There’s a genre of TV show episode that I like to think of as “How the Band Got Together”. It’s basically a flashback episode (not a clip show) showing how characters that we’ve always seen to have known each other first met. A great example of this is the first season finale of The Golden Girls. It literally shows how Blanch, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia all came to live together.
The eighth season premier of CSI: Miami, “Out of Time”, is one of these episodes, but it does a lot more and I love it.
Season 7 ends with Delko helping his Russian mob connected father escape from a shootout and in the process gets shot at by Calleigh (which put a damper on their relationship). Delko ends up wrecking the car and goes wading off in a marsh, leaving his unconscious father inside, and Horatio and the team searching for him.
Season 8 opens with them finding an unconscious Delko on a road by the marsh. The bullet shrapnel left in his head from being shot in Season 5 has shifted and put his life in danger. As Delko fights for his life, we see how the band got together back in 1997.
We see the lab before it was The Lab, before CSI was actually a thing. It was literally a broom closet. We meet Detective Horatio Caine without his trademark sunglasses and his partner Detective Sullivan. We meet the fresh-faced, enthusiastic lateral transfer Calleigh Duquense. We meet Jesse Cardoza on his last day as he’s transferring to L.A. We meet Officer Frank Tripp in uniform and sporting an amazing mustache. We meet Dr. Alexx Woods working in a much less nifty basement morgue. We meet Eric Delko…who’s not in law enforcement. He’s driving a tow truck and recovering items he finds that people have ditched. When he goes to pull an old stove out of the marsh -yes, the same marsh where Horatio found him unconscious at the beginning of the episode- he finds a submerged car. He tows it out, sees bloody water pouring out of the trunk, and calls it in. From the way Delko greets Sully and Horatio, and teases Horatio about not having sunglasses with Horatio coming right back by saying he’s supposed to find some for him, it’s clear that they’re not strangers. But at the same time, this case will be the first time Horatio and Calleigh meet.
The case of the murdered woman found in the trunk illustrates how far the team and CSI and forensics as a whole has come as we go between the past and the present of Delko fighting for his life and the rest of the team keeping watch. While old school Sully prefers the obvious suspect -the husband- Horatio, Jesse, and Calleigh follow the evidence to the killer -the gardener. With Delko’s help. At the conclusion of the case, Jesse leaves for L.A., recommending a guy by the name of Tim Speedle who’s working in St. Petersburg for Horatio’s newly established CSI department. Horatio, recognizing talent when he sees it, also encourages Delko to become a police officer and then come find him.
We’re also gifted with the beginnings of Horatio’s style as he ditches his tie and accepts a pair of sunglasses that Delko recovered during one of his salvages. They are THE sunglasses famed in gif and meme and they’re made even more special knowing that they came from Delko. And Delko’s life becomes even more precious knowing that it was Horatio who got him started in law enforcement.
Because this episode does more than just show how the band got together. It’s always been clear that Horatio has a special relationship with his team, but here it’s established just how special his relationship with Eric is. One of the few present day scenes is Horatio talking to a comatose Eric after brain surgery, begging him to stick around and fight because he can’t lose him after losing Marisol, Ray, and Speed. It’s an unexpectedly tender scene that I love and makes the final scene of Delko waking up surrounded by the entire team even sweeter.
The episode also establishes the groundwork for the season despite spending most of the time in the past.
Delko’s injury paves the way for him to take a leave of absence from the team as post-surgery he feels less enthusiastic about the job. Obviously, he doesn’t stay away, but it was a convenient storyline for Adam Rodriguez to step away from the show for most of the season. At the same time, it introduces us to Jesse Cardoza as his character is first leaving for L.A. in the past and returns in the present of the next episode with Eddie Cibrian joining the cast for the season. And Sully, who could have been a one-off past character, ends up being a familiar face who returns a few times later in the season.
Now does the ep have its faults and fudge the facts and timeline some? Yeah. Whatever de-aging they did to David Caruso makes him look like he escaped Whoville part of the time (I said what I said). I also feel they could have gone more late ’90s with everyone’s wardrobe, particularly Calleigh’s, but that’s neither here nor there.
It’s said that Horatio is going to head up the newly established CSI at the end of the 1997 portion of the episode, but as the first episode established, Megan Donner was actually in charge until she took a leave of absence due to her husband’s death and Horatio ended up with that job (Horatio does mention her in this episode, though, saying she’s out in the field and that’s why he needs Jesse’s help on the case). There’s also the insinuation that Horatio went right from the bomb squad to CSI, but during the course of the series, he also spent some time being a detective in NYC, but was working Miami at least in 1987. He has a very interesting career history.
Also, the 1997 start date is questionable. Horatio and Megan both worked the ValuJet crash of ’96 and it’s insinuated that CSI was a thing then. Also, Delko mentions playing baseball for the Miami Hurricanes for a couple of seasons (consistent with something said in a first season episode), but if you go by the birth year on older sister Marisol’s headstone, 1978, then Delko is at most 18 in ’97. So, either he graduated high school early, or I’m paying more attention than I’m supposed to.
I’m also not fond of them putting Natalia in the flashback. They could have just kept her in the present like Ryan and it would have be fine. But I recognize that this complaint is a me-thing, not an actual issue.
But obviously, none of this detracts from my enjoyment of the episode or how well it was done. Seeing the team come together and the birth of the Horatio that we know is terrific. Getting to see Calleigh at her most bubbly, which by this point in the show had decreased in the face of her lived experience, is so wonderful. Also the hilarious wink wink nudge nudge when she says that she’d never even think of socializing with anyone remotely connected with her work when the three men we actually see her in romantic relationships with -Hagen, Berkeley, and Delko- are her coworkers. And that instead of this episode being a stand alone emotional gut punch, it actually puts in place multiple pieces for the season is clever and well-done.
Also the fact that they used Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” to establish the 1997 vibe is nothing short of magical.