Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Johnny's in America (Person of Interest S1E22 No Good Deed)

Now that we've spent two weeks diving into some of Reese's history, that should mean it's time for Finch to return the favor, right? At least to us, if not to Reese. The changed opening credits are still changed, giving us just those few frames of tension-ratcheting imagery, and this week's number is a nervous young man, rather clean-cut, being escorted into the back of a squad car while Reese puts up his weapon and looks on in frustration. That's. Interesting.

Our framing device this time takes us back to 2009, in New York, so we know right away that we are getting a fair chunk of Finch and Ingram, and we're coming closer and closer to whatever event precipitated Ingram's death and Finch's injuries. That is a massive fucking server farm that the Machine's turned into, as it would have to in order to keep track of all the data Finch wants to feed it. And unlike previous incarnations, the cables are more neatly tucked away from the disk arrays. Ingram's coming to check on his friend, quite probably to see if Finch needs to be nagged to eat, sleep, and do other normal person things. Yes, Finch, we know you'd upload yourself into the Machine if you had the biochem background to manage it, and we are all immensely grateful that you don't. Ingram's first words are about shutting the Machine down, though, which gives us pause only for a second until Finch says that they're turning it over tomorrow, and he's leaving it on as long as possible. Aww, Harold, you don't want to kill your baby. I know. How about all those non-relevant numbers Nathan's staring at? We get more of the ongoing argument, Nathan's glad to be rid of the thing, not that it won't weigh on his conscience but at least he can fool himself sometimes into making the numbers the government won't save someone else's problem. Finch isn't suffering under such delusions of conscience and I have to say, it would take someone with about his level of megalomania and willingness to look at people as pieces on a chessboard (metaphor chosen advisedly, hello Elias) to build the damn thing in the first place. Nathan has a knife to twist in what little soft underbelly his friend has, about knowing that everyone is relevant to someone if Finch had anyone outside his work. Which nets him a meaningful glare; Nathan may not know about Grace at this point in time, but Finch's point that Nathan matters to him is well-taken. Also, can we haul out the trollfaces yet? Because these two have one hell of a connection that's got a lot of emotions mixed up together, as you do when there's just one person who knows all your secrets for a very long time. Marty and Cosmo, again. Nathan comments as to how maybe Finch should find a relationship of his own after seven years (which is one of those Significant Numbers, by the by, though less commonly used than 3) spent watching everyone else's, and when Finch gets his little I-have-a-secret smile and says maybe he has, points out that he wouldn't hear the end of it if Finch had found someone. Nathan, honey, I'm sorry but you don't know your friend as well as you think you do. Especially not with all the changes he's gone through in the last seven years. The notably false laughter about that does seem to tip Nathan off that something's not entirely on the up and up, but we leave him there staring at the Machine's data-sorting and go back to the present.

The Machine is following Finch around; we know by the yellow box. Aww, it knows its daddy. Ahem. Reese is also following Finch around, which is the first we've seen of this in several episodes but apparently he hasn't remotely given up on finding out everything he can about Finch's history and how he gets the numbers from the Machine. Nor have we! Inquiring minds. Well, we start with a map of the five boroughs and Finch getting his morning tea, that's something, and then Reese has a call! From Fusco. Who has a meeting with Simmons and HR next week, and gets brushed off because Reese is busy with "research" right now. Fusco knows what that means! We love you, Fusco. They jibe back and forth a little, Fusco followed Finch for weeks and couldn't even figure out where he lives, so on and so forth, and really, Reese, he's right. It's not like you're doing any better. Carter has a wary, assessing look as she looks down at a file with a bunch of dirty cops. That's Lynch, I think that must be Reg E. Cathey, I don't know the other white guy offhand but these are some atrocious mugshots and that's a bad smile. Very tense, Carter, now he knows you're hiding something. That's all on that right now, though, back over to Reese's surveillance, and Finch is going to a... pay telephone booth? Man, those still exist and aren't busted in New York? Wonders will never cease. He picks up the phone, listens briefly, hangs up, and turns around to call Reese in on another number. With the map of the boroughs still prominently in focus as the obvious red herring of delivery mechanism of the numbers, but Reese takes it as such and goes immediately to the phone booth to see if he can find anything. No, sorry, nothing but that it's in clear line of sight from a camera on the street, and that's not exactly noteworthy.

Far more interesting is the NSA intercept the Machine's throwing at us! Some head honcho there is congratulating an analyst for a job well done! He flagged someone in a Dubai report that saved their asses, and, um, with the note from the Machine that Henry Peck's vocal stress is elevated we can guess that something about that comment's tipped him off. Given that it's the NSA, let's not bullshit anymore: Peck didn't flag Carlson, the Machine did, and Carlson is duly fucking confused and worried. Like a good analyst who knows his cases inside and out! And that's the problem with throwing the Machine to a group of analysts who are supposed to be damn good at their jobs: being good at spotting patterns and anomalies in patterns makes you good at figuring out shit you're not supposed to know. It also often makes you have crises of conscience. My, this ep is awfully well-timed.

On over to the library of infinitely skewed consciences, where Finch puts Peck up on their single-case murderboard. Thirty-three, never married, lives alone, I'm about to smack someone with a fish because of the Jesus references not to mention the rule of three. Reese appears to have pulled Crime and Punishment off the shelves on his way in and is sitting down to read it. REESE. Oh my god be better. Peck's a financial analyst and Reese, you were totally one of the kids in school the teachers would call on to see if you were processing both datastreams at once, weren't you. Er, I mean, paying attention. Not that I would know from processing multiple datastreams. Finch snarks back that they can't all be babies and mafia dons, which is true, at least, and avoids mentioning last case and all its glorious fucked-up-ed-ness. Subtle, Finch. Much more interesting is that Peck practices good data security and as a result Finch hasn't managed to hack any of his online accounts. Reese brought lampshades to this party! And a subject change, because he's now pushing to know how Finch gets the numbers and communicates with the Machine. Or, more accurately, it communicates with him, since even Finch can't hide from the Machine entirely. Maybe especially, given his hacking habits. What brought this on is an excellent question, Finch, although it's a fair point to push. Finch just tried to take on a case by himself and nearly fucked that up, things with Elias are at a constant low simmer, HR and the FBI and the CIA would all like to see them dead. And Reese is right: the more Finch gets out in the field, the more likely he is to get badly wounded or killed. Even less cheery, Reese is replaceable. Finch? Not so much. But Finch will engage in some self-soothing, fussing over his books and turning away until he finds the right word for it. A contingency? Yeah, I'm with Reese, you're going to have to do way better than that. They trade barbs about cats and curiosity and we all know the end of that proverb, right? Satisfaction brought him back.

They will say no more about it for the moment, however, and we flip from an NYPD cruiser cam to an overhead shot of the city to Reese surveilling their latest number. Who's flipping through paperwork while Finch tries to hack into the supposed investment firm where Peck works. Uh. Guys, if the firm's firewall is better than Peck's, maybe you should start thinking about it being a front for something else? And Reese can't get wifi from anything in Peck's office despite line of sight. Frooooont. This guy works for a security firm that wants to masquerade as something else, which almost certainly means top secret government. (Though if they get into private security firms properly one of these eps I will be ecstatic.) Finch has an explanation that financial firms colocate with internet firms to get those picoseconds of upload time on their trades and it's interference from their antennas. Yeah, sure, whatever, Finch. Reese doesn't look convinced either. And when we see Peck, can I just say that suit doesn't look nice enough for it to belong to a stockbroker of any stripe? It does, however, look like the sort of out of style, ill-fitting suit a government bureaucrat would wear! Oh fine, I'll let them unspool it at their own rate. Reese drops a wireless bug on Peck in passing since he couldn't bluejack the guy, and may I just giggle over how this is now old school? Oh technology. He's calling someone named Alicia that he really needs to talk to well fuck. The fact that we're getting this, and conservation of characters, and near the end of the season, says that this is Alicia Corwin and this is going to go... poorly for him. Reese and Finch drop some eaves while a woman in a somewhat less shapeless business suit comes up and yells at Henry Peck for not wiping his phone before he left. Ahahahahaha. Ha. Ha. Hoo boy. Finch is right, it is common practice for execs to wipe their phones coming and going on overseas trips (specifically China, if you want to know, the spyware there almost makes having a separate phone just for those trips worth the cost in time of wiping the fuckers after), but nobody in normal business practices does it after leaving work in the US. Reese has a bad feeling about this that he's not yet sharing because he doesn't have confirmation, but we can pretty much see the gears turning on the "oh fuck government" level. Peck heads in to wipe his phone, to the tune of being scolded about working so hard, and Reese apparently has decided to charm his way in. Once I recover from that bout of giggles, because that stride does not look like a man bent on charming anything unless it involves lead, Reese comes up with a standard line about a meeting with someone on being challenged by the gatekeeper who hauled Peck back in. (Ah-HA, which is why her suit is better tailored, she's the face.) Well, there's no record of that meeting, there's a spin lock and an armed guard at the door that's also doubling as a Faraday cage, and the receptionist has a .45 pointed at Reese under the desk until he leaves. Plus now his face is all over their security feeds. He relays this to Finch, along with his assessment that this is a SCIF. I love it when the boys are smart.

So, how do they spy on a spy? When presented with hi-tech problems, go for lo-tech solutions! Everybody loves the coffeemaker. Everyone loves a new one that works better, too! And/or has more capacity. I somewhat question if a 12-cup is enough for an NSA SCIF, but it ought to at least hold them through the initial morning rush. Maybe. Regardless, sneaking one into a shipment and hard-wiring a camera in is a pretty good idea! Well done, Finch. I do also somewhat question whether or not the NSA would think to check the manifest, though it's possible he just swapped it out. Answer unclear, try again later. I have to giggle a little about how no computers are allowed on the power strip the coffeemaker goes into. Because of course they've got computers plugged into more protected electrical outlets. Hey, they've got signal! And a surveillance van! Man, they ARE going old school. I'm having Sneakers flashbacks again that I'm reasonably sure are deliberate. Sigint, in this case, shows that Peck is vociferous about a particular player in the Middle East that he believes they need to pay more attention to. And Reese's old skills are coming to light, though I don't know as he would have had contact with analysts on a regular basis he can probably still tell the ones who give a damn and are good at their jobs from the ones who just plod through their jobs. Yes, yes, they're in a telecom building so they can tap into the lines, it's an NSA listening station which is pretty much only there to hammer it in for the viewers in the cheap seats and to give Reese the cheap shot about how he guesses they better listen. SIGH.

Later that night - quite a bit later, a little after 9 pm - Peck's sitting down to dinner! Which is leftover Chinese takeout. Ah, tradition. Normally tradition of this sort involves a second person to sit down and hash over data with, but they're going to lengths to emphasize Peck's fortress of solitude. Erm, solitary nature. (At the time of this writing I might be on a bit of a Superman kick, does it show?) And the parallels to Finch. I have to agree with Reese, not calling it human interaction is a start, and also this highlights how Reese knows the ways in which he's broken and Finch just... doesn't. Or doesn't think of it as broken. In some ways that gives Finch more power and potential; in others it makes him stick out like a sore thumb and keeps him from being useful in things like field ops. Oh well. Hey, here's something interesting! Mr. Chen, who I can only assume is Peck's landlord, had a complaint that he filed with the cops from when he came in to check on a smoke detector that wasn't working. Yadda yadda oh look it's illegel prescription meds, to the tune of a gallon ziploc o' Adderall. Well THAT'S a nice obvious plant. Reese thinks so too. Peck knows so and can't prove anything and is probably mouthing the correct innocent indignant phrases to the cops while the rest of his brain tries to figure out what he did to piss who off to land him in this kind of a setup. At least, if he's as good as he seems to be he is. But Wait, There's More! There's another bug on the same frequency Finch is using for their bug, which is probably not as unusual as it seems though it does speak to the parallel nature of their work with the NSA's. And Reese has eyes on the spook watching Peck's apartment, who's on the move! Which means so is Reese. I hope for some interesting asskicking fights, given that Reese hasn't been up against anyone capable of matching him in a fight in awhile, but instead the unnamed NSA spook will pull a Batman and disappear into thin air behind a truck. I'll take that too, for the hilarity value! And Reese gives us the ominous pronouncement to go to commercial on. Yes, thank you, we got that.

Next morning, at the library of infinite spying on each other, Reese flips through the borough maps, yeah, that's a fair number of copies and it is kind of suspicious and anomalous except Finch could have all kinds of excuses for it, from hard copy being useful to it's a harmless thing to collect. (It's not, but we don't know that yet.) Carter doesn't know what Reese is talking about, she just has news that Peck's out on bail as of an hour ago. Reese goes through Finch's trash to little effect while he asks the routine questions and not incidentally reminding us that Caviezel's a lefty. Every once in awhile they do a close-up that reminds us that Reese is sinister in all the ways. No, Peck doesn't have a history of drug abuse that was expunged, he had a speeding ticket that was expunged. In a 78-page brief. Oh my god I kind of love this kid now. I mean, I wonder how he found the time, but super-analysts for the NSA are exactly the sort of people with a perverse streak that would make them think tilting at this sort of windmill is hilarious. Carter and Reese are both impressed in spite of themselves, that's a bit of a genuine smile on his face as he hangs up that might be as much in amusement at the kindred spirit of a man who doesn't know when to quit (I love when writers do profiling-by-proxy, see also Tony Stark in Avengers) as in pleasure at talking to his favorite asset. Ahem. No time to dwell on that, Finch is in and eying Reese pointedly to get the fuck out of his chair. Reese's studied insouciance as he pockets the post-it with the lot number of Finch's freaking sencha green tea cup on it is hilarious, as is Finch's headtilt at Reese's feet on the desk. Oh both of you. Finch's news is that he did a little hacking which he refers to as "chatting up the network," just to highlight the ways in which Finch views tech as more on his level than people, and hey, he's got video! Of the guy from last night breaking into Peck's apartment earlier in the day to plant the drugs. Whee! Finch will address the why would someone be after him, Reese is more worried about the immediate question of who, and he heads off to do some surveilling-cum-bodyguarding while Finch breaks a few dozen more federal statutes. All this before 9 am! I'm endeavoring not to devolve into an Izzard sketch back here; it's only half-working.

We head on over to the SCIF, where Peck is summarily fired - excuse me, placed on administrative leave and his clearances suspended - for his "drug problem" and the arrest. Protesting that they're out to get you may be accurate, Henry dear, but it's not going to do you any favors. Your boss is right about that much. Reese watches from inside the van and relays intel to Finch, who would very much like to know the why behind all of this. In a tone that suggests he may be experiencing a bout of his own paranoia that he doesn't want to share without further evidence. Peck will now proceed to demonstrate his inability to know when to quit, shut up, go to ground, and stop asking questions that are going to get him killed. By trying to reach the deputy director of the NSA, where he promptly gets the runaround from probably half a dozen different people who hang up on him the second they realize who he is, why he's calling, and how much shit they'll be in if they allow themselves to be affiliated with him. Poor bastard. Asking questions that any decent analyst, yeah, we all know exactly where this is leading. He found something he wasn't meant to find, and now they're pissed and covering their asses, and that includes imprisonment, death, or both for Peck. At a minimum discrediting him to the point where nobody in the intelligence community will have anything to do with him! Oh, hey, the security cam above the entrance to Peck's building has been cut. Never mind, death it is. Death by lethal injection, judging by the pills and booze so cleverly scattered over the floor. Yeah, this guy is good. And careful. And would totally get away with it, even with a struggling analyst, if it weren't for Reese. For once Finch's color commentary recognizes that there's a fight going on instantly, because This Is That Serious, and we do actually get someone getting the better of Reese. Partly because Reese wants to capture and interrogate, and all the spook wants to do is get away, and partly because Reese hasn't had anyone of his skill level to go up against in quite some time. Plus, one assumes Reese has it in the back of his head that Peck's getting away to be killed by someone ELSE, and that has to be a bit of a distraction. It's a very nicely choreographed scene, too, going straight from disarm to grappling; unnamed spyssassin seems to have a penchant for grappling which is one of the better ways to deal with someone Reese's size. He loses the benefit of his reach and leverage that way, and he's the sort of person who needs to be smashed into heavy objects to slow him down, as the spyssassin finds out. So! One table and a glass-fronted cabinet (OW) later and Reese is down for long enough to make flight a possibility. And down on the street is one of those useful inflatable black SUVs waiting for the spyssassin! Aww.

