CSI Miami--'Wolfe In Sheep's Clothing'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 1, 2009 - 12:56 AM GMT

See Also: 'Wolfe In Sheep's Clothing' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Picking up where "Target Specific" left off, a badly beaten Ryan Wolfe is dropped off by the Russian who tortured him and ordered him to compromise the evidence collection in the murder of a broker. Though Ryan held up under torture, when the Russian threatened the life of Billy Gantry, the young son of Ryan's sponsor Mark, Ryan gave in and promised to do whatever he asked. Ryan cleans himself off and goes to the crime scene: Ian Warner, a foreign currency exchange broker, has been found murdered in his office. Ben Porterson, the security guard on duty at the building, tells Delko, Calleigh and Ryan that he locked the building down as soon as a tenant mentioned hearing an alarm. Horatio and Tripp race to the roof, but there's no sign of the killer. Tripp questions Cynthia Lang, Warner's assistant, but she claims she didn't hear anything as she was in the lobby at the time of the murder. She notes that Warner kept two million dollars in U.S. currency in his safe. At the scene, Ryan discovers a bullet casing and covertly pockets it. On the roof, Delko investigates a small pool filled with purple water and determines the coloring is from the dye packet from a suitcase of money. Delko determines that the man must have parachuted from the roof and, with the help of Dave Benton, determines the man's trajectory was to the roof of a shorter building. Delko goes to the building and recovers a piece of the man's parachute. Epithelials on it belong to a man named Jim Colton. Delko has the man brought in for questioning, but just before going in to interrogate Colton, Ryan gets a message--a video of an abducted Billy Gantry. Ryan joins Delko in the interrogation and mentions Colton's job at a sporting good store as a possible explanation for how his DNA got on the parachute. Delko is angry at Ryan for making what he deems a rookie mistake, but Ryan presses on, suggesting they have nothing substantial on Colton and need to release him.

Ryan processes a piece of the shirt he was wearing when he was abducted and finds sucrose and calcium phosphate on it. He gets a call from Mark Gantry, who is upset that Ryan has taken on his debt. Ryan asks him about the last time he saw Billy, and Mark tells him it was that morning when he dropped the boy off at school. Ryan warns him not to go after the boy. Calleigh catches the tail end of the conversation, but Ryan brushes her off. She asks for help going over the items from the safe the two million dollars was stolen from, and Ryan promises to join her soon. Ryan searches a database and comes up with a print profile for Ben Porterson, the security guard. He creates a set of fake prints matching the guard's and, when Calleigh isn't looking, uses them to make prints on one of the items of the safe. The print leads the team to bring Porterson in and test him for GSR. When he pops positive, they arrest him for the murder despite his proclamations of innocence. When Horatio finds Mark Gantry at the station asking about his son, Ryan's game is up: he admits that Billy has been abducted, and tells the team leader that he slowed the investigation down. Horatio tells Ryan to leave Billy to him. In the lab, Calleigh finds Porterson's gun is clean and looks closely at the GSR pattern, suspecting it was transfer and not the result of Porterson firing a gun. Ryan touches the jacket without gloves, leading Calleigh to react with anger at his careless mistake. When she tells him she thinks he's keeping something from her, he storms out angrily.

Calleigh and Delko sit down with Porterson, telling him they know he didn't shoot Ian Warner. When asked about the GSR being transferred to his jacket, he admits to an indiscretion with Cynthia Lang, whom he claims came on to him. The pair question Cynthia, who scoffs at the idea of an affair with Porterson and refuses to submit to a DNA or GSR test. Horatio visits Billy's school and looks at video footage from the security camera, which shows Billy being abducted by a man in a white van. A partial plate number leads Horatio to a warehouse owned by Sweet Keys Sugar where he discovers Jim Colton digging a hole to hide the two million dollars in. Horatio shows him a picture of Sergei Patrenko, a fellow Russian murdered by the very men both he and Colton worked for and tells Colton he's next. Horatio convinces the man to drive him to the location where Billy is being held. Horatio enters the rundown building and kills the man holding Billy, freeing the boy. Back at the lab, Calleigh and Delko pore over the evidence when Ryan approaches with the bullet casing in hand. Angrily at him for withholding evidence, the two send him away. Delko finds a print on the casing that matches Cynthia. She defiantly tells Calleigh and Delko that Ian Warner was killed for failing to show the proper respect for the right people. Horatio reunites Billy Gantry with his father and tells Ryan that the Russians underestimated him. Ryan tells Horatio that the Russians are trying to break the team, and Horatio boldly replies, "I say bring it on."

