Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's Just A Shot Away (Person of Interest S1E04 Cura Te Ipsum)

Drinking game for this recapalypse: sip whenever we say oh John, drink whenever we say oh $NAME, drink twice when we go off on a tangent about moral ambiguity. Chug when Boondock Saints is referenced. You may wish to have an ambulance on standby. In other words, this is the episode of John Reese's Issues, volumes ii-iv, and hoo BOY does that barely scratch the surface. Not least because he spends this ep using his issues against other people to get them to do what he wants, which is probably the first major indication just what the spy part of his spyssassin training with the Company involved. But I get ahead of myself. Our first shot relevant to the week comes with a shot of Meg Tillman in the crowd, looking a little weary and like any other New York professional 20- or 30-something. Probably 30-something, as a resident. The Machine gives us some clips of the city while an as-yet-unknown woman speaks on the phone, probably leaving a voicemail. We can guess it's both of these judging by the recording quality and judging by the content of her words, which most people would be interrupting by now.

The Machine comes to rest on an ambulance pulling into the hospital where Meg works, and the paramedics pulling the gurney give us our first shot of her! We get a couple seconds of standard medicobabble that leaves us with an overall competent-but-harried impression of the good doctor, and hey, there's a guy in 4 who's been waiting for three hours! Gee, I wonder who that could be! Hi Finch. If he really has been waiting for three hours, and has been sitting like that most of the time, I bet a lot of his pain in this scene isn't even faked. That shit would be painful for most people, and with that injury, well, yeah. It's useful that Tillman spends this scene off to his left, so that if Finch is lying about any of this it becomes more difficult for us to use that as a tell. I would actually bet most of this is true, up to and including the x-rays. (I doubt his doctor is off playing golf in the Caymans, though. That's just a little too convenient as a bonding moment for a harried ER resident who has no money to take such trips even if she wanted to.) So assuming this is correct, Finch had spinal fusion surgery a year or two ago, though I don't think that accounts for the lumbar/hip stiffness in his posture. In short, I suspect Finch is damn lucky to be walking, let alone as mobile as he is. Tillman is not just a good triage doc, she's good enough to be interested in long term therapy and possibly alternative medicine, so we have further reason to like her right off the bat. I would bet by the expression on Finch's face that he actually has done some of those alternative therapies, including a long, LONG stint with PT. He is, I think, either faking or trying to show some of the waves of pain that he's in instead of hiding them, regardless his affect here is somewhat falsified. Whether that's due to outright lying or habitual pretending he's just fine really I leave as an exercise for the reader. He sweet-talks her into a prescription for what I assume are some kind of opiates, mostly by being an incredibly patient and polite ER visitor, which is unusual enough that she turns away to her Rx pad. Which gives him the opportunity to finally switch out her pager! I was wondering how long that would take. That's a three-day supply, because again, this is a good doctor who doesn't want to enable narcotic-seeking behavior (or get it in her file that she's done so) but also doesn't want to see a patient in pain. There's a fine line to walk between those things and a rant about pain management in the US healthcare system that I'm not giving. And now Finch "has everything [he needs]," which phrasing should really trip some alarm bells for the doc. Unfortunately, someone running chronically short on sleep and dealing with long shifts in the ER isn't going to notice either that or the couple inches of difference in placement on "her" pager. Well, fortunately for her, as it turns out, but still. Said pager beeps to interrupt whatever Tillman might have said, and oh look, the camera that should have been watching them? Yeah, Finch took care of that, too. He will now put it back like a good voyeur! I'm sure that makes the Machine happy, and indeed we get a momentary Machine's-eye view of Finch like it's saying hello. Aww.

Back out to the waiting room, where Reese is sitting and surveilling the target of the week while the boys gives us voiceover narration on just what's going on, rather than the usual walk-and-talk or scene in Finch's hacker lair that we've gotten used to already. This lends an air of urgency to the whole episode right off the bat, and Finch explains that we've got a high-caliber med student working 80 hour weeks (to which I say only 80?), single, no roommate (somewhat unusual for the city but not unheard of). Meanwhile Reese tails her through reflections and so on, which is not just good spyssassin tactics but good thematically for this ep as well! I see what you guys did there. Tillman bumps into some random guy in a very expensive suit at the food truck, and the musical cue tells us that This Is Significant even if we don't know what This is yet. The Machine shows us the passage of time, food truck to subway to end of shift at the hospital with Tillman coming out the door with a random friend, and Finch continues on to say that nobody seems to have a problem with her at work. At home, of course, she should be sacking the hell out and sleeping like the dead, because that's what you do when you work 80 hour weeks, oh hey, another reflection shot of Reese as he comments that they have no idea why the Machine singled her out. Tillman's friend is trying to talk her into a night out at a bar, which doesn't work so much but we can tell from the tilt of her head that going home and sleeping isn't actually on her list of things to do. Reese says they're going to have to watch her around the clock to figure out what's going on, Finch snarks at him about a raise, and we roll our eyes because there's probably nothing he'd use the money for anyway. Reese has never been a mercenary; he's that most dangerous of spyssassins: an idealist long gone to cynical pragmatism. (We'll get into the MICE lecture later on, after the Company's come to town.) Oh honey.

He will not dignify that with a response, instead bringing us to surveillance of her apartment where Tillman is putting on lipstick and loosening her hair in the bathroom. We will finally quit with the voiceovers, four and a half minutes into the episode, and Reese gets confirmation that she has a 6 am shift. Ugh. Back over to a bar that looks nothing like the sort of bar you might expect doctors to frequent; this looks like a popular club scene sort of place, with the attendant sleazebags, loud music, expensive clothes, and hard drinking that you would expect. Megan is aggressively and obviously here alone, in a cleavagey short dress, but she's waiting for something or someone in particular, maybe. She blows off the first guy we see trying to feel her up, and we see that the asshole has some kind of shoulder harness type thing in, yes, about the right place for a gun. Sorry, John, but not everyone who looks like they're carrying is actually carrying. Also it's way too early in the ep for it to be that easy. I will say that Reese probably saved Megan some extra harassment by dragging the guy off into the bathroom to disarm him, and excuse me while I giggle over "not the face." You're not that pretty, dude. Reese looks at the cell phone holster with disgust and will now proceed to mouth off to Finch due to his annoyance. Honey, you're not still over there, people do do stupid shit like that all the time. But then he spies the same guy that Tillman bumped into at lunch today, so, yay! A Clue! The men let her pass through them easily, with Wall Street asshole looking after her speculatively. Nice bit of detail from Reese, giving Finch the location of their meeting so he can pull footage for later if it becomes necessary, and a subtle sign of the rapport they're building. Slowly. Very slowly. The men will not let another guy through as easily, so I'll forgive the rather clumsy lift on Benton's wallet here. At least he avoids bumping into the target per se and goes for the guy next to him? So now we have a name, Andrew Benton and some roofies in his wallet. Oh. Well then. We definitely have a bad guy for the episode (K: And not just because it seems like that guy's working on a career of guesting in shows as sleazy bastards.), but the question for us now becomes, since we've been watching this show, who's following whom? Quite reasonably, Reese leaps to a conclusion based on laws of statistics and assumes that Benton is the one following Tillman, eventually to stalk her. Eventually they're going to learn that the Machine doesn't often deal in the laws of statistics, but until then...

