Also known as The Ep Where Reese Has to Flirt. But we get ahead of ourselves. Credits are the same as ever for the new season (and inquiring minds would like to know what s3 credits will bring! will the Machine do the voiceover, having been freed? because DO WANT), and our only glimpse of this week's number is of a well-dressed woman who… frankly, on first glance looks kind of like Zoe. Both in the facial structure and the kick ass and take names attitude. Well, if I'm right, then Reese will totally have at least a bit of a crush on her. Because Reese has a Type.
We open with a series of news articles and yes, if you look closely they're all written by one woman. Also one of those ubiquitous phone calls between two anonymous men who are talking about the mayoral election and how two white guys (one old and authoritarian, the other younger and presumably more charismatic) are having one hell of a race. Whee. We know what that means! Lots of money and backroom dealings being flung around, probably several of the less-than-legal variety, and therefore someone in danger. Apparently the reporter, Maxine Angelis, is on the trail of Griffin (aka old-and-authoritarian) who's supposedly cooking the books. Because nobody ever does anything stupid when money and power are BOTH involved oh wait.
Moving along to surveillance footage of Angelis, who has resorted to her own stable of dirty tricks to get an interview with one of the people running Griffin's campaign finances. Namely, pretending to be a hooker and getting him alone in a hotel room with her phone's recording system running. Also, now I know why she looks so familiar, it's because that's the same actress as plays Alex on White Collar. Pardon me while I go have a fit of OW NO CROSSOVER OW BAD. (Can you imagine Reese and Finch running into Neal Caffrey or Peter Burke?) Ahem. No, she's right, as long as she releases all the tape and doesn't make it seem like she had sex with the guy for a story her readers will probably think no worse of her than they already do. I'd guess she's used this tactic before, with her ease with the whole situation. We zoom out to see that Reese is already the one on surveillance, which is good, means we don't need to worry about just who's keeping an eye on her. More than usual. So, yes, she's the number this episode, and both the boys are rather admiring of her particular skillset. As well they might be, given that investigative actual journalism is really damn hard to come by these days. Both in Machine 'verse and in reality. For a change, Finch is putting up the murderboard while Reese does the initial surveillance, possibly to demonstrate their renewed urgency and/or the fact that as many pies as Angelis has her fingers in, she's got all kinds of very dangerous people gunning for her. Also, Finch bought Bear a squeaky toy out of some perverse sense of new dog ownership. It's okay, Finch, it's a mistake most new pet owners make exactly once, unless they have a place where they can put the squeaky toys away. Reese thinks he's adorable and his facial expression is all soft. Oh boys. Angelis has covered Elias, HR, the cartel, in descending order of viciousness. Yeah, even if that's just the highlights reel, that's more than enough to bring up her number.
At any rate, she finishes with her interview, the details of which are either unimportant or not yet important, and immediately gets a phone call from what appears to be her boss. Or at least a coworker, on the newsroom floor at deadline, and she was right about how many dirty cops HR has! She's on her way over to the story, and we're on our way over to take a look at those dirty cops being arrested by the FBI. Oh goodie. This would be the part where we're supposed to worry about Fusco, yes? Yes. Though instead we get two Machine clips of three different cops being arrested, including one pair of partners, and then it's over to the precinct. Where Fusco and Carter are propped on the edge of a desk watching the uniforms in cuffs come in, Carter with a good deal of satisfaction and Fusco with a good deal of trepidation. He'd be more satisfied, but he has no way of knowing if he'll get caught up in this, and if word gets out that he was behind the roundup, there are people out there who'll still have his nuts in a vise. Yes, Carter, mention that a little louder why don't you. Though she's trying to be a good partner and give credit where it's due! And now she'll distract Donnelly from her partner's woebegone looks by wandering on up and asking about his frown lines. With good reason, 75 dirty cops in custody is a pretty decent first sweep, and Donnelly if you're going to worry about not getting the big boss you should really learn to control your face better. Or at all. I'm just saying. (And for the record, current NYPD real-world personnel numbers around 35-36,000, so that's NOT an enormous percentage of the force. Approximately .2%, give or take.) Carter pumps him for information, which is about as easy as it ever is (hint: too easy, Donnelly, you SUCK at compartmentalizing information) and, well, it would be difficult to haul in a cop as the head of HR if the head of HR isn't actually a cop. Which is a sensible way to run a corrupt branch of government, split the power off just below the head so that it can function by recruitment even after a bunch of limbs get severed. To badly mix my mythological metaphors. Anyway, Donnelly's got a lead he's hoping takes him to the head of HR and what did I JUST SAY about compartmentalization. At least Carter has enough on her plate right now that she just doesn't have time to horn in, despite her buddy's round of reverse psychology. Specifically, her buddy points out that whoever the head of HR is, once the cartels and gangs and everyone else ever screwed over by the cops running a protection racket know his identity (or her! in theory albeit not in practice so much), there will be more hits out on him than you can shake a stick at. Which is very, very true. No, for Carter that kind of a warning makes her want to catch the bastard more, and she and Fusco get a moment of adorable banter about that.
