The body of a teenager leads the team into the desert, where they find a house built in an underground bunker.
A young man is found wrapped in a tarp beneath an overpass, and both of his hands are missing. His right hand was removed before he died, and he bled out. There are marks on his leg from a bear trap, proving that a human is responsible for his injuries. The victim is wearing custom motocross gear, which leads back to Dylan Trigg. He identifies the victim as his friend Carl Abrams, and he says they were supposed to go camping near Laughlin, but he stayed home because he didn’t like the area. Dylan suggests that the team looks near the mines. Nick’s dog Sam tracks the victim’s scent to a bunker buried in the sand, leading down to a house built underground.
The house belongs to Tommy Barnes, who lives completely off the grid. While searching the house, they find a little girl’s room with paper cranes inside, which look like a paper crane found in the victim’s pocket. A young woman tries to escape while they are there, and they take her in to check for sexual assault. A dress in the girl’s closet leads back to an 11-year-old murder case from Carson City. It was Barnes’ wife, and the young woman is his daughter Miranda. He took her and went to his grandfather’s bunker to keep her safe.
There are two DNA contributions in Miranda’s bed, belong to Carl and an unknown man. Barnes denies killing Carl for being with his daughter, and Miranda doesn’t say anything about the men in her bed. The paper used to make the crane in Carl’s pocket is from a shipping label, which leads to the small store where Barnes has his MREs shipped. The team finds a bloody uniform and a paper crane, and the young man who works there tries to escape on Carl’s bike. Luke has been having a relationship with Miranda, but he didn’t kill anyone. An injured Carl stumbled up to them in front of the bunker, but he bled out once they took him inside—Luke offered to get rid of the body.
They find the primary crime scene in the desert. There’s blood and a broken bear trap, along with Carl’s hand. It was shot off with buckshot. Dylan speaks to the cops and admits that his father hunted Carl down because he and Dylan were in a relationship. Tissue under the fingernails of Carl’s hand confirms the story.
“Sheltered” features a pair of characters living “off the grid” in an underground bunker. I wouldn’t necessarily call Barnes a survivalist, but there are elements of that movement in the episode. Many people keep a few necessities in their homes in case of an earthquake or hurricane, but survivalists can run the gamut from basic preparedness to much more extreme situations like the individuals seen on Doomsday Preppers. The subculture is gaining in popularity, and it has gotten quite a bit of media attention lately (including the aforementioned series), so I’m not surprised to see it crop up on CSI.
The episode also marks the return of Sam, Nick’s retired police dog who was last seen in the break room during “Exile”. Morgan suggests that the dog misses being an active part of the police force, so they use him to track Carl’s scent and locate the underground bunker. It’s a fun addition to the episode, and I always enjoy seeing Nick with his furry companion. I also enjoyed hearing Morgan speak French several times, which seemed a bit more conversational than Nick’s basic orders—I guess he’s not the only bilingual CSI on the team.
Ted Danson’s daughter Kate makes an appearance this week, playing Barnes’ attorney, Jill McDermott. She’s only in one scene, but it’s nice to see the actress going head to head with her father—and it’s a fun wink to the viewers who might recognize her. Writer Michael FX Daley said in an interview with CSI Files that it would be “easy to bring back” a lawyer like Jill, so I hope that means we might see Kate’s character again in the future.
I complained about the treatment of LGBT characters in my review for “Strip Maul”, so I have to comment on the fact that this is the second episode since then that has featured gay characters (the other was “Risky Business Class”, and you can find my review here). Dylan’s father kills Carl because of his sexuality, so he isn’t a victim who just happens to be gay, but DB defends both young men in the interrogation scene. When Dylan’s father claims that Carl was corrupting his son, and that he raised Dylan to “be a man”, DB is quick to point out that Dylan proved himself as a man by telling the truth, and the only reason Dylan was confused is that he was forced to live a lie. There have been more LGBT characters this season than I thought there would be (including Dahlia, the former Marine and current showgirl who was killed trying to take down the shooter in “Code Blue Plate Special”; I didn’t mention her in my review for that episode, but I definitely noticed that she was casually included in the group). I’m still not thrilled with the subplot in “Strip Maul”, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see more LGBT characters on the show overall this season.
See also: “Sheltered” episode guide