Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Future Starts So Slow (Person of Interest S2E16 Relevance)

Well. This is different.

Instead of the usual opening credits today we get a glimpse of the Machine's procedure when it determines relevant numbers! It turns out it's not terribly different, at least on surface appearances, from how it determines irrelevant numbers. Our first bit of information comes in the form of the apparent murder of Daniel Aquino who works for Northern Lights. This takes place in 2011 and the murder, dare I call it assassination, was perpetrated by someone categorized by a blue box with the name catalyst.indigo.5a. That's new! The Machine has tagged it archive footage, which means we then jump forward to 2013 in Berlin, where a woman in a black leather coat is pulling that disappear as a vehicle goes by trick in reverse. Sure, it's a bit cheesy, but it's a decent way of telegraphing in a second or two what a badass this woman is. She gets a coffee from a cart, she has a shopping bag with her, all normal accoutrements of a woman about town. Pretty enough to catch the eye of a policeman, too. She's also carrying a large black duffel-sized purse over one shoulder, which isn't exactly the normal accoutrement for a woman who's apparently been on a bit of shopping. Large black full designer duffelbag. And she's heading into a largely abandoned apartment building of some kind, or at least that looks like the lobby of what used to be an apartment building. Following two men! Who promptly do turn and ask her in German if she's following them. They're not being too polite about it either, not using Sie form. She totally speaks German even though she's pretending not to, that's not a look of incomprehension, that's a look of sizing up the people she's encountered and deciding what approach best to take. Apparently she's decided not to hurt these people today. It helps that the potential confrontation is interrupted by a police officer, the same one who's eye she caught earlier, who asks if there's a problem here and he'd be happy to detain the men bothering the pretty lady. Which is the two guys' cue to break out guns and a language I do not speak, sadly. They've been made, they need to call someone named Bekhti and get moving. They have indeed been made! And now Shaw, for it is she, will shoot them. And spare the cop, though she does tell him to get on the ground and apologize before knocking him out. Interestingly, at this point Shaw has a blue box. Blue boxes for operatives? Tiffany's will love that.

Mission Control asks if she's found Bekhti yet. Well, no, and she did just shoot the people who could have led them to him, which she at least did acknowledge. But she did get something, she shot the guy who was going to call Bekhti last. I presume last, because he was able to dial a partial phone number which Mission Control in the white van with the blue box can track down. She also takes from this encounter that whatever they're planning, it has to be big because they were willing to kill a cop to protect it. Yeah, I would buy that more if we hadn't spent the past season and a half dealing with a wide variety of criminals, some of whom are in fact stupid enough to kill a cop out of paranoia. The phone number turns out to be a cell phone, and tracking it takes them up to a roof above where the cell phone is, in one of the apartments below. Mission Control has the requisite mission control box with appropriate technology, including a camera on a wire! We start off with a wrong room, because you can never just go straight to the one you want, before getting to an apartment with semtex and a cell phone detonator. Yeah, that seems like a winner! Also caesium. That sounds bad, I don't like that, and neither do our operatives given that the objects of their surveillance seem to be making a dirty bomb. A dirty bomb, for the record and for anyone who isn't familiar with the terminology, is a bomb that includes radioactive material usually intended to disperse that material over a large radius. Also if they can tell the cell phone detonator is a detonator and not a phone, it seems likely that they're ready to go. Indeed that camera must have a microphone on it because our team can hear that they're going to move in one hour. Team's name, as it turns out, is Catalyst. Cute. Team is requesting permission to go, which is given. Out come the big guns! Well, gun, singular, we only need to see one gun because we're abbreviating all of the standard mission points, right now we're only covering in five to seven minutes what normally takes one to two hours to deal with. Mission Control drops another pipe down, this time an actual hose pipe, and a quick couple lines of dialogue gives us a bit more information about Shaw such as her name and the fact that she's considered crazy even by covert ops standards, as well as the fact that the gas is either deadly or dangerous and used by the FSB. Which at least should obscure who they are if traces of the gas are discovered after they're gone. It's also fast-acting, three of them drop in short order. I'd question whether or not they can be sure that's all of them, as that camera doesn't look like it has the best range, but on the other hand they're pretty much committed now. Which means Shaw is going in with a mask and a really big gun.

