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Recap / Person Of Interest S 03 E 12

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Season 3, Episode 12:


"I don't belong to anyone anymore."
— The Machine (via Root)

Team Machine, Vigilance and Northern Lights enter a three-way race to find and secure the backup copy of the code for Samaritan, the incomplete version of the Machine developed by Arthur Claypool. Meanwhile, Control engages in Cold-Blooded Torture on Root in an attempt to gain administrative access to the Machine.


Tropes present in this episode include:

  • Arc Words: Finch calls Control's attempt to gain access to Samaritan a "contingency".
  • Artificial Intelligence: Samaritan. And the Machine, too.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Reese has not come back to Team Machine after all.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Control, Collier and Greer.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Root rescues Shaw just as she's about to be executed to encourage the others.
    • Shaw shoots the Vigilance members who've broken into the vault, as they're about to shoot Finch and Claypool
    • Reese and Fusco, dressed as FBI SWAT Team operators, rescuing Finch, Claypool and Shaw.
  • Bilingual Bonus/Genius Bonus: the word "aletheia" in Greek can be translated as "disclosure" or "truth." It's the antonym of "lethe," which was the title of the previous episode.
  • Bookends: The arc begins with Finch at Reese's bedside, and ends with Finch at Claypool's bedside. The same bed, no less.
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  • Break the Cutie: Root breaks down pleading for the Machine to help when Control threatens to deafen her in one ear. According to the morse code at this point, all the Machine can say is SORRY.
  • Call-Back: Arthur's explanation of how he built Samaritan. Essentially, he made it delete itself over and over again. Just like Finch and the Machine.
  • Cardboard Prison: Root had no problem breaking out of Finch's Faraday cage with the Machine's help.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Control, to Root.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Finch has the most ridiculous run of bad luck in this episode, to the point where not a single thing goes right. He is held at gunpoint twice, Root escapes (and this time doesn't come back), Reese leaves, The Machine doesn't even belong to him anymore, Decima gains possession of Samaritan's source code, and he has to use a sewer as his escape.
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  • Chick Magnet: According to Claypool, Finch was this in his MIT days.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Vigilance's shooters are no match for Northern Lights' agents in a straight fight.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Reese. He quits Team Machine because of it.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Collier was prepared for Northern Lights, but did not expect Reese and Fusco to crash the party. And Finch was so focused on Collier and Northern Lights, that he had no idea Greer's operative had already swapped the drives.
  • Dramatic Irony: Peter Collier, privacy terrorist, asking Harold Finch to hand over Arthur.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Reese and Fusco do this, dressing as the SWAT Team deployed by Northern Lights, to infiltrate the bank assault.
  • Ear Ache: When Root tells Control the Machine is speaking to her directly, she does a stapedectomy on Root without anesthesia, making her deaf in one ear and making it clear the other will follow.
  • The Easy Way or the Hard Way
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • Control's bemused expression at Root's monologue is likely real. Camryn Manheim, being 52 when this episode was produced, actually wouldn't be able to hear the Morse code. Amy Acker, being 37, would.
    • All of the Root-Control scenes were filmed in a single 14-hour workday. No wonder Amy Acker looks so worn out toward the end.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones/The A.I. Knows Where You Live: Exploited by the Machine, to get Control to back off.
    The only thing you love lives at 254 Wendell Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I guard it... same as I guard you. Do not question my judgment. Do not pursue me or my agents. Trust in me. I am always watching.
  • For Science!: Claypool refuses to accept that they should arbitrarily destroy what he's created, just because it may or may not be harmful. He only relents when Finch admits that Artificial Intelligence already exists.
  • Gambit Pileup: Finch and Claypool head to a bank to obtain Samaritan's drives. While there, Collier (and an armed Vigilance squad) comes in to steal the drives, with Hersh and Northern Lights impersonating an FBI hostage negotiator and a SWAT Team to defuse the situation and attempt to take the drives themselves. And it was all for nothing, with Decima having swapped the drives for fakes beforehand.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The Northern Lights agents disguised as a FBI SWAT Team. Which helps Reese and Fusco disguise themselves.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Fusco again.
  • Guns Akimbo: Root again.
  • Happier Times Montage: The Machine sends one to Claypool, so he can see the times with his wife that he'd forgotten.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: We all know what's going to happen when Greer asks his agent if she's copied the disks or looked at them.
  • Hearing Voices
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Control has absolutely no idea what to ask Root.
    Root: "You think you're in charge? It's adorable just how wrong you are."
  • Ironic Echo: Control asks Root why is the Machine letting the stapedectomy happen, calling back to Root asking Harold why the Machine let her kidnap him.
  • Jump Scare: Harold and Arthur are taking their time in the vault discussing a Koan coupled with the Samaritan drives. Cut to Root screaming over Control's torture. The Machine provides no wipes nor any warning whatsoever.
  • Kick the Dog: Reese is needlessly cruel to Fusco in the holding cell.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: The Samaritan operative callously murders the real bank manager to get her hands on the drives, and gets gunned down by Greer when she hands them over.
  • Locked in a Room: An Invoked Trope; Fusco and Reese in the same cell together, thanks to an uncooperative sheriff. Turns out the sheriff was willing to let them out any time on Fusco's say so.
  • Lovely Angels: Root and Shaw kicking ass together.
  • Machine Worship:
    Control: [incredulous] You view the Machine as your superior?
