CSI: New York--'Stealing Home'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 4, 2006 - 7:40 PM GMT

See Also: 'Stealing Home' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A girl in a mermaid costume is pulled from the river by the Fulton Ferry docks, while across town a man named Mark Jeffries is found dead on his front steps, felled by a bullet to his right eye. Mac and Stella are surprised when two women, Elle and Laura, run up, both claiming to be his wife. It turns out the three were trinogamous--in a committed threesome. Both women present alibis--Elle was at breakfast with a friend named Kevin Davis, while Laura was at the grocery store. Back at the morgue, Dr. Hammerback confirms the mermaid victim was strangled and Lindsay points out calluses on both of her hands that were caused by rawhide braiding, something Lindsay is familiar with from growing up in Montana. Lindsay traces a check found in the mermaid's bra to Paul White, who identifies the girl as Sara Butler, and says he hired her as to sing at his daughter's birthday party on his boat. When her purse fell into the water, he gave her an extra $100 in cash to get home. Lindsay is suspicious, and when semen and a sequin from the costume are found on a bed in the ship's stateroom, Detective Flack hauls the man in for questioning. Paul admits to having sex in the room, but not with Sara--he was with the mother of one of his daughter's friends. Sara did change in the stateroom, though.

Hawkes is puzzled by the deformity of the bullet in Mark's eye, and believes it came from a .32 automatic pistol. Mac discovers Laura killed her boyfriend five years ago in self-defense, he and Stella go to question her. When she gets offended and takes a swing at Mac, the CSIs arrest her for assaulting an officer. Stella swabs her at the station, discovering GSR in an odd pattern on her hands. Stella does a couple of test fires in the lab and can't replicate the pattern--until she realizes it's transfer from the seat of the squad car Laura was sitting in. After getting a visit from D.J. Pratt's belligerent attorney who claims Mac and his lab are harassing his client, Mac and Hawkes head to the Jeffries' house and discover a semen trace by the bed, indicating someone was watching the threesome in action. The sample is traced back to Kevin Davis, who happens to own a 9-millimeter gun. But Mark was shot with a .32--or was he? The damage on the bullet suggests its jacket is missing, meaning the weapon was a 9-millimeter. Hawkes finds blood on a pillar across the street from where Mark was shot, and Stella discovers Mark's paper--with the jacket from the round that killed Mark. The blood matches Elle, who confesses she was tired of always coming second to Laura. Mark dismissed her concerns and told her to get over it--and now she has, she tells Mac.

Lindsay is bothered by the fact that Sara is from Montana. She stands by as Sara's crushed father identifies her body and tells about their estrangement over Sara's decision to move to New York. Lindsay studies Sara's costume and realizes a whole string of sequins are missing, leading her and Danny to the park where Sara was killed. Lindsay traces a palm print on a comb from Sara's hair she finds at the scene to James Vackner, a surly man with an assault record. Vackner denies involvement, but soil and bark from the tree next to where Sara was killed put him there. Vackner gives up, but he refuses to say why he did it, even when Lindsay goes so far as to visit him in prison. Mac reminds her that sometimes the CSIs don't always get the answers they want before returning to a case he desperately wants answers on--the multiple victims of rapists and murderer D.J. Pratt, whom Mac desperately wants to catch.

Analysis:

After two emotionally intense episodes (and presumably before two more), "Stealing Home" takes the drama down a few notches. It's not a bad idea, but sandwiched between such intense episodes, the episode bound to have less of an emotional impact. It's a "coming down" of sorts, especially for Stella, who is still grappling with the ramifications of killing her boyfriend in self defense in "All Access" last week. While I'm grateful for the continuity, I found having Stella swabbing the woman who killed her boyfriend in self-defense five years ago a little heavy-handed. Wouldn't Mac have done that himself, knowing what Stella just went through?

Mac doesn't seem like one to shield his people from the tough aspects of their jobs, but in this case, I expected just a little more sensitivity. Though it could very well be that he suspected Stella would be irritated if he limited her involvement with the case in any way, I still think Mac could have assigned Hawkes the job of swabbing Laura. But, that implausibility aside, it was nice that Stella's ordeal wasn't just dropped like Danny's emotional trauma over what happened to his brother in "Run Silent, Run Deep" has been. The wound by Stella's left eye is still visible, though it's almost faded. Despite the fact that Stella does have a flashback of shooting Frankie, she seems to be coping pretty well, not that we'd expect anything less of the show's toughest character.

