Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Catalogue of Crime (Person of Interest S1E07 Witness)

No lie, there was a lot of swearing when I realized I would be doing this episode. There will probably be even more swearing throughout the episode. So, if you didn't already know that we say 'fuck' (among other things) a lot, you do now! (Or, there would have if I hadn't had to do most of this on Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which does not take to swear words well. Sorry, guys, RSI comes before amusing profanity. If you spot any odd mistakes, that's probably the Dragon tracks. It only took us six months of typing this much to have to resort to speech recognition software, aren't you proud?)

We're starting with all of the symbolism inherent in the number's shot of the opening credits being Reese, a balding shortish guy with glasses, and a gun that in that short span of time makes it ambiguous who's holding it, while Reese makes the "shh" gesture with one finger. Just off the top of my head we have the symbolism of the number being sinister, we have the ambiguity represented in who's holding the gun and who's hostile to whom, we have the implication of secrets in Reese's gesture, and I could go on but then I really would dissolve into incoherent swearing.

So we start with some surveillance footage and a voiceover, as we seem to often be doing. In this case the surveillance footage is of a bodega shooting and the voiceover concludes with "no, I want to be there, I want to see him for myself." That right there is a set of bad words to say if you want your life expectancy to be longer than a mayfly, and why don't you just go put on a red shirt while you're at it. Since this is a body and not a person in imminent danger of being a body, we know it's a case for... Yep, there's Carter, and Fusco's coming up complaining about having to do bodega shootings again. Well, more likely attempting some banter than actually complaining, but Carter reacts sharpish anyway. Possibly she remembers that stack of files someone had rifled through. Really, everyone, I love you guys, you're awesome, you need to work on your communication skills. See Grimm for an example of what happens when our boys and girls don't communicate. Not that Reese gives a damn whether or not this lack of information sharing hurts his cop resource and I'm really digressing now, so! Anyway. Carter exposits the lack of money taken and the signature double-tap and we conclude about a second or so before she says it that yes, this was an execution. Really, these days, it's a rare show or film that doesn't involve the word "execution" after the words "double-tap." They do, however, have surveillance footage and therefore a witness, a guy who comes to kneel down beside the dying murder victim and say or hear something before running off. Having seen this a couple times now I really want to crack wise about their assumptions but, honestly, I didn't pick it up this soon either. We also get a cop asking Carter what to do about the press, right after some exposition about how this is not a neighborhood to be a snitch, thus, organized crime. And mention of organized crime followed by cop with lines and potential authority to affect plot, in a show that's already revealed to have dirty cops in the pilot? That guy is so dirty. Along with the self-elevating tone of his words, I wouldn't like him even if he wasn't. Carter, however, dismisses both the problem and the cop with a couple sentences about passing off the problem to the one whose job it is to deal with such things. Ah well.

Back over to another cop, this one in a suit rather than a uniform, which tells us he's a detective with a relevant division. Organized Crime, it turns out, because the victim was Benny D'Agostino, former Cosa Nostra lieutenant. So, pretty high up in the foot chain, at least high up enough to have independent authority and be worth killing on his own. for the implied threat. We learn that he's been in and out of police investigations, most recently starting six months before episode date. We learn that Brighton Beach is Russian mafia territory, which explains the giant banner above the bodega (entertainingly, bodega is Spanish) proclaiming золотой ключик, which means golden key. There's also a sign on the phone booth (really? a pay phone booth? for what looks like Russian news or travel, not sure if that's a paper or a website or what and there's people in front of it. Szymanski also tells us that Benny's boss has been ordering hits on Russian mafia targets, and the boss's name is Elias, who's been Keyser Sozeing his way into a mob war. Nobody knows what he looks like, etc, and by the laws of narrative surprise (and conservation of characters, again, not that we knew this initially yet) he's the last person we'd expect but also one of the few people to show up during the episode in which he's introduced in a prominent position. Now, we missed this show the first time around, so if the marketing hinted that Elias would be revealed this episode, then we probably would have guessed. As it was, the first time we saw this I honestly figured Elias would be an end of season or at most mid-season reveal. C'est la vie.

Back to the surveillance footage, Carter gives us the quick and dirty on how dying declarations work, Szymanski gives us the expected excuse of how the Russian owner of the bodega (and since he emphasized Russian, that probably translates to mob or mob affiliated) didn't see anything and was on a smoke break. Of course he was. Neither the cops nor the audience is expected to believe this, but until the cops come up with proof all they have is the not so polite fiction, and meanwhile the Russian mob knows there was a witness and may well know what he looks like and who it is, depending on how frequently the guy shops there, so the cops are racing the mob to find the guy and do their will to him. Just what Carter always wanted.

Hey, who's that in the window? It's the witness! Reese is taking his picture long-range from a rooftop opposite his building, Finch is giving us the breakdown over the earpiece. To the writers' credit, only a little of this is stuff we would have expected Finch to have already told Reese, particularly since we've established that there's very little time between when the boys get the number and when the subject runs into the threat. Reese sees the worry but not the threat, Finch gives him the not-immediately-salient biographical points. Which leads to some snark about how dangerous teaching can be and Finch is sure espionage was a much safer choice. You two. Apart from being cute, though, this banter also serves to give us a marker as to how far in their relationship they've come; rather than reacting with prickly deflection they're continuing to tease and prod back and forth, which indicates both an increased ability to read each other's moods and an increased trust that neither will ask questions the other won't want to answer. Aww.

Their banter is interrupted by Fusco, which is a whole other kind of awww. Lacking the resources to track down this witness by himself and not trusting the police to find him in time (which, being Fusco, might as much be not trusting the police in general as anything else; he of all of them should know roughly how many dirty cops there are) he's turning to Reese for help! We don't get to see a good reaction shot, between Reese's stoicism and the camera in front of his face. Fusco reels off a description and now we do get a faintly surprised reaction shot as Reese puts it together with the man he's surveilling. Because yeah, being wanted by the mob for being a witness to a murder would be cause for worry. Just a bit. And no one is surprised that Reese is already following Fusco's witness. Because we're all knowledgeable here. Notably, especially from Reese, there's no ripping into Fusco here, not even disguised as banter. Fusco's a cop coming to him with a cop problem that involves someone's safety, and that takes priority. It's also a sign of Reese respecting Fusco as a cop likely more than he started out, due to Fusco proving his good intentions and better abilities. Whatever the reason, Reese lets Fusco get out the description and details as far as he knows them, just in time for a van o' Russians to pull up. Oh yay. Finch has a similar sentiment, along with a suggestion to Reese that likely is only half intended as a suggestion, that they leave this one to "the authorities." It's less annoying than Finch's shock and appall and at the same time it brings up the age-old question, Finch, who did you think you were hiring. Really? Of course Reese is going in.

The music tells us that Reese is all out of bubblegum as he passes the mob of Russian mobsters at the front door and walks down the alley, only to hop a fence and come in the back way. Fair enough! Reese, you might want to keep an eye on that guy who saw you go past. Reese. Reeeeeese. No? Okay. Though to be fair to our dear spyssassin, it's entirely possible he noted the man and kept going. From the alley up to the apartment Reese was watching where Charlie Burton is putting a kettle on. For someone who was previously described as being nervous, his movements are confident and strong, deliberate, no shaking or hesitation or other signs of nervousness. He does keep looking out of the window, but although that's the action of someone who's expecting attack at any moment it's not underscored by the body language of someone unused to being in danger. Okay, fair enough, maybe he did something before he became a teacher that allows him to be so blase about witnessing mob hits and being a target that he can put a kettle on and oh, hey, Reese has Batman'd in while we were babbling and Charlie was putting on boiling water for something. Tea, noodles, childbirth, eh. Charlie reaches around the doorway and pulls out a knife and either his hand is only now shaking or that's a really crappy knife. Either way, it wobbles in a most unthreatening manner as he brandishes it at Reese and tells him to get out. Reese isn't threatened either.

He does make several good points and responses to the usual questions of who are you, what are you doing here, how do I know you're not here to kill me. Okay, that last one isn't usual, but in this case Charlie Burton has more warning than most of Reese's targets that someone is out to kill him, so it's not unreasonable for the situation. Reese replies that Burton's still alive, Burton shrugs and fair enough's him, and contact is made. Now, okay, apart from the fact that this entire scene is played out from only two angles which gives us a very, very limited view of Burton's apartment and therefore Burton's personality (which may be inadvertent but makes me highly suspicious given that Reese has already demonstrated for us the extent to which someone's personality can be read from their living quarters [ 1x03]), we also get a full face shot of Burton. Quite a bit of them. Remember what we keep saying about Finch only getting full-face angles when he's lying to someone? Let's put that out there nice and clear so that we remember it for later. We also have both Reese and Burton in the liminal half-light half-shadow lighting, but in this case that's subtle enough that that might not be deliberate. Might. I wouldn't put down too much money on that.

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Lots of rapid, jerky shots of people running up stairs or stalking down hallways, the pull-back shot as Reese and Burton walk down a hallway and then the Russians come up the stairway behind them and turn the opposite direction. When they burst into Burton's apartment we hear the urgent shrilling of the kettle, a sound that tends to rattle the nerves in real life and in television, and once again we don't see much of the actual apartment itself. One lonely jacket on a coat tree, which indicates but doesn't tell us with certainty that Burton is poor with only a few suit jackets to his name. Well, teacher.

Finch will now fuss over Reese and offer a distraction, but Reese doesn't need it just yet. He helps Burton over the fence he clambered over to get in and will now proceed to take out the guy guarding their exit with his ass-kicking theme music and several well but awkwardly executed moves. And remember how I was complaining about this number earlier but couldn't say anything because I hadn't picked up on it yet? Yeah, we'll start with now. As Reese turns back to Burton with what appears to be a rapid multi-round firing rifle in one hand Burton, yes, is staring at him. With not so much in the way of wide eyes, no yelping, no exclamations or signs of fear or anything but a token nod in the direction of being someone who is unnerved by what should be an unusual occurrence for a school teacher, guns and assassins and whatnot. And again, okay, yes, this could be put down to prior experience in other fields, in which case I would hope that once they make it to a bolt hole in which they have five minutes to breathe Burton will tell him so. We'll have to keep an eye out and see.

Reese keeps his hand on his gun but, interestingly, doesn't draw it as they come trotting up around the corner from that side of the building. Reese would like that escape route now please and thank you, but Mission Control is offline. His phone, which mysteriously has survived a lot of other abuse lately, took its final beating in that altercation with the Russian guard and it's dead. He needs Burton's cell phone, but Burton doesn't believe in them. Great. Meanwhile Finch is trying to get ahold of Reese and getting only busy signals. Poor babies. Reese paces a bit, the camera keeps everyone's full body in view for just long enough that we can get a good look at Burton's hands in his pockets as Reese moves around the car, and then Reese is, well, jacking a car. Man needs an exit, right? Well, let's go back to Burton's hands in the pockets for a moment here. If you read our Grimm recaplyses you know that hands in pockets or otherwise concealed is a deception tell, and that we pick on it a lot where one of the characters in that show is concerned. Not only is it a fairly good sign of deception and secrecy here, it's an awfully curious move for a man who has every reason to expect there will be running in his immediate future. Go on, try to run with your hands pressed tightly in your pockets the way his are, I dare you. Don't break your nose doing it when you trip and fall, either. I mean, it's possible, but it's not very easy or very likely to be someone's reflexive action, unless they have atypical body structure. I will admit, he does seem genuinely startled by Reese's open willingness to, as he puts it, commit grand theft auto, even if it is in the course of saving his life.

Not that Reese is interested in giving his name, of course. He moves right past that and over to the goal of getting Burton to the police precinct so he can give testimony against the killer. Burton raises the perfectly reasonable objection that the Russian mob has people on the inside, therefore he isn't safe in the police precinct. I can't object to any part of that, since, once again, we started out with dirty cops. They might not even be working with or for the same people now, but they are still dirty cops. They would probably kill Burton on the orders of anyone who paid them enough. Reese claims he knows a cop they can trust, but given that he also just appeared to Burton out of the blue five minutes ago, told him that Russian assassins were on their way, and then proceeded to march him out of his building and beat up at least one of those assassins, it's equally plausible that Burton either doesn't feel comfortable trusting him or doesn't feel comfortable trusting judgment and his contacts. Either way, the skepticism is justified. And Reese continues on about something about getting Burton to Manhattan, when they're interrupted by gunfire. As you are when the Russian mob is trying to kill you. I definitely like the shot of Reese leaning out and parallel to the pavement and shooting the mobster guy in the kneecaps, it shows both an unusual form of showcasing dexterity as well as Reese's accuracy because, consider, he's making that shot from at least 50 to 100 feet away, through a very narrow sight gap between the bottom of the door and the pavement. I'm impressed, are you impressed? On the other hand, now the assassins have caught up with them, and, oh crap, Burton's been shot. Which means Reese has only one place to go, the aforementioned building into which Russian mobsters fear to tread. Reese, of course, gives no fucks for Russian mobsters or the people who scare them. Except, of course, inasmuch as they might be useful to him.

The Machine will escort us now over to the building in question via security footage. Reese, of course, gained entry by the simple expedient of opening the door whose lock probably hasn't worked since Nixon was president. In the lobby of the building we get a walk-through view of the startlingly clean hall, a couple people milling around on their business, the most notable thing about them being that nobody seems to care about the man in the suit escorting a man with an obvious wound in his shoulder. Seriously, Burton's bleeding all over his shirt and nobody is asking if he needs any help, even pointing and laughing at his distress. Not that he seems all that distressed, either, which should really tell somebody something. No? Nothing? Right, then. We do see a bloodstain on the back of Burton's shirt, so it was a through and through. He is leaning a bit in Reese's direction, but that's about as much as we get for any other sign of fatigue or injury. Apart from, you know, bloodstains. And since we can't tell shock off the TV screen, we'll just have to go with that. Reese marches them both upstairs, into a hallway that looks a lot more like a wretched hive of scum and villainy, pushing on doors as he goes. Oh, hey, that one doesn't even have a door, and it's definitely a drug den. Let's not go there. Burton takes this as a cue to point out to Reese that he told him so. Oh, honey. Reese has been in far worse places and situations than this.

Up another flight of stairs and, hey, this actually looks like an abandoned apartment. Reese pushes the door open with the barrel of his gun, just in case there might be some rats, cockroaches, or criminals lurking, and then clears it before he lets Burton in, like a good bodyguard. Burton takes a position up against the wall as though tired, while Reese clears the rest of the apartment. And here's another interesting little body language tic, the way Burton is holding his hands makes it look like he's used to wearing handcuffs. Having never been shot before I can't say whether or not holding his arms in that position would make his gunshot wound any worse, but that's definitely not a pose I see very often on people leaning up against walls. Particularly not ones in distress; a selection of usual poses and movements for people in distress would be running hands through hair over the head, tapping fingers against an arm or leg or other solid surface, shoving hands into pockets, tugging at clothing, tucking hands under arms, or fidgeting with hands on face. None of which Burton is doing; he's standing up against the wall looking as though he's been handcuffed and waiting to be processed. Admittedly, this isn't probative of anything, but it's all adding up to make Burton look a lot less like the victim he's been painted as by the Machine and the surveillance footage from the bodega, and a lot more like a lying liar who lies. Burton also flinches away from Reese's hand before he touches him, but it's even odds whether or not that's an actor mistake or a character mistake.

Reese gives us the diagnosis on the wound, through and through, no bone damage and, it looks like, not significant blood loss yet, but they need to get him patched up. Well, isn't it convenient that they're in a drug den, then? Burton is looking at Reese a lot less than Reese is looking at Burton, but, again, that one can be explained away by Burton being nervous around an as yet undisclosed black ops type person. At this point, we've got a slew of mixed messages from Burton as to who he is and why the Russian mob is after him. In the short term, we know that he's unarmed and injured. At least one of these conditions Reese intends to fix, post-haste. For starters, Reese gets the poor man a chair and pretty much sets him in it. Burton puts on a show of being despondent and despairing, but it's not a very convincing one. Reese then asks Burton about the men who shot the victim in the bodega, at which point Burton coughs up a story that not only is implausible in its specificity but that also would be easy to check against the surveillance footage. Not that Reese has access to that via Finch, now, or access to anyone to check Burton's story, which might be what Burton is counting on. There's also a lot of eye darting and very little affect, either of which would be a sign of trauma but when combined together indicates that someone is thinking quickly and clearly but without much emotional attachment to what he's describing. In other words, either this person has nerves of steel and ice in his veins, or he's lying through his teeth. We can all guess which one I'm leaning towards given all the other strange behavior he has exhibited the last two or three minutes. The upshot of the story is that it was a couple of man, masks, one of them supposedly wanted the dead guy to see his face, indicating that it was a personal matter more than a business hit or that reputation was at play here, and the dead man wanted Burton to deliver a message to Elias. Reese asks what the message was, and Burton says it was something about Vinnie finishing a job. At least that's plausible, if uncheckable. Between this and the next couple of sentences, although Burton never manages much more emotion than he has been showing, he does manage to give Reese as well as the audience a good reminder of what life is like in this particular neighborhood. Basically, you're on your own. You ally with one mob family or another, you don't call the cops, you survive on your own and either get out or die young.

Another thing that interests me about this exchange, now that I'm thinking of it, the two of them have very similar speaking styles. Even when upset, neither of them raises their voices or varies their cadence at all. Burton talks about the dangers of living here, about how this is his home and he won't leave it, about how you can't trust the cops and maybe this will all blow over. Reese points out the likelihood of Burton ending up dead, but neither of them show any conspicuous agitation. We're used to that from Reese. It's new when it's from the victim. On the other hand, this does seem to also create a bonding point between them, as Burton offers up first name privileges to Reese in a way that even seems genuine, and Reese offers up his name of "John" in return. They shake hands, Reese warming up to him a bit in a way slightly more personal than he usually does with the people whose numbers get pulled up. (This is also, for those of you who haven't seen the blooper reel, the part where I about fell out of the chair laughing. Go look up the blooper reel on YouTube and wait for the scene, I promise you won't regret it.)

We'll put a pin in that for now and go over to the precinct, courtesy of the machine, where the bodega victim's wife is in interrogation with not one, not two, but three cops! Apparently this rates both Carter and Fusco as well as the obligatory detective from organized crime. Organized crime is all business and very professional, but still forceful. Fusco, oddly, is a lot more gentle about asking her what her husband was doing at the bodega that night. So, apparently we're playing tough cop, good cop, better cop? Or some variation on that theme; either way, Carter is the sympathetic one who does the help us get justice bit. Not that it matters much; Mrs. D'Agostino being a mob wife for, by the look of it, a number of years, she knows better than to think that even if the cops figure out who killed her husband, that they might be able to do anything about it. And she isn't shy about saying so, though she does get a little less belligerent with Carter's approach. And then she says something interesting, that Elias will find her husband's killers and get vengeance, and apparently it doesn't matter how many innocent people he has to mow down in order to do it, at least not to her. This tells at least what kind of grieving process she's going through, if not necessarily what kind of mob boss Elias is. Remember, this is her opinion of what Elias will do, and we don't have word from above that this is what Elias intends. Apparently, she also has nothing to base this opinion on, having never met Elias or talked extensively (if at all) with any of his henchmen. At this point, if I were the cops, I would be questioning whether or not Elias even exists or if maybe someone is using that name as a cover identity for one or several criminals. Or maybe that's just what I would do if I were inclined to a criminal path. Point being, there isn't much Mrs. D'Agostino can give us about Elias. Fusco does start fishing for Elias's plans around Brighton Beach, which queues up an appropriately apocalyptic speech about how Elias is going to reunite the Five Families and take over the cities organized crime, and then the cops will be answering to him, etc. Again, long on the speechmaking and the bombast, very short on the plausible connections or likelihood of her having any useful information. Then she storms out, so that's all they're getting from her anyway.

Well, with that out of the way, let's check in on another player who we haven't seen or heard from some time. Hi, Finch! Nice to see you from the… security camera. Of an ATM. Oh, Finch. Breaking into the ATM? Really? He already seems to have more money than God, so even before he starts pushing buttons to bring up the hidden backdoor screen we know he's probably not out to extort money from the poor electronic teller. No, apparently he's rerouting something from the ATM to somewhere. Apart from that knowledge and some very I'm-being-sneaky-look-how-mysterious-and-ambiguous-I-am type looks, we get nothing. Well, those and a smooth transition from Finch getting into a car over to Carter and Fusco getting out of the car in front of the building Burton used to live in. Oh, hey, it's the crime scene Reese created earlier. Complete with organized crime cop, who describes pretty much what happened in terms of Russian mob hunting down the witness. Whose name they now have, so, yay! Also a description of the man accompanying Burton, tall and wearing a suit and aiming for kneecaps. Sound familiar, Carter? Yeah, I thought so. Although her eyeroll is a thing of beauty. Carter would like to add "former military" and "pain in the ass" to the description of Reese. It's accurate. Fusco asks for casualty count, which ends up being one Russian guy in the hospital and not much else. Organized crime points out the ATM across the street that Finch was screwing around with, suggesting they could get the footage off there and giving us a likely object for the rerouting that Finch was doing earlier, and Carter gives us a nice lamp shade for the burden and paperwork involved in doing that. Ah, but organized crime has a trick up his sleeve, or in this case, a cell phone video. Thank God for bystanders with more shiny tech toys than sense? And from this we learn that one of the shooters involved was the son of a prominent Russian mob boss, Ivan Yogorv. Thus informed, Carter calls over to the uniform and asks him to pull the files on said mob boss. Suspicious cop is still suspicious. I'm just saying.

Meanwhile, back at mission control, Finch not only rerouted the ATM's video feed, he rerouted the entire damn control panel. Finch, sweetie, you really need some human interaction. I guess this time it's proving useful, and we see him take a look at the ATM footage of Reese hurrying off with Burton in tow. And for the record, I do not talk to the footage I'm analyzing the way that Finch does, all of you stop looking at me like that. After Reese and Burton leave a white or silver SUV pulls up, and hey, here comes a uniformed police officer trotting up to the door of the SUV. This isn't suspicious at all! Neither is the way Finch can zoom the ATM camera which, as far as I know, are supposed to be unzoomable. He gets an unrealistically clear image of the license plate and the police officer and, to absolutely no one's surprise, it's the one Carter gave the information to. I'm not sure this even merits the jar. Finch, if you're going to do impossible things with ATM cameras, could you at least get a badge number off the dirty cop? No? Damn. However, dirty cop means talking to their dirty cop contact, which means Fusco gets a phone call! Finch starts off with the usual man of mystery crap including a phrase that we're going to hear a lot of, "our mutual friend." However, never having met Finch, Fusco has no idea who this is or what the hell he's talking about. Which is when Finch brings up, out of all the things he could possibly use to identify Reese, the conversation about taking Reese to Oyster Bay. I have to assume that's meant to be the threat it sounds like, possibly implying that he knows about Fusco's previous career choices, possibly simply implying that he knows a good place to bury Fusco if he so chooses. Though the idea of Finch killing and burying anyone in Oyster Bay makes me laugh, Fusco has no such reassurance that this would be incredibly out of character for him. It's also telling that when Fusco identifies Finch as "Reese's guy" Finch immediately corrects him and goes on to put Fusco in that role, putting him down in the process. Fusco then updates Finch on everything that happened, After which Finch gives him his marching orders. Fusco, be a good pet, and run the license plate. (Seriously, Finch is just as bad as Reese at abusing the poor guy.) And no, Fusco, you don't get any answers, just an "don't call me I'll call you." Aren't men of mystery so fucking annoying?

Meanwhile, back at the Double B, we're getting to know some of the assassin squad a little better. Traveling camera angles for this, following them as they walk, and we have a couple of stock bad guys with the cautious heir to the criminal throne accompanied by the hotheaded trigger-happy soldier. About the only thing new we learn in this segment is the comment about "Bulgarian tweakers", so, nothing really new there. However, they do intend to surround the building and wait Reese and Burton out. So, let's go back to them. Reese is trying to keep Burton awake so the man doesn't go into shock and die, bleed out and die, or any of the other ways you could die with a wound like that. Which aren't many, but there are a few. Burton attempts to dig into Reese's past a bit by asking how he got that way, and gets the most succinct answer ever of "it's complicated." That pretty much sums it up. So Reese will return the favor, at which point we learned that teaching is indeed a career shift for Burton, as he puts it. But a shift from what? He doesn't elaborate on what came before the teaching but he does start talking about his feelings for the kids, how most of them are children of the Russian mob, how he likes to give them other options. Oh, I really wish that sounded less ominous than it does, but at this point, yeah, I was waiting on checking every single thing this person said for potential doublespeak. And "giving other options" is definitely doublespeak. It covers a lot of bases. Sadly, Reese isn't paying nearly as much attention as he should be. Reese. Look at your life. Look at your assignment. (Hey, why start now?) I appreciate the honesty, at least, in the idea that the lucky ones are the ones who get into college and some of the others are probably the ones shooting at them. It's probably true. In the midst of all this chuckling over the morbid humor of the situation and not paying attention to his assignment, Reese will now go out in search of drugs. He will, in fact, find a large pillowcase, and fill it with drugs. There will, however, be no whores or booze involved. And he only starts a fight with two men and wins.

While my co-blogger recovers from that mental image (if you haven't read Transmetropolitan, trust us, these jokes are really funny) (A: she is a BAD PERSON and she should FEEL BAD and she owes me a new keyboard.), I follow Fusco over to the taco stand by an overpass and probably by the precinct. I have to say, Finch and Reese really like sneaking up on Fusco while he's getting food or coffee. Finch is here to nag Fusco about his dietary habits and ask for the information he requested earlier while doing a great West Wing impression. That is to say, it's a walk and talk. Also Fusco seems to deduce that because Finch is wearing a suit (and probably an expensive one, at that) he's the boss of the operation. Not a bad deduction, and one that points out in a way that probably a lot of people miss that Fusco, for all his comic relief appearances, is actually a really damn good detective. He tells Finch that the plate was registered to a shell company and goes nowhere, to which Finch eventually replies that he was hoping to track down another criminal organization vehicle license plate, most likely that of Elias. Fusco will now be briefly distracted by the fact that Finch apparently hacked into the police database and read his report on the bodega shooting; poor Fusco, it'll take some time to get used to the creepy hacker man. The upshot in conclusion of their discussion is that in addition to the Russians, Elias wants Burton because the mild-mannered schoolteacher has sensitive information. Fusco is now tasked with reporting the SUV in question stolen and then emailing that file to one of Finch's e-mail addresses. And in conclusion, both Fusco and Finch are worried about Reese, and neither one of them will admit it to the other. Awww.

Let's not worry about Reese. Reese is fine. Reese is, in fact, bursting in on the couple of drug dealers we saw earlier in search of bubblegum and drugs. Sadly, contrary to my joke earlier, he doesn't use a pillowcase. He uses a bucket and a hilariously deadpan expression as he asks "Can I borrow some of your drugs?" No, of course he can't borrow any drugs, who does he think he is? The drug dealer who's standing will now attack him, be thrown into a table, and promptly not be standing anymore. Once again, drooling over Reese and his technique, Caviezel and his physical prowess. The way he moves is economical and makes it look as though he barely puts forth any effort; competence porn at its best. Bonus points for both the background noise (not the soundtrack, the in-show background noise) being some kind of fight in which one of the opponents is being obliterated, and Reese's very polite and mild "thank you" at the end of the scene. Really, it's the deadpan that makes it.

Back over to the police precinct (and one of these days, I promise, we're going to analyze the choice of footage that the machine uses to transition from place to place) we get Szymanski and Carter and an actual murder board! It's always funny when one of these shows up in an episode of something we're analyzing. In this case, the murder board tells them nothing. It tells the audience that the Russians are under attack by this mysterious Elias, that the mob boss's brother was recently killed along with several other henchmen, and that Szymanski thinks Elias is making a play for Brighton Beach. Carter offers a reasonable theory, that Elias is trying to reclaim the territory his father Don Moretti once held, which fits the available data. There is also the possibility that he's doing it to show up his father, either in order to get in with the Five Families or in order to establish himself as a rival power. Either way, she makes the good point that, since the Brighton Beach territory was formerly run by the Don, whatever Elias is doing has to revolve around him. The only piece Szymanski was missing was the bit about Elias likely being Moretti's illegitimate kid. Now that they have a lot more of the pieces, hopefully they can anticipate Elias's movements more and foil a few more of his dastardly plots or something. Please?

On a meta level there's something sort of telling about the fact that it goes from a conversation about Elias back over to Reese and Burton. On the other hand, there are only so many moving parts in this episode, so it likely wasn't intentional or meant to indicate anything. Hindsight, and all that. Anyway, Reese will now doctor up his poor injured assignment with superglue and cocaine! Again, I would make commentary on this not likely being Burton's first time with cocaine, except for that old bit of wisdom regarding people sampling their own products. Whatever else he's had his hands into, I rather doubt he's tried drugs on purpose, at least, not the hard stuff. He's a little too driven and too focused on being clear headed for that, or at least, more clear headed and clever than his compatriots. He cracks a joke, Reese looks genuinely amused. Poor Reese. He really likes Charlie Burton, and yes, by now I'm not even pretending that I don't know this is Elias. Because really. You know our spoiler policy (or lack thereof), and it's most likely you've seen the episode already. Anyway, on the heels of that there's another joke about Reese learning about the superglue and cocaine trick in hero class, and I do appreciate Reese keeping his background and so on to himself. Good security techniques there, and using superglue to close a wound is an old trick of a lot of different groups. Elias will now take this opportunity to thank Reese for saving his life, even though I'm not entirely sure he wouldn't have gotten out of it some way or another on his own. But he does seem to mean it. It's a very emotionally loaded moment, and one Reese isn't willing to prolong. (Of sheer curiosity, are there any Reese/Elias shippers in the audience? Because if so, this would be a perfect moment for troll face.) And in order to change the mood Reese will now hand Burton a gun, which Burton will react poorly to. This, I definitely don't believe. Or rather, I totally believe that he went shooting with a foster father at some point, I don't at all believe he's either uncomfortable or unused to guns. I'm not sure whether or not to yell at Reese for poor gun safety habits, because the angle of the camera and the angle of the gun makes it hard to tell whether he's pointing it over Burton's shoulder or at Burton's other shoulder. That said, though, it's a decent and concise explanation of how a gun works and almost paternal expression on Reese's face. Burton isn't sure about either the gun or the chances of survival. Reese sounds pretty optimistic, but it's also the kind of optimism and cavalier attitude that he might put on so that his assignment won't worry. Like a good operative, by now he's probably analyzed their situation and their odds of actual, intact escape, allowing for all the factors and all the known unknowns, and given that he can't compensate for being the lead character on a TV show that generally saves all its guest protagonists of the week, it's got to be looking pretty grim.

Outside, it looks like the two groups are having a meeting, the druggies controlling the Double B and the Russian soldiers lurking outside. And, oh look, the druggies are the ones Reese failed to properly deal with earlier. Okay, normally I'm not that violent, but he had to know that leaving them alive and conscious and free to move around was going to come back to bite him in the ass. And now it has, in the form of them running to their boss and their boss going to make a deal with the Russians. The Russians come in, clean house with them, everything goes back to normal. Once again, the fact that guns are being drawn and passed around in broad daylight in view of several civilians indicates that this is not a place of conventional United States safety. I hesitate to use the (economic and out-dated) term third-world, but this is definitely the kind of warlord-driven society in a small pocket of New York City that shows up on a countrywide scale other places. The machine follows them offscreen and then takes us a few hours later.

Reese hands Burton/Elias a coat, and I'm really not sure where he got it. He will now proceed to punch a hole through the wall so he can try and get at a landline. Normally I would argue for escape being the first priority, but since he does have a man on the outside information would definitely make that easier. So, landline, and a couple of jokes about Elias's lack of a cell phone. Of course, now that we're abandoning the masquerade a little ahead of schedule, I can think of all kinds of reasons why a mob boss would want to keep off the cell phone grid. Or any grids at all. Elias will also do some more bonding by apologizing for getting Reese into this mess, to which Reese will rightly and properly reply that it's his job. At which point Elias will continue fishing for anything he can get on Reese, this time by commenting that it's a dangerous choice of careers. Reese will now opine aloud that Elias reminds him of Finch and I will throw something at the screen because it really should say something that his assignment reminds him of the socially maladjusted incredibly manipulative billionaire who runs him. I mean, I love Finch, but that does not mean he is in any way tame or safe or at all times benign. Or even most of the time benign. And the fact that Elias reminds him of Finch when there aren't too many other characteristics to choose from that could be similar, both of them coming from different economic backgrounds, both of them moving in different social circles, with different socialization patterns and different professions, exactly what are your choices for behavioral similarities? That's probably putting too much profiler-type thought into it, though. And for all his good qualities, once again, Reese is no profiler. Reading people isn't exactly his strong point, you don't need to read someone to kill them. Elias figures out, though, that there might be someone in Reese's circle of acquaintances who either could be a threat or powerful ally. That's definitely the look of someone making a cost-benefit analysis. Reese is distracted by his landline victory. They have dial tone! Yay! Now paging Finch, would Mr. Finch please come to the white courtesy phone? Finch offers Reese some information both on the blueprints of the building as well as on his theories about who might be gunning for Mr. Burton. Oh, boys, if only you knew. Reese will take his way out via one of the service entrances Finch describes to him and sends on a message to Fusco to meet him at a certain pier the next morning. Elias notes this with a smile that, okay, by now we as the audience really should know something is up, while Reese doesn't have the benefit of being able to see his face and that little smirk. Finch concludes the phone call with an admonishment to be careful and the way his voice cracks obliges me to hold up a proxy troll face for all the Finch/Reese shippers out there. Because really. It's adorable.

At this point they're not waiting for the next morning, though, Reese gets them out of there now. At least out of the room, into the hallway populated by people who still give no fucks for guns being brandished or bullet wounds in random strangers. Also populated by the echoes of voices talking about where they think "they" have gone, down this hallway or that hallway, and it's a pretty safe bet who these voices belong to. Reese knocks on one door, get a belligerent voice asking who's there, and knocks on the second door with no response. So, that would be the one whose lock to pick, then. And once again, Elias fails to make a high Diplomacy check to control his instinctive behaviors, that is, he's leaning right up against the wall like a proper lookout should. Still not probative, and still not doing a damn thing to ease anyone's suspicions. Well, not that Reese has suspicions, but he really damn well should by now. In the middle of the lock picking process, too, someone pokes his head out of the door down the hallway. Hey, look, it's a convenient student! Also known as a plot device, yes? Elias does an even worse job of lying to the kid, but it also doesn't seem like he's actually intending to deceive anyone. Either way, the kid doesn't bother with the pretense, inviting them to hide in his apartment since his dad isn't home. Reese isn't going to object to a bolt-hole occupied by an ally of his assignment, and Elias seems fond of the kid. Into the apartment with them!

After a machine interlude, we go over to Finch at his computer. Fusco sent that report to the e-mail address, which we see is a randomized-looking e-mail address at an anonymous server, probably something Finch set up and maybe something he rotates every week, every few days, certainly every "insert period here." He has a look at the report, sadly, not in such a way that we can see it over his shoulder but as it turns out, most of the information doesn't matter much anyway. What he's after at the moment is the stolen vehicle report number, which he then uses to reinforce a little bit of social engineering along with Fusco's badge number, Finch, you bad boy. Having established his bona fides with whoever's on the other end of the phone, probably the vehicle company, he gets them to turn on the vehicles GPS and microphone. Because if there's one thing Finch and I agree on, it's the need for endless amounts of information.

Back at the wretched hive of scum and villainy Reese will close the door behind him and hover by it just in case anyone's walking up at that moment. Because he is nothing if not paranoid. (They are, however, usually after him.) Elias and the kid he's supposedly teaching will now have a discussion that highlights the plight of most kids in this building, namely that it would be better for them and their families if they got out of the neighborhood, but no one has the money to leave. In his case, his dad doesn't even have a job. Elias seems genuinely hopeful that the kid might move out, and teases him about not moving out of his school district. I can't decide whether this makes Elias a more genial ruthless criminal or just a more scary one. It does, however, make Reese smile. Probably because he doesn't know about the ruthless criminal yet. More loaded dialogue! In which we addressed the topic of the kid's homework, which is evidently on The Count of Monte Cristo. Oh so many levels on which this is funny, I can only begin to tell you how much I am banging my forehead onto the desk right now. We'll start with the simplest one, which is the one where Caviezel was in a film version of the Count of Monte Cristo. Moving from there on to the fact that the book is about a man long imprisoned getting revenge, which, if you consider the foster system prison (and Elias likely does), isn't that inaccurate. I'm sure someone somewhere has argued about various versions of the story glorifying the quest for revenge. And finally there's the aspect that the kid highlights, which is that the circumstances which led to the lust for revenge in the revenge itself both left their mark on the protagonist. Along with that, Elias has a smile for the story like it really is his favorite story. Or one of them. Of course it is. It's such a loaded moment, and a really big anvil. I mean, I can see why the writers wanted to go for it, but my biggest question about that whole segment is why is a history teacher teaching literature? Really? (I suppose an easy answer is that they forgot what subject Elias was supposed to be teaching, since it only comes up in this episode anyway. But it's going to bug me.) Elias moves on, then, to how the kid is a good kid and just needs to show up to school more. No, I do think here that this is Elias showing actual affection for kid in a bad situation, the way he was. We conclude with a moment of levity that even makes Reese smile, something about zombies taking over the universe and Elias making a sober-serious face as he says we can't have that. Awww, it's like he's a real live boy.

