CSI: New York--'Tri-Borough'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at January 7, 2005 - 9:50 PM GMT

See Also: 'Tri-Borough' Episode Guide


A New York subway train halts its route when the body of a young man is found in its path. When Mac and Stella arrive at the scene, Mac immediately notices something's amiss: the victim's body is not in the position one would expect for an accidental electrocution. In the morgue, Dr. Hawkes confirms Mac's suspicions: the victim, whom Hawkes dubs "Slick" because of a hydrophobic substance coating his skin, died from AC electrocution, but the subway runs on DC. He was dead before he hit the tracks, and apparently was placed there to cover up the initial cause of death.

Across town, Danny greets Detective Kaile Maka, an old friend from the police department who was sidelined for a while after a gun shot injury. Art dealer Leo Whitefield has been murdered in his store; Ron Leatham, who owns the bookstore across the street discovered his body after noticing a suspicious car in front of the store. Danny notes that the blood spatter and powder burns on Leo's body indicate he was shot at close range; he recovers the bullet from the frame of a painting. Maka finds a document in plastic from 1814 indicating a painting known as "Inhumanity" was destroyed in a fire.

Aiden and Detective Flack are on the case of a third victim, a construction worker who died from a head wound. Bill Lemakkia was filling in for another worker on the site who was booted for drinking on the job. Aiden and Flack both note the foul smell coming from the body.

Mac and Stella go over evidence from the scene in the lab. Mac pulls a note that reads 'GAP--noon' and a stone finger with a print on it out of Slick's pocket, while Stella analyzes the substance on his skin, which turns out to be olive oil. The print on the finger doesn't return a match, but Stella finds a digital camera and hurries off to analyze its contents.

Danny traces the gun found in Leo Whitefield's gallery to a mobster named Paul Gianetti. Gianetti was purchasing a piece called "Inhumanity" from Leo for the price of fifty thousand dollars, a paltry sum for a painting as old as "Inhumanity." Gianetti tells Danny that Leo wanted a gun so he procured one for the art dealer. Danny is suspcious and asks Gianetti where the painting is, but Gianetti doesn't know. He tells the CSI that he needed Leo to get him the painting so there was no way he would have killed the man.

Three blocks from the subway track where their victim was found, Mac and Stella explore the neighborhood and come across a transformer that was out the night their victim died. There are no signs of tampering on the power box. Mac and Stella question Bob Galanis, a man from the neighborhood who is raising his two children, Julie and Will, alone. He looks at the picture of Slick but claims he doesn't recognize him. The CSIs turn to the video on the digital camera, which shows their victim filming another young man chase him. When they spot Grand Army Plaza in the footage, they put it together that this where Slick was at noon. A trip to the park near the building proves fruitful when Mac and Stella come across the man in Slick's video, but he and his friends flee when they spot the CSIs, leaping over benches and bike racks. No matter--Mac gets a print off a newspaper they abandoned. They question the man from the video, who identifies their victim as Randy Hontz. He tells them that he and Randy practiced Parkour together--the traversed the urban landscape with the kind of fantastic acrobatics that Mac and Stella witnessed earlier.

Dr. Hawkes tells Aiden that the cranial fracture killed Lemakkia instantly. Hawkes points out the foul smell emanating from the wound, which Aiden thinks is a combination of fecal matter and chemicals. In the lab, Danny got two sets of prints off the plastic around the insurance notice: Leo's and a set from an unknown person. Maka has even better news: she's found "Inhumanity." It belongs to John James III, who claims Leo was trying to extort him and force him to sell the painting. Danny is suspicious: if Leo had gone public with the insurance document, the painting would have been worthless. He hands James a warrant for the painting and takes it back to the lab. There, Danny pours over the painting, trying to figure out if it's a fake or not. There's no new paint on it, it hasn't been retouches or re-varnished, and the paint on the signature isn't new. "Inhumanity" is the real thing, so Danny concludes that the insurance document must be a fake.

Aiden tells Flack that the lab revealed that the chemicals in their victim's head wound were deoderizers and disinfectants. Aiden suspects he may have gotten the wound in a portable bathroom at the construction site.

