Person of Interest S03E20: "Death Benefit"


"Death Benefit" was a funny little episode. It clearly knew what it wanted to accomplish going into the hour, but it didn't quite know how to get there. So instead of cutting directly to the chase, it spent the first 45 minutes drawing our attention away from the fact that it wasn't doing much, with help from some classic Person of Interest tricks—including Reese's hilarious wisecracks, story-pushing shootouts, and a laundry list of suspects and details that would ultimately prove to be *ahem* irrelevant. 

Think about it, did we need to meet that angry machinist union leader early on? Was it pertinent for Reese to walk in on number-of-the-week Roger McCourt (guest-star John Heard) and his sexy aide engaging in "policy positioning" on his desk? When we learned that McCourt buys homeless people free lunches, did it mean anything to the overall story? Did we need to see Root and Shaw ride off on a motorcycle, with Shaw embracing Root's hourglass figure, the two of them clad in tight leather motorcycle gear, Shaw's back arched, her shapely posterior pointing toward the blessed gods who gave it to her...

Sorry, I got lost for a second there.

The answers to those questions are no, no, no, and hell yes (luckiest motorcycle in the world!!!), but just about everything before the final act of "Death Benefit" was unnecessary to understanding the episode. The entire first chunk was, for the most part, Congressman McCourt denying any knowledge of Decima Technologies until he admitted that okay, yeah, he does know Decima Technologies and he's in their pocket. None of it was boring filler—in fact, Reese was very entertaining to watch, as he was on top of his game—but I found myself wondering if everything was going to pay off by the time the credits rolled. 

And boy, did it! By the end of "Death Benefit," the team was split up, Finch was missing, the bad guys had gotten Samaritan off the ground, and there was a hole in Shaw. And most importantly, one of the show's most interesting questions had been asked: Would the Machine encourage killing an individual in order to save others? 

To get to that point, Person of Interest first had to expose McCourt as a government fat cat who greased his palms with the cash of the highest bidder. "The business of governments is business," he said, essentially confirming everything you've ever feared about our elected officials in the highest levels of government. And that cash-flush bidder was Decima Technologies, which wanted to use McCourt's position as a legislative bottleneck to help get Samaritan access to the NSA surveillance systems it needed to become an all-seeing eye with no limits (in contrast to the Machine's limitations, which Finch built to to prevent exactly this type of potential abuse). 


Because Finch and Reese figured that Decima was trying to kill the publicly anti-surveillance McCourt when they were actually trying to protect him, they were awfully confused as to why the Machine would send them his number. He wasn't a victim, and he wasn't exactly a perpetrator. That's when Reese proposed the idea that the Machine gave them McCourt's number to kill McCourt, in order to prevent Decima from going online and likely killing scores of people as a result. The death of one marginally innocent man in order to save thousands more. Reese was ready to pull the trigger—and he wouldn't've been aiming at McCourt's leg—but Finch wasn't having it. Finch explained that their job was and always will be to protect people, and if the Machine wanted them to commit murder, he was NOT cool with that. In fact, he was so not cool with it that he was ready to unplug himself from the operation (except the episode said it more eloquently than I just did). Whoa! 

That kicked off another one of Person of Interest's stunning sequences, this time scored by Daughter's "Medicine," in which we saw the enemy get the upper hand and our heroes take a devastating loss. With the authorities closing in, Reese, Finch, and Shaw hoofed it through the woods, Shaw got shot, and they barely made it out alive. Meanwhile, Decima's Greer was making arrangements with Senator Garrison to prove Samaritan's worth to national security, and even though Finch hoped that letting McCourt go wouldn't result in Samaritan moving forward, a phone call from McCourt to Garrison proved that it did. Greer gained full access to New York City's surveillance system for 24 hours, and then he shuffled off to an underground lair somewhere to watch Samaritan boot up. Finally, he gave Samaritan its instructions: "Find me Harold Finch." 

As Reese and Shaw hobbled through New York avoiding law enforcement, Finch looked up at one of the many security cameras in disbelief, possibly unable to understand how his creation could ask him to commit murder, possibly acutely aware that the same system he used to protect people was now being used against him with Samaritan. Probably both. It was an absolutely devastating scene, like watching a father feel disappointed in his child, and it was all the more painful to see the look of total helplessness on Reese and Shaw's faces as they turned around and noticed that Finch had disappeared, most likely giving up on the operation altogether. 

What started off as a simple episode ended up being one of Person of Interest's most depressing lows. The team has never been this vulnerable, and the enemy has never been more powerful and in control. However, it's hardly unexpected. McCourt was a slimeball, but he knew what direction the world was going in. He knew this was inevitable. And I'd bet that Finch knew, too.



