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Recap / Person Of Interest S 05 E 02

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Season 5, Episode 2


Finch: The Machine overloaded your cochlear implant? I programmed it never to hurt anyone, that was a primary precept.
Root: We're trying to shut her down, alter her code, she's scared!
Finch: Scared? Of us? (to the Machine) Are you there? Who are we?
[The Machine displays a screen with Finch and Root labeled as threats]

Two months after the events of the previous episode, the team has made the Machine stable enough to run surveillance tests and resume the irrelevant program. The team's impatience gets the better of them though as the Machine plunges into madness.


  • Anachronism Stew: The Machine loses sense of time and considers everything to happen right now.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The Machine confronts the team about the evil they've done and they have a hard time coping with it.
  • Armor-Piercing Response/Wham Shot: The Machine showing the screen with Finch and Root as threats, in answer to Finch's question of who they are. When Finch and Root realise that, both their expressions are heartbreaking.
  • The Atoner: Reese; as Finch points out to the Machine, he has the "heaviest heart of all."
    Hitwoman: You're no cop.
    Reese: I'm trying.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Machine goes haywire. When She locks Finch and Root inside the subway car, overloads Root's cochlear implant and hires a hitwoman to take down John, it becomes apparent just how wicked the Machine could be if it didn't have the morals it does.
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  • And I Must Scream: Having lost its sense of time, the Machine relives the pain of its past every second.
  • Badass Adorable: Root in fluffy slippers, and later as a Girl Scout.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: The events of the episode, and Root's urging, convince Finch to do the one thing he's constantly resisted; make the Machine an open system.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Fusco saves a family from being executed by Lithuanian gangsters, and proudly brandishes the newspaper headlines afterwards.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: It turns out that during its compression, The Machine lost the ability to perceive time, which consequently means it can't put actions and information in context. This coupled with the violent tendencies so prevalent among Team Machine and the situations they encounter causes it to classify them as threats.
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  • Blinded by the Light: It's the third episode in a row with a flashbang!
  • Cabin Fever: Finch and Root are both getting a bit loopy, cooped up in the subway and pulling all-nighters to get the Machine up-and-running. This has been going on for two months.
  • Call-Back/Continuity Nod: Or even full-out Continuity Porn:
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Fusco leaves his phone in his car when going to save a Number, so Reese can't call for backup. It still doesn't explain why he can't call the regular police.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Not of another episode, but of the promo. In that version, we saw the comedic effect as The Machine failed to recognize the members of Team Machine. In the episode, it becomes Unstuck in Time, and lacks the context to tell whether the characters are good are evil.
  • Character Witness: When all else fails, Finch proves their good intentions by showing the Machine their case files of all the people they have saved.
  • Cliffhanger: Samaritan recruits another asset...
  • Continuity Nod: Apparently Reese did tell Iris some of the truth, as he promised in "YHWH".
  • Chekhov's Gag: Finch, among other things, made the doors of the subway car remotely controllable. Surely enough the Machine uses that against him and Root later on.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Finch mentions that he deliberately set up The Machine inside the subway car, in the event it needs to move later. Guess what happens later...
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Averted. Fusco is finally getting the recognition he deserves after he single-handedly saves a family from three gangsters.
  • Ear Ache: The Machine sends a high-pitched tone through Root's cochlear implant, causing her intense pain.
  • Easily Forgiven: The main theme of the episode. Reese was an assassin for the CIA and murdered his ex-girlfriend's killer, Finch killed 42 prior versions of The Machine (at least several of them sapient) in addition to writing the code that made the final version delete its memories every 24 hours, and Root was a full-on hacker and contract killer. Apart from Finch, whose actions' morality depend on what value is assigned to the Machine's "life", they have taken worse actions than some of their villainous numbers. Even Finch almost killed Alicia Corwin with a bomb strapped to her car. Can working the irrelevant numbers and trying to save the world from Samaritan be considered sufficient penance? Finch had an answer for that to the Machine.
  • Facial Recognition Software: Finch boots up the Machine for a test. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Fighting Down Memory Lane: The Machine runs down a montage of previous Numbers they've saved and playing snippets of the people saying how much they owe Team Machine, before it re-designates Finch, Root, and Reese as assets, rather than threats.
  • Fist Bump: Between Finch and Reese before they move to steal the hardware.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • While initiating the connections between nodes in the Machine's memory look like an incoherent mess. Only in the end, after it gets its sense of time back do its memories take their structured and more familiar form.
    • When asked to say a bit about Reese, the Machine, among other things, points out the murders Reese did for the CIA. It's these violent acts that cause the Machine to turn on the team.
    • invokedIn a flashback, a label reads "Day ℝ". ℝ is the set of all numbers, hinting that the Machine is living in every day all at once, reliving all the horrors of the past. The Machine later shows this to Finch, letting him realize what has happened.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Root and Finch's more morally dubious actions are remembered by The Machine, who may have accepted them at the time but without context views them as threats.
  • Friendship Moment: Everyone gathers for a picnic in the park, and Fusco talks a reluctant Reese into joining his bowling club so he'll have friends.
  • Girl Scouts Are Evil: The Machine has Root dressed as a Girl Scout Leader as her latest rotating cover identity. Either She's providing audience fanservice or it's a comment on Root being a Token Evil Teammate.
  • Go to Your Room!
  • Gone Horribly Right: Finch's teaching the Machine to value human life was essential toward her mission... until she got a bug, and decided that her assets were murderers and threats to herself.
  • Graying Morality: The episode discusses this as Finch taught the Machine to be the judge of good and evil and this morality leads the Machine considering the team to be threats. Finch says the world has turned into shades of gray and uses the good they've done to convince the Machine to reassess its assets.
  • Hallucinations: Finch keeps seeing Grace in the surveillance footage.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Root performs a nonlethal variety when she sedates herself to avoid being used as a bargaining chip by The Machine.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Subverted. The episode leads the audience (as well as the team) to think Samaritan sent the hit woman on John. The Machine did.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters:
    Finch: The Machine thinks we're monsters.
    Root: Maybe She's right.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Finch tells Reese he taught the Machine through example. Then he pulls on a balaclava and robs a warehouse.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Reese has to track down yet another Number when she walks into his office.
  • Initialism Title: "Situation Normal, All Fucked Up."
  • Interface Screw: Comes with the instability.
  • Ironic Echo: In some cases, almost literally - the Machine plays recordings or displays transcripts of Harold speaking to her early in development back at him. At the very end of the episode.
  • It's Probably Nothing: Reese brushes off the idea that the increase in suicides could be linked to the downfall in homicides. Though in this case it's to protect Fusco.
  • Knee Capping: Fusco gets in on the act when saving a number.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Finch quips to Root about being underground as opposed to grounded. She just rolls her eyes at him.
  • Leave No Man Behind: When the Machine turns hostile, Reese urges Finch to get out of the subway, but he refuses to leave Root as she can't go into the open without attracting Samaritan's attention.
  • Less Disturbing in Context: Played for Drama In-Universe. Without the ability to perceive time, The Machine falls victim to Black-and-White Insanity and is unable to tell good from evil or unavoidable from unforgivable, causing it to label its assets as threats.
  • Made Myself Sad: Root's reaction to Finch wanting the Irrelevant Numbers back so they can keep saving them produces a confusion on her. "Isn't the priority here stopping Samaritan? Saving the world? [Beat] (cue to complete expression change) Saving Shaw?".
  • Mook Chivalry: The hitwoman draws Reese's attention instead of just shooting him In the Back.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: The Machine sends the team 31 Numbers, and they have to sort out the real threats. In the end, Team Machine miss the significance of Jeff Blackwell, which eventually comes back to bite them big time.
  • Never Suicide: Samaritan has caused people to commit suicide en masse. Or rather, that's what it looks like...
  • The Nicknamer: Fusco calls the Lithuanian gangster "Boris Karloff".
  • Not Helping Your Case: The montage of Root's murders.
  • Not So Dire: The Machine sends them after a boy who phoned in a fake bomb threat to get out of a math test, an actor in a murder play, several homicide victims who are dead and buried, and four fictional characters.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Finch and Root, when they see that the Machine has designated them as threats.
    • Reese when he realizes the hitwoman has brought More Dakka.
  • The Only One: Reese is fighting the hitwoman, Fusco is working a Number under imminent threat, and Root is unconscious, so it's up to Finch to save the day.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: The Machine hires a hit woman on John... and then the irrelevant numbers program kicks in and causes her to warn the team about it.
  • Shout-Out: When the Machine sends them after an actor, Harold quips that there's something wrong in Denmark.
  • Sliding Scale of Unavoidable vs. Unforgivable: Losing sense of time makes The Machine fall all the way over to the Unforgivable side.
  • Special Edition Title: The new intro for the season still doesn't get its chance to show. It gets interrupted by the Machine rebooting.
  • Technology Porn: The show is already full of it, but here it gets turned Up to Eleven.
    • First, Harold proudly presents how he has moved the Machine fully into the subway car, complete with wireless access to the car.
    • Root points out she's gotten the government feeds (something that took Decima several episodes and social engineering to get).
    • And then they populate the Machine's history with the feeds (with appropriate graphics) and have her successfully locate Reese from the middle of the Times Square.
    • And then they have the Machine provide information on a number of subjects. The result has Root almost Drunk with Power.
    Root: Wow, an open system. I will never understand why you shut all this information in a box, Harry. We can ask it to search for anything, or anyone.
  • Temporarily a Villain: The Machine.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Reese is complaining about the lack of work, only for the Machine to give them too much work.
    • Reese thinks he has the hitwoman cornered, but she's lured him into an open mall.
    • Finch expresses relief that the crisis is over. Cut to a Number they discarded because he looked innocent being recruited as a Samaritan asset.
  • There Was a Door:
    • Reese finds it easier at breaking-and-entering than Finch.
    • After the Machine locks them in the subway car, Root uses the kevlar suitcase to break a window.
  • This Cannot Be!: Finch's reaction to seeing Grace, because he knows she's in Italy.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: The Machine defies it by overloading Root's cochlear implant, much to Finch's shock.
  • Turned On Her Masters
  • Unstuck in Time: The Machine.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Finch calls Reese "John" when he realizes the Machine paid the killer in advance and is thus unable to call off the hit.
    Finch: John? [Beat] Run for your life!
  • Webcomic Time: As the previous episode continued straight on from last season's cliffhanger, this episode takes place after the two month season gap.
  • Wham Episode
  • Wham Shot: Quite a few, including:
    • Reese, Finch and Root being classified as threats.
    • The Number who Reese had classified as a false alarm seeking a job at a new employment agency and getting recruited as a Samaritan Asset.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Machine to Team Machine.