Wednesday, 12 September 2007

CSI: Miami Watch: "Darkroom"

Again a week behind, but I have time to go back over it, seeing as how we missed last night's episode, opting instead to waste about 3 hours wandering around scary Neasden and the haunting modernist wastes of Wembley Stadium on a trek that even Shackleton would have baulked at. I won't go into details, but let's just say Satan himself designed Ikea in his own bowels, pooped hundreds of cavernous labyrinths out onto the earth, bribed local councils to remove any public transport systems near them, and filled every shop with evil minions after first scooping out their brains. Moving on...

I will say this. Darkroom was a boring episode with only a few WTF moments, but I've since found out something that makes this an absolute bad-taste classic, so I'm glad I've made the effort. The show opens, in a seemingly prosaic manner, with a tollbooth. As you can imagine, the idea of a kidnap hostage handing a tollbooth attendant a bloodied $5 bill with "He's going to kill me!" scrawled on it would be enough to temper the dullness of the setting, but this is CSIMF: Miami. There's another way to pump this moment up for maximum pop.

Sexy tollbooth attendants. Is this common in Miami? Foxy ladies suggestively sucking straws and pouting all over the place while bitching about people not paying the toll? Somehow I doubt it. Whether they're real or not, they know to contact our heroes, and soon H swoops down to investigate, with Calleigh, Tripp and Wolfe in tow. We do not see the sexy tollboothers again. They have served their sexy purpose. Calleigh checks out the bill, to see if the bloody substance really is blood. This takes one whole minute of splitscreens, smash cuts and avid farts.

Either they were running short this week (as is often the case), or they just got some new editing equipment in and wanted to take it for a spin. At the same time this happens, they coincidentally find a dead body buried under rocks at a nearby wharf. Turns out she's a model (of course), who they tie to the tollbooth incident for no recognisable reason. The model is obviously decomposing, but they think she was in the car an hour earlier. Honestly, the writing here is abominable. The only reason to tie the two crimes together is that later on they are linked by identical ligature marks, but they jump to a conclusion before they get any evidence. Does anyone check these scripts? It's appallingly poor work.

Anyway, using actual evidence (rock dust, something they use at least twice an episode) they tie the woman to a restaurant being rebuilt, and Tripp and Wolfe head over, encountering Cirroc Lofton, formerly Jake Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I was reminded of that excellent episode in season 4 of DS9, where you see Jake grow old trying to save his dad from some sub-space tesseract something something. In that, old Cirroc Lofton was played by Tony "Candyman" Todd, but it turns out old Cirroc Lofton looks and sounds just like young Cirroc Lofton, but with a beard. Very unusual.

As he hasn't committed any extra crimes (see High Octane review), he is not a suspect, but he reveals he was in the middle of looking for his fiancee when Wolfe and Tripp came across him. She's a model, and she's called Jill Gerard, which sounds like Gil Gerard, who played Buck Rogers in the 70s. A sci-fi homage trend is slowly developing. Wolfe and Tripp then get on with looking for evidence in a safe at the restaurant, and Wolfe reveals he was taught by his uncle how to crack them open using nothing more than his ear. At last, he has a talent other than being a judgemental dick. Inside the safe are dozens of photos of models, and they take them back to HQ to check them out.

While Wolfe and Calleigh get on with that, Natalia comes in (obviously she has nothing else to do), and freaks out. One of the photos is of her sister, who has suddenly gone missing. A traditionally clumsy way for CSI: Miami's writers to create some tension, creating a previously unmentioned relation to a main character and then getting them in trouble? That's what I thought, but...well, I'll get to that. It's far far worse than just bad writing. It certainly upsets Natalia, who seems to already be wearing a dress that looks like a visual representation of post-traumatic stress disorder.

As soon as the DNA test on the bloodied $5 bill is matched to Natalia's sister, H emerges from the shadows right on time, just as he always does. How does he do it? He vows to save her sister, and holds a press conference on the lawn outside the HQ, though he doesn't mention the family connection. One of the reporters there is played by Eva La Rue's actual sister, Nikka. She looks like a stretched version of Eva but has exactly the same voice. Also at the press conference is evil reporter Erica, who pumped gullible Wolfe for information in season 4. She tells Wolfe she knows about Natalia's sister, and he gets all threateny, which is like being menaced by a hobbit with a more expensive hairstyle, what with his Cuban heels being visible at the start of the scene.

Using bad science, the team match the photos to the only guy in Miami who uses the same film stock (another classic stupid CSI: Miami cliche, the generic evidence tied to a single person in the entire city/state), and they end up at a fashion shoot, where Calleigh and Wolfe deliver a memorable speech about foolish naked women and their bad choices, and the terrible exploitation of them by photographers. They of course say this while dozens of scantily clad women with enormous boobs wander around in the background, the camera occasionally wandering off to leer at some girl in a bikini. While they are there, they incidentally interview a photographer called Gavin, who looks like Justin Theroux.

He is memorably sleazy, and that shirt is a disgrace. After some timewasting red herrings, he is brought in, and H reveals he knows Gavin was accused of rape many years before. This pretty much makes it obvious that he is guilty, as this is always the way the show operates, but the best thing about this scene is when Gavin says was acquitted of that crime, and H responds, "Acquitted doesn't mean innocent." As Canyon said (with massive, righteous fury), that's pretty much the philosophy of the show right there. Did I mention it's enormously right-wing? Whereas the infinitely superior CSI is analytical and seemingly left-wing, CSI: Miami is impulsive and knee-jerk reactionary. I'm sure someone has already written a dissertation on that. If not, doctorate here I come!

