The body of a teenage boy is abandoned in a wasteland, with an origami crane left in his pocket. When another boy is taken by the killer, an intrepid journalist, an overweight private eye, a junkie of an FBI agent, and the bereaved father must solve this deadly puzzle before it’s too late.
The body of a teen boy is abandoned in a wasteland, with an origami crane left in his pocket. Oh, and he’s also missing his hands. Ted Danson and pals suspect the crane could be the calling card of a new serial killer, and trek out to the desert to see if they can unearth the secrets behind the boy’s death.
You know, I was pretty intrigued by the first chunk of the episode. The teaser alone is like something out of The X-Files, with our doomed boy (Carl Abrams) running out of the night, with someone wearing night-vision chasing him, and the howls of wolves out somewhere in the distance. I was half expecting a werewolf, but I might still have had my brain in Buffy mode from Adam Busch’s guest appearance last week.
I was also kind of hoping we would start a new serial killer storyline with the crane stuff, derivative as it may be. It’s no secret that I like CSI best when it bothers to remember its own continuity, and and ongoing hunt for a serial killer is a good concept to structure a longer arc around. Yeah, it’s been done before, but each of the previous serial arcs have been distinct from one another, and in some cases, like Season 7 & 8’s Miniature Killer arc, it’s some of the best shit the show’s ever done. Alas, it was not to be.
Nick has brought Sam the Retired Police Dog Who Totally Did Not Eat His Previous Owner to work, because the poor thing has apparently tired of living a quiet pampered life. Or so says Morgan, who has seemingly developed the power to read the mind of a creature whose favorite pastime is licking his own asshole.
They speak with Carl’s friend, Dylan, who isn’t very helpful beyond telling them Carl had gone out to ride his dirt bike in the desert.
Nick and Morgan bring the mutt (Oh, who am I kidding? I love puppies!) out to the desert where Carl was found. Sam takes a good whiff of some dead-person-clothes and he’s off, following the scent of the victim. Which CSI feels the need to visually represent by putting and ugly color filter over the camera while Sam chases after a translucent green stink-ghost. Yeah.
Slimer leads Sam to a suspicious looking patch of ground. The CSIs brush away the dirt to discover a hatch embedded in the dirt.
No, seriously. Morgan even references the show upon their discovery, and I’m sure it’s no accident that they find a mysterious hatch while investigation a murder of someone with the surname of Abrams.
Nick’s not so glib. He’s been down a mysterious desert hatch before, back in the Season 6 episode “Falling Stars,” in which a Jonestown-ish cult had drunk their Kool-Aid and died in an underground bunker very much like this one. On top of that Nick’s come to detest enclosed spaces as a result of being buried alive in Quentin Tarantino’s very awesome fifth season finale, “Grave Danger.”
Lucky for them, this time it’s not full of bodies, but rather a Blast From the Past bomb shelter, complete with crazy survivalist, played by one of those actors you know you’ve seen before but you just can’t pin it down. For a second, I thought it might be Central Perk’s very own Gunther menacing poor Nick with a shotgun.
Investigation of the crazy bunker uncovers Carl’s blood under the astro turf floor, and even more creepy, a small bedroom decorated for a little girl and a closet stocked with women’s clothing in a wide range of sizes. There’s a bunch of origami cranes on the dresser and in the bed we’ve got semen from both Carl and another unidentified male.
Of course they did.
Well, as it turns out, Crazy Survivalist Man did not, in fact, capture poor Carl, dress him up like Little Bo Peep, and have his way with him. The girl’s room is actually for his teenage daughter Miranda. The CSIs reason that it’s likely Miranda is tiring of such a sheltered life and is going out to wander the desert in search of boys to bang.
They do some science to various objects, as well of some surveillance and find the out of the way supply shop where Miranda was likely to find a willing boy. The shopkeep is a suspicious douchebag, and Morgan finds bloody clothes in a sack. That is open. On a shelf. Behind the store counter. Shopkeep tries to flee, on Carl’s motorbike, no less, a fesses up to helping hide the body so Miranda wouldn’t get in trouble, but swears up and down he didn’t actually kill him. He also lets slip that Carl’s semen doesn’t belong in a girl’s bed because Carl is of the gay. With our old pal Dylan.
Dylan owns up to being the late Carl’s butt-friend, and that Carl was out, but Dylan was not. They would use Miranda’s room as a safe place to have gay sex. ALL OF THE GAY SEX. Carl was so brazen about his love of cock that after Dylan’s father found out, Carl taunted the man.
Our bigoted father of the year breaks down in interrogation when Danson presents him will all the evidence he spent most of the episode not helping to collect. SuperDad protests that Carl had somehow poisoned his son’s mind and had to be removed from the equation so Dylan could go back to being hetero. Or something.
All in all, “Sheltered” is reasonably enjoyable, but ends up feeling quite derivative, both from other works and even its own previous episodes. We’ve already seen nearly every beat in this story before, and the script fails to put a new and interesting spin on things. Even the hey being mean to your LGBT children isn’t super good of you message fails to really land because it’s all old hat by now. I’ve lived that scenario and I’m sick of hearing about it.
It’s all written competently enough, and it does keep you guessing, but it’s simply not that compelling. Especially once the more interesting prospects of werewolves and origami killers have been written out.