July 21 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: Cyber — ‘CMND:\Crash’

8 min read

The Cyber Crime Division jumps into action after a hacker crashes a roller coaster at an amusement park.

Synopsis:

A roller coaster at the Thrill Country amusement park in Richmond, Virginia crashes, killing one woman and injuring 20 more, including two people who later die in the hospital. The computer for the roller coaster isn’t WiFi accessible; however, the killer used a card skimmer to steal employees’ key card information, allowing him to sneak into the park and try different codes until he found one that let him into the control room. Once there, he added a single-board computer to the ride’s system, sliding the panel in alongside the ones that belonged so that it blended in. Using a Bluetooth radio, he was able to remotely access the computer from up to 60-feet away, proving he was at the scene but not in the control room itself at the time of the crash.

A drop of blood on the circuit board leads them to Ronnie Sloan, a confidential informant working with the FBI. Agent Colin Vickner doesn’t want to give the man up, but he relents when Simon appeals to his sympathy—his own daughter just got married, and he can imagine how heartbreaking it would be to have lost her before she could take that step in her life. Elijah takes a small team to confront Sloan, but he insists he had nothing to do with the crash. He just makes the circuit boards for people, and they pay him in cash. He doesn’t ask questions.

At a dead end, Ryan encourages Nelson to use his knowledge of the deep web to infiltrate a gore porn forum in an attempt to locate their killer. These are people who get off on watching innocent people die, and they know he will have bragged about it in the darker part of the internet. Nelson registers with a forum and convinces the administrator that he knows someone else so he can get his account approved. He finds photos from the crash, including a video filmed from the platform—that’s where the killer was standing. However, he only killed three people, and the team realizes he was trying to impress the administrator in order to get access to a more exclusive section of the forum. Three deaths weren’t enough, so now he’s planning something bigger.

Nelson is able to convince the killer that he’s the forum administrator, chatting with him long enough to find out he’s going to attack a subway in Boston, Massachusetts—until the real administrator catches them and kicks them off the site. They hope he’s still going through with it, otherwise they have no idea where he’ll strike. They rush to Boston and shut down the subway, but there’s one train that’s still moving, and it isn’t stopping at any of the platforms. Krumitz is able to regain control of the train and stop it at one of the platforms, but it’s only a temporary fix. Elijah and Nelson get some of the passengers off before the train drives away from the platform, and Elijah jumps onto the back of the train to try to stop it from inside. Nelson tells him to look for the train’s programmable logic controller, where the killer will have implanted his circuit board. It’s an older train, which means the PLC is on the bottom of the final car in the line. Elijah hangs out the back of the train to retrieve it, smashing it with the butt of his gun so the train can come to a stop.

Ryan and Krumitz search for the killer, who was waiting on the final platform to watch the carnage when the train smashed into the wall at the end of the line. Since they know he uses Bluetooth to connect with his device, they have their own device to sniff out the Bluetooth signals until they can find the right one. They track his phone to the trashcan where it was discarded, and they have no idea which member of the crowd is the one they’re looking for. Ryan uses her skills as a behavioral psychologist, noticing one man who is calm—he even smiles slightly as he makes his way with the rest of the crowd toward the exit. Ryan takes him down, and he’ll be going away for a long time.


Analysis:

“CMND:\Crash” marks week two of CSI: Cyber’s freshman season. The case is more simple this week, allowing the team to focus instead of jumping all over the place. There are still a few twists and turns, but the overall feeling is more cohesive and smooth. The plotting and the dialogue are much better than they were in the premiere, and the acting reflects that improvement. I’m very happy that things seem to be coalescing early on in the show’s run.

