While “Q&A” was an entertaining episode, it couldn’t hold a candle to last week’s episode “Guilty” which had tremendous fan appeal. Although, in all honesty, it would be extremely hard to match or surpass that episode which had just about everything fans wanted to see, nothing they didn’t. I still haven’t seen any complaints about that episode and the accolade it got was well deserved.
It would have been hard to imagine we could get two episodes in a row without Samaritan being involved, so it was no surprised that we had a Samaritan subplot this week. The writers do try to integrate the number narrative into the ongoing Samaritan storyline but end up with mixed results. It would have been better to just tell the numbers story and leave the AI arc for another time. Unfortunately they don’t, and the AI plot ends up being very uninformative and contains more than a few plot holes.
The number’s case of the week isn’t exemplary by itself, but it does augment the episode’s complexity and far exceeds the AI storyline. It has action, drama, comedy, mystery and involved a huge helping of our favorite avenging angel. Reese is always a crowd pleaser and putting him center stage during February sweeps is a smart move. And Fusco was right in there with him. Love the two of the working together! All in all this storyline was the best developed of the two.
Reese (Jim Caviezel) is on his own this week as he tries to protect a software programmer Anna Mueller (Bella Dayne), with a mysterious second life, but it’s unclear at first which side of her life the threat is coming from. During the day, she works for the Fetch and Retrieve Company which is testing out a new software app called VAL, a voice activated search engine. But at night she is the Annihilator, an underground MMA fighter and a very good one at that.
Initially Finch (Michael Emerson) and Reese work the number together. Finch, as Professor Whistler, visited the company who had developed the software. Through him we were introduced to Calvin (Nick Westrate) one of the companies executives who turns out to play a commanding role in the storyline. After cloning Anna’s phone, Finch leaves the case to Reese, with the exception of an occasional assist with IT facts, to devolve down the Samaritan subplot. More on that later.
Reese keeps an eye on Anna as Detective Riley, a cop moonlighting in the company’s security force. It actually works out quite well during the episode, not only in establishing a bond between Reese and Anna, but gives Reese easy access to the company which turns out to be the source for Anna’s problem. Have to say I loved Reese’s handling of the fist fighting programmers that he had to deal with. It reminded me of a parent scolding children for throwing a temper tantrum. Hehehe
Anna’s problem began when she discovered a user abnormality in some of the VAL responses to users, an abnormality that could do more harm than good and, as the episode progressed, we saw that it had cause a suicide. Her persistence in getting this address by executives of the Fetch and Retrieve Company put her life in danger.
Anna’s ability as an MMA fighter is a definite advantage in the episode. She holds her own during a number of attacks by thugs trying to silence her. In the later part of the episode, Anna confides in Reese that her fondness for the sport is a way for her to try to feel she has some control over her life, a life that holds a lot of tension, frustration and worry over her sister’s cancer. Once again, Reese’s answer to her reveals a lot about the complexities of his own psychology, and an actual psychologist isn’t needed to do it. Reese made have a damaged psyche in some ways but his concern for people always shines through.
Reese explains it’s not the fights in the ring that count: it’s the fights outside the ring that matter such as supporting her sister, Jill, during her illness, who she had been avoiding to a large extent, and her perseverance to protect people from the corrupt VAL program. Reese encouraged her to see this VAL situation to its close and to realize she might have a better future in the MMA field than as an IT person. Good choice for her. Have to say I especially loved her evaluation of Fusco’s punches during the final fight sequence. Fusco of course took it all in stride. He got the main bad guy after all and looked pretty good doing it!
After Reese assists her with a few street thugs, Anna explains to both Fusco and Reese about the dangers in the VAL program. For some users, it supplies answers that acerbate their problems which is what happened with the suicide victim. She also expresses concern for a friend, Naresh Prasad (Omar Maskati) who had been helping her look into the problem. He had mysteriously disappeared overnight and she feared the worse for him.
While Fusco guards Anna at the precinct, Reese searches for Naresh, whom he had no trouble finding. Seems he had been promoted secretly, given a new office and advised to tell no one about it. Good way to keep someone quiet, pay him off with money in the form of a promotion. Naresh was in for a rude awakening, however, when Fusco told him he was implicated in one death and could also be responsible for Anna’s in the future if he didn’t help her. Amazing what a homicide badge can do! Of course, Fusco is pretty awesome himself.
While at the precinct, Jill’s medical alert bracelet is activated causing Anna to rush home to help her. It was a trap. Her sister’s bracelet had been hacked, Fusco was knocked out and Anna was drugged and kidnapped. Now the story gets interesting.
Reese needs Finch to analysis the VAL program to see how it manipulates certain user’s emotions. To do that, Finch needs a copy of the program. Here is a twist I didn’t see coming. Reese tells Fusco he’s going after Anna, something fans LOVE to see, but he tells Lionel to the code for Finch. Poor Lionel! He complaints he’s no hacker, but Reese tells him not to worry. He knows a guy who can help and promptly sends him to Naresh.
