'Blink'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at September 23, 2004 - 8:34 PM GMT

See Also: 'Blink' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Mac Taylor is in a church when his pager goes off, calling him to a crime scene in Central Park. He meets up with Detective Don Flack, who shows him the body of a young blonde woman. Mac instantly notices that she's been dumped--she wasn't killed in the park. He also notices that it appears she's been re-dressed by the killer. Then he spies a wedding ring on her ring finger on her left hand. "Someone out there is missing a wife," Mac says quietly.

Stella Bonasera arrives at the CSI New York offices, having heard about the murder on the radio. She approaches Mac, who has been up all night with this case. Stella offers to go over the missing persons files while Mac wakes Dr. Hawkes, who is sleeping in a room next to the morgue. Hawkes shows Mac contusions on the woman's neck, and points out the horizontal lividity marks on her back. Hawkes tells Mac that two hemoragic strokes killed her. He also notes that she inhaled something just prior to her death.

Stella IDs the victim as Leann Goodman, and the CSIs bring her husband in to identify her body. Stricken, he tells them that the last time he saw her was several days ago at lunch. He put her into a cab after they finished eating and that was the last he saw of her.

Aiden Burn and Danny Messer identify the substance Leann Goodman inhaled as a fire stick, which Danny notes is the new date rape drug. Mac is puzzled because the rape kit came back negative, but before he gets any further, he's called to another crime scene. A young, dark-haired woman was discovered in a dumpster with similar neck contusions and horizontal lividity. "We've got a serial," Mac realizes.

Hawkes notes that this victim was strangled to death, and that then the killer broke her neck post mortem. As with the other victim, the rape kit comes back negative. Mac notes that the woman has gold teeth, and comes to the conclusion that she's of Russian decent.

Mac seeks out an old mentor, Dr. Giles, to get a medical bust to examine the nerves and arteries that the killer would have pressed on to kill his victims. As he explores the bust, CSI shots reveal where the killer pressed to murder Leann Goodman.

Back at the dumpster where the second victim was found, Danny finds a camera with film still in it. Aiden and he go back to the lab to develop it. The film is filled with pictures of the victim in some of New York's touristy locations; in some of the photos she poses with a young man who appears to be her boyfriend. The final photo is taken outside a house with the city in the background. In the photo, the woman blows a kiss to the photographer.

A missing persons report once again supplies the identity of the victim: Zoya Pavlova, a young Russian immigrant living with a sponsor family, the Ivanovs. Mac and Stella visit them to share the news and ask why they waited so long to report Zoya's disapperarance. They tells the CSIs that Zoya had disappeared for days and returned before. They also point Mac and Stella in the direction of Jason Parnell, Zoya's boyfriend.

Jason Parnell, a vendor in Manhattan, identifies Zoya as his girlfriend from the pictures Mac shows him, but he says he hasn't seen her in four or five days. He doesn't recognize the final picture of Zoya at the house. Suspicious, Flack has him carted away anyways.

Mac and Stella use the skyscrapers in the distant background in the photo of Zoya by the house to pinpoint the location of the house. Once they've located it in Queens, they go to the house with Flack. There they find another victim in the basement, on a slab and hooked up to a ventilator. This one is still alive.

The CSIs pour over the house. Danny can't find any fingerprints, but Aiden finds some semen. The woman has been taken to the hospital, and the doctor tells Mac that she isn't responding to painful stimuli. Mac starts to process her, talking to her as he does, explaining what he's doing and why. After he photographs the bruises on her neck, she blinks.

Flack has tracked down the owner of the house, a Mr. Silo, and brought him back to the CSI offices for questioning. Flack tells Silo that he can't find any proof that he rented the house, and Silo tries to refuse a mouth swab.

Mac takes his evidence to Dr. Giles, who shares his theory with Mac. Giles believes the latest victim is suffering from "locked in" syndrome, and her condition is no accident. The killer is performing a bizarre science experiment: he's sedating his subjects, locating certain pressure points, and literally "locking" them in their own bodies by pressing on the nerves. His first two victims were failures--he was perfecting his technique. The final victim was a success. Mac realizes she's seen the killer, but she can't talk. Locked in syndrome is irreversible.

Mac decides to question the victim using a blinking system and pictures of the other victims and potential suspects. Mac tells her to blink twice for yes and once for no. She doesn't recognize either of the other women or Leann's husband or Zoya's boyfriend, but when Mac shows her a picture of Mr. Silo she blinks twice and starts to convulse. She appears to be going into cardiac arrest. The doctors rush in.

