Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Brutally Handsome & Terminally Pretty (Person of Interest S1E09 Get Carter)

A quick word of housekeeping at the start, here. We've just learned today that Grimm this Friday the 12th will not be new as previously expected. It's a rerun, and the next new episode will take place on the 19th. So we'll see you on the 20th with a new recapalypse, new theories on what's going on, and most likely a whole lot of cursing!

Well, we know we're in for a shakeup when the person we see in the number slot of the opening setup is Carter. Will she be the victim? Will she be duped or blackmailed into being the perpetrator? We can't tell from the footage and either would make an interesting story, really. But before we get to that we have to learn a little bit about Carter, and so the machine takes us back to 2004 at what it helpfully labels for us is a forward operating base. And since Fallujah is mentioned shortly thereafter, we can conclude that we're in/referencing Iraq. Hoo boy.

Carter is neither the person under the hood nor the interrogator, the interrogator is an unnamed soldier (at least as far as the dialogue is concerned, the jacket names him as Daniels) and the person under the hood is someone who apparently markets/distributes/smuggles for Al-Qaeda, it's hard to tell at this point what is accurate and what is made up either to railroad someone and make their figures look good or to get him to confess to his real crime. Either is possible, and we're not given enough information to make a determination because Daniels gets about two lines out before he decides the guy is being "stubborn" enough to turn over to his boss. Really? That's all the softening up you're going to do? You're not going to make him say no half a dozen more times or intimidate him to make him think your boss is really nasty or anything? What the hell good are you, then? No, seriously, this guy having two lines worth of interrogation to establish his boss as a fearsome inquisitor and then leaving does absolutely nothing to underscore either the Doylist situation (we already know, if we're genre savvy, that it's Carter) or the Watsonian purpose of the interrogation. Anyway, so, yeah, Carter shows up, as we knew she would, in army fatigues, and addresses the guy by name. Which we will transliterate as Yusuf, because I can and because transliterations are a pain in my butt. Also worthy of note, the Machine is tagging the guy with a red box and redacting his name so we don't get to see how it would transliterate Yusuf. But we do know the machine thinks he's a terrorist, and it's probably right.

Back in the present day we hear Elias's voice over the phone, speaker, computer, something. He's concerned about a woman and that she needs to be eliminated as quickly as possible. Gee. I wonder who he could be talking about.

Inside the precinct to judge by the timestamp on the Machine's surveillance camera of choice, it's around the middle of the day and Carter might be just getting back from lunch or getting in from, well, something. It doesn't matter what she's getting in from so much as she's starting a new segment of her day with being pulled over to one side by a uniformed cop, who tells her that Mrs. Kovach (and my inner Watchmen fan giggles) is here to bail out her husband. Even before we see the woman in question Carter's annoyed sigh of "again?" tells us this is one of two types of couples, either the kind with an abusive partner and a victim partner who won't press charges, or a pair of most likely petty criminals who are constantly bounced around the system. And as the uniform indicates a woman sitting hunched in a chair with a wicked looking bruise on her face, yeah, we know it's the former. Between Carter and Reese's likely reactions to this situation this episode is getting more and more entertaining by the minute. In the very dark and morbid humor kind of way. The choice of Carter, a homicide cop, to talk to the wife is an interesting and likely a good one, for several reasons. The first of which Carter is about to point out to us, but the second likely comes from the fact that she's a woman in what we've seen so far to be a very male-dominated precinct. There may be a third or even a fourth reason; the way the cop spoke to Carter implied that they knew each other reasonably well, and we've already seen Carter go out of her way to make connections with victims in a more personal and empathic sense, so possibly the uniform knows this.

So, Carter walks up, and she and the wife share a knowing look; both of them know how this goes, and neither of them is giving reason to expect it will go any differently this time. It's definitely a look that implies they know each other, backing up Carter's "again" of a moment ago. Which makes it only slightly odd when Carter's next statement is that she works homicide. Then she continues on with the very vivid statement that she'll be the one who has to investigate when the woman's husband finally beats her to death, oh, yay, Carter. That'll... well, that'll leave an impression, if nothing else. It's hard to judge whether the wife is startled by the statement or startled that Carter would drop the compassionate cop act and be so blunt; most likely it's equal parts of both. And yet at the same time, it's not too hard to see where Carter's coming from? Desperation, in a way, because she probably has seen at least a few of these cases after it escalates to homicide. More desperation assuming these two do know each other and she's tried to talk Mrs. Kovach out of going back before. Trying a different approach, going for shock value to try and shake the wife out of it, particularly after coming from an interrogator background. Sharp conversational turns to jolt people out of their complacency, their story, their lies, or their worn-out rut of thinking are an old tactic for an interrogation. That doesn't seem to work, so Carter sits down and breaks out the empathy. Sort of. She's still hammering on the eventual homicide, but she's leaning in now and her body language and facial expressions are more sympathetic than her words would imply. She does manage to pass a business card to the wife before the husband comes in, cutting off any kind of meaningful contact between the two. Notably, the camera work on this doesn't put the wife in the position of being blamed for her husband's abuse; it remains as neutral as it's possible to get with such a case (and given that Carter is the crusader in the right and therefore must be put at dexter).

Fusco enters with the husband and towards the end of this, providing a nice in-motion transition as the wife walks away to her abusive husband and Fusco walks us by the opposite direction further into the building. He also provides the setup line for Carter to grumble that she sees so many homicides, she'd like to stop one before it gets to that for a change. Aheh. Aheheh. I see what you did there, writers, and you're cute, but you're not that cute. Think this will come back around by the end of the episode? Actually, it won't even take that long, but that was my first guess. Anyway, Fusco's here not only with straight lines for lampshades but also with a gift of DNA! Oooh, shiny. It turns out the person who took that shot at Carter after killing the retired cop the other day? Elias himself. I'm going to go on and ignore the way that fleeing body profile didn't much look like the casting choice for Elias and we'll skip straight over to the prison where Carter is interrogating the father in question. Who looks singularly unimpressed by her. As much as he's done and as little as she has to offer in the way of incentive or leverage, that's not all that surprising. And as we'll see later on in the season, he's familiar with Elias from years ago. None of this is new to him, and there's nothing that Carter has to offer at the moment that he wants, except his life. It's not so much that he doesn't value it as that he doesn't trust her ability to protect him and, really, he's not that wrong. He's also perceptive when it comes to pinpointing how, oh, we'll call it authorized she is. To say nothing of his lampshades about who Elias is and isn't planning on going after next.

