CSI: New York--'Fare Game'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 2, 2006 - 10:23 PM GMT

See Also: 'Fare Game' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A young man, Kyle Vance, stands by the grave of Samuel Cooper whose video message plays on his tombstone, but rather than paying his respects, Kyle drops dead, his shirt covered in blood. When Mac and Stella arrive at the scene the next day, Mac determines Kyle died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. He recognizes Kyle as an assistant district attorney. Kyle's body was found by Jennifer Cooper, Stanley's granddaughter, but she doesn't recognize Kyle. Across town, Detective Maka leads Danny and Dr. Hawkes to the bedroom of Kathleen Dunley, who was found dead, naked and tied up in her bed. Hawkes finds semen on the sheets, and Danny notices a note and flowers from someone named Michel. Danny also spots blood in Kathleen's ear and some odd spotting and bruising in and around her mouth. Puzzled, the CSIs create a humidifier chamber around the body to reveal prints, indicating the killer had something on his hands when he touched her.

Dr. Hammerback confirms that Kyle was killed by a single gunshot wound, but there's no bullet in his chest, and no exit wound. He retrieves some paper from the wound, which he gives to Stella. Stella takes prints off a bit of a balloon found near Kyle while lab tech Adam Ross dusts for prints on Kyle's briefcase. The prints come up positive for one William Tucker, a man with a lengthy rap sheet whom Kyle was building a case against. Detective Flack is familiar with the man and brings him in. Mac has found evidence that Tucker broke into Kyle's apartment--Tucker's blood on the windowsill--but Tucker adamently denies killing Kyle, though he expresses no remorse over the man's death. Stella has learned the paper from Kyle's wound was coated with fast burn powder--it was a blank, meaning the murder may have been accidental. Lindsay has some interesting news--an examination of an office Kyle was renting reveals he was posting as a casting director, a travel agent and a wedding planner. Lindsay discovered another popped balloon at the office, as well as several pictures of people. Many of them have red Xs through them, but one does not: a picture of Jennifer Cooper.

Hammerback tells Danny and Hawkes that Kathleen died of asphxiation and had a full stomach when she died. There were eggs of some kind in her eardrum, which Hawkes takes to incubate. Maka has located Michel Hetu--he's a restaurant owner Kathleen was suing. When Michel is brought in for questioning, he tells the CSIs he wanted to sleep with Kathleen and get her to drop the lawsuit, but denies killing her. When the CSIs get the results of her stomach contents, which include water bugs and duck fetus, Danny immediately thinks of an exotic cuisine special at the Grandview Regent Hotel. Danny and Hawkes pay a visit to Tony Collins, the head chef at the hotel's restaurant, and he tells the CSIs about the $10,000 a plate dinner, even offering them a Peruvian centipede, which Hawkes passes on but Danny gamely eats. Collins recalls Kathleen as being at the dinner the night before with a date, a large middle-aged man. Danny notices a tank of small octopi, which Tony tells them must be eaten properly or else they can be fatal, choking the victim on the way down. Danny and Hawkes take on of the octopi back to the lab and examine it, determining that it is a match to the marks in Kathleen's mouth. Someone fed her the octopus and watched her die.

Detective Flack has caught up with Jennifer Cooper, but when she sees him she runs, forcing him to give chase. Several other officers intervene, and when Jennifer draws a weapon, they fire at her, only to discover her weapon is actually a squirt gun. Jennifer has been participating in 'Water Gun Wars,' where contestants compete against others in the city for a $100,000 grand prize. The goal is to 'kill' ones targets with a water gun or water balloon before being 'killed' by another contestant. The contest is run by an anonymous 'Supreme Commander,' and no one knows his identity, or how to get a list of contestants in the game. Kyle was playing the game, and Jennifer was his target. Lindsay theorizes that booby traps around his apartment were in place to keep out other players, while Kyle himself set up the fake office to lure other contestants to their 'deaths.' Mac realizes they have to find the person who had Kyle as a target to locate the killer, so the CSIs begin to track down the players of the game. Flack hits the jackpot with videogame aficionado Jordan Stokes, who had Kyle as a target. But Stokes denies killing the man, and DNA evidence backs him up. Mac turns back to Kyle's photos and finds one for a man named Chris Matthews--it's a professional head shot, indicating the man is a real actor.

Danny and Hawkes have tracked down Truman Bosch, Kathleen's date for the evening she died--as well as her attorney. Truman and Kathleen were planning to sue Tony, but Kathleen took a shine to him and began flirting with him. Danny wonders if Truman was upset at losing his fee if Kathleen didn't sue, but Truman knows they have nothing on him and leaves. Hawkes' eggs have finally hatched revealing--Peruvian centipedes. The CSIs are puzzled--the centipedes weren't even on the menu the night Kathleen died. Maka has the key--Kathleen sued a man named Larry Whitford five years ago and he lost his restaurant. They are puzzled at the connection until Maka tells them Larry is none other than Tony Collins, going under a new name at a new location. The CSIs go back to the Grandview to arrest Tony, who recognized Kathleen from a picture in the newspaper and plotted revenge. He showed up at her apartment after seeing her at the hotel and had sex with her and then started to feed her some of the items from his menu, including the fatal octopus. He held her down while she choked to death and retrieved the octopus.

Mac tracks Chris Matthews down at an audition for "Of Mice and Men," going over lines with his young daughter. He and Stella bring the man in, and he confesses that he didn't mean to kill Kyle. Kyle led him on and made him believe he was actually going on an audition before 'killing' him and eliminating him from the game. Angry that his hopes for an audition were crushed, Chris tracked Kyle down and intended to just scare him with the blank gun he owned, but he fired it too close to Kyle and ran when he saw the damage he'd done. Both cases closed, Danny has a treat for the team: several takeout items from the exotic cuisine menu, including breaded tarantulas, mealworms and crickets. While the rest of the team demurs, Lindsay gamely digs in. Mac, Stella, Flack and Hawkes head to Mac's office for pizza, leaving Danny and Lindsay to enjoy the bug feast.

Analysis:

Though it features two decidedly off-beat cases, "Fare Game" thankfully also provides them with two very believable motives. Convincing motives can often be lost in the face of a quirky case or creative science, but writers Zachary Reiter and Peter M. Lenkov provide the two killers in this episode with motives that are at least conceivable to the audience. In most cases, the audience isn't exactly going to sympathize with the killer, but it's important that his or her reasons for committing murder are ones that leave the audience nodding and saying, "I can see what drove him/her to it." That is true in both cases in this episode, and it makes for a much stronger episode than it might otherwise.

Though smarmy Danny shows him plenty of contempt, Kevin Rahm's beleaguered chef lost everything to a woman who made a hobby of suing restaurants as her livelihood. Though most viewers probably don't think she deserved to die for it, they can empathize with the rage Tony Collins probably felt when he saw the woman who ruined his life waltz into his restaurant once again, poised to make history repeat itself, at least until she got a glimpse of the attractive chef. The same is true of the downtrodden actor, though Mac takes more pity on him than Danny did on Tony. Mac arrests him in a dignified manner so as not to embarrass him in front of his daughter, and listens to his confession without a contemptuous comeback. Mac and Stella both seemed subdued, possibly sympathetic to the hard-working man who was misled callously by a dedicated game-player.

The water gun war game sounds like a reality show gone bad sans the cameras--it's the perfect metaphor for illustrating how far people will go to get ahead. Paranoid Kyle has security lasers and broken glass dusting his window sills, and goes so far as to rent an office to pose as a casting director or travel agent or wedding planner--whatever it takes to lure his next target to his lair. Jennifer Cooper is no better--she brags to Flack about how she got "creative" to 'kill' her targets, even going so far as to bribe a taxi driver to let her get behind the wheel and shoot an unsuspecting target. It's darkly funny and makes for entertaining viewing, especially when the CSIs have to track down the various targets.

As mentioned by "Fare Game" extra Deborah Fujiwara in her interview, the "exotic cuisine" seen in the episode is very real. The blog Deep End Dining seeks out the "food uncommon," and the grasshoppers, centipedes and octopi devoured in this episode certainly fall into that category. The extras chowed down on crickets and lamb brains for the cameras, and I'm dying to know if Carmine Giovinazzo actually ate a centipede, if Anna Belknap really chowed down on a breaded tarantula and if Kevin Rahm really swallowed that octopus. And if so, how many takes were required? Either way, it was a fun foray into a world most don't dare venture into.

That the episode was capped off with Danny ordering a plethora of exotic takeout and bringing it to the lab was delightful. Danny continues to prove himself the show's most magnetic character, and he's probably the only one who could get the entire team to gather around for a bug supper. Not that anyone but poor Lindsay is game for trying it. I laughed when she bit into one of the fried spiders, but I wish I knew more about the character to know why she did it. Is Lindsay gutsy and daring? Was she just trying to impress the rest of the team? Was she just trying to impress Danny? Because we know so little about the character, it's impossible to say, which is frustrating. While the end is cute, with the rest of the team opting for pizza in Mac's office, leaving Danny and Lindsay to theirbug feast, I think I'd have enjoyed it more if I actually understood what makes Lindsay tick.

What is also murky is whether the writers are trying to either push Lindsay into Aiden's vacated spot as Danny's best buddy or create some sort of romantic pairing between the two. The former feels false given the deep connection that existed between Danny and Aiden--best friends are not made overnight, nor trusted partners--and the latter seems pointless given the fact that CSI shows don't go the romantic route. If the writers wanted to relax that, I'd be intrigued by an attraction and flirtation between two new co-workers, but if that no-romance policy is steadfast, I'd rather see them develop Lindsay as a character before trying to establish a dynamic between her and Danny, a character with so much personality he can eclipse even the most colorful character, to say nothing for one that remains primarily a blank slate aside from her go-getter attitude.

That's not to say it wasn't great to see the whole cast together in that final scene, because it was. Like the episode that preceded it, "Stuck on You", there are some truly endearing character interactions in this episode. Probably the most memorable one is Danny eating a bug in front of a shocked and probably somewhat disgusted Hawkes, who remarks that he can't believe Danny ate the bug. Danny clearly felt challenged by the cook who haughtily suggested "it's not for everyone," stepped up to the plate in adorably childish way, reaching into the bowl of centipedes and dropping one into his mouth. Hawkes doesn't feel the need to prove himself, but as we've seen in the past, Danny rarely lets a challenge go by unmet.

I also loved the scene between Stella and Hammerback when she cracked the joke about how killers "always leave a paper trail." Melina Kanakaredes and Robert Joy play off each other so well, and he clearly brings out her ghoulish side. They're a fun odd couple to watch. Flack is also in fine form in the episode, his trademark wit never failing to delight, especially when he asks Tucker, the suspect with the mile-long rap sheet, in a hurt tone, "Have you been seeing other detectives?" Per usual, Eddie Cahill's delivery is perfect.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.