CSI: New York--'Wasted'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 19, 2006 - 10:44 PM GMT

See Also: 'Wasted' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Top swimsuit designer Gavin Ruvelle's fashion show takes a disturbing turn when model Serena Portinova falls dead on the runway during the height of the show. Mac and Danny arrive at the scene only to find it crawling with potential suspects. Danny discovers the possible murder weapon--a bloody can of the green paint used to enhance the model's body, but both the body painter and Gavin Ruvelle, who admits to arguing with Serena before the show when he found her woozy possibly from drinking too much, deny any involvement. In the morgue, Dr. Hammerback determines that the blow to the back of her head wasn't what killed her--her heart went into ventricular defibrillation and gave out. But as she was otherwise healthy, the CSIs find this a puzzling cause of death.

A young man named Paul Richmont comes into the station looking for Detective Flack. When he finds him, Paul deposits a gun on Flack's desk and claims to have shot his doctor, Rachel Jeffries, behind her office building. Stella and Lindsay go to the scene and find the woman shot dead just as Paul said. Lindsay notices her purse is filled with expensive jewelry, and also discovers an open Chinese food container and is surprised to discover a leech inside. The CSIs open Dr. Jeffries' shirt and find her chest covered in leeches. Lindsay collects the leeches to take back to the lab. Back at the lab, Danny gets a print off the paint can but no match in AFIS, and he's also surprised to discover the blood on the can is from an unknown female, not Serena. The mystery deepens when another dead model is discovered. Jennifer Fazotti lies in the back of the cargo truck, and Dr. Hawkes notices she suffered a blow to the back of the head as well, one which fractured vertebrae. Mac notices the same green paint that Serena was wearing around the wound on Jennifer's neck.

Stella and Flack interrogate Paul, who is insistent that he killed Dr. Jeffries. He claims Jeffries promised to cure the rare blood disease he had, but that she took all of his money and tried outlandish remedies with no success. When Stella asks about the leeches, he pauses before claiming he'd added them for effect. Stella is suspicious and her skepticism is justified when Paul claims to have been looking in Jeffries' eyes when he killed her. Impossible, Stella says, as the woman was shot in the back. Hammerback extracts the bullets and is surprised to discover they're magnetized. The gun is as well, suggesting that the shooter was exposed to a magnetic source shortly before the shooting. Lindsay shows Stella that the leeches were being kept in the Chinese food container, and because one is filled with blood from a male donor, she believes Paul brought them. Stella remains unconvinced.

Dr. Hammerback confirms that Jennifer Fazotti died of a broken neck and gives Mac a sample of spores he found on her body. He also tells Mac that Serena was intoxicated and had ecstasy in her lungs, which likely caused her heart failure. Mac goes to the lab and quickly determines that ecstasy can't be smoked recreationally. In the lab, Adam Ross determines the spores are fungal spores indigenous to Africa. At Dr. Jeffries' office, Stella questions Tracy Colton, the nurse at the office. Stella notices the picture on the television set looks odd. Lindsay finds a necklace on the floor with blood on it, and is suspicious of a cut on Tracy's neck, which Tracy claims she got at home that morning. While Stella examines the office, Lindsay goes back to the alley where Jeffries' body was found and tries a key that was in the dead woman's hand to a door that leads to a basement full of leeches and maggots being raised and stored. Paul's wife, Lynette, pays a visit to the station and tells Stella and Flack that Dr. Jeffries was a scam artist and took all their money but never cured Paul. She tells them Jeffries claimed she was using leeches to draw the poison out Paul's blood.

Mac and Danny confer on their case. The citrus green paint seems to be the only constant between the two victims. They realize a crucial key in the puzzle may have gone down the drain literally when Hammerback washed the paint from Serena's body, so they unscrew the pipe and take a sample, only to discover the paint tests positive for ecstasy and realize that Serena must have been killed by inhaling massive amounts of the ecstasy, which would have been dissolved under the hot lights on the runway. Mac realizes they've uncovered an ecstasy smuggling scheme that goes far beyond a fashion show. Danny and Dr. Hawkes pay a visit to the warehouse where the paint, originally brought up from Georgia, is being stored. Todd Miller, the warehouse manager, shows them the entire supply, which the CSIs take back to the lab to test. All the paint is negative for ecstasy, meaning the smugglers must have gotten rid of it. The spores from Jennifer's neck provide a clue: they were brought over from Africa by a transatlantic wind, which spread the spores across the southeastern U.S., including Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Danny realizes he knows who the killer is. Elsewhere in the lab, Stella has eliminated Paul as a suspect once and for all: the gun was fired three times--two bullets went into Rachel and a third was fired at a different time and location, which fibers in the barrel indicate. Paul fired the gun after the murder and is now protecting the real killer. Lindsay shows Stella the necklace from Dr. Jeffries' office floor and shows her a picture in the locket of a little girl. The CSIs are able to age-progress the photo and Stella recognizes the face.