Still, Carter's bulldog tendencies aren't actually what we're here for, we're here to see how HR reacts to Fusco still being free. Both in the out of jail sense and in the sense of not having any current jobs for HR, and HR has many jobs I'm sure they need bodies for. Bodies which are now lacking. As with most instances of Fusco-and-HR, he's dealing with family/son time management issues when a wild Simmons appears in the backseat of his car! He uses Gun To The Head! It's Super Effective! He also uses knowledge, which is even more effective in this show; Simmons saw Fusco helping Reese at the end of s1, with the clusterfuck of HR and FBI and Team Machine all working at cross-purposes. Poor Fusco just can't catch a break, but he can lie really convincingly about not being the one who ratted out HR for this particular bust. Current word on the street is that the feebs still have something that could bring upper management down, so Simmons' boss is pulling strings (read: scrambling like a fucking madman but a clever one) to keep them all secure. No, Simmons doesn't know what they have or if he does he's not saying, but the point here is, Fusco gets to find out what it is and get rid of it. Complete with threats that if he doesn't, they'll just hand him over to the FBI and he'll probably never see his kid again, and it's not like Carter really has his back anyway. On this matter? Simmons is probably right, and the threat does what it's supposed to. I don't think Fusco buys for a minute the tiny carrot of "do this one thing for us and then if you want out you're out," but it's the hope he needs to get through this, so he probably cons himself into believing it. Sigh, Fusco. This would go easier if you just confessed all your sins to Reese and Finch and possibly Carter and told them that they needed to make stabilizing the situation a priority. Not even fixing, necessarily, just keeping him out of the direct line of dirty work so much and playing both ends against the middle. These would be helpful things to discuss. But no.
The Machine time lapses us through the night and part of the next morning, until we land on that one particular mayor's aide who's the actual head of HR. Hi, actual head of HR shaking his head at the newspaper. You're a creepy fuck. I don't like you. His name is Quinn, which is I think the first and last ep we hear it in, and he's currently Griffin's campaign manager. Angelis is headed into work, which means Quinn was waiting for her outside, which is interesting. No, you're still creepy. And extremely brutal about the realities of politics: politicians come and go, but the campaign managers and fixers and journalists of the world, they last. This is true. And creepy. And true. Reese is shadowing her at about the minimum distance he can manage in a suit that distinctive. Seriously, Reese, you're known as the man in a suit, do you think you could try to blend a little more with the other men-in-suits in the city? It's not like there aren't tons of those. Also, Quinn's insistence that Walker's squeaky clean makes me wonder who he's really working for, right off the bat. I bet Maxine has some of the same concerns, but since she's getting both a free off-the-record assessment that it's not Griffin's year and a free bit of neighborly concern for her well-being, she's not going to push it. Not directly, anyway. Reese and Finch begin to dig into Griffin, Bear continues to squeak the squeaky toy and ignore the ball and that is such a well trained dog I cannot even tell you. Finch will work on hacking into her records and see what Angelis' current stories are, since the threat is usually immediate and, yes, relevant, I went there. Meanwhile Max protests to her boss that the real story is that they didn't get the head of HR, not that they got 75 guys in uniforms. I can't argue against that, but nor can I argue that it's not newsworthy without a name and a better direction to dig in. I will, however, note the irony that she was just talking to the head of HR. I see what you guys did there.
The boys have a bit of byplay that boils down to, Simmons isn't the head of HR. He's a high-ranking lieutenant. I would have to agree with that, both based on the evidence available and based on the fact that he really doesn't seem smart or creative enough for the position. He's reactive, not proactive, and while he's ruthless and capable of doing a lot with little guidance, he just isn't a leader, in the end. At best he's Reese's counterpart in HR. But what's this? Just in time to ease Angelis' mind, an anonymous caller has a name for her as the head of HR! Zambrano, son of mob boss Zambrano who we will remember from when Elias took out the assorted mob heads. That's just a lot too convenient to be believed. Especially given how neatly all the bits line up, from keeping himself out of mob business to owning an import/export business which is spy genre code for smuggler and purveyor of illicit dealings. The voice on the phone didn't sound exactly like Simmons, but definitely that tone of voice, so, probably cop or military, some kind of person used to crisp business dealings. At this point Angelis is being sensible enough to go get independent confirmation, but those of you who teethed on All The President's Men (like I did! what, you knew I was like this) will know that one independent source isn't enough when you're dealing with a Deep Throat-esque situation. Two or three is much better. And this isn't even Deep Throat with his cred built up, this is someone with no prior contact whatsoever. Anyway, she's aiming for Willis the feeb who's probably dirty - you thought it was limited to NYPD? aww, that's adorable! - and if not dirty, he's being misleading. The kind of misleading that gets a person dead because everyone wants a piece of the head of HR, preferably raw and bleeding. The boys and Maxine don't notice that in connection with HR is not the same as is the head of HR, but we do! We so very do. And we facedesk a lot.
We facedesk more because the Machine takes us down to the docks where, yep, Angelis is going to go confront Zambrano without the benefit of anyone else's confirmation. Goddammit, woman, there's following a hunch and there's being a responsible journalist which is what you are not doing right now. Yes, I have Opinions. She tries to pry at his business for a second, or at least that's what he thinks she's here for. Meanwhile Reese clones Zambrano's phone and I could really wish that Finch was a little faster at processing the new data. Because I bet new data would indicate more contact between Donnelly and Zambrano than would be normal, including phone calls from Zambrano to Donnelly, which is not the sort of thing you'd expect from someone who wants the FBI to go the fuck away. In fact, as Angelis grills him about being the head of HR and having been seen arguing with Donnelly down on the docks, Zambrano's tells are really not that of a man in charge who's up against a wall. He looks like a man under siege and very, very alone and very, very afraid. And like he's been that way for awhile, which doesn't strike me as the kind of man who's running HR. Unfortunately, nobody in this fucking show can profile except for Zoe. I swear to fucking god, people, your egos. Also, that carousel is going to feature later, with that nice little mention and camera pan. Also times two, they're very much shooting this with Angelis as the aggressor and the one in the wrong, and Zambrano as the aggrieved party trying to protect himself. Trying to hide, with the sunglasses coming out late, but very clearly shot so that he isn't the villain everyone else thinks. Sigh. I don't suppose considering what other reasons an apparently-clean son of a mob boss and an FBI agent would have for talking has crossed anyone's mind? No, of course not. And Finch, who at least isn't in the moment trying to save Angelis from potential assault, is way more focused on saving their asses from the front page. His paranoia has ramped up in Root's wake, but in this instance I will grant that it appears entirely justified, since Angelis seems to be doing at least as a good a job as the feebs in tracking down the mysterious man in the suit. Really, you two, the more surprising thing would be if she didn't have Reese in her files as a story in progress.
Sadly for my desire to move along to the hilarity of Reese flirting (look, I'm working on this one while sick, I take what I can get), we do not immediately leap from "how do I protect a woman who wants to put me on the front page" to Reese at a dinner date. Boo. We go back to the library of infinite gun cleaning, where Finch confesses that he can't find anything in Zambrano's digital footprint to indicate that he's the head of HR, but also points out that brilliant criminals have fooled them before. Finch, your trauma is showing. Just because the Machine sometimes coughs up people like Root and Elias doesn't mean it always does - and, actually, notice a theme there? The Machine coughs up their numbers to draw them to your attention. It didn't give them Zambrano. It gave them the reporter. Mutter grumble sigh. Also an exasperated request about Reese not cleaning his sniper rifle there, followed with deadpan snark about how he gets funny looks if he does it in the park. Reese, I love you, never stop that. Finch will proceed to reveal the depths of his damage by yelling - and for him this really is yelling - about how Reese cannot let himself be seen Batmanning out of the shadows to save Maxine and maybe he should enlist some backup? By the look on Reese's face, I think he'd have gotten there on his own but was letting Finch vent.
So, about that backup! Say, Reese, isn't it easier to call for backup when you can update them together and they can coordinate their efforts? No, I am not letting that go for awhile yet. This is short, and covers info we already knew; the main purpose of this scene is to give us Fusco hiding things from Reese and Carter and Reese letting him get away with it. It is, after all, plausible that Fusco's a little shook up by the possibility of catching the head of HR. Except for the part where he's staring at the background photo of his son and presumably remembering Simmons' threat. Let's not leave that out. Reese doesn't buy the line about something he ate for a minute, but he's also not the best at knowing when to push his assets for more information. Particularly now that they're all working together and nominally sharing info, Reese isn't sure where the boundaries are anymore, and I can't entirely blame him for not pushing when it could easily lead to Fusco shutting him down even harder. I will glare at Fusco for not sharing this info, because god knows that if he confessed to his son being threatened Carter at least would shove Reese into helping, if Reese didn't do it of his own accord. Neither of them take kindly to kids in danger. At any rate. Carter is apparently playing Exposition Cop this scene for the benefit of new or forgetful viewers, informing us that if Zambrano's the head of HR and has put a hit out on Angelis there won't be any strings leading back to him. Convenient, that! Also true. Alright, then, it's time for Fusco to go bug Simmons. And lie some more about when he last saw his HR pal. Oh Fusco. That comment from Reese about Simmons giving Fusco problems and having his back is really pointed, not that Fusco fully believes it or takes it to heart. Oh everyone. In the meantime, Carter will bug Donnelly about who hasn't been arrested yet and thus might be participating either directly or indirectly in organizing a hit team. But if Angelis gets into trouble before they turn up anything useful, Reese will just have to call the cops! Hardy har har, you guys. Though there is a nicely lighter note to that, since now it's even possible that they would manage to pull a squad car not on HR's payroll.
Back over to the bullpen at the newsroom, where we'll watch alongside the reporters as Griffin announces his intent to give up the dirty funds. Go to Walker for his commentary, standard politician smarm is standard, and oh hey, here comes Maxine! I have to say, whoever came up with FundGate needed more coffee in the post department or whoever put that one in. She's got more important things to talk to Glenn-her-boss about than what she's started, like that story he wanted her to get? She claims to have gotten it. It's a short piece, but it names Zambrano up front and center in the lede as head of HR. Great. Brilliant. Let's go to the private office where Angelis will proceed not to explain that her sources, with the granted exception of the feeb, are circumstantial at best. I refuse to count the too-well-timed anonymous tip as a source, and frankly so should she. Grumble mutter sigh. Glenn's nervous about this, too; running the story on the site is still less damaging and easier to edit (as he notes) than running it in print. I have to say that Votsis does an amazing job of portraying a woman so eager to advance her career she's forgotten basic tenets of journalism without making it be totally over the top! I'm still gonna facepalm at Maxine for being a fucking moron, and at her boss for not pushing harder for details on a story like that.
The boys have a brief talk about how letting the cat out of the bag in no way means Angelis is safe even assuming her data is correct (hey, Finch, why don't you track that data? like that phone call? surely you had that ability? this is SO SLOPPY, boys) because any crime boss worth his salt would totally call in a revenge hit. Well. Yeah. Film at 11. Cue Reese tailing her some more, at what I do not consider a reasonable following distance though yes, at least this is New York and people are a little less likely to notice a man in a suit as distinct from all the other men in suits. But Reese is fed up with this Batman shit, he's gotten spoiled in some respects with numbers who have no reason to reveal his identity after he saves them and in others he's right. On a case with this many moving parts, the protect from a distance and do not engage thing? Totally impossible. So Finch has a solution calling dating websites, which apparently Maxine signed up for! I question why the reluctance, or maybe more to the point how Finch found out about the reluctance, but it does have mission importance. I will also facepalm MOST mightily at the Matrix reference for Reese's name. Mr. Anderson in-fucking-deed. I'm not entirely certain they meant it that way, but I'm gonna take it and run with it, especially because Mr. Anderson's day job is in risk management for an actuarial firm. I have to, um. Kitchen. There are counters to lean on while I die of laughter. Apparently he loves his dog, loves walks and new places in the city and cinema and as I read through this profile all I can think is that he's entirely too good to be true. Not that this has stopped Finch from flirting under the persona all day! Reese has the best deer-in-headlights look for this I have seen him get yet.
Now comes the date! During which we can take it as written that I'm laughing like a hyena back here, right? Because oh my GOD Reese you are the awkwardest. Except for that car. I'll take that car while he has his date, stolen or not. And I wouldn't place bets either which way on it, because buying an expensive sports car with Finch's money is exactly the kind of thing Reese does to get back at him for shit like this. Speaking of. Finch, for fuck's sake, you should a) have gone over this data before b) given him full access to the flirty texts/emails/PMs/whatever and c) NOT BE TALKING IN THE EAR OF THE AGENT ON THE GROUND. It's a distraction. One of these fucking days he's going to get that rammed through his head and we'll all die of shock. Of course, it would also help if Reese approached this with some degree of seriousness. Like it was a mission, Reese. Because it is. (On the gripping hand, Reese seems to prefer verbal mission briefings to written ones, and Finch probably sent him a wall o' text.) In this instance I will forgive Finch yammering away in Reese's ear except to note that if he was going to set this up he should have let John do the flirting. My fucking god, at least the reactions would be a little more genuine then. Sigh. Time for reinforcements, which is to say, Zoe! Hi Zoe! Who will now proceed to demonstrate her capacity for nuance and doublespeak, because she's awesome like that. And Maxine totally knows exactly who that is, and is saving it up to grill Reese about after she leaves, and I love that this is a detail they don't forget. Because of course every reporter knows who Zoe Morgan is. That's part of her reputation and her power. Two long nights and a couple ass-pats later, and Maxine might need one of those napkins sooner than she thought. For the drooling over the story. Speaking of stories, that's a great opportunity for Reese to make her stop asking about him and turn it around! Apparently the most interesting story, with some rather false oh-I-couldn't-possibly from Maxine, is the one about a man in a suit. Standard spiel is standard, though I especially appreciate the nod to comic book superheroes and what might be deliberate Bale-Batman rasp from Caviezel on the line about an urban legend. They're not quite to the everyone's knowledgeable here stage, but this is definitely Maxine testing the waters. So, about that too good to be true cover story, Reese. And Finch. Especially Finch. As she declares her intent to put that man on the cover of every publication in the country, Reese slips his Clark Kent glasses on yes we see what you did there you are all terrible people. I'm so glad for the pause button so I can giggle like a maniac back here. He also asks about the Zambrano case, wouldn't it be better if she got away for the weekend, and she calls him not just on that but on the fact that her job matters to her, and she's willing to risk her safety in order to do the right thing. Not so different from you after all, huh, John. Orwell quotations and Finch's burgeoning crush aside (Finch, can we get a little truth from you one of these days?), the shit is about to hit the fan. Reese might have a bit of a burgeoning crush, too. Carter and Glenn are calling with the same information, that Zambrano isn't the boss and now his life is in danger. This doesn't even merit the jar, though I suppose I'll rummage around for it that Maxine doesn't give a flying fuck about the feebs and is more worried about the innocent man whose life she just put in danger. I will also note that if I were her, the timing of Reese's work emergency phone call would be very suspicious. Depends on how much she can process at once whether she figures that out now or later, but it's not like Reese won't give her plenty of other reasons to be suspicious in the meantime! She's commandeering his vehicle, too. While her ego is kinda huge and leads her into stupid shit like this story, she's also the kind of person who tries to fix her mistakes however she can.
