Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When They're Playing (Person of Interest S1E20 Matsya Nyaya)

For those of you without a handy language dork around, Matsya Nyaya translates roughly to "the syllogism of the fish." Semantically, it's law of the jungle, there's always a bigger fish, etc. Sometimes that bigger fish is Team Machine! Sometimes that bigger fish is what chewed on Team Machine before they became the almost-family we know and love today. Sometimes the bigger fish is Elias, lurking in the background of his prison cell until he leaps out to fuck with the game board some more. Just in case you thought we'd forgotten. We hadn't. Speaking of things we hadn't forgotten, YOU FUCKERS YOU CHANGED THE OPENING CREDITS. It's a whole two frames, starting after "hunted by the authorities," with the CIA mook getting the drop on Reese back in the midseason finale, and Reese getting the drop on Fusco back in the pilot. Guns pointed at everyone! Because this is the episode where the number isn't so important except for what it tells us about how we got here, and where it's all going to lead. Well, one of the episodes. This episode also gives us both Team Machine as the bigger fish chewing on petty criminals (though this win is awfully Pyrrhic) and the bigger fishes that chewed on Reese and, to an extent, Finch, thus bringing them to their current positions. Starting with a glimpse of the weekly number in the form of some kind of guard, armored truck, Reese is doing a serious inside job on this one because he can pass as one of them.

That is not, however, the primary focus of this episode. The case is a backdrop for the flashbacks we're going to get, the story of Reese and Stanton's betrayal of each other, by the government, so on and so forth. Tale as old as time. As it were. The Machine is accessing the NSA/CIA/whatthefuckever's clandestine ops archive, the mission is Operation Red Fort, of course its objective is still classified, and wow that's a terrible mug shot of John and an only slightly better one of Kara. Located redacted! Reconstructing... CIA black site in Tetouan, Morocco! Aww, best Machine is best. The focus of this scene so far is not the interrogation that Kara's conducting and Reese is watching on the cameras, though they've got someone in a standard crappy interrogation cell tied to a chair and want to know where some guy is. Yes, yes, they can do this all night. Although "nonverbal communication" is a less-used term for "I'm going to torture you until you talk." Bored now, though. Reese is bored, too; partly because he knows how this goes but partly because he has another phone to check! Swapping SIM cards in... I think that's a Blackberry? Or similar. I have to go giggle over CIA black ops agents using Blackberries now. Anyway. A voicemail! On the number which, presumably, is the sekrit number he only gave to Jessica, yes? Because we have seen exactly zero other ties to his life outside of work at this stage of the game. Though given the way Reese perks right up when he hears her voice, maybe he's given the number out to other people? Or he just never quite believed Jessica would call until he heard her voice, and the way she's quietly freaking out on his voicemail has all his spysassin skills on alert. Also, nobody says "I need to talk" like that for anything good.

Alright, then. He'll call her back. Right then and there, which is probably not the best idea he's ever had, especially since it would be far more sensible for him to double-check that Kara's still going on the enhanced interrogation and doesn't show signs of needing his presence anytime soon. Not that I think he doesn't know her patterns, but everyone they interrogate has a different breaking point, and he should damn well know that by now. Sigh, Reese. Also sigh for doing this on your special-issue phone even if not on the same chipset, they can totally eavesdrop on you despite that. Landlines, Reese. Please. Still, whenever she called and left that message wasn't too long ago, because she's either still or again in her car, probably in a parking lot or other remote spot alone, we never get a pan out far enough to tell for sure but it's definitely remote, we never hear anything but, well. Crickets. She's upset, it seems like it's about her husband Peter but she won't give any details. John (because he's being as much John as he's capable of being any longer) is worried and looks like he's prepared to run from Morocco to New York. JOHN. Stop and think before making promises about being anywhere in 24 hours, would you? Oh honey. Oh both of you. Especially with that line about how everyone's alone in the end thrown back in his face, I do understand why he reacts so instinctively? But thus have they sown the seeds of their own destruction. Especially John. We pan out to a street view and I curse my inability to read Arabic without the diacriticals for vowels, because I can sort of manage to transliterate that. Dammit. Still, given the timestamp it's likely that it's no more than a more specific place.

From the language geeking to the present day in New York, where Reese and Carter are having a quiet drink and she insists that her issues right now revolve around trust. Who she can trust, what she can trust, and where this is going. Reese, that whole two-way street thing? She gave you trust and you abused it and you know it. Stop being an ass. No, she does trust Reese and Finch, but not her job right now. I guess that makes sense, considering Reese just saved her son's life. But still and nonetheless, I severely question the way Reese is treating her. Though yeah, if I were her I'd be pretty sure Fusco is dirty too. Reese. What did I JUST SAY about being an ass. Both with the keep an eye on him line and with the whole "sure, we'll work this case together!" Which then proceeds to be a bog-standard scorned woman case (HEY LOOK A THEME) out to kill her cheating soon-to-be-ex-in-some-capacity boyfriend. Reese, this is not what Carter had in mind when she said she needed to know just as much as him and Finch about the cases. At all. Woman nearly shoots guy, screams, Machine glimpse which feels smug, if an AI can do smug, and Carter arresting the shooter. You're lucky you're cute, Reese. I'd have hauled off and punched you after cuffing the poor woman, not just yelled and given dirty looks. That's a bad courtship gift and you should feel bad. Well, idiot spysassin being an idiot aside, Finch has a new number for him!

