Scott D. Parker
(This is a complete and utter cheat to those readers who give a look at my personal blog. But this is what happens, every now and then, when no big weekly question shows itself. I'm pretty sure one will surface next week.)
It's been almost a year since I wrote my last recap of "CSI: Miami" for Bookspotcentral. One of the main reasons I stopped was the show's move to Sunday nights. Not only do I think CSI: Miami belongs on Mondays, but I also didn't want to have to deal with the vicissitudes of NFL games on Sunday. I didn't want to have to monitor shows I don't watch just to hope to catch the opening of Miami. (Actually, the CSI: Miami Facebook page did a great job at informing the public of the time delay all last fall.)
As this season has progressed, I've begun to wonder how fun the recaps would have been (had I been writing them) since this season's shows are mostly above average, across the board. I told my wife on Sunday, as we watched "Hunting Ground," that all involved with Miami must have been peeved about the time/date changes and wanted to make sure to produce higher quality episodes than normal.
"Hunting Ground" has already become a favorite of mine this season, and I've only seen it once. Granted, I have it running on my Mac as I write this, but I was immediately captivated, more than usual. The first thing that tipped my interest was the writer and director: Adam Rodriguez. For those of you who don't know, Rodriguez plays Eric Delko. I'm always fascinated when series regulars for long-running shows decide to step behind the camera. Usually, that's all they do, since these types of shows have their look and feel so firm that it's often difficult to distinguish one from another, even if the director was the lead actor (David Duchovney, "The X-Files"; Jonathan Frakes, "Star Trek: The Next Generation") or a stunt director (Quentin Tarintino, "CSI"). Not many actors decide to have a crack at directing an episode in which they star, fewer still take pen to paper and write one.
Frankly, I expected the show to be the same stuff. I was wrong. Yes, "Hunting Ground" had the familiar visual tropes of Miami: perpetual sunset, funky optical effects during the lap sequences. Rodriguez, however, brought a little something different to the table. He showed angles I'd never seen before, visual effects (sub-titles) that were fresh, and just enough uniqueness to make this episode stand out from the rest.
Then there was the subject matter: humans hunting humans. Modern television cop shows deal with some serious stuff, gruesome at time, immoral at others. Humans hunting humans is pretty over the top. But, as my wife mentioned, for every episode, there's a real-life headline somewhere.
The darker subject matter gave David Caruso another opportunity to show his dark side. Yes, folks, he has one, so please stop rolling your eyes. Horatio Caine is among my favorite TV cops that I've ever had the pleasure to watch. Most often, we get to see his compassion, especially with the children. It's that quality--present from episode one--that enamored me to him. But his dark side can be quite scary. It's not giving anything away--(spoiler if you want to see the show)--to say that the CSIs find the culprits. Caine, shotgun in hand, delivers his own brand of justice in a manner distinctively his own. Yes, we viewers want Caine to blow a hole in this guy's abdomen. Yes, we might have cheered had that happened. But, we're talking about Horatio Caine, a character who probably had the same urge. But if he can allow his wife's murderer to go to prison rather killing him outright, you knew Caine was never going to create that hole. Still, Caine made his point.
Another wonderful trait of this episode is the character interplay. Rodriguez, as an actor in the show, might have just a tad more insight into his character and those of his co-stars than mere writers since he's the one speaking the words. That isn't to say that writers (!) can't find the inner nuance of a character, I'm just saying I enjoy the little things in this episode: Frank's interview with the orchid guy ("Orchids?!"), Natalia and Ryan in the field with Ryan “experiencing” nature, Caine and Wolf as partners in the field, an unspoken connection between the two. Even Horatio got to perform his patented compassion when he had to break the bad news to the new widow and the new fatherless child. The little gesture of touch he gives her, and the camera, focusing on his hand on hers, the dreadful soberness on Caruso's face was flawless.
It also directly led to Caine's first small step over the line. When CSI: Miami began, Caruso wore a lab coat more often, the science being the number one thing. As the years have moved on, Caine is now more a cop with a little science thrown in. Too often in modern forensic cop shows, the science gets the bad guy. Nowadays, Caine uses the evidence presented him and makes educated guesses on a criminal's next move, using not only his intuition but also his cop sense. Immediately after consoling the new widow, Caine threatens a person of interest with branding. You see, the victims, the men who are prey, have been branded. Caine got his information, but he didn't have to go all Jack Bauer on the guy either. Thing is, Caine could if he wanted to. He just dances up to that line, occasionally puts a toe over it, and then moves away. Shows he's human, and yet, knows there's also the law.
I have loved CSI: Miami from day one. Over nine seasons, there are few episodes I don't like. None come from this stellar season. "Hunting Ground" is already one of my favorites for the year, and probably will end up being a well-remembered episode for the entire run of the show. If I had my way, I'd get Adam Rodriguez to write and direct at least one episode per season from here on out.
For anyone who hasn't watched CSI: Miami in a long time, seek out this episode. (Facebook has it; so does CBS.com) I suspect you'll enjoy it. For those of you who don’t give it a second thought, give it a try. You might be surprised.