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Trends with Benefits
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Season 12
Number 17
Writer Jack Gutowitz
Director Louis Milito
Original Airdate March 14, 2012
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Next Episode: Malice in Wonderland

Trends with Benefits is the seventeenth episode in season twelve of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

The team discovers that a WLVU student notorious for his gossip video blog was killed because he was about to expose a major campus scandal.

Plot

Victim: Pete Moyer (deceased)

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

College students at WLVU are partying heavily, while a few partygoers post updates and pictures on the Friend Agenda webpage. They're thrilled to find out they're trending, but the news feed is soon overtaken by a photo of a dead student on campus.

Anonymous 911 tips lead the CSIs to a body that's at the bottom of a bridge students used to use as a suicide spot until the university closed it five years ago. Finn finds a broken beer bottle that's still wet. There's evidence of a struggle, as sediment on the ground is disturbed and shoe impressions are scattered at the base of a lamppost. More shoe prints are seen on the railing. Based on this and the fact that the student landed on their back, Russell wonders if he was pushed.

The student is identified as Pete Moyer, who was seen earlier at the party sporting a black eye and cut lip. His skull is crushed and the trajectory of his fall isn't straight down. There's no cell phone to be found, which Nick feels is odd for a college student. On the bridge, Finn takes pictures of the onlookers, thinking that their suspect might return to the scene. One of the onlookers is Charlie, Russell's son. He shows Finn and his father that Pete's death is trending on Friend Agenda. The first photo of the scene was posted before the 911 calls by a user with the name "Voyeur4U," meaning he or she knew about the body before anyone else.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins shows Morgan that their victim also suffered a fracture of his C1 vertebrate, severing the spinal cord. Based on the contusions on Pete's face, the doc believes that the beating took place six hours before death. Curiously, there are no defensive wounds on Pete, meaning the fight was rather one-sided.

Bloody clothes are found in Pete's dorm room, indicating that he changed his clothes after the fight and before he went to the party. The dorm room is now completely empty, as fellow students felt they had a right to go through Pete's stuff. Finn theorizes that Pete went to the party and ran into the guy he had a fight with earlier. The fight then continued, ending on the bridge.

Pete's Friend Agenda page shows that kept a video blog where he gossiped about everyone on campus, which would likely get him a lot of enemies. Furthermore, there are numerous homophobic slurs in the comments on the page, as Pete was openly gay. One comment in particular, by a user named "Jonesin4," openly threatened Pete and challenged him to a fight. Archie discovers that the "Voyeur4U" account actually belongs to Pete, meaning someone posted the death photo from his own phone. The thought is that the killer still has the phone, and it's tracked to one of the dorms on campus. At the dorm, one of the students is found trying to escape from the police out his window, and Nick finds Pete's cell phone in the room.

Greg and Nick interrogate "Jonesin4," whose real name is Sebastian Jones. Sebastian defends his gay-bashing messages to Pete by saying that he, too, is gay and that's the way they talk to each other. DNA from the broken beer bottle on the bridge comes back to Sebastian, putting him at the scene of the crime. Sebastian admits that he was at the bridge because Pete texted him that he needed help and asked Sebastian to meet him there. By the time Sebastian got to the bridge, Pete was already dead. He took a photo of the body before calling 911, claiming that Pete would've wanted it that way - "trending to the end." Sebastian doesn't know who would kill Pete, but does say that Pete had dug up some dirt on campus and was about to break a major scandal.

Morgan goes through Pete's phone, finding a video post from Pete about the bombshell he planned to reveal. A search of Pete's photos turns up one of him with Brooke Cassidy, a notoriously straight-edged movie star who's attending WLVU. The photo shows the two of them talking at the party, with Brooke appearing to be upset. Finn and Morgan talk to Brooke on campus, but are unable to get very far before being interrupted by her boyfriend, Jake Pychan. Jake badmouths Pete before escorting Brooke away from the conversation.

Most of Pete's belongings are found and brought back to the lab. Amongst the items are cameras, microphones and listening devices. Russell comes across a term paper Pete wrote entitled "Phone Hacking for Hacks." The paper was written for an Anthropology of Fame class taught by Tom Laudner, who also has a tabloid TV show where he harasses celebrities. Russell pays the professor a visit and tells him that the paper on phone hacking may have led to Pete's death, as he may have hacked into the wrong phone. Professor Laudner admits to using Brooke Cassidy as an object lesson in one of his lectures, something Brooke was kind enough to allow. However, the professor denies having Pete hack into Brooke's personal life, adding that Pete definitely had a few things about himself that he kept private.

Back at the lab, Nick and Russell go through more of Pete's things, eventually finding a flash drive hidden in an article of clothing. The flash drive contains pictures of Brooke and Jake, as well as a few other people. Brooke's pictures show nothing incriminating; however, a picture in Jake's folder shows him lying naked in bed with Sebastian.