Meanwhile, Finch is out there doing actual fieldwork, this time a little something in the surveillance oeuvre. He's been following the vehicle he lo-jacked and trying to get an identity on the person driving it. Other, of course, than "cop." The dirty cop gets into another vehicle to confer with someone he's meeting in this not at all suspicious location, oh no, and according to Finch's rather excellent surveillance equipment they're discussing the Russians. All we get out of this fifteen second conversation is two sentences and the knowledge that these people want to get to Elias and Reese before the Russians do. That, and they don't seem to know that the Bulgarians are involved, not that I'm sure that makes a difference. And not this will stop Finch from drawing completely spurious conclusions based on very little evidence, in this case, that the dirty cop is Elias. He has absolutely no evidence any which way to say who Elias is, and it's not exactly unheard of for crime bosses to have a policeman or five to ten in their pocketses. So why you have to conclude that the dirty cop is Elias, I really don't know. Possibly only to show how much everybody's guessing and how little anybody knows about this mysterious crime boss. Either way, it doesn't do Finch's reputation as a genius any favors.

Hey, speaking of Elias, not that anyone in this episode has done anything but. Back over to the Double B, where Reese and Elias's luck seems to have run out. And there's a New York police chopper hovering over the building. These two aren't actually related, I just saw it in the Machine's introductory surveillance footage and thought it was amusing. There's a knock on the door and the requisite phrasing of "come out or we're coming in," or some variant on that theme. Reese, adorably, is hunched in a corner facing the direction the door would open with his pistol pointed right at the doorknob. That's so cute. It's okay, Reese, you don't have to shoot anyone right now. Elias's student will now go to the door and cover for them, after a nod of permission from Elias. I know he's a teacher and all, but the way this guy commands leadership is kind of scary. Everyone goes to the door, Reese moving to one side so that the kid can open the door just as far as the chain will stretch and talk to whoever is on the other side. Looks like it's one of the Russians. He tries to come over all buddy-buddy on the kid, not that he tries very hard, and not that either we or the kid is buying it. That's okay, it's the kind of buddy-buddy act that's only meant to be in contrast with some kind of later threat, the open pretense so that the target of the threat has something to contrast the later unpleasantness against. Not that it bothers this kid, who's very used to it by now. He keeps up a tough guy act, and it's clear that the Russian thug interprets this as the bravado of a child alone who's old enough to need to pretend to be a man, or something like that. Either way, he doesn't suspect that the kid is hiding anything. The conclusion of this conversation has a nice little Easter egg for anyone who knows Russian; when the kid says that "vory" are supposed to respect each other, he's using the Russian word for thief in the plural, "воры." This also establishes the kid is either someone who knows the Russian mobsters and how their law works, or the son of someone who might be in the Russian mob themselves. Either way, the guy now has some idea that the people he's after aren't hiding here; if they were, the kid would have turned them in by now. Once the door is closed and locked again, everyone heaves a sigh of relief, Reese's somewhat more subtle than the other two.

Give it another minute or two, and it's time to get the hell out of there. Again. Reese is still dead set on the stairs, but the painkillers have worn off and Elias is making all kinds of faces that suggest he's not sure about his ability to make it out of the building without running into the Russians or some other kind of trouble. But wait! The kid proves useful yet again, pointing out that there is another entrance to the stairs just down the hall from where they are, back the way they came. Reese gives the nod, helps Elias to his feet, and Elias takes a second to quietly and genuinely thank the kid for his help.The kid doesn't mind, he likes his teacher and by the look of things he's not too fond of the mob, either, so Elias gets a cheery "I'll see you tomorrow," and we all know where that one is going. Indeed, the look on Elias's face in response to that is exactly the look we would expect, that of someone who knows he's not actually going to be at school the next day, nor probably any day after that. And as much as he hates to disappoint the kid, and probably all of his other kids, too, he has other plans. Plans that don't involve being a schoolteacher for the rest of his life. And we're back to that whole count of Monte Cristo thing about having revenge and being irrevocably changed by it. Really, this applies not only to Elias, but Reese as well. Only Reese isn't as aware of it as Elias is right at this moment.

Now it's down through the hallway and over to the stairs, with Reese clearing every section before they go through it. Meanwhile, it looks like the second team of Russians have caught up to their second to last hiding place. Go them. Unfortunately for everyone, this appears to also be the place where the stair access is. Unfortunately for Reese and Elias because, well, now there are Russians trying to kill them right on the other side of the wall. Unfortunately for the Russians, because Reese is, well, Reese. There is, as per standard for these kinds of scenes, a lot of point of view camera work with shaky cameras and cameras looking out from between tall objects representing walls. We don't get to see what happens to the poor Russian bastard Reese captures, because now we have to go over and talk to the Russian mob boss, himself.

And by we, I mean Szymanski and Carter. They want to talk to Yogorv about his son in this whole war with Elias. For those of you in the cheap seats, we will now recap the last several days of this war: Benny D'Agostino killed the brother of the Russian mob boss, Yogorv's son killed Benny, or at least that's the theory, and Elias has been killing some Russian soldiers. With a name like Benny D'Agostino, one would expect him to work for the Italian Mafia instead, but apparently he works for Elias. Go figure. Ivan, of course, is not telling anyone a damn thing, no matter how many good reasons the police come up with. And a lot of them are pretty good reasons. Along with a few lampshades to go with his stock excuses. Towards the end of it he isn't even using the hypothetical anymore, but the police have nothing, and they know it.

