My First (And Last) CSI Experience: “CSI: Cyber” Pilot Review


In nearly 27 years of existence, I’ve never watched an episode of any Crime Scene Investigation in its entirety. I’m not sure how that’s even possible, and it might not even be true (I may have tried CSI: NY‘s pilot because Gary Sinise), but I consider it one of my crowning pop culture achievements.

I threw it all away last night for the premiere of CBS’ CSI: Cyber, the 137th spin-off of Jerry Bruckheimer’s inane ratings blockbuster that refuses to die, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

I did it, because the show stars the Dawson, James Van Der Beek.

Afterwards, all I can say is…poor James Van Der Beek, because I can’t imagine there being a worse CSI than this one.

With “Kidnapping 2.0,” an awful title that indicates the “technology” aspect of the show with the 2.0 (decimal points!), and that this is an all-new, all-different way of kidnapping, a revolutionary new way of solving crime.

It’s not. A baby (his name is Caleb) is taken from a Baltimore home, in full view of the Natal-Cam, with bewildering foreign voices barking from the device. The woman goes ballistic, with the obligatory “Where’s my baby?” and we’re off into the world of insane, glitchy camera work, background EDM music, unnecessary close ups meant to inspire drama and exude cool, all while Patricia Arquette sips from a soda (she’s a night owl!) and opens an e-mail. It’s fucking thrilling, a bizarre concoction for a show tailored to those who can’t replace the batteries in their remote. This mix is surely crafted in Jerry Bruckheimer’s evil lair, the perfect weapon against 76 year old couples nodding off into their metamucil.


The e-mail brings Arquette (AKA Avery Ryan) a case, as she rustles Peter MacNicol out of bed to tell him that THIS IS HER CASE, because it’s technology related. That’s when we learn: any case involving technology goes to the Washington D.C.’s Cyber division. This show, alas, is not about the early days of AIM chatrooms, when middle school boys cyber sexed with random strangers that we’re obviously the hot chicks they claimed to be. She said she was a Wicca.

When an actor goes on CSI, they’re either catching their first break to play a “quirky” side character, a familiar name actor with nothing better to do, or someone looking for something safe, a hit, something to rebuild their cache. But most of all, it’s all about the paycheck. It has to be. Nobody can read the script and think this is going to be a satisfying experience any other way. CSI is sell out central. Let me be clear: I don’t blame anyone for joining on; I’d take a gig on CSI: Fecal Matter in an instant.

So let’s meet the team:

Patricia Arquette is Avery Ryan, who was introduced in the flagship CSI and is the workaholic, haunted FBI leader we’ve seen a billion times before. In less than two weeks, Arquette went from winning an Oscar to saying “desperate people do desperate things” with a straight face.

James Van Der Beek is Elijah Mundo, a name you can tell everyone’s proud of, because he says it every chance he gets. He’s the Soldier Boy (a characterization that gave me happy daydreams of a Van Der Beek starring music video to this), who even on his day off is shooting bad guys…in video games. This is an important trait that comes into play later. He’s the only one who we can reasonably expect to have ever held a gun in their lives, so he’ll do the heavy lifting in every action sequence, the saving grace for those who believe James Van Der Beek is a superhero (or a Power/Ranger). Maybe Van Der Beek is even ashamed of this job, because he’s not even listed on the IMDb page for the pilot episode. While this show will probably last 14 seasons (it got off to a solid ratings start), it’s a depressing development in the Beek’s career. After HIMYM and the incredibly underrated, gone too soon bonkers wonderful Don’t Trust The B—- in Apartment 23, he bounced to Friends With Better Lives, a show I watched even less of than this one. It just feels like he’s given up on being the wacky Dawson with personality, the one who will take risks, this Dawson:


That’s one of many reasons why this show needs to fail. But hey..


Peter MacNicol should be doing one-man puppet shows in Jackson Heights (or Cleveland), or starring in a long-awaited Ally McBeal spinoff. Instead, he’s the exasperated boss for an embarrassingly fake crime division. The best part? His name is SIMON SIFTER. Let’s say it again: SIMON SIFTER.

Neil from Community (Charley Koontz) is Daniel Krumitz, the overweight every-man best whitehat hacker in the world.

There’s of course the punky hot chick that has become a staple ever since NCIS’ Pauley Perrette. Her name is also alliterative: Raven Ramirez. She’s the representative of every ethnicity, and played by Hayley Kiyoko, which is way too close a name to Kaley Cuoco.

Michael Irby reprises his role from Almost Human as most useless member of a crime procedural ensemble.

Finally, there’s Shad Moss, shedding his Bow Wow moniker to become a “legitimate” actor. He plays Brody Nelson, a talented hacker who got taken down by this Cyber team previously, and gets a chance to join the hacker support group rather than spend 5 years in federal prison. But remember: he’s on thin fucking ice. Also, just because he’s a young criminal hacker doesn’t mean he can’t dress fine, and rock a sweet ass suit he shouldn’t reasonably be able to afford in every scene.

