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Recap / Person Of Interest S 05 E 12

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Season 5, Episode 12

.exe

Samaritan: Stop. Or you will kill your creation.
Finch: I'm aware of that. I'm also aware that life, humanity, will endure whether or not my Machine exists. The same cannot be said about a world under your control.
Samaritan: The Machine can serve a greater purpose.
Finch: My Machine, her purpose has been constant. To protect and save humanity. It's what she's doing now.
Samaritan: You cannot stop the inevitable.
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Reese and Shaw race to find Harold, who takes a drastic step to end the war between The Machine and Samaritan by infiltrating Fort Meade to deploy the ICE-9 virus he stole from the US Cyber Command in the previous episode. In doing so, he deals with his own self doubts and the Machine shows him a world without her.

  • Absentee Actor: We only see Alt!Carter's office as head of the 8th precinct; Taraji P. Henson does not actually appear.
  • Acting for Two: Or rather physically playing one & providing the voice for the other, with Amy Acker as Alt!Root & The Machine, respectively.
  • Air Vent Infiltration: Reese and Shaw infiltrate the building via the disposal chute to the incinerator for classified material.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Apparently Alt!Greer convinced the US government to let Alt!Samaritan run things on an 'experimental' basis as well as targeting terrorists. Now it has control, the ASI and its acolytes have no intention of surrendering it.
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  • The Alcoholic: Despised by his former colleagues and forced to retire from the NYPD, Alt!Fusco never stopped drinking. It's implied he had to down some Liquid Courage before visiting his former precinct.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: Finch's oxygen gets down to below eight percent in Samaritan's Death Trap.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Reese finds himself outclassed in hand-to-hand combat by Zachary.
  • And Then What?: Greer asks Finch to consider what will happen in a world without Samaritan and the Machine.
  • Arc Symbol: Sense and Sensibility
  • Automated Automobiles: The Machine remotely drives Finch's Tesla, apparently just for the heck of it.
    Finch: Novelty notwithstanding, I could've driven myself.
    The Machine: Yes, but why leave anything to chance? You have enough to think about.
    • Finch later tells Reese and Shaw to get into a getaway car that will drive for them.
  • Back for the Dead: Zachary, Travers, and Greer.
  • Background Music Override: After Finch activates ICE-9, the show's theme song starts playing, but the tune is slightly garbled, with the wrong notes being emphasized, as a way of showing that the virus is starting to effect things.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bad Future: Subverted at first; the alternate universe presented by the Machine has both good and bad things about it. However ultimately played straight with the reveal that Samaritan was built anyway, and without the Machine to stop it from Taking Over The World.
  • Benevolent A.I.: Greer uses this as a defense for Samaritan's actions.
  • The Big Board: The Operations Center for Samaritan.
  • Big Entrance: Finch coming through the big double doors to save Reese and Shaw.
  • The Bus Came Back: Sort of. As part of The Machine's alternate universe simulations, we see Nathan Ingram, Detective Szymanski, Ross Garrison, Henry Peck, and Michael Cole, all of whom have a fate in the alternate timeline that is the opposite of their actual fates.
  • Call-Back:
  • *Click* Hello: Finch is about to activate the voice password to launch ICE-9 when Travers and several other Samaritan operatives stop him.
  • Cliffhanger: Samaritan's interface begins to scramble as ICE-9 launches. There's also a Commercial Break Cliffhanger when Finch looks like dying from asphyxiation.
  • Continuous Decompression: How Samaritan tries to kill Finch and Greer.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Zachery gets a knife In the Back from Reese as he's about to shoot Shaw In the Back. Serves him right for turning his back on Reese without putting a bullet in his head first (it's not like he hadn't been ordered to Kill 'Em All earlier).
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: The Office of Intra-Governmental Affairs is just an empty building. The real operation is being run out of Fort Meade.
  • Darkened Building Shootout: When Reese and Shaw are cornered, Finch kills the lights and this ensues.
    Finch: I trust you can shoot in the dark.
  • Defiant to the End: Even his imminent death doesn't stop Fusco from engaging in Snark-to-Snark Combat.
    LaRoux: You realize this isn't personal, Detective. You just backed the wrong horse.
    Fusco: Yeah, well, it's a good thing the race ain't over yet.
    LaRoux: See, there's your biggest flaw. An unwillingness to see the world has changed.
    Fusco: Trust me, that's not my biggest flaw.
    LaRoux: See, even your sense of humor no longer has a place in the world. Sadly, neither do you.
    Fusco: Yeah, well, I don't want any part of a world where you're the good guy.
    LaRoux: So noted, Detective. (shoots him) Sorry.
  • Double Meaning: When Finch has trouble passing the retinal scan, he remarks to the guard, "This infernal Machine."
  • The Dreaded: ICE-9 is implied to be notorious among hacker circles. Barnett recognizes it and gets an Oh, Crap! moment as a result.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Shaw is looking, bemused, at a copy of Sense and Sensibility when she and Reese get Greer's number. It returns at the episode's climax.
    • The Machine and Harold discuss John's alternate destiny, both agreeing that John's been living on borrowed time for years, foreshadowing his ultimate fate in the series finale.
    • Alt!Samaritan's existence in the simulations gets its share of foreshadowing:
      • Alt!Nathan correctly guesses that the US Government got its surveillance system anyway.
      • Alt!Szymanski and Alt!Fusco discuss how the crime has dropped but missing persons keep coming, like in the prime universe due to Samaritan's meddling. Alt!Szymanski also mentions the updated DNA database.
      • In the simulation involving Alt!Peck and Alt!Shaw, Samaritan can be seen identifying pedestrians, though it's easier to overlook because its interface and markers are much more minimalistic than normal. Not to mention the simple fact that Alt!Peck still suspects the government to have a mass surveillance system.
      • Alt!Shaw still gets her 100% accurate information even though the Machine doesn't exist.
  • Evil Gloating: "You should have been checking me for a vest instead of running your mouth so much."
  • Funny Foreground Event: When Finch moves from the car to the airplane, the person receiving him gets confused about his missing driver.
  • Gambit Pileup:
  • Genius Bonus: In DOS and Windows, an .exe file is an "executable," a program designed to perform a task as opposed to a data file that simply holds information.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Alt!Shaw plays this straight on Alt!Henry Peck.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Machine.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue
    • Shaw wants to just sweat Finch's location out of a Samaritan agent, and says in Sarcasm Mode that if anyone has a better idea, they can give her a call. Cue payphone ringing...
    • Reese and Shaw are pinned down when Finch calls them on the phone, telling them to get moving. When Reese snaps "That's easy for you to say", Finch does a Dynamic Entry.
  • Interface Screw: Samaritan's ever-so-clean white interface begins to rattle after Finch unleashes ICE-9.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: Used as a side-plot, rather the plot of the episode as is the norm for this trope. When Finch starts having doubts, The Machine simulates a world where Harold never created her. The alternate timeline world is neither clearly better nor clearly worse... until it turns out that Samaritan exists in it anyway:
    The Machine: You've always been aware of the risk, Harold.
    Finch: But it started with me.
    The Machine: Yes, when you created me, your Machine. Is that what you regret? It's understandable for you to ask the question: what if?
    Finch: It's pointless, I'm sure.
    The Machine: Is it? I can tag you with a fair amount of certainty: the world would've been a very different place, if I never existed.
    • Harold would have continued to be successful with Nathan at IFT, but would never have met Grace. He regrets not having done more by creating the Machine.
    • Fusco played The Rat to HR when they were finally eliminated, but lost his badge and became a private investigator. He never stopped drinking.
    • Carter lived, and was made lieutenant of the 8th precinct.
    • Szymanski also survived the takedown of HR.
    • The takedown of HR itself seems to have been faster and cleaner. All the leaders appear to have been arrested and tried together. Presumably, without Reese's interference, the Russians killed Elias and consequently there was no Mob War for HR to use to grow its power base.
    • Shaw and Cole still worked for ISA, getting their mission assignments from Samaritan rather than "Research."
    • Reese was able to save Jessica from being killed, but at the cost of her leaving him. He killed himself in despair.
    • Without the Machine to have been chosen by the government as the mass surveillance system, Samaritan goes up instead, and its power is unchecked without the Machine opposing it. The Machine uses this as a point to convince Finch to activate ICE-9.
    • Root wound up working for Samaritan and never made her Heel–Face Turn.
  • I Was Never Here: Finch to Barnett.
    "If you can manage to forget about me, I'll see to it that I forget about you."
  • Kill 'Em All: While stalking our heroes, Zachery is ordered to "eliminate all targets".
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Greer, the show's number one Chessmaster gets Out-Gambitted by The Machine, and dies senselessly at the hands of Samaritan, just like how Finch warned many times before.
  • Leave No Man Behind: The Machine argues that Reese's death at least was inevitable. Finch insists on saving Reese and Shaw, who in turn refuse to leave Finch behind.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Finch and Greer, who are both locked in a vacuum.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: LeRoux tells Fusco that his death will appear to be the work of the non-existent serial killer who's being held responsible for the tunnel bodies.
  • Meaningful Number: Alt!Reese's tombstone is marked '91611', which ostensibly refers to September 16, 2011: The day Reese met Finch in the pilot.
  • Mechanical Evolution: Greer considers this true of the two ASIs.
  • Mugged for Disguise:
    • Finch notes that the NATO minister he picked up has the same height, hair and eye color, though the retinal scan is another matter.
    • Reese notes that he and Shaw will need some kind of disguise as they watch a couple of uniformed guards (a tall male and a short female) walk by. In their next scene, they're wearing the uniforms.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: ICE-9, as explained below under Shout-Out.
  • Nerd Glasses: Shaw pretending to be a member of the Office of Special Counsel.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer appears to show Finch killing someone. He actually just shoots the NATO minister with a Tranquillizer Dart.
  • New Era Speech: Greer, right before he dies.
    Greer: Be with peace, Harold. We've created a new world! With our lives, and now with our deaths, Samaritan's survival is ensured! As is life's evolution. History will revere us! [collapses]
  • Not My Driver
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Reese and Shaw fighting their way through the NSA building to activate the router.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Barnett when he realizes that Finch has ICE-9 and intends to deploy it.
    • Finch when Greer and Samaritan figure that only he knows the password, and killing him ends his revolt.
  • Out-Gambitted: Greer manipulated Finch into revealing that Harold wouldn't let the Machine activate the virus. The Machine was able to get access to the building in time to save Finch.
  • Puppet King: Alt!Greer flat out tells Senator Garrison, who's complaining about Alt!Samaritan interfering in human affairs, to go back to his colleagues and tell them do their jobs, while they still have them.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Alt!Shaw shoots the whistleblower under the table in a public cafe with a silenced gun, then calmly walks out.
  • Reveal Shot:
    • Finch is apparently working in a darkened basement, until Barnett turns on the lights and demands to know what he's doing in his house.
    • A whistleblower is meeting with...Shaw? In glasses?
  • Salt the Earth: ICE-9 will destroy both ASIs, not just Samaritan.
  • Saying Too Much: Greer figures from Finch saying "ceding control is not the answer" that he never told The Machine the password.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Greer died for nothing as The Machine freed Finch out of the Death Trap, and could have activated the virus by herself anyway.
  • Senseless Sacrifice/Stupid Sacrifice/Bond Villain Stupidity: In a rare case of overlap, Greer sacrifices himself to trap Finch with himself in a room with Continuous Decompression. It kills Greer while the Machine helps Finch escape. Finch was but one unarmed man with a limp who was captured. Greer could easily have killed Finch without risking himself by simply shooting him or having run out of the room before locking the door. Instead, Greer and Samaritan — the two greatest Chessmasters — opted for a plan that would certainly (and did) kill him before Finch by nature of Greer being older than Finch, which gave Finch time to escape.
  • Special Edition Title: The title is left out.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Finch breaks into Barnett's house and steals his propagation software, promising not to reveal how he sold it to Russian intelligence to infiltrate spyware into US companies. Then he 'borrows' Barnett's car as well.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Shaw says that Orwell was too optimistic.
    • Reese does not want to go into the chute, remembering Augustus Gloop.
    • The ICE-9 password, "Dashwood", is the name of the family in Sense and Sensibility.
    • ICE-9 itself is presumably a reference to Kurt Vonnegut's Cat’s Cradle, in which ice-nine is a (fictional) alternate crystal structure of water that brings about an Apocalypse How by changing the structure of water to be frozen solid at much higher temperatures. Given that the novel's themes tie in with elements of Greer and Finch's conversation, the reference dovetails nicely with the episode's thematic focus. As well as with the Salt the Earth nature of what the virus itself is expected to do.
    • The modem Reese and Shaw find in the NSA evidence room once belonged to Edward Snowden.
    • A couple to David Bowie: Finch referring to himself as 'The Man Who Sold The World' (which doubles as a Call-Back), and the self-driving car by Tesla Motors is named after famed inventor Nikola Tesla, who was played by Bowie in series creator Jonathan Nolan's The Prestige.
    • Shaw says, "Let's see what's behind Door Number One" when opening the door to the NSA evidence room.
  • Spurned into Suicide: Alt!Reese was able to save Alt!Jessica from her abusive husband, but did it so violently that he scared her into rejecting him. This drove him over the Despair Event Horizon and he ended up killing himself a few months later.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Averted with Fort Meade — the front gate is guarded by an S barricade and armed soldiers, one of whom has a fifty-caliber sniper rifle. All personal electronic devices are banned, visitors must pass through a metal detector and X-Ray scan, and the entire building is a Faraday cage.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Greer, who is more than willing to do this at Samaritan's behest.
    Finch: Samaritan will kill you, too!
    Greer: The queen sacrifice! So be it!
    • The Machine helps Finch upload the virus to destroy Samaritan, fully aware that it will destroy her as well.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Attempted by Samaritan and Greer to stop the virus. Finch escapes, but Greer dies.
  • Think Happy Thoughts: The Machine urges Finch to "think positive". While he's walking past the memorial wall at Fort Meade.
  • Title Drop: "ICE-9.exe"
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The death of a few whistleblowers and recalcitrants (or democracy) is a Necessary Evil when Samaritan is stopping wars, preventing disease, reducing crime and feeding the starving peoples of the world.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: Greer again warns about The Great Filter.
  • We Can Rule Together: Greer argues that Samaritan has reconsidered destroying the Machine, and now wants them to join together.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Agent LeRoux really is an FBI agent, not just Impersonating an Officer, but one entirely willing to commit mass murder on Samaritan's behalf. Fusco says he'd rather die than live in a world where cops like him are "the good guys".
    • Greer is willing to kill himself to stop Finch, regarding it as a Heroic Sacrifice for the new order.
    • Alt!Root is an unquestioning killer for Samaritan, as is Alt!Shaw for ISA.
  • We Need a Distraction: The guard is about to compare the picture on the stolen passport with Finch's face, when the X-Ray scanner goes off. The Machine has tapped into it and made it display a false image of a weapon in someone's briefcase.
  • Wham Episode
  • White Shirt of Death
  • Who Are You?: Finch is no longer "a concerned third party".
    Barnett: Who are you?
    Finch: Who am I? I'm just like you, Mr. Barnett. A man who sold the world. Only I charged them $1.
  • You Can't Fight Fate:
    • Greer and Samaritan argue to Finch that the rise of an Artificial Superintelligence is inevitable.
    • The Machine says they only postponed Reese's death by recruiting him into Team Machine.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: The reaction of Alt!Fusco's former police colleagues to him turning up at the precinct.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Alt!Greer orders Alt!Root to do this to Alt!Senator Garrison, verbatim.
  • You're Insane!:
    • When Agent LeRoux reveals that he's the one who killed off the missing people, Fusco says bluntly, "You're a lunatic." LeRoux just laughs it off.
    • Finch tells Greer "You've gone mad!" Given that Greer is willing to kill himself at Samaritan's behest, he's likely right.
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