CSI: New York--'Turbulence'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 9, 2008 - 3:39 PM GMT

See Also: 'Turbulence' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Mac is on a flight to Washington, D.C., when he notices the stewardesses convening in the back of the plane. He goes to see what's going on, and, after he flashes his badge, they show him the cause of their distress: a dead man in the bathroom, the victim of a fatal stab wound to the carotid artery. Mac discovers a badge identifying him as a Federal Air Marshal and notices his gun missing. Mac gets the pilots to turn the plane back to New York, and enlists the one man he knows is innocent--the passenger next to him, Ed Riley--to keep an eye on the cabin while he examines the body. There's no ID on the body, so Mac asks the flight attendants to contact the FAA to get an ID on the Marshal assigned to the plane. One of the flight attendants, Susan, recalls a passenger, James Turner, who was agitated during the flight. Mac takes a glance at the man and notices blood on his sleeve. The mystery deepens when the other flight attendant, Nina, relays startling news to Mac: the dead man on the plane is not the Air Marshal who was supposed to be on the flight. Mac fingerprints the man using Nina's lipstick and sends the prints to Stella, who puts Lindsay on the case. Lindsay gets an ID: Anton Greenway, who escaped from custody the day before after a major drug smuggling conviction. Danny and Flack track the real Air Marshal, Roger Stockwell, to a hotel room, where they find the man dead on the floor, the victim of a gunshot wound to the head.

The plane lands and Stella tells Mac Homeland Security gave the go-ahead for him to take the lead on the case--but without warrants, they can't detain anyone on the plane for any longer than 24 hours. Mac questions James Turner, immediately suspicious of the man. On the plane, Stella and Hawkes discover Anton's real reason for being on the plane: a bag full of Canadian money. In the morgue, Sid shows Lindsay that a bruise on Stockwell is a match to Anton's fist, strongly suggesting Anton was responsible for the Marshal's death. The coroner also discovered traces of lubricant on Anton, as well as letters written on one of his hands. The blood on James Turner's shirt turns out to be his own, eliminating him as a suspect. Lindsay works on the letters on Anton's hand and deduces they're coordinates for an airfield in Montreal. Anton was likely planning to hijack the plane and take it to Canada. While Hawkes discovers that Anton's jacket had deep hidden pockets to conceal the cash, Danny gets a hit off a print on the gun used to kill Roger Stockwell: a club manager named Terrence Davis who was busted for drug running and used to work alongside Anton Greenway at Atlantic Vista airlines. Flack and Danny go to Terrence's club where the owner admits to seeing Anton the day before but denies he's in league with him. When he goes to show them his gun, he's shocked to find it missing. Flack arrests him on a parole violation and, once Terrence's alibi checks out, agrees to let him take a plea bargain from the DA in exchange for being an informant.

After sifting through trash and human refuse, Adam discovers a condom wrapper with lipstick on it. Stella and Lindsay try to identify the murder weapon from two prong marks on Anton's jaw to no avail--until Mac notices a picture of one of the flight attendants wearing a wing pin. The pin's prongs are a match, and Mac scans the pictures, discovering only one flight attendant missing her wings: Susan. Flack makes a quick call and discovers Susan is on a flight to Paris. He and Mac rush to the plane with just seconds to spare and catch the woman. Blood on her wing pin is a match to Anton. Susan admits to planning to run away with Anton and the sizable amount of cash he'd stolen, but when she found out he'd killed the Air Marshal and after he threatened her with a gun when she refused to help him hijack the plane and take it to Canada, Susan turned on him and stabbed him with her pin. Rather than claim to have stopped a terrorist, Susan concealed the crime, hoping to get away with the money. Mac notes that she made the wrong choice--and now she's grounded for good.

