Person of Interest: s04 e18 – Skip

Frankie and Johnny

So much contained in one episode, yet again, so impressive overall that it couldn’t be spoiled, well, not that much, by the early reappearance of Harper Rose (Annie Illonzeh) in one half of the story.

We’ve been getting a few of these separated stories in recent weeks, and I can’t decide whether it’s because the show has so many plots it wants to squeeze in at a point when the question of renewal for a fifth season was up in the air, or that the stories lacked the internal complexity to sustain a standalone episode without other entertainment.

On the one hand, we have ‘Detective Riley’ gambling with the Team’s remaining cash resources at a semi-illegal club, his eye (and who wouldn’t?) on new hostess Francesca ‘Frankie’ Wells (Katheryn Winnick). But Frankie is not victim but perpetrator, a bounty hunter tasked with retrieving the club’s manager, Ray Pratt (Ato Essandoh) to answer to his bail in Florida by Wednesday: not many tall, blonde hostesses have martial arts skills like that. Unfortunately, John’s at the wrong end of the stick and his intervention allows Ray to escape. John and Frankie make an uneasy team for the rest of the episode.

Quick interlude: Dr Campbell drops in to tell ‘Riley’ she’s handing him off to another psychologist for future sessions. Is it because of his recent unbending and the violence in his past? Her refusal to say why tells us instantly it’s not that, and what it actually is.

Over to Harold, who has a morning coffee date with an old friends, another returnee, this time Beth Bridges (Jessice Hecht, from episode 6 of this season). This is payback for Finch’s plan in Hong Kong to get certain software installed in her laptop. Now Beth’s algorithm has progressed to the stage where it’s going to be used. In a very few days it will be installed in Samaritan. It will function, once, as a very narrow back door, a trojan horse that will transmit a few megs of data before it is discovered and obliterated, but that data will include Samaritan’s ‘DNA’. It will give Finch a chance in an impossible to win war.

And the moment he sits down with Beth, she becomes a Number.

So ‘Professor Whistler’s association with Beth is to cause her death? Yes,but not for the reasons you might expect.

But back to John. Ray Pratt is going to need a fake ID to get out to Brazil, which takes him to the best in the business, a lady named Athena but who we better know as Harper Rose. Here I have to apologise: I remember three guest shots for our Lady of the Perpetual Scam but actually there are five, so this is not the ‘second appearance’ that prejudices me so irreversibly against her, though it does foreshadow her final appearance when it’s revealed, in passing, that Harper was led to Ray by contact from the Machine itself.

We’re winding deeply into this story, going through several action scenes in the show’s signature mode. Ray’s former boss, Carlton Worthy (Jeff Lamare), from whom he stole both money and a thumb drive with two years of crooked evidence, arrives to complicate matters. Frankie mentions a brother, Deke, now dead. Fusco, investigating Ray, uncovers a Florida killing, ascribed to a mugging, an accountant who got his throat cut, that he connects to Ray. The accountant’s name was Deacon…

And Root has reappeared to shadow Harold, and offer her assistance about Beth. She admires his plan… but we have another reversal. The threat to Beth is not Harold but Root. Harold’s plan to invade Samaritan is ingenious, worthy of his genius. She won’t let it happen, she will kill Beth before Harold can activate his Trojan Horse. Because if it goes through, Samaritan will kill Professor Whistler within minutes. And Root cannot allow that. She’s already lost Shaw, but Harry is the one person she cannot lose. She is not even acting on behalf of the Machine (which gives Harold no little relief): it has told her not to.

Harold is distraught. Some of it is his affection for Beth, who does resemble Grace Hendricks a little, but more than that he will not be responsible for the death of another friend. Root assumes he means Shaw, tries to deflect blame onto herself, it was her who recruited Shaw to get involved, but Ms Groves doesn’t know as much about Harold as we do, and we know to whom he refers.

And he heads her off by swallowing the chmical that will give Beth a heart attack. Only when Root promises not to kill Beth will he allow himself to be treated.

John’s story nose-dives into a three-conered shoot-out with Harper in the middle: John and Frankie, Ray, Worthy and his men. Typically, Harper negotiates a deal. Worthy gets the thumb drive and Riley lets him leave. Ray gets to choose between death or prison and Worthy lets him live. John and Frankie get Ray to imprison and don’t kill him. Naturally, there are multiple double-crosses; Harper hands over the wrong thumb drive, Riley has Worthy arrested before he leaves the city and Ray tries to shoot his way out only to be kneecapped by John. Right beats Might.

A coda and another quick interval. We’ll take the latter first: Frankie’s interested in John but tells him to call her when he’s free. John looks puzzled but here’s Doctor Iris to ‘fess up the real reason she has dropped John: she has developed feelings for him and that’s the complete no-no. John, on the other hand, knows how to keep a secret. Cue snog.

And Harold calls on Beth only to be thrown out. She’s been on the end of a reputation-destroying internet attack, claiming she’d falsified data five years before, an attack that came from ‘Professor Whistler’s office. Root only promised not to kill Beth but she has neverheless destroyed her. And she’s destroyed Finch’s activator, and thus destroyed months of planning and the only chance Team Machine had.

She’s done it even at the cost of the friendship that means so much to her. Professor Whistler is still alive. And whilst he doesn’t want to see Root at the moment, they are still friends.

Leaving me only to wonder. Finch’s scheme was set up twelve episodes ago, a great mystery. At this stage it was all in vain. By now I know enough to understand that it wasn’t just implanted then with the hope/intention of deciding what it was later on. But was it always intended to be a false trail, to set up the changed relationship between Finch and Root, or was it a casualty of lost opportunities, when the projected Fifth and Sixth seasons became improbable? We have seen other possible strands implanted by the series that were never followed up upon, for whatever reason that may be. I’d love to know if this episode was the regretful snuffing out of something that might have been prominent in another world’s version of Person of Interest.

9 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s04 e18 – Skip

  1. “Skip” [4×18]
    Written By: Ashley Gable
    Directed By: Helen Shaver
    Originally aired 24 March 2015

    And with “Skip”, we come to the end of a controversial run of episodes that started in “Guilty”, which came under a massive amount of fire for tapping the brakes right when they should be ramping up. The fact that these episodes were paced weeks apart didn’t help alleviate that sense of stagnation. Are they that bad though? You’ve been fairly positive towards them with the exception of “Blunt”, and so have I. And we’ll continue to agree, since I find “Skip” to be a fun episode with two intriguing halves. The procedural front is livened up by the presence of Katheryn Winnick, who has a fantastic dynamic with Jim Caviezel. I would have liked to see her return….but actor contracts and all that. I get it. I don’t have much to comment on with the rest of that side of the episode. It gets the job done well.

    Now the other side I had mixed feelings about when I first watched it. SPOILERS for the rest of the series.

    I loved the dynamic between Root and Finch as usual, but I was conflicted about the resolution. Why cut off a valuable plot point like that when the season’s already having trouble keeping the momentum of its first half up? Why make the season’s plot more aimless than it already is?

    In retrospect though, Season 4 was never about defeating Samaritan. It was about painting a picture of Samaritan’s world and putting our main characters through the wringer. This plot-line skillfully sets up two major themes of Season 5–that Harold *can* defeat Samaritan, and the further humanization of Root. Again, I wondered, why introduce that virus when they simply could have used the trojan horse from this season in their typical clockwork plotting style? And again, I find that the answer lies in character. The writers disposed of the Trojan horse in this episode to serve the characters of Root and Harold. They use the [redacted] to bring down Samaritan because the big question of the series ultimately becomes, not if Harold can bring down Samaritan, but if he’s willing to do what’s necessary….to get it done. The trojan horse simply wasn’t necessary for that, and it served its purpose for Root well here.

    Grade: B+. I like this one quite a bit, and now we’re onto the universally praised last 4 episodes of this season. Can’t wait!

    1. Pretenders wasn’t bad, just mediocre by the show’s high standards.

      Also, is this the first episode of POI written and directed by women? I think it is.

  2. The pending cancellation without the chance to wrap up the Samaritan arc properly has to have been weighing heavily on them. They were probably torn between not trying and rushing through it, a la JMS wrapping up 2 planned season-long arcs in season 4 of Bab5, to the detriment of both, but more so the Earth Civil War arc, and then having to tap dance through season 5, which couldn’t help but look trivial in comparison. It seems that the PoI team decided to throw the dice on getting renewed (thank God).

    Harper never bothered me. I’m not a fan, but her presence doesn’t throw me out of the plot because I get annoyed by her. OTOH, I’ve been a huge fan of Katheryn Winnick dating back to a guest spot that she did on a 2007 episode of House M.D., where she and House are arguing abortion. Then she had a great role in Radio Free Albemuth, and she’s the ONLY reason why I watched 8 seasons of Vikings. I really, really wanted her to get the gig as Captain Marvel. In the event, I enjoyed Brie Larson, but Katheryn would have been pure awesomeness.

    1. Indubitably. I’ve not mentioned it so far, but will do in the context of the last episode, because I don’t know when exactly the rescue order was made: was there any imtimation they’d get enough episodes for a closer *before* the summer? Either way, the show was saved which is all that matters.

      Each to his own. I didn’t like Harper from the first but there’s a forthcoming episode in which thesource of my detestation happens. I didn’t knopw Katheryn Winnick was up for Captain Marvel but now I do, I agree with you. Brie Larson was great for the standing around in her tight leather uniform bits but the rest of the film was clumsy and dull, not fault of hers it just wasn’t written well enough.

      One more for the Earth-2 DVD collection…

      1. They knew they’d been renewed a week after the finale aired–so months after they wrote it. They had no clue if they were going to be renewed or not, and they had planned for many more episodes to wrap it up. Thankfully, they were renewed, but only for a limited episode order. Not ideal, but still better than nothing. Man, that would have been one of the biggest missed opportunities in tv history if they didn’t let them wrap up this story………

  3. So there you go: a gamble as socrates suggested. Twenty years earlier it would have been cancellation, that’s it. We can count ourselves lucky.

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