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Recap / Person Of Interest S 04 E 11

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Season 4, Episode 11


Finch: We need a strategy.
Root: A little help, please.
The Machine: Evaluating strategies...
Reese: It's a hell of a time for your Machine to go on the fritz, Harold.
Finch: Give it a second. It's got a lot on its miiiiiiiiiind...
Samaritan launches a cyber-attack on the New York Stock Exchange, leaving Team Machine with no choice but to embark on a possible suicide mission in a desperate attempt to stop a global economic catastrophe. When Samaritan's operatives corner the team, The Machine begins evaluating exit strategies.

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Once again, averted by the Machine. It tries its best to protect its assets, just as Harold taught it.
  • All Just A Simulation/Fission Mailed:
    The Machine: Simulation terminated. Resetting to real time...
    • Reset Button: After every individual simulation fails, the Machine returns to the conversation at the top of the page and considers another possibility.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Martine raises her gun on a fallen Shaw, they fade from sight, and a final sound is heard, which simultaneously sounds like both a gunshot and the slamming of the elevator door.
    • Schrödinger's Gun: The writers noted that we now essentially have Schrödinger's Shaw. As Sarah Shahi was pregnant, she had to be removed from the show, but her "death" scene was explicitly kept ambiguous enough to allow her to return.
  • Arc Words: "Remember the Alamo." Also, "You're not alone" makes a reappearance.
  • Artistic License – History: Finch gives an account of the history of the Chess queen involving Queen Isabella taking offense to the weakness of the piece corresponding to her and the court immediately changing the rules to the modern version. While some scholars agree that the change was first described in Spain in the late 15th century, the rest of the story is pure speculation.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Finch is distracted by a valuable painting. "What's the point of saving the world if you can't appreciate it?" The Machine agrees, for it gets Root to save the picture in reality after it keeps getting damaged in the simulations.
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  • Awesomeness by Analysis: The entire episode.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Root coaxes a reluctant admission from Shaw that she would be interested in Root, if they were the last people on Earth.
  • Badass Normal: Fusco isn't an ex-CIA assassin, a genius hacker, or the analog interface of an AI. He still gets by with courage and street-smarts, and his skill set succeeds in places where Harold and Reese make critical mistakes. His marksmanship also allows him to keep up with the others in neutralizing multiple Samaritan Assets. All this means he's the only member of the team to stay alive in all three simulations.
  • Batman Gambit: Lambert worries that Samaritan creating the financial crisis will attract attention. Greer is counting on it.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the real time implementation of the third strategy, Reese gets wounded and the team's chances of survival are at 1% and dropping. Then Shaw arrives and their chances increase rapidly.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Team Machine successfully foils the operation Greer and Samaritan were running and kills almost all of their assets who were involved. However, Shaw is riddled with bullets in her attempt to facilitate the team's escape.
  • Blah, Blah, Blah: An interesting variation occurs as the Machine accelerates the third simulation, and the characters describe their dialog rather than delivering it:
    Reese: Coolly delivered sadistic warning.
    Fusco: Self-deprecating inquiry into the time necessary to infiltrate system.
    Root: Funny yet insightful retort.
    Finch: Mildly agitated declaration of mission completion.
  • Blood Knight: Martine.
    Greer: And Martine?
    Martine: Sir?
    Greer: Enjoy yourself.
    [Martine gives a psychotic smirk]
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Fusco in the third simulation.
  • Bullet Time: Most of the episode is this. Time flows in milliseconds as the Machine tries to figure out a strategy for its assets. The simulations, each of which really take a couple of seconds to complete, take up most of the screen time.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: All but one of the simulations end this way.
  • Call-Back:
  • Camera Spoofing: Team Machine pull a simple version by having Reese deactivate the camera manually, just as Harold and Root are pretending they're techs come to fix the problem.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue:
    Reese: Sorry, I'm busy making death threats to Samaritan operatives.
  • Catastrophic Countdown: In a twist for this trope, the Machine counts down in milliseconds until "Time to Asset Destruction."
  • Chekhov's Gun: The bomb vest.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Finch teaching chess to the Machine. It learns not to over-analyse the situation, just to go with the best possible scenario, then adapt to circumstance. And it learns not to value one piece over another, but to use all together to win.
  • Chess Motifs: Defied. Despite Finch teaching the Machine strategical thinking through chess, he warns the Machine not to think of one person as more valuable than another, or to think of people as pieces to be sacrificed in a game.
    • Though Finch's discussion of the history of the queen—a weak piece that was transformed into the most powerful one on the board by a rule change—is a neat parallel to Root's transformation into the "analog interface."
    • The Machine tries its best to save everyone but didn't predict Shaw rising to the occasion and sacrificing herself just as Finch had sacrificed his queen in the game of chess.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome:
    • Reese has it big time at this point and the Machine knows it. In the second simulation, he pushes Fusco into another room and fights Lambert one on one. Lambert gets the upper hand and kills Reese, but neglected to realize that Reese had stolen his grenade.
    Reese: Lionel, remember the Alamo?
    Fusco: Yeah, what about it?
    Reese: Well, you're gonna miss it.
    [Reese pushes Lionel to safety in another room and locks him out]
    Fusco: [banging on the door] Hey, what about you?
    Reese: Somebody's gotta be the hero.
    • In the reality, Reese notices Lambert aiming for Finch and jumps in front of him, taking the bullet for Finch. Reese tells Finch, "I'm all right, Harold," in a tone of voice which implies that it doesn't matter if he dies. Saving Finch was enough.
    • Finally, Shaw stays back at the end to push the elevator override button and is shot multiple times by Martine.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • This exchange between Fusco and Martine:
    Martine: FBI; drop your weapons or we'll shoot.
    Fusco: I thought you were DEA?
    Martine: What does it matter? We'll shoot either way.
    • Harold's appreciation for art is shown again. This time though, he's in a middle of a combat situation.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Machine knew that Samaritan would try to wreck the economy, and had a failsafe built to counteract it.
  • Curse Cut Short: The subway passenger with the bomb vest.
    Trader: His name's Greg.
    Gary: It's Gary, you pathetic piece of sh-
    Shaw: Okay, alright, Gary.
  • Defiant to the End: Root's death in the simulation. She gives Shaw an Anguished Declaration of Love then is shot down as she tries cutting an important wire, not even paying the Samaritan hit squad any mind.
  • Downer Beginning: Finch dies. It's a simulation, but there's no onscreen text that states this (at least in the first simulation), and people who hadn't read promotional articles, seen trailers, read spoilers, or picked up on the Spoiler Title were hit harder, thinking the death was real. (The show does have a tendency to almost never pull Not Quite Dead.) The image itself is a Tear Jerker, real or not.
  • Downer Ending: Shaw dies. Apparently.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Inverted; in a simulation, Root calls Shaw to get one from her, but she's the one dying.
  • Easter Egg: Intentional or not, the clock face in the room with Team Machine when the Machine begins the simulations says 3:09, referencing the episode number of "The Crossing", the previous Mid-Season Twist Wham Episode in which a main character dies. (Although Shaw's death is ambiguous in this case.)
  • Everything Is Online: Averted, at first; the building's camera system is closed-circuit, so neither the Machine nor Samaritan can get access ... until Finch routes them to give The Machine access.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Root doesn't cry or beg in simulation 2 where Martine and her assets corner her.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Root's farewell call to Shaw in the second simulation, and the simplified version in the third, closely predict their exchange in the reality when Shaw is arriving for her Big Damn Heroes moment:
    Root: Hey, sweetie. You busy? ("Overly affectionate greeting.")
    Shaw: A little. ("Greeting.") Skip the verbal foreplay, Root, why are you calling? ("Annoyed attempt to deflect subtext.")
