Person of Interest "Provenance" Review: Not One for the Heist-story Books

By Tim Surette

Feb 05, 2014

Person of Interest S03E14: "Provenance"

Oh man, this episode! We've been tricked before into thinking that a new episode of Person of Interest that was isolated on a little scheduling island would be a standalone adventure, so as not to disrupt any season-long flow the show had going, only to have it be a big, mythology-raising installment ("Lethe"). But "Provenance"—which is sandwiched between two, two-week-long breaks, as the show won't be back until February 18—was as self-contained as an episode of POI can be. Was it entertaining? Sort of. Was it necessary in the annals of Person of Interest? No, absolutely not, unless you are obsessed with Shaw's wardrobe. 

In fact, no previous knowledge of Person of Interest was necessary to follow "Provenance," because the hour was basically cartoon-like, in that each character behaved like their one-sentence description would dictate. "Me John Reese! Me tough mumble guy!" "Me Shaw! Me grumpy and love guns but can be pretty too!" "Me Finch! Me tappa-tappa on the computer box!" I often think of Person of Interest as a product, and how it could be licensed out to comic books, graphic novels, or even an animated series as a lesser version of itself. "Provenance" was a script for one of those adventures, a comic issue come to life or 30 minutes of Saturday-morning TV. It was entirely derivative, Xeroxing elements from and paying homage to every heist movie you can think of. 

But "Provenance" was just as much Person of Interest as "The Crossing" was, because the show proudly trumpeted, "I yam what I yam!" And as long as the show is having fun and self aware, I'll enjoy it. 

This week's number belonged to Kelly Lin, an accomplished event planner who would be quickly outed as a former silver-medal-winning gymnast who was now employed as a tumbling thief. Ha! Of course she was. But somewhere around the episode's second or third act, we learned she was a cat burglar with a heart of gold: She was extorted into elaborate heists of precious valuables because some evil man held her adorable daughter hostage and threatened to harm her if Kelly (fake name) didn't do as he said. Obviously, that meant Reese, Finch, and Shaw decided to help her pull off an incredibly complicated burglary of the Gutenberg Bible in order to keep her kiddo safe, because that's what they do. 

The mission itself was nothing new and everything old. There were laser sensors and motion detectors and electrified fences and rooms that required fingerprint access etc., etc., etc., and that's where the episode disappointed. I was all for a Person of Interest heist episode because why not? But some originality would've be nice. Coincidentally after watching "Provenance," I watched a rerun of Community and it was "The First Chang Dynasty," the comedy's own heist episode. And you know what? It did the heist story better than POI did. 

However, I'm still heavily invested in POI's goofy characters and I love the show's cheeseball humor, and watching these guys choreograph themselves into a well-lubed heisting machine had its moments. "I'm a sucker for watered-down booze and mini quiche," Shaw deadpanned. And was Reese wearing a fake mustache as a disguise, or as part of an audition for The Americans? There was some really entertaining tongue-in-cheek stuff here, and you have to respect POI for shamelessly going all-in on the caper drama. The show even went so far as to soundtrack the whole thing with late-'90s big beat electronica from The Propellerheads and The Lo-Fidelity All-Stars (which provided plenty of nostalgia for my old breakdancing days). 

In the end, they got the Bible! Yay! And Ms. Lin got her daughter back and everyone was happy. And it wasn't until the very end of the episode that "Provenance" tapped into the emotional core of POI when the crew was sitting around enjoying post-heist cocktails and Reese demanded that a fifth glass be poured for their absent member, the late Joss Carter. That made me sad. It was a sobering reminder that despite the non-lethal high jinks and wisecracks of "Provenance," their work is dangerous and, sometimes, deadly. And also that Reese is a big softie. 


– Poor Fusco. He was relegated to errand boy this week, showing up with security plans for the targeted building because of his connections, taking Reese out of cops' hands with an "I'll take it from here," and pulling over security guards to get their fingerprints. It became funny toward the end, because whenever someone was in trouble, Fusco would pop in and solve the problem with "I'm a cop." 

– I have it on good authority from sources who are close to the matter that the French Interpol guy's accent was terrible. (Thanks Aghie!)

– Question: Did the lady who was checking guests off the list imply that Reese and Finch were gay, or was she noting how handsome Reese was because she wanted a piece of that? Second question: Is there Reese and Finch slashfic? 

– Was anyone else confused by Lin casually strolling out of the freshly burgled museum in her thieving outfit? Not exactly low-key. 

– Not much else to talk about, so which Shaw outfit did you like best? 

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  • Lollipopfop Mar 31, 2014

    I stopped watching POI when Shaw became a regular. She just annoyed me too much, and took too much away from better characters. Just checking in to see if there was any reason to come back…NOPE. Guess not. You all can go ahead and drool over her udders all you want.

  • bothcats Feb 24, 2014

    Outfit number 3.

    I enjoyed this caper episode, even the stand alone episodes of POI are entertaining:-)

  • ale00928 Feb 10, 2014

    From a Podcast of TV Talk (yes I do listen to this sometimes) I learned that the word PROVENANCE means the origin or source of something. From the same podcast I learned the theory that this episode may be the beginning of something new. It does make sense, the heist, the new suit, a softer Shaw, fewer bullets to the knees, and the whole group sitting together at the end (without Root), the glass for Carter. Yes, it is possible that Person of Interest has turn a corner and it will go into a new path. It sounds good to me.
    And it may make this episode, which many did not like, important for what is coming next.

  • robhatch986 Feb 09, 2014

    First off, I'm really annoyed with this one week on, two weeks off crap. I can understand it over the holidays, but are the Olympics really the excuse now? What POI fan would mind missing an hour of snowboarding to watch a new episode? I for one don't even watch the Olympics.
    This episode was just another silly/fun episode like 4C, and I agree with others who have said we're just spoiled by how outstanding the story arcs have been, and agree that taking a break from the really intense stuff once and a while is a necessary evil. I am dying for them to get back into to it though, I really want to see what Root and the machine have been up to.
    I notice a lot of people brought up the Reese/Finch gay thing, which I think was obviously just a case of Finch having fun playing off of the woman's assumptions, but am I the only one who noticed the eyes and facial expressions that Shaw made during, and after her first encounter with Lin? If there weren't outright gay implications, there was at the very least some bi-curious stuff going on.

  • Sproxar Feb 09, 2014

    Shaw's a bit like that with everyone. I'm not sure if she's fantasizing about sleeping with them or garroting them though, as it could go either way. There's even a bit of that vibe from Root. Outfit #3 above worked for me, BTW, but that may have just been because she was all hot and sweaty.

  • ale00928 Feb 08, 2014

    Funny, and good old entertaining. I feel after the dark previous episodes, and the time of mourning, this was necessary. At least for me. I liked it, I did have fun watching it. Kind of Mission Impossible meets the old show with Robert Wagner It Takes A Thief (I doubt anybody here knows what I am talking about)

  • Sproxar Feb 09, 2014

    I totally remember It Takes a Thief, and really enjoyed seeing them take the old heist movie tropes for a ride. Considering the skill sets of everyone involved, I'm surprised they haven't done this sooner.

    And for those of you complaining this show wasn't up to standards, that's only because POI has set the bar so high in the first place, and had exceeded even its own standards in the previous story arc. For any other network show, this would have been a great episode. Who doesn't like a heist?

  • ChicN Feb 08, 2014

    Unless it's a Handlebar or sitting on Tom Selleck's face, mustaches have no place in this world. Full beard or GTFO!

    I've read a grand total of one Reese/Finch fanfic (season 2, rated PG-13) and much like this episode it consisted of a random lady eyeing Reese and giving Finch the "you dun good" props. They diverged from what I assume is a trope in the Rinch (?) fandom and didn't have Finch tie Reese's bowtie--ON SCREEN.

    This episode was terrible, but I appreciate the shout-out to Well Dressed Men Porn.

  • Quachett Feb 08, 2014

    I miss Joss

  • johngregory35574406 Feb 07, 2014

    I thought the episode was a bit of an 'homage' to Mission Impossible series.

  • Swinglabacase Feb 07, 2014

    How convenient: the (otherwise useless) bars on the ceiling!

  • ChicN Feb 08, 2014

    All that tech assist and the gymnast forgot to chalk her hands before her bar routine. It wasn't like she was concerned with leaving copious amounts of sweaty prints!

  • woz22 Feb 07, 2014

    I a bit of a filler in episode after last week return of john in die hard on a plane, some bits were far fetched but thats why we like the show , I think they need to do something with fusco now HR out of the picture. Hopefully he be given more to do then just errand boy , POI is better then the wallowing with the beard!!!!!

  • johnmckenzie338658 Feb 07, 2014

    Watching this episode was like watching an episode of Leverage! Just plain simple fun without any serious stakes or emotional attachment, 40 minutes where you can just switch off your brain and just enjoy the ride, knowing that at the end the good guys will win and the bad guys will get whats coming. Definitely one of the weaker episodes of this season/series but nonetheless entertaining, although I was disappointed there wasn't more of a twist, I'm sure everyone guessed that the chinese lady was being blackmailed into stealing when Shaw let her go the first time after the gala event. I even guessed that it was her daughter they had! The writers pretty much went to plot devices 101 for dummies and dug this script up.

  • hopitopia Feb 07, 2014

    they did a one off, and with the schedule as it is, I was okay with it. I have high hopes for the rest of the season!

  • Irrelevant226 Feb 07, 2014

    I thought 4C was a one off-this was a 2 off!

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