Things are heating up and AUGH IT'S JOANNE HI JOANNE. From Rent. Look, these are the associations I have, okay? We can just be glad that she's not bringing Maureen into this show. Can you even imagine Finch and Reese's reaction to the entire Alphabet City group? Because I can. Am. And now my brain hurts. Our first bits of data after seeing not!Joanne as the number of the week are to tell us that she's the victim this time. Or at least, that's definitely what that phone call sounds like, one exec's death is mysterious and being covered up and she's digging into it and people want to ensure that she stops? Sounds like victim and not perp to me. Interestingly, the Machine's been giving away more and more of these tidbits in the first few seconds of the show this season, making it all about the discovery of how and why rather than the who. Which is about par for the course, now that Finch and Reese have more or less self-identified themselves.
Our first real scene starts at Rikers. With Finch and Elias playing a literal game of chess as well as the figurative one. Can't I just smash the chessboard into Elias' face? Boo. Elias' first move is to take a knight and a rook off the board, saying that he's trying to learn how to win at a disadvantage. Dude, nobody's buying that you don't have as much or more power within the prison system as you did outside of it. But it's a puzzle for Finch to solve, and Elias confirms that Szymanski and the ADA's deaths benefited Yogorov the Russian, Elias' main known opponent. And some pawns go away, those within Rikers who've been transferred out of Elias' reach, and three white pawns get added. (Because Elias is playing black king. Of course he is. You can all put your jars away now.) Yeah, Elias is playing against Quinn, not that he or Finch knows that right now, and he'd really like a face to put to that ghostly figure. I suppose that's another reason for his opponent to be white. This whole scene screams two dangerous and well-controlled men having a quiet conversation about the power structure as it currently stands, they're not even trying to make the metaphor subtle with the chessboard, and we already knew they both enjoy playing games. Elias more than Finch, as Finch's undertones of exasperation would indicate. But Finch made a bargain, and he'll stick to that. So. No, I wouldn't count Elias out yet at all, he's always been extremely competent at pulling pieces out of thin air and making them more useful than they have any right to be. I very much doubt Finch will be giving John your best, Elias. Just a hunch. Even without the slashbait Finch is a jealous and protective sort of friend. And the pay phone in the visiting room at the prison rings! Dear Machine: your sense of humor is getting truly skewed. Not that it ever was normal.
Over to a car hidden in the woods, where Reese is watching a house with a mailbox labeled Cole. For those of us who don't quite remember the name of Shaw's partner, yep, that's his parents' house. And Reese is keeping an eye because he has no reason to believe the CIA won't come after Cole's parents and every reason to believe in their lack of goodwill toward any. Plus it might lead him to Shaw, eventually! We can but hope. Finch calls to fill Reese in on the new number, no, you're not coming back from your stakeout yet, Reese. No matter how boring you find it, and I don't really blame him for wanting to go do something. Stakeouts are inherently boring, and it's either a tribute to Reese's military-honed tidiness or an oversight on the props department (I'm betting the former, though) that there's not more detritus scattered around the car. Or he hasn't been there long enough to build up a radius of takeout containers and piss bottles. Anyway, new number, senior VP at Rylatech, where Finch has used one of his many cover IDs to get himself hired on as what appears to be a code monkey. On account of they have ridiculously high security, being that they're one of the top networking firms in the country, yeah, they'd be more aware of security loopholes than most. Especially RFID style ones. Monica Jacobs is a rising star in the industry, and do I really need to say it? I will anyway: as a black woman in the tech industry she must be about twenty times better than your average man. I don't know if that was deliberate on the part of the casting director or just the person who was right for the role, but that makes her even more impressive. And as Finch points out, no matter how tame this sounds, she's a senior VP in an industry known for extreme levels of corporate espionage. Who the fuck knows what they're walking into, in other words. Jacobs walks by with her assistant, some young punk who looks barely out of college, and oh FINCH. You totally planted that new tablet there just so she'd see it and you could tech-bond while you bluejacked her phone, didn't you. That was adorable. He's going by Starling, by the way, which I think is a new identity to us. And she's very smooth, very used to the awkward tech geeks who talk over people they maybe shouldn't, and capable of forgiving a fair bit of it for the sake of smart people. As you would have to be, in this industry.
We move over to the conference room, where an unnamed set of execs from another company is hearing a sales pitch from Rylatech, which Jacobs of course takes over when the dry stats guy fails miserably at selling them on it. We also get a name of a competitor, Sensatech, which no doubt Finch is adding to his mental rolodex of potential threats. And we're definitely meant to be interested in the assertion that Rylatech's servers already make up the backbone of the internet and they're trusted by the DoD, so on and so forth, you all know this song and dance. The "we'll never stop working hard for you" is a bit of an oversell, but the jab about kickbacks to execs along with their nice pastries is great sandwiching. The CEO comes out, congratulates her, says he doesn't know what they'd do without her, and the product manager who she showed up has a rather disgusted/jealous look on his face as they part ways. Yeah, that's not gonna come back to bite anyone in the ass at all, is it.
Down at the precinct, Terney and Carter have a little pedeconference about Szymanski's murder and what about Quinn, does he know anything? More than you could possibly imagine, Carter. Finch calls to check in and offer his condolences, aww, Finch, you're starting not only to use your words, you're also starting to mean them! And recognize the importance of reaching out to your allies to offer comfort when bad shit happens! Someday soon you'll get a heart and everything and Carter will get her ruby slippers. The jury's still out on where Reese and Fusco match up on Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow. Right now Carter is getting Beecher walking up to her desk and no time to talk to Finch about what she might want from him. No, this is a bad idea, Cal. You don't get to give condolences when this shit is your fault, however tangentially and however much you're being played. (A lot. The answer is a lot.) He's good at his job, is the thing, but his job isn't dealing with city-wide conspiracies, nor does it involve suspecting his own godfather of being a crime boss. Nor should it. I feel really, really sorry for Beecher most of the time, though I do think that if he wants to regain trust he should damn well be coughing up that CI's name. Carter spells out what happened to Fusco for those of us who missed the last episode, and Fusco is about as thrilled to be in the middle of this as we'd expect. But immediate in offering his support and contacts at her disposal. I love you, Fusco. Never stop being awesome. Do stop keeping your mouth shut about your own problems with HR, though.
Later that night, Jacobs and Finch appear to be the only ones left in the building, or two of a very few. She's eating at her desk, Finch is either ignoring basic bodily needs (not surprising if so) or has already eaten, and it's time to check back with Reese! No sign of Shaw yet, but Finch has one of his nice little layouts that lets him see the chip on every employee in the building. I wonder how long that piece of hacking took him, given the security Rylatech nominally has. No, I'm with Reese, Finch, you so have a crush. And you're protesting too much about it. It's okay, I have a crush too. Because goddamn. Oh, hey, she's leaving her office and Shaw is totally snapping twigs on purpose to tell Reese she's there. But first, seeing the laptop graveyard that Jacobs is digging into. Justin Lee's laptop and a flash drive turn out to be the answer to what she's looking for, not that Finch yet knows it, she copies all the files over rather than taking the time to search for whatever specifics she needs. I can respect that. I can also respect both her and Finch's ability to quietly, without fussing, duck out of sight of the security guard. Though given the limited data Finch has on her this is not speaking well to her intentions toward Rylatech or, you know, anyone in general. Reese points out the obvious to him, since the Agency is much on his mind right now, the most effective spy is the one you'd never suspect, and let's not forget that Shaw is not really that much of a spy. She leans harder on the assassin part of spyssassin, especially these days, and Reese will call Finch right back when he's done being held at gunpoint, please and thank you. We come back from ad break, ooh, Shaw still has a blue box! Better than it going red. There are all kinds of gender roles being semi-addressed here, made murkier by the fact that they're both deadly assassins and both of them have probably been in situations where they used their bodies as a tool of their trade. No, Reese doesn't take no for an answer very well, especially not when someone like him is wandering around with no handler, no attachments, and no apparent desire to curl up and die instead of wreaking havoc. Wandering around near or in his city, thank you, Batman. Though since she's not doing anything directly this is more like a welfare check, unveiling his weaknesses to her in the hopes of building rapport. That works better with someone who isn't as totally broken as Shaw is, Reese; she makes you look downright normal half the time. They're beautifully understated in their acting, too, almost all of it comes around the eyes, a few lines of tension around the mouth, but otherwise classic spyssassin flat affect. Shaw wishes she could set the record straight for her ex-partner's parents, who didn't deserve to have both son and son's memory taken from them like that. Yeah, I gotta agree with her there. But if she goes and talks to them, Control will kill them, and it's telling that Reese always appeared to work for the CIA (or at least to believe he did) whereas the next generation clearly knew they weren't working for Langley. Definite change in oversight, there. And Shaw isn't having any of this rapport building nonsense, but Reese has one last bullet in his verbal barrage. He's… huh. Apparently made his peace with his memories of Kara Stanton, in a way, because that's a quote from her about walking in the dark but that addition is something he learned from working with Finch and Carter and Fusco. Because you can be damn sure that he was far, far lonelier with Stanton, never able to express his doubts, never able to give or receive genuine comfort so much as momentary catharsis. With Team Machine? He's had a lot more real human contact and comfort, not just with those three but dealing with helping people directly, showing his face to them and being something other than the guy on the other end of the gun. We can even go back to his original epithet, the man in the suit. Not the sort of name you give someone who's nothing but a bogeyman.
Shaw gets to chew that over for awhile, because we're headed for the next morning, a worrying blip on the Machine's cameras as it fastforwards through the night, and Finch has a sticky, coffee-covered keyboard to support at work. Oh honey. That didn't take long. He'll pass off the random code monkey with promises of a new one as he watches Jacobs leave her office for what he hopes will be long enough to let him dig through her files! Which it's not, because her assistant comes wandering in before he can do more than take out the flash drive. Oops. At least this is an environment well suited to Finch bullshitting his way out of being caught doing shady shit, because he takes a second to come up with something plausible for a security update when challenged on the specifics and then rattles off something that… well, to me sounds believable? I don't know about to any IT professionals. Speaking of getting caught, let's have a bit of a Lady Macbeth moment with Cal in the bathroom, you cannot tell me that shot of him scrubbing his hands dry was accidental. Fusco is coming to confront him in one of the few places they're unlikely to be interrupted! Aw, yay, it's the good ol' bathroom confrontation scene. Fusco is all looming and ominous, impressive for a guy of his height, and they're shooting Beecher in the sinister position even though we know he's a dupe. Poor everyone. Except Quinn. I can tear Quinn's throat out with my teeth, right? Anyway. Fusco makes the point that the money Szymanski supposedly took disappeared somewhere along the line, and that means either Elias' guys or dirty cops got hold of it, and that makes this a nice obvious setup of Szymanski, Cal. If he stays quiet, yeah, he looks dirty too. What's the best defense? Oh, a good offense. About Fusco's old crew and old tricks, but at this point he's well past being threatened by that. Partly because the guys in prison are unlikely to talk, partly because Stills is well and truly dead and he knows where the body's buried, and on the gripping hand, Simmons is way scarier than Beecher. By a long shot. So that doesn't hold a lot of water with Fusco, and they get up in each other's faces and might actually start throwing punches over stay away from Carter-or what but for Terney walking in. Small favors, because I don't want to know what Joss Carter would do to both of them for having a dick-measuring contest on her behalf. Fusco gets his parting shot about what is going on here in, Beecher looks angry more than afraid. And evaluating, not in the manner of wondering what he needs to do about Fusco but more in the manner of wondering what is his life, what are his choices. I wonder that a lot myself, but I don't go around getting good cops dead because of my life choices, so I think he wins that one.
Meanwhile at Rylatech, Jacobs is printing off all of Justin Lee's employment records, looks like. Curiouser and curiouser! Her assistant makes noises about doing it for her, she makes noises about a lunch meeting that she didn't put on the calendar, nobody looks anything other than shady in this scene. I'll be over here making faces at Finch to be a little less obvious in his surveillance; the other two aren't as practiced. This last minute lunch meeting is taking place in a park. With benches and trenchcoats and pigeons and things. No ducks to feed, though, that's a DC thing. Mostly. At any rate, Finch found himself a bench that's awfully a lot closer and facing them than I'd like him to be, and "them" turns out to be Monica and wossname, Haskell the product manager who needed her to rescue him from the sales meeting. So we already know he's got reason to dislike her, and she rattles off something that sounds like some very bizarre conspiracy. Justin Lee died, yep, he's the guy from the accident in the initial data from the Machine, and she was going to send flowers to his parents! Because she's just that kind of sweet, caring VP, I guess? But no, that is a thing that you do when you hit a certain point in management, except it doesn't work so well when the parents apparently don't exist and nor does anything else on Lee's resume. Oops. We can see, because we're looking for a threat, that Haskell's really worried about the fact that she's dug all of this up, including the files, and dear god I hope she has a copy of them elsewhere. Probably not, though; she seems like the kind of true believer who thinks she knows who's on her side even if she's willing to admit the possibility that Lee was a plant. Oh honey. And it never occurred to you that his death might be suspicious as a result? Anyway, Lee was in Haskell's division, she's doing him a favor by letting him get out in front of it without taking it first to the CEO, that much I will definitely buy. I will also keep twitching over the patronizing thank you he gives her. He's doing a really good job of being slimy enough to raise suspicions on sheer personality, which is no doubt why they make him the patsy later. Finch is concerned enough to patch Reese through. Reese is either concerned enough or bored enough to do a casual bump-and-lift on that flash drive Finch wants so badly. I am duly entertained. Finch is duly pleased.
Elsewhere in Central Park, Quinn and Beecher meet and I'll go twitch in the corner now. Especially in that Quinn's right arm was the one that was shot for the coverup, therefore they have to shake left hands, which gives us a nice additional sense of wrongness to this whole thing. Just to fuck with us more, they'll put Beecher on the sinister position for framing this scene, even though we know Quinn's the big bad. We know it so well, we're not even surprised to find that Quinn gave Beecher the tip that got Szymanski dead, in the end. He goes through the usual song and dance of, well, a man in his position is offered information all the time (true) and what keeps them coming back is the knowledge (not true, that's a belief) that he'll keep it confidential (definitely not true, he saves it up to use it for his own ends). But! Because he likes Beecher and doesn't want to make him suffer over this and blah de blah godson and it was one of Elias' boys, alright? Yeah, nobody's buying that. Except Beecher, who should really be questioning how fast Quinn rolled over and gave it up. He might, too, except that Quinn hammers on the whole you're my godson and I wanted to do you a solid aspect immediately after, followed by instilling doubt about Carter's motives in questioning the tip. Interestingly, whatever kind of relationship they have as a result of the godfather bond it's not close enough that Beecher feels comfortable calling him anything other than Mr. Quinn, which could be indicative overall or could just be specific to the circumstances, which involve work. We'll never know, alas. Note what Quinn in no way allows: the possibility that the tip was a bad one. Leaving Beecher up shit creek, 'cause he won't challenge the legitimacy of the tip directly but he damn sure can't be comfortable with it even as presented to him in context. Off he goes, and hello, Simmons, nice to see you to. The requisite, boss, am I gonna have to kill your godson for you and the automatic response, let's hope not. Yeah, but you will if you have to, you coldhearted sick sonofabitch. No, I don't like Quinn very much, why do you ask. At least everyone knows what they're getting into with Elias. And that's some sad commentary.
Back to the library goes Reese; back to work goes Finch. It makes for a nice role reversal that we don't get all that often; either they're both in the field or Reese is in the field, usually, but at a company like this even without Shaw factoring in I would support Finch in the field, because it's his field of expertise. He can extemporize best, and it's better than him trying to feed Reese data, which constitutes jogging the elbow of the agent on the ground which is always a bad idea. Sometimes works out okay, but it makes me perpetually nervous. At any rate, they get each other and the audience caught up for anyone just coming in not quite halfway through the ep, and Finch discovers that someone who's not Monica is syncing her phone. Contacts, calls, emails, we can safely assume they've already done it with her computer and this is just the last step in a nice big setup. As it turns out to be! Cue firing, threats and pleas for understanding and confusion and all you fuckers are so in on it, aren't you. I dislike you and your smug faces all severely. Yes, Finch, nobody really needed the confirmation of permanently there, that's just there to go along with the music beat because we should all know by now that the Machine doesn't spit out numbers for less than a life-and-death situation. After the ad break and the next morning, we see Reese back in the field, since without a number to tail Finch has no reason to show up to work (hey, dude, you ever think you might need into the servers again? I'm just saying) and someone better able to do the footwork needs to be on Jacobs. Who's lurking outside Rylatech waiting for someone, and we may all be utterly unsurprised to see that she's going after her assistant. If anyone's a weak link out of the three who are setting her up, I will definitely grant that he's the most likely candidate. Certainly the one whose weak points Jacobs is most likely to be aware of. And in the meantime, Finch is digging into Justin Lee and discovering how deep this cover goes. (Hint: very.) Reese has a "well, fuck, here we go again" look on as he comments that they're pros, because yes, pros does generally indicate another government or at minimum someone with government-level capabilities. Not just with Lee's cover but with the ability to set Jacobs up so fast, this is not a one-trick pony they're dealing with.
Speaking of people who aren't one-trick ponies though we might like it more if they were, let's go back to that chessboard. Hello, Elias. He's still playing, and he's being dismissive of Cal, much to nobody's surprise. Fusco, meanwhile, is both listening and recording, because boys, if you're going to give your assets toys like phone cloning to play with, you should fully expect them to use said toys for off-the-book activities. (I don't quite know what Finch would consider off-book, though I don't know as this counts since it involves both HR and Elias.) This is one of those layered-but-not interviews, where Elias frames all his answers as chess metaphors, Socratic questions, or both, leaving Beecher on the white side of the table. I'm reasonably certain that in both of these scenes, there are more chess layers than I'm picking up on, because for once we have found a thing that neither of us has expert knowledge in! Though Szymanski off the board as a pawn makes sense. And no, Beecher doesn't know what questions to ask, nor does he know what he knows. He's playing chess, sure, but blindfolded and on a table where all the pieces feel like either pawns or knights. (Could be worse. I'm pretty sure the Machine qualifies for the dealer who's blindfolded and cheats at poker and smiles all the time, and if you get that reference you get… well, nothing other than the satisfaction of being as big a geek as we are.) Yeah, Elias and his people tried to give Szymanski money and they got it flung back in their faces. A cop willing to do that to Elias would be willing to do it to HR, assuming HR ever bothered to approach him. A cop on the wrong side of both organizations and without the wits or allies to protect himself is a cop who's going to get very dead, very fast. Like Szymanski did. Speaking of people getting very dead, very fast, Elias totally knows that Beecher's arrival here marked him for death and he feels kind of bad about that, in an obscure sense that absolves him of responsibility while still disliking the bloodshed of such obvious dupes. I almost get the sense he's professionally offended that HR is using Beecher as their patsy for this, because it's so far above the level of game Beecher's used to having to play. Poor bastard. The warning is pretty much pro forma; if Elias really thought Beecher stood a chance against HR he'd be talking in slightly less cryptic circles. Compare that against what he did with Finch first thing this episode, and, well. We can see the difference between an opponent he respects and one he doesn't.
Finch, meanwhile, has high hopes for information from Carter. Well, an absence of information is like information, in this instance! You know the glories of a luxury vehicle? They come with little black boxes now too. I love technology. I do not love technology that doesn't indicate foul play, when we would fully expect it in this instance. Oh, and the body's gone, so Carter can't take prints, so they're completely screwed. It does tell them that whoever this is has assets that go beyond the hacking and cover-creating aspects! It also serves to annoy Carter and make Finch blink a little. More unwelcome information comes in the form of a second shady meet between Quinn and Simmons, this one at Simmons' instigation to relay the message that Beecher went and visited Elias, thus says one of their Rikers contacts. Joy. There's a couple ways to read Simmons' offer to promote Cal out of the line of fire, and I'm not quite sure which one is more at play here. The more charitable interpretation is that he believes Quinn has sufficient attachment to his godson to want to let him survive this, and he's offering Quinn a way out of the dirty work. The less charitable interpretation is that it's a test: who gets special treatment? How close do you have to be to Quinn to merit extra consideration if you seem to be unraveling his plans? The answer, of course, is that Quinn will treat it as the latter case whether or not that's what Simmons is going for, and he'll tacitly order the assassination. Or, well, the hit designed to look like an accidental line-of-duty death. That is a very, very wary look Simmons has as he acknowledges the order. Yes, your boss is that coldblooded. Yes, that means you should continue to be extremely goddamn loyal and competent.
Jacobs finally catches up with Jerome the disloyal assistant at his car, where he's going and speaking Mandarin. Which I do not speak, but his accent sounds kind of funky from what little I know. The subtitles would like us to believe that he's reassuring his bosses that their operation is fine and we're all fine here. That'd go over better if she weren't tailing you, dude. And trying to intimidate her with mild violence would go over better if Reese weren't tailing her. Thank you, Reese, for imparting a good deal of information in very little time, and by the way, who do we know is a major Chinese player in this whole thing? Why yes, the company that hired Stanton to put a bug in the Machine's ear. As it were. Not only are there too many of them for Reese to take them all out, there's a sniper on Jerome prepared for just such an instance! Aw, honey, you didn't think you were indispensable, did you? Because the sniper's actually more focused on taking him out than on taking out Monica and Reese, though granted that's a clearer shot. Still, he seems to be targeting people in order of what he knows they know about the organization, so yes, let's protect Monica and get her out of there. Nice chip off the brick there for covering fire, Reese; he surely doesn't expect to hit anything at this distance but it buys him the seconds to get into the car. And the chip that goes flying reminds us that he is, in fact, that much of a badass. Finch has data! Which dovetails so nicely with Reese's data that I kind of assume that Finch set a Mandarin-based decryption algorithm to work the second Reese said what language that was, or sooner. At any rate, the information that can't wait is that they've just picked a fight with the PRC, at least that's what Finch thinks right now, Lee's father was a high-ranking official within the Chinese Communist Party. Oh goodie. Finch, I know you have nearly the financial resources of a small country but I don't think you have the people resources for this. Okay, okay, Reese will haul Jacobs off to a new safehouse that they've decided they need? About time, is all I can say to that.
Finch needs a moment to freak out over Shaw being in his library of infinite solitude goddammit I said solitude not spyssassin central before he can catch up to them. Heh. That was very on the nose of you, Shaw, and bonus points for hunting down Finch rather than Reese, knowing who's mission control out of the pair of them. She's done bullshitting, at least a little bit, and she starts off with full spyssassin posture, blank face and straight back and generally appearing as a threat, points out that if he was going to give her a cell number to reach him then he wanted to be found. Yes, Finch, other people have those skills too. Also Bear likes her, that's always a good sign, right? Right? To be fair to Finch, the last time someone broke into his library it was Root, I can't blame him for being on high alert and kind of scared. More so because Root's kind of crazy tends to want information before pulling the trigger; Shaw, if she takes the notion, would as soon kill a person as look at them. But this is also a fishing expedition, trying to get an idea of what Finch wants, what he wants from her as well as in general, if he gets his kicks from running mission control for people like her and Reese or if this goes deeper than that. Finch isn't in the habit of giving out answers to that, but the surface one and one that is nonetheless true, I will grant, is that he hates to see talent go to waste. All the more so when one of his creations and other people's reactions to it was ultimately responsible for the orders to retire the spyssassins, but that he won't be sharing with, oh, anyone anytime soon. Reese should know by now about that guilt complex, but it's among the Things They Don't Talk About, so it'll take a lot more than Shaw's flat-affected stare to get Finch to crack. We will all now crack the hell up at the notion of Finch as trusting; what Shaw means more, I think, is naive. And in some ways that's true; Finch can be very naive about the ways he expresses his ideals, but it's that combination of paranoia and naivete that makes people trust him, in the end. Ah, now we're getting another layer below the surface, there's been another news story about Cole released, this one that he was undercover for the CIA working a domestic terror organization. Which is so completely far from the truth, but a nice spin on the truth Control tried to sell, that it has to be Finch's work. Not that he's admitting to it, nor does he need to. We're all being very knowledgeable about this, and Shaw has her answer: yes, he did it, no, he doesn't want to discuss it, discussing it would mean feelings and god knows neither of them do those. Even more than Reese doesn't do feelings, a lot of the time. Okay, moving on, then! She's checked out the current case murderboard, but behind Finch is the cold case murderboard, the one that gets worked in their laughingly so-called spare time, and right now? It's full of Root. I completely understand why Shaw fixates on this, because I, too, would want to know more about the psycho who thinks they're oh-so-connected and similar and in general rings all kinds of alarm bells for people who know their own kind. A more dangerous, unstable, unpredictable version of their own kind. There's not a lot, yes I'm pausing, that we didn't already know pasted up on the murderboard. A couple photos, one surveillance one mugshot, a handful of bank statements and the receipt for Flowers For Algernon, back from the beginning of this season, a photocopy of a NY state DL, a list of known aliases which I'll reproduce here just in case: Veronica Sinclair, NY; Kelly Dyson, Relton VA; Jane Von Neumann, city and state obscured; Caroline Turing, presumably NY but also obscured. Yes, Finch, I would be very concerned about her claiming Root as her new hobby, though he also seems to be thinking that over and coming to the conclusion that as long as Shaw isn't working directly with or for him and Reese, that's a layer of distance. A nice hope, at any rate!
Over at the safehouse, Reese made Monica coffee? tea? something warm and soothing to hold onto more than drink. It's what you do in this situations. What Monica does in these situations is apparently start with a soundbite (forefront of the industry? really?) because that's her job, to spout off soundbites and make things sound good for the people she's trying to sell to. I will accept this as a coping mechanism because otherwise I'm giving someone some serious side-eye for that line of dialogue. But really, what do they want? Sabotage? Data? If Jerome was her assistant for over two years and was a spy the whole time, then I'm betting on the latter far, far more than the former. Not that she's with it enough to make that distinction right now, she's fairly muted and together in her grief and trauma but she is feeling it a good deal. Have I mentioned since I squawked about Joanne how much I love Tracie Thoms? Because I doooo. Ahem. Cue shock and momentary flail over Harold the IT guy walking in, and quiet glee from the peanut gallery back here that even in her trauma she's capable of remembering names, faces, and putting it all together in a flash of insight. And less quiet glee over Bear charging on in and taking up the couch. Oh BEAR. You normalize everything. Finch relays data about Shaw's visit in as roundabout but complete a fashion as he can in front of a civilian, Reese has that half-smile of yeah, we're gonna need to talk about this later, and let's have a round of vague introductions. Very vague. Finch turns things around to, who else would they have in on this, with a nod to Reese for his experience, aw, boys, I love your teamwork when it's on. Hiring approval, yes, and Ross Haskell's in charge of R&D, so let's look there! Because nobody wants to think about this thing going much further up the chain. And while he may be the only one you told about Lee, Monica, who did he tell? Yeah. About that whole two can keep a secret if one of them is dead, thing? No, no authorities, that takes forever and leaves a massive paper trail and in the meantime they'll be busy destroying the digital/paper trail on their end. Though forcing their hand in that regard might give Finch some useful information, it's not worth risking the loss of everything when there are many, many other ways to go about this.
So let's do a little hacking! To the credit of both writers and actors, they don't make these lines last forever, and it's all fairly reasonable security babble on the surface of it. I'm sure if I let the husband listen longer and stare at the screens harder he could find some holes in the dialogue, but they're also shorthanding in the way of highly skilled professionals. And yes, it's something of a flirtation, it's also dick-measuring, and it resolves into mutual respect. Reese, do go away, you're breaking the coder flow. About the only unrealistic thing I have to say about this is that most coders I know do not do well multitasking hack mode with verbal dialogue (chat-based interrupts are less disturbing and sometimes even refreshing), but we have to have it for TV. I will give the cookie I just took away back for Finch getting out a whole separate laptop to do this hackjob on. Good hacker. Can has cookie. Was already on the dark side. I really don't understand what it is about Rylatech that bought Monica's loyalty so thoroughly at the outset, though she suggests it's her coworkers, but whatever it is, she does deeply regret what she's having to do, what they think she's done. Oh honey. That's cute, and I'm really sorry that in a few more minutes your illusions are going to be shattered. Hard. We now get to the part that nobody buys, where Finch ends up reverse-hacked and the computer lights on fire, except there is a theoretical vulnerability, as demonstrated a couple years ago at BlackHat, that you could manage that in exactly the way Finch says. Basically, you take over the firmware in the battery, send enough voltage through it to blow capacitors, and blowing capacitors, give or take a little for Hollywood magic… would look more or less like that, yes. It's still specific to a particular brand of laptop in the really real world, and it requires access to the system, but for the sake of Hollywood I will allow it. (That specific MacBook Air vulnerability has since been patched, by the way, which more than the BlackHat demo tells me it's possible.) The More You Know! Okay, if they're fucked in that direction and they have forewarning that they're coming you guys, what now? Well, they can bypass the firewall entirely and go straight to the servers! That's some serious Hackers-level spygrade shit, you guys, I kind of love you for going there. Ooh, ooh, are we putting the defunct employee ID with locator chip on Reese or on Bear? Or on a robot? Finch, why have you not built mobile robot friends for yourself yet, you need a Dum-E clone or something.
Ahem. The answer turns out to be Bear, in a brilliant piece of physical comedy. Bear is far too entertained by this turn of events. Finch will play mission control from the car, smart man, do not get involved with the spy ring shit when you don't know how many men they have on the floor. The benefit to bringing Jacobs with is that she can just sit and point at shit and Reese doesn't have to ask what the fuck a catalog server is. (It's basically the internal search server for a large network. Like you'd think by the name.) With access, Reese goes to stand guard and Finch goes to work on the encryption. Finch, don't say nothing when Reese asks you what's interesting, because it gives me chills down my spine, you fucker. Unfortunately they have a much larger and more immediate problem, namely that Finch is decrypting the names of those involved in the spy ring and, um, it kinda goes up very high. Yes, Monica, over half your senior level employees in every department would mean what, again? Okay, okay, the data's coming too fast for them to really parse the greater implications, because now we find out that Rylatech's been spying on its big name clients in the military, banking, and government in order to sell their secrets. Yes, Monica, you can install all kinds of fun backdoors on hardware like that, and whoever these people are they want what Finch has. They want it bad, and they're willing to do pretty much anything to get it. (Also, boys and girls, this is one of the reasons that monopolies are bad. When everyone uses the same equipment, the same vulnerabilities can be exploited everywhere, no matter what kind of equipment or vulnerabilities you're talking about.) Oh, and someone's found Finch's presence on the network. I can only assume this goes back to the cubicle farm in China, because I refuse to believe anyone other than a whole team of hackers could find and defeat Finch not once, but twice. Even when he's working on a laptop rig instead of his main hacking rig. And all the people working late turn out to be thugs with guns! Gee. Who's surprised? Yeah, no, nobody here either. I have to say that Jacobs gets a lot of credit for being good at following orders and hiding behind the nearest pillar. When you're not trained to fight, and there's nowhere known safe to flee to, hiding and letting the bodyguard do his thing is exactly the right call and one a lot of people have failed to make on this show. I appreciate sensible behavior being rewarded by living. I also appreciate the hell out of Reese badassing his way through the three mooks. Reese does not appreciate Finch not taking the time to check on the operatives inside the damn building. Or being trapped. I'm going with both. He'll go charging off to the source of the texts to the mooks, Haskell's office, which would be fine if it were a little further away and thus gave Finch time to inform Reese before Martin got the drop on them about how Haskell's not one of the spies. The bullet through his temple and lack of a suicide setup (including gun) says so. Oops. Yeah, best course of action is to do as the crazed looking CEO says and hope that his lack of training leads to a lot of talking.
After the ad break we return to tears, shock, how could you do this, and villainous monologues! I do love me a good monologuing villain who will explain just why he thought this was a good idea. In this case it's especially thematically appropriate. Martin turns out to be not so much of a true believer in anything but the almighty dollar and his desire to continue owning his own company. So, money and power! Reese has absolutely no respect for him and I think recognizes in him some of the people he and Stanton were sent to kill, or maybe the people pulling the strings of his former targets, more likely. Depending on how far up the food chain they got to work. (The CIA doesn't actually like uncontrolled power vacuums. Nobody does.) Who the hell are you/who the hell do you think you are is, yes, kind of Reese's defining question. Or at least it was a season ago; a little less so, now. Although Martin is totally jamming several of Reese's buttons without knowing it, all the talk of outdated notions of patriotism and we can tell that Reese wants to laugh in his face while he's punching Martin. I support this plan. The future, according to Martin, is that he who controls the Spice controls I mean. He who controls the information controls the world. I can't say as how he's wrong but I'm not going to pass out golden opportunities to snark like that. So, yes, they've put together this whole story of the great American dream of a company and sold it to as many people as they could, including Monica, and presumably cultivated a significant majority of senior employees who either believed it at one point and got jaded or have always been good at lip service. And they have another story for Monica, that she'll be the one responsible for all these deaths and hers will be the one staged to look like a suicide! Uh, Martin, you seem to be ignoring the large angry man who knows about range of efficacy and disarming techniques standing a little closer than he probably should be. I'm just saying. On the other hand, the feebs showing up is a good alternate tactic! And one that will allow for at least stalling tactics and hopefully prevent them from getting shot. Oh, but here comes our silent player in this little drama. Hello, man from China who sat at Kara's bedside and gave her Finch's name. This can't end well. I don't know if Finch manages to get any of the other end of that call, and we never get a clear indication of if Cryptic Suit was tipped off by the FBI mobilizing or if he was piggybacking off Reese and Finch's comms, either one is possible. But what Reese gets to see is Martin's face going very pale and shocked and unhappy, doubtful to ultimately resigned and determined. What we see is Cryptic Suit giving implicit orders to commit suicide, and aw, that's so sweet, this was a suicide agreement of long standing that involved taking care of his family! It's like he has feelings or something. Pick your antecedent, there. Reese, I think, has half an idea what's about to happen by the smirk on his face, though I think he'd also be just as happy if it'd turned out to be the FBI trying to talk Martin down. But it's not, and his bodyguard instincts kick in, aww, leading Monica out of the room and time to figure out the fuck just happened later. For now, collecting Bear and realizing that not only are all the mooks gone, all the bodies seem to have been disappeared too. That is kind of creepy. And then the phone next to Finch starts ringing over the Machine's motif. Yes, Finch. Be concerned. Be very concerned. We know whose number that is, even if nobody else does right now.