Analysis:

A far better Mac-centric episode than "Veritas", "Turbulence" highlights Mac's strengths, rather than his sometimes grating arrogance. Mac's dogged determination to bring Joe down because Joe pulled one over on him made "Veritas" drag, but here it isn't so personal for Mac, and that's actually a good thing. The part of the episode that takes place while the plane is in transit is especially well done. There's a real current through these scenes, a tension as Mac tries to covertly investigate without revealing that he's conducting an investigation, lest he tip off the killer and make an already dangerous situation even more perilous. We don't get much posturing or bluster from Mac in this episode; it's just a good old-fashioned investigation, with Mac relying on his keen perception skills to ferret out the killer. And Mac is remarkably observant: his only initial tip-off that something is wrong on the plane is the flight attendants converging in the back of the plane. What if they'd just been gossiping? I assume Mac must have sensed their tension.

One huge relief: Ed Riley, the uneasy passenger sitting next to Mac, wasn't the killer. I was so worried that when Mac determined he was the only one who couldn't have killed Anton that we'd find out at the last minute that Ed killed him before the flight took off or something along those lines. Justin Shilton played nervous befuddlement with aplomb opposite Gary Sinise, whose calm is a good balance in their scenes together. It's also nice for Mac that he was right about this one; after Joe's duplicity, it's conceivable that Mac might be doubting his instincts, but that doesn't appear to be the case. That's a good thing: Mac's instincts are usually spot on, and even the most keen observers get it wrong once in a while.

The flight attendants were probably the next likely suspects, but I'm glad the lipstick Nina loaned Mac didn't end up being the lynchpin that solved the case. That would have been far too convenient, and it's nice to see this episode mostly avoids those easy coincidences. The only other passenger we meet, James Turner, would have been too obvious as well. Mac is right in that it's downright odd that James' first instinct is to admit to having two families rather than to deny any involvement in the murder, but the man is likely too focused on whatever guilt he's carrying around from that huge deception to step back and concentrate on defending himself against an accusation of murder. How did he get that much of his own blood on his sleeve?

It's the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Flack and Nelly's character, Terrence Davis. After determining that Terrence's story is true and he wasn't involved in Anton's plot, the ever opportunistic Flack decides to work the situation to his advantage and use Terrence as an informant in exchange for a plea that allows him to avoid jail time. It's bound to be a winning situation for the viewers, as Flack is at his smarmy best opposite low level criminals--the ones not bad enough to do something truly heinous, but still worthy of Flack's disdain. And Eddie Cahill is so good at dishing out that disdain; we always know exactly what Flack thinks of the swindlers and smooth talkers he crosses paths with. Terrence declares, "From the minute I saw you, I knew we were going to be friends." Could this be the beginning of a beautiful new friendship?

The show's best duo is hands down Danny and Flack, who feed off each other's energy no matter what they're doing, be it processing a scene or interrogating a suspect. Danny always gets a little feistier when he knows his best friend is there to back him up, and Flack pulls out some of his best lines with Danny. When they go to see Terrence at the club, Flack wonders if he's suddenly become "allergic to half-naked women" or if there's a cat in the vicinity. In the hotel room where they discover Roger Stockwell's body, the two eagerly share their findings with each other, Flack brandishing the gun he discovers and Danny holding up the panda bear and quipping "Happy birthday" after he wonders aloud if Anton posed as a delivery man to get into Stockwell's room. Five seasons into the show, Cahill and Carmine Giovinazzo play off each other effortlessly.

Poor Adam gets stuck with a shitty task--literally. When going through the trash doesn't produce the weapon used to murder Anton, Mac sends him to go through the refuse from the toilets. Who but A.J. Buckley could mutter the line, "I hate poo" with such a forlorn cadence? When Adam comes into the lab to proffer the condom wrapper to Stella and Lindsay, the women's reactions clue us in to just how badly Adam must smell. Stella is far gentler than Lindsay, who recoils with a disdainful, "Oh, Adam!" What happened to the new girl who gamely delved into tiger dung in "Zoo York"? His evidence delivered, Adam shuffles off to take a shower.

Stella might have reason enough to smile: when Mac calls her from the plane, we see her in a batting cage, preparing for the NYPD/FDNY baseball game, a cute fireman at her side. After literally season upon season of bad luck with men, it's about time Stella caught a break in the romance department. Might Brendon Walsh be her next suitor? And if so, let's hope he doesn't have any skeletons in his closet.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.