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I recently discovered that all ten seasons of CSI: MIAMI are available via Netflix instant play.  Good thing it’s vacation, no?  And yes, I know CSI: MIAMI’s corny and a little overdone sometimes.  I enjoy it anyways.

There’s something about Horatio Caine that fascinates me.  All three original shift supervisors in the CSI franchise are different.  Gil Grissom is a cool academic, a scientist who freely admits that he’s more interested in the truth than in justice.  We might expect him to be the monk of the group, living a celibate life in pursuit of scientific truth, but he spends years secretly in love with Sara Sidle, and eventually marries her (though by this time William Petersen had left the show, so they’re never onscreen as a married couple).  Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) is a soldier.  He’s about structure, rules, command hierarchies – they give him a sense of order and control in a chaotic city.  He doesn’t speak much, but then, none of these three is much given to orations.  What they do have in common, other than their scientific knowledge and their professional position, is their eyes.  They all have sad eyes.  CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION replaced Gil Grissom years ago, but Marg Helgenberger’s Catherine Willows and Ted Danson’s D. B. Russell are not quite up to par yet.  They’re both plenty good, but Willows was a stopgap and Russell has barely gotten started.

Horatio Caine, the most easily mockable of the three, thanks to his tendency to punctuate overdramatic statements by putting on his sunglasses mid-phrase.  I think it’s important to look past that to the truly interesting character beneath.

Horatio’s backstory is released in snippets, all going by so quickly that they’re easily missed.  The child of an abusive father, Horatio ended up killing his father in an unsuccessful attempt to protect his mother, who died by her husband’s hand.  He worked as a homicide detective in New York, the moved to Miami, where he was first on the bomb squad, then a detective, and finally day shift supervisor of the crime lab.

The pain in Gil’s and Mac’s eyes is the pain of having seen too much and worried too much.  In Horatio’s eyes there’s intense grief and suppressed rage.  I mentioned in a previous post that he’s got this whole “avenging angel” thing going on, and in re-watching some favorite episodes I stumbled across an episode in which Horatio sits in a confessional and begs a priest, a cardinal he has obviously talked to several times before, to tell him when he’s done “enough.”

This intriguing detail was never referenced again.  Perhaps the writers thought it was just an explanation for Horatio finding himself considered a murder suspect in a previous episode and didn’t need to be touched again.  However, it raises an interesting possibility for explaining Horatio’s compulsion to rescue and protect and go far out of his way to help those who need help.

It is possible that Horatio lives his entire life as a penance in the hopes of wiping away the sin of patricide.  Tortured by guilt and a sense of never being able to clean his slate, Horatio is also obviously exhausted by his endeavors.  It’s as though he denies himself as much of a private life as he can – we never see his home, a girlfriend or two is mentioned after the fact but we never see him date.

The one truly bright spot in the ten years covered by the show is his tragically short marriage to Marisol Delko, sister of one of his CSIs.  When he looks at her, the grief and rage leave his eyes and he smiles with his whole being.  And yet, once again, it’s an oddly chaste depiction of what is obviously a deep love.  The only touch is when she takes his arm, first when they agree to marry and again as they walk into the courthouse for the ceremony.  Maybe the increasing tolerance for explicit relationships in television and film have made us expect more physicality from the love affairs shown.  But even in the 1950s, married couples would kiss on tv.

In the opening episode of season 10, Horatio hovers briefly between life and death after being shot.  He has a vision of Marisol, healthy and happy to see him, but determined to send him back.  It’s not his time – he has to go back.  That farewell, simple and straightforward as their relationship ever was, left me teary.  Once again, Horatio has to put his duty, his penitential role as savior and avenging angel, before his personal desires.  His pain at leaving Marisol once again is written clearly on his face.  At the end of the episode, when he tells a colleague who Marisol was and that he doesn’t think he’ll be okay, he looks ancient and overwhelmed for the first time in the entire series.  In truth, he looks broken.  He had to come back, but he didn’t want to.  Horatio’s suffering the loss of Marisol for a second time.

David Caruso gives Horatio Caine a soft voice and a hunched posture.  He rarely looks at a suspect head-on, preferring to speak to the window or stand perpendicular to his audience.  He silently radiates Horatio’s pain, grief, and anger.  The dialogue may be clunky, but Caruso gives Caine emotional depth and complexity that a lesser actor likely would have failed to achieve.