CSI: Cyber “Crowd Sourced” Review (Season 1 Episode 5)

CSI Cyber Crowd Sourced Episode 5 03

On the latest episode of “CSI: Cyber,” there was a mad bomber on the loose, and it was up to the team to stop him before he struck again, in “Crowd Sourced.” This being the sort of show that it is, there was, of course, a cyber-twist on matters, as it turned out that the bomber in question wasn’t anywhere near the proceedings of his intended targets, and was setting things up in such a way that, it was actually the crowd themselves that were unwittingly being used as pawns to set the bombs off in the first place, hence the title.

In other words, as we saw in the first bombing, one person would get a text from the bomber, open it, see a number, then another, and so on, until the magic number was reached, setting off the bomb in the process. If no one had answered their texts, then the bomb wouldn’t have gone off, but what are the chances of that in this digital-saturated age? So, even though an usher spots the bomb vaguely hidden in a theater and is able to get it outside before it goes off, it still goes off nonetheless, killing and injuring any number of people, including the usher himself, though it admittedly could have been much worse.

Adding insult to injury, one of the deaths in question was the son of a woman who received the telltale text that set off the bomb in the end- which meant that, had she not answered said text, her son might still be alive. Pretty evil stuff. Ironically, the bomber in question was doing so in a sort of protest over the way technology had taken over people’s lives these days, basically using people’s tech against them in the deadliest of ways. Maybe I missed it, but I’m not sure what exactly his reasons for doing so really were, as he ended up getting shot before he could really tell us one way or another.

Maybe it really was as simple as his being wary of modern tech, but if that were true, why was he so well-informed in using it, to the point that the team was only barely able to stop him? I suppose we could just chalk it up to a crazy man’s pretzel logic, and indeed, if there’s one thing that genuinely is scary, it’s people doing stuff for no reason other than they can; i.e. crazy is as crazy does. Or as they put it in “Scream”: “It’s a lot scarier when there is no motive.” True that.

Still, I thought it actually would have been that much more effective if there was some semblance of a motive, a la, his daughter/girlfriend/wife/friend/et. al. was/were killed because they were fiddling with a text and got into an accident or something of that nature. After all, that sort of thing happens all the time IRL, and it would make perfect sense that someone who’s loved one was a victim of such an event would go ballistic as a result. Now, would it validate their actions? Obviously not. But that’s where the crazy comes in.

Anyway, that relatively minor complaint aside, it was a neat idea to have people unwittingly contributing to their own demise. Indeed, the bomber upped the ante by essentially tipping his hand and putting up a web video designed to set off another, much bigger bomb in an undisclosed location. Basically, the more people who logged on the site to watch the video, the closer the bomb came to going off. Once it hit a certain number…well, you know the rest: “Kaboom!” Literally.

That’s an admittedly sick but also kind of fascinating social experiment. Obviously, it would be more interesting if it actually was a placebo-type of experiment, and people only thought they would be causing someone/a group of people to die. Then those responsible for the experiment could study how many sickos actually contributed to it, or rather, who actively set out to kill someone, for all they knew. I want to say they did something like that in one of the “Saw” movies, where people could actually nominate ways for other people to be killed and the way that got the most votes was the one adopted. So, the essential idea here wasn’t completely original, but then, this is a crime procedural we’re talking about, which are notorious for ripping things “right from the headlines”- or other sources- so there you go.

That said, though, this was a moderately engaging episode nonetheless, despite the (arguable) flaws in the approach. I did enjoy the business with the “original” Brody, aka Tobin (Andrew Lawrence, “United States of Tara”), who was the original “black hat” that Avery had recruited in hopes of reforming after he was caught hacking into places he shouldn’t have. Unfortunately, unlike Brody, who proved his worth in the “Fire Code” episode- and that he could be trusted- Tobin had gone in the opposite direction and sold government secrets to the highest bidder, amongst other questionable acts, and ended up in jail for his crimes. (Fun fact: Speaking of “Saw,” Tobin was also the name of the actor who played the killer “Jigsaw” in those films, which probably wasn’t a coincidence.)

