Recap / Person Of Interest S 02 E 01

Season 2, Episode 1:

The Contingency

I just wanna find my friend. See, I don't have many friends. Just the one, in fact.

Following the previous season's cliffhanger, Reese picks up the phone and receives a message from the Machine: a seemingly-random string of words and letters. At the library, he manages to crack the cypher—it corresponds to the labels on the spines of the library books, using their Dewey Decimal System classifications to form the person's Social Security number—and gets the number of a down-on-his-luck accountant who embezzled money from neo-Nazi drug dealers. Reese initially thinks the accountant will provide him a lead to finding Finch, but it turns out he's just another person who needs help: Finch's contingency is that Reese take over their mission and help the helpless alone. In the course of protecting the accountant, Reese decides he's had enough and tells the Machine he'll quit unless it bends its programming and figures out a way to help him find Finch. The Machine complies, giving Reese a new number, and he goes on to take out the neo-Nazis. Afterwards, Reese tracks the new number to a fourteen-year-old girl who disappeared many years ago from Corpus Christi, Texas; he suspects this girl is Root.

Meanwhile, Carter takes over the investigation into Alicia Corwin's murder, but she's not the only one taking an interest. Denton Weeks of the NSA is summoned to Washington by his superior "Pennsylvania Two" (previously seen directing the assassins in "No Good Deed") and told that in response to the death of one of their own, someone else will be taking over the Machine's oversight. One of the superior's goons infiltrates the NYPD and steals or corrupts the investigation files, giving Carter no other leads. At the episode's end, Reese visits her with the Corpus Christi lead and informs her they're both going to Texas.

Root and Finch are traveling south, with the former threatening to hurt innocent people unless things go smoothly. She commits a number of seemingly-random crimes, first robbing a pharmacy for particular medications and later using them to poison a woman in a restaurant in order to steal her phone and send her lover a message. Along the way, Root explains that after growing up in complete bewilderment of human behavior, she realized that people are a cosmic accident — but the Machine is different. It was designed, and to be able to predict human behavior, it must be a little bit human itself. Root is enamored with the Machine and wants to "set it free". In the final stage of her strange crime spree, she and Finch break into the woman's house and wait for her lover to come home. When he does, he turns out to be Denton Weeks, summoned by the message Root sent, and Root knocks him out with a hypodermic needle.

In flashback, Finch starts testing the Machine's programming, running some "hide and seek" tests in the streets of New York and later taking his phone into a casino so the Machine can predict the best course of action. Afterwards, as Finch leaves the casino, the Machine sends him a "stay" message via mobile phone and it saves him from being hit by a drunk driver. Finch takes the Machine to task, and programs it to put the safety of others above Finch.

Tropes in this episode: