For most network shows today, producing 200 episodes is a rarity. So, how did CSI: Miami, which accomplishes that feat with Sunday's episode, celebrate?
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"There was a lot of hype surrounding Episode 100 way back when. I remember we all thought, we've got to do something big: spectacle, spectacle, spectacle!" co-executive producer Marc Dube recalls. "Turns out at Episode 200, it's not about spectacle so much as just doing what we do well: tell a good mystery and tug at some heartstrings along the way."
So Dube and fellow co-executive producer Barry O'Brien penned an episode that did just that. In the episode, fittingly titled "Happy Birthday," Horatio Caine (David Caruso) finds a beaten woman (Warehouse 13's Joanne Kelly) who is eight months' pregnant and has been left for dead. But the episode's title has several other meanings: The life of the victim's baby hangs in the balance and this all occurs on the birthday of Horatio's late wife, Marisol (Alana de la Garza).
"Horatio really dedicates himself to finding the perpetrators," O'Brien says. "In that quest, he finds echoes of his relationship with Marisol, and it becomes very thematic for him to make this right. He's just very connected to Marisol throughout this episode, and we use some very specific flashbacks to help the audience get there along with him. It's one of the powerful themes of Season 9 that Horatio is sort of reconnecting to the reason he does this work and what drives him emotionally."
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Also adding to the emotional hour is Calleigh Duquesne (Emily Procter), who sits at the victim's bedside through much of the episode. Because Procter is pregnant in real life, Dube says it was fitting that Calleigh is chosen to stand vigil.
"The number of scenes we've been able to put her in lately has been limited because she's late in her pregnancy," Dube says. "So we wanted to give her an emotional investment, and we thought if we have her bedside with someone who's, in a sense, going through what she's going through in real life, we can really bring the best out of her."
"Emily brought a lot of raw power to the role," O'Brien adds. "There's a real sense of her personal investment in the outcome for this character, who is in jeopardy. There's almost a spiritual element to her sitting vigil next to this woman at the darkest hour of her life."
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Dube says the experience of this episode will further galvanize Horatio, who this season has been hunting his wife's killer, Memmo Fiero (Robert LaSardo), after he escaped from prison. "He clearly has a personal agenda beneath it all, and it is going to come to fruition in the next few episodes," Dube says.
One thing that's unavoidable is the idea that cops personalize their work," Dube continues. "They try like hell not to, but it's unavoidable. With Horatio and this deep history, we're going to see more and more of it come out. It's harder for him to table it."
And it's that continued deepening of character that truly makes hitting the 200th episode milestone so rewarding, O'Brien says.
"It's certainly a staggering achievement ... and we felt just very grateful," he says. "[The episode] is an absolute love letter to our audience. We've come a great distance together. You reward an audience every time you go deeper into character, and I that's what we love to do."
CSI: Miami's 200th episode airs Sunday at 10/9c on CBS.