Speaking of Fusco and his dirty deeds, we take a brief jaunt over to a precinct interrogation room where the camera's - yup, about to be switched off. And Lynch of HR comes in so that we know he's in charge, and hey, look, there's a power vacuum! The mob doesn't exist to pay protection money to anymore, random small-time dude, so you get to pay the cops directly now. Enjoy. Fusco doesn't look particularly comfortable with any of this, though that's mostly showing through because we know him well by now. Standard threats and intimidation tactics are standard, the poor bastard will get HR their money and Fusco will go with them to get it. Captain's orders. Oh Fusco, honey. The main reason for this scene's placement turns out to be Finch bringing up concerns with compartmentalizing their assets with Reese! YES THANK YOU FINCH. Even though he doesn't know much about fieldwork, he does know the difficulty in keeping secrets when you're interacting with someone on a daily basis. Look at all the effort he's gone to this season to keep Reese from getting more than crumbs of data. Despite his scolding, Reese cites chapter and verse about protecting the asset in the most danger if their status should be revealed - in this case, Fusco. I do agree with that to some degree, inasmuch as Carter isn't always the best liar in the world. I also approve of Finch needling Reese that he's protecting Fusco, which he promptly corrects to "an asset." Reese, your compartmentalization is starting to fall apart. Just a little. Around the seams, there. No time for long discussions, though, time to profile the new number! Er, datadump, at least. Tommy Clay seems like your average guy, married, one kid, goes to church except during football season... and he works for an armored truck service! Aheh. Well, that way lies multiple possibilities, the most obvious being that he's the victim and there's going to be your bog standard robbery attempt and the less obvious being that he's been tempted by the value of whatever cargo he keeps toting around. Either way, this should be interesting and give us some badass Reese, because he's scheduled as a trainee under Clay. Starting, oh, today.

We then get one of those action-voiceover combos that serves to enlighten us about the way an armored truck team works while showing us the members of the team in action. There's a driver, a hopper (that's Clay) who picks up and drops off the cargo, and the guard. (That'd be Reese.) Reese puts a small and relatively unobtrusive (but not wholly, a good set of eyes could spot it) camera under the hitch as he closes up, and yes, most of the hits happen while the hopper's away from the vehicle. Safer that way. It's the armored truck equivalent of hitting them in transport! With the uplink to Finch's hacker lair established, they'll be able to tell if any vehicle crops up multiple times, indicating a likelihood that it's casing the truck for later. Tommy and Murray, the driver, proceed to engage in a little bit of new-guy hazing, of the vaguely jackass but mostly harmless variety. Still, giving us people who are prone to acting like they don't care about Reese's name, especially in a Kara ep, is a good sign that they're not all good guys. Standard notice that they don't always know what they're carrying, that depends on the client to tell them, so always assume the worst, is pretty standard. While he gets lectured, Reese evaluates their readiness and then relays back to Finch at the next stop: vests loose, magazines stored poorly, they're not prepared if there's a hit. Which they have a reasonable probability of assuming! Finch will run the plates he's got, I question why he hadn't pre-programmed a sorting algorithm to do that in realtime, but okay, fine, it builds a little bit of tension while we wait for Tommy to haul ass out of the current stop. More hazing, yes, Reese really does know what he's doing and I strongly recommend that if this hazing is going to go further it, well, not. Because you might get shot, dumbass. Sigh. Finch has one plate come up three times (drink!) but before he can give us details Murray shouts about guys with guns ohnoes! It's a measure of Reese's training and perpetual edginess (we'll call it that this time instead of hypervigilance, I guess) that he doesn't register the false timbre to Murray's voice, nor to the cries for help from Tommy a couple seconds later. At least not on any conscious level that makes him lower his guard, though if it registered subconsciously it's probably the thing that keeps Tommy from getting that evil clown mask shot off. Ha. Ha. Very funny, both of you. Reese and Finch think so too. Finch points out that though this might have been a hazing prank, there's still a real threat out there somewhere, and Reese has nothing but disgust and his for-fuck's-sake look on. I am right with you, Reese.

After this brief break for the case of the week, back we go to Morocco, where Snow would like to know what their progress is. Not so much out of genuine curiosity as because this is what passes for pleasantries in Company black ops units, and hey, he's got Alicia Corwin with him! Interestingly, they shoot her in such lighting and at such an angle that at first it's almost impossible to tell anything about her, including gender. She's exactly what a Company employee is supposed to be: faceless and impersonal. No, Kara, you don't get to go back in and torture your current target more, Snow's hauling you out and reassigning you. This is only setting off alarm bells in our heads because we're being shown it; in their day to day life this was probably fairly normal, especially since the Machine would have spat out numbers at whatever intervals it got them. Presumably slower than it spits out the irrelevant list, but still and nonetheless, unpredictability and probably being pulled off a case before seeing it through to the end is probably something Reese and Stanton have encountered before. Now, Corwin being there should be setting off more alarm bells, I would think. Whatever the case, it's urgent and they're leaving tonight and we can see the almost-panic in Reese's face as he tries to demur this job. He won't be allowed to, but it's a measure of how rattled he is by Jess' call that he's trying to do it even knowing he won't be allowed to. Which he has to know. Snow turns him down sharpish and Stanton, for her part, looks torn between some kind of loyalty to her partner and smacking him in the back of his idiot head before the higher-ups decide he's a liability. I can't blame her for that, he's not exactly being sensible or measured about his arguments here. Corwin takes over, though, explaining how and why the case is urgent, and those are some decent instincts. Sharing data is a good way to get Reese to sit down, shut up, and think about his priorities if that's your goal. She's not even leaning overmuch on how his country needs him, just laying out the cost-benefit analysis to this mission's success or failure. Nor is she outright stating that they're the best hope the mission has of succeeding, because both Reese and Stanton are by now arrogant enough to believe they are the best. As evidenced by Stanton's casual sneering at the "do you understand."