However she can this time isn't going to be good enough, as we know the second they got those calls. It's only confirmed by the wide cut in the chain-link fence. I giggle at the role reversal with Maxine telling Reese to stay in the car, which we know he won't, and thank god for bluejacking. I don't know how she knows where to go other than good reporter's instincts, but the touch with her getting more and more worried up to a first name basis is nice. In keeping with every other instance of someone getting worried-to-frantic in this show, though generally we're given that with the boys, who have reason both to be standoffish and to care about each other without ever saying so directly. Reese kicks some ass, quick and quieter than his wont, and is at her side way too fast at the call for help to have been waiting in the car. Not that this should surprise her. Hey, there's Zambrano's body. And confirmation for Finch/regret shared with Maxine that they were there too late.
Now It's Serious, which means statements down at the precinct. With Carter. And Reese. Reese, stop snarking off at Carter about calling him John, it's not like she doesn't call you that already. (It's an amusing bit of permission for her to do what she's been doing lately anyway, but unnecessary. These two, I swear.) Lucky for them that Maxine is too shaken up to notice the byplay and jawclench from Carter. Hardened reporter she may be, but she's not in either Carter or Reese's line of work, where bodies on the ground is a far more everyday occurrence than they might like. The Machine pulls back to show us a timestamp (a little after 10 pm) and to remind us that it's watching. Maxine's too caught up in the guilt and self-castigation cycle to give a good statement just yet, and she knows it, and we're all knowledgeable here as she gets a moment to pull herself together. It's also a great opportunity for Carter to haul Reese off and inquire what the fuck he thinks he's doing. And for Fusco to do a giggle-worthy doubletake at Reese in glasses. It's complicated, yes, that's a Facebook status, not an explanation, Reese. Not that they have time for explanations; knowing that Donnelly's on this case, Reese is trying to get them both out of there asap. Which Carter will aid and abet, just not quite in time to avoid the man in question. Nice touch with the "go, go!" in the background from Carter to Reese while they haul Angelis into interrogation. Poor woman. She fucked up, but I don't wish Donnelly on, well, pretty much anyone. And his shitty interrogation skills.
He's got good investigative skills, though, and a cooperative witness, one with better observational skills than most civilians, so he doesn't really need interrogation skills right now. I'd be trying to justify myself too! Well, no, I'd want to and I'd demand a lawyer, because in the really real world you don't say shit until you have a lawyer. Ever. But in this case Donnelly truly doesn't give a shit about her, he's after the guy who told her Zambrano was the head of HR and he has her phone records. Okay then! Man, anonymous, blocked number is completely unhelpful but maybe the feds can turn something up. Donnelly is sufficiently pissed the fuck off that he will now proceed to divulge information that he really shouldn't, to someone he really shouldn't, in an attempt to impress upon Angelis that she should check her fucking sources better. In many respects, I can't blame him. The twist that surprises absolutely nobody familiar with fictional mafiosos and their families is that Zambrano's daddy dearest was the point man for HR, had a ledger with numbers that could incriminate the entirety of HR including the boss, and Chris Zambrano was actually clean and wanted to stay that way. So he called the feebs - his first mistake - and offered it in return for an immunity deal, because of course nobody believes the son of a mafia boss is clean. Especially when he's running an import/export business, even if he likely got the training for running a legit op like that as a kid. Oh, by the way, the blocked cell was a burner phone, first choice for all good criminals and informants. No help there! And of course Angelis can't use any of this or she'll be locked up for obstruction blah de blah, yeah, that's a threat we've all heard before and expect her to disregard in some degree or another. Angelis slumps a little as she tries to figure out how to play this from here on out and how to recover from her massive, massive fuckup, and we pull back to see that both Carter and Fusco were in observation. Which means now they know about that, and what they know, Reese will soon know! Ah, the joys of sharing intel. Simmons is there, too, for bonus Significant And Ominous looks as we fade out.
