Person of Interest: Nautilus (04×02)
Synopsis: A new number plays a dangerous game and makes it nearly impossible for Team Machine to help her.
Team Machine is back into the groove in the second episode of season four. Of course there’s still a little bit of tension since they’ve not all officially agreed to return to taking numbers, but they’re trying. It starts as every episode does: with a number. This time, the number is coming from Reese who essentially tricks Finch into taking the case. Sitting at a diner, waiting for Reese, Finch gets a first look at Claire Mahoney, a brilliant mathematics major. According to Reese, even though she’s an upstanding and diligent student, she’s recently been engaging in criminal activity. The Machine wants them to track her down, and though reluctant at first, Finch jumps into the task at hand.
Reese remains tied up in paperwork as Fusco piles it on him, a small bit of payback for all the crap he’s been put through no doubt.
While they’re dealing with that, the viewers get a peek into Shaw’s new world of theft. Root visits her while on a job and Shaw is curious about how becoming a criminal is going to keep her under the radar. I thought the line “criminals are ordinary” was a bit profound, especially in a show like Person of Interest. In the grand scheme of things, petty theft is just that: petty. When there’s two artificial intelligences duking it out in the surveillance game, one thief stealing relatively meaningless stuff is really nothing out of the ordinary. We’re witnessing a switch in reality, really, where Jonathan Nolan has created a new reality where minor criminal activity isn’t actually that interesting.
Let me remind everyone we still have no idea what the heck Root is up to under her new identity.
After this interlude, the storyline jumps back to Finch and the new number. He’s trying to figure out where the girl could be located while also attempting to deal with one of his students who needs him to actually live up to his cover. However, thanks to her he solves the first puzzle of many and is off to find Claire to figure out what sort of trouble she’s in. When he does find it, it turns out she’s playing a game. She’s working on a scavenger hunt like task involving one single symbol: a nautilus. This is also where this week’s episode got its name.
The contact with the number doesn’t go well and in a fit of paranoia, she shoots out a guy’s car window, tells them it was Finch, and books it. Thankfully Reese shows up at just the right time to take it into the hands of the law and arrests Finch for questioning.
Finch takes a break from the hunt and Reese steps in. He’s looking through Claire’s apartment when a man shows up claiming to be her father. Wrought with worry over his missing daughter, he convinces Reese to let him know if he finds anything. The moment the guy stepped on screen I knew he wasn’t actually who he said he was and was proud when my discovery was justified. I just can’t trust anyone new on this show, man. This show is the reason I have trust issues.
As the plot thickens, Finch and Reese struggle to understand what this strange scavenger hunt is and who is running the whole thing. Reese keeps an eye on Claire, who has a bunch of ex-military private contractors chasing after her because she stole one of their files. While he does that, Finch takes Shaw on a fun field trip to scare the living crap out of a barista to get more information about the game. The conclusion they come to? The game was established by Samaritan as a tool for recruiting.
Now this is an interesting turn and I’m curious about where they’re going to go with it. My first thought is that Samaritan is recruiting because Greer and his cronies want it to be. However, I think Samaritan is more than Greer and the people who do its bidding. I think Samaritan is like the Machine, insomuch that it has evolved well past its original programming to become something that strives for a greater purpose. The whole “game” that was being played during the episode reminded me a lot of an Asimov short story where an all knowing computer, called the Multivac, convinces a kid through a series of tasks to make his way into the heart of the machine to kill it. Ultimately, Multivac had evolved to the point it realized the pressure the world was putting on it and wished to end its life.
I don’t know if Samaritan is going down that path or not, but this episode certainly made me think of it. There was something about leading someone down a path to make connection with Samaritan, probably outside of the knowledge of its keepers that made me wonder if Samaritan is planning something bigger. It is hard not to see Samaritan as the “bad” computer and the Machine as the “good” one, but really both of them are just computers. Period. They are not good, nor are they bad, because those are merely human attributions. It is something to definitely keep in mind as the season progresses and we learn more about both.
Claire makes great strides in Samaritan’s game and ends up on top of Rockefeller Center where Finch meets her. They have a wonderful discussion about finding meaning in life and Michael Emerson shined in this scene. I swear, the man deserves an Emmy or Golden Globe nomination for his work in this episode. There’s a tender chemistry between Finch and Claire and for the first time I think there’s almost a bit of a weight lifted from Finch’s shoulders. He’s finding meaning in his own way and while it may not always work out, there’s still value in it.
In the end, Claire refuses his help. She disappears into the crowd and Finch lets her go. That’s definitely something I appreciated about this episode. In a lot of series the heroes are overbearing. They think they’re doing the right thing and will strive for it regardless of what other people do or do not want. Some people don’t want to be saved, or some people don’t need to be saved, and the hero’s perspective may be skewed. In this episode, Team Machine lets her go. They let her go because they gave her a choice and let her make it. It is refreshing to see that people are allowed to make choices and sometimes they make the not-so-great one, and that’s just how it is.
The heroes can only save people who make a choice to be saved, and Claire didn’t see anything she needed to be saved from.
So in the end, Claire gets connected with Samaritan. She ends up in a final conflict with the para-military company she stole a file from, but they are all shot dead right in front of her eyes. With a cell phone in hand, Samaritan gives her a short message: I will protect you now. This is another indication that Samaritan is more than just some evil competition for the Machine. It found a girl who needed to find meaning and offered it to her, just as the Machine offered Finch a chance at meaning. Samaritan isn’t inherently bad.
Finally, the episode ends on a high note. Finch finally makes the big reveal and shows the team the new batcave, stashed away in an old subway line repair station. It isn’t the library by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a hidden away antique “like us,” as Reese said. It is a new start, a rebirth if you will, and team Machine is back in action.