Recap: Person Of Interest S 01 E 21

Season 1, Episode 21:

Many Happy Returns

"When I was first building the Machine, I kept seeing the same numbers come up a week, a month, six months apart... Usually women. At first I thought it was a mistake; how could anyone's life be repeatedly threatened? And then I realized... they were living with the person who would eventually kill them."

It's Reese's birthday, and since there's no new numbers, Finch gives him the day off along with a birthday present: a key, though what it opens isn't clear. He ponders this over a xiangqi game in the park with his friend, Mr Han.

However, there is a new number and Finch is deliberately keeping Reese out of the loop, using Fusco to do the legwork instead. The number is Sarah Atkins, an abused wife on the run from her husband, a US Marshal named Jennings who is using his authority to track her down. Finch and Fusco are almost caught by Jennings before Reese intervenes, angry at being lied to and angrier still once he learns that the number is the victim of domestic abuse. Meanwhile, Agent Donnelly enlists Carter's help investigating what he suspects was Reese's first murder-for-hire in January of 2011. Though Donnelly and Carter don't realize the significance, the victim is Peter Ardnt, husband of Jessica; he was brutally murdered in his home and Reese was sloppy about cleaning up evidence he was there.

Flashbacks reveal the circumstances surrounding the crime. Following the Ordos mission, Reese returned to America to find Jessica, following up on her distraught phone call, and learns that she was killed in a car accident some months previously. Reese, however, knows better: Peter was a spousal abuser and accidentally killed Jessica in a rage, staging the car accident to cover it up. Reese breaks into the Ardnt house to watch videos of Jessica and Peter's wedding. When Peter returns, Reese makes it clear he knows what really happened before making his move.

Jennings catches up with Sarah and tries to get her out of the city, but Reese pursues, helps Sarah escape and packs Jennings into the trunk of his car. Finch calls Carter for help; her investigation, more thorough than Donnelly's, led her to learn that Jessica was abused by her husband and that Reese was her ex-lover. She tries to stop Reese from doing anything rash, offering to arrest Jennings and take him back to New York, but Reese refuses and drives off with him. Days later, Reese returns; Finch tells him the key is for an apartment, and when Reese goes there, he finds that it overlooks the park where he plays xiangqi with Mr Han. Carter gets a call from the warden of a Mexican prison and learns that Jennings was imprisoned there by Reese, who has previously delivered "one or two Americans". And after using her new found knowledge of Reese to obtain a copy of his service record, she shreds it to prevent Donnelly from finding out any more, though she keeps a photo of Reese and Jessica in happier times.

In the coda, the audience revisits Reese visiting the hospital where Jessica worked and learning that she died; this time, it's revealed that Finch was there too, disguised as a patient, with a file on Reese, Jessica and Peter.

Tropes present in this episode include:

  • Accidental Murder: Jessica, followed by Make It Look Like an Accident.
  • Actor Allusion: Sarah Jennings is played by Dagmara Dominczyk, who starred alongside Jim Caviezel in "The Count of Monte Cristo".
  • Berserk Button / Unstoppable Rage: Abusive husbands apparently take this Up to Eleven for Reese. And you thought he went berserk in "Baby Blue"!
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just as a Federal Marshall is threatening to haul Finch in for questioning, Reese (who shouldn't be anywhere near the place) appears and pretends to be a policeman, rescuing his 'confidential informant'. Turns out Reese knew Finch was up to something and has been following him around.
    • Plus, just as Marshall Jennings has gone off the deep end and is about to kill Sarah, Reese busts in and beats him to a pulp.
  • Call Back: Like the pilot, this episode begins with Reese and Jessica making love then cutting to Reese sitting in public transportation.
    • Donnelly makes reference to the events in "L.O.S.", as Reese's prints were found in the burnt out car he was trapped in.
    • Reese claims Finch is his confidential informant, a money launderer for the "late Don Moretti".
    • In the opening flashback, Reese is still bleeding from being shot by Stanton in China.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jennings is on the receiving end of a very brutal, and entirely one-sided, beating from Reese. Twice.
  • Death Glare: Reese gives one to Finch.
    Reese: Get Out.
    Finch: Excuse me?
    Reese: Leave the laptop, now Harold, and get out.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Carter destroys Reese's file.
  • Fictional Document: Stress Fractures in Titanium, the book Reese is reading at the beginning of the episode—which is also a Shout-Out to the 1995 film Heat.
  • Flashback Within a Flashback: The flashback scene of John watching videos of Jessica and Peter flashes back to his encounter with Jessica at the airport in 2006, reminding him and us that Jessica ended up marrying Peter because John didn't ask her to wait for him.
  • Forgotten Birthday: Averted as Finch not only did not forget Reese's birthday, he even got him a present and gave him the day off! Which would have been a lot more touching if it hadn't been a ploy to keep Reese in the dark about the case he was working on...
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Reese could never have afforded the apartment he moves into at the end of the episode before he met Finch.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Whatever Reese did to Peter, it wasn't pretty.
  • I Am a Monster
    Reese: Only one way to deal with guys like this, guys who hide who they really are until they get home.
    Finch: What will you do, Mr Reese?
    Reese: Show 'em what a real monster looks like.
  • Improvised Weapon: Peter grabs a fire poker to protect himself against an unarmed Reese. It doesn't do him any good.
  • I'll Kill You!: Reese warning off Marshall Jennings.
  • Ironic Echo: "In the end we're all alone, and no-one's coming to save you."
  • Meaningful Echo: Reese's voice-over from the beginning of the pilot returns here, as something Reese says to Peter, foreshadowing the "real monster" unleashed by Jessica's murder.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: In-Universe; Agent Donnelly misses a chance to find out who the Man in the Suit is, because he assumes Peter's death is just one of Reese's contract murders.
  • No, Except Yes: Finch, when he suggests that Carter should accompany Agent Donnelly to New Rochelle:
    Finch: Well, if there was any evidence that threatened our mutual friend, I'm confident that you would find it before Donnelly would.
    Carter: Are you suggesting I obstruct a federal investigation?
    Finch: [hastily] Of course, what you did with that evidence would be entirely your concern...
  • Once More with Clarity: During an early Reese flashback in the episode, he bumps into a man in a wheelchair in the New Rochelle hospital. A Finch flashback at the end of the episode reveals that it was him in the wheelchair, holding a file with pictures and SSNs of Jessica, Peter, and Reese - there to try and act on the Machine's information, but too late.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Carter doesn't have to be told where Jennings is.
  • Removing the Earpiece: Reese removes his after Finch suggests that they let the police handle Jennings. It's the first time he's ever done so deliberately, and is yet another indication of just far he may be planning to go to stop Jennings.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Reese slugs his way into a Federal Marshall's office to confront Jennings.
  • Shout-Out: Maybe; the episode title is also the title of an episode of The Prisoner.
  • Smash to Black: Reese knocking out Jennings.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Reese himself, in the flashback. Maybe. Peter's fate is left somewhat ambiguous (the ending implies that he might have ended up in the Mexican prison), and Word of God has said they don't plan to ever reveal what actually happened to him.
  • Tearjerker: Practically the whole episode qualifies. I dare you not to cry.
  • That Man Is Dead
    Peter: Who the hell are you?
    Reese: That's a good question. I haven't known the answer for a long time.
  • Trespassing to Talk: Peter thinks it's a Break-In Threat from the people he owes money to, but Reese has something entirely different to discuss.
  • Very Special Episode: Team Machine does not tolerate domestic violence.
  • We Need a Distraction: Reese calls the phone in Jennings' motel room moments before he bursts through the door.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: This episode gives us a vague idea of what happened to Peter and Andrew Benton. During the phone call with the Mexican Police, Carter asks if any other Americans besides Peter is down there. He answers there are a few. Though not confirmed it suggests that Reese sent both of them down there.
  • White Shirt of Death: Reese's shirt in the flashback, presumably from his Ordos injury.
  • Your Makeup Is Running