There's a sports game on inside, the apartment is laid out as though someone actually lives in it, or at least as though someone or more than one person has been living in it for a little while. She moves one of the guns away from one of the mook's hands, just in case they're alive? In case they regain consciousness? And the next order of business is removing the caesium, which, yes please. Third order of business is forestalled because the pages on a notepad are fluttering in a breeze they didn't pick up on the camera, evidently. That's a problem, because the gas outflow from the tube isn't enough to flutter pages in the wind. Which means, as she looks over her shoulder, that there's a window open. Which means the gas is dispersing quicker than originally anticipated. And upon investigation, the guy who was on the floor by the juice is gone. Wherever he's gone, he hasn't gone where the camera can see, because Mission Control has to ask what happens as she clears the room again, this time with considerably more paranoia alertness since the guy knows there's an intruder in the apartment. The gas mask decreases her range of vision, too, making it difficult to see the guy as he comes up behind her with a kitchen knife. She doesn't quite make the flip! She does get several good hits in to the soft places, very explicitly the soft places, before he gets up and runs off. This just is not going well, really. Mission Control is quietly and controlledly freaking out about not being able to see the guy, since his range of vision isn't very good either and he only has the one camera. Shaw seems to have more experience than her partner, or at least more ability to compartmentalize and treat the situation with pragmatism. Finally he does get a bead on the mobile guy, directing her to stop, turn, and fire through the wall which she does without hesitation. So they've been working together long enough for her to trust him that well, trust his professionalism, and/or she's been working long enough to act without hesitation on Control's orders. The latter definitely fits with what we've seen, the former is likely true as well, though he's new enough to have to ask if she's all right despite his directions indicating that he could see the guy drop without firing a shot. Shaw directs her partner to head down to street level. She's got to get her bullets back, because they were never there. Fair enough.

Down on street level Shaw informs her partner that she fixed Bekhti's wiring for him. I'm not sure what that specifically means but I'm reasonably sure something is going to go boom soon. She's making her own way out, which in the course of the ensuing conversation we learn means out of the country as well as out of the area. Interestingly, the scene is shot so that it begins with the impression that she's crossing the street to meet her mission partner, but they continue to speak over comms, head in different directions, and discuss their next assignment which turns out to be tomorrow and in New York City. And now for the echo: Control saying that they have another number, Shaw saying that it's like he says, they never stop coming. Never mind that Mission Control (okay, okay, Cole) has no reason to know that well enough to say it, especially if he's as new to this type of work as his behavior would indicate, it's the echo, dammit! It's the principle of symmetry and so on. Also the really nice boom when Bekhti's apartment blows up. That's kind of not like not letting anyone know you were there, Shaw.

The Machine welcomes us back to New York with various footage and an audio clip of Shaw and Cole checking in with each other. And she's meeting with Wilson tonight, who turns out to be a nondescript blond white guy in a long coat. Well, her first red flag is that he's appearing in person, her second red flag is that he's claiming to congratulate her and calling her his best operative. Normally handlers don't do that for missions that are routine, they might do it for missions that are anomalous for one reason or another, but not routine ones, which by all indications this is. And her third red flag is when he points out that she's supposed to prevent bombs from going off, not aid and abet them. If she notices any of these flags she doesn't give any sign, just explains with the same mild expression that it seemed like the best way to cover their tracks. In a way, I suppose, it does get rid of the evidence of a specific perpetrator, but it doesn't cover up the presence of anything unusual there at all. In fact, it brings a lot of attention to the scene, police, bomb squad, detectives. Possibly Interpol, depending. That is not leaving no trace, Shaw. That is the opposite of leaving no trace. You are so getting retired. But not before you get your final number, of course, because as we saw with Reese they don't just give you your pink slip and send you packing with a pension, they retire you like a blade runner around here.

The next day, because this entire episode is made up of spy conventions and parallels to Reese and Finch, Shaw gets the details on her number from Cole: dishonorably discharged, joined a militia, just recently got wired ten thousand dollars from an offshore account and moved to Queens. I don't live in New York, city or state, so I could be wrong but I don't think ten thousand is going to get you very far in Queens. Then again he's only been there a week and given that his number came up, his plans are likely coming to fruition pretty quickly. Oh, hey, we have a name for their version of the Machine! Or their interpretation of where the numbers are coming from. Shaw calls it Research, implying that she doesn't actually know it's a machine. Interesting. Shaw walks to the end of the block, aiming to follow her new number who's just crossed the street ahead of her and, oh, hey, who's that touching his ear (really, Reese, you need to stop that, you look obvious) across the corner from her? Why yes, it's everyone's favorite spyssassin! Who looks extremely like a fellow spyssassin right now. Also he's looking straight at her. Yeah, I think you've been made. Control thinks he's trying to flirt with her. Shaw, after Reese wanders off somewhere, thinks it's a false alarm. I think she should explore the possibility that he's only one in a number of surveillers, but since the other surveillers are all cameras I suppose there really isn't any way to know that she's still being watched. Anyway, I guess we know who Reese's number of the episode is! Some more symmetry, she's got her number Mercer's phone cloned, and he's getting a call from someone saying that whatever's going to go down, it's supposed to go down tomorrow. Which means they need more information soonest. Which means, according to Shaw, getting into the guy's computer tonight. One of the more subtle parallels in this ep is her comment about Cole getting out of the van, mirroring some of Reese's early comments about fieldwork down to the intonation but without making a big point about it.

That night they're prepping for their run on the guy's computer, maybe their run on the guy himself if they get the opportunity, and I'd like to think that Cole's wrench flash drive is a quiet symbol of how he's become the proverbial spanner in the works. Maybe? Especially since it's followed up by first Shaw commenting that he's distracted and what's up, and then Cole asking her if she ever thinks about where Research gets the numbers. Okay, between Shaw discarding the covert part of covert operations and Cole questioning the Authority In Charge, no wonder you two are getting retired. Yeesh. Shaw is a good spyssassin who knows what kind of TV show she's in and she knows that digging into the source of your orders gets you retired, so she denies ever wondering about it. Cole brings up Aquino, remember him? The Machine wanted us to know about him at the start, which means he's linked to this in some way if only in Cole's mind. This also means that their partnership dates back at least two years ago. And that job has been weighing on Cole's mind ever since, mostly how Aquino was so confused and had no idea what was going on or why he was being killed. Or at least, that's what he sounded like. If you are on the Machine's relevant targets list, unlike the irrelevant ones, chances are you did something on purpose to get there. In this case, he was trying to sell designs for a nuclear centrifuge to Hezbollah which, okay, yes, that's impressively bad. Cole still wants to know where the numbers come from, and how it is they're never wrong; Shaw seems to think they get the numbers through the usual methods of torture and subsequent rendition, which oh dear god if that was the case Research would be a lot less accurate than they are. And possibly that's what bothers Cole. This kind of accuracy from a human organization is improbable at best, certainly unparalleled. No, it turns out, what bothers Cole is that he traced the money after the fact and it turns out that the money came from the US government, and Aquino wasn't selling weapon components to Hezbollah after all! Um. I'd like to ask a question here, if I may. How does he know Aquino wasn't actively trying to contact Hezbollah and got the US government by mistake? How does he know it wasn't a sting operation? How does he know Aquino didn't contact a US agent undercover within Hezbollah? She said, having watched a little too much Strike Back, but the point being, knowing that Aquino's money came from the US government does not make him a good guy. Nor does it make the US government necessarily interested in keeping him alive. Nor does it make requesting an internal investigation from Wilson a good idea and now alarm bells are ringing for Shaw. Sadly, she doesn't have time to check on them, Mercer's leaving his apartment? right now.

Into the building they go with their little blue boxes. Cole sounds surprised at how easy it was to crack the guy's computer, which at this point the alarm bells should be deafening and they should get the hell out of there now. Not that they will. They're going to stand around instead and look puzzledly at the computer as Cole tells her that Mercer's getting emails from his contacts, who happen to be Shaw and Cole themselves. Guys. It's a setup. Guys. You're being retired. Guuuuyyys. To be fair, Shaw moves immediately to glance out the window as she does seem to be realizing what Finch is trying to tell Cole: it's a trap! Thank you, Admiral Ackbar. Sadly, it is way too late, and Shaw, why are you still at the window? That is really damn sloppy, windows are the first things people look at from the outside, especially when the inside is lit up so they can see your nice silhouettes. To be honest, that's how I expected this to go down, but Cole sees them at the door first and tackles Shaw to the ground, taking a few in the back while he's at it. Why he wasn't wearing a vest I will never know. Probably because he wasn't a field operative and they were expecting a recon mission and not a firefight, but still. We will now proceed to have a firefight with Shaw, adorably, taking the protector role and covering Cole with her body while shooting the shit out of first the doors and then the people coming through them. Complete with deafened effect on the sound! For just a minute, though, it won't interfere with the music that's telling us they need to hustle their butts out of there. She closes the door to give them some cover, grabs the radio, says they need to move, but Cole's not really up to that right now. As she's realized. There's a pretty big blood pool on the ground already when she hauls him up against a chair, Shaw, that's not helpful. Shaw, calling Control isn't going to help. SHAW. Cole's final moments will be spent talking around his unrequited affection for Shaw, though it's unclear whether that was more admiration coupled with latent inadequacy feelings given that Shaw was the one stomping around playing Jesse Bourne, or actual love. Either way, his comment about wanting to be her hero does hit home, right before he hits the floor. Poor everyone. Shaw doesn't even get time to process or grieve because now the second team is going in. While we can hit pause, now, and take in her expression and her degree of upset. Contrast this with her current abrasive and borderline emotionally stunted demeanor, though it's difficult to draw a direct line from cause to result through here. It's entirely possible that Cole gained her trust and a certain degree of emotional intimacy, as well.

Anyway. Second team! Come in and be slaughtered. Shaw's coming out a little too quickly to properly check her sight lines, but on the plus side she's definitely alert enough to see the guy with the gun and, what, grenades? Is that a grenade, seriously? Oh, ouch, grenade to the face. The second guy is already down, slumped in a corner, apparently thanks to Reese! Hello Reese! We've missed you this ep! He comes out with his hands up, well, okay, one hand up, the other one pointing the gun at the ceiling and his finger still on the trigger, for those of you who remember your gun safety and never put your finger on the trigger until you're ready to fire. In other words, he's ready to shoot something, and Shaw isn't taking the chance that that something is her, she's going to plug him in the vest several times. Bye Reese. We'll catch you again later, yeah? Team three is now moving into position, let's all take a second to appreciate what this says about Shaw, that they're sending at least three teams of highly trained assassins/covert violence operatives to take her down. Meanwhile the guy with the grenade to the face is, hey, still alive? Still screaming, too, that must not have been an explosive grenade, maybe just gas or a flash-bang. Shaw will give him something else to scream about by riding his body down the two-story drop. Ouch. I do kind of feel sorry for the poor mook by now, it's one thing to get killed in the line of duty, but he's going to be in pain for a good long while. Wait, no. There, she put him down. All better! Some members of team two are still alive, we hear over her stolen radio, and they think she has backup because there's another guy in there, and then some more gunshots. Reese recovered awfully quick from being hit in the vest a lot! As Shaw continues half walking half staggering down the street we see the rest of team whichever number they were lying on the ground clutching their kneecaps. Oh Reese. Oh, hey, Wilson. It turns out there were only three teams after all, because Wilson sounds impatient and bored as he calls on all teams to check in, and have they killed the woman yet. Nice distancing language there, either that or it's a good sign that he wasn't as close to Shaw as her more relaxed demeanor around him seemed to indicate. No, no they haven't killed the woman, who is now staring at you like you've lost your mind. Oh, wait, now she's shooting at you. Shaw gets a good chunk of Reese's ass-kicking music too, as she forces Wilson to take cover, then books it out of the immediate vicinity. Wilson, it seems, is guessing she's booked it to the van. Decent guess, but she's not in immediate sight there. Not that he does any kind of a job of clearing the van before calling his boss. Who turns out to be Pennsylvania Two. Hands up, who's surprised.

After the break Wilson's walking down the street in the rain explaining the situation: Cole's dead, Shaw's in the wind, and he lost a full team. Assuming Reese kneecapped the other guys, okay, but you might have lost a little more than a full team in there. Depends on how many people are in a team, I suppose? Shaw had a body count of what looked like at least three. Let's also all note here that Wilson has a white box, meaning however high in the chain of command he is, he's neither an agent of the Machine nor in possession of any useful information about it. In general these people don't seem to be very well informed, for example, Pennsylvania Two has no idea of the threat standing right in front of him dropping off his materials for his morning meeting the next day. Hello, Root. Will you be listening in on the conversation too? Of course you will. Pennsylvania Two will now sum up the situation for the benefit of the viewers just coming in on the show, since it is about the halfway point, and to ram home the fact that, Wilson, you're a moron. Wilson estimates that she'll try to regroup, secure transportation and weapons over a montage of her stealing a car and pulling up to a pair of shady gentlemen on a street. He also estimates that they'll have a bit of an edge since he's pretty sure he clipped her. Wilson, sweetie, you already underestimated her once, big time, I wouldn't count on that edge to get you your missing asset. I'm just saying. Especially since, winged or no, she just managed to drag a fairly burly-looking drug dealer into her car and drive off with him. I'm impressed. Also laughing into my rangoon.

Let's all note, while we're at it, that whatever she's been doing out of the country lately she's spent enough time on the local streets to know what at least a few of the drug names are. Depending on the prevalence of the drug that could indicate as little as she reads the news now and again to, she has drug dealing contacts. She has the latter, anyway, right now, as it's only a few minutes till we get to an apartment of, apparently, the dealer running the guy she kidnapped. Given that she's the one who has her gun out that puts her getting the drop on them and in control of the situation, calm and in control enough to crack jokes as she backs them both up and away from, oh, let's call that their home defense system. Lewis is definitely the push-over here, not only because he was the one out on the street and in the cold, but also because he doesn't even think about grabbing a secondary weapon (because you know they have some stored around the house. Seriously.) as she orders him to tie his boss up to the radiator and then gives him a shopping list for the bathroom. Gauze, painkillers, towels, all the things you need for a homegrown bullet extraction! Though, while I question Lewis's boss as an impartial authority at the moment, he does kind of have a point. That's not a good place to be shot. Inasmuch as there's ever a good place to be shot. Turns out Wilson was using hollow points, too, so he was really 200% done with her and Cole. Ouch. Shaw isn't fazed by Lewis's boss, and tells him that if she starts to lose consciousness she'll shoot him first. Which is a good policy! Lewis would probably just rabbit, that guy looks like he'd get nasty.

We learn a few things about her as she does this. We learn that she has a high pain tolerance as well as a high tolerance for her own injury, and that she's done this before. We learn, though it may not be true, that she went to medical school before leaving to join the Marines, which also may or may not be true but mirrors Reese's own career path, so to speak. Not much else, though, having taken the bullet out and slapped the weakest pressure bandage I've seen in a while onto the open wound, she asks Lewis to tie himself to the radiator 'cause she's going to pass out now. Apart from that's not the smartest thing to say or do ever, that actually shows a lot of trust of Lewis, there. It'd be touching if the next thing we heard weren't Lewis getting pounded on by his boss's boss for being weak. No one's surprised by this, right? Of course right. The new guy's standing there looking at her scoffing at her badassery. She corrects him to say she has an Axis II personality disorder, which according to a very brief search (someone can correct me on this if they are more informed?) includes various forms of paranoid and antisocial disorders. Which does seem to fit the bill! Shaw defines it as when she kills these guys (three of them? I think), she's not going to feel much of anything over it. That, too, fits the bill. Dealer On Top Guy is not impressed, and makes the usual round of mocking phrases before she reveals (or maybe reminds him) that she has a backup weapon. Okay, first of all, seriously? Lewis's immediate superior had time to call in two other guys, time for them to get there, and you didn't search her properly? What the hell is wrong with all of you? You didn't immobilize her or anything? You just trusted her to stay unconscious so, what, you could gloat at her? You are all dumbasses and I am not sorry you get shot. I'm also not sorry that Lewis is still alive after all that. Lewis, honey, you really want to consider a new line of work. She tells Lewis to go, not to tell anyone on pain of, well that doesn't really need to be specified, does it? Then she eases herself over to the couch and has a cold one. Because apparently not only is Shaw a badass, she's not terribly concerned with her own health and well being. That bullet wound isn't necessarily going to heal with a weakass pressure bandage and not having the bullet in it anymore. At the very least it probably needs a couple of stitches. No? No.

Over in the Office of Secret Conspiracies Hersh is talking about Shaw's abilities and how he trained her himself (interesting) and that if she doesn't want to be found, she's not going to be found. Which isn't what Penn Two wants to hear, he wants to know if she's going to look into the Aquino situation or come after them for revenge. Hersh's guess is both! She's a multitasker! A woman after my own heart. I'm fond of both, especially since now I'm wondering what did get Aquino onto the Machine's list. Hersh is fond of both too, that's the first flicker of an expression we've seen on his face in, oh, ever? He looks proud of her. That's an interesting comment on his character. Pride in his student will have to wait, Penn Two wants him to take care of the Aquino situation, and wants to know if they've tracked down Cole's contact in the CIA yet. Her name, as it turns out, is Veronica Sinclair. Root will take this information and run with it now, at least as much to get ahead of them as anything else, I'd wager.

Back in the apartment of dead drug dealers Shaw is pulling out Cole's flash drive and plugging it in to find out just what the hell is on it, maybe what he died for. There's a photograph presumably of Aquino, a bank statement from Banque Standard Suisse involving a good chunk of change, looks like five figure transfers at least one of which went to something called the Intercontinental Savings and Loan. The BSS account belongs to a person of Middle Eastern name is the closest I can narrow that down, and the ISL account does belong to Aquino. It's hardly probative, though, at least not by my standards given the number of people in this line of work who can fake bank transfer history. Oh, but she does find the number of Veronica Sinclair, her partner's CIA contact. Excellent. She makes the call from her phone, which may be a burner phone or maybe her assigned burner phone in which case I have to shake her and wonder what the shit she's playing at. I'll pretend it's one of the drug dealers' phones for the sake of my sanity? Yes? Since we don't see where she pulls it from. She wants to talk to Veronica about Michael Cole, and also apparently to scare the wits out of her since the second thing she says is that whatever Veronica gave Cole may have gotten him killed. It lacks a little something in the way of finesse, but it does have the benefit of brevity and efficiency. Learning that something you know and passed on got the person you passed it to killed is something you want to do as quickly as possible in order not to get killed, yourself. Shaw is about as gentle with Veronica as it's in her to be, but she does insist on a meeting with her usual options of do-it-or-I-hunt-you-down. Veronica agrees, because what else can she do? Not much, sadly.

The next day Shaw is going up to an apartment? hotel? Apartment above a hotel? It's 5 pm so it should be the Suffolk hotel, but the hallway looks more like apartments. Same difference. Anyway, Shaw is calling Wilson to set up a meeting with Control so she can turn herself in and presumably get some kind of information. Wilson isn't buying it and neither am I. Though I also don't think it's remotely as simple as her wanting to kill Control. Take him hostage so she can get answers, maybe immunity, maybe sabotage something as revenge for Cole, sure. Like Hersh said, she's a multitasker! And apparently a blackmailer, using the Aquino files or their reputed existence thereof as leverage to get a face-to-face with Control. It's pretty ballsy; whether or not he knows the truth, Wilson's certainly behaving as though there are files to have, which Shaw might not have known. All we saw her find were three files, all of which were useless without context. At any rate, she'll send him the location and he's to have Control there by tonight. Also ballsy! Who knows if Wilson even knows where Control is. Having finished that bit of maneuvering Shaw continues to track down some of? the rest of? the Aquino files by means of her meeting with Veronica Sinclair, except that going by the fact that we don't see Veronica Sinclair's face until just before the break and they actually have to do some fancy blocking and editing shenanigans to make that happen, we have a couple seconds not to be surprised when it turns out to be Root at the door. So that's where she went off to so quickly! I give the editors/director/writers credit here, it's quick enough that we don't quite have time, necessarily, to figure it out until it happens, but it's also the sort of thing that's plausible enough to be expected when it does go off. Hopefully Veronica's still alive. We all remember what happened to the last agency woman who got in Root's way, yes? Yes. Poor Alicia.

After the break Root is actually doing a pretty decent job of selling her identity; just enough anecdotal information to confirm the relationship, not enough to seem odd or out of character that she gives it. Shaw, on the other hand, doesn't seem to know how to deal with the grief or what she expects is grief of friends of a person she knows who is now deceased, corroborating her alleged diagnosis at least as far as an inability to process or respond to the emotions of strangers even by what framework modern American society gives. Which is to say, she can react emotionally to Cole because he is a known quantity and she's built up a dynamic with him, and once she becomes better acquainted with Reese and Finch she can react at least somewhat more emotionally to them, but in this situation her reactions are hesitant and a bit stilted. Compounded by the fact that, as she says, it's better if "Veronica" knows as little as possible about their missions. She technically knows too much already. As far as the Aquino situation she knows that the wire transfers were spoofed to be from Hezbollah, that the originating point is actually the ISA. Their budget goes back five years (putting its start at about 2008! How about that.) and their project is called Northern Lights. They have a facility designated Research, does that sound familiar? Why yes, yes it does. And of course she can't find the names of anyone else in the project because there isn't anyone else. Meanwhile Shaw is being distracted from the briefing by a clanking sound coming from the bathroom. We know where this is going, considering we know that's Root she's actually talking to, Especially since Root is now diving into the realm of total falsehood, which is to say she's asking for the name of Cole's contact in Northern Lights. I could be wrong, but I don't think he actually had a contact in Northern Lights, unless she means Wilson, who gives them the numbers from Research? Either way, we don't find out, because we're too busy finding out what that clanking sound is. The real Veronica Sinclair! And now Shaw will get a taser to the neck and drop like a sack of potatoes, along with a smiling Root monologue about how Veronica gave her everything she knew and she's read all about Shaw, she's a big fan! Hoo boy. And she's amused in a patronizing sort of way by Shaw's attempts to find out what Cole had discovered, because Shaw's managed to kick over the Machine's nest and all the little ISA hornets are swarming out now. She's also very derisive of the notion that the numbers would ever come from Guantanamo or similar institutions, which, didn't I just say that earlier? I do believe I did. Torture rarely to never produces reliable results. It's just bad press, bad information, bad methodology all over the place. People don't do it for information, they do it to feel powerful, whether they're serial killers or secret agents. Ahem. Anyway. And speaking of serial killers. Root is going to contradict herself all over the place now by starting to torture Shaw for information about Northern Lights and her missions for Research. With an iron? Root, you really don't have a goddamn clue who or what you're dealing with, do you. Apart from the fact that Shaw is likely to be selected and trained to resist torture, she's an assassin. They don't tell assassins this shit. No, Root still wants to know the name of Aquino's contact, as far as building a home for "something very special" goes, i.e. the Machine. It's so not going to work, Root. You're being very dumb here. About the only thing these two ladies have going for them is that they seem to be having some morbid sort of fun. Which gives the whole thing an unsavory UST type of vibe. Eek.

Saved by the phone? Well, the ringtone. Chirp. Something. Saved by Wilson's people, in this case, since Root's early warning system of some kind is now showing her footage of men in suits coming up the elevator and into the hall. So it's coat, gun, smart remark in a soft serial killer tone, and she's gone. I realize they're setting her up as Finch's dark mirror here, but sometimes she's an awful lot like Reese in this whole appearing, being soft-spoken and well-dressed as well as somewhat violent, and disappearing again. The men come in a second later, clear the room, and reveal that their primary target is Shaw (Indigo, remember?) and presumably Veronica is the secondary. We don't hear the instructions they get over the phone, but it doesn't much matter. If we're at all familiar with the spy genre, we can expect the instructions are to terminate with some form of cleanup afterwards. Evidently that termination takes place in the form of a drug designed to look natural, going by the fact that the cause of death comes in a syringe. That would work so much better if A) He approached her from behind and B) Root had tied those zip ties at all tightly. Which she didn't. It doesn't even look that unrealistic that Shaw got her hand free that quickly, and even with one hand free, that's enough to grab the gun that the guy left down his pants and shoot her way out of this. Apparently underestimating Shaw is a theme this episode, albeit not necessarily one I would want as an introduction to a character. On the other hand it showcases her as at least more immediately competent than the rest of the cast, and only than the rest of the cast of this episode, since the main characters are sidelined for most of it. Also, whereas Reese's all out of bubblegum music is measured and deep, Shaw's asskicking music is fast, frenetic, and higher pitched. She doesn't keep it very long or very often, but it's an interesting contrast. As highlighted by the fact that the last shot goes to Reese, who then steps out from around the corner. He'd like her not to shoot him now please. We'd like it too, since he doesn't seem to be wearing a vest. Why shouldn't she? Well, he's a very nice person, and there's that syringe sticking out of her back. I'm a little surprised they didn't go for the three reasons, which it usually is, but syringe sticking out of her back is the most compelling one at the moment. The plunger hasn't depressed yet, at least, so whatever is in there is likely mostly still in there. They both have a good idea of what's in there, and we get a bit of dialogue that tells us what's in there and how long to get the antidote-counter agent into her system. Think that'll come in handy later? Well, it could just be to establish tension, but since he doesn't bump it and the syringe comes out easily, no, there's better than even odds that that will come in handy later. Even if it's only end of the season later, since this is getting close to it. And while he's got Shaw in a position where he can talk to her, he'd like her to meet a friend. I think we all know who this is. It's night-time when she does meet him, and it's hard to say what building it is without identifying markers or a video footage marker, but yes, it's Finch.

And when we come back Finch is telling Shaw a few harmless little lies. Feel free to read two of those words as sarcastic. First lie, that no one is in charge; yes you are, Finch, and to pretend otherwise is dishonest either to yourself or to everyone else. You may not assume any titles, but Reese takes his orders from you and the Machine takes its cue from you, so hush your mouth. The second lie is that he was never very good at games. Finch, that is a bald-faced lie and you know it, you're not Elias's chess partner because you're bad at chess. That's a game. Also this whole withholding/presenting of information as a means of manipulating people that you do? Yeah. You're excellent at playing games, and you're a little afraid of how good you are at it because you have just enough of a moral center left to know how nasty you could be unleashed upon the general population with no restraints. He will proceed to demonstrate his ability to manipulate people with well-placed and -timed presenting of information as well as withholding some of it, presenting Shaw with the information that he knows what she does, how it works, and that it's never wrong, withholding his role in all of this and how he knows the information, which she now knows is an important thing to find out. Or at least, she's starting to become aware of this fact. He also apologizes for not saving Cole, which not so directly takes responsibility for his death, you might come to regret that later, Finch. She of the learning how important it is to know how and why people know what they know, she asks who he's working for, who he is. He claims to be working for the Machine, though he calls it an entity, and he goes a couple of rounds with her as they determine that that commanding entity wanted him to help her and re-establish that yes, he knows what she does. I don't blame the characters for rehashing that she's a dangerous spyssassin who works for dangerous people so much as I blame the writers for the clumsy, redundant dialogue. Just those couple lines so far. Shaw points out that the people she works for are very dangerous, Finch points out that includes for her too, Shaw rebuts with she only has to stay alive long enough to get at the man behind the curtain. It's all about vengeance, not that Finch seems to understand that, or at least, if he understands it as vengeance he thinks she should think bigger. He also doesn't seem to understand that the government, or its shadowy branches thereof, will kill three people two of whom likely don't technically exist to protect its lavatory secrets, let alone national security secrets. Let alone the secret about the Machine that Shaw has been edging around the whole time without actually knowing what he'll tell her now: Research isn't a person. Or rather, the way he phrases it, the people who comprise Research don't exist. Which is an entirely different thing, Mr. I Was Never Very Good At Games. You manipulative little shit. Now we get to the let us help you speech, touching on the world is much stranger than you think for a bit. It doesn't seem to move Shaw. Finch tries to give her a last word of advice and his business card, the word of advice being that if you set out to try and solve the world's problems you'll only end up adding to them. I can't even begin to digest the hypocrisy in that, though at least he's aware and intentionally speaking from personal experience. The problem is that, really, he hasn't entirely stopped. And Shaw hasn't even begun to trust him yet. She won't take either the advice or the card.

One predictably ominous voiceover later, we're at a formal dress party with, oh, hey, Shaw and Penn Two, and if you believe he's there alone I have a bridge and a book about the spy genre to sell you. Penn Two also disparages her vengeance, or at least her using it as a motivation to do all of this digging. Shaw would like to point out to him and everyone else that she doesn't attach very well or hardly at all, and that's why they hired her. And then they went and killed the one person she cared about, so, that was stupid. Penn Two would like to point out that they were both supposed to be killed. All very good points! Oh, hi Wilson. Let's all take this conversation a little more private, shall we? Down a long governmental looking hallway, for bonus implication points. Penn Two's excuse for killing Aquino, Cole, and intending to kill her is to protect the program that keeps everyone safe, and as much as I'm against government assassinations for the sake of the alleged greater good, in fiction this would actually fall under Things I Would Condone Because It's Fiction. The needs of the many, and so on. Of course, that's not the only excuse Penn Two and likely most of the other people here have for killing Aquino and Cole, et al. Given what they've already tried to do with the Machine, most likely they're protecting their own asses and their vested interest in keeping their little black box a secret just in case they figure out how to crack it open and make more personal use of its contents. They're just pretending to be virtuous Vulcans because it makes them look good. Shaw is smiling and nodding a little too much for me to trust that she's actually handing over Cole's research on the Aquino case. She's not a true believer, she's an emotionally disabled gun for hire, and while she acknowledges that by and large most people are good or at least not too awful, she's not in this for President and Country. Which she does let slip some after that when they start questioning her motivation for wanting to give him the research personally. She points out that Cole did believe in President and Country and they could have just told him to keep quiet instead of killing him, right before swinging back to "I'm a good soldier" as she calls out Wilson for making a complete clusterfuck of the clean-up order. Penn Two buys it this time, the idiot, all smiles and happy because she wasn't here for revenge, just to protect the program. He has by now forgotten everything Hersh told him about her. She's a multitasker.

Which, you know, she will now prove by shooting Wilson in the face. Fortunately for him, Penn Two orders the other mook to stand down as Shaw walks away, ditching gun and phone and blending in nicely. Not nicely enough to evade Hersh, of course, as Penn Two probably knew when he ordered the other guy to stand down. Death by injection, or that's what it's intended to be, but as she drops let us recall Reese and the needle earlier, and the conversation about having four minutes before she's toast. You can bet someone is counting the minutes until the ambulance driven by Team Machine responds. Sadly, the lack of Machine timestamps means we don't get to know if it's actually four minutes or if Shaw shortened that somewhat, but given the potential response time of EMTs in a crowded well-to-do area of downtown, okay, I'll buy that they're on the outside edge. Shaw's getting wheeled into an ambulance while Fusco and Carter brush off the persistent uniform at the corner. Well hello Leon! You are not an EMT. We don't see the resurrection injection, but we get to hear all about it from him later as he's turning her over to the boys. She even gets a kiss of life from Bear! Awww Bear. Leon is still priceless, both with the do I look like a doctor as he's wearing the EMT cap firmly in the center of the frame, and with his I don't get paid enough for this crap, then he rabbits because oh crap, Shaw. Oh Leon. Reese offers her a bottle of water, though I can't say I blame her for refusing given how much she's been drugged or had people try to drug her lately. She comments that they were a bit late to the party; Finch doesn't quite say that they arrived exactly when they meant to like a good wizard, but close. He does however have a point about her being dead as far as her old bosses are concerned, at least as long as she keeps her head down. Ish. I'd call not shooting them both when she draws her gun a sign of gratitude, wouldn't you? Well, Reese might. Finch still seems to think she should trust them. That's not going to happen anytime soon, honey. Though we'll all note that that business card is more along the lines of a card with a phone number written on it. Shaw leaves them in the middle of the cemetery with no phones and no transportation, which is somewhat poetic given that they, too, are dead men.

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