Jim Caviezel, Amy Acker (CBS)

Samaritan may be causing mayhem in Smalltown USA instead of the Big Apple this week, but that doesn’t mean that its ambitions have been reduced in any way. The writers may be Hot Fuzz fans, as the episode also involves big city-small town fish out of water hijinks and a reveal that those in power are merely puppets controlled by an even higher power. It’s fun to see angsty, violence-prone characters like Reese and Shaw try to keep their bearings and interact with others in Maple, but the plot thickens before the comedy gets too broad, leaving the audience wanting more. What’s so impressive about this season is that the plot that’s being thickened is the same one that’s been stewing for months on end. The gradual unfolding of Samaritan’s plan to take control over society is fraught with tension, as it’s both eerily methodical and reminiscent of real world human anxieties. Small towns like Maple exist, where suffering economies jeopardize citizens’ futures. Large businesses do exert influence over communities, for good and for ill. Evil is often perpetrated because orders are followed blindly. This isn’t a show where teenagers are going to be castigated for owning smartphones, but plots where artificial intelligence seeks to control the populace via laptops given to children, trackers, and neural transmitters speak to current concerns regarding technology. Samaritan’s plans are thought-provoking, but the logistics and details required to flesh out this ambitious plot are skimmed over in favor of comic relief and a B-plot. This not-so-hostile takeover is a key element of Samaritan’s strategy, and hopefully future episodes delve even deeper into the dynamics and people involved.

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Big picture-wise, the team wants to take Samaritan down in order to save society. But Person Of Interest is equally interested in the small picture, the personal. This war has become personal because it’s lead to the disappearance of Shaw. The wild goose chase that lead Reese and Root to Maple wasn’t a complete waste of time, as it also lead them to the discovery of Samaritan’s intentions, as well as a missing secretary. Still, the pain that Root exhibits in this episode indicates that she would probably trade all of this mission-related progress for another minute with Shaw. Root is full of intriguing contradictions: She’s an independent, empowered woman who just so happens to have a penchant for double-fisting firearms, but she’s also a humble servant at the beck and call of an all-powerful supercomputer that orders her around through an earpiece. Without Shaw, this woman on a mission seems increasingly lost and on the brink of a crisis in faith. She’s used to seeking—and receiving—answers from her savior, but when she’s at her lowest, her pleas are met with silence. Is there a practical reason for the Machine’s coldness, or is it just for dramatic purposes? We shall see, but this One True Pairing between woman and machine can never be torn asunder—at least not permanently.

The Machine may be a benevolent goddess with humans’ best interest at heart, but she still holds all of the cards; the power imbalance between humans and machines will always exist. At least the Machine is taking advantage of her position by merely withholding key information from her disciple; meanwhile, Samaritan is studying human behavior with about as much respect as some students demonstrate when dissecting fetal pigs. Samaritan is going to find out what’s best for humans and see to their improvement, regardless of the collateral damage. This kind of experimentation in the name of societal innovation happens all the time, particularly in fields like education, though a bit more transparency is involved. When Samaritan is forced to abandon Maple, they have to go back to fending for themselves. This could be for the best as many involved in community development believe that self-reliance that originates from the inside is crucial if improvement is to take place, as opposed to dependence on benevolent outsiders. Again, the game being played is that much more interesting when the rules are this relevant. If the Machine doesn’t start playing by some of Root’s rules, there may soon be one more opening out there for a homicidal minion.

Stray observations:

· It’s great to see Detective Silva back in a B-plot with Fusco concerning a number who’s actually a perp for once. If Shahi needs to replaced, Silva’s a worthy candidate. Parallels continue to be drawn between Silva and Reese when she kills her first perp and is advised to go to counseling.

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· Reese’s awkward smile at the Maple cop is the best

· The conversation between Harold and Root about Shaw is supposed to be sad, but it’s just a reminder that they make the best verbal sparring partners.

· It’s strange to be concerned about Shaw and remember that she was originally a replacement for Detective Carter. POI giveth, and POI taketh away. At least Taraji P. Henson seems to be having a blast on Empire playing Cookie, a character who couldn’t be more different from Carter. She’s nailing the role; check it out.

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