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Recap / Person Of Interest S 04 E 05

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Season 4, Episode 5

Prophets

"We don't understand the Machine at all. Out of 43 versions, how many do you think there were that didn't try to either trick or kill me? One, and I could only bring it to heel by crippling it. I put the Machine in chains, bereft of voice or memory. Now it has both, and it terrifies me."
Finch

The newest Number is Simon Lee, a political pollster working for the Governor's re-election campaign. When the election doesn't go as he predicted, he discovers that someone—or something—has been manipulating the election. This puts him right in Samaritan's crosshairs.

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  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: And how! See quote above.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles: Reese points out that therapy is no good if you have to lie about who you are. However, Iris quickly picks up that Reese is lying, and zeroes in on his Hero Complex.
  • Animal Motifs/Theme Naming: "Harold Cardinal, New York Journal."
  • Anyone Can Die: No named characters die in the episode, but Root flat out states that there's no way they'll be able to stop Samaritan without taking casualties.
  • Arc Words: "Sometimes it's better not to know."
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The villain in the Batman Cold Open embezzled his charity, killed to cover it up, and made Reese and Fusco chase him up 20 flights of stairs.
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  • The Bad Guy Wins: Samaritan gets away with rigging the election and then putting a Puppet King governor in place via assassination (and then we find out that it did this 57 more times around the country). All Team Machine manages to accomplish is prevent the one guy that tried to pull the thread from getting killed.
  • Bag of Holding:
    Finch: It's remarkable how many firearms you can fit in that purse.
    Root: One must accessorize.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Perez looks like Decima's Puppet King until she's killed.
    • There are some hints that Root might be killed in this episode, such as her reconciling with Finch, leaving an If I Do Not Return message for Shaw, and performing an apparent Heroic Sacrifice when she takes on superior forces alone to protect the identities of Team Machine from being compromised. However, she survives even after taking a couple of bullets.
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  • Blue and Orange Morality:
    Finch: Friendliness is something that human beings are born with. A.I. are only born with objectives.
  • Break the Cutie: Finch was only able to get Samaritan to stop hunting Lee by destroying his self-confidence.
  • The Bus Came Back: In a sense, Nathan Ingram. This is the first time he's appeared since his Death by Origin Story wrapped up at the end of the second season.
  • Call-Back:
    • This isn't the first time someone was targeted for looking into the workings of an AI.
    • Root's last transmission to Harold near the end of the episode is very similar to Reese's last transmission to Harold in "Shadow Box", furthering the parallels between the characters.
    Reese: I'm not gonna make it, Harold. [...] So thanks, Harold, it was fun.
    Root: If I don't see you, Harold, it's been a fun ride.
  • Camera Spoofing:
    • Without time to do this, Finch has to cut the cables leading to the hotel's CCTV cameras before Simon walks into range. A Samaritan agent later reconnects them.
    • The Machine supplies a 'shadow map' of areas not covered by CCTV.
  • Can't Stop the Signal: But both Team Machine and Samaritan are trying their best.
  • Car Fu: Root gets Simon to change direction by crashing a car in front of him.
    Finch: Whose car was that?!
    Root: Someone who needs a good mechanic.
  • Chandler's Law: Governor Perez's celebration party has a painfully obvious case. Simon is preparing to confront her about the rigged election and consequently put himself right in Samaritan's crosshairs. To keep both him and themselves safe, Finch says they need to find a way to remove Simon without him realizing it or being caught on surveillance cameras. And then Martine Rousseau shows up, adding a third thing they need to conceal themselves from. Seconds later, Perez falls dead, rendering the entire problem moot. Possibly lampshaded by Shaw asking Finch "Any ideas how I do that?" right before Martine appears.
  • The Chessmaster: Samaritan.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome/Death Seeker: Reese's psychiatrist thinks he is one or the other. Reese ultimately confesses to being the former.
    Reese: If I don't save these people, nobody else will.
  • Climactic Music: The Black Angels' Young Men Dead during the Root/Martine shootout.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: Root vs. Martine, both in God Mode.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When Root realizes Martine has Samaritan whispering in her ear, she refers to her as being 'in god mode'.
    • Also, the last flashback is dated December 31, 2001. In it, Finch says that he'll give the Machine one more try the next day. The flashback at the very beginning of The Contingency, the true Machine's first boot, is dated January 1, 2002. It also calls back to Root's therapy session in "Liberty": "The truth is, God is 11 years old, that she was born on New Year's Day, 2002, in Manhattan."
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: A Samaritan agent is about to cap Shaw when Reese shoots him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Not quite, but near the end of the gunfight between Root and Martine, the latter was on the verge of turning it into this.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Inverted as it's the good guys trying to stop the Victim of the Week from calling 911. Simon connects long enough to say his name before Finch cuts him off, but that's still enough for Samaritan to get a lock on him.
  • Cut the Juice: Finch's response in the second flashback.
  • Dodge the Bullet: Root and Martine twist and turn to dodge each other's bullets as they're firing at each other through the floor.
  • Double Meaning: Governor-elect Perez: "The numbers said we couldn't win." Not just the poll numbers, but the Number, Simon Lee, were predicting she would lose.
  • Drop the Hammer: Faced with an attempt by a prototype Machine to kill him, Finch breaks it up with a hammer.
  • Empty Elevator: Martine and her mooks are waiting for Root in the hotel lobby. First the L appears in one lift indicator, then in all the others. After several lifts open at once, a smoke grenade rolls out, eventually followed by Root after the lobby fills with smoke.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Martine Rousseau (and by extent all of Samaritan's asset agents) has one where she walks in and double taps an innocent hotel receptionist simply because she didn't answer her question fast enough.
  • Evil Chancellor: Greer offers his services to the new governor.
  • Evil Counterpart: Root faces off against one of Samaritan's assets. Of which there are at least close to 900.
  • Evil Wears Black: Martine and the other Samaritan agents.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: Weaponized when an experimental AI over-heats a server to start a fire and kill Harold.
  • Fanservice: The show hasn't had that much straight-up fanservice since Jim Caviezel shirtless in the pilot, so Amy Acker changing clothes comes as a bit of a surprise.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Simon Lee is a fictional version of polling and statistics wizard Nate Silver.
  • Foreshadowing: "The life I've led, a good death would be a privilege."
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Harold is talking to Nathan about the problems he's having with the A.I, the code on one of his computer screens is that of the legendary STUXNET computer virus.
    • Crosses into a Call-Back from the Season 1 episode "Matsya Nyaya" where the virus on the Laptop was said to be more advanced compared to STUXNET. Finch might have been doing a side-project for American foreign intelligence while building The Machine...
  • Friendship Moment: Finch and Root work side-by-side hacking, leading to an acknowledgement by Finch that she has become his comrade.
  • Get Out!: Martine barges into a men's bathroom to kill Simon, and tells the man urinating there to zip it up and get out.
  • Gilligan Cut: Finch says that Shaw's new assignment will teach her valuable people skills. Cut to Shaw as a lackluster political canvasser.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The Machine makes direct contact with Root the moment a Samaritan assassin with God Mode arrives at their location.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Finch uncovers some dirt on Perez and plans to blackmail her into standing down. See also Break the Cutie.
  • Guns Akimbo: Root during the final fight of the episode. To speed up reloading she brings along a second pair of handguns, allowing her to drop the first set once they run out of ammo.
  • He Knows Too Much: Simon Lee was targeted because he figured out the election had been rigged.
  • Human Shield: Root ends up Taking the Bullet for Simon (twice), using God Mode to stand in the path of Martine's fire.
  • If I Do Not Return: Root to Finch. Also edges towards making Root and Shaw an Official Couple.
    Root: If the worst comes to pass, if could you give Shaw a message?
    Finch: I think she already knows.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Reese admits the death of Joss Carter plays into his Hero Complex.
  • I Lied: Reese re Suicide by Cop.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: As per God Mode; Samaritan is shown calculating the bullet trajectory as Simon runs past Martine in the lobby.
  • Ironic Echo: The Machine tells Finch through Root "Sometimes it's better not to know". Finch later tells Root the same thing but adds "But not always".
  • It Can Think: The appropriate reaction (alongside Oh, Crap!) when Harold notices in the flashback that The Machine not only has changed its own base code, but lied to him about doing so.
  • Just a Machine: Inverted; Finch thinks that they, the humans, are just numbers to the Machine, who'll find it expedient to dispose of them if needed.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Subverted; Reese tosses a gun at the feet of a POI in the Batman Cold Open, but it's only so he can legally shoot him when he picks it up.
  • Manchurian Agent: Samaritan arranges for an unstable employee to be fired, so he will act as an unwitting assassin.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Reese brings Iris coffee, asks about her photo of a cat, has a tragic story of bonding with a criminal while undercover only to have him die in his arms — but Iris quickly realises he's putting on a performance.
    • Samaritan arranges for an unstable employee to be fired, to use him as a Manchurian Agent to kill Simon (currently in conference with the man who fired him).
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Governor Perez dies of an allergic reaction. Simon was meant to be shot by a disgruntled employee.
  • Master of Disguise: Root has to keep changing her identity every few days to keep ahead of Samaritan.
  • Meaningful Echo: The new governor is shown repeating the words that Greer used when offering his services.
  • Morality Chain: Root argues that the essential difference between the Machine and Samaritan is Finch himself.
  • More Dakka: In her gunfight with Martine Rousseau, an asset of Samaritan with access to its surveillance capabilities, instead of taking her usual two handguns, Root brings along four (two to use and two in reserve to speed up reloading).