And of course, Reese does rescue Anna but she has already begun the fight. She attacks the kidnappers from the back seat doing quite well, but it’s Reese in his fearless style that ends the conflict. He walks straight at the car firing one shot, causing the driver to crash knocking out both goons. Car crashes are so much fun to watch! Anna exits from the back a bit dazed saying she wants Reese to know, “She had that.” You know what? I think she did too! 🙂
As sirens sound in the background, Reese hurries Anna away which makes her curious as to why. He is a cop after all. Reese’s reply, “…this is more paperwork then I want to deal with.” 🙂 Poor Reese. He not only has to worry about saving everyone and dealing with the evil that is Samaritan, but now he has to worry paperwork too! Kind of puts a whole new level to the superhero persona. 🙂
By now Finch has analysis the code and realizes the suicide victim was one of hundreds targeted by the company to help promote certain products, products sold by Fetch and Retrieve’s advertisers. Instead of giving some people the help they need, VAL was pre-programmed to make things worse and then suggest products to buy. Instead of the depressed person being sent the phone for the suicide hotline, he was sent articles to increase his depression and then sent ads for antidepressants. Finch found similar trends for afflicted users. As Reese put is, basically the program was designed to create vulnerable consumers, even if some died in the process.
The final conflict ends with Fusco and Naresh convincing Lauren, the owner of the company about the serious nature of the abnormality. That doesn’t sit well with the real culprit, Calvin, who arrives with two armed goons to, as he puts it, ‘clean up’ the mess. Seems Calvin did it all for money, typical sociopathic attitude, but ‘cleaning up the mess’ can only be done by Reese. He shows up with Anna and the two take on Calvin’s goons. No sweat for them. Being a black belt in Taekwondo myself, I really enjoyed watching Anna fight. In a cool twist, Calvin tries to run but is caught by Fusco after he hurried Naresh and Lauren from the room. Good for Fusco! He can be Robin to Reese’s Batman any day! LOL
So ends another successful case for Team Machine and it looked like all will be coming up roses from now on, but in the last scene we see Greer in a meeting with Lauren. Seems to stave off financial ruin, which is where Calvin and his malicious program left her, Greer has come to offer her a solution. Guess we are supposed to be worried, but as TPTB are indicating the Samaritan arc is ending, I’m not going to be that concerned about it. Just be careful about using a voice activated search engine app on your smart phone in the future. 🙂
BTW love that the writers are having Reese do more computer hacking now. He’s no Finch, and never will be, but no reason to think he is a stranger to computers either. When they are written true to character, they each use their skills to the best of their abilities, know their limitations and end up complementing each other which is what makes a great team. You can’t fault them for that.
The number case was the best part of the episode for me. I would have liked to see the whole hour devoted to it which would have allowed the character of Anna to be flushed out more, but unfortunately it was shared with a Samaritan subplot that really did little to move the Samaritan storyline along.
The Samaritan subplot involved Claire (Quinn Shephard), the character was saw a few episodes back playing Samaritan’s recruiting game, Nautilus, and her continued involvement with Samaritan. I’ll just say this up front. I don’t like Claire. I didn’t like her when she was introduced in “Nautilus” and I like her even less now. She just never struck me as having a good nature, a good heart, serious concern for humanity. Hubris and narcissism come to mind as well which contributed to my not liking the storyline much. While she may have a bit of naivety about her, she is definitely not loyal and if Claire shows up again, maybe I’ll hope Root’s aim improves a little. At least a good knee capping is in order for that girl.
Besides that, the storyline was way too predictable. Who out there did not know she was a mole from the beginning? Did we really need to see again how hard Greer and Samaritan are trying to capture Finch and Reese? If you didn’t see that coming, you have not been watching the series. I could see it coming from the minute I saw her in the previews. That in itself diminished the whole subplot but it was not the only disappointment in the storyline.
All season long we have been subjected to Greer and Samaritan looking for a way to capture Finch and his team. Now they have concocted this elaborate scheme to lure Finch out in the open. It had him in a deserted parking lot, at night, alone and the end point is shooting Claire? Really? It didn’t have henchmen hiding in the shadows waiting to spring out? It was a trap that Samaritan never sprung. That was a glaring plot hole but not the only one.
Of course, Finch was foolish for going there alone in the first place. Stupid he isn’t though you wouldn’t believe that by this episode. That poster could have been there for weeks for all Finch knew. No reason not to prioritize and protect the number first and then check out the poster. Besides, every team member has a responsibility to the others. How many times and in how many episodes have we heard it stated, “don’t do that, we could all get caught by Samaritan if you do.” If he is captured the team would be severely damaged if not terminated. Finch going off on his own was a risk that he needn’t take, especially when there were other ways to go about it.
