The CSIs are shocked when evidence indicates the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy is linked to a man who has been in prison for over two years.
An early morning anonymous 911 call from a payphone alerts the CSIs to the body of a boy dumped in the desert. Doc Robbins determines that the boy likely died four to eight hours before from a blow to the head and discovers blood underneath his fingernails. Nick finds a compass, pocket knife, flashlight and candy bar on the boy, as well as an ID lanyard from East Las Vegas High School, indicating the boy, Will Sutter, was at least fourteen years old. Will’s tearful mother, Rebecca, tells Brass that she didn’t check on Will when she got home from the club where she works the night before. She says Will’s father isn’t in his life, but names two of Will’s friends: Mason Ward and Steve Reppling. Greg and Langston search the house for clues, finding no signs of forced entry, indicating Will left of his own accord. Greg opens his computer and finds recent online activity—the last thing he looked at was an article on tribal coming-of-age rituals. Nick and Sara speak with Will’s two friends, Mason and Steve. Mason, the son of a police officer, tells Nick that Will wasn’t fun anymore—he was still a child, while Mason and Steve were into more “grown up” things, like girls and working out. Steve tells Sara that he last saw Will at school the day before, but Sara senses something is off with the kid—a hunch that is confirmed when he throws up and she smells tequila on him. Hodges tells Catherine he’s identified two fibers from Will’s body: one is from bedding, but the other is from the carpet of a 1970’s green Cadillac, likely from the vehicle’s trunk. Archie goes over Will’s computer and finds the boy was exchanging e-mails with a man named Craig Lifford, a forty-year-old librarian from Henderson. Langston questions Craig, who tells the CSI he met Will on a history forum on the internet. He admits to arranging to meet up with the boy to explore an old mine, but insists the meeting never happened. Langston is skeptical, especially when he notices scratches on Lifford’s wrists.
Wendy throws the CSIs a major curveball when she matches the blood under Will’s fingernails to Simon Rose—a suspect in a case Sara worked who was convicted of murdering his wife Samantha and has been in prison for the last two-and-a-half years. Sara reviews the case with the team, telling them that the police had been out to Simon’s house on several domestic battery calls before his wife was murdered. She’s convinced Simon is guilty, and suspects his legal team of planting the blood on Will. Simon’s attorney, Lynn Stagner, immediately goes to the press, claiming her client was wrongly convicted and that someone with identical DNA must have murdered Simon’s wife. She posits to Brass that one of Simon’s many business enemies might have framed him. Langston goes to the prison to examine Simon Rose and gets a disconcerting “hello” from Nate Haskell via a fellow prisoner. Langston examines Simon, taking note of a cut on his neck. Sara goes to the evidence warehouse and speaks with the guard, George Anderson. George shows her no one has signed the Rose evidence out since the original trial, but Sara stops cold in her tracks when she finds another major clue: a green Cadillac in the parking lot. She asks George who the car belongs to, and is surprised when he answers that it’s his. She gets him to open the trunk and finds a candy wrapper inside like the one found on Will. She arrests George. The guard admits he was on his rounds when he caught Will digging around in the Rose evidence. He startled the boy, who fell and struck his head and died. Afraid the intrusion would jeopardize his job, he put the boy’s body in the trunk of his car and dumped him away from the building, then called 911 to file an anonymous report. Nick and Langston examine the evidence locker, trying to figure out what Will was doing there. Nick finds a piece of paper with the number of the Rose case on it, and an algebra equation on the back. Wondering if Simon Rose’s attorney paid Will off to tamper with the evidence, Catherine questions the boy’s mother about a recent $10,000 deposit into her bank account. She tells Catherine that Will’s father got drunk and won some money—and gave her some of it for child support. When he sobered up and wanted it back, she refused.
Trying to figure out how Will got into the evidence locker, Archie and Nick go over the surveillance videos and see a bloody couch being brought in as evidence. Recalling the bedding fibers on the boy, Nick and Langston head back to the locker and discover the couch covered in fish blood—it was a decoy. The inside was hollowed out so that Will could hide inside while the bloody couch was transported into the evidence locker by officers believing it was covered in human blood. After a call about the couch is traced to the station, Brass talks to Kenneth Ward, Mason’s dad. Kenneth confirms that Mason was visiting him at the office that day, and recognizes the couch as one from his garage. Brass and Kenneth go to Ward’s house to speak to Mason and find him badly beaten on the floor of his room. Mason is taken to the hospital, while Greg and Nick scour his room. Greg finds the algebra homework the piece of paper from the evidence locker was torn from, while Nick discovers the bat used to strike Mason—as well as attorney Lynn Stagner’s card. Brass asks Lynn about the card, and she tells him that Mason came up to her trying to extort five thousand dollars to not claim that she paid Will to sneak into the Rose evidence locker. She gave him two hundred dollars for cab fare and sent him packing. Catherine matches the print on the bat used to strike Mason to prints found on a bong at a vacant home that was set on fire… on Rose Street. Recalling Mason was in his dad’s office using the computer, she posits that he was looking up information about the house on Rose Street because he and Steve had something to do with the fire—and accidentally came up with the number for the Simon Rose case. Noticing an empty bottle of tequila was found at the scene, Sara immediately thinks of Steve Reppling. The CSIs find Steve at the house on Rose Street, having set the house on fire. Sara and Langston rescue the boy, who admits that he and Mason were drinking and smoking up in the house. After the house caught on fire and the police came to get the evidence, the boys went to Will to retrieve it, fearing their prints would incriminate them. Mason looked up the evidence, but got the wrong locker number—and they sent Will in to retrieve it, which ended tragically. When Mason decided to try to extort money from Lynn and profit from Will’s death, Steve angrily attacked him, feeling as though he and Mason had let Will down.
One of the better CSI entries this season, “Neverland” is comprised of a series of missteps that culminates in tragedy. Mason Ward and Steve Reppling get into some typical teenage mischief, and, in an attempt to avoid the consequences, they go to their former friend, Will—whom they’ve abandoned for being too immature but who, ironically, is the only one brave enough to undertake the mission to the evidence locker. Mason mistakenly pulls the number of the wrong case—for Rose the person, rather than the street—and Will is sent in, concealed in a hollowed out couch, to retrieve the incriminating evidence. When Will arrives in his “Trojan sofa,” he doesn’t find the bong he was expecting, but bloody articles from a murder case. And then hapless George comes along and startles Will, causing him to fall to his death. George, afraid Will’s presence and death will cost him his job, makes the decision to conceal the boy’s death by dumping the body elsewhere.
As with any tragedy, there are always vultures circling, waiting to take advantage of it, and in this case the mix up nearly proves profitable for Simon Rose and his shrewd lawyer, Lynn Stagner. Because of Mason’s mix up, Will has the number not of the evidence from the house on Rose Street, but from the Simon Rose murder case, and when Will’s body is found with Rose’s blood underneath his fingernails, his lawyer immediately seizes the opportunity to mount an appeal for her client. It’s an opportunistic moment that any lawyer would likely jump on, but Lynn is painted as pretty cutthroat—if not quite unethical. In an amusing scene, Lynn offers Brass a job as a private investigator, noting that people who work for her are well paid. Brass dismisses the offer as “not so sound ethically.” Still, when Mason tries to extort money from Lynn, she sends him away with (a very generous) cab fare rather than directly using the mix-up in the evidence locker to her advantage. Though, she doesn’t report Mason’s bribe until the boy is in the hospital and her card has been found in his room—a card she gave him because she admired his chutzpah.
Sara worked the Simon Rose case during the investigation and gives the rest of the team background on the case. She’s filling the audience in as well, since the case wasn’t one from a previous episode. A missed opportunity, perhaps, but then, the case and Rose’s guilt is pretty straightforward, and if it had been culled from an old episode, that might have been the focus rather than the plight of Will and his friends. As it is, the Rose case is more or less a red herring—a big one that lights a big fire under the CSI team—but a red herring nonetheless in the fact that other than the mistaken evidence locker number, there is no connection between Will and Simon Rose. As far as red herrings go, though, it’s a clever one—far more inventive than the guy whose prints happen to be on the murder weapon for some completely coincidental reason.
The theme of children growing up too quickly is understandably a frequent one in CSI shows, and Will stands in stark contrast to his former friends Mason and Steve. Mason and Steve dismiss Will as immature because at fourteen he hasn’t developed the same interest in girls and “working out” that the two have. What they really mean is that he doesn’t have an interest in drinking and doing drugs. It is the height of irony that when Mason and Steve get into trouble, it is Will that they turn to—and that he is the only one creative enough to think of a solution, and the only one brave enough to execute it. The episode opens and closes with video footage of Will with his mother on his birthday—he’s overjoyed with a telescope she’s gotten him and declares she’s the “best mom in the world.” Aidan Gould, who portrays Will, has a youthful wisdom to him, and plays his ill-fated character with a genuine earnestness.
Though the pieces of the puzzle don’t get connected until the end of the episode, Sara is immediately onto something being off about Steve Reppling. When she questions the boy, she notices he looks sickly, and she shares a bit about her own past, telling the boy she used to wish their was some potion to make her feel older—and that she discovered there was. Steve proceeds to throw up all over the floor, prompting Sara to observe, “You’re a tequila man, huh, Steve?” Having gone through the foster care system and surviving what most would deem a fairly tragic childhood, Sara has always been one to recognize darkness or damage in children. There’s nothing to indicate Mason and Steve are anything other than rebellious teenagers experimenting with drugs and alcohol because they can—and once they’re in danger of getting caught, suddenly their more responsible (and creative) former friend is the person they turn to in the hopes he can come up with a solution to keep them out of trouble.
Langston is confronted with a bit of more recent past when he drops by the prison to examine Simon Rose. On his way to Rose’s cell, he gets a chilling message from an inmate who tells him that “Nate Haskell says hello.” Fans will recall Haskell as the sadistic serial killer known as the “Dick and Jane Killer” from the two episodes that introduced Langston, “19 Down” and “One to Go”. After inviting Haskell to speak to his WLVU criminal justice class via a video hook-up from prison, Langston helped the CSI team catch Haskell’s protégé, who was emulating his idol with a killing spree of his own. In “One to Go,” Langston paid Haskell a visit in jail, hoping to trick the location of the house on Lake Mead where his protégé was keeping his victims out of Haskell, but the serial killer was several steps ahead of Langston, and didn’t give the professor any useful knowledge. Haskell apparently hasn’t forgotten Langston, though, and I have no doubt that eerie greeting wasn’t just a throwaway line. I suspect we’ll be seeing Bill Irwin‘s creepy serial killer before the season is finished.