CSI: Miami--'Identity'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 16, 2005 - 6:18 PM GMT

See Also: 'Identity' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

At a resort pool, a security guard chases a man who has snatched a young woman's purse. The man almost escapes, but he slips in a puddle of slime. The guard apprehends him and lifts the flap of a tent near where the slime is only to discover a horrifying sight: the slimy body of a young woman. When the CSIs arrive, Frank Tripp gets an ID on the woman: Tanya Fhuman, in town from Chicago to celebrate her birthday. Alexx sends the slime covering the girl's body to trace and notes the puncture wounds covering Tanya's body. After the body is removed, Delko and Ryan start to go over the lounge chair she was found on, but they're interrupted by a young woman who says her purse was stolen and asks for it to be returned. Ryan retrieves the purse of the woman, Karla Gardner, and checks the ID inside. But when he runs it against the police database, he finds a fraud alert on her credit. She claims to be the victim of identity theft and shows him a Federal Trade Commission document. Ryan returns the bag to her.

In the morgue, Horatio tells Alexx that the trace report on the liquid on Tanya's body came back as gastric acid. Alexx points out that the puncture wounds on the woman are teeth marks and that the gastric acid is from a snake. Horatio guesses it was a python or a boa constrictor and could have weighed up to two hundred pounds. Based on the petechiae in the girl's eyes and her broken ribs, Alexx posits that the girl was squeezed to death and consumed. Horatio calls Delko and shares Alexx's findings with him. Delko assumes the girl was targeted by the snake because of her sunburn. He and Tripp track the snake to a beach bed by the pool. Delko finds the snake under the bed and extracts it, but it's already dead. Noticing a broken branch and an open window in one of the hotel rooms above, Delko and Tripp think the snake may have been brought to the hotel by a guest. Up in the room, Horatio and Tripp learn it was rented by an off shore holding company--Low Dawg Productions. Delko locates the bag the snake was transported in and finds a tooth, neither human nor snake, in the bag.

A woman approaches Ryan at the CSI labs and tells him she's looking for her purse--a guy snatched it from her that morning. Ryan puts it together--she is claiming to be Karla Gardner. She tells him that her identity was stolen and shows him several FTC documents. She's irritated that Ryan gave the girl the purse. She tells him that this started a year and a half ago when the girl stole a discarded loan application out of her trash. Ryan calls on Calleigh for help, but the CSIs have know way of knowing which Karla is real, and which one isn't.

Delko tells Horatio that the tooth he found belonged to a Cayman lizard. A shipment of Caymen lizards came in the day before for a Dr. Rod Merrick, a herpatologist, who had clearance to bypass quarantine. When they bring Merrick in for questioning, he tells them half of the lizards in his shipment were dead. He had no knowledge of the snake. Horatio suspects him of smuggling drugs into the country in the snake, and when Alexx opens the snake up, she finds a shattered pill bottle, which explains the snake's death. When it squeezed Tanya to death, the pill bottle in it shattered and it overdosed on the contents. Tripp has a lead on Low Dawg Productions that interests Horatio greatly: the company is licensed to one Clavo Cruz (last seen in "Blood Brothers"), a young man who Horatio pursued for a murder the year before. Because Clavo's father is a diplomat, he has immunity. Horatio tracks Clavo down on the pier, but Clavo is as insolent as ever, convinced Horatio can't touch him. He dismisses Horatio's charge that he's been smuggling drugs into Florida.

Ryan goes to Karla #1's address, but it's a post office box. Using her credit card bill, he tracks her down at her favorite lunch spot. Ryan and Calleigh go over the two Karla's with a floroscope: the real Karla Gardner broke her arm and leg in an accident five years ago. Karla #2 is the real Karla, and Calleigh arrests Karla #1. But Karla #1 is released when the State's Attorney decides they don't have enough evidence to prosecute. Ryan is very upset.

Delko gets a report from the lab on the pills in the snake's stomach: they're Red Death, a dangerous drug that works like Ecstasy but takes a half-an-hour to kick in, leading its users to take another pill before the first one kicks in, causing them to overdose. Tripp calls Horatio from the sight of a party where one boy has overdosed. Hillary, the boy's friend, tells Horatio the name of the dealer she got it from: Billy Palmero. When the CSIs track him down, he admits he got the drugs from Clavo Cruz but refuses to testify against him.

Calleigh gets a call: Phillip Gardner, the real Karla's ex-husband, has been found dead in his car. He was killed by a nail file, much like one Ryan noticed the fake Karla using. Alexx determines that the nail file pierced his eye and went through to his brain. Ryan finds hair in Phillip's hands, indicating a struggle. The real Karla arrives at the scene, wanting to see her ex-husband. She suspects the fake Karla was the culprit--her own wages were being garnished for alimony for her ex, and which she says would have been money out of the fake Karla's pocket.

