Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Faces Are So Cold (Person of Interest S2E11 2 Pi R)

Papa Finch is watching you. You, in this instance, being a teenage boy looking kind of shady, kind of sad, and flashing to Finch looking horrified. Well, this can't end badly! The Machine will give us some initial data on the case of the week, a kid who died on the subway tracks, the operator thinks he might've been pushed, cue ominous noises.

Oh, those ominous noises are also because we're visiting Rikers, where Reese and his bevy of patsies in suits are getting DNA cheek swabs done. The only reason I can think of for the prolonged nature of this opening is to demonstrate on camera that yes, all four had cheek swabs done and yes, all four were identically done, there's nobody random on the inside that we don't know about. Elias isn't getting in this game right now. Etc. Which I have to admit, would be a very valid concern. They go into lineup for mug shots, I question why they're all four being lined up side by side since Donnelly is saying right now that he wants them all held in isolation, but maybe that's Rikers protocol? Also I guess isolation is a nicer word than solitary. We know what you mean, Donnelly, and we know those tactics, and we know what happens to people held for prolonged periods in solitary, particularly those without the training to withstand it. (Nothing. Good. See also those experiments with the cloth mama monkey. People need people to survive and be sane, for relative definitions thereof. See also: Reese and Finch.) Anyway, Donnelly intends to make full use of his 72 hours grace period, the warden has snark about how they look like investment bankers (no, dude, you're bad at your job, Reese still looks like a fed), and Carter has a worried expression on. Which is probably less because of Donnelly's obsessive behavior and more because of Reese being in jail, but I will use my worried face over the obsessive behavior. Even before we saw this arc to the end, we were pretty sure Donnelly was gonna get dead, on account of monofocus benefits nobody. I also severely question the assessment of Reese as the most dangerous criminal he's ever chased; no matter if he thinks Reese is working for some Chinese organization, he should maybe be after whoever's pulling Reese's strings? Yes? No. The warden delivers another gripe about how this isn't Guantanamo, which probably has more to do by far with jurisdictional dick-measuring than with any concerns about the well-being of the prisoners. Without getting into long diatribes about this country's prison system, let's just say that the focus is pretty nearly never on rehabilitation or acceptance of ex-cons into society, and at worst it breeds smarter criminals. Anyway. Carter wants to know if they're going to interrogate the prisoners, but no! Donnelly has no intention of bothering with that because they have DNA from the burned out car (remember, with the NSA guy and the assassins, 1x22) and fingerprints from Carter's skills waaaay back in the pilot. Which is a very, very nice bit of continuity for them to have kept in mind.

Time to walk Reese down to his cell, where yes, he knows the routines. Probably it's kinder, gentler, and less annoying than most of the other prisons he's been in, considering, spyssassin. Certainly he's gone to bland but assessing face. The first duty of a prisoner is to escape, after all, and he's got some of that quick glancing around his cell that suggests he's taking stock of all possible assets. Like he does. Hey, there's an asset! A phone is totally an asset. I'd love to know exactly how Finch arranged that one. We don't get to find out, because much more important things are at hand, like Finch providing… empty reassurance? Though I suppose in the way of obliquely saying don't do anything stupid, it goes pretty far. Finch has a contingency for this, of course he does, though he's worried enough to first-name John over it as he climbs up the stairs to… somewhere rather industrial looking. And as he talks about managing despite Reese being in jail, no, the numbers never stop coming, we hear the sounds of kids and yes, in fact, Finch is in a school. This is gonna be hilarious. I have no idea what Reese did with that phone after they hung up, I'm busy facepalming at Finch's current alias. Mr. Swift? Fucking really? And the handwriting of a born professor, aka all block caps and you know if he tried to write in cursive it would be barely legible. Chalkboard or paper or both. For all that Brooklyn School of Sciences & Humanities is the sort of name you might expect out of a charter school full of prestige, apparently not so much. Or the kids are all assuming that a sub means a day off, we've got the usual roster of kids sleeping, texting, folding paper, doodling in notebooks, and otherwise completely not paying attention to Finch's opening remarks. Probably for the best, because who believes that line about an all-expenses paid teachers' conference in Maui? Really, Finch? You're a bad bad man. The current assignment is, as the Hermione figure down front says, punishment of the boring-ass busywork variety. Punishment for what I don't dare guess, but they're supposed to add all the numbers from 1 to 100. Ooh, ooh! I know this one! Finch has this horrified expression on his face that someone is insulting math, and not just that but appears to have learned this mindset from the person supposedly teaching them. Harold, honey, this is the state of most of our school system right now. I hate to break it to you. I got lucky and tracked into the upper-level classes, which is the only reason I learned Gauss' equation and I guarantee it's all fallen out of my head at this point. (I should really fix that one of these days. There's a useful site I can do it on and everything. Finch is contagious even by proxy.) He picks on the kid in the far back who's longhanding something into a notebook, by which we know if we missed it from the camera pans before that this is the number of the week. Day. Whatever. There's a moment where Mr. Phipps (who looks shocked to be referred to as such rather than by his first name, hey, Finch has some pretty specific ideas about formality and he extends those to kids, too, he gets points for consistency) looks like he's considering giving the answer, like he's been challenged with something interesting for the first time in a long while. But he shrugs it off, the moment passes, Finch tries to give them a hint right before the bell, and everyone leaves with this attitude of relief to be away from the weird new sub. Yeah, that's gonna get Finch bit by management in not too long at all. Phipps tosses a sheet of paper in the trash, yes, we know, that will Be Important Later.

Not very long later, either, but first Finch needs to check in with Fusco, who has the entire school's roll call and is under orders to dig around on Caleb Phipps. Who so far has no significant police record, a couple minor things, and an academic record so completely average as to be nearly unbelievable. And as Finch opens the crumpled piece of notebook paper to reveal the solution to Gauss' equation, indeed! It is unbelievable! It's a deliberate and elaborate ploy. But wait, there's more: Caleb had an older brother two years ago who died. Remember the subway accident the Machine so kindly pulled for us right at the beginning before Rikers? Yep. That. The current report states that big brother Phipps was drunk, slipped on the rails, Caleb was probably there, the whole thing sucks a lot. Also, Caleb is not going to some party on Saturday, he's "taking a trip out of town" and it's not his scene. Mm-hmm. That's code for planning to do something stupid and/or dangerous, isn't it. We know that code. We hear Reese use it every week! For whatever reason, Finch can't manage to bluejack Caleb's phone, I'm gonna go ahead and blame it on him being an excellent baby hacker, and instead he bluejacks three or so other students'. Finch? You're gonna regret that. Really fast. And so he does! I hope he's got an extra-special Finch-modified battery in there or he's gonna be screwed inside of an hour. Oh, hey, there's Ritalin and Adderall dealing going on at a minimum, who's surprised? Not us. Complete now with a sneaky shot of a pair of dealers and one of their customers, I will politely assume that the shutter noise of the cameraphone is for our benefit and doesn't really happen. Fusco, meanwhile, gets to adopt the more knowledgeable, paternal attitude for once, yes, this is all perfectly normal for schools these days and yes, please do be careful, Finch. Risk-free lifestyle or not.

The next thing on Finch's plate is talking to Carter about their friend in Rikers while he brown-bags his lunch. I need a minute so I can giggle into my keyboard. Carter would need a minute if she weren't so worried about Reese; as it is she still gives him eyebrows. I also appreciate that they've remembered the likelihood of phone lines being compromised, so until Finch tells them otherwise, they appear to be treating Carter as an asset who needs in-person meetings. Theoretically Donnelly doesn't know about Fusco, which makes him safer to contact via cell. So! With that in mind, Finch sets out to reassure Carter that he doesn't want her doing anything or crossing any lines oh now you're worried, Finch? Fucking now? No, you don't get to play that card with her, and it's a good thing they've got bigger things to worry about or I bet she'd be biting chunks off him. Yes, Carter has already crossed all those lines he's so considerate of at this very late stage in the game. She's deleted Reese's fingerprints off the network and has what are presumably the only paper copies, and she has a plan to deal with the DNA. And as much as I criticize Finch's choice of words here, it is what he knows how to do when threatened: shut down, isolate himself, and try to refuse help from people who would be happy to give it. Fortunately Carter's accustomed to this by now, and will even give him the bone of needing his technical expertise in the second matter. I love you, Carter. I think you've made an awful lot of questionable decisions, but out of everyone on this show I feel like those decisions come out of a genuine humanitarian core, as opposed to the boys' desire to atone in various ways and for various reasons. And I think the Machine is slowly trying to shove them into also doing these things out of the same humanitarian urges, by using her as an example held over their heads. Which is a dangerous and not necessarily useful thing to do, playing into as many gender stereotypes as it sometimes does, but we've seen time and again that the Machine works with the tools it has, and those tools are necessarily flawed and shaped by our fucked up society.

(There's a whole essay in there that one of us should get to one of these days. You know. In our laughingly so-called spare time.)

We shift back to the school, we're now at after-school hours with Finch waiting outside the principal's office. You can just take it as a given that I'm snickering into the keyboard through half this episode. Also that door is rather weathered and beaten to shit, thereby dropping my impression of the school based on its name from "charter school" to "place where they stick kids they don't otherwise know what to do with." The principal would like to have a word with Finch, specifically that he's not here to teach the kids, he's here to babysit them and/or act as their jailor. Just in case we needed the anvil for the parallels. Finch has a very WELL then fuck you too lady look, yeah, I would too. To be fair, I might say something similar after she was out of earshot. And this is why I didn't go into teaching. The point of this scene, though, is not just the reminder that our school system more closely resembles a prison than anything usefully educational these days, but also to introduce Finch to someone who will be important later! Well hello, hot teacher, I bet if you manage to keep the boys from chasing the girls out of your CS classes you get a fair number of them interested. Young and attractive and charismatic, certainly he'll hold a classroom's attention on that basis alone for a little while. He may also be a bad guy! We don't know yet, but he does have a beard. He also has some youthful hacker holdover attitude of aspirations to teach in his boxers and not have to deal with face to face contact, which indicates to me that he didn't used to be this aware of or care this much about his physicality. Geeky kid grew up attractive enough to make use of it and cranky about the necessity, could be antisocial in the clinical sense or could just be highly introverted and sick of having to fake it for work. Finch gets an odd look at the mention of teaching in boxers, I can't tell if he's remembering something or hiding instinctive distaste for mention of body immodesty (I mean look at the man) or pondering other things. Maybe all three at once! He definitely looks a bit distant for a second there.

And then he moves on to picking the principal's office door and hacking her computer. Potentially with a bit more enjoyment at the necessity than he might have had prior to getting chewed out. I know I would have. Fusco has some new data too! Caleb was the only witness to his brother's death, poor honey, and Finch's reaction strikes me as not right just as much as the accident report does, thank you, Fusco. Finch, you're overidentifying with this kid. I want to know how many of the scenes Michael Emerson says they shot and never used that dated back to Finch's childhood/young adulthood were directly due to this ep. And then I want all of those scenes. Because I have suspicions. Mostly surrounding Finch growing up isolated in some way or another and possibly with an older brother, whether biological or as a mentor figure, who somehow disappeared/died/was otherwise separated from Finch. Or maybe that brother figure was Nathan Ingram, given the givens and given how recently we know (okay, we don't technically yet but we can make some excellent guesses) Finch had someone he cared about very much die right in front of him. That's the easy answer, but it's only one of a myriad of possibilities, and I want real answers. About Finch's damage. Because there's so much of it. At any rate, the transit cop from the night of Caleb's brother's death called for backup but rescinded the order, and that's a little odd, yes. You know what else is odd? Getting exactly 50% on an aptitude test. Even, frankly, if you do know all the answers and fill in every other one of them. We're not even touching the statistical improbability of filling in every other answer leading to spelling out in scantron bubbles "waste of time," it's just a nice touch for the sake of insight into Caleb's mind. Well, I say nice touch, but that's being polite: it's pretty anvilicious and I'm not sure why they felt the need to include it. We can see that Caleb considers school and everything to do with it a waste of his time right now, we just don't know why, but since the Machine spat out his number there's probably more at play here than the usual brilliant kid who hates the system and refuses to conform to it.

Back at school the next day for more of Finch's lectures! I do appreciate that, with Reese out of commission for awhile, this gives us a chance to get some new insight into Finch. Or some expansion on old insights, at a minimum. First he needs a moment with Caleb, trying to pry him out of his shell by sharing a mathematician's moment of understanding over Gauss' equation. It does help maybe a fraction, inasmuch as Caleb tacitly admits it's his, but it also puts his back up and results in snarky comments about going through the garbage. Yeah, you're going to have to try harder than that, Finch. So he will! We've always known he was more comfortable with numbers and computers than with people; Root as much as said so but he understandably doesn't want to tie himself to her worldview. So, what does it bring him, this world of understanding? Well, everything. The students aren't paying attention, but he still wants to interact with them, and cue the requisite question about what the fuck good this math class is for. It's true. Nobody ever explains this shit; I never got that explanation, I only had the love of learning to go on with it. As with most of my high school classes. Anyway, Finch will go right ahead and continue his trend of being different by giving that question the seriousness it deserves. Finch? I think you may have missed your true calling. I'm also beginning to wonder if he intended to stay in academia but for whatever reason was pushed out/kicked out/banned, take your pick of bad options. Anyway, he starts the kids off with pi and the wonders contained therein, rather than what a more literal teacher might have done, which is to explain the engineering use of learning math. Both are valid! One gets you "you're fucking crazy but you might be kinda cool" looks from your students, though. I will also note that they're dressing Caleb in about as many layers as Finch habitually wears, just to up the overidentification. Teenage version of it, which means henley and flannel and jacket instead of all the layers of a three-piece suit, but still. And he does have Caleb's attention! Along with the rest of the class's. He closes by leaving responsibility in their hands, as far as what all of this information is good for, and I think it's more a mark that Finch is/was ahead of his time than of being able to connect with this generation that he taps straight into the teenage awareness (probably more prevalent now than ever before) that knowledge is power. Power, and responsibility, are not things that these kids have been given much of in their lives, so yes, he definitely has their attention now. I kind of want to know all about the girl in the front now, what she did after Finch left, if he made any lasting difference on her or anyone else. Besides Caleb. We know he's here to help Caleb, I'd just at some point like to revisit some of the people who were bystanders to one of their actual cases. Maybe this season? Lord knows they're emphasizing the we're-all-connected thing in this show.

Anyway, massive thematic digression aside, Fusco's turn to do a little sleuthing about this week's case! The apartment Caleb and his mom are living in is in a rundown enough neighborhood to make his cover story about coming to see about a string of burglaries plausible. I'm sure he'd have come up with something else if it were a nicer neighborhood. Also, the timestamp on this is given as 10:30 am, meaning it's kind of odd that she's at home unless she does shift work. Which apparently she doesn't. Running a little late is code for passed out drunk and just getting functional, right? Right. Particularly since work wants to know where she is and her poker face at being caught taking a pill (probably an upper of some kind) is much worse than Fusco's poker face over installing a mini-cam on her TV. Also, lady, nobody believes you about Caleb taking the couch. She is really twitchy, possibly afraid her son's going to be taken away by CPS if Fusco decides to be a dick and report it, probably afraid he'll call her on the drugs and/or alcohol abuse. She knows she's not doing her job as a parent, she's just got no support network to fall back on, it looks like. Poor woman. Significant comments about some families having it hard and pan over the family photo with both boys aside, this is mostly to give Fusco a point of bonding with the case of the week and establish remote surveillance for later. Time to report back in with the same conclusions we just drew, and moving along to the two drug dealers who apparently used to deal for a guy named Lorenzo who was, cutting out the Fusco euphemisms, entirely okay with hurting and/or killing people. But now they work for a mysterious new dealer whose face hasn't been seen! Gee. I wonder if we've seen his face yet. Oh, speaking of, here comes Caleb walking in on his dealers in in stairwell. Guys, you are bad at your jobs, I'm with him on this. I know the saying about criminals being stupid, but fuckssake. Cue a lecture from the guy they don't know is their boss about how and where to deal, and the question that should be foremost in everyone's mind right now isn't who's the boss, but why is a kid like Caleb dealing drugs? Questions we will not yet get the answer to! Caleb's not suited to physical fights, though he's maybe less ill-suited to it than he could be, but Finch comes riding in on his chariot. I mean staircase. Caleb doesn't want a white knight or help or anything like that, Caleb wants everyone to fuck the fuck off and all his shit to stop falling everywhere. Poor kid. Also, jesus, that is complicated code to be longhanding. Not that there's any simple true code to handcode like that. You know that normal people use macros and shit, right, kid? Oh never mind. Finch has a clue!

