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Recap / Person Of Interest S 05 E 11

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Season 5, Episode 11


"Think of everything I must see in order to identify the numbers. Millions of people caught in cycles of anger and violence, and all I can do is watch, powerless, as humanity repeats the same mistakes over and over."
The Machine

In the aftermath of Root's and Elias' deaths, the remainder of the team receives a new number: the President. Meanwhile, having become The Unfettered, Finch is driving across the country, talking to The Machine as he works on a plan of his own to destroy Samaritan.


  • Actually Pretty Funny: Finch admits that he misses Root's voice, so the Machine can keep using it. The Machine purrs that he knows how to make a girl feel special. Finch can't hold back a tiny smile.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Logan Pierce, Joey Durban, and Harper Rose, having been organized into a second Team Machine, get another number at the end of the episode and promptly head off to help them. It's implied that, regardless of the main Team Machine's ultimate fate, they will carry on helping the numbers for as long as The Machine is still around to give them out.
  • And Then What?:
    • Shaw asks the terrorists to consider the political, military and economic consequences of the President's assassination. Later she realizes that if Samaritan is indifferent to these consequences, it's not even carrying out the façade of protecting the United States from terrorism.
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    • The Machine asks Finch to think of the collateral damage from unleashing the computer virus.
  • The Atoner: Finch apparently could have significantly reduced the pain he suffers from his old injuries if he was willing to undergo further surgery, but deliberately chose not to as a penance for his crimes.
  • Bait-and-Switch
    • Shaw, like before, reveals herself to Samaritan to take the fight to it. A man in black immediately shows up... but he's not a Samaritan operative, but a courier giving Shaw her new cover identity.
    • Logan appears to be connected to the terrorists. It's only at the end that Reese finds out he's on Team Machine.
  • Batman Gambit: The bomb was intended to be found or explode without killing its target (it's located outside the building) as that meant that the Secret Service would up the security at the President's next scheduled trip to include drones to be hacked.
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  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Back when Shaw burned her cover identity, she was unhappy that Root got serial identities but she only got one. She takes over the serial identities now, but the fact that she only does so because Root's dead means she can't be happy about it.
  • Being Watched: Reese can't shake the feeling that someone is watching him. He's right; it's the Washington DC Team Machine.
  • Big Blackout: Leading to a Darkened Building Shootout. Fusco and Shaw have no idea who killed the lights though. Logan later reveals that it was him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Pierce, Joey, and Harper all show up just in time to bail Team Machine out of various sticky situations.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: Shaw and Reese; the latter finds himself stymied when Shaw's Machine-provided invitation is only for one. Just when Reese is being pulled aside by suspicious Secret Servicemen, a billionaire Number from the past appears and purchases Reese's invitation with a 50,000 donation.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: A member of the Secret Service is acting as spotter for the drone.
  • Bombproof Appliance: Reese and Shaw stick a brick of Semtex in a refrigerator to stop it from destroying the building. Fortunately, they also evacuate the kitchen so that nobody gets shredded by the shrapnel this would have created.
  • Brick Joke/Hilarious in Hindsight: Regarding Joey Durban's situation in his first appearance, Reese quips that 'not every ex-soldier meets a reclusive billionaire'. Given Joey's working relationship with Logan Pierce in this one, it ends up full circle.
  • The Bus Came Back: Joey Durban, Logan Pierce and Harper Rose, banded together.
  • California Doubling: Partially averted. Some of the D.C. scenes were indeed shot on location, while others were done in New York City. This is probably the only time the show has filmed outside of the state of New York (unless you count the sequence in "God Mode", where Lawrence Szilard's daughter; who's played by writer Amanda Segel; which was filmed outside of the show's production office in Los Angeles).
  • Call-Back/Meaningful Echo: Bunches of them:
  • The Chosen Many: Joey, Logan and Harper also get numbers from the Machine. It's also implied there are many others like them.
  • Classified Information: Harper, posing as an NSA agent, uses this trope to fob off awkward questions about why an NYPD detective like Fusco is investigating a crime in Washington D.C.
  • Cliffhanger: Finch prepares to unleash ICE-9 on Samaritan.
  • Consequence Combo: Harold blackmails a guard to let him go with one of these. If he complies, his daughter gets a needed heart transplant. If not, she dies in five weeks.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Cool Guns: To save the President, Shaw utilizes a German-made Blaser R93 Tactical, one of the fastest firing bolt action rifles ever made, to drive him and the Presidential Security Detail away from the Suburban SUV that's set to be hit with a weaponized UAV drone. Shaw actually takes a moment to appreciate how nice a gun she managed to commandeer from the Secret Service agent she knocked out before getting to work.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The Machine uses a special blue and white box to designate the President.
  • Cold Equation: Reese and Shaw are being held at gunpoint by three terrorists. They figure that one of them will be shot by the third before the survivor kills him. Fortunately Joey arrives to shoot all three.
  • The Computer Is Your Friend: The Machine is frustrated that while She can stop a few humans from being murdered, She can't stop the self-destructive cycles of behavior that lead to those crimes, arguing that She's unable to effect real change while She remains The Fettered. And as the scene in the Cyber Command base shows, an unfettered Machine is a terrifying thing.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Finch talking to the Machine (using Root's voice). He finds it disturbing, so the Machine tries the voice of his old teacher instead, to no avail. He eventually recognizes that Root's purpose of having been Mouth of Sauron to the Machine makes her voice suitable to the Machine, as it allows her to continue to working for it, even in death.
  • Death Glare: Shaw gives John a spine-chilling one when he remarks on her receiving Root's cover identity packages now that she is gone.
  • Destructive Saviour/Salt the Earth: The virus Harold is deploying against Samaritan will have devastating consequences, as the Machine points out. Finch freezes for a second after being reminded, but swallows it up.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Shaw buries her rage behind an impassive mask and a Thousand-Yard Stare. However as she gets back into the familiar routine of investigation, interrogation, punching people and shooting BFG's, she starts to enjoy herself a bit.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Right after the bomb goes off, the television screen blanks out to be replaced by an ominous warning from the terrorists.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Pinned down by gunfire and mistaken for Presidential assassins, Reese and Shaw think there's no escape, but they might as well find that out the hard way.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Joey Durban turns up in military uniform, with two more uniforms for Reese and Shaw to escape the dragnet.
  • Due to the Dead: While Fusco never understood Root, he pays his respects to a dedicated member of Team Machine, lamenting how she can't even be buried under her real name because it might lead Samaritan to them.
    Fusco: She was crazy as a clown. But she had conviction. She gave this fight everything she had. We could count on her to protect our lives with her own. Rest in peace, Cocoa Puffs. Lord knows you deserve it.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Logan is actually referred to as this in a news report. His latest newsworthy eccentricity is refusing to share his clients private data with the NSA. His actual eccentricity is having Jumped at the Call with his own Team Machine.
  • Electric Torture: Shaw does a field improvised version.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: The Mayhem Twins have to stop the President from reaching an armoured Hummer that's the target of the rogue drone.
    Reese: Take a shot at the President, now!
    Shaw: Whatever you say, Wilkes Booth... [she shoots]
    Reese: You know I didn't mean that literally, right?
    Shaw: I missed on purpose, jackass.
  • Eyes Never Lie: When Phillips can't help glancing at the screen tracking the drone, Fusco realises that's the assassination weapon.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Shaw helps herself to a Secret Service radio, so she can monitor their frequencies.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: the number on Root's headstone is "050313". The events of "God Mode," in which Root had full administrative access to The Machine for 24 hours, took place on May 3, 2013—which can also be written "05/03/13." The headstone is the date The Machine first spoke directly to Root.
    • Immediately after saving Reese and Shaw, a Machine-POV shot of them and Joey shows that all three have yellow boxes - indicating that Joey is working for the Machine as well.
  • A Friend in Need: Logan Pierce, Joey Durban, and Harper Rose remember when John saved them, and are back to return the favor.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • A synecdoche is a figure of speech where a part of a term is used as a shorthand for the whole term.
    • The Machine attempting to persuade Finch to release her restraints is like the AI Box Experiment.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Reese and Shaw, on the waiter. Except they just wanted to rough him up and let him escape so that he would lead them to his partners-in-crime.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: It's doubtful the Secret Service will ever realize (or admit if they do) that the sniper who attacked the President was doing so to protect the President, as keeping him pinned behind cover prevented him from reaching the motorcade before the UAV attack. They'll probably record it as two unrelated attempts to kill POTUS that luckily cancelled each other out.
  • Hero of Another Story: Logan Pierce, Joey Durban, and Harper Rose have been organized into their own team by The Machine, and they've been investigating their own never-ending list of irrelevant numbers.
  • Heroic BSoD: Shaw's crashed back into this state, manifesting in the form of flat out denial in an attempt to cope with Root's passing.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The terrorists use their actual identities. This makes them amateurs, yet also gives them perfect cover as long as the authorities don't know of their existence.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: The intent of the assassination attempt: use a UAV to kill the president and show how dangerous the surveillance state is.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Back in his Army days, Reese apparently turned down an offer to join the Secret Service because it would mean being on call 24/7, have an unending series of potential threats to deal with, and absolutely no control over who he would be protecting. Sounds just like what his job has been for the past five years, which Fusco readily snarks about.
    • Shaw walks into the terrorist control center and finds Ominous Multiple Screens.
    "Thought you guys wanted all the cameras turned off. This is a little contradictory for an anti-surveillance group, isn't it?"
  • I Have a Family: Nicely turned around by Shaw. The fact that the waiter has loved ones means that Shaw can go after them. And the fact that the waiter would allow that to happen makes Shaw really angry.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Played with; the bomb is built into a brick, so Reese only notices it because the paint is new. Once he pries the brick out and turns it over, we see the familiar wired detonator counting down.
  • In-Series Nickname: The Machine refers to the president as "Relevant-One."
  • Interservice Rivalry:
    • Shaw (a former Marine) notes how Reese (Army special ops) was unfamiliar with HMX-1, the name of the squadron which handles Marine One.
    • A Secret Service agent is skeptical that Homeland Security is working hand-in-glove with the NYPD.
  • Irony:
    • The government introduced Samaritan to protect it from terrorism, only it has no interest in protecting the President as he is not relevant to its schemes.
    • Last time we saw Logan Pierce, the Machine had classified him as a Threat To Admin. Turns out Root is not the only potential liability the Machine has turned into an Asset.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: It rains while Reese and Fusco pay their respects to Root's grave on the potter's field. It promptly stops afterwards.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Done by Shaw using electrocution on the "waiter". Doubles as a Call-Back to Root's use of a Taser on Control in "Control-Alt-Delete".
  • Knee-capping: Joey carries on the tradition.
  • Laser Sight: Subverted as they're wielded by the amateurish terrorists, rather than being a sign of a professional killer.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: In his discussion with the Machine, Finch uses the example of the chemist Thomas Midgley, who invented Freon. He wanted to save lives (from the dangerous cooling systems in early refrigerators) with science, but ended up causing terrible damage to the world.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The Machine pits the soldiers in the air base against one another.
  • Lonely Funeral: Root is buried in a potter's field, just like she predicted. Reese and Fusco watch from afar, but Shaw and Finch aren't there.
  • Love Confession: The Machine says outright that She loved Root. Whether this love is platonic, romantic, or of a kind that is incomprehensible to humans, is unknown.
  • Mind Screw: Shaw still suspects she's still in a simulation. The events of the episode finally convince her it's real.
  • The Mole: One of the people involved in the conspiracy to kill the President is a member of the Secret Service.
  • Mythology Gag
  • No Name Given: The President isn't given a name. The Machine redacts it, only giving him "Relevant-One" as a designation.
  • No Time to Explain: Joey uses the line straight, and as the Secret Service is currently looking for Shaw and Reese as supposed presidential assassins, he's right.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: See Would Hurt a Child.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Going by the bar scene in "Blue Code", Barack Obama is canonically the president in the Person of Interest universe. However, the man that they're protecting in this episode is an unnamed, older white guy. This is justified considering implying that the real life POTUS approved decisions that allowed an omniscient evil AI to takeover the United States (and the rest of the world) might not go down so well with some in the audience.
    • It can also be interpreted to mean that Obama wasn't re-elected in this show's timeline, since the outcome of the 2012 election was never shown in-universe.
    • It may also be that Obama did not, in the show's timeline, finish his second term. The unnamed president could be an Expy of Vice President Joe Biden, who would succeed to the office if Obama ceased to serve.
  • Personality Chip: Discussed between Harold and the Machine, who doesn't appear to show any grief regarding Root's death. She however points out that she loved Root:
    Finch: I didn't teach you how to love.
    The Machine: Of course you did. You taught me to see everything, see everyone. And I do. But I see thousands of versions of them. What they were, what they are, what they could be... and what is love if not being seen?
    Finch: Then why not choose one of the thousands as your voice? Why her?
    The Machine: Samantha Groves was special. She was capable of terrible things, but she chose to do good. (Beat) Well, ever since she found you, at least. I watched her die 12,483 times in the seconds before she expired. I couldn't save her, but I kept trying. You can't conceive of my grief because you can't experience it like I do, but it's there. My approximation of Samantha Groves is 99.6% accurate. We're virtually indistinguishable. I find comfort in that.
  • Perspective Flip: Reese discovers what it's like to be a Number under the covert protection of a Team Machine.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: This episode's ending makes it feel like a Person of Interest spin-off with Pierce, Joey and Harper as the new team is in the works.
  • Red Alert: Used by the Machine to cause mayhem in the US Cyber Command.
  • Refused the Call: Shaw has no interest in going back to the We Help the Helpless gig while Samaritan is to be fought. Turns out the Machine has the Irrelevant numbers well in hand.
  • Reveal Shot: Reese and Shaw are discussing whether the waiter was a terrorist. Then we see the waiter was in the room all the time with a black hood over their head.
  • Rewatch Bonus: There are lots of hints throughout the episode that the Washington team is helping the New York team, starting with the opening credits: at the end, where the number of the week usually appears, it's Reese (the Washington team's number) rather than the President who's shown.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: No one tells Reese, Fusco, or Shaw that Logan Pierce is on their side, and he becomes their prime suspect.
  • Robots Think Faster: "I watched her die 12,483 times in the seconds before she expired." However when the Machine is talking to Finch we see Her 'calculating response' in real time, so apparently this is adjusted according to the situation.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Shaw shows she can still work it in a Little Black Dress.
  • She Who Fights Monsters: The Machine practically begs Finch to release it to more directly help people en masse... which would make it just like Samaritan. Finch appears to be well aware of this.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The virus Harold steals for use against Samaritan, ICE-9, is a reference to the MacGuffin in the Kurt Vonnegut novel Cat's Cradle.
    • The Machine's relationship with humanity (and the multiple Team Machines) is inspired by the film her in which an artificial intelligence has simultaneous relationships with thousands of people, even claiming to be in love with many of them.
  • Shown Their Work: Multiple terms utilized by the USSS are heard in this episode over the radio net, and Reese and Shaw get shot at by the Counter Assault Team, a real life group of secret service agents who are tasked with covering the evacuation of the individual they're protecting in the event of an assassination or attack.
  • Similar Squad:
  • Technology Porn: The Machine considers the President to be a high priority subject, so the surveillance shots of him are much more detailed, as the Machine carefully predicts his location and movement. This, and the Machine's ongoing mission with Finch causes several of the standard Idiosyncratic Wipes to be a lot more advanced as a result.
  • Theme Naming: Finch uses the name Harold Osprey with a suspicious police officer.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Shaw is really pissed when she realises that Samaritan let a plot against the President go through, something that she'd previously have stopped as a dedicated ISA operative.
  • Trick-and-Follow Ploy: Reese and Shaw rough up the "waiter" and let him escape so that he leads them to his base of operations.
  • Up to Eleven: The tone is much more serious than usual when the President's number comes up, starting from the music and the Machine's graphics. Right off the bat she pulls out the Bayes probability tree previously seen in season 3. The Machine also gives the President's location, HMX-1, instead of his number.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The anti-surveillance group. The Machine and Finch fall into this category as well; they've no problem with making soldiers turn against each other and threatening a father with his daughter's death if he doesn't back down.
  • Wham Episode:
    • This episode ends with the revelation that the Machine has, of Her own volition, begun organizing other teams to handle numbers that the original Team isn't able to handle, especially now that the original Team is smaller and focused on taking down Samaritan. It also seems to imply that even if Finch, Reese, Shaw, and Fusco ultimately lose their lives, the others will carry on their work so long as The Machine Herself is still active and able to give out numbers.
    • Shaw realizes that the assassination attempt on the president, and the lack of ISA response, shows that Samaritan has decided that the entire US government is irrelevant to its plans.
    • Finch makes his way to the US Cyber Command to attack Samaritan, whatever the cost.
  • While Rome Burns: Samaritan apparently has no more interest in its original (supposed) mission of handling relevant threats. It completely ignored two attempted presidential assassinations. Aside from the scene with Shaw and Reese in the park, its interface doesn't appear at all in the episode.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Averted, as the Machine claims to understand the concept fully, and even to have loved Root.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Finch and the Machine threaten to prevent the heart transplant of an airman's daughter unless he stands down.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Reese doesn't pick up on "HMX-1" (referring to the President's helicopter Marine One) thinking it's a clue on Finch instead. Shaw lampshades it with a Disapproving Look.
  • You Are Not Alone: Just when Team Machine has lost two of their members and things look more hopeless than ever, it turns out there are other Team Machines working to protect the innocent.

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