I wouldn't enjoy Person of Interest as much as I do if the show wasn't everything it is. At times it's one of television's most complex and prophetic thrillers, justifying the paranoia of the unruly masses. And at other times, it's a goofball procedural that pays homage to '80s action movies with stories that are cheesier than a Wisconsin football game and cornier than an Iowa field. I don't prefer one over the other; Person of Interest is both things equally, and the show usually finds a way to balance its two personalities. But occasionally it'll throw a strong dose of each into a single episode, and "Most Likely To..." was a great example. Dude, Vigilance went public with its knowledge of the Machine in the same episode that will forever be known as the one where Shaw and Reese went to a high-school reunion. And it was fantastic.
This week's number—well, the second number, since the first one was exploded thanks to a car bomb (add another blemish to the record)—belonged to Richard Alpert/Nestor Carbonell, guest-starring as a prosecutor named Matthew who was attending his 20-year high-school reunion. Reese and Shaw were dispatched to take on the identities of a couple of attendees based on a computer algorithm that matched their appearances to those of Matthew's former classmates: Reese was a womanizing ballroom dancer, and Shaw was a centerfold from Heinous Nerd Monthly. Yep, Shaw was not pleased that Finch's program thought she looked like Betty Harris. Bleh!
Sarah Shahi was on fire all episode, nailing all the comedic timing and facial expressions by cementing her mouth into an immovable line of contempt for all things high school. And the whole storyline was a goldmine for laughs if you have the sense of humor of a corny uncle, which I do. Reese and Shaw's respective discoveries of their cover identities' past lives were played up as much as possible; Reese was on the receiving end several slaps from unidentified women who was getting decades-old payback for old one-night stands, and Shaw starred in a sequel to She's All That, catching the eye of a guy named Thomas and even sharing a slow dance to Mazzy Star. Also, Reese and Shaw shared a hotel room with one bed (oooooooooh! Reeshaw!)... but in lieu of a sex scene, they unpacked their firearm-stuffed suitcases and set up surveillance on Matthew with close-ups of Shaw's bare ankles and a snake cam worming its way through the ventilation system. EROTIC!!! And of course there was a stoner dude, because there always has to be a stoner dude, and if you ask me, stoner dudes are always welcome on television shows ("Dudes, you're both like scary ninjas!").
The case in "Most Likely To..." was basically a whodunnit, but instead of being cooped up with suspects in a mansion on a rainy day or in a small-town sheriff's office during a storm, this murder mystery was set at a high school reunion. We met a list of suspects in the murder of Matthew's high school girlfriend Claire, who overdosed on prom night. All the alumni thought Matthew was to blame, but Claire's "Ducky" and eternally friend-zoned Doug was a possible suspect, some creepy dude named Phil wasn't who he said he was, and even Vigilance rudely showed up uninvited. After a string of cruel pranks reminded everyone in the gym that Claire was murdered, the truth came out: Doug accidentally gave Claire one too many pills in an effort to "relax" her enough to have unconsensual sex, and Matthew set up the pranks to push Doug to a point that he'd confess, with Matthew staging his suicide. Poor Matthew saw his genius plan interrupted TWICE, first by Reese and Shaw, and then by Vigilance, who shot the joint up. A few bang-bangs later, Vigilance was dispatched by a chemical bomb crafted by Shaw, and Doug and Matthew were whisked away in hand cuffs. Best high school reunion ever, truly a Night to Remember!
But "Most Likely To..." was far from a one-story hour. Finch and Fusco were paired off for a road trip to D.C., where they were investigating the secrets held by the episode's first number, a woman named Lorraine, before she was blown to bits by Vigilance. Lorraine was in charge of doling out security clearances for the government, and Vigilance wanted the list of names to get more information on what the government was hiding. The contents of her office were confiscated by the feds, and Finch and Fusco were tasked with retrieving the contents of an all-important safe. This is probably a good time to mention that Fusco and Finch also shared a hotel room, and that Fusco sleeps in a fuzzy eye mask.
Finch eventually got to the safe and cracked it with cool X-ray technology and learned that Lorraine's files contained names and info linked to "Northern Lights," the gov's codename for the Machine! Of course Vigilance head Collier showed up just in time to grab the documents and deliver a chilling monologue about the government nosing in on the public's business. Root showed up with her guns akimbo to save Finch, but Collier weaseled his way to escape and did something incredibly awesome and surprising that made me spit take my apple juice. He Snowden'd the info on Northern Lights to the press, sparking a press inquiry about the matter with the senator (guest star John Doman of The Wire) in charge of the clandestine project who had no choice but to go, "Duh duhhhhh what's Northern Lights? Duhhhhh..." in front of a throng of reporters, just like our idiot and corrupt government officials do IRL. The jig up, behind closed doors he ordered Control to shut the thing down. He just backed the government out of dealing with the Machine! WHOA DUDE.
Just a few minutes ago we were dancing to Mazzy Star and now THIS is happening? The knowledge of Northern Lights getting out is a BIG DEAL for the Machine and Person of Interest. In addition to tying the show's events to real-world happenings, Vigilance's reveal to the public that the government is spying on them pushes Finch into a corner. How long before they learn of the existence of Finch's operation? How will the public react to it? The idea of privacy in this show has always been handled delicately because Finch and Reese are using the information for good. But there's been no one to debate whether or not their operation is a violation of human rights, even if it is saving innocents, because so few people know about the Machine's existence. The faceless government using this technology to stop acts of terror with drone strikes can be seen as a major issue, but what about two guys, a gal, and a dog using that same technology to stop small-scale crimes? Where is the line drawn about what is okay and what isn't? Given the hero status of Finch and Reese, I'd assume that Person of Interest would never delve too deep into whether or not what they're doing is wrong, but with the public getting an idea of the Machine's capabilities, that's now open to argument. So good! Leave it to Greg Plageman and Jonah Nolan to go places we never expect this show to go.
But that wasn't all. With Senator Lame-o shutting down the government's third of the Machine (which isn't actually shutting down the Machine but just not accepting its calls so to speak), the Machine decided to reroute all of the relevant numbers to... Root. So now Root has all the information on suspected terrorists all over the globe, and as she put it, a full dance card. What does this mean for Root? Gosh, I wish I had an idea. Could she mobilize her army to take care of these numbers? What about Samaritan? There are so many great open-ended questions going on right now, and Person of Interest has put itself in a position to absolutely blow us all away with its final run of episodes. I can not wait.
"Most Likely To..." was the kind of episode that required a love for all things Person of Interest to fully appreciate it, and I loved the heck out of it. It was a quintessential episode that showcased the series' surprising tongue-in-cheek humor, its ability to provide a frightening look at very real modern-day threats, and its complex serialization with plenty of meat. I love the hardcore mythology episodes, but I wouldn't mind if every episode of Person of Interest was structured like "Most Likely To..."
– Fusco, planning the music for his road trip with Finch: "AC/DC or The Dixie Chicks?" Finch: "I think I'm the one being punished."
– Alright, I'm still not sure why Control had to shred the file on Collier, but I guess the government is trying to erase all existence of its dealings with the Machine? Even if it's a file on one of the world's most dangerous cyber terrorists. That's kind of sad, isn't it?
– Neat fight between Phil and Reese in the school kitchen, culminating with Reese throwing a plate at Phil's leg and then a pot at his head.
– The fact that Person of Interest set an episode at a high school reunion will tickle me until the show's 20-year reunion in 2030. Is there anywhere this show won't go?
– What an excellent use of Cracker's "Low" in that opening portion of the bowling alley scene. That single is from 1993, so it fits the timeline of a high school class of '94 and was a perfect time-setter in the background. That, and it's a really, really good song. (Fun fact: Rectify used it in its first season in one of my favorite scenes from that show.) "Most Likely To..." kept the hits coming with a really funny satirical use of Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You," which was also released in 1993 and was a required listening at every prom over the next two decades.
– Shaw looked gooooooood this episode. Just my opinion as a professional television critic.
– Fusco, regarding Root: "That is one scary chick."
– OMG Collier quoting the opening sequence's dialogue to Finch ("The
government has a secret surveillance system that spies on us every hour
of every day...") was too awesome.
– The gunfight between Reese and Shaw intercut with a bunch of near-40-year olds dancing to reunion-quality hip-hop was hilarious.