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CSI: Miami--'Won't Get Fueled Again'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 8, 2008 - 5:21 AM GMT

See Also: 'Won't Get Fueled Again' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A swanky beach party is interrupted when a man who's literally on fire crashes through the tables headed for the ocean. He falls before reaching it. The new ME, Dr. Tara Price, greets Horatio at the scene and shows him the fourth degree burns covering the charred body. She notes that the dead man was covered in an accelerant. The party's host, Paul Sanders, tells Horatio the dead man wasn't a guest at his party. Calleigh and Delko trace the man's path backwards and discover he was lit on fire in the parking lot. They find a piece of charred cloth with a melted nametag. Ryan is able to recover the name and company off the nametag: Sam at Select Executive Valet. Calleigh and Eric visit the valet stand and talk to the valet and discover the nametag was his. His name is Sam Laughlin and he was the only valet working the party. In the morgue, Dr. Price tells Delko the accelerant was high-octane gasoline, and pulls a tooth from the victim's mouth for DNA identification. Natalia is able to get a DNA match: their victim is a university student named Dan Granger, who has priors for trespassing and theft. The CSIs question Johnny Young, Dan's roommate, who admits during interrogation that he and Dan stole gas from fellow students. He and Dan stole a valet vest and were stealing from cars at the Sanders party. Johnny heard Dan scream after siphoning gas from an Escalade; Johnny turned and saw his roommate on fire. After Dan ran off, Johnny took the gas and fled.

The CSIs trace the gasoline to a local gas station and learn that an Escalade was there earlier, but not for fuel. When Ryan discovers markings on a fuel delivery grate and talks to the proprietor of the station, Ross Nelson, who notices he's missing 1500 gallons of fuel. Ryan estimates it would have taken some time to siphon off that much fuel, and Ross admits that he was in the back with a pretty customer who was willing to do anything to get a free tank of gas. Calleigh gets DNA off the condom Ross used and matches it to a woman named Andrea Rinell, who has a prior for solicitation. She tells the CSIs she doesn't know what they're talking about when asked about the gas theft. The CSIs track down the Escalade and Calleigh gives chase, only to get cut off by a truck. When she gets around it, she finds the Escalade burning--with no passengers inside. The CSIs find the car has been wiped down, but Ryan discovers a fingernail in the glove compartment. The nail is a match to Johnny, who admits to searching the car and finding a bag of passports, which he figured he could sell. The CSIs confiscate the passports and Tripp notes that they are all young women from Central and South America. Tripp also notes the women all share an address. He and Horatio go to the location and discover Andrea Rinell. She tells them she was forced into helping the men, that she and the other women were told if they tried to run, their families would be killed. Horatio realizes they're dealing with a human trafficking ring.

Among the items recovered from the Escalade, Delko discovers the weapon used to ignite Dan: a cell phone rigged to be a stun gun. A print on the phone leads him to the killer: Sam Lauglin, the valet. Sam caught Dan stealing gas from him and wanted to teach him a lesson. He says he had no idea Dan would catch on fire. Sam has been stealing gas for someone, but won't give up his employer. When Ryan discovers a hidden set of license plates in the Escalade, the CSIs are able to ferret out Sam's employer: Paul Sanders, the host of the party Dan died at. The team tracks Paul down at a warehouse, surrounded by the women whose passports he was holding hostage. Horatio arrests a defiant Paul, who claims he was just giving the women an opportunity to come into the country legally. The women are freed from the warehouse as Horatio looks on.

Analysis:

Why must every episode of Miami be so over the top? It's not enough to have a guy crashing through a party literally on fire; the whole thing in the end has to be tied to a human trafficking organization. The ending might not be so preposterous if we hadn't already seen the exact same thing in "Legal", when an investigation of a murder at a club uncovered--you guessed it--a human trafficking ring. Entering into its seventh season, I suppose Miami should be forgiven for recycling the occasional storyline. Why not use the superior ones though? As is generally true of all of the CSI shows, the small stories are generally the best (with a few notable exceptions). It's far more interesting to watch a family drama unfold as happens in "Nailed" than it is to find the burning death of a man is linked to a human trafficking ring.

The episode hinges on a major coincidence. While this is generally par for the course for CSI shows--after all, to solve a crime in the space of forty-two minutes, one must accept some convenient finds--the idea that one character who is stealing gasoline happens to steal gas from another character who is also stealing gasoline seems like an absurd coincidence. Perhaps if the Escalade had been at the college campus, it would have been easier to swallow, but how did Dan and Johnny happen across this swanky party in the first place? How did they happen to zero in on the one car that happened to be used to steal gas from a gas station hours before? With gas hovering around four dollars a gallon, gas theft is probably up, but is it so common that we can buy the big coincidence at the heart of this episode? I think it's a stretch, even for a CSI show.

Not every episode has to have an emotional tie in for the characters, but this one seemed particularly devoid of any emotional reaction from the audience. I suppose we're supposed to cheer when Horatio frees the women enslaved by the smarmy--why are so many baddies on Miami so darn smug?--Paul Sanders, but again...we were treated to the exact same ending in "Legal." There's only so many times we can watch Horatio stand with his hands on his hips, sunglasses covering his eyes, watching as justice is served and things are set right again thanks to him. Such a moment needs to be earned with more than a late-in-the-game revelation that there are some helpless women that need saving.

I hesitate to fret over the show being stale this early in the season, but the only fresh things about this episode are its admittedly cute title and the introduction of the new coroner, Tara Price, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke. Like any character new to a CSI show, she has to make a splash by doing something unconventional, which she does, pulling a tooth from the charred body for DNA identification. She also notes the turnover of MEs, something it would be understandable she'd be nervous about, given that one predecessor quit, one was murdered, and one was an undercover agent. Echikunwoke doesn't get much screentime--the coroners never do--but she makes an impression in her first appearance.

If I didn't know Natalia and Delko had hooked up back in season four, I'd never suspect the two had a past. Natalia is quick to point out that Dr. Price was perhaps trying to impress Delko when he brings her the tooth for DNA identification. Rather than demurring, his response is a simple, "She's cute." I certainly hope Delko won't be engaging in extracurricular activities with the new ME. Since his shooting and the revelation of his feelings for Calleigh, it seemed as though Eric had left his playboy ways in the past. Is that going to change now?

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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