Person of Interest: Control-Alt-Delete
January 14, 2015 8:26 AM - Season 4, Episode 12 - Subscribe

The government's head of Samaritan (Camryn Manheim) starts to question the methods and intentions of the program; reports of vigilantes surface.
posted by DirtyOldTown (14 comments total)
This continues to be one of the best shows on tv that somehow escapes serious discussion. This essay on "mid-reputable" tv shows would almost apply, but I think that sells the show short.

Anyway... last night's ep... kind of pissed we didn't see what happened to Shaw. Although it was really good to see our resident genius Finch do something that was actually brilliant and indicative of his cleverness, with the ruse to get the worm into Samaritan's phone network.

I also appreciated the extra time spent on Control. No tv program was ever hurt by including more Camryn Mannheim.

I also still think that Reese is going to die and this is a fakeout with Shaw, much as the fakeout with Reese disguised Carter's impending death. They've run out of stuff to do with Reese, but Shaw/Root is just picking up steam.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:41 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I really liked this episode. It was refreshing to delay the appearance of Reese/Root/Finch until well into the episode, instead seeing a bit of the world from other players' perspectives. Samaritan's avatar (the kid) is really quite good, although wholly unrealistic (whatever that means in a SF show about AI; I just mean a child would obviously be a bad choice for a representative). I wonder if they're not grooming the dude who let Shaw go and fought with Reese for a bigger role.

I think Finch's machine seems incredibly ill-equipped to counter Samaritan in this series, in general. An AI with that much of a head start should be more formidable, although I suppose that runs counter to the narrative necessities of the show. For a few weeks now people have been speculating on who's going to die, but I actually kind of hope that nobody does. Shaw and Root are interesting characters, but I think Reese isn't yet played out, and he and Finch too central to the show to simply kill off.
posted by axiom at 10:14 AM on January 14, 2015

Nice link, homunculus. I notice in there that they mention Sarah Shahi is pregnant. So it's entirely possible this is a good news/bad news situation. The good would be that they may not be killing her, just coming up with a way to take her offscreen long enough to have a baby and come back when she's ready to ass kick again. This probably also explains her having her cover blown and being taken off active duty a few weeks ago--no karate kicks or jumping off of fire escapes for the pregnant lady. The bad could be that they are probably not going to get Shaw back anytime soon, and even if they did, they will probably need another reason for her not to be so physical.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:04 AM on January 14, 2015

Not to spoil this here, but there were a couple of pretty comprehensive EW stories & interviews on the Shahi situation posted in the discussion of last week's episode.
posted by gimli at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2015

Since I missed this post and tried to make my own:

An IGN interview:

IGN: I think you guys surprised a lot of people with this chapter. What was behind the idea to step away from Team Machine and focus on Control after last week's big episode?

Jonathan Nolan: You know, we love doing that. It's sort of a novelist impulse. Right when you get to a really really juicy part of the story where the audience can't wait to find out exactly what happens next, you switch gears and do something different. We've wanted to do this for a long time. Ever since the episode "Relevance," which introduced Shaw. So we figured it would be a fitting bookend to her story, or this chapter of her story on our show. We've established this pattern now of occasionally doing episodes where we just jump ship completely into a different universe. And to show the other side of the equation.
The AV Club recap:

This episode’s angle is a good one, but it has its challenges. Spending time with Control means operating in a different world, a world that hasn’t been refined over the course of many episodes in the same way that the team’s world has. As a result, many of the scenes at the White House fall a bit flat; without the regulars, scenes really benefit from crackling dialogue, especially when the chemistry and timing between the actors involved haven’t had the time to develop.
What worked for me:

-Being behind the scenes with the relevant number team;
-Loved the Finch/Control moment, especially how Control viewed everything Finch was saying as part of a mindgame and how Finch was just being completely honest;
-Reese and Root, exhausted and emotional as the drive to their next best lead;
-Control's daughter playing a violent FPS game, moments later Control has a real FPS perspective.

What didn't work:
-The kid playing Samaritan's avatar. Worked out ok in the school room with Root, not so good at the White House.
-The Samaritan rep - a simple justification would've allowed him to likely divert Control's attention as opposed to turning it into a power struggle
-that we have another person in Canada living in a cabin with deer heads on the wall. We don't all live like that!

I also really had the hope that the hacker on the train to Canada was somehow what the Machine wanted; that Root and Reese had saved him as the NOTW, and that he could somehow hook up with the other parts of the brain trust the Machine is building. But I guess whatever weaponized code Samaritan wanted is built and that loose end is tied up...
posted by nubs at 2:02 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

"-The Samaritan rep - a simple justification would've allowed him to likely divert Control's attention as opposed to turning it into a power struggle"

Yeah, that really bugged me -- to me, that's just lazy writing. It makes us all really hate the guy and that's why writers do stuff like that, but it's totally unrealistic (why in the world would you risk revealing to someone who, in the end, has the might of the entire US government available that they're actually just a puppet on strings?) and ultimately it's not very satisfying or interesting.

This is one of the things I notice about PoI in terms of it being a broadcast show that was intended to have a large audience -- it does this stuff that network shows do. Like so much unnecessary exposition because US broadcast networks invariably assume that the audience is too stupid or paying too little attention to figure out anything from context or that they can't stand to be confused for ten seconds until they figure something out. It's all spoon-feeding, and the extravagantly arrogant Samaritan rep is really sort of the same thing.

Another thing that bugged me was that apparently now Fusco is aware that really big things are going on but we're not shown him being told anything and we don't see him asking any questions. There should have been a satisfying reveal for Fusco there, as he's been the only person kept in the dark for a really long time by this point.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:09 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another thing that bugged me was that apparently now Fusco is aware that really big things are going on but we're not shown him being told anything and we don't see him asking any questions.

How aware is he, though? Fusco was a dirty cop knee-deep in HR when they found him - his skillset includes not only being a very good detective, but also being very good at compartmentalizing and doing what he's told while pointedly avoiding anything that would actually clue him in to the big picture. Necessary survival skills for a low-level, un-ambitious grunt in a criminal organization. I figure that at this point he's more or less at the some place with the Machine team that he probably spent a lot of time when he was working with HR - he's got enough knowledge and enough puzzle pieces that he could figure most of it out, but he figures (correctly!) that it's safer not to know so he's probably going out of his way to keep himself in the dark as much as possible. As long as he doesn't want to know, it almost doesn't matter how much of what's going on he's exposed to.

There may come a moment when Fusco decides he doesn't want to be in the dark, that he actually really truly wants to know what's going on, but he never really got to that point with HR even when he was expecting to be killed and buried in the woods; I expect it's going to take something very major or very personal to move him away from that mindset of "I'll do what they ask me to do and try to not to think about what I'm doing or why, it's just easier that way."

As far as the struggle between Control and the Samaritan rep, I was willing to forgive it under the assumption that distracting her/lying to her more convincingly was probably how he's handled this kind of situation in the past - it seems to me that part of Samaritan's moves in the episode (both with Control and the President's chief of staff) were careful, controlled doses of letting the humans know they're not in charge. Why it thinks that is beneficial over letting them continue to believe they are, I don't know, but I'm willing to wait and see where it goes.
posted by mstokes650 at 5:02 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have been most pleasantly surprised by this season, in terms of the story. Was surprised that JC hasn't left the show, but maybe he's that good of an actor acting like he wants out of the show/team but is actually really invested in being part of the show/team.

Possible apologia for Samaritan being canny-er/more-powerful than the Machine:

- different starting points; S was built on newer and more advanced hardware. Although both AIs develop exponentially, starting later but higher can produce a steeper exponential curve and rapidly exceed earlier starters with a shallower curve
- S was trained differently; having learned lessons from the Machine, could do away with a lot of redundant or "research-ey" stuff and only concentrated on a cold hard minimalist AI for a very narrow application

The vibe I got from the show was that Samaritan was like a super soldier that was indoctrinated into being a specific kind of super soldier from birth whereas the Machine was a developmentally challenged offspring (with savant-like abilities and utility) who was nurtured into being an individual. In other words, the Machine is less "able" "raw-power"-wise than Samaritan because it, the Machine, uses that difference in capacity for love.
posted by porpoise at 8:09 PM on January 14, 2015

It struck me that Samaritan could have just created false data that was on the hard drive. Or utilize any number of other means to cover. It wanted the fight. It knew it could push people.

The interesting thing is Control, and whether they have the power to kill Samaritan.
posted by gryftir at 12:17 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Theme song for this episode.
posted by homunculus at 2:18 PM on January 16, 2015

No PoI tonight? Phooey. I was looking forward to Samaritan's response to the SotU.
posted by homunculus at 3:48 PM on January 20, 2015

Here it is:

"All your base belong to us. Resistance is futile."
posted by nubs at 6:05 PM on January 20, 2015

Harold to Control: "You foolish woman." That's about as harsh as Harold ever gets with anyone, and yet it didn't sink into Control at all. She's not nearly as intelligent as she thinks she is. She had several people trying to tell her the truth in this episode as well as running into some evidence of how Samaritan is limiting her power, and she refused to even consider what they were saying.
posted by orange swan at 8:42 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

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