Person of Interest "4C" Review: Ridiculous Fun at 30,000 Feet

By Tim Surette

Jan 15, 2014

Person of Interest S03E13: "4C"

It makes a lot of sense that the episode that tied up one of this season's more ridiculous storylines (Reese leaving the group because yeah right he ain't going nowhere) would also be the season's most ridiculous episode. I mean, come on! Does all first-class passengers get noise-canceling headphones now, or was North by Northwest just so riveting that passengers wouldn't notice the pile of bodies accumulating in the back row? No one had to use the bathroom on an international flight, making it easy for Reese to repurpose the lavatories as unconscious-body lockers? Finch just had a remote flight stick handy and landed a commercial jetliner from his library? Yes, all of that happened and it was absurd. It also happened to be some of the most fun I've had watching this show.

Person of Interest will, at times, play speed-bag with our emotions as it did with Carter's farewell arc. It also occasionally spends some time in the mood of Christopher (and Jonah) Nolan's gloomy and gritty Batman films. But Person of Interest can also call cheesy '80s action films "daddy," and "4C" was crusted in curds, like a straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal movie. And since getting goofy is well within the show's tone, "4C" will be one of the series' landmarks in that arena, right alongside the daycare antics of "Baby Blue."

Reese's leave of absence from the team overstayed its welcome unwanted surprise visit two episodes ago (though the show proved it can still work with Reese out of the picture, I think we'd all prefer if he'd stick around), so "4C" was all about bringing him back. And the best part–and the main reason "4C" wasn't just a course-correcting throwaway episode–was how it brought him back and the questions it raised. The meddling Machine pulled a switcheroo on Reese's flight plan, diverting his escape itenerary to Istanbul (not Constantinople) to another flight to Rome. Sure, whatever, Reese was just trying to get the F out of Dodge, so he took it. ("No baggage," he said, though his Scotch-soaked eyes and scruff said otherwise.) 

The number-of-the-week belonged to a little nerd-squirt (played by Freaks and Geeks' Samm Levine) involved in the Internet's Black Market, a safe zone for the trade of illegal drugs, contraband, and everything else you wish Amazon had. "4C" played around with the mystery of his identity (Is he a perp or a vic? Why do people want him dead? Who is he really?) for as long as it could, but it was pretty obvious quickly that he was the enigmatic the Sphinx, the mastermind behind the Black Market, and not just a programmer as he claimed. It wasn't just Reese who got the Sphinx's digits, The Machine's other half also sent a government op to kill him, some Colombian hitmen wanted him dead, and some Middle Eastern faction also wanted X's over his eyes. Yes, all these people were on the same plane (and were willing to blow up the plane to make sure the Sphinx was taken care of), and yes, Reese dispatched of them all. Without anyone else on the plane noticing. Even though a lot of the combat took place in plain view. I have got to get me some noise-canceling headphones. Like I said, "4C" didn't spent much time in the realm of plausibility.

It worked because all the silliness was played up with a large side of ham. In the first minutes of airline-clichés alone, Reese punched out a rich dick and squished his precious luggage, the old lady sitting next to him talked his ear off, and a hyperactive kid going wild in the aisles drove him to drink. And Reese was full of awesome one-liners that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger blush. "I bet he could use a blanket," he told a sexy flight attendant after sending a mouthy businessman to premature sleep. I will always forgive the unbelievable as long as it's acknowledged by the writers, and Person of Interest is always great at letting the audience know, "I am what I am! And that's a show that likes to have a goof every once in a while."

But this is also a show that knows more than a thing or two about making us scratch our chin and say, "Hmmmmmmm..." Because for all the Van-Dammity of "4C," there were also a few incredible ideas posited. The idea that The Machine can pull Reese back into the job without him knowing is downright SCARY. The idea that The Machine would break protocol and put Reese in contact with a new number by bypassing Finch and the social-security/Dewey-decimal-system code is alarming. The idea that The Machine would also send Reese on a collision course with a "relevant" number (remember, "relevant" numbers are threats to national security and go to the government, "irrelevant" numbers belong to commonfolk and go to Finch) is ground-breaking for the show. This has never happened before on Person of Interest, and it means that The Machine's AI is advancing even more. It's weighing situations and going through new channels to solve problems. And sometimes, those problems are personal. Yes, a Machine can have personal problems!

What were The Machine's motives for sending Reese on that flight, especially since The Machine already sent a government operative to kill him? Do the partitions in The Machine (its government side versus the side that works with Finch) have conflicting interests? Did The Machine recognize a worst possible outcome (plane explodes, everyone dies) and then send Reese in to fix it? Towards the end of the episode (Spoiler: Reese saved the day with the help of Finch, who remote-control landed the plane) Reese declared that the actual numbers to be saved were the 130-plus innocent passengers on board that plane. That may seem like the logical reasoning behind The Machine's intervention, but dammit, this box of bolts has become a lot more to me than just quick-processing algorithms and I choose to think that The Machine sent Reese on that plane because The Machine wanted Reese back on the team. The Machine has shown the capacity for genuine emotion in Finch's flashbacks to its pre-release days, and I think it knows it needs Reese. Maybe The Machine even thinks of Reese as a friend. Maybe The Machine has a crush on Reese, I don't know. But something tells me that The Machine saw more than just another job to be assigned, and found a win-win scenario for everyone involved... unless you were a Colombian hitman. 