Once again we have technology combined with more traditional crime-solving. The killer uses a card skimmer to steal keycards, then hacks the roller coaster; Ryan hacks Nelson’s car alarm to make a point (and just because she can, I suppose); Nelson gets access to a gore porn forum on the deep web (although I doubt it’s that easy to fool someone who exists on the fringes and is likely always on the lookout for people lying to them); Krumitz replicates the killer’s methods by placing single-board computers around the office, then taking control of the PLCs using his cell phone; Elijah programs a Bluetooth sniffer to help them identify the killer’s phone by its unique signature; and Krumitz connects to the subway’s control system to stop the train, tricking the system into thinking the train has already reached the end of the line. In addition to all of that technology, it’s Ryan’s expertise in behavioral psychology that helps her know the victim’s boyfriend is innocent—and that helps her identify their killer in the middle of the chaos at the end of the hour. Good old DNA from a drop of blood on the circuit board at the amusement park leads them to a suspect, and it’s Simon’s turn to use his skills, along with his knowledge of a colleague, to convince Agent Vickner to give up a confidential informant who might be involved. Elijah gets his chance to play the action hero once again, jumping onto a moving subway train and dangling out the back door while it speeds down the track. He even does his best MacGuyver impression, rigging up a coat hanger and a bracelet to retrieve the single-board computer attached to the train’s PLC.

The best part of having a less complicated case is that we get more focus on the characters. Elijah, it is revealed, is recently divorced. He shares custody of his daughter Michelle, alternating with his ex-wife every week. It’s not easy for him to spend time away from his daughter, but it’s obvious that he wants to make it work. Ryan asks about his family at the beginning of the hour, proving that she knows the longterm members of her team pretty well. I wish Elijah had been (and remained) happily married instead of being divorced, since healthy, longterm relationships are rare in this franchise, but I’m curious to see more moments of him with his daughter. His ex-wife isn’t shown, but I’m sure we’ll meet her eventually.

Even more of the episode focuses on Nelson continuing to integrate himself into the Cyber Crime unit. Krumitz remains skeptical, and he doesn’t seem to like Nelson invading his space. At the beginning of the hour, he’s staring mournfully through the window while they install a desk for Nelson, and he’s unhappy when Ryan insists that their newest reformed criminal is here to stay. When Nelson is visibly affected by the crime scene, Krumitz is impatient since they have a job to do. He makes it clear he doesn’t want to be friends, which seems to make Nelson decide that’s exactly what should happen. Their banter is hilarious, and like Ryan, I see this developing into a “bromance” very quickly. These guys work together, they’re going to have to rely on each other when lives are on the line. As much as Krumitz would hate to admit it, he probably has more in common with Nelson than he’d like to admit—well, at least enough for them to find common ground and get along.

We learn more about Raven this week, which is great. Right now, she seems to stay in DC like Simon, but she still has her role to play in the investigations—hopefully they’ll continue to utilize Raven instead of hopping back and forth from CTOC to their crime scene. Raven, it is revealed, is also a former black hat hacker who joined the good guys. She loves her job and insists it’s the best thing that ever happened to her. We know why Nelson got caught (wiring half a billion dollars into his bank account was a bit much), but there’s no information yet about exactly what Raven did to get herself in trouble.

I anticipate that the dynamic between Nelson, Raven and Krumitz is going to become my favorite part of the show. It’s already in the lead, helped in no small part by the scene at the end of the hour. Nelson is hovering over Krumitz’s shoulder while he fills out the after-action report; he wants to help, but Krumitz insists on doing it himself. Nelson assumes he just wants to erase the newbie’s role in the takedown, and the pair of them bicker a bit before Raven arrives to invite them out for pizza. Before they can leave, Krumitz comments on Nelson’s phone buzzing constantly. He keeps receiving texts from his girlfriend, a black hat hacker Ryan has forbidden him to see. The problem is that he can’t think of a way to end things without causing more trouble. He can’t tell her that he’s working for the FBI, and if he says he met someone else, there’s a risk that she’ll hack into his computer, steal his identity and empty his bank account. Krumitz jokes that it would give them a reason to arrest her, but Nelson isn’t amused. He eventually gives up and tosses his phone on the table before walking out with Raven. When it rings again, Krumitz comes around the table to answer it—and proceeds to flirt with her. It’s a funny scene, but it also seems like Krumitz is playing with fire. Let’s just hope neither one of the men talking to Monique gets burned.

Overall, “CMND:\Crash” is a solid episode, with all of the actors turning in great performances. There was plenty of technology, not to mention an action-packed ending. Nelson is settling in well, developing relationships with the rest of the Cyber Crime Division, and the team has a fantastic dynamic as a whole. The viewers have a lot to learn about these characters. There are plenty more cyber stories to tell, and I’m looking forward to what the writers have in store next week.


See also: “CMND:\Crash” official details

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