CSI: Miami--'Stand Your Ground'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 22, 2007 - 2:27 AM GMT

See Also: 'Stand Your Ground' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Calleigh leaves a diner and gets into her car, only to have a car pull up next to hers, the passenger aiming a gun at her. She draws her weapon and the car speeds off, but when she pursues on foot, the car turns around and heads straight for her, causing Calleigh to fire into it. The car veers off into a shoe store, crashing into it. When Calleigh goes to investigate, she finds the driver dead, the passenger escaped--and a woman, apparently a customer in the store, dead on the ground in front of the car. When the CSI team arrives, they identify the driver of the car as Mark Dow and the young woman as Valerie Gaynor, a middle school teacher. Delko comforts her, but IAB Rick Stetler turns the screws on Calleigh, asking her if she was drinking at brunch. She admits to having two mimosas, but her blood alcohol level is only .04, well below the legal limit. Blood on the glove compartment box leads the CSIs to Pete Morton, but when Horatio accuses him of attacking Calleigh, he counters with a threat to sue for personal injury. He claims the only reason he and Mark turned around and headed back for Calleigh is because a truck was blocking their escape route. He denies trying to run her over, but Horatio is skeptical. Alexx has some good news for Calleigh: Valerie Gaynor wasn't killed by the car crashing into the store. She was dead before it hit, meaning someone murdered her.

Stetler, who has already removed Calleigh from the active duty, asks why there are six mimosas on her bar tab. She claims they were for friends, but later confronts Jake Berkley, whom she actually had brunch with. He lies to her about the mimosas at first, claiming he bought a round for his buddies, but Calleigh sees through it and is not pleased. Horatio pays a visit to Valerie's school and talks to Dave Keppling, the art department substitute teacher, whom Valerie was seeing. Keppling mentioned Valerie looked tense on the morning of her death, but she didn't tell him why. Horatio's questioning is interrupted when a thirteen-year-old girl goes into seizures in the hallway, the victim of a drug overdose. Ryan finds drugs in Valerie's desk and wonders if she was dealing. He visits the home of Charlie Sheridan and his younger brother Logan, who caught Valerie trespassing on their property. Ryan wonders about Charlie's arrest for possession a year ago, but Charlie tells the CSI that the cops got it wrong. Ryan and Natalia turn to Valerie's journal and determine that she wasn't selling drugs to kids--she was trying to make a case against someone who was. They connect the drugs with candy found in the backseat of the car and realize that Valerie was tracking people selling flavored narcotics to children.

The CSIs go back to the car and discover the weapon used to kill Valerie lodged in the bottom of it: a dumbbell from a shoe display in the store the car crashed into. Delko and Ryan question the owner, Andre Harding, and when they find a lot of cash in his register, they suspect him of being in on the drug deals. Delko has good news for Calleigh--the location of one of the bullets from her gun negates the story Pete told about the truck blocking them; they were trying to kill her. When she thanks him, he tells her Jake found the evidence and asked him to document it. Ryan and Natalia find a tie tack in the glass shards from the shop with a school logo on it, connecting Dave Kepling to the murder of Valerie. Horatio figures out that he was the dealer Valerie was investigating. When she investigated the store--where Keppling was buying shoes to hide the drugs in before giving them to kids to sell--she saw Keppling there with Mark, Pete and Andre and realized he was the dealer. He killed her, but when they spotted Calleigh walking by, he worried she had seen something and sent Mark and Pete to take care of the problem. Vindicated, Calleigh tells Pete he'll be going away for murder, while Horatio finds one of the young drug dealers--Logan Sheridan--and gets him to turn in the others.

Analysis:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the most exciting episodes of any of the CSI shows are the ones where one of the characters has a personal stake in what's going on. This time it's Calleigh in the hot seat, and Emily Procter shines throughout, delivering a nuanced and thoughtful performance. In Miami, the plotting of the cases is often so intricate and multi-layered that the characters don't get as many little moments to react personally to things as the characters on the other two shows in the franchise do, so it's especially nice to see an episode devoted to what happens to one of the Miami team when she's simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Procter's performance is pure gold, from her steely reaction to having a gun pulled on her to her tears when she believes she's responsible for an innocent bystander's death to her anger over Stetler's accusations that she was drunk at the time of the attack. Procter cycles through the emotions effortlessly, conveying with perfect precision what Calleigh is going through as the mystery unfolds. Her relief when Alexx tells her that the car crashing into the store was not what killed Valerie is palpable. The scene in the morgue is particularly nice one; Alexx, a kindhearted caretaker if there ever was one, glows as she gives Calleigh the news that she knows will ease her conscience. Khandi Alexander radiates a genuine warmth, making Alexx the perfect character to offer comfort and reassuring words, something she often does when the CSIs find themselves troubled.