Why yes, everyone believes that you know what you're looking at, Reese! Finch will use the bug to track Peck who he (and we) sincerely hope can't have gotten far, but because it's a less powerful bug than bluejacking someone he's doing it on foot. Ulp. Well I don't know about you guys, but I'm instantly nervous with that. Peck is STILL trying to get hold of Deputy Director Gibbons. (Ook.) HENRY PECK STOP BEING STUPID. Oh my god even dumber, he's somehow managed to get hold of Gibbsons' daughter's cell phone number. THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE. Oh my god. Finch would be banging his head into the nearest blunt stationary object if he weren't so busy trying to keep up with Peck. Who is now cheerfully telling his boss('s boss' boss?) that someone just tried to kill him. Honey, you really just can't accept that you're in the middle of a spy conspiracy and make appropriate fleeing arrangements, can you. It does have the nice side effect of providing context for the phone call the Machine spewed at us first thing this episode! Three weeks ago, and off the record, congratulatory phone call yadda only this Carlson that we heard mentioned? Yeah, not someone Peck put in his report. Someone else put it in there and that sound you heard was the penny dropping for Finch. Because this is how, you see, the very very few people in the government who know about the Machine are sneaking the data in places that it can be shown to those not cleared for it. All you did was ask questions? God he's such an adorable baby idealist, to think that asking questions is safe in this job. Nuh-uh. There are certain questions you're not supposed to ask, and I realize you're very alone and scared, you poor young thing, but you had to have seen the "don't ever call me again" and the hangup coming. Now will you PLEASE get rid of your cell phone before they track you on it? More? No, he will not, he will head down the street from Finch and Reese, who's finally caught up with Finch. And Finch will proceed to explain his face for us, yes, thank you. Along with a heaping helping of guilt for being the one who ultimately put Peck in this position. Well, honey, that's why your Machine spat out his number. Assess how much of a genuine threat he is, save him if you can, kill him or otherwise neutralize him if you must, but it trusts Finch and Reese's judgment over the US government's. I can't say it's wrong.

We'll take a jaunt back to 2009, then! Where Nathan and Alicia are meeting in a rather dark and anonymous bar, though at least not the kind where they stick out in business attire. She looks worried and tense the second she walks in the door, and we can see Nathan deciding not to ask just yet. Even more telling, she forestalls his offer of a drink until they clear their business. Which is to say, passing along the information about the Machine. Oh goodie. Alicia's still not happy about this and I would actually guess that she's been put in charge of logistics/liaison for the Machine because she's not happy with its existence. With a project like this it's not a bad idea to have a skeptic handling the fine details. Nathan seems to have been either drinking or being a cynical fuck by himself for awhile before she got there, with that all for a good cause comment. Apparently they'll be transporting the Machine through the heartland, starting in Des Moines and ending fuck knows where. Alicia's not telling him and Nathan knows better than to ask. There's also specifications we don't get to know as far as where the Machine has to be housed; I'd assume a lot of those involve dealing with the cooling issue. That many data servers... well, let me not digress too far into the CPU/RAM/PSU cooling needs for a project on this scale, but suffice it to say even with solid state (assuming they're using SSD technology and I can't imagine Finch wouldn't be), the cooling might be the majority of the hardware bill, over time. Anyway. The other issue is sneaking the data into reports so that nobody suspects the Machine's existence. Not that we get a lengthy explanation of it in public nor do we need one, because we've got the explanation staring us in the face in present day. And now we see that Nathan has definitely been drinking when he slips and says eight people in the world know of its existence and they need to keep it that way. Seven, Nathan. She's duly freaked the fuck out and Nathan is a bad liar. He also keeps looking like he wants to reach out and cover the hand of hers that's on the table, which is interesting since we have no reason to believe they were ever romantically involved. (Also, eight: Nathan, Finch, Alicia, Gibbons?, and the OSC guy makes five so far that I count.) He turns the question around, and she says they'll take care of it, and I have to think that she means Reese and Stanton with that tone of voice. Well, shit, are we really counting them as knowing? Because eek. At this point Nathan goes on the offensive, because something does have her very rattled, but she brushes him off, he presses about what her day job is, she stonewalls him with the we're all knowledgeable here line, followed by a very tired, worn-out smile. Really everything about this scene is shot and lit to emphasize how exhausting this process has been for the two of them in particular and presumably everyone else who knows about the Machine by proxy. And she'll have that drink now.

Back in the present day, I know another woman who could use a drink once she gets off duty. Poor Carter. The Machine takes us into a park and zooms in on Finch and Reese walking side by side - by the way, it is a harder trick than you might think to match strides with that kind of height and capability disparity, and I suspect it's mostly on Reese slowing his pace to keep Finch from being a moron and hurting himself. It's a nice bit of acting all around, and a nice bit of detail. So. Carter would like to know about this call into the police from one of Peck's neighbors who saw two men fighting and Finch takes over to cut her off. Because he really really does not want someone as smart and perceptive as she is on a case that involves the Machine so deeply and blatantly. Heh. I can't blame him. I can't blame her for the worried/annoyed tone she takes after she's been hung up on, either. Back to the park, where Peck, honey, you don't look obviously on the run or anything! God you're bad at this. His one saving grace is that he's in a suit. Reese would like an explanation for this bullshit. Finch's explanation is that human error is the major weakness of all computers, which is reasonably accurate so far as it goes, and that certain measures were always going to be taken to protect the Machine... and then they have a moment of really bad hiding. Well, Reese doesn't do so bad at faking a casual look-away and disinterest and Peck doubles back. Finch is at least as obvious as Peck is. More ruthless than you anticipated, Finch? You really don't know your government at fucking all, do you. Hey, Peck has a phone call! It's Alicia Corwin! Alicia uses I'm Your Common Thread! It's Super Effective! Now everyone's ears are perked up and thank you, Reese, for the information that she used to be with the NSC. That's useful data. Notably, she's dropped her voice so low it's hard to even determine gender right off the bat, and as the camera pans to an anonymous pay phone we see her hunched into it and dressed in enough layers that she looks almost like a street person. Probably on purpose, because people tend not to pay attention to someone who looks like they're wearing most to all the clothes they own at once. More timeline stuff, since she won't meet with Peck! Two months ago was when the report was changed, over a year is how long it's been since Alicia Corwin's office was open. We'll remember that, because while it won't be important until NEXT season finale, it will be VERY important then. Peck's getting good at these impassioned pleas, not least because the NSA was his life and he's had all meaning stripped from it. It's enough to sway Alicia into one word of a clue, sibilance, and also that he should run. That's a good plan! The Machine proceeds to follow him through the park, and so does Team Machine, Finch explaining that Peck is infected with an idea and he needs to be treated as patient zero of an outbreak. That's... also not a bad summation, though it highlights Finch's coldness and view of the world as a chessboard. Reese has simple suggestions, but in this case I'm with Finch because Peck is, if he's like either of them, most like Finch. And that means Peck won't quit without answers, and giving him more pieces of the puzzle (namely, a spyssassin and his eccentric billionaire hacker-cum-handler) is about the same as giving him answers. So the solution is for them to save Peck without him knowing they exist. That's easier said than done, and at this point in the episode we can guess that it's just a pipe dream. Especially since Reese just got feedback and hey, that's a phone and a bug and Peck in the wind. ENJOY, boys.

Later that night at the library of infinite grumpiness, Reese would like to file a complaint because for a guy who was being really bad about field work before he bought a clue from Corwin, he's doing really well now. Gave his credit cards to homeless people to obfuscate a digital trail, bricked his cell phone so well even Finch can't pull anything. Cue brief admiring grumbling about it, though hopefully if they can't find him easily neither can the people after him. Reese! Tell us about the guys after him. Three man team, professionally trained, the guy he fought had a gun chambered for rifle ammunition which, okay, is skipping a few steps and severely depends on what you call rifle ammo but is a good indication along with everything else that the unnamed spyssassin's ammo would shred kevlar. (After some research they're probably talking about FN five-seven rounds, which are specifically designed to defeat body armor.) It's awfully narratively convenient that from that Reese makes the leap to standard issue and thence to the ISA, but sure, we'll take it. Most special forces around the world use armor-piercing rounds, including the Secret Service, so that's really not even close to reality, and this show does want us to buy large chunks of its world-building as mirroring ours. But. Anyway. It's reasonable for Reese to be able to make this assessment given his experience, I just question his singular proof. I'm sure everything from fighting style to the ability to Batman away played into his recognizing ISA tactics, he's just not spelling them out at length. Which, by the way, really does exist and really is pretty fucking scary, in terms of capability and skillset. I have to say, I appreciate that they've been willing to break out some more obscure chunks of the alphabet soup when digging into the government conspiracy aspects for the show. In this case, having an ex-mil, ex-Company, ex-Special Forces spyssassin on your side is incredibly useful, and it's a measure of how much they've come to trust each other's expertise while not talking about Before (for assorted values of that term) that Reese head straight into, this is how I'd hunt for Peck. After all, he is - they are - hunting Peck, just not to kill him. Finch, to his credit, takes the data and immediately starts a search for cash-only hotels with internet access. You're both adorable and competent and I love when they get to show off like this.

An anonymous side street off Broadway and an anonymous black car and a phone call! Aw, the bad guys are checking in. It is, by the way, a mark of really good writing (to say nothing of increasing cynicism about the US government as we grew up) that I've so immediately shifted to, the guys working for the government are the bad guys. Or at least the less than good guys, and their bosses are the bad guys. A complication! I giggle at their definitions. We do have two guys on the team, we have the guy from OSC (that's Office of Special Counsel for those of you who didn't breathe the alphabet soup), and we have no more gloves. I facepalm over their definition of having the gloves on in the FIRST fucking place, but alright, I guess if your only definition is that it can be made to look like an accident then... whatever. Sigh. When I look up, Finch has a hit! A palpable hit, in Hell's Kitchen! Peck tried to find anything on sibilance/sibilants, to no avail, but he did find a pinout to hack into the NSA with! Ohhhh boy. Finch gives us the voiceover of what he believes Peck's going to do even as the Machine brings us to an overlook on the very telecom building hiding Peck's former SCIF.

On over to the darkened offices, where Peck's managed to time his arrival on the floor with the security guard clearing out on rounds. Okay, that's, um. Let me back up and explain pinouts! Look at the end of a USB cable. There are four pins in that, which correspond to various functions of the device: sending data, voltage, etc. A pinout diagram shows exactly what the pins do, and somehow Peck found on online for the NSA's pinouts, which can then be overloaded or otherwise hard-wire hacked. This episode, in short, is all about the analog and hardware where the digital and software fails, in the small things. It is incredibly unlikely that the NSA would use a keypad with the pins that readily available, but the trick Peck's using is, given the setup on our screens, plausible. Plus I suppose it's bad for relations with whatever government liaisons you've got working on your show to even briefly demonstrate exactly how to defeat the real NSA tech. Or bad for your position as liaison to a TV show. I'm just saying. Anyway, Peck's in, Reese is in, Peck's digging around for reports and Reese is under orders to quarantine the outbreak without actually letting Peck know he's there. Finch, you're starting to remind Reese of his less reasonable and intelligent handlers from the past. We all know where this is going, right? Red dot, flying tackle, automatic weapons fire! It is a three man team. Reese, I love you and all your competence porn. And your snark. Two and a half! It's good tactics overall as he makes his escape from the SCIF, helped by the fact that he's got a giant fuckoff pillar for cover, only Peck is once AGAIN going to take off and not wait for his avenging angel to come deal with him. Oh my god, dude, I know you have no reason to trust anyone but you surely must realize that there's a non-zero chance of a backup team outside? It doesn't exist, but I'd be worrying about that. Though this is one of his somewhat smarter moves! Also one of the more hilarious ones, and now we know what the clip from the opening credits was all about. Sure, get yourself arrested by people with no interest in working with federal agents and their own particularly confusing bureaucracy. There's at least a chance that way, along with the reports he's stolen, that he'll be safe. For at least a little longer. I still question his decision not to just go to ground, but as evidenced earlier, this is not a man who knows when to quit, or there wouldn't be such a problem. Hopefully the fact that Reese just looks annoyed and holsters his weapon tells Peck some positive things about one of the gunmen! No, Finch isn't going to like this, but it's still fucking hilarious.

Back to 2009 at IFT, where Finch is a hairsbreadth away from initiating final shutdown for transferring the Machine to government control. Inasmuch as the Machine can be controlled by anyone. Nathan comes in to report that they're all ready to go, and he's clearly grieving or worried, in the grip of some strong, negative emotion. Finch is similarly unhappy, though he's masking it with his trademark cold cynicism. Yeah, we hope nothing goes wrong in the rest of the world in the ten days the Machine is offline. (And who thinks that ten days is going to come back to bite them in the ass at some point or another, probably in s3? Yeah, me too.) But before they can do a full shutdown, Nathan wants to know that they have a contingency in case the government decides to abuse this thing. I'd modify that to when the government decides, because really, Nathan, you're pathetically naive for as shrewd a businessman as you must have been at one point. Or just really, really tunnel-visioned. Finch points out, not in so many words, that this is all Nathan's idea and instigation anyway, why is he so fussed? Though he'll admit that even he wouldn't trust anyone but Nathan with this kind of power. You guys. Stop that. You're making my heart hurt. That's an absurd level of trust. Finch asserts that the Machine can't be abused or even accessed and it does all its own maintenance, which is not quite like going out and saying "I made an AI and I wrote the laws of robotics or something like them into the operating system," but it's damn close. Not that Nathan fully understands that or the ramifications of it, and hey, he used to be a software engineer too. Corporate beard. I'm going to spend awhile snickering over that. They trade principles of programming back and forth, any system can be compromised given enough time and any exploit is a total exploit. Both of which are true, and which represent their opposing viewpoints in oh so many ways. The desire to protect from abuse of power versus the understanding of how cracks in the armor work. I shudder to think if Finch had bent his attention on social engineering as thoroughly as he did on software engineering. (Then again, we've got substantial signs pointing to "he would have turned into someone like Nathan, with less moral compass.") He can't even imagine the magnitude of the consequences if someone else gained access to the Machine, so for right now they're going to trust the Machine and let it go. Accompanied by action, accompanied by me with all of s2 in hindsight laughing and crying into the keyboard. There's a very nice shot of the Machine holding onto its maker and its conscience as the last things it sees before shutdown completes, and Finch really has nothing more to say. Just a sad, tired nod and smile for his friend as he heads out. The job of seven years, now complete - or at least out of his hands.

In the present day, we hear the cop chatter and the fact that Carter put out a BOLO on Peck from the Machine, and thence to his interrogation room! Where they are ever so carefully not revealing who's on the other side of the table, which tells us that it's either Carter or Fusco. Honey. Honey. You sound like someone in dire need of a vacation at least and possibly a padded cell. You can't just drop this kind of conspiracy theory on the cops and not sound like a nutcase. Though I think he's talking his way through it as much as anything, and what he pulled out of the SCIF were the six reports that had a single name from the Machine added to his reports. In every case, these reports then stop a major terrorist attack! (I kind of wonder how many of them were directly against the US or if they've expanded operations.) Finch is listening as all of this goes down, which further confirms our Fusco-or-Carter theory and since they're not showing us and Carter's the one with the BOLO out it must be Fusco. But we have to wait for Peck's little moment of revelation that the illegal surveillance, to be this successful, cannot by definition by done by a human organization of the size of anything currently in existence, and believe you me and him, you can't keep a human organization that size secret. His penny-dropping face is classic but Peck, lord, now you really sound like you need a tinfoil hat. Finch is absolutely horrified that he's spewing all of this out to one of their assets but look, Finch, it could be a lot worse. It could be Carter, who's more than capable of following those leaps of logic. For Fusco, even knowing what Finch can do and how little he gives a shit about other people's privacy, this still sounds like fairytales. You can bet that he's filing it away and it may become relevant at a future point, but he's also not gotten this far, with HR, with Reese, by trying to stick his nose in matters that are above his pay grade. And this? Way, WAY above Fusco's pay grade. Plus he and Carter still don't know about each other, so he doesn't know Team Machine is all over this guy, so yes, of course he's just staring at poor Peck like he's gone around the bend. No, Peck would not like a soda. Finch would like to strangle Peck. Carter would like to strangle Fusco, who points out that he didn't question her suspect, he walked in and sat down and her suspect starting spilling his guts all over the table. They walk past Reese in full cop uniform with the cap pulled way down low and we all about die laughing as neither of them catches it. Granted, this is brazen even for Reese and the real cops are distracted with Peck's insanity, but still. Hi-larious.

Okay, fine, time to get Peck out of here, Reese can do that by virtue of the uniform. Now I'm picturing him stealing dirty cops' uniforms on his off days. Ahem. Yeah, Peck, we'd all like a better answer to who are you than the show's given us so far, mainly because we don't know anything about Reese pre-Jessica and we'd like to, but your point is well taken. No, you don't get an answer to that until you get out of the station at the earliest. Grabbing a cell phone: smart move in theory, dumb move in practice. Yes, Finch, you should be grateful that actually most people wouldn't look at the story Peck spun and think anything other than mad conspiracy theorist gone off the deep end. Pressures of the job, you know how it is. Apparently he's now come around to defending Peck, or as close as he can get, which is defending Peck's curiosity and reasonable desire to have a life. I question his choice of adjective, but Finch hasn't ever had a real good bead on what qualifies as normal or even average. Yes, yes, Reese knows all the things you're blathering and oh my god Peck WHY WOULD YOU CALL THE OSC. At least Finch knows why that's a bad idea and he sounds about as angry as we've ever seen him. Spitting mad, really. Peck. You dumb naive fool. You think the OSC doesn't know about this? You think any branch of government is safe? You are BEING A FUCKING IDIOT. Reese thinks so too, though he's slightly more polite about it. OSC-guy sends over the last known coordinates to the lead spyssassin and he's apparently close enough that he sets up a very, very temporary sniper's nest on top of a railroad bridge. By the way, I had to pause to catch this, but the billboard over them says "find out how good you really are." Cute, guys. Real cute. Two shots, song drop from our post title, and that was the gas tank. I'm impressed. And worried, because they're both unconscious and the car is on fire and the spyssassin is coming for them... and ad break.