Leaving the Moretti family drama aside for a while, we move over to the next case of the day, and at this point I have to note that we've gone through three of Carter's cases, official or otherwise, in a little over five minutes, including credits. That could get to seem very jerky after a while, but in this case it works because Carter herself is the common thread that links them. From the personal favor for the uniform to Fusco coming to her with DNA evidence to the murder victim who was Carter's informant about a previous murders, each of these cases is introduced by how they connect to her, streamlining it a great deal and smoothing it out in a nice, gracefully written episode. So, the kid snitched on a neighborhood tough guy called Hector Alvarez six months back, then recanted, and, well, we can all guess why the drive-by. For evidence, we have the kid's cell phone that might have something useful on it, and we have a broken soda bottle that leads to a significantly guilty look from the shop owner of the store behind them as he brings in his fruit carts. Ah-hah. Another witness who saw and heard nothing! Because we've all seen enough procedurals, or even enough episodes of this show itself, to know how this goes. Fusco knows how this goes, too. By the "haha I'm sticking you with the crap job" tone of Carter's voice, she definitely knows how this goes. Fusco attempts to either not get stuck with the crap job or at least get something out of it, I'm not sure which, but there's definitely some rebuke in the way he offers her his first name and then asks for hers. Which she refuses to give. Our Detective Carter doesn't trust easily, it seems, and she isn't ready to extend that to Fusco or possibly to forgive him for going through her files. Because she knows he did. So Fusco gets the shit job of trying to scare up witnesses from the rapidly shrinking crowd, and Carter goes on detecting.

Entertainingly, Reese Batmans in while Fusco's in the middle of trying to give out his card to people who don't want it or anything to do with the police. Fusco, one of these days you're going to get used to that and then we'll all laugh at Reese for a change. Today, we're still laughing at you. Reese isn't here for a number, he's just checking in, as he puts it, and we get a nice noir rain and camera/film set-up while both of them discuss the senseless murder of a young boy and Reese sinks into his moroseness up to his neck and soaks in it. Seriously, the man cannot put down the somber to save his life at some points. While they do that, Carter will browbeat the store-owner into testifying. Seriously, Carter, I love you, but you have to know it's the man's life and livelihood if he talks. Unless you can offer him safety, which you can't because that boy isn't worth it to anyone to bring that kind of muscle to bear on prosecuting someone for his murder, the store owner isn't talking. Castillo, I believe his name is. It's not really relevant, either, because he knows he isn't coming in tomorrow, Carter suspects he isn't coming in tomorrow for all her guilting, and everyone knows he's not going to talk. Including the gangers hanging out across the street watching him. They definitely know he's not going to talk, one way or another. This is another, more subtle theme in Carter's episode here, the one where she appeals to people's desire for a better world and uses her idealism to fight the apathy and futility that's so rampant in this world. It doesn't always work, but it does bring her to the Machine's attention and makes her a person that's worth saving, both on her own merits and for the perspective she brings to Finch and Reese's work.

Back over to Reese in the rain with his moods of moroseness, who is also waxing vehement and bitter as Finch calls in with a new number. Remember how I suggested that Carter's comment about wanting to stop homicides before they happen, just out of place enough for it to be highlighting an underlying theme in the episode? Yeah, that'll apparently come back now. As Reese excoriates the Machine (and by extension, Finch, not that he knows it quite so viscerally at the moment) for not being able to see more murders before they happen, Finch reminds him and the audience that the Machine only sees premeditated crimes. In which case I question why it didn't see the boy's death coming, because retaliatory deaths are almost always premeditated unless the act for which it is a retaliation happens a few minutes before the murder. Though it clearly is cherry-picking the numbers for a greater purpose, because there has to be more than one premeditated murder in New York every day, let alone the surrounding environs as we see later. But I digress. The point is, the murder was outside the Machine's jurisdiction (no, seriously?) and they have a much bigger problem with the current number: It's Carter. Dun dun DUNNNNN.

No briefing this time, probably because we've already met Carter and for the moment what we know is enough, though no doubt Finch has done/is doing some more digging. Instead we open up with Carter at a diner interrogating someone on where they were last night. This time we don't get any hesitation before the camera switches to reveal that it's her son, who's just as ferocious as she is, really. Tellingly, she does reply and answer his question before pointing out that he has a curfew and rebuking him for breaking it. And then they have a back and forth about his high school social life, which goes much better and smoother than many parent-teenager social interactions both on TV and in real life. Nothing significant in and of itself about this bit except that it shows how close they are, that they can talk about daily things and even some delicate things (like her teenage son's dating life) with relative ease. That she can tease him about having a date to a school dance, even. We get a brief interlude where she frowns at her phone that's doing something funky, hi Reese and your Finch-augmented phone. Which indeed we see as Carter and her boy get up and head off to his school, and Reese sits smirking in the next booth over.

Did Finch know she had a son? Despite Finch's utter and blatant evasion as to the question about how much he knows about Detective Carter, it's pretty certain and clear that if he didn't know before, he knows what she bought for lunch yesterday by now. Even before that, though, Finch likely pulled all the information he could on her for a full jacket the moment he knew she was going to be more than a passing thing, and probably sometime around when she came over to interview him as a witness to the evidence lockup robbery. Not that Finch would know what to do with the information if it organized itself into a full profile and beat him over the head, but it's information he'd at least like to have at his fingertips. Reese's digging, by the way Finch talks and the way Reese asks, is much more recent. And that is likely because although he needs to know her skills and inclinations as a police officer in order to evade capture, Reese thinks he's doing her a favor and giving her some privacy by not prying into her private life. Because he, too, is not a profiler. He's adorable, though. He's also not all that trusting of Finch's field acumen, however trusting he might be of Finch himself. I'm not sure how much I agree with either of those assessments, but it's true, Finch's physical handicaps hamper quick movement and Carter is on her way to the car. Not likely she'll take kindly to finding Finch monkeying around with it. Plus, Reese has no way of knowing how close to done or how close to out of there his poor beleaguered partner is, so, lots of flail from Reese, as much as Reese ever flails, and then, success! Aww, that kind of success even merits a first-name compliment! That's all the time we have for praise and backslapping, though, because they're on the clock and their case is Carter and Finch is worried enough that we can hear the urgency in his voice when he tells Reese they need eyes and ears on her 24-7. I'm not even going to go into some of the more mundane, problematic, and icky issues with that. Because this is a TV show, and nobody does that on TV unless it's funny.

So, Carter takes her boy off to school and Reese follows on a motorcycle while fanfolk everywhere of the attracted-to-Reese type fall to the ground in a faint. Om nom nom. And in the next scene she's dropped her boy off and she's walking up to a garage. Reese helpfully exposits this as Hector's shop and Finch adds that he's the primary suspect in the Ronnie MIddleton shooting! Why yes. Yes he is. And Carter, in her usual way of bulling right into things, walks right on in and asks Hector Alvarez where he was last night. He, of course, claims he was at home with his girlfriend, who will of course lie for him. Not that she gets the chance because Hector will interrupt Carter after she tries to get it out of the girlfriend, commenting that Carter really got some huevos coming down here, with the underlying threat that implies. More banter and threats, but since Carter doesn't have a warrant or any kind of official backing, she can't do more than banter and threaten. Which, really, is not her brightest idea ever, Carter, honey. Anyone ever tell you the walk softly and carry a big stick thing involves, you know, walking softly? No? No. This is what's known, folks, as writing checks with your mouth you can't cash with your ass. And, okay, I'm being harsh, but it's still not a good idea to walk up to a gang of potentially well-connected thugs (seriously, all that money has to come from somewhere) and threaten to take them down when you're only starting to build your case. For that matter, it's not a good idea at any point while you're building your case, because now they know. Oh, never mind.

Let's go back to Finch playing with dolls, that sounded good. Along with Reese leaning over his shoulder and snarking about collecting dolls. They're so cute, they really are. Trollface on a stick for the shippers! Also I would kill for that magnification rig Finch has there, but in lieu of that I will accept more information about Finch, who apparently collects 180g vinyl (that's records, for those of you younger than us, old pressed records) and Xerox Alto (that's old computers). So, basically, Finch is into Really Old Shit. Vintage. And the doll is for Fusco, leading Reese to ask "Fusco's into dolls?" in a way that makes me think he's trying to make a dirty joke. Reese, don't do that. I don't want to think about any of you in that context. Even though I might have given at least one reader a plotbunny. No, not that kind of doll, everyone, this is a nannycam doll for the purposes of surveilling Carter when she's at her desk. To which I have to ask, um, Finch? Do your cameras just not reach to Carter's desk in the precinct? Can't you hack the feeds or install a new security camera or never mind, the doll is better. Morebetter jokes. Anyway, now Finch will give us a little more information on detective Carter; apparently she started out as a patrol officer in '04, moved up to Detective 3rd a year later, another bump two years later, another bump two years after that, and the final transfer to Homicide Task Force in '11. I actually have no idea whether this is a rapid or about what one would expect type of trajectory here; if anyone with law enforcement background would like to weigh in with an opinion, please do so. It is certainly a steady progression. Before she was a cop, as we know from the intro, she was an Army Interrogator, and I'm pretty sure Reese mumbled something about her passing the bar in '04. Now they're impressed, and I am too, that is one full life that woman's led so far, and a lot of ass she's kicked. Unfortunately due to said asses and the kicking thereof, she's also made a lot of enemies, especially by being a good and honest cop. Finch will now take us on a tour of the most immediate threats, top of the list being Hector Alvarez, who we just got finished seeing Carter threaten. Oh yay. Kovach the spousal abuser, Elias the organized crime boss, and we're supposed to hear an 'et. al' implied in there but since this is only a 42 minute show, that's all we're going to get so far. We then have a brief digression into the dilemma of how Reese can't insert himself into the life of the number of the week this time like he usually does, on account of Carter is kind of trying to track him down and arrest him. He'll have to surveille her and Batman his fine ass on in if it looks like the threat has manifested. Neither of them is happy with this turn of events, as evidenced by Finch's exasperated, not quite panicky tone and Reese's not quite snide "Harold." Boys. Be nice. You're both under a lot of stress.

Back at the precinct, Fusco is amused by the doll right up until he gets the explanatory phone call, possibly because he really does like it but not if it comes with a free assignment from Reese, possibly because he doesn't like it but it amuses him as a prank from a co-worker. Difficult to tell; he definitely sobers up when he gets the call, though. And here's yet another instance of Reese being unable to just drop it, he can't let go of that instinct to dole out information in little dribs and drabs, as little told to anyone as possible because the more people know the less secure it is, etc. Though I think in this case at least part of it is because he enjoys fucking with Fusco more than a protagonist should, strictly speaking. Reese tells him to ask around with his corrupt cop buddies who might want her dead and manages to get off the phone just in time for Carter to walk up. Oh goodie. Fusco lies so smoothly and neatly that it works very well as a reminder of what he used to do, along with Carter's comment that Don Moretti thinks every cop is dirty. And technically, yeah, Fusco's still a cop of questionable integrity. We saw that just a moment ago with how smoothly he lied to Carter's face. The problem is, in this case he's doing it for what he believes to be the same purpose as the police serve, protect and serve and all that. Anyway, Carter's getting nowhere on the Moretti aspect of the Elias case, and no, the bodega owner hasn't come in yet. You didn't really expect him to, did you Carter? Fusco makes his excuses why he can't come along as she goes off to see the poor bodega owner.

But we're not going there just yet, it seems like. Carter pulls her car in front of a guy pushing a shopping trolley and pulls him off his stuff, coming over all hardass and frisking him, then shoving him into the car. Which naturally alarms Reese and, by proxy, Finch, but once they get a look at Carter and this guy's interactions in the car, Finch tells Reese to stand down. Actually it's even odds whether or not it's Finch's voice in his ear or Reese's own ability to see what's going on and the lack of frantic motion in the car; either way, they pick up pretty quick that Carter is friendlier with the man she pulled into her car than their actions would imply. Which she is, it turns out this guy is, as Reese says, her CI. Carter pulled him to quiz him about Elias and see if he knows anything about him, then turns to the drive-by shooting to see if he knows anything about that. She will, of course, pay him for the information, that's how it goes. And by this conversation we can pretty well guess that either this guy BottleCap is going to be dead by the end of the episode or he's going to become a regular briefly-appearing guest star for street-level information on other cases, but it's too early to tell just yet. Still, this is a good demonstration of the variously titled laws of conservation of writing resources. In this case, you don't put a snitch on the mantel in the first act if he's not going to go off by the third.

We'll leave BottleCap on the mantel and go over to Fusco, who's on the roof talking to, as Reese requested, one of his dirty cop contacts. This one's a police captain! Not nearly as handsome as our other police captain over on Grimm, nor as honorable, this one's longing for the heyday of organized crime and throwing in with Elias because of it. More because, I think, it means his pay is more secure than it might be otherwise with no real or drastic uptick in the kind of violent, showy crime that people object to, and then bring their objections to the police station. He namechecks the Russians as being the cause of this, but really it could be any of half a dozen different violent groups, considering it's New York. This way, by allying with Elias, the corrupt captain's city is safe (at least in theory), he and his money are safe, and everyone gets to keep being happy. Everyone he gives a damn about at least. And by going after Elias, Carter stands in the way of that happiness. Not so much that she doesn't understand the rules, as he says, as that she doesn't give a damn about the rules of organized crime, she cares about the rules she swore to uphold. Fusco doesn't like the sound of any of this but he isn't exactly in a position to object or ask for leniency, nor is he exactly in the way of being able to threaten the captain or anyone else coming after Carter with, well, Reese. Even though by at least a few of those facial expressions it seems like he'd kind of like to. Interestingly, the close-ups in this scene are shot with Fusco sinister and the captain dexter, probably more to indicate hidden and revealed motives than to indicate right and wrong. Fusco also, notably considering his attitude towards the corrupt cops he runs with seems to waver back and forth between no-choice subservience and sullen not-really obedience, feels comfortable turning his back on this police captain and walking away after indicating that this is a bad idea. Of course, he phrases it more that he's not comfortable with how it's being handled and he won't be taking part in the bounty hunt, but the gist of it is that this is a fucking bad idea, captain. The captain thinks declaring open season on anyone who can get a clean kill off Carter is a GREAT idea. Yeah. Good luck with that. We even get to see Fusco turning his back, and the choice of angles and shots gives Fusco the final control of the dialogue and the captain the position of being the one standing behind shouting ineffectually.

Back over to the bodega with our Machine escort, Carter is essentially bullying the bodega owner to try to testify, oh Carter. This is one of the instances where I don't like her as much as usual, which is also an interesting choice and one I actually approve of. It allows her to cross a line without pushing her over several lines at once; it gives her some flaws, some ugly character qualities without making her one dimensional in the way of being a hardass. So, I grumble and bitch at Carter for threatening the bodega owner with violence from Hector Alvarez no matter how logical her arguments are (because sadly they are) while Reese eavesdrops and checks in with Fusco on the good word from Elias and the folks down at HR. Fusco explains to us what "looks clean" means, which here essentially signifies that someone who she could run into in the course of doing her job will do it. Probably a violent offender, possibly a cop in a setup where it could qualify as friendly fire, though if I were them I wouldn't try that one, too complex and too many players needed to pull it off, too much of a chance that it could go wrong. Anyway, in summation, Carter's got a mob boss and a bunch of corrupt cops who've declared they're going to have her dead by the end of the day, and yet Reese is no closer to the direct threat. Enjoy! Carter will finish up wheedling/threatening some information out of the bodega owner. He folds just long enough to tell her Hector has been in there before buying beer and condoms, and then tells her to get the hell out of his store. And, hey, who should be outside but Hector himself! Pendejo. Hector pretends not to know it's her when he whistles but the speed with which he does that and then retracts it says otherwise. Carter doesn't rise to that bait, but both she and Reese react with prejudice to Hector threatening Carter's son and the bodega owner. Carter, don't you dare look surprised, you knew Hector was going to do that, that's why you used the threats you did. Still, her intent wasn't actually to get the poor bodega guy killed, so she's rightfully pissed. And probably some of that anger has guilt behind it.

After the break we move over to a bar where Carter's having a sit-down with an as yet unspecified person while Reese briefs Finch on what he got from Fusco in a few nicely terse sentences. Finch makes some sympathetic wisecrack about picking up the tab since she has so many people trying to kill her, meanwhile it turns out the person Carter's here to see is one of those people! So, let's not start plying her with drinks just yet. It's Eddie Kovach, or Kovacs, or something that amounts to two Watchmen references in one because he's got the Comedian's first name and absolute lack of compunction about hitting his lovers, and he's got Rorschach's last name and absolute lack of compunction about hitting anyone. Although suddenly I want to see Carter in a Silk Spectre costume. Anyway, Finch lampshades the impracticality of a homicide detective interfering in a domestic dispute, and Reese parries with a lampshade of his own that references both the show premise and Carter's earlier comment about stopping a homicide before it gets that far. Lampshades for all ages and occasions! Carter and Kovachs engage in some dick-waving that ends up in some dick-insulting that appears to impress Reese, at least, and he declares Kovachs to be the new front runner as we leave the bar and go to...

