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Person of Interest “Nautilus” 

Photo Credit: Jeff Neumann/CBS
Photo Credit: Jeff Neumann/CBS

Wow. Wow. Wow. It’s been a while since a television series has truly shocked me, but I must admit tonight’s Person of Interest got me really good. Season premieres tend to have a few surprises, but then most of the time things mellow out for the next few episodes. But nope, not with this show who left us with a humdinger of a twist and lots of questions that I suspect won’t be answered anytime soon.

To be honest, I thought this episode was going to be about Finch (Michael Emerson) finding his way back to Reese (Jim Caviezel) and the rest of the team, with the Machine giving him the perfect number to pique his interest and make him actually want to get back to work. And what better POI than a young brilliant math major with a keen interest in chess, no family and an anti-social personality. Does that sound like anyone we know?

The Machine’s new number is Claire Mahoney (Quinn Shephard, Hostages), a former gifted student at an Ohio university who abruptly dropped out a year ago and has since seemingly turned to a life of breaking into buildings, hacking into computer networks and a whole list of other crimes that are totally out of character for this girl. Finch doesn’t want to get involved out of principle and also to protect the covers of everyone on the team, but his curiosity gets the best of him.

It turns out the perfect college girl hasn’t morphed into a common criminal but seems to be playing some kind of game or high-stakes scavenger hunt. There is one every 27 days, it is global and this particular one is in New York City. One clue is in some graffiti on a wall. This leads to another clue at an overhead arch in Central Park, which leads to yet another clue in a series of billboards along a highway. And on and on and on. However, upon investigation, Reese and Finch discover that this is a lot more than just a game and the stakes are much higher than some prize or even money.

Photo Credit: Giovanni Rufino/CBS
Photo Credit: Giovanni Rufino/CBS

Their big break comes when Finch is able to trace one of the clues back to a coffee shop. The guy who posted the clue swears up and down he has nothing to do with any “game” and that he simply got an email offering him $1000 to post the clue on a pole across the street.  Obviously this guy is just a pawn, but the email possibly can be traced back to the game master, so Finch takes a look.

This is when it all hits the fan and Finch — as well as the audience — are finally able to see the big picture. This particular scavenger hunt or game has very sophisticated clues, ones that require almost a genius level of intelligence to figure out and there’s a very good reason for that. It’s because it wasn’t designed by a human being — it was created by Samaritan. What’s more, the email that Finch just opened has a trojan horse attached, with a virus trying to pinpoint his location.

At first I thought Samaritan created the game in an attempt to lure Finch and his group out, but it turns out her plans are far bigger. First, just like the Machine, Samaritan needs her own Finch, Reese, Shaw, etc. to do her bidding and what a great way to recruit people. Anyone (like Claire Mahoney) who completes the game is obviously brilliant, driven and most importantly, follows orders — the exact type of soldier Samaritan is looking for. Second, part of the game involves Claire stealing an online file from Silverpool, which is a blackwater-type private military contractor. Apparently, there is something very damning in that file because now Claire has about a dozen assassins on her tail.

At this point, Finch does finally catch up with Claire, reiterates how much danger she’s in and offers to protect her. But ever since her parents were killed, Claire has been looking for meaning and these games provided her that. In that scene, I actually thought Finch was going to offer her a job on his team (kind of like giving Reese a purpose back in the pilot), but she disappears before he is able to.

But no worries there. Claire does make it to the final clue of the game and has a half dozen Silverpool operatives waiting for her there, but a mysterious “stranger” takes them all out and saves her life. It turns out that “stranger” is actually Samaritan with the prize of the game being a phone with the message “I will protect you now.” Claire’s label on Samaritan’s screen then changes to “Asset.” I think Samaritan may have just found her Finch.

As an added bonus, the file that Claire stole from Silverpool ends up containing evidence of civilian casualties on several of their operations, which ultimately brings the company down. And as it so happens, Silverpool was also in the process of researching a new surveillance system to watch people from around the globe all in the name of security. Remember that journalist who got capped in the opening of the premiere? He had been looking into companies researching AI who were being forced out of business. It is clear now Samaritan is responsible in order to eliminate the competition.

But don’t fret because all is not lost here. I said in my review of the premiere that season four was going to be the season where “the empire strikes back.” That is certainly true because the next move is the Machine’s and she’s made a good one. I had wondered at the end of the premiere if the Machine had led Finch to another potential bat cave and I was right. If you want to totally fall off the grid and not be found in NYC, a good place to hide is down along the third rail. The third rail was used as a subway repair line but abandoned back in the 1930s. No one has been down there for decades. I think we have just found our new library and base of operations.

     We may have underestimated Samaritan, but Samaritan has underestimated the Machine — Finch

With that, the next move is now Samaritan’s. Let the games begin.

Person of Interest airs on Tuesdays at 10/9c on CBS.

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