CSI: Miami--'48 Hours To Life'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 11, 2005 - 5:44 PM GMT

See Also: '48 Hours To Life' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

A young African American man, Tobey Hollins, flees the scene of a murder, blood covering his clothes. Frank Tripp pursues, finally catching him once Horatio and backup arrives. Tripp brings the man in and it isn't long before he has a confession out of him. But Horatio isn't convinced: when he and Delko visit the crime scene--a boat where a woman, Patrice Boland, lies dead, a bullet hole through her shoulder, the notice the high velocity spatter is already dry. What killer waits around for the spatter to dry, then slips in the blood pool, and then flees? Tripp challenges Horatio to bring him another suspect.

Alexx and Delko examine the body on the boat. Alexx notices bloody air bubbles around her mouth--she was struggling to breathe. Delko takes two cups from the scene, one with lipstick marks around the brim, and Alexx is quick to note that their victim wasn't wearing any lipstick. While they process the scene, Tobey gets on the bus for jail and is harassed by a prisoner named Darrel, who takes his shoes. Darrel also breaks Tobey's hand and steals his lunch. In the ballistics lab, Calleigh is frustrated to discover that Jim hasn't filled out the report on the gun found on Patrice Boland's boat. His results show the gun belonged to Michael, Patrice's husband. Michael admits he and Patrice were getting divorced, but say it was at he initiated the separation: he had fallen in love with a man. Michael claims he was working on his computer all morning. Ryan and Dan Cooper examine the hard drive and find love letters hidden inside it. When Ryan and Cynthia Wells compare it to Tobey's confession letter, the samples match up.

Horatio visits a subdued Tobey in jail and asks him about his relationship with Patrice. Tobey admits to having an affair with her, but denies killing her, claiming that Tripp berated him into a confession. At the lab, Ryan is puzzling over pictures of the two glasses. From the liquid spill pattern on the tray the glasses were on, Ryan concludes the boat was out on the water when the drinks were spilled. Patrice was selling the boat, so Delko tracks down Gina Rankin, the last person who looked at the boat. He zeroes in on her lipstick right away, and she admits to being on the boat with her boyfriend, Steve Gabler. When pressed, she claims Steve shot Patrice, intending to steal her boat. Gina refused and insisted they bring it back to shore and leave Patrice for someone to find her. Steve is brought in, but he claims Gina shot Patrice. Though it appears Tobey is innocent, he soon finds himself in more trouble: after a prison riot, Darrel is found dead in Tobey's cell, a bloody shank by the body. Alexx finds a white susbstance in Darrel's mouth, and Horatio notices he's wearing Tobey's shoes. Horatio also manages to recover a shell casing from the ridges of Tobey's shoes.

A print on the casing links Steve to the shooting, and he confesses. But Alexx tells the CSIs that the gunshot wound didn't kill Patrice--she was smothered after being shot. Steve is shocked when he learns this and denies smothering her. All the evidence points to Tobey murdering Darrel, and he tells Horatio that he did, despite Horatio's skepticism. Horatio asks Calleigh to examine Tobey and Darrel's cells to look for signs of provocation. Calleigh finds bite marks on the pillow of the bottom bunk of Darrel's cell and brings it back to the lab. Valera examines Tobey's clothes and finds a bloody handkerchief in Tobey's pocket, with the initials M.E.B. on it, leading the CSIs back to Michael Boland. He went back to the boat and found Patrice struggling for air after being shot, and angry because she was trying to sell the boat out from under him, smothered her.

Calleigh and Ryan try to figure out how Tobey stabbed Darrel and realize Darrel was kneeling down when Tobey attacked him. When the DNA test reveals that the saliva on Darrel's pillow is a match for Tobey, the CSIs realize Tobey was lying out of shame, not fear. Darrel was raping Tobey, and that's why Tobey killed him. Horatio visits Tobey in jail and tells him that he knows he acted in self-defense, and encourages Tobey to tell the truth, because the truth is "all we have."

Analysis:

If there's one thing this episode isn't, it's subtle. From the moment Horatio views Tobey's "certain guilt" with a healthy dose of skepticism, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that Tobey didn't do it. Must Horatio always be right? I have to say, I was hoping that the evidence would have come full circle and challenged Horatio's perceptions, too, in addition to Frank's. Wouldn't that have made a chilling ending, if it had turned out Tobey had smothered Patrice after all? Neither Frank nor Horatio would have been completely right or completely wrong, and it would have made for interesting discussion about first impressions.

As it is, we're supposed to think Frank Tripp is clearly in the wrong, though really what he did was arrest a man with bloody clothes and go hard on him in the interrogation, which certainly isn't the first interrogation scene that we've witnessed that wasn't all roses. After all, how many times has Horatio or another CSI presented a theory to a suspect that turned out to be wrong in the end? The difference here is that the suspect confesses rather than denying the charge.

Unfortunately, we don't see enough of the interrogation scene to know if Tripp crossed the line or not. Again, it's another opportunity missed: Tripp gets no more screen time in this episode than he does in any other, and we never really see if he has a reaction at all to Tobey's predicament or his part in it. Tripp doesn't seem to show any remorse, either when Horatio expresses his doubts about Tobey's guilt or when he and Calleigh are examining the jail cells. I think that's my biggest regret about the episode--not getting more insight into Frank. Rex Linn brings a natural charisma to the character but I feel like we never get to go beneath the surface of his gruff exterior. This would have been an excellent opportunity to do just that.

What happens to Tobey in jail is pretty predictable as well. With that angelic face of his, I didn't for one moment think Tobey was guilty of murder or tough enough to survive in prison. The minute Darrel was found murdered, I knew exactly what had happened and why Tobey had killed him. Could that piece of plaster from Tobey's cast in Darrel's mouth have been more obvious? When Alexx didn't identify it, I literally rolled my eyes. I like being ahead of the story, sometimes, but really, that was just silly. Even if I didn't know Tobey was wearing a cast, the piece was pretty obviously part of a cast. CSI shows attract an intelligent audience; the writers need to remember that.

There were a few other noticeable holes, like Steve's convenient print on the shell casing. Why would he touch the shell casing and leave it on the boat (for Tobey to conveniently step on)? We see more of the incompetent ballistics tech, Jim, this week, and I'm guessing it won't be long before Calleigh returns to her old posting. Calleigh has seemed kind of down lately--perhaps a return to ballistics will be good for her spirits.

I'm being hard on this episode, but it frustrated me by reaching only for the most obvious conclusions, and then failing to explore them. Themes of coerced confessions and prison violence are worthy of exploration, but please, let's see a little depth. Tobey did have a nice line at the end of the episode about how he was going to take what happened to him in prison with him for the rest of his life. That's pretty heavy stuff, and I would have liked to see more emphasis on that aspect of Tobey's plight. Sure, we get the cliched prison scenes (Prison Break had a similar prison riot a week ago), but it sure would have been interesting to see the emotional toll it takes on Frank.

Or not--Frank doesn't seem to believe he coerced the confession. And maybe he didn't--we don't know because we never got that scene, save for a few hurried clips of Frank hurling accusations at Tobey. But wouldn't it have been interesting to see the episode from that angle, from Frank's point-of-view? It would have felt like a real departure, instead of a rather predictable journey.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.