Is there anything more romantic than the beach at night? Who wouldn't pass up the chance to get bitten by sand fleas and chafed by errant grains of sand? Not the woman and man who decided to walk down to the beach together in the opening shot. He's got a bottle of champagne. Their body language is intriguing -- they don't stand so close as lovers would, but there's not exactly polite distance there. The two talk; he's relaxed, she's less so. Eventually, he's laughing and she's smiling more. The camera swoops down to the bottle of Fabinger champagne -- just so we know that it will be playing a pivotal role later -- and then back up as the two tentatively kiss. Just as their kiss is getting deeper, we see a pair of legs running in the sand, and then an arm striking the man on the back as he's kissing the woman. He goes down hard, the woman screams, and then it's a blur of shots -- the woman being pinned down by an attacker, the man being beaten.
Then it's morning, and the man from the night before is lying dead on the beach. Someone who is presumably working the scene says to Horatio, "This will do wonders for tourism." Horatio walks over with Megan, who's sporting a big suede hip-slung belt, with her badge pinned on top. It's supremely tacky. We find out that a jogger found the victims at 6:15 -- the dead man, and the live woman, Jane Renshaw, who was lying down in the surf. We find out that poor Jane's from Iowa, and she was "beat to hell, unconscious and half-drowned." Since Jane is also now in the hospital, we're switching our attention from her to the poor dead guy here, who's also sporting an impressive burn mark on his cheek. Horatio looks at the footprints in the sand and concludes, "He was running away." Megan asks, "Why kill a guy who was running from the scene?" Horatio begins pontificating, "Therein lies the rub, my friends. The evidence, as always, will speak for itself." Oh, will it? When will it have time, what with Horatio and Megan all over the screen? I'm just curious.
After we're through the credits and the commercials, we're back at the beach with Horatio, Megan, and Alexx, who's busy asking the poor dead guy, "Why'd you die so far from the girl?" Horatio says, "What's he telling you, Alexx?" So he's encouraging this kind of behavior on her part. Alexx tells everyone, "Sustained blunt force trauma to the head. Multiple blows, based on the blood. Liver temperature is 87.2." Megan concludes that our guy died around midnight. Alexx more or less pinpoints the cause of death with, "Jugular. Not a knife, though. A more irregular object. Bled out." We see the bleeding in action -- it's not nearly so riveting as you'd think -- and then Horatio brings us back to the present by asking about the mark on the guy's cheek. Alexx confirms that it's a burn mark. Horatio appears disgusted by this, walking off to say, "Smashing and slashing aren't enough -- they've got to burn him too." Megan says, "If I'm going to mess somebody up like this, I don't do it out in the open." You do if the open is sufficiently isolated, you simpleton. It's not as if the beach has a lot of foot traffic now, much less in the middle of the night. Horatio points out, "Unless you're not worried about it." He then focuses on a lifeguard station, which naturally contains hair samples which they take into evidence. I don't know why anyone bothers collecting evidence when Horatio's on the case; all he has to do is put on his ClueVision and the pieces just leap into view. Could he be any more of a supercop? All he needs is the power to fly. I bet they're saving that for sweeps. Horatio and Megan note that the hair they found is blonde, just like Jane's, and they speculate that what happened is that Jane and her would-be swain had a blanket and a spot by the lifeguard station before they were assaulted. Megan says, "She's assaulted, tossed in the ocean, and left to die," in world-weary tone. Horatio, who actually seems quite het up about the crime, speculates on what happened to the man with, "The guy tries to escape. Half-dead, scared out of his mind, he runs and someone catches up to him over here. So that makes these the last footsteps of his life." Megan's not exactly up to contemplating the fragility of life -- hey, if it's not her husband, why should she care what anyone else's last minutes were like? -- and interrupts Horatio's righteous snit to answer her phone. Once she tells the party on the other end she'll be right there, she tells Horatio that the SART nurse (SART stands for "sexual assault response team," FYI. Just so you're up on your acronyms, okay?) has finished Jane's exam, so Megan can come in to question her. Poor Jane -- the last twenty-four hours have visited upon her one horror followed by another.