CSI: New York--'The Ride In'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 23, 2007 - 8:06 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Ride In' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

After consoling Stella Bonasera, who is anxiously awaiting the result of an HIV test after cutting herself at a crime scene with bloody glass, Mac heads off to a house in Rockaway Beach, where Noah Hubler has been found dead in a pile of money, the victim of a fatal gunshot wound. The real surprise is in Noah's backyard, where an ark full of both animals and people sits, awaiting the big flood, which according to the faithful is due in on the upcoming Sunday. Dr. Hammerback is surprised to discover a pair of surgical scissors in Noah's body, the remnants of a shoddy gastric bypass procedure. Flack questions Jackie DeMartino, who left several angry messages on Noah's machine, but she claims he conned her out of ten thousand dollars. Sure enough, Flack does some digging around and learns "Noah" is actually Patrick Dent, wanted in several cities on fraud charges. He escaped custody several months prior to his death with the help of a woman dressed in disguise as a police officer. Danny questions another woman Patrick Dent conned, Melodee Costanza, whose boot prints were found at Noah's house. Melodee admits to going to try to get her money back, but Noah claimed to have spent all the money from his cons on the ark and when Melodee spotted the giant boat, she realized he was telling the truth and left in disgust.

Stella and Dr. Hawkes are on the case of a man wearing a cigarette costume found dead, his costume charred from fire, in front of a cigarette company, National Spirit Tobacco. The man was apparently protesting smoking, and the CSIs track down a hookah bar manager he had an altercation with, but the man denies doing anything other than pushing their victim. When Stella goes to the morgue to talk to Sid, she finds him passed out from anaphylactic shock and not breathing and gives him mouth in order to revive him. Stella and Hawkes turn to National Spirit when a cigarette found near their dead man turns out to be a prototype of Spirit Green, a new cigarette with less nicotine not yet on the market. The CSIs question the CEO and are shocked to learn the Jason Williams was actually a National Spirit employee spearheading a unique marketing campaign. A gym bag found at the scene leads the CSIs to Heidi Pesco, a young woman who works at a pretzel stand--in costume. Heidi was attacked two nights ago, and she shows the CSIs bite marks on her neck to prove it. The marks lead Stella and Hawkes to a man dressed in a vampire costume who was trying to get costume greeters to unionize. He got violent with those that didn't support his plan, attacking Heidi Pesco and setting fire to the unfortunate Jason Williams. Stella goes to Hammerback to tell him about her possible HIV status and his potential risk for infection, but he cuts her off and reminds her she saved his life.

When the CSIs learn the money Patrick was found in was counterfeit, they track down the counterfeiter, Jim Eisberg Easman, currently doing time in jail. He tells them he stashed the bills in his car after getting caught, and that the car was sold in a police auction--apparently to one of Patrick's followers. Mac tells Danny that the surgical tool in Patrick's body had given him a rampant infection, causing him to be delusional. The ark wasn't just another scene; Patrick really believed in it. Flack is able to ID Patrick's partner, the bogus detective who helped him escape custody in New Orleans, as none other than Jackie DeMartino. Jackie and Patrick had been partners prior to Patrick's surgery, but after he began to spout scripture, they parted ways. Jackie demanded her cut of their profits, but when she learned the bills were counterfeit she confronted Patrick and shot him. She thought he was lying when he said he didn't know about the bills being fake, but Mac tells her he wasn't.

Analysis:

There's a good deal of sly humor in "The Ride In," which is what makes it easy to overlook some of the improbabilities in the cases, such as why anyone would attack people for not joining his union, or how a guy building an ark could go unnoticed by the media. Or how a pair of surgical scissors could end up in a man without him knowing. (A tiny piece of metal, sure. But an actual pair of scissors?) But "The Ride In" is so tongue-in-cheek, so wry, that it seems almost ill-humored not to sit back an enjoy the ride.

The idea of a cigarette company devising a marketing scheme to promote anti-smoking prior to introducing a new line of cigarettes lower in nicotine (so that people will have to buy more to get their fix) is pretty brilliant. But then add to the mix the Count Dracula who is trying to unionize costume greeters it turns into a truly zany case. One question: why have Stella's questioning of the count be shown in flashbacks? I would have liked to see a little more comedic payoff in that final scene of the case.

