CSI: New York--'The Closer'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 12, 2005 - 8:00 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Closer' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A young woman, Margo Trent, runs frantically out into the street only to get hit by a truck. Detective Flack questions the truck driver afterwards, and the man claims the woman came out of nowhere. At the scene, Mac and Stella notice she’s not wearing any shoes or coat, and Stella notices bruises on her wrists. Flack tells the CSIs the driver was sober and only going 20 miles per hour when he hit Margo. At the morgue, Dr. Hawkes is able to confirm that Margo was indeed killed by the truck, meaning the case is no longer classified as a homicide and can be turned over to Flack. Hawkes does point out semen on Margo’s leg, indicating she recently had sex. Moments after she closes the book on Margo’s case, Stella is called to another scene.

Gilbert Novotny is dead in his car outside a baseball stadium after a Boston/New York game. Gilbert is from Boston and is decked out in his team’s colors. Stella notes that he’s been dead at least twelve hours and Danny comments that Boston won the previous game. Stella notices the man had a nose bleed at some point before he died, and when Danny finds an official major league baseball with mud on it, indicating that it was used in the game. Stella pulls a brown hair from the ball as evidence. Danny and Aiden go to the stands where Novotny sat, Danny mentioning that he was a short stop before a wrist injury from a fight sidelined him. The CSIs examine the seating area and Danny finds blood near Novotny’s seat, indicating his nosebleed happened in the stadium.

Mac gets a call from Quinn Sullivan, the defendant in a murder case. Mac found a bloody hammer with DNA from both Sullivan and the victim, Alissa Danfield, on it, but Quinn insists to Mac over the phone that he did not kill Alissa. Dr. Hawkes tells Stella and Danny that Gilbert Novotny was hit with something that broke his rib and ruptured his spleen, causing him to bleed to death. Hawkes finds something small and white is Novotny’s hair and he hands it over to Danny, who takes it to the lab and determines it’s a Cracker Jack. Stella takes it to Jane for DNA testing, but Jane has some surprising news: the hair on Novotny’s baseball belongs to none other than Margo Trent, the woman who was struck by the truck and killed.

The CSIs try to connect the victims: Gilbert is a factory worker and Margo is a sports agent, making a professional connection unlikely. Footage from the game sheds light on the connection: Margo was standing next to Gilbert at one point, and her hair got caught in the ball he caught at the game. After Mac sends Danny and Aiden off to look into Gilbert Novotny’s history, Stella asks him in Greek what’s bothering him. When she repeats her question in English, he tells her about Quinn Sullivan’s phone call. Stella recalls working the case with him and recalls his DNA being on the handle. She tells him they don’t make mistakes, but Mac is unconvinced.

Flack and Stella go to Margo’s apartment where they discover the bathroom window open and conclude that she must have fled the apartment that way. None of the other tenants recall seeing her with anyone else the night she died. Bryce Sweet, a fellow sports agent, was with Margo the night she died—it was his semen the CSIs found on her leg. But while Bryce confesses they fought over a client Margo stole from him, he tells them it’s just part of the business he and Margo are involved in, and that they had sex in the bathroom afterwards. When Stella asks him for an alibi, he names his wife as his.

While Mac is going back over evidence from Quinn Sullivan’s case, Aiden tells Danny that Gilbert won his ticket from a New York radio station, WNYD. The CSIs play a recording of the show and hear Gilbert call the announcer, Rico Savalas, to brag about Boston. Another called, Tony, got into it with him and Rico awarded them both tickets and told them to deal with it at the game. The CSIs bring Rico in and Danny scolds him for trying to rile up the fans. The DNA on the Cracker Jack came back a match to one Anthony Reanetti, and the CSIs suspect he’s their mystery caller. Danny and Aiden track him down but he runs, forcing Danny to chase him. When they question him, he admits to running because he hadn’t been to see his parole officer lately. Danny and Aiden question him about Gilbert’s death, and while he admits getting into a fight with the man, he says he was kicked out of the stadium for fighting and was on the subway when Gilbert was killed.

Mac goes to see Quinn Sullivan at jail, and the man reiterates that he didn’t kill Alissa. When Mac again presents the evidence of the hammer, Quinn hesitantly admits that it was in fact his hammer, something he’d initially denied. When Mac asks him why he would deny the hammer was his initially, Quinn admits that he worried about claiming it as his because as a tall, powerful African American man, he worried that he fit the profile of the kind of perpetrator he assumed the police would be looking for. Mac admits the news changes everything. Stella tracks Mac down in a diner and confronts him about going to see Sullivan. When he tells her what he’s learned, she admits that they might have drawn different conclusions if they had that information. Mac admits that he’s impressed by the sincerity in Quinn’s eyes, but that he’s still haunted by the injustice of Claire’s death in 9/11 and his powerlessness in the face of it. If he has a chance to right a wrong, he wants to take it.

Dr. Hawkes tells Mac, Danny and Aiden that Gilbert’s wound was caused by a baseball. He shows them the pattern of laces on Gilbert’s chest and hypothesizes that the ball was thrown from less than fifty feet away. Mac decides to test a theory and puts Danny’s skills as a pitcher to the test, trying to figure out how fast the ball would have to be thrown to break a man’s ribs. Danny pitches 82 miles per hour but fails to break the board Mac has set up, so Mac brings in a pitching machine, which breaks the door at 94 mph. Mac then turns back to the Sullivan case, testing the hammer using laser micro dissection, which separates out the blood and the epithelials on the hammer. Mac discovers Sullivan was telling the truth: his epithelials are on the hammer, but his blood is not. Mac asks the prosecutor on the case to call him as a rebuttal witness, but the man refuses despite Mac’s insistence that he’s required by law to turn the evidence over to the defense.