...we come back after the ad break to Reese reporting in on the rest of Tillman's movements for the night. Left alone around 3:30, at which point Finch fills in, she got to work on time and began treating patients with differing problems and varying degrees of severity/difficulty, stopping only for coffee. Reese finishes up by saying she's been at the club almost every night this week, presumably staying similarly late then as well. I'm not quite sure why it looks like Finch hasn't started digging until Reese tossed him the DL, but we'll go with common enough name that he wanted to be sure he was tracking the right Andrew Benton. (Then again, name plus club plus credit card receipts would have gotten him that as well. Am I being logical again? I should probably quit that.) We move to Finch giving voiceover while we zoom in on the man in question, who looks not at all tired and is dressed in a stupidly expensive suit that looks like he walked out of the pages of a fashion magazine for investment bankers. He also apparently doesn't have a record. In the very most technical sense, which given the laws of this show means he's been smart enough to not get caught. Yet. A number of complaints, ranging from stalking up to sexual assault, as onscreen he offers to get a woman's (coworker's?) briefcase and I think gets politely turned down, only to force the issue by picking it up. The work in this is actually really good, it's a little more telegraphed This Guy Is A Sexual Predator than you'll necessarily get in real life, but it's the kind of coded social behavior that's really hard for women to say no to for fear of being seen as a bitch. In short, whoever created Benton as a character actually knows from sexual predators and creepy fuckers, for which I am both sorry and grateful. (There will be SO MANY gender politics issues later on this recapalypse, because dear god.) At any rate, the woman onscreen looks harassed and flustered, drawing away as best she can while Finch tells us that nobody's ever formally charged him with anything. Reese knows exactly what kind of creep they're dealing with now! Again, statistically he's not wrong in his assumptions.

So now it's time for a little routine home invasion! We don't get to see how Reese defeats the electronic security system, pout, but we get a shot of him with lockpicks and pen. Yay! The condo is egregiously egotistical, to a point where I'm honestly wondering about classic narcissist DSM-IV diagnosis, which Reese will snark about. Because he's predictable like that. He starts the download on Benton's files with one of Finch's many, many flash drives, and then starts looking around. At this point I will facepalm again and tell him to WEAR SOME DAMN GLOVES, my god, but oh hey there cocaine. You don't actually resemble coffee. Reese, being a well-trained spyssassin, spots the discrepancy between container of "coffee" and lack of coffeemaker the second he walks into the kitchen. Back off to Finch's hacker lair he goes! First, though, the Machine will take us around the city again, landing on the precinct, where Carter's watching the footage of the Center Street robbery again. Although she gives her reason for knowing it's Reese as "she just does" given her attention to the way he moved and fought and displayed aggression the first time she saw him, before she even met him, I'd give better than even odds that's how she's picking him out. The other guys are career military, but Reese had post-military assassin/Company training, which will also show. At any rate, she's spotted the exchange of info between Reese and Finch, which is awfully dangerous because this could unravel a whole lot of threads real fast. Finch is apparently using the alias "Burdette" for this cover ID, to which I can only say: really? seriously? Sigh. There's a look there that says she's pretty convinced our dear Mr. Burdette the paralegal is something more than he appears, but she doesn't quite have anything to back up her gut with, just like she doesn't have anything more tangible than visuals and experience to back up her belief that the man in the ski mask is Reese. Also now I want to see Carter's gut and Gibbs' gut working the same case. Only not, because that would get real explosive real fast.

Anyway, back to examining Benton's trophy photos. Ew. None of whom are Megan Tillman as yet, and none of his searches indicate he's got any interest in her. The boys look suitably disgusted by the evidence of Benton's conquests, as they call it, which is at least as much to indicate that they know right from wrong still as anything else. I would not place bets on Reese never having done similar, especially with that little tic of his finger stroking the side of his face as he comments about Benton being careful and methodical. But wait! As with most predators like this, he has a history and a learning curve, and once he came closer to getting caught. Back in college, which is entirely predictable for a guy like this. Freedom of reinventing yourself coupled with standard college practices of hushing everything up for the sake of its reputation coupled with kids fresh out of high school expectations and straight into college ones? Ayup. We all know how that goes. Reese is going to go get those files. From Fusco, who else? Finch has some more rather parental advice for him about how to run his assets, which is cute but honey, you don't actually know how to run assets and you're not a people person. Reese isn't a people person either, but he's learned somewhat out of necessity and he knows that part of Fusco wants to be more than a corrupt cop again. As we'll see over the course of the season, if giving Fusco some kind of perceived moral high ground will help accomplish that, Reese is more than willing to play the monstrous handler. And besides, better to get the attempt to bite his handler out of the way sooner rather than later; this way Fusco has less time to plan. At any rate, Finch's warnings are brushed off as Reese walks away and despite his back being to the camera we can practically see the eyeroll.

Meanwhile, the detective in question is playing street hockey with his son! Aww. Of course, since we know this show never gives us anything without a purpose, we know this isn't going to last as long as it might. Still, we see some casual laughing and joking and it does, in fact, look like Fusco's a pretty decent dad. Which is nice to know, since that puts our best guess at the divorce being over his job (and possibly things related to HR, or maybe he slid down that slope post-divorce) rather than any innate This Is A Bad Guy quality. And indeed, the ball rolls under a car and we all know that that means someone's going to approach while he's busy being undignified. For once, not Reese! We watch him go from affable father to cop in the space of a couple seconds, nice work on Chapman's part there, and thence to his oh-shit stalling for time face as the drug dealers explain in very small words about the million dollars of cocaine that's missing and they'd like product or money, though mostly money. One direct threat and one implicit threat to the kid later, and Fusco is left standing there going oh shit oh shit oh shit. Meanwhile, we facepalm because we already know someone in this week's case who does coke, and this is going nowhere good fast.

The Machine reminds us that it recorded that interaction as it records all interactions, and then we go back to where Reese is surveilling Tillman again. Still. He does look a bit tired at this point, the way you get when you're trained to long hours on the job but still recovering your edge. She passes off yet another would-be lech with a smile and a headshake, and unlike last night this guy takes it with good grace. Reese would like to know what's driving her, with an undertone of sympathy. Oh John. He does know what it's like to be driven by something larger than yourself, after all. But we put that on hold because who should arrive but Benton! In the same suit he was wearing this morning, lucky bastard that doesn't have to change between work and home. Mutter. And now we get into serious and textbook pick-up artist techniques, him sliding onto the stool but not actually saying anything to her, them looking each other over separately. Aheh. That's not the look of a woman who wants to be bothered, while that's definitely the assessing look of a predator. Reese has a displeased look on his face in case we wanted that confirmation on the second one. And then Benton starts in with a spiel about woe how hard life is as though he's sympathizing with Tillman, which she takes only to have it turned back on her. Classic derogatory technique; actual sympathy would come with a "you too, huh?" or something similar. Seriously, this is straight out of the textbook, and for those of you who might have seen Criminal Minds there was an episode where they quoted it chapter and verse. There's a second where she has to fight not to roll her eyes too early, at which point he gives her the rest of the spiel about beating them off with a stick and don't offer to buy him another drink and then it's safe to eyeroll and snort into her glass. Like you do. I suspect that swallow of booze is as much Megan Tillman gathering her courage and stomping down the hatred as Kate taking a second to sigh and smirk. They begin actual flirting introductions, and hey, Reese is now doubly wary because of the alias! "Kate" brings them out of the club into the street for greater privacy, and I wonder just what she would've done had he pressed the issue of going to his place, but he's a smarter predator than that and he doesn't. Interestingly, we've got her on the left and him on the right, traditional antag and protag positions, along with some black widow scripting, but Benton is still clearly portrayed as the bad guy here. Megan's femme fatale costuming, with the cut and coloration, is half-hearted at best despite the fact that she's acting as one within the narrative. Her hairstyle straddles the line between aggressively sexual/dangerous and more passive or subdued, and her mannerisms, makeup, and body language are exhausted, showing that not only is she at the end of a very, very long day but she's also at the end of a very long hunt which she does not expect to be gratifying at the conclusion. Meanwhile Benton's clothing is clean-cut and implied to be expensive due to his success, his body language is confident and even showcasing some of the lazy-predator attitude he was giving the woman he was harassing earlier. Traditional gender portrayals in fiction dictate that the man with roofies in his pocket is the aggressor, but we know she's deceived him and he doesn't seem to be aware of it. In short, we have a whole bag of mixed signals both in terms of narrative and in terms of expectations based on the character types. As they head down the street with Megan pretending to be far drunker than she is, Reese spies on them with half his body/face hidden by the doorway. I am resisting the Harvey Dent jokes, y'all. So hard. And for all that Benton's offering drinking and drugs, thereby setting off Reese's watchdog instincts, he really doesn't push it. I suspect because there are so many other women he can rape that the loss of one isn't the be-all end-all, also because he's playing at least a mid-long con game with it. Like I said. Smart predator.

