The numbers never stop coming, not even when Team Machine has to grieve.
“Synecdoche” picks up very soon after the events of the tragic 100th episode. Reese and Fusco are standing by Root’s graveside lamenting the fact that they can’t even give her a proper burial. Their conversation really reveals just how much Root, a.k.a. Coco Puffs, meant to them and how much they will miss her.
Unfortunately, everyone on Team Machine isn’t being as open with their feelings. I’m looking at you, Shaw. Reese finds her hanging around the playground she took Root to in the simulation. Root’s death has really shaken her to the core, although she won’t admit it, and she’s decided that she’s tired of this simulation. So, she runs into the view of a camera to turn herself over to Samaritan and start a new simulation, but then a messenger carrying an envelope from Ernest Thornhill (The Machine’s defense mechanism) stops her. The envelope contains her newest cover identity, which she’ll definitely need because The Machine calls a nearby payphone to give them their latest number: The President of the United States.
Meanwhile, Finch is stuck in the middle of Kentucky because his car broke down. At this point, he’s not enjoying The Machine using Root’s voice to speak. “I don’t expect you to understand the loss of Ms. Groves,” he says coldly. But, The Machine does understand because she grew to love her — because Finch taught her how to love. In fact, Finch can’t conceive of The Machine’s grief because he doesn’t know it felt for her to experience Root’s death over 4,000 times as she worked through scenarios to save her life before she died.
Their conversation reminded me of how Finch was worried about the fact that she imprinted on him when he first built her. Since then, he’s tried his hardest to deny The Machine’s humanity, but now he (and us to some extent) can’t really do that anymore. The Machine does feel loss. Moreover, this exchange also makes us reconsider the events of “If-Then-Else” and how many times she watched her primary assets die.
With their new number in hand, Team Machine heads to Washington D.C. to cover a fundraising gala that POTUS will be attending. There, Reese runs into Logan Pierce (Jimmy Simpson), a POI from season 2 who runs the social networking app Friendczar and has been resisting the NSA’s requests that he turn over user data. While Reese catches up with Logan and searches the venue for anything out of place, Shaw meets Tracey Philips, the wife of a senator, and starts discussing POTUS’ controversial surveillance policies.
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However, that enlightening discussion is cut short when Reese finds a Semtex bomb right before POTUS makes his entrance. There’s no time to diffuse it before the timer runs out, so Reese and Shaw seal it in a heavy duty fridge and let it explode in there. When they return to the main ballroom, the terrorists responsible for the bomb broadcast a message on all of the TV screens declaring that POTUS will die tomorrow because of his illegal surveillance systems. Reese and Shaw notice a suspicious looking waiter sneak out and Logan Pierce looking suspicious in the corner.
“A former irrelevant number is about to do some relevant damage,” Reese says.
NEXT: What is Finch is planning?
While Fusco keeps an eye on the White House, Reese and Shaw interrogate the suspicious looking waiter whom they caught trying to flee the scene. When Reese’s good cop act doesn’t work, Shaw turns on the bad cop and threatens to torture him. Part of her is looking forward to torturing him because she’s angry about Root’s death. As we’ve been told, her emotions are on mute and the only way for her to process how she feels about Root’s death is through anger, which seems to be the only emotion that’s turned all the way up (and, honestly, is kind of sad). So, she electrocutes the waiter, forcing Reese to pull her out of the room. While he’s alone, the waiter breaks free and escapes — which is all part of the plan. See, Reese and Shaw hope he’ll lead them back to the people he’s working with.
Thankfully, he does, and Fusco and Shaw follow him to a building in DuPont Circle. There, they find the terrorist group, which is led by Tracey Philips, monitoring the plaza where POTUS is due to speak that day. Shaw and Fusco disarm them, but it’s too late to stop their plan because it’s already in motion. So, Shaw rushes to the plaza to support Reese while Fusco, doing his best Finch impression, stays behind to monitor the situation from there.
While Reese is patrolling the plaza, he runs into Joey Durban (James Carpinello), one of the first POIs that he and Harold helped out. But, there’s no time to catch up because Fusco figures out that the terrorist group was planning on using a Secret Service drone to take out POTUS once he got into his SUV after his speech. It’s too late to stop the drone, so Shaw steals a secret service agent’s sniper rifle and fires at POTUS (missing on purpose) to keep him from getting in the SUV before the drone blows it up. And, it works. POTUS is saved!
Unfortunately, the Secret Service doesn’t realize that Reese and company are the good guys and try to capture them. An agent shows up at the domestic terrorist’s base and arrests Fusco; however, Harper Rose (Annie Ilonzeh, from season 4), disguised as a Homeland Security agent, swoops in to save Fusco with some made-up story about a joint operation between DHS and the NYPD. Meanwhile, Joey Durban helps Shaw and Reese escape the Secret Service’s pursuit by helping them disguise themselves as members of POTUS’ army detail. As they watch POTUS drive off safely, Shaw points out that Samaritan didn’t tell the ISA about the attack on POTUS, which means it must have declared him irrelevant. That’s something she won’t stand for and she’s going to stop Samaritan from destroying the world — which is what Root would want. Yes, she has finally found her purpose again.
Later, Reese and Fusco meet up with Joey Durban, Logan Pierce, and Harper in front of the Lincoln Memorial and discover that all of three of them are working for The Machine. Yes, there’s another branch of Team Machine, which means the spin-off Person of Interest: New Orleans could be a reality! At some point, the Machine recruited these three people to handle irrelevant numbers that weren’t in New York and sent them to D.C. to save Reese and company. It’s a clever twist that accomplishes several things. For one, it addresses one of the holes in the show’s premise, i.e. what happens to all of the irrelevant numbers around the country? Also, it provides the show with an opportunity to consider the legacy of OG Team Machine’s work as it nears the end. Jeremy, Logan, and Harper are all people who, after being saved by Reese and company, have used their second chances to do some good.
If only Finch had a favorable view of his work so far. During another heavy existential conversation with The Machine, he says, “For so long, I have intended nothing but good, and it hasn’t gotten us very far. Perhaps it’s time for a different tactic.” Root’s death has made him very jaded about this entire enterprise and has pushed him to embrace his dark side.
So, Finch heads to an army base in Florida to steal a computer virus that will cripple Samaritan. However, using it will cause “significant collateral damage with devastating consequences.” But, Finch doesn’t care and has decided that there’s no other choice. If there’s one good thing to come from this journey to Florida with The Machine-as-Root, it’s that Finch finally arrive at a place where he can admit that hearing her voice is comforting because he misses her deeply. As he tries to escape the facility, Finch runs into a guard and threatens to have The Machine move his sick daughter to the end of the donor list unless he lets him go. Stone cold. If it wasn’t clear from the 100th episode, Finch isn’t playing around anymore.
The Even More Irrelevant List:
- When I interviewed Amy Acker for this piece, she told me that she was actually on the floor of the car while that first scene between Finch and The Machine as Root was being filmed; the producers thought it would be “beneficial” to have her on-set doing the dialogue with Michael Emerson since it’s some pretty heavy stuff.
- “No way, I’m done helping little old ladies cross the street.” —Shaw, before she realizes POTUS is the latest number
- “Those suits are just glorified wallpaper.” —Shaw, on the Secret Service
- “In this case, it was a little bit too clear that you were the victim and not the perpetrator, and that took some of the fun out of it.” —Logan, to Reese after saving his life