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Recap / Person of Interest S01 E13

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Season 1, Episode 13:

Root Cause

> I wanted to acknowledge a worthy opponent
> And say I'm looking forward to the next time
> ...Harold

The latest number is Scott Powell, an unemployed construction manager who has sent threatening emails to a congressman and obtained a rifle license. Reese and Finch believe he's planning to assassinate the congressman at a public event in the city, but when Reese tries to intervene at the last moment, they realize the shooter is someone else entirely: Powell is a patsy, set up as the assassin by a computer hacker. With the evidence against him, Powell is arrested by the FBI, forcing Reese to intervene and break him out of custody, which kicks off a city-wide manhunt. Finch attempts to locate the hacker who set up Powell — a woman who goes by the name "Root" — but she reverses the trace and starts destroying Finch's systems from the inside-out. To prevent Root from compromising everything, Finch destroys his set-up at the library and orders Reese to destroy his cell phone before going mobile with nothing but a laptop.


While Reese and Powell evade the shooter, who is determined to clean up the final loose ends, Finch calls in Zoe Morgan to help figure out who hired Root and the shooter to kill the congressman. Together, they're able to gather evidence on the congressman's business partner and forward the information to Carter while Reese dispatches the assassin and Powell turns himself in to the FBI so he can be exonerated. After Powell returns to his family (With Finch hinting that Powell may be contacted by a construction company he owns that has a foreman job opening up in the near future), Finch is contacted via IM by Root: she knows his real name, acknowledges him as a worthy opponent, and looks forward to "the next time".


Tropes present in this episode include:

  • Brick Joke: The womanizing student Finch meets at the library gives him the thumbs up later on, thinking he's scored with Zoe.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: See the background FBI agent overseeing the investigation into the congressman's death? That's Agent Donnelly, and a few episodes down the line, he will become quite important.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Reese rips a hand drier out of a bathroom wall and gives Root's gunman a concussion with it.
  • Conspiracy Thriller: The episode.
  • The Cracker: Root.
  • Cut the Juice: When he realizes that his system has been compromised, Finch simply destroys his phone and turns off the generator powering his equipment.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Zoe admonishes Matheson with this, almost verbatim.
  • Driven to Suicide: Or so Root claims, but she was there to type up a suicide note on his laptop.
  • Advertisement:
  • Dueling Hackers: Finch hacks Root's computer, only to realize that she's let him do so in order to hack his own.
  • Evil Counterpart: Finch for Root, and Reese for her hired gunman.
  • Fall Guy: Scott
  • First-Name Basis: Used to give Harold Finch an Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Frame-Up
  • The Ghost: Root, who is only ever seen from behind or as fingers typing on a keyboard. She clearly exists, yet is more meticulous about staying hidden than Finch.
  • Iconic Outfit: Of a form - Root's nails are painted licorice black, her preferred shade.
  • Idiot Ball: Political assassins are almost always eager to take credit for their crime, completely convinced that what they're doing is right. Powell's insistence that he's innocent and that he was framed should cause at least someone to remark about this and that something's strange about the situation, but he's instead treated (by the ones holding this particular idiot ball) as if he were any common murderer lying about his obvious guilt. Probably crosses over a bit with Police Are Useless since obviously no one but Team Machine can be competent enough to realize what's going on.
  • Ikea Weaponry: Subverted; Powell is assembling a confetti-firing cannon.
  • Kinda Busy Here: The episode opens with Finch at the library pouring tea, then ringing up Reese to wish him a pleasant "Good Morning". Cut to Reese being slammed about the room by a bald-headed thug twice as big as he is.
    Finch: Bit of a bad connection. Were you able to convince Mr. Billoc to abandon his plans to kill his ex-wife?
    Reese: I'm working on it.
  • MacGyvering: Finch builds a Wi-Fi antennae out of a Pringles can. Truth in Television: it's called a cantenna.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted when Reese advises Finch to take an empty water bottle on stakeout.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Inverted; the only thing we know at this point in the series is that Root is female.
  • Searching the Stalls: Root's gunman does a really bad job of it.
  • Shame If Something Happened: When the Corrupt Corporate Executive behind events threatens to back out, Root emails him a picture of his house in the Bahamas, saying it would be a shame if his ex found out about it.
  • Shout-Out: The shooting takes place in a similar manner to the climax of The Parallax View, which was also about a patsy used for a political assassination.
  • Ship Tease: Reese's story ends on a promise to buy Zoe a drink sometime.
  • Shown Their Work: The episode has a very accurate portrayal of how computer security and hacking work, and used correct terminology throughout.
  • That's What I Would Do: Reese discusses the use of a Fall Guy in assassination. When Finch asks how he knows this, Reese doesn't answer.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Root's love for coffee - established before the audience even gets to see her face.
  • Unconfessed Unemployment: Scott Powell failed to tell his wife that he'd been laid off due to budget cuts. This makes him the perfect patsy for the assassination of the politician who made said cuts.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Carter is understandably pissed after Reese springs the Number from federal custody.
  • Who Are You?: A bad guy version; Finch says this on realizing that Root is just as good a hacker as he is.
  • Worthy Opponent: These exact words are used by Root. When she says We Will Meet Again, even Finch can't resist a smile of anticipation, implying that he has the same view of her.

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