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CSI: Miami--'Urban Hellraisers'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at November 22, 2005 - 8:42 PM GMT

See Also: 'Urban Hellraisers' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

After an ATM machine eats his card, Delko heads into Dade Mutual Bank to get it replaced. But while he's arguing with the bank manager, Frank Welch, about overdrawing his account, three bank robbers burst in. They take cash from one of the tellers and take the manager hostage, but when they go to rape a young woman at the bank, Delko draws his gun and shoots the would-be rapist. The other two robbers flee, taking the manager with them and fatally shooting another teller. When Alexx arrives at the scene, she's surprised to discover the dead robber is just a teen. The CSIs find nothing makes sense on the case: the dead robber has a clicker counter, one of the robbers was wearing wheelies on his feet and they only robbed one teller, taking $18,000 dollars. Though they shot the cameras in the bank, Delko recalls that there are several cameras around the ATM. When Delko and Ryan go over the footage with Dan Cooper, they spot the robbers car stop when the people inside spot Delko's Hummer. Dan Cooper is able to focus on a Miami University decal in the window of the car. Ryan places a call and learns that a dye pack exploded on a female student.

Calleigh questions Kim Mills, the girl who the dye pack from the stolen money exploded on. Kim claims she came upon a duffle bag containing the money in the laundry room and that it exploded on her when she opened it. Calleigh doubts her story, but Kim claims the only reason she was reluctant to come forward was because she was using a new, empty dorm's laundry room. Calleigh remains skeptical. In the lab, Ryan finds a large water stain on the bottom of the moneybag. Horatio tells Ryan that Erica Sikes has been looking for him. Delko analyzes the water stain and discovers coolant in it, leadings the CSIs to the Miami University ice rink. They go to the basement where the ice is made and discover the bank manager tied up. He tells the CSIs that the robbers were interested in the Federal Reserve bank drop. They arrive at the rooftop drop in time to stop the robbery, capturing one of the robbers. The kid remains defiant, saying they're "still in play." The words are familiar to Ryan: it's video game lingo. Ryan recalls a similar game called "Urban Hellraisers" and thinks the kids might actually be recreating the action in the game.

Calleigh greets Treasury Agent Peter Elliott who has arrived to look into the attempted bank robbery. They flirt briefly before Elliott goes off to interview Kim. Horatio and Tripp interrogate Gabe Hammond, the young man who was trying to rob the Federal Reserve officers. He is flip with them and says they decided to rob the bank after seeing Delko's Hummer because robbing a bank with a cop inside offers bonus points in the game. Each player used a clicker to keep track of the points he earned. Horatio is disgusted, but he can't get any information about the third bank robber, the one wearing the demon mask, out of Gabe, who claims not to know the guy's name. Horatio and Tripp track down Chris Allen, who wrote the game and owns the company that makes it, but he refuses to tell them about the games' levels, telling them instead to play it. They arrest him and give Ryan the task of playing the game. When he gets to the second level--the Federal Reserve robbery--Ryan notes that a sniper is supposed to be involved, so Delko and Horatio go back to the scene and discover the demon mask on a roof overlooking the helicopter drop where Gabe tried to rob the Federal Reserve officers.

Delko brings the mask back to the lab where he plans to have it analyzed for DNA. Because the mask was customized to the user's face, Delko plans to try to get a facial reconstruction from it and run it against student photos at Miami University. Calleigh runs into Peter, who asks her out for drinks. Ryan finally makes it to the third level of the game, only to discover the third level involves a raid on a police station to recover evidence the police retrieved. Suddenly, two gunmen burst into the lab and take the mask from Natalia Boa Vista. Just as one of them is about to shoot her for "1000 points," Horatio kills him. The other gunman begins shooting, shattering glass and causing Peter to throw himself over Calleigh to protect her. Horatio takes him down, too, wounding but not killing him. The gunman, whose name is Michael Page, is less cocky than Gabe was. Horatio finds a blueprint of CSI in his glasses--Page was an intern for the firm that designed the new labs. Michael doesn't know "Demon's" real name, but he suggests they try the scorekeeper, Evan Walsh, who games in the basement of the library. But when the CSIs go to find Evan, they discover him dead at his computer--he's literally played himself to death after not budging from the game for sixty hours. His heart gave out.

Delko notices an address on his computer, leading the CSIs to a photography studio where they discover Carl Hyatt, who has been dealing guns to the gamers. He claims he's just the middle man, and Horatio puts the pieces together when he sees a Trans International file on his computer. Calleigh visits Peter in the hospital and is dismayed to run into his fiancée, Monica. Horatio turns his sights back to Chris Allen, the videogame writer, who was using the university students to sell the videogames by supplying them with real weapons. Allen is unrepentant, and Horatio has him booked for trafficking and conspiracy to commit murder. Delko is still tracking Demon, and he gets a facial match on the mask, a former football player at Miami University named John Bery. But Bery denies the charges and claims he got rid of the mask when an injury sidelined him. Valera finally runs the DNA and backs up the story: the DNA is female, leading them back to Kim Mills. Calleigh thinks Elliott wasn't thorough in his questioning of Kim, and she's angry about him not telling her about his fiancée. He tells her Hagen told him to back off last year, but she maintains he should have asked her. Calleigh questions Kim, who defends her actions by saying she was playing the game to prove she could outdo them. Calleigh suggests she might--with her prison sentence.

The "secret scene" on CBS.com reveals that newswoman Erica Sikes calls Ryan to meet her at the beach with some startling information: the crime lab has a mole. She cautions him that it's someone they all "know and trust."