The team arrives in Baltimore and initiates “cyber protocol,” which I think just means what you normally do at a crime scene. This is news to Brody Nelson, who’s amazingly referred to consistently as Babyface, because Krumitz needs to remind him to put on gloves. Bow Wow and Neil take way too long to figure out that the Natal-Cam RECORDS video (it’s a camera), meaning they could have footage of the crime. But ALAS, the kidnappers took the SD card with them. “These are smart kidnappers,” Bow Wow observes.


The grieving parents are played by Peyton Manning with glasses and CBS’ version of Madeleine Stowe. We quickly learn that Not-Madeleine Stowe is lying, thanks to “flashes” to her innumerable painfully obvious tells: she’s biting her lip, crossing her shoulders, she’s “sneak talking” on the phone. This, of course, means she’s having an affair, and that the fourth Manning brother is NOT the father.

While we’re observing Arquette’s keen observational skills, a prerequisite for every mind-numbing procedural, James Van Der Beek is casing the building, and getting the best lines: “The security wires are cut.” Then he hears VIDEO GAME NOISES, and investigates! A kid next door is playing Assassinites. Because they’re both gamers, bro, Dawson gets the kid to tell him information about the kidnapping, that he heard tires screeching, there were two people, whatever, which we see in SUPER BADASS FLASHBACKS of a boy in bed turning to his open window. Dawson tells him how to beat level 12 like a boss in return. Because of Dawson’s knowledge of behavior/stereotypes, he quickly assumes that means it’s a 1 man-1 woman team, and the woman is who lifted the baby, the guy the getaway driver, because gender roles.

Back at base, they’re figuring out what these voices mean: they hear Chinese, German, Arabic. The kidnappers have made a mistake, “and mistakes will let us catch them.” A fair presumption to make. Also: Patricia Arquette won an Oscar.

We also get to see some hilarious malware graphics, because viruses come alive on a computer screen and destroy data for our amusement. CSI: Cyber is ripping off Person of Interest with every one of these sequences, but hey it’s a part of the CBS family.

They track the malware to a Baltimore harbor, and the REAL father of the baby, a guy named Bill Hookstraten (great name). And there’s a baby there! Apparently Crying Mother couldn’t leave her husband for him, so she never let him see the baby. So…this father paid $75,000 in CASH (he seems to be a ship mechanic, a job title that lends itself to extra cash) for the baby. BUT: this baby isn’t Caleb. HE DOESN’T HAVE A FRECKLE! Desperate Dad has been played, and is now arrested, because he BOUGHT a baby from two white trash strangers.

But wait, there are TWO babies now? This means it’s a baby kidnapping conspiracy guys.

Patricia Arquette changes the new baby’s diapers, AND finds a fingerprint of one of the kidnappers on the diaper, all while speaking in baby talk to Un-Caleb. It’s the clip they will show for her Golden Globe nomination. They get a match on Vicky Shala (Rae Gray), a low level criminal “lush.”

To track down these kidnappers, Raven and Bow Wow peruse a Facebook equivalent, and are remarkably impressed with themselves that they can track down Vicky’s partner in crime/boyfriend Ricky on the social media site, and also a picture of his car/the getaway vehicle. They even high-five afterwards, as if they did something that isn’t a quarter as impressive as your average Facebook stalk. Everyone can do Raven’s job, except for the audience of CSI: Cyber. The only way CSI: Cyber might seem new or “hi-tech” is if anyone watching the show has never used a computer.

So they’ve ID’d the kidnappers, know the vehicle they’re searching for, and have narrowed down their possible location to a circle on a computer screen. But how can they narrow it down even further? Never fear, Arquette is here: “Evolutionary survival skills will instinctually lead them to higher ground.”


They track them to a bar in the mountains, and they’re both drunk morons with cash in their trunk (but no baby!), and quickly get shot down by a biker. He doesn’t get far, because Elijah Mundo is there and he plays video games, so he can run after dirt bikes and shoot them down. He’s an Assassinite, yo. When he calls it in, he remarks that he’s okay, but the other guy “will need a body bag.” Dawson is a stone cold killer.


But what about these voices on the Nato-Cam, you ask? That seems important. You’d be right! It turns out, in one of two things that I found to be a clever concept in this pilot, that these foreign voices are BIDDING! It’s an online baby auction, y’all!

Peter MacNicol comments on the oh-so-IRONIC nature of this case: “These parents bought the baby cam to protect their child, and it’s what gets them captured.” Janosz, what has happened?

We all know adoption processes are unbearable these days; it’s like the DMV of…getting babies. It’s so bad that people will pay 6 figures for kids on the black market (“Desperate people do desperate things,” remember?). I think all babies should be bought in an auction, because nothing proves their love and commitment to parenting than the amount of money they’re willing to spend.

But wait! 2 more babies have been taken. The plot thickens/exists. Neil from Community gets shipped to Nato-Cam’s HQ in Chicago, where their tech guy basically says: “Yes, I know they’re easy to hack, I went upstairs to the bosses and they didn’t care.” You’d think this would indicate that Nato-Cam is in on it, but nope, they allowed 45,000 cameras to be corrupted because it would affect their bottom line, or one would assume, since it’s never followed up on. CSI: Cyber is filled with social commentary if you can arbitrarily create it yourself.