Meanwhile, back in the wretched hive, Reese's snark is reaching epic levels. He points out that it's not a good idea to talk back to your hostage-taker, steals the guy's phone, and updates Finch on what's been going on. As they march down the hallway and towards the entrance, Carter is to come to the Double B and collect the bodega shooters while Reese meets Fusco at the pier as originally intended. Once again, through this whole sequence of them walking, Elias is walking away too easily for someone who's been shot in the shoulder and presumably hasn't been shot before and all. Whatever. Finch will now somehow eavesdrop on the guys in the car (remember, he had ears on the silver SUV, not the car that the dirty cop got into after leaving the silver SUV) and some bit of dialogue about text message saying that "they" are going to pier 11, where Reese and Elias are to meet Fusco. Back in the precinct, Szymanski and Carter are marching the bodega shooters into interrogation and Szymanski is congratulating her on a collar well done. She knows who called in, not that she's saying. All of these scenes are even shorter than the ones we've been getting; since this is one of those urgent running-out of-time episodes, all of the scenes are 30 to 90 seconds (at a guess) shorter than they would be in a normal episode, again, to convey that sense that everyone is in a desperate hurry. From the police station over to the pier where Fusco is waiting, and Finch calls to chew him out for turning Reese and Elias in to Elias's men. They argue about this long enough for someone to sneak up behind Fusco and clock him in the face, so, see, Finch? See what making blind assumptions based on very little evidence and absolutely no experience reading people will get you? Bad Finch, go to my room. For a long and detailed lecture on observational profiling 101, or something like that.

We get a nice transition from that to Elias and Reese with near-identical shots of the bridge, to tie it all together. They're on the ferry, and it looks like they're home free, with Reese talking Elias into testifying against the Russians. Elias gives us another terrifying line about never wanting to see "these cretins" running loose in his town again, and I can just imagine what he means by that. Mostly, it involves a lot of corpses. We're back to the rapid cuts between scenes as things progress again, which is, I'd say, about 90% of the time leading up to some big reveal. Carter is trying to get Pyotr Yogorv to confess to the bodega murder, Elias is gloating, neither Reese nor Carter (nor Szymanski, who comes in on the middle of the interrogation) have any clue what's actually going on. The other kid, Laszlo, he knows what's going on! But it takes Reese a second to realize that the person who Laszlo describes as tearing the town apart is actually his assignment. And by that time, of course, it's too late. Elias has a gun on them both.

Really. Reese, you couldn't see that one coming? It's not like this the first time you've been sold out. Elias monologues for bit about how the next generation hates the previous one (and he would know, wouldn't he), learning from history and learning from your enemies, the benefits of hiding in plain sight when no one knows what you look like and how he'll now be trading those up for some other advantages, all of it very predictable and boilerplate, but the writers and the actor manage to sell it very well. I also like the fact that neither Reese nor Carter gives out any large reaction to the news, Reese has kind of a "oh you've got to be kidding me" look on his face, while Carter looks as though all the pieces just slammed together in her head. I'm pretty sure I've worn that expression a few times, myself. Back to Reese, he looks hurt and disappointed at first, and then very very angry. Yes, Reese knows what it's like to be betrayed, and it doesn't feel any better the second time (third time? Fourth?) around. So, it turns out that Denny's message to Elias was that the Russian mafia was crumbling from the inside out, along with a few Caesarean words. Nothing like mobsters with pretensions, I guess. Elias doesn't kill Laszlo, he shoots him in the kneecap instead, which means the poor bastard will only be crippled for life! Which is also symptomatic of Elias's style of rule: never waste a resource you might be able to turn and use again, never kill someone when you can leave them alive and in pain and that pain can send a message instead, go for the long and drawn out vengeance rather than the brief satisfaction of having killed the bastard who did something terrible to you. This guy is not the man with whom to fuck. And this serves as a warning for Reese, as well. Because you know we're going to see Elias again. They spent far too much time and attention on this build up not to have him be one of the major villains of this show.

Elias will now prove what I said, at least about never wasting a resource. When he crouches down next to Reese his first excuse for not killing Reese is that it would be ungrateful, and since he is the son of an old-style mob boss in makes a certain degree of sense, but his next reason for not killing Reese is because of Reese's talents and he could use a man like that in his organization. It's a tacit question, but he knows even a moment after he's said that Reese is not going to join. Apart from the death glare Reese is giving him now our poor spyssassin clearly enjoyed saving someone's life earlier, much more than he has ever enjoyed taking a life. Elias knows that, thereby proving in this one scene that he's way more capable of reading people than either of our two heroes. Sigh. Which is why he's the criminal mastermind of a burgeoning empire and Reese and Finch are the dynamic duo opposing him. Reese enjoys being the good guy, which is probably the biggest reason why he implicitly threatens Elias and the proposed agreement of mutual noninterference. Elias doesn't mind, he doesn't look as though he expected any less. And off he saunters onto the pier, meeting up with his people to the tune of one of the standard music pieces for Bad Guys Who Get Away With It, Nina Simone's Sinnerman. Everyone is worse for the wear, and Finch even apologizes to Fusco and offers him a handkerchief as the poor man spits blood. I start twitching as the singer reaches the part about "I can't hide you, the rock cried out" (any Babylon 5 fans in the audience?) and Finch and Reese reunite. Fusco is none too happy with either of them, but at least he gets a suspect in the bodega shooting out of it? Finch tries to assuage both of their guilt about "Charlie," but it doesn't work. For either of them. This whole conversation highlights some interesting issues, from Reese's upset at wondering how many numbers will come up because they saved Elias (at least one, we know from Get Carter), Finch pragmatic by repeatedly pointing out that they did the best they could with the limited information they had, which is also true. They never have enough time to do a proper reconnaissance and study of the situation before going in. Ultimately, neither of them has a satisfying answer, but Reese has more anger because revenge and people like Elias are two concepts he knows very well.

Once again, tying up loose ends. A black-clad and gloved man shoots Ivan Yogorv dead, hey, it's the dirty cop! Then goes and reports to Elias with an "it's done," which provides him the perfect line for us to close on, "It's just beginning." Ah, boilerplate ominousness. So nice to fall back on.


  1. I keep having to resist the urge to demand everyone in the PoI fandom read your reviews before they dare comment on anything related!
    For some reason this is the episode I watch the least in repeat, yet I think the one I end up appreciating the most by the end. Elias is just such a wonderful villian, not to mention charismatic and horribly sympathetic to a degree.

    1. Awww! Thank you! That's really good to hear, glad we're of use and entertaining at the least. ;)

      Elias is an amazing villain, and a great foil for both Reese and Finch in a way, Reese for the passion and vengeance, the personal involvement, and Finch for the complexity of the mind. And I love that Finch is introduced in a sinister way and turns out to be benign, where Elias is introduced in a benign way and turns out to be sinister.

  2. thank you, as ever, for the total awesome.

    and that blooper reel was completely hilarious. I swear you could hear Enrico whining with laughter, as much as he was trying desperately to hold it back. brill.