The basic foundation of Person of Interest is that punchy John Reese and brainiac Harold Finch get the social security number of one person in each episode, deduce whether that person is a potential threat or potential victim, and then shoot a bunch of people (usually Eastern European thugs) and save the day. Last night's episode, "C.O.D.," partially followed that course when the Machine handed our Dynamic Duo the digits of a Cuban cab driver, but after that, things got a little muddy and thrown off-course for one of the softer episodes of the season. There were some fantastic redeeming parts of "C.O.D.," most notably everything with Lionel Fusco and BEAR ATTACK!, but the case-of-the-week was all over the place.
This week's person of interest was Fermin Ordonez, a former Cuban baseball prospect who defected to America for a shot at the big leagues and a current hard-working cab driver who got caught in a bad situation when a Russian computer hacker left a valuable laptop in the back seat of his car. Needing some cash to import his wife and son from Cuba, Fermin sold the laptop to a computer store not knowing that it contained all kinds of info from Homeland Security, the kind of stuff that terrorists drool over. The computer store guy sold it to another guy, who then tried to resell it on the black market after realizing what it contained. Meanwhile, the Estonian mafia, who was originally going to buy the laptop from the Russian hacker, was killing anyone who came in contact with the laptop because they wanted it for themselves. It was a lot to throw into an hour of television, and by about halfway through the episode I had no idea where it was going or what the case was really about. That's usually a bad thing.
I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often in Person of Interest cases, actually. Things should be messy all the time; Reese and Finch can't just walk into a case and see it in black and white. Variables and third parties should always be involved, as if this were real life. Oh, but wait, this is television and the reason "messy" doesn't happen more often is that "messy" makes for bad television.
The biggest problem was that Fermin was only involved in the case by accident and his role in it was menial; he was just a guy who came across the laptop and then took a back seat for most of the episode. In fact, there was only one time when he was really in danger. The real focus of the episode was the laptop itself, but I think The Machine would have just confused Finch if it sent him the serial number for it. The computer store guy, the Russian hacker, or the guy who bought the laptop off the computer store guy could just as easily have been the person of interest, diminishing the importance of Fermin. Don't get me wrong, Fermin was a good guy whose plight formed the emotional core of the episode, but in adding so many other spare parts, the case lost its focus early and never got back on track for our own selfish viewing purposes.
Was the scene with Mendoza, the man who was going to smuggle in Fermin's wife and kid, necessary? Was Fermin's sidewalk encounter with his old baseball buddy important? Was that middle step with the computer store guy ultimately essential? Did we need to spend so much time with Carter and that Secret Service lady? There was a LOT of fat that could have been trimmed in order to streamline things, because "C.O.D." was busier than a knee specialist after a John Reese shooting spree.
Ultimately, Finch bought the laptop for $100,000, the Estonians had their lights punched out, and Fermin swapped the laptop for the safe transport of his wife and kids. The Ordonez family reunion was touching, but that's pretty much the case any time a family of hard-working immigrants gets a happy ending (it also never gets old for a sensitive guy like me). Fermin himself was a solid character and a character I wouldn't mind seeing return as extra help for Reese and Finch. Imagine Reese calling in Fermin to drive him around or throwing a split-finger fastball to knock out some bad guys!
What was fun to watch was Fusco getting pulled back into working for HR. Poor Fusco is never going to see the end of this, it seems, and though the push-pull could get repetitive (I think this is the third time he's been drawn back into his old life?), this time there are some serious stakes! MURDER STAKES. HR vice president Simmons obtained video of Fusco's involvement in the killing of a cop in Season 1, and when Fusco didn't play nice, Simmons called in a tip to Carter. Hello, awkward workplace situation! Fusco has worked hard to get into our good graces, and he's one of the more likable characters on the show because he's the perfect picture of a shlub who's gone good and changed his life from selfish dirty cop to helping others (essentially the core theme of Person of Interest's main characters). It would be a bold move for the show to take him off the table, and with Fusco and Carter essentially of the same use to Reese and Finch, it's definitely a possibility.
"C.O.D." made mistakes with a convoluted case, but some of the extras—Fusco's problems with HR, mostly—made it a decent watch. Next week we head to the mid-season finale, where I expect things to pick back up.
– Bear back in action! YESSSSSSSSSSS! The vicious man-killer had been reduced to puppy playpal since eating all that money in the beginning of the season, so it was nice to see him out in the field doing what he was trained to do, namely chewing up that Estonian's arm. And then later in the episode he was fetching tennis balls with Reese. Hey producers, I'm requesting a future episode told EXCLUSIVELY from Bear's point-of-view.
– The Computer showed us some really cool criminal-organization family trees. That was totally badass.
– "Acute lead poisoning," haha Carter.
– Does a cab from Manhattan to Queens really only cost $11.50?
– I like how Reese took Fusco's call when he was in the middle of beating up Estonian thugs in the middle of the street. That's a caring boss.