I pride myself on being able to figure out twists on network procedurals, but I hope this is the first and last time I have to type these objectively humiliating lines: CSI:Cyber really pulled the rug out from under me in tonight’s episode! I was genuinely surprised by what I perceived to be an unexpected twist!

Before we get into how CSI:Cyber M.Night Shyamalad’ed me, let me set the scene: Wi-Fi is down on airplanes and everyone at the FBI’s Cybercrimes Unit is FREAKING.THE.FUCK.OUT. Way more than they do when they find a body that’s been cyber-murdered. I would describe the general scene as a “tizzy.”


“Should we call the president?” Nelson howls. They do not call the president, which is really too bad because I would be delighted to see who CBS would cast as Obama. (Tim Meadows? What’s he up to these days?)

I was confused at this point because basically every other time I take United the Wi-Fi is inexplicably down. A Wi-Fi outage seems a little below the Cybercrime Division’s pay scale. Yet Special Agent Avery Ryan (played, as always, by Oscar Winner™ Patricia Arquette) is nervous that this is the beginning of a horrible national security crisis.

The team suspect that a nefarious troupe of airplane passengers have coordinated to shut off the Wi-Fi, and somehow quickly trace the phones responsible for shutting down the Wi-Fi to a random assortment of coach travelers, including a goth, a business lady, and a surly teen named Willa. (I’ll give them this, “Willa” is an A++++ name for a surly teen.)


so young, so surly

“I was just listening to music and playing Dots,” Willa says when they ask her what she did with her phone. Um, is this episode set in June 2013? (That’s a Dots burn.) (Dots is old.) (Not, like, old in human years, obviously, it’s two, but it might as well be a GRANDPA in app years and there’s no way a cool hip teen like Willa would play it, ok, Dots rant over.)


Her dad is P.O.’d that his daughter is cuffed to a seat, but Willa just wants her dang phone back. By making a clone of Willa’s phone in a truly suspect amount of time, Krummy discovers that her phone sent a denial-of-service attack to the plane’s Wi-Fi.

The passengers stranded in the airport due to cyber crime get identity-thefted all at once and begin making frantic phone calls to their banks to dispute purchases, conveniently exactly in our team’s earshot.

“Averyyyyyyyyyy, what’s happening!?” Sifter shrieks from Skype, still unbelievably incompetent at his job.


Avery explains that it appears that hackers borked the airplane Wi-Fi so that they could steal from the passengers on board, since they wouldn’t have a way to know until they landed. They initially infected the phones by turning a charging station into a kind of malware distribution center. CSI:Cyber insists this crime is called “juice jacking.”

It’s like #HasJustineLandedYet but with stolen credit cards instead of vaguely racist tweets.

Sifter finds this plan ~ingenious~. “A plane is the one place where people are held captive!” he yells, as though he has never heard of jails or prisons or when the C train breaks down.


So the thieves rigged this whole elaborate FAA security nightmare up so they’d have a few hours’ head start on identity thefting people...which seems like a lot of effort. We don’t wonder for too long who’s behind the overly elaborate credit card skimming, however, because Krummy immediately figures it out by glancing at code. “It’s Lomas,” he whispers. “Every bone in my body says I’m right.”

hacker hunting

Lomas is an Estonian hacker who Nelson has an admiration boner for and who Krummy has been obsessively chasing for nine years even though we’ve only heard of him now and that seems like a fairly important character note to suddenly introduce in the ninth episode, but whatever.


“That’s his signature: A custom code that gains complete control over the OS and suffocates its security features like a boa constrictor,” Nelson says as they peek at Lomas’ powerful malware.

The next scene is the greatest thus far in CSI:Cyber history because it involves somebody finally calling Sifter out for being a pile of crumpled, dead wet leaves in a soggy plastic bag masquerading as a sentient human with a job. His boss comes in and yells at him for sucking. Sifter’s excuse for telling his boss absolutely nothing about his decision to ground hundreds of airplanes: “Cybercrime moves fast,” he says. “Are you...scolding me?”



Being that this is CSI:Cyber, things escalate quickly from here: While they’re at the airport yelling at everyone that the terminal is a crime scene and that everyone who charged their phone at the charging station needs to give up their phones as evidence, Avery and Mundo discover that the terminal is actually a crime scene because there’s a dead woman at a gate. It appears she has been ambiguously head-injured to death and made to look like she’s taking a snooze.

Then a bunch of passengers start getting ransomware notes, warning them to pay up before the hacker exposes embarrassing personal information. Never mind that it would probably take a long time to figure out the best way to extort thousands of people! (I guess Sifter was right about the whole cybercrime-moves-fast thing?)


Sifter is in the doggie house AGAIN because it turns out a senator was one of the ransomware targets, and she’s tweaking about government documents getting published if she doesn’t pay. “You know better than to keep sensitive government documents on a personal phone,” Sifter says, like he’s never heard of Hillary Rodham Clinton. But Sifter is somehow right again because it turns out the Senator is worried about getting blackmailed for something else.

The gang traces the “juice jacking” (ugh) box installed at the charging station to a gang of three improbably attractive young hackers, one of whom has already committed a crime upon my heart by having a sexy man bun. They arrest them, but it turns out they were just taking orders from Lomas.

There’s a really weird non-explanation about how they accidentally murdered the lady but I can’t talk about them anymore because I need to tell you about the twist in this episode immediately or my brain might explode.


The twist is .........................................................................................that LOMAS is actually the SURLY TEEN, Willa (who apparently started gaining a name for herself as a black hat hacker at age seven).

I know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Willa is a baby sociopath just doing it for the lulz, so she ends up revealing the senator’s dirt (she is a Secret Lesbian) before Krummy figures out who it is.


Willa literally could not care less. Willa just wants to watch the world burn. Willa may or may not be a fictional manifestation of my relationship to this television program.

They end up not being able to charge Willa because of her age, and Avery yells at Krummy for resorting to black hat methods to catch her. It’s kind of a dark ending, with Krummy glumly typing and reflecting on getting pwned HARD by a TEEN.

In that way it is appropriate, because I am currently sitting her glumly typing and reflecting about how I got pwned HARD by a NARRATIVE TELEVISION PROGRAM.



  • Shad Moss vest watch:


What a snazzy blue number!

  • Horrible Graphic Explainer of the Week:


Contact the author at kate.knibbs@gizmodo.com.

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