I guess the people over at CBS thought that it would be nice to air two episodes of CSI: Cyber on back to back this week, one Tuesday night and one Wednesday night. The week’s first episode has the team take on a case about the cruel world of cyberbullying that may or may not have taken a turn for the worst in this week’s episode. It’s always interesting to see crime dramas like CSI: Cyber tackle current events in an episode like this and put their own unique spin on it.
The episode began with various news broadcasts, including one about a Flintwood High School student named Zoey Tan, who was reported missing by her father, Jordan Tan (guest star Byron Mann), a former patient of Agent Ryan’s from her psychotherapist days. Jordan came to Agent Ryan for grief counseling when his wife Annette passed away, and she helped him get through that particular rough patch in his life. Now, he came to Agent Ryan for help in finding his little girl, because Zoey’s all he has left. A search party led local police officers and Agents Ryan and Mundo to Zoey’s phone, which was abandoned at Rock Creek Park. Jordan then received a call from what appeared to be Zoey (guest star Irene Choi), but it turned out that someone was “spoofing” Zoey’s phone, meaning a device or program that is manipulated to masquerade as another. When no one replied on the other end when Jordan answered the call, the search for Zoey continued.
Agent Mundo and Raven then went to Zoey’s house to search her room for other devices and saw that someone had been using her laptop webcam to spy on Zoey without her knowledge. Things got even worse when the team discovered a website called “Kill Yourself Zoey Tan,” which is exactly what it sounds like, where people who were hiding behind their keyboards piled on negative and extremely hurtful comments, bullying the poor girl to the point where she had to run away from all the haters, which I think is just plain horrible. In addition to the harassing comments on the website, there was footage of Zoey undressing posted on the site, leading the team to wonder if she either ran away from home because of it, or worse, killed herself from the shame of it all.
Jordan Tan later admitted to Agent Ryan after seeing the cyberbullying website that his relationship with Zoey had been struggling lately, as he had dated Zoey’s guidance counselor, Arianna Peterson (guest star Ashley Jones), which Zoey hadn’t been too thrilled about, so he had broken up with Arianna, thus choosing to be with his only daughter over his own happiness. The team also discovered that Zoey had an online relationship with someone named Owen Campbell (guest star Booboo Stewart), who lived in North Carolina. Agent Ryan and Agent Mundo brought Owen in for questioning and asked him if Zoey had been to his place. Owen said that she had, but Owen already had a girlfriend and hadn’t been messaging her lately. It was later revealed that the spoofer had created a fake account pretending to be Owen and had been sending Zoey messages disguised as him. When Zoey arrived at Owen’s house in North Carolina, she was devastated when she realized that it was all part of the cyberbullying attack, so she turned and walked away.
Meanwhile, Raven, who was a victim of bullying when she was a kid, which led her down a dark path of her own, resulting in her becoming a Black Hat hacker, narrowed down the search for potential culprits who started the site down to twelve names. One of them was Assistant Deputy Director Sifter’s son, Aaron (guest star Nathan Gamble). Sifter then confronted his son at Flintwood High, who confessed to contributing to the cyberbullying site, as well as piling on the negativity on Zoey because everyone was doing it, but he did not start the “Kill Yourself Zoey Tan” website. He claimed that Zoey was crazy and possibly psychotic, as he showed his father a video of Zoey shooting a can with a rifle, and was worried that there might be another Columbine incident waiting to happen. The team then shifted into overdrive to find Zoey when she posted a video threatening to find who the cyberbully was and to make them pay for what they have done. The team then tracked the threat video to a random woman, who realized that Zoey briefly stole her iPad to shoot the threat video before returning it as if she came across it, which proved to be another dead end.
The team then figured out that the cyberbullying website which had started the whole cyberbullying chaos was created in the school library on a specific computer, so Agent Krumitz switched it out with a decoy computer, in the hopes that whoever created the website would be stupid enough to update it. The team also realized that Zoey didn’t know who her cyberbully was either and was trying to draw the person out by threatening them, hoping that they would do something stupid to get themselves caught. She began to target likely suspects, including Aaron Sifter, who she outed publically as the son of an FBI worker, which didn’t make Assistant Deputy Director Sifter feel any better after seeing that his son’s computer was RATed into by Zoey.
