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CSI: Miami--'Curse Of The Coffin'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 25, 2006 - 6:29 AM GMT

See Also: 'Curse of the Coffin' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A young woman runs to a car and frantically tries to start it, only to have it go into lockdown mode, trapping her inside. When an officer arrives, she tells him her friend is dead and fears her killer may still be inside. Alissa Valone lies dead in her living room, her body still warm. Beside her is a small coffin. Alexx determines that she was beaten to death with a golf club. Ryan speaks with Officer Michael Lloyd, the patrolman who discovered the young woman, Alyssa's best friend Danielle Madison, in the car. Lloyd is from the auto theft detail, and he tells Ryan the car was a decoy, rigged to lock up if anyone tried to steal it. Danielle claims her own car was in the shop and that she fled Alyssa's house after trying to revive her. Delko and Ryan investigate the house, and Delko is spooked when he and Ryan discover a shrine of sorts in a closet; Alyssa was a practitioner of Santeria, a blend of Catholicism and Voodoo. Delko refuses to handle the severed goat head in the closet.

Calleigh and Tripp trace the golf club to Alyssa's estranged husband, Trevor, who tells them it's been weeks since he's spoken to his wife. He claims she was holding his golf clubs hostage, and that the one used to kill her was worth ten thousand dollars. He insists had he been in the house, he never would have left the club behind. Ryan heads down to the morgue to talk to Alexx, and is thrown when he sees a body move--and then sit up. He calls Alexx, but when he brings her to the body, it's no longer moving, and Ryan is thrown when the man doesn't look like the body he saw. Valera gets a match for epithelials under Alissa's nails, and Ryan is shocked to recognize the man, Ed Smith, as the body from the morgue. When he pulls Ed's file and brings it to Alexx, he's shocked to discover his hands are completely numb. Alexx discovers tetradoxin, or blowfish poison, powder on his hands, and Ed's folder and the gurney he was on. Ed, who stole four million dollars in gold and was scheduled to go on trial for the theft, apparently used the poison to fake his own death.

Calleigh visits the Botanica, where Alissa purchased her Santeria supplies. The store owner recognizes Alissa, and recalls her boyfriend Jeremy made purchases as well. The CSIs question the man, and Jeremy tells them the goat was a prosperity sacrifice. When questioned about Alissa's death and the coffin found near her, Jeremy becomes agitated and begs them to burn it. Alexx discovers Trevor, a doctor, signed Ed's death certificate, and Alissa's husband is again brought in for questioning. Trevor admits he felt bad for Ed, a childhood friend who seemed to be getting a bad break, and helped him fake his death. He also explains Ed's skin under Alissa's fingernails: Ed went to reason with her about the divorce and she scratched him while trying to throw him out.

The CSIs pay a visit to Alissa's ad agency, and are surprised when her computer bursts into flames. Dan Cooper is able to recover data from it, including a threatening e-mail from Danielle Madison. Danielle admits to being angry when Alissa passed her over for a promotion, but sticks to her story about finding Alissa dead. The CSIs turn back to the car Danielle was caught in and look at the video footage from it and find prints on it that are matched to a man named Javier Revez. Revez claims he was looking for change in the car, but Horatio doesn't buy it. Alan Solner, the man Ed Smith stole the gold from, confronts Delko about Ed's escape, angry that his gold has never been recovered.

Delko learns Alissa and Trevor were feuding over twin burial plots they bought during their marriage. Suspecting Trevor and Ed stole the gold together and hid it in one of the plots, but when they venture to the cemetery, they discover Ed's body, an axe buried in his chest. They also discover a sound recorder on one of the nearby graves. Delko brings Valera the axe and she matches epithelials on it to Jeremy Fordham, Alissa's boyfriend. The CSIs arrest him and theorize that Alissa told Jeremy about the gold, and that they figured out it was buried in the grave. Dan Cooper analyzes the recorder from the grave and discovers another voice on it, indicating Jeremy had an accomplice. The CSIs return to the gravesite and find blood in a mausoleum not far from the plots that belonged to Trevor and Alissa.