Pete's missing laptop is found under Jake's bed, and he's brought to the station for questioning. Russell and Brass tell Jake that the photos of him and Sebastian were taken from his phone, which Pete hacked into. Jake says that he's not gay and that the photos don't prove a sexual relationship; however, it seems that Pete was going to make the photos public. Brass accuses Jake of pushing Pete off the bridge, something Jake denies. He claims that Sebastian texted him after Pete died, and the two of them worked hard to retrieve anything that contained the lewd photos, including Pete's laptop.

Greg finds that Pete purchased a digital receiver; when plugged in, it shows a grainy live feed from a camera mounted somewhere. The place looks like an office and since Pete never really left campus, the CSIs figure that the office is somewhere there. Archie is tasked with amplifying the reception range and getting a cleaner image.

Brooke stops by the lab to talk more with Finn and Morgan. She insists that Jake had nothing to do with Pete's death, as she was with him all night, including at the party and at the bridge when everyone gathered there. Brooke admits to knowing about Jake's "sexual confusion" and is told that Pete may have been planning to out him. She denies fighting with Pete at the party; instead, they were talking about Professor Laudner. Pete admitted that something is off about the professor and advised Brooke to watch his next video blog, where the "truth would be revealed."

Archie enhances part of the video feed and discovers that the office belongs to Professor Laudner. Greg and Nick search the office, finding a hidden camera on the top shelf of a bookcase. The camera is pointed at the couch, which shows evidence of sexual activity. Greg finds a blood drop on a table leg, and the rug tests positive for blood when sprayed with luminol; someone tried to clean up the mess. If the blood is Pete's, then he was beaten up in that room.

Professor Laudner is brought into interrogation. Russell theorizes that Pete found out that the professor was having sex with his students. Pete threatened to expose the professor, which led to the professor roughing him up and eventually staging his suicide. The professor calmly admits to having consensual sex with his legally-aged female students, something that wouldn't necessarily result in a scandal.

A perplexed Russell admits that being recorded having consensual sex with students doesn't necessarily give Professor Laudner motive for murder. Evidence confirms that Pete was punched in the professor's office, but if the fight wasn't about the sex scandal, what was it about? Nick wonders if Pete saw something more that just sex, something the professor didn't want him to see. There were vaginal contributions from seven different girls on the couch in the office, and Finn and Morgan collect DNA from the students on campus, lying about discovering epithelials under Pete's fingernails.

The seven girls are identified; all of them were in Professor Launder's class. One of them is Ashley Benson, who is reluctant to admit that she was raped by the professor. She tells Finn that Pete found out, but only cared about his gossip, not about helping anyone. Finn continues to try to get Ashley to open up, but Ashley eventually admits to killing Pete by pushing him off the bridge.

Archie decrypts Pete's flash drive, finding video evidence that Professor Laudner raped Ashley. Three sets of prints from the lamppost on the bridge come back as Ashley's; each set of prints is about 18 inches higher than the last. Morgan recreates the alignment of the prints, determining that Ashley was climbing the lamppost and was planning to jump from the bridge.

Ashley admits that Pete ambushed her as she was leaving the party. He knew what Professor Laudner had done and said he was going to post it on his website. Pete followed Ashley to the bridge under the guise of caring for her; however, she found out he was recording their conversation on his phone. The two fought for the phone, with Ashley being knocked to the ground and Pete accidentally falling over the railing of the bridge to his death. Finn assures Ashley that none of this is her fault and that a jury will see it the same way. Ashley refuses to stand in front of a jury and refuses to press charges against Professor Laudner in an effort to make everything just go away.

The district attorney won't prosecute the professor based solely on a tape, so it appears that he'll walk. Russell mentions that they'll just have to take the victims as they come. When Russell arrives back in his office, he finds Charlie waiting for him. Charlie shows him that news of Professor Laudner raping a student is all over the internet. WLVU has suspended the professor, so it seems that he won't get away with his actions after all.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Stars

  • Archie Kao as Archie Johnson
  • Jon Wellner as Henry Andrews
  • Paul Blackthorne as Tom Laudner
  • Chelsea Kane as Brooke Cassidy
  • Beau Mirchoff as Jake Pychan
  • Melissa Farman as Ashley Benson
  • Francia Raisa as Erin Vickler
  • Brandon Jones as Charlie Russell
  • Joe Egender as Seth Bender
  • Shane Coffey as Pete Moyer
  • Germaine De Leon as Sebastian Jones

Notes

  • Jorja Fox (Sara) and Wallace Langham (Hodges) are credited but do not appear in the episode.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 12
73 SecondsTell-Tale HeartsBittersweetMaid ManCSI DownFreaks & GeeksBrain DoeCrime After CrimeZipperedGenetic DisorderMs. Willows RegretsWillows in the WindTressed to KillSeeing RedStealing HomeCSI UnpluggedTrends with BenefitsMalice in WonderlandSplit DecisionsAltered StakesDune and GloomHomecoming
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