Tuesday night’s special episode of CSI: Cyber is called “URL, Interrupted.” You know, like Girl, Interrupted. Nobody pronounces “URL” like that (“Earl, interrupted”), but let’s not split hairs.
A high-school student, Zoey Tan, goes missing. She sent an ominous good-bye message to her father shortly before her disappearance. She also sent a selfie for some reason.
Kids these days: Always selfie-ing, even when suicidal.
Krumitz traces the GPS data embedded in the photo to a nearby park, where they find her phone. Somehow, though, Jordan Tan, the missing girl’s father, gets a call from her phone. It turns out Zoey’s phone was spoofed.
Back in Zoey’s room, Mundo and Ramirez see her laptop turn on, seemingly by itself. It turns out someone is controlling the devices remotely. “We’re gonna find you,” Mundo promises, before doing this:
And … then … he just keeps his thumb … on the camera … forever?
Things get even more complicated when Nelson discovers that the photo and text message Zoey supposedly sent couldn’t have come from her phone, since her phone’s battery was dead. It turns out that, like every week, a hacker is doing stuff.
Ramirez makes an overly complicated cluster map of the social media response to Zoey’s disappearance, which leads to the website KillYourselfZoeyTan.com. It is very emo. Like, if you bought a website at Hot Topic, it would be this website.
(For readers paying close attention: Yes, this is the second time I’ve compared CSI’s web aesthetic to Hot Topic. If the shoe fits, and so on.)
“How are kids this cruel [online]?” asks literal top-tier meme James Van Der Beek.
“Because they’re hiding behind a keyboard,” Ramirez answers. And then we get a short sequence of gossipy teens.
Let me be clear: Cyberbullying is wrong. It is very bad. Don’t do it! At the same time, those are some very docile internet comments! The CSI team should check out YouTube sometime. They’d lose their minds.
Anyhow, far worse than mean comments, the cyberbully also secretly recorded Zoey from her webcam. Mundo gets it: “Now, thanks to the internet, a bully can attack anonymously 24/7.”
When the team traces Zoey’s Facebook — sorry, “Friend Agenda” — messages to a guy named Owen Campbell, they discover that on top of being cyberbullied, their victim was also being catfished. Owen — a teenager in the year 2015 — is not familiar with catfishing, so Mundo explains it for his benefit (but really, the audience’s):
“Anybody can go on your page, steal your photos, and create a fake account.”
This seems as good a time as any to remind readers that this show begins every episode by ominously whispering, “It can happen to you …”
And now we get to the mid-episode twist: Zoey, who is still alive, posts a video online threatening whoever started the website about her. In Ryan’s words, “She’s a vigilante hunting her cyberbully.”
Ramirez continues monitoring social media on Togglefly (“which is like Twitter,” a line signifying that both Twitter and its knockoff clone are canon on CSI) to see if anyone in particular is driving the conversation around Zoey’s disappearance.
Here are some of the screen names that teens in the CSIverse use: @AARONEUS (cute!), @PAYDAPRICE (a bit on-the-nose!), @TIMBERT_ (Dilbert fan), and @THESHIPYARD1314 (a cool hangout spot?). I would very much like to meet that shipyard teen.
These teens love to tweet. Here is how they tweet in high school.
Every day in the hallway, they cluster around each other in a huddle and get to tweetin’. This is what CSI actually believes: packs of teenagers, roaming the halls in tight formation, heads down, tweeting and cyberbullying without a care in the world.
Sure, high school might be way different now, but it’s still a nightmare, just like you remember.
Sifter recognizes one of the handles. It turns out that @AARONEUS is … his own twerp son. Look at this twerp. Why is Aaron such a cyberbully? According to him, “Everyone else was doing it.” That’s a twerp response if I ever heard one.
Aaron said everyone is scared that Zoey is going to “go all Columbine,” but Sifter is having none of it. He is so mad at his twerp son!
Krumitz, meanwhile, heads to Zoey’s high-school library and tracks down the computer being used to hack her devices. He is very excited to find this computer.
Krumitz then rigs a dummy computer to expose the hacker causing all of these shenanigans. Nelson loves this scheme: “That cyberbully uses that computer to update the cyberbullying site? Oh, we’ll know.” They high five very emphatically.
Zoey escalates the situation by threatening Sifter’s son, Aaron the twerp. “She’s following through on her threats,” Ryan surmises, “doing psychological damage to Aaron. She just got revenge with a cyberbomb.”
Meanwhile, Mundo investigates an iPad veeeerrrry closely.
Great investigating, Mundo!
Agent Ryan tracks her to the Chesapeake Bay while the rest of the team heads back to her high school to track down the hacker who plotted this entire ruse. It turns out that the school’s guidance counselor, a jilted ex-lover of Zoey’s father, organized the whole scheme. She is led out of the school in handcuffs, which gives us some really good Teen Tweets.
Also, Zoey is found mostly safe — she shot herself in the leg while trying to get a rifle out of her car trunk. It’s a scene way more goofy than it is affecting. Zoey decides to take a break from the internet for a while, given that it almost sent her on an interstate rampage. Smart move, Zoey. Best of luck to you.
Okay! So ends the most after-school-special episode of CSI: Cyber yet. Thankfully, the powers that be at CBS have decided to air another new episode tonight. So I guess we get to do this again tomorrow. Until then, feel free to cyberbully me in the comments.