Iraq. Again. They've done a remarkably good job with de-aging Taraji Henson for this role; here she looks plausibly mid-to-late 20s, early 30s at most. (The actress is 43. I know. I know.) Now we've come around to humanizing the people that Yusuf supposedly helped kill due to transporting a suicide bomb(er), three soldiers, all male (so we're not getting into the women in combat discussion) but all different races, which is a nice touch on the part of the casting director. Carter's doing a good job of being a hardass who loves her people and wants people not to be getting hurt or dead despite the fact that she's a soldier in a war zone, which speaks to a great deal of belief in her cause. Also speaking to that belief: her utter poker face as she flips through a bunch of pinup/softcore porn images (look, I know what they look like and I also know what they'd be if this weren't sanitized for network television) as she claims to have photos of Yusuf loading the bomb into his truck. Which says that they may have enough credible evidence that the subject's working for al-Qaeda to interrogate him, but have never managed to get the kind of hard evidence that would allow either a kill order or any other kind of more hands-on op, therefore they've brought him in as the weak link and are trying to crack a ring of suicide bombers that way. Makes sense. Given that this is Carter and we're supposed to believe in the rightness of her cause, I would say that whatever evidence she has, she believes the guy's guilty (or trusts implicitly whoever told her he was), otherwise she wouldn't be selling this as well as she is. And now we come down to it: the reason they need Yusuf is because they know there are other suicide vests, but not where, and they need that knowledge to prevent them from going off. At least in theory. So, yes, on the face of it a reasonable goal. Yusuf points out, quite rightly, that if they know he helped the Americans then they'll kill his wife and son, oh look, it's a parallel with Castillo. Carter's expression says that she hates this part, and yes, she does know exactly what she's asking, that eyeflicker down says she feels some shame and guilt about it but the stubborn look back up indicates her resolve to save the people the suicide vests will kill. Which will admittedly probably not just be American soldiers, because these things are never that damn simple.

Back in 2011, Carter's at her desk in the precinct looking through photos of a young black man. Going by how upset she looks, Ronnie Middleton though we never saw him alive to confirm that, so we have Fusco to confirm it for us. The poor kid's mother hasn't even come to ID and claim his body, which probably sets off all kinds of memories of fellow soldiers alone out on the front lines in Iraq. Oh honey. And she's got not a damn thing on Hector or his car from the traffic cameras, which has her even crankier. Fusco would like to twitch over all those cameras, especially knowing just enough about Finch to be extra-paranoid. It's okay, Fusco, it only gets worse from here on out. Fortunately he tucks away his paranoia to play sounding board for Carter, who can't find Hector's car (alright, yes, I would be looking for the car first too, both for geographic reasons and because it's readily identifiable) on the cameras. Well, what if he walked? Well, why the fuck would he walk 25 blocks from his supposed girlfriend's place to get condoms? Oh. Oh. That's not just a blown alibi, that's a nice big crack in Hector Alvarez's armor and we can all see where this is going, right? It's a common enough tactic, get both girlfriends in and play them off against each other and oh it was just an accident your Honor HONEST. The important part is giving them motivation to stop alibing their fuckwit of a boyfriend. Anyway, that gives Carter a new angle and new energy to go after the scumbag, and Fusco jokes about how she'll thank him later. Joking, but also half-serious, because he really would like to earn her respect and does not think well of his friends in HR for taking out a hit on a fellow cop. I suspect that whatever his morals were before Reese got hold of him, they didn't extend to killing officers, remembering that the main reason he was still with HR was loyalty. Speaking of Reese, hey, your leash is ringing, Fusco. Reese has some business to take care of oh John, you're about to do something terribly unsubtle again, aren't you. He has that look in his eye of slightly manic glee about impending mayhem. Also the gray in Caviezel's hair is migrating this ep and it's awfully distracting. Fusco's being put on Carter babysitting detail for the moment, and oh, hey, yep, that's an awfully big fucking gun you got there, Reese. Some questioning Reese's motives in protecting Carter, trying to feel out who the hell this guy he's working for is and why all these seemingly contradictory orders. Keep Carter from getting too close, but don't get her dead because she's a good cop and a good person. Yeah, I'd be kinda confused, too. Reese, in standard jackass handler style, declares that if anything happens to her he's coming for Fusco next. Oh Reese. You really didn't get any experience handling assets with genuine crises of conscience in the field, did you. Because this is not the way to go about it.

That big fucking gun turns out to be a... that looks like an S&W 276 Gas Gun and the location turns out to be Hector's garage and nobody was surprised even a little. REESE. Oh for the love of. (Side note: that thing has no high explosives available for it, so let's assume that he did a little homebrew, because that would be up Reese's alley.) Hey, look, it's a terribly cliched line delivered with aplomb! Hector's cronies reach for their guns, only to be shot with Reese's customary well-placed bullets and then, to their credit, they stay the fuck down. Like you do when you've been shot and your front door just exploded. And he's running guns, to nobody's surprise again, and wow is that some bad ADR. I love you guys, but you really, really need to work on the sound editing when you do that. One of the idiots gasps out a who-are-you, and Reese does not have time for this shit. He is all out of bubble gum, and he's taking that eye-searing purple car, the very illegal guns, and bringing Carter a courtship gift! Awww, that's adorable.

Carter is not being adorable right now. Carter is back in Iraq with Yusuf the terrorist making promises she probably can't keep about protecting him and his family. Yusuf points out, and with most people he'd be right, that she doesn't give a damn about him or his family, this is just a negotiation. She retaliates by listing off details about his son, his brother who was killed by an IED, things that a really good interrogator would know and have to hand but yeah, most of the Army interrogators aren't this good. Which is why Carter's here! No matter how much I question the lack of softening up her underling did, she, herself, is damn good at her job. She's damn good at her job because she really believes in the mission, she hasn't been broken and disillusioned the way Reese has, and it shows. Carter wants a better world, a better tomorrow, for their children, and she will say and do anything she has to in order to accomplish that. In short, if she weren't the kind of woman who's capable of assimilating new information and deciding that the ends don't always justify the means, she would be really fucking scary. As it is she's fucking scary, using their children and their losses to bond with Yusuf, and we learn that, yes, she had Taylor awhile ago (which fits with the timeline, he'd be 14 in 2011, so nearly the same age as Yusuf's son here) and lost someone very close to her. Probably Taylor's father, at a guess. And she's not afraid of or above using both of those things to remind the people who are nominally on the other side of this war that they've got things in common. It takes a certain kind of mental gymnastics to do that while knowing that your job is to break the person on the other side of the table into giving you information that almost certainly will get him and his family killed, and keep the part of you that knows you may not be able to protect them walled off. And it's this kind of mental gymnastics that's going to allow her the flexibility to join Team Machine in the present day.

