CSI: New York--'The Box'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 27, 2008 - 8:40 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Box' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

The episode opens with Danny Messer facing a life crisis, talking about the last crisis he faced, ten years ago when a wrist injury ended his baseball career. He flashes back to discuss the case that marked a change in his life just days ago: Decomposing remains discovered in a crushed car at a junkyard brought the CSIs in, and Danny and Lindsay quickly made another discovery: a live man locked in a trunk. Mike Hess told Flack that he and his friends were 'live action role playing' when the rest of the group locked him in a trunk as a joke. A set of headlights coming into the lot scared them off. Sid and Hawkes determined that the bones in the car belonged to a woman, between the ages of 17 and 25 when she died, and Sid put time of death at approximately three weeks ago. The car's VIN plate led Stella and Danny to Elizabeth Barker, whose husband Steve reported the car stolen that morning. When Steve came back from a walk with the couple's newborn son, he was surprised to find the CSIs there not for the car theft but a murder. Adam found prints on the junkyard's severed lock that matched to a man with a record for assault named Reggie Dunham, but Dunham, a surly character who tried unsuccessfully to frame Mac and Flack for police brutality, told the pair that he simply broke in to lift parts from cars. Sid and Hawkes found blood on the driver's side door handle and determined that the victim died due to blunt force trauma to the head. The doctors also noticed markings from a knife on the victim's vertebrae that were made post mortem. Danny was able to reconstruct the victim's face using the reassembled skull, while Adam found a silver spoon in her pocket and a card for Life Systems medical clinic with the name of Dr. Lori Hinton on it. Danny and Stella went to question Hinton, who can't recall the victim, but Danny was shocked to see Lindsay in the clinic. She ran away before he could ask her what she was doing there.

When he got back to the lab, Danny waited for Lindsay to return while he ran DNA on the blood from the car and discovered it was a familial match for their victim. Adam discovered the antibiotic tetracycline in the victim's remains, while Hawkes discovered the victim was pregnant at the time of her death--and that her child was cut from her body. Lindsay finally returned to the lab and Danny confronted her only to have her reveal shocking news: she's pregnant. As Danny reeled from the news, Lindsay noticed the facial reconstruction of the victim and recognized her as a woman she met at the clinic a few weeks ago: Nicole Harris. As Danny watched, Stella and Mac gave her parents, Andrea and Jim, the sad news. They had kicked Nicole out of their home in Albany seven months ago when they learned she was pregnant. Hawkes discovered that Lori Hinton had written Nicole's prescription for tetracycline, so Stella and Danny went back to the clinic, where the doctor claimed to see so many patients that she couldn't remember all of them. Her phone records revealed multiple calls to the Barkers--including a recent one just after the CSIs finished questioning her--and DNA on the spoon found in Nicole's pocket matched Steve Barker. The CSIs arrest Steve, but his wife has already fled with Nicole's baby. Steve tells them Elizabeth was desperate for a baby and her childhood friend, Lori Hinton, helped broker a deal for the baby with Nicole, who originally came to the clinic for an abortion. When Nicole changed her mind, the Barkers fought with her, and Nicole fell down the stairs. She was dead, and Steve feared the ambulance would never get there in time, so he cut the baby from her body and hid it in his car, until it started to decompose, leading him to dump the car and report it stolen. Elizabeth was found in a gas station bathroom with the baby; Stella talked her down and took the child from the devastated woman. Danny finishes up his story, revealing his audience is Nicole's parents. Hands touching slightly, Danny and Lindsay watch as Mac and Stella give the Harris their grandson.

Analysis:

When I first heard the writers had decided to write Anna Belknap's real life pregnancy into CSI: New York, I was pretty surprised. A few years ago, Anthony Zuiker had proclaimed "romance is not what we do" in regards to the then brand new CSI spin-off. Indeed, up to that point, the franchise as a whole eschewed love affairs between its characters. Fast forward a few years and things have changed drastically, to say the least. The end of season six of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation revealed that Sara and Grissom had finally gotten together after years of the "will-they-or-won't-they" dance. On CSI: Miami, Natalia and Delko had a brief tryst in season four that resulted in a pregnancy scare; now Delko and Calleigh are circling each other, avoiding feelings for each other that are painfully obvious to the audience. In CSI: NY, Danny and Lindsay slept together at the end of season three after two seasons of back and forth. The franchise that didn't do romance is suddenly filled with it; is it really shocking that a pregnancy has followed?

Probably not. Are Danny and Lindsay the best couple to introduce the first CSI baby? Possibly. Danny is hands down the show's most complex character, while the last few seasons have established Lindsay as little more than a love interest character; she hasn't had a storyline that wasn't tied in with Danny in almost two seasons. And let's face it: in the end, her "dark secret" amounted to little more than an obstacle to pairing her up with Danny. In the two seasons since its revelation, we've gotten nary a reference to any baggage Lindsay would presumably still be carrying; she's handled a shotgun with aplomb, and apparently dead girls--even ones she's met--don't get to her anymore. There's not much to her character, other than to create drama for Danny.

And there's no mistaking that this is Danny's episode, Danny's storyline. The story is framed by Danny's narration, and hinges upon his emotional reaction to the news that Lindsay is carrying his child. He compares the shock to the injury that ended his hopes of a baseball career, revealing how the wrist injury he first referenced in season one's "The Closer" happened. Naturally, it was the result of a hotheaded moment--this is Danny, after all. Danny's line about how "all I had to do was change my career" feels off; clearly this was a major disappointment in his life, and the line comes off as somewhat flippant. Likely it's that he's moved past it, but it still feels incongruous with the significance of the event in his life. As the moment he chooses to compare to the discovery of Lindsay's pregnancy, it's one that represents change, but also disappointment. We don't get the full circle story about how Danny loves working as a CSI to show that in the long run, he feels he's exactly where he's supposed to be. I get the feeling that if Danny could go back and change that moment, he would.