At Randy Hontz's apartment, Mac and Stella discover several risqué DVDs of Randy and a woman named Julie G. Stella finds a box of an imported Greek olive oil, which she quickly realizes is the substance that was coating his skin. They return to the lab, where Danny is testing the ink on the insurance document. Stella queries him about it; he's discovered the ink on the document is lead based, which fits with its 1814 date, but he acknowledges that the ink could have easily been reproduced by a forger. His discussion with Stella causes him to turn to the paper for clues.

Mac tells Stella that the olive oil from Randy's apartment matches the olive oil on his body. The imported olive oil is only sold in one store in the area: Galanis & Son Importers, owned by Bob Galanis. The CSIs have a warrant for his sales records, but there's no record of an order from Randy. They leave the store, but spot a clue out back: a statue missing a finger in the back of Bob Galanis's truck.

Aiden and Flack, noses wrinkled, bicker over who has to process the Port-a-Potty. Aiden dusts it down and takes prints from the outside. Flack matches them to Brian Brocho, the worker who Bill was replacing. He believes Bill stole his job and he pushed the Port-a-Potty Bill was in over, but did that kill him? Brian swears it didn't.

Danny carbon tests the paper and dates it at around 190 years old, which means it's dated correctly. Both the painting and document appear to be real. Danny is puzzled. Across town and armed with a warrant, Stella and Mac search the Galanis house. Stella immediately focuses on the bedroom of Galanis's daughter, Julie. When she finds olive oil on the girl's sheets, she realizes that Julie is the girl from the DVDs. When Mac finds fingerprints on the window sills, the CSIs put together how Randy got in and out of Julie's bedroom: he used his Parkour skills. Outside, Stella notices burnt skin on the flagpole and finds cables by the trash, which could have been used to electrify the pole. Back in the lab, Mac prints the cable and comes up with some that match Bob Galanis and others that do not. He studies a picture from the Galanis's garage of a red wagon.

Mac comes across Danny pouring over several books. He's studying New York history: something is nagging him about the insurance document. It's dated 1814 but has a Reason St. address on it. The problem is that Reason St. became Barron St. in 1809. The forger may have used an old sheet of paper, but got his dates wrong. Danny thinks Leo was the forger: he was trying to get a low price on the painting for Paul Gianetti. But both Paul and John James knew the painting was real, so neither had a motive for murder.

Flack tells Aiden that Brocho's alibi checks out. Aiden is puzzled because the Port-a-Potty chemicals match the matter on Bill's jeans but those in his head wound. She breaks down the chemicals and focuses on the one that doesn't match: Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium, which is used mostly in airplane toilets. Aiden puts it together: waste matter leaked out of a plane, froze in the atmosphere and came crashing down to earth, striking Bill Lamakkia on the head and killing him. Flack is nonplussed: "A crapsicle killed this guy?" he wonders.

Back at Leo Whitehead's gallery, Danny and Detective Maka search for clues. Danny finds an old book, copyright 1824, with the first blank page torn out. Since carbon dating is accurate with a plus or minus ten year margin, Leo could have used the page to forge the insurance document. A bookmark from Ron Leathem's bookstore prompts Danny and Maka to drop in on the bookstore owner. A handkerchief with GSR on it and a bloodstained book prove that Ron is the killer. He was enraged over Leo's defacement of his books; a struggle between the two led to Leo's death.

Stella tells Bob Galanis that they've figured out how Randy died. Bob says he was just trying to protect his daughter, but Stella says he was trying to protect his son, too. Across the hall, Mac speaks with young Will Galanis, whose fingerprints were found over his father's on the cable. It was he who electrocuted Randy, and it was his idea to dump the body in the subway. He laments that he forgot about the difference in the currents. Will claims he only meant to zap Randy, not kill him. He thought it would be cool, he says, and then adds, with a smile, that it was.


A relatively lighthearted CSI episode provides just what New York needs: a nice bit of spunk and energy. It's difficult to ever call a show that deals with murder "lighthearted," but there's no doubt that some episodes are much darker than others. Up until this episode, New York has delivered mostly heavy, dark episodes, which has led to charges that the show is too gloomy. Sometimes, it works quite well: episodes like "Blink" and "Three Generations Are Enough" are atmospheric and haunting. Others, like "Night, Mother" are just glum. So it was refreshing to see CSI: NY stop taking itself so seriously, at least this time around.