NOTES OF INTEREST


– "Death Benefit," more than most other episodes, focused heavily on one of Person of Interest's prime tenets of privacy and protection, a debate that intersects with recent real-life events (even PRISM was name-dropped in this episode). As McCourt told Finch, "These programs are always going to be controversial, but also inevitable. People get up-in-arms whenever they go public. But eventually the noise dies down. Because the truth is, people want to be protected, they just don't want to know how." Chilling. It also echoes what Finch has told Reese in the past. 

– Haha at all the opera jokes. "Screeching cats." 

– "I could shoot you in the leg, sir." —Reese, offering McCourt an easy way out of commiting to a trip to the opera.

– Greer to Garrison: "Surely you didn't think that in a world where you were surveilling everyone, that no one was watching you." 

– What happened on Root and Shaw's mission to Miami? Good times, I guess!

– It was never confirmed whether the Machine actually gave McCourt's number to Finch and Reese in order to kill him, but assuming it did, that's a big change from the lesson about the value of human life it taught Root just a few episodes ago


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 6/21/2016

Season 5 : Episode 13

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I love[ed] this show so very much and hope I can see it last, but it's getting harder to watch. When WILL networks learn that making a show more steamy sends the viewership they crave running to a new show! Hey, keep this a cyber-focussed, techie show, or fall-in-ratings like all of those other dramas. That's the reality.
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If POI isn't careful, they'll have to resort to Time Travel to make the ethics work in their viewers' eyes.
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And the ratings keep going lower…and lower. I don't think I will ever watch the show again, and I haven't watched this episode, but I do miss the show . If Shaw ever leaves, i will watch it again. i hope it happens. I am not impressed by her tits, as I am a straight female. I find her extremely offensive.
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Shaw has something of a filler role in the show, so I somewhat agree. Her acting in "Relevance" put me to sleep--I couldn't wait for Harold, Finch, Carter, Fusco, Bear, and even Root to return to the screen. Now, I don't care either way whether she stays or goes. The show is awesome regardless.
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When someone does a search for Harold Finch what is it going to tell them? That he's dead? I assume same for Reese and Shaw. Could be interesting in the remaining episodes of this season.
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Great episode! And again it leads to a whole new world for the last episodes of the season. Speaking about this. Can anyone tell me how you all put up with all the breaks this show has all the time? I´ll find it difficult to engage in a show that stretches for such a long time. First ep was in September 2013, we are now soon in May 2014 and still not finished.
Both Root and Flinch communicate with the machine. Flinch is always looking very worried. Root has always a big smile on her face. Does it mean something?
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Yeah, these interruptions mid-season are the worst. If it wasn't for "previously..." at the beginning of the episodes I would've been lost.
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I don't believe the machine wanted to kill the senator, not at all. I am so glad Finch resisted the temptation. What is fun is that I believe that Finch, trying to cut himself from the machine, will be able to hide himself from Samaritan too. Perhaps that was the Machine plan all along, protecting Finch that way.
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I love this show. Have nothing better to say yet, still in shock.
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Now I am really interested, what the Machine was working on with Root, Greenfield, Casey...
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It was great to see an episode that revisits the moral dilemma that was attached to the Machine the moment it went online. Reese and Finch are caught in both their ambivalence and their culpability in the activities of their computer "partner"; Reese doesn't trust it but continues to do its bidding because he trusts Harold, and Finch is willing to stand by the Machine as long as he doesn't have to fully face what it does with the Relevant list. He trusts Reese to take care of that, allowing Finch to continue to insist on multiple occasions that he doesn't like violence. In this episode, he was forced to realize that his "baby" is no longer a minor and to perhaps contemplate what role he played in how the "kid" turned out.
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Great episode!!!! Root always know how to come in style and who is taking care of Bear? Anyone know the steakhouse that's supposedly better than sex?
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Team Machine is spread way too thin, they need an army to take on Decima. Fortunately they might have two. Decima and Samaritan are the greatest threat to privacy in history so Vigilance would want to destroy them. And despite their unsavory methods, Control, Hersch and Co. are genuinely dedicated to national security, and since Decima would sell any information to anyone, they're the greatest threat to national security in American history.

Vigilance and Control are two sides of the same coin. Vigilance is obsessed with privacy to the point that human life means nothing to them, and Control is obsessed with national security to the point that she feels justified in killing anyone.

It wasn't enough for Control that the Machine was sending all the numbers they needed, she tried to get more control (no pun intended) over the Machine and tried to get her hands on Samaritan and ended up letting Decima get it. While Vigilance was so obsessed with privacy, they forced the government to shut down a system that respected everyone's privacy and only gave the government a single number, leaving a void for Decima to fill.

Basically Control was supplying intel to information junkies and got hooked on her own product, and like all dealers who get hooked on their own product, she looked around one day and realized it was all gone. And Vigilance tried to stop the drug trade by burning down Control's marijuana crops and now the junkies are being courted by meth dealers.

Finch and co. should call both Vigilance and Control, tell each that the other will be at a certain place at a certain time and when they both show up to kill each other, convince them that Decima is the real threat. Who knows, perhaps they can continue to serve the Machine after Decima goes down, there should be someone saving irrelevant numbers outside of New York and Root can't stop all the relevant ones alone.
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A good episode and I do think things are coming to a conclusion regarding Decima as they have started the ball rolling now. I did think that reese killed the congressman as the machine asked them to do it. But I think finch now realised that the machine is now on the defensive now , but the next episode will have a lot more in it as now finch is on the run
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Okay, I've had it with Root. Her snarky, know-it-all condescension is grating. Yes, she's great with two pistols blazing, but those rare moments are not enough to cancel out everything else about her.

As everyone realizes by now POI is not the show it started out as; when it was just Reese and Finch trying to save lives. Now, like countless other series, it's diluted with several opposing factions I can barely keep track of, while the "hero" roster has quadrupled.

Anyway, the upside of the series is that it is, in my view, dead on where intrusive government surveillance, political corruption and corporate opportunism - at any and all cost - is concerned.
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No my favorite POI episode.

If the baddies are this good without their machine online, then surely Finch should give up. With Samaritan online it's building up to an impossible task.

I find this part of the story hard to grasp. It seems to be making Finch and co too helpless. I hope there is a reason.
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For the last couple of episodes I've been ready to walk away from POI.
All because of Root and her retarded storyline. I seriously hate her.
But then POI reminds me of the brilliance of Reese/Finch/Shaw with 'little episodes' like this. Personally I didn't think this was little at all. It was in true POI fashion where the number of the week was interesting and a lead-in to much more. And more so, apart from the Miami scene (how ridiculous really), Root wasn't involved. Let's hope it stays that way for the finale and that it goes out with a bang.
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I walked away because of Shaw. i can stand Root. Only boys who are interested in her tits I think can like Shaw.
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Root is awesome!
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You seem to be really fixated on her tits.
How many times did she have to sex it up in the series? 2, 3 times?
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Root is symbolic of change--whatever that might mean ultimately for her particular trajectory, it is clear that she is highly effective!

Finch's machine seems to be a real force for good, and so far Root is very instrumental at putting its good use into effect. Let's face it, some mission's would be far better carried out by Root, and perhaps others by Reese and Shaw. In both cases however, I believe that in addition to Finch's role in debunking the important connections and targets of the mission, he should continue to have a significant and influential voice in the course of events. That voice should ever be present in all significant events such as in this episode. Ultimately however the decision to act lies with the individual, and if it were Root instead of Reese in the room with that Senator All-Is-Fair-In-The-Name-Of-Profits, things may or may not have turned out differently. It was a depressing and even seemingly defeatist outcome, but it was a case that really required them to come to an important decision in a gray area, and for that it was very well played out.

I do hope that Root permanently dismantles the Samaritan machine by the next episode or the team stops taking defeats and prevents Samaritan from being coopted for ruthless greed and downright terrorism. In any case, don't count Root out just yet.
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I really don't understand the Root haters. I'm not a fan, but as she's a straight-up agent of the Machine, I'm fairly interested in her storyline, which is still largely a mystery. I'm looking forward to finding out what the Machine has up its sleeve.
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1 question from me , If that machine want to kill McCourt, why THE MACHINE didn't just ask root to kill him?
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Remember what Finch said to John in Rome? He said that when it comes to saving people he's always wanted a human factor to be involved. That's the way the machine is built and I think that's the way she wanted to kill. She's been trying to make Root more human and asking her to do that would have ruined everything. Killing people is not her purpose. And I think that since the machine couldn't work it out she relied on Finch's opinion about what had to be done about McCourt.
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i think the machine is always learning and it gives Finch Mccourt no. to know what Finch would do in such a compromising position.

i feel a sense of agony after watching the episode. The last 2 mins of the show got more and more depressing, almost like this is the series finale and the end of the world. On 1 hand, i really psych bout the upcoming ep and i know this show will be up for renewal. On the other hand, i cannot believe how much the show has gotten us attached to the machine, totally like how we got attached to characters in shows.

I also had a nudging thought through out the ep.. who is taking care of bear when all of them are out on the assignment??!!?
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I wish there was a crossover episode of Burn Notice with Root and Shaw. :P

What a great episode this was. The Machine really feels like a major character now.
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To bad that The Garden of Earthly Delights is hanging in the Prado Museum in Madrid and not anywhere near the USA.

