It Was Automation is the fifth episode in Season Three of CSI: Vegas.

Csi vegas lg
It Was Automation
Csi vegas
Season 3
Number 5
Writer Dave Metzger
Director Ruben Garcia
Original Airdate March 24, 2024
Previous Episode: Health and Wellness
Next Episode: Atomic City


When a mechanic is found murdered in a dark factory, the CSI team investigates whether the perpetrator was human or a humanoid robot with an AI operating system.


Victim: Robert Cuevas (deceased)

On the case: Allie Rajan, Beau Finado, Catherine Willows, Joshua Folsom, Maxine Roby, Penny Gill, Det. Serena Chavez

Robert Cuevas makes his way through a dark factory where several humanoid robots with artificial intelligence (AI) operating systems are hard at work. As he goes to check up on the robots' progress, a power surge knocks everything offline, including the computers, lights, and the humanoid robots. Robert makes his way through the factory and is met by a blinding light—and his killer.

The following morning at the scene, Allie explains to Folsom and Det. Chavez that a "dark factory" allows the robots to work overnight while setting up for human workers the next day. In fact, the humanoid robots were building other robots. Contusions on Robert's body suggest blunt force trauma; however, the CSIs are thrown off by the various sizes of blood drops around the body. Some blood drops are even less than one millimeter in size, which means that Robert was hit with something at an incredibly fast rate. Folsom notes that this type of spatter wouldn't line up with the blunt force they've observed so far. Allie and Max soon find blood spatter on a workstation along with blood and hair on a nearby wrench. They follow a blood trail to a room that contains a humanoid robot—with blood dripping from one of its hands.

Det. Chavez questions two engineers, Cliff and Eve, who believe that a robot could never kill a human. They explain that the robots were built to not collide with objects and that they have a built-in vision system to prevent such an occurrence. When pressed, the engineers admit that anyone with the proper knowledge (which is all of the engineers) could tamper with the robot, control it, and use it as a murder weapon.

In autopsy, coroner Jack Nikolayevich confirms that Robert's cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, neck, and chest. He shows Allie and Max an x-ray of Robert's skull, which shows a very distinct wound with a curvature. It just so happens that the robot has a manufacturing defect in its hand that matches the wound, meaning that either the robot is responsible or someone used the hand as a weapon. Allie pulls a piece of reflective glass from one of Robert's wounds, but can't quite identify its source yet.

As he watches the autopsy, Robert's distraught son, Anthony, reveals that his father had an argument with Eve a few months ago. Though his father never opened up, Anthony believes that the argument involved a patent. When Catherine and Det. Chavez go back to the robotics company, they find Eve demonstrating to the company's owner, Truman Thomas, a robot's ability to throw a punch. Truman plays this off as a "proof of concept," adding that such a find would be beneficial for both his company and AI in general. Det. Chavez plays into Truman's ego by convincing him to allow them to prove in the court of law that the sentient AI acted on its own.

The CSIs test every type of glass imaginable, but are so far unable to find a match to the shard pulled from Robert's wound. In the layout room, Folsom re-creates the blood spatter from the scene, isolating the droplets one would expect from blunt force trauma and the smaller droplets that came from something moving at an alarming speed. Allie and Folsom take turns trying to match the spatter patterns by punching a dummy, but soon find that a human couldn't punch hard enough to create the smaller droplets. Their attention turns to the robot, which will need to be turned on with help from one of the engineers.

Det. Chavez brings engineer Cliff Roland to the lab to help test the robot. He explains to Max and Folsom that the robots can only be opened using special tools. Once opened, the robot's chest will reveal sensors that store data in a circuit board. From there, memory modules can be de-soldered to gather further information, including videos; however, Cliff notes that they may find nothing telling since the robot never self-reported a problem. He uses computer commands to instruct the robot to punch. They find that while the robot could generate enough force to kill, it's incapable of punching at a speed fast enough to create the tiny blood droplets at the scene. Cliff surprises Max by explaining that the robot is using "model predictive control"—he tells the robot what to do, and the robot uses its learning AI to figure out how it wants to do it. In other words, the robot is thinking, and it could've found a way to move its arm at lightning speed. The CSIs have a problem, as they have no way to test this theory empirically.

Allie, Beau and Penny take the robot's memory module and plug it into the lab's computer, all in the hope of seeing what the robot saw right before Robert's time of death. When they do, they create a power surge similar to the one at the factory, knocking out the lab's power. A check of the lab's fuse box shows that none of the breakers were tripped, while Max sees that the robot is still functioning.

While it's unknown whether the outage is city-wide or just contained to the building, Max knows that the robot activated itself right when the power surge happened. Unfortunately, the power surge fried the robot's memory module, eliminating the team's most solid lead. Since the same thing happened at the factory, Max sends Catherine and Det. Chavez back there to gather more evidence. There, they find that Truman Thomas has reversed his original thinking and concluded that a robot is incapable of murder, which will mean a wrongful death lawsuit against the company and a lack of a new AI discoveries. He excuses himself from the conversation, mentioning that Eve's team fell months behind on a project (possibly due to sabotage) and that his presence his needed.

The power outage at the lab lasts a short while, enabling everyone to get back to work. Back in the reconstruction room, Cliff is unsuccessful in getting the robot to strike at a velocity high enough to mimic the crime scene. When asked about the power surge at the factory, he recalls that Eve's team was assigned to look into it, but found no logical explanation for the surge.

Since there's no way to test whether the robot taught itself to hit harder and faster, the team must get creative. Folsom wonders if the robot is only responsible for the medium velocity spatter, while the high velocity spatter was caused by another source, such as a handheld weapon. His additional attempts at re-creating the velocity needed with a weapon are unsuccessful, making it unlikely that someone at the factory killed Robert in this way; however, he now realizes that the weapon needed to be flexible. Max notes that Robert was hit the hardest in his skull and that the impact made was an exact match to the robot's arm and hand. Since the robot can't strike that fast, she theorizes that the arm was detached from the robot and wielded by a human killer.

The team gets Anthony Cuevas to come back to the lab with his father's bag of tools. The bag contains a proprietary key that opens a very specific lock on the robot—it's arm. When detached, Max and Folsom see that the wrist is flexible, which would explain the whip-like motion needed to inflict the damage to Robert's skull. They conclude that someone detached the arm, beat Robert hard enough to create the high velocity blood spatter, then reattached the arm to the robot to frame it for murder. With the arm detached, Allie takes a closer look at the robot's internal wirings and finds a contact lens. When Anthony confirms that his father didn't wear glasses, the quick conclusion is that the lens belongs to the killer.

When tested, the DNA on the contact lens comes back to Cliff. Det. Chavez recalls Truman speculating that Eve's team had been sabotaged; since Cliff and Eve are rivals, it's possible Cliff is the saboteur and Robert saw something that night. Just then, Cliff calls Max's cell phone from his car and offers to come back to the lab with the proprietary key needed to detach the robot's arm, unaware that it's already been done. He asks Max why this needs be done; when she can't come up with an answer, he tearfully confesses to sabotaging Eve's team and killing Robert, who saw too much. Robert, he claims, was supposed to be doing his rounds on the other side of the building, putting him the wrong place at the wrong time.

Tire screeching is heard and the call abruptly drops. CSIs arrive at the scene a little while later to find that Cliff ran into a tree and was killed on impact. Curiously, the airbags didn't deploy on the relatively new car. Catherine observes the yaw marks in the road, which suggest that Cliff didn't even try to hit the brakes. She and Max wonder if AI had any part of this, perhaps cutting the brakes and preventing the airbags from deploying. Beau finds a camera with a broken lens in the front seat, which would explain the shard of glass in Robert's wound. The camera contains no film, further suggesting some type of foul play.

Back at the lab, Det. Chavez thanks Anthony Cuevas for his assistance. She informs him that according to the company records, his father played a huge part in the robot's development. Since Robert was unfairly left off the patent, she provides Anthony with a patent lawyer. In her office, Max tells Folsom that they got a "partial confession" from Cliff and that he may have known more than he let on. Max decides to keep the robot in her office until the case is "officially closed."


Main Cast[]

  • Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby
  • Matt Lauria as Joshua Folsom
  • Mandeep Dhillon as Allie Rajan
  • Ariana Guerra as Det. Serena Chavez
  • Jay Lee as Chris Park (credit only)
  • Lex Medlin as Beau Finado
  • Marg Helgenberger as Catherine Willows

Guest Cast[]

  • Sarah Gilman as Penny Gill
  • Joel Johnstone as Jack Nikolayevich
  • Owain Yeoman as Truman Thomas
  • Andres Velez as Anthony Cuevas
  • Gabriel Tigerman as Cliff Roland
  • Kari Nicolle as Zoey Snyder
  • Sarah Grace Hart as Sabrina
  • Tracy S. Lee as Eve
  • Mario Perez as Robert Cuevas


  • Automation by Allan Sherman
  • Suffer in Silence by Rezz
  • Watch Me by Biig Piig


  • Jay Lee (Chris) is credited but does not appear in the episode.
  • Coroner Jack Nikolayevich is seen having a phone conversation with his sister Sonya. Sonya was poisoned with thallium by the Silver Ink Killer in the Season Two episode We All Fall Down and faces a long road to recovery (she hasn't been seen onscreen since that episode).
  • Allie recalls a case involving a snow globe, likely referring to the Season One episode Let the Chips Fall.
  • When speaking with Folsom, Max brings up that he saved Allie's life. This occurred in the previous episode Health and Wellness when he realized they could track Allie's smart watch, pinpoint her location, and save her from a kidnapping cannibal.

See Also[]

CSI:Vegas Season 3
The Reaper
Scar Tissue
Rat Packed

See Also[]

  • Category:Images from It Was Automation

  • Category:Images from It Was Automation