In the pantheon of deaths, being locked in the trunk of a car and then having said car drive off a pier has got to rank somewhere in the top 25. Think about it: you know you can’t get out, you feel the water seeping into the space, you don’t have any cell phone coverage and, even if you did, no one could get to you in time. The only other person who knows where you are has been shot up on the pier by the scumbag who forced you into the trunk at gunpoint.
And the water keeps filling up the car. And the trunk. And you’re running out of air.
That, my friends, is how season 9 of CSI: Miami ended for Natalia Boa Vista (Eva La Rue). The person on the pier is none other than Lieutenant Horatio Caine, played with great relish by David Caruso. It’s also how season 10 begins, but with one crucial difference: Horatio’s suddenly not on the pier. He’s at a nice, outdoor restaurant, with his beautiful wife, Marisol (Alana de la Garza). He sits, and they hold hands. “I just got here,” she coos. “Let’s not waste another second.” They hold hands. In any other scenario, this would be a nice, touching scene for a character—Horatio—who doesn’t always get screen time devoted to his personal life. The only problem is that Marisol was murdered six years ago and this is a hallucination, something Horatio realizes as his shirt becomes bloody at the exact place in his side where the scumbag, Randy North, shot him. “You have to go back,” Marisol tells him. Then it’s Natalia’s face, dripping wet, then back to Marisol’s. Am I watching Inception or CSI: Miami? Doesn’t matter when the scene works.
With no other option, Caine does what he’s supposed to do: he dives in and tries to save Natalia.
He succeeds, naturally, and the two of them are whisked away to the ER, Horatio muttering Marisol’s name over and over again. No sooner do they arrive at the ER than they are both up and raring to go after Randy North (Ethan Embry) and the main baddie for this episode, Jack Toller (Callum Keith Rennie). Now, I’m all for macho cops doing macho things, but, at the time, I was thinking “Oh, come on now. Horatio’s been shot through-and-through on his left side. He’s going to have to let the rest of his team pick up the slack right?” Nope. This is Horatio Caine we’re talking about. He’s a bulldog when he sets his mind on a culprit. And he’s got his mind set on Mr. North.
By now, the entire team knows about the trauma of Natalia and Horatio and are on board: Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez), Ryan Wolfe (Jonathan Togo), Frank Tripp (Rex Linn), Walter Simmons (Omar Benson Miller), and Calleigh Duquesne (Emily Proctor, fresh from the real-world pregnancy that kept her in the lab all last season, usually behind something solid). They get Randy’s son to play decoy on a beach and voila! The team captures Randy. “We meet again, Randy,” Horatio purrs, “and it’s payback time.” Cue The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and Roger Daltry’s primal “Yeeeahhh!” Season 10 is on!
For those of y’all who dog CSI: Miami because of Caruso, I still don’t get it. The man brings gravitas to this role. Yes, it’s a cop on a network police show so the depth is not always called upon, but, within that framework, you can do a lot of good work. Caruso again demonstrates his control over the Horatio character in the quiet moments. Just after bagging North, Horatio’s alone in his car. He’s in wilting pain, anguish creasing his face. He hallucinates again, seeing his wife, knowing that the only thing he has to do to be with her again is to stop trying too hard. Just give in, and he’ll be happy. He can’t, of course, because Jack Toller is still out there.
Horatio’s not the only one dealing with the fallout of these events. Natalia’s having a tough time of it, and she confides to Wolfe that she keeps reliving being trapped in the car. Let’s not bother ourselves with the fact that it’s only been mere hours since that fate stared her in the face. “I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” she says, in what became a theme for the episode. While she may have some future dates with a shrink to work through some issues, in the meantime, she’ll just take it out on the arrested Mr. North. “I’m sorry,” he pleads—don’t they all?—to which Natalia replies with a terse “Shut up” before slamming his face on the interview table. “Next time you come after me,” she hisses, “I’m going to put a bullet in your brain.” And slam again. Looks like therapy is going well because Randy gives up all that he knows about Jack’s plans.
The team, looking into Jack’s past crimes, have a couple of names pop up: Leo Kendre and Ricky Galendo. Those two gentlemen are, at that very moment, making a deal with Jack. He gives up the official U.S. Mint plates he stole last season and gets cash, plus a bonus in the form of a lovely young woman. A bit later, Miami-Dade’s Finest stop Galendo’s convertible, inside which Walter discovers small, dried fish. Yes, really. Turns out they are ’doctor fish,’ part of a pedicure treatment, that eat dead skin off one’s feet. Don’t know about y’all, but I’ll pass on that. Galendo didn’t pass, and neither did Kendre who is cornered and captured in said salon. Treasury agent Renee Locklear (Natasha Henstridge) is there and the Mint’s missing bars are recovered. But Jack’s nowhere to be found.
Actually, Jack and his new “girlfriend” are having a bit of car trouble. They need radiator fluid. Under duress, she goes to a 7-Eleven to get some fluid and cigarettes and filches a disposable phone. Using the security camera to zoom in on the serial number of the phone, the CSIs track the calls that are, oddly, all to one number: that of Randy North. Horatio, clearly going downhill with pain, forces Randy to divulge a key fact: Jack’s probably after a necklace Randy accidentally took from him. Ah! Time for another decoy, this time, in a train yard.
Now, one thing to know about Randy. Yes, he’s a scumbag for shooting Horatio and dumping Natalia into the trunk of that car and trying to drown her. But he’s only doing it for his kids (explained in detail in last season’s finale recap). Randy tried to set his life right after his time in the pen—and succeeded—he just had the misfortune to be Jack’s cellmate. All Randy wants is to be a good dad to his kids and, after Natalia failed to help him last season, he thought drowning her would be a good thing. He also thinks, therefore, that things might go a bit easier for him with the CSI team if he does their delivery of the necklace to Jack. Well, it being only 45 minutes into the hour, things go south with the transfer and Jack is in the wind again.
Which prompts our CSI folks to do what they do best: process the evidence. They examine the clothes Jack wore back when he incinerated the other young women, the very act that earned him a ticket to prison. The noxious combinations of residue on Jack’s shirt leads Walter and Calleigh to zero in on the one place in Miami where those chemicals are found: the landfill. Sure enough, Jack’s tied up a poor lady and put the necklace on her. With wanton cruelty, he laughs at her fear, and forces her to say, “Jack, I’m ashamed of you.”
In that cool camera effect you only find on this show, we get to see a young Jack being verbally berated by his mother. It’s downright hateful. His mother smoked cigarettes and burned her son with them. Now, with her necklace on his victim, and a can of lighter fluid he sprays around the area, Jack can do to her what he could never do to his mom.
But not today. The CSI’s show up, Horatio included, although he should be in a hospital bed as bad as he looks. He and Eric chase Jack through a warehouse with bits of junk formed into huge squares of trash reminiscent of the opening scenes of Wall E. Horatio stops Jack and, oddly, Jack just lies there. Horatio’s gun hand is shaking, he’s pale, and can barely stand. Jack probably could have taken the lieutenant, but, this way, he can escape from prison again and give us another chase.
As I’ve written before, the one thing that really hooked me about CSI: Miami back in 2002—other than David Caruso—was the focus on kids as innocent victims of the crimes of adults. Calleigh gets a moment to shine here when Randy’s son asks if he and his sister can stay with Calleigh before going to foster care. Now, as touching as that was, I couldn’t figure out why other than to set up what might be a theme with Calleigh. She deferred, clearly taken aback. No, it isn’t a stupid question, she says. “I would love to be able to say that I could take you and your sister, but I have this job and it takes up a lot of my time.” As the boy is reunited with his sister (they originally were to be separated), tears form in Calleigh’s eyes. You can’t help but wonder if she’s wondering if she’s got her priorities straight, if she might see the window of that part of life closing. Also can’t help but wonder about the actress Emily Proctor being a new mom, and how she clearly brought those experiences to the scene.
Horatio, in his lonely vigil in front of the station, acts as a witness as Jack is escorted back to prison. Treasury Agent Locklear moseys up and asks a quiet question: “Who is Marisol? You kept repeating it in the ambulance.” He looks at her, the toll of the day’s work etched in his face. “She was my wife. She was murdered.” Locklear apologizes and asks Horatio if he’s going to be okay. Horatio, in pain, both physically and mentally, says, “I don’t think so.”
There was a lot to like in last night’s season 10 premiere. I enjoy Big Episodes like this because it gives everyone involved—writers, actors, etc.—a chance to dig in and explore these characters. I’m really hoping that the theme of the job and the heavy price it demands of a person is explored this year. In a show this old, new ideas need to be introduced, especially if new characters are not forthcoming. CSI: Miami is still a good show and the style of this particular brand of storytelling is one I, and many others, enjoy. Indeed, the entire hour, #CSIMiami trended on Twitter.
Let’s hear it for the return of CSI: Miami! Surely I’m not the only one who still prefers this version of the CSI franchise. So tell me, [puts on sunglasses] what did you think?