CSI: New York--'Veritas'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at September 25, 2008 - 8:56 AM GMT

See Also: 'Veritas' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Picking up where "Hostage" left off, the team is frantically searching for Mac Taylor, who manages to pull himself out of a submerged car and reach the shore--in New Jersey. Disoriented from a mild concussion, Mac waves down a woman driving by in a car and asks to use her cell phone to call Stella. Stella and Flack rush to the scene, where the New Jersey CSIs have already recovered the car--and the dead body of Derek James, the cohort of Joe, the man who tricked Mac into helping him escape. Though the New Jersey CSIs insist on maintaining jurisdiction over the scene, the NY team is able to take photographs. Sid does a virtual autopsy on Derek, showing Stella that the bullet that killed him entered through his cheek. Mac discovers a bullet in the collar of his shirt and Lindsay offers a shocking theory: he was shot while in the car, but the round was either old or had its momentum slowed by the window of the car or the fabric of his shirt. Mac realizes Joe probably assumes he's dead. Danny shows Mac a barrette recovered from the car, and tells Mac DNA has shown that it belongs to Joe's daughter. Based on the tire treads from the car Joe took from Derek, Adam thinks Joe is back in New York--the treads aren't deep enough for the car to have been carrying two million dollars. Hawkes is able to listen to the recording from the walkie talkie that was in the car with Mac and Joe and recover the phone number Joe dialed, leading him to Derek's phone, which has Joe's number in it. Mac calls the number and tells a surprised Joe to turn himself in. Joe, on the hunt for the money, refuses.

Adam approaches Flack with some startling news: Joe was caught on a toll booth camera driving a car registered to Flack's sister, Samantha. Flack confronts his sister, who tells him she loaned it to a friend of hers named Lauren Salinas. Danny has matched the bullet from Derek's body to the one in Mac's shirt, leading Danny to think Derek shot at Mac and then went for Joe but had the gun turned around on him. Lindsay has identified material on Mac's CSI kit from Joe's shoe as being a rare plant that's sensitive to touch. After giving Flack some time to talk to Samantha, Adam shares the information with a less-than-pleased Mac. The car is recovered--with Lauren's body in the trunk. Mac recognizes her as the woman who loaned him her cell phone in New Jersey. Danny questions Samantha, who doesn't recognize either Derek or Joe but says she knows Lauren was dating someone. Flack is concerned that she's gone back to her old ways. Sid determines Lauren died of a stab wound, but also finds evidence she was tortured: water in her lungs and abrasions on her wrists. Mac suspects Joe tortured her to find out where Derek hid the money. Mac and Stella head to a field where the plant Lindsay found grows near some deserted rail tracks and discover a buried stash of passports and licenses. Joe, observing from above, calls and promises he'll beat them to the money. When Mac confronts him about Lauren's death, Joe claims it was an accident.

Adam and Lindsay examine the passports and find the real one, revealing Joe's real name as Ethan Scott. They connect the dots: Lauren was a teller at the bank, and trace from Derek's throat indicated he swallowed a key. The CSIs realize the money is still at the bank in a safety deposit box. Stella rushes there, only to find Ethan with the money in hand. Stella chases him to the roof, where he throws her off the side of a railing and, as she scrambles back up, escapes. The CSIs have linked Ethan's tax records with those of his wife and daughter: Allison and Emma Scott. Adam discovers three train tickets to Canada purchased with Allison's credit card. Stella confronts Allison at the train station and tells her what Ethan has done, trying to enlist her help. A few hours later, Ethan arrives at the train station to meet his wife and daughter. He gets a phone call from Mac but is sure he's in the clear--until Mac appears behind him and places him under arrest.

Analysis:

My biggest problem with the CSI: NY fifth season opener is the same one that I had with CSI: Miami's seventh season premiere, "Resurrection": predictability. A nefarious bad guy, who has made it personal with the show's lead in some way, eludes him until the inevitable final showdown at the end of the episode. It's all so route, so terribly mundane that it's hard to get excited by any of it. A good part of that goes back to the fourth season finale, "Hostage," which didn't exactly have a nail-biter of a cliffhanger:

I can't say the ending left my jaw on the floor, either. It's hard to put a main character--especially the show's lead--in jeopardy and have the audience convinced that anything serious is going to happen to him. CSI: Miami's finale "Going Ballistic" suffers from the same problem: I'm not even convinced Horatio Caine was wounded, let alone in grave danger. Let's face it: we all know Gary Sinise is coming back next year, and Mac will be leading the team. I wasn't really worried about him coming out of the building at the end of "Snow Day" either, but everything leading up to that moment was damn suspenseful.

