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TV Review: CSI: NY – “The Past, Present, and Murder”

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This week could possibly be called Return of the Cipher. However, the title would not be nearly enough to describe what happens. The episode is far too big for that. Let me back up a bit and remind you of what started this storyline.

Ann Steele was a corporate "fixer." If this is not obvious, it means she would step in after a business person screws up. She does whatever it takes to make sure the problem "disappears." For the most part, I suspect a payoff takes care of the damage. I don't have a problem with this. Everybody makes mistakes. If the goof is a petty one, there is not much of a need to bother the courts or taxpayers with the cost of a trial. Breaking the law, though, is a different story.

It seems Ann kept a computer file of those who required her services. Since the names included some of the most powerful people in New York, most than a few of them are looking to keep the flash drive a secret. Ann was killed, but the computer part is still out there after a clerk was convinced to hand over the flash drive to an unknown person ("Sex, Lies, and Silicone"). Needless to say, cases which would have appeared on a court docket were compromised. At least one ended up being thrown out due to lack of evidence ("Enough").

Mac (Gary Sinise), though, has a bigger problem to deal with. Robert Dunbrook (Craig T. Nelson) is a newspaper mogul who is not hesitant about pushing buttons. The heat is felt throughout every department. Freedom of the press is one thing, but Dunbrook appears to have no qualms about publishing a story when the facts may not quite be accurate.

Nelson and Sinise come on strong as two men who are on opposite sides of the political game. Mac is a character who has never been keen on playing his part. If asked, Mac will say nobody is above the law. Including cops. He will put anyone away who breaks it, no matter how much the person is beloved. Sinise pulls this off with a solid mixture of firmness when called for and compassion if he deals with a compelling case. He is quick to start yelling if the need arises, which Adam Ross (AJ Buckley), one of the lab's technicians can testify to. A hug from Mac is rare, but he gives them out on occasion. Coming on strong is classic Sinise, who excels at being the tough guy. Still, he is the actor one wants to share a scene with at the end of the day. Much can be learned.

Nelson is known pretty much for his comedic style. After all, his Emmy win came from Coach, where he played the head coach of a university football team. No slapstick is apparent in Dunbrook, whose arrogance is guaranteed to drive Mac up the wall. Why? Dunbrook is one of those people who believes money can pretty much buy anybody's loyalty, and a promise to look the other way at any indiscretion ("The Party's Over"). The comparison of these two characters is almost like looking at a mirror image. Mac suspects Dunbrook has more fingers in the proverbial pie than the innocent the media mogul is trying to get across. Could Mac be jealous of Dunbrook's success? It's one possibility, I suppose. The energy emanating off both men is electric and the tension is potent.

Even Sinclair (Mykelti Williamson, Forrest Gump), the chief of detectives, is wary of Dunbrook. However, any arrest has to come after evidence proves the case in court. Williamson brings a tone of rationality to the show, which helps when the bullheadedness of a department head has the potential to destroy a professional reputation of the police.

My favorite scene is one involving a search warrant. Mac needles Dunbrook about being more involved than originally throught, but tearing up Dunbrook's office is out of the question without a piece of paper giving the cops legal authority to do so. The best part comes next, when Sinclair arrives with authorization in hand.

I like how the writers consistently handle the friendship between Sinclair and Mac. Do they trust each other? For the most part, yes. After Mac was stalked by a man involved with Stella (Melina Kanakaredes), Sinclair was there backing him up as the gang closed in on the bad guy ("The Thing Abut Heroes"). Yes, all cops must be professional. The justice system would never survive if they weren't. Sometimes, though, there are areas of gray in between the lines of black and white. Police depend on each other to stay alive, no matter if the criminals get killed or an innocent victim hurt. Both Sinclair and Taylor can go head to head when they disagree. They will also defend to the end how much each deserves to be a member of law enforcement.

Nelson has one more episode to go in order to complete his contract as a guest star. Speculation has number three as the season finale. Knowing there is rumored to be a major cast change in the works, I would not be surprised if Dunbrook has a connection. Do I believe he will be directly responsible? Probably not, he's too smart to leave his mark. However, there is another theory I have. Someone close to Dunbrook could be ruthless enough to make a move. Also, the cipher fell down a storm drain. This means it's still out there. Put this with the knowledge of setting up FBI agents and a huge conspiracy is on the agenda for a later date.

Since there is an extra week in the schedule, a new episode should come April 29. This way, the show can air weekly with back to back storylines until the finale on May 20. Don't be surprised if the final three episodes are potent in nature. They will be aired in a month designated for sweeps, meaning decisions about a new season are made. For established shows such as this one, the axe is a little too slow in cutting ties. Mid-season replacements and those shows which replaced others going off the air before spring have much more to be nervous about.

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