Season 1 Episode 3

American Dreamers

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Oct 06, 2004 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
209 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

After a skeleton is found on a tour bus and turns out to be over a decade old, Mac and the team use the backpack they have found to track the belongings to a young man named Aaron Moreland, only to learn that the body they have cannot possibly belong to him.moreless

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  • If sitting on a NYC tour bus isn’t scary enough, now there’s one with a dead skeleton!

    This episode opens with a tourist finding half a real skeleton atop one of NYCs tour buses. If anything, this episode is original. It starts off with what seems like a joke, but turns out to be more than sad. The tragedy comes from the poor family who knowing that the bag and pocketknife belonged to their son, believed that the skeleton was their boy. The work Aiden did on the skull, however, proves them wrong. While right about the pack and items, they were wrong about their boy. The solution to the crime is saddening enough. Even more so when Aaron is brought out and he can’t even stare his parents square in the eye. The poor parents, who so desperately searched for their son, thinking he was most likely dead, but only wanting a piece of information, are barraged by the news that their son was a killer. What makes your heart break is most definitely the parents. The mother’s tears and the father’s quivering mouth help to increase the sorrow felt by the viewer. It was a pleasure to see Aiden so adamant. And humorously annoyed at having to wait for the skull. But when she gets it, she works her magic and we can see where she truly shines. In a matter of moments, the skull is created.

    As for the solution of the story, the second that we see the form of the figure in the pawnshop I already knew who it was; it had to be the son that was missing. (SVU has taught me well- how to find crazy twists in tv shows). When he plucked the guitar, there was only one person in my mind to who it could be. What I never conceived however, was that it was the man who helped in the homeless center for children. What I never understood was why didn’t he go there himself as a kid?

    Though there was sorrow throughout the episode, it ends, just like it starts, with a bit of humor, with Mac adjusting his tie after Stella tried to loosen him up. Though he will join them for drinks, he won’t ever be that loose.moreless
  • A skeleton found on a tourist bus on Times Square proves to be more mysterious than first thought.

    American Dreamers is another ‘blue hue’ episode of CSI: NY. The story is dark and mysterious, and so are the images you can see. Everything is shown in a blue crushed light, when you don’t end in complete darkness.

    This episode is also one of rare ones with only one story told, there is no B case. Everyone focuses on the runaway and it gives to the whole story a good dynamic.

    The case is beyond being a cold case. It’s the story of a murder which took over 14 years to be discovered. The teenager left home without looking back. There is no evidence of his identity and you can tell by his living conditions that his life was everything but easy.

    The tragedy of the episode is the parallel story of those two boys who left home at about the same age. One was never forgotten by his parents, who kept looking for him at every possible turn. After a newspaper told the story of the skeleton found on the bus, they came the whole way from Minnesota to find out if it was their son. His lack of interest when he sees them after so many years can only make you sad.

    The other left and no one seemed to have cared. Every possible evidence retrieved to identify him didn’t allow Mac and his team to put a name on these remains.

    At the end, they have no other choice than to close the case without even the hint of a name. He will stay John Doe. Even Aaron, who was in regular contact back then, was never curious enough to ask his name.

    At the end, the big city swallowed him and didn’t leave much from him. One question, Mac asked, was why didn’t he leave New York when life became too hard. There is no answer as we don’t know who he was. We can only guess like Stella, that life back home was probably even worse. He leaves as a legacy his sketches of an ever changing city. He died alone and no one cared.

    It was a good story. I didn’t give a better rating and maybe I’m a little unfair. Watching this episode left me with an impression of uneasiness. It was well written and the cinematography was good. But something was lacking. I would have liked to hear the runaway say at least one word. His anonymity was complete, even for us.

    The man who played the prank wasn’t disgusted enough to use his remains. That really disturbed me. How sick do you have to be to do something like that? He took half of the body and left the rest there. That was worse than the lack of remorse of Aaron.

    The final message is life is hard and cruel when you have no one to rely on. I leave the last word to Stella: “If this case taught us anything, it was to live life.” Exactly...moreless
  • When a skeleton that was placed on a tourist double-decker bus to scare the tourists turns out to be real and ten years old, the men and women of the NYPD Crime Scene Unit find themselves working to find a murderer who committed the crime ten years ago.moreless

    In my opinion, the opening shots of New York City on a routine, average day really gave viewers some insight into just how busy the city itself is on a daily basis.

    Now the episode itself presents a rather interesting case with the discovery that the prank being played on the tourists by leaving a skeleton on the double-decker bus involved a real human skeleton. Over ten years old, this episode operates more like a Cold Case episode in that they don't really use much forensics to catch the guy, but rather some good old fashioned detective work.

    The fact that nobody seemed to notice the skeleton until the tourist removed its hat is also a testament that something could happen in a crowd in New York City and nobody would really notice.

    Now the episode had two particular scenes of comedic relief. Stella's joke about "how long is this tour?" failed miserably. I just don't really appreciate those jokes like I used to. However Aiden's "Human skull...big fun" line was something I couldn't help but chuckle at.

    The discovery of the primary crime scene is a rather odd moment, again this is when the camera angles and dim lighting make it seem dark (which it is considering it's a storm drain grate). To add to the darkness, the family that comes in to identify the skeleton based on Aiden's facial reconstruction point out that the vic who has been dead for the same amount of time that their child has was not their child.

    I think that Mac's line "Reality hardly ever lives up to expectation, especially if your a teenager" is a very true comment and that overall this episode was a very good one with an interesting storyline.moreless
  • I liked the overall team effort.

    I really enjoy when the entire team works the same case. Watching Aiden biting at the bit to contribute. Danny processing trace and Mac & Stella coming up with more questions than answers. I liked how the missing "teenager" was found but unfortunately that still leaves his victim unidentified. I really enjoyed the scene in which Aiden brought the victim's face to life in the reconstruction. I liked how the book Bright Lights Big City was worked into the script. Big cities have the ability to swallow dreamers whole if not careful.moreless
  • wow! this was a fantastic episode it had loadsa twists in it and was really good!

    This was the second episode of csi : ny and it was a really good example of what a modern and great city new york is which is shown by the drawings of the boy. The "boy" is never named and I think that was a really good example of that the csi's don't always find out everything they want! The writters must have had a lot of fun creating this script because it is really deeply thought and i felt so sorry for those parents as they watched their son being taken away from them after all those years! You will not know what i am talking about if you havent watched this ep but seriously- it is a m u s t w a t c h episode of this series! so yeah... you have to watch it- its really moving but also keeps you gripped :Dmoreless
Hill Harper

Hill Harper

Dr. Sheldon Hawkes

Melina Kanakaredes

Melina Kanakaredes

Detective Stella Bonasera

Eddie Cahill

Eddie Cahill

Detective Donald "Don" Flack, Jr.

Gary Sinise

Gary Sinise

Detective Mack "Mac" Taylor

Carmine Giovinazzo

Carmine Giovinazzo

Danny Messer

Vanessa Ferlito

Vanessa Ferlito

Aiden Burn

Julian Cain

Julian Cain

John Doe

Guest Star

Johnny Sneed

Johnny Sneed

Joel/Aaron Moreland

Guest Star

John Ross Bowie

John Ross Bowie

Lester Jayne

Guest Star

Grant Albrecht

Grant Albrecht

Dr. Leonard Giles

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (8)

    • Goof: Hawkes points to a skull fracture that is evident above the skeleton's left eye as the cause of death. However, that fracture wasn't there when the skeleton was first found in the bus.

    • Goof: Stella prints the pictures of some suspects. Mac grabs them, and chooses one (a black man with afro hair) as the man they are looking for. However, that picture isn't between the bunch that Stella has just printed. Moreover, the suspect is white.

    • Sheldon sometimes sleeps at the morgue because he is shown having a cot there.

    • Goof: When the CSIs work on the surveillance video in the pawn shop, we see that the camera shot shows Aaron's left side. When they get the picture of him pinching the guitar chords, the camera angle has suddenly changed. The picture is now clearly shot from behind him.

    • Bad Taste Alert: While examining the skull on the bus, the streaming banner of news behind Mac and Stella has the words, "Beheading in Iraq". (Just a hint to the film editors: next time blur that out).

    • Goof: When the face is being modeled, every time we see wide shots of Aiden making the face, her hands are gloved. But when close up shots show her hands, there are no gloves.

    • Goof: In one of the victim's sketches, Grand Central Station is depicted with the bottom of the American flag hanging from the ceiling. This flag was put up after 9/11/2001. Therefore the victim could not have drawn it.

    • Goof: Examining the pawn shop video, they decide to look for a reflection off the store owner's eye for the suspect. The video images are quite grainy, but the reflection is crystal clear. You need a clear image to get a clear reflection.

  • QUOTES (8)

  • NOTES (3)


    • The book the teenage victim has is Jay McInerney's 1984 novel Bright Lights, Big City. In 1988, it was made into a movie starring Michael J. Fox.