Mac faces off against Todd Miller, the warehouse manager. He's the one who killed Jennifer, when she came out of the show and caught him switching the ecstasy-laced green paint with regular paint. His fingerprints matched those found on the can used to fatally strike Jennifer. Mac tells Miller that he'll be charged with both her death and Serena's, but the decision as to whether it will be a manslaughter or murder charge depends on whether Miller gives up the people he's selling the drugs for. Paul Richmont is cleared of all charges and released, but he looks on, devastated, as his wife, Lynette, is arrested for Dr. Jeffries' murder. Enraged that Jeffries' had taken all of their money and given Paul false hope, Lynette stormed in on Jeffries in the middle of an MRI and confronted her. Jeffries defended her practice and the women got into a screaming match. Lynette asked for something of hers back, and Jeffries' ripped the locket off her neck and returned it to Lynette. Disgusted, Lynette threw it to the ground and left the office. She waited for Rachel in the alley and shot her twice in the back. Chagrined at his wife's arrest, Paul tells Stella he only has a few months to live and asks if there's any way he can take responsibility for the crime. Sadly, Stella apologizes but stands firm when she says no, though she admits she understands why he did it.

Analysis:

One of the strongest aspects of "Wasted" is how nicely the two cases come together, almost in parallel "I've got it" moments, provided by Danny and Stella, towards the end of the episode. The problem is that at least in one of the cases and most likely the other, the viewer has probably beat the CSIs to the conclusion. I'm not one of those people who never want to have an inkling of who the killer might be before the final revelation--I don't mind being surprised as long as the revelation makes sense, but I also don't mind having an "I knew it!" reaction either most of the time. But both storylines were painted into the corner with their suspect lists. Why would Paul confess to a murder he didn't commit if he wasn't protecting someone, and who else would he be protecting if not his wife? Who involved with a fashion show would have time to be importing/distributing drugs? We only had one outside suspect.

Paul's entrance into the police department and his pronouncement was a great way to kick off the episode. I loved the look on Flack's face when Paul dropped the gun onto his desk, and the reaction of the entire room when the gun appeared and Flack rose. The scene definitely had an energy about it. And despite the fact that as a viewer I'm as skeptical about Paul's eager confession as Stella is, Paul had a compelling earnestness about him that made me interested in him and his story. But no one just confesses to a murder for the fun of it, so it's pretty safe to conclude that he's covering for someone, so when his wife Lynette, full of anger at the doctor who gave her husband false hope, appears in the precinct, the conclusion feels foregone.

That said, I still found the case a gripping and emotional one. In addition to feeling sympathy for Paul, it's impossible not to feel disdain for his wife, who is willing to pin the crime on her dying husband. Even when she's been found out and arrested, she still calls out for Paul to tell the CSIs what really happened--i.e., to keep up the ruse. One has to wonder if she was more upset about the false hope given to her husband or the fact that he squandered their money on a sham cure. As far as murderers go, she's thoroughly distasteful, as much for what she's putting Paul through as her killing of Rachel Jeffries.

In the end, Stella sympathizes with Paul but isn't able to offer him more than her understanding and a simple, "I'm sorry." Interestingly, the episode was co-written (along with Bill Haynes) by Pam Veasey, who seems to have a very specific vision of Stella as a woman who does not offer comfort easily or naturally. Veasey also penned both "Creatures of the Night" and "Rain", both episodes in which Stella found herself in similar situations of being asked to give comfort and not being able to offer much. At first, it was a quality that bothered me about Stella, but as the show has progressed and I've come to understand the character better, I find it far more fitting with her character than, say, her cooing over the baby in "On the Job".

Stella has a lot of rough edges, and I think that makes her a much more interesting character. Her philosophy is best illustrated in the episode "Til Death Do Us Part", which Veasey also wrote, when Stella refused to accept a young suspect's tough luck story as an excuse for his criminal behavior. That translates to this episode as well: Stella can understand why Paul tried to cover for his wife, but her very strict moral compass wouldn't allow her to consider even for a moment to falsify evidence to allow Paul to take the fall for his wife. She doesn't have much comfort to offer Paul, but that's not surprising given that by now, we know it's not Stella's way. It's refreshing to see a woman on television who doesn't feel as though she is obligated to be comforting and nurturing. It's simply not who she is.

What Stella is, though, is a good mentor for Lindsay. In the first case the women have worked together on their own, they present opposite viewpoints and yet don't bicker over their different conclusions about the case. Whereas Stella immediately doubts Paul's story and is approaching the case by no means certain of the conclusion, Lindsay seems to be looking at the evidence through the lens of Paul's confession. She first thinks he brought the leeches to the scene, but to her credit listens to Stella and doesn't get pushy about her own conclusions. Remembering the key and deciding to try it also showed some creative thinking on her part.

It's nice to see Robert Joy's quirky Sid Hammerback in the morgue again, and his "flirting" with Stella is a really cute moment, especially her light-hearted reaction to it. Stella is at her warmest with those she knows well, and she clearly feels at ease with them in ways that she doesn't with those she encounters while working cases, even those she might feel sympathy for. Getting back to Hammerback, I have to say I was surprised he was allowed to wash the paint off the first dead model before one of the CSIs combed her body for trace. Didn't anyone think to take a sample of the paint? It would have saved Mac and Danny the handyman routine later in the episode.

The main case is interesting primarily for the unexpected turn it takes. One is expecting a jealous model to be the culprit or perhaps a disgruntled fashion show crewmember who is tired of diva-like behavior from the models. That it is indeed the paint that connects the deaths of the two models and nothing else is surprising and inventive, even if the fact that it turns out to be a drug scam robs the story of any personal impact it might have. Not every murder is for personal motivations--like the killing of Kia Rowe in "Dancing with the Fishes", some murders happen for the tragic reason that someone is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.