Tripp discovers that while Javier Revez doesn't have a record, his brother Carlos does, and Carlos was about to be put in jail for trying to steal the same car Javier was caught in. Horatio suspects Javier might be involved in meth manufacturing like his brother was, but examination of his hands reveals traces of an explosive, not meth. Horatio discovers a bomb in the car intended for the officers that arrested Carlos, and drives it to the safety of a nearby beach where the bomb detonates. Natalia is subjected to a much smaller explosion when the glass table in her lab, irritated first by Delko dropping the axe on it and then by the centrifuge's motion, shatters, causing the vials containing blood samples to burst and contaminate the lab--and Natalia. When the blood sample from the mausoleum comes back as female DNA, the CSIs turn their focus back to Danielle. They realize she conspired with Jeremy to kill Alissa and steal the gold. They trace her car only to find it abandoned in front of Alan Solner's house. Solner has his gold back, and he gave a promised million dollar reward to the woman who returned it. That woman, Danielle, is far from Miami, lounging on a beach--the small coffin from Alissa's house under her chair.

Analysis:

CSI: Miami gets spooky just in time for Halloween, and has a fun time with some truly creepy imagery. This isn't the first time the show has paid homage to the holiday; 2004's "Hell Night" opened with a jury going to a house where a murder was committed, only to have the lights flicker and the suspect turn up dead. Ray, Jr. also got into his first bought of mischief in this episode by participating in some Halloween antics that turned deadly.

Miami is the ideal CSI show to play with the holiday; with its wry sense of fun, Miami isn't afraid to venture into the outlandish, and often delves into more fantastical territory than its sister shows. (Though, to be fair, CSI's "Toe Tags" might have changed the playing field a bit.) Miami has always had a bit of whimsy to it, and nowhere is that more evident than in "Curse of the Coffin."

Though the goat's head is cool, nothing beats the imagery of a supposedly dead body actually sitting up in the morgue. What makes it even better is that Ryan isn't hallucinating--Ed Smith actually twitches and then sits up. Spooked by the Santeria curse, Ryan doubts what he's seeing but still goes to Alexx; however, by the time she comes to investigate, there's a different body on the table.

Ryan's hands going numb was another clever trick, and it added to the overall spookiness of the episode well. I admit, for a moment there I did actually think the unfortunate CSI might be cursed, maybe not with the Santaria, but certainly with bad luck. Jonathan Togo sells Ryan's every emotion, from his skepticism over Delko's superstitions to his growing fears that those superstitions might be founded. There's something downright likable about Ryan, an earnestness and humanity that makes it easy to relate to him. He's always a treat to watch.

If CSI: Miami is to be believed, there are a lot of drug lords/runners/dealers in Miami, so I was relieved to find out Javier wasn't actually involved in meth production, as Horatio first suspected. Bombs might be a tad overused in the Miami oeuvre as well, but the clever double explosion in Natalia's lab (momentarily making the viewer wonder if another bomb somehow made it into the lab) followed by that of the car makes up for it.

The moment when Natalia steps out of the lab, her hair frizzy and covered in what is clearly non-life-threatening amounts of blood is a tad comedic, but it sets up for a serious moment with Horatio later on when he expresses concern about her state of mind after being covered in blood from lab samples. I admit, I'm a little uneasy about Horatio's concern for her--isn't this the woman who betrayed the lab not all that long ago?

Natalia's transition from mole to CSI has been a bit too easy; aside from some snarky words from Delko and Ryan, she's basically been accepted as a CSI. To make matters worse, it's almost as if her record has been erased; Ryan and Delko are clearly supposed to be in the wrong, the underlying suggestion being that each is as bothered by her sexual betrayal of him as her betrayal of the lab.

But she did betray the lab, and even if she claimed to have good intentions, I'm surprised to see Horatio so ready to forgive and forget. Horatio is many things, and he does allow his team a lot of leeway--he clearly has a soft spot for Ryan, who has acted out on occasion. But Natalia isn't one of his "family," at least not yet, and I'm surprised to see him not holding her at arm's length. Horatio is usually much more cautious with those who have given him reason not to trust them.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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