Not that unconscious, as we find when we come back from the ad break! Reese made it out of the car and presumably scuttled around the car at a crouch to get the drop on the spyssassin, who noticed something was wrong just a fraction too late. Oops. Two hits and down only briefly, but that's enough time to haul Peck out of the burning car. Which, I will grant, should be Reese's priority assuming he's not being attacked that very instant. Oh, hey, about that. He's got wrist blades! I want wrist blades. Peck takes advantage of this to run off AGAIN seriously dude, you'd think he'd learn that Reese will keep finding him and so would the bad guys. Though admittedly he may not have been cogent enough to count gunmen when he was up in the SCIF stealing reports. The fight is quick and brutal and remarkably seems not to end with any injuries on Reese's part, though he does have at least a couple inches on the guy. Yeah, the pause to grab the second blade was your undoing, dude. Gurgle gurgle die, no, of course he never asked why he was supposed to kill an NSA analyst, and of course they never told him. You know how this goes, Reese, though I suppose that was only the faintest of hopes at best. He's gone all dead-eyed again when he stands up, though he's trying to pull back on a semblance of normalcy for the benefit of Peck. Who is... no longer there. Yep. That's a "really? this again?" look, as Reese goes to check in with Finch. No, it's a long ways from over, how the hell are they going to manage this? Well, a friend of Finch's once showed him that even with an intractable problem there's usually a way to do the right thing. Uh-HUH. Hi Nathan. Normally this would be our cue to get a flashback from Finch rather than the Machine, but in this case the Machine is Finch's creation and we head briefly back to 2009, later that same night, and Nathan boots the Machine back up. His access is listed as restricted, but apparently he's allowed some degree of admin access and he's going to create a new function called CONTINGENCY. Heh.

Next day, oh for the love of god Peck you're going to the press with this? Fuckssake. OSC wants it stopped. I can't imagine Finch would be too happy about it either. And now we begin to see exactly what Finch meant by an outbreak, as there are orders to kill the reporter too. Urgh. In this instance we don't really need to see Reese badassing again to rescue the reporter and deal with the spyssassins (I lie. We always need more badass!Reese, but I hear there are these time limits on episodes) so instead Finch comes to sit down and talk with Peck! Ohhhh boy. This is going all kinds of interesting places already. Finch has on his eccentric billionaire getup, a little more pressed and neat than his usual around Reese, but his expression is the same flat affect with a side of carefully blank in case of surprises that he usually wears in the library of infinite solitude. He opens by telling Peck specifically, bluntly, and with just enough emphasis on "kill you both" about the assassins that even Peck, in his overreaching curiosity, hesitates to ask any questions. Yes, kid. If you keep this up you're not the only person who's going to end up dead. How about you think about that for a change. To emphasize that for us, they've shot Peck sinister and Finch dexter in this scene, along with the interesting mix of colors they're wearing: Finch's down to earth/camouflage browns and Peck's power blue and steel gray. Not quite clashing, but definitely at odds. Finch is also hiding what I think is his enjoying being in power; there's a part of him that wants very badly to have other people to share the burden of knowledge with and knows exactly how bad an idea that is. Normally he doesn't take these measures, but as he says, Peck is a lot like himself and won't stop asking. Even when directly told yes, it exists, now stop asking. Though we can giggle over the foreshadowing for end of s2 with "the servers alone would be a city [street? or so?]." As we get more and more into closeups we can see the red around Finch's eyes is more pronounced than usual, too. Possibly he was up late agonizing over the decision. An outside chance, he cried before he got there. Most likely the former and possibly holding back the latter. Yes, you can keep asking the questions, Peck, but you're going to lose not just your life but the lives of everyone you've come in contact with, some of whom surely you give a shit about? Yes? I think as much as he reminds Finch of himself in certain ways, he reminds him of Nathan in oh so many others; we have the cold pragmatist who finally grew a conscience and the idealist for whom people are just data in a file. The same end of two spectrums. We get more shots from the Machine in between than usual during this scene, emphasizing its importance but also giving us the impression we've seen all of the area around Finch and Peck. Oh, hey, that's new papers for a new life, GO TAKE THEM, PECK. This is the longest monologue of its type Finch has given in a long, long time, if not ever, and by the way go fall in love with someone and become more human, Peck. Dude. If Finch is saying that to you? You really do need to get a life. A more normal one. He recovers from his shock long enough to ask how the fuck Finch knows all of this, since he's at least smart enough not to ask who Finch is. Well. Because he built it! I can't decide if he trusts the Machine to protect him, Peck's newfound discretion, or the likelihood that nobody would believe him if he went and spilled his guts again, but that's an interesting choice of revelation. Oh honey. On which note this conversation is over and my, those are some interesting shots from a table or two over and behind Peck, where the Machine has not yet shown us the civilian(s). It's a very neat bit of camera misdirection and mostly noticeable in hindsight.

On over to the precinct, where Carter gets the loose ends of the case to tidy away in a file somewhere that nobody will ever find it or recognize its import if they do. Peck's still in the wind but they found his prints at the burned out cab with the John Doe next to it. Bunch of paper that burned up, but one thing made it out! A scrap of paper that says Sibilance (networking, I think). Heh. Fusco lurking under the stairs at the coffee gives her the I'm-watching-you face, she gives it right back, and on over to Reese! Because Fusco wants to update him on the HR deal, which is going down in - when else? - three days. (Drink!) Yeah, they'll do this thing, Reese will be there once he's done with this other thing, no, nobody believes you nor should they. Even if he thinks he's that close to Finch's address, which I doubt he does or he wouldn't be telling Fusco. Close to an address of import, yes. And by the way? Shit like this is how you keep all the threads juggled in a show with this many players that you need to keep track of. It feels a little manufactured but not much, most of that's in the timing on the file given to Carter, and it gives us data. Important data that proves they haven't forgotten about this and moreover, that they want us not to forget about it but trust that the audience is smart enough to get it without a whole bunch of expo-dumping. This is the reason we run this blog, you guys, because writers pull shit like this and it's awesome.

