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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Person Of Interest: “Most Likely To…”

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Person Of Interest’s vision of a secret war over the apparatus of the security state involves so much plot machinery running on so many different interlocking tracks that the show might just seem mechanical if the people involved weren’t so vivid. Getting to know the characters can also affect your responses to the action in funny ways. Tonight’s episode includes scenes set in the halls of American power, where a U. S. Senator (played by The Wire’s John Doman, moving as if propelled by a combination of existential panic and rocket fuel) and Camryn Manheim’s Control argue over the secrets that, if made public, could cost them their jobs, for a start. It has a shoot-‘em’-up climax in which the forces of Vigilance converge on the heroes on two separate fronts. It has a tense and unresolved debate between Finch, who calls Vigilance out for its use of violence and defends his right to use surveillance technology to help people, and the Vigilance front man Collier, who readily concedes that Finch and his team are, in actual concrete terms, a force for good, but appears ready to waste them all anyway because they violate his philosophy by rejecting total anarchy and therefore “supporting” the corrupt power structure. And yet, for me, the most disquieting thing in the whole episode is Root’s new habit of addressing Finch as “Harry.”

“Most Likely To…” is Person Of Interest’s high school reunion episode. In fact, it’s the show’s “going to the high school reunion as someone else” episode, a gimmick that immediately triggers flashbacks in my head of Bobby Wheeler on Taxi going to Louie De Palma’s old school and telling everybody that he’d had a late growth spurt. It’s a sitcom trope, no matter how many automatic weapons you manage to smuggle into it, and the show uses it to score some easy chuckles to keep everyone’s spirits up after Reese and Shaw fail to save the latest imperiled soul whose number has been issued by The Machine: A bureaucrat targeted by Vigilance is blown up in her cab as Reese is moving in on her.

Finch, who has decided to investigate further by going to Washington with Fusco on his arm, dispatches Reese and Shaw to the reunion so they can keep an eye on the holder of the next number that The Machine has given them. He scoffs at the suggestion that this might be his way of punishing them, but he also says, “We can’t risk losing another number,” in the tone of a disappointed mother who wants her son to understand that she knows that he’s going to study hard and do as well on his make-up SATs as he would have done on his first try if he hadn’t spent so much time hanging around with that slutty girl with the tattoos.

The number belongs to a criminal prosecutor played by Nestor Carbonell. It soon becomes clear that he is a pariah at the reunion, where he’s surrounded by people who think he used to be a criminal before he was a prosecutor. He is assumed to have been responsible for the death of his girlfriend. Now, someone is torturing the poor guy by picking at his wounds, slipping the drug on which the woman overdosed into the gift bags and dropping a mannequin from the ceiling along with a flood of balloons. In between the comedy bits involving Shaw’s disgust over the woman whose identity Finch has tagged her with— a goddamn blogger, for Christ’s sake!—and the procession of women who greet Reese with a slap across the face, Shaw warms up to the handsome prosecutor. She can tell he didn’t murder anyone, and there’s something about his quiet stoicism that she finds appealing. Shaw was too busy during the last 10 years to keep up with Lost, so she can be forgiven for not knowing that you should never take anything that Nestor Carbonell says to you at face value.

Sure enough, it turns out that Nestor Carnonell has actually been punking himself, staging all the grisly pranks as a way to smoke out the real killer—an old friend of the dead girlfriend’s, whom someone describes as “her Ducky,” an apt and chilling turn of phrase, especially if you think of where Jon Cryer ended up. Meanwhile, Finch, having lost the latest round with Vigilance, decides to stay in D.C. for a while, so he can engage the enemy on the enemy’s turf. Standing next to him is Root, who has a scary smile and a gleam in her eye as she receives her latest inter-cranial text message from whatever strange gods are in the air. No one should attempt a mystery-within-mysteries conspiracy thriller without at least trying to secure the services of Amy Acker. She’s uncanny when it comes to looking as if she knows something that would blow the minds of lesser mortals right off their hinges. Of course, she’s had a lot of practice at it.