The CSIs turn back to the bleacher footage of the baseball game and discover a man, Ruben DeRosa, standing between Margo and Gilbert at one point, and he appears to be glaring at Gilbert. Stella and Danny track him down, and Ruben tells them he was with Margo, who was considering signing him. Danny is convinced he won’t give them any DNA, so he cleverly leaps into the stands and catches one of Ruben’s baseballs after he goes back to practice. Jane runs the tests and connects Ruben to both Margo’s apartment and the ball that killed Gilbert. Stella and Danny have him brought in. When told about Gilbert’s death, he claims it was an accident: he was enraged when Gilbert kissed him after the Sox declared victory, and when he ran into him in the parking lot, Gilbert taunted him, so Ruben grabbed his ball and threw it into his abdomen. He went home with Margo, who made fun of him, too, causing him to lose it and slap her around. Margo ran into the bathroom and out the window to escape him.

Sullivan’s defense attorney calls Mac to the stand and the CSI testifies about the evidence retest. Sullivan is released and Mac is waiting for him when he gets out. Sullivan asks Mac why he believed him and Mac says that it was simply because Sullivan told him the truth. Mac says CSIs approach evidence without a bias but in this case, Mac wanted the evidence to be wrong. He admits he liked the possibility of changing everything.

Analysis:

While much quieter than last week’s entry, “The Closer” is every bit as much of a character-driven episode as “On the Job” was. This time it’s Mac Taylor who faces a work-related dilemma, when he’s called by a defendant protesting his innocence. We’re never told whether or not this is a common occurrence for CSIs, but that’s something I am curious about. Mac’s reaction, which is to go back to the evidence, is one of both a consummate scientist who believes in getting all the facts and that of a man who genuinely cares about the people affected by the evidence he uncovers and moreover interprets.

Gary Sinise carries this episode on the strength of Mac’s dedication both to the case and to doing right where he can. Unlike Carmine Giovinazzo who turned in a frenetic performance last week and still managed to not take his character over the top, Sinise chooses the opposite approach, downplaying Mac’s emotions and yet still conveying to the audience how much this means to his character. Sinise has given Mac an innate goodness that’s expressed in such a low key manner that the audience has to sit up and take notice whenever he does have an outburst of any kind, be it anger or grief.

It’s the latter that’s driving Mac this time around, as is apparent in what he tells Stella about his feelings about his wife’s death in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the almost four years since 9/11, so much has been said about the tragedy of that day that it’s difficult to come up with something new in a few short lines of dialogue. Rather than trying to do so, Pam Veasey puts words in Mac’s mouth that fit the man and express a basic disbelief at the injustice of the fate of his wife and so many others. Later in the episode, Stella asks Mac why he hasn’t taken off his wedding ring. His answer is equally as straightforward: because he doesn’t want to. For Mac, it’s as simple as that.

Melina Kanakaredes and Sinise have really found their footing in their scenes together. Stella’s come a long way since “Blink”, when she followed Mac around and watched him like a hawk, concerned about his well-being and seemingly little else. Now, she challenges him: she reminds him how good they are at their jobs and is wary about Sullivan’s reasons for calling, but she also concedes the point in the face of the evidence. Stella might not have gone to see Sullivan in jail like Mac did, but when presented with possibly erroneous evidence, she’s not going to look away, either. As she did in “Officer Blue”, Stella challenges Mac when necessary, presenting a kind of basic logic as a counterpoint for his softer approach. Both CSIs follow the evidence, but Mac’s a little less rigid than Stella is when it comes to bending the rules.

If there’s one flaw in this case, it’s how little time is devoted to it. We’re never really clear on exactly what happened or if there are any other suspects. Perhaps we don’t need to be, since Mac’s one purpose is to find out how the evidence supports or contradicts Sullivan’s claim. I’m still not entirely sure how it exonerates him completely. Couldn’t he have killed Alissa without getting any of his own blood on the hammer? If there were two blood samples and a sample of epithelials, wouldn’t there have been three DNA results, not two? Ultimately, it’s inconsequential, but it did stick out.

It’s also a bit of a shame to show so little of a talented guest star like Michael Clark Duncan. His scenes with Sinise are wonderful—Duncan radiates a kind of sincerity that instantly allows the viewer to sympathize with his plight and worry about his fate. Achieving a balance between the A and the B stories isn’t always easy, and in this case we could have done with a little less baseball—perhaps cutting out the pointless radio show red herring—and a little more Duncan.

For the most part, the baseball plot is gripping, with a nice nod to the New York/Boston rivalry and the heartbreaking—for Yankees fans at least—World Series sweep last season, which also got a nod in “Tanglewood”. Anthony Zuiker promised more New York-centric stories, and seeing the rivalry play out fatally certainly a nice little inside joke.

The plotline also gives Giovinazzo, a former college baseball player, a chance to show off his pitching and catching skills, as well as a bit of insider knowledge. Coupled with the fact that his art showcased in ”Tri-Borough”, I’m beginning to think he must have really charmed the writers. It’s rare when so much of an actor’s background is deliberately plugged into his character. So when will we learn that Mac secretly plays the bass in a cover band on the weekends?

Dr. Hawkes continues to charm in brief scenes. This time around, he’s cheerily playing music in the morgue, and gamely offers to change jobs with Stella for the day…so long as she’s willing to saw the limbs off a few corpses. Hopefully in the second season we’ll see more of the compelling coroner.

Next week: New York’s first season finale finds Mac in the middle of a shootout.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.