Next morning at the library of insufficient goddamn data, the boys will spell it out for us: Maxine wasn't the victim (though she might yet become a target), she was the perpetrator. We'll see a fair bit more of this in s2, people who are perps but only because they're being used as pawns whether unknowing or coerced, the Machine directing the boys to save both the pawns-as-perps and the intended victim where possible. Which is smart of it, really, because if you've got a pawn, that's a weak point. And I would bet good money that the Machine doesn't dare send them out after the head of HR directly, both because he's unlikely to ever be placed in danger or be a direct perpetrator and because they're working on such limited data. So this was a good roundabout way of trying to get that particular regime ended, and it didn't work because the boys are sometimes kinda slow on the uptake. At any rate, the important thing now is to find the ledger first; Finch will use his specialty to check Zambrano's digital footprint while Reese sees if Fusco can get anything out of Simmons about the head of HR. Fusco is about as dubious about this as we'd expect, given the givens, but he's also being asked more politely than usual, so he'll do what he can in between checking NY property records for the same exact reason Finch is digging through infinite data. Yay! No, wait, the other thing.
Definitely the other thing as Angelis comes into work looking both like she'd prefer not to be there and like she's daring someone to say something. Anything. Oh honey. That's gotta suck. She's even brusquer than usual when she picks up oh hey it's Quinn, aka head of HR, awesome. As one would expect, they're using this fuckup to throw her under the bus for Griffin's campaign and discrediting everything she wrote about the dirty money and so on and so forth. Oh goodie. And now we see the skill inherent in the system: this might get Griffin elected, and at minimum it takes away the witness and hopefully the physical evidence to indict Quinn for being the head of HR. Multiple avenues of attack, all of which are beneficial to him. I have to admire the skill even as I grind my teeth and wait for someone to catch up with this bastard. Angelis would like to do something, anything, to take her mind off this whole clusterfuck. Including writing the retraction on Zambrano. Her boss would like her to sit and cool her heels until they get a chance to talk to legal, which I really cannot blame him for. She looks like she'd like to object, but instead she'll go make empty threats at that burner phone's voicemail. Heh. I guess that's one way of venting your frustrations! Reese talks like he'd like to stop her looking for the ledger, but frankly I don't think he really believes he can do it. Hence the offer of a drink later that evening, which will at least put him closer to her if she's going to go do stupid shit. Which of course she is, what show are you watching?
That drink which is nominally a way for Reese to check up on Maxine turns into her trying to drag him into her case by checking over the files. Which serves a number of her purposes, from seeing how much he means it about wanting to help her to seeing if he's capable of crunching numbers and data the way he should be able to as an actuary. Though her expression when Reese turns her down and suggests they try and leave things to the proper authorities is very much "god save me from men who think they know what I need." And that's probably true and exactly why she's stayed single as long as she has. Most people don't take well to significant others who place themselves in harm's way for a story as opposed to a more nobly perceived service position such as cop or EMT or firefighter. Most men particularly don't take well to a woman who would do that, and Reese is currently showing all kinds of biases though in general I think this is more about his definitions of civilian versus non-civilian than about gender roles. Maxine will proceed to reveal that no matter what he thinks of her, she considers the truth more important than her safety and he can just fuck right off. Especially because now she's carrying around one part survivor's guilt and three parts blame, with a dose of fury at being used when she's probably accustomed to being the smartest person in the room. People like that never appreciate being made to look like fools. (Ask me how I know.) Reese goes pelting after her and in some of the more awkwardly-written dialogue of the "connect with the weekly number" variety we've had so far, tries to reassure her that he has any idea of what she's going through. Without directly blowing his cover. Reese, you're kind of shitty at this. But we have a convenient distraction in the form of an assassination attempt! I hope she was distracted enough by ducking bullets that she didn't hear you check in with Finch, Reese. You really do kind of suck at this, though I suppose the recent hit to her ego means she's willing to think longer before she publishes these days. Which still pales next to the attempt on her life as a reason to blow his cover.
We come right back to more gunshots after the ad break, and Maxine deciding that she's going to play driver. I, um. Sure! We'll go with that! You know what would be sensible if she's playing driver and you're trying not to blow your cover, Reese? Diving into the backseat! But no, he pulls out one of his assorted guns and lays down covering fire. I don't know if Maxine felt the holster at some point while they were huddling together or if she just started giving orders because that's the kind of person she is in a crisis, but either way, that's an awful thin cover at this point. About to go even more threadbare as Reese directs her to that massive fucking penthouse that Finch gave him near the end of s1. But wait! Bear's still at the library of infinite solitude, so Finch has to dash across town and then, of course, stick himself in a closet as the elevator dings. I'll be under my desk laughing hysterically. At least he didn't forget the squeaky toy, no matter how near a thing it was. It's also hilarious watching Reese attempt to play the straight arrow who thinks that calling the authorities is the correct response to getting shot at. By the verbal airquotes Maxine puts around "boring job," she's not pretending to buy it anymore either. I like her. She's arrogant and kind of blinded by ambition sometimes, but I do like her. And she likes Reese! The real Reese, not John Anderson, both for the not leaving her side and for not presuming anything about her being stuck in a studio loft with only one bed. A very big bed, mind you, but still. I also wonder if her going off to the bathroom isn't serving at least two purposes again, which is rather a theme this ep: giving her a chance to freak out as the adrenaline crash hits (which it's probably doing by now) and giving Reese a chance to clear the apartment of anyone and anything he needs her not to see. Like all those guns Finch has been staring at in the closet. Look, Finch, some people juggle geese. Just be glad he probably doesn't have one named Vera. Probably. And as Finch sideways points out, this isn't the best cover at all, so he's brusquely escorted out amidst plans to hack into security cameras to figure out who came after them at the bar. Since it is awfully hard to make out details from across the street, in the dark, under fire, while trying to maintain an untrained cover.
