CSI: Miami--'Pirated'By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 23, 2004 - 11:20 PM GMT
See Also: 'Pirated' Episode Guide
After a scuba diving couple discover five bodies tied together, Horatio, Tripp and Delko are called by the Coast Guard to investigate. All the victims are male and are all severely decayed. Delko finds skin matter on a sixth knot in the rope, and a quick dive reveals a sixth victim bound to an anchor. Horatio suspects piracy.
Alexx estimates the men died five to six days ago. Ryan finds a trace bit of a blue fish tuna scale under a band aid, which leads Horatio to suspect the men may have been poaching the expensive fish. Delko informs Horatio that one boat, the Ilene, never returned to port. It left six days ago.
The owner, Owen Harrell, says he didn't report the boat missing because he didn't want his insurance to skyrocket. Horatio is suspicious, but his concerns turn elsewhere when Harrell tells him that there were nine men on the crew of the Ilene.
With the help of the Coast Guard, the life raft carrying two of the men is found. One of the men is missing. The three weren't fishermen; they were college students doing a semester at sea. When the remaining body is found, Alexx finds teeth marks on his leg. The bite marks are from human teeth.
Ryan and Calleigh question the two survivors separately. Adam tells Ryan that he saw the pirates coming and he grabbed his friends and ran for the lifeboat. Adam says his friend Brian must have eaten from Chip, while Brian tells Calleigh that a shark attacked Chip when he lept out of the boat after hallucinating. Calleigh has a warrant to have both Adam and Brian's stomachs pumped to see who took a bite out of Chip.
When Delko finds an olive green military issue paint chip on the side of the life raft the college boys were found in, Horatio realizes the stakes have been raised. Harrell was smuggling weapons. Horatio gets him to admit it, but he insists it was strictly an export business--he would never bring weapons into the U.S. Horatio notes that the pirates might not share his scruples.
Knowing the pirates would probably need to repaint the boat, Delko and Tripp follow a lead up the Miami river, to a store where someone recently purchased ten cans of black paint. When they find a freshly-painted black boat, Delko calls Horatio for back up. Horatio and the SWAT team arrive and prepare to storm the boat, but before they can, someone launches a rocket at one of the police cars. The team storms the boat and takes down several of the pirates, though the rocket shooter escapes. Horatio discovers a stash of rocket propelled grenade launchers on the boat.
The shooter's abandoned launcher indicates the recoil struck him in the eye, Horatio has the local hospitals searched for someone with an eye injury. Darrell Morgan, a surly teen, is brought into CSI with an eye-patch. He has a printed card with his legal rights on it, and refuses to answer any questions. He barks that he has a right to form a militia and mouths off to Yelina, revealing his deep racism.
Darrell's father, Wesley Morgan, shows up at the police station, but not to bail Darrell out. He tells Horatio that Darrell used to be a good kid, but then something went wrong. Horatio tells Wesley that he thinks his son might be in possession of some dangerous weapons and hopes that Wesley can convince his son to talk.
DNA evidence proves that it was Adam who chowed down on Chip, and Calleigh suspects he did worse. Chip was in much worse shape than the other two--she thinks Adam hurried along his demise. Alexx takes samples of Chip's ocular while a queasy Ryan looks on.
An attack in Little Havana draws the CSIs attention. Someone launched a rocket grenade at the shop of Roberto Lopez, injuring the man and destroying his shop. Horatio spots a suspicious-looking man in sunglasses in the crowd and grabs him before he can leave. He's sporting an eye injury and spews the same vitriol that Darrell did. "Someone has to look out for regular Americans," he tells Horatio. Tripp and Delko go through the rubble of the store and have a heated exchange when Tripp says that Lopez stood out because he didn't bother to learn English.
Ryan learns that Chip died of dehydration: he ingested salt water. Adam's print is on the cup, but Adam arrogantly tells Ryan and Calleigh that it can't be proved that he made Chip drink the water. Brian was passed out for much of the time and is loyal to Adam, who saved them to begin with. But when he mentions how dark it was, they find a hole in Adam's story. Adam couldn't have seen the pirate ships approaching as he claimed: he had to have known in advance. A glance at Adam's bank account reveals a $5000 deposit, making Adam an accomplice. He finally admits he was paid to call in the ship's location, but says neither Darrell nor Bart, the man who shot up Lopez's store, was the man who paid him.