So, Reese follows our good doctor up to the roof of a parking structure, and I'm going to assume that they took some liberties with the camera angles here because seriously, a woman as wary as Tillman, albeit target-fixed? She would likely be aware enough to mace or tase someone as close on her heels, even with Reese's spyssassin stealth in full effect. The Machine reminds us that it's watching too, again, and this is I think one of the heaviest eps on that aspect. No doubt because the Machine has a point to having kicked out Megan Tillman, and it hopes to hell that it's going to go right. Inasmuch as an AI hopes for things rather than recalculates the probabilities of success, for varying degrees of same. And what's this! Megan's picking up Benton's security code? Oh dear. We get the reveal from Captain Obvious back there (or whatever his actual rank was goddammit inquiring minds) that she's the one doing the stalking, and after the ad break we get more of the voicemail thanks to the Machine. At this point we can safely say that it's a woman Megan knew, probably a sister or roommate, possibly a lover, who committed suicide (because this thing has ALL the earmarks of a suicide message, from self-blame to inability to let go of the trauma to reaching out probably after the fatal overdose) due to Benton's rape of her. But our boys don't know that yet! They're about to, thanks to Fusco, though, who is exactly as fucking jittery as you would expect for a guy who just got threatened by a drug cartel. The jogger is neither Reese nor cartel, Reese doesn't jog at hours where Fusco could catch him. He comes out of nowhere like a good spyssassin! Just like that, in fact.

Poor Fusco. I do feel awfully sorry for him in this scene; he's got the cartel after him and Reese on his ass and he's not quite smart enough to understand all the ways in which he's being manipulated. But he's fully intelligent enough to realize he is being manipulated, and he does not like it one teeny tiny bit. Plus, super-jumpy. Fusco is one of those people I would not like to have any more hypervigilant than his normal cop self, because that way lies accidental shootings. So. Reese snarks off about the last time Fusco pointed a gun at him, yeah yeah, and then Fusco complains about the death squad. As well he might. We can see Reese calculating what it's worth to him to keep Fusco around and what he knows - more likely who he knows or knew - in Mexico. Fusco is too busy trying to keep track of the bigger meaner predator pacing around behind him, which is such a common interrogation technique it's only working because Fusco knows damn well Reese is capable of a lot of violence. It also pisses him off that it's working, because despite his having grabbed the ME report Reese isn't exactly doling out praise here. At a guess Fusco did that because, having looked at the full report, he's a smart cop who can fill in the dots and if Reese is working on something related to this there's every chance that the fucker won't be caught any other way. And Fusco is also not a paladin There Are Rules For A Reason type of cop, that's Carter. He makes a pretty good argument that if Reese wants him to keep working on shit like this, he needs help with the cartel, and Reese spends the rest of the scene asserting his dominance over Fusco. First with the comment about working for him now, all mock-surprised derision, and then with more pacing behind Fusco delivering a lecture about how there's lots of dirty cops who would be less trouble. Yeah, but you've already sunk a chunk of effort into this asset, Reese, and you're sure not fooling us even if you're sort of fooling Fusco. At any rate, he bullies Fusco into handing over the report and we're left with a shot of a very dejected, hangdog cop who would like to know when the fuck he climbed into this handbasket. Honey, this ain't nothing.

We then get a couple Machine shots to bring us on over to Finch's hacker lair, where Reese gives us the reveal of just who died as a result of Benton's serial rapist self. Hey look, it's probably the first report ever made against him! I do not say the first rape he ever committed, note, because I severely doubt it was. The timeline on this puts the sister at about 18 in 1996, so if we assume 8 years of school plus 2-3 years interning plus 1 year maximum of residency, the likelihood is that Megan was the younger sister and late junior high/early high school at the time of her sister's rape and eventual suicide. So, formative years. Ouch. Surprisingly, we get a very standard if you know anything about sexual assault script for this, he was a popular jock and she wanted to impress him, he slipped something in her drink because he knows the meaning of consent and prefers not having it, she waited days to report it at which point all the physical evidence was either gone or inconclusive. Oh honey. Reese is even shown to know why a woman would wait to report, shame and fear being the two he lists, and I'm not sure but I think that's intended to show that he's familiar with sexual assault victims rather than being a victim himself. I frankly wouldn't be surprised either way, given all the shit Reese has been through, but he's compartmentalizing really well if it's the latter. Plus, Jessica, who matters more to Reese than his own well-being. There's a lot of quiet grief in this scene that's not overplayed, which it could very easily have been; Reese finally gives us the reveal that it was Gabrielle Tillman who was raped and then committed suicide. Just as a note, I'm going to assume that those were tricyclics and sleeping pills, because it's fucking hard to OD on SSRIs. Prozac's LD50 is 425 mg/kg, which is to say for a 130 lb woman, she would need 25 grams of Prozac. Which is a fucklot. (That's a technical term.) Other SSRIs are similar in nature. Yes, this is the kind of thing that hangs around my google searches, I'm sure nobody knows what to make of that, [or the fact that I know what goes into a lethal injection cocktail (if you want to take out some of the more specific implications of knowing this)]. Reese will now deliver doom-laden pronouncements about what Megan's going to do to Benton and how that'll affect her, which have the virtue of being both true and portentous.

I have no idea what the passage of time on this is, nor are we ever told how Finch knew when to expect Carter at this cover ID's address (possibly there was a courtesy call involved to make sure Mr. Burdette would be at home), but we move along to what looks to be an old brownstone (Finch, for a paralegal, really? Carter noticed this, just so you know. She's a very knowledgeable detective.) and our favorite cop knocking on its door. As is appropriate to the cover of someone who's unaccustomed to violence and just got yelled at at gunpoint, he opens the door with the chain still on. Also appropriate to Finch's general paranoia, so points for the overlap there. I'm kind of wondering if this place is right near his hacker lair, making it somewhat worrisome for outing him but more convenient to reach in a hurry. We'll just assume they set up a time to meet when Carter called and go from there, since she's got no benefit to treating "Burdette" like a suspect right off the bat. Note also the fucking stairs up to the door, because Finch apparently punishes himself even in his cover aliases. FINCH. Get thee some goddamn therapy, man. This particular cover alias has a place that's not dissimilar to Finch's hacker lair, but places a far higher premium on comfort. Leather couches, books, pencils, just the one keyboard and flatscreen monitor visible; this is the sort of place that aside from the insufficient number of computers/monitors could be somewhere Finch himself would be comfortable. Finch-as-Burdette apparently wears dress pants, buttondowns, and old-man sweater vests, okay, not terribly surprising though I'm still gonna facepalm at his stereotypical ideas of what a paralegal wears. Carter starts the interrogation off easily enough and in good lawyer style as much as cop style, leading with a question she knows the stated answer to just to see how "Burdette" responds. He's coming across a bit fussy, a bit nervous, and a bit stressed, all reasonable responses for a nominal paralegal with chronic pain issues who just got a gun pointed at him recently. Again, the alias plays to a lot of who Finch already is, but Finch needs to hide his knowledge from Carter, making this a dangerous game. So he moves across the room, unleashing some legalese about the case he was supposedly there to look up to prove that at the very least he knows what his cover is, still. Back to her which prevents Carter from seeing the tension in his face and, remember how Finch generally gets a full-face camera angle when he's lying? Well, he's lying about who he is, so we get something of a full-face angle, but he's not, at a guess, lying about the details of the case, so Carter doesn't. Her eyes narrow as she takes in his limp, and indeed that's her second question, is concern for the nominal victim about the injury. I would guess that Finch really doesn't like talking about it even to lie, as fast as he goes on the defensive about not suing the city; it's a reasonable defensive leap for a paralegal to make but it's also very damn defensive in and of itself. The comment about the stress not helping ditto, though now we go to a full face view of Finch and we know he's lying, though it's a lie of omission and misdirection. Those are common, with him! He's damn good at them. He's not so good at controlling his eye direction, a lot of eyedarts to his left which is one of the classic (and most overused, it must be said) tells of a lie. Some to his right, which is usually indicative of recollection, and indeed he would be able to use his base memories to form the lie for this. Unfortunately, Finch isn't nearly as trained as Reese in how to lie with his body as well as with his words and Carter is very trained in interrogation, so she zooms straight in on his not-so-little eyetwitches the second he visibly lies about not getting a look at any of their faces. Aheh. He may not have gotten a look during the robbery, but he does know what they all look(ed) like! And it's that that his facial tics respond to rather than the lying with the truth; lying with the truth only works if you make yourself more aware of the truth part than the lie, because then your body language codes that you at least believe what you're saying. Finch, you should get that looked at if you're going to stick with this line of work. We can see Carter's little gotcha! face just before she pulls out the still frame of Finch and Reese talking, at which point Finch gets really nervous and jittery. Carter is all business and now treating Finch like a suspect because of all his jittering, because this is as much the jittering of looking for a convenient lie as it is the jittering of someone recently traumatized. And then she pushes, and pushes, and no, it's not normal to be staring up at the men with guns and unable to look away, Finch. I know you know this. Your vaguely flippant reply of never having been accused of being like other people isn't actually selling anyone on anything. And then he gives this monologue about how terrified he was which is a little too pat, a little too something he just managed to fling together in the past several desperate seconds of seeking a good lie, and Carter isn't buying it for a second. The fact that he's not looking away at all is a tell as well, in this case one that indicates that he's settled on a story and is now meeting Carter's eyes in an attempt to sell sincerity, which ends up as an oversell. Sigh. Some of this I attribute to Finch's atypical neurology, but some is also very normative failures to tell a believable lie. There's nothing Carter can pin him down on, though, so all we get is a last call-me and a promise to catch this guy (rather than these guys as she said initially) that sounds an awful lot like a threat. She may, actually, think that Finch is a blackmail victim and/or someone else Reese has helped who feels indebted to him at this point, rather than the mastermind behind the whole thing.

The Machine takes us to what I assume is Queens based on the series of signs after that particular clusterfuck, where Reese has a side project and Finch is worried enough about Carter to call Reese mid-stakeout. Reese is not on a stakeout! Or not for Dr. Tillman, anyway, he's taking pictures of some older dude with what we can only assume is a prostitute. Finch, honey, you're having a pot and kettle moment if you're calling Carter driven, fixated, or any other word meaning similar things. And apparently this side project involves a cop! Who is presumably the older dude in the car, because conservation of characters and information says so. A new friend, Reese? Your definition of friend is severely skewed. I blame the CIA. At any rate, he brushes Finch's warnings off because he is, indeed, fixing their problems via blackmail and arm-twisting. Like he does. Instead of any further detail on that, our next shot of him is heading down some anonymous stairs in an anonymous building which is probably a school or church basement of some kind, while we get narrative voiceover that tells us right off the bat this is a sexual assault survivors' support group of some kind. Judging by the number of men in there, it's a safe bet that the group allows/encourages spouses and family members of victims to bear witness if not to speak themselves. It's possible that it's a mixed sex survival group, but due to the various gender expectations involved in being a victim of sexual assault it's so unlikely it would warrant a line reference or three, and we don't get any of those. The woman speaking is talking about an unfortunately standard date rape situation in which the rapist turns out to be a coworker; she actually looks similar to the coworker Benton was being an ass to way back when we got the voiceover about his serial rapes, but I can't tell for sure if that's the same actress. I wouldn't be surprised. The camera flips between Tillman watching the unnamed woman speaking, the woman herself, and Reese watching Tillman, who is obviously triggered by all of this. Reese, as he sits down, has an interesting facial tic where his jaw clenches slightly, about all the sign we're given that this isn't easy for him, either. Interesting that it's on the description of the rapist's smile and the aftermath that Megan can't stand it any longer and has to get up and walk out, I'm not sure if that's meant to be the culmination of all the details resonating or if that's something specific we don't hear about from her sister's experience. (Or, arguably, hers, since in a lot of ways she responds much like she was traumatized in similar ways. Still, I would argue that the message they're sending with her is primarily that of misplaced vengeance when support and aid for Gabrielle - and indeed for all victims - is what's really crucial.) Also interesting is the fact that a couple sentences in Reese appears to get this straight-ahead thousand-mile stare with either watery eyes or a good reflection off the lights, it's hard to tell. We can tell he's got the thousand-mile stare goin on, though, because not only do his eyes dart but his whole head moves a fraction or two of an inch as Megan gets up, as though he has to re-orient when he registers her movement. At any rate, we get the explanation for why the unnamed survivor can't quit her job as Reese heads out after Tillman, and thus begins the first round of oh-everyone.

First off, I'm a little surprised that John following her doesn't appear to set off anyone's alarm bells - this is a newcomer to the group who, for all that he's trying to look harmless, clearly isn't. He's managed to lose enough of the behavioral tics of both Rangers and the Central Intimidation Agency that he can pass for normal, but this is a room full of free-floating issues like jellyfish, stinging everyone and putting a lot of people on hypervigilant mode, and he's a man taller than most people who is very visibly off in the quiet, potentially unpredictable ways. The fact that they had him mirror Benton's approach at least in the initial line or three of dialogue is very interesting, and foreshadows the later conversation where Benton realizes he's in the same position of being helpless in the face of a much larger, much nastier and remorseless predator, along with the parallels Reese himself draws. Except in this case and at this moment, rather than turn her moment of contact into a put down to keep her interacting, Reese follows up with self-deprecation and a tact invitation to bonding over the coffee, followed by an invitation to a different sort of bonding by admitting weakness, the classic give-a-little-to-get-a-little. If it has the ring of truth to it, that's likely because the part about feeling unexpectedly worse likely is true. There's no real reason for Reese to have been in this kind of structured survivor's group before, he didn't seem to have sought out that kind of help after Jess and we have no record that he had a reason to before. Then, having no idea of what goes on at this type of meeting, the thousand-mile stare reaction was probably masking him being caught off guard. And finally, there's the look away and to the right on the second part of that sentence. Since Reese is a well-trained spyssassin, this time with the accent on the spy, he'll use that weakness to invite her to at least interact with him further, especially since by her history and Finch's description she is a compassionate person. A bit of exchange about whether or not she knows the woman who's speaking (interesting that she seems to say know rather than knew, though that could be me mishearing it), and then she asks Reese why he's here. Let us now read from the book of Reese's Issues, volume II, chapter iv through xii. The question takes him by surprise, the answer is unhesitating, but the eyes are unfocused, not looking at her, though he focuses back quickly enough. But for a second there his head is swaying and his eyes are darting, and Megan Tillman has seen enough people in genuine distress to know that he's not faking that reaction, for all that it's a very vague statement. The reason this all works so well is because these are John's issues as much as they're Megan's, but it's more socially acceptable for a man to take revenge or express a desire for action than it is for a woman, which we see in the way Megan ducks her head looks away. Then we get her giving a little back, now that she's more sure of John as a fellow veteran of this particular war, about how it took her years to piece the whole thing together. Which lends some credence to the theory that she was the younger sister, and hey, to her credit she did try to do the normal trauma recovery thing of moving on. Notably, she doesn't say sister, she says friend, still hiding behind her alias, and she's not looking at John throughout this little speech, even when we get a look around at him and his thousand-yard stare which is passing for making eye contact she's clearly still looking down. Because that's the only way she can get through telling this story, and probably partly because she's an untrained liar who's uncomfortable with lying about... what, I'm not sure, other than who Gabrielle was to her and later her own name. I don't see any reason for the story about seeing Benton out and about to be inconsistent with the truth, since it's a safe guess that she hasn't been planning this longer than that. One standard awkward why am I telling you this introduction later and John, honey, could you possibly turn that smile into more of a grimace? Kate Leman is apparently what she's going with, and Reese is sad but not surprised that she's using an alias here, too. Compartmentalization, folks, it's what's for dinner!