Carter should also be concerned. (And I want that top. Seriously, that shade of blue is the one I go GIMME at every time I see it.) Fusco plays for her the confirmation that Beecher wasn't in on the HR game, he's being used by HR, and boy is she… not even pissed, so much as immediately focused on doing the Right Thing. Except Fusco's wiretap isn't exactly legal, here, and IAB's not going to listen to them without proof they can take into court. Oh honeys. Fusco's right, though; if Beecher's close enough to someone in HR without knowing he knows someone in HR who can feed him misinformation, then he's in serious danger. And she should think about what that means before she goes charging off on a mission of justice. Cal, himself, turns out to be on a mission of justice, of the sort where he passes a CI money for buying drugs and tells him he can keep half if the bust goes right. Yeah, that's the kind of thing that'd get you pulled in by IAB on the regular. About the only comfort Cal's going to get out of this is that phone call from Carter (and full disclosure, I am typing this up the DAY after watching The Crossing, so dear fucking god ow, is about what I can boil this down to), because by the tone of her voice she believes he's clean, now. And he could use that little bit of comfort as he goes to what we all know will be his death. Which of course it is, a massive setup in a stairwell with his CI getting clear before the drug dealers start shooting at him, and we can safely assume there's more on the floor below. Oh Cal. Oh everyone. This will turn out to be extremely disagreeable symmetry in a little while, and we even said at the time we saw this ep last spring that huh, that's slightly new, they're fridging a guy. (Except, black guy, so nevermind. Though usually it's more Black Guy Dies First than actual fridging, which is certainly what they wrote it as in s3.) Turns out we were a little more prescient than we wanted to be. Finch had time to get back and look up the number, and he calls now to ask about Beecher even as Fusco tells her there's an officer in distress in Washington Heights. Too late, as we always knew they would be, and we don't even get the cold comfort that he took out one of his attackers, because I'm pretty sure that's his CI who was supposed to get clear on the floor as Carter hurries into the scene. Terney at least looks sympathetic! That's… about it. And Finch again has his glasses off and looks old and tired and sick of this shit. Yeah. I'm with you there, Harold. Nothing to be done but to grieve and get back to work.
The Machine gives us some next morning news feeds about Rylatech, discovery of Martin and Ross' bodies and the stock taking a nosedive as a result, no surprise there. Oh, hey, the government got enough of a tipoff that they've shut down Rylatech operations and are planning to replace all the hardware they got from the company! That's good. A giant, expensive pain in the ass, but good. The boys walk down the street being expository and pissy about what's happening in their city while they're dealing with international conspiracies. No, sorry, things are not calming down around here anytime soon. I will now giggle a little over Monica saying, dude, we broke through firewalls together, that deserves a first name basis. Mutual intellectual crushes that don't go anywhere are the cutest, you guys. We may all be not at all surprised that Finch has arranged a job offer for her from IFT that's tailor-made to her interests. We may also smile at Reese nudging Finch over his little crush, and Finch would maybe let that play out for bonding purposes if he didn't have something urgent to tell Reese. What's that? Buddy's down the well aga- er, I mean. The data he was watching and accumulating last night bore a strong resemblance to the code in the virus Stanton dropped into the Machine. Okay! And that only tells you two things? I'm just saying. So, first, that the Chinese government was only getting a fraction of the data and the rest went to another organization; that's no surprise to us but now the boys know. Good enough. He thinks this mysterious other organization may have placed the final call to Baxter, and digging only gets him - and us - the name Decima Technology. And moreover, Finch believes that Decima was built to create the virus that was intended for a single target! The Machine. DUN DUN DUNNNNN. Yeah, we all saw that coming, too, but now that the boys know we know shit's getting real for the season finale. I still dislike those static flickers on the Machine's cameras. I extra dislike the anvilicious symbolism of Nobody Knows Who Anybody Else Is of Cryptic Suit discussing future strategies with an unknown associate (I hate known unknowns) as he passes behind Finch and Reese. They're pulling up stakes in Rylatech but their involvement hasn't been noticed because the US is more focused on government-to-government spying. (Uh. Since when?) Cryptic Suit has determined that the breach in their security was a single person, yeah, I suppose if you are or have a team of trained hackers working for you you could determine that in short order, and therefore he will deal with the problem. Well, no, the actual terminology is "render him irrelevant" which is a pair of words (rendition, irrelevant) that really don't need to go together except for their meta-meaning to the show. It does bring up an interesting question as far as, does Cryptic Suit/Decima know about the two lists? Or was that a purely Doylist nod. And their bigger project is still on schedule (with the full upper-class British pronunciation) and, hey look, a countdown. Yup. A bit over 500 hours to go! Just what we wanted to hear.
And with recaplysizing through Beecher's death, folks, I'm afraid we're done with this show. We've talked it over, and we cannot countenance giving this much time to a show that yanks the rug out from under us, that makes us think they're inverting Batman tropes and writing real, well-rounded female characters with agency and badass plotlines of their own, and then pulls shit like they did three weeks ago. That's not what we got into this for, and the fact that the writers think the fandom is angry purely over the death instead of the bad writing, the lazy writing of that when there were half a dozen alternatives to close that character arc, the fact that they're smug over having planned this for years? No. We said fuck you to Criminal Minds when they took Jennifer Jareau and Emily Prentiss from us, and while we might watch (because government conspiracies do intrigue us), we won't bother to spend eight hours an episode blogging about it anymore. It is not worth more than an hour a week's mild entertainment to us. CBS can go on our shitlist and stay there at this point, for all I care. We don't need more manpain in our shows - Grimm and Haven have their fair share of it - we need more women kicking ass. We thought we were getting that, with Jocelyn Carter.
We are very, very sorry to have been proved so wrong.