Michael Irby’s Dr. Ortega arrives in DC, looking like an extra from NCIS, and has “virtually teleported” the bodies of Vicky, Ricky and the dead biker assassin. This means we get Iron Man-like visuals of the skeletons, and Irby zooms in on Vicky’s: there are incisions on her silicone breasts! This means she was a drug mule who transported drugs in her fake boobs, the other (and last) incredible thing in this episode, and surely the sequel to Lucy.

The real kidnapper is panicking, so he sends a threat through the Gamer Kid’s video game: a video of crying Caleb, promising he’ll kill the baby if they don’t give up or whatever. It’s an “intimidation tactic,” Arquette tells us. Thankfully, all game consoles have pedophile protection (I feel like everything should come with pedophile protection), Neil explains, which means we can TRACK DOWN THE KIDNAPPER!

It all leads, as all things inevitably do, to a warehouse in Paterson, NJ. This is when Dawson gets another shining moment. Arquette gives him a bright green ball, that’s really a bouncing camera. “You better not fuck it up,” she basically says, and Dawson, like the failed MLB prospect he surely wasn’t, hurtles the ball through an open window, a perfect throw, giving the FBI a glimpse at the setup just long enough, to BURST IN, guns a blazing.

Dawson takes them all down, basically, because again, he’s the only one who can. Thanks again to Arquette’s Mentalist powers, she quickly determines the ring leader based on the lineup of tattooed thugs’ eye contact.

They’ve found their creepy baby selling stronghold, but they can’t hack into it for a billion years, because it has a 20 digit alphanumeric password. This seems wrong, but luckily, as Arquette makes an arguably racist assumption: these guys can’t remember 20 digits! And of course, the Big Bad’s various tattoos commemorating family and friend’s deaths have numbers, 20 IN FACT.

It’s all up to Bow Wow now, and time is off the essence. CALEB IS STILL OUT THERE. A BABY NEEDS SAVING. What does Bow Wow do? What he was put on God’s green earth to do: he HACK-RAPS!


Seriously! YES BABY FACE YOU BEAUTIFUL BRILLIANT BASTARD! “What are you doing,” Asian-Cuoco asks. “I think better when I talk in rhyme.” This is the moment when CSI: Cyber soars beyond any other show we’ve yet had the pleasure to witness. This is the show they should’ve made: THE RAPPING HACKER!


But we don’t get to languish in the glory of the Like Mike actor finding his true calling for long. We have a car chase with a baby in the back seat to witness, and it’s terrifying. The FBI trap and corner the car, but the wild-eyed kidnapper driver plunges the car into an unfortunate lake.

But the Beek is in the same zip code. He jumps in after the car, now completely submerged, and shatters the car window (on his second try). He brings the American Sniper baby up for air, leaving the two kidnappers to Cthulhu. Because he knows only a woman can do it (we established this earlier), he hands Caleb off to Arquette. “HE’S NOT BREATHING!” And that’s when we see Arquette give CPR to a baby, and it’s miraculous, and the day is saved.

Arquette returns the baby to the bespectacled Manning who is entirely too okay with the fact that the real father of his baby is a guy who would pay $75K to have him stolen. The Mom mentions that she’s never going to let him go, and Arquette gives her a stern look and the ultimate guilt trip: “I think other people would like to hold that baby.” Is she referencing Manning? Or Caleb’s real Desperate Dad who’s in jail? Who cares: the gauntlet has been thrown. FEEL GUILTY Madeleine Nowe.

Off screen, of course, the rest of the babies have been recovered, the other tweaker kidnappers taken down. We don’t see it, but I assume Dawson had to jump into several more lakes to save them. The group has the prototypical bubbly “time to get a drink” moment after a tough day’s work. But remember, Peter MacNicol Simon Sifter tells them/the world: IT ALL STARTS AGAIN TOMORROW. AHHHHHHHH.


Before it ends, Bow Wow gets a hugely satisfying moment with Arquette, wondering “Why me?” BECAUSE YOU’RE BOW WOW, AND GET BACK TO RHYMING. This is when we get the all-important tortured past angle for Avery Ryan/Arquette: the why-she-does it. And it goes back to the beginning of the internet, when a hacker had medical files stolen, a client was murdered and she lost her job. She believes that if she can turn a hacker, even if it’s just one by one, something like that can never happen again. This has the unfortunate stench of turning her into a Great White Savior, the potential for this show to turn into Dangerous Minds for hackers, which still sounds like a better show than what we’ve got, considering all the potential guest stars we could get opposite Bow Wow.


Bow Wow asks if Arquette’s getting a drink with the rest of them. Of course not. Instead, every night she thinks about how she’s going to catch him (of course it’s a him), Hacker Zero. She does this intense thinking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, her intensity so intense that nobody else is near one of the most tourist-heavy spots in the country, because there’s nothing subtle about this ridiculous, stupid show.

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