Thursday, March 28, 2013

Regardless of Ideology (Person of Interest S1E08 Foe)

This week's episode also starts us out with the perpetrator, giving us a brief interlude of perps who are difficult (nigh unto impossible were it not for Finch's talents) to find. In many ways, this is another ep's worth of Reese's Dark Mirror, only we're being even more anvilicious about it. At any rate, the credits shot is of an older gentlemen descending an elevator and looking rather dead-eyed about it. Much like our favorite spyssassin when he's on a job, come to that. Said spyssassin comes around the corner of a construction site, clearing the area with gun in hand. Well, this won't end well! The last time we saw Reese armed in the credits was the introduction of Elias, and we all know how that went. Now let us read from the Book of Reese's Issues, Vol III chapters I-VI, The Government And How I Learned To Distrust It!

This is also the first time we've watched the Machine pick out a number, just in case we wanted to add to the growing pile of evidence that it's an AI. Which we did! How thoughtful of the writers. We also see that it pulled up all the data on this week's number which Finch spends a chunk of the episode acquiring, thereby demonstrating that it has a damn good idea of what each week's number will bring even as it sends the number to Finch. Which means it's picking these numbers on purpose. And aww, "contacting admin," that's so... child calling for Daddy, in a way. Come fix this, Finch! And he will, right after several ominous seconds of Ulrich Kohl evading detection by a suit who looks awfully Germanic and awfully out of place in the train station. Doing so in well-trained spyssassin style, too. Over to our boys, Finch is standing in front of the bookcase with the dictionaries. Are you watching closely? Because this will be important later. MUCH later, as it turns out; the writers on this show are such sneaky fucks. I say that with love. At any rate, Reese brought drinks! It's cute that Finch thinks Reese doesn't know how he takes his hot drinks by now, that's one of the first ways in on a long term assignment that a good spyssassin learns, is the little details like drinks and other daily routine self-care things. This being one of the few self-care items Finch allows himself, it was probably easy to pick up. And yes, I think Reese does still think of Finch as a long term assignment; the fact that they're getting to like and trust each other is a function of the work they're doing together as well as an inevitable side effect of any long term spyssignment. Not what Reese might consider optimal. We never said we liked the normal ones, did we? Banter banter snark, for those of you who ship them this is a great opportunity for a trollface.

New number! Due to the Machine's limitations, it's sent over Wallace Negel, the alias Kohl used to get into the country. For anyone who's familiar with the genre conventions, even if you missed the Machine digging through Kohl's data due to bathroom break or popcorn or what-have-you, "worked in international export" is common Hollywood code for "was a spy." Or in this case a spyssassin. Because the parallels are just anvilicious on this ep. Poor everyone, already we can tell this is unlikely to end well for everyone or even most of the players, without knowing all the players. Intercutting shots of Kohl walking down the street, no longer anonymous to us in the crowd, with shots of Reese and Finch chewing over the data. "Negel" hasn't made an electronic transaction in his name since end of '87, when he supposedly immigrated to the US in 1980. So, an old alias and 1987 is when Kohl stopped operating for reasons as yet unknown, then! Probably unpleasant ones. Reese runs us through the Burn Notice style explanation of how spycraft 101 works, subtopic creating an alias, and Kohl leaves his suitcase in the middle of the street! Thereby setting off all our IT'S A BOMB alarms. Which it doesn't seem to be, but that's a nice if somewhat overdone bit of tension boost. Meantime, Finch tells us about this cemetery plot "Negel" purchased shortly before his disappearance. Gee, I wonder what could be there. Maybe cash and a new identity and a murder kit? Reese is tasked with finding out while Finch goes off to talk to a contact of his (and I severely question how he found this contact, I assume it's through creepy cyberstalking tactics) who can help with analog data for a 1980s spy. This is actually quite sensible!

Over to a used bookstore of the rare first editions and someone who looks like Aziraphale and Crowley's disturbed lovechild running it. Eek. Finch has allowed the owner to stack up some first editions for him, probably to ensure that other patrons are aware that he's taking up position as Patron Being Served right now. Well, maybe. Finch isn't always good at social engineering (though this is a kind I would expect him to be decent at) and he might be doing it just to fuck with the guy, because he's also an ass like that. He then breaks out discussion of needing more specific things than books, and proceeds to blackmail the guy with knowledge of having sold Soviet sub schematics back to the Russians last year. So, yep: cyberstalking. Or possibly a previous number that he researched and couldn't do anything about at the time. The Machine shows us the owner closing up shop to tend to this very special client, and then we jump over to Reese in front of a freshly dug grave! Which he is not responsible for. That is a very small hole, in all dimensions, so definitely some kind of lockbox. Hey, that's an old German coin! Nothing there, so back over to the bookstore. Finch, don't make jokes about being a sucker for surveillance, they make me want to punch you.  Blah blah Stasi and seriously, this guy has old Stasi files? WHO ARE YOU, WEIRD BOOKSTORE OWNER. (K: The lovechild of Crowley and Aziraphale. Obviously.) So now we get confirmation that Kohl was part of a Stasi unit that hunted down and killed defectors before they could give up any information. This is, while somewhat run of the mill ex-Communist spy stuff, actually quite unusual in its choice for country of origin. The default is ex-KGB, ex-Soviet of some kind, not fucking East Germany and the Stasi. I can't think of the last time the Stasi actually cropped up as a malignant force in this sort of genre work, though admittedly we're less soaked in it than some. The sucker for surveillance joke at the front of this bit sets up Finch's deadpan reply about how the hell he knew about the submarine schematics at the end, which, alright, but I still kind of want to punch you, Finch.

He wanders off with Kohl's full file and onto the screen again at the library of infinite knowledge! Yay! According to this file, which Finch relays as Reese heads out from the cemetery, Kohl was working for the Stasi until Western authorities started tracking him down and then he went on the run to the Soviet Union. Whoops. Then in 1987, his wife (who also worked for the Stasi in a non-field op context and went on the run with him) died in a car accident. This is my believing that file face. Which is to say I fucking well don't at all. Two years later, East Germany collapses and records go to shit, and Kohl is never heard from again. Uh-huh. By which we mean was probably locked up in jail, because people like that don't just retire. They keep working or they die in the field, or they become imprisoned and are taken off the radar that way. Reese confirms that there was a stash kit that is now in Ulrich Kohl's possession, and confirms my no-shit-Sherlock analysis of what's in it. Thank you, Reese! Though he says weapons instead of a murder kit. Eh, po-tay-to po-tah-to. It's a dead drop from his past self, can we go with that? If Finch can make hideous jokes, so can I.

Speaking of murder kits, hello Kohl. Who are you here to kill today? Apparently his old coworker Hoff! Silenced pistol under his coat in classic Cold War spy fashion, he holds up a photo of his wife that matches the one we saw in the file Finch had just in case we needed the confirmation and asks in German if Hoff remembers her. Yes, the subtitles are fairly accurate. Yes, we checked. Aren't you glad for the polyglot effect? Hoff is duly startled, though more by Kohl's reappearance than by getting shot in the shoulder (lung, possibly) once he realizes who's standing in his doorway. So probably he's done something that would merit that! Also, notably, Hoff speaks English as his default despite having a pretty thick German accent still, indicating a) that these were never spyssassins intended to blend in for more than a few days at a time if that, and b) he's acculturated enough by now not to default to German. As you might expect after 20-odd years, but it's a useful data point that says that at least one member of this Stasi cell attempted to put his old life behind him. Kohl... not so much, for reasons that we will learn later on!

First we have to read from the book of Reese's Issues. This volume is labeled Kara Stanton! The year is 2006, it's late in the evening, there's a party of some kind as evidenced both by the music and their attire, black tie, as we come around from the establishing shot of what we believe to be Budapest (possibly some other Eastern European city, but Budapest amuses us, as Avengers fans, WAY too much. Reese, I sincerely hope the current case doesn't remind you of Budapest for more than the obvious parallels) and focus on Reese and Stanton. He knows who she is, and is about to offer up a name, and it's interesting that it took him five years to get into this level of black ops wetwork, given his probable qualifications for the same back in 2001 when he first re-upped. Maybe that means he didn't go directly to Company work? It's hard to say on our currently-limited dataset. At any rate, Kara will not let him offer a name, because the ID the NCS (that's probably National Clandestine Service, the spy branch of the CIA, not to put too fine a point on it) gave him didn't pass muster. Whose muster? Who the fuck knows, but right now John doesn't have a name. We all know the symbolism and power of giving names and being nameless, right? She tries one out, with no real intent to have it stick, and watches John tense up. Oh honey. You're a completely open book right now. Tense and formal and Kara calls him on it, says the Tier One boys are all the same and that they get to go back after 6-12 months whereas in this job, there is no going back. Everywhere is behind enemy lines. Well she's just a font of cheer and blurry lines, isn't she. She's also relaxed and in control, projecting the kind of cool authority that Reese does now, though hers is I think deliberately modeled along feline lines whereas Reese can't always decide if he's an attack dog or a panther. He should drink and relax! After that whole spiel about there is no going back from this job. Yeah, I wouldn't be relaxing either, though I might be doing a better job at faking it than John is right now. He's still practically military-stiff and formal. Kara will now proceed to wrongfoot him further, asking about old friends he met in transit! That's a terrible job of lying, honey, if you've been doing even basic Company work for awhile now you should be better than that. Even to your coworkers. Especially to your coworkers. She hauls out a surveillance photo of Jess and John at the airport and lays it out on the table along with an anvil of "you can't go home again." This concludes our first reading from the book of Reese's Issues.

The Machine brings us back over to the library of infinite knowledge, where Finch confirms for everyone's benefit is an old East German deutschmark. Aww. Wait, not aww. What kind of dumbass spy buries money NOT IN THE CURRENCY OF THE COUNTRY HE'S BURYING IT IN. (K: Or, for that matter, buries money in only one currency.)  I mean, sure, currencies change appearance a fair bit, but the US dollar is pretty stable as far as that goes, and there might be bills from the late '80s still floating around. Certainly there are places you could use them that wouldn't bat an eye. At any rate, it gives Team Machine a reason to have tracked down a rare coins dealer that took in a rather large number of East German deutschmarks this morning! Meantime, Finch has sent Reese off to an address gleaned from tracked Kohl post-phone call at the dealer's shop rather than haul him back to home base for a check-in. Aww, it's almost like they're getting used to working together! Reese confirms that the poor bastard's dead and yes, those spots on his neck are not age marks, they're puncture wounds from that needle there. Enhanced interrogation, Reese, that's what we call that. Sigh. Finch, now with the files he blackmailed out of his rare books dealer (yes, thank you, we see those parallels), explains the four man team and gives us names (Stiler the leader and fellow triggerman, Wernich the forger, Hauffe the case officer) for the remaining ones. Back again to Reese, who is as untroubled by the presence of a dead and tortured body in the room as we might assume and is digging around for data instead! Desk drawers, suspiciously moved furniture, you know, all the usual spy stuff. This uncovers a Volks American Society pin which will Be Important Later (and lead to me needing a new desk again on account of facesmashing into it so much) as well as a not very well hidden lockbox. Gee, I wonder what that contains! Finch gives us more expo-speak about how half the intelligence services were after these guys at one point but they were untraceable yadda yadda. That must've been a damn good forger. It's a pity they didn't have BETTER GODDAMN SENSE about where they relocated, what they kept, and how they assimilated! Also those anvils comparing the Stasi unit to Reese's unit he was working with Kara Stanton are, yes, anvilicious as all fuck. The lockbox contains medals and documents proving Hauffe's identity, so awesome, the case officer who if he was a complete moron still had current information on his teammates (spoiler: he was a complete moron) is now dead! No wonder Kohl came after him first. The better question is, how did Kohl manage to find Hauffe after he changed his name to Howen? (That's at least a decent name change. Germanic to explain the accent, close enough to make adjusting each, far enough away that anyone digging should need to do a little work.) We will not get those answers! Nor will Reese! Reese will get a gun in his back before he can voice these questions, even. Hello extremely Aryan-looking man from the train station. You might want to learn about range of efficacy. Reese will teach you in a few well-placed punches! Disarmed and tumbling over an armchair, knocked out either before that or on the way down from that. Hey, it's the BND, aka German intelligence! What fun, because diplomatic immunity adds so many layers of enjoyment to Reese's already long day. Reese gets Finch up to date on that as well as the theory that Kohl will kill again, and he is an unhappy camper.

Reese will now proceed to make Fusco a semi-unhappy camper in the BEST WAY POSSIBLE. I love this scene. From Fusco's annoyance over being called at work for something he assumes will require him to make excuses to Carter to Reese's very, very dead pan. Basically, Reese wants to ensure that Fusco (and Carter, by proxy) are on the case, and is giving him fair warning that there may be more deaths by the same person yet today. It's possible that Fusco assumes Reese will be the killer, but I think unlikely as he's learned better even this early on. Reese doesn't tell cops when he's going to go commit a crime, he just goes and does it and drops off the kneecapped party(ies) at their doorstep later. I have to go to the kitchen to laugh all the laughing over Reese's care package, and then the exchange over shots fired. Fusco's side-eying his phone is priceless right there. And Carter clearly suspects something is up, but nah, let's not tell her anything just yet. This season, by the way, marks one of the few ways in which I'm okay with characters being kept in the dark about each other/the full scope of the work they're doing/the Really Real world. In this instance, it's all Reese's doing to keep Carter and Fusco unaware of each other, once he brings Carter in, and while you will hear us spend large chunks of this season yelling at Reese for being an over-paranoid dumbass about it, we don't complain about it as a writing choice. Because it IS brilliantly in character, and it DOES have clear negative consequences for everyone involved. As well as probably some positive ones.

Digression over, the Machine pulls us down a rooftop camera and over to a traffic cam that Kohl is sort of looking at. Yeah, dude, sorry about that, we kind of got surveillance-happy while you were out the last 24 years. Okay, Finch isn't sorry, but the rest of us probably are. So now it's time to find out who Kohl's new target is! This one is a guy in a nice business suit and Reese managed to pull just the right bit of data off the German agent's phone because he was reading a text just before he stuck a gun in Reese's back. Bad form, agent, you should've cleared the phone, but good for us. Really this entire ep is a slew of spycraft mistakes, ranging from tiny but ultimately terrible for the person who made them to giant capslocky rants of what were you all thinking oh right you weren't. Julian Warner! Is the current alias of either Stiler or Wernich, and he's currently a Wall Street lawyer. Hi Wernich! Reese confirms what we've come to strongly suspect, that Kohl's entire team is living under aliases in New York. Now, I know the show is staying more or less within the bounds of NYC and its environs for the moment. And I know that it's a big damn city and easy to get lost in. But if you already know each other, it's not THAT easy to lose each other, and THEY SHOULD HAVE WANTED TO LOSE EACH OTHER. My god, you people, you're a group of Stasi agents who defected, you should have attempted to lose every bit of your ties to each other. Preferably by scattering across the entire country. Sigh. Finch, the adorable naif that he sometimes is, protests that these were Kohl's teammates! Oh honey you really, really haven't the foggiest fucking clue of how this works. Reese will enlighten you! And us! Revenge for something, possibly the wife's death, yes that was a very staged accident and it happened the same year that Kohl disappeared, do be an angel and check on that, wouldja, Finch? They end this bit of expository dialogue with Reese noting that they have to get to Warner before Kohl does, well, that's not going to be so easy.

Hi Kohl. Hi upscale-ish restaurant. Hi Warner eating alone. This is one of the sadder commentaries on the ex-Stasi agents, really, how alone and unconnected they are. They haven't recovered from what they did, or assimilated into normal society, any more than Kohl can or Reese has. They just got jobs and routines that allowed them to be lonely in the middle of a giantass city and cling to each other for what little social contact they got. Warner is at least texting someone with a smile on as Kohl walks up and jabs him with a poisoned needle, but that could be just about anyone, and note the lack of a wedding ring. We get a bit of a confrontation here, though Warner-Wernich clearly realizes he was a dead man before he ever saw Kohl - just the way Kohl prefers it, I assume. Particularly with that jab about the needle. (Oh come on, you knew that was coming.) So, then, he'd like to know how long he has. Fast is not necessarily painless, let me just say, and given Warner-Wernich's reactions I'm guessing it's actually a bit painful. Kohl asks where his accent went, Warner says they were instructed to blend, I sigh some more over their utter inability to do so, and hey, that's interesting. They're putting Warner-Wernich sinister and Kohl dexter. A fascinating choice, considering Kohl is clearly not blameless here, and it muddies the waters even further on who's the villain of the piece, visually speaking. He does, however, apparently blame them for his wife's death, but we're not even close to halfway through the ep, so guess who's almost certainly alive, well, and also living in New York? This doesn't even merit the jar. Worse, Warner eats at the same restaurant every day okay, guys, I know they said to blend, but there's a fine line between blending and being so predictable you lose your edge. Reese is on his way, as we already know, too late, while the old-school spyssassins continue to talk. So, yes, Kohl blames them for Anya's death as well as for his capture and long-term imprisonment. He doesn't say who, and he doesn't say for how long, but it's safe to say his release/escape was relatively recent. Wernich admits that he forgot, and he probably did have that luxury to some extent, as the forger rather than one of the assassins. Kohl, not so much, and Wernich's next words are pretty ambiguous: does he mean that what they did as a unit was wrong? What they did to Kohl and/or Anya? Both? Something else entirely? I'm guessing both, but we don't have time for clarity, just time for visual confirmation that he'll go after Stiler next and then, maybe, he'll be at peace. Hah. Wernich, your lack of direct wetwork experience is showing, honey. There is no peace for men like them. Especially not when preceded by extensive revenge sprees, unless he means death. I suppose that's possible. Wernich-Warner collapses as though from a heart attack or stroke, the restaurant bursts into activity, Kohl vanishes out the back like a good spyssassin, and Reese comes in the front and realizes he's too late. Well, you know the nice thing about poisons? Reese knows lots about them! And he will now ambulance-jack the paramedics in the interests of getting some questioning time in! Oh Reese.

It's a good thing we have a brief break for me to recover from facepalming and giggling. Reese has found a nice quiet alley to pull into and apparently knows that the response time to this neighborhood with the GPS or whathaveyou in the ambulance is four minutes. You can do a lot with four minutes! I dunno about resuscitating a guy with hydrocyanic acid in his mouth and nose to a point where he can talk coherently, but we'll let that slide. This is barely coherent, anyway, it sounds like Kohl went off-book, off-script, and possibly off the damn reservation with killing the Americans' informants? At the very least he was killing informants, the Americans wanted it to stop, they offered the weak link(s) in the group a new life in exchange for Kohl. Reese is about as unhappy with their betrayal as you might expect, prizing loyalty of fellow soldiers over loyalty to country or whether or not they were on "his" side. Not that Reese has had a clear idea of country-delineated sides in a long time. So apparently they were told that Kohl and Anya ran to the Soviets (after hearing of the defection?) and the Americans went after them but neither made it. Filling in the blanks a fair bit, there, for our ex-Stasi who can't really breathe even though Reese is supposedly fixing him. With random magic vials. Which would explain to their satisfaction why the car accident was staged, I guess? At any rate, this is the part where Reese learns that Stiler defected too and whoops, no, sorry, your hostage is passed out from pain or poison or both before you can get a current alias. Sorry, Reese. But Reese is a good spyssassin who can read small signs, like that Volks American Society lapel pin! You guys still suck at spycraft. I just want to complain about that again. Alright, fine, the magic vials apparently did keep Wernich alive, Reese relays the pin to Finch, and we finally get all caught up on this society for Americans of German descent. Yes. They would not have been allowed to meet openly because it's a FUCKING STUPID IDEA.

Once I'm done chewing my desk in irritation, the Machine's brought us over to the precinct! Where Fusco and Carter are actually working pretty well together, and Fusco doesn't even have to lie to her directly. I bet that feels good, given what he could have to deal with. Plus they have witnesses that saw Kohl fleeing both scenes! How exceptionally useful of witnesses, for a change. They got a description of Reese on the ambulance-jacking, Carter is once again The Best and puts knocked-out German agent together with Reese at a related scene and comes up with four. Four bruises. A ha ha. I might stop making jokes about the same time Carter stops appreciating Reese's handiwork, which is to say not. The German agent wants a phone call and is fucking with them by speaking in nothing but German at the moment, fair enough, I guess, but not exactly smart unless he's quoting Scripture or something, and I don't mean the Book of Reese's Issues. Enter the interrogation room, then, and watch Fusco and Carter play bad cop and worse cop and dear GOD this is pretty. Fusco would like to know about their homicidal geriatric, nice turn of phrase there, to which we get a torrent of German which I will reproduce for y'all for language dorking purposes. "Das ist Unsinn. Hier kannt mir nicht ..." at which point I lose it because the actor is over-enunciating certain sounds and under-enunciating others and also supposed to be spitting mad. German is a great language for spitting mad! Well, he's got the spitting down, at least. Basically "this is nonsense, you can't keep me here," probably followed by protests of give him his phone call/government. Neither cop is excited or impressed by this, though Carter will peel herself off the wall she's been holding up and (though we don't yet know it) puts on her military interrogator face. Yes, baby-faced agent, you are one man who has been sent to deal with someone who's already committed two crimes and probably plans to commit more. These polizei would like that shit out of their city just as much as you would like to take Kohl down. Oh thank god we get to know how he escaped now! The official story is that he was arrested in an op between the Germans and the Americans back in '87 (and whether those were the East or West Germans is anybody's guess; based on what other people say during the ep it should be East) and imprisoned for the last ever. And then, because they got complacent (I'd phrase it more strongly but after 24 years it is damn hard not to get complacent with what was probably a model prisoner), they went and moved his supposedly old-and-feeble self to a minimum security facility. You poor dumb bastards. Meantime, Carter reveals her military knowledge again by pointing out that under normal circumstances they should have reached out to American authorities instead of running a clandestine operation on foreign soil. Because this is not the way to endear yourself to your allies, boys and girls. Well, Kohl was jailed without trial and technically doesn't exist, in a legal sense, but he will keep killing people because oh noes monster! Ahem. Carter points out, quite rightly, that in this instance the cops and the BND are on the same side: close the case, stop people from dying, etc. (We will note the anvil of how she and Reese are thus sort of on the same side: stop people from dying/stop people from killing, close cases. It's just a massive disagreement in methods, but it sets up that conflict and parallels nicely for the future.) Alas, the diplomat from the embassy is here now! We know he's from the embassy because he barges in like he owns the place and has less of an accent than the BND agent. US State would also like this guy to go back to Germany, and hey, there's already a diplomatic clusterfuck going on! What FUN. There's too many possibilities for what the assorted diplomatic and clandestine next steps would be for me to narrow them down much (guy goes back, full team comes over and coordinates with an American team, American team takes control, nobody does anything and they leave catching Kohl to the NYPD, TAKE YOUR PICK none of these are very good options), but they're also moot because we have a Reese. Who is not much like a Hulk, except in his subtlety levels.

Finch sometimes has subtlety levels, but he's not using them right now. He's going to snark about how easy the Volks American Society site was to hack. Oh Finch. I'm with Reese, cut the technobabble and get to the point. Which is that Finch is running background checks on all the members, possibly quite sensibly starting with S. They do seem to have more or less kept their initials the same - again, not the best covers they could have created, but reasonably different if you don't know where to look for these people. So, Stegans = Stiler = construction foreman, and Reese is on his way. Finch will attempt to engage in some forewarning, which comes a) not in time and b) Stiler isn't moving fast enough. It's been 24 years, and though he should be moving to get the fuck out of there the second he hears his old name? He freezes to start. Oh old spyssassins. This is why retirement never works; you always have to keep a hand in the field. I will accept this momentary freeze; what pisses me off most is the initial setup of "here let's all live in the same city and meet up at a public society every so often! that won't be traceable AT ALL." My god, did none of them keep up with the pace of technology, either? Ahem. Interestingly, Stiler does have a wedding ring on, and he's also in the greatest position of authority/social contact with others, as head of a construction firm. His accent is also lighter, compared to the other two. Which says something about the fellow assassin's ability to assimilate better than either the forger or the case officer's ability to do same, and perhaps is intended to give us a little bit of hope for Reese one of these days. At any rate, Finch keeps talking while Stiler blanches and starts for the elevator, and hello reverse of the opening credits shot of Kohl being ominous and deadly! To his credit, Stiler does try to put on something of a show for his anonymous benefactor's benefit. He may have known this day would come, but that's an awfully sudden switch from "you're talking of a dead man." So either really good compartmentalization or a show for Finch, and I'm betting on a combination. It buys him time while Kohl rants, much the same rant as he gave Wernich in the restaurant earlier only this time with added bitter because Kohl learned how to be an assassin from Stiler and is, as you would reasonably expect, quite upset that Stiler got to get out and have a nice life. Stiler points out that Kohl got scary fanatical about it and really believed in the missions and, um, I may be over-extrapolating here but I would bet you just about anything that they all believed in the missions at least at some point. The ones who got out just managed to deprogram themselves and thus believe that they never DID believe in them, because the cognitive dissonance is too strong otherwise. Reese and Finch both get to listen to this while Reese attempts to clamber up the construction scaffolding/stairway/etc. in time. Hey, look, it's time for more angst about Anya and Stiler gets to be the only person who knew she was alive! I... no, I can't count the number of ways in which this is moronic. Yes. Let's tell the person who's about to kill you that his wife is still alive. Because that's not going to break him further, make him blame HER for defecting along with them, enrage him and incline him to more bloody revenge if he gets out of his alive... And then for good measure, attempt to grapple with him when you're completely out of training and good spyssassin habits! BRILLIANT WORK THERE CHUMMER. Would you like a greater height to fall from? I could codename him Icarus but he's already deadified, so, never mind. We will now get both opening credits shots, Kohl descending the elevator and by the way breaking fourth wall as he does so. You creepy, creepy spyssassin. (By the way, this is King Dickhead from Once Upon A Time, which disturbed us massively the first time we saw the ep. Just in case you were one of those people who voted us to skewer that show and if you remember anything about it.) Reese is less creepy than this, and that's sad, and he will now visually confirm death and tell Finch to get on tracking Anya's whereabouts because Kohl's going after her next. Well. Yes. And this is why that was a fucking moronic last-ditch attempt to save Stiler's own skin.

Our next clip after the break is the Machine giving us Finch and Reese talking about how Anya's betrayal makes her just as much a target as the fellow soldiers in Kohl's unit. Yeah, yeah, thanks for catching us up to where we were a couple minutes ago. At least. Meantime let's visit the precinct for a moment, where Carter is bitching about losing their best lead and Fusco points out that her vigilante's still out there! Which is not all that helpful to a woman who values the law, but sure, that builds Fusco up as a not-exactly-clean cop. He does have a point about Reese getting results, and our trollfaces are thoroughly happy about calling him Carter's guy. (We are very, very rarely fanatical about our ships, though we may not understand why people ship some of the things they do.) Hey, speaking of Carter's guy, let's send him some useful data! And get some more! And Reese what are you doing popping the trunk to stop the consulate car? Why is Finch with you, and why do I have a bad feeling about REESE WHY DO YOU HAVE A 50CAL SNIPER RIFLE. And why are you using Finch for your spotter. And now you know why we complain about Reese's utter lack of subtlety: it's scenes like THIS. I don't know whether to laugh or bash my head into the desk, so I'll do both at once while admiring his, ahem, form. Also the confidence of "don't know, never have." I will not put my competence kink away, because apparently this is the right way to approach the agent who actually knows shit as opposed to the diplomat who doesn't and would like to protest weakly and uselessly in the background next to his shot-up car. The agent, for all that he's still adorably wet behind the ears, knows a one last chance to save a person when he's given one, and passes Reese a name and address while babbling semi-ambiguous torrents about how he couldn't possibly and it's up to Reese now. I'll even cut the poor kid a break on being semi-ambiguous on account of how he's trying to do it in a non-native language. (I have a feeling this was his first case outside of Germany, to which I can only say: you poor kid, your superiors are smoking crack, want you to fail, or both.) Well, at any rate, they have a name - Anna Klein - which is probably the LEAST well-done of the aliases, as befits the non-field operative. And an address, and Reese will now peel out and leave a bunch of schoolkids dumbfounded by the side of the road. Kids, study hard, be evil, and one day you too can have a rich benefactor who gets you cool toys and enables you to hide from the government while kicking ass in the name of justice! We'll just ignore all the bits that got him to this place for now.

The Machine gives us a few crowd shots, carrying us over to a pleasant brick-faced set of apartment buildings in Morningside and the juxtaposition of Kohl the spyssassin walking down the street with a gun under his coat. Honey, you do not look inconspicuous at all. I would cross the street and find cover if you were near me. There's a nice bit with the Machine looking down on him from the entryway camera, by which we know that this is a fairly upscale bit of real estate, and then he blinds the Machine. Heh. Reese is inside, naturally, in a nice spot for an ambush and a gun at the ready. Reese, honey, I love you but you should probably not do any of the things you're about to. From sitting down to getting up close and personal with Kohl as he talks about how Anya's safe and challenges his plans to kill her. This is a TERRIBLE IDEA, as Kohl will now prove because range of efficacy? It doesn't just apply to bad guys. They do, incidentally, shoot this with Kohl in sinister and Reese in dexter, so at least they're being clear on that front. As clear as morality gets in this show. On the one hand, I deeply appreciate Reese being taken down by virtue of the same sort of dumbassery that henchmen displayed around him. On the other... I kind of expected better out of him. Then again, everyone ELSE has underestimated Kohl, and Reese has only seen the aftermath, not the action proper. So, then, we'll be having a pleasant little torture scene in a bit, yes? Excuse me, enhanced interrogation.