So! Pulling from some real-world events, Stuxnet was indeed a computer virus designed to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. It was publicly discovered in June of 2010, which gives us maybe the roughest of approximations of when in 2010 this is supposed to be, since operational security would dictate that Reese and Stanton probably did not know about Stuxnet unless they were instrumental in placing it. Which I suppose would be possible, but unlikely given that the Machine's had them running around the world putting out fires for the last, what, year or so? The story Corwin's spinning for them, and we know it's a story by now because we've seen up to the season 2 finale and believe you me I am swearing up a storm back here, is that there's a worm similar to that that's geared to Chinese nuclear facilities and some of the source code's been stolen or sold out of Pentagon. Doesn't really matter which, but they would like it back now please on account of it probably wasn't ready to deploy and the US would prefer China not be able to protect themselves. Or, worst case, be able to turn the virus back on its makers. Either way! This is not good news. I'd be doing both. Reese taking in the information looks worried and resigned, albeit with a trace of mutiny under there. Stanton just looks eager and, frankly, like Faith from Buffy in her baddest of the bad girl days. This is one hell of a story, and the fact that this is the mission that gets Reese and Stanton backstabbed by their handler says that they've been fed a whole lot of bullshit, but we never quite know what the bullshit is until much, much later. You sneaky, clever, fuckers. I say that with love, because this is why we write this blog. Snow takes over for the logistics, they're going to a former company town (but not Company) (we hope), now a ghost town, two weeks in Beijing to gather intel and then going in. Opsec requires no phones, no open comm channels, no nothing once they go in. Um. Well, while that might be true, guys, that's awfully convenient as far as keeping your spysassins from communicating with much of anyone, heightening their already ridiculous levels of paranoia, and generally forcing them to obey whatever mission orders they're given without the ability to check in for changed circumstances. And it's not like any plan ever survives contact with the enemy. That's, like, Rule Zero.

But Wait, There's More! Stanton heads out down the hall to, I guess, start packing up for their trip, and Snow would like a word with Reese. This can't be good. He does, at least, manage to deliver the orders to "retire" Stanton in a fairly calm, level tone. Which says something about how little humanity he has left, that he can be setting this up, but also about his ability to keep a cool head in the field with an already pissed off agent. Who just got more pissed off at this addition to his orders. You can tell by the way he's grating and looks like he's considering murder. Snow talks fast while not giving the impression of doing so, spinning us a story of a Hezbollah-tied merc or agent of some sort and yeah, I have to say that money of all things is probably the only thing Reese would buy as a way to compromise his partner at this point. She's a true believer in most ways, she has even fewer (read: zero) ties to anyone back home, and with those come precious few ways to leverage coercion against her. Her current job offers her plenty of real impact and ability to see the difference she's making, so money it'll have to be. (For the record, the acronym MICE is your friend: money, ideology, coercion, ego.) Reese doesn't look wholly sold, but any objections he might make are forestalled by Snow's not-so-tacit accusation that he was covering for her. Should have noticed, my ass. In plain English, that means that if Reese doesn't do the job, he'll be considered to be in league with her, and he's fucked. He knows he's fucked, too, is my guess based on his utter lack of reaction to Snow's comment about all the leave he needs after doing the job. Yeah. Um. That's spy code for "you're getting burned too." How nice of you to tell him upfront, Snow. If Reese wasn't already on high alert, he damn well is now, waiting for the door to close as he dials Jessica's number and I hope to fuck it's just that he hasn't had time to switch the SIM cards back out. Or that he doesn't care since he's scrapping that phone soon anyway, that'll do for an excuse too. But he doesn't get her, just her voicemail, and he's sure as fuck not going to leave any operational details on voicemail. Too well trained. So. One moment of quiet resignation and mourning the broken promise, and then he has to go pack for China, too. Oh John honey.

Back to 2012, where Finch has taken note of the route for the day and Reese is just getting ready. Aww, his shirt's almost all buttoned up. Goddammit, show, I demand some eye candy ever beyond the competence porn. Though the competence porn is kind of glorious on multiple levels. One bank, one gem/jewelry firm, a med supply store, and a grocery. Carter has not gotten back to them on the plate yet, sadly, and Reese has incoming from his other pet officer! Fusco relays information to Reese, even without being prompted, which speaks to his greater degree of comfort with their relationship. Or at least stability within that relationship, we'll go with that. HR's getting frisky what with losing income from Elias, chasing down all the lowlife thugs they can get their hands or baseball bats on, and Fusco has a standard gripe about not wanting to make more enemies on the street. I can't say I blame him. This is the way to become a very dead cop very fast. Sadly, Reese is also right and Fusco knows it; they need more intel if they're going to take down HR entirely and remove all the players. Which is going to be one shitstorm of a job when it goes down, but that's neither here nor there just yet. Right now Fusco is taking cold comfort in some cold hard cash, hey, there's a nice parallel here with Kara from last scene. Heh. Only in her case she probably wasn't taking money from Hezbollah affiliates off the clock, and in Fusco's case he's taking the money because to refuse it would jeopardize his position as a double agent. (Which makes me wonder if that's maybe more of what was supposed to be going on with Stanton, was a solo double agent job that allowed Reese to bury his suspicions but it got cut in the writers' room?) Anyway, Fusco wants to know if Reese cares about the money, and no, he doesn't. He's got Finch's bankroll to work with, anyway, and that's better laundered than anything Fusco could hope to give him. Not that he says this, but we know. Well, Fusco's picking up his son, and he clearly isn't comfortable hanging onto it for his own personal benefit, so hey, let's get his son some new sports gear! Oh Fusco. You do know people look at that shit, right? But it's adorable for what it is.