After that we go back to the hacker lair where Reese is staring at the pictures of Benton with his victims which, he notes, are trophies. Yes, thank you, we got that. We also got Benton's process of picking and isolating his victims already. I can only assume this is in here because we're showcasing Reese's issues and Finch's concern over how far his pet spyssassin might go to deal with the predator rather than addressing the problem of Megan Tillman. Then again, being women, we may be somewhat biased about how fast we figured out what exactly was going on with Benton. It makes a nice sledgehammer for anyone in the audience who hasn't knowingly dealt with a sexual assault survivor, mostly the men. The most interesting thing in this scene isn't the process or the blatant issues, it's the underscoring of how either Reese himself has been assaulted before or he identifies with Jess (or, in the category of most unlikely, another female victim he was close to at some point and still feels the pain and guilt of). His body language throughout the bulk of the scene is self-protective and hunched, in pain, arms crossed over his chest and hands tucked under his arms. We rarely see him like this; usually he's far more controlled, but for whatever reason being confronted with this case and this process unravels that control at least a little bit. It makes a much more subtle version of what we see later, when Finch tries to protect him from a case that actively mashes all Reese's buttons and turns the levers up to 50. Then we get some actual plot movement, because now that we have a last name on "Kate," we can look for records! Well, Finch can. He gives us the voiceover of, there are three Kate Lemans, drink for Rule of Three, two of which are obviously not their Kate, and Reese walks up and into the vacation home in Montauk as Finch finishes his voiceover about said vacation home and a van. That seems like a bit of not good, though good planning. The house is pretty obviously not much lived in, though there are attempts to make it seem that way with the keys on keyhooks and boots on the floor. More important is the cupboard full of lye! Far more important. Finch calls, and either they had a pre-arranged check-in or Finch is tracking his GPS. I'm going to assume the latter, because Finch. Yes, he found the house, how nice of you to remember the propriety of asking. We then get a nice Michael Westen-style speech about how to use lye for proper body disposal, and Reese calls it erasing Benton, not killing, because this is how you get away with murder. He sounds almost admiring as he describes her attention to detail, and I will ignore Finch's commentary about how Reese knows these things, just like Reese does. Eventually our dear hacker genius will really comprehend what sort of person he's hired, but for now he still feels the need to make these little jabs to separate himself from his partner. Who, like he always does, has a Plan that involves not letting Tillman kill Benton. Oh John. You optimist.

The solution, as we all knew when Benton's coke habit aligned neatly with Fusco's cartel problem, is for Reese to be "helpful" to Fusco. Yes, Reese. Like a cat. JUST like a cat. Probably a panther, with that big black leather jacket and the lurking and the silence. Fusco babbles when he's nervous. Reese, not so much. I wonder what the hell Fusco's original game plan was, though I can only assume it was what it becomes later on in the ep, i.e. giving up Reese in an attempt to buy some goodwill. Or possibly trying to shoot them all and cover it up somehow, with his nervous sweat and his gun. Fusco, both of these are terrible ideas, I know you're smarter than that. At any rate, we're treated to another of those very nice droolworthy action sequences in which Reese disables and disarms everyone in the room in short order. With a suitcase. It's very pretty, but doesn't tell us a lot new about Reese. Fusco would like to file a complaint with the spyssassin department labeled "but I was looking for the assassin part of your job title!" Sorry, honey, he doesn't work for you. One incredibly hilarious sequence about a good cause later, who's that pulling up to a red light but the rapist in question! Hi Benton. How very not nice to see you again. Reese's plan is carried out with both extra prejudice and extra flamboyance, down to leaving Benton's crashed car in the precinct parking lot. I mean REALLY NOW, John. That's not subtle. On the other hand, criminals really are that stupid, too, so I suppose it's believably laughable. This is the difference between fiction and real life: in fiction, someone crashing a car full of coke into a police station parking lot has to have a reason behind it. Like a pissed off spyssassin. Real life has no such constraints! The Machine will interject some passage-of-time shots again and oh look, Benton's being released by a team of lawyers. So at least he had a shitty night in lockup? That's about the best that Reese got out of that little stunt, and if he'd been Stateside more frequently and paying more attention to how life works for the rich over here instead of hunting them down and spyssassinating them elsewhere, he might have foreseen this. I do appreciate giving him this learning curve about How The Justice System Works, since it's something Reese would quite reasonably have. He's pissed and in the back of Fusco's car, Fusco gives him a rather cranky rundown on why these things happen just so we can have it reaffirmed that Fusco's not all bad, and then we get into the hole Fusco is now in. Which, I actually do believe Reese when he says he has a solution, Reese always has a solution. It might not be one other people like very much, but it's definitely soluble! Sometimes in lye. Fusco, not having either our meticulous attention to detail or our additional information about how Reese works, doesn't believe him in the slightest, and this is not going to end well.

The Machine takes us around the city and lands at long last on the recording device which Megan's listening to her sister's last message on. Oh honey. Just in case we needed the confirmation of where the recording came from, and we can see both that Gabrielle looked quite a bit like the woman from the support group and that Megan's getting ready to make her move. Listening to the recording one last time for a courage boost, and I would guess based on this that she's listened to that recording every time she's gone out to do anything involving Benton. Finch can see that she's doing something! Oh no! And Reese will go take care of matters, or would if it weren't for that pesky cartel problem. Yes, John, this is what you get for showing your face to the cartel and leaving them alive. Another damn concussion. Meanwhile, Benton doesn't have enough self-preservation instincts to go on full defensive/offensive with his security system disarmed but all the lights off. Predator, not so much used to ever thinking about being prey. Tillman looks determined but also scared shitless of what she's doing even as she does it, tasing him and giving him what I assume is some kind of nasal-delivered sedative. Wheelchair, restraints, blanket, oxygen mask, yeah, this was very well-planned. Better, possibly, than Reese expected. Finch is fussing over this, because five minutes is a damn long time and yes, Benton could be dead by now but then she'd have to manage to get a dead body up to Montauk, which is trickier than a semi-conscious one. And Reese isn't expecting much of anything other than having to deal with the cartel, though he's not so much surprised as very, very toothy to see Fusco standing there. I continue to be impressed (and terrified) by how Caviezel can convey toothiness with a closelipped smile. We intercut between one of the cartel members starting to punch Reese as Tillman drags Benton into the van and slams the door, and hey, yet another reminder in between the cuts that the Machine considers this case Important. Thanks, Machine!

After the ad break, we get another shot of the Machine following Tillman down the road, and then a normal look at her being worried and scared and probably not quite believing that she's doing this, and, of course, it's raining. Because that's thematically appropriate at this juncture. Then back over to Reese, who rather than doing his job which is saving Tillman from herself is busy waiting for his opportunity on the floor of a crappy no-tell room. (And oh, the rants I could go into about how he's irredeemable while she's supposed to be a basically good person - look, there ain't nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so, and actions have consequences. And what I think is more the point they're trying to make here is that you can't blame the people without also blaming the systems that failed them, for those are vast and incredibly fucked up, from the intelligence community to the justice/legal system.) Regardless, the bad guys feel the need to gloat, which gives Reese a chance to use his intel to drive a wedge between the bad guys! Good spyssassin. Have a leg free from the chair. The Spanish, so far as I can tell, is both accurate and reasonably well-pronounced, so kudos to both the language coach and Caviezel. (Kitty will grumble anyway, of course.) The ensuing beatdown involves very little work on Reese's part, probably because he's much more used to fighting after prior injury than these guys are, and that threat isn't quite right. The subtitles should read more along the lines of "I'll cut your head off." But the gist is good enough. We are all duly amused and impressed at Reese knowing where Fusco keeps his switchblade (a switchblade, Fusco, really?) and nobody thinks he's really going to hurt his pet dirty cop. Threaten him a little, again, because Reese is being the asshole handler and can't let that pass unremarked, but he also knows that assets like Fusco need to test the limits of their leashes. Now the test happened, Reese proved he could badass his way out of the trap, and he has a better use for Fusco going forward. Yes, Fusco, your spyssassin handler multitasks. A lot. You should be afraid.

Still more Machine shots later, we come to the truck stop/diner where Reese catches up with Tillman, no doubt thanks to copious use of Finch's GPS hacking and breaking the speed limits. She almost stutter-stops in her tracks at the sight of law enforcement in the diner, which works well for Reese's lurky looming purposes. Reese, you are so lucky you have the training to not get shot, smacked, or otherwise violently acted upon when you do that. I'd probably have screamed. He's toning down the lurky broody spyssassin thing again, but not as fully as he did back at the support group, probably because he needs some force of personality to convince Megan to come with him. Though he does, admittedly, give her three reasons to join him (her real name, the terrible coffee joke, and the guy tied up in the back of her van) and then walk away. As though it doesn't matter what she does. Of course it matters a great deal, both to him and to her future, but the walk-away and hope they follow is another of those time honored tricks of the trade. By the way Tillman's hands are shaking over the coffee, followed by the wringing, she's pretty much terrified at this point. This was only ever going to work if nobody knew what she was doing, and now somebody does, and she's terribly afraid of the ensuing judgment.

Which Reese won't give. He knows all the reasons she wants to do this, feels driven to it as the only option. He knows all about Andrew Benton, Megan Tillman, and Gabrielle Tillman, though she's the unspoken ghost at the table. And he's very, very sad and tired, trying to keep someone else from becoming the monster that he views himself as. He hammers on the fact that she's a doctor, she heals people rather than hurting them, and he's very very good at making himself quieter and more intense so that she has to focus to hear him. Unlike at the support group, John's forcing himself to be fully present for this conversation so that she can tell how sincere and concerned he is. (Which he is. Just in some awfully skewed-from-normal ways.) Megan doesn't want to be present for this, she keeps fidgeting and looking down, but that intensity he's projecting means she's meeting his eyes more often than not. When he finally leaves space for her to talk, she challenges him on pretty much the only decent grounds she's got, assuming he was telling the truth about losing someone. I appreciate that they allowed the confirmation to be nonverbal, which speaks to both John's larger tells when it comes to Jess and Megan's ability to read people. All the expressions in this scene are on the micro levels, really, they're being very careful not to give out exaggerated signs of distress on a Watsonian level because they're still in public and on a Doylist level because with all these closeups they don't need more than microexpressions to get the point across. At any rate, Reese confesses to knowing what it's like to take a life, to which we get a tiny furrow of Megan's brow and some increase in body tension, probably wondering if she needs to worry about her personal safety. And then, and I really wonder if Reese has Finch in his earbud right now or not, the point that killing in cold blood takes away the most important part of you. Oh John. Megan has another very valid question, wanting to know if that's what happened to him, but that's a bridge too far for our spyssassin. Though that look down and away out the window to break the moment is as much confirmation again as anything else. He comes up fighting, though, trying to get her to walk away from it, and she is still one of the smartest damn cases of the week we've had so far, despite a moment where she clearly wants to walk away and then realizes no, she can't. Benton's seen her face. So not quite as smart as all that, but then Reese is one of those pesky unknown unknowns. I hate those variables. And now John's both bribing and pleading with her, not least because he doesn't want to say that he'll do the dirty work for her, since that would still lay it on her conscience rather than allowing her the luxury of denial. Which she's notably taking full advantage of, though I think not entirely consciously/deliberately, because this is upsetting and re-traumatizing on levels that Megan couldn't possibly have prepared for. John would like to give Megan the thing he never got, which is a chance at a somewhat normal life again. One of those where there's healing instead of so much scar tissue he can't even manage the single perfect tear type of crying. Her last attempt at protests, what did her sister ever get, well. John knows from ghosts, so he uses present tense rather than past, and ow, John. The rest of this is mostly flailing, but it's a good question and it's one of what we cheerfully call the big four, why is he here. (The others being who are you, what do you want, and where are you going. Thank you, JMS.) Reese being Reese, he's not going to answer it in a manner that satisfies the big existential question at hand so much as the more immediate question. He will also look away from her as she finally passes over the keys, instead looking at their reflections in the diner window, hey look it's a theme!

To break the vast tension that that scene created, we then go over to Finch, who would like to know where the doctor is, and Reese gives us a very, very short summary of what just happened. So either he didn't have his earbud in or Finch was pretending very hard not to listen, because sometimes he knows what basic courtesy is and even exercises it! Reese has stopped being John with any squishy bits and is now back to Reese the spyssassin who's going to go do some dirty work. And also ask a hard question of Finch which can also essentially be boiled down to why are you here, what is your place in this world, what is your vision for what you're doing with this creepyass AI. Finch, in turn, echoes Reese at least in the first part of his answer, but the second half is a complete non-answer and choked off as well, and he's for one in a great deal of mental (and possibly physical) pain and for two more concerned with what Reese is going to do to Benton than with recognizing that this has abruptly become an important question that deserves more of an answer than "I have my reasons." We can see how little Reese likes the all-business attitude as his affect flattens even further, and he answers the question about the Carter problem in a fairly annoyed tone. I mean, really, Finch, don't you trust him by now? (Hint: no, and I understand all the reasons why not even as I continue to ask what kind of person he thought he was hiring.)

Well, the Machine will escort us over to find out what happened with the Carter problem, which is apparently Fusco getting reassigned to the desk opposite her. Not only that, we get a good reminder that the person Reese was shadowing earlier and taking pictures of his preliminaries with prostitutes just so happened to be Fusco's boss. Oops. Or heh. Or both at once, which happens a lot around here! Apparently Reese's solution to the Carter problem is to have Fusco keep an eye on her which, really, Reese? After Fusco tried to deal with you by getting you killed by the Cartel? You're going to put him in the precinct with the cop who's actively and skillfully chasing you, and if Fusco decides it's worth more to him to get Reese caught than it is to potentially go down for being a dirty cop, Reese could be seriously fucked right now. Fortunately for them in that they'd be up shit creek without a paddle and us in that it's far more entertaining this way, Fusco doesn't decide. Because in a way, this is also Reese backhandedly rewarding Fusco. This is Reese putting him next to and working with the kind of straight-edge determinator cop Fusco would probably like to be someday when he grows up, as well as tacitly implying that he thinks Fusco's capable of watching Reese's back. So, a backhanded reward and a compliment. More than probably enough to keep Fusco from biting Reese in the ass again.  The detectives make suitable chitchat, Carter getting a nice bit of showcase to her role as a Mom by singling out Fusco's picture of his son for her first comment. Which also nicely opens up Fusco to ask about what she's looking at, which is the lockup robbery! Small talk gets him a very surface sit-rep, and they make introductions. That are not accompanied by the Ominous Musical Chord, too. So it's not as dangerous for Carter as it might be in some other narratives.