Horatio pays a visit to Antonio and Marta Cruz, Clavo's parents. He leans on Antonio to revoke Clavo's immunity, but the man doesn't want to budge. When Clavo comes in, he mocks Horatio but his father cuts him off and reminds him to be respectful. Horatio notices Antonio's face is bleeding and he offers the man a handkerchief, which he takes back to CSI to run it through the DNA lab. Horatio tells Tripp they need to detain Clavo, whose parents are about to get him out of the country, so they track him to a local bar, where Clavo is smoking a Cuban cigar. Horatio and Tripp arrest him and confiscate the cigar.

Valera finds only one follicular tag among all of the hair discovered in Phillip's hand. The print on the nail file matches the fake Karla, so they have her brought in. She protests--why would she kill the real Karla's ex. When presented with the evidence, she confesses her real name, Eve Martinkus, and offers up the names of twenty girls whose identities she stole. Ryan pulls Calleigh aside and tells her about the single follicular tag, which both CSIs find suspicious. Analyzing the hair in the lab, Ryan notices a white substance on the hairs, which lab tech Aaron Peters identifies as adhesive. Calleigh and Ryan go over Eve's car, where they notice traces of adhesive on the seat. The real Karla Gardner is the culprit: she thought she could kill two birds with one stone by putting Eve behind bars and killing her ex, thus ending the alimony payments. Ryan tells her she's going to lose her life over this, but Karla barely reacts, instead watching through the glass as Eve is lead away in handcuffs.

Horatio gets the DNA results from Antonio and Clavo from the handkerchief and cigar respectively. Antonio and Marta have come to the police station to release Clavo, and Horatio confronts all three in the interrogation room with the news that Clavo is not Antonio's son. Antonio, shaken, revokes Clavo's immunity and walks out on him and his wife in disgust. Horatio watches with satisfaction as Clavo is taken away.

Analysis:

After weeks on end of action-packed episodes of Miami, it's refreshing to see an episode slow down the pace. "Identity" feels more like a second season episode, which makes sense as it brings back a plotline from the second season opener, "Blood Brothers." When Horatio said "we never close" he sure did mean it. It's nice to see an old case revisited, even if it's wrapped up with a twist that's a little too convenient.

That Clavo turns out not to be Antonio's son comes out of left field and makes the resolution fairly easy, though I wasn't entirely convinced that Antonio would throw over the man he thought of as his son for all his life, no matter how angry Antonio was at his wife. Clavo was bad to the bone and deserved to be cut loose, but the way it happens is fairly abrupt and also rather cold. Antonio was probably acting out of anger, but one has to wonder if he's going to regret it at some point. That's neither here nor there unless we get to see Clavo's trial, but the convenient circumstance that Clavo isn't Antonio's son makes for an overly neat wrap-up of the storyline. It would have been better to have Horatio convince Antonio to drop revoke Clavo's immunity by outlining the brutality of Clavo's crimes (both the smuggling of a deadly drug and the murder of the girl in "Blood Brothers").

And just how did Horatio get the hunch that Clavo wasn't Antonio in the first place? At one point in the episode, Horatio has several flashbacks, one to Antonio blotting his face, another to Marta kissing Clavo, but none of them shed any light on how Horatio might get the idea that Clavo might not be Antonio's son. That was a bit of a stretch as well.

The identity theft storyline is a timely and gripping one, even if it's pretty clear which Karla is which, and which one really committed the murder. The weak explanation for Eve's motive--that if Karla's husband would dead, she would benefit from getting the certificate of death and ending the alimony payments--makes no sense whatsoever, as Eve would not have been collecting Karla's paychecks. Had she been, she would have been charged with much more than identity theft.

Karla's rage is understandable, though. For those interested in learning more about identity theft and how to prevent it, visit the Federal Trade Commission's site, which has resources and advise for preventing it or dealing with it. It's a terrible thing--it can ruin one's credit and wreak havoc on one's finances. I can't say one way or another whether the case against Eve would have been treated so lightly by a state's attorney in real life, but within the past few years, identity theft has become more widespread and is being treated with more gravity than in the past.

The only other questionable twist in the case is the one that brings the real Karla to the police station in the first place. Eve's purse was snatched that morning, not Karla's. Karla even had a purse with documents when she went to the police station. And it was Eve's picture on the ID in the purse snatched at the resort, indicating it was Eve's purse. So how does Karla's claim fit into all of that? It's never quite made clear.

But, as I said at the beginning, "Identity" feels like a breath of fresh air because it does slow things down from the frenetic pace of most of this season. And the death that sets the whole thing in motion--the snake literally devouring Tanya--is certainly a hell of an opener. The two cases dovetail nicely, as they both end up hinging on identity: Eve's false identity as Karla and Clavo's ultimately false identity as Antonio's son. The holes in the cases are a little too glaring to be dismissed, but overall "Identity" is enjoyable even when it isn't totally believable.

Next week: One of the CSIs is abducted.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.