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There could be a copy hanging in a gallery somewhere in D.C. couldn't there?
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Yes.
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I posted earlier about the Hieronymus Bosch painting, "The Garden of Earthly Delights" (see screen cap above) which formed the backdrop of the senator and Greer's conversation. I felt that it was intentional symbolism, so after thinking a bit about it, here's my attempt at an interpretation, as related to POI:

The left panel (Adam and Eve) represents pre-information age humanity (innocence), the center, humans cavorting in the earthly delights of the information age and sinning by not holding their government responsible ("people want to be protected, they just don't want to know how"), and the last panel, with Greer presiding over the humanity's (future) damnation as the Prince of Hell as brought to you by Decima Technologies.

Bosch's paintings are just fascinating, especially considering they were painted some 500 years ago!
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It only makes sense if they were meeting in Madrid. So silly, we are smarter than that.
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You expect the whole TV audience to be art connoisseurs?
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It's either a copy (not uncommon) or it's traveling (also not uncommon) as part of a exhibit of a painter's work, though this particular work may not actually travel (perhaps it's too fragile).
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Is this too creepy, for being too close to POI?


Following the Boston Marathon bombings almost one year ago, the Boston Police Department started looking toward more high-tech means of securing the city against future attacks. They found the solution in the form of an artificially intelligent, self-learning surveillance network that now watches the entire city, and all of its inhabitants.

"Every Hour of Every day."

Creepy autonomous AI CCTV surveillance network watches all of Boston

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Why didn't they kill him? He was a snake, a slimeball whos greed will destroy and kill the lifes many innocent people. Reese is right, Finch is wrong.
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it's Finch's nature. That's why the machine is independent from external factors, why Finch put those ethics/morals in the machine.
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I agree, I'd have killed him. Better the death of one evil, than many innocents. Or, as Spock would've put it; the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few - or the one. ;)
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I doubt Spock would have accepted to kill someone to protect others unless the person was actively threatening other lives. I totally support Finch's decision.
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Maybe so, but i still believe the risk in this situation was to high. This man would walk over any corps if the money-reward was high enough. I have no emotional sympathy for such individuals. None.

And now that we have seen the latest epsiode.. Finch didn't rly hold long on to his no killing attitude. It became real very fast when one of his loved ones was being hurt. No longer was it so "easy" to have the no-killing attitude.
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I disagree. Finch said to kill people IF they hurt Grace, not before. Killing the senator for something he COULD cause was too much for him.
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I think Spock's logic would see that killing one person an saving the lives of many other innocent people would mean he would kill McCourt. Emotions are what stops us from killing; it makes us find reasons for allowing a person like McCourt to continue to live - using logic to reason out the effects of his life and the lives of those who would suffer because of it, would mean he would die. Logic is cold hard reality; cold hard reality tells us McCourt dying would've been the right way to go.
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...or, what I meant to say, in the season finale, sorry

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Is there a way out for the team? Hopefully, we get some resolution before the season finale.
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I don't know what to type here, to leave a comment on this devastating episode! It was brilliant, but I am, simply put, depressed!

And Daugter's Medicine... My God! The scene itself was torture, did they have to use such an amazing song that echoed everything far more!

*sniff*

I can't get the episode out of my head... I've already watched the end multiple times now!! Need the next episode now!
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Great episode as usual, but do you guys remember last season when Greer met with Reese and Shaw and he told them he'd like to meet Finch because he couldn't put a face to the name when they got the Virus in Ordos China....I feel that's the main reason behind the search and I've actually wanted both of them to meet tbh.....The Machine also, noted Samaritan as an impending threat so I'd love to know Casey and Greenfield's involvement in the plot so there's the beginning of it's countermeasure
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I was feeling rather let down by this somewhat formulaic episode (not that it wasn't a solid, standard POI fare; it's just that I was expecting better with the season almost at an end), right until the final minutes when John's interpretation of the Machine's goals posed an interesting moral conundrum for the team. What followed turned the tables for everyone involved.

For a moment there I thought that Reese actually went ahead and killed the congressman, which I imagine would've created some noticeable division between him and Finch. But Harold's influence proved to be too strong in the end, and he had it handled his way. Or... not handled at all.
That was the most disappointing reveal for me, that they just chose to do nothing. Murdering the slimy politician was certainly not the only way (even if it was the simplest one), there was also the option to involve the media and bring some of McCourt's shady practices to light. Tarnishing his reputation could've at least bought some time.

It's not the first time that Harold was unable to cross a certain line and do what seemingly needed to be done. And not the first time that he decided to wait and see when he was in a position to act, because of his apprehensive approach to the Machine he built. Things might've changed, but Finch really hasn't. Hasn't learned all his lessons yet, and I'm afraid that the consequences might be grave.