And here we go with the final, climactic scene, and one of the better versions that shows and stories of this type have come up with. We open with the vasty blue both so we know we're in Megan's rented beachhouse in the middle of nowhere with privacy and a whole lot of lye, and for the impression of serenity it gives. Makeup and lighting have done a number on the guy's face to give him the same sort-of-tan (seriously, Caviezel, I love you, you're not supposed to be that tan all the time) and sheen that Reese has, especially at this zoom range which sets them up for parallels and comparison. From there he looks to his right out at the water, there's an image of a yacht implying luxury and the requisite gull sounds. Then a further back shot, so that we see the two men are in the front room Reese was in before, sitting opposite each other at a plain morning room table, same white chairs. Behind Benton there's a low wooden boat that looks expensive, with some trinket that looks even more expensive and pointless. Making Benton somewhat expensive and pointless, too. Behind Reese is a telescope pointing up, at its simplest implying his spy history and possibly also implying that he's looking up and out to more than just what he is now. We could just be reading into it, but I don't entirely think so. We're definitely not reading into the fact that this setup is blocked EXACTLY like the setup a few minutes ago with Reese, Megan, and the diner. The only difference is that here there's no reflections, and I'm not sure which of the myriad possibilities that's supposed to signify, and the fact that it's daylight. In this case, because Megan is having the sort of crisis that you do in the middle of the night, at the hour of the wolf, when all of your fears and doubts and old pains and failures come back to haunt you. And Reese is pulling himself and Benton and their monstrous natures out into the cold light of day, showing them for what they both are, killer and rapist. It's a very good, subtle use of mirroring on so many levels. And this is why we love sinking our teeth into these shows, folks. On the table between them, more towards Reese, is a gun, looking for all the world like they're about to play spin the bottle with it. Of course there is. And I'm not touching the spin the bottle imagery, mostly because I don't think that's intentional so much as a product of our skewed minds. But Reese is keeping his hands folded on his lap and not making any move to keep it from Benton, which to me implies that it's not loaded, just there for the opportunity it implies and, the more Benton doesn't go for it, the cowardice it says Benton is made of.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Benton is recovering from whatever knockout drugs first Megan and then probably Reese had him on, and it's at this point that I wonder if Reese used the roofies he found in Benton's apartment. Because you know he found some, and it would appeal to everyone's sense of warped karma. Anyway, Benton wants to know where he is, what happened to him, the way you do when you wake up in a strange place after being drugged. Reese, when we finally close back in on him, not only has been resting and faking being asleep for the last several minutes but also appears to be out of fucks to give. He only half looks at Benton as he tells him he told Megan to leave, and his voice is deliberately lacking in care. Or emotion of any kind. His words are a bit different; just to highlight what a good person Megan Tillman is he explains to Benton in short sentences and small words that she's not cut out for the whole killing people thing, she fixes people. She's a good person. Benton eyeballs the gun so that we get a good solid close-up of it as he rolls his head a little more, waking up further. It's an awfully tempting gun. Reese, to go with the casual appearance of complacency by pretending to sleep, isn't even looking at Benton until a couple beats after "we break 'em." And then, because we're getting a good full-on view of his face, we get to see him go from remote-eyed and facing the window to very direct and facing Benton. If looks could kill, etc. Between that look and Reese pulling Benton into the group of Men Who Break People thereby implying that he knows what Benton's done, Benton is no longer feeling brave enough to go for the gun. He stutters with his face, too, a whole lot of working his facial muscles as he asks and tries to figure out who Reese is and, more importantly, what he's going to do to him. Reese will only answer the second part of that, which is a less than comforting "honestly I haven't decided yet." and a slow sliding of his stare from focused on Benton to unfocused and seeing the past again. Which is probably even creepier for Benton. But then he follows it up with asking Benton a question, and he specifically flags it ahead with the "let me ask you a question" so Benton will feel as though he has some control over the situation, as though there's a condition he can meet or a button he can push that will make him come out of this not dead. Which is nicely simple, subtle, and sadistic. Reese then elaborates, because Benton hurt people and, well, he killed people like Benton. Which isn't quite a flat-out lie, probably there were several people like Benton among those he killed, but since he doesn't give any context Benton is free to apply his imagination to the statement. I like to think Benton is now imagining Reese being terror and the night and all that, breaking backs and kneecaps and about to do the same to him. Mostly because it'd be funny. The point being, now that Benton has it confirmed for him that his life is on the line he goes back to stuttering with his face as well as his voice, at first denying it and then backpedaling with immense flail when Reese leans forward and sets his hands on the table bracketing the gun. And that's all Reese does. And Benton's about ready to piss himself. The wonders of a good interrogation: force of personality, careful body language, careful word choice, careful focus, and Benton's about ready to fill his pants. Though I bet the knockout drugs helped.

A little more stammering and he's ready to admit that he's "done some things" and "crossed some lines" and after a pile of stammering Reese takes his hands away from the gun (we know because they focus on it for this purpose) and Benton kind of relaxes. He's still promising not to do it again, but the clear duress and the fact that he can't say what he did in words tells us that he's lying to save his hide. You know, along with the odds that go with a really high rate of recidivism. Reese doesn't believe him either. Which he'll underscore with a threat that's both incredibly unrealistic and very expected. It's the kind of thing you see followed up on more in movies than in life, at least unless the threatener has infinite resources, the I'll always be watching you threat. But not only does Benton not have a clue what resources Reese could bring to bear, he doesn't have the spare braincells to process any of that right now. His braincells are busy running in circles shrieking "panic! bargain! panic!" at the top of their cerebral lungs. So, yes, Reese could let him go, and maybe Benton would be good because he'd know that if he set one foot out of line again Reese would be on him with both feet planted into his kidneys for starters. And maybe Benton could change. And maybe so could Reese. He says. With the kind of not-smile and nearly derisive laugh that says he's given up on himself and changing and oh Reese. He's using that to convince Benton that he's a sociopathic, inveterate, immutable killer, but it's also a belief he does hold.

Not that it matters to Benton, who is now freaking out that this guy is going to decide to kill him because he's an evil bastard who needs to be taken out. According to Reese, but also according to society; Benton knows that. A small part of the appeal of what he does is because it breaks rules, and he's untouchable (or was) even though he's breaking so many rules. Being a bad guy was fun, but it's not so much fun now that he's about to be eaten by a bigger monster. Reese takes away the flicker of hope from a moment ago with a "people don't really change, do they" and a head-tilt that looks like he's deliberately dropping back into stone killer face, or maybe raptor face is more suited to that beak, sizing Benton up for a meal. So, more begging, more insisting that he can change and that Reese can change with an undertone of pleasedon'tkillme, that comes out, because still he's incapable of using words that imply weakness in himself, as "I don't think that you're going to kill me." To Reese's apparent morbid amusement. No, Benton doesn't think Reese is going to kill him because deep down inside Reese is a good person. If Reese were even a little bit less stoic he'd be laughing out loud right about now. He does indulge in some very blatant derisive lipcurling as he describes himself as having lost that goodness a long time ago and maybe it's better this way, leading to more facial stuttering and cringing from Benton. Particularly when Reese talks about doing things the good people can't; not being one of the good people, Benton can imagine all kinds of things someone not bound by the restrictions of conventional morality could do to him. And probably is.  Or maybe there's no good people, only good decisions. Reese's words are so carefully chosen, it's an exquisite form of torture as he keeps slicing at Benton with little tidbits like these. Benton's almost begging by now, lots of "please"s, and he actually tries the "you don't want to do something you'll regret" line, pretty much opening himself up for Reese to wonder aloud if he'll regret killing Benton or letting him live more. Ooh, ooh, I know the answer to this! Benton does, too. And Reese twists the knife even more by laying out some hope, the suggestion that he's willing to entertain the idea (note all the waffling in that sentence) that they can change. And we close on that, on the ambiguity, on Reese leaning forward with his hands bracketing the gun again, entirely the one in power here and presenting it in the kind of language Benton knows from his day job as some sort of businessman, because this is the kind of language bosses in the corporate world use when they've already made up their minds but they're manipulating you into not only going along with it, but also approving of it. So, Benton, help Reese make a "good decision," in other words, be complicit in your own torture and possible murder. And with that, with the camera pulled back so we can see Reese's posture completely in control and Benton completely out of it and about to wet himself, all this torture and sadism presented against the serenity of the blue waters.... we fade to black.


