Stellaluna (stellaluna_) wrote,
Stellaluna
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CSI:NY, "Right Next Door"



"She was within my reach, Mac, right there."

Think about dropping a stone into water: think about how the ripples spread after it hits the surface. Once the stone is dropped, you can't predict how far those ripples will spread, or what other disturbances they might trigger.

And once the ripples stop, once the stone sinks from sight, it's easy to forget about it. But that doesn't mean it's not still there.

This episode is, like so many that have preceded it this season, all about guilt and consequences, and about an individual's accountability for how those ripples spread. This is most apparent in Danny's story in the episode's B-plot, but it's also a key factor in how the latest upheaval in Stella's life plays out.

We learn here that Danny has slept with Ricki, Ruben's mother, and both of them are clear-eyed about why this is happening: because of Danny's guilt over Ruben's death, and because of Ricki's need to feel some kind of comfort, some kind of reassurance and warmth. Danny, too, says he knows what they're doing: "Making each other feel better," and he goes on to tell her that, because of that, there's nothing wrong with what they're doing.

It's not clear whether or not Ricki knows who Danny is really talking to when Lindsay calls, or what the nature of his relationship with her is -- Danny, like Stella, seems the type of person to compartmentalize the various parts of his life, and Ricki herself points out that, prior to Ruben's death, Danny was just someone to say hello to at the mailbox -- but Danny very obviously does, and he has to know that he's now stepping outside the bounds of whatever relationship he has with Lindsay. (This, too, hasn't been clear all season, as it's been ambiguous up until now whether the two of them were dating or not, but at this point, all indications seem to point to the fact that they have been conducting an off-screen relationship.)

So: Danny feels guilt over Ruben's death. Danny has, as a result, been shutting Lindsay out of his life. He then, in turn, ends up sleeping with Ricki, and even the morning after, even when he's had time to think it over and ostensibly come to his senses, not only is he not showing any guilt over what happened between them, he's actively pushing for it to happen again, initiating another encounter and preceding it with some very insistent statements that there's nothing wrong with what they're doing.

It's not, as Lindsay tells him, that he doesn't want to ask for help in dealing with Ruben's death. It's that he doesn't want to ask her for help -- or, in all likelihood, anyone that he's close to, other than Ricki. He's showing very little guilt over the fact that he's cheated on someone he's apparently dating, and this seems to tie directly in with the extremes of guilt he does feel over Ruben's death.

I think this is consistent with both what we have seen of his relationship with Lindsay and what we've seen of Danny himself in the past. From the beginning, going back to Lindsay's attempts to deal with the murders of her friends and the trial she would have to testify for in "Sleight Out of Hand," we've seen that the two of them have difficulty communicating or opening up to each other.

We've also seen, going all the way back to the start of the show, that this is how Danny deals with hurt: he pushes people away. Actually, he doesn't just push them away; he actively sets up situations in which they'll be forced to push him away. It's the sort of thing that people who don't want to be hurt often know how to do frighteningly well: I will hurt you before you get a chance to hurt me, and I will hurt you as hard as I absolutely can.

Danny's good at this; he's also good at going for the jugular. See how he pushes Flack away in "On the Job," and how, in just about every episode in between "Tanglewood" and that he spirals more and more out of control -- how, in "Crimes & Misdemeanors," he forces Mac into a nasty confrontation for no reason at all.

What's going on with Danny now is a direct result of his guilt and anguish over Ruben's death, but the roots of why he acts and reacts in this specific way go back much further and much deeper: ripples. And the ripples keep on spreading, as we wait for the fallout from the choices he's currently making.

This is also another instance of negative space, another instance in which what's not there (or no longer there) becomes all-important. The thing that stands between Danny and Lindsay, and between Danny and Ricki, is something that's not there any more, that never can be there again. The space between them is defined by emptiness. That emptiness, in the form of loss and death, is the thing that separates them and creates a gulf that, maybe, can't be bridged.

All of this is also a key factor in Stella's storyline. Notice the line I picked for the pull-quote at the start of the review: Bailey O'Dell was literally within Stella's reach. In Stella's eyes, that means that she could have -- should have -- figured it out sooner, been able to save her before this. Been able, then, to prevent the fire.

Guilt manifests itself here, too, because we know Stella well enough to know that she'll judge herself harshly for this alleged failure, for something she couldn't possibly have known. She says, specifically, that she didn't get to know any of her neighbors after she moved in two years ago. That's a direct result of her experiences with Frankie, and Stella may believe that this choice has led to her not seeing what was, as she puts it, right next door. Because of that choice of self-protection, she doesn't know anyone well enough to question their actions. She doesn't know, until it's too late, why Jason/Austin drills a hole in her wall.