Analysis:

"Wolfe in Sheep's Clothing" is a mixed bag: while it's an exciting story because of the personal stakes for Ryan, it's also at times frustrating and hard to believe. At the crux of it is the leap in logic that the audience is supposed to take with regards to Ryan and his decision not to tell anyone what's going on with him. While he makes the point several times that he's being watched, it's hard to believe that he couldn't have pulled Horatio aside to ask for his help before resorting to taking evidence and falsifying results. It's hard to sympathize with Ryan when he's lying to his colleagues and framing an innocent man, even if it is in the name of keeping his sponsor's son safe. But Ryan isn't a stupid character--he knows that the people he's dealing with are dangerous and are just as likely to kill Billy Gantry as they are to free him if Ryan complies with their demands. Given that the whole episode is built upon Ryan's decision to try to placate the Russians rather than turning to his friends for help, the audience really needs to believe that this is a choice that Ryan would make, or that he would feel he has to make, and that's something that's never quite sold in the episode.

Ryan has a history with Horatio that suggests that Ryan certainly could have come to the CSI leader with his problem. It was Horatio who first took a chance on the then-patrolman who wanted on to his team back in "Under the Influence", and after Ryan was fired in season five, it was Horatio who vowed to Ryan that the team wouldn't abandon him in "Kill Switch". Indeed, even as recently as last season, Horatio showed just how much trust he has in Ryan when he turned to Wolfe--not Calleigh or Delko--to help him fake his own death in "Going Ballistic". While Calleigh and especially Delko have been hard on Ryan at times, Horatio has shown him patience, compassion and understanding. For Ryan to look at lying to the team and tampering with evidence as his only options doesn't speak to the relationship that has been built up between the characters over the past four and a half seasons. While I might have bought Ryan not feeling he could trust anyone on the team back in the third or fourth season, it's a much harder sell in the seventh. And if Ryan is clever enough to come up with a covert way to plant fingerprints on evidence from the safe, he's smart enough to sneak a message to Horatio--one person he should know by now he can trust.

Horatio's reaction to Ryan's actions is similarly puzzling. He doesn't look pleased when he first figures out what Ryan's done, but he accepts Ryan's mea culpa and promise to accept whatever rebuke is coming his way. While it's certainly believable that Horatio would put aside whatever feelings he has about what Ryan's done until Billy Gantry is safe, it's downright surprising that at the end of the episode, there seem to be no consequences coming for Ryan. Not only does Horatio not rebuke Ryan, he actually praises him, telling the younger CSI that the Russians "underestimated" him. How? Ryan did exactly as they asked. If anything, Ryan's actions prove that the Russians targeted the right man. Horatio, Calleigh and Delko--and their powers of perception--are the ones the Russians actually underestimated. While I didn't really expect Horatio to fire Ryan, I expected some sort of rebuke. If Stetler had found out what Ryan had done, there's no doubt in my mind Ryan would have been fired once again. But wouldn't Horatio have some sort of misgivings about learning that even after over four years with the team, Ryan still doesn't realize that the right course of action would have been to come to Horatio before compromising a case?

I'll admit, seeing Ryan frame an innocent man made me lose a lot of sympathy for him. Maybe it's because David Zayas's hapless security guard was such a sympathetic figure or maybe because the idea of a CSI planting evidence is just a major breach of ethics, but that was the point I think Ryan crossed a line he absolutely shouldn't have. It was one thing for him to take the bullet casing from the scene--that alone was a pretty big breach of protocol. With all the fuss CSI: Miami has made about the chain of custody for evidence in episodes such as "Presumed Guilty" and "Inside Out", I find it hard to believe that Ryan's move wouldn't have jeopardized the bullet casing standing up in court as viable evidence. But Ryan taking the casing is something that in some ways is understandable--after all, he'd just been freed by the Russians and was no doubt still deeply shaken by the ordeal. It's understandable that he would pick up the bullet and pocket it. The very act of bagging it properly shows that he was at least torn by the action. I can even see how, when faced with Jim Colton, Ryan offered the man an out--he'd just received the disturbing video of Billy.

But framing Porterson crossed a serious line. There was real calculation in Ryan's actions--in order to shift the focus of the investigation on to the security guard, Ryan has to manufacture a set of prints and transfer them to the items from the safe that Calleigh is working on, which he does--right under Calleigh's nose. Ryan later claims that he wasn't actually trying to scuttle the case completely, just send the team in another direction temporarily, but the fact remains that because of Ryan's actions an innocent man is accused and arrested. I half expected a late-in-the-game revelation that Porterson was in fact involved just so that Ryan would be partially exonerated. I'm glad that didn't happen--it would have cheapened the story and taken away from the gravity of what Ryan did. As much as I like Ryan, I do think he needs to face the consequences of his actions and be held accountable for what he did.

All that being said, there's much to like about "Wolfe in Sheep's Clothing." The way Ryan faces his moral dilemma says much about his place in the team, or rather it says a good deal about where he sees himself among the team. Even after all these years, Ryan still feels like an outsider, as though he can't truly turn to and trust the people he works with in his time of need. The opening sequence is particularly well done, highlighting the contrast between Ryan and the now paired up Delko and Calleigh. As Ryan stumbles into his apartment and cleans up the evidence of his brutal beating at the hand of the Russian, Delko and Calleigh get ready together for the workday. Once again Natalia is unfortunately the odd woman out, and we don't know if she feels the same isolation Ryan does, but Delko and Calleigh's status as a new couple does set the others apart in some regards. It's Ryan who has noticed their newfound togetherness, and it clearly has made the insecure CSI feel even more the outsider. Horatio, of course, is so remote a figure that it's hard to imagine anyone bonding with him at this point--a real shame, since early in the show's run, he was much more in touch with his team.

While Horatio seems to forgive Ryan completely, Calleigh and Delko are nowhere near as understanding. Calleigh tries to reach out to Ryan twice during the course of the episode, only to have him first brush her off and then actually get angry with her, storming out of the room and saying sarcastically to Delko, "I've got secrets. Don't tell anybody!" They're both mad when Ryan brings them the bullet casing he's been holding onto while they've been "spinning our wheels all day" as Delko puts it. Both Delko and Calleigh are clearly floored, and finally Delko tells Ryan to "get out." Though as a viewer my sympathies lay with Delko and Calleigh, from Ryan's perspective Delko's words--and his obvious solidarity with Calleigh--must have been even more isolating. I hope there's some long-term fallout from Ryan's actions; even if Horatio doesn't hold him accountable for what he did, someone should. Delko and Ryan have been at odds on and off throughout the last four and a half seasons, and this could certainly set their relationship, which seemed to be on much more solid ground lately, back to its adversarial roots.

Jonathan Togo turns in a great performance in this episode, bringing the audience along with Ryan as he struggles with his impossible dilemma. While Ryan never seems to waver in his conviction about what he needs to do, Togo definitively conveys what a struggle it is for him. Ryan looks guilt-stricken when he takes the bullet, uncomfortable when Delko confronts him about giving Colton an out and shamefaced when presenting the bullet casing to Calleigh. Ryan's edginess--both his worry for Billy Gantry and his discomfort with what he's doing--comes through in every scene he's in. Ryan has struggled throughout his time on this show, whether it be with his contentious relationship with Delko or the various problems that have affected his job--his scuffle with an officer, his slip up in sharing too much with a newswoman, his gambling addiction. It's his constant striving to do a good job and sometimes falling short, along with the insecurities that come along with those things that make him such a compelling character. I just hope that there are consequences resulting from his actions in this episode and that everything isn't forgiven and forgotten in the next new outing.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.