CSI: New York--'Bad Beat'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 17, 2005 - 8:28 PM GMT

See Also: 'Bad Beat' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

At an upscale New York apartment, a poker game between four men goes south when one of the guys is caught cheating. The other three kick him out after beating him severely. Several minutes, a knock on the door interrupts the preparation for the next game, and one of the men, Joel Ivey, goes to the door to look through the peephole. He sees the barrel of a shotgun the instant before it goes off, killing him immediately. When Mac, Stella and Flack arrive at the scene, the other men, Mike and Eddie, tell them about the guy who cheated, Kelly, and assume he must have been the one who killed Joel. Mac follows a blood trail to the garbage chute, and he dispatches Lindsay to search through the gigantic dumpster. Flack doesn't have any luck with Joel's neighbors, but Lindsay finds a jacket and a shotgun in the dumpster.

Danny joins Dr. Hawkes in Strawberry Fields where the body of weather girl Tara Stansfield, lies prone. Hawkes judges by the lividity that she's been dead at least eight hours, but Danny is more exact: he notices her coat is damp and recalls a brief rainstorm the night before, approximately ten hours ago. There are no signs of a struggle or robbery, save for a gash on her head that Hawkes finds glass in. At the morgue, Dr. Hammerback tells Hawkes that the blow to the head didn't kill Tara; she drowned. Hawkes notes that it doesn't appear that she was moved and there was no water near her--how could she have drowned? Hammerback also sends skin from under Tara's nails to DNA.

In the lab, Lindsay tells Stella that the shotgun was fired recently, confirming it's the murder weapon and she also points out that the jacket has GSR on it. Stella traces a cigar Kelly was smoking to a fancy cigar shop, where she and Flack get the reluctant owner to tell them that Kelly is a regular customer, and that he participates in nightly poker games at the shop. Danny and Hawkes pay a visit to the channel 8 studios where Tara worked and talk to her cameraman, Leonard, who tells them he and Tara went their separate ways after working on a pothole story. Danny finds an unspooled videotape and takes it to Adam Ross in the AV lab, who respools and repairs it and plays it for Danny. The tape reveals Tara having sex with a man, who Danny recognizes as Ethan Fallon, the producer at the TV station. He confronts Fallon who claims he didn't know about the tape. Fallon has scratches on his arms, but he says they were from a sexual encounter with Tara.

Stella and Flack attend the evening poker game at the cigar shop and find Kelly cheating at poker once again. When they corner him, he seems genuinely surprised that Joel is dead. He admits to throwing his jacket away after being beat up, but he denies killing Joel saying that it wasn't "part of the plan." Stella presses further but Kelly clams up. Back in the lab, Stella recreates the final game and discovers that it was Joel, not Kelly, who was poised to win the pot. Kelly and Joel were working together and Kelly stood to get half the pot, so it wouldn't have been in his best interests to kill Joel. Sure enough, DNA proves the blood smears on the wall are not Kelly's. DNA also gives Danny and Hawkes a lead: the skin under Tara's nails is from her identical twin sister, Kayla. Danny pays her a visit and notices a scratch on her cheek and concludes she and Tara fought about the sex tape. Tara was planning to sell it, but Kayla, a schoolteacher, was afraid it would hurt her reputation. She denies killing her sister, and tells Danny Tara even left her an apologetic voicemail later that evening apologizing and promising not to sell the tape.

Lindsay goes over the 911 calls from the apartment building that came in from Joel's neighbors, but finds a hang-up that came in two minutes before the others. Stella tracks down Heather Davidson, the woman who made the call. She tells Stella a drunken man harassed her and her boyfriend, Scott, in the elevator and followed them to her apartment and banged on the door. Heather says she hung up on the 911 call because she's been illegally subletting her apartment. Hawkes has gone back to Central Park to scan the crime scene. When it starts to rain on him, he notices a deep impression on the ground where Tara was lying, in the exact place her head was. Back at the lab, Lindsay tells Mac the DNA profile of the shooter indicates he has brown hair, green eyes and uses marijuana. Mac and Stella head back to the building to examine Heather's apartment door. They talk to her boyfriend Scott, who admits to getting into an altercation with the man. Mac notices blood on the up button for the elevator--the killer must have gone up, most likely to his own apartment. He came back down looking for Scott, but he was drunk and got the number mixed up, going to Joel's apartment, 8C, not Heather's, 9C.