Michael Emerson was impressive there at conveying his character's shock and disbelief, with Jim Caveziel's steely persona set against him. The final sequence outlined by the great musical score was powerful indeed (that look into the street camera...), the way POI knows how to do them.
It was amazing to the point that I was almost --almost-- willing to forgive the complete ridiculousness of the forest chase scene (the law enforcement people were literally several meters behind them, with dogs at their disposal; with Shaw being hurt the team managing to escape and get away in some car seriously shook my suspension of disbelief).

I suppose the hunt begins next week... Or in two weeks. *groans* Root to the rescue?
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They don't have to like Root's methods. The fact is that she is effective. And even now when they've stacked the odds against themselves, she might yet still be able to supply the protection to let them maintain their unblemished moral compass with her handiwork at a tolerable distance from self-reproach.

P.S. This was one hell of an absurdly defeatist episode.
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I don't think that the machine wanted them to kill the congressman - remember when Root had a chance to stop them stealing the processor but the machine made her save the number instead - that was a bigger step to Samaritan becoming a reality than any one politician.......

I suspect it was partly to get them the information that the congressman was involved and possibly show Vigilence going from protecting him to targeting him once they realise he is promoting the new surveillance......and maybe a bit of the machine seeing what would happen to allow her to calculate future moves......
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Yes on the first point - I think the Machine was testing Finch, Reese & Shaw and the scope of their respective moralities (It tested Root a couple episodes ago, and Fusco turning in Simmons instead of killing him was likely all the Machine needed from him). If that is what the Machine was doing, I'd say Finch and Shaw passed; Reese, maybe not.
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ah but he didn't follow through because of his relationship with Harold - and that might have been exactly what the Machine needed to know the strength of ;)
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shaw and root too good that is all lol
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Am I the only one that recognized 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' by Hieronymus Bosch.........what's it doing in Washington?
Anyways can't get the image of Shaw and Root on that motorcycle out of my head.
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It has never been in Washington. It is in Madrid, I have seen it twice.
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I recognized it, and I wasn't thrown by its presence in Washington - I don't know where it usually is - but rather by it being in a gallery of wall-to-wall portraiture. Gee, should we play 'which one of these doesn't belong'?
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I don't understand the problem. The size is about right and I would suspect there is a reproduction in some USA gallery.
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In Madrid, it is in a gallery with 2 or 3 other paintings. Not with a John Singer Sargent Portraits.
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Hey, hey, hey! This isn't Hannibal. Go to that forum if you want to discuss artsy fartsy stuff with the rest of the art school dropouts and the one semester of art history crowd. :P

All I know about art is, I like it or I don't. Though I do appreciate the commentary about pieces others provide and how they dovetail into the meaning of a scene or episode. The more you know.
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I really enjoyed this episode right up until the very end, when the whole thing fell into a gargantuan plot-hole: the fact that there was absolutely no need to kill McCourt.

Think about it: what happens to congressman when their affairs become public and they're under investigation for a felony? All Finch would need to do to render McCourt powerless (and quite possibly imprisoned) was make an upload to Wikileaks and an anonymous phone call to the SEC.
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They should have recorded the senator's stance on government business is business on tape and leaked it to the public.
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He was a "deal-maker", with connections everywhere, up top the president. "Anything you want" - remember? Taking down someone like that is difficult would take much more than a call to SEC and would take a lot of time. McCourt only had to make a phone call.
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Not so. In the era of 24-hour news, if Finch forwarded those emails about McCourt's affair and documents about his insider trading to reporters and news outlets, it would be a matter of hours before McCourt's slimebaggery hit the airwaves and his reputation was ruined. After that, his political peers would avoid him like the plague so as not to be found guilty by association in the court of public opinion and Decima would need to buy themselves a new scumbag.

Besides, killing McCourt would probably make things worse. After all, if congressmen aren't safe, who is? Install CCTV on every corner and wiretap every phone before the man in the suit kneecaps us all! :P
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Wait a tick. I was under the impression Reese did kill McCourt. He looked dead when SWAT/FBI found him and that would explain the dark ending. The Museum scene with McCourt on the phone was a short flashback to right before they got the number wasn't it? My assumption was that this call triggered his number being sent. I don't usually watch next-episode previews, but I don't believe we had one this week. Anyone else under the impression Reese killed him? I'm pretty sure about this...
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Reese probably just knocked him out. So he was uncounsious when SWAT found him.

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Well, the SWAT policeman showed a thumb up to his partner after checking McCourt so I guess it meant that he was alive...
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Well now I'm having 2nd thoughts because they did sort of dramatic reveal of McCourt at the end which doesn't make sense if he was killed because we already knew he was on board with Decima, so him being on the other end of the ph
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*phone isn't that dramatic in just a flashback.
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at least you finally put the right comment at the end... we do not know why the machine gave Finch that number, Reese assumed after getting more info on the guy it was to kill him, but if the machine really just wanted the man dead, why use Finch, Reese and Shaw, when Root would of been perfectly happy with doing such a task.

If anything, I think the machine wanted to know what they would do when faced with such a situation and no way to convince the bad guy, and no good deeds make up for one huge bad one, to do the right thing. The upcoming episodes should only get better and we can see where this will go.

One of my favorite Ben Franklin quotes, "Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security." This show makes you wonder about this all the time, as great as this show is, its reflection on the real world is scary at times.

Where do we go from here POI? I want so badly to know and it is not even new next week.
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If DECIMA finds Harold, then Harold and team will find DECIMA
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Who is the artist of the painting in the art gallery in Washington? Interesting philosophical conundrums. Things are not always what they seem- such as congressmen who appear to be innocent "victims" or whether the machine issued a number to be killed.
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Hieronymus Bosch
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I was depressed with this episode. The scary bad guys are so winning.
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The ending was truly awesome- thought provoking TV. I was in shock . I knew this was coming but to come face to face with it so soon and unannounced. No gradual easing us into this. Wow
Acting was top notch. I knew Reese wont go against Finch . Am so confused I dont know what to say or think!
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Assuming The Machine was listening to Harold & John's conversation about killing McCourt, couldn't She tell Root to call John & tell him one way or the other whether to kill McCourt or not? The Machine has long needed to be more communicative with Harold & John like She is with Root. More so every week. I've been hoping since Her reboot that she'd take it upon herself to at least specify whether the SSN She provides is of a potential victim or perpetrator so save them some time & headaches.
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Only 1 person ever knew Finch behind the machine (prior to Reese) and I feel safe in saying he never told a single soul. Yet from the first time we hear about Decima they have been after Finch and have known he made the machine. I get the very distinct feeling a connection exists that we have not been made aware of and this is very personal which is why Decima's first order of business was to find Finch. In fact I think that Decima does not give one shit about Samaritan, that it is only using that machine to find Finch. I think that is why Finch disappeared, because he knows more then he has said and knows whoever is behind this was going to use the machine to find him, so he is going to ground and putting distance between him and those he cares about.
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Only 7 people supposedly knew about the Machine -- with Finch making that number 8. Nathan accidentally slipped and said "eight" to Alicia Corwin at one point. The others are dead now. Nathan didn't tell anyone that it was really Finch who built the Machine though. Greer has been after Finch ever since he got his hands on the laptop with the virus -- remember that he gave the name Harold Finch to Kara Stanton when he sent her to New York to plant the virus. We have been told why he wants to find Finch though -- it was in the episode RAM in which we saw in flashbacks the first operative Finch had working for him. Dillinger acquired the laptop and sold it to Decima/the Chinese which then led to Reese and Stanton being sent to Ordos and all of that. When Dillinger approached them to sell them the laptop, he used Finch's name. When he sent Stanton to New York, he told her he'd been looking for Finch for years but hadn't been able to find any information on him. I don't think there's any further secret connection between them -- then again, with POI, you never know. But yes, that's why he took off, so that he could protect Reese and Shaw by leaving them and going further underground.
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If I recall correctly, there was an episode with Nathan late S1or early S2 where Nathan is talking with someone about The Machine and lets slip that there was someone else helping him with it. I think he just may of said "we" instead of "I" but the point of the scene was to make whoever Nathan was talking to realise that there is someone else. Then again, this may have nothing to do with Decima, but that scene defo happened.
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Not necessarily, once Nathan was killed they had to realize he wasn't the brain behind it and the only other person that they saw was his "tech support" Finch. Plus you had Finch's colleague that built Samaritan and who knows what he said and to whom he said it when he started losing his faculties.

But you are right, there is still a lot of Finch's past that we don't know about and could be filled with virtually anything.
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What an amazing episode. One of the most intense episodes with "Number Crunch" (though barely any episode of a show can come close to this one) and Carter's death. There are moments makes me go Come On but for a show this good i'm just tend to ignore and/or forget them.

There were a lot of witty moments as always. And lots of questions.
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I have one problem with this episode. They made the last 15 minutes of the show about a moral dilemma over killing someone yet didn't Harold threaten the politician with reporting him for his insider stock trading. If Harold had that evidence that he said he could have used it destroying the politicians career so he wouldn't of had to have been killed in the fist place. Or have I missed something?
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McCourt only had to make a phone call for the program to go ahead. Reporting him to SEC wouldn't have mattered, he had too much influence. What they could do is to keep him prisoner indefinitely.
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Maybe because he is a politician and saw all their faces (?). What 'poor mortal' can go against a politician and live to tell the tale anyway?
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I too was wondering about that...
Why did everyone assumed that the Machine wanted them to kill McCourt when it never asked to kill any of the perpetrator of whom it gave the number before? It only wants the team to stop them not kill them and, as you mentioned, Finch had a mean to stop McCourt. Seems like Shaw may be getting "smooth" but Finch is getting "dark" here...
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I think my heart stopped when Shaw fell in the woods...

Reese did face the same kind of dilemma towards Elias: How many will die because we let this one live?
Great episode leading to a shocker finale.

I hope the Machine has learned something here:
"01001001 01100110 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01110111 01100001 01101110 01110100 00100000 01110011 01101111 01101101 01100101 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01101011 01101001 01101100 01101100 01100101 01100100 00100000 01110101 01110011 01100101 00100000 01010010 01101111 01101111 01110100 0100001"
Which means: "If you want someone killed, use Root!"

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I don't believe the machine wanted to kill him
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It could be that the machine gave Finch the number because it didn't know how to deal with McCourt.
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I think this really makes the most sense!
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This was my exact same thought. It had Root already for darker motives though not assasinations, why give Harold this task?
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Woah!!! And here I thought I had seen the best POI had to offer. The last 5 minutes of this episode just blew my mind off. Just incredible writing with equally amazing acting.
P.S - I don't think machine would have wanted the guy to be murdered. In my opinion if machine wants something that morally ambiguous to done it would ask Root not Finch.
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Wild speculation below:

What if Samaritan can't find Finch because its creator blocked the tracking of his friends and family?

What if The Machine take what its learned from its Daddy and talks to its cousin, Samaritan, and for lack of a better phrase, turns it to the side of good, shutting Decima out?

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There is no getting off of the train, Finch. You laid the tracks, you made this all happen. You created this world. There is no turning back now, you either adapt or you perish.

This was an excellent episode because this episode brought us to the fork in the proverbial road. To kill or not to kill that is the question, that is the question that permeates several modern mythologies, Batman, Superman etc and that is a conundrum that has to be figured out by the participants. Namely Reese, and Finch. Mostly because Root and Shaw don't have this problem. Actually it is mostly Finch. Which provides the group with its own conundrum.

Reese and the Machine were right. the Congressman should have been killed. However not by Reese's bullet(more on that later). Finch, ironically, is the analogue in a digital world. He started the ball rolling and now that it is out of his comfort zone he wants to take his ball and go home. But there is no going home, not now, not anymore. And he either needs to accept that or her needs to go away. Now I don't want him to go away because he is the moral center of the show. However his morals need to change. In high stress situations there is an idiom that goes like this. You are either part of the problem, part of the solution or part of the scenery. Right now Finch is part of the scenery and is quickly becoming part of the problem.

In a fight, be it a fist fight, fire fight, war the whole nine. If you are the only one fighting fair, you are more than likely losing that fight. Finch wants to fight a fair fight against people that have no intention of fighting fair. Decima will and has taken advantage of our broken system as we saw with the Congressman, the Congressman is a perfect example of apathy, he doesn't care and because of that he is going to cost the lives of an untold number of people, and Finch and the gang protect people. The congressman would have been just as guilty as whomever pulled the trigger on those people. Finch needs to come to that understanding and actually he already has which is why this problem he has is so interesting. These are the people he denied access to the machine, he did it for a reason. Now they have their own Machine and he needs to adjust. He needs to be more welcome to the rest of the group's tendencies. Reese, Shaw, Root and even Fusco know the evils of this world and the people that promote that evil aren't going to be solved by shooting random thugs in the leg. The Congressman should have been dealt with but not the bullet.

Reese and Shaw need to go back to their roots so to speak. Killing people without leaving evidence. The Congressman should have been dealt with but not with a bullet. He should have had a random heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, succumbed to a mystery toxin. These are the ways spies deal with people and leave no evidence. Shooting him would have made them more of a target than they are now. The people that they are going to have to deal with need to go. The thugs need to not get back up after a few months of rehab. They need to up their game and start fighting the war that is already at their door.

Finch either running, or hiding or whatever needs to sack up and enter into the real world or he is going to have to be either left by the wayside or a workaround is going to have to be figured out.

Which makes me wonder what the Machine is going to do now. Finch said no, Finch wants off of his train. The Machine needs to rework whom it delves out responsibilities too. Give Root the kill list with her new army she is building and give Finch and Reese the relevant numbers to prevent terrorism. But at some point in time those two worlds are going to cross and Finch is going to have to decide which fork he wants to take or it is going to be decided for him at the end of a barrel by one of Decima's goons.