That is not the vigilant Finch we’ve seen in the past. Finch had enough sense to hire Reese in the first place because he is NOT up on the whole crime-fighting scenario, yet he doesn’t realize he is inadequate in dealing with a Samaritan agent? And given what has happened with Samaritan there is no reason for him to think Claire is anything BUT a Samaritan agent. Even if Finch was trying to free Reese up to protect Anna, it was irresponsible of him to jeopardize the whole team by going off on his own. It would have been more logical for the narrative to deal with Anna first, then search the poster when backup was available.
Another point of contention…How did Finch miss the gun Claire had? She was unconscious for part of the time. He didn’t check to see if she was armed? At this point in the series, he’s been around Reese enough not to know better. He gave the impression all through the storyline that he didn’t trust her. On top of that, he claims to have changed because of the loss of Shaw (why not Carter too I ask?), become more cynical, yet we are to believe he is still trusting enough not to check her for weapons? I can’t see that. Next question, why didn’t the writers have Reese tell him to take proper precautions? He talked to Reese periodically throughout the entire episode. Anyone think the real Reese wouldn’t have thought to do that? I don’t. It is a mistake not staying true to your characters. In addition, the lack of narrative logic leads to a lot of confusion, a lot of misunderstandings and a lot of plot holes. Sorry but a lot about this piece just doesn’t add up.
And really it didn’t give us any information we didn’t already know. The most we got from it was Claire realizing she was expendable for the sake of the ‘larger’ plot and that could have easily been done in a few sentences in an episode further down the road. And what about the trip down the ‘how good Samaritan is’ road again. We already know it has ulterior motives for everything it does, no matter how innocent it looks. Claire might not, but the fans do, so I see no reason it going over that again. Who out there doesn’t know how evil Samaritan is and how it treats it human counterparts? Who out there believes that Samaritan is still looking out for the human race? Finch didn’t even fall for that this time. Greer and Samaritan do not value humanity, the whole point of ending the AI unit. Something we are STILL waiting to see BTW! We are way passed the point of knowing the evil AI twin has to go. It just seemed like over kill to restate this again and I can see a lot better ways to spend that air time.
If they had to do this Samaritan piece, it would have better if Reese had been more involved for all the reasons stated above. I knew right away what was happening and I’m sure many viewers did as well. My first thought was why didn’t Reese warn him? Get him out of there before it progress so badly. If Finch was still so naive to not catch on to the danger he was in, Reese certainly wasn’t. Finch, though he has evolved a lot, is still basically a computer programmer, not a skilled fighter. (Though I LOVED him taking out that guard with the urn BTW.) He is not trained in espionage tactics or military strategy like Greer and Reese are, and if they were going to write him as being in over his head, Reese should have been written in too. It’s the format we have seen in the earlier seasons and the format fans want the show to return too. I realize it was to shock tactic, to scare fans into believing Finch was in serious danger, but to fans that follow the series, even on a minimal level, this would have just felt awkward.
If the idea was simply to keep Root’s character in play, a better way would have been to have her involved with Finch the minute he found the flyer. Root certainly would have known this was a set up from the very start and would have been a lot more critical of Claire, which she was when she met Claire at the end. Glad Root didn’t kill anyone, but I wouldn’t have minded if she took Claire prisoner. I actually thought that was going to happened for a second, but alas it didn’t. THAT would have been a good reason for the subplot. At least it would have been something new.
Root would have also taken much better precaution when Finch entered the parking lot, when inside the mortuary, and when dealing with Claire. Then the plot wouldn’t have had to progress to capturing Finch, or, if they insisted on a shootout for that storyline too, have Reese and Fusco help Root rescue Finch. This would have given all characters a role in the episode while maintaining the original mythology and avoiding so many errors.
You also have to wonder why the Machine didn’t see this coming way before Claire hung up the flyer. It has forewarned our heroes before about Samaritan’s deceptions, why not now? It was not a spur of the moment thing. It took planning and time to setup, so there is no reason to believe the Machine didn’t see this coming. It could have warned either Finch or Reese and the Machine has no problem communication with either now so it didn’t need to wait for Root to finish whatever she was doing to report the deception. As Finch put it at the end, he got played by Claire and Samaritan almost won. Yep, but that needed have happened at all.
On a final note a word on the ratings for this week. The fact that this episode showed a 7% increase in the demos is a reflection on the viewing appeal of the previous week’s episode, “Guilty.” It’s well known that ratings received in a particular week reflex the appeal of the previously aired episode, especially if the episodes are aired back-to-back. The same holds true for episodes that are not well received. It will turn off the viewing audience for the following week. Which is why following up “Guilty” with a similar ‘Fan Favorite’ episode could have increased their rating even more and that is what February sweeps is about.
Screen Caps courtesy of Springfield