While this is going on, evil Erica the "news chick" (as Natalia calls her) is evilly applying makeup outside, having gleefully revealed all the information Wolfe told her not to (good work, shrimp). Natalia confronts her with hysterical anger, which does nothing, but then Calleigh calmly points out how she chases salacious headlines, and is obviously after attention, what with wanting to be on TV and all that. I would normally think the show had entered judgement overload and was now judging its own cast, but considering there is one close-up of Erica's face for every 10 shots of her boobs, I guess they're just going after slutty news reporters, and not, you know, every actor on TV.

Soon after our heroes find Jill Gerard on a boat (and not, as I would have thought, in the 25th century, hanging out with Twiki and Dr. Theophilus), where she has been handcuffed by the evil bad guy kidnapper. Or has she? Turns out she hasn't been sexually assaulted like the other victim. Why? She is a virgin, and the killer is so impressed/crazy that she is spared his terrible wrath. Though not actually participating in the kidnaps, she observed them and was treated well by the perp, so well that she refuses to give up his identity. Wolfe even goes so far to blame her behaviour on Stockholm syndrome. So why doesn't the show punish her terribly for withholding crucial information, like everyone else on the show who is judged a villain for chewing gum or not paying their parking tickets? I vote her virginity. She is obviously virtuous (i.e. she has committed an anti-crime), and as such is guilty of nothing more than being misguided, so except for some carping from Delko, she's given a break. Virgins have stored up some virtue points that can be used as a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card? More evidence for my dissertation, Values, Judgement and Forgiveness: CSI: Miami and the Expression of Hyper-Morality.

Of course, the main reason for her reluctance to reveal the identity of the killer / kidnapper / rapist is that the episode is running a few minutes short, so two minutes later Wolfe and Delko get to isolate some evidence from a car they've found. The evidence? Rock dust. See? It leads them back to the wharf that was a crime scene earlier, and even though it's only about a day since they found the first victim buried there, they obviously left no one there to keep an eye on the crime-scene, and the killer has come back and left someone else under the rocks. Seriously bad writing. Delko uses a thermal imager to find her, and H orders everyone to get her out, while he stands around, legs akimbo, looking intense and dramatic. She is saved, and instantly announces that the perp is none other than Gavin the rapist (innocence is an alien concept in the CSI: Miamiverse). H leaves everyone there, and zooms off in his Hummer, pausing to pose dramatically along the way.

The killer is in an enormous studio, evilly photographing Natalia's sister. Not for long! H storms in (very slowly, doing his crouchy thing and leading with his gun), and starts threatening the villain, who is still wearing that egregious leather jumper thing. Rattled, he grabs Natalia's sister and runs further into the studio, pausing only to shoot a bog-standard light bulb. Instead of just popping, it explodes into an outrageous unending shower of sparks, serving only as something dramatic for H to walk under as he chases his man. It would look a lot cooler if a spark didn't land in his eye.

Ouch! Soon the perp is under arrest, and Natalia is reunited with her sister. Gavin is clapped in irons, and H gets to threaten him with jail, but then he hints that he has committed more crimes than H knows about, which seemed a little odd when I first saw it as it came out of the blue. I'll get to that in a minute, but first, an answer to our questions about H's ability to appear in the corners of rooms at exactly the right moment. After talking to Gavin, H looks pensive (as usual), and then the screen starts flashing in black and white, before smooshing out into a wash of colour.

When it clears, H is outside CSI HQ. Of course! He can teleport! It's been staring us in the face the whole time. Satisfying ending to a lacklustre episode, but it seemed off for a lot of reasons. There was more judging than usual, for a start, and some back and forth about ethics (something it never normally does). It was only a couple of hours ago that I found out that this episode was based on the real life case of a photographer called William Richard Bradford, who kidnapped and killed several women, and photographed many more. While researching the case for the episode, the show's producers found out that Eva La Rue's sister, Nikka, was one of those models photographed by the killer several years before. This poster shows the women who were photographed; Nikka is number 3.

The show ended up being a public service announcement to try to get the audience to identify all of the women who had been photographed by Bradford, and as such is a pretty noble thing for the show to do (this information was missed out of the UK broadcast). Of course, CSI: Miami is still sleazy beyond belief, so they managed to creep it up by asking Nikka to play Natalia's sister, basically pretending to be the victim she almost was. Thankfully she refused, as she thought it would be surreal. That's certainly not the word I would use.

Darkroom Stats:

Horatio's (Rhyming) Send-Off Into Credits:

Tripp: Think it's a prank?
Horatio: No such luck, Frank.

Ripped-Off Plot of the Week: Peeping Tom, X-Men 2, and real life, amazingly.

Horatio's Most Fearsome Line:

Horatio: That's far enough, Gavin. Now get down on the ground, or I'll blow your brains out.

Number of Caruso Two-Steps: 1. Very disconcerting.

Number of Cleavage Shots: Dozens.

Snottiest Behaviour From Wolfe: Cracking a safe was pretty cool, but after he finds a bunch of evidence he tells Tripp to put some gloves on. Now, we make fun of Tripp, but he's not a total imbecile. I think he knows how to handle evidence, you little jerk.

Most Ineptitude From Delko: Another good week for Delko. Did Adam Rodriguez ask the writers to make him more competent? Or will there be a stupidity blow-out further down the line?

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