Next class turns out to be CS! With Mr. Beckner the hot teacher, who's delivering what appears to be a lecture on hacker morality and ethics. Yes, there's a good handful of girls in the class, which might be a commentary on hot teacher or might be social commentary on getting more women into STEM fields. Or both! I wouldn't put both past the writers, frankly, they're big on subtle forms of social commentary. Caleb, to nobody's surprise, is coding while he listens and talks, probably because he's just typing in the stuff he's longhanded out over the last 24 hours. Beckner brings up Mitnick as one of the hackers who pushed the boundaries too far back in the 80s, ah, we're also doing a history lecture. Pardon me while I side-eye Finch some. Who is watching them. Caleb quite rightly points out that Mitnick proved the flaw in the system is people, not the code, gee, where have we heard that before? Yeah. Though it's a less vicious form of that philosophy than Root's, talking about how now Kevin Mitnick gets paid millions to white-hat hack the same security holes that got him thrown in jail (and prevented from handling communications devices beyond a landline for awhile until he got it overturned) in the first place. Well, yeah. Because people and companies need to be trained in how not to give away their data for free. And people wonder why I habitually fake some of my personal data, and am really glad to have a highly common name. Ahem. Oh, hey, the hacker that got away! I WONDER WHO THAT COULD BE. Where Mitnick is a real person in the really real world, the one that got away is a myth about a hacker who opened up ARPAnet to everyone, exposed its secrets, and ensured the internet would be an open forum. Finch, look a little smugger, why don't you. I don't think you have feathers dangling out the corner of your mouth yet. Caleb quite obviously admires Finch - not that he knows it's Finch - above all others, and I wonder if Beckner suspects something about Caleb's motivations, the way he states calmly that the person's still out there. Implied: and so should you be, kid, when this job's done. Not that Beckner is admitting what he suspects to himself. Oh everyone.

On over to Fusco again! Who's just checking in on the resident boy genius, the one who's actually a kid instead of just acting like it half the time. Yes, Finch, I mean you. He updates Fusco, we get verbal confirmation of what we knew before, what Caleb's doing and how groundbreaking it could be. Maybe worth killing for, is the decided implication. Finch also mentions the pair of drug dealers that Caleb had a run-in with and Fusco has the most valid question of all: is there a history there. Not that he knows it yet, but given the Machine's parameters that's a question we need an answer to before determining if they're one of the potential threats. No history doesn't mean they're not a threat, but it does mean someone else would be pulling their strings, in all likelihood. (Like Lorenzo, for example.) So Fusco will tail the kids to a money drop of someone who appears homeless - and may be, but is also getting a cut of the proceeds in return for being the delivery guy. Layers of protection against the head honcho's identity being known, gee, sounds like a smart criminal. Or a security-conscious hacker. We then cut over to Finch checking in with Carter, nice smooth cuts that are nonetheless pretty rapid despite how early it is in the episode. The music tells us we don't have any immediate crises - but it does want us to stay edgy and on guard, much like everyone else in this episode. Finch is watching the camera in the Phipps' apartment while holed up in a car somewhere, presumably for ease of movement in case something breaks somewhere. And Carter has a package from Finch, but needs specs. She's also dressed up for going… out? Not for breaking into someplace. That's a hell of a dress. Oh. Oh Carter, you are going to drug some poor bastard who matches Reese's specs close enough not to flag a closer scrutiny and replace Reese's DNA with his? You are taking all the wrong lessons from the boys. Though there's something to be said for the careful analytical approach of picking her target, as opposed to the far more scattershot one Reese would likely employ. So, yes, she's got her eye on some dark-haired blue-eyed tall guy at a table at the end of the bar, and I have my eye on the surface of my desk. Not the Rabbi's son. (What.) We cut back over to Finch in the car outside the apartment for a moment before scene break, and as we all knew, Caleb's mother is the one sleeping on the couch after a night of drinking and reading. Oh honey. And he's heading out for the night!

When we come back from ad break, Carter's taking the poor bastard home with her, and by home we mean to his car where he can safely pass out. While we're not fooled by the girlish giggle act, the guy sure is! Pardon me while I snicker into my keyboard some more. She's also cut the timing on that awful close, since he just barely makes it into the car before passing out. I hope that was mostly deliberate, and I really hope that if he decides to go in for any kind of drug tests (unlikely, he seems too macho to want to admit to being roofied by a woman) it was something that leaves few traces and/or side-effects. Which I kind of suspect it was; Carter's pretty careful like that and Finch doubly so.

Fusco's spent all night tracing the drug money, okay, that was supposedly a homeless guy? Sure, we'll go with it. It's like Baker Street Irregulars all over again. Homeless guy to a money transfer place wired to another of the same picked up by still another guy who dropped it at a PO box. Jesus hitman, Caleb, you're not fucking around with your identity security. I'd like to know how the hell he secured the money itself, though, because that's a system that likely involves everyone who touches the money getting a cut of it: Diego and Ronnie, homeless guy, two money transfers, another courier. That's a lot of percentages. Though it's pretty impressive as laundering schemes go! We can tell as Finch and Fusco talk this through that they're in strangely similar neighborhoods, and kudos to the writers for not dragging this out beyond the bounds of plausibility. The main reason it did drag out this long, as far as I can tell, is so we could get more of the other stories in without cramming it all in sideways in the back half of the ep, which is a neat trick of pacing. So, yes, Finch was following Caleb and Fusco was following the money and what a shocker, they lead to the same end point! I'm deeply amused at how they stay on their phones despite being perfectly capable of walking the half a block to stand together and talk in person, I assume that's in case they need to split up again and also to prevent anyone from associating them on a casual once-over. Because boys, if you want someone really paranoid not to notice you, you need to stop looking at each other. (Insert Casablanca jokes here, given Emerson's delivery on the lookin-at-you line. Finch doesn't usually drop his g's and that's almost Bogart's pacing, so I kind of think that was a deliberate sideways film buff joke.) Caleb, fortunately, is only paranoid about data trails, not about in-person pursuit, so he doesn't notice.