    Root: Can't a couple of gals take a little break from work to catch up? ("Transparent rationale for conversation.")
    Shaw: No, we do not have time to catch up. ("Mildly embarrassed defensiveness bordering on hostility.")
    Root: There's no time like the present, Sameen. Why are you so afraid to talk about your feelings? ("Overt come-on.")
    • In the flashbacks, The Machine is practicing its strategy routines, with an interface similar to the present day Machine's strategies. And then Finch captures its queen and the Machine panics:
    The Machine: [!] No valid options
    • "If you want to die, okay. But die for something that you love."
  • For Want of a Nail: The only way that Team Machine can stay alive long enough to restart and reach the elevator to escape is if Shaw can talk down the man in the bomb vest. The only way that happens is if Fusco is the one to talk to her when she calls for advice; the only way that happens is if Team Machine all go to the server room together.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The majority of the episode is presented and structured like one of these (through the Machine's simulations), where the Machine is the main character experimenting with events & attempting to find a favorable outcome through them.
  • Hand Wave: Shaw's Big Damn Heroes into a sealed basement is put down to that old Air-Vent Passageway trick.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: It varies, depending upon the particular simulation. Reese and Root in the second simulation, Reese and Shaw in the reality.
  • Hope Bringer: Shaw in the end, you can practically see the Machine exhaling in relief as the team's chance's of survival start to rise.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Samaritan's Agents must attend this academy, as four people are able to take out a small army of them simply because they can't shoot straight and Team Machine can.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Shaw has to stop a broker from jumping out of a window after the market crash.
  • "Just So" Story: This episode explains how The Machine learned to make high-speed decisions.
  • Kill 'Em All: It appears most simulations end this way. Fusco is the only one to survive all simulations (at least on screen).
  • Kinda Busy Here: Played for Drama or Ship Tease.
  • Lock Down: Once Team Machine have been Lured Into a Trap, Samaritan activates a lockdown designed to keep people out in the event of a terrorist attack.
  • Lured Into a Trap: Team Machine falls for this.
  • Made of Iron: Lambert has to shoot Reese several times, then punch, headbutt and then use even more bullets to subdue Reese in simulation 2.
  • Meaningful Title: In most programming languages, "If-Then-Else" is the most basic decision-making statement. It's what the Machine does for almost the whole episode.
  • Medium Awareness: In-universe. Fusco, after kissing Root says, "Why not? We're in a simulation."
  • The Men in Black: Martine's team are the first Decima/Samaritan employees who finally live up to this trope, but seemingly only in the simulations. At the end of the episode Shaw and Root manage to slaughter them all with gunfire and explosives leaving only Martine and Lambert alive. It is Martine and Lambert who shoot Reese, Root and Shaw.
  • More Dakka: Martine and Greer's strategy for this episode is simple. Bring more firepower than Team Machine does to the New York Stock Exchange building, lock it down, and riddle them with bullets upon cornering them.
    • Lambert empties half the magazine of his Glock 19 just to subdue Reese in simulation 2.
  • Never Split the Party: In the first two simulations, the Machine splits the group into two teams and sends one to the server room to stop the financial crash and the other to the generator room so they can bypass the controls on the elevator. However, the server room team cannot accomplish its task without triggering an alarm and being overwhelmed when Lambert's team responds. The generator room team is either ambushed on the way there or will be wiped out when Martine tracks them down. Only by keeping the group together can they get to the server room without triggering the alarm and thus activate the failsafe without engaging in a major firefight, since by keeping everyone together, Fusco will have the time to give Shaw advice on how to talk down the suicide bomber, which prevents her from being arrested and gets them the security codes to the server room. This unfortunately will leave them having to fight both Lambert's and Martine's teams at the elevator, but it is the only method by which everyone stays alive long enough to reach that point.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: No, Finch wasn't shot, Reese didn't detonate a grenade, and Root wasn't shot multiple times by Samaritan operatives. It was All Just A Simulation. Shaw was shot, though. And is taken by Samaritan.
