Get off the Facebook! Delete those pictures of your credit card info from your Instagram! Stop updating your profile on AllMyPersonalInfo.Net! Person of Interest approached the issue of internet privacy head on in "Nothing to Hide," a direct response to all the real-life NSA hoo-ha that happened during Person of Interest's offseason, not to mention the daily routines of online junkies who unwittingly leave roadmaps of their lives on the internet with every click of their smartyphones and computer boxes. And you know what? It was a VAST improvement over last week's Navy-themed Season 3 premiere.
Series creator Jonah Nolan's head must have exploded with glee when news of the NSA's data-collection broke. Not only could he gloat about predicting the government's invasion of the public's privacy, but it also validated his show that much more. However, the issue *does* raise the question of whether Reese and Finch and their mechanized superfriend—who are doing something similar with regard to collecting information—are also mistreating the right to privacy. After all, if he wanted to, Finch could find out that you've been watching Dads on demand with just a few strokes of the keyboard. "Nothing to Hide" went out of its way to distance our heroes from greedy data miners and put us all at ease that the Machine won't abuse its privileges to make fun of our Netflix queue.
Our person of interest this week was Wayne Kruger, a hotshot internet dude whose company Lifetrace operated under the guise of connecting old friends when really it was taking information that people volunteered (including what they ate through cross promotions with grocery store loyalty programs, so stop buying Funyuns) and selling it to other businesses. But the lecherous Kruger was identified as a victim, not a perpetrator, because someone was systematically dismantling his life piece by piece. The mystery party destroyed his marriage by hacking a corny anniversary slideshow with spliced footage of Kruger's affairs (though that lame cheeseball video should've been enough of a reason to end that union). Then they went after his bank accounts and credit. Then they had his fine-ass (his words, not mine) secretary walk out on him. Then they posted his own past indiscretions, which included a history of a DUI and bankruptcy, on his Lifetrace profile after he declared that he had nothing to hide. That ruined a potential business deal before anything could be signed, and Kruger's life plopped into the toilet.
"Nothing to Hide" stripped away Kruger's character as his life was ruined, so that by the time we reached the halfway point of the episode, there was no doubt that Kruger was a jerk. Lifetrace had a history of being exploited by no-gooders or not working the way it was supposed to, and Kruger didn't care one bit. One Lifetrace member had his profile conflated with a rapist's because they shared the same name. Oops! Another lady had naughty bedroom pictures with an ex exposed, ruining her current relationship. And one Chloe Harper was murdered by a psycho ex-boyfriend after he found her information on Lifetrace three times. All these victims (or their families) came together to bring a class-action lawsuit against Kruger and Lifetrace, but it never went anywhere. And all these victims were being aided by an anonymous party who sent them packages with instructions on how to get back at Kruger, hence the hacked anniversary video, the emptying of Kruger's bank accounts, and the posting of Kruger's past on his Lifetrace profile. Through it all, one man—the father of the woman who was killed by her ex—emerged as the prime suspect and ringleader of the complex Operation Kruger Takedown.
As we neared the end of the episode, all compassion for Kruger had been obliterated and Person of Interest had painted him (and by extension, data brokers in general) as a greedy, amoral asshole. Even after Reese and Finch saved his life and took him to a safehouse, Kruger couldn't wait to bust out of there and revisit the ruined business deal after the interested company decided to give him another chance. But here's the twist! The guy who called the meeting, a man named Collier who'd infiltrated the interested company, was part of a network of activists who "have chosen action over apathy to take back what men like [Kruger] and the government have stolen." Yes, maybe the odd meeting in a empty hotel banquet room with just one person from the company showing up should've been a red flag, but I was still thrilled that this guy turned out to be an avenger for the internet. And what he said—"This wasn't a game, Mr. Kruger. This was a lesson, the first."—implied that we've got ANOTHER new group to add to Person of Interest's mythology, and they're like a superpowered militant Anonymous. Can I just say... AWESOME. What a perfect addition to the series! Anyway, Collier shot Kruger dead and there was much rejoicing. (He shot Reese, too, but obviously Reese was wearing a bulletproof vest, but even if he wasn't I think Reese would have ripped the bullet out of his own chest and thrown it back it Collier, instantly killing him with a shot right between the eyes.)
"Nothing to Hide" separated the good from the bad from the unknown in the debate over the morality of information collecting. Obviously Kruger's kind—who will sell your Instagram photos of what you ate—are the worst and most despicable. "Your business is minding other people's business," Finch told Kruger, with more than a hint of disgust. Finch defended the Machine's use of information by saying that it's airtight, and only spits out a social-security number and nothing more. And that's fine and dandy as long as the Machine is never compromised (though it's not as impenetrable as Finch thinks it is, if Season 2 is any indication). And the members of Collier's unnamed group are the wild cards, the hackerz and vigilantes for a free and uncensored internet that isn't abused by corporations and the government. Jonah Nolan has always been an idealist with both Person of Interest and the real world, and he genuinely believes in the power of good as it pertains to technology. He loves gadgets and gizmos and understands their benefits, but he can't ignore the potential pitfalls of an always-connected society. "Nothing to Hide" was his most on-the-nose (and sometimes heavy-handed) depiction of this, and he weaved it excellently into Person of Interest's world.
Meanwhile, Carter was still snooping around the Cal Beecher murder case, convinced there was more to the story than what she knew. That looks like it will be part of a season-long arc for her as she gets closer to taking out HR and Quinn. But of more immediate importance was her new partner, the fresh-outta-the-academy Laskey. He looked up to her and knew of her legendary triumphs, but Carter had no time to show him the ropes, what with all the behind-the-scenes investigating she's doing and helping out Reese. It was a gutsy move for Laskey to speak his mind in an attempt to sway Carter into giving him a chance, and I respect the guy for it.
HOWEVER. I've read some of your comments and already several of you are saying Laskey is a dirty cop working for HR to take Carter down. Sure, you're probably right, but come on, why do you have to be so cynical? Let's give the guy a chance! Look at his face! Would a dirty cop really throw up at the sight of a dead body like Laskey did? Is Spontaneous Regurgitation Control (SRC) part of the training program for HR? I'm going with he's a good kid who HR will try to recruit because he's partnered with Carter. (Though chronologically, Carter did bump into Quinn at Beecher's grave and THEN Carter met Laskey, meaning Quinn could have planted him, but that would have required very quick work.) But we can all agree that Laskey is going to die, right?
"Nothing to Hide" was a big step up from "Shore Leave," and more like the ideal episode model for Person of Interest. The case-of-the-week story was good, it weaved in some potential bigger mythology, and we're all left with something to think about (get off the Facebook!). Now if you'll excuse me, there's a Nigerian prince who I have to make some lucrative business deals with via email.
– BAD DOG, BEAR! How could you allow Kruger to knock Finch over the head and let him get away? Kruger's body should have been halfway through Bear's digestive tract when Finch woke up. You're a military attack dog, not a military slow-down-the-bad-guy dog! No treats for you.
– This week's episode featured a much better use of Samantha Shaw, if you ask me. She was more like an errand girl for Reese and Finch than a big part of the team, which suits me fine because I'm all about Reese and Finch. You guys are all having a big debate over her character, and that's good. We should be talking about it. But before anyone gets too upset and cries bloody murder, let's also give the situation some time to evolve. Nolan and Greg Plageman are still working things out. For extra reading on this, check out my POI story from Comic-Con, where I asked Sarah Shahi if she thought adding Shaw to the team would disrupt the dynamic.
– No Root. That sucked. But her addition would have made this episode pretty busy. (Not that Person of Interest is any stranger to heavily packed episodes.)
– When that elevator was in free-fall with Kruger inside, did it just stop? Shouldn't that thing have been crushed like a tin can?
– I loved Finch's attitude toward Kruger over his hacking skills. His curt "Do you mind?" when Kruger peered over his shoulder and his dismissive huff over Kruger asking him whether he needed Kruger's password were hilarious. Michael Emerson played those moments perfectly.
– Kruger: "You can't fight the technology. Those crying the loudest probably have something to hide." Finch: "People who say they have nothing to hide almost always do." So basically, everyone has something to hide and we're all perverts. I would not argue against that.