CSI: New York--'Happily Never After'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 10, 2008 - 11:24 AM GMT

See Also: 'Happily Never After' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Two teenagers frolicking at The Dorothea Hotel's ice sculpture garden stumble across the body of Fiona Chisolm, the owner of the hotel. Fiona is known for both her wealth and her cruelty, and the crowd actually starts clapping when the CSIs unveil her body. Dr. Hammerback determines that Fiona was both stabbed and burned, but actually killed by a stab wound to the heart. Lindsay recovers a nose print from Fiona's body from her dog, Otto, but his leash has been broken and the dog is missing. Tina O'Donovan, the concierge at The Dorothea, lets Stella and Lindsay into Fiona's office where the CSIs find signs of a struggle and a broom with blood on it. Lindsay is able to trace the blood to a Dr. Harrison Green, the head of a charity Fiona had given money to in the past. Flack and Stella pay a visit to Green, who admits he fought with Fiona after she withdrew her promise to donate to his charity, but refuses to elaborate beyond that, even when Stella reveals she knows he was being investigated by the IRS. Hawkes and Lindsay determine Fiona was killed with a snow machine's liquid nitrogen tank. They find the machine and recover a skin sample of it from Tina, who they learn was fired by Fiona two days ago. Tina tells the CSIs that after Fiona was found dead, she went back to work, assuming no one else would know she'd been fired. She denies killing Fiona; her skin is on the fatal snow tank because Fiona had ordered her to fix it a few days ago. Fiona's dog Otto is recovered, and blood and remnants of chestnuts and charcoal lead the CSIs to Fiona's killer: Felix Hall, a roasted chestnut vendor Fiona was trying to have evicted from his spot outside The Dorothea. Felix tried to reason with her and when he failed, he killed her and moved her body on his vendor cart.

Mac, Danny and Detective Angell investigate the death of a young woman whose body is thrown from the top of a school bus. She has the name "Wendy" written on her chest, she's clad in only a nightgown, there's an impression of a fairy on her back and Sid determines she was killed by a hook--and postulates that the girl's death has a lot of tie-ins with Peter Pan. Mac determines their Jane Doe fell thirty-five feet, and Adam identifies the paint on her chest as acrylic and trace under her nails as play dough. Angell informs Mac and Danny of a rash of break-ins at kindergarten schools, where the intruders make a mess but don't steal anything. She takes the CSIs to the school most recently broken into and Mac spots blood splatter on a model of Mars. A quick sweep of the room confirms it's the primary crime scene. Danny discovers a library book, Peter Pan and Wendy, with numbers written on the inside. Mac recovers the murder weapon--a hook--from the garbage.

Adam discovers DNA on a baseball hat Angell found on the school bus "Wendy"'s body was dumped on is a familial match to the dead girl. The logo on the hat, Stanford Linwell, is a local high-powered law firm. Mac and Danny show the dead woman's picture to Michael Wright, who recognizes her as his sister Leslie. He tells the CSIs he last saw his sister the evening before and that she mentioned she was going to a party. Adam identifies a pill with a fairy on it that Danny found in the kindergarten classroom as "Foxy," the newest designer drug. Danny decodes the numbers in the copy of Peter Pan and Wendy that he found as text message codes, and he shows the message to Mac: "Alice will see you at Dunhill." The CSIs head to Dunhill, a pricey kindergarten, where they find a group of twenty-somethings in the midst of a party, dressed as characters from children's literature. The revelers are brought into the station, with Mac and Danny focusing on Bryce Aldicott, the "Mad Hatter" whose prints were on a star on Leslie's forehead as well as the paint on her chest--and on the murder weapon. Bryce vehemently denies killing Leslie, insisting he was using it to spar with a friend. When Adam finds DNA on the baseball cap that matches someone else other than Michael Wright, the CSIs turn back to the law firm--and use DNA from a drug test to identify a young man named Tyler as their killer. He slept with Leslie when she was on the drug, and afterwards she accused him of taking advantage of her. When she threatened to tell her brother, Tyler stabbed her and tossed her body out the window onto the top of the school bus.