If you're going to put the lead of the show in danger, it's got to be really convincing danger, really unusual and novel to get viewers to suspend their disbelief and think, "Hey, maybe something could happen here." The villain has to be unique and clever enough for the audience to think, "Hey, maybe this guy is a serious threat." Joe intrigued in the first half, but in "Veritas" he's reduced to watching Mac and Stella from a window and arrogantly asserting that they'll never catch him. Is there a Bad Guy 101 class offered somewhere, because his lines are as textbook baddie as you get. The excellent Elias Koteas does what he can with the lines, but they're so stock that they barely register as anything other than set up for Mac's eventual victory over Joe.

Comparing "Hostage" to season's three finale, "Snow Day" might be stacking the deck given that the latter is one of New York's finest episodes, but last season's opener, "Can You Hear Me Now?" was a much stronger entry, with a surprise ending and convincingly suspenseful showdown. Even the inevitable capture of Joe lacks immediacy, since it's painfully obvious from his wife and daughter's stiff postures that he's being set up...and yet he still walks right into the trap. And this is as he's talking to Mac on the phone--apparently so unconcerned by the prospect of the CSI having his real name that he takes the time to exchange barbs with him--giving Mac time to walk up right behind him and put him under arrest for a litany of offenses, the worst of them of course being "pissing [Mac] off." The whole thing feels tired. This show can do better, and has in the past.

As was true of the Miami premiere, the strength of the episode lies with the characters. There's good news to be found as early as the opening credits: both A.J. Buckley and Robert Joy have officially been added on as regulars. It's a wise, long overdue move. Both men bring humor and wit to the show; Adam and Sid have become integral members of the team, as much as any of the CSIs are. It's nice to know they'll be sticking around--and hopefully getting some juicy storylines as well.

Adam makes a significant decision in the premiere: he goes to Flack with the evidence that Flack's sister may have been involved with the case, rather than taking it to Mac first. The move is reminiscent of Lindsay bringing Danny the DNA that linked him to a crime in "Run Silent, Run Deep", but unlike Danny, Flack doesn't scurry off to Mac with the evidence, instead asking Adam to give him two hours. The lab tech agrees, despite the fact that he got chewed out in "Past Imperfect" for not showing Mac a piece of evidence before turning it over to one of Mac's superiors.

It's a bold move on Adam's part, one he even goes so far as to defend in a scene with Mac that highlights just how good Buckley is at inhabiting this character. When those two hours pass, Adam has to face the music: he goes to Mac and fesses up right away that he found a link between the car Joe used and Flack's sister. Adam is clearly nervous and fidgety in the scene, like a good kid taking a bad report card home to a strict father. And yet, Adam sticks to his guns and admits to Mac that given the choice, he'd do it all over again. Gary Sinise channels that stern parent perfectly; Mac fixes Adam with a long, disapproving look before walking out. Mac might not approve of Adam breaking protocol, but loyalty is a quality he can appreciate. Adam watches him go with comedic befuddled relief, practically sighing, "That went well." It's a great moment between the two.

The introduction of Flack's sister gives Eddie Cahill some great material to work with, and it's no surprise that he runs with it. Ever the tough customer, Flack treats his sister with a mixture of irritation and brotherly concern. He's not happy about her being involved in the case, and he's skeptical of her story that she just lent her car to some girl she didn't seem to know all that well. He plays the heavy, warning her that their father won't bail her out this time, but beneath that bluster it's apparent that he's genuinely concerned for her. Cahill's layered performance makes the complexity of the Flack siblings' relationship apparent to the audience, and leaves them curious for more.

For her part, Kathleen Munroe turns in an equally nuanced performance as Samantha. She seems to have it together when we first see her in the bar, so much so that she's able to be casually unconcerned about Flack's inquiry. But when Flack starts to turn the screws--and also scoff at the acquaintance who recognizes Samantha at the police station--her frustration with her brother shows. There's real emotion between the two in this scene. Is Samantha really turning her life around, or is it just a façade? Hopefully we'll find out, because exploring the Flack family dynamic is a welcome look into the life of the carefully controlled detective, easily one of the show's most compelling characters.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.