"4C" switched back to serious mode in the final moments when Reese and Finch met for some biscotti at an Italian cafe. Their future as a team cloudy (to them not to us, duh), Reese broke the tense uncertainty with a line that sent chills up my spine: "While I'm Italy, I thought I'd get fitted for a new suit." With that, Reese was back. And of course, a shocked and pleased Finch had a recommendation for a great tailor. Are these two an amazing team, or what?


– Three cheers for Holly the flight attendant! And she knew exactly what she wanted when she asked Reese to help her grab a drink. You go, girl. Reese got hoes in different area codes now!

– My favorite part of this episode by far was watching Reese push booze on everyone. On the Sphinx, on Holly, on himself, and even on a kid who needed to forget what he saw.

– Reese saved the Sphinx by putting him in a suitcase. Perfect! I would not mind seeing the Sphinx come back as a recurring character. 

– Just a little Shaw on the side as she explored the relevancy of the Sphinx's number by visiting her old employers. Not sure what we gleaned from this, but her sitdown with a drugged-up Hersh was fantastic.

– Reese, after punching the Sphinx while he was blabbing too much: "Sorry, sometimes it's just faster." Gotta appreciate a man who prioritizes efficiency.

  • Comments (368)
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  • Kuro_Neko- Jan 30, 2014

    I think you might be misunderstanding something here (or I am). What I got out of it, was it wasn't a relevant number and the machine didn't actually give that number to the government, Hersh (or his boss) just played it off as one to use official assets to cover up their own illegal doings. It was as far as I could tell an irrelevant number and went to the right people, even if it did bypass Finch.

  • Spectre_ Jan 24, 2014

    What a fantastic episode. It was the perfect blend all the things that make POI great TV. It was especially well received after the cringe-worthy scenes of Reese's self-pity. It is a nice addition to see Reese's re-affirmation of what him and Finch do together and the episode has opened up a lot of questions about the machine, it's motives and its capabilities.

  • bothcats Jan 23, 2014

    This is precisely the type of episode I have been waiting for to lighten the mood since Carter's passing. A overly silly episode was just what was needed!

    "Do the partitions in The Machine (its government side versus the side that works with Finch) have conflicting interests?" - This is something I hope they explore.

    I'm happy The Machine succeeded in bringing John Reese back into the fold in such a funny way:-)

  • eiram99 Jan 22, 2014

    I'm a few days late to this (just watched the episode), but I couldn't hold my tongue.

    1. I'm sorry, but your article needs some cleaning up. There are a bunch of typos and missing words - "When I'm Italy"?
    2. Calling Holly a hoe after giving her cheers? Not cool, dude. First, I doubt he's making long-term commitments to any of the women, so who cares if he has multiple partners? And second, why should she be a "hoe" for knowing what she wants and not being afraid to be upfront about it?
    3. Not point putting "spoiler" before the part in the final paragraph where you say Finch landed the plane -- you already spoiled that in the first paragraph.

  • OzTraveller Jan 30, 2014

    Well written Eiram99. This is yet another example of how this author writes some of the most biased and selfish articles. I am not sure why he is still with as I normally refuse to read anything he writes after reading his completely biased views. I only read this on because I didn't notice the author until I was about 4 sentences in and recognised the lack of integrity in writing.

  • Caviezelized Jan 19, 2014

    I liked the way the final conversation was a metaphor for the "free will" response to the problem of evil. Why do bad things happen to good people like Carter? Why does the Machine leave so much for the people who use it to figure out on their own? Finch's answer: the human element of free will is worth preserving. And the process is soul-building. Classic theological debate encoded in a few lines of dialogue. Even I, not a fan of the Machine as God thing, have to admit that's excellent.

  • Tigerbob Jan 19, 2014

    Enjoyable episode to get the team back together.

  • dref22 Jan 18, 2014

    LOL this was like a parody episode. Since when aisles on planes are this wide!?

  • ale00928 Jan 18, 2014

    The passengers were so into the Hitchcock movie North BY Northwest that nobody pay attention to all the fighting, and flirting moves. By the way, North By Northwest is a great Hitchcock movie, with another man with a suit, the amazing Cary Grant ;)

  • DesertWolf Jan 18, 2014

    I must say welcome back Reese we missed the action without you, the coming episodes will be amazing I hope.....

  • lynna12000 Jan 18, 2014

    This was a nice change of pace from all the angst of the first half of the season. I wouldn't want to replicate it on a regular basis; but it was fun to laugh at what was going on with Reese and company. And I have to admit that he certainly earned the drink at the end.

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