CSI: New York--'Dancing With The Fishes'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 7, 2005 - 6:26 PM GMT

See Also: 'Dancing With The Fishes' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A couple driving home on the FDR is irritated with motorcycle drivers around them until a body falls on their windshield. The young woman is Kia Rowe, and Detective Flack thinks she may have committed suicide--until Mac discovers defensive wounds on her hands. Dr. Sid Hammerback thinks the defensive wounds are from a knife. He sent a fingernail fragment, as well as scrapings from under Kia's nails, to trace. Stella notices bunions and a hammer shape to Kia's feet and concludes that she was a dancer. Stella finds a lottery ticket and also some choreography notes, and is able to figure out what dance school Kia was studying at.

Danny and Dr. Hawkes are in the Bronx where a man lies dead from a stab wound to the chest. Danny is shocked to see that the wound goes all the way through his body. Hawkes determines he's been dead around twelve hours. Dr. Hammerback notes the victim's fishy smell and finds sand in his shoe. He gives Danny several small trace elements from the victim's wound, presumably left by the murder weapon.

Mac, Stella and Flack head to the dance school where Kia studied. Stella finds glass shards in the shoes in Kia's locker, along with several more lottery tickets with the same number as the one Kia had on her. Mac discovers similar glass under and on the handle of the locker of one of the other dancers, Shayna. Mac peeks through the slits of her locker and spots a knife. Flack interrogates Shayna, who admits to putting glass in Kia's shoes--she was jealous of the attention the choreographer paid Kia. She denies killing Kia, but Flack wants to see the knife in her locker.

In the lab, Danny and Hawkes determine the trace elements from their victim and determine they are swordfish scales. Danny suspects the victim was a fisherman. Mac has less luck--Shayna's knife tests negative for blood. Stella has big news: the lottery ticket in Kia's pocket was a winner, for 17 million dollars. While they digest the information, Lindsay arrives at another murder scene, where Harold Claven, a tram driver, has been found dead on the tram he was driving the night before. She finds blood on the window and takes a sample.

Danny and Hawkes, armed with an ID on their victim--Fred Bayliss--visit the fish market where he worked. His widow, Laura, tells Danny that Fred refused to raise the prices on his fish to the irritation of the other sellers. Hawkes locates the group of swordfish that the murder weapon came from, but some are missing and all of the ones present test negative for blood. The CSIs trace the rest of the shipment to Gibson's restaurant, where the proprietor, Richard Daly, reluctantly shows them to the supply of swordfish. Sure enough, one of them tests positive for blood, and Danny and Hawkes take it to the lab.

Lindsay has some shocking news for Mac and Stella: the blood from the tram matches Kia Rowe not Harold Claven. Both Kia and Harold had DNA under their nails that matches an unknown male--most likely the killer. Mac and Lindsay discuss Kia's lottery ticket--was it the motive for her murder? And if not, what was she doing on the 2 am tram run when the tram was far from both the dance studio and where she lived?

Danny recovers a grey fiber from the swordfish's gill, and Hawkes notes the swordfish isn't fresh. Danny pays a visit to Fred's supplier, who confesses to having words with Fred over the fact that his check bounced. He tells Danny that he refused to give Fred the fresh catch, but denies killing him. Danny runs the man's sweater, but the fibers don't match the ones from the swordfish's gill. Lindsay is on her way to the morgue when she spots Harold's widow, Vivian, tearfully thanking her brother Vincent for being there for her. Lindsay notes the woman's black eye before meeting Dr. Hammerback, who tells her Harold was killed by the first blow to his head, which caused his brain to whiplash in his skull. He shows her trace on Harold's neck, which Lindsay swabs and takes to the lab.

Stella finds the address of the dance studio's choreographer on the back of a receipt of Kia's, and she and Mac go to the studio to question the man. He admits to having Kia over to his apartment after she flubbed her audition, but she rebuffed his advances and went home, via the tram. He refuses to give a DNA sample, so Stella swipes the chewed gum he leaves on a pole at the studio and takes it back to the lab. Hawkes is puzzled by the fact that Bayliss's young son is going to an expensive, elite private preschool. The sand from Bayliss's shoes is an expensive imported Haiwaiin sand, leading Danny and Hawkes to the preschool, where an expensive, donated sandbox houses the same kind of sand. Anna, one of the teachers, tells the CSIs the school is hard to get into and only a small percentage of children actually get in. The Bayliss's son is a prime candidate because of his fine letter of recommendation and involved parents.

Stella says the choreographer's DNA doesn't match those of the killer's. The CSIs seem to be at a dead end until Lindsay comes into Mac's office with a major clue: the substance on Harold's neck was an experimental smell altering chemical, which was being tested in the garbage yard where Harold's brother-in-law, Vincent Williams, was working. The CSIs go to the yard and corner Vincent: he killed Harold after learning Harold was beating his sister, Vivian. Kia just had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Case closed, but Lindsay is still unsettled by something.

Danny is finally able to trace his fiber to a new make of Jaguar--one that Richard Daly happens to drive. The CSIs return to Gibson's. Hawkes thinks it was about money--specifically the preschool that Bayliss's son got into, and Daly's didn't. Daly donated the expensive sandbox, hoping that his son would get in. He wrote the recommendation letter for Fred's son, figuring the boy would never get in. When Bayliss's son was admitted, they argued, and Richard pushed him into the swordfish, killing him. Hawkes thinks Daly will get an expensive lawyer and claim that he was just looking out for his child, but Danny vows he'll be in court to testify that that is precisely what Bayliss was doing.

Lindsay corners Harold's widow, Vivian, in the interrogation room and proves her bruise is fake. She convinced her brother to murder Harold so she could collect on his pension, something she could do only if he was killed on the job. Stella and Mac watch Lindsay close the case, duly impressed.

Analysis:

At first, the conclusion of this episode really bothered me. The CSIs conduct a detailed investigation into Kia Rowe's death only to find out it was a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a severe bout of bad luck. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it makes. There are plenty of murders that occur for no good reason at all, other than that the unfortunate victim happened to stumble into a bad situation. In that way, it's very believable.

There are a lot of details leading up to the ultimate revelation that sure seem relevant--from the winning lottery ticket (talk about bad luck, being killed the day you win the 17 million pot!) to the vengeful dancer to the lecherous choreographer. But none of the leads seem concrete--if Kia was killed for the ticket, why was it still on her body? You'd think the killer would be careful to make sure she didn't fall from the tram before obtaining the ticket. Why would the envious dancer kill Kia? That seems to be taking things a little too far, especially given that Kia was new and therefore the rivalry was young. Likewise, the choreographer didn't have a strong motive either.

The leap from smell inhibitor to Vincent Williams is a big one that is almost dizzying to try to follow. That database of products the CSIs use must be huge. Lindsay's observation about the bruise on Vivian's eye is pretty shrewd though--I noticed it and thought it was a pretty dark bruise, but didn't think about it beyond that. The solution feels a little manufactures to allow Lindsay an opportunity to prove herself, but now that she has, hopefully we can see more subtle development for her character, like Hawkes is getting.

I'm not from New York, but is being from somewhere other than New York really that big deal? It's not like Lindsay is wearing overalls, talking with a thick accent or chewing straw. Even her prickly attitude fits right in with the other New Yorkers in the episode. So why is some random officer giving her a hard time and calling her Dorothy? I would think the New York police department is big enough that a new hire wouldn't automatically be known to the entire force, and that her being from Montana wouldn't be that big a deal.

Lindsay does really have her own unique style, which stands out from the no-frills direct approach of the native New Yorkers. Lindsay doesn't just explain the evidence; she has to present it, illustrate how it's relevant to the case. In Mac's office, she makes him try the smell altering agent rather than just offering her theory about where it came from. At the end of the episode, she makes Vivian wipe off her bruise rather than just pointing out that it's fake and moving on from there.

The secondary case doesn't hold up as well. New York is delving head-first into class issues this season, but with mixed results. A choice needed to be made with the secondary case--either to play it as a grim parody or very seriously--but it walks the middle line. Having the guy killed with a swordfish was clever, and some of the details about the school, like the imported sandbox with sand from Hawaii, were over-the-top in a way that was ripe for parody. But the story doesn't veer that way; however, Daly's anger doesn't seem serious enough for me to buy it as a real rage killing. So he did it because he was annoyed that his kid didn't get into the private school and Bayliss's did? That's not quite convincing enough. The best moment in the case is when Danny vows to be in court to make sure Bayliss's side of the story is heard.

Speaking of Danny, it's nice to see the real Danny back. In the first few episodes he seemed oddly almost cheery, which is off for a character that spent much of the first season gloomy, whiny, grimly determined or persecuted. However, the whining is back in full-force tonight--Danny doesn't want to go to his girlfriend's boss's son's bar mitzvah, Danny doesn't like the smell of the fish, Danny is sulky because he can't find a match for the grey fiber. But the reason Danny is such a compelling character is his compassion for those he sees as disadvantaged--frequently children, but here the lower classes. His disdain for Daly's concerns about his fish over Bayliss's plight early on in the episode is palpable, and in the end, Danny vows to follow the case through to court to make sure someone speaks for Fred Bayliss.

Hawkes continues to settle into his new job, and he gets plenty of chances to show off his expertise, from taking the body temperature (proving that plenty of his ME knowledge will still come in handy) to offering some swordfish facts. Though Danny has been a CSI longer, the two feel more like equals and it feels as thought Hawkes has passed on to another level. And he's earned it: it's Hawkes who zeroes in on the pivotal detail that Bayliss's son is enrolled at an elite, expensive private school.

This episode also sees the introduction of the new coroner, Dr. Sid Hammerback. While I hope his presence doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of the charming Zao, I do enjoy Hammerback’s off-beat observations, from his precise estimate about the fishy smell on Bayliss to his comments about dance when Stella recognizes that Kia is a dancer and mentions her own experience. Hammerback is quirky in the way that Chad, the lab tech, and Detective Vicaro were, guaranteeing that his appearances will be entertaining.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.