Next day, back in CS class! Quizzes graded, Caleb of course got exactly 50%, Beckner is disappointed and has no idea why someone so smart is doing this, not that he says that in front of the class. There's some meet or another that he's setting up from an anonymized ymail account, I will just say that yes, ymail is one of the more well-known fairly anonymized webmail services, and it looks like whatever this account is Caleb's keeping it clear of anything but this one piece of business. Smart. No crossing the streams. There's a meeting for a re-up at 2 pm today, best guess that means the drugs, which Finch will confirm for us. That's Caleb's supplier, he's getting more drugs, Fusco is informed and is grudgingly impressed. Yeah, I have to agree. Not that I understand why, but I agree. But wait, there's more! To the tune of Beckner copying all of the program to a flash drive. Oh, and the name's significant or we wouldn't both see and hear it, 17-6-21, that looks like a date of some sort though it's in non-US format if so. Now Beckner's suspicious and possibly a bad guy! Because we needed more variables. And speaking of variables, Finch will take this opportunity to return the notes from yesterday with a lecture on using atomic variables. Which based on a quick google search is the sort of techno-jibberish that only sort of makes sense, because it implies Caleb's coding this in Java. No. I do not buy that. I refuse to accept that he's using such an inelegant programming language. I do, however, like the interchange here where Caleb's all prepared to brush off the dotty professor and then realizes that he's been given a gift of knowledge and direction. Yes, kid, other people are also far more than they appear to be. It's a good life lesson, and better learned early.

Speaking of life lessons, Caleb's about to learn another one! As Finch gets into Fusco's unmarked with a nice bit of banter, oh boys. No, your dealer is very much in pain though apparently not dead. Yet. Neither are you! And this is why you don't deal drugs without creating a power vacuum, kid, even if you're not planning on sticking around to see it through. Other people can get hurt, too. No matter what you think of those people, you still used them oh why am I bothering. Though I do appreciate the fact that they're not making this entirely black and white. No, Fusco, Finch does not have a plan, he has emotions and overidentification which he seems to have borrowed from Reese for the duration. Sorry. I know it's a little unusual, but the Machine tends to teach its people lessons as the opportunity arises, and I wouldn't bet against it having allowed Reese to get himself caught so that Finch was forced to be in the field for this one. Lesson against overconfidence for Reese, lesson in empathy for Finch? Certainly that's the Doylist effect, but whether or not the Machine is operating outside of the fourth wall again is a perpetual tangle of questions that someday we might start trying to unknot. At any rate, Caleb's just supposed to pay back everything he got from Lorenzo by tomorrow night! By what means, he rightly points out, well, kid, if you were saving up all that money for the big trip you're trying to fool everyone with, then you've got it just lying around unspent. Unlike most people who start dealing. Which gets him threatened with the baseball bat that broke poor Roman's legs, and a blustery quip about robbing a bank. See, Finch? You didn't have to do anything with the nonexistent machine gun. Not that there was much the two of them could've done with three on one odds and Caleb an unpredictable factor. I give them three on one because even if Finch can be a distraction, he's shit at actual combat. Should've brought Bear, dude.

So, that night! In the car, watching the feed from the Phipps apartment, trying to figure out why the fuck Caleb's picking a fight with a drug dealer. Fusco says it's not about the money, it's about the brother, okay, so taken in light of the episode ending, my only explanation for this potato is that Caleb picked a fight with a drug dealer because, what, he didn't like Lorenzo dealing at school? He blames Lorenzo's drugs for his brother's death? (Though one assumes the tox report would've showed something other than alcohol in that case.) Or the dealer's just a convenient cover to prevent his death from being ruled a suicide, so that at least one person will assume that Lorenzo shoved him onto the tracks and thus his mother gets all the money, both drug and insurance if there is any and payment from the programming project. I guess that makes sense? It's awfully convoluted and twisted, but we're talking about someone so fucked up by survivor's guilt that he's attempting to keep his mother in money for at least a little while after his death and then go commit suicide because he doesn't want to live in this world anymore. Logic doesn't necessarily enter into it. The upshot of Fusco's evidence is that Caleb changed his story from two attackers to an accident at some point or another, and the incident report doesn't say anything about why. But maybe Caleb wanted to deal with the attackers himself! Guys, you've been hanging around people like Elias and HR for waaaay too long if this is the shit you're jumping to immediately. Oh, hey, more security feeds, what's Beckner up to? Reading over Caleb's code and arranging a meeting for that evening! Sorry, Fusco, you're on solo stakeout while Finch goes to deal with this new wrinkle.

New wrinkle is meeting an old college friend for dinner! We know this before they even get to admitting it outright, by the way Beckner teases the venture capitalist across the table from him. Maybe not friend, maybe just classmate with the right connections, there's a bit of an edge there. Finch has a table down below where he's dropping some eaves, Mr. Baggins oh wait wrong universe. (The Machine and Morgoth need never to meet.) Beckner proceeds to demonstrate the amazingest new code which he talks up for a bit by transferring the entire Library of Congress onto the poor VC's laptop. Which probably is why all those error message boxes pop up, because you cannot transfer that shit onto your computer. So! 235 terabytes of data on one flash drive, I know they've gotten pretty amazing but THAT is well beyond our current capabilities. And Beckner's right, the internet even now needs a new compression algorithm with all the streaming video out there, if we don't get one we'll choke. Why does this not exist yet in the real world, again? Goddammit. But it's a nice Macguffin, I have to say, it's something immediately relatable for internet nerds and takes minimal explanation even for people less familiar with the tech. But there's a bit of a problem, because Chris Beckner was a mediocre programmer in college, so how'd he come up with this code? It's both a jab and a check to see if he stole the code, and it's the jab that lands, visibly to us but not so much to Finch, he's got almost exclusively audio to rely on. The look down and away is out of pain that he's not this good, but he's got the comeback ready. On the other hand, he's not lying about the lack of entanglements, but something about that bothers him. And it doesn't appear to be the fact that he's stealing from one of his students, because that's the easy answer and the one they're clearly leading us toward. Still, Finch will make the obvious assumption, as will we for the moment until we acquire more data, and we won't get any further information until the next day!

Back at school, where Fusco's been tracking down the transit cop to ask him what didn't make it into the report, so hopefully that'll get cleared up sooner rather than later. Although "after his shift" is not as promising as one might hope. Caleb, meanwhile, is moving money around. Not to pay Lorenzo but to set up a trust. Oh my god people would you get your heads screwed on straight? This kid has in no way indicated that he's going to take a trip anywhere and abandon his mother, and if he took her with him he'd have to tell her where the money came from. He is in all respects parenting his mother, which includes keeping secrets from her that he doesn't think she needs to know, and therefore something else is up. Probably something involving him leaving her in a more permanent sense, since he's not doing anything about the immediate threat to his life. People who are ideating and can leave their families well taken care of tend to do so. Sigh. Okay, Beckner wants to meet tonight at 8 too, which means Caleb's going to have to pick one. Or neither, guys, neither is an option and I do not think that getting out of town is what he's planning to do. That would involve buying tickets or… something? Anything? Guys? Fusco, I know you don't suck that much as a detective, even if you are worried about Reese. Don't. Finch has a point about the capable hands he's in.

We'll move that bit of the plot along now, with a phone call from Finch to Carter worrying about when she's going to finish out the plan to save Reese from identification via the physical evidence. Soon, Finch! Which apparently entails wearing dark clothes, gloves and a hood pulled low over her face and mostly avoiding the first security camera as she drops the loop of an empty hallway in. She also has the real security feeds on her phone, one assumes courtesy of Finch, and a set of lockpicks which she wields like she really knows what she's doing. Interesting, and noted for later. Though she's not wearing gloves for the lockpicking, she does have on surgical nitrile gloves for going into the DNA evidence lockup, GOOD Carter. Give Reese lessons in wearing gloves, wouldja? And we close with her successfully swapping spit swabs (oh come on, you knew I was going to do that) out and, presumably, getting out clean. Since the music builds to a crescendo that means A Bridge Has Been Crossed Rubicon-Style instead of the one that means Oh Shit You're About To Get Caught.

Still later that evening, Caleb comes home from school or wherever the fuck he hangs out between school and home, god knows if I had a mother descending into alcoholism I wouldn't want to go back before I had to either. Avoid everything between stone cold sober and passing out on the couch, and also in Caleb's case avoid having to look her in the eye when he believes he's responsible for his brother's death. Oh honey. The mystery remains: where will he go? What will he do when he gets there? Finch is alone in the car, and for the first time we get perspective from inside the apartment. No, Ms. Phipps, I don't think you're going to be better tomorrow. Caleb thinks everything will be better tomorrow but he's thinking a) of himself and b) in the material sense rather than the emotional. Oh, and c) he's lying. At any rate, Finch checks in with Fusco who's talking to the transit cop first.

Who is amazing and wonderful. Seriously, this whole scene is a nice reminder of how not all cops are evil, not hiding things out of malice or desire to cover up their own incompetence, sometimes life just fucking sucks. And you do what you can to mitigate some of the suckage if at all possible. Those of us who have either been paying attention or who know the tells Caleb's been giving out know where this is going, or have a pretty good idea. Fusco can read Transit Cop's tells, though he hasn't really been close enough to Caleb to read his body language, and he can tell that Transit Cop is hiding something with all that unable to look him in the eye, looking around the room, hunched in, rapid eye blinking, he could possibly be saying I Am Not Telling You Everything louder but he'd need a neon sign. Fusco takes the tack of, so I know about the two attackers and now Caleb's going to become a killer he's setting up those guys and how do you feel about that Mr I Don't Have Regrets About How I Handled This Case? Oh Fusco. It's the other thing that's the lie, which Transit Cop doesn't say in so many words, just leads Fusco down the garden path until he gets it. Heh. Sort of a, you must be worthy of learning this information before you get the next piece, which is fairly standard cop behavior when coughing up information. Transit Cop fills in the missing pieces, two drunk kids dancing back and forth over the tracks before the train gets there, and Ryan didn't want to lose to his baby brother. I think this is the first scene we get his name in, actually; certainly it's the scene we've heard it the most so far. Making him a real person and not just another name in a file or unseen motivation. So, yes, the cop kept out all the details from the incident report rather than make Caleb go through a full investigation of the accident, smear both their names for underage drinking, so on and so forth. Kids are stupid, but Caleb's paid a far worse price in losing his brother than any fine or community service. On the other hand, maybe doing that would have made him feel like he'd atoned? Maybe the cop should've told him that he needed to do something like that to get himself feeling right, but cops aren't priests and don't always see what's right in front of them. The upshot is that Caleb's been carrying around a pile of guilt with nobody to talk to, and now he's going to fix it by killing himself. Goddammit, Caleb. Goddammit, system. Suck less.