  • Noodle Incident: In the flashbacks, Harold captures The Machine's queen, seemingly paralyzing the AI's strategies. The flashbacks afterwards continue off at a point where The Machine has already checkmated Finch anyway. Though that is explicitly a different game, as Finch checkmates the Machine (knocks over its King) in the earlier one.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The only way to operate the elevator at the end of the episode is to push an override outside of the elevator, forcing someone to make a Heroic Sacrifice to operate it. Not great in the event of a fire, given it's one of only two possible ways out of a sealed underground complex. Not great for security, either, given that it still allows all but one member of an invading force to escape.
  • Not So Stoic:
    • Root absolutely loses it when Shaw shoves her back into the elevator, seals it off and goes to press the activation button, dooming herself to be taken out by Martine.
    • The Machine's own reaction is on par with Root's.
  • Now or Never Kiss: The third simulation has Fusco kiss Root right before the team goes to the server room, even lampshading that it's not weird because they're in a simulation. In reality, Shaw gives one to Root after deciding to save her and the rest of the team by going over to the elevator override button.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Lambert and his portion of the Decima/Samaritan hit-squad get this when Reese snatches a hand grenade and disengages the pin.
    • The Machine outright freaks out when Shaw gets gunned down by Martine in reality.
  • On Three: Martine and a squad of Samaritan agents are getting ready to burst into a room to kill Team Machine, who are about to go through another door to the elevator room to make their escape.
    Martine: Shots to the head and center mass. On my mark, one—
    Reese: (peering through door window) —two, three!
  • Paralysis by Analysis: In the flashbacks, the Machine suffered from this.
    Finch: There are more possible games of chess than there are atoms in the universe. No-one can possibly predict them all, not even you. Which means that the first move can be terrifying. It's the furthest point from the end of the game, there's a virtually infinite sea of possibilities between you and the other side... but it also means that if you make a mistake, there's a nearly infinite amount of ways to fix it. So you should simply relax, and play.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Simulation 2 has Martine being surprisingly polite and having her unit hold off on killing Root before she's said her farewell message to Shaw. Martine even looks a tiny bit choked up about it and has to take a second to adjust the grip on her gun before pulling the trigger.
    • When the team turns the corner in real life and is immediately shot at by Samaritan's operatives, Reese's first instinct is to shove Root behind cover before taking cover himself or opening fire. Granted, saving people has always been Reese's thing, but it's still a nice way to show how the relationship between the two of them has evolved from what it was.
  • Playing the Heart Strings: The Downer Ending. Root's complete breakdown is muted out and Shaw's usually uptempo theme turns slow and somber. The scene also plays in slow motion.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: The elevator.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Subtly done, each member of Team Machine has skills critical to mission success and to escape, it's a matter of making sure each one is in the right place at the right time.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Much like the second episode of the Endgame arc a season and two episodes ago, Team Machine succeeds in their mission, but at great cost.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Sarah Shahi got pregnant with twins, so it was either Shaw developing an affinity for holding basketballs and fruit baskets or her being removed from the plot. (There was some discussion of doing a Written-In Infirmity, but they decided there was just no way that pregnancy would fit Shaw's character.)
  • Robots Think Faster: The entire episode is based around this trope.
  • Rule of Three: There are three individual simulations.
  • Running Gag: The Degas painting is always destroyed. Until Root saves it at the end.
  • Save Scumming: In effect, the Machine is doing this in its simulations.
  • See You in Hell: Reese indulges in this in one of the simulations.
    Martine: Last time I saw you was in church. You should have prayed a little harder.
    Reese: I go to hell, I'm Taking You with Me.
  • A Shared Suffering: How Shaw talks down the bomber.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: Team Machine only succeeds when Shaw talks down the man wearing the bomb vest.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Even while trying to stop the destruction of the global economy and get its assets out alive, The Machine also finds time to indulge in this. Root, Shaw and Fusco are the victims.
