"Problem with trying to be the bad guy is there's always something worse."The latest number is Tommy Clay, the hopper for an armored truck service. Reese infiltrates the crew, believing that the truck will be the victim of a heist and that Tommy is a victim, but it transpires that Tommy is the mastermind behind the heist when he shoots Reese in the back and makes off with the cargo, unprocessed platinum. Reese and Finch attempt to track down Tommy and the platinum — as does Fusco, playing the part of a HR man. Since Elias' arrest, HR has been collecting the payouts that normally went to the Mafia and they want a slice of the armored truck robbery, so Fusco is dispatched by Captain Lynch, one of his HR bosses, to find Tommy. Reese and Fusco both find Tommy's hideout, but the rest of his crew are dead, murdered by Tommy. Finch locates Tommy's mistress, Ashley, and Reese uses her to find where Tommy is hiding, but Ashley turns on both of them, tying up Reese and killing Tommy. She tries to leave with the money but Fusco and Lynch arrive and kill her. Lynch tries to kill Reese too but Fusco shoots him with Ashley's gun, making it look like the three had a falling-out and preserving his cover with HR. Meanwhile, Carter is visited by Snow and his partner, Evans, who warn her not to cooperate with the FBI's manhunt for Reese.In flashbacks to 2010, Reese is on assignment when he gets a call from Jessica, who is distraught and wants him to come and see her. Reese promises to be there soon, but Snow arrives, along with Alicia Corwin, who assign Reese and Stanton to retrieve a laptop with stolen software on it from a research center in Ordos, China. In private, Snow tells Reese that once the mission's over but before they're extracted, he's to kill Stanton. When the pair reach Ordos, they find almost everyone at the research center dead from bullet wounds. One technician, wounded, tells Stanton in Chinese that their killers came and took "the Machine", but Stanton doesn't tell Reese this and puts the technician out of his misery. They find the laptop, which Stanton secretly slips into her own backpack, before setting out glow-sticks to signal for extraction. Reese finds he cannot kill Stanton and is going to tell her about his orders when she shoots him, having been given the exact same instructions by Snow. He realizes that their mission wasn't about recovering a laptop, but confirming that everyone in the research center was dead and no one knew what had really happened. Reese flees as CIA fighter jets fly over and, guided by the glowsticks, bomb the facility into oblivion.In a present-day coda, Snow and Evans receive intelligence that links the survivor of the Ordos mission to a hotel room in Manhattan. They go in and find guns and equipment, but Evans is killed and Snow captured by the room's occupant: Stanton.
Tropes present in this episode include:
- Almost Dead Guy: The Chinese scientist.Reese: We got a live one here. Mostly alive.
- Always a Bigger Fish
- And This Is For...: "Murray."
- Better Living Through Evil: Reese tells Fusco he can keep the money he's making via HR. He buys some new hockey gear for his son.
- Bilingual Bonus: the title is a Hindi idiom equivalent to "the law of the jungle." The literal translation is "the law of the fishes."
- Title Drop:
- Reese, as he realizes Ashley is about to kill Tommy.Reese: [to Tommy] I'm so sorry.
Tommy: You're sorry?
Reese: The law of the fishes. I should have seen it.
[Ashley shoots Tommy in the back]
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Ashley, the sweet waitress? Yeah, not so sweet.
- Bittersweet Ending:Finch: Did we actually accomplish anything?
- Bulletproof Vest: Saves Reese's life.
- Cat Scare: The guards pull a practical joke on Reese, making him think there's a robbery and jumping out with a Halloween mask. Reese is not impressed with their lack of professionalism.
- *Click* Hello: The Reveal that Ashley is a co-conspirator with Tommy.
- Continuity Nod:
- Elias' arrest is a catalyst for HR's involvement in the plot.
- Jessica quotes something Reese said in the flashbacks from "Mission Creep".
- In "Super", Snow said he wanted to find out "what really happened in Ordos."
- The government official that Reese and Stanton extracted in "Blue Code" was accused of selling "software" to the Chinese.
- Lynch makes a comment about Reese dangling him off a building in "Get Carter".
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Oh boy, where to start.
- Crowning Music of Awesome: "Lonely Souls." Someone in the show music department apparently really likes Unkle.
- Coup de Grāce: Stanton kills off the Chinese technician the moment he mentions the Machine.
- Danger Takes A Back Seat: Reese takes a front seat to scare Ashley.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Carter's 'relationship' discussion with Reese.
- Fire-Forged Friends:
- Despite the general theme of betrayal, Fusco doesn't shoot Reese or allow him to be shot, despite admitting that he has every motive to do so.
- Averted with Stanton. Reese refuses to carry out his orders to shoot her, only his partner to shoot him In the Back.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing
- Murray's eyes widen just before Reese is shot In the Back by Tommy.
- In turn, Ashley's Traitor Shot tips off Reese what's about to happen to Tommy.
- When the CIA raid an apartment where they think Reese is staying, a close-up of a pair of ladies high-heeled shoes tips off the viewer that it's Stanton instead.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus / Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: When we see Reese and Stanton in Ordos from the Machine's POV, they're in red brackets, indicating that they've been flagged as perpetrators by the Machine.
- Ghost City: Ordos
- I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: Carter utters this trope by name, when Reese hints that he stole an automatic license scanner off a police car.
- Ironic Echo
- It Gets Easier: Averted; Ashley kills Tommy, then goes to shoot Reese who's tied up and no threat to her. He points out that the first time was easy because she's had a long time to think about it and could psych herself up to do the deed, but it's actually harder the second time. Ashley flees instead of pulling the trigger, only to be ruthlessly gunned down by Lynch.
- It's Personal: Reese doesn't like being shot In the Back by someone he was protecting.
- Leave No Witnesses: Present day and flashbacks.
- Love Interest Traitor: Tommy's girlfriend Ashley
- Make It Look Like A Mutual Kill: Fusco shoots Lynch with Ashley's gun, so it looks like they killed each other.Reese: You're getting good at this, Lionel.
- Meaningful Echo: "Wait for me."
- No Kill Like Overkill: As if Stanton and Reese killing each other isn't enough for the CIA, a cruise missile comes down on their heads, guided in by the chemlights they put out for their non-existent extraction.
- Nothing Personal: Stanton shooting Reese.
- Not Quite Dead: Stanton.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: It's Tommy's unwise propensity to use "Ashley" as his phone password that allows Finch to track him down.
- Prophecy Twist: Tommy is both victim and perpetrator of a premeditated violent crime.
- Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Reese and Stanton.
- Running Gag: Getting shot In the Back, no doubt due to Rule of Symbolism.
- Shaggy Dog Story: If Reese and Finch hadn't gotten involved, the events of the episode most likely would have played out exactly the same.
- Shell-Shock Silence: Reese gets ringing ears after the bomb goes off under the armoured car.
- Tempting Fate
- Stanton has a discussion with Reese over how their profession is being replaced by automated killing machines like drones, then nearly gets killed by one.
- Finch is puzzling over why the robbery hasn't happened, when a bomb goes off under the armoured car.
- Trouble Entendre: Snow tells Reese to 'retire' Stanton.
- Wall Slump: Done by Reese after Stanton shoots him.
- Wham Line:
- Interrogating a Chinese tech (in Mandarin, which Reese doesn't speak).Technician: They came and took it away.
Stanton: Took what away?
Technician: The Machine.
- There's an earlier one, when it's revealed that Reese was ordered to kill his handler on Snow's orders.
- And then again later when it's revealed that Stanton was ordered to kill Reese.
- Interrogating a Chinese tech (in Mandarin, which Reese doesn't speak).
- Wham Shot: The supposedly-dead Stanton appearing in the hotel room. Bonus points in that the scene has her firing shots.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Averted; Lynch would like to drag out Reese's death a bit, but decides to just shoot him, as he and Fusco need to get out of there.
- Whole Plot ReferenceFinch: And today's Training Day.
- Woman Scorned: The first POI is nearly shot by his girlfriend for cheating with another woman.
- You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Reese to Tommy. Ironically this applies to both parties.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Reese and Stanton.
- And Tommy and Tommy's henchmen.
- You Know Too Much: It's implied that anyone in Ordos (including Reese and Stanton) who knows or even could find out about the Machine is being killed.