CSI: New York--'Zoo York'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 13, 2005 - 9:35 PM GMT

See Also: 'Zoo York' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Central Park Zoo visitors flee in terror when a tiger at the zoo is found eating a man. Mac, Danny and Flack arrive at the scene and are quick to note that something is fishy about the case. Mac notices blood at the top of the cage, indicating the man was already bleeding when he fell into the cage. Danny spots tape around one of the man's severed wrists, suggesting that the tiger's snack may have actually been a mob hit. Aiden's replacement, CSI Lindsay Monroe reports for her first case, and Mac has her jump right in, asking her to hold the tranquilized tiger's jaw open so he can swab the tiger's mouth.

Stella and Hawkes are investigating the murder of a teen girl found dead on a carousel. She's wearing a white dress, which Dr. Evan Zao identifies as a debutante's dress. Though unsure of the cause of death, Zao points out she has an enlarged heart and diet pills were her only meal the previous day. Zao points out an irritation under her upper lip as well as a swelling on her neck. Stella notices her shoes are too small for her feet. Back at the zoo, Danny questions Felix Parker, whose landscaping company was unloading roses when the body was discovered, but he doesn't recall seeing anything suspicious. Mac follows the blood trail and discovers red paint chips, and realizes the victim was driven in and dumped. Danny's suspicion that it was a mob hit grows. In the morgue, Dr. Zao tells Mac that the man died of exsanguination and points out that his heart appears to have been frozen and thawed.

Back at the lab, Stella goes over the debutante's dress, finding a powdery orange substance on it and noticing that the dress has been taken in. Hawkes examines a button that was found near the body but doesn't match the girl's dress. Elsewhere, Mac and Lindsay try to determine what weapon was used to kill their victim based on a wound that isn't consistent with the tiger's bites. Danny enters the lab to tell them that blood from the victim's shoe was bovine, not human and notes there was sawdust on his shoes as well. When Mac identifies the weapon used as a meat hook, they put together that the victim was working in the meatpacking district. A trip to the district reveals that the victim, Bobby Vinetti, owned a shop in the area and hasn't been seen since the day before. Danny finds packing tape and Mac notices a bloodstain made up of human blood on the wall in the meat locker, indicating that this is their primary crime scene. Danny notices a thawed handprint on the wall. One of the shop workers mentions a man named Ryan Knight who was fired the day before but still punched in the previous evening. On their way out, Mac notices a read truck with the name Vincetti on on it: Bobby's uncle Angelo, a mobster, is taking note of Mac's progress on the case.

Hawkes discovers the orange dust on the debutante's dress is cheddar cheese dust, and Zack has an ID for the CSIs: Briana Freemont, who was reported missing by her mother, Jessica. Jessica tearfully IDs Briana's body and tells Stella Briana was adopted but that she also has a biological daughter. Missy, wearing her own debutante dress, arrives at the morgue where Stella notices a similar cheese dust on her dress. Stella questions Missy, who admits to hating her perfect sister. When Stella accuses her of taking in her sister's dress and switching her shoes so that Briana would think she was getting fat, Briana admits that she did, but denies killing her sister. She says she was with a boy, Sam Wilson, all night at the Dandridge Hotel. Zack gives Stella and Hawkes a new lead when he tells them that the irritation on Briana's lip was from collagen and that she was killed by spider venom.

Mac and Lindsay track Ryan Knight down, and he tries to flee when Mac approaches him. The CSIs apprehend him and Mac is very interested to discover a black bag he is carrying is filled with cash. Ryan claims he was at the meat shop the night before, but that he was trying to win his job back. When he discovered Bobby dead in the meat locker, he fled, but not before taking the money from the safe. Danny matches the tape from Bobby's wrists to the roll of tape he found at the butcher's shop and Zack notes that the handprint on the wall had fertilizer on it, causing it to not freeze and stand out. Their killer has a green thumb.

Stella and Hawkes question Tanya Danville, who works for a cosmetics company that's currently seeking a patent for the collagen solution found on Briana's lip. Tanya admits that Briana, a friend of her daughter Madison, who is also a debutante, came to her and asked for the collagen. Tanya notes that Jessica Freemont and she were debutantes the same year, and that she is going to be wearing the same dress she wore to their debutante ball. When the CSIs ask her about the spider venom, she tells them her company doesn't use it. Stella and Hawkes get a new lead when prints from the buttons on the carousel come back as a match to Sam Wilson, the boy Missy claims she was spending the evening with. They pay Sam a visit at his house and he tells them he and Briana used to date but that she had broken up two weeks ago. He asked her to meet him at the carousel to win her back, but she said no and he left. Stella's suspicions about his story grow when she learns he keeps poisonous Brazilian Wandering Spiders as pets. They take the spiders back to the lab but shockingly the venom is not a match. The spider venom that killed Briana was synthetic.

Knight is cleared when Danny tells Mac that the DNA on the tape didn't match his, but Lindsay gets another lead in the tiger's feces when she discovers a finger with a thorn in it. Danny recalls that Felix Parker, the landscaper, was delivering roses to the zoo when Bobby was found. Mac puts it together when he learns that Felix was buying the building Bobby's shop was in. Mac spots Vinetti's truck again and approaches it. Angelo tells Mac that Bobby had changed his mind about selling the building. Concerned about his dogged pursuit of the case, Mac sends him away. He matches the paint chips from the scene to Parker's truck, and Lindsay finds human blood on the truck's bumper. Mac realizes Parker must have killed Bobby, left him in the meat locker while he figured out where to dump the body, and then taped his wrists to make it look like a mob kill. But when Mac and Lindsay go to arrest Felix, he's nowhere to be found--the lock to his apartment is busted and it's obvious he was taken away in the middle of preparations to flee.