As the case related to someone that Tobin was likely a former associate of, Avery had to visit him and try and get him to help. Despite attempting to give him the benefit of the doubt- or pretending to, at least- Tobin once again showed his true colors and blew it, with Avery ultimately thwarting his intentions to pull a hacking stunt in the prison library. I liked that she gave him just enough rope to hang himself with, and how he fell for it, hook, line and sinker, thus proving to her once and for all that he couldn’t be trusted.

That was also a nice touch, showing the flashback where she showed him the newly-minted office intended to be the headquarters for the FBI’s cyber division, just before tossing him in jail for what he’d done- thus showing him what he was going to be missing, more or less, just as it was about to be taken away from him. Granted, I suppose it was a little mean, too, but you get what you deserve when someone gives you a golden opportunity like that and you take advantage of it and stab someone in the back, right? Besides, what Tobin did was way worse, and probably got who knows how many people killed in the process, so what Avery did pales in comparison.

As for the bad, well, in addition to the shaky motive issues, there’s no denying that a lot of people have noted how more or less by-the-numbers the show is so far. I mean, yes, there is a formula to these shows that almost has to be followed, but at the same time, it’s not as if it isn’t possible to do something unique with it. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s hard not to compare the show to “Scorpion,” which has a fairly similar premise, yet manages to tackle it in a fairly original and engaging way.

It also has a cast of characters that are likable, pretty much across the board, and all of which have unique and intriguing traits that go beyond the obvious, i.e. tech guy, tough guy, psychology-specialist, etc. I mean, those character traits are present and accounted for, but “Scorpion” also made sure to give everyone distinct and personable personalities. I’m not saying that I don’t know the main characters on “CSI: Cyber” and what their essential functions are- I’m saying, at this point, they’re still defined almost entirely by those functions, which is not at all the case on “Scorpion.”

On that show, characters often transcend their functions to contribute in often-unexpected ways that show growth and development. I’m not getting a lot of that on this show yet. We get glimpses of each character’s back-stories and lives and pasts, sure, but they’re lacking in the overall fully-realized character department. They feel too fill-in-the-blank at this juncture for their own good.

Granted, we’re only five episodes in, but still, it seems like “Scorpion” gelled already by then, and I regularly get comments about the characters there, in my reviews and discussions about the show, and more so than the cases. Here, the cases are about all I can talk about, because there’s not much else to discuss, character-wise. There are glimmers of hope, though. The Brody character is fairly engaging, and I’m starting to like the burgeoning bromance between him and Krumitz.

But Raven remains a complete cipher (pun intended), and I’d actually like to know more about her, as the actress playing her is admittedly sexy and enigmatic, despite nothing whatsoever to work with so far. I also want to like James Van Der Beek, having watched the “Creek” back in the day. Ditto Arquette and MacNicol, who have done good work in the past, but are strictly by-the-numbers here. I get that there’s a formula to all these shows, but that doesn’t mean the characters have to be formulaic, too.

CBS really needs to take a page from their own book and take a long, hard look at “Scorpion,” which, while it admittedly has faults of its own, at least is getting the character thing right- and solid characters go a long way on a show like this. Hey, it got the original “CSI” fifteen seasons so far, am I right? “CSI: Cyber” needs to get that aspect down pat, or it might not last more than a season- and a shortened one at that.

So far, the ratings are fairly solid, but good will only gets new shows so far, and viewers can turn on a show in an instant. If CBS wants this show to continue to carry on the “CSI” mantle for the foreseeable future, it had better take a long, hard look in the mirror and get to fixing up the faults sooner than later. Otherwise, this “CSI” may join the ranks of the great “spin-off” graveyard in the sky.

What did you think of the latest episode of “CSI: Cyber”? What did you make of the case? Was it interesting to you or not? What about the characters? Do you find them intriguing or not? What would you do to “fix” the show? Or is it beyond saving already? Sound off below and let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time!