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Kitty
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Season 14
Number 21
Writer Carol Mendelsohn,
Anthony Zuiker,
Ann Donahue
Director Eagle Egilsson
Original Airdate April 30, 2014
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Previous Episode: Consumed
Next Episode: Dead In His Tracks

Kitty is the twenty-first episode in season fourteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and also the backdoor pilot for the spin-off series, CSI: Cyber.

Synopsis

The CSIs investigate the cyber-related murder of a prominent casino owner’s wife and receive help from the FBI’s Cyber Crime Division.

Plot

Victim: Audrey Berman (deceased)

On the case: D.B. Russell, Greg Sanders, Julie Finlay, Morgan Brody, Nick Stokes, Jim Brass, Avery Ryan

In the house of casino mogul Lee Berman, an unseen assailant disables the security alarm, enters, and shoots Lee's wife, Audrey. Lee is soon pulled over in his white sports car. Nick process him for gunshot residue and has him arrested on the spot. A 9mm handgun is in the front passenger's seat of the car.

The following morning, Russell arrives at the scene. Security cameras track his every move, and he soon finds that the house is a "smart house." Greg tells him that someone remotely disabled the alarm system and surveillance cameras at 4:17 AM. Motion trackers were still able to pick up the intruder, who entered the house and went straight to the bedroom. Whoever killed Audrey was familiar with the house.

The killer fired three shots, the last of which was fatal. Evidence suggests that Audrey was killed while she was trying to get away. The shell casings on the bedroom floor are 9mm, the same caliber as the gun found in Lee's car. While Finn photographs the scene, she notes that Lee's nightstand is empty. Combined with the fact that Audrey took over the closet, Finn concludes the couple was having marital problems. In another bedroom, Russell finds Lee's laptop. He opens it and finds a photo of a flirtatious woman; however, before he can dig deeper, virus warnings appear and the computer shuts down.

In Washington, D.C., FBI Agent Avery Ryan talks on the phone with her boss. She tells him that the "Kitty" case she's been tracking has gotten a hit - one of Kitty's targets is Lee Berman. Based on this, Avery believes their "Node" is in Vegas, and she requests an immediate trip to the desert.

Avery watches from behind the glass while Brass interrogates Lee. He claims he last saw his wife yesterday morning and denies killing her. Brass then shows him a picture of the girl on his laptop, telling Lee that he wants to know everything about her, including who and where she is. When Lee refuses to answer, Brass theorizes that Lee "traded up" in his marriage and had his wife killed because a divorce would've been way too costly.

Avery asks Ecklie if she can take a crack at Lee. In the interrogation room, she tells him that she's more interested in his online relationship with Kitty. The website Lee visited is an exclusive VIP sex site for affluent men willing to pay for anonymity. When confronted with this, Lee tells his three lawyers to leave the room. Avery tells him that she, too, was seeing Kitty (using an alias) until she was kicked off the site. Kitty is only interested in wealthy men that she can verify, and she had known that Avery and her associates were using aliases. Lee denies getting a "gift" from Kitty; however, Avery, a behavioral scientist (or "human lie detector test") can see right through the lie. The gift was a one-on-one private video with Kitty. Lee claims that his relationship with Kitty only lasted ten days and that he ended it on his own. Avery once again sees through the lie and asks Lee what Kitty has on him. Lee ends the conversation and asks for his lawyers to rejoin him.

Facial recognition run on Kitty turns up no hits in the Nevada DMV. Avery enters and introduces herself to the team, explaining that she works in the "deep web" - where criminals are anonymous, money is untraceable, and everything is for sale. Using the name David (for an unwilling Hodges), Avery enters the VIP website and chats with Kitty. After a brief chat, she confuses the algorithm with a string of nonresponsive responses. Kitty's "skin" eventually breaks away, revealing a bot. Avery explains that Kitty is a computer-animated avatar chatbot with machine-learning artificial intelligence. Kitty isn't real, but the person who created her is.

The theory that Lee killed his wife to be with a younger woman is thrown out the window. Avery gets Lee's laptop and is able to restore it, whereupon a virus warning pops up on the screen. The virus detects a two-way camera enabled, leading Avery to guess that the "gift" from Kitty was actually the laptop being hacked into. Lee (and every other victim) likely had no idea he was being recorded and making a sex tape. Avery believes that if Lee was being targeted, then money was most likely the end game. As Finn and Avery watch the video of Kitty, they spot her massaging her jaw, which is usually a sign of an underlying medical condition. But, if Kitty isn't real, how can she feel pain?

In autopsy, Doc Robbins spots a bruise on Audrey's ring finger that wasn't present when the body was brought in. A wedding ring wasn't amongst her personal effects; however, it was seen earlier that she was wearing a giant ring while she was sleeping.

The bullets pulled from Audrey aren't a match to Lee's gun. Lee's hands tested positive for gunshot residue on site, but it's discovered that he's also a regular member of a gun club. This would explain the residue, but the question remains why Lee would have a gun in the first place.

Diagnostics from Lee's car indicate that he manually entered GPS coordinates at 4:15 AM. He arrived at his destination, Industrial Park, an hour later, putting him far away from where his wife was murdered. When processing the car, Nick found an empty bag in the trunk he thinks could've been used for a money drop. Lee hiring someone to kill his wife then meeting him an hour later for the payoff fits the timeline. However, Russell wonders why Lee would be driving his Aston Martin around Industrial Park at 5:00 AM with a gun on the seat. Something isn't adding up.

Finn and Avery go through Lee's laptop, watching the progression of his interactions with Kitty. During the last interaction, Kitty extorted Lee for $2 million, threatening to kill his family if he didn't pay. Lee ended the interaction and offered to meet Kitty face-to-face at Industrial Park to settle things once and for all. Avery explains that Kitty's creator is a psycho-sadist who derives pleasure from inflicting pain on others, whether it be physical, emotional, or financial. Lee paid the sadist to spare his wife's life; however, Avery believes that the moment Lee started defending himself, the sadist got mad, killing Audrey and taking Lee's money. This would mean that Lee is the only person who's ever seen the killer.

Under interrogation again, Lee is asked who he delivered the $2 million to. While Lee confers with his lawyers, Russell comes to a realization: there was never any money. Lee went to Industrial Park with the sole intent of killing Kitty, which would explain the gun on the front seat. However, Lee tells Russell and Avery that nobody ever showed. He admits that he withheld information before because he was ashamed - his fooling around online is what led to his wife's murder.

As Lee is released from custody and led down the hallway, he passes the LVPD reception area - where he spots Kitty. Lee starts to freak out, as he was told that she wasn't real. The woman explains that she's looking for the person who gave her picture to the press.

In interrogation, the woman says she's Susan McDowell from San Diego. When she saw herself all over television as the third woman in a love triangle and found out the LVPD was investigating the case, she drove five hours to Las Vegas to get answers. Avery admits that she was the one who gave the picture to the press, telling Susan that she's a person of interest in the ongoing case. During the conversation, Susan massages her jaw, which Avery diagnoses as a Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder. This is how it was discovered that "Kitty" was a real person, and it's why the picture was given to the press.

Susan is told that someone took her face, her body, and her mannerisms in order to make a virtual woman. She confirms that she uses the social networking site FriendAgenda every day to speak to her husband, who is deployed overseas. A perusal of her profile page shows that someone with the username "Nebula1" visited her profile over 2500 times over the last six months, an average of 15 times per day. Susan now fears for her personal safety, and Avery assures her that she'll be protected.

After the murder had taken place, a dog was seen standing outside the house barking incessantly. However, upon being released from custody, Lee tells Ecklie that he doesn't own a dog. While Nick brings the dog to the lab, Greg relays that he figured out how the killer knew his way around the house. A few years ago, the house was put up for sale, and the 360 virtual walk-through is still online; all the killer had to do was take the online tour. He also notes that the community has a horse trail (and, likely, a dog trail), which is probably how the killer got onto the property. Disguised as a dog-walker, he gained access to the house, whereupon he ditched his four-legged accomplice. A scan of the dog's RFID chip shows that he came from a local animal shelter.

Brass tells Ecklie that their killer adopted the shelter dog using a fake driver's license; however, a worker at the shelter identified the man from his photo. Furthermore, a surveillance photo in the parking lot picked up the man (and dog) getting into a car. The license plate traces back to a rental car, and Brass puts a broadcast out on the vehicle. It's soon found in an airport parking garage with the keys still in the ignition. There's no mystery man in sight, but the gun and wedding ring are found in the trunk along with a cell phone. The thought is that their killer hopped a flight out of town and left the evidence behind.

Ballistics confirms that the gun found is the murder weapon; however, there's no prints or DNA on it. The ring is confirmed as belonging to the Bermans, and it's estimated worth is $2 million. Since the ring is untraceable, it would be the perfect payment for a killer. The disposable cell phone recovered contains two numbers: the animal shelter and the rental car company. However, there's something else on the phone - a video of Audrey's murder being recorded in real time.

A distressed Avery tells Russell that "she missed it." The cell phone video is a proof of kill, sent by the hitman to the deep web in order to create a résumé in cyberspace. This would enable the hitman to be hired for future hits. The man who created Kitty is a psycho-sadist and would never videotape himself killing someone. He hired the hitman, which means their suspect (or "Node") was never in Vegas. The sadist is underground, while the hitman is likely halfway across the world by now.

Avery goes through "Nebula1's" FriendAgenda profile, finding that the first picture he used was one of himself. In the picture, he's seen sitting in mostly darkness. Evidence indicates that he might be agoraphobic, and a zoom-in on his family photos show that they're fake. Everything in the photo was staged in an effort to make him look like he was a well-educated, family-centric person. Nick observes some "stars" behind the closed blinds; however, when Avery continues the pattern, she finds that the lights make the shape of an arch - more specifically, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Coordinates are triangulated, and heavily-armed officers infiltrate the apartment while Nick and Avery watch. There's no sign of anyone inside despite the fact that the person in question may be agoraphobic. One of the officers shows Avery that their suspect has a full nerve center of computers and hard drives; there's also a setup of dozens of screens displaying numerous clients interacting with "Kitty." Their suspect is still in business, but where is he? Avery has the officers give a visual of the ceiling, whereupon a webcam is spotted in one of the corners. She tells the officers that they've walked into a trap and orders them to vacate immediately, which they're able to do safely before a bomb goes off.

While the officers survived the explosion, the evidence wasn't so lucky. DNA and fingerprints are lost, and all the hardware was incinerated in the blast. Avery, still deep in thought, shows Russell a photo from Susan's cell phone that contains her house and home address. The photo was never posted to FriendAgenda, and Avery is thinking of uploading it in an effort to bring their sadist out of hiding. Avery knows that she's got the guy on the run, but she also made a promise to Susan to protect her. She adds that the Internet amplifies crime; if the guy can get away with what he's done, his cyber credibility will be immortalized. Russell tells her to put Susan at risk for the "greater good," ensuring her that the LVPD will have her back.

Susan gives a press conference with Avery feeding her what to say. She tells the press what has been done to her, and she refuses to stand back and do nothing. Avery is told that this has caused their sadist to get so angry that he crashed the FriendAgenda site.

In San Diego, Susan arrives home and discovers that their sadist has broken into the house. When the woman whirls around, it's revealed to be Avery wearing a disguise. "Nebula1" asks where Kitty is, then brags that he created her. With the cops listening in outside, Avery gets the man to trade down from his gun to a knife. He slices Avery's arm and opens up about his first time cutting someone. When he threatens to kill her, Avery says her code word, "mushroom". Police storm the house and place "Nebula1" under arrest. Among the man's counts are attempted murder of a federal agent, conspiracy to commit murder, and extortion. However, the hitman is still on the loose.

At the airport, Avery reunites Susan with her husband, who has been shipped back home from overseas. Meanwhile, she tells Russell that her next job is in Pittsburgh, and the two part ways for the time being.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Marc Vann as Conrad Ecklie
  • Larry Sullivan as Officer Andy Akers
  • Patricia Arquette as Avery Ryan
  • Kick Gurry as Clikk
  • Ness Bautista as Officer Drew Portsmith
  • Gil Bellows as Lee Berman
  • Torrey DeVitto as Kitty/Susan McDowell
  • Cheyenne Jackson as Nebula1
  • Matt Gottlieb as Berman’s Lawyer
  • Chad Michael Collins as FBI Pilot
  • Matt Bushell as Point Man
  • Milan Aguilera as Susan's daughter 1
  • Natalie Bowen as Susan's daughter 2

Quotes

D.B. Russell: I'd figured I'd find you out here. He, you have saved all those men's lives today. Unfortunately the evidence hasn't fared so well, we lost the DNA, prints. All the hardware was incinerated.
D.B. Russell: (No reaction from Avery, so DB continues while mimicking Avery's voice) Oh, is that right, D.B.?
D.B. Russell: Well, yes, Avery, it is.

Music

  • I Can See For Miles by The Who

Notes

  • Jorja Fox (Sara) and Jon Wellner (Henry) are credited but do not appear in the episode.
  • "I Can See For Miles" by The Who is playing when Agent Avery Ryan boards the plane to Vegas. The song would be used as the theme song for CSI:Cyber, continuing the tradition of using the band's songs as the themes in every CSI installment.

Trivia

  • Patricia Arquette made a special guest appearance as Avery Ryan in this episode (before CSI: Cyber). Her brothers, David and Richmond are also in the acting business. Richmond played Marvin Hill in the CSI: Miami episode F-T-F, an episode which David directed.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 14
The Devil and D.B. RussellTake the Money and RunTorch SongLast SupperFrame by FramePassed PawnsUnder a CloudHelplessCheck In and Check OutGirls Gone WildLost ReindeerKeep Calm and Carry OnBoston BrakesDe Los MuertosLove for SaleKiller MovesLong Road HomeUninvitedThe FallenConsumedKittyDead In His Tracks
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