Season 1, Episode 11
"You talk about that thing like it's alive."
"Ssh. It can hear you."
In the aftermath of "Number Crunch"
, Finch brings Reese to an out-of-work surgeon to be patched up.
A month later, Finch brings a wheelchair-bound Reese to an apartment building in Manhattan to investigate the latest person of interest: Trask, the building's landlord. With Reese out of commission, Finch is forced to do the fieldwork and break into Trask's apartment. They learn that Trask is obsessed with one of the female tenants and theorize that he's likely the perpetrator, with either the woman or her boyfriend who lives in the penthouse as his intended victim. Reese narrowly stops Trask from killing the boyfriend by activating the fire alarm, while the Machine intercepts phone calls from the woman where she talks about being terrified by a stalker who's broken into her apartment. Reese decides to intervene and threatens Trask at gunpoint, only to discover he's not the stalker: the supposed "boyfriend" is the one threatening the woman, and Trask is trying to stop him. With Reese and Finch's help, he saves the woman and the "boyfriend" is tossed out a window.
Meanwhile, Carter is being trailed by Snow and a CIA field team who are still determined to find Reese; Snow wants to interrogate him and find out "what happened in Ordos", but is happy to kill Reese if it comes to that. She gives the CIA the slip and follows her only lead — "Harold Burdett"'s contact information
— to track down Finch, so she can find out exactly what he and Reese do. Finch tells Carter that one of the people in the bar, a man named Derek, will soon be involved in a violent crime. Trailing Derek, she intervenes in time to stop him killing the banker who foreclosed his house, and Finch calls to answer her earlier question that "this
is what we do". And Reese gives Fusco an empty bottle of painkillers with his fingerprints on them, and Fusco drives to the next state to plant the bottle in a vet's office. When the bottle is found by local police and the CIA find out, they call off the hunt for Reese in New York and leave Carter alone.
In flashbacks to 2005, Nathan Ingram continues the ruse of pretending he's the sole creator of the Machine, keeping Finch's identity a secret from the government. When asked to demonstrate the Machine's capabilities, Nathan delivers a single social security number to Alicia Corwin, the government liaison. Alicia returns with Denton Weeks, the Deputy Director of the NSA, and news that the social security number lead them to a traitor. Weeks demands to know how the Machine spotted a traitor, but Nathan says it's a Black Box
system that no one can access, meaning no one's rights are being violated and it can't be aimed at particular targets (it already watches all potential targets). Weeks threatens to cut the government funding if Nathan doesn't comply, and Alicia informs him that in exchange for building the Machine, Nathan is being paid exactly $1 USD. Finch watches this exchange via the Machine's feeds, and it flags Weeks as a threat to the system. Later, Nathan congratulates Finch for the Machine's performance and asks him to briefly "pop the hood": Finch walks Nathan through how the Machine spotted patterns and made connections to pick out the number as a person of interest. Nathan finds the whole thing terrifying, which is why Finch plans to encrypt the operating system so heavily that no one will ever be able to crack it. He doesn't mind his role in the Machine's creation being a total secret because it's the only way to ensure it won't be misused by Weeks and others like him. As Finch comments on the Machine's "instinct for self-preservation", the audience sees the Machine flagging Nathan as a threat to the system.
Tropes present in this episode include
- Back-Alley Doctor
- Black Box: Referred to by name.
- Blatant Lies: Trask's stories of nightclubs and tigers are quickly disproved by Finch's background check...
- Cassandra Truth: ...until they discover Trask is a former nightclub owner from Miami, now in witness protection.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Machine can act to protect itself and can flag individuals as such, as demonstrated with Weeks. At the end of the episode, the Machine flags Nathan as another threat.
- Comically Small Bribe: Inverted with the price the NSA paid for The Machine.
- Fish out of Water: With Reese out of action, Finch is forced to do the legwork.
- Also for Reese. With him unable to get around he has to be Mission Control.
- Foreshadowing: The joke about the Machine being alive doesn't sound like a joke anymore.
- Go for the Eye: Reese's self-defense tip for Finch when he's in the field. Sure enough, it comes in handy.
- Handicapped Badass: Reese is laid up in a wheelchair for the entire episode. It doesn't stop him from taking down the villain at the end though.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky
- The Man Behind the Man: Finch, to Nathan.
- Mission Control: Reese plays this role for most of the episode.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Deliberately invoked by Finch, who also kept his role in the Machine's creation a secret so that no one could recreate and then abuse the technology.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish:
- Seriously averted in Fusco's case. The password for his work computer is a (likely department-assigned) random string of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Unfortunately, that means he can't remember it, and so he keeps it written on a Post-It in his desk drawer.
- Finch notes that most people don't change their wifi password from the one the phone company gives them, which is their phone number. Lily, however, changes her wifi password every day, using alphanumeric passwords. It would seem excessive if she didn't know she was being stalked.
- Posthumous Character: Nathan, again.
- Power Perversion Potential: After gaining access to all the security feeds in the apartment building, Reese and Finch can't help but stop and look at one woman doing yoga. She's... healthy.
- Previously On: Done via Machine-captured CCTV camera views of Reese getting shot by the CIA.
- Prophecy Twist: As is usually the case, when it appears that Trask is the perpatrator it turns out that while he was going to kill someone it was to save an innocent woman.
- Running Gag: A subtle one, but Mark Snow is holding a cup of coffee every time we see him throughout the episode.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: How Finch gets Reese the medical care he needs.
- Shout-Out: To Rear Window.
- Sink-or-Swim Mentor: Finch notes that his brothers were literally this to him, though flashbacks in season 3 later reveal that he was an only child. Also in flashbacks, to demonstrate the Machine to federal intelligence agents, he (through Nathan) gives them a Number and tells them to figure out what it means themselves. In the present, he gives Carter a little more, the Number's name and background, but still leaves her to solve the case herself.
- Swapped Roles: Reese is in a wheelchair because of his injuries from the previous episode, so Finch does most of the field work while Reese does most of the computer work.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Trask, who is correctly identified as the perpetrator but is acting to protect one of the tenants.
- Understatement: Reese's response to why he's in a wheelchair.
"I had a rough night."
- To put this in perspective, the night he's referring to involved him being shot in the abdomen and leg by a CIA sniper, nearly bleeding out in a stairwell while trying to escape, and then being operated on by an unlicensed surgeon in a morgue because he couldn't risk going to a hospital. Rough night indeed!
- Wham Line - "Possible threat detected. Subject: Ingram, Nathan C."
- Worthless Foreign Degree: The doctor Finch takes Reese to is a very talented surgeon, who's working as a medical examiner because he isn't licensed to practice in America; he can't afford to get certified as he sends most of his paycheck back to his family. Finch's Briefcase Full of Money solves that problem.