Over to Carter we go, who's checking in as Reese is sauntering down the sidewalk on his way to work! Slowly, probably more to give her time to finish updating him than out of any lack of urgency. They're shooting Carter very, heh, double-sided in the mirrored surface of I think an interrogation room off to the left. You guys. You're adorable. Reese is adorable too! And lucky he is, what with having stolen an automated license plate reader off of someone's squad car. Not Carter's. He wouldn't do that to her! Well, the van's registered to a 72 year old transit authority yadda yadda that is not helpful. On the other hand, the guy's nephew and nephew's buddy were released recently for armed robbery. That's way more like it, and have I mentioned how Carter's fucking good at her job? Carter's fucking good at her job and we love her for it. We don't get more than first degree robbery off their rap sheets as she stares at her computer screen, but it's safe to say that if at least one of them's been in prison since '05, that's fairly indicative of violent and capable of planning in at least moderate detail, so I'll buy her assessment that Reese might need help. Plus she wants in on the jobs, remember, Reese? No, he doesn't remember, he's busy giving her the brushoff and walking into the diner for breakfast. Because this is such a tightly written show, we have to assume something about this scene is worth noting. We get banter and snark between the guys, attention to Tommy's wife and Murray claiming that marriage is a racket and he doesn't understand what Tommy sees in it, standard bitter divorced man complaints are standard. More banter between the old hands which is at least less pointy than the banter between them and Reese, suggesting that they're generally assholes to people until they've established more trust and longer association. Fair, I suppose. Not precisely my manner of touching noses and jumping back and hissing at strangers, but it's one way to do it! And now the waitress, who's politely flirty with Reese and a little more would-be-flirting-but-shouldn't with Tommy, and between that and the bracelet we have a veritable Clue. Ah, well, no time for Reese to process that into a probable affair and theft, it's time for work.

Work, in this case, involves Reese being pumped for his past jobs. I guess he might have been a mall cop or supermarket security. For cover. While we snicker over that, Reese will do his own share of information pumping, asking as if he's new and maybe scared if Tommy's ever been robbed. Once! It gets us a story that's obviously got some of the edges elided from it, he's trying to keep from blinking instead of having the rapid blink rate of someone lying and uncomfortable about it. It's a more subtle tell than we usually get that Not Everything Here Is Accurate, and it gives us space to second-guess whether Tommy was in on the robbery that resulted in two to the vest or if he's just that embarrassed about however it was that he tried to play the hero. Hard to say with the current dataset, though of course we know what's coming. And then he uses a quote that is, as far as I know, pretty damn common in the military, if the bullets don't get you the boredom will. Possibly that's Tommy trying to feel out if Reese has served, since he really does project that air all over the place and he's not trying to hide it right now. At any rate, time for Finch to check in and do some data dumping! He's flagged the license plate in question, good man, and there's also some information about the day's stops! Ooh, do share. The bank and gem store, which would sound promising, aren't so much: employees' tax records and low grade industrial stones. The medical supply place, well, we dally there long enough that it's obviously the one, plus it's the third place they're visiting today (drink!), oh hey, they're shipping raw materials for pacemakers. Which includes fucking platinum. Yeah, I'd say that's worth stealing! Finch spells it out for us, doing some fast math that tells us those suitcases are worth upwards of $1mil, just as we hear squealing tires. Oh goodie. Tommy will highlight Reese's hypervigilance and the crescendoing music with a comment on how he needs to relax. Heh. And... nothing happens. More nothing! Finch STOP TALKING you are jinxing the mission. I mean, not really, it was already going pear-shaped when there weren't men with guns, but goddammit Finch stop talking about how you don't understand and go review some footage or something. Too late, the bomb under the truck goes off and we have some nice several seconds of Reese blacking out and being thoroughly disoriented, complete with the through-water sound of ringing ears. Aww, honey, I appreciate that you think you need to protect your mark but please don't turn your back on him? He gets a couple really nice shots off at the two masked men with guns he rolls out of the truck to take down, but they're wearing vests and haven't just been in an explosion. Plus they've got that guy on the inside, who apparently doesn't want to go down for murder one so instead Tommy will just shoot his coworkers in their vests. Aww. How thoughtful of you to only be providing some broken ribs. And with that, Reese will now pass out from the ow fuck ow before Finch can get around to first name worry, even.

On back we go to 2010, where even the Machine can't fully reconstruct the data because nothing's on file. Just the location: Ordos, China. Well. That's unusual even for a CIA mission. Ordos, by the way, is a real place and is one of those cities the Chinese government constructed in an attempt to build a more urban China; the effort seems to be more successful in recent months in the really real world but at the time of Reese and Stanton's mission I can well believe it was entirely a ghost town. Snow's checking in with someone or another, alpha team is on site and there are two separate sets of orders being given here, by that phrasing. Yeah, anyone even remotely familiar with the conventions of the spy genre knows what's coming. It's just a question of waiting to see how long before they drop the bomb. Literally. There's a three man team of soldiers, probably SEALS or Rangers or similar special forces, who've escorted Reese and Stanton from... probably not Beijing, probably somewhere between Beijing and Ordos, and trade comm devices for glowsticks to signal the helo at the LZ. It's full of jargon, but it's all jargon anyone familiar with spy or military fiction will know, so well done there, and with that they're off for a 72 hour or less jaunt into the middle of the ghost town. Yaaay. Someone spread the bird flu as a cover story to quarantine the area, well done there, and the Machine has them both under red-for-threat boxes. Curiouser and curiouser. Kara's not sure they're being told the whole story, Reese would like to know when she started questioning her orders. Well, mostly when those orders seem likely to get one or both of them dead, plus she's trying to feel you out to see if you've been compromised like she was told, Reese. The role reversal here is a pretty clear indication that they're not comfortable with each other or their mission and they're looking to protect themselves in whatever way possible. She's gotten fond of him, though, in the intervening months, judging by that sideways look, and this is gonna suck for everyone. Oh, hey, that's a pile of dead bodies. All locals, by the look of it, and now they're both on edge and nervous because yeah, if the party's started without them they have reason to be concerned.

And yet we'll have to come back to that, as Finch calls his partner back to consciousness, banana bag floating overhead and the beeping of various monitors around him. On the next gurney over, they're losing Murray. Well, fuck. And this is what happens when you don't wear your vest properly, boys and girls. Reese would like it quietly but vehemently known that he's pissed about losing someone because he mistook who the vic and perp were, and hey Carter! You are currently being the best by being gently worried and not saying more than the one I-told-you-so in the form of "looks like you could use some help." She's just there, steady and there for him to lean on. Yeah, I ship it. Sometimes. When they're not both being morons. What. And because she's got the ex-military attitude toward physical weakness, she's as safe as they come for Reese to lean on. Plus, for once this is Reese not causing the bodies but getting fucked up (and over) (and sideways) by a case, to the tune of bruised ribs and broken skin, which gets her sympathy way more than his causing mayhem. (And she's right. That's really fucking lucky and a damn good vest.) Yes, Reese, even though you're engaging in fun self-recrimination, and I will even admit that while a good profiler would have spotted the tells, they really didn't have time on this one to track the proper avenues. Reese might have noticed but he wasn't given time to ask Finch for the data, and Finch isn't enough of a profiler to think of how to go about determining what side of the line Tommy Clay falls on without Reese's fieldwork. Plus, as Carter points out, most inside jobs the inside man is just there to provide entrance, not to provide muscle. This kind of job, he's got to have, as she puts it, a well thought out exit strategy. That's putting it mildly, but they can't say fuck on network TV. It's okay, Carter, I know what you meant. (In my head, Carter actually has the filthiest mouth out of any of Team Machine and isn't afraid to use it when she needs to catch the boys' attention. Attendant traits of being a woman first in the military and then on the highly coveted homicide task force: you can dish it out better than the men can, in most cases. Which would have given us a great contrast to her maternal side. Alas for the restrictions of the censors.) Reese points out that he's got a family, meaning, either his wife knows everything or nothing, and which it is will give them an idea of what that exit strategy is. So he's got to be working with somebody, several somebodies, and in a lot of respects while Carter does her best thinking out loud with a sounding board, she's also giving Reese a chance to feel useful again. A fence! Yes, of course, they'll get right on that after Finch calls to check in like the duly worried partner he is. I'd tease him about being a mother hen, but no, this is absolutely warranted concern, and the naked relief on Finch's face as we flip back and forth to get both sides of the conversation is a fair bit of emotion for him. Reese brushes past it quickly, with the efficiency of someone used to sublimating pain into focus on his work, and, hey, that feed from inside the van shows a second phone. Amusingly, they completely elided the usual bluejacking of the current number's phone, and this is the only reference, because they expect us to be able to keep up. And Carter left her phone on speaker so that she wasn't cut out of the loop. This is the kind of writing I love on this show. Reese takes off, albeit slowly, to go track Clay...

...and we find ourselves at the street hockey park. Thing. (Look, I know jackshit about hockey of any kind. Sorry.) Where Fusco is about as content and happy as we see him, watching his son play, so of course it's not going to last. Hi, Lynch, how very not nice to see you too. My reaction to his attempt to connect by reminiscing is pretty much the same as Fusco's. What, you weren't hatched out of an egg with that stick up your ass and those flexible morals? Anyway, he's got something for Fusco to do, a pickup in Brooklyn, no details yet. Heh. Not in front of the kids? Though by coming here I suppose I should point out that Lynch is not-so-subtly threatening Fusco's kid. Look, see, no part of your life is safe from HR. Look, see, your kid might grow up like you. Ouch.

