Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Who Are You Person of Interest S1E18 Identity Crisis

After last week's clusterfuck, our first glimpse of the case of the week is of an attractive blond woman who might be window-shopping and might be using the windows to check and see if she's being followed. Which she is! By Finch. Just in case we weren't aware that without Carter in the picture, Team Machine will have to go all hands in the field sometimes, we'll have that rubbed in at the outset.

The Machine takes us over city streets and to the library, where Reese is bringing coffee, tea, and... donuts? Oh Reese. This is new enough for Finch to comment on it. In French, and what he pronounces I would transcribe croquiant but I'm pretty sure he means croquant. Which is pastry, yes, and I'd be more surprised if Reese didn't know it or at least know enough of a smattering of French to get by; it's a handy language to have in a fair few Arabic-speaking countries as well, and I have to assume he was sent there at some point for Company work. So, possibly digging on Finch's side, definitely deflection on Reese's, oh boys. You're dorks. And increasingly comfortable in each other's space, I will note. Down to business! They've got a number, they've got a name, but what they don't have is... much of anything else. Frankly, it's about time they pulled one of these; as Finch says, not everyone has a DL or even a state ID card. With damn fine attention to detail both from the writers and from Finch we get the place of birth off the first 3 of the Social (because you can, yes, do that) but I have to say, place of birth doesn't have to be place where the unsub (for so we're dealing with this episode) was raised. Nor, as Reese suggests, would it require an accent even if the unsub was raised there, either due to deliberately leaving it behind or parents who had a different accent. But it would be a bare minimum starting place! Whoever Jordan Hester is, he or she is living off the grid entirely, no social media footprint, well that just blows. And Finch will now let drop that he invented or at least propagated the spread of social networking. Really, you guys? I can't decide if this is Finch building up his reputation with Reese or if this is the writers making Finch the golden hacker who's done everything. And I say this being most of the way caught up on s2 shenanigans. I will say that it's well-timed and perfectly reasonable for Finch to have nudged social networking along, and yes, of course it makes the CIA's job easier. Also any number of more benevolent entities', both groups and individuals. Finch's spiel doesn't actually indicate that he invented any of the big social networking sites (though he might have, or might own one or more of them through shell companies) so much as that he planted the seeds. And that I'm a little more willing to believe. Only a little, because there's a degree of social engineering involved with that that Finch doesn't usually demonstrate; then again, this is social engineering by means of technical engineering, and that is something we know he's good at. It's the face-to-face shit he's bad at.

Regardless, the most they've got on Jordan Hester is the credit check, which turned up an oddity: two of everything! Why gee golly shucks, you don't think there could be something more to this! Though Finch jumps to the notion that Hester's leading a double life, Reese makes no such assumption. They have had a case or two of double lives and layers of secrecy, but with a gender neutral name like this we can just about see the wheels turning in Reese's head: yes, that would be a perfect target for stealing someone's identity. He knows! He'll call Carter! Reeeeese. Were you not listening when she said she was out after you betrayed Moretti's safehouse to Elias? Or did you just think it was a decision made in the heat of the moment and she'd regret it later? Because either way, you don't know Joss Carter nearly as well as you think you do.

We know that she's way, way past the point of exasperation and into questioning the sanity of what she's been doing. Lines crossed, yes, she was okay with that - right up until Reese made a truly shitty decision and got someone under her care kidnapped and, she probably assumes, killed. Which, along with being on the scene of an active investigation, is why she sticks her phone back in her pocket when Reese calls. The homicide turns out to be two kids, one GSW to the upper left chest, one perp already confessing, and one detective giving her shit over an actual homicide instead of her mystery man. Yeah yeah, she doesn't want to hear it right now. Apparently the cops were supposed to be there to stop the one kid from shooting the other? And the other cop thinks it's over a girl, though we have no proof other than his assumptions for that. Mostly the confession seems to be here to rub salt into Carter's wounds over no longer working with Team Machine, along with a second attempt at a phone call from Reese. And, yeah, it hurts, but watching people get hurt and cases get compromised because Reese thinks he has no choice hurts a lot more right now. He's going to have to do more to regain her trust than try and whistle for her to come back home. Doesn't work like that when you don't want to blackmail your asset, dude. At any rate, sheet over the vic, uniform talking to a very upset witness, and one sober look later, and...

...on over via a series of Machine shots to Reese and Finch: the surveillance team! Finch uses social engineering to get the nice woman to let the disabled man into the building without a key. It's Super Effective! I think he's exaggerating even taking the stair-climbing into account. Oh Finch. You're lucky most people are too busy with their own shit to pay attention to your blatant ploys, let alone remember their neighbors' faces. Reese, meanwhile, is at the apartment in Brooklyn, and given what little I know about neighborhoods in New York it does seem more likely that Reese will blend in there while Finch will blend in the Village. (Very, very little.) Where Finch is using social engineering, Reese is using brute force! I have to laugh over his pay-for-lunch comment, since it's all Finch's money, but it's the principle of the banter and a measure of how relaxed they've gotten with each other than he thinks to say such things. We switch back and forth as they engage in their respective stints of B&E, and oh Reese, no, what you are doing right now is part of why Carter won't return your calls. Which is what Finch says, though not in so many words, to the suggestion that he try to get hold of her instead. Interestingly, he uses a phrasing that's less about who Reese is and more about how he does what he does (which Finch rapidly corrects to their methods, plural, as he uses his phone to unlock the door), sort of along the lines of certain Christian preaching of hate the sin, love the sinner. That's. Odd. I don't know if that's simply a distancing technique to take some of the sting out of it for Reese's benefit, or if it speaks to Finch's upbringing in any way. Of course, he ruins the attempt at being gentle by then going on to list exactly what Reese did to tip the scales for Carter's tolerance of their rules-breaking (namely, got a witness kidnapped and a cop gutshot). Because he doesn't have the social skills to avoid saying this shit outright. Because Reese is alone, we get more of a physical reaction from him than usual, shoulders rolling and head shaking slightly, to match the rough anger in his voice. Yeah. He's not happy about that reminder. Moving on! The apartments are very different, I wouldn't describe the one Finch is in as exactly bohemian. That's more the sort of styling you give an apartment when you want people to think you're an artist or at least somebody with taste but don't quite have the eye to match things together without buying mostly from the same line of furniture. I will definitely agree that the one Reese is at is spartan, and frankly it looks like a guy lives there, or if a woman, then one with a lot of training out of usual gender norms. No pictures either place, annoyingly, but hey, a money roll! Marked with JH $152, and that to me looks like a wad of tips carefully counted out and rolled together and saved so as not to be reportable to the IRS. Finch has unopened bills (alas) and a laptop! Hey, he knows how to dig through that. Reese is going through his garbage, having apparently come to the same conclusion I did as to the apparent gender of the person living in his apartment, and I will say this scene is notable for giving us their individual specialities. The receipts in the trash confirm the bar around the corner, yes, thank you Reese for reaching the same conclusion I did moments ago.

He'll head over there while Finch dives headfirst into that Mac, then! Guys, really, there is no similarity between these places beyond the name and SSN, can you assume identity theft already? Please? Oh fine, I'll follow Reese to the bar. Where he conveniently can just order a beer and stare creepily at Hester when he appears with a box of bottles! For lo, it is a guy, he's working as a barback, and no, in fact, he could not afford two apartments on that salary. So either he's got another job or there's another person involved. Come on, you guys. I would also like to note, as Finch scrambles to close the laptop at the sound of voices coming down the (rather long) hallway, that either Reese hasn't been giving his employer instructions on how to toss an apartment or Finch hasn't been paying attention. Whichever one of you it is, do better. I could have told Finch that the apartment was probably a woman's to start with, but to confirm, where do you go? Why yes. You go to the fucking closet, where there's a bunch of high heels and not in drag queen sizes. Also spangly blazer or blouse or something, while Jordan Hester, blond and female iteration, takes delivery from somebody and is being nice to the help. At this point Finch will risk discovery to whisper over the comms because this is vital information. Sigh, you two. Sigh. And on the realization of the same thing we've suspected ever since the so-convenient lack of pictures anywhere, we fade to ad break, wondering how the hell Finch is going to get out of his predicament.

The squelchy stepping noises from a pair of probably-ruined men's dress shoes gives us a clue! Reese, you look WAY too smug about that. They're back in the library, and for once Reese beat Finch back there and is working on assembling data on their murderboard. REESE. I guess he booked it over to the Village and pulled the fire alarm, pardon me while I spend some time facedesking. At least he was kind enough to pull out a clean towel! Some standard griping about how do they tell who's who, plus finally a direct deadline for the Machine's numbers, 24-48 hours before something happens. I wonder if that holds true for the NSA/DHS numbers as well. I assume it does, which, ouch. Those are fast and dirty missions with little time to consider the long-term ramifications, then, which does go some way (assuming Reese was mostly on Machine-driven missions when he was working with Kara) to explaining how he fails to consider said long-term consequences a lot of the time. At any rate, a specific deadline is useful now even if we didn't have it for the last 17 cases, and Reese has a good point! A birth certificate should help solve the mystery of who's the "real" Jordan Hester. (And here I question both of their but especially Finch's knowledge of how the Machine works. Isn't it entirely possible that, with a number popping up that's this odd, both Hesters are questionable for some reason? Even that they're about to trip over each other? Come on now, Finch, you know your AI likes to throw you the interesting ones.) Alas, those are tough to get because records from more than 20 years ago aren't usually digitized. Budget cuts, you know? The rest of the scene is a lot of exchanging information notable mainly for the ease with which they toss it back and forth, Reese doing most of the questioning. No, it's not a normal identity thief, no there was nothing on the woman's laptop in her emails and contact list that would indicate any shady activity, nor was there anything unusual in the man's phone save that he rented a van last week. And yes, they're going to need an extra set of hands on this one, if Finch is going to be hacking from his lair then they've got to get someone on the streets to chase after the other Jordan Hester. And we close the scene on a quote that, while prominent in pop culture I can't quite see Finch knowing. At least his rhythm is off the way you'd expect for someone who's never heard Eminem? It definitely feels like a joke the writers' room wanted in there and couldn't work in without it being awkward.

Hi, Fusco! Reese is going to demonstrate to you how he can sit with his back to a door (hint: not a thing most long term spyssassins or law enforcement folks like doing; if they haven't been directly trained out of it as a vulnerable position you've got people like Reese who scream PTSD and that's a different way to be trained out of it) and know who's walking in behind him. Yes, yes, you're very impressive. I'm picturing Reese saying "hello, Lionel" to every heavy-ish footfall behind him for the last ten minutes because I'm a bad person. Fusco will steal fries in revenge, because he is a man after my own stomach. He also assumes that Reese has dragged him here to talk about recent developments, from Elias to HR, which is not a bad assumption considering the gravity of said recent developments, but no, that's not why they're here. Reese, honey, you do need to strategize that shit one of these days, no matter how much it hurts to be reminded of your failure. Which it clearly does. He will, however, take out his frustration by being an ass to Fusco. Reeeeese. Goddammit, Reese, I was hoping you were learning, but no. He's making Fusco run the number and figuring out how to get in with HR while also playing good cop this week. By his lonesome. To say nothing of the problem of two people, one number, though it does speak to a certain level of faith in Fusco's competence that Reese expects him to get it off that "exactly." Well, with that he'll be off, playing both sides against the middle doesn't do itself, and Reese goes back to surveilling and checking in with Finch. Nothing. A lot of nothing, one woman running errands for six hours and have we mentioned how amazing Emerson is lately? Because he is, because those errands appear to have mostly been on foot/the subway, and thus of course Finch's limp is worse. This has to be fucking miserable for him. Reese, meanwhile, has to be running out of excuses to keep his ass planted at the bar, and neither of their targets have moved a bit. But wait! There's a third fucking apartment up on the west side, which called for a credit check six months ago, but Jordan Hester in either case hasn't been to that apartment so far as the doorman knows. And it was bought. Well, I know which way I'm betting, that the woman who has no apparent job but a lot of money for one apartment also bought the second apartment. Which makes her the shadier one. I'd also be astonished if she hasn't made her tail by now; Finch is fairly unassuming but six hours is a long fucking time to be following someone.

While Reese hightails it up there to look at this mysterious apartment, Fusco has the pictures out on his desk. Yeah, I suppose that makes sense, if you've got them out like there's nothing to hide nobody thinks anything of it. Except your partner, who would totally help with a double homicide! Again we see what an accomplished liar Fusco is, either he came up with that on his way back from the bar or he did it on the fly but either way, he plays this game really well. They banter a bit and then Carter goes all quiet and morose, muttering about helping out people who are still alive. I still want to shake Reese for not telling them about each other, though in this case it probably would have been to his detriment. Having assets pissed at each other as they try to make difficult decisions about whether or not to work with Reese still - and Fusco not having much say in the matter - would definitely make Reese's life harder. On the other hand, it might have brought Carter back around to working with them sooner. Regardless, hey, it's a feeb! Hey, it's the feeb from the Delancey case, also known as the first instance of Root turning up! Something tells me we'll be seeing a lot of Very Special Agent Nicholas Donnelly in the future. He'd like to talk to Carter about, well, her. Which probably means her man in a suit. The long and short of it, once they get into a small conference/briefing room, is that running Reese's fingerprints through AFIS waaaay back in the pilot? Yeah, that's finally paid off. Also, Reese not wearing gloves for any of his fucking jobs? Has also come around to bite him in the ass; the cases he lists range from Root Cause to Mission Creep to Foe (1x13, 1x03, and 1x08 respectively), giving us a nice chunk of continuity. The feds are building a case against Reese for pretty much everything he's done in New York in the last six months, along with whatever else they can get him for that was done domestic-side in his stint with the Company. They might or might not be able to catch him, but they'll have a fuck of a case, and we see right off the bat that Donnelly's a damn fine investigator if not the best at dealing with people. Still, Carter's a fellow LEO, so even though she tries to give him a polite brush-off over the ex-military angle he offers her the olive branch of more information. Even when the last thing she wants is more knowledge about or reminders of Reese; she seems to have decided that her best course of action right now is pretending he doesn't exist both because he could point the finger at her just by the body of evidence and because she knows he does good work despite her vehement disagreement with his methods. Whatever Donnelly wants to show her, he seems to think it'll take a chunk of time, so she'll think that over.

While she thinks, Reese social engineers his way into the building by offering to carry groceries for an elderly woman, thereby proving that he's more than brute force. Aww, Reese. He'll even properly lockpick his way in this time while Finch jitters over running out of time over the comms, yes, thank you, we all know. At very first glance the apartment looks relatively normal, desk and chair and... oh. That's not candy or cookies on those baking sheets, is it. Oh, that's a huge home lab setup. Can I have one? I promise not to use it to make drugs. He relays that it's an Ecstasy lab just before he hears a noise! Reese, honey, could you please clear the damn place before you start babbling? Especially once you've established there's illegal goings-on here? Still, it's easy enough to knock the first guy out and prepare for more company while snarking. Reeeeese. Be better.

If I didn't already have reasonable certainty that the woman is the Jordan Hester running the drug lab, I'd have guessed it by this cut to her looking in a storefront. The camerawork on this ep is not exactly subtle. Nor is Finch, as he does a stop-start within five fucking feet of his mark before deciding to go along his merry. FINCH. Oh my god. At least that can largely be attributed to either the news he just got or his limp, should she be in a confronting mood, but my god, man. Still, he'll give us a quick rundown of how MDMA production works - you can acquire the chemicals legally but they're monitored, so if you don't want to split the work up because you're a control freak you steal someone else's identity and leave them responsible for the chemicals if/when someone finally takes note. That's all nice and logical! Reese clones the drug maker mook's phone and we pan over to female!Jordan's phone as seen on Finch's, apparently she works in antiques? And he's got something of a crush, I suppose it was a crush or a conviction that she was the bad guy if he was going to spend all day tailing her. Reese finishes setting up surveillance on the drug lab and ribs him about it a bit, just in time for Finch to realize he may have lost her, and we swing back to Reese in the bar watching the drug mooks talk about all their problems! From the unknown assailant to the boss wanting to meet, and note that they use male pronouns (right after Finch complained about pronouns and their confusing nature with this case) despite never having met in four years. Several possibilities present themselves at this point, from least to most likely: it really is the guy, the woman has a male higher-up mook who handles any verbal directions, the woman is very good at putting up a gender-neutral to male impression over email, the mooks are idiots, some combination of b) c) and d). Meeting's in an hour, so presumably they'll have an answer soon! And hopefully not a body. Except, oops, Finch really has managed to lose her, which means he has to go wandering around a bookstore, which means she gets to be mildly confrontational in the way only a beautiful woman can get away with. Finch, honey, whatever flirting over Kafka you two want to do? (And really, you guys? Fucking REALLY? The Trial? I hate you all. Just... go visit the Wiki link and join me in headdesking.) She's made you. Meandering exposition or not, though he so has a crush now. Well, that's one way to manipulate your stalker into being at least marginally more benign. Or the possible fed you're afraid is on your tail, or whoever she's concerned about. Reese would like to interrupt this little tete-a-tete with some cold hard reality, which Finch counters with... not much, frankly. Fiiiiinch. You should know better than to get attached by now. No time for further lectures, Reese's Hester just got off work and might be going to the meeting and Finch has managed to be looking at the wall instead of his mark, thereby losing her again. Goddammit, Finch.

At least he picks her up again pretty quick, as she's flanked by a couple of goons! And here is where they could yet again really use a fucking profiler, because that look back Jordan gives the leather-jacketed thugs is one of acknowledgement rather than fear. Her body language is all wrong for it to be fear. Though at this point I can understand why they get so confused about who's "their" Jordan. (Technically, of course, both of them are, but they want the drug dealer.) Finch will, however, lampshade the whole episode by mentioning that maybe someone else has mistaken his Hester for a drug dealer too! No, Finch, that's just you with your crush on people who appreciate the finer things in life. (Just wait until we get to s2 and can tease about his hacker crushes.) Reese, on the other hand, has a fairly valid reason for mistaking his Hester for a drug dealer, with the two mooks he saw at the drug lab itself meeting at the back of a van and male!Hester. As Finch complains about not liking weapons. Honey, what the fuck do you think your information fetish is? Oh yeah. He does have social engineering after a fashion, as Reese makes the only assumption he can from the evidence. I do wish the Machine would give them some more fucking time, and I definitely wish they could get Zoe in for a profiling seminar. Finch's Jordan is way more concerned about the fact that a strange man is accosting her with "her" coat and hauling her away and that is so clumsy. Oh my god, Finch, way to give away the whole game to her AND her thugs, and if you think they were willing to menace and threaten ONE person on crowded public streets why on earth would they not be willing to do so to two people? Let me tell you, it is not your clever ruse or your ability to physically dominate anyone. I can see where he'd assume that two men would expect another man to make a scene where maybe a woman wouldn't, and thus trust that he can get out of there on the grounds of gender norms? But I'm still gonna facepalm. To both Jordan Hester's credit and Finch's, she's a damn good liar and quick on the uptake, her tells are relatively small (glancing back at her thugs as if for reassurance/passing a message rather than being afraid of them, her hesitancy to go with Finch is unfeigned and because she's afraid of the guy who's been tailing her all day) and easily attributable to other sources (fear of the thugs, well of course she's nervous if she's made him but he's the GOOD guy). Sigh.

We focus for a bit on Reese's Hester and the mooks from the lab, who want to know why they're meeting and what's going on. Well, they're almost out of stock on safrole (which is a List I chemical, by the way, NOT easy to get hold of in bulk) and hey! Hester has them covered. Okay, at this point I would be heartily confused, even with Reese's Hester giving off not-used-to-this tells (which could be discomfort at meeting in public) nor, for that matter, evincing the kind of money or authority you'd expect out of someone who's been doing this for four years. So the body language is at odds with the words and the actions, which means (along with the fact that we're not even halfway into the ep) that there's Something More Here, but Reese takes the words and actions at surface level. One of these days one of them's going to realize that the Machine enjoys setting them up for dealing with people who aren't what they seem on the surface and we're all going to die of shock. Finch, could you at least not say drug dealer out where the "real" Jordan Hester can hear you? That's not exactly comforting if she's who you think she is, and if she's not who you think she is then it's a moronic move.

After the ad break Reese is surveilling his Hester and the lab mooks unloading the safrole at the apartment and hi Fusco! You have data! We like data. So, this Hester, the one Reese is watching, was arrested six months ago for making E, and they caught a distributor, but he couldn't pick his boss out of a lineup. Well, no shit, Sherlock. And that gives us an explanation of what this Hester is doing with a bunch of drug dealers - if he got arrested on charges of manufacturing E, then he can safely guess that someone has stolen his identity to do exactly that. And if he can't be ID'd in a lineup (yet), he might as well take a cut of the money. That seems way more in line with his apparent mental capacity - not that he's necessarily dumb, but it takes a certain crafty mind to go through the identity theft and drug manufacture trade, and thus far this Hester hasn't exactly shown signs of being twisty like that. Still, that's in the realm of conjecture for Team Machine at the moment, the facts are that Reese's Hester was hauled in and let go for no evidence to hold him on, and he also has a gun. Which he is jamming down the front of his jeans. Okay, that's it, I'm out, that is not the sign of a criminal mastermind. Reese, you should know this. Oh well. He ends the call with Fusco by telling him they need a how to go along with their five W's, and then it's over to the cab, where Finch's Jordan is doing a good job of faking fear and confusion while she pumps him for information. I can about see her going "aww you're adorable." He'll take her out to lunch and discuss this in a public setting! Which is safer for both of them, and it shows admirable consideration on Finch's part for a woman's usual fears about being accosted by a strange man in public. He does, however, rattle off all his suspicions and she's overselling the fear/annoyance/concern as she explains about the banks and the cops and so on and so forth. I actually suspect she's selling it from a half-truth, in that she's been getting ready to blow this cover for a while and as a nice professional-looking woman everyone assumes she's the one to be the victim of identity theft. And getting it all tied up in the system means that there's lots and LOTS of paperwork supporting that stance. Finch is right, too, white collar crime is way down the list and frankly, as drugs go, E tends to straddle the line between white collar and Serious Problem, particularly if the lab's not being reported as a disturbance. Drugs and Vice pay more attention to coke and heroin and meth, I think. E is the rich people drug, or so it's portrayed in Hollywood. Anyway, Finch is playing Harold Crow and making reference to Raymond Chandler and I have to go fall over giggling now. For all the references. Finch, I wouldn't have necessarily pegged you for a comics fan. Or a Brendan Lee fan. And no, being a PI is not all it's cracked up to be, generally it's pretty boring. Finch makes up a story about how he was hired by another victim but for now they drink tea and wait for more evidence to come in on how male!Hester stole her and the supposedly nonexistent other guy's identity and then they'll go to the cops! I even believe him about the last part, because it'd get them in Carter's better graces.