Delko is able to identify a bit paper stuck to car glass at the scene of Lopez's store as a vehicle ID. Even though most of the paper is illegible, he identifies one of the letters as an 'F' for Ford. Delko puts two and two together when he remembers Wesley Morgan owns a used car dealership. Delko finds nitroglycerin on the roof and carpet of one of the Fords at the dealership, and Wesley's protestations that the car was stolen are quickly silenced by Horatio's observations about the tight security at the dealership. Wesley finally grumbles something about "bad influences" moving into the area. Delko swabs his nose and finds traces of nitroglycerin in his nasal passage, indicating he was present when the rocket was fired.
Wesley stops denying his involvement. He asks, "When did Miami become a foreign country?" Disgusted, Delko reminds him that many of the so-called "foreigners" have been here longer than Wesley and his comrades. When Wesley tells Horatio he won't be able to stop them all, Horatio says he'll hunt them down one at a time. "We never close," Eric emphasizes.
The community in Little Havana is helping to rebuild Roberto Lopez's store, as are Delko and Tripp. Horatio brings Lopez by to see the awning being lifted and placed at the top of the newly-rebuilt store.
I think CSI: Miami is the only CSI show that could get away with an episode about pirates. There are a few outright jokes (Alexx wonders where the pirates' trademark parrots are) and a few slightly more subtle ones (the rocket launchers recoil right into the shooter's eye...essentially making them one-eyed). The episode sits somewhere between sensationalism and tragic realism, combining piracy and cannibalism with racism and xenophobia. It's mostly successful.
The first half of the episode and the second feel disjointed, almost as though the writers came up with the idea to have pirates steal a ship and sink the crew, and then have some people get away and be forced to cannibalize one of their own...and then what? It's not that it doesn't flow well, because it actually does, but squeezing it all into one episode makes the episode feel very packed.
It's an exciting episode, without a doubt. That seems to be the norm for Miami these days rather than the exception. How many shootouts have we already seen this season? By my count, this is the fourth. Out of nine episodes, that's a lot, even by Miami standards. Miami is being amped up significantly this season, differentiating it even more from its more taciturn siblings. It's not a bad decision; critics frequently refer to the shows as interchangeable. It's hardly a fair criticism beyond the fact that all the shows usually involve murder investigations solved by way of forensic science; the characters are distinct, and the murders themselves tend to be as well. Miami has always had a sensational edge, but seeing the show gleefully embrace that is refreshing.
There is an underlying seriousness to the episode, however, given that the pirates turn out to be members of a white supremacy militia. Their racism is disturbing and sadly quite realistic. After the fanciful piracy and cannibalism cases, the vitriolic hatred of the militiamen brings the episode crashing back to disturbing reality. The twist that Darrell's father is involved in the militia was a surprising twist, especially after his convincing performance with Horatio following Darrell's arrest. Even Horatio was fooled, which is rare. He's usually suspicious of everyone.
Frank Tripp's racism is even more disturbing, given that he's one of the good guys. Unlike the militia men, Tripp doesn't seem to be aware that his views are racist, which disturbs Delko and gets under his skin in a way the militia men aren't able to. I'm not sure why the writers decided to saddle Frank with these views, other than to showcase how low-level racism can be just as insidious as the kind the militiamen spout. And while not as directly dangerous--Tripp isn't going to be taking up a rocket launcher anytime soon--it's a more subtle kind of threat. Still...it feels a little out of place, given that we've never seen anything in Tripp's character to indicate he's racist. But maybe that's the point.
Ryan gets the funniest moment of the episode again when he has to witness yet another particularly stomach-turning autopsy. This time, he gets to watch Alexx examine an eyeball. Poor Ryan--at least he hasn't thrown up yet, even if he looked like he wanted to this time around. Calleigh had the best line of the week when the guy who ate his friend told her that pumping his stomach wouldn't "bring Chip back" and she glibly replied that it might bring some of him back. Miami might be slick and sensational, but this episode does a pretty decent job of balancing those aspects of the show with a serious issue, while still telling an entertaining, exciting story.
Next week: Stetler gets up in Horatio's grill.
Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.