Sarah Shahi (CBS)

Much of “Honor Among Thieves” is frustratingly derivative, but its scope and the few new ideas it does introduce speak to the strengths of the series. Concerning a jewel thief betrayed by members of his own team, this is one of many episodes of Person Of Interest that concerns the shaky relationships between members of criminal organizations. Unfortunately, the A-plot featuring this week’s number, Thomas, and his Hole in the Wall jewel thief ring isn’t nearly as successful as previous attempts, and the whole enterprise feels tired. At this point in the show, thugs’ betrayals of one another are expected—if they weren’t already—and Thomas and his cronies aren’t rich enough characters to elevate the material beyond the mundane. In comparison, the topic of a pandemic feels fresh, even in the days of ebola panic, but this twist doesn’t gain any traction either. Even the closer focus on Shaw is shallow in many ways, as her adrenaline junkie tendencies and flirtations with criminality (and criminals, apparently) are nothing new. It isn’t typical to see her trading increasingly obvious sexual innuendo with an attractive jewel thief, but her season-long role as a driver for criminals—and her personality in general—make her undercover stint as a jewel thief feel too familiar.

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Even so, Shaw’s relationships with Thomas and Devin, her former trainee, serve as satisfactory reminders of why she makes a good addition to the team. Regarding national security, Person Of Interest portrays a government that doesn’t exactly value nuance, distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant with no middle ground. Shaw may fight for Thomas’ protection because she finds him attractive, but she also sees him as more than just a criminal. He may steal but he’s a human being who doesn’t deserve to be gunned down by government agents, agents who actually are more likely to murder than the outlaw Thomas himself. What goes around comes around when Devin saves his former trainer instead of turning Shaw over to Control, acting against orders. Their bond transcended his obligation to fulfill his duty. He saw her as more than an obstacle because he cared about her or trusted that her motives are justifiable, based on their history. Working for the government often involves thinking in terms of black and white, and neither Shaw nor Devin can easily conform.

This is not the first time that the government and a member of Team Machine have practically mowed one another down while engaged in a similar mission. Likewise, in the real world, different sectors of society overlap due to common interests and ambitions for dominance, and things often get messy. Similarly, people are also complex enough that it can be difficult for them to conform to the rules dictated by their profession, even if they chose it themselves. A functioning society requires different sectors and individuals are often more suited to the public, private, or nonprofit spheres. Person Of Interest is concerned with the ways in which every sector of society is uniquely affected by national security; at the same time, the show demonstrates how the lines between government agent, vigilante, and criminal can begin to blur. The team members have been assuming different identities all season and these ideas are compatible. Thomas the wine dealer, a seemingly functional member of society, is actually a thief on the side. He, Shaw, Root and Reese have trouble conforming to normality, preferring action to a job behind a desk. For Thomas, this means a life of crime but Shaw, Reese, and Root have managed to channel their energies into vigilantism, an especially unique realm that isn’t private, public, nonprofit, or criminal—at least in a traditional sense. Even Fusco’s life as a cop is too routine for these characters; Root can serve as a nanny—today, if it means feigning a French accent and ignoring children in favor of spy work.

Samaritan is gaining traction due to its understanding of society, exploiting the complexities, vulnerabilities, and power vacuums in every sector. Taking advantage of the democratic process, Samaritan has placed a new governor into power in order to control the populace. Philanthropy and education are realms of society that are considered to be relatively benevolent or trustworthy, so they’re particularly vulnerable to manipulation. Accordingly, Samaritan sees an opportunity to influence and monitor society when it catches wind of a software businessman’s idealistic goal to equip every child with technology. When Finch destroys the tablets to protect children, at the cost of destroying this man’s philanthropic work, he realizes that the lines between himself—the good guy—and Samaritan—the bad A.I.—are also blurring.

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Finch has chosen to become a vigilante, essentially believing that the best way that he can do good is to work outside of the system. He enjoys freedom that a government official, a businessman, or a philanthropist doesn’t. But who holds him accountable for his actions? Do the ends justify the means, as he was asked in the previous episode, or does it even matter if the only one he has to answer to is himself? Even when it falters, Person Of Interest remains relevant because of its ability to focus in on the specific while keeping an eye on the big picture. Society is a tangled web and this show maintains its curiosity, searching for storytelling opportunities in every strand.

Stray observations:

· “Maybe infidelity is going to spank him on the ass.” Shaw had some killer lines tonight.

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· I would be fine with The XX playing in the background of every scene, and the co-creators seem to be on board.

· Good timing with the Veterans Day fireworks.

· If only every cliché earpiece scene was as entertaining as the one between Shaw and Root. Their relationship continues to be a thing of wonders.

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· Loyal A.V. Club reader and Person Of Interest devotee Semi-bored torontonian brought to my attention the connection between this episode and investigations into schools guilty of installing monitoring software on laptops issued to students. Thanks!

· It won’t be long until Nick Tarabay will have appeared on Spartacus, Person Of Interest, and Arrow. His agent and I are clearly soulmates. More Devin!