And then I slide under the desk laughing at this next scene! We can guess that the guy Fusco's meeting is with the fraud squad even before he IDs himself, with his rather nice suit and his cop attitude. Possibly on the take as well, but definitely in white collar crime. I will not ask if he knows Peter Burke. (I lie.) Fusco's asked for a meeting, looks like a working meeting for Franklin, but Fusco lays out the facts of the case and brings up the MDMA drug lab possibility and, hey, that rings a bell with Franklin! (I like Franklin. Can we get him around more?) Well, turns out Finch's story about another victim? Not so much of a story, there was a guy last year who swore he was innocent through the whole trial and why yes, his defense was that his identity was stolen. By the name of Kyle Morrison, which is not such a gender-neutral name unless you lengthen the second vowel to make it an odd spelling of Kylie/Kylee. So I guess that's still not probative on who the unsub is, although it does lend weight to the theory that it's a guy. Morrison's still locked up, they don't have the manpower to check into the fine details every time someone claims he didn't do it, and that's Franklin's cue to deal with the waitress skimming off the top of credit cards! So it was a working lunch. I still want him to come back, dammit, and it's a measure of both writer and actor ability that they can sell me this hard on a bit character in a scene that's less than two minutes. Fusco starts his round of calls now that the case has developed legs and is wandering in new and interesting directions, because hey, if the guy's staying in one place that cop has access to, might as well visit him in prison.

He does that, Reese will give Finch shit about having tea and go check the van! Where he uses a slimjim with customary skilled efficiency and hey, there's a laptop! With... no password protection. Yeah, you can strike all those comments about caution, Reese. Finch also needs a better poker face when he's listening over the comm, because he's all but told his Hester that he's got a partner on earbud. That's a bit of a high-class PI, wouldn't you say, Mr. Crow? Sigh. And no, there's nothing on there account-wise, all the history of pdfs and sites is tutorials on making E and firing a gun. Um. And we're right back to the answer being right in front of your noses, you guys, Reese sees that something is seriously off here even if he doesn't know what and is placing maybe a little too much faith in Finch's ability to read people and do fieldwork. Right now his Jordan Hester is providing a distraction from the invaluable data coming in, too. Not a missed client meeting! Why, that's the worst thing in the world! Considering she missed the meeting with her lab rats, yeah, it IS pretty bad. For her and other Jordan Hester. Which makes the worry genuine, which makes Finch swallow everything that comes after about an arts degree and being a freelance buyer of antiques (especially books) and aww, honey, could you play any harder to the bookwormish supposed PI? She'd like to go home. Finch would like her not to. She'll play to his sense of chivalry and desire to protect her! It's Super Effective! Goddammit, Finch, you are not physically capable of protecting her if she's in serious danger. You fucking well know better than that even if you are being sold on this attractive flirtatious woman who needs a knight act.

Once I finish banging my head into the desk, hey, it's back to the E lab! That's a lot of pretty colors. Reese's Hester thinks so too! At least he has the decency not to say so out loud and risk the lab rats thinking their erstwhile boss is sampling the product. Ahem. He's also got a lot of rookie questions that he's asking with a certain hesitancy where he's trying to sound like he knows the answers but he's not 100% sure on them, because he did his research on the internet. Oh my god Reese please be catching this as you lurk outside the door. The lab rats don't notice anything juuust yet, but he's only asked two stupid questions and given one stupid answer so far. "Even more pure"? Oh honey. We'll leave him there for a moment and swing over to the riverfront security camera oh, hey, we're at the prison. With Fusco and Morrison, who's the sort of mouthy angry cynical bastard that you'd expect after a year in jail protesting his innocence. And if he's still doing that after a year in prison (and probably a rough year, by the look of him) then there's a good chance he's telling the truth, or the truth as he knows it, which are not always the same thing. Morrison's also fucking well fed up with dealing with cops at this point, which implies that he's had contact with a fair few, probably trying to get him to confess, over the last year. Poor bastard. Fusco plays his ace in the hole, gets the kid to sit down (he can't be older than I am, and looks and sounds younger), and proceeds to build rapport by telling him the exact truth about wanting to be something other than what everyone sees you as. Oh Fusco. Oh both of them. Way to profile your victim by profiling yourself, Fusco, that's right up there with Tony Stark and Loki. Alright, then, Fusco believes him and has a nice moment of saying innocent until presumed guilty without actually saying it, because you can be damn sure that any of the usual aphorisms about the justice system will go over like a lead balloon with Morrison. The identity theft started with just the money, but it was a lot of money and some egregious harm for the sake of causing harm. Can I rip fake!Hester's throat out yet? Please? And then the cops came bursting through his door with no notice, I'd love to know how they decided he was manufacturing E without ever seeing him go near a lab or distributing it or anything. Morrison's turn to build rapport, talking about kids, he's got a daughter who just turned two and the mother doesn't want anything to do with him and god but this sucks. So. Morrison helps catch this guy, note the gender assumptions still being made, and Fusco will do his best to get him out of prison. Awww. It's a chance to be a really good cop! It's a parallel! We cut briefly back over to the lab where something's wrong with the Ecstasy they just started cooking up because hey, dude, when you get your safrole from some unknown quantity, what the fuck do you expect to happen when one of the lab rats says "this smells funny." They know their jobs. Reese's Hester not so much, and he makes his excuses by saying the cops are coming, they need to take the finished product and get the fuck out. Okay. Nobody believes you, dude, but the lab rats didn't get where they are today by taking unnecessary risks.