Analysis:

Fairy tales aren't all they're cracked up to be in the latest installment of CSI: NY. Sure, the Wicked Witch of Manhattan gets crushed beneath an ice house, but poor Wendy ends up falling out of Neverland with a nasty hook wound to the abdomen. The writers have fun playing with fairy tale conventions in the episode: Fiona is killed when she's stabbed in the heart with a snow machine, literally freezing her heart; adults in costume party in kindergarten classrooms, using drugs and play dough to reclaim their childhood; the CSIs are greeted by the Mad Hatter who welcomes them to a scene that is as strange to them as Wonderland was to Alice. The thing about fairy tales, of course, is that many of them have a dark undercurrent to them, and some of the truly scariest villains ever created reside in their pages.

The villains in this episode are in direct opposition to each other, though their motives are eerily similar. One is a spoiled young man from a presumably wealthy background who kills to protect his new position at a high-powered law firm, and to get away with a crime. The other is a man who seems put-upon by life, who also kills to protect his position, as lowly as Tyler's is lofty. Felix is literally fighting for a street corner, but to him, it's everything. He wasn't, as Stella intuits, trying to teach Fiona a lesson. Rather, he was waging war over his territory. Both are acts of self-preservation; one is exceedingly more sympathetic than the other.

Flack's commentary once he ventures down to the vending cart area is priceless, but I especially love his quip upon first viewing the sight of all the carts: "No New Yorker should ever see this." The vending carts are quintessentially New York, and we've seen Flack partake gleefully on at least one occasion. For a New Yorker who loves his food, it goes beyond just being disgusting; it shatters his illusions. Indeed, when Stella asks him if he's okay, Flack, staring at a rat, glumly replies, "No, I'm not. I don't think I'm ever going to be the same." Eddie Cahill delivers the lines with a tone of such serious chagrin that even while the audience chuckles, they know this is no laughing matter for Flack. Cahill makes getting laughs look easy when he's tossing out Flack's witty quips, but allowing the audience to laugh at a moment where the character is truly--if humorously--upset requires a much more delicate touch.

Flack's love affair with food was established way back in the first season, when he complained that when Stella drives, they never stop for a bite to eat. We've seen him chowing down or talking about chowing down ever since, whether it be to tell a suspect he's taking off to go have a steak, refusing to defile pizza by rolling it up and sticking it through a hole or feasting on wedding cake that's a part of an investigation. This is just one of the details that makes the character so delightful, and makes for a great payoff in the vending cart scene. Poor Flack is simply devastated by what he sees there.

Flack's comedic devastation is a counterpoint to Danny's very heartbreaking devastation in the wake of the death of his young neighbor, Ruben, in the last episode ("Child's Play"). Poor, broken Danny moves through this episode in a sad sort of daze, upset to be confronted with school buses and classrooms so soon after Ruben's death. Carmine Giovinazzo's performance is muted but not lethargic; Danny's depression is evident throughout. It's impossible not to feel for Danny when he tells Mac he doesn't want to go to toy stores and schools looking for a killer. Mac casts a long look in Danny's direction, but he clearly is at a loss for words, unable to come up with anything to say to comfort Danny. It's clear from his look that he cares, but Danny, so open and needy, must be something of an enigma to him.

Angell tries reaching out to Danny, bringing up Ruben's death while she and Danny are on the school bus together and telling him that she's sorry. It's not clear how much Angell knows; presumably her source was office gossip of some sort or one of their mutual colleagues. She mentions Ruben being Danny's neighbor but not that Ruben was in Danny's care just before his death. Her comment allows Danny to give voice to what's obviously on his mind, to make the obvious connection between the death of Ruben and being on a school bus. Angell doesn't get nearly enough screentime--and under-utilizing an actress as gifted and compelling as Emmanuelle Vaugier really is a crime--but it's nice to see her connecting with Danny here.

Another moment I loved was seeing Adam rocking out to his iPod while he worked, and having Mac get a chuckle out of Adam getting down. Adam has truly brought a lighter element to the show, while still being an invaluable member of the team. His enthusiasm is truly contagious, and it's always gratifying when he makes the taciturn Mac laugh. Gary Sinise does serious intensity so well, but it's nice to see him break out in an unabashed smile now and then, and no one else amuses Mac quite the way Adam does.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.