Hawkes turns back to the button, which has chemicals on it used in dry cleaning twenty years before and recalls that Tanya Danville bragged about wearing her debutante dress from twenty years ago. Stella and Hawkes return to the hotel, where they find Tanya at the debutante ball. They pull her aside; the paper trail from the synthetic spider venom leads right to Tanya. But why kill Briana? Tanya venomously tells the CSIs that she attended her own debutante ball with Simon Freemont, but then Jessica 'stole' him from her and ruined her life. They arrest her in disgust, but Stella is at least able to bring a grief-stricken Jessica closure.

Mac confronts Angelo Vincetti about Felix Parker. Angelo dodges Mac's questions, even though both men know Angelo is responsible for the man's disappearance and most likely murder. Angelo tells Mac justice has been served, but Mac promises that he will find evidence of the crime and come for Angelo one day.

Analysis:

There were a lot of things I liked about this episode, but I feel like I have to get the one thing I really didn't like out of the way first because the resolution to the secondary case actually made me sigh out loud in frustration. A professor of a fiction writing class I took once said if there's a problem with the ending of a story, the actual problem can probably be found in the beginning or the middle, but I was actually enjoying the case of the dead debutante up until the writers pulled out a ridiculous, tired, cliched motive for the murder.

Now, the science usually trumps the motives in CSI shows, and that's fine. There have been some downright dull or unlikely motives between the three shows (as well as plenty of truly chillingly credible ones), but rarely are they just downright preposterous. My strongest reaction was one of complete and utter disbelief. That a woman would stew for twenty years over losing a man just to kill her rival's adopted daughter is just...silly. Is this the best resolution the writers could come up with, really? It just seems so uninspired, as if they got to the end of the episode and didn't really have a motive for their killer, so they just tacked one on. I know the writers on this show can do better; I've seen it plenty of times before.

Luckily, the primary mystery is quite satisfying. Appearances are deceiving over and over in the case. The man they find in the tiger's cage wasn't killed by the tiger but dumped so that the tiger could take care of the remains. It's more creative than dumping a body in a river, but it might have behooved Felix to dump the body earlier in the evening so the tiger could finish his meal. Lucky for Mac he didn't. At first, it seems to be a mob hit, but that too is ironically deceptive, given that by killing a mobster's nephew, Felix seals his own fate and ends up the victim of a mob hit himself.

Is Angelo Vincetti being set up as a new nemesis for Mac, or is it New York's new thing to leave cases unresolved? Last week's episode saw Aiden departing without having solved the rape case that frustrated her (and caused her to contemplate planting evidence) and this week Mac discovers a murderer only to be beaten to the punch by a mobster. But really, Mac is a smart man--as soon as he knew Angelo put it together that Felix Parker was the killer, he should have sent a police detail over to the man's apartment to at least watch over the guy while Mac checked the evidence and made sure Parker was in fact guilty. What if in fact he'd been innocent, and Angelo had gone over and killed the guy based on the fact that he'd been following Mac's investigation? How bad would Mac feel then?

There's potential to make the mob a major part of New York's storyline; whether they can break new ground on an oft-explored theme remains to be seen. As Angelo, Peter Onoratio certainly has what it takes to play a compelling and multi-faceted villain--there's something sympathetic about him even as he unapologetically runs up against and thwarts Mac. Hopefully the show will tie it in with their other gang-related story, the mystery about Danny's own gang connections. If that story gets left by the wayside it will be a real shame, because the idea of a main character having gang connections or some sort of shady past was novel and interesting. Giving Mac a gang nemesis is all well and good, but I don't think it should be substituted for the more interesting storyline already laid out.

Poor Aiden is both gone and forgotten in this episode. It's not unexpected, but it would have been nice to see how the other characters were affected by her departure. After all, it brings up some ethical issues that surely the rest of them all must think about. Hawkes is new to being a CSI--how did he react? Was it a lesson to Danny, who so often walks the line himself? Is Mac dwelling on it at all? Was Lindsay curious about her predecessor's departure?

Speaking of Lindsay, she definitely held her own this week. I'm still not sure about why the show felt a need to bring in someone from Montana; wouldn't another New Yorker have made more sense? At any rate, there are certainly a lot of Montana jokes squeezed in, from Danny calling her "Montana" to Lindsay looking around at the mea locker and quipping that people had more meat in their basements where she came from to Mac asking Lindsay what they fed her in Montana after she takes down a suspect. Funny enough, but it was starting to feel like a competition to see how many references to the fact that Lindsay is from Montana could be squeezed into one episode. Message received; let's hope future episodes will be lighter on mentions of Lindsay's origins.

Anna Belknap's Lindsay definitely brings a different dynamic to the show than wisecracking Aiden did. Like they did on CSI: Miami when Jonathan Togo came in to replace Rory Cochrane, the producers have picked an actress and written a character that is nothing like the exiting character. That's not a bad thing; fans tend to react warily to new characters initially, especially ones they perceive are meant to replace a beloved character, so it's best to have the new character be as different from the old as possible. Lindsay seems sharp and capable and thankfully not clueless or incompetent in any way. Anyone who can handle tiger dung with aplomb gets my vote of confidence.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.