CSI: New York--'Necrophilia Americana'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 23, 2006 - 10:16 PM GMT

See Also: 'Necrophilia Americana' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A woman is found dead and covered in flesh eating beetles, Necrophilia Americana, in one of the exhibits at the Manhattan Museum of Science. Mac and Stella study the body, noting that the beetles escaped from another exhibit in the museum. Mac discovers part of a drawing, and Stella notes the diorama is undisturbed, meaning the body was dumped there. Only one museum employee is unaccounted for--Ceci Astor, whose ID card is found next to a bloody 14th century knife by another exhibit. Mac is surprised to find a frightened young boy hiding by another exhibit and coaxes him out. Across town, Detective Flack shows Danny to the body of Jim Morrison, a stockbroker killed at a construction site. Danny finds a can of insulation foam, which may be the murder weapon. Hammerback confirms as much in the morgue--the insulation was shoved down James' throat, filling and blocking his airway.

Mac takes the boy to the hospital to be examined, and is surprised when Ceci's sister Carolyn shows up with her boyfriend Stewart Decaro. She puts pressure on Mac to question the boy and find out who killed her sister, but Mac sends her away. Back at the lab, Lindsay analyzes a trace powder found on the beetles while Stella prints the knife. She only gets a hit on one of the two sets of prints found on the knife, to Jose Martinez, a security guard at the museum. Jane Parsons shows up at the hospital to take DNA and trace from the boy, and both she and Mac notice a bruise on his arm that appears to have been made by a ring worn by Ceci Astor. Mac takes the boy back to the station, where he notices the corner of paper from the crime scene was torn from a page in the child's comic book. When Stella brings Jose Martinez in for questioning, he recognizes the boy, calling him Sam. Sam reacts to, calling out, "Dad!" to Jose.

In the morgue, Drs. Hawkes and Hammerback cook up a detergent bath to remove the rest of the tissue from Ceci Astor's body to determine the cause of death. They discover it at the base of her brain stem--a large hole indicating sharp force trauma. Stella interrogates Jose about the knife, but he tells her he sometimes touches the exhibits after the museum closes. When she asks about Sam, he tells her Sam's mother is dead. Danny gets a print off the foam can that matches a man named George Clark, out of jail after serving time for assault. George works at the construction site, and he confesses to Danny and Flack that he got into a scuffle with Jim after the man cracked the window of his car, but George backed off after Jim offered him money to fix the window. Danny looks at the window and extracts a small white fleck from it.

Jane has a surprising piece of news for Mac: Sam is not Jose's biological son. Mac sits with the boy and asks about his comic book, which revolves around a child pursued by an evil man named Kinsen. Lindsay and Hawkes go to Ceci's apartment and discover a woman named Elena there. She claims she works for Ceci, but she's holding a thick wad of cash. Lindsay spots a photo of Elena with Sam and Jose, and finds a folder with adoption papers in it, which she takes back to the lab and analyzes, only to learn they are fake. Hawkes analyzes blood under Elena's nails, but it matches Jose. They apparently had some sort of fight. A vial of blood the CSIs discovered in Ceci's refrigerator proves more enlightening--it's Sam's, and it's proves that he's Ceci's nephew. Mac goes to Carolyn and confronts her with the knowledge. She admits to getting pregnant young with her boyfriend Stewart, but Ceci convinced her to give up the child when Stewart went to jail for drug use. Ceci arranged to have Sam adopted, but when Stewart got out of jail, Carolyn decided she wanted her child back.

Danny has analyzed the trace from the crime scene and George's window and tells Flack it all leads back to golf. The CSI and the detective return to the scene and find a golf ball from Five Boroughs Golf with the initials F.O.B. on it, a drainage pipe in the concrete that served as a hole, and two different trajectory markings from the balls on the concrete, on straight and the other angled. The pair head to Five Boroughs Golf, which proves to be an urban golfing club, where people literally use the city as a golf course. The president recognizes Jim but doesn't recall any members with the initials F.O.B. Back at the labs, Mac shares a meal with Sam, who it seems would prefer to eat candy. Sam tells him more about Kinsen in his comic book, and Mac talks him into trying to describe for a sketch artist the man who pursued him in the museum. The drawing proves to be fruitless, as it turns out to be a representation of Kinsen from the comic book. But Mac realizes he's working the wrong angle and returns to the museum, to Sam's hiding place, and discovers candy wrappers. How did Sam get the money for the chocolate bars? Did the killer give it to him? Mac and Stella pull bills from the machine and discover a twenty among them with a bloody fingerprint.

Danny and Flack examine the pictures of the urban golfer club members. They focus on one Harry Vernon, when they learn he just left rehab--he's a "Friend of Bill." Danny and Flack confront Harry, who played a round of golf with Jim the day before. Jim, a much more talented player, berated Harry, and crowed that he would be winning the $10,000 bet they made. Harry finally snapped and sprayed the foam in his mouth to shut him up, but immediately regretted his actions when he saw they were fatal. The tests on the twenty-dollar bill in Mac's case lead to Stewart, Carolyn's boyfriend. It's his print on the dollar bill, in Ceci's blood. Infertile after his heavy heroin use, Stewart wanted to reclaim Sam as much as Carolyn did. He blackmailed Jose by threatening to have Elena deported, and made him bring Sam to the museum. When Ceci tried to interfere, he killed her. Case closed, Mac confronts Carolyn, who still intends to try to get Sam back, and the stoic CSI promises to be present at the custody hearing. Mac looks on as Sam is reunited with Jose and Elena, his parents.

Analysis:

"Necrophilia Americana" is a good example of how the characters on this show are often more interesting than the cases they investigate. The cases were decent but nothing spectacular this time around. In the primary case, the insects felt more like a stunt than an integral part of the case. In "Fare Game", the exotic cuisine was played up, but it blended seamlessly into the case (and in fact, proved to be the murder weapon), but this time around the bugs seemed mostly present to make the murder seem more horrific. It seems like a pretty big coincidence that flesh-eating bugs happened to escape on the very same day that a woman was murdered at the museum. Stewart didn't seem savvy enough to think to release the bugs, given that he left Ceci's body in plain view in the middle of a museum diorama.

Speaking of Stewart, it wasn't hard to figure out he was the killer. He looked shifty in his first appearance on the screen, and then as soon as the selfish Carolyn told Mac that Sam was her biological child with Stewart, I knew he had to be the killer. I think it would have been more shocking if Carolyn had been the murderer--she was painted in a pretty unsympathetic light. Mac disliked her right off the bat, almost from the moment she arrived at the hospital, but certainly when she started demanding the obviously traumatized Sam be questioned. I assume she didn't know that Stewart was the one who killed her sister, or else she wouldn't have insisted so passionately.

Despite the fact that it was no surprise that Stewart was the killer, things came together awfully quickly, and it felt like half the puzzle was missing and was suddenly thrust together in the last few minutes. Stewart, who was impotent due to his heroin use somehow got the herbal medication he was taking for his impotence on the bugs that were found on Ceci. I assume the transfer was actually from Stewart to Ceci and then the bugs because theoretically Stewart would have never come into contact with the bugs. Then we learn he was blackmailing the Martinezs, and that's why Jose brought Sam to the museum. I assume Ceci caught Stewart with Sam right after Jose left, and Sam probably spent the entire night in the museum, alone, though it's not clear why Stewart left without looking for him and making sure he found him. But then, Stewart clearly isn't the brightest killer Mac has ever gone up against.

The scene in the morgue when Drs. Hawkes and Hammerback decided to let the bugs strip the body of flesh and then basically washed away the rest left me baffled. What if Ceci had died because someone had slashed her artery? Or strangled her? Or stabbed her in the stomach? Weren't they getting rid of an awful lot of evidence by getting rid of her flesh, her muscle and other tissue? They lucked out that the killer conveniently stabbed her in the brain stem and not one of the tissues they washed down the drain. It was a cool scene, but it seemed like a very risky method to me.

Because the A-case gets so much focus in this episode, the B-case gets very little screen time or development, and it suffers. It was somewhat hard to follow, and though the concept of urban golf was intriguing, it never got much development beyond a series of cool shots of Jim Morris golfing around the city. Like the urban adventurers in "Tri-Borough", it illustrates just how creative people can get in using the cityscape for some truly unique activities, but I wonder how much more interesting it would have been if a little more time had been relegated to it.

But character is king on CSI: NY, and the character moments in this episode far outshone the cases. Mac had some great scenes with Sam, the shaken young boy at the heart of the A-case. Gary Sinise plays Mac as compassionate and yet still very staid in these scenes. Mac won't let Sam have chocolate, insisting he eat his dinner first, suggesting what the viewer probably already suspected: Mac would be a strict, by-the-book father. It's also kind of charming that after discussing Sam's comic book in depth with him, Mac believes Sam will be able to switch gears and describe the killer to a sketch artist. Mac clearly doesn't know how kids work--after getting Sam to talk about Kinsen and putting him in the forefront of Sam's mind, there was no way Sam would transition, like an adult might be able to, to recall the actual killer's features.

I also like how Lindsay got teased for her bug-eating tendencies. Her response that she doesn't have an "affinity" for bugs was funny, but I have a feeling that it's too late for the new girl--everyone in the CSI offices probably knows she chowed down on a crispy spider. Somehow Danny doesn't seem to have ended up with the same reputation, and it's fitting for his character that he teases her too, as if he's forgotten that he, too, ate a critter, and maybe even more when he got the array of take out. It's a small glimpse of Lindsay's character, but she seems to gamely accept her new reputation, reinforcing the idea that she does indeed roll with the punches.

Though their case feels like an afterthought, Danny and Flack always play off each other so well. There's a real friendship between the two, and before starting their investigation they comment on each other's clothes, which is funny but also gives a little glimpse into that friendship. Aside from Mac and Stella's trip to the dog show in ReCycling", and Lindsay's ploys to get Danny to have drinks with her ("Stuck on You" and "Cool Hunter"), Danny and Flack have one of the few friendships on the show that we know exists off screen, from comments about playing basketball together ("Blink") to Flack consoling Danny in "On the Job". These two interact more naturally than anyone other pair on the show, and the banter between them is compelling and fun to watch. I hope we'll see more of them working together in the not-too-distant future.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.