At any rate, Reese just ordered Finch's usual drink at the usual stand, and we see that the lot numbers match on a shipping invoice to the one he wrote down from Finch's cup a few days ago. Yes, the guy's there every day, that's an established point of congruity. So is the truck full of The Boroughs coming around the corner and the guy leaving a whole stack of them at someone's door. Reese does appear to think he's found Finch's address, which is kind of adorable and he's got to know this is somewhat optimistic. The Machine takes note. And hello, Grace! The hesitation is momentary and he came prepared with badge and cover story of a disturbance reported. It's all very rote and by the book and we at the FBI do not have a sense of humor of which we are aware, ma'am right up until he asks if she'd like help with the magazine. Aww. Yes, that's a lot of copies, they send her extra when she's done the cover. Oh WELL then. More oh WELL then to the comment about how she's got a guardian angel despite thinking that she'll never work again due to everything going digital. Finch, you softy. I'd blame the Machine but I think it's too constrained for that. I bet it approves, though! Reese is very good at controlling his face in this scene oh my god hello Finch you're actually smiling in that photo. The curiosity is a bit misplaced for a cop, but as a woman who says she's alone with a disturbance reported I can imagine Grace chalking it up to Reese being one of the good cops who wants to be sure that there's no domestic abuse going on. Notably, she was tense and defensive, arms crossed over her body, until she got to talking about Harold. Who is her fiance, present tense, which is interesting. Somebody really hasn't moved on, despite the two years since the accident, and oh my god this story is adorable. You two. Quit that. Three, because Reese has one of his tiny-but-real smiles on, hey, his employer's got a heart and he's getting data. He's also having a Moment that we will hope to hell Grace is writing off as Reese remembering happier times with an unknown lover and not glee over data or discovering that his friend had someone once. Because there's a lot of layers of emotions going on right now. They did apparently get to the point of moving in together before the accident, which is all she'll say about that, and that she lost him. Oh honey. With the lack of a body no wonder she has no closure and keeps referring to Harold in the present tense. Reese will take his leave of her, we don't really need to hear whatever platitudes or lines he spins to apologize for intruding.

Much to nobody's surprise, Finch is both on a bench down by the street and expecting Reese. They're both a bit concerned, mostly I think because this is the closest Reese has gotten in the last, what, nine months? Or thereabouts. And neither of them have protocols for dealing with this. When in doubt, fall back on training! Reese will compliment Finch on his choice of stalking location by listing all the benefits, and that's a very oh-you're-cute-I-see-what-you-did-there look in return. It's a lovely bit of offering his training without being prompted, this is how he's followed Finch and this is what to look for if he's being tailed and by the way that thing they're not talking about? Let's not-talk about it very loudly. Oh John. In return, Finch offers his own bit of information specific to his abilities. You built an app, Finch? There's an app for that? I laugh that I do not cry. And then he proceeds to open up about himself as much as he's ever, EVER done to anyone since Nathan and Grace, that he doesn't regret building the Machine (considering it's an AI I think he'd be hard-pressed to do that even given the uses to which it's been put) but he never realized the personal cost. I doubt very much Finch is just talking about Grace here, but he blames himself for Nathan's death to such a degree that I would be surprised if he opened up before end of season three finale about that in any detail to an actual human being. (No, Finch, therapy via Machine doesn't count even if the Machine's doing its level best to drag you kicking and screaming into participation in the human race.) He's obviously grieving, too, and letting himself grieve in front of Reese, and that is one fuck of a lot of trust they've built up. I think this also serves as forewarning, fore-apology? for the eventual discovery that he was responsible for the CIA mission that got Reese and Stanton burned. It definitely is foreshadowing, I'm not sure how much of it is conscious on Finch's part. At any rate, by the time Finch realized the ruthlessness of the people he and Nathan had given the Machine to it was too late for him to do anything other than quarantine himself as patient zero, but Grace had a chance to keep out of it! Oh honey. You never did even tell her your real name, did you. And yes, Reese, that means that he chose you because your life was already in danger and was always going to be in danger, either from yourself or from others. Therefore choosing Reese as a partner was mitigating the damage as best he could. AND THIS IS 90% SUBTEXT. I love everyone in this bar. Speaking of subtext, Finch will now allude to Reese's four days of happiness in Mexico with Jessica (measured against his four years with Grace) and move off because spyssassins Don't Show Weakness. That sharp intake of breath, subtle though it is, looks an awful lot like Reese getting gutpunched. Which is both revenge for his privacy invaded and bonding and you two have the most fucked up friendship ever, have I mentioned this lately? 'cause you do.

The Machine pans us out and over to some of its usual shots, then pauses and starts the rewind to about 16 hours ago. Peck gets a yellow box! Aww. Sort of. We're getting a little more of that one view of what's behind Henry Peck than we did before, we're panning out... oh. Hi, Alicia Corwin! With a unidirectional mic carefully hidden under gloves and magazine and other common New Yorker accoutrements. Well that's an interesting little revelation, for us and for her, and that's a great face of fitting puzzle pieces together. So about those seven-no-eight people who know about the Machine? (No, nine. No, ten. No, soon to be eleven. LET'S JUST MAKE IT AN EVEN DOZEN OKAY.) Ahem. Yeah. I still want to know who all the assorted government officials are, but we have a start on the original list, living and deceased: Finch, Ingram, Corwin, OSC guy, probably Gibbons. Short by three. That's okay. We're patient.

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