Person of Interest Recap - S05E02-03 - "SNAFU" & "Truth Be Told"

The Machine might be back to life, but the team still has a long way ahead of them before they can find Shaw and make a stand against Samaritan. This week, they fix bugs in their reborn artificial superintelligence and get back to saving lives.

S05E02 – SNAFU

The Machine may be up and running again, but there are still many bugs to be ironed out, including a hilarious one involving failed facial recognition that opened the episode and allowed to actors to play each other’s characters for a little while (as close to a body swap episode as this show will ever get). Finch and his new roommate, Root, are working tirelessly, but for every bug they fix, a new one appears. The solution is to provide the Machine with more processing power, which they get after a small heist (sans Root – without the Machine providing her cover identities she’ll be quickly recognized and killed off by Samaritan).

Thanks to their new acquisitions they manage to get the Machine working bug-free. They even successfully get it to run the irrelevant list protocol and receive new numbers–thirty of them. And that’s when problems start–the Machine has problems recognizing actual threats and sends them numbers that aren’t actually real (a fake bomb alert from a student who didn’t study for a test, an actor playing a murderer in a play) or took place a long time ago (a 50 years long dead mafia don). The Machine is unable to understand the context of a situation. So, in order to help it learn, Finch runs a command to contextualize him, Reese and Root, since the Machine seems to be comfortable with them. That’s when everything goes to crap.

Over the course of four seasons the team did a lot of morally questionable things in order to do their job, especially Reese and Root – and that goes even more for the latter, as she started out as a villain. After going through every recorded act of violence committed by them since the start of the show, the Machine classifies them all as threats, stops interacting with them, locks Finch and Root in the subway car and hires a hitwoman to kill John.

Finch and Root free themselves, but their every attempt to get close to the computer results in the Machine sending a loud noise to the cochlear implant Root got way back in season 3 to keep in touch with it. So in order to fix the problem, Root knocks herself out with an anesthetic and Harold has a chat with the Machine. Meanwhile Reese tries (and fails) to stop the assassin sent after him.

As Finch discovers, one of the problems the Machine has is that it’s currently unstuck in time. Previously it would mark each day with a number in the order since its inception: Day 1, Day 2 etc. But now it marks every day as Day R, where R is a mathematical symbol encompassing every possible number. It’s especially painful for it, as it’s experiencing every single time Finch had to kill one of its previous iteration after it made an attempt on his life – 42 death of itself at the same time.

To help it find its way in a sea of time, Finch reminds it of every single number they saved, since the beginning of the show. Those will serve as its lighthouses, helping it to make sense of time – and of the team. As Finch says, no person is entirely good or bad, but what they do–save lives–is a pure good. He can’t promise the Machine they’ll always do the right thing – but they will do the best they can.

After a truly touching scene of the Machine going through the photos of every person it and the team saved, and every audio clip of their thanks, the Machine reclassifies everyone back from "Threat" to proper classification. It can’t, however, get the assassin off Reese’s back, as she was paid in advance – but he manages to turn tables on her.

In the end, everyone shares a beautiful day in the park – with Root finally able to go outside their hideout (the Machine started providing her with new identities) and Fusco now being hailed as a hero for saving the only actual number of the list given by the Machine at the beginning. But that’s just the calm before the storm – there were two instances in this episode where Finch saw Grace, his fiancée, in the crowds of New York seen by the CCTVs accessed by the Machine, despite her being in Italy. Were they hallucinations caused by lack of sleep – or a sign of the Alzheimer’s his father suffered from?

Meanwhile Samaritan is gathering its forces and getting rid of potential disruptors. As we learned from a conversation between Fusco and Reese, there has been a significant drop in homicides, and a parallel increase in suicides. Reese knows what is going on – but Fusco starts prodding, he’s told to drop it. It’s only a matter of time before he finally finds out the truth.

S05E03 – Truth Be Told

Now that the bugs in the Machine seem to be fixed, the team is back to their jobs – Finch and Reese are back to working the numbers of the week, while Root is back to her missions against Samaritan. This time, the main case is connected to John’s past in the CIA. Back in 2010 he and his partner Kara Stanton (played by the returning Annie Parisse) investigated an army military advisor, Brent Tomlinson, about a shipment of Stinger missiles that was intercepted and then used by the Taliban. In the present day, he investigates Ian Duncan, a security manager in an international consulting firm, which has the Department of Defense as one of its clients. Which means when the number of the week starts stealing info from it, the CIA gets interested in him. This includes Reese’s former boss, Terence Beale (played by Keith David), who recruited him into the CIA, knows him well and is convinced he’s dead. Which means John can’t make an open move to save Duncan. That doesn’t stop Reese, who (with the Machine’s help) tracks Beale’s team and makes his move, being as creative as he can when faced with complications. Unfortunately that creativity clearly tells Beale John is the one who got in his way and very much alive.

Afterwards John has a little chat with the number of the week, who tells him he was investigating his older brother Paul Duncan’s death. Paul was a soldier who supposedly died a hero in Afghanistan – but as Ian discovered, he was no hero. He was under investigation for treason. He was also not a regular soldier, but a military advisor from the Pentagon, where he worked as an intelligence officer. When Ian shows John the files he took and uploaded to the cloud, Reese recognizes Paul as Brent Tomlinson – the guy he and Stanton investigated in 2010. And whom John killed. Whoops.

Obviously, Reese isn’t eager to share that information and instead helps Ian uncover what exactly Paul was involved in (with the help of Finch as a decoy for Beale and his men). Turns out that stolen shipment of Stinger missiles was part of Operation Desert Rain, during which the US shared those missiles with their allies in Afghanistan – off the books, as they were most definitely only supposed to be used by the US troops. But as they leave, Beale finds them and captures them, and during their drive back, informs Ian that John used to work for the CIA and investigated his brother. When asked by Ian, John decides to say that he and Stanton just left after finding nothing incriminatory and that Paul died a hero. That’s a lie – not only do we know Reese killed him, we later find out he did, in fact, sell those missiles to the Taliban. But as John later explains, what Ian really needed was to hear his brother was a hero, so that’s what he told him. Reese manages to free Ian and himself and later uses the information about Desert Rain as leverage to make sure Beale won’t go after Ian.

Meanwhile Root and Finch, using Root’s new cover as an APS driver (a stand-in for UPS), manage to get their hands on the malware that Samaritan is installing in electronic devices, as we learned last week. After Harold dissects it, he finds out the malware attempts to access all the files in the infected device and sends it all to Samaritan. After Root runs it on an isolated laptop, she discovers that while the file’s primary function is to connecting to our new ASI overlord, it’s also replicating itself and overriding the laptop’s code, changing it – into what, we’ll have to wait to discover.

Oh, and this is the episode where Reese ends his relationship with Iris Campbell (Wrenn Schmidt), which started last season pretty much out of nowhere. Good riddance to a chemistry-less relationship, shame for a waste and loss of a recurring female character.

I’ll see you next week for two more episodes. Meanwhile, here’s the Bear Moment of the Week. This week – Bear & Root!

Dominik Zine is a nerdy lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.