Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fight to be Free (Person of Interest S2E09 C.O.D)

Our number this week is a man working a blue-collar looking job of some kind, and we see him leaning on a car only through a telephoto lens, and then Reese looking over his shoulder. That is singularly uninformative. The tough-guy look could be for any number of reasons, and frankly it mostly resembles a "fuck off and don't bother me" attitude rather than an "I'm going to rip your throat out" attitude. So! The Machine has something to show us. When does the Machine not have something to show us. A stereotypical Russian accent asking his cabbie to pull over and wait for him at the park, no questions asked, he tears a short stack of $100s in half and this is his security against the cabbie taking off. Sure, okay, we'll go with that. Only we never see the Russian come back, we barely can tell from the glimpse we get of him that the cabbie is the number shown in the credits (though we can safely extrapolate that), and now it's the next morning.

And the boys are surveilling him. Why Finch is on street surveillance duty is currently a mystery! Though once we get confirmation that he's a cabbie we can take a guess, someone has to plant bugs and Finch has a certain specialty in that. Fermin Ordoñez looks pretty average, both in the way he's hanging out with a couple other cabbies and in his conscientious attention to his finances. Certainly that indicates a couple things, probably that he's been poor in the past and has no intention of screwing up his finances himself, possibly that he was raised with an awareness of finances, possibly that he has other reasons to be nervous about them. Oh, but he emptied his savings account yesterday. That is unusual. I mean, I can name at least one reason to do it (getting married, combining accounts at a new bank, ask me how I know), but without something like that as an indication it's definitely the only red flag they have to go on. Follow the money! As ever. Finch cites us some statistics about the dangers of Ordoñez's profession and follows it up by stepping into the cab after saying "you never know…" Yeah, thanks, Finch. Your sense of humor in this case isn't. He puts the poor guy under orders not to rush because he gets carsick easily? FINCH. This cab ride also serves as infodump while Finch gets himself admin access to the onboard computer, Ordoñez came over from Cuba for baseball right up until he tore a ligament in his arm and got dropped. Ouch. Poor bastard. It's also noteworthy that he's so used to people babbling away in the backseat that until Finch raises his voice slightly, he assumes he's not being talked to. And that he doesn't seem to want to talk to people, by and large. Finch's idea of small talk is also kind of cringe-worthy, but it's a flash of the Finch we knew last season. He's healing from his abduction, in other words! Aww. Yay. And I guess we could call him a librarian, after a fashion, yes. Even if I want to poke him until he stops smirking like that. At least he's a good tipper, good man.

Turns out the reason Finch was doing this bit of groundwork is so Reese can take up tailing him after the bugs are all planted. On a motorcycle. For Reese in motorcycle leathers I will allow an awful lot. Nom. We get a few glimpses of the people in the back of the cab over the course of the day, nobody particularly interesting until, you guessed it, the third one! Who's an obnoxious businessman who really wants to hear the baseball game; Ordoñez has perfectly understandable reasons for not wanting to turn it on though I wonder how many times during the season he has to go through this crap with his fares. Because really. Said obnoxious asshole starts kicking the front seat and generally being a whiny shit, which gets the cab pulled over and, no, sorry, Fermin. You're not getting money out of that guy, he looks like the sort of asshole who's scared of anyone darker than his pasty ass. Not to put too fine a point on it. Sigh. The boys establish that this is not going to work, it's impossible to run profiles on every person who gets into Ordoñez's cab, so let's go a slightly different route! A call to Carter reveals no priors, no nothing outstanding on his taxes, this guy is a model citizen on paper in all ways. So how about those GPS records from the last 36 hours instead? Maybe cross-referencing with police reports will be useful! There's some beautiful snark in here, along with the verbal equivalent of a facepalm, about how if it would make Carter feel better he could hack into the TLC and make it look like there was an official request for those records. Oh Finch. It's good to have you back. Carter will get back to them with the data after she's cross-referenced, and now, Finch? Now you're pushing it with the commentary on her social life. Don't be a jerk. Oh, and the trials are scheduled to begin soon for HR. In case we were wondering what the B plot this episode was.

I kind of love the Machine's-eye view of HR, with La Cosa Nostra over to the side, several deceased and incarcerated members of HR labeled, in fact most of them labeled as such, with a quick focus on Fusco, his undercover status marked and associations with John Reese and, of course, "ADMIN" noted. Oh Machine. You're so adorable. Also a useful note, which will sadly not be relayed to the boys but we can bet the Machine will shove things around if it decides it's necessary and can manage it, about "anomalous activity, failure to disclose pertinent facts, ongoing." Well, y'know, Reese has this tendency to tell Fusco to solve his own problems, that's not much of a surprise. Over this we have a phone call, one of Elias' lieutenants just got word from him that they were to have no further business with HR. Cutting their losses, in other words. We know who's left in HR! So does the Machine. A whole, like, three people, Quinn and Simmons and Fusco, and Fusco undercover and working against them. On the other hand, that means that Quinn and Simmons can go about recruiting a new crop of people for their little games.

From the Machine's version of a murderboard over to the ones who are left, live and in the flesh. Simmons still has at least one feeb contact who tells him that the FBI investigation of HR is almost wrapping and Donnelly's been full of glee. Smug glee. A little like Quinn's quieter, smirkier enjoyment of his own survival, though he is as much as admitting that they're all that's left of the organization. But they have a bigger problem! No, not the one where they need to worry about someone ratting them out, the one where now they have no money and no foot soldiers. And no backing from Elias. They could just, y'know, not do horribly illegal things to gain power and wealth in the city, but they're pretty much addicted to the game at this point. Especially Quinn. Simmons is just addicted to being a jumped-up bully. And as the last remaining buffer between Quinn and revealing his identity, he gets to set up the meeting with himself and Elias' people. So they'll make peace. At the point of a gun, is my immediate question. Mutual benefit is another of those phrases that screams "mine and not yours." Well, Simmons will bring backup in case the meeting takes a "less than cordial turn." Namely, Fusco. Basically, Simmons sounds like he just got greenlit to do a whole lot of shady shit. I have this feeling that there were a lot of codephrases in there that are particular to the way Quinn operates.

Back on over to where Reese is surveilling Ordoñez, who just got out and stopped at an electronic service center. Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser! He gets some money which is apparently for some laptop that he sold to them recently, I'm guessing because it got left in his cab. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy to go around robbing people, the only violent signs we've seen are related to truly obnoxious fares who seem to think it's okay to be jackasses to their cabbies. (Seriously, people. Being assholes to the person driving a two-ton hunk of deathtrap metal around is NOT a good idea, even if that two-two hunk of metal is also their living.) Or rather, fare, singular. And he doesn't trust his friend? acquaintance at the shop, which doesn't seem to offend the guy, so there's a little bit of history in there, nicely hinted at for our benefit without hammering us over the head with This Is A Fully Realized Character No Really. Good writers. Have a Bear. The envelope o' cash gets added to a… a trash bag of cash in his trunk? Really, dude? Really? He's also on his way over to "there," wherever "there" is aside from the place where he's going to spend all this cash. Pretty much nothing legal involves cash transactions that large. I'm just saying. Doesn't mean it makes him a bad guy, but it does make him involved with something shady that might put him in danger. Reese narrates for our benefit, no, Finch, that's not a gambling debt or a drug deal. The part you overlooked is that he's been here for nearly a decade and remains single with no children, which is somewhat unusual for a young, one-time up and coming athlete. And he's from Cuba. No points for guessing what happened to his family. Poor bastard.

They don't keep us waiting on the reveal, either; Fermin's headed to a meeting with some rich bastard of a coyote who, we already know, isn't going to give him what he wants. It's a Cuban cafe, looks populated by mostly emigrants, so nobody bats an eyelash over a garbage bag full of money. Which is no longer enough! The Spanish is, yes, accurate, and the use of the informal/intimate te wouldn't give me pause except for the fact that Ordoñez is calling him Señor Mendoza and Mendoza in turn calls him Fermin. Yeah. There's a significant power imbalance here, in case we weren't already aware of it, and Mendoza's only too willing to take advantage of it. He brought 40K for his wife and son, Maria and Jorge, along with the last - battered - photo of his wife and son so they know who to get. But no! That's only enough for one of them now. Mendoza, you're an utter bastard, and the only reason that Ordoñez isn't out and out accusing him of jacking up the price to fuck with him is that Mendoza's his only hope. Also the guy who supposedly helped him out when everyone else abandoned him, yadda yadda, we know this drill. Playing on his sense of obligation and insisting that he can't possibly do anything even though Maria Ordoñez is in danger of being taken in on suspicion of trying to leave the country. And depending on how good Fermin's lines of communication to Cuba are, that may be sufficiently old data that the danger has passed or worsened and he doesn't know. Upshot is, he needs another $40K, he needs it fast, and Mendoza is citing the land of opportunity at him. Oddly, this scene is shot counter to what we'd expect, Mendoza in whites and creams and leaning to the right while Ordoñez is in earth tones and framed on the left as they pan back and forth. Possibly because this scene is being told from Ordoñez's perspective and all of a sudden his world and expectations are topsy-turvy? At any rate: fuck Mendoza for being an asshole. Reese and Finch think he is too, and worry about what a man so desperate would do in order to bring his family over.

We come back after ad break to Finch waxing eloquent about how the Cuban government's software is surprisingly sophisticated and blames the Russians. I… can't say that he's entirely wrong. We then proceed to have some snarky analysis of the current situation in Cuba which points up the fact that it was a security state to the tune of tell on your neighbors before infinite cameras made that unnecessary. It's one of the more unnecessary bits of this episode, aside from confirming that Maria and Jorge are still out of prison. Ordoñez is waiting for his buddy he defected from Cuba with, apparently out of a Netherlands hotel room. That's mildly hilarious in hindsight, at least. I'm sure it wasn't for them at the time. So, Rafael Acosta is a former friend who made it good in the States. Really good, he's top ten in the league, though I will be highly entertained over the way they're dodging the question of which New York team he plays for. Guys, if he's in the majors, then it matters. I mean, I know they're handwaving it to avoid anyone thinking it's a specific Yankees or Mets player that they're talking about, but STILL. There's a lot of things at play in this meeting, mainly the sense of pride and shame that Ordoñez has that he's not outright saying how much he needs for his family to come over. Again, the Spanish seems to be both accurate and colloquial, whoever they got for this translation was good. Not that for a language as commonly spoken as Spanish we would expect anything less. (IMDb is less than helpful in telling me if they gave the actors the gist of what they wanted and let them extemporize, though it's a possibility!) But for business dealings Acosta switches to English, and in fact seems to have assimilated enough that he's more comfortable in it. Ouch. He's also enough of a big rich sports star that he just wants this reminder of his past to go away, and he'll fork over whatever's in his wallet to accomplish that goal. Looks like a few hundred, maybe up to a thousand? Not enough, and Ordoñez's face says so, but it also says that he's unwilling to take on the burden of shame that would be created by outright saying, no, I need way more than that, help me. Which is about right, for the kind of shame that you get as a defector from Cuba whose physical injury left him unable to provide for his family and is now resorting to handouts on the street in order to bring them over, with no guarantee that the price won't go up again. In short: oh honey. I'm glad the boys are here to help him, because there's no fucking help from the system for shit like this.

A brief pause to view the Machine's murderboard of HR, including Marconi as an active in La Cosa Nostra (aka Elias' organization), and Simmons' phone call to Fusco insisting that he be at the meet. There's a clip of Davidson, one of the dirty cops Fusco's killed, for us to be reminded of why Fusco doesn't have a choice in the matter, and then we blip over to the meet proper. Simmons has a new recruit! Who is not there as cannon fodder, that's apparently Fusco's job because Elias knows how to hold a grudge. Simmons, you need to be sent to finishing school to gain any charm at all. Three guys from each side! Including the aforementioned Marconi, and I think we've seen the two other lieutenants before in thug-walk glimpses. Simmons is offering up the one of the mob bosses that got away and into witsec, location and new name, in return for Elias' support in rebuilding HR. Guys, I don't think that's exactly what we call negotiating from a position of power, and Elias may hold a grudge but apart from his daddy's death, cleaning up the Mafia was pretty much business. It doesn't matter to him if the last guy's dead or in hiding so long as he's a) not going to testify any further and b) not going to come back to the city and start shit, and I would bet good money he already has people ensuring that Last Guy isn't going to come back and start shit. Okay, fine! Marconi will have a brief discussion with his boss, walking away for some privacy, and we should all be disturbed that Elias has access to a working cell phone in prison. Just saying. Not surprised, but disturbed. Anyway, the offer's accepted on the grounds that HR brings the mob boss in themselves! Uh-HUH. Marconi, honey, you're blinking too fast for me to believe that's really what's going down, but okay, Simmons buys it. Simmons is gonna make Fusco do it, by that look over. Fusco knows it and is trying to figure a way out and not finding one, by his thousand-yard stare.

Let's go back to the case of the week! Carter's on the cab's GPS trail, leading her to a pair of cops looking over the rail at a park. She'd love to know why Ordoñez was hanging out here for 25 minutes straight last night. So would we! There's some nice cop banter before the reveal of the body on the steps below, dead nine hours, multiple GSWs, looks like center of mass, no ID, no nothing. Oh, but Secret Service, we're giving those away for free now. HMM I WONDER IF THIS IS RELEVANT. Carter, being a good investigator, will also find the most relevant details and focus in on them. Because she's awesome like that. She is also awesome enough (as we get a note from the Machine that yes, there's a camera around that saw what happened last night, or at least was above where the poor bastard bled out) to brute force her way through Vickers' stoic agent act. By the way, people? This is how you pass the Bechdel test in two seconds flat. It's NOT HARD. It's a minimum requirement. At least she gets an ID on the body, one Vadim Pushkov, Russian national, and they're looking for a laptop or phone or anything with data. They do have half of a short stack of $100s, so if we wanted confirmation that this is the guy from Ordoñez's backseat last night, now we have it! Not that anyone else does, as yet. And Pushkov got into JFK, got a pizza bagel, and somehow ended up leaving no trace between there and his body, so, transportation! How did he get there, and who took him, and that's their lead. Carter already has a pretty good idea of this, I'm betting, by the way she's carefully controlling her face. And it's much better than it's been previously, when dealing with Donnelly as regards Reese, for example. Carter and her cop buddy exchange one of those "sigh, feds" looks, and Carter takes off to call Finch and fill him in on the details. Which comes with a side of snark about how the Secret Service is about as forthcoming with information as Finch is, and that's semi-tacit acknowledgement that Finch is going to have to do some more very illegal things in order to get her information about the investigation. Oh goodie. We're all knowledgeable here, at least. And Finch and Bear are adorable!

