Is Manhattan in the middle of a city-wide truce or something? Is the Machine longing for a vacation and living vicariously through Reese and Finch? It's been a month since we've had a Reese & Finch case set in the Big Ol' Apple. I can only assume that criminals were too busy loading up on 64oz. cups of Mountain Dew and Mr. Pibb in anticipation of the soda ban that was supposed to go into effect this week. Crooks need their go-go juice!
This week's episode, "All In," took Reese and Finch out to the wretched, awful, dilapidated, can't-carry-Vegas's-jockstrap excuse for a gambling destination Atlantic City, where old people go to die after they lose their pensions on nickel slots and shrimp cocktails (not even prawns, we're talking those lousy little bay shrimp!). This week's number belonged to a senior named Lou (Spencer: For Hire's Ron McLarty), who was seemingly so old that he couldn't even read the numbers on his playing cards because he was one terrible gambler. After a few hacks into the online blackjack machines (LOL!) to track Lou's casino loyalty card, Finch discovered that Lou had been losing a few grand a day and was nearly half a mill in the hole. But Lou had also been as broke as a sociology major for some time, so tell me old man, where was all this money coming from?
It was a fun set-up for a few reasons. First, we're clueless as to what's going on right alongside Reese and Finch and the case unfolded slowly, allowing the intrigue of Lou's situation to dominate while Reese and Finch watched him from afar. Second, A CASINO! The predictable Ocean's 11 homages (long shots of people pushing casino carts!) and James Bond references ("I was an international spy, Finch. I know how to play Baccarat.") were great, and Person of Interest respected its elder influences knowing that if it weren't for them, it wouldn't be here today. These two things made for a good time in the well-paced standalone story, which ended up
After snooping and tailing crotchety old Lou in pharmacies and at Baccarat tables, Reese and Finch finally got the truth: the casino owner was squeezing old people to launder drug money by having them lose thousands at his casino. It's a fiendishly corny plan: the Fogey Squad would go to pharmacies where they'd pick up prescription bottles full of thousands of dollars, then they'd take that cash to the casino and hit on 19 or bet on the Charlotte Bobcats. Ha ha, I got a kick out of this. Person of Interest can be ludicrous in the best ways.
But the episode quickly became about the little guy versus the big guy, when Lou revealed that, with the help of his wife's advice from her deathbed many years ago, he wasn't going out like a chump and was going to take the casino for every dirty dime he helped launder. See, Lou happened to be one of the city's best cardsharps (not card shark as I thought for the first 99 percent of my life), so Finch lent him a million bucks to help him win it back. Then Lou CHEATED his way to pocketing about 20 million dollars through hand switcheroos to hit nines (the Baccarat winning hand) all day. Sure, why not?
The victory was short-lived as Mr. Casino Owner wised up to their cheatin', and soon Reese, Finch, Lou, and Leon (more on him below) were in the one room of a casino you don't want to be in: the ones with the blood-crusted vices where scammers are taught not to mess with The House. There's a completely silly game of Russian Roulette played, but it's worth it when Lou revealed he slight-of-handed the bullet out of the gun and then punched the casino owner in the face. This certainly obeyed the unwritten law of entertainment, which states: "Anything old people do is infinitely more awesome than if a younger person did it." Finch turned in some hacked documents indicting the casino owner, and his elderly-abusing ass was thrown in the slammer. Later, Finch handed over that two-million-dollar watch that was given to Reese by the millionaire tech genius from "One Percent" to Lou, telling him that if he fixed it (Lou was a watch repairman of course) he could keep it and buy that diner he's always wanted. Yay! Good guys win!
While Reese was getting free cocktails on the casino floor and Finch was playing cards in a diner, things were much more serious with Carter and HR. Detective Bill Szymanski (the Geico guy) was under heat after supposedly getting set up by HR conveniently before Szymanski was supposed to testify against Russian gangster Peter Yogorov. Alonzo Quinn (Clarke Peters) kept Szymanski off the witness stand in hopes of partnering with the Russian mob for funds to help rebuild the crippled HR. Despite Carter's attempts to prove that Szymanski is clean, Quinn was willing to go one step further and murdered Szymanski and his lawyer, ensuring that Yogorov would be eating Borscht with his other Russian mobster friends later that day. I hope Geico has good life insurance, Szymanski! And because Person of Interest villains are a special kind of loony, Quinn had his own man shoot him in the shoulder to make for a believable story about a gunman shooting everyone. Do not mess with HR.
The emotional punch of the episode came near the end, as Finch and Lou bonded over the loss of loved ones. When Lou found out that Finch's love Grace was still alive and kicking, Lou smacked Finch upside the head and told him to go get her. But poor Finchy, he just can't and *sniff* it tears him apart. "I'll grow old with her, Mr. Reese, just from afar. Beyond that, it's best not to think about it." And that's the sound of my heart shattering into a million tiny pieces.
"All In" worked as both a standalone and a mythology episode, splitting the episode between fun and serious business. It was certainly a better episode than last week's, but I'm still grouping into the big middle pack of Person of Interest episodes. Entirely satisfying, but my brain is still intact.
NOTES OF INTEREST
– "All In" brought back Leon (Ken Leung)! I love how the guy is on the Machine's speed dial, and that any time he's in trouble (as he was with Nigerian scammers in the episode's opening scene), he knows Reese is going to save his ass. This was what, his third time being a number? Great recurring gag that I hope never ends. And hooray for Bear getting some action in the field!
– I'm still concerned about Cal Beecher and how dirty he is. Yes, he made the call that turned in Szymanski, but was he doing it as part of HR or because he saw the evidence? And how tight is his connection to HR? Is he being roped into working for them against his will? I'm guessing he's not entirely clean, but he's definitely not entirely bad, either. HR is probably holding something over his head so that he's forced to work with them. That's my official call!
– I may be wrong, but isn't Baccarat really hard to lose at because it's simply a game of chance? Don't you just pick Banker, Player, or Tie and the cards fall where they lie? Upon further investigation, there are two variants of Baccarat that do involve skill, but they're rare and the overwhelming favorite for American casinos is the version where no skill is involved.
– Really bummed they didn't squeeze in some scenes of Reese playing cards. Lots of missed potential there!
– As Finch was hacking the blackjack machine: "The game is so eager to let me play, it's allowing my malware to slip through." How does Michael Emerson say these lines without cracking up?
– Those cuts to scenes of dudes who've been freshly beaten up by Reese never get old.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom