Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Worn Out Places Worn Out Faces (Person of Interest S1E21 Many Happy Returns)

The title of this episode alone is ominous, implying a birthday or anniversary of some kind, which as a general rule in spyssassin drama does not mean anything good. X years on the force is an excuse to kill someone off just before they hit retirement age, a birthday is an excuse to reminisce on past sins in your life just before they come back to haunt you, etc. Anniversaries the same. So, yeah, this isn't going to go well. All we get of today's number before the credits finish rolling is that it's a woman in some hurry with dark glasses that might be a fashion statement but with that hunched body language is more likely a disguise. Not much to go on given that every number is in some sort of trouble. All right, then.

Oh, hello, we're starting with Jess and Reese. This can't be good. First the same flashback that goes with the voice over, then the flashback where she leaves after begging him to ask her to wait, then him talking to her on the phone, Kara shooting him, then Reese is on a bus. He looks tired. Also beardy. Well, that gives us a timeframe, then? One of the baseball kids on the bus with him worries at him, asking what happened to him. He's still got a bloody hole in his side, because that looks at least like fresh blood, so either he tore open some stitches again or he grows his beard really fucking quick because there is no way he would have survived that long with that kind of wound. I'm betting tore open some stitches. Or wardrobe messed up and gave him what looks like wet blood instead of a big dried bloodstain. Any of these except the middle one I would accept! Poor kid is really worried about Reese, as most good-hearted kids would be when there's a homeless-looking guy with a giant bloodstain on his side in front of them on the bus. Reese's only comment is that he quit his job. He thinks. He also sounds very out of it. Oh, and the bus driver is announcing the next stop! It's New Rochelle! Fuck everyone.

Okay, back to the present. Reese seems to be reading a monograph or book or something on stress fractures in titanium. Scintillating. Also very likely relevant to his interests, which amuses me. He doesn't bother looking up when he wiggles his fingers good morning to Finch, which also amuses me. He's being very amusing this morning! Finch looks mildly surprised at first, which is to say his eyebrows are raised an eighth of an inch instead of his usual sixteenth when he's looking at Reese. He also pauses when he sees him, which is a better indicator that he's surprised to see Reese. Finch is curious why he's there so early, but Reese gives a non-answer. A humorous quip, but a non-answer. Finch replies that he should have called and saved the bother, they don't have a number today. That's almost too convenient, really, though I have no reason to suspect Finch is lying because he's very good and habitually very stoic and deadpan. You know what else is too convenient? Reese being at the library that early with his book that he's already at least a decent chunk of the way through. It's not all that surprising that a spyssassin should be up either early or late, one of the oldest tropes for that line of work is trouble sleeping, for reasons also reflected in reality. Still, the fact that the show chooses to bring it out and note it for us to see indicates that something is bothering Reese, and when combined with the title of the episode and the opening scenes, we have found our anniversary/event/troubling look back at someone's life. Oh Reese. Oh sweetie. Reese, by the way, doesn't believe the convenient lie about there not being any numbers either, though he's not sure enough to call Finch out on it. Just a bit incredulous. Even less credulous given that Finch pulls an "oh, isn't that lucky" on him, pointing out that it's his birthday. Reese smiles and says thank you to the tiny box gift thing, but that's still a "the fuck are you on" kind of a smile. Then he gets shooed off and the smile drops, leaving just the "... the fuck are you on?" Shooed off to do whatever it is he does on his time off, which surprises Reese that Finch, who is a notorious information hound, doesn't know what Reese does on his time off. He also doesn't believe that. In fact, no one believes that. Isolated jungle tribes in the Amazon don't believe you, Finch. But Reese apparently is either too bemused, too tired from the anniversary, or too something else to call him on it right now. So, he leaves, and Finch sits down at his desk and looks over just to make sure Reese is actually leaving. Because he respects Reese's privacy. What did I say about nobody believing you? People on the ISS don't believe you. Oh look, he's checking into someone's social security number. That's probably the person in distress of the week. What did we say, Finch? Lie better. By which we mean you've done an excellent job of controlling your face, now at least come up with something plausible.

Meanwhile, Reese will be in the park playing some form of chess with a blind person. A damn good blind person, apparently, since he's calling out the moves while Reese moves the pieces for him. They also know each other at least for a while, going by the banter and how the blind man knows Reese never makes a move he's not sure of. Well, unless under duress, but that comes as a given for most things. He also knows that Reese is usually at work, to which Reese replies that his boss gave him the day off, and it's his birthday. Aww! He's also smiling with unusually genuine warmth, and that might even be... maybe not happiness, but momentary contentment on his face there. Just a little bit. There's definitely a sense of relaxation we don't often see. The man responds in a language I don't know, but I'm guessing a dialect of Chinese by the sounds? Whatever it is, Reese seems to speak it. He asks if Reese got any gifts, to which Reese responds with "one" and opens the box. It's a house key. Or at least a door key of some kind, that's. Odd. He puts it in his friend's hand so he can tell what it is, but neither of them know what it's for. Perhaps in a way this is also part of Finch's birthday present, though, or at least I wouldn't put it past the sneaky bastard. Giving Reese a mystery to solve to distract him from thinking of his life and the horrible things that he's been a part of. Which would be a little premature, but does seem like the kind of thing Finch would think of, just in case.

Back over at the precinct Donnelly seems about to ambush Carter just after getting her morning coffee. Bad Donnelly. He has new information on the hunt for the man in the suit! Carter is another one of those who lies with an impeccably straight face (at least when her conscience isn't troubling her), there's absolutely no sign of how awkward this must be for her. Donnelly's information begins with a reminder for us and a confirmation for him that Carter's in the loop on the smuggling operation that got busted recently, the one that was run on the receiving end by LOS, who was a CIA operative. And since he got caught behind enemy lines, well, we all know what happened to him. Unfortunately Reese has also been caught in a way, they have fingerprints which confirm he was involved in that clusterfuck and now they also have blood, which gives DNA evidence and links him to a cold case in, wait for it: New Rochelle! Because realistically, we all can imagine what Reese would have done when he found out what happened to Jess. They can't come up with a motive for the suspected homicide for real estate developer Peter, but we can! Donnelly's theory is much more sordid and practical involving debt, murder for hire, and first attempts at assassination. It's a decent working theory based on the available evidence, the key phrase here being available evidence. Of which we have considerably more than he does. Anyway, he's going up to New Rochelle to investigate and he'd like Carter to come with out of gratitude for her help and more likely an awareness of her pattern recognition and other detective skills. And now Carter's betraying more signs of how awkward it is with the looking around and the nose scratches. Especially the nose scratches. She'll let him know, and as soon as he leaves Finch calls! What impeccable timing. Seems they both have things to talk about.

Apparently they're going to talk about it in a sports bar. Finch is turning that mug of beer around like he's not sure if it's going to bite him and he wants it to point its teeth the other way. Finch, it's a mug of beer, you drink it, and it doesn't have teeth. Carter would like to know what the fuck is up with Finch and a sports bar, too! Finch gives her some drivel about becoming predictable leading to vulnerability leading to death, which I don't buy any more than she probably does because he's smiling like a schoolboy who's been caught out when he says it. Yeah. Carter's thing for Finch is a case in New Rochelle that further showcases his inability to pokerface at the oddest times. And she tells him the FBI linked Reese's DNA to a crime scene up there in a tone that strongly suggests he start talking. Also that she's weary of dealing with their shit. Which Finch is about to provide more of by suggesting she go up and find the evidence before Donnelly, assuming there is any. Carter would like to remind him that She Doesn't Do That Sort of Thing Dammit, and Finch reminds her that what she does with that evidence is entirely up to her. Neither of you is fooling anyone, you guys, which makes it a good thing that both of these lines are perfunctory and short. Anyway, Finch had something for Carter? No? No, he's going to shoo her out the door instead. Finch, what the fuck is up with you? You're acting squirrelly even for you. That's okay, we'll find out in a second as the waitress comes up to see if he needs anything else. Oh, hey, it's this week's number. Which he hasn't told Reese about and is therefore handling on his own. Along with the Donnelly mess, and the sports bar is just the discomfort cherry on top of the ill equipped sundae. No wonder he's acting funny.

Away from that and back in 2011, Reese is walking down the corridor of a hospital. GOOD. He could probably use one. Except he's not here to get that hole in his side patched up, he's here for Jess. And he does ask at the front desk like a normal person, which is good given how recently he's come off the spy game, but the second he mentions Jessica's name the nurse at the desk goes quiet. And this is when we get the news that Jess died in a car accident two months ago. That gives us something of a timeline, at least, and means the blood on his shirt in the previous flashback is even less explicable: really, he didn't have time for a change of clothes and the wound's been seeping open that long? Six weeks, considering two weeks in Beijing for intel since Jess' call, but still and nonetheless, he got some medical care in between there. Alternatively it's a quiet Christ reference considering Jim Caviezel's previous role. So, a little funny, but still. You can see his face go very still as his mind and world crumbles: Jess died and he wasn't there to save her, he wasn't there, didn't answer her phone call, all the usual guilt mantras. The nurse is sympathetic and sorry and offers her husband's number, but Reese is not only not interested, he's barely hearing anything right now. He turns, leaves, colliding with a man in a wheelchair on his way out. A man whose voice we kind of hear apologizing, but we don't get a look at him. Still. You think that'll be important later? Yeah.

Back in the present Finch is much more comfortable playing Mission Control while Fusco surveilles the woman in question. Fusco looks her up on the cop car computer and finds out that she has a record, mostly for non-violent crime but she's still a felon, which he duly and with much confusion reports to Finch. Yes, Finch is aware, no, he's not concerned with her record, he's concerned that she might be in danger. Apparently Karen Garner has only existed for a few months, which in and of itself is impressive considering the file doesn't list any aliases so, what, in a few months she's racked up that kind of sheet? No. And she only leaves her apartment to go to work, she's always looking over her shoulder, yes, these are signs of a woman on the run. Fusco's skeptical, I think mostly because he's resentful that he's being tasked with this instead of Reese, which he does ask about. Finch is vehement, more so than usual, and I'm not sure if that's because he still has vestiges of chivalric protection urges that pop up at the weirdest times or if that's on Reese's behalf. As far as Fusco is concerned, though, Reese is apparently "otherwise engaged" to anyone except Finch, who sent him on the fak-ation in the first place, and Fusco is not to contact him. Which, if I were Fusco, would raise serious alarm bells, but that's also because I'm the paranoid sort. It's actually not too out of character for Finch, who's made a habit of being cryptic about half the things he tells everyone to do. Still, I have to wonder how much Fusco and Carter look at their phones and fight the temptation to investigate the fuck out of everything he hands them. Carter especially.

Reese's apartment not only seems to resemble the flophouse he was staying in previously, it's full of tinned food. It's small, sink and bed and what passes for a kitchenette (apparently a hot-plate with a pot and a toaster, meaning those are likely tins of soup or things you put on bread) all within feet of each other. At this point Finch has demonstrated considerable willingness to throw around money as requested, and a more upscale apartment with, say, a kitchen and something resembling an actual bedroom even if it's just a loft above the main room wouldn't be out of the realm of reason? But, no, Reese has chosen to stay here. This likely reflects both a sense of self-castigation he hasn't entirely lost and may never entirely lose, as well as the discomfort he may feel either at Finch's more comfortable lifestyle or some other aspect of what he's doing. Flophouses like this are what he knows, what's familiar, and when he comes back here every night he's retreating to what's familiar and safe. That's about to change, as we'll soon see, but for now we have Reese in living conditions similar to when we first encountered him. Twenty one episodes in, that's a good time for a callback like that. He checks his phone, but nothing's going on. That's clearly making him uneasy.

Up in New Rochelle Carter gets there around nine in the morning, that's a really nice house for sale, that is. Donnelly is glad Carter came and we get the precis on Arndt, which is that he played fast and loose with other people's money and got into trouble for it. Various kinds of trouble including losing investor money trouble and loan shark trouble, but it all amounts to the same thing. Also, gambling problem. A bookie gave them the names of a couple likely suspects, but Carter's also interested in this car accident that killed his wife two months before Arndt went missing. Aheh. Aheheheheh. Hi Reese. Even if Carter doesn't have all the information that we the audience do, there are certain pieces she has to be at least wondering how they fit together, such as Jess and her car crash, and Peter, to Reese. She points out to Donnelly that it doesn't sound like the man in the suit, not if there was enough blood left around the house to discourage the idea that he's still alive, let alone disappeared of his own accord. Donnelly sees that as proof that it was the man in the suit's first kill, to which I say 'that's nice dear.' It's still a viable theory, but that's indicative rather than probative and there is a huge gaping gulf of a difference between the two. It's frustrating, but true. Anyway, Donnelly's phone beeps to tell him someone's texted him who found one of the loan sharks, and as he walks away (expecting Carter to follow? leaving her at the house?) she asks if he's talked to any of the local detectives. No, just their reports. Donnelly, honey, you're earnest but you're either not as thorough as I'd require of my agents or you've got a different schedule than I do; I'm going to be charitable and guess the latter. He hasn't yet, anyway, talked to the local cops, but Carter's welcome to do so and let him know what she finds out. Uh-huh. Sure she will.

Fusco's still following our number of the week a couple hours after that as she comes out of the subway station. He's also now convinced, now that he's watching her everyday traveling behavior, that someone's scared her badly. So badly, in fact, that she's made Fusco for her tail. She ducks into a nearby bodega, Fusco doesn't think anything of it at first, nor does he think anything of going into the bodega after her, which, oi. That enclosed a space? Not exactly unobtrusive. But when he doesn't see her he asks the clerk at the counter if he's seen a woman come through here, and we can guess what's happened (as does Finch) when the clerk says she asked to use the bathroom through the back. Yep, he's lost her. Finch is neither pleased nor intending to continue having Fusco tail her, he'll take it from there. Yes, because you're so much better at it. Finch, you can pull Reese in on this one, I promise. He won't break. No? No. Also you could sound a little less annoyed at/disgusted with Fusco, you know, see: your tailing skills aren't much better. Let us demonstrate. Finch goes into the bar and claims to be a neighbor of Karen Garner's, and is all smiling and asking the bartender if she's working tonight, if she's there, and so on. She called out that day, unfortunately, probably because Fusco spooked her. Unfortunately what Finch hasn't counted on is that if she's being followed closely enough to make her that paranoid, the person following her probably is still around. And of course we have a man down the bar taking undue interest in the conversation. He approaches Finch outside, where potential friends and allies of Karen's can't overhear, and claims to be a federal marshal. He even has a badge! Aww, that's so cute. Finch immediately tenses up with the flashing of the badge and gives alleged Marshal Jennings the shiny eyes of hostility and paranoia and if you make one wrong move I will bite your throat out. Well, that's not good. Either for the alleged Marshal Jennings or for Finch's state of mind. Marshal Jennings says that Karen Garner is a wanted criminal and maybe Finch can help him by telling him where he lives, since they're neighbors, and that's not going to fly with Finch. Unfortunately, Finch also doesn't seem to be thinking on his feet well enough to talk his way out of it, he's too personally involved to think clearly. It's not a consistent character trait (which is actually more realistic than if it were), but it's consistent enough to be something he needs to work on in the field, this tendency to seize up when personal matters overlap with professional and become dangerous. Fortunately Reese Batmans up behind the Marshal with a cheerful and authoritative "Hello, Harold!" The authoritative is the most important part. The badge helps too. He claims to be organized crime, that Finch is his CI, and that he's a money launderer for the late Don Moretti. Which is nice because there's very little way of confirming that part straight off, although really, if it comes down to confirming Finch's CI status the good Marshal will have already smashed through the fictitious Detective Stills. But all it has to do is sound plausible and get them out of there, and it works. He marches Finch off, rebuking the alleged Marshal for approaching him in public and saying he's risking his cover. He even manages to get in a good "what did he want", which works both as cop to CI and Reese to Finch, as does Finch's answer. Honestly, it's not that Finch is a bad operative, it's just that he's not as good or practiced as Reese is, and therefore not always as good as he needs to be. Even he recognizes this, even as far back as the beginning, else he wouldn't have hired Reese. Still, he is improving, we'll give him points for that.

The way Finch asks Reese if he was following him comes across as almost petulant, which could be for so many reasons I won't speculate here. Reese's expression in his response of accusing Finch of working a case without him actually seems hurt. Finch shoveled him off with not even a plausible lie, or a lie that would hold up past a few hours, and let him sit around being bored, and maybe he wonders if that's because he hasn't been doing a good enough job, or maybe he's just hurt that Finch thought he could be so easily set aside. Oh boys. You really need to communicate better. Hey, speaking of communicating better, Finch, that's kind of a lameass excuse. Or even if it's a good excuse, it's a poor showing of how much you know and care about a friend that you make such assumptions about what's good for him without even trying to covertly question him first. Anyway, Finch runs through the case with Reese and, after a pause, explains why he thinks this number is running away from someone she was once close to: there is one specific kind of pattern to the numbers the Machine spits out, or at least, to some of them. Namely that there is a pattern at all, they keep popping up. And why would someone be continually in premeditated danger? Because they knew, were intimate with, or were living with their attacker. On the one hand, this is a bit odd because so much of domestic violence isn't premeditated. That's part of the horror of domestic violence, the constant state of hyper-awareness in which the people in the household live because anything could set the abuser off, and often does. However, there's also a great deal of domestic violence that is, if you have the kind of surveillance net the Machine does, premeditated. If the Machine detects someone saying they've got to tune someone else up, that someone else being a person who repeatedly goes to the hospital for injuries incurred from "falling down stairs," it's a safe assumption and a high probability that the person will be injured again. And Finch of course has to take this to the worst possible conclusion, that he realized they were living with the person who would eventually kill them. His face and eyes are wide open, distressed by this, but Reese's face and body language are cold and dispassionate and dead. His voice, on the other hand, is sharp and pissed off. He tells Finch to send him the address, implying that he'll track down the number with more success than Finch has had, and then they'll continue the discussion. That's the kind of tone that usually results in a very angry argument. Oh Reese, honey. I know exactly why he's pissed off, too: Finch, albeit unintentionally, has caused Reese to stand around fidgeting for several hours when he could have (and, in Reese's mind, should have) been helping a woman in an abusive relationship situation. And that's harder on what Finch calls his sensitivities than actually working the case would have been. See also: oh boys, you don't know each other nearly as well as you think you do yet. But you're learning. Give it time.

That said, now that Reese has the address he's wasting no time thinking about his now-rocky relationship with Finch and going over to sit in her apartment and wait for her. She is, understandably, freaked out by the sudden presence of a strange man in her bedroom. She also points a gun at him, again, understandably, but that means it's probably a good thing it's Reese doing this, who is so used to having guns pointed at him by now that his tone and expression don't change in the slightest when he does so. Also good: Reese's customary quiet monotone. No sudden movements, no sudden changes in volume or tone to alarm her. He asks her questions, doesn't seem as interested in whether or not she answers so much as in her responses, by which he determines that she's running from her husband. See, it's not necessarily so much that he's bad at all the profiling skills, just that he's bad at the longer term or more in depth analysis. We now have the dialogue where he tries to get her to calm down and trust him, in part by not making her admit in words, necessarily, what's happening to her. That's a tactic that can work, isn't necessarily always recommended, but it can help the person to distance themselves from what's happening to them enough to cope with the practicalities of the situation. As a happy side effect, it also helps show her that he doesn't blame or question her, with the lack of blame in his voice and the stating in a very matter-of-fact tone everything that's happened. He also reminds her that her husband won't stop, won't give up, which seems to be what finally gets her to lower the gun, the hopelessness of trying to run away. Even if she loses him, she'll never be fully sure that he's not following her. She knows this, Reese knows this. She relaxes somewhat, which we hear as a spoken cue by her inviting him to call her by her name, meanwhile Finch is over the earbud tracking down her aliases to her original name. Which is apparently Sarah Jennings. Hello, Mr. Marshal. Reese says this aloud which gets her startled confirmation, but it's not important how he knows this, what's important is that they can help her. Not he, they. She picks up on this too, and either that or the fact that Reese is now standing frightens her. Probably a little of both, Reese can be very loomy even when he's not trying and for a woman, men very often cause a threat response simply by being larger. At any rate, the we is Reese's colleague who will watch over her while he takes care of things, and she needs to stay here. Sarah is rightfully wary of this, but also so worn down from running that she doesn't have the energy to question this or can't think of the questions. And to be fair, Reese is being about as reassuring as it's capable for him to be with her. There's a lot of factors hampering that reassurance: his spyssassin training and therefore deadly and dispassionate habits, her fear and awareness of lethality, the rapidity with which they have to cover the details so as to deal with the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible. Still, he tries.

Speaking of things he's tried, let's go back up to New Rochelle! Carter's waiting at the desk and here comes a police officer with the file on Peter Arndt. Carter checks with the detective's (I assume she's a detective?) impression of what happened to Peter Arndt, but she hadn't had enough experience with contract killings to feel comfortable saying for certain whether or not this was one. She admits that Arndt owed a lot of money to some nasty people, so there's more than enough motive and means for someone to hire a contact killer to bump him off. Inconclusive, though. The car accident? Single car accident, husband says he swerved to avoid a deer, wife was killed. The detective highlights more for the audience as it's an aside comment to Carter that he survived the crash only to get taken out two months later, and Carter clearly finds something not right about that. The detective goes off to take a phone call, Carter says by the desk looking over the police report, and the Machine takes this as a cue to show us what happened in New Rochelle! February in New Rochelle. The house is full of condolence cards and Peter has a knee brace. One that's almost a walking cast more than a brace, presumably from the accident. We see this first in a couple of normal shots, then one of those distance shots as he gets into a car, the sort of shot that puts the audience into the point of view of someone watching the character. Hello Reese. Well, hello Reese's eyes. As though we hadn't already guessed. He watches Peter drive off then breaks into the house to look around. Somewhat tellingly, the pictures we see on the surfaces are all individual shots, no happy couple shots like we usually get when one member of a couple has died. We even get one really good shot of smiling happy Jess just to drive the knife deeper into Reese. Who will sit down and listen to the last message she ever sent him to twist the knife a bit? The man is big on masochism, I have to say. Pretend I made all those on the cross jokes at least half of us are thinking right now. The message triggers a flashback within a flashback, or possibly we're looking at Reese's supposition of what's happening? Jessica is not looking so bright and happy, she looks tired. Worn down. Just for added effect the scene is shot darker and more gray than usual. As she hangs up the phone Peter comes in without her noticing, in the background so the audience doesn't necessarily notice. He scares her, or so she says, but more likely that's the hyperaware reflex of someone whose home has become a minefield. He wants to know who she's calling. Not in more normal curious tones, but in the tones of there's a right answer and a wrong answer and the wrong answer will get her in deep shit. "Nobody" is definitely the wrong answer, at least in part because it's blatantly untrue. Ooh, just so we know he's a feckless abuser, he'll get a beer from the fridge, because on television about 75% of abusers are shown with alcohol, as though that's the main reason. Maybe the number is higher, that's just a guess. From the flashback within the flashback to just the flashback, Reese looks around the house with an expression that's more sullen than his usual deadly rage, but there's still rage there. And out of the flashbacks entirely to the present day.

Carter's at the morgue now, talking to the medical examiner. Coroner? No, medical examiner, it says ME on his coat. About Jessica Arndt's cause of death. He pulls up her file on the computer, shows her X-rays, and Carter asks about two previous injuries, cracked rib and a broken wrist. Injuries consistent with any number of things, but when you put in the fact that it's a spiral wrist fracture, anyone who's seen a lot of procedurals or had the requisite bad things happen to them knows where you get that. From, as Carter says, having her wrist twisted, hard enough to fracture it. We see this happen in flashback as Carter continues to talk to the ME, sort of as background narration. She doesn't so much ask about the wrist fracture as tell it and then the ME doesn't contradict her. He does challenge her more on the cause of death; Carter posits that Jessica had the broken neck and head injury before the accident, because the airbags were deployed. The ME stands by his findings, it looks like, less because he believes them and more because opening a murder investigation after a few years have passed because he fumbled the initial autopsy would be awkward. To say the least. And on the second flashback it turns out that this one only includes a wrist grab and not the wrist fracture, because there goes Peter flinging her around and, oh, there's the head injury and the broken neck. Either instantly fatal or close enough as to knock her unconscious and then, because Peter freaks out, she doesn't get the medical attention she needs and dies within minutes, maybe half an hour. The ME talks over the flashback of Peter starting to call someone (the police? an ally?) and deciding not to, which is an interesting juxtaposition of narration and visuals. We have the ally, Carter, over the flashback that largely focuses on the victim, Jess, and then we have the denier, the ME, over the flashback that focuses on the abuser, Peter. It's a very subtle dialogue of editing, demonstrating the habitual back and forth of abuser and abused. Carter is very skeptical of the ME's assertions, though. Donnelly interrupts this with a phone call telling Carter he's going to go meet with Arndt's closest family, his mother-in-law, to see if she knows anything. Ooh, Jess's mother! Carter will meet him there.

Back over in New York it's mid-afternoon and Finch has eyes on her apartment and a track on her phone to keep an eye on her. One could wish that he were more present and immediate to deter or stop Jennings, but there are definitely myriad mitigating factors that make for good reasons why he shouldn't be, not the least of which is that he's not nearly as physically capable as Reese or in some ways even Sarah, and having another male around Sarah who is at least tacitly interposing himself between her and Jennings would likely provoke him. So, at a distance it is. Finch is also digging into Jennings' past, and apparently he was sued twice for excessive use of force. Neither that nor the fact that he fabricated the charges on Sarah and her aliases merits the jar. Predictable villain is predictable. Reese editorializes enough that we can tell this is deeply personal for him, so Finch was right about that, even if he underestimated Reese's ability to cope with his issues. But I have to admire Reese's solution even if, as a real world, it's impractical. But Reese lives in TV land! He is therefore free to destroy the fucker in the most satisfying of revenge fantasies. He's also going into the US Marshals building. Oh shit. Into the building and down the hall and Jennings sees him approach and calls him Detective Stills, so he hasn't stopped to check up on Reese's background yet. Which admittedly might be difficult given that he only has a name and a glimpse of a badge, but presumably he could call around and check the precincts. He hasn't yet. He greets Reese with poking him about his alleged CI again, and Reese greets him with a punch to the face that likely had many audience members jumping up and down and yelling booyah. The other marshals he hits to get them out of the way, not so much. But then he hauls Jennings to his feet and tells him he knows what he's doing, and if he comes after her again, Reese will kill him. In the car, Finch has much the same expression as I do, that holy shit what the fuck are you doing Reese?? oh shit this is going to go so bad so fast because, heh. For all his expertise at being violent and deadly, and even with what happened to Jess, Reese doesn't seem to have the nuances of the pathology of abusers down very pat. See also, not a profiler. Jennings has been humiliated in front of his peers and he's been denied the thing he wants most, or if not most, definitely up there. And all of that is tied to Sarah. This will anger him, will make him blame her, will make him want to secure her even more and punish her for causing his humiliation and emasculation. In short, Reese, nice job breaking it, dude.

While we're having some oh crap moments, Finch has lost Sarah. Possibly because, if she was listening in, Reese just went and royally pissed her husband off. Reese at least realizes some of this, if not the extent to which he fucked up, because he tells Finch that they need to move her to a safer location. A little warning would have been nice so as not to freak out your buddies, Reese. I'm just saying. I'm sure he thinks he has a plan here, but it's not a very good one. Finch would also like to know what the fuck Reese thinks he's doing, antagonizing a federal marshal (albeit a massive asshole of a marshal) and the entire Marshal's Service building while he's at it. See: thinks he has a plan, not a very good one. Sarah's not in her apartment, she looks to have gone out the window, and broke her phone while she was at it. The reasons aren't specific, but several possibles are very clear. The upshot is, she's in the wind.

Which at the moment means she's at the bus/train station trying to buy a ticket out of the city. Unfortunately for her, this means she has to present photo ID. The ticket agent is pretty good about not giving outward signs of recognizing her as a wanted criminal, but the fact that he takes a second to pick up the phone and call someone alerts her that she's been made. Both of these things could have been avoided: her if she'd taken a second to get new ID and at least change her hair color (and possibly add some facial makeup or pads to change the look of her face, though that requires more experience than I'd expect her to have) and the ticket agent if he'd given her the ticket and then called for police to go catch her at the boarding area. You know, in case she'd been an actual terrorist or whatever alert her husband has out on her. Neither of them do this, though. And she gets caught heading towards the trains anyway, and arrested. On the plus side, this means she's now in the system which means it'll flag our boys' attention! Not that she knows this right now. But it does, and Fusco calls up Finch to tell him that Karen Garner got picked up at the train station. The transit cops are holding her till the Marshals pick her up. Well, Marshal. Which he does before our heroes can get to her, and that's a very "oh fuck me" look Reese has. Deservedly so. This is what happens when you challenge an abuser like that, Reese. I hope you'll realize this for next time. Still, right now they're kind of up shit creek without a paddle or, more descriptively, with no way to track Jennings and their number. After a couple seconds of panicking Finch does remember that government vehicles are equipped with mobile wi-fi, which he can track. The trick will be to figure out which of the blinking red dots is Jennings. Well, that one's easy. It's the one that's heading out of the city, as Reese points out. He wants to take her some place where he can't be reached, found, or interrupted. Because reasons, nefarious ones. And because of these nefarious reasons and likely worse than usual intentions, because Jennings caught up with his victim and it's largely Reese's fault, because Reese really fucking hates people who beat up the people they supposedly love (although I wonder what he'd do if the genders were switched), and because Reese is, deep down, a very broken psychopath, he tells Finch to leave the laptop and get the fuck out of the car. Finch is likewise very broken, but not in the same ways Reese is, and this is one of those times when the two breaks are vastly divergent. Finch scurries out of the car with his wide-eyed expression of abruptly realizing that Reese is not a tame hitman, and Reese peels out of there with a squeal of tires. One of the hidden advantages to Jennings taking his victim out of there so he can have some privacy to work is that now Reese has privacy to work, too. This isn't going to go well for someone. We hope it's Jennings.

Back in New Rochelle Jess's mother has a small shrine to her daughter which would be cute if Jess were still alive. As things stand, it just seems to make Carter unsure of how to begin and strikes us as a little sad, the continual grieving process. The mother, at least, believes the two of them were close, and they spoke almost every day. But she wasn't aware of Peter's financial difficulties. I'd be suspicious that her endorsement of Peter was that he was a good provider if it hadn't been in response to a question about finances, and yet something in that phrasing makes me raise an eyebrow anyway. That's usually what gets said of men who are somewhat lacking in the bringing emotional health to a relationship department. Still, it's not indicative of the mother knowing about the abuse. And her hesitation and confusion does indicate that she didn't know Peter was over three million (seriously? fucking hell, man) in debt to "various entities." That's a nice way of saying loan sharks. But she didn't know that Peter and Jess were going through any difficulties financial or otherwise. She's careful not to describe their marriage as perfect, but doesn't cite any one example or another as something that she feels would have been a major problem. While she's saying this Donnelly leaves the room to take a call, and when he comes back he takes Carter out of the room, too. Apparently a man in a suit assaulted four deputy marshals back in the city earlier! Gee. Carter's "wait, WHAT"? is as much for "Reese what the fuck are you doing" as for Donnelly's sake, because she has no idea what the case of the week is nor how complicated it's gotten. And will she stay and talk to the mother because it looks like a dead end, which indicates at least to me that she hasn't told Donnelly about what she's discovered at the ME's office. She agrees, and Donnelly goes off, leaving her free to call up Finch and go "Finch what the fuck is Reese doing." Finch claims to have it all under control, and no one is buying that. Carter especially isn't buying that with a "don't make me come down there and slap the stupid out of you" face, because she is still the best. Finch attempts to distract her by asking about New Rochelle, which works at least in that it drags the conversation off the topic of Reese's misbehavior for a bit. Donnelly hasn't found anything in his investigation but she thinks she has, and the matter of fact way she says that is one more indicator that she's separating herself from the police and the legitimate law enforcement body, at least where all things Finch and Reese are concerned. She's running a separate investigation, she's aiming towards a separate goal. And she thinks Peter Arndt killed his wife and covered it up with the car accident. She also thinks Finch and Reese were still working together at this point, at least by the next several statements. Reese, of course, was too late. And she doesn't yet understand his connection to this and is Finch sure there's nothing more he wants to tell her? In the tone of someone who knows the other person knows more than he's telling and is waiting for him to wise up. That works on low-level perps, sadly, but Finch just expresses perfunctory confidence and hangs up on her, much to Carter's visible annoyance. Back into the house to discuss Peter and Jess's marital problems with her mother, we get to listen to the mother protesting too much some more. Now she really is protesting too much, rather than giving examples after the 'little spats' description she emphasizes that they aren't worth discussing. The fact that she feels the need to emphasize this in the first place, seriously. Carter prods her into at least thinking about whether or not these 'spats' ever became physical, but the mother doesn't admit or deny anything, and Carter eventually backs down, likely because she has the answer she's looking for. Peter hit Jessica, abused her physically, and the mother knew about it. And most likely continued to advocate that Jessica stay with Peter, which would have contributed to Jess feeling trapped and as though the only one she could reach out to was Reese. Oh everyone. The mother sees Carter to the door, saying something about how Peter was so much better than Jess's usual type. And that pings something for Carter, who asks for more details and gets something about a fling with a soldier. Hey, Carter. There's your connection. A bit more of hammering details into place with the exposition stick, though Carter's already figured it out by now, we can see it in her face. Jess's mother seems to have disapproved solely on the grounds that Reese was always away on duty, but she does now say she wonders if Jess had waited for this mysterious soldier, if things could have worked out, etc. This seems more like wishing her daughter had made choices that led to her being alive, though. As a capper on everything Carter asks if the mother has pictures of this soldier, and while she doesn't, she still has some of Jessica's things. Jewelry, old checkbook boxes, and yes, hidden away in the jewelry box, a picture of Jess and an actually smiling Reese in uniform. You can see the "oh honey" crossing Carter's face as it all fits together.

More flashbacks, now. Reese sitting in Jess and Peter's house watching their wedding video (reception video?). The airport scene, specifically the fragment where she tells him she got engaged. The "in the end we're all alone, and no one's coming to save you." juxtaposed over Reese watching the wedding video as it closes in on Peter's face. Him telling her to be happy with Peter. Her, asking him to ask her to wait for him. Just as Reese gets to the part on the wedding video, the important part, which he rewinds just to be sure he saw that fear on Jess's face. Why yes, he did. And now he's pissed. Grieving and in pain and pissed, a bad combination for an emotionally compromised spyssassin. Back in the present Carter is looking at the photo and asking someone named Jean or Gene (we don't have a spelling yet) for a favor. Since she isn't using her current title we can assume this is either a civilian contact or a contact from her time in the military. Personnel file! So, military contact, then. She gives the list of criteria she's managed to determine of Reese and asks him or her to make it eyes only.

Out on the road, it's about eight at night and Reese seems to be following Jennings up to Poughkeepsie? Which apparently means it's time for Finch to call and not too subtly beg Reese to tell him he's not going to do what Finch thinks he's going to do. Finch, your spyssassin is in a murderous rage right now. Do not poke the happy fun spyssassin. Which, really, is pretty much what Reese tells him. Finch offers to bring in the police on the case when Reese gives him no assurances that Jennings will be alive the next morning. Reese's response is to tell him that if Finch doesn't like the way Reese does things he can go find another pet spyssassin. See, Finch? Aren't you sorry you made this call? Yes, yes he is, as we can tell from the panicked "John?" First name basis will not save you, Finch. John isn't here right now. Jennings pulls up to a motor lodge shortly after Reese gets off the phone with Finch, gets a room. And Finch's day is about to get a lot worse because now when he calls Carter she tacitly accuses him of keeping things from her. It's not much of an accusation, I think because she understands that Finch preferred she find out on her own and draw her own conclusions, but the accusation is still there. And Finch has another, separate problem for her: he can't reach Reese. In a more metaphorical/emotional sense of the phrase. Adding "or stop him" only emphasizes that aspect, as well as the urgency. 'Oh shit' is definitely the proper response, here.

Jennings marches Sarah into the motel room he's hired for the night, sits her down on the bed. He wanted them to have some time together! Oh this isn't going to go well at all. I mean, not that it ever was, but hoo boy. He promises he's going to fix things with them, which in and of itself is a danger sign because he's using words like 'fix' and 'them' when she clearly doesn't want there to be a 'them' anymore, and she's in pure survival mode. Agree, pacify, do anything to keep herself from being physically hurt any more than she already has been. He's clinging, touching, reminding both of them that she belongs to him and she's back where she belongs right now. Unfortunately, she interprets this as indicating he's in a more pleasant and genial mood, so she asks him to take the cuffs off. The long pause between her question and his violent response is time for him to display his temper sharpening again and, of course, he blames her for his hitting her. It's not outright stated, but it's very much and very blatantly implied. We close the scene on a close-up of her crying, having fallen face down into the bed, for maximum hopelessness. And when we come back he's hitting all the usual abuser speech patterns, that she's wrong to believe he wants this, that this has been so hard on him. It's like a really twisted bingo card. He's gone to so much trouble for her. He loves her so much, which is of course the center square on the Things Abusers Say bingo card. But he can't do this anymore, which is a massive danger sign and indicates he's going to do something permanent and likely fatal. Which is when the phone rings.

Clever Reese; the phone call is a distraction (and you really don't see this kind of sneaky tactic on TV often enough, in my opinion) for him to go crashing through the door and depriving Jennings of both his gun and his handsome nose. The fight lasts very little time and is clearly a curb-stomping, Reese is both blatantly better trained and more vicious, more motivated to be vicious, whereas Jennings is surprised and doesn't react well to other alpha males, as we saw from his previous interaction with Reese. (Few objections raised, much less aggressive body language as opposed to when he was talking to Finch.) Sarah is hysterically sobbing with her face into the wall, partly out of submissive instinct and partly so she doesn't have to see what's going on and be further terrified by it. Which is fine, that just makes it easier for Reese to unlock her cuffs. She doesn't flinch away from him quite as much as I would expect, but her body posture is definitely curled in on herself and away from Reese as she turns. He tells her to go on, go anywhere she wants, she's free and, again, his usual stoic reserve serves him well here, not triggering any of her submissive or fear responses. She composes herself enough to tell him thank you as she leaves, too, which is a good sign that a partial, functional recovery will be quick. Full functional recovery of course will take years and years, and much help from various sources.

Jennings calls after her in a stunned, very nose-broke voice. Reese tells him that she's gone, that it's over. He sounds almost tired. Jennings laughs, tells him he's never been in love. That's not love, you psychotic shithead, that's not real or true love. Not that Reese bothers to argue or contradict him. Jennings claims that because it's true love it'll never be over, which is for Reese truer than Jennings could or will ever know. But Reese tells him it's over for him, and delivers another satisfying punch to the face. This whole episode is all kinds of cathartic that way. A revenge fantasy that abusers might indeed get the punishment they so richly deserve, at least for those of us with violent revenge fantasies. And also, for Sarah, the reward that she can escape and finally be free of her abuser, when so many women aren't or can't for one reason or another.

Anyway. Finch having dispatched Carter up to try to talk reason to Reese, she comes up behind him and turns her lights on to pull him over. He can't know it's her, but at least he's still in an obeying the police mood, and her having the lights on prevents the curious or the other police from stopping by wondering why two people are parked in the middle of the road. Reese's expression is very solemn, very icy when she walks up to the window, but he does roll it down to talk to her. And he looks down when she mentions that Finch said she might find him up this way. At a guess, he feels sorry for freaking Finch out like that, and maybe a little sad that he's become someone who freaks his friends out like that. Carter tells him she can't let him do this, this can't end like New Rochelle, triggering an indrawn breath from John, who remembers his failure with Jess all too well. No other response, though. Everything is buried deep beneath the surface. Yes, Carter, Jennings is probably in the trunk. John's breathing is labored but controlled, intense, angry. Carter can do what she wants to do, but it won't stop him from doing what he has to do; those words sound petulant and very much like he isn't thinking about what he'll have to do to stop her from stopping him. Because I can think of half a dozen things, all of them involving their friendship going very sideways. Fortunately her method of stopping him starts with trying to talk sense into him. She'll take him back, make sure he gets a trial, gets punished the way the law says he deserves. No one believes this, though, least of all Reese. Abusers so rarely get the punishment they deserve or at least removed from society to make their victims safer, even less frequently when they're in a position of power and authority the way Jennings is, we know this to be true in life and Reese knows this to be true within the show. No matter Carter's good intentions, it's not up to her, she works within the system, and he doesn't. He has the luxury of carrying out those revenge fantasies that we fall back on when the system fails us. She doesn't. He also tries to tell her this isn't on her, that it's on him, which works about as well as her trying to assure him that she'll see justice is done. In the end, neither of them is able to convince the other, but since Carter isn't willing to resort to physical force to keep him there, John is able to roll up the window and drive away, leaving Carter staring helplessly and sadly after him.

Back in the past, Reese is still watching videos and it's after dark now. He clearly hasn't bothered to turn on the lights. He doesn't seem to notice anything but the videos, and it's not clear whether he's even watching that. We hear a door close, and hey! Here comes Peter. By now it can't come as a surprise to anyone, what Reese does, even knowing how it turns out. Peter assumes Reese is an enforcer from someone called Sullivan, which is less a testimony of how Reese has that aura of barely-leashed violence and more Peter's assumptions upon coming home and finding a stranger sitting in his armchair watching his videos and eating his porridge. He assumes Reese wants his money, and Reese tells him he has nothing he wants. Not anymore. That's probably very unnerving to hear from a guy who broke into your house apparently just to sit in your chair and watch your videos, along with the excessively existential and rambling answer Reese gives to a simple "who are you?" Eventually he works his way around to confessing that he was the guy who left Jess so she could be with Peter, who he thought was better, the good man she deserved. Peter audibly swallows at this, knowing how far from 'good man' he's come (or always was?) so, at least he knows he's an abusive scumbag! Reese is now either looking to Peter to tell him who to be or looking to Peter for cues on who to be, and there's a subtle difference between the two. Given that he's barely looked at Peter the whole time he's been speechifying, I know which one I'm going with. His eyes are mostly fixed on pictures of Jess, bloodshot and teary, and we get a repeat of the series-opening monologue just to be sure we know how much this shattered him. And at this point, at the conclusion of this, Peter does what is possibly the dumbest thing he could do: he picks up an iron poker and holds it like he intends to use it on Reese. Even Reese knows this is a dumb idea, and hangs his head with equal parts "I wish you'd done something else" and "oh you stupid son of a bitch." Maybe with a touch of "Sigh, so we're here again?" We don't see what happens. We just get the music spiraling up into the crisis/suspense riff for the show, see Reese hauling himself out of the chair (and with subtle but emphatic movements of his body to indicate that this is more hauling himself out of the chair than getting up) and the camera follows Reese's back towards Peter, a little shaky, indicating unsettled movement or possibly unhinged frame of mind. We don't see what happens, because nothing is still scarier or more ominous than showing the threat itself; we just cut to the Machine taking us back to the present.

