Person of Interest: s03 e14 – Provenance


Implausible but watchable

Watching and blogging a television series from beginning to end, the same day each week, is a vulnerable process, since you cannot bring the exact same set of sensibilities to bear every single Tuesday. Though it’s not happened so far with Person of Interest, it’s too much to expect for the entire run to go unaffected, and this has been the case today. Feeling at a low ebb, mentally as well as physically, due to various things going on, and watching one of those almost-never standalone episodes, ‘Provenance’ wasn’t going to lift me out of my prevailing mood. Perhaps I should have taken a week off?

The episode was a genuine standalone, its only connections to the ongoing story being at top and bottom. Reese returns from Italy, with a new suit, ready to resume his job, with a Number already on hand. At the end, the crew gathers to celebrate their success with drinks, and Reese places a glass at an empty place round the table, for the one who isn’t there.

After so many intense, serialised weeks, a one-off with no ulterior significance would have to be pretty damned strong to make it and this wasn’t. The Number was Kelli Lin, real name Jai Lin (Elaine Tan), a high-flying events planner who, it quickly turned out, was an international, world class art thief specialising in cultural artefacts of tremendous value. She was also, under her real name, a Chinese former Olympic Silver Medallist being chased by her own Jean Valjean, Interpol Agent Alain Bouchard (Henri Bulatti).

Jao basically had two skills in life: gymnastics and very high power stealing. She had a little daughter being held hostage by a Czech gang requiring her to repay her debt to them, as represented in New York by Cyril (Gene Farber) who was obviously never going to let her go.

It was this conception, gymnast and thief, that bent the plausibility curve out of shape for me and left me unable to get into the episode in the way I usually do. It was the usual, well-constructed thriller: the team start off aiming to frustrate the theft by Jao, in whose wake bodies drop like flies (Cyril was doing it behind Jao’s back) and then had to switch to carrying out the theft itself to protect Jao’s daughter and bring the Czechs down.

Even then, to achieve the required happy ending, logic had to be bent to get Bouchard, who’d pursued Jao across Europe for years, to slip her a key so that she could escape.

No, on another day, of fairer frame of mind, I could buy this and enjoy it for what it was, but not today. Today, I was not receptive to what I could only see as a weak episode by PoI standards. Next week will be better.

16 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s03 e14 – Provenance

  1. “Provenance” [3×14]
    Written By: Sean Hennen
    Directed By: Jeffery Hunt
    Originally Aired 4 February 2014

    After 9 straight incredible weeks in a row, I guess we were due for a down note, and “Provenance” is one of the third season’s weakest. Trust me Martin-being in a good mood wouldn’t improve this episode. I’ve tried-doesn’t work. My favorite POI one-offs are the ones where you don’t know who the victim or perpetrator is. If not, the POI better be damn compelling-think Henry Peck from “No Good Deed.” This is similar to “Judgement”-the case isn’t very interesting, and there’s almost no intrigue. For some reason, heist episodes in TV are never all that great. This is no exception. Heist isn’t a good look for a twisty action show, and “Provenance” apes heist movies without getting why the best ones-1955’s “Rififi”, for example, are so good.

    Grade: B-

  2. The basic idea, of having to join in the Number’s illegal activities to forestall a hidden Number was sound, but the Number herself was cheap and gimmicky. My memory is faulty, I expected a more immediate swing into the final third arc, and I KNOW the magnitude of that.

    1. The number herself wasn’t very credible, I agree. The only part of this episode I really liked was the ending. Nice moment with the gang honoring Carter. And it’s nice to have Reese and Shaw working together again. Too bad it’s not a strong episode. Another one I tend to skip. The one-offs in Season 3 are some of the weakest one-offs in the whole run.

    2. Also, this episode didn’t even have many twists! In a heist episode! For shame. This show loves twisting and turning itself into knots.

    1. I like next week’s as well, even though Tim “The Idiot at Tv.com” Surette disagreed. There was actually some tension in it! Dan Dietz is just a better writer than Sean Hennen, I think.

  3. I remember following Tim Surette’s comments as I was burning my way through the first time. For every sane comment there were three or four that I thought were too stupid for words. That was when tv.com was a useful site to follow. Can’t remember when I last called it up now.

    1. He contradicts himself every other episode. In one review he says Person of Interest is a very dark drama, and in another he said it was a cheesy action show. Also he goes on for paragraphs in one review about how attractive Sarah Shahi is. Tim….we get it.

      1. TV.com got converted to TV Guide, but all his reviews are there if you really want to look….but I had enough of those the first time. I read other reviews, but many of them flat out missed the point in many of the episodes…..very irritating. Most of the criticism that I see I just can’t agree with whatsoever.

    1. Yeah, he trashed Last Call. Which I think is actually good. This one you could cut and miss absolutely nothing. I guess I just disagree with him, but his reasoning was very strange sometimes.

  4. Ya know, my earlier statement about heists not being a good fit for this show might have been wrong–this just wasn’t executed well. It lacks the wit and panache that elevate most other episodes of this series.

      1. I guess we were due for a crappy one at some point during the season. This one feels like the team was exhausted, and needed a break. Or two.

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