  1. Just wanted to note that yes, the rape victim at the support group is the same woman we saw Benton encounter earlier in the episode. Her photo also shows up in the pictures Reese downloaded from Benton's computer, so she was definitely one of his victims.

    I'm loving these recaps! Thanks for all of the work y'all do on them!

    1. Thank you for confirming! I seem to have utterly forgotten to go back and check (as well as being forever behind on replying to comments, sorry). That lends a somewhat more disturbing quality to Megan's stalking Benton. Eugh.

  2. Interesting insight into body language and facial expressions. It's amazing how the show rewards close watching and understanding of these clues, which I know nothing about but your recap brings out. Plus, Carter is so badass and it makes me happy to read your detailed and informed analysis of her badassery.

    I liked your review of the support group scene and all that you mined from Reese's expressions - tamped down shock at how directly an assault is talked about, his thousand yard stare, his jerk back to reality when the doctor walks out. I had the same thought about a man of Reese's size following a woman out of the group, especially a group of hyper vigilant survivors. But the scene also struck me as plausible because I feel like we've seen that situation many times before - someone who is overcome walking away from the group, and another member following to offer support or just because he's also overwhelmed.

    Benton's victims clearly remind Reese of Jessica. But you mention that Reese may also have been a victim of assault, and in rewatching the support group scene I think there's a moment when he does abruptly identify himself with the victims. When the woman Benton assaulted specifically describes how she woke up confused and frightened, Reese looks at her sharply, like he's startled, and in that moment it seems to me he's remembering waking up just like this assaulted woman - in strange surrounds, confused, in pain, afraid. Later in the season we find out that he has been captured and tortured, at the very least. Even in this episode, in the scene where Benton is tasered, tied up, and masked by Tillman, the camera tellingly fades out and comes directly back to a shot of Reese in exactly the same position - knocked unconscious, masked, tied up. Of course Reese is now a trained badass able to smirk through his kidnapping by death squad, but I think we see that numbness break down a little in this episode.

    After the support group, you point out that Reese's posture back at the library is defensive. He also emphasizes to Finch that Benton makes sure the women do cocaine so that they are reluctant to come forward and implicate themselves. I feel like this is Reese's position too - he's trapped by his past, legally and morally, because the CIA made him complicit in their crimes. I think you're right about him identifying with the victims here, and that he suddenly sees Benton not only as the kind of predator that killed Jessica, but also as someone who uses and traps his victims just like Reese was trapped and used by his black ops overlords.

    When Reese tells Tillman he lost someone very close to him, he's clearly talking about Jessica, but he may also be talking about losing the part of himself that mattered the most (his line, "when you kill, you lose a part of yourself"). I think there's some frankly cute associating of young soldier John with Dr. Tillman, at least on Reese's part. She heals people, and he used to protect them - just like Joey, the young veteran Reese admires in the previous week's episode. When Reese tells Finch and Dr. Tillman that killing will destroy her, I wonder if it's a reference to his idea of himself as a good person when he was a soldier, who was destroyed when he became an assassin (spyssassin lol). I'm always floored by his answer about what Gabrielle, the victim, will get if Dr. Tillman lets Benton go. Reese says Gabrielle will get to keep her memory of her sister, looping straight back to the opening shot of the pilot, the golden memory Reese gets to keep of Jessica, and of the theme of Reese as both victim and perpetrator. The writing on season one was so gorram tight!

    1. I have to admit I'm kind of in love with the cast's abilities. And body language profiling is one of the things we're really fond of doing on the blog, it's how we got started, in a roundabout way, because of watching Grimm and Sasha Roiz's nuanced performance there. (Which then, um. Expanded. As you can see.) I think you're right about that being a situation that we've seen in support groups, but even were Reese capable of looking completely harmless (which he really ISN'T), he's still a very big man and that's something women, particularly already survivors in some form or fashion, tend to be hyperaware of. So it's kind of six of one, half a dozen of the other, there.

      It's hard to say in just what ways Reese was victimized beyond what we see onscreen, but I think it's safe to say that what we're shown is quite sufficient to give him these reactions beyond any additional implications, yeah. And all of this! I may have to edit to point people at further data-chewing in the comments, even at this late date. XD

      Combining replies to both your comments - and no, we love getting huge long comments that take our analysis and extrapolate/meander/otherwise explore areas we might not have had room to talk about in the post itself - I would recommend The Gift of Fear as a good starting point for nonfiction research, if you want to know more.

      ...huh. You know, I hadn't thought of Reese as capable of manipulating someone into committing suicide, I tend to associate that level of... dubiously acquired skill? to people more like Kara Stanton, colder and more ruthless than Reese in a lot of ways. But Benton's not exactly a difficult target to break, in that respect, and I think you may be very, very right on this one. I can't hazard a guess on the getting Benton high angle, but I'm sure that his body was erased with all the lye and so on. We didn't get that shot and that snippet of dialogue for nothing.

      Thanks again for the comments! We're aiming to be done with s2 catchup by end of the calendar year or so, and then probably caught up on s3 post-spring sweeps.

  3. I didn't know much about the textbook predator stuff in your recap, and I'm glad to know more. Your comparison of Benton and Tillman's exchange at the bar v. Tillman and Reese's exchange in front of the coffee machine is crazy good - it definitely seems like they deliberately played with Reese as an echo of Benton, hinting strongly that Reese has been on the perpetrator side of the equation.

    I was struck by your comparison of the blocking of Reese-Tillman at the diner and Reese-Benton at the vacation home. Now that you point it out and I think about it I agree on the dark and murky atmosphere of the diner being like the dark and murky night of the soul that Dr Tillman is struggling through. This is a rare sincere scene, and it's difficult and uncertain for both of the characters. Your examination of Reese's efforts to coax Tillman into giving up Benton and at the same time shield her from whatever will happen to Benton is excellent. I think that's contrasted with the clear, cold simplicity that Reese brings to the final scene with Benton - like the clarity offered by the telescope behind him. Reese asks Benton several questions, but I don't think he comes across as confused or uncertain. More like he's breaking the situation down into baby steps for Benton. There's debate about whether Reese killed Benton (but he's trying not to kill in cold blood these days), let him go (but Reese said Benton will not stop raping women), or dragged him down to prison in Mexico (but when he's interrogated later in the season Reese only cops to one trip to Mexico). Personally I feel a suicide vibe, the gun on the table between them and Reese pushing Benton to make a 'good' decision. Since the doctor's sister ended up committing suicide, in my head canon I like to imagine Reese manipulates Benton into shooting himself - maybe he gets him high first - and then erases him completely under all that convenient pantry lye. Whether that's what the writers had in mind, it sure is satisfying, and jives with the deep dark Reese who comes out so fiercely in this scene.

    Hope these long comments are cool with you. Thanks again for the recap and all the insights!