CSI: Miami--'Recoil'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 4, 2005 - 2:19 AM GMT

See Also: 'Recoil' Episode Guide


Pandemonium erupts outside the Biscayne Courthouse when a man, Brad Manning, armed with a gun, races to confront his ex-wife, Cheri Lyle, with whom he's embroiled in a major custody battle over their young daughter, Amy. Horatio arrives at the scene as Brad pulls his gun out. Frank Tripp stops a man with a green umbrella whom he recognizes. Horatio yells for Brad to stop, but the man raises his gun. Shots ring out: Cheri is hit, and so is Brad. Ryan, who had been arguing with Calleigh a moment before, pulls her down. After the gunfire ceases, Ryan notices with horror that there's blood on Calleigh's pants and she's not moving.

Eight hours earlier, Brad Manning walked into the Miami PD office to talk to Horatio about his custody case while his ex, Cheri, thanks Calleigh for her help. Brad vows to be at the 4pm hearing that afternoon, and Horatio promises the same. Horatio decides to delve into the records, where he learns there are allegations of abuse from both Brad and Cheri. He pays their little girl, Amy, a visit, and she tells him that she and her father share a secret from the day he picked her up from the playground after school--the day Cheri alleges he tried to kidnap the girl--but she won't tell Horatio what it is. Calleigh and Ryan are working in the lab to discover what happened that day--Brad and Amy were found in an alley, and she had blood on her underwear. But the blood matched neither Amy nor Brad. Calleigh asks Ryan to retest the DNA.

Tripp rear-ends an SUV on his way to a crime scene, but when the driver of the car finds out Trippís a cop, he takes off. Meanwhile, Alexx and Delko kneel over the body of Bill Keeler, who plunged to his death from his 16th floor apartment. Alexx notes that his forearms are broken indicating this was no suicide. They look over his apartment and question his neighbor, whom Keeler was leeching satellite feed from, but find nothing concrete. Back at the lab, Ryan has some surprising news: the DNA retest indicates Brad Manning is not Amyís biological father. When Horatio confronts Brad with the news, he is shocked but ultimately dismisses it. He looks at Amy as his child.

Horatio asks Yelina to run both Brad and Cheri to see if they have out-of-state records. Brad is clean, but Cheri was running an internet personal site with revealing pictures of herself, trying to meet men. She was accused of fraud, extortion and blackmail. When questioned, Cheri defends the site, saying itís simply an online business. In the morgue, Alexx shows Delko small puncture wounds on Keelerís hands as well as discoloration on his neck. His public hair was split at the ends, something she tells Delko is found in cases of sexual deviance. Nicole Talcott, the labís new DNA expert, tells Horatio that Keeler was a registered sex offender, and that it was his DNA that was in Amy Manningís underwear. Cheri claims Keeler was her boyfriend, but acts surprised when Horatio tells her he was molesting Amy. Delko found personal ads for Cheri on Keelerís hard drive which advertised both Cheri and Amyóď2 for the price of 1.Ē Cheri maintains she was trying to be honest about having a child, but Horatio counters that she was selling her daughter.

Ryan comes to Calleigh with a court order to recheck Bradís paternity, but to his irritation, Calleigh is called away by her father. Alexx has identified the substance on Keelerís neck as hair dye, and Horatio think itís from Brad Manning. He realizes Brad was trying to protect Amy, and that Brad plans to take Cheri out at the courthouse that afternoon. The scene at the beginning replays, with additional footage: Ryan shows Calleigh Bradís blood sample, which heís brought to court. She angrily scolds him for violating protocol by taking the blood out of the lab. Tripp spies the man he rear-ended earlier and confronts him, only to have the man suspiciously open an umbrella on a perfectly sunny day. Horatio arrives and tells Brad not to shoot, but as Brad raises his gun, he fires at him. On his way down, Brad gets off a shot. Ryan pulls Calleigh down and sees blood on her leg, but itís actually the blood from the vial he was holding, which has shattered in his hand. Horatio goes to Brad, who lays dying. Brad begs him not to let Cheri take his daughter, and Horatio promises he wonít let that happen.

Cheri is taken off to the hospital to treat the bullet wound to her shoulder. Horatio asks DCS Investigator Valerie Adams to take Amy into protective custody. Valerie agrees, but only until Cheri is released from the hospital. Tripp interrogates Don Landis, the man with the umbrella, whom he realizes was trying to obstruct the security cameras at the courthouse. Landis admits he picked up a guy at the airport and was driving him around on errands, but when Tripp shows Landis Brad Manningís photo, Landis says Brad was not the man who hired him.

The evidence leads elsewhere as well: the bullet pulled out of Cheriís shoulder is from a .45, but Brad had a .38 and Horatio a 9 millimeter. Another shooter was present. Tyler Jensen plays back footage from a news camera for Calleigh, and on it they hear three shots. The second has a slight echo, so Calleigh and Ryan return to the scene and test fire from different locations to recreate the sound. They find the location and near it a bit of charred newspaper, indicating the gun was concealed behind a newspaper. Ryan runs the newspaper and finds it to have soy ink in it, something used in the northeast area of the country. The CSIs cross reference the victims of Cheriís scam and come up with one Vincent Lesca, in town from New York.

Tripp picks up Vincent at the Shore Club; Delko swabs the man and Landis IDs him as the man who hired him. In the AV lab, Tyler shows Ryan a computer reenactment of the shooting, where they notice that the first two shots were fired almost simultaneously. The shooter wasnít trying to hit Cheri; he was aiming for Brad. Ryan begins questioning Cheri before Calleigh arrives, and when an irritated Calleigh comes in, she accuses Cheri of hiring Vincent to do away with Brad. Cheri maintains her innocence and reminds them that they canít prove any of this. Calleigh is frustrated and talks to Horatio, who asks her to call in a favor.

Ryan runs into Calleigh later on, and sheís with her father. Ryan and Kenwall Dusquesne exchange cordial greetings. Ryan tries to explain to Calleigh that he left her a message about the interrogation with Cheri, but she is cold to him. Nicole runs Vincentís DNA and Delko brings the results to the man: heís Amyís biological father. Vincent is already aware of the fact that Amy is his child and wanted to kill Brad to get his child. Delko tells him that with an attempted murder charge against him, he stands no chance. Tripp calls Horatio to tell him Amy is missing, but Horatio quickly tracks her down at the library, where the girl is reading a book. She didnít want to go home with her mother, and finally tells Horatio what her secret was with her father: he was going to take her away where no one could hurt her.

Cheri is grateful when Horatio finds Amy, but is angered when Horatio informs her that Mr. Duquesne is Amyís lawyer. A judge has granted a petition for Amy to become a ward of the state, and Cheri is arrested for child endangerment and trafficking. Ryan apologizes to Calleigh, who reminds him that knowing one thing about a person doesnít mean you know everything. Amy says goodbye to Horatio and goes off with the DCS investigator and Calleighís father.


"Recoil" is an episode that showcases both the strengths and weaknesses of Miami this season. It's an exciting, well-told story where, as is usual with an episode of Miami, things are rarely what they first seem. It's also an episode that reminds us how well we've come to know these characters, and how obvious it is when they act contrary to what we've come to think of as their nature.

I'll illustrate with Horatio first. David Caruso has done a fantastic job of fine tuning even the most subtle of his movements. The audience can tell, from the tilt of his head or the degree of his smile just how he feels about a suspect or victim. Case in point: in the very first scene in the episode, which is not the first scene sequentially, Caruso manages to telegraph with the tone of his voice that Brad Manning is not an evil man. It's subtle and perhaps easy to miss if one is unfamiliar with the show, but it's there in his cadence as he calls for Brad not to fire at his ex-wife. It takes quite an actor to be able to convey that when everything about the scene makes it seem otherwise.

So then why does the script call for Horatio to fatally shoot Brad? Yes, I realize the mandate in such a situation is to shoot to kill, but given Horatio's character (and his miraculous aim) couldn't he have aimed for Brad's shoulder or knee? Given his concern for the child, killing her one decent parent (even if he isn't her biological father) seems, well, very un-Horatio-like. The man goes to extremes to protect people, so I find it hard to believe that he wouldn't have tried to fire a non-fatal shot at Brad. Brad may have been bound for prison anyways given that he killed Bill Keeler, but at least poor Amy would have had one person, other than Horatio, in the world who genuinely cared about her.

The worst instance of character assassination in this episode by far is Calleigh. We've seen Calleigh be stoic, sweet, professional, committed, light-hearted, caring and determined. But we've never seen her downright mean. What possible explanation could there be for the way she turns on Ryan in this episode? She's protective of her father, yes, and Ryan does jump to the wrong conclusion, but given that his first case with the team was investigating a possible DUI hit and run committed by her father, it's hardly surprising that he has a few doubts about the man. And if she's still sore about Ryan shutting Delko out of the case in "Sex and Taxes", wouldn't she have taken it out on him in the next sequential episode, "Killer Date" as well?

Calleigh's behavior in this episode goes against everything we've learned about her in the past two and three-quarters years. Even when she was mad at Speedle in "Lost Son", Calleigh still kept her cool and remained professional. I think we're supposed to assume that Calleigh has come to dislike Ryan and this is the explanation for her behavior, but given that we've barely seen any reason or actual basis for such a dislike, it's really hard to say at this point. Like Ryan's hostile behavior in "Sex and Taxes," Calleigh's irritation comes out of nowhere and is equally inexplicable. Next week she could go back to being Ryan's mentor as she has all season. There's just no way to tell.

Ryan himself hasn't really displayed that attitude he developed in "Sex and Taxes" and lost just as quickly afterwards. Maybe the Miami characters are suffering from some bizarre form of heat stroke? It's baffling. Ryan himself seems to have taken a major step backwards in this episode--he's making rookie mistakes. The blood vial mistake, which would have been quite understandable in his second or third episode, seems out of place here. It's basically used to set up the Worst Fake-Out Ever to trick the audience into thinking Calleigh was shot. But even that isn't done well--any self-respecting CSI fan wouldn't mistake the blood drop on Calleigh's pristine white pants for an actual gunshot wound. There wasn't even a hole!

The episode itself wasn't bad, plot-wise, and the Memento trick of telling a story out of order worked fine to create an exciting teaser and also to further the story along. Caruso always imbues Horatio with a superhero quality when dealing with children that also humanizes him, as if he's Clark Kent and Superman at the exact same moment. Despite the fact that he shoots the one person who actually has Amy's best interests as heart, Horatio as always does a good job of advocating for the child and making sure things turn out as well as possible for her. When Horatio Caine promises he won't let a child fall into bad hands, you sure can believe him.

But what happened to our characters? I've seen it said before that Miami is the weakest of the three CSI shows on character development, but I've never bought into that. Horatio, Calleigh and Speed (when he was around) always struck me as compelling characters. But with both Calleigh and Ryan going through sudden and inexplicable character changes, I do wonder what's going on. Tension between characters can be a good thing--Mac and Stella on CSI: New York have argued passionately and even angrily several times, but it's always underscored by their mutual respect and friendship. Here it just feels like watching characters take out their bad moods on each other for no reason and with no resolution, which isn't very fun for the audience. At least one character remains true to form: the ever clueless Yelina asked after Ray's file but took Horatio's vague answer as the truth. Some things never change, even in Miami.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.