the wall to make it look like he wasn't part of the robbery. Mac tells Hummel that no one might have ever learned of his involvement had he not insisted on ransoming the baby. Stella returns the baby to a grateful Joanne.

Analysis:

This is the second CSI bank robbery in two weeks, and unfortunately, "Rain" doesn't do well in comparison to CSI: Miami's "Crime Wave". To be fair, the robbery in that episode was far more outlandish and less believable, but at the same time, it was more fun to watch the case unfold. Ironically, both episodes suffered from the same problem: the villain was revealed far too early. But the difference lies in that Miami did it intentionally, while New York didn't. But the minute I saw Marvin Himmel stammering his answers to Flack on the screen, I immediately suspected him. And not in a vague way: I knew the guy was involved somehow. And as the episode went on and he wasn't mentioned, I figured he was involved in a major way. Sure enough, at the end, he's the one who has the baby. It's a real problem if you can spot the bad guy at the beginning of the episode.

Stella becomes more and more unsympathetic with each episode. When Joanne tearfully asks her if she thinks her baby is still alive, all Stella can do is dully recite that she's going to take the evidence back to the lab and look it over. And when Stella has to tell Joanne that the ransom money drop failed, all she can do is look past Joanne as the frantic mother quite justifiably panics. Stella can't offer this woman one kind word, one simple platitude? Mac at least had the good sense to look shame-faced in "American Dreamers" when he had to admit to the parents of Aaron Moreland that he wasn't looking for their son. Stella doesn't have to be soft (there isn't a soft character in this batch, that's for certain), but she could be a little more human.

There's a bit of character development for Danny here: he's finally going by the evidence. Which is good, because after three episodes and three bad calls, it's obvious Danny's intuition is about as reliable as a broken compass. I had a strong suspicion that Hummel was involved from his first scene; the man exuded guilt and told his fishy story with little credibility. Danny believed this guy? For a supposedly hardened New Yorker, Danny sure is naive. If it goes on much longer, it could become a running joke: the person Danny is convinced didn't do it has to be the guilty party. It's worth a laugh, but not a trend one wants to develop so early on in a show's run.

Aiden once again proves she's the most valuable member of this team. True, the evidence sure is convenient--the drug bag with a Chinese gang symbol on it?--but it gives Aiden a chance to show off her powers of deduction again. Vanessa Ferlito plays Aiden as a sharp CSI who is confident in her own skills, but never arrogant. Of all the characters, she's emerging far and away as my favorite.

Flack gets a few good lines in the episode as always. The one where he tells Mac that he thinks everyone is guilty until the CSIs bring him evidence that they're not is particularly good. I wish the writers would give Eddie Cahill more screen time; like Ferlito, he lives up the scenes he's in. I still can't get a read on Dr. Hawkes. He's obviously pretty into what he does--he gives the CSIs the autopsy details with a distinctive lift in his voice. It's a little creepy.

It was nice to see Mac loosen up a bit this week. I chuckled at his enjoyment of Stella's description of a piece of trace as "gooey." Gary Sinise has a natural warmth that for the most part is being suppressed in CSI: NY, so I'll relish any chance he gets to display it. Sinise appears to be getting more comfortable with the role.

I've been pretty hard on this show in my reviews, and a large part of that is because I don't want to see it be the "one too many" spin-off. CSI, if it continues to expand, will probably have one of those one day: the spin-off that has a great premise but just can't get off the ground creatively. For the Star Trek franchise, it was Voyager, which had a terrific premise but never fully took advantage of it and, worse, modeled its characters on much more interesting and dynamic predecessors from the previous shows. Gary Sinise is too good an actor to walk in his predecessors' shadows--give him something to distinguish his character from Gil Grissom and Horatio Caine. And no, it's not enough to merely not make him quirky like Grissom or passionately driven like Horatio. Negatives do not a character make: give Mac a passion. Stella doesn't have to be delightfully snarky like Catherine Willows or sweet but gun-obsessed like Calleigh Duquesne, but I would like to see what makes her tick. The outward mantra of the CSI shows is that they don't focus on the characters' personal lives, which is fine, but in the past two shows, the writers have brought unique, interesting characters to the screen from the get-go. Even if the audience doesnít get to see them dating or eating breakfast, we do get to see their personality traits and quirks on screen. New York need to follow suit with its characters, quickly. As for the stories themselves, the more compelling the case is, the more forgiving the audience is when it comes to accepting convenient evidence or stretches in the forensics.

Next week: A suspicious briefcase, an apparent suicide, and one twisted murder.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.