On over to Finch at his Hester's apartment, where there's a lot of towels laid down from the sprinkler system going off yesterday. He thinks to ask, even! And gets an amused look on his face after clearing the apartment when he does so. Also, if the sprinkler system went off and didn't have an emergency shutoff (which it might have!) then there is no way that place would be that clean and habitable already. Fire suppression sprinkler systems have a lot of dirty stale water that they dump by the fucking gallon, in my experience. You do not quickly recover from that kind of water damage. Oh well, this is Hollywood reality, and that's a thing that would only serve as a plot point, it being too much of a pain in the ass to build a set and then lovingly recreate all that water damage. Anyway. Jordan would like something other than tea to drink after today's clusterfuck, and she pours and hands Finch a glass of brandy or something largely while he's out of line of sight and oh my god, Finch, this is a terrible idea. Don't take drinks from strangers. Stop sucking at fieldwork. Goddammit.

Back to jail we go! Quick cuts earlier than we usually get them in an episode, to highlight how little we really know and how much danger assorted people in these scenes are in. Fusco has all kinds of fun paperwork for Morrison to look over. Hardware store supplies, chemicals, yep, that's about right for the account register which Fusco really should be blacking out the personal data on if he's showing them to someone convicted of a crime, but whatever. Over to the bank statements, with a photo of Finch's Jordan Hester attached! Oops. That's not Jordan Hester, and that's damn well not the vic, and thank you for not dragging this out for too much longer, guys. I will admit that despite the earlier clues it didn't get screamingly obvious who's who until a couple minutes ago. That's Mary, the receptionist at Morrison's office, and now Fusco has to go make some phone calls! As he shoves the paperwork into folders and tucks it under his arm, so Hester at the lab is scooping plastic bags of drugs into his backpack! Awkwardly, like he's not used to handling drugs. And one of the lab rats, on our third (heh. heh heh. drink) visit to the lab with these guys, has come up with a convenient way to test Hester! Phosphorus and ventilation for it: not necessary in making E. Definitely necessary to make meth. Even I know you don't use phosphorus in E, though I couldn't have said offhand what it was used for other than a test. Nod between the lab rats, this was well-planned, and time to haul out a gun and start waving it around! Yay! Because that means it's almost time for Reese to start hitting people! First we have to have our moment of Horrible Realization, however, wherein Finch gets informed in stereo that they were wrong and I will keep smacking my forehead into the desk. Finch, didn't your parents ever tell you not to take candy from strangers, or were you hatched out of a disk array? (K: Difference engine, they didn't have disk arrays back then.) And Reese doesn't have time to go save his ass, he's busy saving actual!Hester's ass while Finch succumbs to the E Mary - shall we call her Mary for the foreseeable future? - slipped into his drink. SIGH.

After the ad break, we come back to long-haired lab rat with the gun in Hester's face and Reese playing diversion and rescue both! I love you Reese. Never change. Several well-placed hits later and the lab rats are on the ground. They are so not trained for this even a little bit. Nor is Jordan Hester, who is well within range of efficacy with his gun pointed at Reese. And dude, if you're gonna be that close, aim for his head? You don't know if he's wearing body armor or not oh why do I bother. The reveal and tension ramp up to increase the speed of the cuts back and forth, so now we go to Finch trying to stand and falling back onto the couch and this episode really highlights what a fucking awesome actor Emerson is. More than usual, because playing someone who's high on E, crippled, and hates loss of control like poison is a tricky combination to do well and he does it amazingly. Mary would like him to know that he'll feel much better soon! Mm-hmm. No, I don't think so. Back over to Reese's semi-standoff that isn't much of a standoff but looks like nothing so much as an alpha establishing dominance through eye contact. And, well, taking the gun away, that's a good way to establish I Am More Badass Than You Are. I dunno if the safety was really on or if that's Reese cracking a joke, it's a common enough made-you-look trick. Regardless, he rags on Hester - albeit somewhat gently - for a bit about trying to fool these guys into thinking he was a drug dealer. And then establishes some rapport with him by engaging in a little mutual bondage (of the bad guys) (pervs) all while delivering a song and dance to the tune of I know something you don't know. But before he coughs up what he does know, Reese would like to know what Hester's plan was! Well, since nobody believed him (and yes, he does come across as the sort of introvert who has few close friends and fewer of them in immediate proximity at any given moment) and he lost his old job and his life hit bottom, or what he thought was bottom... well. Hi, lampshade, you can stick that right over on top of some of the lab equipment. Two of them! One for Reese the fellow loner and one for Reese knowing about hitting bottom. At any rate, the plan, Hester, the plan. He stole the drug dealer's identity back and by the way, that's not safrole, it's nitric acid to melt the equipment with. Uh. Dude. You really. Uh. I'm gonna back away slowly now, if that's okay? Reese has better control of his face than I would in that situation, though admittedly he may not have had the same chemistry safety precautions hammered into his head. For everyone's sake I hope to fuck that's not white or red fuming nitric acid, is all I'm saying. So once that was done he was going to use the half-a-mil of drugs to lure the bastard out into the open and reclaim his identity. No death, no gore, just his life back. Aww, honey. Reese feels for you, in that distant and detached way where he's sure if he weren't so good at compartmentalization on this front he'd be in a world of pain. It IS a terrible plan and it is EXACTLY the kind of hilariously awful plan that appeals to Reese's Boy Scout side, so sure, they'll do it and he'll break whatever bones need broken.