Back in said present day, Carter and Fusco are off to talk to her CI! Oh boy. Because we know that someone's after Carter, it's time to look at all the possibilities for taking her out, and BottleCap seems awful squirrely right now, as he forks over information on Hector's new girl. Who's apparently some dancer at a club. Now, it could just be that he doesn't appreciate being out in the open with a couple cops, especially given the show Carter had to put on earlier. And it could be Fusco's presence, as an unknown quantity. But the way he tries to wheedle more money out of her, while it's plausible in a more general sense, sure, that's a thing that CIs do? They put a CI on the mantel in the first act, and they brought him back again in the second, and given the time crunch they're operating under... well. Let's just say asking for more money bears a concerning resemblance to BC asking for more money than he was given to take her out, and the "you've always been good to me" is something that people say when they're about to formulate a warning and can't quite manage it. Either because of their (lack of) morals or because they don't trust whoever's there. I wonder quite a lot if that would've gone different had Fusco not been there, since there's a non-zero possibility that BottleCap knows Fusco at least used to be dirty.

At any rate, they get the dancer and bring her into the station for questioning. They also get the girlfriend into the station for questioning. And we know how this is going to go. Carter takes the girlfriend and inquires about her and Hector's whereabouts on the night of Ronnie Middleton's murder, the girlfriend gives the same bullshit story Hector gave initially. Carter then slips in a rather neat reference to Hector stepping out on the girlfriend, to which the girlfriend puts up the predictable show of bravado and dominance. Except, no. Carter leads with Hector's cell phone bill, which is a nice touch because it should have his name, address, and phone number on it, all of which the girlfriend would recognize. Carter then points out a number that's on there a couple dozen times and invites the girlfriend to dial it as she opens the door to an interrogation room with Fusco and the dancer in question.  At which point the girlfriend goes charging in, Carter shuts them in there with Fusco as Fusco gives her a "oh please don't lock me in here alone with these two" look, and, well, Carter's not nice, we established this already, didn't we? So is anyone really surprised when she closes the door on all three of them? No, of course not. Though it also shows considerable faith in Fusco to do that, since if either of the women came to harm while under police custody, well, at the very least there'd be a shitton of paperwork. But Carter both trusts Fusco to keep things under control and away from the realm of physical violence, and apparently is annoyed enough with him to lock him in a room with two screeching pissed off jealous women. Oh Carter. Poor Fusco.

As Carter walks off the delivery boy shows up with Reese's flowers a uniform shows up to tell her that she's not the only one looking for Hector Alvarez, and describes approximately what happened at the garage. Very approximately, but since this is from the point of view of the people it happened to, we can forgive them for not being precise and just going with "a submachine gun and a grenade launcher." It's not like you're going to be able to get a good look at make and model when you're on the ground clutching your shattered knees and writhing in pain. Carter can read the fine print on the card, here, and asks if the guy was wearing a suit. Not today, not that that bothers her or shakes her impression that it was Reese. Who needs to undertake an extensive study of the word "subtlety." Because he has none. The hard part about this for Carter is while she questions his methods and possibly resents that he shot people in order to accomplish his goals, she does recognize that his goals are turning out to be similar to hers. Save people. Stop crimes. Deal with bad guys. Except she works within the system and Reese obeys no set of rules that she can discover, so there's the sigh and droop of an extremely frustrated woman, there. And Hector? Well, he's in the wind. And now she has to go find him.

Finch watches all of this via the police doll cam with a look of what might be described as mild concern, while Reese swaggers up and says that Hector won't be a problem now that he's chased him off. Oh Reese, honey. It's cute that you think that, but you should really know better. Finch will oblige us by popping his bubble and reminding Reese that Carter is pursuing Hector and does not intend to let him get away, and not just because he's a scumbag. Ronnie Middleton's death made it personal, a boy her own son's age gunned down in the street. By now we've seen Reese project his own issues onto at least a couple cases of numbers that have come his way, albeit more subtly than is done in later episodes, so, Reese, sweetie, you should be familiar with this by now. Of course when the camera cuts back to him all the swagger and smug is gone and he's just rubbing his forehead like he has a headache. It's okay, you give Carter a massive headache, too. And yes, Hector is likely forted up with shitpiles of weapons, good deduction there, boys. This is more for the sake of the audience, though, than anything else, laying out how these scenarios go (forted up with guns, confrontation by an officer of the law, big badda-boom) for people not familiar with the conventions of the genre. Or, admittedly, how this usually plays out in the real world. Which is why the police are always very, very careful not to let it get to this point. Reese. Ahem. No, at this point he's very much aware that he's fucked up even if he won't admit it in words, and going by what he says next he's also aware that this isn't exactly his specialty or his field of experience. When Finch asks him what's wrong he replies that they've only taken up this cause of helping people recently, and "Carter's been doing this her whole life." She's not just another number, not to Reese, she's someone who represents everything that he tries to do, to be, and everything he's blocked from doing or being because of the choices he's made. Among many other things. She's a good person but more than that, she's an effective person at making the world a better place, and he's been watching her do this day after day after day, and number after number. So when he describes her as someone the world can't afford to lose, what he's also saying is that she's someone he can't afford to lose. As much as Finch, she keeps him in check, by giving him someone to look to when he can't see the goodness or hope anymore. This concludes the reading.

Back over to the precinct things seem to have calmed down somewhat between girlfriend and other girlfriend, both of them engaged in grooming activities now as a means of self-soothing what. I have anthropology background shaddup. This is how we sometimes talk about things. Plus, grooming as a self-soothing behavior is well documented in several species. Anyway, so, the girls are smoothing down their ruffled feathers and Carter would like it once again to be known that she is not in the mood for bullshit. That's fine, because the girls are no longer in the mood to lie for Hector! The dancer snaps the alibi in two and offers a shirt which might have some physical evidence on it, all now obtained by acceptable means, yay! And then as a cherry on top bonus the girlfriend offers up the location of a warehouse Hector owns. It's just Carter's lucky day all around, except for the part where someone's going to try to kill her shortly. So, yes, Carter is going to go storm the warehouse with appropriate police backup in tow, or she would be and is telling Fusco to scramble said backup when her phone rings. Hey, it's the abused wife! Because having numerous people get in her husband's face and tell him to stop abusing her didn't do anything at all to antagonize him. Uh-huh. The poor woman sounds terrified, says that her husband has a gun, oh, hey, Finch is listening in. Lots of quick, short cuts and slightly canted angles to remind us that this is urgent, this is dangerous. The abused wife has locked herself in the bathroom, the husband is breaking in, there are shots fired, Finch doesn't know where Reese is. Oh noes!

The next thing we get is a couple loud bangs, which turn out to be Carter banging on the door and announcing before she kicks it down. Because she's a good cop like that. The first camera angle we get is something I'm going to call a shotgun cam, I'm not actually sure what the specific term for it is, but it's basically a long distance shot down a narrow corridor to narrow focus and sniper-like vision. With Fusco and Carter in the sights, of course. Fusco has a bad feeling about this as they go in, gun and flashlight crossed at the wrists, like you do. Normally I'd agree and be yelling at the screen for them to wait for backup, except as far as Carter knows there is imminent threat to a person going on here, so, yeah, right on in. And they're turning down halls, it's dark, Fusco disappears to clear another room and BOOM! Swinging in out of nowhere, without most of the usual fright markers such as things glistening or jerky camera movements that indicate we should be afraid, but definitely a bit of a jump scare, there. It's the abusive husband dangling by his wrists! Not dangling too long, one hopes, that could do some serious circulation damage, but given that the guy was mobile and menacing maybe ten minutes ago, no, probably not that long. Fusco sardonically comments about gift-wrapped, see, Reese? Fusco thinks it's a courtship present too! Carter knows exactly who gave it to her but her main concern right now is the wife. Who is physically unharmed, still hiding in the bathroom (which does have its door mostly off its hinges) and terrified and relieved because if that man hadn't shown up... Yeah, Carter knows who 'that man' is, that's barely a flicker of surprise of any kind when she asks for a description. Which is when the phone rings. The Kovachs' phone. It's for Carter. Reese, can't you ever do anything like a normal person? Sigh. Carter would, unsurprisingly, like to know how he's always one step ahead of her. Reese is not interested in answering the questions of an interrogator (did you know, for example, that interrogators of all types are trained never to answer questions, only ask them? now you do!) so he'll just tell her that she's in danger. To which Carter has a much more polite version of "no shit Sherlock" than I do: no shit, Reese. She's a detective on homicide task force, she goes up against some very powerful, very bad people, most to all of whom want her dead. He does tell her that Hector Alvarez is running guns! So that's useful, right?

While Reese is attempting to convince Carter that her life is in more danger than usual, Elias is leaving flowers for our dear detective. Awww. Not. And he seems to find something in his file amusing, but whether it's the information she's collected on him or the observations she may have written down, or both, or something else entirely, we never find out. She's trying instead to get a description of Reese out of the abusive husband as she marches him off to lockup; it's a no-go, the guy never saw his face. Because Reese is just that good. And probably also just that damn fast and hard-hitting when it comes to spousal abuse. I refer you herein to the Book of Reese's Issues, Vols. 1 and 2. But something good's come out of this besides a whole lot of cryptic foreplay, the wife's pressing charges! Yay! And they have a warrant in the works for Hector! And someone left condolence flowers. Yay? No. Carter is not impressed by the flowers and would like everyone in the precinct to think she's not intimidated either, but that's definitely a pucker of nervousness and brow-wrinkle of worry, there. The music will take us out to commercial with some ominous theme.

After the break the Machine escorts us to Hector's warehouse at nearly midnight, where ESU (Emergency Services Unit, the internet tells me) is getting ready to storm the castle. Carter is, for a wonder, standing by the car and looks like she might obey the orders of the ESU officer in charge, who tells her to stay put and they'll notify her when they've apprehended Alvarez. It's also a sign that she's a good cop because so often, the bad or at least more egotistical cops mention something about getting credit for the collar. Or making sure they don't get it if they're dirty and don't want to be associated with an arrest. Carter's not concerned about that; she wants to make sure Hector is off the streets, and ESU are the ones trained and equipped for it, so she'll hang back. For the moment. Finch is still listening in back at the library, and his posture tells us that this is more serious than usual for him, too; unusual posture with his hands on his hips and his jacket pushed back and open, far more severe and concerned body language than we see him display. He's armchair quarterbacking again, griping at Reese and wondering if he's close enough to protect her. Well, he is pretty deep inserted. Apparently he's one of the ESU team! Oh Reese. Sadly, we don't actually get to see what goes on in the warehouse, but that's okay. Reese will now indulge in a little bait and switch in order to keep an eye on Carter, which is probably a good thing because she is now leaving the safety of by-the-car and going to investigate a noise. Dammit, Carter. Reese chases after her possibly in time to see her pit herself against a man with a gun in a very large truck. Oh yay. Fortunately she is as badass as she thinks she is, and I definitely appreciate that the writers and director have given us this wonderful scene of this lovely lady cop shooting the shit out of a truck and taking down an arms and probably drug dealer, without flinching or killing him. Not only does she arrest him, she does so after facing imminent and swift-moving threat to her own life with no more reaction than if some guy took a swing at her as she handcuffed him over the hood of a police car. Because Carter is a Good Cop as well as being (say it with me now!) The Best.