  • New Media Are Evil: Since Finch and Root can't hack the NSA without drawing Samaritan's attention, they instead hack the back doors that the NSA exploits to get its data...namely, Google and Yahoo.
  • No Name Given: Averted in the final scene, where Greer states the Mysterious Woman's name is Martine. Although this is also a Continuity Nod, since her name showed up in Samaritan's UI in the season opener.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Subverted; turns out that Root's frequent changes in identity are for pure survival, not because she's off doing secret missions. She has to interpret the Machine's wishes through hints and concealed messages, as the Machine can't risk talking to her directly without Samaritan spotting them.
  • Oppressive States of America: Samaritan is busy consolidating the gains it made in Season 3 by building up a network of politicians it can manipulate.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The normally chipper Root is incredibly somber this episode, surprising even Shaw when she doesn't start shamelessly flirting with her. It's because the Machine has gone silent.
    Shaw: Hey Eeyore, where's the perky psycho? You're creepin' me out.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Finch's first proto-Machine says that Bob should leave Alice - prompting Finch to look closer at its internal code.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: Martine and Root carry their guns tucked into the back of their pants.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: Shaw does a bump-and-steal to Simon's phone because Martine is using it to track him.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Simon rather quickly becomes this, and doesn't do too bad a job of getting off the grid.
    • Harold is this towards The Machine, and after hearing the page quote, it's quite clear as to why he is hesitant to trust it.
  • Public Secret Message:
    Finch: When you said your communication with the Machine was limited, you didn't say that it wasn't talking to you at all.
    Root: If she talks, Samaritan would see. I get whispers. New cover identities hidden in the static of a phone, a map and a message encrypted in an infomercial. She was supposed to remake the world. Now, God's on the run.
  • Puppet King: Samaritan rigged the election and then killed the governor-elect, leaving her running mate in charge in order to put a man who looked and sounded charismatic, but was actually easily controllable, into office. And it was done 57 more times around the country without anyone else even noticing.
  • Red Alert: Finch's box changes from yellow (knowledge of the system) to red (threat to system) as he takes a hammer to the computer.
  • Robotic Psychopath: A flashback shows Finch having to physically destroy his computer after experimenting with multiple AI programs. Each AI tried to destroy the other once they learned what he was doing, and the last one then tried to kill Finch by starting a fire so the halon fire suppression system would asphyxiate him.
  • Shown Their Work: Much of what Harold says about AI is consistent with real-world theories about artificial general intelligences. For an example, see the paperclip maximizer.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smoke Out: In trying to stack the deck against Martine Rousseau, Root employs this with a gas grenade in order to hide herself and the fleeing POI. It works temporarily, letting her take out a few assailants before they can open fire, but after it clears, Samaritan immediately gets a lock on her
  • Suicide by Cop/Talking Down the Suicidal: Reese tells a perp that being shot by a cop has a better life insurance payout than simple suicide does. Then he uses the attempt to legally justify kneecapping the guy.
  • Suicide Dare: Played for Black Comedy in the Batman Cold Open, and actually done pretty well, though this is due almost entirely to surrounding circumstances. After chasing a perp all the way up onto the ledge of the roof of a building, he threatens to jump, and Reese tells him to go ahead. What turns this from Moral Event Horizon to Black Comedy is the fact that the perp is guilty of embezzling money and killing to cover it up, he is thrown off (figuratively, not off the ledge) by Reese's response rather than spurred on (as in, "Did a cop just tell me to kill myself? I was not expecting to hear that!"), and the whole thing is part of a larger plan by Reese to save his life.
  • Taking the Bullet: Non-lethally, but Root still takes two rounds for Simon during the final showdown of the episode, and then goads the assassin about the need to prioritize who to kill: Simon or herself, because Martine cannot kill them both while Root is shooting back and Simon is running for it. It works and Samaritan keeps Martine locked on her, allowing Reese and Shaw to save Simon.
  • Theme Naming: Root's aliases are once more references to famous computer scientists:
  • This Cannot Be!: Simon refuses to believe he's made a mistake with his numbers. This is why Samaritan wants him dead.
  • Wham Line: Finch, to the Machine.
    Finch: It's time we had a talk, you and I.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Finch has rather insistently called Root "Ms. Groves" from the start, much to her displeasure. He calls her Root for the first time in this episode.
  • Your Door Was Open: How Reese explains being in Iris' office before she turns up.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: The Machine tried this on Finch 42 times before Harold was able to teach it to care about people. What are the odds that Claypool got Samaritan right given that it's the initial prototype which its creator never even got the chance to try to test and debug? But as we know, that is exactly what Greer wants.

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