But first, the dealer's a woman! Things Hester needs to know. Hey, Finch! Finch is not listening. Finch is very, VERY high on E right now. All the more so for not letting go of his control pretty much ever. He's still got a remarkably flat affect, but without the glasses he looks more vulnerable and a little younger as well. I have no idea why Reese doesn't pick up on something being wrong right away since it isn't push to talk and he should be able to HEAR WHAT'S GOING ON. Including the line about having been drugged. Goddammit, both of you, though in this case I blame the writers for such an egregious lapse in continuity. Meantime, Mary has some more gloating to do over how chemistry is more efficient than a bullet to the brain and hello, yes, she's talking about killing you, Finch. Goddammit. Again with the remarkable job of acting and writing here, Finch trying to use his brain to defeat being drugged and then free-associating when Reese talks at him some more and I say again why is he not more worried right now. Argh. As much as Emerson kills this scene, aspects of it were butchered either in the writers' room or in editing for no good reason I can see. So, free associating to Dickens' Our Mutual Friend and concealed identity and now Reese picks up on it. This is also the point at which Mary realizes something's wrong and that there's another person Finch is talking to and FINCH ARGH YOU GAVE HER ANOTHER LAST NAME. The one you're currently using. Goddamn fucking drugs. Also, those "wows" sound like a toddler just learning how cool speech is. Phone and earbud go forth into a vase of water over Finch's objections and Reese's worry and now it's time to see what data she can get out of him! Not much, but the important bits: there is a partner, he's at the lab. Ouch, Finch. He is going to be SO upset when he comes out of this. Though I adore the little lip-zipping motion. Well, there are contingencies for this, apparently, though Mary looks really displeased about having to put them into action. Someone named Joseph and also a bunch of explodey household chemicals mixed together and flung in the microwave with aluminum foil. I suspect some kind of bleach solution. Yeah, that'll do a lot of bad things. She does sound genuinely regretful, which makes her no less a killer and a criminal, and out we go from that apartment with the pretty pop-snap-flare of the homebrew and a bit under six minutes on the microwave. Fusco rides lights and sirens to Finch's rescue on Reese's orders, which is about as white knight as he gets to be for the season, and the Machine pans us along and along and finally...

… we settle in an underground hallway with Donnelly and a ladder and Carter. Who still has her clearances from Army days, and that's interesting. Security clearances come in three flavors: active, current, and expired. Active means you're working a job that requires them, current means that you've got them but you're not using your clearance, and expired means what it says on the tin. And you have to renew clearances every five years. Moreover, the offhand way Donnelly phrases it makes it impossible to tell if this is formal security clearance or some other type of compartmentalized security clearance, though Carter's reaction indicates that it's probably a formal clearance. Anyway. Either she's been renewing every five years or it's been less than five years since she got out of the military, or Donnelly went behind her back to get formerly expired clearances reinstated for this. Too many fucking options with the bureau-crazy, too little data to run on. I'm guessing Carter's been renewing because her surprise isn't over her security clearance but over the fact that the feebs don't run ops that require a security clearance unless it involves national security. (In which case, by the way, I question why DHS hasn't tried to get their grubby mitts into this pie.) At any rate, Donnelly has a whole warehouse full of agents and murderboards! Man. I'd like those murderboards. Carter's got a certain reluctance to join this investigation; just because she's not on speaking terms with the boys right now doesn't mean she wants to bring the full force of the FBI down on their heads. Donnelly's also got a story about how the CIA and FBI used to work closely and I'd like to know when exactly this was. Especially in fictional spy genre, they NEVER play nice. At any rate, that's in the past and the present is the jurisdictional clusterfuck of arrogant Company bullshit we know and love to hate. Up to and including CIA ops against American citizens on American soil. Hey. That sounds familiar! Donnelly has a theory, and it's not a demon: that Reese left the Agency and is now a merc-for-hire to the highest bidder. It's not a bad theory, going on the usual patterns of ex-black ops agents, but it's also working from incomplete data. Carter has a pretty good "you have got to be shitting me I am in over my head" face, because it's one aspect of the truth, for her. And the shock over Donnelly's more specific theory that Reese is working for Elias (which, THAT I can see an argument for, they've got ample evidence including Reese saving Elias' life, as Donnelly points out) can easily be translated to shock and distress. So that's not bad, but the subsequent probing for what his goals are and the heightened blink rate over not having a hitman operating on US soil and the deflection with no new data when Donnelly asks what if anything was left out of her reports... yeah. That should tip him off that she's hiding something. Carter, you're going to need to get a lot better at this really fucking fast, if you're going to refuse to participate in Team Machine while keeping their secrets. And you should have things prepped as left out of reports that won't harm Reese's current rep or aid in profiling him, because every cop leaves things out of reports. Reports are for facts. Cops have speculation and gut instinct, the good ones do and Carter damn well does as evidenced by her chasing after Reese until she nearly got herself killed, and that stays out of the reports. As a result, that reassurance that they'll find him as she heads out (and why is she heading out? why are you not staying to examine the new data, Carter?) sounds an awful lot like a threat. I really wonder how long Donnelly played her for, especially as torn as she is in this scene over whose side she wants to come down on. We know, of course, that the split with Team Machine won't last forever, but Henson does a remarkable job of selling the indecision all the same.

Wondering aside, it's time to have an even higher Finch staring at the microwave as it sparks. DAMMIT, FINCH. And now he really looks like nothing so much as an overgrown toddler waiting for his flambeed dinner. Mutter sigh, Fusco is there and clears the apartment like a good cop before coming and turning the microwave off and dragging Finch away from the shiny fiery ball of doom. Thank you, Fusco, it's good to know being a parent has given you some relevant experience in handling a hacker stoned out of his gourd. He relays to Reese, who is duly relieved, and whoops here come MORE men with guns. Two, who are the same thugs that came up flanking her back when Finch "rescued" his Hester and actually have some glimmer of a clue as to what range of efficacy means. She looks more annoyed by having to kill people than regretful in any way, and standard villain speech applies. After the ad break, the Machine takes us back to the drug lab where Reese and Hester are being shepherded onto plastic wrap. Why they need that when they've got the chemicals and could just destroy the whole apartment (and should, with it blown) I do not know, but it gives Reese a convenient delay! Just long enough and at the right angle to palm a brown bottle of... something. Which he proceeds to fuck with the more jittery of the two gunmen with, claiming it's hydrochloric acid and nobody wants him to drop it. If that's true, no, no they don't. Acidic mists are nobody's friend, and if they've got any bleach out for body disposal, chlorine gas is really nobody's friend. Calling Reese's bluff gets him a face full of unidentified liquid and screaming and clawing at his face. Which is not melting off, dude, so you're kind of a moron. Reese disables the other guy, who's ALSO a moron and goes for close combat when he has a gun, and that takes a whole six moves. Snark about how it was just water followed by a couple kneecapping shots and yes, I agree, it's time to finish this.