Analysis:

Let's get this out of the way immediately: "Urban Hellraisers" is an absurd episode. The premise is far-fetched, the villains extreme caricatures, the conclusion preposterous. A videogame mogul pays kids to go out and recreate the videogames his company makes, gives the kids real guns and pretty much sends them out to kill people? Advertising has become more...creative these days (take, for instance, the Hummer-sponsored "secret scene"), but live action videogames complete with real guns and murder? I don't buy it for a second, which makes the entire episode problematic.

That said, the theme of teens becoming desensitized by the violence in videogames, while hardly novel, is worth exploring. Though I don't believe that the company that makes the videogames would be behind it, I do believe it's possible for kids to want to recreate "Grand Theft Auto" because reckless driving and stealing cars seems like it would be fun. The idea that players get points for shooting people in videogames is downright disturbing as the real-life parallel in this episode illustrates. When one of the gamers smarmily tells the CSIs that raping the girl in the bank is worth 1000 points, the point is effectively driven home. Lest that seem fictionalized to those unfamiliar with videogames, it's popular in "Grand Theft Auto" to shoot, run over, or beat to death other drivers and prostitutes.

Games like "Grand Theft Auto" are clearly the target of the episode, and there's no denying these games are extremely violent. But the subject probably requires a lighter touch than it gets in this episode. Putting aside the videogame company sponsorship of the carnage, we're still being asked to suspend disbelief as a college teens go on a killing spree, one literally plays himself to death and a girl who is near tears in her second interrogation is responsible for the worst of the carnage. One deeply disturbed teen, maybe two, but a whole group? That met on the internet and weren't flagged by the FBI?

One of the problems with the episode is that it's so slick and stylized that it feels a bit like a videogame itself. I realize this effect is intentional, and there are a few cool shots it offers, like the one when Horatio stands over "Glasses" with his gun pointed down and the camera looks up at him. The only thing missing is "Game Over" flashing across the screen. But while it's occasionally effective, it ultimately takes away from the message of the episode. Maybe it's because Miami itself can feel like a videogame, such as when the characters get involved in shootouts or flee exploding buildings, but in this episode I see many of the things videogames are accused of doing, such as glorifying violence and dehumanizing people. Aside from the main and recurring characters, do any of the villains or victims have any personality at all?

Because of the blandness of the students, we're never given any clues as to why they'd go into a bank or police station and start randomly killing people. Maybe that's part of the point too--that kids today are so desensitized to violence by these videogames that even supposedly normal and well-adjusted ones will have no qualms about going on a shooting spree, but because the gamers are given so little screen time, it's impossible to tell if that's the point that's being made. If it was, I'd argue the effect of videogame violence is far more subtle and insidious: it's the kind of violence that makes people ignore the sound of someone crying for help or turn a blind eye to real life violence happening next door. Only deeply disturbed or sociopathic teens would go on a shooting spree like the one in this episode do.

Delko and Calleigh need to throw a joint pity party. Poor Delko's financial problems are continuing--after the ATM machine eats his card, the bank manager refuses to return it to him, claiming that his account is overdrawn, and not for the first time. Given what we saw in "Nailed", it seems like he's probably paying his ill sister's medical bills, but whatever's going on, Delko is keeping it quiet. It's nice to see that he and Ryan have finally buried the hatchet and put their problems behind them. Ryan (sporting a miraculously healed eye) is still worried about being left out--he expresses his dismay when Delko goes after the sniper and leaves him behind to play the videogame--but he seems more at ease in Delko's presence, and the two even tease each other lightly during the course of the episode.

Calleigh gets a glimmer of hope when Peter Elliott, last seen in "Money Plane" stops in on to check out the stolen money and flirts with Calleigh. He asks her out but neglects to tell her that he's engaged. The look on Calleigh's face when she meets Monica, his fiancée, shows just how much hope she was pinning on Peter's visit. And who can blame her? Calleigh's last boyfriend, John Hagen, had emotional problems and went on to kill himself in the ballistics lab. Calleigh is overdue for a little happiness. It's refreshing to see how straightforward she is with Peter--rather than dodging his questions, she tells him flat out that she's upset and that what he did wasn't right. Good for her--it's nice to see a tough, together woman who says what she means on television.

The much ballyhooed "secret scene" that is only available online reveals that there's a mole in the labs. Maybe CSI: Miami is hoping the 'mole trick'--pulled off with aplomb in 24's first season--will shake up the lab. Will the mole be revealed next week, or will there be clues throughout the season leading up to a shocking revelation? I'm hoping for the latter--it makes things more interesting. Ryan is obviously eliminated as a suspect, which is a good thing--while ambitious, Ryan has already been through the "is he leaking to the press?" ringer.

So who does that leave? Delko, selling secrets to increase his cash flow? While I bet he's not happy with the lack of sympathy he's gotten from his colleagues, I can't see Delko compromising his integrity like that. Calleigh? Not a chance. Natalia is a possibility, but we haven't really seen enough of her to know why she would want to leak to the press, making her a random and unsatisfying choice. Ditto for Dan Cooper. It can't be Stetler--no one trusts him. Tripp has proved a controversial character in the past--almost becoming a suspect in a murder case, and expressing racist sentiments in another episode--but I hope it's not him. Tripp is too sympathetic. That leaves Valera. She didn't process the DNA in a timely fashion this week--she must be a mole! In all seriousness, it's entirely possible she's disgruntled about her firing last season.

And there's a dark horse candidate: what if it's Horatio himself? Bear with me here: Erica told Ryan that she didn't tell Horatio about the mole but that she suspected 'he already knew.' Obviously, if Horatio was leaking information to the press there'd be a good reason behind it. Let's hope we get some interesting clues between now and the revelation of who the leak actually is.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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