CSI: New York--'The Cost Of Living'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 30, 2008 - 9:38 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Cost of Living' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

James Sutton, an archaeologist back from a successful mission under the streets of New York, doesn't get to brag about his exploits for long: he's found dead in the alley next to the bar where just hours before he was bragging about his exploits. The CSIs examine him: Stella notes a single gunshot wound to the abdomen, while Mac notices markings around the wound indicating Sutton was shot at close range. His wallet is untouched, but there's an open parcel with only dirt in it around him and Mac notices marks on his neck indicating a necklace was ripped away. Flack questions Laura Roman, the woman who found him. She was on her way to hail a cab when she spotted his body; she tells the detective that she and James were friends and can't imagine who would have wanted him dead. In the autopsy, Sid has surprising news for Hawkes: the bullet didn't penetrate deeply, contradicting the very clear evidence that Sutton was shot at close range. Stella and Danny go over evidence found at the scene: an oven mitt with human and rat blood on it as well as a fishing hook. Stella knows exactly who they need to talk to: Wolford Bessie, a homeless man who fishes for rats. The detectives catch up with Wolford, who fesses up to being at the scene. When Stella and Danny catch him with Sutton's pocket watch and medallion, he admits to taking them, but was scared off from his corpse robbing by a man who happened by after the shooter. Stella gives the man her card and takes his purloined goods.

Stella gets a warrant for Sutton's apartment but is attacked on her way over by a man dressed in black who threatens her in Greek. She fends him off, and afterwards tells Mac and Flack the man knew she and Danny questioned Wolford. The connection seems to be confirmed when Wolford is found dead, his neck broken. The man was killed before the attack on Stella, and she surmises he must have gotten her card from Wolford--and might be the second man Wolford saw at the crime scene. Hawkes puzzles over the bullet and sets about reassembling the plastic shards found at the scene. The mystery deepens when Sid shows Mac that Sutton's death was actually caused by an aneurism caused by a gunshot wound he suffered one to two years ago that was treated haphazardly. Adam manages to decipher Sutton's maps by literally folding them into paper airplanes, and he locates Sutton's last dig by analyzing the dirt found in the package Sutton carried with him, leading the CSIs to an abandoned train station under the Waldorf Astoria used by Franklin D. Roosevelt back in the 1930s. They find the site of Sutton's dig, and also surprise Laura Roman, who they catch fleeing the site. Mac and Flack question Laura, who admits to being Sutton's lover and claims Sutton wasn't after treasure but rather the remains of Judge Joseph Crater, a judge who disappeared in 1930. The pocket watch Wolford found confirms this: it belonged to Crater.

Theorizing that the pocket watch might not have been the valuable item worth killing for, Stella and Danny examine the medallion and crack it open to reveal a gold coin that could date back as far as Phillip II's reign in Greece. Sid obtains Sutton's medical records and is puzzled when he learns that Sutton had his spleen removed years ago--and yet, there's an intact spleen in his body. Adam solves the mystery with a three-year-old video online: a man named James Sutton offering to literally sell his life to the highest bidder. The CSIs track down the real James Sutton, who they find working at a lighthouse. James identifies the man who bought his life for half a million dollars as Mitch Hanson. Realizing Mitch was shot after assuming James' identity, Flack questions Laura about the gunshot wound and realizes she was responsible. She admits that she got angry after he beat her to a dig in Cyprus and pulled a gun on him. They scuffled for it and he got shot, but she insists it was an accident. Hawkes reassembles the plastic shards to recreate the surprising murder weapon: a plastic pen fashioned into a gun. When he notes it's from a lighthouse, the CSIs know they have their killer. Mac and Flack confront the real James: he was broke and envious with how well Mitch was doing in his old life. He confronted Mitch and the man blew him off, so James hunted Mitch down and shot him. Stella pays a visit to the Greek consulate hoping to gain information about the coin and Greek smuggling rings. But when she's introduced to Sebastian, she recognizes his voice as that of her attacker's, and quickly leaves.

Analysis:

Complex is definitely the first word that comes to mind with "The Cost of Living." Not only do we have two James Suttons--the original owner of the name and the man who bought it from him, we also have some Greek skullduggery and a fair bit of history interspersed between the mystery. Usually what one takes away from a CSI episode is a cool science fact, but like Flack, I felt like I learned a fair bit of history here. The bits of trivia about Franklin D. Roosevelt that Mac imparted as he explored the underground train station with Danny and Flack were fascinating, and a quick glance at the Wikipedia article about Crater, the judge who was known as the "Jimmy Hoffa of his day" is fascinating as well. Crater is something of a footnote in the episode, but an interesting one.

The idea of someone selling his life on the internet is an intriguing one; in an age where celebrities' dirty tissues can fetch a pretty price, the idea of a man selling his life isn't really all that far-fetched. James clearly didn't find what he wanted when he pawned his life off on Mitch; the money ran out, and he was the same dissatisfied man, if not even more so. But James' misery now had a focus: Mitch. Mitch rightly asserts that his accomplishments since taking Sutton's name are his own, but logic is ineffective with a man as unhappy as James. Mac defends Mitch's assertion that the life he created after assuming James' name was his own, and tells James that his life now belongs to the state, for the next twenty-five years.

Stella's visit to the Greek consulate will no doubt be followed up on at some point. The minute Adoni Maropis sauntered onto the screen, I knew he had to be up to no good. Stella recognizes his voice as soon as he starts speaking in Greek, leading me to wonder whether he wanted her to know who he was. Was it a subtle threat? Because otherwise it was pretty stupid of him to take a phone call and speak Greek in front of a woman he'd recently attacked...and spoken to in Greek. I'm hoping it's some sort of ploy on his part and not just a dumb move, because undermining a villain we're likely going to see again by having him slip up in a foolish and obvious way wouldn't be wise.

I can't help but wonder if this is the storyline Melina Kanakaredes mentioned in her CSI Files interview:

Actually I have a dream storyline, which I've actually worked out with the writers. We've already talked about it. I'll just hint to you that if this writers' strike ends, we may actually have a story [from me]. It's not necessarily a storyline for Stella; it's a story I wrote for the show because I thought it would be really interesting. It has to do with a location that might be near and dear to both Stella and Melina's hearts. It might actually happen; I hope so!

Sounds like it could be this one, which promises to delve into Stella's Greek roots. We already know Stella speaks Greek fluently, but apparently she's so familiar with the dialects that she recognizes her attacker has a Northern Greek accent. I can't wait to see where this storyline is going.

With budget cuts referred to in last week's episode and Adam worriedly asking Mac to not fire him, it's obvious--even without the preview that gives away next week's character-related twist--that Adam's job might be in jeopardy. After seeing tonight's episode, and thinking back to past weeks', really, how can the lab do without Adam? He's the one who delves into the minutiae with gusto and comes up with gold every time. And who else would sit and construct three 3-D puzzles for his boss? Adam is too valuable to lose, as is A.J. Buckley. Luckily Buckley is in the main credits, meaning that even if Adam ends up losing his job at the lab, we'll still be seeing him in the show.

CSI: NY's MVP really is the phenomenal Eddie Cahill. Flack's wit always adds levity to the show, but Cahill gets to showcase the compassionate side of the stoic detective in the scene with Laura after she's confessed to him that she accidentally shot Sutton. Flack pauses after she tells him that Sutton wasn't hurt badly by the shot, letting the audience know Flack is on the verge of letting slip a caustic remark, telling the young woman that actually it was her shot that sealed Sutton's fate. But then Flack pauses and visibly retreats from dropping the proverbial bomb on her. Even Hawkes is surprised. Might Flack be learning compassion from his sensitive best friend, Danny (who earlier in the episode recoils from the way Wolford yanked the chain off the dead man's neck)? Or is it just that he took pity on the poor woman, who had already lost her lover, and didn't feel the need to twist the knife in? It was wonderfully un-Flack-like, and yet somehow totally in character--and flawlessly played by Cahill.

Hawkes gets to show his reconstruction savvy with the pen-turned-gun. He's so pleased with himself that the viewer can't help being totally pleased right along with him. Hill Harper has the charm to sell Hawkes' self-assuredness. I liked Hawkes' reaction to Flack's very conscious decision not to tell Laura that her bullet was responsible for Sutton's death; he notes that "a lot of guys would have told her." Might Hawkes be one of those guys? Hawkes, a devoted scientist, isn't one to sugarcoat the truth, but nor is he cruel. My guess? He would have done the same thing Flack did.

John Dove incorporates quite a few nice, small character moments in the episode. I loved Mac's reaction to Adam launching the paper airplanes; no one does stern quite like Gary Sinise. Emotional Danny's reaction to Wolford yanking the chain from Sutton's neck is another great detail; the way poor Danny can never quite comprehend the little (or big) cruelties people inflict upon each other is perfectly conveyed by Carmine Giovinazzo. Also nicely done is the way Flack orders a protective detail for both Stella and Danny after Stella is attacked. Flack's protectiveness of Danny is well documented, and it's in character for him to connect the dots and realize that because Danny was with Stella earlier when she questioned Wolford, he might be in danger, too. And I especially enjoyed the banter between Mac, Flack and Danny. After Mac gives his history lesson, Flack quips that he would have liked to sit next to Mac in history class, but Danny is quick to respond, "good luck trying to cheat off this guy." It's an adorable exchange; the more of these kinds of moments that make their way into the show, the stronger it is.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.