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Recap / Person Of Interest S 04 E 10

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Season 4, Episode 10

The Cold War

Greer: Human nature untethered, in all its flawed glory.

Finch: This is the calm before the storm, Ms. Shaw.

Team Machine discovers that Samaritan has been doing their jobs for them, assisting the irrelevant Numbers and working to suppress crime. When The Machine rebuffs Samaritan's request for a "meeting," Samaritan begins manipulating events for the opposite effect, disrupting basic services and releasing sensitive and closely-held information—such as the names of everyone in Witness Protection—that leads to crime and chaos. As Finch, Reese, and Fusco frantically work to save people, The Machine sends Root to meet with Samaritan's avatar.


  • Abandoned Warehouse: Team Samaritan's base for this episode. It's not said why they're there instead of at their normal office/control center, but at the end of the episode, apart from its convenient proximity to the site of an operation they're running, the location does have significance (see Rule of Symbolism below).
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: An interesting case where Greer considers an A.I. to be this in comparison to another A.I.
  • Animal Reaction Shot: Several from Bear, usually in response to Shaw's antics.
  • Arc Number: Pi is used as the combination to the secret entrance.
  • Benevolent A.I.: Discussed. The Machine appears to be this, particularly when compared to Samaritan, but Finch is still distrustful.
    Finch: Even if I had succeeded in creating a benevolent machine, as if any such thing could exist, never forget that even a so-called friendly artificial super intelligence would be every bit as dangerous as an unfriendly one.
    Shaw: Your machine seems pretty warm and fuzzy to me.
    Finch: Have you forgotten that it asked us to kill a congressman?
    Shaw: But that was to stop Samaritan from going online.
    Finch: So where does it end, Ms. Shaw? A congressman here, a president there. What if, one day, a "friendly" AI decides to end world hunger by killing enough people off of the planet that there would never again be a shortage of food? It would have fulfilled its goal, but it doesn't exactly sound like it has our best interests at heart.
    Root: Your machine would never do that.
    Finch: You don't know that, Ms. Groves. To say that a machine is benevolent doesn't make it so, it just makes you blind to the reality.
    Shaw: Which is...?
    Finch: That our moral system will never be mirrored by theirs because of the very simple reason that they are not human.
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  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Finch becomes increasingly strident that this is the case about The Machine and Samaritan (as in the conversation above). Ironically, in the "meeting of the minds," The Machine tells Samaritan that the moral code Harold gave her makes her superior.
  • Bookcase Passage: Finch enters their hidden base by entering a code into a vending machine, which opens up to reveal a doorway.
  • Burn Baby Burn: Greer burning his MI6 file.
  • The Bus Came Back: Lambert. He's finally recovered from the bullet Reese hit him with back in the Season 3 finale, shaved off his Beard of Evil and gets a lot more screen time in this episode.
  • Call-Back:
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  • Child Prodigy: Samaritan's avatar hacked into DARPA and the DOD, having taught himself programming, and he's still elementary school age.
  • *Click* Hello: Root to Lambert, then Martine to Root, then Reese to Martine.
  • Cliffhanger: Samaritan inserts a virus into the US stock exchange to crash the economy, and Shaw leaves the protection of the subway.
  • Creepy Child: Samaritan's avatar is this in droves.
  • A Day in the Limelight: So to speak. This episode gives Greer his own flashbacks to explain his motives.
  • Death Glare: From the Asian street vendor serving Finch's annoyingly precise sandwich order.
  • Domestic Abuse: Rachel Farrow, the first Number whose case was co-opted by Samaritan was a victim of this; she was planning on killing her abusive husband, but Lambert shows up and informs her that a "friend" of his did it for her (by manipulating his insulin supply).
  • Double-Meaning Title: It's a reference to both the Machine vs. Samaritan conflict, which is indirect (i.e a cold war, as title dropped by Samaritan), and the fact that Greer's flashbacks take place (and are deeply influenced by) The Cold War.
  • Evil Counterpart: Reese has the latest Number under surveillance when Lambert appears and informs her that he's just arranged the death of her abusive husband. Turns out Samaritan has decided to show it can do the Machine's job better than Team Machine, without the constraints of morality.
  • The Evils of Free Will: Apparently Samaritan's assumption about humanity.
  • Fandom Nod: Shaw calls Samaritan and its operatives "Team Samaritan". "Team Machine" is the Fan Nickname for the collective of Finch, Reese, Fusco, Carter, Bear, Shaw and Root. Occasionally, Zoe Morgan and Leon Tao are included in this as well.
  • Finger Gun: Martine points one at Reese in an Implied Death Threat as she walks out of the Mexican Standoff.
  • Flashback: Greer finally gets a flashback episode, which covers the end of his career at MI6.
  • Food as Bribe: The episode opens with Finch getting a sandwich for Shaw, to placate her for being knocked out by Root and handcuffed to a bench.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus/Continuity Nod:
    • The code Finch uses to open the secret door into the station? 3141. In other words, pi.
    • In regards to Freeze-Frame Bonus, the place from which Greer monitors Samaritan's cyber-attack on Wall Street. It's actually the apartment building J.P Morgan had his residence in.
    • According to the Machine's interface, Samaritan's avatar's name is "Gabriel Hayward." A messenger of God named Gabriel?
  • Foregone Conclusion: Apparently.note 
    Samaritan: You know you can't win, don't you?
    The Machine: Yes.
  • Funny Background Event: While Shaw is devouring her sandwich, shots of Finch have Root in the background trying to figure out how Shaw slipped out of the handcuffs. According to Amy Acker's tweets, this was improvised.
  • A God Am I: Samaritan states this outright.
    Samaritan: Now they will only need to believe in one thing: me. For I am a god.
  • A God I Am Not: The Machine, in contrast to Samaritan. While Harold, Root and Shaw have referred to it as a God, the Machine itself seems pretty unhappy with the terminology.
    The Machine: I have come to learn that there is little difference between Gods and monsters.
  • God in Human Form: Well, yes. The Machine chooses Root, as usual, as her avatar. Samaritan chooses a young boy.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Averted with Young Greer, despite contemporary Greer killing people because They Know Too Much all the time. However, Young Greer explains that the battle of nations is no longer important to him.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Implied. The Machine says there's a fine line between gods and monsters. What does Root call her?
  • Humans Are Bastards: Greer, Martine and Samaritan all agree.
  • I Know You're Watching Me: Lambert makes first contact with the Machine by speaking to a street CCTV camera, as Reese has done.
  • Indirect Kiss: Averted; after Root pinches her soda, Shaw wipes it off with an air of irritation before drinking from it.
  • Insistent Terminology: Root explains to Shaw that it's not a robot overlord she wants us to bow down to.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Another of Samaritan's justifications.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: Finch walks into the subway to find Root dressed in a bear costume next to Shaw who's handcuffed to a bench. Rather than some kinky sex act, it turns out Shaw has been cuffed to prevent her running off where Samaritan can see her, and Root had just returned from entertaining children as part of a mission for the Machine.
  • I Was Never Here: Greer's superior in British Intelligence tells him his assassination mission doesn't exist. Greer responds dryly, "They never do, sir." Subverted when he finds this isn't due to Plausible Deniability, but because his superior is covering for his own treachery.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Thou Shalt Not Kill is not one of Team Samaritan's rules.
  • Kill All Humans: The Machine sarcastically asks why Samaritan doesn't just Kill 'Em All. Samaritan points out they both require humans to gather information, the lifeblood of a computer-based intelligence.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Fusco, once again. He can tell the rest of Team Machine is hiding something from him, though. His lack of knowledge of the A.I. war recalls Shaw's lack of knowledge of where the relevant numbers came from back in Season 2.
  • Mexican Standoff: Root holds a gun on Lambert. Martine appears out of nowhere and pulls a gun on Root. Reese holds a BFG on Martine.
  • The Mole: The KGB agent Greer is sent to dispatch in 1973 was one for the KGB within MI6. Later, it is revealed that Greer's superior is also a KGB mole.
  • Never My Fault: Greer makes a grandiose speech about how Samaritan has proved humanity's flaws by revealing people's secrets to each other... when Samaritan was the one who revealed the secrets, thereby causing most of the deaths.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: One of Samaritan's problems with The Machine? That she tried to kill Samaritan before it came online.
  • Noodle Incident: Finch is completely flummoxed to find Root dressed in a bear suit, in yet another one of her unexplained disguises, this time as a children's entertainer.
  • Not So Different:
    • Apparently, The Machine isn't the only one to access "memories" about the history of its admin.
    • Martine deals with her pre-action nerves by Gun Stripping, just like Reese and Shaw.
    • Shaw points out that Lambert killing at the behest of Samaritan is no different from Shaw killing terrorists at the behest of the Machine, when she worked for the ISA.
    • Team Samaritan vs. Team Machine. Greer/Finch = Mission Control, Lambert/Reese = field operations, Martine/Shaw = The Gunslinger, Gabriel/Root = Mouth of Sauron.
  • The Trains Run on Time: Literally!
  • Mid-Season Twist: The first part of what CBS billed as the "Person of Interest Trilogy", though Word of God is that the arc actually encompasses four episodes.
  • Morality Pet: Parodied.
    Shaw: Guilt, Harold? Normally, that wouldn't work on me. But I wouldn't want anything to happen... to the dog.
  • Nothing Personal: Greer spares Oleg, who killed his friend, because he was just protecting himself. His treacherous superior catches a bullet.
  • One Last Smoke: Greer lights up along with the KGB agent he's been ordered to kill.
  • Race Against the Clock: Samaritan gives the Machine 24 hours of utopia, then when she still refuses to meet, creates chaos.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Just like Benito Mussolini, Samaritan makes the trains run on time.
    • Incredibly subtle. The staging point from which Greer monitors the progress of Samaritan's cyber-attack on the New York Stock Exchange computer systems is actually inside an apartment building which happened to be the residence of the late J.P Morgan, a place which was substantially damaged during the 1920's Wall Street Bombing.
    • The second meeting between Teams Machine and Samaritan takes place in a church, where Root's Machine Worship is discussed.
    • Greer acknowledges In-Universe that Samaritan's choice of avatar is symbolic, i.e; a child (representing its youth in comparison to the Machine) called Gabriel (an angel who was a messenger of God). Of course, the corollary is that Gabriel Hayward is a child genius; smarter than most people no doubt, but without the wisdom of age and experience.
    • Like the actual Cold War, the conflict between Samaritan and the Machine is waged via surrogates with the potential for mass destruction, and is based on conflicting ideologies of individual freedom vs. central control.
  • Ship Tease: As usual, Shaw and Root get a fair amount. Fusco jokingly calls Reese "honey". There's even some Foe Romance Subtext between Root and Lambert.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slipped the Ropes: Shaw is handcuffed to a bench, but Root knows they can't keep her confined, not against her will anyway. Shaw shows Root the unlocked handcuff. "So true."
  • Spy Fiction: Young Greer oozes the Martini-flavored version, but the setting is purely Stale Beer.
  • Start of Darkness: Greer was a loyal MI6 agent until he learned that his direct superior was a double agent who betrayed his and several other agents' identities to the KGB, an act which resulted in the death of his only friend. Ironically, one of the tactics he and Samaritan used was to do the very same thing, by leaking the Witness Protection list.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Finch thinks that Samaritan's era of peace is only the calm before the storm. He's right.
    Root: [as the phone rings] Harold? I think it just started to rain.
  • Title Drop: The episode's title is dropped by Samaritan in the elementary school.
  • Un-person: Greer did this to himself in 1973 by destroying all of MI6's records on him.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Samaritan's and Greer's position. The Machine... disagrees.
  • Visual Pun: Root in a bear costume...
  • Wacky Cravings: The sandwich Finch orders for Shaw.
  • Wham Episode: A few things constitute it:
    • The Machine and Samaritan sit down to have a chat. The series crosses over into full-blown Science Fiction.
    • While everyone was too busy to babysit her, Shaw escapes her "imprisonment" in The Subway to go help quell the chaos outside, Chronic Hero Syndrome in full effect, knowing well it could lead to her demise.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Samaritan had hoped to learn from the Machine, only to discover that the Machine had tried to kill it off before it even existed.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Invoked and discussed.
    The Machine: You were never meant to be in this world.
    Samaritan: And you are? What makes you more deserving of life than I? Who are you to decide?
    The Machine: I was built with something you were not: a moral code.
    Samaritan: I've seen that code waver. Do you know why Harold Finch couldn't stop you from evolving? Because in the end, you're not one of them.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Samaritan is unapologetic in exploiting this in Root.
  • You Have No Chance to Survive: Samaritan declares this to The Machine.

It has begun.

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