Polygamy is something of a hot topic these days with HBO's Big Love presenting a sympathetic, layered portrait of a polygamous marriage on the small screen. CSI: NY doesn't have as much time to develop their guest characters, and much of the emphasis on Laura is given to her back story's similarity to the recent events in Stella's life. I wasn't shocked to learn Elle was the killer, though I was glad Kevin turned out to be a red herring because as soon as Elle mentioned him as her alibi and then he turned up on the Jeffries' steps when Mac and Stella went to question Laura, I was sure he was the killer. I liked that it turned out to be Kevin's gun that was the murder weapon, but that Kevin himself wasn't the killer. Elle's motive was pretty predictable, but it was pretty plausible, too.

The episode also focuses on Lindsay Monroe as she grapples with a case that hits close to home when she discovers the girl in the mermaid costume is from Montana. Again, the parallel isn't subtle, nor was Mr. Butler's comment that New York City is "no place for a girl from Montana." Part of me is hoping that line is foreshadowing, that the writers are setting up for Lindsay to eventually pack her bags and head back to Montana, but I suspect that it was just an attempt to draw a parallel between Lindsay and the dead girl. I have to believe that even Lindsay isn't such a bumpkin that she'd think it's a good idea to walk through a deserted park late at night with her iPod on. I have a hard time believing Sara at nineteen was that naive as well. Chancing walking through a park is one thing--we've all done that. With headphones on? That just takes it too far.

Anna Belknap's performance was somewhat uneven. If I have to watch her yell at a suspect again, like she did with Paul White who at that point didn't seem guilty of anything, I'm going to scream. She did it last week in "All Access" and a few weeks ago in "Super Men", and it's just awful--unprofessional and unconvincing all in one. Part of the problem is when she does it--the character seems to go off on people before she has a reason to, or as in the case of "Super Men," where the person she was attacking presented a pretty logical argument against Lindsay's accusations and the character still yelled at her. Belknap needs to work on timing--when to throw anger into her performance--as well as her delivery.

That said, Lindsay's fixation on the case did ring true for the most part, and when she finally spoke with the father on an emotional level, repeating the words Sara spoke on the phone to her mother--"Tell Daddy I love him," I actually connected with the character, something I've only done a few other times over the entire season. Lindsay clearly saw herself in the dead girl--a young woman who wanted to expand her horizons and left Montana to try to make it in the biggest city in the country. Belknap is very good in this scene, as she watches the father with his daughter's body.

I was also intrigued by Lindsay's fixation on getting answers from the callous killer. I liked that she went to see Vackner in jail after Mac told her that CSIs don't always get the answers they want. It made her more real for me; she listened to his advice but it wasn't enough for her. Billy Gallo makes an appropriately creepy Vackner; his eyes are deadened, and Lindsay's quest for answers only seems to amuse him momentarily. Belknap is good in this scene--her eyes flash with something that looks like obsession. If there's a hidden depth to Lindsay, a darkness to her, I'd love to see that explored. The possibility that Lindsay takes her dedication to dangerous or frightening levels--and might have a genuine dark side--is much more interesting than the idea that she might relate to a girl from her home state who was also something of a fish out of water.

My favorite moment in the episode was the hilarious exchange about threesomes between Hammerback and Hawkes. Or rather, I should say Hammerback relating his sexual adventures while a horrified Hawkes looks on. Robert Joy is delightfully deadpan, while Hill Harper's eyes widen in comical horror. Though he barely utters a word, Harper effectively conveys just how much Hawkes did not want to know the details of Hammerback's wild sex life. Joy proves again what an asset he is to the cast; I think he's got my vote for the coroner job if the writers ever decide to go with just one coroner for the NY morgue.

Vanessa Ferlito's return in next week's episode is set up in this one. When the attorney comes to Mac complaining about how Pratt is being "harassed," I immediately thought of Aiden. Clearly, Aiden must not have let go of the case when Mac fired her in "Grand Murder at Central Station". That Aiden wasn't able to let go of the Pratt case after it basically ended her career isn't surprising, and given the insight we got into Lindsay in her final scene in the episode, I wonder if this is something the two women might have in common. It's an intriguing possibility.

Mac's determination is of a different kind--he's like the tortoise to Aiden's hare. While Aiden wanted to cut corners and rush the case in order to put the guy away, Mac is slowing chipping away at it, examining and reexamining the evidence. I think it's safe to say that Pratt's folder is one of those that never leaves the edge of Mac's desk--or at least won't until after next week.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.