Person of Interest: s03 e19 – Most Likely To…

Betty and Frank

It’s off the top of my head, I know, but I’m struggling to think of another episode of Person of Interest, or any series for that matter, that so successfully navigates the transition from genuinely comic dislocation to the sudden and most serious of wide-ranging danger, to end with a step off a diving board into waters cold and bleak, whose depth is unguessable.

And in addition to that, portraying these various moods and modes with an equal level of attention and as an organic, integrated package.

‘Most Likely To…’ began in deliberately standard operating mode, Reese and Shaw staking out the Number of the Week, Leona Wainwright, Personnel Secretary, in Town to see a musical (Mamma Mia). Who, What, Why, When and Where, the usual quinella, except that Leona is attacked in a taxicab which is blown up in front of everybody’s eyes. This is not standard operating mode: Team Machine has lost a Number.

This leads directly to a split in forces. A new Number is already in, Federal Prosecutor Matthew Read (Nestor Carbonel) attending something in Westchester that, to the vast dismay of Reese and (especially) Shaw turns out to be a 20 year High School Reunion. Shaw is convinced they’re being punished, and for once you’ve got to take that seriously.

Meanwhile, Finch and Fusco are off to Washington to investigate what information Leona Wainwright had that would make her a target for… yes, you guessed it, Vigilance.

So we have competing storylines, one deadly serious except for Fusco’s constant caustic commentary. He and Finch find the FBI ahead of them, removing every document from the office, and have to break into the FBI Evidence Locker to find it. Given that Miss Wainwright (she did not strike you, in her brief appearance, as one who would be married, with two children and a white picket fence, and certainly not an active sex-life) dealt with security clearances, her records would include the name of every security operative the US has.

Be warned, though. This is a red herring.

Whilst this is going on, ‘Frank Mercer’ and ‘Betty Wright’ find themselves plunged without warning into the company of total strangers who they are supposed to know from twenty years before, who know and remember them from that time, and about whom they haven’t a clue. Shy, braces-wearing, overweight, frizzy-haired ‘Betty’ attracts a lot of attention, as anyone would if they’d turned from that into Sarah Shahi. ‘Frank’ also atracts attention, from stoner Toke, an old buddy who’s thankfully out of it, but also from a succession of attractive women – brunette, blonde, redhead, so wonderfully colour-coded – each of whom walk up to him and slap him across the face.

But amidst this wonderfully silly stuff there’s a serious issue. Twenty years ago, a girl named Clair died of an overdose. She was Matthew Reed’s girlfriend, and everybody blamed him for it, and someone has a lot of stunts rigged to thrust her in front of everyone, to shame, embarrass, humiliate Matthew.

Except, as things modulate from light to darkness, he’s set it all up himself. He’d never been back for any previous Reunion. He’d spent twenty years blaming himself for driving Clair to suicide over his flirting with someone else, until he started looking at the case and thinking like a Prosecutor, not a boyfriend. And identified class nerd Dougie, Clair’s shoulder-to-cry-on, the one who would be a lover but had been irreversibly friend-zoned.

And Matthew’s set Dougie up to commit suicide out of remorse for what he did to Clair, drugging her up to make her more… relaxed. As in inert and unable to resist the rape that would have followed if Dougie hadn’t overdosed her.

Sands shift, the Number is a would-be perpetrator who couldn’t go through with it anyway. But without realising it, we are on a diving board as walking towards its end.

Because the High School erupts with overkill shooting in an attempt to kill Reese and Shaw. They’re not the only imposters there, as Vigilance have a man there, their whereabouts leaked by Root to draw Vigilance out into the open.

Unfortunately they’re in the open in Washington as well, and this time it’s Peter Collier himself, invading the evidence locker, confronting Finch, who’s just gotten Leona’s safe open stealing the folder. Collier’s going to take Finch as well, except that Root shows up, two guns blazing.

But Collier gets away with the folder.

And then we’re off the diving board and into the cold, dark water. Because Vigilance disseminates the folder world-wide. And the world learns that massive sums of money have secretly gone into something called Northern Lights, a massive surveillance system…

And Senator Ross H. Garrison (the ever-excellent John Doman), denying everything furiously, orders Control to shut the programme down. Shut the Machine down. And against her judgement… she does.

But the Machine shifts itself to commence Tertiary Operations.

What is it all about? Even without the benefit of hindsight and foreknowledge, it’s not difficult to see where this is leading. The Government has lost its greatest weapon in the fight against terrorism. It is blind and naked in the dark, privacy restored: Vigilance’s aim.

And there is a void. A space vacated by an Artificial Intelligence. Is there another AI, ready and waiting? Boys and girls, can you spell S-A-M-A-R-I-T-A-N?

13 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s03 e19 – Most Likely To…

  1. Written By: Melissa Scrivner Love & Denise Thé
    Directed By: Kevin Hooks
    Originally Aired 1 April 2014

    “Most Likely To” is a terrific installment to ratchet up the tension for the end of the season. Mainly because it starts off in fun-POI land. Which is where Melissa Scrivner Love likes to be, I notice. This episode starts off intense, as the team fails to save a number (odd), but it quickly pivots to fun: Fusco in a bathrobe, Reese and Shaw doing their usual banter. The high school reunion jokes are pretty spot on, and Fusco’s cucumber eyes were a delight. This episode really picked up when Vigilance entered the mix, and the A-plot culminated in an awesome fight in a Chem Lab. What’s not to like? The B-plot also ramped up like crazy at the end–Vigilance achieves its goal and Northern Lights is shut down. In retrospect, this just adds more dramatic irony to the story. They think they’ve done something great here, but just like Control, they’re blinded by fanaticism. We’ll see where this leads, new viewers.

    Grade: A. Maybe not one of the ones that immediately jumps to mind, but it’s incredibly re-watchable, and perfectly mixed lighthearted fun with that trademark insanity that only POI brings to the table–that feeling of a zillion different interested parties all competing for the spotlight. Most shows are only A vs B.

    1. Agree completely. We know where it’s all going and how far downhill it’s going to get. These are the pieces being slotted iinto place, like an unassailable chess attack. The good guys aren’t winning…

      1. Plunging into cold water is an excellent way of describing it. It’s deeply riveting and ludicrously fun to watch unfold, even as things go to pot on a macro scale for our heroes.

      2. It’s a car crash in slow motion. But unlike other slow-motion tragedies, I enjoy re-watching it because of all the humor thrown in.

      1. Whilst I couldn’t sit down and describe an episode in any detail, sight unseen, I do usually recall what’s happened and how an episode will develop. This didn’t surprise, except that I hadn’t recalled just how quickly Vigilance pumped out the story about Northern Lights. I like it: it keeps the series fresh for me.

  2. I’m curious as to what exactly is a mattress king is……Also Reese hitting the Vigilance henchman with a can of Sloppy Joes was the best thing ever.

    1. From other similarr terms, I formed the impression that a ‘….. king’ is a businessman who’s got an overwhelming share of the market in a certain commodity, with the (generally) superior goods.

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