Meanwhile in Fusco's car, Finch has progressed maybe to a ten year old! Playing with the lights and sirens buttons in the car and offering to hack the Pentagon. Fusco responds in the only way he knows how, by offering data and a focus for work, which yes, is probably the best way to bring Finch back around to usefulness and ignoring the childishness as a result of being high is something Finch will find easier to forgive when he sobers up. Long, long professional experience both dealing with children and handling drug addicts and drunk and disorderly calls showing through here. He's found a connection between the two identity theft vics to the tune of the same CPA, hey, that's a good connection! But Finch could solidify it if he were being a well-behaved and attentive hacker. Which he's not yet, but I have some faith in Fusco's ability to chivvy him along towards that end.

However Fusco recovered the data, he certainly managed it! Mary has called a meeting with her patsy the accountant - no word on what she has on him other than the willingness to kill him if necessary - because she'd like to be someone else again. A woman this time! And honey, if you think women hold grudges less ferociously than men, I have a baseball bat with your name on it. Just saying. Reese proffers her mug shot and a real name: Tara. Complete with snarking and letting Jordan Hester get in on the smugging it up. He lets the accountant go, though, probably out of the fond hopes that he won't be so stupid as to get caught doing whatever it was that gave Tara-Mary-Jordan (TarMarJor? That's way less catchy than YoSaffBridg) leverage on him in the first place. She's been at this under an alias since she was 23, so for anywhere form 5-10 years depending on what age they want the actress to be playing, and charges range from shoplifting to insurance fraud. No, they're not going to kill her. Yes, Jordan Hester has come to the realization that killing her would make him just like her instead of the other way around. Yes, we also see the massive lampshades with aliases and ditching birth names and loners and every other damn thing between the vic, the perp, and Reese and Finch in varying combinations this episode. I could write an entire essay just on THAT. Aww, Fusco gave the collar to his friend Franklin from the fraud squad! I say again, someone get that man back on this show. Reese will now have another poignant moment up on the balcony with being thanked for giving someone's life back to them. And who's going to give his life back to him, now that he's been so thoroughly broken? Finch comes the closest, but arguably it's the Machine doing the heavy lifting. Speaking of, it'll give us a couple shots of Tara Berlin being escorted into the blue-and-white before we head over to check in with Fusco. Yes, that is too high-profile a collar for him, no matter how skilled a cop he is. Way more interesting, he thinks HR was taking a cut of her operation and he definitely can't be seen taking down someone associated with them if he's going to stay in with HR. Reese wants to know which Fusco likes better, I think actually to establish some kind of common ground and certainly with the expression that says he hasn't figured out which side of the line he likes walking better. Sorry, Fusco, but this isn't about your issues, it's about Reese's, so the you-tell-me line was only ever going to get you an I'll-let-you know.

We visit with Carter briefly, as she goes back through her piles o' files on Reese. She does seem to be reconsidering things in light of what Donnelly told her, but whatever she's reconsidering, it hasn't made her any more inclined to take Reese or Finch's phone calls. And then we go over to prison, where Morrison's being released (thank you, writers, for not forgetting about him) with Franklin standing over Fusco's shoulder to supervise. Interestingly, he looks less regretful at having made a mistake and more proud that it was rectified; possibly that's a defense mechanism and possibly that's just me reading way too much into a bit character's part but still. I like Franklin and I like his actor. Anyway, Fusco gets all the lines, telling Morrison to go home to his little girl, and if a series of Machine shots could convey an AI being pleased, that one would, following him down the brightening hallway to freedom which is not at ALL a metaphor no of course not.

And last but not least, we visit the library of infinite coming down from being really, REALLY high. Reese is being all caretaker-y, and has bottled water and a blanket and absolutely no comment about all of Finch's books. Finch has that copy of The Trial in one hand and is completely and utterly wasted still, or seems to be. He's also pretty vulnerable and doesn't want his friend to leave and to be left alone, and no, honey, Reese is not going to leave you alone in the middle of your hacker lair not knowing what you might be getting into. He'll wait for the drugs to be done. There's a little bit of a smile there, maybe some affection or just tolerant amusement for his employer being this openly needy. And then Finch wants to talk. Finch, why do you want to talk. You never want to talk. Thus say we, and thus says the look on Reese's face when he turns Finch down. It's a little bit like waving a red flag in front of the shippers, and I can even see their point here, a little bit. This is an incredibly intimate and careful thing Reese is doing for Finch, being aware of where the boundaries are even when he has an invitation to take advantage of Finch being not in his right mind, and it's telling of how far they've come that Reese is unwilling to do so. Maybe he never would have, maybe it was always one of the unwritten rules of this game they've been playing with each other that all the information must be honestly come by and drugs are right out. But it has to be a temptation for him nonetheless, and he will notably not give Finch a third chance to test him, walking away with a goodnight (Harold, not Finch, because this is such a charged situation) after the ask me anything offer. There's a very brief moment there where Finch looks almost lucid again and I wonder if he was less drugged than he seemed and was testing Reese? And the next two words out of his mouth put paid to that notion. Oh Finch. Nathan's dead, honey. That's your new friend Mr. Reese. I really hope he doesn't remember this in the morning. Really a lot. And we may all be glad that Reese was out of earshot for that so he doesn't have to wonder any more than he maybe already is how much of a replacement for Nathan Ingram he was meant to be. Lord knows I'm wondering it more now than I have been for awhile. With that giddy little smile at the thought of his friend Nathan being around I almost ship Ingram/Finch at this point. But that's all we get about that.

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