Raven then narrowed down the suspects to nine names, figuring out their actual names from the web handles she had before, when it was 12 suspects. The only one seemed to have had access to the computer was Jennifer (guest star Ana Mulvoy-Ten), a fellow student at Flintwood High. Jennifer admitted that she was upset with Zoey for telling another girl via social media that Jennifer took diet pills in order to fit into her dress for the homecoming dance, and so she participated in the cyberbullying, but swore that she didn’t start the “Kill Yourself Zoey Tan” website. Jennifer was then shocked to find that there was a video of her undressing posted on a site called ToggleFly, which was similar to Twitter according to Raven. That’s karma for you.
Finally, the team got a lead that Zoey was headed to her father’s cabin at Chesapeake Bay and Agent Ryan and Jordan headed there, while the rest of them realized that Jennifer was telling the truth and that it was the spoofer that was using the school library computer to post things onto the cyberbullying website. The team then traced the burner phone used to call Jordan earlier in the episode and the computer used to create the cyberbullying website to none other than the school’s guidance counselor, Arianna Peterson, who was revealed as Jordan’s ex-girlfriend. She made the mistake of connecting the phone in question to her own computer at school to send the fake suicide text to Jordan and created the “Kill Yourself Zoey Tan” website and the fake relationship with Owen, which was all it took to convict her of the cybercrime. #WorstGuidanceCounselorEver.
Turns out that Ms. Peterson resented Jordan for dumping her to be with his daughter, and at first she only wanted to catfish Zoey by pretending to be Owen, thinking that if Zoey found a boyfriend, she’d be happier and more likely to tolerate Arianna’s relationship with Jordan. Only that didn’t work, so Arianna upped the ante by starting the “Kill Yourself Zoey Tan” website. In the end, she got what she deserved as everyone at Flintwood High started posting about the former guidance counselor doing the walk of shame after being arrested by Agent Mundo. Love truly makes people do crazy things, both good and bad.
Meanwhile, Agent Ryan finally tracked down Zoey, who had been shot by accident when she gathered up rifles from her father’s cabin into the trunk of a beat-up old car, and just as she was about to drive off to take on her cyberbully, she suddenly had second thoughts about going after her tormentors. She then went to unload the rifles from the trunk, unknowingly jostled them together as she was struggling to open the trunk, setting off one of the rifles and in the process, shooting herself in the thigh. Thankfully, she ended up being okay, albeit a bit worse for wear after all she had been through. The episode ended with Zoey posting what she claims will be her last video on ToggleFly, telling those who care about her that she will be better than fine and warning those who bullied her to watch what they say, or else they will face the consequences of their actions because words are weapons and one should be careful as to how to use them.
Overall, this was another solid episode of CSI: Cyber, and I can’t help but relate to what Zoey has gone through because I was a victim of cyberbullying when I received negative comments on my blog. I have since then deleted the comments and have disabled the comments feature, but when I read those comments, it hurt me deeply that a complete stranger would say such things about me and my writing. I also felt sorry for what happened to Raven when she mentioned that she dropped out of high school when she was 15 since she was being bullied and went off to become a Black Hat hacker, eventually getting caught after causing a massive power outage in New Hampshire. That’s both sad and impressive. At least we got the backstory on Raven. It might have taken seven episodes, but better late than never, yes? Though I would like to know more about where she was the night where she got into the office dressed in a sparkling red gown.
Cyberbullying aside, I enjoyed the scene where Agent Mundo said there weren’t any pictures in Zoey’s room, to which Raven replied that’s what social media is for. When Agent Mundo asked what picture frames were for, Raven said that they were for parents and grandparents, aka old people, thus indirectly calling Agent Mundo old. Agent Mundo then said that he wanted to be mad at Raven for calling him old, but he’s the one who walked right into it. I also liked that the episode went in unexpected directions, with Zoey opting to go on the offensive rather than playing the unsuspecting and/or unfortunate victim. I’m not suggesting that going after her classmates with a rifle was a good idea, but I’m glad that it didn’t come to that. It just goes to show how many ways bullying can affect people, from teens killing themselves to teens killing others to seek revenge.
What did you think of this episode? Will it make you think before you post or tweet? Another episode of CSI: Cyber Wednesday at 10 PM on CBS. Make sure you tune in!
[Photo credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS]