PERSON OF INTEREST Recap: Back to School

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Person of Interest 2.11 2PiR

When we last left Reese, he had been arrested in the vault of the bank, along with three other “men in suits” and Donnelly was determined to get his man. Thank goodness CBS opted not to put the show on a longer winter hiatus as I had a hard time waiting just two weeks to see what happens! Not surprisingly, the wait was worth it and we were treated to another very enjoyable episode


2010 – We hear a 911 call – a subway train operator reports that he hit a kid that was on the tracks. He thinks that he might have been pushed.

2012 – Donnelly is very excited to have his man, or rather, four of them, at Rikers Island. He he has 72 hours to ID Reese before he has to release them all. He collects DNA samples to match to some crime scenes, along with fingerprints and assures Carter that this time they will get him.

Later, Reese has traded his suit for prison orange. He goes back to his cell and sits down on his bunk. He hears a vibrating noise and reaches under his mattress to retrieve a phone – apparently Finch can even get contraband inside Riker’s Island. Finch tells him that he made preparations for a similar scenario – he’ll have him out in 72 hours.  Reese asks what happens if a new number comes up, but Finch is already on the case.

POI 2.11 Finch at school

Finch observes this week’s PoI

Finch goes undercover as Mr. Swift (another bird name alias!), a substitute high school math teacher, as this week’s POI, Caleb Phipps, is a high school student. The usual teacher suddenly was offered an all-expenses paid trip to a teaching conference in Hawaii (is there anything or anyone Finch can’t buy?) This is pretty much Finch’s perfect cover, as he can be as nerdy as he wants to be. Unfortunately, the usual teacher apparently didn’t plan on Finch being at all competent and doesn’t have a lot of faith in her students, either, so she’s left them the task of adding all the numbers from 1 to 100. Finch tries to teach them a clever way to figure out the answer easily, but they aren’t terribly interested. Class ends and Caleb is the last to leave, dropping a crumpled up paper in the trashcan on his way out. Finch retrieves it and finds the solved equation he was trying to teach the class.

Finch calls Fusco for info, and learns that Caleb’s older brother was killed two years prior when he fell in front of a subway train. Finch leaves his classroom and overhears Caleb tell a classmate that he’s going on a trip. He is unable to bluejack Caleb’s phone, but manages to see what pretty much every other student in the school is texting and it doesn’t do much for his hope for the future. He also sees kids dealing drugs in the hallway.

Carter is waiting outside the school to talk about Reese. Finch tells her that he has it under control and doesn’t want her to compromise herself. She tells him that it’s too late and she’s long since crossed that line. She has already deleted Reese’s fingerprints from the database and has a plan for the DNA.

Finch hacks into the school computer system and looks up Caleb’s test scores. He realizes that Caleb has intentionally gotten average scores on his aptitude tests, despite knowing the answers to every question. At the beginning of class the next day, he confronts Caleb with the equation he solved, but he just shrugs and finds his seat. Finch goes off on a major nerd monologue about the number Pi, which is just interesting enough as Finch tells it to get the students’ attention.

Finch speaks with Caleb at school

Finch speaks with Caleb at school

Fusco stops by Caleb’s mother’s apartment, under the guise of investigating some burglaries in the area. He plants a camera in the apartment. He also looks into the drug dealers that Finch found with his cell phone surveillance. They both used to work for a known guy, but now they are working for some new big shot that narcotics can’t get an ID on. As for the whereabouts of both dealers, they are in a stairwell at the school. Caleb goes to walk by them, but then stops to pick a fight which is conveniently interrupted by Finch, who is following Caleb.  The dealers rush out and Caleb rebuffs Finch’s attempt to talk with him. As he rushes out, Finch finds a paper that he has dropped. It’s a page of complex, hand-written computer code.

Finch listens in on Caleb’s computer class. The teacher tells the class about a infamous hacker from the 80s whose work helped to move the internet from a closed government project to the free-for-all that it currently is. This hacker was never caught. (Maybe because he went onto even bigger things, like making a certain spying super computer…)

POI 2.11 Carter in bar

Carter is cruising for a DNA sample

Carter is all dressed up and ready to go out. She calls Finch to get some specific information on the kind of guy that she needs – height, weight, hair color, medical history, etc. She goes into a swanky bar and picks up a guy who meets the description and apparently finds it sexy that she asks him about his medical history. Carter roofies him, and when he passes out in the car, she samples his DNA (whoa, Carter!!!). She then breaks into the DNA lab (hoodie, lock picks, oh my!) and replaces Reese’s DNA swab with that of the man she met in the bar.

Finch asks Fusco to keep an eye on the two teenage dealers in case they try to cause trouble with Caleb after their earlier run-in. Fusco follows them and the money trail leads to a PO box. He’s staking it out when Finch calls. Seconds later, Fusco and Finch are face-to-face on the street.  Finch has followed Caleb right to the shop that Fusco was watching. Caleb goes inside, and comes out with a wad of money!

At the end of school the next day, Finch returns the page of code to Caleb and suggests that he modify his code a bit. He initially dismisses Finch’s idea but then realizes that it will work and looks at Finch with new respect. He then rushes off and  Finch and Fusco follow him – he’s meeting with some dealers. When he gets to the meet, his contact is lying on the pavement, covered in blood. Two thugs are standing just out of sight and confront him with guns raised. They want to know what he thinks he’s doing encroaching on their territory at the school. One of the dealers has heard that he was trying to get some cash for a trip. He gives Caleb until 8pm the next day to come up the money he made selling to his customers.

Fusco and Finch watch tape of Caleb caring for his alcoholic mother and Finch muses out loud about why he got involved in drugs. Fusco is pretty sure he knows – he has looked more into Caleb’s brother’s death. The transit cop had originally called for back-up after he was told by Caleb that two youths were fighting with his brother and pushed him onto the tracks. However, the call for back-up was later cancelled and an accident claim was filed instead. Fusco thinks that Caleb changed his story so that he could go after his brother’s murderers himself. He’s playing the drug dealers for revenge.

Finch checks on his school surveillance cams and sees Caleb’s computer teacher reviewing Caleb’s code and setting up a meeting with a venture capitalist that he knows from college. Finch follows him and sees him give him a demo of a new compression algorithm that can put over 200 TB on a flash drive. The capitalist realizes the value and agrees to put up the money.

Fusco confronts the officer who was at the scene of Caleb’s brother’s death. He tells him that Caleb kept changing his story about what the other kids looked like and finally told him that there were no other kids – he and his brother were daring each other to cross the tracks. He and Caleb agreed to keep the truth private as he didn’t see any benefit of reporting it.

The next day, Finch sees Caleb moving large amounts of money around online – he’s setting up a trust. His computer teacher emails him to set up a meeting for 8pm. Caleb goes home after school and tucks his drunk mother into bed.

Finch confronts the computer teacher. The teacher tells him that Caleb came to him and asked him to sell the code – all he wanted was some money for a trip. He planned to give Caleb the credit after it was sold and although Caleb wanted to split the money with him 50/50, but he plans on giving it all to him. He shows Finch a contract that confirms this information. He mentions the name of the program – 17621 – and Finch realizes what “trip” Caleb is planning on going on – the numbers represent his brother’s age at the time of his death – 17 years, 6 months and 21 days.

Finch gets called into the principals office

Finch gets called into the principals office

Finch goes to the subway station where Caleb’s brother died and finds him sitting on a bench. He tries to talk him out of killing himself, telling him that everyone make mistakes. Finch’s biggest mistake (AKA the Machine, although he doesn’t say as much) led him to the train station at that exact moment. He appeals to Caleb and tells him that money can’t replace people. A train arrives, but Caleb stays on the bench. Finch pats him on the shoulder and they sit on the bench.

At Riker’s Island, Donnelly is beside himself because none of the DNA from the “men in suits” matches his previous crime scenes. He orders the samples sent to Quantico to be reviewed for tampering and asks for Carter to be summoned.

Back at school the next day, Caleb again drops a piece of paper. Finch approaches him and tells him to be more careful with his code. Caleb thanks him. Finch tells him of how different the computer world is since he was young – all because a kid with a homemade computer turned it all inside out. He advises Caleb to “keep his code close to his vest and choose his friends wisely” and gives him two typed sheets that contain Pi to several thousand places. Finch’s number is in there and he’ll “figure it out”.  As Finch walks away, Caleb asks how he knows that the hacker used a homemade computer. Finch tells him that he must have heard it somewhere and then walks away.

At Riker’s, the warden comes to tell Reese that he is going to be released. He is led into an area where Donnelly, Carter, and the other three suspects are. Donnelly tells the warden that the men are being held as terrorists and will not be released. He tells Carter that everything is all too neat and he’s not going to be duped again. She’s the only one that he can trust and he wants her to use her interrogation skills to figure out who the right man is.

My Thoughts:

This week’s episode altered the typical show formula a bit and was still great television- a real testament to the excellent writing and character development that has set up the series to date. There was almost no Reese, no ass-kicking, and no injuries, other than one drug dealer. Instead, we got Carter demonstrating once and for all that she’s a full member of the team, risking everything to protect Reese. This was the first time we’ve really seen her all aboard. Although she’s obviously been very helpful to Finch and Reese in the past, it was always while expressing reservations about their tactics. Now we’ve seen her drugging an innocent guy, stealing his DNA, breaking into a crime lab, destroying evidence in a federal investigation… and soon, interrogating Reese. Next week’s episode looks like it’s going to be fabulous!

The Finch-centric POI plot also worked pretty well. Reese has had plenty of opportunities lately to see parallels of his life in others and this week was Finch’s turn. The scene in the train station was fabulous – once again we see the repercussions of the choices that Finch has made and he is able to use them to save Caleb’s life. The idea that Caleb could have a recurring role and Finch could be his mentor is very appealing – Finch could hopefully help him to change the world without compromising everything else. Michael Emerson was made to play this role!

Memorable Quotes:

Math is NOT punishment! – Finch

I’ll be sure to tell him how impressed you are with his criminal aptitude – Finch

Wait…that works! – Caleb
Yes, that’s why I suggested it – Finch

Cay's family thinks her obsession with pop culture is "not normal". Normal is boring!