First, Anya will freak out at Finch in the car. Notably, though when we see them both in the same frame Finch is on the left, they tend to alternate between left and right sides of the screen for each of them individually. Anya in particular goes on the left when she's talking around the fact that she, oh, has a daughter. Who's also Ulrich's daughter. Which reveal we will get confirmed differently! Hi Reese. These are some elaborate and mostly Hollywoodized knots, I think, but they are effective at communicating This Guy Not Going Anywhere. He admires the miniaturized camera which is a good chance for us to see that Kohl really, really hasn't moved out of the spyssassin mindset. The only thing he can think about is his past life, past wrongs, and getting revenge for them. Wo ist Anya is, of course, where is Anya, which he's asked twice now and with good pronunciation although the intonation and cadence is slightly off, and I include the translation mostly for the sake of completion. At any rate, Kohl will now demonstrate that a large portion of being good at torture is being able to build up the anticipation and fear. Reese will now demonstrate that being able to withstand torture is as much about psychologically bracing yourself for it, though I don't know as bravado is the right way to do it. Eh, if it works for him. Kohl continues talking about his precious needles (which look like they're basically Chinese acupuncture needles used as a torture device, and I hope you're happy that we're even MORE now on whatever watchlists we were already on thanks to this blog) and the ulnar nerve while he gets Reese prepped so that the poor bastard won't bite through his tongue. It is such a good thing my needle squick is mild, y'all. And hey, a third wo ist Anya! That's our cue for a flashback, while Reese takes himself into his mind-body separation in order to withstand the torture.

So, John. Now let us read once again from the Book of Reese's Issues! Essentially, there's a guy missing that the Company would like dead or captured. Probably the former, given they've sent Kara in for him, however nominally, but what she's really here for is to play these two Company spooks who have betrayed the mission. I'd say "their country" but nobody believes that, this far into the shadows. We know they're under suspicion because the unnamed spooks are fidgeting - small fidgets, finger twitches, but stress fidgets nonetheless - and because Kara is already threatening them obliquely by talking about not being able to hide a gun in her dress. Both of them have their fists almost clenched, although their right hands might be looser in case of quick drawing, or that might be the lighting. And, sure, Kara's the one who brings up the potentiality of a concealed gun, but her hands are both in view, and so are theirs, where Reese's... aren't. So of course they ask who this is, and the fact that she answers with "I haven't decided yet" indicating her degree of control over him, and Reese's expression barely flickers, that doesn't bode well for them. She has enough influence to have a new trained spyssassin, and, well. They must already know they're on thin ice as it is, to have her there. She knows them well enough to know their tastes in alcohol, that right there speaks to cause for concern, and since she's bringing the bourbon, well. Do I really need to go into all the ways she could kill them without using a gun, or shall we take that list as given? Plum brandy (also known as Slivovitz in most countries where it's commonly had) as a drink of choice for the locals offers some interesting commentary both on the location and on how native they may or may not have gone. We'll go with not, since they don't seem enthused or inclined to prefer plum brandy; their tone is more of disgust. Reese's eyes start flickering over both of them as they pull up a chair and sit down, good security eyes, taking in every change in the environment and repeating the circle of observation. And if these are good operatives, or at least competent ones, they'll recognize the danger signs. Certainly they're tense for some reason, and not doing a very good job of hiding it, though that could also be because they've been bad, bad operatives. Reese will now proceed to mumble in his dry whispery mumble (seriously, Caviezel, I will stuff marbles in your mouth if I have to) about a target who was recently in the country to secure financing or other resources unknown, and then made it out of the country two days ago. Which means that either these operatives waited for specific and detailed instructions on a target they most likely already had general instructions on dealing with, or, well, they're dirty. No prizes for guessing which, given that Stanton's already pulled her teeth out to show to them. While Reese is doing the talking, both operatives fidget, and now it's Kara's turn to go still and observe. We will observe that the older operative who looks a bit like a poor man's Martin Sheen not only is doing most of the talking, but also the one who looks the most nervous or at least aware of the implied threat, particularly when Kara asks how much Mumblesir paid them. Why they don't shoot her and Reese (or try to, because I doubt they'd succeed) immediately when she makes that "joke" I'll never know. Except possibly because they are bad operatives and should feel bad. At least for the minute or less it takes them to become dead operatives. Since we haven't seen Kara's hands at all in the last exchange, it's not unreasonable to assume one of them dipped below the line of the table, which would also be a good time to shoot her. If you were being smart. Which they're not. Even in flashbacks we get bad spycraft. Reese still has no visible emotional response, hardly any response at all, to the first shot, Kara pulls the gun out from under the table and plugs the other guy, and we quickly go...

... back to the present, and Reese's more direct and physical torture. What fun. Not for long, though, because Carter has to conclude a phone call with "you've got to be kidding" and then tell Fusco that the Obstructive Diplomats got shot off the road by a man in a suit with a large caliber weapon. Poor Fusco's face. It's as though he knows he shouldn't be impressed but kind of is, and at the same time is thinking Jesus Christ, Reese, what the hell? Or possibly trying not to laugh. Some combination of all three, anyway, as Carter pursues the man in the suit like a good police officer who has no idea that the guy sitting across from her is working for him. Oops. For all that we know what's going on and can read all of this in Fusco's face, he's actually very well-controlled about it, which is both a nice job on Fusco's part and some damn brilliant acting on Chapman's. Finch would like their pet cop to go find his pet spyssassin because he's worried and that's kind of adorable. It'd be more adorable if it weren't for a whole series of very valid reasons; Reese never takes this long to take out an unsub, therefore something is wrong. Meantime Anya's not having any better luck getting hold of her kid, yeah, we're not even going to pretend we don't know at this point. Fusco puts up a good show of a fuss, but he and we and Finch all know that he'll go to the address being sent. And now Finch will do his best impression of reassuring We're From The Government, Ma'am, We're Here To Help. Finch, your impression sucks. Get thee hence and take lessons from Aaron Hotchner. Ahem.

While Finch tries to convince Anya that he's the kind of scary bastard who's on her side, we go back to our torture scene. Oh FUN. This entire scene is well-shot to give us lots of implications about what Reese is experiencing and absolutely no hard data about it, for maximal horror. It's a standard technique, especially on supposedly family-friendly network TV, but no less effective for all that, and there's some nice acting/makeup work; between the sweat and the facial tension and the effort it's taking him to form coherent sentences it's clear this is a front behind which lies a whole lot of pain. So, then, more truth masked as bravado, Kohl will have to kill Reese because he won't talk. I believe him, actually. Reese isn't that many steps away from the bottom of a bottle and pondering more direct options, and we all know that the true danger point for suicidal ideation comes when you've gotten just far enough out of the pit to take action. Kohl isn't paying attention to that, or if he is he doesn't care. We will now get platitudes about how nobody enjoys taking a life that I completely don't believe, but then, I have the luxury of being able to see other people's motivations. Kohl... assumes the worst of others, but especially of himself. The statement that killing's just what he was good at, oh honey, I actually do have some sympathy. Because that's a lot of brokenness right there, and unlike the sociopaths who seem to be born fucked up or get fucked up really early on, Kohl was, at a guess, broken in a way and at a point in his life similar to Reese's. (These parallels: the opposite of subtle, really.) Reese is amused by this as only another spyssassin can be, and proceeds to give a little in the hopes of making a connection and buying himself some time, talking about the hydrogen cyanide. In some respects he admires the craft even while he knows what they both are. Oh Reese. Oh everyone. This finally brings Kohl enough out of his target fixation to look at Reese and almost recognize a kindred spirit. Almost! Then he goes on talking about the Cold War and how much it sucked and hey, it's a verse out of the Book of Reese's Issues! "Your country needs you." Yeah, Reese knows that one way, way too well. He also believes that he's an irredeemable monster to a far greater degree than Kohl is capable of, because if Kohl lets himself see what he is way deep down and stops giving his belief to the mission and the revenge, he'll crumple like a tent without any poles. Plus, Kohl spent 24 years brooding and planning and building up his hatred without any external check on his psychosis; Reese, in that respect, got lucky. (Not that he sees it this way yet.) He'd like to speak from personal experience about revenge not helping; we can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice even though we haven't had flashback confirmation of Jess and her abusive fuckface of a partner yet. Kohl would like to ignore that plskthx, see previous about collapsing into a pile of twigs. It's interesting, the lines they're giving Reese, because even as he gives the requisite lines for an interrogation of this nature? He's slowly starting to believe them himself, rather than just following the script and buying himself time. And, terribly, he does understand that Kohl needs to see his wife. He knows exactly how bad that'll go, and exactly how little he can do to stop it from happening right now. But break time is over, and now we're back to more needles! Oh goodie. I'm a bit morbidly amused by Reese's visual sigh and eyeroll here - steeling himself, and using bravado, but yes, he has withstood torture as bad or worse than this before, and he's completely capable of doing so again.

Now we get Anya's side of the story! It's interesting to see how many sides of this there are, and how none of them are clear of bias. In many respects we get to be the Machine, measuring out the truth in coffee spoons. I mean bytes of data. Ulrich was gone for work and she never asked questions because she was a good Stasi wife (and Stasi bureaucrat) and asking questions got you killed. They do, as far as I can tell, a really good job with the level of cognitive dissonance and subsequent justification that anyone under such a repressive regime ends up falling prey to. This is how it was, they don't want to remember how it was because it was such a mindfuck, and especially none of them want to remember the ways in which they turned away from the dirty work. (See also Kohl's conversation with Stiler.) In that respect, Kohl is the most honest of the lot. So they fled to the USSR separately, as is only SENSIBLE for a couple that would be looked for as traveling together, and the Americans picked her up. Probably it was fairly easy for them to do so, being that she was never a trained field operative, and hey presto, breaking Kohl's last connection to anybody! Yay! No, wait, that other thing. Presumably the photos included Kohl actually committing murder, since otherwise she could have written it off as a trick, but no, she chose to flee and start a new life somewhere away from the husband it turns out she didn't know at all.

On yet another torture break! Kohl, your age is showing if you need them this frequently. Or maybe that really is part of the plan, to alternate extreme pain with short breaks. Since this show is theoretically not rated R, we don't know! We do know that Kohl feels the need to get up and stretch and wander into the kitchen. Because he is a trained spyssassin, he automatically starts looking around at the pictures on the cupboard and hey, what's this? A young woman, early to mid 20s, with a Columbia sweatshirt and Ulrich's mother's eyes. Well, fuck. Reese, I know you're being tortured but could you try to control your face? No? I have sympathy pain now. Reese would like Kohl not to do anything stupid, which is just not happening. Cue rifling through desk for more data! Yes, Kohl, Reese hid the existence of your daughter from you, because you've shown no indication you wouldn't orphan her. He did not hide the mail basket and I really, really don't know why that's not the first thing Kohl did after he got Reese tied up, but now he'll go from photo album to mail basket to hey, here's an address! Reese is now superfluous to Kohl's needs, even as he keeps trying to make a connection and buy time and maybe, just maybe, persuade Kohl to leave his daughter alone and give her a chance to grow up out of the shadows. Sorry, no, he's too target-fixated for that to work. Fortunately Fusco turns up in time to save Reese's damselified ass, even if he does have to duck and cover first. Fusco, Kohl just wants to get out of here, stop being a cop for a second and untie the spyssassin, would you? Thank you.