The doctor tells Mac that the woman suffered a severe stroke, which has left her brain-dead. A stricken Mac returns to her bedside and tries to talk to her, but she is completely unresponsive. Stella finds Mac at her bedside; she tells him that the DNA from the semen matches neither Silo nor Jason Parnell.

Mac talks the case out with Stella, trying to find out why this man is doing this to these women. Stella characterizes the killer's acts as diabolical, calculated and personal. Mac sees them as intimate acts as well. He decides they need to go back to the evidence from the house. In the reconstruction room, the CSIs use powerful chemicals on the medical equipment. On one piece, they discover the initials B.I. in Russian letters. Mac realizes they overlooked Zoya's sponsor family: namely the husband, Bogdan Ivanov.

Mac brings Ivanov to CSI. Ivanov admits to a relationship with Zoya, but Mac knows there's more to it than that. He says Ivanov killed Zoya trying to lock her in her own body. He pulls Ivanov's taxi liscense, claiming that Ivanov found his other victims driving his taxi. Ivanov asks Mac if he knows what Bogdan means in Russian--"gift from God." He claims the women he killed wanted to be free from their cares and free to let their minds wander. He says Zoya wanted to be taken care of, and that he was freeing her and the others. Mac counters that this wasn't about freeing them but controlling them. He tells Ivanov that he left the final woman alive because he couldn't bear to kill his one success. The women died for the same reason Ivanov got caught, Mac muse, "you didn't know how to let go."

Mac goes back to visit Ivanov's final victim. He tells her about his wife, Claire, who died on 9/11. He says that while he got rid of most of Claire's things because it was too painful for him to have those reminders, he still has a beach ball she blew up because "her breath is still in there." After he leaves Claire, he takes a taxi to the site of the World Trade Center memorial.

Analysis:

CSI: New York sets itself apart from its predecessors right from the start in its first season opener, a tense, exciting and downright creepy episode. As with the fourth season finale of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, "Bloodlines" and the chimera case, New York's first episode brings the terrifying Locked-In Syndrome, a muscle failure that literally renders the victim's body immobile, save for his or her eyes. Like the chimera phenomenon, it's not one that people are generally familar with and like the chimera, it's a fascinating, chilling bit of science.

Opening with a story about a serial killer is ambitious, but for the most part the episode works. The idea of someone trying to create Locked-In Syndrome in victims is sufficiently frightening, and Mac's communication with the final victim is a clever idea, even if her response turns out to be red herring, one that is unfortunately never explained. It would have been nice to have a few more minutes added to the scene between Ivanov and Mac so that viewers could better understand Ivanov's motivations, but Ivanov comes across as plenty evil in the short scene.

Despite the fact that CSI is a night show and Miami a daytime one, New York promises to be even more different than the first two shows are, if "Blink" is any indication. The lighting and the tone of New York are much darker than either of its predecessors. But like both CSI and Miami, New York uses its setting to create a certain kind of mood. Whether the gritty veneer of the Big Apple will be as alluring as the glitz of Las Vegas or the sunny brightness of Miami remains to be seen.

Star Gary Sinise turns in a powerful performance as widower Mac Taylor, obviously still in a funk since his wife's death. Mac is a far cry from clinical Gil Grissom, and though he genuinely cares about the victims and those who survive them like Horatio Caine does, he lacks Horatio's slick composure. Mac is no less determined than either of the men, but he's clearly a man carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders. The scene at the end of the episode when he tells the brain dead woman why he wasn't able to get rid of the beach ball, is poignant and moving. Sinise is perfectly cast, and it will be interesting to see his character continue to grapple with his grief.

We don't learn much about Stella in this episode other than the fact that she is concerned about Mac, but he keeps shutting her out. The only time he allows her to get close to him is when he needs to talk the case out with her. Melina Kanakaredes turns in an effective performance, and I suspect we'll get to know Stella better in future episodes. Not everything can come out in the first episode, after all.

The same can be said of the supporting cast. Each makes an impression: serious Dr. Hawkes, die hard New Yorker Danny (who will hopefully provide the witty repartee, as he seems to be the best candidate), savvy Aiden and tough street cop Flack. We don't know them yet, but I trust in future weeks, this will be remedied. After all, no CSI show is built in a single episode, and this one provides all the building blocks for a strong show: a solid, memorable case, an intriguing cast of characters and a fascinating lead.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.