If you didn't remember a virus was plaguing the Machine, the opening credits were nicely deranged, while figures from the past (Finch's old flame Grace, Nathan Ingram) played significant roles and newer characters (Shaw) promise to figure prominently in next week's season finale. It was also nice to get Sara Shahi and Amy Acker in the same episode. If only we could've made it a trifecta of brunette hotness by including Paige "Zoe Morgan" Turco.
But enough of my immature fantasizing; strange things are afoot at the Library. Can Finch set things right? Will Reese go insane if he doesn't get to judo chop somebody? And there the hell was Fusco this episode?
Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson) and Mr. Reese (Jim Caviezel) haven't received a new Number of the Week in 10 days, and the clock is counting down (20 hours to go). Finch hypothesizes the Machine is still active but can't communicate. Reese, meanwhile, has taken to monitoring the NYPD police band for action. Det. Carter (Taraji P. Henson) braces him about their diminished presence. She fears these new Russians, who are even "worse than Elias."
The Special Counsel/Control's pipeline to the Machine is also suffering. They've also traced the virus to this Decima Technologies out of Shanghai. The Special Counsel thinks Decima is trying to destroy "the Program." And if that wasn't bad enough, his secretary "Ms. May" (AKA Root) (Amy Acker) has decided to give notice, which in this case means tie up the Special Counsel and interrogate him.
The Machine does manage to cough up a NotW: Ernest Thornhill. He's CEO of a data entry company (glamorous!) and just recently bought a bunch of pay phone companies (anachronistic!). The pair visit Thornhill's company, but he's out, and his workers are entering what looks like nonsense code over and over. Finch gets a call from Root, who knows about the countdown and offers her services in combatting the virus. Is it a trap? It's probably a trap.
2010! The year Finch and Nathan Ingram's substance abuse make contact! Finch tells Ingram he plans on proposing to Grace, but there's the matter of his "youthful transgressions" (sedition? MAYHEM? Jesus, Harold). Ingram needles him before receiving a mysterious text message. The Machine captures Finch's proposal to Grace, a moment which is simultaneously touching and unsettling.
Back in the present day, it's a "ripped from the headlines" moment when a fucking drone zooms in and destroys Thornhill's car, even though Thornhill isn't in it. What would Rand Paul say? Further investigation shows "Ernest Thornhill" is an invention of the Machine itself. Reese is all WTF? but Finch gets a message from Root and sends him on an errand to "Thornhill's" apartment, where he runs into Shaw (Sarah Shahi). And then the cops, who Finch has called. Shaw busts Reese out in a tear gas filled slow motion scene that Michael Bay will probably rip off for the next Transformers movie.
Root vaguely threatens Grace, then tells Finch once the clock hits zero, a certain pay phone will be called, and whoever answers will get "full admin rights" to the Machine: Decima's aim, it seems. Root proposes he join her to save the Machine, or lose both it and Grace. Hard bargain. Especially after the next flashback to 2010, where a joyful Finch follows Ingram down a back alley to ... the library, where Ingram has begun his marginally successful crusade to save "the irrelevant." Finch is horrified, and shoots down Ingram's pet project ("People die, they have been for a long time"), even though - unbeknownst to either - Nathan's number has come up. It seem Finch is merely continuing Ingram's plan, probably after he neglectfully allowed him to die. How Spider-Man.
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Decima's guarding all the pay phones in Midtown in anticipation of the big call. Reese and Shaw return to "Norhill's" company and square off against Not John Hurt, who tells them Finch was the man who sold the laptop Reese and Kara Stanton recovered in China. Sure, why not believe him?
Oh, and Carter's being set on a wrongful shooting beef by HR. This felt kind of tacked on, but I'm sure they'll flesh it out next week. Fusco, that's your cue.
In the end, Reese and Shaw take out the Decima bad guys at the New York Public Library, where Finch has arranged for the call. Two phones ring. Root answers one, Reese the other.
Next week: SEASON FINALE, BITCHES. Funny, feels like I just said that.