We'll stick a pin in that and go over to interrogation at the precinct, where Carter's got poor Mrs. Clay in and is grilling her. Poor, poor woman. She starts off pretty hard with the interrogation, as these things go, but mostly in the vein of "your husband is a dirty scumbag and you should give him up if you know anything." Which Mrs. Clay doesn't. Not even when Carter pulls out the black velvet case that we should all be familiar with from Hollywood and diamond commercials if nothing else, that's a tennis bracelet box. The wife knows it before Carter says so, but she doesn't want to believe it until the snark about falling off the back of the truck. Yeaaah. About that. It didn't go to the wife, who is now having all her quiet dreams of a nice, normal life with a good partner demolished. And who did we see wearing a tennis bracelet that was made much of shortly before the day's route? Well, we'll get to that. Quite quickly, as it turns out; Carter calls Finch to let him know what's up and that there's an affair, and Finch is sitting where else? At the bar in that diner. I'd say that qualifies as way ahead of her, even if it does net him a somewhat exasperated look. Carter, I know you want in on everything, but a) you don't really want to know how many laws Finch is breaking at any one time with his hacking and b) you'd also offer to maim them for interrupting you in interrogation. Besides, independent confirmation is a good thing. Finch proceeds to break a few more laws by cloning the waitress' phone when she comes to pour him coffee. Also, heh, nice focus on the tennis bracelet. We get it, guys. Ooh, we also get half-naked Reese just finishing bandaging himself up. Not much of, but look, as body-shy as Caviezel is on camera we'll take what we can get. Finch goes through some technobabble that amounts to "send sexy picture, get reply, embed trojan virus to get a location." Finch, you're awfully fond of trojan horse virii, aren't you. I'm just saying, I don't think it's an accident that this happens in the same ep that Reese's final mission to China occurs. And Reese has a gun and a rather annoyed look. I have a jar.

At any rate, a few hours later they do get a hit off it! A Royce Hotel. Not a Reese Hotel, self, funny though that would be. Ahem. Hey, that looks like an empty room! Or at least empty of life. We don't get direct confirmation that the two dead robbers on the floor behind the bed are the same as the ones as the ones Carter pulled up rap sheets for back at the beginning of this case, but we'll go with that assumption because conservation of characters. Much to nobody's surprise, the kind of person who will play the inside man who comes out shooting will also shoot his partners. But wait! Clay's not gone, there's someone at the door! That's... not Clay. That's Fusco. Thereby bringing home the pickup that HR wanted him to do in Brooklyn. Fade to commercial on their shocked faces! At least Reese asks questions before shooting most of the time these days. Most.

When we come back, it's back to 2010 and Ordos again. A minute or two (thank you, Machine) after we last saw them, having checked some of the bodies and more or less secured the area. Stanton's got a look of disgust on her face, which is interesting for someone so used to casual bloodshed. Still, she is a true believer and that may make the mass murder of civilians repugnant to her in a way that gunning down people Control/Research/the Machine passes along as Bad People isn't. Reese we know disapproves of the murder of civilians, though he's got his bland-and-stoic spysassin mask on in contrast. Hey, they've got a live one! There's always one. I suppose if there were troops sent in for spray 'n pray, that makes reasonable sense. Stanton already looks like she wants to shoot him out of hand, just in case he's a plant. I don't blame her. I would also like to know a) if Reese can understand Mandarin himself even though he's playing it like he can't and b) what the FUCK Stanton knows about the Machine. Because it's not until he says they took the Machine, let's be honest and use proper capitalization here, that he gets himself shot in the face. Which is like giving him something for the pain, and no, at this point she's right, they can't leave civilians alive now that someone else has started this clusterfuck. It makes me wonder just what they were going to do with the civilians to get inside without someone massacring them, but they're spysassins, I have a certain degree of confidence in their ability not to kill everyone in sight. Emphasis on the spy part this time. What we don't know, as yet, is who's responsible for this bloodbath. Is it the Company, that separate set of orders Snow has, another player entirely? It's safe to assume that the US is responsible in some way, it's rather their style. We'll revisit this sequence of events several more times between now and the s2 finale, though, so I'll leave off the analysis and swearing and twitching at Stanton's terrible, terrible Mandarin accent. I will not leave off wishing I knew Mandarin, however. Through the hallways and cubicle farms of dead software engineers, down to the server room, we're not asking where they got their intel because they were supposed to do that in Beijing and they didn't bother to show us that part. (More's the pity. I like a good and proper spy sequence.) Reese theorizes that it could have been the (MR?) recon team, goddammit Caviezel I'm going to put marbles in your mouth. And now it's the server room and hey look, the package is still here despite the blood and gore outside. That suggests a strong likelihood that whoever killed all those people was on your side, Reese. In theory, anyway. Though Stanton's got a couple of strong cynical options there. Safe place to wait. Heh. Yes. From each other, I suppose, Reese? That was a bit of a Freudian slip there, and Stanton would like not to turn her back on you now. Nor should he be turning his back on her. We see that the Machine thinks that took about 24 minutes, and I have to go laugh in the kitchen now.

Speaking of not turning backs, Reese and Fusco are still facing each other as they holster up. Yeah, I guess you could've shot him, Fusco, but a) he might be wearing a vest again (is, if he's being smart) and b) you'd have to be damn sure not to miss or hesitate. Plus, c) range of efficacy. Anyway, HR helped set up the heist on the understanding that they got a cut for helping to pick the shooters, and Clay's decided that rather than stick to his end of the bargain he's going to take it all for himself muahahahaha. God, you're a greedy, stupid little shithead, aren't you, Clay. He's just lucky he's got Reese on his tail, and a Reese that would like to stay in Carter's good graces, because he would be so very dead if HR were the only ones chasing him. Fusco's about as thrilled by this turn of events as you might expect! He's also right, if he goes to HR with the real story they'll think he took it and shoot him in the face. Like they do. Reese is unsympathetic and points out that he picked Fusco for his capability as a liar. While that's true, Reese, you're being an ass to Fusco again. Cut it the fuck out. Sigh. Over to Finch, who does not have a location because Clay destroyed his phone the second he left the hotel. He's still a stupid shithead if he thinks the combined weight of the NYPD, both corrupt and legit sections, will let him escape. He's even dumber for using Ashley-the-waitress' name as his password on everything. Fucking seriously, dude? Ashley the waitress just charged $5K worth of Vuitton suitcases. Awww, it's Twu Wuv. Of green folding stuff, at least. Maybe not so much of each other. No, Finch, Reese is definitely not thinking of protecting Clay, he'd like a little of his own back. A lot of his own, judging by that tone of voice and expression.

Fusco does actually lead with the real story, anxious and nervous in a couple different directions. Both someone worried about getting shot by his putative boss and someone hiding something, which he is but not about this. So, then, it's a standard exchange of suspicious-and-dirty cop banter, and there's an easy way to find out if Fusco's telling the truth! Off they go, both of them, to the fence shops where you can pawn that much platinum, so Lynch can keep an eye on Fusco and Fusco can prove his innocence. Back over to Reese, quicker cuts indicating the whole thing's coming to a head, and what I want to know is how you can be a New Yorker, be a woman, and be so fucking unobservant that you miss the hulking spysassin in your passenger seat. In the backseat I would have given her. PASSENGER. FUCKING. SEAT. Oh my god. No, honey, he's not getting out of your car for the asking, people who break into cars and sit there lurking in wait aren't the type to leave. She's overselling the innocent and scared a bit much, though only a bit and only because I'm looking for it in hindsight. Along with the too much deadpan the first time she says she doesn't know where Tommy is. The tears and the angry resignation that something bad happened or he's gone without her are actually quite good. She could make a living at this kind of shit. And that said, her description of what Clay promised her and/or the plan doesn't quite ring true, because someone out of the pair of them has to be a little bit smarter than they've played it to get this far. And it's not Tommy. So... but Reese lets her go with snark about her Vuitton bags, and say, Finch has data! Because Tommy is still not the brightest bulb in the pack and has used that password for everything. EVERYTHING. I don't quite know how you can use a six-letter password on a burner phone, but then I jumped from the Nokia could-survive-Fallout-3 phone to a smartphone, so I know jack and shit about the in between generations. Regardless, the point is that he's a creature of habit and companies are lazy and not inclined to help criminals evade detection by extremely determined and fairly amoral hackers, and now they have the new burner phone and a voicemail with a location for the meeting with the fence. Aww, it's a boxing club! How cute. Reese, your plan to give Clay to Carter as a present is adorable and likely to succeed.

If only it weren't for those meddling kids. Er, I mean, CIA agents. Finch tries! He does, and Carter appreciates being read in on things as they get intel and not after the whole thing's gone down, but here come Snow and, as it turns out, Evans (FINALLY we get a name and only because Carter pushes it). She pushes Finch off with a terse warning, and Snow would like to hassle her. Not about Reese specifically, but about her connection with Donnelly. Standard jurisdictional dick-measuring is standard! We get, for a change, a shot of Finch listening to all of this and taking in the data. Carter is totally right, the CIA's worried about something Donnelly knows (or might know) that they don't want Reese to find out, and who the fuck knows what THAT is. I'm not sure what they think Donnelly could tell Reese that would make him more dangerous or more pissed off at them, but right now, my dear, dear agents, your ex-operative is happy just taking out the trash in New York. I recommend not antagonizing him further. No? No. Snow, I don't believe you're good at MUCH. In fact, I think it's time for the requisite you know nothing, Mark Snow. Because really now. He's such a moron. And such a bad handler. And emblematic of everything that's wrong with the CIA. Well, now that Carter's been left threatened and annoyed by the spooks, Finch will indeed relay that Reese is on his own for this one, including the reason why. His "copy that" has a distinct overtone of "I will deal with them later." In the gym, Clay with a gun and being jumpy, Reese with the fistfight that goes on as long as it does only because he feels like toying with his prey. Reese, honey, I know you resemble a panther at times but stop playing with your food. We get some standard bad guy talk about going it alone and all you get is what you take and yadda yadda yawn. And then we get Tommy darling's sweetheart behind Reese with a gun. And some oddly 1950s gangster dialogue. "Babes"? "Mope"? Really? Sigh.

After the commercial we're back yet again to 2010, this time final preparation for the betrayal! It's a little over five hours later, and Reese and Stanton have holed up to eat something that passes for dinner: MREs. Yum. Kara, because they're as much John and Kara right now as they are Reese and Stanton, initiates a not at ALL loaded conversation oh no, she would never, about if they're going to become obsolete or not. It's not an unreasonable thought process to be having, drones and satellite imagery and so on and so forth, and Reese starts out by pretending he doesn't know what she means. He is, I think, very accustomed to playing stupid around her, both because she's so keen on underestimating his smarts and because she tends to put down what smarts he's got. He's not a leader, he's a solo operative or a follower; we've seen repeatedly that the most trouble he gets in even in present day is when he's forced into a mentor/leader role. But he's also capable of stretching his limits more than Stanton lets him, and I think he allows it because they've got such a fucked up, probably textbook abusive dynamic in a lot of ways. (Not in all, because he can't be that beaten down or he'd be no use in the field.) They're both very quiet, reserved, the kind of keeping their energy back for the job they know is coming next that bodes ill for each of them. Kara would also like to know if he's ever wondered where they get their intel from, and now John has an unfortunately misguided idea of why she's asking. Whatever they told her, she's the one doing the probing for confirmation about her partner and John's the one resigned and accepting of the fate assigned to him. At least right now he is. All these questions, the comment about how it's not easy, her prodding for her own confirmation have given Reese his confirmation, and thus we get all the Significant Shots as Stanton goes to lay the signal for the missile helo (I seem to have a bad typing twitch, oops) with Reese behind her and looking suspicious and then hauling out his sidearm. Sigh, you two crazy kids. Sigh.