Hawkes gives Danny more glass he found at the part to analyze, and Adam tells them he found a DVD of the sex tape being sold at the bodega near the office. Someone released Tara's tape. Danny reconstructs the glass pieces while Hawkes concludes from the scans that Tara drowned in a puddle formed in the impression in the ground by her head. The scan also shows an impression in the ground left by a tripod, leading Danny and Hawkes to Leonard Percy, Tara's cameraman. Danny interrogates Leonard, who was planning to sell the tape with Tara, but argued with her when she changed her mind. When she found out he made a copy, they argued and he hit her over the head and left her. Leonard protests that he didn't kill her because she was alive when he left her, but Danny, disgusted, holds him responsible. Mac and Stella go over each floor of the apartment building methodically until they find a doorknob on the 15th floor with GSR on it. Prepared for the worst, the knock, but a young girl answers, her father passed out, drunk, on the couch behind her. The man, James Moore, once had the perfect life, but a brutal mugging left him angry and bitter, and he turned to alcohol. His altercation with Scott brought it all back, and vowing not to be a victim again, he took his shotgun and went back, but as Mac notes, he killed the wrong man.

Analysis:

"Bad Beat" is a perfect example of why the CSI shows are so popular. It's an appealing mix of good cases, clever revelations and most importantly, great character moments. The combination of these elements almost always makes for a superior episode (unless the ending is botched somehow) and when it's done right the episode flows with an impressive ease. It seems like writer Zachary Reiter had fun writing this episode, and that gives it a refreshing feel.

Kelly's guilt in the poker case seemed so obvious initially that I assumed much of the episode would involve tracking Kelly down and then looking for the final piece of evidence that would clinch it, so I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised when that turned out not to be the case. This is hardly the first case of mistaken identity being behind a murder, but I bought it in this episode.

Mac takes a backseat to his team this time around, something that seems to be a trend with the leading men of CSI these days. It's not a bad move at all. The central characters of each of the CSI shows are already firmly established, so it's nice to see the junior team members get a chance to shine. Or even the leading ladies--Stella and Flack share a few fun scenes together, and Stella proves herself a poker expert. Her recreation of the game seems like a stretch, but it's fun to see her showing off the knowledge, and also to see Flack tease her about her poker face.

Eddie Cahill has such perfect comic timing that one can't help but wish he got more screentime. The scene in which he attempts to question the neighbors and is greeted first by a cranky woman who berates him about the time and then by a large man wearing nothing but a pair of white briefs is laugh-out loud funny. Flack's bewildered and slightly cowed polite demeanor is just the right tone for the scene. It's not long before Flack gets to whip out his trademark snark in the scene in the cigar store when Flack and Stella try to get the owner to talk. Cahill is a master of the deadpan expression and he gets plenty of chances to use it in this episode.

Just like Cahill is at his best when he's delivering snarky one-liners, Carmine Giovinazzo does his finest work with Danny's emotional extremes, whether he's near tears over a stressful situation or enraged over a criminal's blasť attitude towards his or her crime. Danny's inability to mask or control his emotions is arguably the most interesting thing about the character, and Giovinazzo has the intensity to make Danny's anger believable and sympathetic. More often than not, Danny reacts to situations like a child would, emotions raw and close to the surface. Of all the characters, he's clearly the one who takes crime and its implications the hardest.

Hawkes is coming into his own as a CSI--at one point he even gives Danny an order to process the glass. And yet it's clear he also misses the morgue--the moment when Hammerback asks him if he's jealous of Hammerback elicits a chuckle. Hawkes also discovers a truly inventive piece of the puzzle in the case he and Danny are investigating: the weather girl drowned in a shallow puddle. Like the twist in the poker case, I didn't see that coming either, and was pleasantly surprised.

I also got a little laugh from Mac's somewhat exasperated response to Lindsay's explanation of what THC is. Her perfectionist, head-of-the-class attitude is even grating on Mac's nerves, so hopefully she'll take the hint and tone it down. It's also a moment that clues viewers in that the writers do indeed know that Lindsay is a tad on the annoying side. More likely than not they're setting her up for an eventual (though perhaps gradual) change, which is good because while her alter-ego might be irritating, Anna Belknap seems like a likable and talented actress. There's a nice glimpse of a lighter Lindsay when she comes across Danny and Adam watching Tara's sex tape and proceeds to tease Danny, asking him if it's "footage from his 30th birthday party." It's nice to see her relax a little bit.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.