Not that this helps, and I can only assume that Reese spent the next few hours recovering from his torture because there's no other explanation for why the fuck he didn't get Finch to hack Marie Klein's schedule, phone, or any other thing that would lead them straight to her. Unless the continuity editors fucked up again, because from late afternoon to full dark is still a couple hours. At any rate, Kohl goes to his daughter and takes her hostage at gunpoint, because that is EXACTLY how the fuck you introduce yourself to your child. We proceed to get Marie asking the usual kind of terrified hostage questions, though her body language isn't all that scared. Probably because Kohl is doing a bad job of presenting as scary, apart from the gun. So, then, he says he knew her mother from back in the day, and he knew her father, because he's a breaking-apart spyssassin who can't resist finding out what his daughter's reaction is. Sigh. Cue the story we all knew was coming; Anya was always going to protect her daughter from the truth and tell her about a soldier who died a hero helping them get out of East Germany after the Wall fell. Not that Kohl expected this, of course! He expected his daughter to view her father as a monster, and now she'll view him as a monster without knowing that he's her father. Cue standard doublespeak for "the man that I was is dead now"! It's a credit to the actors, writers, and production staff that this doesn't come across as complete cheese, because it would be very easy for it to fall into that camp. The cops have been called, too, not that we know who did it but a case this large is, admittedly, difficult to keep entirely under wraps. Reese, this is what happens when you use a fucking 50-cal. Finch is escorting Anya so that Reese can do his lurk lurk lurk pounce thing from behind Kohl and Marie, duh, and Carter and Fusco have a shitton of uniforms to organize. Enjoy that, you guys. Carter, being the best, assumes quite rightly that Reese is around somewhere. Meantime, Anya and Ulrich have their not at all happy reunion and whoops, so much for keeping secrets from the kid. That poor, poor woman is going to need so much therapy. There's some, again, entirely comprehensible doublespeak since we know the whole story, and then Kohl raises the gun to point it at Anya. We all know how this ends, right? He lets Reese get the drop on him, suicide by spyssassin instead of suicide by cop, it's as clean an ending as he could hope for. I guess. He's still now fucked up two people's lives, one of them AGAIN, congratulations on that, Kohl. The cops start responding, Finch goes on civilian duty, and Reese goes on sitting deathbed with the spyssassin vigil! Yay! Sigh. Kohl gets in one last thing to say to his ex-wife, that she was right to fear him, and honey, you really can't manage to put your damage away for two seconds, can you. Alright, then. Reese confirms the gun was empty, once everyone's left, in tones of annoyance and complete unsurprise. He can borrow the jar. He'll also take confirmation that Kohl, despite his target fixation, recognized a fellow soldier who would shoot rather than risk an innocent life when the time came to take the shot. And the rest of this goes past cliche into unbearably trite, honestly. I want to like it, but as dying declarations go that was ridiculous. So, then, Kohl is dead for real instead of in a jail cell, Reese is dead on paper and lurking in the bushes while the cops holster their weapons...

...and it's back over to the dead CIA spooks in Reese's past, this time without Machine assistance! This is becoming a theme, the Machine providing the first two readings from the Book of Reese's Issues and Reese himself providing the gospel reading in the flashback. (You didn't think I was going to let up on that joke until the horse was dead, flayed, and turned into a wall hanging, did you? Because you should all know better by now.) Directly after Kara took her second shot, since she's still in the process of laying the gun on the table. John has moved from impassive to shocked, though it's a quiet kind of shock, but Kara picks right back up where they left off, testing last names on him. And then giving instructions, get rid of the gun and the bodies, with no question of whether she'll be obeyed. As she keeps talking, it becomes clearer and clearer that whatever other purposes this served, the primary purpose for our concern is that this was a deliberately staged entrance for John into the world of serious wetwork. The scary thing is that Stanton believes everything she's saying, too: this is right, this is necessary, they don't have time for questions, and their country needs them. John wants to believe her, and wants to believe that this makes it okay, and he's juuust far enough down the rabbit hole to be led. You poor bastard. Anyone else betting the anonymous, very reliable source is the Machine spitting out a number? More to the point, anyone betting against that? Yeah, I didn't think so. SOP for body disposal follows, as does an extra anvil or three about how John has no more old friends and he doesn't get to recognize them when he meets them. And on Kara's third try, she'll give him his new name! Thank you, everyone, for the rule of three. Though in this instance I would not bet against her having made a decision before he came into the room and tossed out two to start with just to fuck with him. So we have the power of three, the power of naming, the power of conviction in your cause, would you like to hold anything else over his head? Not right now?

Okay. Then we'll do a decent if somewhat overdone fade-in on Finch actually being the one to say Mr. Reese as he comes up behind the man in question. From former master to current master, yes, thank you, we get the message. Hey, it's the cemetery again! It's time to play anvil-dodging games about the nature of identity and death and whether or not the world gives a shit! Though I will admit at least Finch and Reese themselves are lampshading the shit out of this and working on taking charge of their own story, inasmuch as the Machine will let them. I really, really wonder how many suspicions Finch has and isn't sharing about the cases the Machine keeps throwing them at this point. Anyway. Kohl is in the ground, the Germans will cover the whole thing up, Reese always assumed he'd die somewhere that didn't know his name, cue extreme anvils. No, seriously, I'm not even analyzing the anvils, I'm too busy dodging them.

Next week! Kitty takes on Get Carter while I hang over her shoulder and make all the trollfaces ever. As if you expected anything less.


  1. I know, but I still like this episode. Oh well.

    1. I still like this ep, it just doesn't quite stick the ending, and it is REALLY A LOT with the anvils. I mean, I realize that the casual viewer may not pick up on all of them, but that doesn't mean they have to assume the casual viewer is dumb, which is what that last scene felt like, in a lot of ways.

      It's solid workmanship, it's just not Witness or Get Carter or Root or any of the other really standout eps, if that makes sense?

  2. eee, stupendous. I especially loved the deconstruction of the torture session, and how the Stasi agents all retconned their own pasts (except Kohl, of course; he didn't have that luxury.)

    >In many respects we get to be the Machine, measuring out the truth in coffee spoons.<

    and this is what I love about the show: the Machine is telling it to us, for the most part.

    thank you for an awesome recap.

    1. I had to resist the urge to write an entire ESSAY about the agents retconning their own pasts. Mostly because I'm sure essays on that happening IRL exist out there and I was too lazy to go track them down.

      One of these days we're going to write that damn essay on the Machine and the fourth wall (what fourth wall?). Because yes.

      Thank you for commenting!

  3. Once again you guys have the best recaps out there.
    "Dodgin anvils" Hehehehee.
    One day I might disagree with anything you write, but again it's not today. I did like this episode, but yes, compared to the others before it, it's not the strongest, but it's still an enjoyable ride.
    ...Also I'm sorry but Reese and his unsubtly big fucking gun was just screamingly funny. Not to mention I'm a bad fan girl who kinda loves it when Reese get's the crap beaten out of him... or tortured in this case. He makes it look waaay to >.<

    1. Aw, thank you! We've been really surprised and delighted by the extent to which POI fandom has been welcoming, despite our late entrance to the show.