Person of Interest usually does a good job of alternating between arc episodes like last week's, and weird "number of the week" deals like last night's. If you're still reeling from all the revelations about the CIA, Reese's possibly-dead-for-real-this-time ex-partner, and the Finchy conspiracy introduced last week, you can relax this week. Our number belongs to a campy young social media mogul named Justin Pierce who runs Friendczar — and who is in deep trouble for challenging the likes of Connectroid! Seriously, the cheesy web parody names in this episode are hilarious. Plus we got further insight into why Finch and Ingram built the Machine.
Anyway somebody is trying to kill Justin, and Reese can't figure out how to get close to the guy without basically just spilling his guts about how he knows Justin is in danger and wants to shadow him. Justin has always wanted a giant, stone-faced boyfriend, so he leaps at the chance — right after nearly choking to death on some booze his killer has spiked with a toxin he's allergic to. So Reese saves Pierce by sticking a tube down his throat, and then it's a quick slide into more weirdness about corporate politics and death. Apparently Friendczar has been intimidating a woman named Emily Morton, whose match-making site Alchementary (is it supposed to be Zivity or Zoosk?) was going to CANNIBALIZE Friendczar. But she's disappeared, taking her hip nerd glasses and post-goth hair with her! Who did it? Was it the socials? The medias? The VCs?
Turns out it was a giant ploy that Justin's lawyer cooked up. You know, the lawyer who Pierce thought was his friend! But it turns out that the Friendczar has no real friends . . . except Reese. And Emily, who was actually in on some scam with Justin to spin off Alchementary into a new, even more giant site that would match people up into the perfect spouses, business partners, and surgically-created siamese twins. How could Friendczar ever compete with that?
Even though Pierce is basically a stupid douchnozzle through the whole episode, we're still supposed to believe he's brilliant. And that's why he figures out that Reese and Finch have "true power" because they have no online footprint. "Anonymity is power!" he exults. It's a great line, and one of those moments when Person of Interest actually shows real brilliance in its plotting — so it's too bad that we're supposed to believe that Justin figured that out. Now he's supposed to be sort of on par with Finch and Reese, a chaotic good ally who is onto them in a way that few other people are. Also, that bit at the end where Pierce supposedly redeems himself by giving away his car to the black guys he's been hassling on the basketball court all episode? Could have done without that.
Speaking of things that this episode delivered that I couldn't quite believe in . . . I am still mulling over how I feel about the scene where we watch Ingram and Finch on the day of the 9/11 attacks. Finch has been coding all day, so he's been out of the loop. Ingram gently steers him to a monitor and they both watch in frozen horror as the footage of the plane crashes plays. Finch starts babbling about how they have to change the world, and stop "the people who did this." It seems like a weirdly naive thing for Finch to say. After all, he was always a gray hat hacker.
That said, there's a way that this scene works nicely with the way the series has unfolded. We know that both Finch and Ingram slowly became disenchanted with the government, and both came to regret giving the Machine to the intelligence agencies. After watching a year and a half of Person of Interest, I think it's clear that there's a double meaning to Finch's comment about the "people who did this" — he may mean the US government, not the terrorists.
And that's why this show is awesome.