Thursday, April 9, 2009

CSI NY “Prey” Viewers Are the Victims (Recap and Review)

Photo CBS

The episode of CSI NY (CBS) titled “Prey” could have been a great episode. But, it almost fell into the “clip show” category when they highlighted a pattern with previous cases the CSI NY team had investigated. It also featured American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee as a stalked singer who murders. Maybe she can sing, but thankfully she didn’t have much talk time, because she can’t act.

When the episode begins, we are taken to a time 6 months prior, and we see a woman killing herself just as a man – who we later find is her brother – runs in and catches her in the act. But it’s too late, she jumped to her death.

Back in the present time, Detective Flack (Eddie Cahill) and Detective Angell (Emmanuelle Vaugier) are playing “cuff the cop to the bed” when Flack gets a call alerting him to a murder. It seems that a murderer had taken it upon themselves to snap a picture of the victim’s body and send it to the police. When the CSI NY team gets on the scene, they find various bits of evidence that seems to have no connection whatsoever. As the body of Marshall Baxter (Tim Fields) was located in a back room area of a theatre, where they also have found a fist mark in the wall, they focus on the theatre director James Copeland (Samuel Ball). They later find Copeland only had minor issues with the Baxter who was simply an egotistical jerk who kept parking in Copeland’s parking space.

Later, Dr. Sid (Robert Joy) has found that the bullet that killed Baxter had been removed from the murder victim’s body, presumably by the killer. As the team begins to run through the evidence which seems to be all over the map, Stella (Melina Kanakaredes) makes a leap that she thinks she has a connection to the case. It seems that she taught a forensics class as the request of one of her previous professors (Tony Amendola), and she thinks the murderer used what she learned at the class to create a diversion for the CSI team. The episode descends into “clip show” mode, where we see scenes from previous cases that Stella used as examples for her class. I always dread when shows rely on past clips in order to create a story – it’s more forgivable if clips are used as part of an on-going story line - in this case, the clips seemed more like filler. They really didn’t need to show all the past cases from which the murderer gleaned the information they used to fool the forensics team.

When Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo) and Hawkes (Hill Harper) check out Baxter’s apartment, they proclaim him a pack rat. What I saw was not the apartment of a pack rat, but one of a real slob. It’s not that Baxter kept things, it’s just that he kept things in a messy manner. Hawkes finds a box full of photos, and by looking at the style of the photos – seemingly taken at a distance and apparently without the subject’s knowledge – they believe that Baxter was a stalker.

The team also realizes the body was packed in dry ice to throw off the calculation for time of death. They conclude this is why the murderer had to send the photo to the police in order to tip them off before the effects of the dry ice on the TOD calculation would possibly be lost.

Another suspect turns out to be a bust when a card with a phone number on the reverse was found on the body. It traced back to a guy who said a girl named “Odessa” gave him the card with her number on it, which turned out to be a rejection phone service. But he is able to help them when he identifies the woman in the pictures found in Baxter’s apartment and also from a previous stalker complaint from a woman by the name of Dana Melton as Odessa (Katharine McPhee). What I don’t get is when Stella heard the voice of Dana Melton - which was on an audio file from her stalking complaint against Baxter – and she easily identified her as one of her students in the class. Why couldn’t she have identified her from the picture in the file or from Baxter’s photos? And really, how well can someone really recognize a voice from one of many that one may hear in passing in a given day, week, or month? I would say if the speaking voice was as non-descript as McPhee’s, it would be impossible, and it should be easier for a person to recall a face over a voice in most cases.

They hone in on her location by checking out Baxter’s receipts and plotting his locations. They question people at those locations and are lucky a postman just happens to be emptying the mailbox at that time. They show him the photo of Dana/Odessa, and he recognizes her and points out her apartment right across the street. Of course, she’s already moved out, her mail piling up. Hawkes gets upset when he sees her stuffed mailbox and finds harassing postcards from Baxter in it. It seems Baxter had tracked Dana Melton down, even though she’s got her new name of Odessa. Lucky for Mac and Hawkes, they see a nearby sign of a club that appeared in one of Baxter’s photos and they decide to go there. Hmmmm – I wonder why they didn’t decide to go there just based on seeing her in Baxter’s picture with the club to begin with? When they reach the club, Odessa is on stage singing – after all, you can’t have an American Idol runner-up on the show without having her sing. After she gets off the stage and she knows why they are there, Mac tells her he has to do what he has to do, even though the evidence is circumstantial. Hawkes tells her without a confession the charges likely won’t stand up. So while they walk her out, I find myself asking – HUH? This is a cold blooded murderer who planned a murder, staged the crime scene for a diversion including packing the body in dry ice, and Hawkes basically telegraphs to her to keep her mouth shut? I know he felt sorry for her, but still, there is NO excuse for murder. Personally, I could see her claiming some sort of mental duress and getting put away for a while, but Hawkes was wrong to tip her off to keeping her mouth shut. Likewise, Mac was wrong by tipping her off that there was no direct evidence to tie her to the area like DNA. It was just - wrong.

Thankfully, Lindsay (Anna Belknap) was missing from the episode, otherwise, we would have had a complete and utter disaster on out hands. Still, while the episode was entertaining for the first 20 minutes, it quickly descended into a dull case written around a bad actress who can sing. And that was the real crime here.

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Anonymous said...

I thought Lindsay in the episode would have made it so much better. CSI NY sucks without her.

karaleung said...

The law is black and white, but justice lies in the greys. Laws are written by man to aspire for justice, but the reality of justice can not be measured by man alone. In other words, justice is the Real and the law is the Imaginary. Or perhaps, the law is the human attempt at the deconstruction of the irreducible justice.

The episode highlights that dichotomy between the two similar but highly different words.