Fusco stop long enough to catch up Finch on this whole clusterfuck, only to learn that Finch lost Caleb. Yeah, well, I can't blame him, though Finch clearly blames himself, he isn't the person to be doing street level pursuit. Of any kind, foot pursuit least of all. C'mon, Finch, did you get the name or number on the bus? You could extrapolate possibilities based on that! Oh fine. His limp's more pronounced now than we've seen it in awhile, some combination of stress/exertion and the cold, I'm guessing. Fusco takes the known dangerous quantity of Lorenzo and his guys while Finch heads to the school, at least he's being that sensible about this. There's nothing at Lorenzo's meeting spot, aside from one very pissed off drug dealer who wants everyone on the street looking for Caleb. Oh goodie. I still want to know what Fusco did to take care of Lorenzo, since we never do get a wrap on that particular throughline; one assumes it was cut for time because it was the least important of the many balls they were juggling this episode. Alright! Over to Beckner at school, or rather, over to Finch not seeing Caleb anywhere obvious. Only the door's unlocked, and there's Beckner! Coming down the hall looking perturbed but not angry, the way you do when someone ended up a no-show for a meeting. A benign meeting as opposed to a break-your-head meeting. Though he's got some several dots in subterfuge! (For the old school World of Darkness players among you, you know that's pronounced with four syllables, for maximum ridiculousness.) Finch cuts his oh-just-some-papers line off at the knees, but apparently Beckner's been trained in the best defense is a good offense strategy of lying and deception? Seriously, I want to know where he learned this. His students? He's actually one of the better liars we've seen on the show, at least in the guest spots, the main tell here is the worry and sadness in his eyes. He's doing his best to cover that all up with righteous indignation, though, and can I just say this is a damn good acting job? Because it is, and it even holds up against Michael Emerson, which is more impressive. No, it turns out Beckner's been the face for this whole enterprise for some months now, Caleb tried to shove him off with half the money and taking the credit for the project himself but Beckner was having none of it. I'm a little skeptical of his completely-benevolent act, though by Finch's face the paperwork bears out what he's saying about giving Caleb all the money and all the credit, and just helping him navigate the shark-infested waters of the IT venture capital world. It would be quite the feather in his cap to be the one who discovered Caleb, regardless, and while he might not be able to ride the kid's coattails to glory he might be able to get himself out of that shithole of a school and into a teaching position where he could effect change. Or something. I'd like a few more motivations other than anarchist-minded CS teacher for him, but this will have to do, because we're headed over to the subway stop while Finch has a horrible realization about the meaning of the project name.

Officer Murphy and the Machine remind us of the backup request cancellation as we head down there, which has the added effect of reminding us that right now Finch is working without his usual partner but despite that he does have some backup coming. Because the Machine decided the two of them couldn't do it all themselves, 'cause it's smarter than they are. We have the photo of Ryan and Caleb and their mom together for maximum heartstrings yanking, we have a very wide-eyed sad Finch, and we have an otherwise empty platform. I question that, because it's freaking NYC at about 10:32 pm by the Machine's clock, and that is not late enough to be that empty, but okay, sure, we'll go with it. New York in general tends to be far too empty of other people during filming for this show, because there's only so much you can do and have it come out of post looking decent. I would like to note that whoever directed this managed to shoot it so even their goddamn profiles look similar, which is impressive when their body language is entirely different and when frankly the closest actual similarity to their features is the nose. Anyway, no, Caleb, you do know the answer to why Finch is here. He's still in mocking and pushing people away mode, which isn't to anyone's surprise, least of all Finch's, though interesting that he picks Dead Poet's Society to reference instead of anything else. I mean, it's pretty timeless and about the best reference you can get, but it's also a little more dated than I'd expect out of someone Caleb's age. Finch was going to go off on a discussion about being reckless, and now that he's been redirected will point out that he of all people knows about not being able to change the past. With more emotion than we've almost ever seen out of him, enough to make it clear that he's both speaking the truth to Caleb and using the truth to try and manipulate Caleb into not jumping in front of that train. Oh Harold. But he's also right that mistakes, which make up who you are at any given point in your life, are the things that get you to the most surprising and interesting places over time. He'll even admit, to the Machine alone, that he considers creating it his biggest mistake and yet also his greatest success. (It's also waving to us. Hi, Machine!) Not that we ever had any doubt, but with Reese gone and with nobody else listening in, it's something he's finally willing to say out loud. It's also interesting to hear someone so uptight and repressed describe himself as reckless, but even in this ep we've seen that that's true. Reckless in the sense of not thinking about the consequences to himself, at this point, and certainly in the past (as in Caleb's past), not thinking about the consequences to others. In both the micro and macro senses, in Finch's case. And yes, Caleb, Finch did decipher your not very cunning code, it's year-month-day, the age at which Ryan died and the age at which Caleb intend(s/ed) to die, and with the emphasis on numbers as a form of connection Caleb breaks a little bit. It's an odd form of bonding that pretty much only works because they're both such solitary numbers-oriented figures, but that's why Finch got this number, after all. I'm going to facepalm at the solitary manpain tear because it's so out of place in this episode, frankly; I associate solitary manpain tears with fridging women because of Supernatural oops was that my outside voice? But seriously, this would be an acceptable time for a guy to break down sobbing, except we can't have that because standard depictions of masculinity. Okay, fine. More bonding via pi and numbers in response to Caleb claiming that all he does is break things. Honey? LOOK AT WHAT YOU BUILT. No, I know, he's depressed, he doesn't respond to normal forms of encouragement. Finch's form of encouragement is to point out that knowing how badly they can break things is exactly why they won't listen to "but you can't DO that" from the rest of the world. Also to hit below the belt, yes, kid, your mother will be broken if you go through with this. Worse than she is now. On the other hand, Finch does know from trying to walk away from people to keep them safe and discovering how much worse that hurts them in the long run. And because of how he did it, he gets to see that and know! I give Michael Emerson approximately infinite credit for managing to sound like he's on the edge of bursting into tears while maintaining most of Finch's stoic composure, that's a really neat trick. Fusco comes up, but his attitude is far more one of bearing witness to whatever's about to go down with that train creaking down the tracks than intending to dive and stop Caleb from throwing himself in front of it. Neither of them's in top physical form to manhandle a teenager. I'm sure there'd be another train coming soon, but this is the one that matters to Caleb symbolically, and lo, he doesn't jump. As we knew he wouldn't. Finch is still the awkwardest ever at offering physical comfort, but the fact that he's trying means a lot both to us as viewers and to Caleb, who's probably even more conscious than we are of "Mr. Swift's" personal space bubble of Back The Fuck Up.