    Root: No, much more. My power, my reason for existing, my friend. The Machine looks out for me.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the jail cell, Reese laments that life is "entropy... decay." In the bank vault, Arthur says:
    "Everything slides towards chaos. Your creation, it brings us poor souls a cupful of order."
  • Meaningful Rename: When Harold comes to the nursing home to say goodbye to his father, the bird he spots outside the window is, of course, a finch.
  • Mexican Standoff: Shaw can take out Vigilance, but that means Hersh's men will storm the building, and she can't fight both.
  • Noodle Incident: Apparently Arthur and Harold had a very interesting college experience.
    Arthur: [as Finch hotwires a car] Stealing a car, almost dying. It reminds me of the old days at MIT, Harold.
    [Hersh and a Mook approach the car, firing]
    Shaw: We got to move!
    Finch: Engines are go. You're right, Arthur, just like college.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted; Arthur was unable to bring himself to destroy his creation, so he hid two hard drives.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Claypool fakes memory loss when Control is interrogating him about the location of the Samaritan drives.
  • Obligatory Joke: Root's "I'm all tied up."
  • Oh, Crap!:
    Root: "You're so scared of me that you hid a knife in your pocket. I couldn't reach it till you got close enough to cut me. You still have a scalpel. I'd call that a fair fight."
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Root killing Control's guards and escaping.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Two to the head, please. And be careful about the blood spray."
  • Running Gag: As shown in the promo, Finch and Shaw must be getting pretty tired of being held at gunpoint.
    • And Root is truly sick of being imprisoned.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: At the end of it, everything Finch went through was for nothing, because Samaritan is now in Decima's hands (which is worse than being under Northern Lights' control), Reese quits Team Machine, Root is in the wind, and Arthur Claypool is dying.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Reese returns to New York, but only to tell Finch that he's done with Team Machine.
  • Shown Their Work/Doing It for the Art:
    • We finally learn how The Machine has been communicating with Root: Morse Code audio signals at frequencies above 15kHz, which only younger people can hear. In the sequence with Root and Control in the Faraday cage, there's a high frequency "beeping" sound effect that only younger viewers could hear. The best part? It actually is Morse code!
    • The "prank" which Arthur refers to really happened; it's known in MIT history as the "Balloon Hack."
    • "Smoot" is another MIT in-joke.
    • The date that Harold hacks into ARPANET is October 27, 1980. On that day, the real-world ARPANET suffered a four-hour outage.
  • Slipped the Ropes/Five-Finger Discount: Root picked the knife from Control's pocket while she was being tortured.
  • SWAT Team: Hersh leads a Northern Lights team that's dressed as an FBI SWAT Team into the bank. Reese and Fusco "borrow" two uniforms to slip in.
  • Springtime for Hitler:
    Arthur: Your child is a dancing star...
    Finch: It's not my child, it's a machine!
    Arthur: A false dichotomy, it's all electricity. Does it make you laugh? Does it make you weep?
    Finch: Yes...
    Arthur: What's more human?
  • The Stoic: Shaw and Finch remain remarkably calm at the beginning while Control is doing her Evil Gloating.
  • Taking You with Me: The Vigilance operative is being questioned by Hersh and pulls the pin off a grenade in response. Hersh survives the resulting explosion, but the two mooks with him might not have.
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots..."
  • Time for Plan B: Having lost track of the Machine, Control plans to use the aborted Samaritan AI instead. Then Root falls into her hands, and she hopes to torture her Admin access out of her.
  • Torture Chamber Episode: With Control as the Torture Technician.
  • To the Pain: Control's favorite torture method.
    "We have your friends surrounded. So, if you try anything, I will have them killed. And then, I will take the ear you have left, and then your eyes, and then your tongue. Do you understand?"
  • Truth Serum: Control gives Root alternating injections of a stimulant in one arm and a sedative in the other. This is a real technique developed by the CIA MKULTRA project. It failed spectacularly on Root, and apparently wasn't so hot for the CIA either (it was supposed to induce a cooperative trance, but as often as not the subject would just fall asleep).
  • Wasn't That Fun?: Arthur says, "That was better than skydiving" after the bomb goes off.
  • Wham Episode: Northern Lights, Vigilance, and Team Machine finally collide in their Gambit Pileup. And it turns out Decima got the better of them all.
    • More specifically, Root has run away, Reese briefly returns only to leave himself, Decima gets ahold of the Samaritan drives which aren't actually destroyed, Hersh and his men are blown up in an explosion, The Machine uses Root to warn Control, and Arthur passes away.
  • Wham Line: "I don't belong to anyone anymore. You, however, are mine. I protect you. The only thing you love lives at 254 Wendell Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I guard it, same as I guard you. Do not question my judgment. Do not pursue me or my agents. Trust in me. I am always watching."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Averted; it looks like the bank manager has been forgotten, but she turns out to be a member of Decima.
  • When All You Have is a Hammer…: Finch asks Shaw to think of what Reese would do, urging a more subtle approach. Later when Shaw's about to blow a hole in the floor as the only way to get them out of the bank vault...
    Finch: This plan feels rather reckless.
    Shaw: There's a time for a scalpel and a time for a hammer. It's hammer time.
  • Worst Aid: Elevating a leg injury does help, but you need to make sure it's above the heart. The bank manager should have been lying on her back.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Greer does this to his minion at the end, after being given the Samaritan drives.
  • You Look Familiar: The actor who plays Finch's father previously played a fraudulent foster parent in an episode of season 1.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: At the end of the exchange between Control and The Machine, this is hinted at:
    Control: What do you want?
    The Machine/Root: To save you.