    • Even Martine gets in on the act somewhat. She lets Root say a rambling farewell message to Shaw, looks pretty choked up and has to take a second to adjust her grip on her sidearm before opening fire.
  • Ship Tease: Shaw finally confirms that she finds Root attractive. She just doesn't think them getting together is a good idea.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Subverted as this always alerts the guards inside the server room. It's only when Shaw gets the access code that the simulation ends successfully.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Root says "Turn left" at the beginning of the first and third simulations, as well as the reality. Intentional or not, this is a nice allusion to a 2008 Doctor Who episode which also revolves heavily on making choices that affect the outcome of situations.
    • The Machine's simplified simulation seems to allude to this quote.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Shaw to Root, just before her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Slow Motion: Used to show the start of each simulation, and for Shaw getting shot.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The security firm employee that has the passcode. He has one line, but it's ultimately Shaw getting the code from him that saves the team. The simulations where Shaw did not talk down Gary resulted in Reese/Fusco/Root having to shoot the lock, drawing Samaritan's operatives' attention, which in turn resulted in the predicted deaths of the characters.
  • Smart People Play Chess: They may play it, but empathic people might not enjoy it. After having taught chess to the Machine in 2003, Finch notes that he dislikes the game because it comes from a time where people thought pawns were worth less than kings. Presumably he got over it.
  • Spoiler Title
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: Greer is monitoring the worldwide financial crisis on Samaritan's main screen.
  • Straight for the Commander: Lambert always aims for Finch.
  • Taking the Bullet: Reese, in the reality, when Lambert aims for Finch.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • The market crash convinces one investor to do this to his broker with a bomb vest.
    • John threatens Martine with this in the first simulation, then pulls it on Lambert in the second.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Finch says, "For a second, Ms. Groves, I thought all might be lost." Lambert comes up from behind and shoots him.
    • Fusco says that maybe Root was right to send them to the server room. That idea doesn't work, either.
    • Finch teaching the Machine chess. "You'll encounter far more capable opponents than me."
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Decima/Samaritan employees use a large amount of bullets just to kill the members of Team Machine. A prime example is what they do to Root in simulation 2.
  • [Trope Name]: In simulation 3, the Machine replaces Team Machine's dialog with generic templates to accelerate the simulation's processing. See Blah, Blah, Blah.
  • Understatement: Yes, your artificial super-intelligence can be said to have "a lot on its mind" when it's evaluating over 830,000 possible options.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Averted. After The Machine finishes its last simulation, we see its strategy play out in reality pretty much exactly the same way it did in the simulation (or at least the parts The Machine had time to simulate play out exactly the same) with only the exception of some small variances in dialogue (though there are a few cuts in the middle to speed things up).
  • Useless Security Camera: When the Machine has to pick the best scenario and go with it. The plan fails because of the elevator stop button, which isn't in the viewpoint of any security camera.
  • Walk-In Chime-In: Used for a Bait-and-Switch. Root is making her final phone call to Shaw, as per the simulation, when suddenly Shaw walks into their midst for a Big Damn Heroes.
  • Wham Episode: Shaw appears to die.
  • Wham Line:
    The Machine: [!] No valid options
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Each time Reese and Fusco encounter the fake janitors/Samaritan agents, they commandeer the Colt M4-A1 assault rifles the agents had been using. However, in both the simulations and the real world, the rifles have vanished without a trace by the time Reese and Fusco make it to the server room.
    • If all Samaritan operatives are carrying a hand grenade as standard issue, why don't they use them in the elevator room shootout? Or on future occasions, for that matter.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: "There’s an override button. Someone’s got to get to the button and hold them off."
  • You Will Know What to Do: Root says this to Finch, who when he gets to the elevator room finds a generator he can modify, thanks to his days tinkering with cars.