Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Person Of Interest: “Booked Solid”

Illustration for article titled Person Of Interest: “Booked Solid”
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In recent episodes, Person Of Interest has enjoyed twisting its syntax into a pretzel, with flashbacks that turn into subplots and back stories, forcing the viewer to pay extra special attention to those helpful graphics that are sometimes the only hint you’re going to get that one of the heroes is about to play a scene with a character who’s been dead for five years. This fun episode dispenses with that, following a pretty straight chronological line. Maybe because the story is simple and the treatment of it direct and uncluttered, the show finds time for a fair sampling of those paranoia-inducing surveillance-camera P.O.V. shots that have been crowded out by the rush of the last few episodes, as well as nifty cameos by some of the recurring characters, such as Paige Turco’s Zoe, who just happens to be conducting business on Reese and Finch’s turf, and Amy Acker’s Root, who is revealed to be working for one of the villains, a highly placed government official played by Jay O. Sanders, smugly and snugly wreathed in power, who is seen complimenting her on being such a good secretary. He’ll be taking up space inside a garbage bag sitting on the curb by spring sweeps.

The setting is a hotel. (Hotels, it turns out, are especially close to Finch’s heart, because they’re “one of the last few places where people can preserve their anonymity.” I’m not entirely sure this is true, especially in an age where the technology that Finch understands so well is automatically collating which movies we order from the Pay-Per-View menu and every overpriced candy bar we lift from the mini-bar. But it has a nice ring to it.) The special guest target is the Argentine actress Mia Maestro (from Alias), playing Mira, an Albanian who has pretended to be Serbian so she could seek refuge in the U. S. after the Kosovo War, while concealing her identity from a powerful Serb who she witnessed committing war crimes, something she is now ready to talk about to a reporter described by Finch as “the kind of writer that has strong opinions about world leaders.” It’s Person Of Interest; when I said the story was simple, I was grading on a curve.

The writer has checked into the hotel where Mira works as a maid, and the bad guy takes the threat she represents so seriously that he has dispatched a freaking hit squad to the premises, to check into their rooms and bide their time until Reese notices them and decides that he doesn’t like the cut of their jib. What with all the hookers and their prospective johns hogging the lobby, Reese can’t just sit in a chair pretending to read a newspaper, like Robert Mitchum playing a private eye shadowing some lowlife, so Finch secures jobs for the two of them to justify their presence. He assigns himself the job of running the reception desk, and sees to it that Reese is hired on as the world’s oldest, most intimidating bellhop. This results in a series of petty humiliations that Reese has to endure from the scurrilous manager, leading up to a big “take this job and shove it” moment, but I preferred the scene where Finch, with just the faintest hint of giddiness, gives a couple directions to a restaurant where they can get a better steak than the one they’d get if they were to patronize the hotel’s kitchen. Michael Emerson, stickin’ it to the man.

Once the threat to Mira is nailed down, there’s no shortage of bad guys who can best be dealt with by shooting them in the head, especially with Jay O. Sanders’ hired goon showing up at inopportune moments. And it’s a little awkward when Mira, who is supposed to be not just innocent but capable and intelligent, decides to run away from the large man who’s been protecting her the whole episode and flee into a waiting elevator, figuring the man already in there who smiles as he sees her coming can’t possibly mean her any harm. She might want to get checked out to make sure she didn’t have a mini-stroke. But this is a good, meat-and-potatoes episode, with some neat little dabs of humor, the best of which come out of familiarity with the characters and their world. In the course of their activities, Reese and Finch also bust up an escort service that the nasty hotel manager is running out of the lobby, and I liked the joke when, at the end, Zoe sidled up to Reese in the hotel bar to thank him for the extra business: Her phone is ringing off the hook, from all the rich and powerful men who are worried about being named as the clients of hookers. I also liked the fact that Reese suggested that he’d be happy to let her show her appreciation, in the penthouse suite, naked. It’s nice to see Reese finally relaxing enough at the end of a case to react to the enticement of a beautiful, interested women in a friendlier way than with his usual tactic of staring straight through her. After all, there are a lot of beautiful women in Manhattan, and Fusco is only one man.

Stray observations:

  • A sweet, slyly revealing character moment: Ordered to report to the hotel, Fusco mutters something to himself about how he's always being forced to visit bars, and then orders a ginger ale.
  • The subplot about the FBI perhaps being interested in Carter turns out not to have died with Agent Donnelly (though it’s pushing up daisies by the end of the episode), and she is required to take a polygraph test, the prospect of which unnerves her. Trying to ease her mind, Finch tells her that polygraph machines can be outwitted; a polygraph is “just a machine,” and machines aren’t that smart. Coming from this source, this is funny, in the same way that it would be funny to hear Chevy Chase say that not all senile, cocaine-impaired former stars of Saturday Night Live are unpleasant to be around and impossible to work with.