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CSI:Cyber and the Sexy, Spooky Killer Hacker Printer Fire

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One good thing about CSI:Cyber is that you never have to wonder what an episode will be about because someone will very plainly state exactly what the episode is about within the first 10 minutes.

In this case, our Obvious Episode Topic Explainer award goes to Special Agent Avery Ryan (played, as always, by Oscar Winner™ Patricia Arquette) who whisper-hisses:

“Someone figured out how to set a fire through the internet.”

Her stank-face while delivering this line is top notch:


It cannot get much stankier. I’m guessing she thought about Ethan Hawke’s next career move while making this. Or the dissolution of her brother David Arquette’s marriage. Who knows wha lies behind those stank eyes. (Also is David Arquette OK? Someone should check on him.)

Yes, we have arrived at the Evil Internet of Things episode, “Fire Code.” It starts with a woman discovering all of her internet-connected devices have become ~possessed~ but we, the viewers, can assume it is actually the work of a black hat hacker rather than a Zuul-type situation, because we are watching CSI: Cyber and not Oscar Winner™ Patricia Arquette’s other recent network television drama, Medium, which deals with the supernatural.


Anyways, instead of fleeing the house like a rational human being, the woman grabs a kitchen knife and slowly walks towards a menacingly glowing door. At this point I was like “GURL get out of there you cannot stab an internet murder ghost!” But alas, she opens the door and discovers a giant fire. It turns out, someone hacked her Wi-Fi password to insert a malicious firmware update on her devices.

The fact that someone figured out how to make printers catch on fire with code is baffling to our team. The BOSS of the cybercrime unit is dumbfounded. “A piece of code did all this?” he asks, like pieces of code aren’t responsible for the majority of the crimes his team investigates. Like, dude. If a piece of code didn’t do it, why are you even investigating?

The only person not mind-boggled is Nelson, the reformed black hat hacker played by Shad Moss aka Bow Wow aka the artist formerly known as Lil Bow Wow aka King of My Heart. Nelson’s mind remains unboggled because it was he who wrote the code originally, back before he incorporated vests into his wardrobe and started working for the man.

The code was a zero-day exploit, leading to this fantastic graphic and terrible explanation:


Nelson then spends the episode hunting down his old hacker friendz, who eat pizza whenever they want, skateboard, and play video games, because they are caricatures. One of them altered the original code to make printers start fires, but they didn’t actually start the fire. Also there was a tragic lack of Billy Joel in this episode.



North Korea South Korea Marilyn Monroe!!!!!

So anyways, it’s a pyromaniac who gets sexually aroused by watching people be scared of fires who used the code to start the spooky sexy apartment printer fire, something Avery figures out in a hilariously short amount of time.


Then there’s another spooky printer fire, this time not so sexy. Someone dies after four computers catch fire at a local college. The team has absolutely no problem figuring out who did it (a bitter ex-employee) because CSI:Cyber laughs in the face of conventional narrative tension. And because they aren’t interested in who is starting each specific fire as much as catching the person spreading the code.

The code-spreader releases a video demanding a ransom from the printing company, and apparently he’s in off-brand Anonymous:


The company pays up, probably because that mask is creepy as shit, and Nelson goes MIA: Avery and Krumitz use an apparently incredibly accessible key-logger to find out that one of his old hacker buddies is the ransom baddie, and Nelson went to meet him.

Nelson ends up tussling with his old friend, who punches him and steals a flash drive from around his neck (just a normal place to wear a flash drive full of secrets, obviously). The hacker thinks it’s Nelson’s collection of bad boy codes from his black hat days, but the flash drive actually contains a tracker, so the FBI can catch him.


This episode is heavy on the Nelson, and Shad Moss turns in a solid performance, but I’m not really getting why the former black hat is SO eager to arrest his old friends. It’s an abrupt and fairly unearned about-face. (I don’t know why I’m expecting realistic character development from freaking CSI:Cyber but life is full of surprises and I am genuinely disappointed.)

Also I did not mention this yet but Mundo is sad this episode because his ex might move and take his daughter, but then he kind of wins her over by taking her to a romantic dinner and ordering a vanilla chai latte, which is definitely a drink adults order at fancy restaurants.


“Fire Code” is not even a good episode of CSI:Cyber, let alone a good episode of, like, television in general, but I watched it with my friend Mary, who is visiting me from Texas, and she cried and expressed genuine sympathy for the marital plight of Special Agent Elijah Mundo and I am wondering if I am just a cynical monster who is missing the rich emotional undercurrent of CSI: Cyber.


  • Shad Moss Vest Watch: Possibly Nelson’s strongest vest game yet. I counted at least three separate vests.
  • Where is Nelson getting the $$ for all these vests though?
  • “It’s a hot new piece of code. Just be careful where you stick it.” The bar is set pretty high for truly terrible dialogue on this show, but that line leapt over it. This is not how humans talk.
  • I like that Nelson remembers and regularly dwells on how he had 60,000 mp3s on his computer.
  • hahaha Cool news story, great fake journalism: