I’m not sure if the writers planned for this when they were crafting the season, but airing two episodes a week seems to be working out for Person of Interest. “Truth Be Told” — the weakest episode of the season so far, but still enjoyable — picks up on some of the threads in Monday’s “SNAFU,” particularly Reese’s dark past.
“Truth Be Told” opens with a flashback to a meeting at the CIA in 2010. Supervisory Agent Terence Beal (Keith David), the man who recruited Reese, assigns Reese and Kara to investigate a military advisor named Brent Tomlinson who is suspected of helping the Taliban steal a shipment of Stinger missiles. If they discover he’s guilty, they’re supposed to handle him, which is code for kill him.
Back in the present, Reese is trying to maintain a normal life, or as close to normal as possible. He’s supposed to meet Dr. Iris Campbell’s parents today and asks them to meet him at this pirate-themed bar where he’s taking care of a number in the bathroom. Once the number is handled, he casually strolls out to meet his girlfriend’s parents. Later, he tells Finch that the lunch started off rocky but her parents started warming up to him by the end.
After meeting the parents, Reese turns his attention to their newest number: Alex Duncan, a computer science guy who works for an international consulting firm that has a contract with the DoD. While the Machine is back to spitting out irrelevant numbers, it still has trouble processing and providing other information, so Finch can’t just ask the Machine if Alex is a victim or perpetrator, which means Reese has to go undercover. On his first day in the office, Reese realizes fairly quickly that something’s up with Alex because he seems pretty anxious and won’t get a drink with him after work. After everyone leaves the office, Reese observes Alex breaking into his supervisor’s office and stealing some files. Unfortunately, the CIA shows up, led by Terence Beal, and arrests Alex — which just made Reese’s job harder.
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With a little help from the Machine, Reese is able to track down where the CIA took Alex to drug and interrogate him. He infiltrates the building in a ski mask and rescues Alex; however, Terence recognizes his eyes and his in-field improvisational skills (removing the steering wheel of the CIA’s car so they can’t chase after them) and realizes Reese is alive.
In another flashback to 2010, we see Reese and Kara interrogating Brent Tomlinson about the missiles. He denies stealing anything, and they can’t find any evidence that he did in his room. Annoyed at being questioned, Brent starts ranting about how little he’s received for all that he’s done for his country, but Reese interrupts him by putting a bullet in his head because he interprets that rant as a sign of guilt. It’s only after he’s dead that Kara finds a stash of money hidden in his briefcase. Impressed by how cold Reese acted, Kara explains that Beal picked him because he had no family to go home to and would thus give all of himself to the agency.
NEXT: Reese does something stupid
Back in the present, Alex explains to Reese that he stole the files because he wanted to find out what happened to his brother. So far, he’s only been able to find out that Paul was being investigated for treason at the time of his death. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that his brother was Brent Tomlinson, whose real name was Paul and who worked for the Pentagon. With this predictable twist, Person of Interest is building on “SNAFU” by examining how Reese has changed over the years and seeing how having to kill Brent is one of the many sins that’s still weighing his heart down.
However, Reese decides to withhold this bit of information from Alex. They return to the office to go through the files to find out what Alex’s brother was doing for the Pentagon and why Beal was so intent on catching Alex. In trying to find out what happened to his brother, Alex came close to uncovering an off-the-books operation that the CIA wanted to keep hidden because it was illegal. Right as they figure this out, Beal and his men arrive and capture them.
In the car, Beal forces Reese to admit that he and his partner were sent to question Paul, but he lies and says that they left because Paul was innocent. It’s a small act of kindness on Reese’s part. And Beal, realizing Alex isn’t a spy, decides to go along with it. Once that’s cleared up, Reese does his classic “punch people in cars until the car flips” thing and escapes with Alex but lets Beal live.
The next day, Reese meets up with Beal, and the two reach an agreement. Reese won’t spill the beans about that off-the-book operation if Beal stays away from Alex. Beal also says that he’ll leave Reese’s name of out his report because he likes the idea of knowing Reese is out there in the world, “a ghost still doing what needs to be done.”
Following his conversation with Beal, Reese decides to break up with Iris because this war with Samaritan is forcing him to become the person he was before again. If he has her to come home to, he’s worried he won’t be willing to do what’s necessary. It’s a frustrating development because in season 4’s “Terra Incognito,” Reese had a near-death experience, and a visit from Imaginary Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) was supposed to have taught him the dangers of pushing people away and isolating himself.
To be fair, I understand what the show is trying to do; it’s examining how this war with Samaritan is forcing Team Machine to change. In fact, the theme of change is also prevalent in Finch and Root’s subplot. The Machine sends Finch a poem about metamorphosis right as it put Root in a position to steal a copy of the malware Samaritan has been installing in electronic devices. Believing this to be the Machine’s will, Root installs it on an air-gapped computer to figure out its purpose. Finch thinks that’s too big of a risk, but Root argues that they must be willing to change, “to do whatever it takes now, or else we’ve already lost.”
While I find this exploration interesting, I just wish there was more urgency to the proceedings in this episode. There must have been a way to take us down this road in a way that moved the story of this shortened final season along a bit further. “Truth Be Told” kind of feels like the show is stuck in a bit of a holding pattern. But that’s not to say this wasn’t an enjoyable episode. If anything, I’m looking forward to seeing how Terence Beal figures into the rest of the season. Will he be on Team Machine or Team Samaritan?
The Even More Irrelevant List:
- One of the things I like about this show is how it changes the opening credits depending on the state of the Machine. For example, last night they were barely there because the Machine wasn’t running. Tonight’s credits open with Finch’s usual voiceover, but Greer, who is touting Samaritan, interrupts him. “You granted it [Samaritan] the power to see everything, to index, order, and control the lives of ordinary people,” says Greer menacingly. “But, to it, you are irrelevant.” This is another instance of the show outlining the stark differences between the Machine and Samaritan.
- After installing the malware, Root finds out that the malware is replicating itself and overwriting the laptop’s existing code. For what purpose? Who knows.
- “Hey, sweetheart.” —Reese, answering a call from Iris while he takes care of a number. Even more proof he shouldn’t have ended things.