CSI: Cyber “URL, Interrupted” Review (Season 1 Episode 7)

CSI Cyber URL Interrupted Episode 7 04

On a special Tuesday night edition of “CSI: Cyber,” we got a timely case about cyber-bullying that took an unexpected turn in the drolly-titled “URL, Interrupted.” Of course, it’s par for the course for crime procedurals to “rip from the headlines,” but I always enjoy it particularly when they take a familiar scenario inspired by current events but then go off on their own tangent with it, as was the case here.

It all began when a student was reported missing by her father, Jordan (Byron Mann, “Arrow”), a former client of Avery’s from her therapist days. Jordan came to her when his wife passed away, and she helped him get through that rough time, now he comes to Avery for help in finding the little girl that’s all he has left. A search party leads them to her phone, and he receives a call shortly thereafter, seemingly from Zoey (Irene Choi, “Community”), his daughter, but which actually turns out to be someone “spoofing” her phone, aka imitating it. Regardless, no one replies when he answers, so it’s kind of a dead end.

The team checks out Zoey’s laptop at home and sees that someone has also been using her webcam to spy on her without her knowledge. Things get even worse when they discover a website called “KillyourselfZoey.com,” which is just what it sounds like, which is to say a bunch of people piling on and bullying the poor girl into committing suicide, which is just horrible. In addition to harassing comments, there’s footage of her undressing on the site and the like, leading the team to wonder if she either ran away from home because of it, or worse.

The father admits that they’d been struggling lately, as he had dated Zoey’s guidance counselor (Ashley Jones, “True Blood”) at her high school, which she hadn’t been too thrilled about, so he had dumped her, basically choosing his daughter over his own happiness, which Jordan suspected she felt bad about. Factor in all this online and no doubt IRL bullying, and it’s no wonder she ran away.

The team also discovers an online relationship with someone in South Carolina, Owen Campbell (Booboo Stewart, of the “Twilight” movies) and Avery and Mundo head to his place to see if maybe Zoey went there. She did, but it turns out their correspondence was part of the bullying, as Owen already has a girlfriend and hadn’t been messaging her as of late. Instead, the “spoofer” had faked his account and had been sending Zoey messages disguised as him. When she arrived and realized it was part of the bullying, she was devastated and took off.

Meanwhile, Raven- herself a former victim of bullying as a kid, which led her down a dark path of her own, resulting in her becoming a “black hat” hacker, in fact- narrows down the search for potential culprits as to who started the site in the first place down to about twelve names. One of them is boss Simon’s son, Aaron (Nathan Gamble, “Marley & Me”), much to his horror. He confronts the boy, who confesses to contributing to the site and piling on Zoey, but not to starting it. He claims she’s crazy and quite possibly psychotic, showing his father a video of her with a rifle and mentioning an incident a friend of his told him about.

Now worried they might have another Columbine on their hands, the team shifts into overdrive to find Zoey, not in the least when she posts a video threatening to find out who did it and make them pay. Tracking the video to a random woman, who realizes that Zoey briefly stole her tablet to shoot said video on the sly before returning it as if she came across it, that proves to be yet another dead end.

The team does figure out that the website that started the whole mess was seemingly created in the school library on a specific computer, so Krumitz switches it out with a decoy, in hopes that whoever did it will be stupid enough to use it again. They also realize that Zoey doesn’t know either, and was trying to draw the person out by threatening them and hoping they would do something stupid herself. She begins to target likely suspects, including Aaron, who she outs publically as an FBI worker’s son, which doesn’t exactly make Simon feel any better.

Raven narrows down the suspects to nine names, figuring out their actual names from the web handles she had before, when it was 12 suspects. Only one seems to have had access to the computer during a certain time period, Jennifer (Ana Mulvoy-Ten, “House of Anabis”), a fellow student at her high school. Jennifer admits that she was upset with Zoey for posting that she took diet pills and, as such, participated in the bullying side of things, but swears she didn’t start the website. She also points out that there’s a new leaked video of her up, showing her undressing, a la the one of Zoey, so why would she post that of herself?

