Person of Interest: What's the [Contingency], Kenneth?

Man, this cryptozoology stuff is hard.
Man, this cryptozoology stuff is hard.

Aaaaaand we're back. Hope everyone had a good summer. Now where were we?

Oh right, last season ended with a literal bang, as Caroline Turing, Reese and Finch's latest POI, turned out to be none other than the mysterious hacker known as "Root." On one hand, she solved Finch's "Alicia problem" by letting a little air into the former government liasion's brain pan. On the other, she kidnapped Finch, presumably to gently question him about the Machine and its capabilities.

So now Reese is his own, Carter and Fusco have realized they were both working for Finch the whole time, and the mastermind behind the Machine is about to be poked with the soft cushions. So many questions: what's Root's angle? What really happened to Nathan Ingram? And most importantly, will we ever see Reese in that sweet beard again?

Root's (Amy Acker) interrogation of Finch (Michael Emerson) starts in a Delaware diner. Her goal: well, that's not clear at first. She's content at first to shower him with praise for his genius at designing the Machine. As the episode goes on (the Root-Finch storyline is rather static for the time being), we learn she views most humans as "bad code," and feels great admiration for the fact Finch created as "intelligence," accompanied by contempt for the fact he handed it over to the government.

The "contingency" that Finch referred to last season starts with a ringing pay phone (do those still exist?) and a coded message to Reese (Jim Caviezel) from the Machine. He decodes the message, which turns out to be a Dewey Decimal cypher for the Number of the Week's SSN. The Machine apparently expects him to keep working in Finch's absence. Reese also pays a visit to Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and asks her to bird dog Alicia Corwin's trail.

The contingency, such as it is, is Reese himself, as we learn through flashbacks that he was recruited to keep things rolling even if something happens to Finch. The lucky winner this week is Leon Tao (Ken Leung, another Lost alum), who stole eight million dollars from some pleasant Aryan Brotherhood fellows. Reese deals with the first batch of these handily. Leon, however, turns out to be an annoying as hell sidekick. More on that later.

This week's flashbacks show Finch putting the Machine through its paces in the early years (2002 - 2003 ), including using it to help him play blackjack in Atlantic City. And he learns an important thing...he can't allow the Machine to protect him, which is a handy way of explaining why it didn't predict/prevent his kidnapping.

Even if he totally was right in hitting on 15. The dealer had a face card!

Also back in this episode, the sinister head of the Office of Special Counsel (first seen in "No Good Deed"). He wants to know what happened to Corwin, who was supposedly living off the grid. If we know anything about these guys, they'll probably turn up former NSA analyst Henry Peck, and ultimately Reese. Look for the OSC guy's button man to figure prominently in coming weeks.

Leon escapes from jail long enough to get captured by New York Nazis (I hate New York Nazis) and get Fusco (Michael Chapman) knocked out when he tries to take him back. Reese comes to the pair's rescue, wiping out an entire squad of Aryan Bros off camera thanks to his knowing the language of their ex-military attack dog. Now he has a Belgian Malinois. Ho ho ho. 

A meeting of the minds.
A meeting of the minds.

No really, it's cool that the new dog (Reese ends up naming him "Bear") will be a recurring character. I can just imagine how that story meeting went:

CBS Executive: We need a new wrinkle for season 2, people. What have you got?
Writer #1: Romance with Carter?
Writer #2: Matt Damon guest appearance as Jason Bourne?
Writer #3: Reese finds an evil Tiki?
CBS Executive: You're all fired. Reese needs a dog.
Writer #1: Really? He seems like more of a cat person...
CBS Executive: Cat?! Cats are for villains, like Blofeld, Dr. Claw, and Dr. Evil.
Writer #2: Technically, Blofeld and Dr. Evil are the same character.
CBS Executive: SHUT UP! Didn't I just fire you?

Also amusing: the Lethal Weapon 2 moment Reese and Fusco share (with Leon in the Leo Getz role, of course). The one-liners are also pretty good ("Like a gag order" actually made me LOL, as the kids say). But while it's good to see Fusco turning into a fully fleshed-out character, Carter continues to be little more than an errand girl.

Leon's attempts to trace Root prove fruitless, however, and Carter discovers Alicia Corwin's records have been deleted. Reese is forced to "negotiate" with the Machine to find Finch, which mostly entails threatening to let everyone who'd otherwise be saved get what's coming to them. And if I may say, he needs to find a better way of communicating with the thing than speaking into random surveillance cameras. That's a tasering offense in today's New York.

For all the efforts devoted to finding Finch, he and Root played a minor role this week. Root's big plan is to "set the machine free" (humans are "done," apparently). This reasoning strikes me as short-sighted, because if repeated viewings of The Terminator and Chopping Mall have taught me anything, it's that the first things machines acquire when they develop self-awareness is a murderous hatred for mankind. In any event, I'm still on the fence about Acker, as she has yet to convince me she can play ruthless and/or unhinged enough to make the character truly menacing.

Anyway, Reese deals with the rest of the Nazis, though he requires an assist from Carter to take down their (literal) Big Boss. Leon is free, but broke after Bear chews up his bearer bonds, and the Machine finally relents, giving Reese the SSN of a girl who went missing in Bishop TX many years ago. Is this the elusive Root? If so -- and assuming she didn't become aware of the Machine's existence until recently -- isn't it reasonable to assume it would have better intel on her?

Next week: Reese and Carter are Texas bound. Maybe they'll take in a Texans game.

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