CSI: Miami--'To Kill A Predator'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 24, 2008 - 9:34 AM GMT

See Also: 'To Kill a Predator' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Sean Radley, partner at a Miami law firm, is brutally--and fatally--run over by a car. The CSIs discover the man's cell phone near his body and learn he was on the phone with his assistant, Lisa Ross, when he died. Lisa was bitter when she learned Sean, with whom she'd been having an affair, threw her over for a girl he'd met on the internet named Tiffany. The CSIs trace the car that ran Radley down to his wife, Deborah, who claims it was stolen that morning. Ryan finds a fingernail ornament in the car, leading him to question the Radleys' 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, but she tells the CSI she wanted her parents to stay together and didn't know her father was having affairs behind her mother's back. The CSIs soon have another case on their hands: Tony Massaro is found dead at a posh restaurant, the victim of a fatal shooting. The CSIs connect the two victims when they discover both men were featured on a news show called Expose: Predators Among Us. The show, produced by the television studio Ryan previously worked for, lures pedophiles with fake profiles for teenage girls and then exposes them on national television. The show's host, Heather Amberson, defends her actions, claiming the men weren't coerced into showing up, and noting she tried to get the police involved. She introduces the CSIs to "Tiffany," who is actually a young Asian man named Lou Durning. Lou shows them the profile of a man trying to chase Tony Mussaro away from Tiffany and traces the IP to one Kevin Weaver. Detective Tripp tracks down Kevin Weaver and catches the man with a gun. Weaver claims he was just trying to protect Tiffany, and his gun isn't a match to the bullets pulled from Massaro's body.

Natalia is able to get prints off glass found under Massaro, and they are a match to TJ Pratt, who also has a record as a sex offender. He claims to be reformed--and insists he saw Massaro that day to convince him to attend a support group. TJ shows Calleigh and Delko how he keeps track of offenders, and they see that one of them is about to meet a girl in a pink cap in a park. The CSIs rush there and find Kevin Weaver at the scene, but they realize why he's there when he shows them a binder with pictures of his teenage daughter, who was killed by a pedophile. He's been tracking teens on the net, trying to get them to listen to his story and stay away from predatory older men. Natalia gets a DNA hit off a pink cap found abandoned in the park: it's a match to Hannah Radley. Ryan and Horatio confront the girl: she killed her father after seeing him on Expose. She alerts them to a friend of hers, Mallary, who is meeting an older man at her house later on. The CSIs find the missing bullet casing from Tony Mussaro's case in the hands of a man who wanted to sell it on eBay and, because the man carefully bagged it, are able to recover prints on it. The prints match Sean Radley, leading the CSIs to his widow, Deborah. She killed Massaro hoping to take suspicion off her daughter, Hannah, for Sean's murder. Horatio confronts Mallary, getting her to let him in so he can confront the man coming to visit her. He's surprised when he sees it's none other than Lou Durning, the Expose employee. Horatio tells Lou he's resisting arrest despite the fact that Lou is doing nothing, and moves towards him menacingly.

Analysis:

Talk about a shocking ending! The question that resounds after the credits have rolled is, has Horatio crossed the line? Has he finally gone too far? He's been inching towards it since he killed Antonio Riaz, the man responsible for his wife's death in "Rio". But even after Horatio shot a felled adversary point blank in "All In", I assumed his behavior would be swept under the rug, put aside because after all, he is killing bad guys. Riaz certainly had it in for Horatio, and the man the CSI killed in "All In" was crawling towards a weapon. The latter was a pretty slippery slope given that the man was down on the ground and basically down for the count, but he did try to kill Horatio.

Lou Durning is without a doubt a bad guy--anyone who goes after a teen girl is--but does that make it okay for Horatio to beat the man up? Horatio and his team have gone after vigilantes before for doing essentially the same thing Horatio is doing: taking the law into their own hands. The CSI shows in general have always maintained a hard line towards vigilantes, no matter how much the investigators might sympathize with them. Delko's reaction early on in the episode is understandable: when the CSIs make the connection that the two victims are pedophiles, Delko expresses the opinion that the "problem" has taken care of itself. Though it's not the most impartial comment, it's one the audience understands and sympathizes with.

Delko's disgust is within the norm--the CSIs might be charged with investigating crimes, but that doesn't mean they have to necessarily sympathize with the victim or condemn the accused, especially when the victim is reprehensible and the killer's actions understandable on some level. But Delko never crosses the line with his feelings, and they don't keep him from doing his job. The same is true of Alexx, who takes long pause when Calleigh tells her the suspect was a pedophile. We know from "Deviant" that, as a mother, Alexx is especially horrified by pedophiles and has actively crusaded to protect her own neighborhood from one. Alexx registers her disgust, but like Delko she gets on with her job and does it professionally.

Horatio has never held back from expressing his opinion and passing judgment, but most of the time he's the voice of the audience. But physically roughing up a man who was about to try to seduce a teenage girl? As vile as the act Lou Durning was presumably about to commit, he hadn't yet committed it. Mallary could have easily been the first girl he targeted, and we don't know for sure if he actually would have gone through with it, though it's obvious from the fact that he was carrying alcohol that the intent was there. Still, it's no accident that Lou is somewhat diminutive and non-threatening compared to tall, imposing Horatio. And Durning very clearly, very explicitly doesn't resist arrest.

So where does this leave Horatio? It's an interesting position for the usually heroic cop to be in, especially on Miami. Over the last few seasons, Horatio has evolved into a larger-than-life hero, one that has almost become infalliable. I've argued in the past that it's taken him too far away from the humanity and compassion that characterized and distinguished the character in the early seasons. But this episode, coupled with "All In," takes the character in a new, unexpected direction, one that is rich with potential storylines. If Lou Durning presses charges and Stetler comes after Horatio, Horatio will very definitively be in the wrong. It's a daring route for the writers to venture down, at least so long as they aren't going to opt for a cop out solution, one that lets Horatio off the hook and doesn't hold him accountable for his actions.

Accountability is a big issue in this episode, most notably in who is responsible for what happens to both pedophiles and their victims. The CSIs suggest Heather Amberson's television show is in part responsible for the deaths of the men, but Heather quickly counters that she tried to work with the MIPD and was turned down. True, there are echoes of entrapment in what Heather and her crew do, but does that make it wrong? After all, no one is forcing these men to meet the underaged "Tiffany." Does the fact that they're not talking to an actual teenage girl make the men any less responsible for their actions? Clearly Heather doesn't think so, and she's got a point.

But then, on the flipside, how far can crime prevention go before it becomes oppressive and dangerous. The haunting science fiction movie Minority Report tackled just that issue. Set in the near future, the police set up a pre-crime unit that worked off information from three psychics who could predict when a murder would occur, and who would commit it. The pre-crime cops would go and arrest the person just before the murder was about to occur. Stopping a crime is of course an admirable and noble goal, but the movie also asked the difficult question, "Is it ethical to punish someone for a crime they haven't yet committed?" When it comes to murder and pedophilia, there isn't an easy answer to that one.

"To Kill a Predator" acknowledges that in the character of T.J. Pratt, a sex offender who goes to meetings to control his urges and tries to reign in other pedophiles. As strong as the instinct is to condemn anyone who has unnatural or perverted urges towards children, it's impossible to ignore that free will is very much a factor in what people do or do not do. An inclination is one thing, but it is the act, the decision to act upon those urges, that makes someone a pedophile in actuality. With so many pedophiles becoming repeat offenders, it's understandable that the CSIs would be skeptical of Pratt. And with a crime as heinous and damaging as the molestation or rape of a minor, it's easy to understand someone like Heather Amberson wanting to catch pedophiles before they actually do abuse a child.

Scribe Brian Davidson should be commended for penning an episode where there are no easy answers. He throws a wide variety of characters into the mix: the grieving father who tries to find young girls and share his daughter's sad story, the lawyer who hides his urges behind a veneer of respectability, the daughter so horrified to discover her father's pervse desires that she kills him, the pedophile who is fighting his urges and trying to help others to do so, the man who works for a show devoted to catching pedophiles is disguising that he is one. And then there's the good cop who may have taken things a step too far. Will Horatio pay for his actions? I hope we'll see some sort of continuation of the storyline at some point.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.