I usually prefer episodes that stick to one case (or occasionally, the ones that feature two equally-engaging cases), but I enjoyed all three plotlines in this episode. Part of that was because the characters seemed more lively in this episode. Mac and Stella joked around, and even if some of their jokes fell flat, it was still fun to see them not taking themselves too seriously. Danny practically glowed while he was working on the art case; it was clear that he was having a ball investigating a different kind of mystery. And Aiden and Flack display a terrific rapport while working on their pungent case.

The initial spoilers (story) for this episode mentioned that Randy practiced Parkour, a kind of urban sport where participants treat cities as an urban obstacle course. The scene in which the kids Mac and Stella want to question flee from them features the sport--the young men flip gracefully over benches and bike racks while the CSIs look on, bemused. The CSIs don't even try to give chase; I guess there are benefits to being crime scene investigators and not police officers, and, at any rate, these two know they're beat. Or at least it first appears that way, until Mac notices the abandoned free paper and gets a fingerprint (and the identity of one of the kids).

I particularly enjoyed the resolution of the case. I suspected Bob Galanis early on--as soon as a I saw the name "Julie G." on the sex DVDs. (Random aside--are sex tapes passé? I guess they've been replaced by the sex DVD.) But I sure did expect little Will Galanis, the junior sociopath. The idea of a child committing murder is creepy enough to begin with, but it's clear from Will's last line that he has no remorse. The fact that he thought of dumping the body in the subway only underscores the kid's genius level intelligence.

I think I enjoyed the art case as much as Danny did--it was a departure for a CSI show--a different kind of mystery for an investigator to tackle. One problem: since when is Danny an expert on art forgery? Wouldn't it have made more sense to have Danny consult an art historian to analyze the painting (like Mac and Aiden consulted a DJ in "Grand Master") rather than to have him do it himself? I realize the CSIs know a lot about different fields, and I didn't have a problem with his examination of the forged insurance document. But Danny knowing the intricacies of analyzing a piece of art work to know if it's a fake? It seemed a stretch, since it didn't seem like it was the kind of thing a CSI would have to know about in the general course of their work. It did seem like it could have been a personal interest of Danny's, something he knows about above and beyond the job. It would have been nice to have a throw-away line about this just to establish that this wasn't just another case of a CSI being all-knowing. Detective Maka easily could have asked how Danny knew about art forgeries in the scene where he analyzes the painting.

That said, it was an extremely engaging case, with a satisfying resolution. It's funny that it turns out that the painting isn't what Leo was killed over, but the forgery. And even then, Leo wasn't killed because he forged the document but rather what he forged the document on. Murder may have been a tad extreme, but I felt for the bookstore owner, Ron. As a book lover myself, I would have been mighty angry had someone defaced my books. The segment presented an interesting look into the world of obsessive collectors and dealers.

Carmine Giovinazzo did an excellent job of conveying Danny's enthusiasm for the case and discovering the truth about the painting. I also particularly liked how he stood up to the mobster, telling the man he wasn't a rookie and therefore implying that he wasn't going to be easily fooled. Danny might be a tad headstrong, but he is sharp. Though perhaps he's not as much of an artist himself as the actor who plays him: in the first scene in the art gallery, Danny scoffs at a piece of art that was painted by Giovinazzo. When the episode is re-run, take a look around the gallery: several of the pieces are Giovinazzo's.

The lightest of the three storylines by far was the Case of the Falling Crapsicle as investigated by Aiden and Detective Flack. The show got in more than a few jokes on this one. The "potty humor" ones were the easy ones, though they did provide chuckles, especially Flack's coining of the word "crapsicle." But it was also nice to see the show poke fun at itself with Aiden coming up with a list of impossibly long chemical names to befuddle Flack with. Eddie Cahill's comic timing was pitch perfect in this scene; if his stint on Friends didn't showcase it enough already, his delivery of his lines in CSI: NY should be ample proof of Cahill's gift for droll humor. He and Vanessa Ferlito have a nice, easy rapport; if Aiden bickers with Danny like he's an older brother, she teases Flack like he's a younger one. It's a fun dynamic.

It was nice to watch a lighter New York episode; the show is gradually finding its pace and is starting to distinguish itself in a meaningful way from its siblings. Dark episodes aren't bad, but we need lighter ones like "Tri-Borough" in between as a contrast.

Next week: The CSIs tackle a death at a dog show as well as the murder of a bicycle messenger.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.