For symmetry, the present will take place under the bridge where Finch made his first pitch to Reese. Finch is sitting at the bench; Reese comes up and sits heavily next to him. We have some very calm, very clipped back and forth between the two men, neither of them betraying what this case has cost them in their voices but in a way, the lack of emotion betrays them even more. Both of them are so upset by this that they feel the need to assume that kind of control around each other, where we'd previously seen them allowing themselves to lapse here and there throughout the entire back half of this season. Finch implies that he hadn't or wasn't going to track Reese down through his original means and the resources they both know he has at his disposal. Reese doesn't elaborate on what he did. Finch still claims that not telling Reese about Sarah was the right call. Reese rebukes him for that. Finch blinks first, but Reese blinks hardest, not only looking at Finch but outright letting some emotion and near-tears show through and asking him if he knew what would happen to Jess. Finch all but confirms it, but the words he uses are instead words of absolution, reminding Reese that he didn't have access to a top-notch spyssassin at the time, and Reese was on his job and couldn't get to her in time; there was nothing either of them could have done. While Reese chews on that Finch tosses him another distraction, because however he originally intended Reese to find the apartment, that's exactly what that business card is: a distraction. Another mystery to solve. There's an address on it, which is no mystery considering that key looked remarkably like a door key. Reese keeps his thousand-yard stare for a bit longer, though.

Back at the precinct, Carter has that file she requested. It's a very thin one for someone who presumably was in as long as Reese was, either because it's a personnel file only including his basic information and DD214 or because the bulk of his information is redacted because security. We don't see her do more than glance at it, so it's hard to tell whether she did flip through it and look at the information within before shredding it and the New Rochelle documents. That second one could get nasty if it comes to light that she investigated the car crash and doesn't have anything to show for it. She comes to the picture of Reese and Jess and doesn't shred that, but tucks it away in her jacket. Some things apparently shouldn't be destroyed, and this picture reminds her of John's humanity. Possibly it also gives her hope that he can become closer to what most would think of as human again. As she's leaving? going back to her desk? she gets a phone call from a Central/South American accented man working in a prison. A Warden Gustavo Peña is calling to tell her that they have her fugitive in custody! Yeah, Carter has no idea what he's talking about, but we do. Apparently a Marshal Jennings delivered the fugitive to them, along with 10 kilos of uncut heroin that had been found in his possession. Depending on where you market it, that could be anywhere from a quarter mil to three quarters of a million dollars worth of heroin. So, a lot! I can't tell you how many watch lists I'm on right now, but I bet that's a lot, too. Just so we're clear, Carter requests a description and, yes, that's Reese. He gave her name and number as the original arresting officer, and asked them to assure her that the fugitive would be there for a long time. And does he have any other Americans there? Oh, one or two. Now, okay, the town this penitentiary is in, Torreón? It's not that big of a city and it is towards the center of Mexico, so that is a little suspicious. And on the other hand, Mexico was and apparently still is a fairly large tourist destination for Americans, so it's not implausible that these are unrelated prisoners. Still, the implication is clear. Torreón and possibly other Mexican cities are Reese's dumping ground for prisoners he doesn't want running free, doesn't trust to the justice system, and doesn't want to dispose of himself for whatever reason. It's at least somewhat likely, I'd say almost 50/50, that both Peter and Benton (Cura Te Ipsum, 1x04) are in there. And it's hard to say whether or not Carter approves of this. Still, it's probably easier on her than if she didn't know what had happened to him and went around thinking Reese had killed him. Which he was visibly tempted to do. Hell, I'd be tempted. Look, I'm a violent person occasionally, okay?

And we end, in a way, where we began: starting with Reese's birthday present, precious. First we see the somewhat grungy, not well kept up hallway that leads to the door to which the key goes, then we see a really nice loft apartment which, even though it's sparsely decorated, that is a fucking huge loft apartment in a prime location for New York City. An apartment like that would probably start out at 3 mil buying price, easy. We also would like to judge Finch for giving a spyssassin an apartment with eight, ten foot windows, because come the fuck on. It's not even like the windows face out only onto open park, it's got at least a couple buildings from which you could make a good sniper nest and take out someone in the apartment. Which means clearly we're giving this more thought than Finch was, although I will give him a cookie for paying enough attention to Reese to give him an apartment that overlooks the park where he plays chess. This shows attention to Reese, the man. Quite a bit less so to Reese, the spyssassin, but maybe there will be other safehouses in the future. Finch has shown at least some greater intelligence with those, i.e. fewer windows and avenues of approach. Reese looks around the apartment for a second, hopefully noting the "please come snipe me" windows, looks down on the park, and smiles a little. He thinks Finch is cute, too.

Continuing the theme of ending where we begin and for the symmetry of it all, we wrap up with a scene from the past. Reese, finding out at the hospital about Jess's death, stumbling out in blind grief and knocking into someone in a wheelchair. Are we at all surprised to find out that this is Finch, and that he has her, Reese's, and Peter's numbers all in that folder of his? No. No we are not.

We're heading towards the finish, folks. It only gets worse from here on in!

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly, THOROUGHLY enjoyed this review of my favorite POI eppy...MHR. Loved your observations, your descriptions your in depth look at each character, as we've come to know them, and their relationships to each other.
    Thank you so much for such a great read!