Patrick/Noah's case is no less out there. I couldn't help but laugh when Mac and Flack questioned the couples on the ark, without a doubt the truest of believers. I loved the moment at the end when Mac spoke with Strauss and his wife and the man actually told him he believed the money was a sign from God. A poke at religious faith versus a practical explanation for sure. Indeed, "Noah"'s own faith turns out to be the product of a raging infection rather than a divine calling.

The snarky sense of humor running throughout the two cases is countered by Stella's very serious, very agonizing plight. The episode is book-ended by two scenes that are clearly very difficult for Stella: telling Mac and telling Sid, for two very different reasons about cutting herself with the HIV infected glass in last week's "Heart of Glass". In both scenes, Stella is close to tears, but for very different reasons. In both scenes, Melina Kanakaredes gives a very nuanced performance, showing Stella's vulnerability while staying true to the character's core strength.

With Mac, Stella is confiding her fears in a friend, and she's very candid when she says that she's not sure if she can handle living with HIV if in fact she does test positive after the ten week window period. Mac counters with the advice she always gives him in Greek when he gets down, reminding her she can endure even this. Their conversation here reminds me of the one that took place at the beginning of "Consequences", and like that conversation feels just a bit awkward, perhaps because it's so unusual to see an episode of a CSI show open on a personal conversation between two of the characters. That brief awkwardness does not detract from the power of the scene.

Stella goes to Sid Hammerback for a very different reason: she's worried that while giving him CPR, she could have possibly put him at risk of infection. Kanakaredes and Robert Joy are pitch perfect in this scene: while Stella is clearly bending (but not breaking) under the strain of the agonizing wait, Sid is all calm logic and gratitude, pointing out both how unlikely it is that she could have infected him through CPR as well as the simple, basic fact that she saved his life. Joy is simply, well, a joy to watch, while Kanakaredes is already knocking it out of the park with this storyline, one that serves her much, much better than the wretched slash-fest that was "All Access".

CBS has set up a website at www.knowhivaids.org to highlight Stella's situation and for fans to discuss the plotline. While I do think the storyline is a great one for Kanakaredes as an actress--and it certainly does underscore how gifted she is--it's also a tricky one. How likely is it that the lead female character in a CSI show will end up being HIV positive. The answer is not very, and therein lies the problem. The audience has to believe there's at least somewhat of a risk factor in an extended storyline like this.

ER actually did follow a character with HIV in the late 90s, but the character, Jeannie Boulet was initially a recurring character (though her role actually increased after the diagnosis). If it were Lindsay or Hawkes going through this, I could buy that the writers might be toying with the idea of having one of them test positive. But the show's leading lady getting HIV? The likelihood of the writers doing that is so slim I'd give it less than a one percent chance. If I'm wrong in May, I'll quote this passage and readily admit it. It's not that it's not a great storyline for the character, because it is, but the CSI shows don't have a history of taking daring risks with their characters.

Given the two references to Jennifer Angell in this episode by Stella, I have a sneaking suspicion that Emmanuelle Vaugier was slated to appear and perhaps had to back out late in the game. I hope another commitment hasn't permanently snatched away the talented Vaugier because it would be a shame if the show lost another smart, snappy female detective like it did Kelly Hu's sparkling Detective Maka. CSI was wise to add Louise Lombard to the regulars' roster; perhaps NY should consider doing the same.

That's not to take away anything from the thoroughly delightful and always hilarious Don Flack, who is played with such relish by Eddie Cahill that it's impossible to look away from him when he's on screen. And Cahill has much to work with in this episode; Flack is at his snarky best with the case of the con man turned religious believer. In the opening scene, he can barely keep a smile off his face when he tells Danny to "save his film" before showing the CSI the gigantic arc in the would-be Noah's backyard. This case was tailor-made for Flack's biting one-liners.

In closing, I feel I finally have to make note of the intrusive "CSI Q" here, which leaps onto the television screen at the fourth commercial break and generally gives away the ending of one of the cases for anyone with half a functioning brain. Usually it's the "case cracking evidence," but for this episode, it was actually the killer. Maybe at that point everyone wasn't thinking of Jackie DeMartino, but her mug on "CSI Q" paired with the knowledge that Patrick's partner was blonde and female, and well, the case is all but cracked. I blame CBS for this one--is a marketing scheme really worth beating the CSIs to the punch?

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.