Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Excitable Boy (Person of Interest S2E17 Proteus)

Our first glimpse of this week's number is a man? probably a man by build and clothes, with a hat pulled down low and an overhead shot that obscures most of his face. And Reese opening up a barn in the pouring rain. If you know anything about the genre, then you've already guessed that we're dealing with a likely serial killer this week! Yay! No, wait. The other thing. Especially because if the Machine is kicking out the number of a serial killer, he's good enough to require Finch and Reese's attention.

Our first shot is a Machine murderboard! Aw, I do love it when the Machine coughs up data for us. Major US cities all across the country, SF, Albuquerque, Denver, Chicago, St Louis, New York, and one name associated with each: Henri Musset, Roland Danvers (someone on staff is a Stephen King fan, I see), Edwin Pylar, George Leary, Nathan Kramer, and Jack Rollins. All of this brings us down to New York, where undoubtedly Jack Rollins or whoever's pretending to be him is about to be trapped by a massive fuckoff storm that's hitting some portion of the Hamptons. Oh yay! Because this won't lead to Reese and Finch engaging in dumbass heroics or anything. The boys are coming out of a movie theatre after watching what I will assume is Rashomon (the other choice being Rain People, and that not having subtitles), and let's all just facepalm now, because the basic premise of the movie is a tale told by four separate unreliable witnesses, one of whom comes closest to the truth of what happened. Don't mind me, I'll just be smashing the desk with my face. Sigh, you guys. Snark over Bear's vest and seeing a spaghetti Western (with a semi-related plot to that of Rashomon) aside, this is pure shipbait for the two of them, and really adorable shipbait at that. On the other hand, who the hell else are they going to go see old movies with? Shaw is beside the point right now, because the Machine hasn't spat out a number in three days: drink. What Finch is worried about is Stanton, and Reese really doesn't want to hear that, thinks of it as a failure, and generally would prefer not to be talking about this. Except that they have to, so after a single hopeful gesture toward maybe we're cleaning up the streets he shuts up and offers genuine thoughts. Namely, check under the Machine's hood! I'm all for that. Finch is not. Finch wants it to stay sealed up for a reason, and I take his point, that once opened that's a Pandora's box that can't be closed again and can indeed be accessed by people with less pure motives. Assuming Finch's motives would be or remain all that pure in the first place, which is just another of those things on the long list of Shit They Don't Talk About.

The Machine also has a sense of irony. Or timing. Or both. Hello, Machine! Hello, new number! Hello, odd flicker of static in the Machine's field of view as we pan from the cruiser cam to the camera just outside the library. I don't like that. Nobody likes that. I like it even less when Reese and Finch are freaking out over the Machine maybe being on the fritz. Not that it hasn't given them multiple numbers before, but it's always stuck to New York or at least the general area. Easy travel times, somewhere Reese can get to, and it's never spat out a group of numbers scattered across the country. Meanwhile everyone who's watched too many profiling/serial killer shows is sitting here going "guys? GUYS." To be fair, they haven't had a serial killer of this sort tossed at them, so I'll forgive them not leaping to the immediately obvious conclusion. Except for when Finch says three of the six are on the NCIC missing persons database and two of the others just dropped off the grid, and of the three on the database two are western and, if the geographical profile I'm getting on this guy is right, thus earlier kills. Less experienced at picking out someone who wouldn't be reported as missing. Although those are also very long gaps between kills, just shy of 17 and 20 months respectively, so we're looking at a highly organized killer. Yeah, okay, I can see why Finch isn't twitching just yet. He's not trained for this. Me, I'm gonna sit back here and twitch over the fact that all of these victims have dark hair, strong nose and jaw, dark eyes, they are, in other words, of a type. Which indicates preferential kills, whether because the unsub is taking over their lives or because they remind the unsub of someone he wishes to kill (or, hell, both at once, well-repressed self-loathing is far from unheard of) we can't say yet. All we can say is that the unsub is killing cleanly, quietly, at such a gap that he doesn't leave a trail of bodies behind him and perpetually crossing state lines so that it would take a federal-level investigation to find him. So, yes, he's very, very good. Reese, I'm gonna facepalm at you and the writers over the line about people who hide their digital lives have something to be hidden. You should fucking well know better than that at this point, though I'll grant for the purposes of the Machine's numbers it's always true. Still, it puts some serious privacy concerns into Reese's mouth that I don't much like being there. Anyway. He'll go visit the antiques dealer who's nominally still alive and in the city! That's a good idea, Reese. A better one would be taking this to Carter right now and asking her what she makes of it. I bet she comes up with the serial killer angle too. No? No. Fine. Finch can do that part of it while he stares worriedly at the countdown window on his computer for the Machine's "erratic behavior." Heh.

Over to Rollins' place of business-cum-apartment, since it serves as both. That's a nice apartment for New York. Nothing there until we get to someone who's already been and dug through the trash to piece together an old statement. Hey, you know what you can do with those? If you guessed get access to accounts and identity theft in general, you guessed right! There's a beachfront property in Suffolk County, which, yes, is on Long Island, and there's been a ticket purchased under Rollins' name in the last 24 hours. Well, Reese will go check that out too! Possibly ignoring Finch's warning because he feels his competence has been maligned with Shaw, possibly ignoring it because he's just a bastard like that, and frankly that storm radar should have less green and more yellow in it if they want me to be twitching. And I suppose it could be true that Rollins is running from something, but it could mean his killer is running from something. You guys. Quit ruling out possibilities just because the Machine traditionally gives you a chance to save everyone. The Machine only knows what it sees and extrapolates from there, and Finch you know damn well that the Machine is doing weird shit lately and its previous patterns don't account for the rapidity with which your circumstances have been changing. Sigh, boys. Sigh.

Over to where Carter called in a favor from Moss to get the FBI's files on those names! Aww. I love the smell of continuity in the monsoon season, as the poor agent calls it. Both by way of Carter's contacts and by way of yes, yes she does have a favor to call in. She didn't get the job offer that she really should've, and she didn't get much of an explanation, and as far as the Bureau knows she's been extremely helpful and forthcoming with all their investigations, including one with an agent who was emotionally compromised and should never have been allowed to continue handling that case. Therefore, she has some weight to throw around and she's even allowed to dodge Moss asking what her interest is! A very nice dodge it is, too. Moss is quite right that there are dozens of reasons people go missing and not all of them translate to death or anything more than wanting a fresh start in life. Not that Carter's hearing it, since she knows what happens when Finch calls her with a name or list of names. Nothing good. Ever. I'm eying the seven years ago on the first missing persons case and noting that the student was 22 but could've passed for older and estimating the unsub's age somewhere between mid-20s and late 30s depending on how well preserved he is, and wondering if they've noticed that his victims - excuse me, the other numbers - are slowly aging up too. On the other hand, the catch of Fahey's name on each of the files is a good one! Desk jockey, CCSR division which appears not to have a real-world counterpart that I can easily find. Maybe CJIS? At any rate he's filed a lengthy report which Carter will follow up on without your well-intentioned but somewhat condescending offers of help, Moss, and after she's read the damn report and tried to figure out why someone mostly involved with white collar crime is interested in this case. She'd also like a moment of Moss' time to ask about Cal Beecher and that whole deal, because she hasn't turned up any solid evidence yet and because, dude, now that she's not actually in the running for an FBI position she feels like she ought to have an answer. Moss claims not to have seen or have possession of the IAB files, which might be true, hell, but it's carefully worded so she can't accuse him of lying to her directly. The point is, Beecher is bad news and she should steer clear, with distinct undertones of because I like you and you're a good cop and deserve better than the shit that we had to dump on you and maybe even some undertones of apology in there. It's still rather an instance of "could you vague that up for me?" and Carter's expression is about as annoyed as ours is when we're presented with a distinct lack of data. Time to tackle a different pile of data! Ooh, not!Fahey has evil glasses. Evil Matt Damon glasses. He is so the unsub. Not that Carter has reason to be suspicious just yet, and original brand Fahey seems to have come up with something or another from a bunch of destroyed photos at the residences of all the missing people? Huh. Interesting. I assume Reese will eventually present us with evidence to back this up. Also, not!Fahey, your argument about how you're sitting a desk in DC would be more persuasive if you weren't sitting in a car in the pouring rain in New York. I'm just saying. Not that Carter's likely to be able to get anything other than rain off the background noise, at best. He's doing a really good job of being a pissy, snarky paper-pusher of a feeb, I will give him that! He might want to fix the fiddling with the glasses that aren't his tic before he has to deal with other people. Also that car, though it looks like it could be a squad car, has no identifying markings on it that we're allowed to see. Implying without outright stating, well done on the directing there, and not!Fahey is dismissive and outright rude to Carter and her confidential source. Like a real feeb would be! Aww. That's cute.

Out to Owen Island at the tip of Long Island Sound oh, I see what they did, they gave it a new island! I think by splitting a peninsula off. Heh. Cute. Reese found the rental house and Finch is back checking out the pattern in the crime scenes from the FBI files. Namely, the destroyed photos at the vics' homes all correspond to a puzzling lack of photos of the vics in their homes. Yeah, I'd say that's a pattern. I don't have a lot of personal photos up, I'm more inclined to frame things that I've made or have greater personal meaning to me than that, but I do have some. Finch is going downstairs with Bear good. Because I wouldn't want to go in a power outage and a storm to the basement on the trail of a probable serial killer by myself. A Bear makes great company. That's a rather tinyass storage unit, which is fairly typical for New York, I think, assuming you even get a storage unit in your apartment building and don't have to rent separate space. Empty photo frames! A number of them, which in this case the cops probably wrote off as some form of antiques collecting. Those are nice-ish frames, after all. Due to the storm, their connection's kind of for shit right now, and Reese doesn't copy and he's not alone. Oh goodie. Meanwhile Bear is on high alert at the incinerator grate and my, my, those look like teeth and photo shreds. Someone was in a bit more of a hurry than he wanted to be! Yes, Finch, I think we all know what happened to all those missing people. I will give the writers kudos for not dragging it out all that long, on account of it is painfully obvious to anyone familiar with the genre. And Reese may or may not be hearing Finch's hypothesis of a serial killer while he comes around the wall to an unknown man holding a gun!

We come back after ad break to find that the Machine's typical mosaic of images is scattershot at best. Some of that's probably due to the storm. Some of it might be due to the worm Stanton dropped into it. Who knows how much of which is the case! I'll be over here twitching and chewing on my desk. And yes, it's not!Fahey with the other gun and yes, he's doing a good job of freaking out or pretending to while he hauls out his shield. Heh. Reese came in the persona of Marshal Jennings, a good choice for LEO because it gives him jurisdiction everywhere and fewer interdepartmental pissing matches. Fewer. Not none. We'll all spare a moment to facepalm over how they shot this, starting with not!Fahey on the left side of the wall in the sinister position but ending with him on the right but on the slant, too. It's not actually a Dutch angle, they're staging him so that he's pointy like Riker (and if you get that you too can date yourself!) and also so that he and Reese both have their faces bisected by the lighting. Not!Fahey's is a little less obvious but still present, and then we've also got the light glinting off his glasses and making him less readable. Two men both lying about being law enforcement, one of them more or less on the side of the angels, the other one definitely not! This can't possibly go wrong. I give not!Fahey and his actor a great deal of credit, the nervous reaction appears unfeigned and a serial killer as organized as this one would be highly unnerved by a wrench in the works the size of Reese, but it's also in keeping with desk jockey and he'd furthermore be capable of improvising the way not!Fahey does. So! Yay. Because Reese has as much of a vested interest in keeping his real motives and sources of information secret as our unsub, we have a lot of them filling in each other's stories and Reese taking charge because that's what he does. Oh Reese. They do both safety their guns appropriately, too! The unsub first, followed by Reese after they clear the house, because Reese has a better excuse to demonstrate his firearms skills. Aww, not!Fahey wants to get more LEOs involved! Because that'll muddy the waters further and give him more people to pick from when he needs someone to kill to disappear this persona. Eh, it'll accomplish similar things for Reese, to be honest, except for the killing civilians part. That part he prefers not to do these days unless it's actually necessary. Psst, Reese: it's necessary. Sigh. Oh well.

On back to the library of infinite rain, where Finch is staring out the window and listening to Carter's rundown on the teeth he discovered. Finch, is the color commentary really necessary? Carter's right, though, whatever happened with this body disposal someone was determined to disappear Rollins. The question you guys should be asking is, is this a new slip or did they just not find the evidence in the other five cases? Unfortunately they don't really have time to ask that set of questions, Finch is on the identity theft wagon. Smart man. He's also on the wagon of, if this guy is killing his vics and taking over their lives, then he must look like the vics, which means Reese might or might not be able to tell the difference between vic and perp, which means Finch would like to go warn his partner now please and thank you. By using his pilot's license. I'm with Carter's what-the-fuck face. This has got to be one of your worst ideas, Finch. Though I appreciate how far they've come in having each other's backs. At the island, Reese and not!Fahey are given a long, excellent lecture on how royally fucked the island is and how no, they are not in fact going to get to make any phone calls, acquire local cooperation, or any other damn thing. This island is being evacuated, the guy they're looking for if he's a renter probably already left, and the nice lady deputy does not have time for your shit. I like her. She's so gonna die, but I like her. Not!Fahey performs a nice bit of reverse interrogation, leading Reese into the serial killer theory and leading me into Oh You Fucker territory. Reese, please just shoot him and dump him off the coast. God. Which he might be more likely to do if not!Fahey didn't keep pushing buttons like "so what do you know about disposing of bodies." You, sir, are a smug smarmy fucking serial killer and I will not be even a little bit sorry to see you dead. Also I need a steel wool shower.

Carter has a murderboard, because for a nation-ranging serial killer you definitely need one of those. With a map and everything! Personally I'd have about five additional boards set up with city maps for each victim, see if it traces to similar neighborhoods, taking into account how those neighborhoods will have changed in the last seven years, granted. And this is why cold cases are such a fucking pain in the ass and why serial killers of this nature are so rarely caught. I am not at all sanguine about the increasing lack of camera feeds from the Machine, urk, though at this point that's definitely storm more than virus. Carter is not at all sanguine about Beecher showing up at her precinct and asking for an explanation. Oh honey. I know you're avoiding investigating him too deeply out of fear of what you might find, and I know you don't want to have a hard conversation about who he is and what he does, but I'm sure there's a better way to handle this than brushing him off with I have a case? No? No. Even though the expression on her face says she knows this is a copout and she's kind of pissed at herself for taking it, she's not ready to deal with him yet. Which is only setting up the inevitable guilt complex when Beecher gets dead.

We're about to engage the locked room mystery on the island, and Reese's ear is being talked off by the husband out of a pair of dental hygienists. That's a nice red herring they've got for us there, and poor Reese, dealing with Hamptonites. Aww, Mr. Serial Killer, inserting yourself into the investigation and explaining to the nice not!Marshal exactly how you did it is really fucking creepy. Bonus points for the creepyass lighting on his face, shadowed everywhere but the glasses which continue to hide his eyes. It's classic serial killer lighting and classic serial killer storytelling and I'm so glad I'm typing most of this recaplysis in the daytime. And that I've watched too much CM and am thus immune to most of it, but really. I'm also duly impressed by the actor, who continues to blink just a little too much and is overselling with his… forehead. Which is an odd sort of tell as the rest of his face is pretty calm. He's also not quite exact by the dates of disappearance on when the killer moved city to city, though I bet he's exact in what he actually did. Eighteen months between cities, huh. That's a month or two, maybe a little longer, for tracking and assimilating data on the next victim, another couple weeks to carry out the murder undetected and then become the victim, and probably a year and a bit of being the victim before moving on. That's impressive. And disturbing. Oh, and Rollins started out in Detroit but moved to New York, interesting, that suggests that not!Fahey's next intended hit was going to be in Detroit. Maybe he was interested in crossing to Canada and getting even more thoroughly lost? No time to ponder that right now, because Reese is more interested in the fact that not!Rollins is somewhere still on the island and they have a storm. Also five stranded people and a bridge that's out, as our extras for this locked room mystery so helpfully inform us. And another candidate for maybe it's not the FBI agent, this one in the form of a businessman building a hotel on the island! Yeah, I'm ruling him out almost immediately, because it doesn't fit the profile. No way this unsub picks a guy with real estate and development interests that would tie him so closely to a particular location. Oh, and there's a guy on the dock who looks like he's setting up a boat to take him off the island. Gee. I wonder if they'll go - yep, there they go, rushing after the guy who's serving as a perfect red herring for the unsub and a perfect match in Reese's mind for a serial killer. Mainly because Reese isn't in possession of all the facts and hasn't had time or training to sit and think about the proper profile of a serial killer who's that patient. He would also not be trying to get off the island in this weather without a lot more immediate danger. He's a chameleon. He'd be trying to blend in, if he were still stuck there.

Down at the dock, okay, I'll accept that that car will pass as an unmarked. Or a rental, which is more likely for a feeb who's doing some off the books investigation and up from DC. And that's a person in full rain gear! Fisherman rain gear, at that, which also often serves as serial killer getting splashed by blood gear, I will grant. I would love to know what they think they're going to do with those rapidly becoming waterlogged guns, however. Waterlogged guns are nobody's friend unless you're using them as a club. The poor, poor fisherman really does just want to get his catch in for the day, and he might get away with it, too, if it weren't for the guy rattling around behind the lobster cages. The fisherman looks a little heavier than he should be to pass for the killer, but the other guy who wants off the island is about the right age and build and lucky for the unsub that the rain's making it hard to see, because I bet his face just lit up. A lot. Again with the ridiculously good acting, because not!Fahey is the one to go and start patting down his next victim I mean potential threat, and he's not quite trained to it and not quite able to disguise even in body language the eagerness, all of which can still be attributed in Reese's mind to desk jockey eager to make his first major case. Oh, hey, there's a plane overhead. Finch, you moron. They get the two from the docks back to the station just in time to walk in on the deputy lecturing Finch. As well she fucking might. Finch, you landed your float plane WHERE. I do appreciate the competence porn of Reese's heightened interest not being out of character for the Marshal while being useful to get him information on Finch's cover. Storm chaser! That's about the only thing that would stand up to scrutiny under the circumstances, yes. We'll all just sit here facepalming at him, though I bet there's some useful equipment that either isn't storm chasing relevant or can be easily repurposed in those bags. Reese is betting on it too, by the look on his face. If Finch is out here despite the storm, then something is very wrong, but he has to a) get Finch released from custody (easily done, as we see) and b) find a way to talk to Finch without the not-a-feeb overhearing. Stan and the deputy are going to deal with protecting all these people from the storm, and we'll hope that Reese will deal with protecting them all from the serial killer in their midst. Not very hard, though, because we know what happens with serial killers when trapped: they get unpredictable and even more dangerous.

Stan goes out back to put more diesel in the jenny, aw, they're using proper Northeast terminology, jenny for generator! And Finch and Reese have a quiet confab by the coffee in which they catch each other up on what they know and Finch hammers on the chameleon aspect a little more. Well, how do you catch a guy like that, particularly, Reese is carefully not asking, without access to all of Finch's resources to look up details on the victims and figure out a pattern? The narrative will tell us that it's the FBI guy! Again! Because he wants to see Reese out back. I will slam my face into the desk again and watch Reese slide open the door as we saw in the second of the initial shots of the case of the week, oh, hey, not!Fahey's been lighting things on fire. Pardon me while I mutter about the MacDonald Triad (wetting the bed, arson, killing animals, it's a thing and it's not always reliable but I'm still going to mutter about it because I'm sure they put the fire aspect in here on purpose) and offer to cut the unsub's heart out. With a spoon. Because it's dull, you twit, it'll hurt more. (Yes, I'm in dire need of a Prince of Thieves rewatch, why do you ask.) The unsub has shed the Rollins identity! No, I think you did that awhile back but were holding onto his ID until such time as you could most usefully dispose of it. The unsub could be anyone in there! Yes. A nice redirect. I am looking right at you, you fucker. As much as I bitch about this, I do have to admit that there's no reason for Reese or Finch to have the kind of training or genre-savvy necessary to know what's going on here, and the acting and writing is really solid. I'm just going to keep facedesking because the misdirects and red herring are so fucking GOOD and I want to smash the unsub. He's so nicely uncomplicated to hate like that. It's a rare unsub on CM that's so uncomplicated. Somehow or another, when we come back from ad break, Reese and Finch have managed to talk some more! You guys, shouldn't you be doing that more privately because you don't know who the unsub is, that's why he's an unsub? Look at all the weird looks you're getting oh fine. Now that Finch is here, we can also point to how the light is not glinting off his glasses for maximum ominous I'm A Serial Killer expression, even though he'll draw us some more parallels between the unsub and the boys by saying maybe the unsub erased his digital trail. He knows it's possible because he did it! Thanks, Finch. You're a peach. Ow my toes. He does, at least, think he has a way to figure out who the unsub is by way of that equipment he brought! I'm intrigued.

Carter continues to stare at footage and her murderboard when Beecher comes back. Beecher. You're pushing past the point of being a good guy who wants answers and into being a jerk territory, and it's mostly because Carter feels guilty about dodging him that she stops and brings him in on the case. Also because she really does need a second set of eyes and Fusco's nowhere to be found at the moment. Very neatly done lack of leading the second opinion, by the way, she merely gives him the timestamps and asks what he notices, which gets her the response she's looking for. Because whatever Beecher's other flaws he is good at his job, and I'm glad they highlighted that aspect. Carter wouldn't go for someone who was incompetent, after all. We can see it, too! Lefty-righty is the obvious one, couple inches of height difference is one someone better trained in observation would immediately pick out, but it's a very, very nice bit of character development. We can also see Carter both relax her frown of worry that she's wrong and tense up that she's right and both the boys are now on the island with no way for her to contact them. Yeah, I wouldn't be too happy either. That is, by the way, the other bit of the footage we got in the victim/perp shot of the credits. No, Cal, this isn't a robbery or a scam, what division does Carter work, again? Yeah. About that.

Back to where Finch has been assembling the weirdest goddamn setup I think we've seen him perpetrate in awhile, verb chosen intentionally. Not!Fahey questions Reese's trust of Finch - excuse me, Gull - and also the fact that they're conducting a series of interrogations now? With Fahey at the head of the table. Aheh. Well, that second part is a fair question, since Reese is playing the experienced field agent, but his explanation that Finch arrived after the bridge went out and thus is almost certainly not the unsub even by the rules they're playing under works! Not!Fahey snarks about wanting access to VICAP and a fingerprint scanner, though why he thinks the latter would be more useful given that they appear to be dealing with a chameleon serial killer (though I would like to express my gratitude that it's not a supernaturally powered one - two of those on Haven are plenty and Grimm better not get any ideas) I do not know. Maybe he'd claim to have prints from after each disappearance, if pressed, though given the chameleon aspect how do we know for sure when the murders were committed? And so on and so forth. Well, at any rate, Finch has a seismograph that can be turned into a very, very makeshift polygraph. It won't necessarily tell that what anyone's lying about, but it'll help them get a rough approximation of emotional state as expressed physically! Which negates all manner of things like anxiety disorders, chemical dependencies, and so on, but it's what they've got and it makes Finch an integral part of the investigation, and thus someone Reese can talk to more freely. As they prep for the interrogations, not!Fahey is putting on a bulletproof vest on the grounds that he's a desk jockey and he's walking into a room with a killer. Reese, that smile as you tell him you'll be right behind him is not at all reassuring, and the layers here make my head hurt.

Interrogation montage! Stanley is drinking. Young woman doesn't recognize the photos of Jack Rollins. Not!Fahey is blinking a little more than I'm comfortable with when he asks her who she does and doesn't recognize. The honeymooning couple make us all facepalm either because we've been that couple or known that couple or both, and Reese eyerolls. Thank you, Reese. And the fisherman is definitely hiding something, I could've told you that without Finch's seismograph-cum-polygraph. He's obviously evading all kinds of questions, repeating the same answers when the questions are rephrased, but alright, we'll go see what Finch has been up to for shits and giggles. Finch confirms the fisherman's got something to hide, though frankly I'm betting on smuggling. Stanley's BAC makes his baseline lower than usual, so, let's haul the deputy in for questioning! She sticks up for the fisherman, refers to some problems he's gotten into, yeah, probably smuggling or similar shit. But the real estate developer and the drifter are suspicious! Let's add some red herrings into this mix, yes, thank you. It does help that there were any non-LEO (or fake LEO) outsiders on the island, because island culture tends to be pretty isolated, year round people from tourists from summer people (assuming you even have the delineation between the latter two categories) and thus they know everyone and are automatically suspicious of outsiders. All of those are good points, though they don't necessarily fit the profile! That's for Finch and Reese to determine, or should be.

Over at the station, Carter is busy being The Best and digging up the coldest of the cold cases, because safe money is that's where our unsub got his start and therefore, hopefully, the point at which he was least experienced and most inclined to make mistakes. And it turns out he did! A small one, but a mistake nonetheless; the roommate for Henri Musset his senior year was Alec Declan and Declan erased everything but his housing records when he erased his original identity. There's a note on the file Carter's holding that Musset's last in-person visit with his parents was over Christmas of 2004, last text-based communication March of '05, not reported missing until August of '05, for whatever reason. Meaning we have anywhere from a six to nine month window, roughly, for when Declan killed him and took his identity, and apparently Musset requested a new roommate during his last semester senior year? Yes, that's somewhat unusual, no college student wants to deal with more bureaucracy when they're already dealing with making sure all their coursework is completed, graduation requirements met and turned in, cap and gown and whatever accoutrements you need bought, finals studied for… yeah. No reason for that, so either Musset got suspicious enough that Declan killed him early or Declan filed the request thinking it would be less suspicious if he had a roommate while he was pretending to be Musset and then changed his mind. Difficult to know at this remove, though I'm betting on the former. Poor, poor Carter. Eighteen months later they got a digital trail on him in San Diego, but that's it, and that's a fairly straight shot over to Albuquerque as another major Southwest city. Skipping Phoenix because that's a little too much of a straight line, maybe? Regardless, now Carter's got the bit in her teeth. That ought to be good for our boys.

Back to makeshift interrogation, this time of their narrowed list of maybe-suspects. Heh. We have a clear shot of not!Fahey with his arms on the table now, which will Be Important Later. The real estate developer is typically arrogant and annoyed and unhelpful, he doesn't even have many tells to speak of. The drifter, on the other hand! Small fidgets with his hands, smaller tells than we saw out of the fisherman but also some flop sweat as Reese presses home the point that that many D-rings are an indicator of military or climbing expertise, and Reese can pick someone with military training out of a lineup really fast. Not!Fahey should be twigging to Finch right now, because the sort of people who become stormchasers, at least in fiction, are not usually the sort with the impulse control to restrain themselves to a tap on the door as a signal. Or the ability to sit still and play backup.

With that droplet of flop sweat, we pick up the pace a good deal, cutting back and forth between Carter trying to radio Owen Island and not getting much of anywhere with the deputy. Communication is for shit, Reese leaves the door open as he barges into the radio room so anyone can hear? Or at least Finch, the drifter, and not!Fahey can hear, and two of those I'm really not so sanguine about. Well, someone's acting awfully fast, because the generator just went out. Carter fusses. Figures move in the dark, including Reese heading to the shed out back in Weaver stance to discover that whoever it was didn't have the knowledge or the time or both to do more than unplug the generator. Well, that's something! I'm not buying the theory that the storm knocked it out and nor should anyone else. Oh, and poor Deputy Schmidt is dead and the radio's been completely wrecked. The sparking noises tell us so, if the tangle of wires and Finch's horrified look don't. And that's a Ka-Bar in her chest. This could possibly be more of a setup for the drifter somehow, but I'm trying to think how and not coming up with anything. After the ad break, we'll twitch some more about the loss of camera footage because that's kind of what we do here, and Carter intends to head out to rescue her boys. Um, Cal? You might want some better-chosen words than "I can't let you" to Carter. About anything. Not that she has time to argue, and not that he's not right, she needs to at least take some goddamn backup if she's headed out in this weather. But he knows he's on her shitlist, if not why, and instead of making him more careful with his words and actions around her it's made him more overbearing and a little condescending. These are not positive traits, Cal.

Back to the murder scene where not!Fahey is squatting over the corpse with far too much equanimity for a supposed desk jockey. The assorted civilians are freaking out, like you do, and blaming Finch as the outsider contributing to the investigation. Or, not blaming, but distrusting for sure. And now they'll go for the outsiders they really don't trust! Not!Fahey, nobody buys your trying to calm the natives act. I continue to be amused at how thoroughly and well they pulled out all the serial killer locked room mystery stops for this one, because even though it's all blatantly obvious to me, there are valid reasons the characters aren't getting it right off the bat and the whole ep is very, very well crafted. And Luke MacFarlane owns this role, as we'll soon see. Reese and Finch are unnerved enough to use first names, guys, you have a chameleon serial killer could you look a little less like a team? Please? Though Finch is managing to mostly look like he wants to hide behind the big strong US Marshal from the scary natives, there is that interpretation. Reese offers up that the knife is a Ka-Bar, which is true, and that they're not easily acquired at a local bait and tackle shop, which is halfway true, and that you need to be a special kind of person… okay, no. That's just to push the drifter Marine's buttons, on account of I know damn well you can buy Ka-Bars and lookalikes off the internet. Easily. That said, I would not be surprised to find that the military-issued ones look different from the ones for civilian purchase, and that even when it's sticking out of a person's chest Reese can tell the difference. At any rate, pushing the drifter gets us to a brief but very nicely choreographed fight scene, in which we can tell that they have similar training, just different degrees of it. Poor kid seems to realize he's completely outclassed and starts coughing up data as soon as Reese finds the USMC tattoo. Poor, poor kid doesn't want to go back for a second tour of duty, wants to run off to Canada, and say what you will about whatever he signed up for, we know all too well that veterans get shit for support as a general rule. Though that seems, slowly, to be improving. And oh Reese on the whole no you're not a killer, you're a Marine. One could make an argument that the two aren't that different, but Reese draws what I suspect is a very bright line between his time as a Ranger and his time with the CIA. Bright gray line, maybe, but the point, it stands. Nobody is willing to accuse a Marine of being a serial killer (and frankly that really doesn't fit the profile, too many people around to see, too much bureaucracy to wipe, not that the civilians know that) and so the question becomes, who else knew he had the knife? Well, the fisherman, maybe, yes. The now-missing fisherman. Reese for another, and not!Fahey for a third. Maybe not knew but guessed, on the second two, anyway. But the fisherman is missing and that's suspicious, so Reese will go be the field agent and chase him down. Dammit, Reese, it's not the fisherman, let him go drown with his cargo. My god. Dramatic declarations to not!Fahey because he can't make them to Finch and all! Yeah, I'm with Stanley and Finch on the drinking.

Beecher and Carter. Driving. In the rain. In silence. That's a nice common interrogation tactic! It's also a common I'm pissed at you and don't want to say words I'll regret later tactic. Beecher breaks first, which means Carter goes somewhat on the attack. Like, dude, you lost me my chance at the FBI. Even if Beecher's telling the truth about not being dirty and we know he's right about being in Narcotics and getting pulled in by IAB a lot. Because they do, and he does, and he views it as normal. The way you probably kind of have to, in that division, in order to maintain any kind of positive self-image whether you're a good cop or a dirty one. Well, Carter doesn't, and she doesn't know who to trust pretty much ever these days. She trusts John and Harold, as far as that goes. She trusts Fusco in a lot of respects and not at all in some others. But she feels like she doesn't know Beecher anymore, and she thought she did, and of course that's got her questioning everything about him. Especially as he drives faster in horrendous weather in response to emotional stress. Especially as he stops the car all of a sudden and yeah, she might consider that prelude to attacking her physically. As she says, she doesn't know anymore. Oh both of you.

Down to the dock Reese goes, where we confirm, yep, smuggling. Or more accurately, drug dealing. Now complete with spear gun action! We may all be glad his aim is for shit and really, dude? Really? Your stash of weed's been discovered (and it's weed, let's not forget, not cocaine or heroin) and you've got an inkling the cops are looking for a killer and your first instinct is to shoot at them? Maybe he's been sampling his product too much. Or maybe he needs to sample more of it, the way his hands are shaking. Reese is not having with this shit. Reese is knocking his dumb ass out in short order, or at least stunning him, while Finch sits back and stares at the printouts on the wall and pretends to be a good little civilian. Finch, if you were pretending that you'd be out there in the group with the rest of them, but then he wouldn't have seen this, so no matter! The this, in this case, is the fact that there's blips of heightened heartrate at the end of every tape - meaning, when not!Fahey was alone at the table. Interesting that his heartrate appears to have only shot up when he wasn't getting to play his part for an audience, though not entirely surprising. Yes, Finch, it very much could be. As Reese is about to discover through a lot of grumbling, much to his dismay, because the trunk of Fahey's car happens to be full of… Fahey. I do appreciate all the snark and the "bleed if I'm right." I do not appreciate that Reese is so stunned for a moment by what he finds that the idiot fisherman gets the drop on him. Sigh. Finch goes in to check the supposed FBI agent's shield and wallet and finds the whole lotta nothing we expect to find, to shrieks of HE'S BEHIND YOU. Bonus points for the pale shirt moving in the background that then gets illuminated in the lightning. RIGHT BEHIND YOU, HAROLD. Watch more horror movies and clear the room before you do that shit, jesus hitman. And now we'll pause so I can twitch and writhe and reach for my machetes, because fucking hell, MacFarlane, with the voice acting. Straight from pleasant and polite FBI agent tones to lower pitched, slower, more deliberately enunciated serial killer Declan. Augh.

We come back after the break to Declan, because I'm going to work on the assumption that it really was him back at Stanford who committed the first murder even though we never get 100% confirmation, shoving his piece into Finch's back and wondering how he knew. Finch gives it to him, no real reason not to and Declan enjoys the acquisition of knowledge as much or more than he does the kill. I'll just give you the rant now about how it's much more entertaining to fuck with people's heads by acquiring all the knowledge and skillsets that Declan no doubt possesses while being all one person and letting people boggle at the extent of your abilities. But then, we're not serial killers nor do we play them on TV. Though it's a nice bit of characterization to make him broken in a way a particular sort of person can identify with (up to and including Finch, I'll note) while drawing the very clear line between "this is within normal, socially acceptable deviation" and "you are a very sick person." And then there's Reese to muddy those waters. Declan blinks a lot more when he's not playing Fahey, smugs it up some over how they bought every minute and raises the pitch of his voice just slightly, so that it's not quite Declan or Fahey. Yay for uncanny valleys! Unsurprising that he delineates sharply between innocents and himself and Finch, he thinks they're just like each other, both faking. Well, they are both faking something or another, but for different reasons going, I would actually guess, all the way back. Also jesus his affect's gone completely flat to the point of near non-existence as they get into the shed. None of the things he's doing are for Finch's benefit, no, not even the glasses, as we'll see. His vowels are more rounded, too, not quite enunciated to theatre or RP diction but it's close. It's as much of a fake as everyone Declan's been, but it's his template fake, the blank over which he applies everything else in order to become someone new. In this case, of course, he intends to become Finch. The affect he's using as he explains about Fahey and Rollins and how he knew when he had Fahey/had to kill him is also false, it's the affect of someone who knows that normal people express emotions but he doesn't know how to do it right. I liked flat-affect-Declan better, can we have him back? No? No. He'll wax eloquent about killing the deputy to be sure she didn't hear anything crucial over the radio and being ready to improvise. That's cute, o very, very organized serial killer. How you think that belief in the readiness of your improvisation in any way keeps you from being bound by your need for ritualistic murder. Though this moment of improvisation is what decides him on being Finch. That is so not going to work out for you, Declan, on so many levels. Mainly because Reese and Carter and Fusco will track your ass down for revenge. Also, the nearly half a foot in height difference is going to make that tricky, though in this case Finch's lack of digital trail would work to Declan's advantage. That's irrelevant, though, as Declan strips glasses and colored contacts out to reveal that why yes, his natural eye color is closer to Finch's than anyone is comfortable with. And here comes the hope of a serial killer who's been alone his whole career: has he found someone like him? Either to become or to team up with even temporarily? Because that'd be a very neat feather in Declan's cap, winning the game of chameleons. No, you're not like Finch. Finch tries the you're an amateur line, which is fairly true at least from a digital standpoint and definitely true if he didn't spot Reese as an imposter as well. Granted that a lot of Reese's learned behaviors work well with a LEO alias, but come on, really? And Declan starts working on assuming Finch's mannerisms in the set of his shoulders and jaw and I will be really creeped out now.

Meantime the fisherman's trying to dump Reese in the water. Seriously? That's your plan? This is a bad plan and going to get you smacked in the face with an oar. Thank you, Reese. Now go rescue your friend. Who looks painfully vulnerable without his glasses, and since Michael Emerson doesn't wear them day to day that's some impressive microexpression. Also impressive is the way Declan/Macfarlane slowly acquires Finch's speech patterns. The timbre of the voice is still all wrong, but that's something that Declan doesn't intend anyone to be aware of. Finch has all kinds of cranky about how Declan can't be him because he saves lives, Declan takes them, and for once I'm with him there. Even when he was building the Machine, he always thought he was saving lives. Greatest good for the greatest number, and all that. But no, Declan totally means to stop when he finds the person he's meant to be! He's living wasted lives for them! Better than they could! Yeah, nobody believes you, and the fact that he's gone all non-affect again is a pretty good indication that he really does believe it and this is the motivation he uses to let himself continue to murder people. At which point Finch, not being a trained profiler, agent, hostage negotiator or any other damn thing, pretty well explodes. His aliases aren't for him to find the person he's meant to be, they're to allow his core self to do the work he believes he is meant for, which is saving people. Declan is using this rationalization to a similar end, except, again, he kills them. Cue Declan snapping and deciding he'd rather kill this fucker than listen to another word out of his mouth. Well, yeah, that's what serial killers do when confronted with the facts of who and what they are, especially if they've been rationalizing as much as this one apparently has. It's okay, he'll keep making it up as he goes along! Thank you, Carter. Meanwhile everyone with an ounce of awareness of continuity shrieks about BODY ARMOR but, hey, getting shot in the vest still hurts like a fucker. I'd even believe he was unconscious or well and stunned for a few moments, long enough for Finch to reclaim his glasses. Carter, being legit, got to hitch a ride with the Coast Guard! We won't ask too hard what she had to tell them to get them to take her to the island in this hellacious weather. Guys. GUYS. He should be bleeding? Oh forget it. They start to turn and walk and Finch starts to babble his nervous oh god I was just nearly shot and cue the realization! Thank you, Finch, you're mostly just not trained for this kind of shit, and for that I will most of the time forgive you. I still think the landing on the island was a dumbass fucking stunt. And it's not Reese, as we might expect, saving the day. It's Cal Beecher. Because we don't need to drive that piece of characterization along any further, with Reese saving everyone, but making Beecher the kind of cop who can take a steady shot and save lives and not ask questions? Let's just pile on the gray paint a little more, shall we. I'll also excuse the fact that we didn't see the bullet coming out of Declan's forehead on the grounds that this is network TV, not HBO.

Next morning, and the Machine's probably relieved to have its eyes back again. God knows I am, inasmuch as I more or less like the Machine. Carter and Beecher could both use some booze, and we have all kinds of dawn symbolism and questions about where do they go now and what the fuck just happened. And none of that has any easy answers, as ever, but Carter is slowly starting to thaw. Not that she's happy, maybe not even that she trusts Cal as much as he wants her to, but she's got a better measure of how he is in a crisis, and that man is steady and reliable and had her back. So we'll call it breaking even, at least. Finch and Reese have their own quiet conversation and I want all the stories about Reese and smugglers with spear guns now, thank you all so much for that. But it ain't over yet, and however smart the Machine is the three days of silence (was there a rock? did anyone put it in a cave and find the rock rolled away the next morning? because that's totally what they're going for here, c'mon, Reese, you're the Jesus hitman, you should know this shit) is an anomaly that Finch is deeply uncomfortable with. No, he doesn't think it's over, insert all your bad storm, eye of the storm, etc. metaphors here. I rather wish the writers hadn't felt obligated to dump all those on us right here at the end, but they did and the delivery was about all we could expect from the actors with lines that cliched. C'mon, guys, you did so well with the cliches the entire rest of this ep. Bah.

Weaksauce ending aside, we're starting to burn through the end of s2 metaplot, so the next few weeks should be downright fascinating. Enjoy our swearing yet to come!

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