Finally, the team gets a lead that Zoey is headed to Chesapeake Bay and Avery and Mundo head there, while the rest of them realize that Jennifer is telling the truth and that it’s the “spoofer” that’s using the computer to post things at the school. Using a tracking device and the IP address they found that traces back to a burner phone used to call Jordan earlier, they trace the computer to none other than the school counselor, aka Jordan’s ex-girlfriend, who made the mistake of connecting the phone in question to her own computer at school once, which is all it takes.

Turns out she resented Jordan for dumping her, and at first only sought to “catfish” his daughter by pretending to be Owen, thinking that if Zoey found a boyfriend she’d be happier and thus, more likely to tolerate her relationship with her dad. Only that didn’t work, so she upped the ante by starting the website. In the end, she gets her just desserts, as everyone at the school films her being arrested and carted out and does a little posting of their own.

Meanwhile, Avery finally tracks down Zoey, who’s been shot. However, it wasn’t by an outside party but rather, by accident, when she gathered up rifles from her father’s cabin into her car, and had second thoughts about going after her tormentors. She went to unload the rifles from the trunk and jostled them together, setting off one of them and shooting herself in the process. Thankfully, she ends up being okay, albeit worse for the wear after all she’s been though. The episode ended with Zoey posting what she claims will be her last video, warning others to watch what they say, lest they regret the consequences of their actions.

So, this was a pretty solid episode overall. I did figure out who did it almost immediately, but that may well be because I actually went through a similar incident with a relative, who was likewise accused of posting something nasty about a fellow student and suspended for it, as it was traced back to her account, only for a teacher to discover it was a fake post when the girl who was allegedly bullied came forward and admitted that she’d found out her own mother had hacked into my relative’s account when she was staying over and posted the nasty remarks in order to get rid of her, feeling she was a “bad influence”! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Boy, am I glad I’m not in high school these days!

Anyway, I still enjoyed the episode, and I actually liked that it went in unexpected directions, with Zoey opting to go on the offensive rather than play the victim. Mind you, I’m certainly not suggesting going after her classmates with a rifle was great, either, but that I didn’t see coming. I’m glad it didn’t come to that, obviously, but it just goes to show you how many ways bullying can go sideways, from teens killing themselves to killing others.

Neither outcome is great, needless to say, and if the show occasionally got a bit preachy with the bits at the end and with Simon taking his son to task for his involvement, it’s still a perfectly valid argument to make and something that needs to be said. All things told, it could have been a lot more heavy-handed than it was, so it’s to the show’s credit that it didn’t quite cross that line, IMHO. So, though it may have been yet another blatant attempt by a show like this to take inspiration from a timely subject matter, overall, it was handled well, so I really can’t complain.

Also worth a mention is that we finally got some long overdue back-story on Raven, which went a long way towards humanizing a character that we knew next to nothing about until this episode. It might have taken them seven episodes to get there, but better late than never. It was actually genuinely surprising to find out Raven had been bullied to the extent she’d left school at 15 (!) and went off to become a “black hat” hacker, eventually getting caught after she caused a massive power outage. That’s both sad and impressive, and goes a long way towards explaining her standoffishness on the job more often than not. (I would like to know more about where she was the night she had to go into work dressed to the nines, though.) Keep it up, and I might just have a favorite character, writers!

What did you think of the latest episode of “CSI: Cyber”? Did you figure out who did it, too? Have you or someone you know ever had a personal experience with online bullying? Do you think the show is getting better as it goes along? Are any of the characters growing on you? Do you think the show is finding the right balance between character-driven stories and independent cases? What do you think of the cast? Sound off on this and more down below, and see you tomorrow night for the week’s regular episode, this time with none other than star Patricia Arquette’s sister, Rosanna!