For a more detailed episode review check here.
Before we get to the forensic points of interest this episode, can someone please explain to me why crime scene investigators were guarding an eye witness who was hidden away in a safe house? Aren’t there any less qualified members of the force that could perform that function? Most labs I know couldn’t afford to have laboratory staff out on a babysitting mission. Most CSIs wouldn’t want to use their expertise babysitting a witness targeted for death.
I also wanted to add that while I appreciate that Miami is the most action oriented flavor of the CSI franchise, what was with the special effects in the episode opener? The scene where the lethal crane smashes through the high rise wall and Calleigh stunt drives and rolls out of the way to safety looked worse than your typical Sci-Fi Channel special effect.
Maybe the most disappointing part of the episode was that Horatio quote came after the introductory credits. And here’s my rant… Let’s face it, there’s a pretty reliable formula for CSI Miami, and crucial to that formula is Horatio’s trademark pithy one-liner rolling out right before the scream and opening credit theme song. I mean, the scream right after the cheeseball line actually makes the line work! You wait for it, you anticipate it. Heck, it’s half the show, and CSI Miami aficionados expect it to happen where it’s supposed to happen. Joel McHale of “The Soup” lampoons Horatio’s intro lines regularly, and the internet has video montages galore featuring Horatio’s “Best Of” (see my previous episode review — CSI Miami Episode # 620 “Down to the Wire” for an example). Maybe they shook up the formula for dramatic effect, then gave a weak attempt at placating us by putting the Horatio-ism right after the commercial break. Or maybe the original edit had it in there like normal, but Horatio’s corny “Biggest murder weapon in Miami” on the heels of the comical special effects and stunt dive had even the show’s producers laughing out loud.
A small betrayal, but they quickly fell back into the tried and true formula. After recovering from my initial disappointment, I had some thoughts on the episode’s veritable forensic buffet offered up for our enjoyment:
Biological samples and instant DNA profile search results.….. x2!!
3-D photography accurately identifies tire tread imprints
Mobile Audio/Video Hummer
Automotive paint identification
High-quality 911 recording
Advanced latent print development
Trace on a recovered shovel
White Lilly pollen (wait… is this CSI Miami or CSI NY?)
We had not one, but two instant DNA profile results pop-up on the lab computer as soon as the investigator walked into the room (couldn’t they make this even faster with a mobile DNA Hummer?). Timing is everything in Miami. The first was a CoDIS (Combined DNA Index System) hit to the blood sample found in the crane, turned out to be a dead end. The second profile was from the neck strap of the remote control box for the crane (made using instructions found on the internet — isn’t everyone on the internet? ). Oddly, and to Calleigh’s disbelief, the second profile wasn’t in CoDIS. I couldn’t believe it either, quite unusual in CSI shows. Then the profile was run against the elimination samples in the case, and thanks to DNA it was instantly discovered the victim’s own son was at the controls of the crane that killed him.
3-D photography accurately identifies tire tread imprints:
News flash: investigators no longer need to take castings of impressed evidence at crime scenes! Using the fantastic innovations seen here on CSI Miami, they can now take 3-D photographs at the scene, wirelessly upload the image to a state-of-the-art mobile A/V Hummer, and accurately identify the origin of the evidence. Amazing. ‘Nuff said.
Automotive paint identification:
Paint transfers located on glass recovered from the crime scene is identified as only originating from one make and model of vehicle. That paint led the CSIs to the precise person in all of Miami they needed to pull in for interrogation. When you can narrow down one person out of maybe half a million residents in Miami based on paint, that’s a lucky break to say the least.
High-quality 911 recording:
I don’t know how many of you are like me, and have had the pleasure of listening to 911 call recordings. My experience hasn’t lead me to believe they’re the highest quality audio. In this episode though, a man on his cell phone whispering to 911 while hiding in a bathroom stall resulted in audio quality clear enough to determine the background sound of a flushing toilet happened in the very next stall over from the caller. Mind you, this was in a loud club, lots of restroom stalls, and plenty of ambient background noise on top of whatever quality of cell reception the caller had at the time.
Advanced latent print development:
We’ve seen this before in the series, but in this case it was applied to an interesting situation. A shell casing recovered from the club’s sewage lines (after sitting for unspecified days, even weeks?) was cleaned, and microscopic oxidation on the casing walls could be visualized using magnetic powder. Now latent prints are outside my specific area of forensic expertise, but if it’s an actual technique, I’ve never heard of it used in a case. If it is real, that’s one powerful technique, and latent print processing should be used on ALL recovered shell casings in cases.
Trace recovered on the head of shovel:
Ryan found melted quartz/silica granules with traces of kerosene on the shovel. This lead him to deduce the missing body was buried on a beach somewhere near a campfire. Of course Horatio knew exactly what beach, impressive for any forensic investigator since Miami boasts a whopping 35 mile stretch of beachfront. Cop instincts at work I guess.
White Lilly pollen:
Lilly pollen found on the body buried in the beach was not only detected, but also identified. Horatio didn’t need to have the species of Lilly identified, he just used his cop instincts. That’s impressive. I’ve worked with numerous trace evidence analysts, and I’m sure they could identify something as pollen, but being able to say it’s Lilly pollen takes some skill, probably a botanist, and they don’t typically work in crime labs.
So there’s the forensics, and it was a great episode from a forensic point of view. They hit on a lot of different techniques, and a lot of different technologies.
Like I said earlier, except for the opening blip, the episode kept true to CSI formula. When Mick was first questioned about the damage to his car from the falling glass, he was honestly able to explain he wasn’t the killer crane operator. Alarms went off in my head instantly because this is typical CSI. I knew Mick was definitely guilty of something, but we don’t find out of what until the end. A routine plot progression in the CSI franchise is that a suspect is interviewed, logically explains how the investigators have the wrong guy, and inevitably they do. Only at the end do we see that the investigators had the right guy, just the wrong criminal act. Here Mick only shot and kidnapped the guy from the club’s bathroom, someone else committed the murder using the “Biggest murder weapon in Miami.”