This week’s Person of Interest, “Death Benefit,” picks up from the events of the last episode. The budget info on Northern Lights has leaked, and the media is having a field day with it. Shaw and Reese aren’t too concerned, because they’re still getting numbers and thus still get to beat people up, but they do wonder what’s happening to the relevant numbers now that the government has been forced to stop taking them. Turns out they’re going to Root, who can apparently handle them just as well as the entire might of the US government. She continues to have a crush on Shaw, and whisks her off to Alaska to kick some relevant ass.
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Mr. Reese Goes to Washington
Reese heads off to Washington, DC, to help Finch with the number of the week. It’s Roger McCourt, a prominent US congressman who’s on a special rules committee that allows him, unlike most of Congress, to get stuff done. They have no idea who could be targeting him; Vigilance is always a likely suspect, but McCourt’s anti-surveillance stance makes Decima a more likely candidate. And there’s always the possibility that the culprit-to-be is just some average Joe. Since they’re at such a loss, Reese does the logical thing and shoots at McCourt to get him an extra security detail.
Reese steals the identity of a secret service agent so he can get close to McCourt. Initially, it seems that McCourt is the only honest politician on the planet, or at the very least the most masterful at constructing a positive image. The man even dines with the homeless. Of course, the day ends with Reese catching McCourt having an affair with his aid, so there’s that idealistic dream deferred.
It doesn’t take long for Reese to realize that there are creepy people tailing McCourt, who just so happen to be working for Decima. They blow Reese’s cover and Reese kidnaps the congressman, because that’s how he solves problems. They hide out in a beef warehouse that Finch had recently bought (along with the entire beef industry’s lobbying arm), because that’s how he solves problems. I would love to see these people tackle some mundane issues, like a stubborn jar that just won’t open. My guess is that Reese would shoot it and Finch would buy the jar manufacturer.
The Ends vs. the Means
McCourt is flabbergasted that someone could be after him, because he’s so darn likable. He’s becoming increasingly slimy as the episode progresses, so my guess is that the culprit is someone who’s spent more than 20 minutes with him. They get into a shootout, because when don’t they, and are rescued by Shaw. Shaw’s Alaskan mission was simple enough that she and Root had time to take down an entire bar in Miami and stop for a quick cocktail, so it wasn’t a problem for her to arrive just in time to drive the getaway car and run over the guy shooting at them just for good measure. She gets stuff done.
The team and McCourt hide out in an empty house. They learn that McCourt had been practicing insider trading, and smoking heavily if his voice is any indication. They also find out that Decima had been protecting McCourt rather than trying to kill him, and they realize that McCourt must have made some kind of deal. It turns out that McCourt isn’t opposed to surveillance as long as it’s not done by the government, so he’s agreed to push legislation through Congress allowing Samaritan to take the Machine’s place.
Reese realizes that the Machine sent them here not to protect McCourt but to kill him. As they’ve been telling us for a while now, Samaritan having that much power would be devastating and would inevitably be used to hurt people rather than to protect them. Since McCourt’s involvement will assure that Samaritan gains this power, he is putting untold lives in danger. Thus, the Machine considers him a threat that needs to be eliminated.
Reese and Shaw are a bit shaken, but are more or less okay with killing McCourt. Finch, on the other hand, is horrified. He says that he didn’t design the Machine to kill people, but Reese makes the very valid point that that’s exactly what the Machine has always done. It’s just that in the past Finch could justify it as very black and white morally, because the relevant numbers were all terror threats, but now that they’re being told to kill a guy for essentially being really good at his job, he’s forced to confront the moral shades of gray. One could easily make the argument that, since McCourt’s actions are going to directly put countless lives at risk, he’s no less a threat than a terrorist. But Finch isn’t the hands-on guy, and he can’t handle the dirty reality he’s created.
He tries to bargain with McCourt, but the guy won’t budge. The scene ends with the team on the run, very much as criminals, and the audience unsure if they actually killed the congressman or not. They manage to make it back to New York, but Finch’s trust in the Machine seems to have been shattered.
While all of this has been happening, Greer has been chatting up a senator named in the budget leak. He’s trying to secure a contract for Samaritan now that Northern Lights has been shut down, but the senator is understandably wary. Greer says that he won’t have to worry about his reputation because Decima has no morals and therefore isn’t bound to the same limits as Northern Lights, and that this lack of morality will come in handy silencing opponents. This does not seem to set off the warning bells for the senator that it should.
Eventually, Greer makes a proposition that’d be hard for any self-serving politician to refuse: the government will allow Samaritan access to all its feeds in New York City for 24 hours as a test run. He seals the deal by having McCourt, who was not killed, call the senator and ensure that Samaritan will be approved by Congress. The senator agrees and the episode ends with Decima searching for Finch.
What did you think? Should the team have killed McCourt? Was this number really so different from all the others the Machine has given? Is Finch done with this business for good? Share your thoughts!
Person of Interest returns to CBS on Tuesday, April 29 at 10pm.
(Image courtesy of CBS)