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CSI: Miami – “Die by the Sword” – review
It has to be an interesting and, at times, frustrating job to be a writer for a crime show like CSI: Miami. The template is pretty structured, and we viewers know what we’re going to get week in and week out. It’s one of the reasons why network television is our comfort food. Every now and then, however, we get something interesting. Take this week’s episode, “Die by the Sword.” The murder victim does exactly that. Russell Turner, running for his life, is pursued by a man on a motorcycle brandishing a sword. But not just any sword. A katana, a Japanese blade forged in such a way as to make it’s edge more than razor sharp and its strength unparalleled. You don’t see that kind of murder every day.
Jesse has some experience with the Shakiru, the Japanese mafia, from his days in LA. As he’s paging through some photos, Walter notices an interesting trait among the men in the pictures: some of them are missing pinkie fingers. Jesse explains that if a soldier of the Shakiru disgraces the organization, he is expected to cut off his pinkie. It’s a visible sign of dishonor, and it also renders the man unable to wield a katana. A double-edged punishment. Together with Horatio, Jesse goes and speaks with Takoshi Yamata. He’s in the process of getting tattoos applied with bamboo shoots, a particularly painful method. In the exchange, Yamata produces his own hands and points out that three of his fingers are missing. The first pinkie for disgracing Shakiru, the second for a girl “I wish I never met,” and the third for indiscretions with the boss’s daughter. Oddly enough, he seemed proud of his wounds. Horatio is not impressed.
Tripp, Ryan, and Natalia head to Turner’s house to investigate the scene. As mentioned earlier, network television programs are like comfort food, and things rarely happen to lead characters. By and large, the characters begin and end an episode unchanged. It’s fun when you like the characters, but, ultimately, it starts to ring hollow after awhile. That’s why I am particularly interested to see where the writers take Natalia. A few episodes back, she and Ryan suffered an explosion at a meth lab. Natalia emerged with her hearing damaged (what about Ryan?). The next week, not a mention of it, and I feared the issue was going to be glossed over. Last night, it showed up. As she and Ryan poked around the second floor, she didn’t hear the footsteps of a person holding a katana. Turns out, it’s Turner’s son, Kenny. However, with his Asian appearance, “I just don’t see the resemblance,” as Tripp so ignobly says. “You’ve got ten fingers and the sword and that makes you my number one suspect.” Ah, Trip. Can we spin you off for a series of your own? Or, better yet, write a book: Tripp’s Guide to Life, where witty one-liners fill the pages.
Horatio confronts the boy because the katana he held is the murder weapon. Kenny tells his story: Turner adopted him, never knew my mom. We were eating lunch when he told me to run. I did and took the sword, thinking I’ll be next. After Horatio questions him more, Kenny produces a photo of a man with whom Turner had harsh words. The man is none other than Horatio’s old partner, Sully, last seen in this season’s flashback premiere. Sully runs security for Yamata, and he’s not out to help Horatio At All. Guess the police loyalty only goes for old-school cops, of which Horatio is not. That, or Sully still holds a grudge from 1998.
After Walter goes dumpster diving and finds the bamboo shoot used to give Yamata the tattoo, it’s revealed that Kenny is, in fact, Yamata’s biological son. Horatio and Jesse confront Yamata with the facts. He doesn’t deny it. Instead, he tells the CSIs that the boy was stolen from him. Their conversation leads to one of the most chilling back-and-forths of the evening:
Jesse: You had the his father killed.
Yamata: [Turner’s] death was inconsequential.
Horatio: Not to the boy.
Yamata promises to get his son back. Cut to scenes of Tripp driving Kenny home, and wham!–another car smashes into his. A black-clad figure emerges and takes Kenny from the unmarked police vehicle. Tripp corners the person, and, with the aid of timely backup, the culprit lets the boy go. Turns out, it’s a woman. And not just any woman but Kenny’s biological mother. Her story fills in the gaps: Yamata charmed her, tattooed her, raped her, and expected her to bear him a child for Shakiru. She fled to America, met Turner, who convinced her to change her name to a Chinese surname, and gave the infant Kenny to him to raise. All the name of protecting Kenny from the influence of Yamata and the Shakiru.
When Sully stonewalls Horatio again, he and Jesse line up all the waiters at Yamata’s establishment. Calleigh, who shows up halfway through the episode, provided a key piece of evidence. The smell of pine needles was on the victim’s clothing. It got there from a leaky sprinkler system. If Turner had it on his clothes, chances are good the killer would, too. Horatio notices one of the waiters has a bandaged hand. Seems he lost himself a pinkie. He confesses he did it to “save” Yamata. Curious, Calleigh and Jesse look into Yamata’s criminal history from Japan. It seems Yamata’s blood type changed somewhere along the line. Jesse points out that the bamboo-shoot method of tattooing puts the ink deep into the skin, preventing sweat from escaping. Long-term exposure to this could lead to liver failure. Calleigh said that people with liver transplants have been known to have their blood chemistry altered by the donor organ. His liver is failing. And they realize why Yamata is after the youth: Kenny is to be an unwilling organ donor.
Horatio confronts Sully with overwhelming evidence, and the older man finally (!) complies and gives up Yamata’s location. It’s a helipad. Horatio’s off in his Hummer and arrives just in time to see Yamata, a henchman, and Kenny making their way to the helicopter. In one of the best, kick-ass scenes in CSI: Miami history, Horatio breaks the Hummer and, through the open window, takes out the henchman. He confronts Yamata, who holds the boy as a hostage. Not for long. Horatio takes him out, and Yamata dies before Kenny’s eyes. Something tells me that he’s going to need some counseling.
Interspersed through these scenes, Natalia goes to see a hearing doctor. He runs a hearing test on her. Eva La Rue does an excellent job here. Natalia, with the camera focused on her face, is smiling, raising her hand each time she hears a sound. The smile falters at one point, clouding over to genuine concern, then to pure doubt. A bit later, she goes in for an MRI. The doctor gives her the bad news: she has a noise induced hearing loss. In addition, there’s evidence of a pre-existing condition, one that damages a certain part of the ear and can be caused by a hand slap. The implication is clear when the doctor slides a brochure about battered women over to Natalia. She’s angry and tells the doctor to return his focus on the matter at hand. And, yet, the camera lingers, allowing Natalia to think, to remember her ex-husband’s abuse towards her. He’s dead now, and he’s still haunting her from beyond the grave.
The interesting main story made for a very good episode. It is the personal story of Natalia, however, that put this episode over the top for me. I like it when real things happen to characters on television shows, and they are changed by it. I hope the writer’s don’t drop the ball with Natalia’s hearing loss like they did with the original CSI and Grissom’s hearing loss. CSI: Miami is more hyper-real than real so it’s always refreshing when actual problems emerge for the characters to deal with and overcome. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of Natalia in the coming weeks as she copes with her hearing loss and how it affects her job.
Am I alone? How did you enjoy the episode?