Back in present day, Finch would like to enlist Fusco's help! Fusco isn't going to be any help, he's busy fending off Lynch. (I am now amazed I typed all three of those names without typos the first time.) Sorry. Better luck next time. Tommy apparently intends to have some fun with Reese, tying him up and getting him to talk, and Ashley reveals herself as the more intelligent of the two by skipping that whole step and going straight to the platinum. Don't let them talk to you, don't let them humanize themselves or it gets harder to kill them, this is all stuff she would be able to learn from the internet or, hell, from certain aspects of pop culture. (I'm looking at you, Criminal Minds.) Interestingly, they shot this with Tommy abruptly in a more femme fatale position, straddling Reese's legs to start tying him down more. And some combination of all of this makes Reese finally draw the parallels between these two and him and Stanton, back in the bad old days. Up to and including the part where Tommy's about to get himself deaded and Reese namedrops the episode title, albeit in English this time. You know that thing I said about don't let them humanize you? Well, sometimes making them all too human and flawed helps too! Like sleeping with a man who's that easily seduced and swayed into adultery and felony robbery, assault, and murder. But he's also right about this next bit, and it's some glorious manipulation, talking about how the first person you shoot is very hard but the second one can be harder. Using his own profile and experiences to psych her out; it's a calculated risk but about the only one he's got left to take. I wish we got to see Reese do more of this. And why hello, Captain Lynch, you got here just in time! I can't say I approve of your techniques, but we all knew that was coming. Fusco does, indeed, stop to pick up her gun, and I think he must have been thinking ahead to Lynch setting eyes on Reese and trying to kill him when he had the chance. That's some fucking excellent planning and you know what I said about Fusco being better than everyone gives him credit for? When he shoots the Captain, he actually gets to call Reese out on that a little bit. I love you, Fusco. And that little head-bob right after shooting him of "see, I got your back." The nudge about always being good at this pulls Reese back to his own memories, possibly because of the "remember" at the end but more likely because he was already thinking about the parallels between these two and himself and Stanton. Right down to the sex out of necessity and/or stress relief rather than genuine affection.

Stanton's throwing glo-sticks out for the missile, and Reese, for whatever reason, can't shoot his partner in the back. Oh Reese. Oh honey. Though that very Boy Scout-ness in him that Kara deplores is what saves his skin this time, because if he'd killed her and waited for the pickup that came in the form of a missile, he'd have done exactly what they wanted. She turns and gut shoots him without a word once she's done, and I don't think I've mentioned that she needed to be harder, colder, and more competent by a factor of at least ten than every man in the program to get where she did, or not recently? But this is probably the prime example of that in effect. Cue the nothing personal just orders, cue the horrible revelation that he got the same orders and they don't want the package retrieved, they want it destroyed, and they're willing to take out two stellar operatives in order to do so. Who knows why they decided Stanton was in jeopardy - maybe that same viciousness that got her here in the first place, going too far over the line for their tastes and they were worried she'd go rogue? - but we can safely assume that for Reese, it was Jessica that made him a liability. In conclusion, this is a scorched earth op and Kara just gave them the target to scorch. That horrified look on her face is definitely one of betrayal, and she's so flummoxed by the concept that the people, the cause she believed in this much is betraying her that she gives Reese an opportunity to get the fuck out of there before missile launch. We then see the Machine's-eye view of missile launch, but no indication of how far Stanton got in running before it hit, just that Reese was safely out of blast radius. Though she might have given up and laid down to die, that's really not the Stanton we've come to know, so it's safe to say she's still alive. Somewhere. Because this is spy fiction, and if there's no body there's no death. Not quite as bad as comics for that, but close enough. And yes, for those of you playing along at home, the music over this and the very end of the ep is, once again, motherfucking Unkle. Who must be making a mint off this show, though I have to admit, these lyrics are extremely apropos.

At the library of infinite existentialism, Finch asks if they accomplished anything. Well, they kept Tommy from getting away with murder, and some days that's all they can cling to. It is, however, one of the first utter failures as far as truly preventing anything in advance, and in that respect it stands unique. And they move on, because that's the only other thing they can do, learn and move onto the next number. Because there's always a next number, just like there's always someone worse than you are out there. Reese made his peace with that a long time ago. Speaking of people worse than he is, Snow's got a lead on what he thinks is Reese, though you'll note in this phone call between him and Evans that nothing in any way indicates the gender of the CIA operative who was helped by the locals near Ordos. Snow, you're a fucking moron, you know Reese has been active for how long before this with no known sign of pulling out money from a freaking Cayman Islands account. And now you're acting like this isn't a fucking trap? It's totally a trap. Just not one laid by Reese. I do love that they didn't even begin to bother trying to keep us in the dark about whether or not she's alive. Yes, Snow, the running shower is a trap. You are the worst field operative in the world and you should feel bad oh my god. Hey, that's a pair of high heels! And the same music from when Kara and John were betrayed! And a bullet to Evans' back! Who knew he was going to die once he got named? Yeah, that's what I thought. The shot to Snow, however, is meant only to wound, as we can tell by his gasping for breath. Collapsed lung, maybe. Or gutshot. And if we thought Kara Stanton looked crazy and vicious at any point before this, well, now she really looks vicious, and I would not want to be Mark Snow. At all. Ever.

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