Crime. In law enforcement, everybody who goes through the police academy is aware of the grittiness. The person who seems least offensive is capable of an act which shocks the world to its core. Case in point — Dr. Marty Pino, the former guy in the medical examiner's office fired for having too much overtime. This is a serious understatement. Why would it be an issue for him to be at work for many hours? After all, death can happen anytime. To put it in a nutshell, Pino claimed more hours than actually worked in order to try and pay off gambling debts ("Point of No Return"). The house of cards quickly tumbled, and the aftermath sent Det. Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) and his team reeling.
Even Det. Stella Bonasera (Melina Kanakaredes) understands not everyone is what he or she seems. Take her last boyfriends, for example. Frankie (Ed Quinn, Eureka) was a decent guy, matching Stella's passion with a talent for art design and appreciation. After he put a video of them having sex on the Internet, Stella dropped him like a hot potato. He retaliated by nearly killing her, but wound up dying by her gun ("All Access").
Drew (Kerr Smith, Dawson's Creek) was clever at the art of manipulation. He set Stella up in order to get revenge on Mac. When the final pieces of the puzzle were put together, Drew got hauled off to prison on charges of attempted murder ("The Thing About Heroes"). As far as anybody knows, he's still there.
While he never dated Stella, so is Shane Casey (Edward Furlong The Terminator). He plotted revenge against those whom he suspected of sending his brother to prison for a crime he didn't commit. Casey was wrong, and Det. Danny Messer (Carmine Giovinazzo) went to tell him the truth just before arresting him for being a serial killer ("Raising Shane").
Stella has the shock of her life, though, when a new case has a link to her. A call comes into the police tip line about a man dead in a theatre. This is hardly unusual. New York is well recognized for its theatrical presence, and it makes sense for it to be used as a crime scene in a particular episode.
One difference in this story as opposed to others over the past four seasons was having Katherine McPhee as a guest star. Irony played a big part as her character takes voice lessons from the victim. I have to smile at this. Someone who is first runner-up on American Idol has no trouble when it comes to singing tunes.
Dr. Sheldon Hawkes (Hill Harper) also knows about not going on first impressions alone. However, he's also a caring physician who hates more than anything for someone not to be held accountable for actions which leave a lifetime of bad memories. Take his former girlfriend, Kara. When she was raped, the police caught the guy who did it. Eventually. Hawkes couldn't handle her hurt, so he buried himself in his work. She walked away from him for good ("Help"). The memory still haunts him.
When Stella realizes just how much she is connected to the case, she feels personally responsible. It's misguided, of course, but Kanakaredes is adept at portraying a woman who is a whirlwind of emotions. These are always on display for the world to see. This makes her a wonderful advocate for those who need a helping hand, but someone to keep an eye on as a cop. The person who is sobbing may be hiding a dark personality.
I thought Cahill and Harper stepped up to the plate this week. As Flack, Cahill portrays a character who followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a cop. He wants nothing more than to put bad guys away, so he tends to come on strong. The case hits home for Flack, since he has a sister Sam (Kathleen Munroe), who could have easily fallen into the same situation. Flack's softer side came out as he hears pain in Hawkes's voice and recognizes the hurt. He empathizes with a guy whose sister kills herself. Family has always been important to Flack, although he has a difficult time expressing it.
Hawkes brings the frustration of having to follow the law when he knows it is not always the most helpful. Mac gently reminds him there is a line between lawbreaking and law abiding. No matter what, crossing the line is a time for the cops to make an arrest.
Perhaps the most telling moment is when Hawkes more or less advises a prime suspect on how to avoid a conviction. The words can be taken either way, depending on one's point of view. I have to wonder why in the world he would say what he does in front of Mac. This is his boss, remember? Mac is the one who approves anyone who is part of the team. The look on Mac's face is one which says the moment is not going to be forgotten. At the very least, Mac is keeping a close watch. Emotions can be fuel for a solid investigation, or they lead one down the wrong path.
I saw Hawkes with a badge again. Now, there is a good way to resolve the "am I a cop or not" question. Give Hawkes a jacket with the words "crime scene investigator" on it. Problem solved. Allowing Hawkes to flash a badge like he would as an academy graduate just feels wrong.
On the plus side, I appreciate the nod to a well known movie. Two of the characters have the last name of Langdon, which just happens to be the last name of Tom Hank's character in The Da Vinci Code. This show first started referencing the book at the time when people went crazy over it. A guy got killed at Grand Central Station, and a certain spot was marketed with a yellow line ("Grand Murder at Central Station"). Sound familiar? The Shane Casey storyline was a slight variation with codes hidden inside T-shirts ("Hung Out to Dry"). More than one was needed in order to get the big picture, which made the plot truly clever.
Due to the writers' strike last year, there will be three more episodes added to this season to make up for the shortfall. The first one airs April 22, which should kick off five in a row if what I have been reading online is correct. The season finale is May 20, which is already promising to be huge in terms of being memorable. Suffice it to say the first ten minutes will change the team forever.