We'll put a pin in that for now and let the rest of what passes on that platform fall under the category of catharsis, as it almost certainly does, and move along back to a random hallway in a random government building where Donnelly is chewing on an underling. Why? Because we needed the confirmation that Carter's scheme worked and none of the physical evidence was a match for Reese. Yay! Of course this means that Donnelly leaps to the target fixation assumption that they got to it. Which is true, but not in the way he believes, and oh, he'd like Carter. He'd like to make use of her skills, we hope, because that's marginally less bad than calling her out as colluding with the enemy.

Over to the school to have a final wrap-up sequence with Finch and Caleb. I'd love it if we got some line references to getting him into therapy, his mother into counseling/rehab, any kind of continuing mental health care because jesus fucking hitman, Finch, he was suicidal. No? No. I'm going to pretend that Caleb's thanks are for that as well as keeping him from leaping off the platform, because otherwise I'm going to sit here banging my head into the desk for the last couple minutes of the episode. And yes, for shits and giggles he will again lose a scrap of paper on which he's got code longhanded out. Finch, at the very least you could buy the boy his own freaking laptop. Finch has a few last sage words of wisdom about how he grew up in the Cold War and things were pretty black and white in the ARPAnet days, before a kid with a homemade computer changed all of that. Hey, Finch. Hey. You're giving away the homeworld. FINCH. You are a very bad man who is overidentifying and I really hope you've got as good a read on this kid as you think you do. (I mean, I think he does, but I also think he had BEST be following Caleb's progress.) It does, I will admit, give Caleb a new puzzle to chew on instead of chewing on his own liver, which is pretty much what he's been doing up until now. And a significant hand over of the first 3000 digits of pi when he says pick your friends carefully in this new and wacky era of the internet/computers, meaning that Finch would like to be his friend, if Caleb will allow it. I also find it interesting that he identifies primarily with the Cold War, which is a very specific part of the 1970s mindset, and says quite a lot about the sort of us-or-them-but-really-neither nihilism that young!Finch probably went through. After all, back then they really did believe it was just a matter of time before MAD was more than an acronym and cities became smoking radioactive craters. It's as much of a look at Finch's formative years as we're getting for the moment, but it does help explain some of the odd rigidities in his thinking. Anyway. Caleb latches onto the relevant part of that conversation, not so much the fact that Finch's number is in there (phone or SSN? I assume the latter, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were both) but the little detail about the computer the hacker that broke ARPAnet being homemade. That's never been in any of the research, Finch. In fact the only person who would know that for sure would be the one who did it, since all the evidence points to him having kept his damn fool mouth shut to other hackers up to now. Goddammit, Finch. Except maybe Nathan knew? That wouldn't surprise me, if Nathan knew or guessed. Which falls firmly into the two can keep a secret if one of them is dead category. Alright, fine, Finch is a lying liar who lies, we knew this, and he's also doing the I-know-you-know-we're-all-knowledgeable-here face. Oh Finch. Caleb, meanwhile, looks more like he wants to believe but can't quite countenance that THAT hacker has just dropped out of the sky to save his life and say, essentially, good job keep it up. That's like, I don't know, Frankie Gavin or someone dropping by to say "keep up the fiddling, girlie."

We close out the episode with a brief note of hope that Reese is being released, followed by the immediate drop of Donnelly pulling rank. Reese on one side and the other three men on the other, which in this case I'm going to go with is Doylist staging rather than Watsonian. Carter gets a momentary look of relief before she slams her face down controlled again, she's getting really good at that. Apparently Donnelly's pulling national security declared unlawful combatants whee abuse of federal power! Donnelly, even if I thought you were doing the morally right thing as well as the legally right thing, you're still a jackass. But he wants to talk to Carter! What about? Well, he reiterates that the whole thing is too neat and therefore he can only trust her. Which is a neat bit of writing and acting; his obsession means he looks like he's overselling even when he might not be so it's difficult to tell if he suspects her right now or not. We know that eventually he does come to suspect her and even be sure enough to put her into a trap, but as things stand this could read as genuine extension of trust or it could read as force-teaming to make her feel guilty and get her to slip up. It certainly accomplishes a bit of the latter even if Donnelly doesn't intend it to! The upshot is that he wants her to put her military interrogator skills to use again (again? this suggests that they're so different from what she uses in the police interrogations) and tear all their suspects to itty bitty shreds. With the blessing of the US Government on whatever lying cheating sneaky tactics she wants to use, of course! That part's implied but pretty clear if we know anything about anything from the news the last decade or so. And thus we set up the endgame for the midseason finale, with Carter managing to give Reese a fairly level once-over as she's instructed to start with him, and then a look of some despair at the position this puts her in, which is all meant for the camera and half of it's played up by the music anyway.

Next time: game theory and snark! Always with the snark. You'd have to check us for pod people otherwise.

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