So it's another example of the ripple effects of guilt and accountability, another example of how even seemingly meaningless actions can have unintended and long-reaching consequences. Again, this has been a key theme this season with both Danny and Mac. Now we see it with Stella, and, just as in their storylines, it's nothing as simple as a situation in which a character makes a blatant wrong choice and has to suffer because of it. Instead, it's simply what I said above: we never, really, know the consequences of our actions. We never know what the long-term fallout will be, even when we make decisions with the best of intentions, with no idea what they may lead to.

Danny may be, now, consciously making the wrong choice, but the crucial point here is that he didn't act neglectfully in Ruben's death, and he acted with no foreknowledge what that split-second decision would lead to. Just like Mac, at the age of fourteen, didn't know what his inability to act would result in. Just like Stella didn't know what was happening right next door to her.

This episode is also all about one of the other key themes of the season: nowhere is safe. No place is safe. Consequently, no one is safe. Stella, yet again, sees her home destroyed, while Danny takes the breaking-down of trust into his own hands.

There's negative space for Stella, too. For her, it's Frankie, and what he did to her trust and her ability to feel safe. It's also Drew, and how he further eroded that safety (and here we swing back around to Mac, and his role in all of this, and Jesus, this just keeps on getting more complicated). Notice how she rejects Mac's offer of his spare bedroom; notice how much this echoes the scene between the two of them at the end of "All Access."

Also notice how much we're hitting on the idea of family here again. Danny turns to Ricki for comfort, forming a weird kind of family tie as both of them try to forget their grief over Ruben, while at the same time rejecting the help of others who are close to him, and, in Lindsay's case, deliberately betraying her trust. Bonnie attempts to create her own family and make up for the child she claims she was forced to give up for adoption; she does this by destroying other people's families, and by leading the children she takes to believe their parents no longer love or want them.

At the same time, we also have a more positive depiction of family, and, once again, it's in the created family that the team have established. Look at how Adam tells Stella that he's glad she's okay. Look at how Danny, even when he's trying to end his phone call with Lindsay as quickly as possible, asks her to tell Stella that if she needs anything at all, he'll be there for her. Look at what Flack tells the suspected arsonist: "One of your neighbors -- someone I care about -- no longer has a place to live. And she risked her life." Look at how Mac brings Stella coffee and initiates a hug with her -- Mac, who so rarely makes any kind of affectionate gesture, or touches anyone voluntarily -- and then offers her a place to stay.

It's absolutely all about family. (And identity: the show is still obsessed with this, and here it's, again, about people's hidden faces, what we see on the surface and believe versus what's really there.)

The ripples keep spreading. Where are they going to stop?

Briefly noted:

Stella really has the absolute worst luck in the world.

Mac's speech about children and how they believe what adults tell them, and how Austin has been led to believe that his mother no longer loved or cared for him, seems oddly personal. Yes, he feels compassion for the mother, but there's something more going on there beneath the surface of his words. I can't quite pinpoint what it is, but it feels significant.

"For the last two days, I've been trying to figure out how to gingerly tell you to sit this one out, go deal with the loss of your home, take care of yourself. But I realize now what a total waste of my breath it would've been." Mac knows Stella very well. I also love the glare she shoots in his direction when he first starts in on this little speech.

"My man's getting sneaky." Hee. Hawkes.

Stella is very much alone at the end of the episode, despite all the people who care about her. Negative space again.

Fashion Watch:

Stella starts off in a black pinstriped suit with a gray cashmere knit top. When she's in bed, she wears a pink v-neck tank top with black sweatpants. Later, we see her in the pink v-neck with jeans and a black warm-up jacket, and then she changes to an aqua-blue v-neck t-shirt with jeans and the same black jacket. Finally, she wears a black jacket over a fitted white t-shirt with jeans. (Nice attention to detail here with her clothes; she's clearly throwing outfits together however she can after the fire.)

Mac starts off in a gray suit with a maroon shirt. Later, he wears a dark gray striped suit over a dark blue shirt. Blue shirt count: twenty.

Flack wears a black pinstriped suit with a white shirt and a black, white, and gray tie with a design of little boxes. Later, he wears a light gray suit with a white shirt and a red checkered tie.

Lindsay wears a gray empire-waist tie-front cardigan over a purple knit shirt. Later, she wears a white blouse with a black leaf pattern, with cap sleeves and a ruffled neck. It's sort of cute, but I still think ruffles are too fussy on her.

Danny wears a dark blue shirt over a white wifebeater. Later, he wears a khaki-colored v-neck t-shirt with a black leather blazer.

Hawkes has a really fabulous chocolate-brown shirt with a pink stripe.
Tags: csi:ny s4: episode reviews
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  • five good things

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