Reese is impressed, despite himself. As well he might be. The Machine trails Carter on her way home as she calls her son and tells him she'll be a little late, and Reese checks in with Finch. The main known threats are taken care of, or at least the ones they know are immediate. Reese sounds hopeful that they've dealt with the threat, Finch, a man after my own heart, is much more cautious. Which cues Reese not to be so victorious, at least, so there's that? Of course while he's talking to Finch he loses her in the crowd, you guys. I can only assume that the sloppier than usual spycraft here towards the end is due to a combination of fatigue and more personal involvement than they usually have with their number of the week. Certainly Reese is displaying much more emotion and less control than we see him with normally. I do question, though, why it took him that long to figure out that Carter wasn't headed home, not to mention where she was headed. BottleCap doesn't likely have that large of a range, and it's not like she hasn't been to see him before. That day even.

Because, yes, that's exactly where she's going. And yes, this is the third time we see this CI, Rule of Three, take a drink! She's down a Darkened Alley of Doom, like you do when people are supposed to be alone with no one coming to save them oops did I step on the show's toes? Sorry about that. The lighting is meant to be darker here, of course they have to have some light in order for us to see the characters by, but clearly this is not a confrontation that will end well. Those happen in better lit areas, and it's too late for a bait and switch to harmless situation. He starts out aggressive and jittery, and after she attempts to pay him for his information he goes straight into justification and apologetic without, well, really being apologetic? He believes he's apologizing and he likely does regret what he's about to do, but he doesn't relate to Carter well enough not to do it. And of course by do it I mean shoot her. Elias threatened his life if he didn't kill her, like you do when you're an evil crime boss, and BC was just cold-blooded enough to do it. Remember up above when we were talking about Carter believing in a better world than a lot of people do and using that in her favor, to drag people up? In this case, it also blinded her to the possibility that sending someone like BottleCap to find Elias, someone who has very little to lose but potentially much to gain if someone ruthless and powerful were to threaten or bribe him, that doing that would end in, well. Gunshots. As it does. First BC shoots Carter, then a man in darkness shoots BC, and because we've seen the preceding episodes we all know who it is. Carter isn't thinking too hard about that right now, most likely she's thinking about how much her damn chest hurts. She also, as it turns out, is thinking about disappointment and failure of people to live up to the ideals she thought they held, because she held similar ideals.

Because as she lies on the ground gasping we go back to the war. As with Reese's flashbacks, the last one isn't Machine escorted, it's triggered as a result of something that happens within the episode, and because the Machine has set us up with the context to that flashback we understand not only the emotions within the flashback, but also its relevance to the greater context of the episode. There's a whole essay here on the Machine and its lack of attention to the fourth wall, but right now we're going back to Army Interrogator Carter, and three soldiers handing her a brick and telling her it's all that's left of the storage facility she sent them to. So, yay? Bombs disarmed? Well, detonated. They express admiration for her which gives her a happy right up until the word "raghead" pops out. It's not so much that she only then notices he's missing, but that she then associates his absence with something sinister and suspicious. No, Yusuf didn't make it out alive. In a police setting this would be referred to as NHI, No Humans Involved, and it comes up a lot in fiction dealing with both police and military settings like this. Carter is the protagonist, so she sees people as people to a much greater extent and for a much wider range of people than the bit characters who exist to present a situation of grim and narrow worldview. These soldiers are the cops who look at a dead prostitute (Law & Order SVU I'm looking at you) and say No Humans Involved to emphasize that it's a gritty world, and we should have compassion. It's important to Carter that she promised he would come back and be able to take care of his family, and she is thoroughly pissed off that this didn't happen. This is likely at least one incident if not the triggering incident that caused her to leave the army; for bonus theme points, the bigoted soldier tells her that she's all alone, in the war, now, having alienated the soldiers (or at least these three soldiers) by taking the side of someone they see as less than, and all alone in her point of view.

Cut back to the present day where Reese is taking advantage of her temporary disability to tell her he's got her back, and give us her full name so we and she know it's serious and personal. A quick voice over letting Finch know that Elias's shooter is eliminated and Carter's safe for the moment, but he's got one thing left to do. Threaten the captain! The traditional way, by dangling him off the side of the roof. The speech is fairly standard; what's terrifying about this is the manic look on Reese's face as he does so. He's almost giddy with the power to protect Carter, the power to do this. The power, as Carter yelled at the soldier for in the second-to-last scene, over who lives and who dies. In this case, he's deciding for life, and he's overriding someone else's decision, and that override will have repercussions that he considers good far down the line and for many other people. To him, this justifies threatening someone's life. Well, a lot of people's lives. And have we mentioned Reese is a scary bastard yet? Because he is.

And the Machine takes us up past dawn, to the diner again, for a nice closing bookend of Carter and Taylor having breakfast and talking about how Taylor missed curfew again. Poor kid doesn't quite get what his mom's been through, but he sees enough to make a couple of comments that amount to "you look like shit and you're exhausted," followed up with a blatantly Doylistic anvil as he asks her who's got her back. He worries about his Mom, he wants to know she's being kept safe. Bonus anvil points for this being right after we catch a glimpse of Finch unplugging the camera and finding the picture of her late husband, Taylor's father, and right before a clip of Reese's very self-satisfied (even a little bit happy, dare I say?) eyes framed in the motorcycle helmet. Carter brushes off questions about who's got her back even to her son; it's notable that she doesn't cite Fusco or any of the other cops she works with. Instead she brings the circle closed around them, she and Taylor got each other and don't need anyone else, right before Reese zooms off on her motorcycle. Taking the path that goes right in front of the diner and revving the engine a bit, I suspect, just so she knows he's there. Because that is how everyone's favorite spyssassin rolls.

And we're back, folks! Sorry about the delay, but it's really hard to write a recaplysis when you're stoned out of your gourd on painkillers. We're somewhat back to functional now, so here's your weekly dose of Broken Spysassins and the Reclusive Eccentric Billionaires Who Love Run Them, and next week Adsartha will pick up with what happens when you get too close to a dead drug dealer. Oops.

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