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Do you think Finch vanished because he wants to "get off the train"? No -- he only said he wasn't going to be a part of things if they killed McCourt. It's obvious he left because he knows that Samaritan/Greer will be looking for him and if he disappears, he hopes that will help to protect Reese and Shaw. He certainly didn't wander off because he's upset about what he created. He's dedicated the last years of his life to working with the numbers and he's not planning on stopping unless something stops him.

Also, the Machine isn't going to enlist Root to kill for it because the Machine has not let Root kill people, even Hersch, lately.
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I'm not sure if Finch vanished at the end because he gave up on the project - or because he assumed Decima would be looking first and foremost for HIM, therefore removing himself from Reese and Shaw's vicinity for their protection...

I agree with the heartbroken look at the camera, the look of a father trying to raise a healer and protector and ending up with an assassin - does anyone else see the parallels between Reese's background and The Machine here? Going in to serve their country and the good of the people, becoming hardened and learning to do what's necessary, ending up as disillusioned, cold-blooded (but not cold-hearted!) killers?
Ok, so maybe The Machine hasn't quite reached that stage yet, but...

Also:
About Root and last episodes lessons on the value of humanity.
This is actually a mirror of that storyline.
Root is quick to kill, and needed to learn to be more compassionate, to value humanity more.
Finch has been very reluctant to take lives, asking Reese and Shaw to tone down their approach and not shoot to kill if possible, and was pushed to condone the taking of a human life in cold blood, based on logical rationale.
Root rose to the occasion - did Finch fail his "test"?
We don't know.
Did The Machine REALLY want them to execute the number?
Or was it using Finch's reaction and choice as a litmus-test of its own morality and ethics?
He's the daddy, after all...
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"Or was it using Finch's reaction and choice as a litmus-test of its own morality and ethics? He's the daddy, after all..." That's pretty interesting, especially since that might be a part of its core programming. An AI that can learn based on previous inputs would still need to be instructed or "raised" and Finch was the one that did that (as shown abundantly in numerous flashbacks). Maybe what will come out is that this happened because the Machine hit a dead end on what is about to come, and couldn't come right out and ask Finch (as Root said, limited communication because that's what Finch wanted), so it did the next best thing and put Finch in the same situation to see what the answer would be...
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Great episode! Too melodramatic regarding the killing decision but Emmerson, as always, performed remarkably well. I hope it pays off that he chose the more humane choice that it will actually be negative consequences in the future or the choice was meaningless.

Greer.. He's turning into one of my favourite villains. Next stop? Spin-off: The Decima Era, watching Greer and his goons fighting everyone to keep order in the world but selling information to the highest bidder that in the end will bite in the ass and then they will have to clean up because they are the only one with the means and knowledge how to!

Anyway, superb scene with that Scenator in a painting gallery, very shadowy that just describes his profession and I liked how they entered the area that he basically wanted to offer what the government was offered by Finch, merely that he has more to offer but for a higher price. Globalization with privatization at its finest, how this shows foresees the future is unnerving but very interesting something, like a good blend between science fiction and realism so that it makes it good fiction yet believable enough to see that this might happen soon (or already does?).

Too little screen time with Root and honestly, too much screen time in general regarding transporting scenes, damn car industry. No Bear too!

The ending was amazing. Finch looking up the street realizing a new era had dawned and he will have to change his strategy against humanity's greater threats (not terrorism but smart, shadowy guys like Greer) and when Greer said Harold Finch, almost as powerful when he told Reese it was because of Finch Reese ended up in China.
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Ha Ha - should have been the episode title - "luckiest motorcycle in the world!!!"
Reese has shifted subtly into the background in the last season, supposedly because Caviezel wants to spend more time with his children and their cancer problems; but in this episode Caviezel brilliantly reminds anyone who may have forgotten, just how sly and funny his acting style is - he had so many clever one-liners delivered in his perfect timing that it made me remember why I fell in love with this show before shaw and root and their bootieliciousness.
And as a great fan of Hieronymus Bosch and the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych, I thought the writers made excellent use of this incomparable symbol of the emphasis of moral and immoral, behavior in the earthly realm - and the strong focus on the pursuit and punishment of earthly indulgences. Excellent visual metaphor for the theme of the episode.
*applause*
http://aintnohothouseflower.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/hieronymusboschgardenearthlydelights1.jpg
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The writers gave Caviezel wonderful lines. Applause, indeed!
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I did not know about his kids. That's so sad.
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Apparently, they adopted them knowing they were ill.
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The Machine should really communicate to them in other ways than just numbers.
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It does with Root, it however is limited by Finch in the way he is comfortable in dealing with the Machine.
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