Next morning, all this and he cooks, too! I love how Reese cooking for the people of interest is becoming a Thing. It's kind of adorable. Finch, nobody cares about your technobabble except you, but the point is, he found the gunmen and they're former FBI, recently retired. That's all well and useful, but Maxine needs to know the same thing somehow or Reese is going to have to blow his cover. Apparently this is what anonymous, untraceable tips are for. Oh Finch. At least with him we can be assured that untraceable means untraceable, or at least very goddamn difficult to trace. Which means it's time for Maxine to come out wrapped in a towel - not played for sexuality but as an indication of how driven she is and how urgent she finds this case. This friend of Reese's is Zoe again. HI ZOE. I don't know why they're making her up to look older than they have been, hair with less body, generally less attractive; maybe this is how she presents to other attractive and driven women so as to be perceived as less of a threat? That's the only Watsonian explanation I can think of. Maybe the actress was ill when they shot this ep, or maybe they were trying to keep the focus on Votsis, which, no, sorry, she's good but we have a certain degree of Zoe fixation around this place. Because she's awesome. You may have noticed either or both of these things. The FBI agents didn't voluntarily take early retirement, they were pushed out for harassment and malicious prosecution and that still doesn't merit the jar. Okay, so, they were working for the head of HR, and even Zoe doesn't know who that is, which is fair. That would be way too easy, for one, and for two the head of HR has made his name by nobody knowing who he is, and Zoe Morgan is the kind of person who would sell that secret to the right people for the right trade. That's what her name is, and so it stands to reason that at least some of his tactics have probably involved keeping his identity secret from her in specific. But! That said, Zoe hasn't been shot at in the last 24 hours and is entirely capable of putting together data from what's not there as much as what is there. Someone used a burner phone to bring down Zambrano and put everyone on the trail of the ledger? There's a couple classes of criminals who use those: the ones who run elections and everyone else. A mayoral ad conveniently plays, and Maxine leaps to… not the conclusion I would have come to, actually. No, I wouldn't say that the head of HR is running for mayor, and nor would Zoe. I think she would agree with me that it's someone close to the campaign rather than the candidate himself, and I think the main reason Maxine is forgetting where the real power lies (as Zoe reminds her) is because she thinks of Quinn as a friendly. He's not, honey. You have to reexamine all your assumptions right now. Zoe walks off with a nice-to-never-have-met-you and a teasing comment for Reese, and now it's time to…
...have some time lapse, because this isn't All The President's Men and we don't have time to fill an entire ep or three with Maxine tracking down sources. But they're back at Reese's penthouse, and she has confirmation that Griffin or someone associated with his campaign has been using Pitt and Vogel the former feebs to harass the competition for awhile now. Yay! Connections! Reese brings up the question of how much hard evidence she has, and she demurs to getting the ledger first. Good journalist. Can be (re)trained in proper investigative techniques. I don't know if she's decided to play along with Reese's cover identity, if allowing herself to believe it and joke about dates gives her some semblance of normality to cling onto, or if she simply doesn't have enough hard evidence that Reese isn't who he says he is to be acting any other way as yet. Probably a little of all three. Regardless, he brought wine and takeout and yes, it's Chinese. Or Thai. Something that comes in little white cartons, for maximum traditional poring over the data. Maxine is making vast logical leaps again, this time partially for narrative convenience and partially because she needs something to latch onto at all. She deals with insufficient data about as well as we do: which is to say not well at all, and our lives aren't in danger, so she gets crankier and more reckless. The upshot is, Zambrano was pissy about people overlooking all the good things he did because of his father, so what if he hid the ledger in or around one of said good things? Like that carousel there that was not significantly framed in shot at aaaall.
Sneaking onto a park with a carousel late at night, because THAT'S not a scene for shootouts and/or horror movies or anything! Yes. This is the best idea ever, nothing can possibly go wrong, and other invocations of Murphy's Law. Reese you are a BAD BAD MAN with the lockpicks while Maxine is out of sight. And still not trying very hard with that cover. But it's a helluva lot less obvious than a garage-sized door being shoved open. They start knocking on horses for hollow body parts, and of course it's a leg. That's a bad joke, you guys. Say it a little louder, why don't you, Maxine? Oh, and here come the dirty ex-FBI agents. Reese, you're supposed to have better situational awareness than that even when you're pretending you don't. We come back from the ad break to a hostage situation that Reese has allowed to happen to protect what shreds of cover remain, while Finch fusses on the comms. And it's definitely just fussing, too, because he has to know Reese knows this, he's just nervous and worried and hoping that Carter gets to them in time. Why in time? Well, all that federal experience does pay off in being able to beat up Reese, put his blood under Maxine's nails, and make it all look like a lovers' quarrel gone to murder-suicide. Goodie. Maxine's reaction to all of this is to keep pushing the point and demanding answers and I really do like her. That's one helluva lot of bravado under the circumstances, since she can't possibly know that there's backup coming. Speaking of backup, let's stop beating on our heroes and have our other heroes charge to the rescue! Yay! Only the ex-agents are way too goddamn smart for their own good (which is why Quinn's unlikely to kill them unless he has someone equally clever to replace them) and realize that no lights, no sirens, no backup means the cops aren't exactly here on official business either. Time for the requisite shootout in the carousel, complete with lights and carnival music because Reese can be smart if he can't be lethal and contribute to the confusion. But if Maxine's going to scramble away with the fallen ledger in pursuit of the truth, Reese is going to hit somebody, because he's very, very tired of not being able to. Hey, how's about that, it's not Griffin's name in there at all, it's his opponent's! Hi Walker. You are so fucked right now. Up shit creek without a paddle. It's way too early in the season for this to be going off without a hitch, so of course Maxine taking the picture and sending it off will have certain… ramifications. Sigh. Poor woman, she tried so goddamn hard to do the right thing and get to the truth and she just got screwed again. Not that we quite know that yet. Right now what we know is that Reese winged the agent instead of kneecapping or killing him outright, preventing Maxine from getting any hard evidence that he's the man in a suit, and that she appears to have missed that anyway. What did he miss, indeed. You snarky fucker, Reese. You missed his kneecaps. Fusco will take that ledger into evidence so he can skulk off and tear out the pages with his and Simmons' names on. But nobody else unless they were lucky enough to be one of the three other names on the page. Oh Fusco. Oh everyone.
Time to wrap up some loose threads! Starting with Walker being taken into custody and me happily imagining a different Walker in handcuffs. Look, I have to live here, you don't. (Unless you do. In which case I'm sorry and I promise to vote.) Moving on through Maxine in her office, much more happily at work, and her boss tossing her a copy of the paper with her front-page byline. I'm not sure I buy that all's forgiven and forgotten quite that fast, but it makes for a neat bit of closure, so we'll go with it. And this is not like closure, this is like Fusco and Simmons engaging in some dick-waving which Simmons wins, as usual, because he's more of an utter fucking bastard than Fusco. Lionel, for the love of god, bring Reese in on this, he doesn't like kids being threatened and he doesn't give a flying fuck about the so-called nuances of who's at fault. Speaking of Reese, he's out on his last date with Maxine, who's putting an end to this charade. Sort of. In the sense that she's giving several very good and mostly surface reasons that they can't date long-term, her work and Reese being hung up on Zoe being the most prominent. But Reese being himself, he can't resist checking in with her about her other pet story and how many layers do we have? Let us count the ways. Actually, let us not, because this is just a veneer of plausible deniability for everyone at this point, with her tacitly acknowledging that she knows he's the man in the suit and classing him as an urban legend despite that. The music would also like us to know that more is going on here than meets the eye. Especially when it comes to Maxine. But wait, there's more! Finch doesn't think this is over. Thank you, Finch, and who gave you the remedial profiling classes, by the way? Though this is systems analysis as well, which is something he's more than competent at, or should be, having created an AI. Basically, Walker's not smart or connected enough to be the head of HR, and the head of HR wouldn't hire a pair of washed-up feds even if they are reasonably intelligent for washed-up feds, and they still have all these goddamn puzzle pieces that are nothing but sky. So who is the head of HR, then? The show will tell us, though they still don't know by the end of s2. Poor bastards. Cut to Griffin's acceptance speech and Simmons pouring himself and his boss a couple shots of celebratory whisky. Heh. Hi Quinn. No, he wouldn't have put himself on the payroll, and he hedged his bets so no matter which way the dominos fell he'd be in great position to, ahem, assist the new mayor. It's some Machine-level manipulation, of the cold and crafty and power for power's sake variety, and that should scare everyone absolutely shitless. I know it does me. Give me someone with passion any day; they're easier to twist up on themselves. People like Quinn have nothing to grab hold of. People like Simmons are easily persuaded to loyalty to people like Quinn, because they know real power and gamesmanship when they see it even if they can't duplicate it. And I wonder if anyone other than Simmons has ever seen Quinn's face and known it to be the head of HR.
Those questions and more, to be answered - or not - mostly not - over the course of the season. I dearly hope they start dragging this one into the light when s3 starts up.