CSI: Miami--'Speed Kills'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 16, 2004 - 11:44 PM GMT

See Also: 'Speed Kills' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Richard Laken, an attractive man in his thirties, is participating in a speed dating party. Couples speak for five minutes and then move on to the next person. Richard isn't having a good evening, though. He runs into an ex, Mary Kinnan, who asks him for an explanation for why he never called her. His next speed date, Rebecca Briggs, is irritated when Richard seems distracted. He complains about not feeling well.

A few hours later, Horatio and Frank Tripp stand over Richard's body in an alley near the Neuron Lounge, where Richard was speed dating hours earlier. His car has been vandalized, indicating it's a murder of passion. Tripp tells Horatio that Laken was speed dating before he was killed. Calleigh finds Richard's cell phone turned off. Alexx notes that he's been dead at least six hours, as rigor has set in. Calleigh determines the liquid used to vandalize his car may have been acetone, commonly found in nail polish remover. Horatio gets the list of speed daters from the reluctant bar owner.

One of the speed daters, Mart Kinnan, is a hairstylist, so the CSIs pay her a visit first. Her ex-husband is angrily moving things out of their house when the CSIs arrive. She says she and Laken met a few months ago and went on a few dates, but that he dumped her supposedly to get back together with his ex. Then she saw him at speed dating and got angry, so she vandalized his car at the break. But she says she didn't kill him; she last saw him run out after the night ended without even turning his scorecard in.

Delko checks her story and the acetone evaporation matches what Mary told them. Alexx is performing the autopsy on Laken, and after exchanging a mischievous look, Delko and Calleigh send newbie Ryan Wolfe to observe the autopsy. He keeps his cool until he notices Laken's head has been severed and Alexx is boiling the skin off to get to the skull so that they can determine what kind of weapon he was killed with.

Tyler determines that Rebecca Briggs was the last one to sit with Richard Laken. When Horatio questions her, she tells him that she was robbed a little while ago and she knows it was one of the speed dater guys. Instead of calling the police, she went back to speed dating to find the culprit. She thought Richard looked guilty and confronted him about it. Tripp and Horatio go to Rebecca's condo and find a smear near where the entertainment center was. Horatio hopes Valera can get DNA off it.

Alexx has boiled down Laken's head to the skull. She sends Ryan to determine what he was killed with. Ryan matches the marks in the skull to a tire iron. He takes the evidence to Delko, who gently teases him about the autopsy and says that Speedle was the one who "hazed" him when he first started.

Valera gets DNA from the smear from Rebecca's condo that matches Chad Gilbert. A trip to Chad's apartment uncovers the stolen goods from Rebecca's condo. Chad was also at speed dating and he saw Richard acting strangely before he ran out of the club. Calleigh identifies the speed dater who would have been in Richard's line of sight when he was talking to Rebecca as Jack Smith. But Jack Smith seems to be a dead end: he gave a false address and Rebecca has no memory of him.

When Rebecca mentions that Richard said something about a game the night before, Calleigh thinks to check the website of the Miami Heat. She comes up empty until she checks the police reports and learns that Richard was a witness to an assault on player Marcus Washington. One man hit Washington, the other attended to him before they both fled. Richard was the only witness.

Horatio visits Marcus in the hospital. Marcus is in a coma, and his mother, Tonya, tells Horatio that Marcus has a cerebral edema. He was attacked because he defended her, but she was busy tending to him and can't remember the attackers' faces. Horatio promises to tell her if he finds out anything.

Ryan and Calleigh go over the evidence from Marcus's assault. Ryan gets a piece of rare Kobe beef from a napkin found at the scene, and they trace it to the Solar State Insurance skybox. Stanton Hayes, who signed for it, admits to being there, but he says he tended to Marcus. Jack Webster was the one who hit Marcus, and he's also the "Jack Smith" that Richard spied at the speed dating event.

Calleigh determines Richard was probably trying to get outside to use his cell phone to call the police. He turned on his phone at 10:56, right before he was killed. But Jack was still inside. Back at the scene, Calleigh discovers cast stone, which is usually used for construction. That leads the CSIs to Fred Kinnan, Mary's ex-husband, who works in construction. When Delko finds a bloody tire iron in Fred's trunk, they think they've found their man, until they realize that the tire iron doesn't match up with the size of the tires on Fred's car. It does match Mary's though. At first she tries to pin it on Fred, but once she realizes the CSIs are on to her, she admits to killing him when he told her he went to speed dating just to get laid.

Horatio visits Tonya Washington to tell her they got the men who attacked her son. He offers to sit with Marcus while she goes to get something to eat.

Analysis:

Well, it was bound to happen sometime. Miami has been turning out so many good episodes this season that a dud was bound to come along before too long. "Speed Kills" is that dud. From its multiple implausibilities to its weak conclusion, there isn't much that redeems this episode.

Where to start? How about with speed dating itself. Speed dating is a great premise to base a murder off of. There certainly must be repeat customers and given how easily relationships can sour, its conceivable that someone could be carrying a grudge big enough to make that person want to kill. But the implausibilities are rife here. First of all, Richard witnesses an assault...and one of the guys who did it happens to be one of the fifteen men who are speed dating that night? That's one hell of a coincidence. And there's a robber among the batch. And Richard turns out to have been a total cad. Geeze, if there was ever an anti-speed dating ad, it sure is this episode, isn't it?

I'm not sure I bought Mary Kinnan's motive for killing Richard. Women who speed date, or date at all, encounter plenty of jerks in the course of dating (the same is true of men as well, I'm sure). It's hard to believe that Richard's words, cold as they were, were groundbreaking or unheard of for Mary. Surely she's encountered a jerk before--her ex-husband didn't seem all that nice. So I find it really hard to believe that Mary, the mother of three, would risk jail time to kill some guy who basically told her he was just speed dating so he could get laid. Vandalize his car? Sure. But kill him? No.

I can think of several ways this episode could have been made plausible. Even showing more of Mary, making her seem unstable and severely insecure, would have been better than the few flashes we saw of her. Or how about making Rebecca the killer? She certainly seemed like an angry person. Give her a little more of a backstory (plenty of bad speed dating experiences, a few bad boyfriends) and she could have been a much more convincing killer than Mary was.

One thing that wasn't convincing at all was that Rebecca didn't call the police when her condo was robbed. It's not like someone took a few things--the robbers really cleaned her out. And she thought she would go to speed dating, find the thief and...then what? It seems to me she could have easily told the police her suspicions and given them a roster of the guys she talked to at speed dating and the location of the next party.

The B-story in this episode, the assault of Marcus Washington, was more integrated in with the A-story than most are, but it basically served as one big red herring to lead the CSIs astray. The case could have been solved early on if not for it. And it made for some gratuitous "sympathetic Horatio" scenes. I admit, usually I love these types of scenes. I love that Horatio is different from the leads of the other CSI shows. He's far more caring than anyone on the other shows are, and David Caruso plays these scenes especially well. But this week, it almost felt like the writers dug up Someone For Horatio To Feel Bad For. Every episode of CSI: Miami doesn't have to end with Horatio looking over a victim or survivor. I liked his sexy smile at the end of "Crime Wave" much better. It was a good change.

The highlights in this episode came from the cast dynamics. I love that Delko and Calleigh teamed up to haze Ryan. This shows that they're stepping into the roles of senior CSIs more (something that's been a trend all season), and also that they're having some fun with the newbie. Emily Procter and Adam Rodriguez have an ease with each other that is completely natural and therefore enjoyable to watch, and it's nice to see them get a chance to play off each other like that.

I loved Ryan's reaction to his second autopsy. The best moment of the show comes when Ryan pulls off the sheet and discovers the corpse is headless. Jonathan Togo's delivery is pitch perfect when he asks in a completely bewildered tone, "Alexx, where did the head go?" It made for an honest to goodness hilarious moment. But, that brings with it another complaint: I watched that scene wondering if that was at all plausible. Would a coroner really saw off a victim's head, even in the course of an investigation? Would the investigation even warrant it? Laken is hardly the first person to die from a head wound, and the CSIs have always been able to uncover what killed all those other people without sawing their heads off! I found the scene pretty unbelievable. If it was an extreme circumstance, it should have been emphasized. Otherwise, it just looked like an excuse to haze the newbie.

I was happy to hear a reference to Speedle. It was small (though fitting--can't we all picture Speedle hazing Delko?), but in an episode called "Speed Kills" it would have been downright wrong not to mention him.

Next week: Pirates and cannibalism--what century are we in again?

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.