S1E11: In case the hiatus has taken a toll on your Person of Interest memory, here’s a quick recap of where we last left our heroes (I know that’s a corny phrase, but the nature of this show sort of warrants it): Reese had just been shot after being apprehended with his old CIA partner and “best friend”—if you can imagine him with a legitimate social life—Agent Mark Snow (Michael Kelly), thanks to some cooperation from Det. Carter. The detective had a change of heart immediately after witnessing Reese’s near-fatal takedown and managed to help he and Finch, whom she recognized as a civilian she interviewed way back in the beginning of the season, escape.
“She looks…healthy.” – Reese
Finch holes a wheelchair-bound Reese up in an apartment wherein the friendly but apparently forgetful superintendant is the machine’s latest number. The duo manage to apprehend that the super, Mr. Trask (Dexter’s David Zayas keeps Person of Interest’s nearly perfect guest casting record going) might be stalking one of his tenants, a chef named Lily, who seems to be romantically involved with another of his tenants, a wealthy restaurateur. The roles are reversed in this episode, as Reese is confined to his wheelchair and henceforth forced to do the surveillance work while Finch acts as the field agent, sneaking into Trask’s apartment and spying on various residents of the apartment building.
Among the many things it has going for it, this is probably the funniest episode of Person of Interest yet—to be fair, the show has not made any substantial effort previously in the realm of humor. But still: credit where credit is due. Two particular moments of humor stand out. One: Reese earning frustration when he tries to describe to his squeamish partner the best way for him, as an inexperienced fighter, to take down Trask in combat. And two: Reese and Finch, in trying to figure out just what the motive for the crime perpetrated by or targeted against Trask might be, bug the entire building and spy on each of the tenants…paying prolonged attention to a particularly attractive woman working out in her living room. I think the reason the moment is so funny is because it reminds us that although these men try very hard to forget this, they are, in fact, still just men.
Reese and Finch do go back and forth on their suspicions regarding Trask, but gradually become more and more consistent in affirming him the killer-to-be and the tenant for whom Trask seemingly lusts, or her boyfriend, as his target. In the twenty-fifth hour, a newly mobile Reese comes face to face with Trask to scare him out of the deed—it is in this scene that he learns that the banker boyfriend is Lily’s actual stalker, and one whom she is desperately afraid. She has confided this fear to Trask, who has promised to keep an eye out for her and has been tailing the dangerous man in question. Once this is revealed, Reese manages to speed his way—even though he’s still on crutches—into Lily’s apartment in time to stop her stalker from attacking her, to beat the hell out of him, and to throw him out of a window—even though…he’s still on crutches.
It’s a run-of-the-mill Person of Interest plot with an additional dosage of fun, thanks to the ol’ switcheroo between the Reese and Finch roles, and the fact that David Zayas is a champ as a well-meaning goofy building super with, as it is revealed in the end, a glamorous former life as a Miami nightclub owner who testified against the Cuban Mafia and was subsequently placed into Witness Protection. Fun ride.
“Sorry to throw you in the deep end.” – Finch
But the real glory of this week’s episode lies elsewhere. Let’s cover the Carter storyline first. In trying to track down and find the true identity of Mr. Finch, he comes to her. The two unite for the first time formally, allowing Carter to ask the question: “What is it that you two do?” After a personal parable about being taught to swim at an early age (which, considering the source, might very well have been a lie), Finch gives Carter the machine’s next number: a man who was bankrupt eighteen months ago and is now newly divorced, homeless, and possibly plotting the murder of the banker who foreclosed on him. Finch briefly explains the man’s situation and the certainty surrounding the fact that he will be involved in a violent crime, earning skepticism from Carter. However, she pursues the case—successfully, of course. By the end of the episode, she is unofficially part of the team.
But by far the coolest thing we get this week is Finch’s 2005 flashback, which revisits his days partnered with Nathan Ingram (Brett Cullen). In the flashback, a pre-handicapped Finch and Ingram are visited by CIA agents interested in purchasing the use of their machine. Throughout, Ingram is shown to be as interested in the machine’s well being as Finch is—unwilling to allow a didactic agent named Weeks any insight into how it works, lest he might use said information corruptly. Both Ingram and Finch fear that man’s knowledge of the machine’s inner-workings would lead to danger, so they agree to keep its functionality a secret, all the while allowing the government access to its numbers to prevent the crimes in question.
“He has offered to sell the machine for one U.S. dollar.” – Federal Agent
At the end of the episode, an eager Finch, who understands the machine, shares a bit of insight with his partner, and with us. For the first time, we hear something that makes the machine seem less like a supernatural phenomenon and more like something that might actually be able to exist—and, as Ingram puts it, it’s horrifying. The machine printed out the number of another federal agent who happened to be supplying weaponry to terrorists by noting a peculiar clockwork pattern in the man’s visits to a specific gas station—every third Thursday, regardless of whether or not he had just filled up—and always at a time that coincided with another patron’s visit: the weapon supply was happening at this location. Hearing this explanation makes the machine less mysterious, which makes it all the more exciting. Prior to this, I’m sure a prevalent question in everybody’s mind was how the thing might work. Well, now we have more of an idea of how it might work. It makes it more fun, more interesting, and much more of a terror.
The episode closed out with the machine circa 2005 broadcasting the following message to the audience: “Potential Threat: Nathan Ingram.” As if we had any doubt…
What did you think about the episode? Does finding out how the machine works make it more exciting? What exactly do you predict will (or did) happen with Finch and Ingram? And what will Carter add to the team?