Reese continues to tail Ordoñez while Finch catches him up, Pushkov looks to be some kind of Russian criminal, and guys, what's the Secret Service's mandate? When we're not on Warehouse 13, anyway. Besides the POTUS and his family, it's to protect national finances in various forms. Personally, I'd be headed in the direction of, find out if those half-bills are fake, but okay, fine. Finch can go digging around on Pushkov, that's a perfectly valid approach, though I'm giving him some side-eye. Finch, do you know Russian or just have a near-AI level text translation program? One of the pages Finch has up is about DDoS attacks on financial institutions in Moscow, so that much at least plays to the Service's mandate! Oh, and Ordoñez's current fare is blond, Russian, and probably dangerous. Oh goodie. She gives a direction rather than an address and has either no phone or one Finch can't access. Oh, hey, she's taking him to a blind alley with a bottleneck and I'm not even going to ask how Reese knows all the streets of New York this well, that's a LOT of streets but I will grant him that it's pretty easy to tell that's a trap from the surrounding area. Or maybe he got Finch to install a HUD maps display on that helmet. Lord knows I would if I had to be biking around the city trailing someone. Let's stop in the middle of the alley trap! That's a great plan! Poor Ordoñez, he knows something's wrong but he doesn't know enough about what to simply get the fuck out of there. She'll give him nearly $90 in tip but first, questions! Does he recognize this guy? No, I don't think he does offhand, but the Russian name followed by the question about leaving anything behind tips him off to who the fare is she's asking about, and that he does NOT want to be involved. Which makes his lying less than good. Oh honey, you really should've booked it out of there when she made a way too short phone call in Russian. Finch should be freaking out about the phone he can't access right about now. And Reese will proceed to hop into the backseat, deliver his usual I'm-here-to-help speech that sounds way more ominous than it should, and oh look! A kill box! Luckily for Fermin, Reese has a good idea of how to ride shotgun (sadly not literally, Reese with long arms is hot) while talking a good driver through blowing past a kill box. Which mostly involves nerves of steel while you drive at the people shooting at you, and good aim. Much to nobody's surprise, they get out!

Cut back from ad break and Ordoñez would really, really like to know what the fuck happened to his life. We get the basic rundown of what the case actually is about, now. The Estonian (not Russian, okay, sure, though I'm giving Finch some side-eye for being able to identify that offhand, since when is he that good a linguist?) mob was having dealings with Pushkov. Aha! The plot congeals. Reese knows from the Estonian mob, like you do when you're ex-CIA wetwork, and no, Fermin, he's not going to tell you who he is. The protest is mostly pro forma anyway. Okay, I'll buy just a cab driver, but nobody's buying the fact that he doesn't know anything. He's smarter than that. And he's had long years of knowing when not to say a word, which is fighting against knowing that something bigger than he is wants to kill him. Not because it's personal, but because he's a loose end. They shoot Reese chasing him down the street to give us a sense of urgency and conflict despite the fact that we know exactly what's going to happen: he'll give in with some degree of ill grace, Reese will save the day, all will be well. But, okay, let's find out what it is and how it plays into themes! Fermin picked up the Russian guy, he knows it was Russian because his grandfather spoke it sometimes in Cuba, I do love that they're not ignoring these parts of history. Even as I think "but doesn't everyone know that," I realize that okay, no, maybe people haven't studied the Cuban Missile Crisis in great and terrible detail. At any rate! There's more to Fermin than meets the eye, both in a case sense and in the sense of, he's not being stereotyped into a Cuban refugee. There are stereotypes at play, but they're in the service of making him into a well-rounded character beyond that. So, okay, Pushkov had this thing, H-SAT or Travellers or something, but it was whatever was on the laptop. Which Reese has to lean on Fermin to get out of him, yes, alright, laptop! Finally! He says he never does that, and to a degree I believe him, it's just that right now he's caught up in a perfect storm of asshole stiffing him on the fare and asshole being a dead asshole on account of the whole mob problem. The immediately pressing question is, what's on the laptop? Okay, Finch's immediate question for our benefit is, why did Pushkov leave the laptop in the cab, and Reese fills in for those not acquainted with the spyssassin way of doing business, he wanted to negotiate a higher price. I… I guess he failed to turn lead into gold, then. Aww, Finch got an upgrade to business partner! Fermin asks the sort of questions that, in general, you ask when you're not genre-savvy, which he's not, or in the business, which he's also not. If Michael Irby's performance was giving us any twinges of Something's Not Right we would be all suspicious at him, but no, that's just the lines they gave him. He's too honestly distraught and upset with his life's direction to be anything other than honest in what he's told Reese so far.

Alright! On over to the store where Ordoñez sold off the laptop, whoops, sorry, your not-quite-friend is dead now. Reese calls it when he pulls his gun out and walks in, we call it because we're genre-savvy from the second Reese says they're going to go check on his friend. Frankly, I think Reese had a good damn idea of it but was hoping they weren't too late. Because that's just his luck. The laptop has, fortunately, been sold, which Finch already knows from his hacking but Reese will make it easier with a flash drive, because that's what Reese does. I love these plug-n-play hacker flash drives. I want one. Or a dozen. A dozen would be better what I am not occasionally a bad person. At all. Or on any watchlists. Ahem. So, they knew to come here because Pushkov could easily have dumped a homing beacon thing on it, which doesn't really answer how the Estonians knew what to look for with the beacon but sure, we'll go with it. We also have a screen name for the buyer, d3mon8 or something similar, the email fields are a little fuzzy. What I can read of the emails themselves is pretty bog standard setting up a meet, buying questionably legit goods off the internet, etc., and Finch will now pique my interest by noting that if the buyer finds out what's on the laptop, he'll probably go to the darknet. Which really exists. And of course Finch has all the contacts he could ever want there, because probably he built the fucking thing. The Silk Road also really exists, even under that name! I'm not sorry for leading you down the merry Wikisurfing hole of the vagaries of the internet, either. In conclusion: fuck, but at least Finch has connections and Reese has lots of firepower for when the Estonian mob comes after Fermin.

In the meantime, Reese has a relationship to maintain! With Carter, this is the phone call in which he catches her up on the case and she engages in a lot of mental swearing. Like you do when you work cases with Reese. She can pull the file on the Estonians, she'll keep an ear to the ground probably about what could possibly be on the laptop, and what's the bad news, Reese? Oh, there's another body on the ground. Hey, on the plus side, it's not his fault this time! With that, Ordoñez takes the time to rant, flipping the usual roles of cabbie and passenger as he unloads on Reese about how life wasn't supposed to be like this, it was supposed to be better, he was coming to the land of opportunity. And maybe for awhile he had some of that dream, but Mendoza had him in hock for the cost of backing and initial transportation from Cuba and, yeah. Poor bastard got fucked over by both the legal system and the illegal one. Some interesting swelling strings and piano as he talks about how his dreams have all been shattered, sort of the inverse of the happy patriotic music, and Reese does the best he can to reassure him that Ordoñez was doing the best he could with what he had. Irby's doing the best he can with the lines he's being given, but I'm not quite sure why we have to have this whole heart-to-heart taking up quite so much time, aside from maybe padding. There's some definitely parallels being hammered on as far as Reese's own patriotic American dreams being crushed, along with doing what you need to do to protect the people you care about and having that fail, but I have to say, guys? We've hammered on those themes until the anvils themselves have been squashed. Though it is nice to see Reese slowly coming to terms with the fact that he's not alone, people all over have done things for similar reasons if not of the same type or degree, and if he believes in helping them maybe he should help himself, too. Or at least stop beating himself up. It's just such a slow and sometimes narratively clumsy way of giving him therapy. Silly Machine.

It's time for Carter to start slowly bringing the Secret Service in on this case! Reese gets to be a CI, aww, that's very true even as it's about a tenth of the story, at best. Note that since she doesn't currently have any outstanding interdepartmental/jurisdictional issues with the Service, Carter's much more free with information and willing to wave half-truths around. Partly that's a function of, she's getting better at this. Mostly I think it's a pure breath of fresh air for her to be able to talk at all about the information she gets from Reese and what it can do for the investigation. So she's led with the Estonians, evidently, and by the way there's a laptop. That was stolen. That belonged to Pushkov. Some really nice guest spot acting here, because it's actually clear that poor Vickers is digging for information from Carter as much as Carter's doing the same to her. Because they don't have a clue, it turns out, and Vickers walked into this room prepared to share information. A lot of it. You don't walk around with folders marked Confidential unless you've got a good idea that you have someone you want to show them to, I'm just saying. Vickers is also tired and rundown and a little afraid, because the last time Pushkov popped up with information he'd hacked for sale, it was the flight control encryption data for drones. Well. Isn't that just peachy. Not that we're fond of drones around here, but that means nobody should get them, not that random people in Pakistan should get the data either. This has been your political editorializing for the episode. So no, the Service hasn't a fucking clue what this guy was doing, they just know that he has a history of doing Really Bad Hacker Shit and now that he's dead and his laptop's in the wind, they want it. A lot. Fair enough! Let's go to the body drop, Vickers, c'mon, you'll like this. And by "like this" I mean "enjoy working at one remove with people who are willing and able to ignore even more laws than federal law enforcement." It's really, really nice to see Carter able to work with someone like this instead of dodging Donnelly, her captain, and anyone else who might have it in for her and/or Team Machine.

We won't be left hanging on the matter of what's on Pushkov's laptop, though Carter and Vickers will have to wait while the boys talk it over, do some shady things, and otherwise attempt to circumvent law enforcement. Like they do. Finch wants it noted first off, that there's nothing short term parking about a $275 receipt. I have to agree with him, though it's not exactly relevant to the next thing Finch has, which is, okay. If Ordoñez heard him say HSED, that could be the Homeland Security automated identification database, which has infinite data on travelers, things that would allow criminals, terrorists, etc. to sneak into the country - or out of it - with the best fake identities money can buy. To say nothing of, oh, I don't know, maybe you could set one person up as a distraction while others get through easily, or who the fuck knows. The possibilities with that kind of data are endless, up to and including people who would pay just to know where they are on the database and how DHS ranks them as a travel threat. (Or not.) But, as Finch points out, if people learn about the breach, then the information becomes useless and the TSA will simply tighten up the security theater. Again. Which is why the Estonians are killing everyone who's come in contact with it! Why the Estonians want this and/or how they managed to outbid anyone else for it we won't bother addressing, I guess? Particularly since one of Finch's crawlers just found a darknet/deep web IRC channel where d3mon8 is advertising the sale of the laptop. For only $50K? Man, you're asking a low low price. You moron. I mean, he's smart in certain respects! Finch gets a meet set up and Reese and Ordoñez head on up, Reese, your chauvinism is showing. If he were a woman you'd have tried to make him wait in the car. Ahem. But no, that's an empty warehouse floor with windows that are uncomfortably large and unobstructed. My sniper sense is tingling right along with the music cues. Reese's looks to be, too, which is probably why he misses the camera to start with, looking at the buildings across the way. No, there's nobody there but them and a camera! It's not clear if the camera has sound; knowing that would make a difference in whether or not I'm twitching about Reese muttering into his comm, but he's at least keeping his mouth down and lips barely moving, as is his usual tactic. I'm beginning to wonder if he just got quieter and more closelipped, literally, as he gained more spyssassin training to prevent others from reading his lips.

Back at the precinct, Fusco has an extremely unwelcome call. Simmons doesn't bother with preamble, either, just to emphasize how much he believes himself in control of Fusco. Heh. He has orders and he has a rebuttal, that he's no good to them locked up and also he needs to keep his nose clean right now. Which isn't unreasonable, considering he's partnered with the woman who helped bring down all of HR, at least on paper. Note, however, that despite Simmons' proclamation that they could find uses for him even in jail (twitch) and that he's not that useful NOW (true enough), Fusco only turns him down twice. If it had been three times, something Significant would have happened. Instead, blackmail happens! To his credit, when he receives the email with the video of Davidson's death, he doesn't lunge at the screen to try and cover it up. He also shouldn't have opened the fucking thing in public in the first place, but okay. Also of interest, someone did a nice job setting up Fusco's inbox, it's sort of a weird hybrid of gmail and Outlook, I think? And there's a couple emails from people forwarding silly things, a couple notifs on tactical training and firearms requalifications, from the same guy, and one from Carter. And of course the blackmail email from an "unknown sender." Seriously, Fusco, are you in the habit of opening random attachments even when you suspect they're from Simmons or Finch? He does, however, do the guilty jerk up look around is anyone watching thing. Fuuuusco. Be better at your coverups. Luckily the precinct is mostly empty. Unluckily, Simmons has the last word. Words.

At this point we go into more or less realtime for the episode, cutting back and forth as necessary to fill us in on what's going on. Finch would like Reese to know that he still looks like a fed, and thus d3mon8's called off the sale. Sorry, Reese, but he's right. You do. Reese would like Finch to remember that they're fucked without the laptop. Up shit creek without a paddle and with a fan. Only in more network-appropriate words. (One of the many things I like about HBO/dislike about the networks is the ability to have properly colorful ex-mil language. I mean. Have you ever heard a soldier swear? Come the fuck on.) Of course, Finch has managed to get a location off something or another in the baby hacker's message. I'm not even going to bother trying to explain that, especially because apart from the ability to create an AI like the Machine, they've been remarkably good about believability of what Finch can do. So far. (I'm pretending very hard until we get to the laptop LIGHTING ON FIRE later this season. That was just gratuitous.) Sorry, Finch, but Reese isn't going to make the pool hall until he's done beating up some Estonian mobsters. Tragically, we don't get to see all of this fight scene, because we're busy letting Ordoñez's face stand in for the audience and Finch's face be worried about the timing on this op. Whoa is about right, I will say. Oh sure, let's take Bear with! Bear makes a great bodyguard. I am only making half a dozen jokes about Reese the guard dog in my head. Fusco does have the intelligence to call Reese and ask for his help, but his crap for timing means that he catches Reese near the end of the fight. Reese doesn't sound generally upset about this, and note, Fusco, that he didn't have to pick up the phone in the middle of a fight. You could call Finch and find out if he's free! But that would be sensible and, admittedly, require Fusco having a number at which he could reach Finch. Which I'm not 100% sure he does. Still and nonetheless, I'm kind of annoyed with him for not waiting the whole minute or two it would take for Reese to be done with the fight. He knows how Reese fights, and he knows that as a general rule fights are short, dirty, and exhausting, something this show's done pretty well at demonstrating. Grumble mutter okay, fine, so he calls Simmons and confirms he'll be there. In that closed conference room we saw over Fusco's shoulder while he was trying to turn down Simmons' offer he couldn't refuse, Carter and Vickers go over the security footage! Yay! About all this does for us is confirm that they're still working together, the blonde is high up in the Estonian mob and has an Interpol red notice on her, and oh yeah, it was about an hour and fifteen between the guy from the store leaving to sell the laptop and him coming back, being questioned by Irina Kat, and dying. I do like a good timeline, even as it's not strictly necessary at this point in the episode.

It's Finch! At a pool hall, meeting the muscle. The really obvious muscle, and for a second there I thought they'd subvert the trope by having him be the hacker as well. But, no, he's the muscle and Finch did a good deal of research before walking into this bar. Oh, so it was the IP address on the remote monitoring for the camera? You fucking moron. I'm with Finch on that one. That's a rookie mistake, kid. So is putting your hand on Finch when he's got Bear with him. Such a good dog. I do love that Finch appears to have been taking lessons in hardassery and intimidation from Reese, the way his voice drops on seeing the laptop first. Look! It exists! And no, honey, the Estonians aren't going to give you more money for the laptop. They will, however, give you more bullets. Finch doesn't bother to try and explain this, most hackers don't give a shit and wouldn't believe him if he led with that. Actually this whole scene is a very nice depiction of Finch being in his element as far as shady face-to-face dealings go, because he knows better than anyone how to handle paranoid reclusive hackers who don't want to meet in public. So in many respects, he was a better choice for this meet than Reese would've been! And it boosts Finch's self-confidence more, which he could surely still use these days. In conclusion: he brought $100K, which is chump change for him, and he even took care to make it all small unmarked bills. I love watching them be competent. I also love that Finch drops the mildly harmless act when Albert asks what the catch is. To the poor baby hacker's credit, he swallows hard once and then goes very, very still as his primary signs of fear, which is doing a helluva lot better than many people would do under similar circumstances. Yes, dude, you've been completely out-hacked. Finch leads with the "I know everything about you" schtick and then segues into so if you take this money, you're going into hiding for a year, completely and utterly, do not pass go but do collect $100K, because of the bad people who will kill you if they know you've been around this laptop. Let alone knowing what's on it. I'm just going to trust that Finch took care of ensuring that Albert didn't transfer any of the data onto his own computer anywhere, because that's the kind of thorough he tends to be. At least I sure as fuck hope he did that. Laptop acquired, money delivered, bad guys on Reese's end knocked out/otherwise incapacitated, time to go, right? Oh. No, not so much. Hello, Irina.

We know how this will play out anyway, so it's mostly a question of whether or not we get any more information about what in god's name the Estonian mob wants with the laptop and how they managed to be the highest bidder. Which we don't. Of course. Finch stalls her for maybe 15 seconds, which makes me wonder a) how far away this pool hall really is and b) how much like a maniac Reese drove to get there. Upshot: at least four heavies, one blonde ringleader, a Finch, and a very upset Bear. DO NOT SHOOT BEAR. You fuckers. Reese has words, and by words I mean punches, elbows, and assorted other body parts with which to apply blunt force to, for that shit. This is why we love you, Reese. Also headbutts and pool cues, because what's the use of having a fight in a pool hall if you can't abuse the surroundings a little bit? To the everlasting credit of Bear's trainers, both in- and out-of-universe, he holds still despite the frantic barking until Finch releases him with a command. Because, yes, four guys with guns in close quarters, when they know how to use those close quarters to their advantage, can actually keep Reese from winning a four-on-one fight. But with the addition of Bear and Ordoñez's fastball, we get them all taken care of! Aww. The woman, Irina, appears to have disappeared, preferring not to get caught up in the violence, I guess? I don't have a lot of respect for people who won't do their own dirty work, I have to say. I'm also kind of irritated by the fact that so many of the one-shot women this season have been relegated to emotional support/damsels in distress in the clutch moment, whereas we get to have Ordoñez rescuing Reese here. It wouldn't be as much of an irritant if we didn't know they were perfectly capable of writing nuanced, kickass female characters and even introducing them as such within a single episode. Sigh. Anyway, speaking of kickass women, Carter's on the phone to tell Reese to clear the hell out of there because they got a hit on Irina's cell phone. Though she has the good tact to avoid saying her name in the fond hopes of not providing them with any more data than Finch has already illegally acquired. Aww. Ordoñez will give them a ride, sure! And they're taking the laptop with them. Who's surprised? Didn't think so.

Time to pull the trigger on the B plot for the night! Yes, I had to, don't look at me like that. Fusco and his buddy from HR are over in Queens which is not quite the suburbs I was thinking when Simmons said it, I was thinking down in NJ or something. Okay, sure, whatever, they're in Queens. And the Machine would like us reminded that they're after Grifoni, that he's in witsec, and that the probability of violence is 92% as relates to Fusco. Note that this doesn't actually state clearly whether that's violence by or violence to or even violence around, though the first two are more likely than the last. In completely tangential knews, I want to know what the P stands for in Fusco's name. Anyway. In a car, being shady fucks, they're about ready to head out and who should call back but Reese! Fusco's lie about Reese being his ex is well-practiced by now, and I wonder just how many fanfics shipping them have been written as a result. Ahem. Tangents aside! Really! Reese has the patient-but-worried paternal attitude going on while he tries to pry information out of Fusco, but he's not making a huge effort and Fusco's pretty firmly brushing him off. BOYS. I swear to god I'm gonna smack you both with a cluebat. Fusco more than Reese, who at least has the excuse of just having fought half a dozen guys. He also pretty clearly knows something's up, but they don't have the kind of asset-handler relationship that involves serious discussion of misgivings about breaking the law, getting in with HR, etc. Oh Fusco. Well, Grifoni's here now anyway, and Fusco's having a hard time pulling his game face on. Lucky for him that he's not going to commit murder, then! Grifoni has a guy lurking behind the car for protection, and a tipoff from Elias, and Fusco has a hitting the deck because at this point his paranoia about everyone and everything related to Elias and HR is entirely justified. Short version: Grifoni's done a better job of worming his way into Elias' good graces than HR has, probably because he's better able to grovel. And better acquainted with how to do it in a way that gets Elias' attention. Luckily, Elias also wants Fusco to take a message back for him, or else we might have had a very dead Fusco. This feels a bit like narrative manipulation, honestly; there's no reason to keep Fusco alive at this point but there's plenty to want him and all he knows to go away. Sigh. Oh fine.

Wrapping up the loose ends, Carter and Vickers are talking about how Irina's in the wind and so is the laptop, still, which makes their case really not wrapped at all. But there's a solution to that! Hi Ordoñez. The boys will fix him right up with a new cab, Reese owes him fare, I do like that Ordoñez's memory for faces is good enough that he recognizes Finch right off. And with that, they'll send him into Carter so she can do her job! I think this is one of the cases that results in the fewest bodies on the ground that are Reese's fault, particularly dead or permanently disabled ones, which is at least a nice change. Carter, with her familiarity with NYPD as well as military/federal bureaucracy, is actually the perfect choice to broker this deal of laptop for getting Ordoñez's family out of Cuba, which is exactly what it turns out to be. This scene is again, well-acted and there's some nice notes, the almost hungry look from Vickers over the laptop, Ordoñez looking nervous and letting Carter do all the talking, but it wraps up in neat ends with a bow on top exactly the way we expect.

To the Secret Service's credit, it seems it doesn't take more than a day or two once they've agreed to the bargain, though! Because Reese is here to watch the happy family be reunited. Something I think he doesn't allow himself enough of, seeing the victories afterwards, when they get them. Unfortunately, one of the things it highlights in this episode is that there's not a lot of there there. Still, watching Caviezel be gracefully athletic with Bear is something I could watch lots of. And Michael Irby owns this scene, from the Spanish to the reunion with his wife and son to the caution he shows in handling a kid who doesn't remember him but has presumably been told that's his father. The traditional American pastime of father-son bonding! Playing catch! D'aww. Carter doesn't explain herself to Reese when he comments that he's got no idea how she pulled that off, and frankly I'd love to know how she managed it that fast. That's the one that boggles me, at least. Oh, hey, and here we come to it, Reese wants to know what's up with Fusco, she doesn't know, let's talk about shady dealings in broad daylight with the sun glinting off hair! She'll keep an eye on him, though she's got no clue what Reese is on about. Hey, Fusco, you remember how much shit you gave Reese for keeping secrets from you? You remember how maybe you shouldn't do the same with him? Goddammit, Lionel.

Speak of the devil and he shall growl at his errands boy. Fusco explains what happened to Simmons, who'd like to know why his personal buttmonkey is still alive. Because Elias wanted to tell them to go to hell! And he wanted it to be up close, personal, and from the mouth of one of HR's people. Or "people," depending on if Elias is aware that Fusco's working undercover for Team Machine. (As with all undercover assignments, and I do have to give the writers a lot of credit for this, the lines between what side you're really on get blurry to the point of indistinguishable from time to time.) I'd tend to vote yes, he does, if only for leaving Fusco alive. So, go to hell, Simmons! From Elias and your buttmonkey both. Which means Simmons, not trusting Fusco and sick of this bullshit, will start the ball rolling on hanging Fusco out to dry. Carter has a not-very-anonymous tip that Davidson was murdered by another cop, Fusco has a very good poker face with an oh-shit lurking under there, I still don't know how Chapman regularly manages to pull off that mix of emotions but he does. And the Machine's ominous dum-dum-dum echoes in the background!

Next week we finally get things moving on the metaplot front again, albeit slowly at first. Ramping up to the midseason finale, now, and after that it's 90% metaplot. Or Shaw, who's a lot like metaplot. We are a-okay with this.

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