CSI: Miami--'Rock And A Hard Place'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 9, 2008 - 5:02 PM GMT

See Also: 'Rock and a Hard Place' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Jim Barber ends up dead in the water after a friendly jet ski race with a woman named Mary Landis. Mary tells Tripp she didn't know Barber at all--they'd just met that morning. Alexx discovers debris in Barber's head wound, leading her to conclude that something hit him from above. Calleigh learns that the man was recently released from prison after serving an 8-year drug sentence. Delko takes a dive and discovers a piece of slate--the possible murder weapon. Ryan inspects the bridge above where Barber was killed and finds a Y2K pill--the same kind Barber was put away for dealing 8 years ago. Calleigh pays a visit to Agent Brad Sylvestri, the officer who busted Barber and confiscated his drugs. The agent surmises Barber was doen in by his competition and promises to deliver any pertinent information to Calleigh if he comes across it. Horatio and Natalia track the slate to a specific seller, but are shocked when they learn the specific piece of slate they have was sold to Henry Woods--Alexx's husband. Alexx herself makes the same startling discovery in the lab when she recognizes the slate--and the writing on the back of it. She leaves a message for her husband and calls her son Brian in to ask him who he's had in the yard. He tells her he thinks someone must have stolen the slate, and then drops a bombshell: the last person in their yard was Horatio Caine just this afternoon.

Horatio brings Valera a cigarette butt he retrieved from Alexx's yard to run through DNA. She gets a match to Trey Holt, a friend of Brian's. Trey denies stealing the slate, and refuses to talk further. Alexx gets a frantic call from Brian some time later--he's in trouble. He gives the the location of the warehouse where he's at, and she finds him holding a knife, standing over a bleeding Trey. He insists he didn't stab Trey, claiming he found the boy with the knife in his back and pulled it out at Trey's behest. Alexx sends Brian out to the car as she tries to stop Trey's bleeding. Delko arrives and is surprised to find Alexx there as Trey is loaded into the ambulance, and she tells him about Brian's connection to the boy. Delko and Alexx rush out to her car to find Brian, but he's fled the scene. Delko tells Alexx he'll process the DNA on the knife before the prints. He returns to the lab and Natalia recovers DNA from between the hilt and the blade, getting a surprising hit: Mary Landis. Horatio and Tripp interrogate Mary: they think she lured Jim to the bridge where Trey was waiting to kill him. Mary will only cop to stabbing Trey because she paid Trey for something she never got. Brian Woods is located on a bridge holding a brown paper bag. He drops the bag, which Ryan opens, discovering a baggie of Y2K pills inside. Brian insists he didn't know what was in the bag, but Horatio is forced to bring him in. Horatio tries to find out who gave him the bag, but Brian won't answer and Alexx ends the interview.

Delko prints the plastic baggie the Y2K pills are in and gets a hit to Brian Sylvestri, the DEA agent. Horatio questions the man, but he brushes it off: his prints are on numerous bags because it was his job to deliver phony drugs to dealers. Alexx is finally able to get Brian to tell her that Trey gave him the drugs--and was the one who took the slate out of the backyard. Calleigh confronts Trey in the hospital, and the kid tells her he got in over his head after being busted by the feds. First they wanted him and Mary Landis to be snitches--but then it turned to murder when Barber was released. Horatio and Delko confront Sylvestri: he pocketed much of the Y2K when he busted Barber 8 years ago, and when Barber was released, he threatened to expose him, so he forced Mary to lure Barber to the bridge and Trey to drop the slate on him. Sylvestri is unrepentent--he claims Y2K is better than money. Horatio stops by the morgue to tell Alexx Brian has been released, but Alexx has some shocking and sad news for the CSI: she's quitting to spend more time with the living--specifically, her family. Horatio understands and tells her the door is always open for her to return. Alexx performs a final autopsy and bids farewell to her beloved colleagues.

Analysis:

Khandi Alexander's final episode is a bittersweet send-off for the beloved coroner. On one hand, Alexander gets a real chance to shine--which she does with aplomb--in this episode, but on the other hand, it's a glaring reminder of just how criminally underused Alexander was. Her departure is unfortunate, but given that Alexx has been neglected for seasons, it's not really shocking. I believe "Deviant" in season four was the last episode that really turned the spotlight on Alexx. That episode was towards the end of season four; this is the end of season six. Two seasons is a long time for a character to go without an episode in which she's focused on. Though the medical examiners on CSI shows often get featured less regularly than the CSIs themselves, Alexander's screentime seemed especially limited.

She certainly proves what a loss her departure will be to the show in this episode, emphasizing the emotional rollercoaster Alexx rides for the duration of the episode. Alexx is actually trembling as she holds the bloody cloth to Trey's gaping wound. "Don't die," she tells him, in a tone that makes it clear she's imploring him for her son's sake as much as his own. On the surface, I'm not totally convinced what happened in this episode was enough to make Alexx give up her career, but Alexander sells it, convincing us even if the events don't that Alexx has had an epiphany and realized she needs to spend more time with her family and devote more time to the living than the dead.

Most characters ultimately depart CSI shows in a body bag--see Tim Speedle and CSI: NY's Aiden Burn--so it's nice to see that Alexx wasn't killed off. Rather, she decides to leave of her own accord and gets a fond farewell from the team. In an extended sequence, Alexx autopsies her last body and bids adieu to her beloved teammates. The most touching embrace is the one she shares with Calleigh, who is crying during the hug. Of all the people on the team, Alexx seemed to have the strongest bond with Calleigh, who was more often than not the CSI who would come down to the morgue to see her and find out what she'd learned from the bodies she so lovingly and carefully examined. Alexx's trademark habit of talking to the dead won't be one that can be replicated; it simply wouldn't sound genuine coming from anyone else.

Alexx says goodbye to Horatio before she bids farewell to the rest of the team. Their parting is one of two colleagues who share a mutual respect for each other, more formal than her interactions with the rest of the team right afterwards. She tells Horatio that it's been her "honor to work with him," and he responds by assuring her the door is always open for her to come back to the morgue at any time. Even though Alexx essentially rejected Horatio's help earlier in the episode when she ended his interrogation of Brian, it's clear that there are no hard feelings between them over it--each understand the other was only doing his/her job--his as a CSI, hers as a parent.

Unfortunately, the case anchoring the episode lacks logic at so many turns it's almost nonsensical. Why would Trey steal slate as his murder weapon--was he really that confident he could throw it off a bridge and hit a moving target on a jet ski? And why slate from the yard of a friend whose mother works for the crime lab? Wouldn't that naturally bring more heat on the case, not less? Why not just use a nondescript rock, or better yet, a gun. For that matter, why didn't Mary stab him beneath the bridge? And why did she stab Trey, yet again drawing unwanted attention? And why would Sylvestri use former addicts as his henchmen when what he had on them probably wouldn't be nearly as damning as what they would have on him given his request. I know some motives are weaker than others at times, but this week the links seemed especially tenuous.

The episode at least manages to score in the guest star department, snagging Rescue Me's Jack McGee and The L Word's Katherine Moennig for memorable turns. The former adds a gritty hardness to the episode--Sylvestri is clearly a disillusioned agent when we meet him, so the fact that he turns out to be corrupt as well isn't surprising at all. And Moennig gives Mary a blasť attitude that allows her to almost conceal that she's hiding something more serious than getting into a fight with a kid over drugs and stabbing him. Both are memorable, but as it should be, the episode really belongs to Khandi Alexander. She will be greatly missed.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.