I still don't know how Danny feels about Lindsay, and I don't think Danny knows either. The first detail he shares about her? She's from Montana. Lindsay's origins have defined her character from the moment she joined the show, but the fact that nearly four years later it's all that anyone can say about her shows how little there is to her character. Danny mentions that she got a fly fishing rod and a buck knife for various birthdays from her father, which I suppose is supposed to signify she's a tomboyish country girl, but like everything else about her, those are surface details. Danny doesn't mention what Lindsay likes to do on the weekends or her favorite book. He also doesn't really talk about how he feels about her; he says she's "different" and that that's "good," but doesn't commit to any real feelings about her. Danny obviously cares about her, but whether his feelings run deeper than that remains a mystery that this episode doesn't solve.

Of course, ultimately that's a good thing: if Danny suddenly seemed to be completely taken with her, it wouldn't feel natural. Lindsay clearly doesn't put much stock in him; she's known about the pregnancy for weeks and hasn't told him, and when he finally gets it out of her, she tells him she "knows" him and that she's "not expecting anything" from him. To be fair, Lindsay has told him she's in love with him twice without getting a corresponding response either time. Danny has never come off as particularly irresponsible, though; he's always been devoted to his friends, and certainly tried to be there for Lindsay when she went through her ordeal in season three. His one serious misstep was sending ten-year-old Ruben home on his own in last season's "Child's Play", and with that in mind, Lindsay's dismissal of Danny comes off as a little cruel.

Danny makes reference to his affair with Rikki, Ruben's mother, but it's still unclear as to whether Danny was unfaithful...or whether he thinks he was unfaithful to Lindsay. He says he "made a mistake" by being with another woman, but also notes that after that he and Lindsay "got back together." He claims he thinks Lindsay knows about it, and I suspect the audience is supposed to assume Danny is correct. Danny also notes that "things haven't really been the same" since they got back together, which further suggests that the couple hasn't really gotten back on track--if they've ever been on track. Will a baby solidify their relationship or will they ultimately decide they're better off separately? Given the somewhat conservative bent of network television, I suspect it will ultimately be the former, but it's good that the show isn't rushing them to that point.

Both Belknap and Carmine Giovinazzo give solid performances in the episode. Belknap often comes across as brittle and unnatural, but here she lets us see real emotion from Lindsay without bringing out Lindsay's shrill, accusatory side. I loved the little "give me a break" look she shot Danny after he asked if she was sure if she was pregnant, and her almost tears when she told him she knew him and didn't expect anything from him hit the right note. Lindsay and Danny both turn to strangers rather than each other to deal with the news of their pregnancy; Danny confides in the Harrises, while Lindsay reaches out to Nicole after she learns the girl is new to New York. While Danny has always been something of an open book with his emotions, it's rather uncharacteristic of Lindsay to open up to a stranger. Perhaps this is an indicator that Lindsay will more forthright with her feelings, rather than bottling them up until they spill out of her, the way they did in "Silent Night" and "Right Next Door". Though the perception might be that Danny needs to grow up to face this big change in his life, the same is true of Lindsay; it's time for her to face things head on rather than getting angry and storming away without giving the other person a chance to respond.

Giovinazzo's performance anchors the episode; he's turned Danny into a character the audience really cares about and sympathizes with, so it's fitting that we're seeing this unfold through Danny's eyes. He conveys Danny's shock with subtlety and nuance. This isn't a 'Danny falling apart' episode and Giovinazzo wisely doesn't go to the emotional extremes he does when those episodes come along; this is contemplative Danny, reflecting on his life and the ways it's going to change. The one misstep? The beyond-cheesy motorcycle ride Danny takes through Manhattan. The scene where he quietly watches Mac and Stella tell the Harrises that their daughter is dead is so much more effective. Danny is observing two people who made a grave misstep with their child and have now been robbed of the chance to ever make amends. Clearly this gets him thinking--and also factors into his decision to tell them about the big change he's facing. What probably started as small talk with the Harrises as they wait to meet their grandchild led to something of a confessional for Danny, brought on by their simple question, "Do you have any children?" After Danny shares his story and admits that he doesn't know what is going to happen next, Mr. Harris advises him to not "allow yourself any regrets." After seeing what happened to them, that's clearly at the forefront of Danny's mind.

Since the story is framed by Danny's narration, the focus of the episode really is on him, though the other characters have some nice moments as well. As ever, Flack is in fine snarky form; he takes a few shots at nerdy Mike Hess--played by Alias's always charming Kevin Weisman--calling him "Spartacus" and referring to his LARP group as a "merry band of numbnuts." Flack's gruff but casual insults add to his authenticity as a hard-bitten New York detective. The scene where he and Mac question Reggie is strong as well, and I love the way Mac used physics to prove to Reggie that his attempt to frame them for brutality wasn't going to get him anything more than a headache.

Sid and Hawkes log some quality time together sorting out the bones and one-upping each other with impressively insightful discoveries about the victim. Sid's razor sharp memory is again in evidence when he mentions the exact number of cases he's worked: 4,846. Sid and Hawkes have a great dynamic, and it's always fun to see the two working together. Adam gets a little quality time with his favorite CSI, Stella, and gets delightfully tongue-tied when she tells him he's the best. "Oh...uh...thank you," Adam manages--once she's out of earshot. Adam's bashful befuddlement when anyone--particularly Stella--pays him a compliment is incredibly endearing.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.