Surprisingly, one character who doesn't offer a single word of comfort to Calleigh--or even appear in a scene with her--is Horatio. Horatio does a lot of groundwork in this episode, much more than usual. He even gets down and goes over the car with Ryan at the scene. It feels like it's been ages since we've see Horatio actually process evidence at a scene, so it's a nice change of pace and also a nod to the fact that this case is indeed personal to Horatio. But why don't we get to see Horatio comforting Calleigh, offering her words of encouragement and promising to look out for her? Horatio is the team's leader, and when one of his people is in trouble, it really stands out in a negative way if he's not around with at least a few comforting words. At the end of the episode, he's not celebrating with Calleigh but keeping vigil in the hospital room of the girl who ODed, and then is seen offering comfort to a very misguided little boy. David Caruso is great with kids, but it still feels like something's missing when the hero of the show doesn't offer the leading lady a single word of support.

Calleigh's rock in this episode is Delko, who is there for her every step of the way. He sits with her after the team arrives, gently asking her the tough question about alcohol, and holds her when she gets upset. While Ryan balks at the idea of going through all of the debris, Delko doesn't bat an eye. And, in a reverse Cyrano de Bergerac twist, Delko processes evidence that backs up Calleigh's story and, rather than taking the credit for it, admits that it was Jake who led him to it. Delko tells Calleigh that Jake appears to be a good guy after all, but the conflicted look on Calleigh's face suggests she knows Jake isn't the only good guy in the picture for her. Adam Rodriguez manages to make Delko's feelings for Calleigh apparent without turning Delko into some sort of lovesick puppy. Delko's an honorable guy and isn't willing to play dirty or take credit for somebody else's idea in order to get the girl. The audience--and Calleigh--can see his worth shining through in this scene.

Jake remains an interesting character, neither entirely noble nor easily dismissable as a cad. He isn't willing to come forward to admit he and Calleigh are still seeing each other (and thereby remove himself from the case), but he does use the fact that he's on the case to help Calleigh out by finding evidence that corroborates her story, and then turns it over to Delko to remove any taint that might be on it if it was discovered that he and Calleigh were still seeing each other. Jake didn't know that Delko would tell Calleigh that he was the one who discovered the evidence, so it was a noble act.

More troubling, though, was Jake's lie to Calleigh about the four mimosas that he drank before she showed up. Four fruity champagne drinks for a guy isn't all that many, but the fact that his first instinct was to lie to her is a danger sign. Calleigh wisely recognizes it as such, bringing up her firsthand experience with alcoholics: her father. Jake reassures her that he isn't like her dad, but the lie clearly weighs on Calleigh, and this could mean genuine trouble ahead for the couple. I'm glad the writers didn't end their relationship the minute Stetler waved the new departmental policy in their face; the demise of the relationship due to a serious problem such as alcoholism or dishonesty will be much more meaningful to the audience.

Oh, how I love Rick Stetler. I love how he's always got an eye on the bottom line and how he always tries to justify his actions to Horatio. Poor Stetler never wins any points with anyone, but he always tries, even when he's gunning for a member of Horatio's team. David Lee Smith never fails to deliver a sympathetic performance, and I always waiting for him to suggest he and Horatio go get a couple of beers, shoot some pool and talk about their differences. Stetler's kind of like the kid who wants desperately to be liked, but rather than make nice with everyone, he causes trouble to get attention. I hope somewhere down the line he gets a chance to help the team out, like Grissom's nemesis Conrad Ecklie did in "Grave Danger".

At the end of the day, the episode belongs to Procter, who showcases why Calleigh is such a beloved character. Calleigh is a strong character, and Procter knows exactly when to let the audience see the few moments where Calleigh's self-doubt creeps in. Her tears with Delko give way to righteous indignation when Stelter seems intent on proving she was drunk at the time of the incident. Her anger with him is both merited and effective; Procter is an actress who brings the audience into Calleigh's ordeal. If she's mad, they're mad, too. In the end, the audience feels her vindication, and her disgust with Pete Morton. The episode is a tough but exciting emotional journey for Calleigh--and the audience is right there with her, cheering her on.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.