Person of Interest 4×11 If-Then-Else Video Recap & Review
“If-Then-Else” – Samaritan launches a cyber-attack on the stock exchange, leaving the team with no choice but to embark on a possible suicide mission in a desperate attempt to stop a global economic catastrophe, on PERSON OF INTEREST.
Person of Interest started out the New Year with one of the best episodes of the series to date. We have viewed The Machine as it’s surveyed all it sees, past and present, watched its predictions, but we have never gone inside its thought processes, until If-Then-Else.
The first episode of 2015 for Person of Interest season 4, If-Then-Else, began dealing with Samaritan’s plan to crash the stock market. Harold Finch has met with Root outside the Stock Exchange, watching the stock market numbers falling on the scrolling marquee. Samaritan’s plan to cause an economic crash in the United States and the ripple effect would cause upheaval around the world. Finch asks why the fail-safes haven’t kicked in just as the numbers tick up slightly, just enough to keep said fail-safes from activating, Samaritan’s answer to that. (The rival AI as Finch called it is not quite ready to collapse the market—the trap has been set; its prey has not yet been caught.)
The Machine suspected something like this would happen and found a hacker to build a program to stabilize the market, the only drawback the program has to be installed on site in the Stock Exchange servers. All members of the team are needed, with the exception of Shaw. After leaving The Haven she is working the numbers, but she can’t come near the Stock Exchange which will be teeming with Samaritan agents. (But Root needs a favor from Shaw and for that Sameen will need a metro-card.)
The Stock Exchange has its own surveillance network that is separate to any network that either The Machine or Samaritan can access. Finch and Root posing as tech repair fix some glitches in the security cameras at a monitoring station. John and Lionel were sabotaging the actual cameras and Harold routed the feeds to give The Machine encrypted access. The four meet at the elevator to take them to the server rooms below. Only once the Team reaches the basement and The Machine has eyes in the building, it warns Root Samaritan was expecting them and set up a trap.
A shootout begins with the Team taking cover in a break room. The Samaritan agents fire round after round through the door. (I know some viewers wondered why that’s all Samaritan’s people did. Entering the room blind and funneling through the door one by one would make them easy targets. Even though it didn’t end up that way, firing through the door hoping to hit their targets and waiting until the Team tried to come back out was a better strategic maneuver.) So while the team is hiding in this break room—with Fusco’s “Remember The Alamo”, Finch saying they don’t need a valiant last stand, they need a strategy, and Root asking The Machine for a little help—John begins to question if The Machine can help them. Finch says to give it a second, and I think he was being quite literal and hopefully most people understood that, that what followed was The Machine analyzing the options within a second.
The Machine flashes back to Finch teaching it to play chess. Each possible move results in a different game, in which you make a better move. By the second move, there are 72,084 possible games. Each move after, the number of different games increase exponentially, until, even The Machine can’t predict them all, Finch tells the AI. There are an infinite amount of moves between that first and the end of the game, but if you make a mistake you have an infinite amount of moves to correct it. The first lesson is that you will make choices that may not always result with the outcome you wanted, and that in order to achieve the outcome you want, you make choices going forward to fix the previous “wrong”.
Back in the present the first scenario The Machine runs has the Team splitting up, Harold and Root went to the server room to install the fix while John and Fusco go to the elevator to get it working. They shoot the agents waiting outside and Greer is alerted when none of the downed agents in the hallway respond to his call.
Although Shaw isn’t with them we see what importance she plays out in each scenario, why Shaw needed that metro card. There is a man riding the subway that has a much-needed code to bypass the palm print scanner to enter the server room. Without this code they will have to break in which will alert Samaritan to what’s happening and lessen their chances of getting away. Major problem is another man who has decided that his financial ruin is too much is on the train and he’s going to blow up the subway car to take out the broker responsible for losing all his money. Shaw decides instead of talking this man down that she’s going to threaten him and finally just shoots him in the head. This though results in her arrest and her being unable to obtain the code from the other man. This code proves very important for the scenario.
Because of Shaw’s inability to obtain the code, Root has to break into the server room which then alerts the Samaritan operatives to where they are, although Greer already knew where they were going when they took out the two Samaritan thugs in the hallway and he had seen that his agents were down. Martine was sent to the escape route, since they know the only real way out is the elevator, while another smaller group is sent to the server room. In the end Finch is shot and dies while John and Fusco most likely die trapped in a hallway between Martine and two groups of her minions. The Machine deems this possible course of action a failure due to the fix not being installed and the team’s lack of survival and resets.
The Machine flashes back to Finch teaching it chess. Harold notices the AI likes the queen, the most powerful piece in the game. But the most powerful pieces in chess can also be used as a sacrifice, a trick. A second is like an eternity for The Machine, it has time to evaluate everything, well almost everything. It can’t see everything as Finch captures another chess piece.
In the second scenario The Machine decides to flip the “teams” from scenario one. John and Fusco install the fix while Root and Finch go to the elevator. At first this solution does go better in the beginning because Samaritan isn’t alerted to the team’s movement when Fusco pretends to be one of the hallway Samaritan operatives. The only thing that doesn’t work is once again Shaw shoots the bomber, is unable to obtain the code and is arrested, so John has to break into the server room which alerts Samaritan. Fusco isn’t the most tech savvy of the group; Finch has to text him the pass-code wasting valuable seconds. With the Samaritan agents on their way, John locks Fusco out of the room, attempts to finish entering the code and is shot by Lambert. Before John ‘dies’ he pulls the pin from a standard issue Samaritan grenade pulled from Jeremy’s coat (They carry grenades in their suit jackets?) and blows them all up.
This scenario included Root giving a big speech to Shaw about her love for her, trying to get Shaw to admit to her own feelings for Root and trying to convince Shaw that they belong together. It is Root’s goodbye to Shaw before she tries to cut the cable to release the brake on the elevator and is shot down by Martine and company. The scenario ends with no fix installed and most, if not all of the team dead, so The Machine deems it not a good solution and resets.
The third scenario The Machine runs keeps the team together. Of course, as is the show’s style, we get humorous and off the wall in the midst of the deadly seriousness when Fusco passionately kisses Root. (“Why not? We’re in a simulation.” Gallows humor from an AI?) The four move out and down the hallway, first taking out the gunmen who had been firing through the door of the break room and then two hallway Samaritan operatives once again.
Only this time Shaw talks to Fusco about how to handle a suicide bomber. Fusco’s advice to convince the man he’s not alone works as Sameen prompts other commuters to share their own financial losses, including the man with the code. Shaw is successful talking the bomber down and in obtaining the code. The team gets into the server room without alerting Samaritan’s agents. But, time is running low. The Machine speeds up the scenario dialogging the team by stating the kind of remarks they would make instead of producing the actual dialogue.
The team together uploads the program and the financial crisis is averted. They attempt to make their escape without conflict but the Samaritan operatives are already there. Harold restores power to the elevator; Lionel cuts the cable to the elevator lock. The teams tries to make their way there but are fired upon by the Martine and her goon squad. The Machine calculates everyone’s chance of survival at 2.07%. It’s very low but better than the certain death of its assets in previous scenarios. This option is chosen and reality begins.
The Machine once again flashes back to its chess lesson from Harold. The game has been won by the AI. The Machine has learned well but Finch tells it there are better masters of the game than he is, if The Machine chooses to look. Finch doesn’t want to play again; he doesn’t really like the game. Chess is a good mental exercise but it’s the game’s origin and what the pieces meant Finch doesn’t agree with. People were the chess pieces, some worth more than others. “Kings and pawns.”
Harold doesn’t think some people are worth more than others or that anyone deserves to be sacrificed and doesn’t envy the choices The Machine may have to make. Finch tells The Machine chess is just a game; real people aren’t pieces, no one person is worth more than another. People aren’t a thing it can sacrifice. “The lesson is that anyone who looks upon the world as if it’s a game of chess deserves to lose.”
Back in real time, Root gets the help from The Machine she asks for. She tells the others what the plan is; going to the server room, install the software, and make their escape together. Finch suggests that maybe they should spit up, but that didn’t work in The Machine’s scenarios and Root tells Harold this is their best chance. They take out the gunmen at the door. Root takes down the Degas that has been hit by gunfire in the scenarios by the two operatives in the hallway. Fusco and Reese take them out; the bullets the agents fire hit an empty wall and Root tells Harold, “What good is saving the world if you can’t enjoy it?” echoing Finch’s words in the first scenario. The four make it to the server room; Shaw talks down the bomber and gives them the code. The software is uploaded and the financial disaster is averted, the stock market numbers stabilize and start to tick up.
Fusco uses the axe to break through the wall to the wiring as Harold works on the generator. Finch mentions working on the generator reminds him of working on cars with his father as a boy. He remembers everything his father taught him about cars; really Harold remembers everything his father ever taught him. Root tells Harold not to worry; Finch has taught The Machine well. Fusco yells for Root’s help, they need to know which cable controls the elevator brake. Only the Samaritan operatives show up, early. Finch fixes the generator, Fusco cuts the cable and they head for the elevator.
They shoot it out with Samaritan’s people; Reese gets shot in the back protecting Harold. Root is wounded too and their two percent chances of survival drop to near zero. Root calls Sameen to say goodbye, but Shaw shows up and their survival chances improve, dramatically. The Machine seemed to consider Shaw’s involvement done after she obtained the code, which was something Finch had talked about in a flashback, that sometimes while playing chess you’ll not see everything. Shaw is like the queen the most powerful piece in the game of chess.
Shaw brought some explosive, care of her friend with the bomb vest, and uses it on the Samaritan agents pinning them down. Lionel and Harold get Reese in the elevator while Shaw and Root cover them. Only once they are inside the elevator won’t work. There is an override button across the hall that Shaw is pretty sure will release the elevator and she sacrifices herself so that the team can get away. Of course not before giving Root a kiss. Shaw manages to release the elevator only we see her get shot at least two times before the team gets away. As the queen in chess is the most powerful piece it can also become a sacrifice, something the Machine tries not to let happen as it desperately tries to find options to save Shaw. The episode ends with Martine getting ready to shoot Shaw in the head, but as the elevator door closes we see that Shaw is still alive on the floor. We only hear one single gunshot ring out after the door has closed.
Shaw is Gunned Down.
Person of Interest returns Tuesday February 3rd 10/9c on CBS
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