"The Contingency" (201)
The Machine continues to send Reese numbers according to Finch's contingency plan but Reese is more concerned with finding Finch even without the Machine's help.
A series of flashbacks recap our story so far as well as provide a little more history into The Machine as we see Finch from the system's POV on Jan 1, 2002 which is labeled Day 1. He's testing The Machine's facial recognition and labeling systems. We quickly move through scenes of Finch and Nathan, Alicia Corwin and Nathan etc until we reach Day 3550 where Finch tells Reese he has built in a contingency should anything bad happen and then Day 3791 when Finch was kidnapped by the hacker ROOT.
We pick up our main story within seconds of Reese's demands for help finding Finch. resulting in an odd message via a payphone. Reese goes to try to sort out the message while having Carter gets herself assigned to the investigation of Alicia Corwin's murder.
Reese searches through a book of codes trying to sort out the message from the Machine before discovering that it's actually the shelf tags from the books themselves that are the codes. With Fusco's help he tracks down Leon Tao, a local banker. At first Reese thinks that Tao can help him track Finch and/or ROOT but quickly realizes that Finch's contingency plan was for the Machine to start sending numbers directly to Reese. A detail that is further enlightened in a series of flashbacks that show how Finch tested the Machine's ability to recognize and track a person and how he programmed the Machine not to place him above all other people, instead programming it to protect him.
Meanwhile we see ROOT and Finch together, first at a diner, then a pharmacy, a restaurant and lastly at an isolated house belonging to a man who, as revealed in several mysterious scenes, is almost certainly one of the men involved in the project that led to the building of the Machine. ROOT, whose real name is not Carolyn Turing, keeps Finch under control not by threatening his life but the lives of all the innocents around them. From her talk it is clear she's very brilliant but also completely insane. She talks of people as 'bad code' and of the Machine as if it is a child that Finch gave birth to and then gave to monsters to cage up. ROOT believes that she needs to set the Machine free.
Reese, Fusco and Carter eliminate the threat against Tao while Fusco and Carter do what they can to help Reese find Finch, both out of concern for the man and what his loss might do to destabilize Reese's questionable mental state. Reese gives The Machine an ultimatum. If The Machine doesn't help him find Finch, Reese will stop responding to the numbers. The Machine finally gives in, giving Reese the Social Security number of a 14 year old girl who vanished without a trace from Texas 21 years ago.
This episode hinges mainly on ROOT and the only word that I can come up with is creepy. Amy Acker's performance is creepy. And in a good way. She brings a sincerity to the character that just makes it even more creepy. It really feels like ROOT believes she's doing the right thing. She's the AntiFinch and the image of exactly why Finch set up The Machine that he did. She's his worst nightmare in many ways.
Caviezal continues his same emotionless manner which just adds to the sense that he's a guy barely holding onto his sanity, invoking Fusco's "I don't want to use you without him around" comments. And although the scenes are few, Emerson's moment's with Acker are perfect. You can see his eyes the fear he isn't speaking. And in typical JJ Abrams style, the flashbacks give us a small but tantalizing view into the gestation of The Machine.
This is a great show, one of those ones that I would gladly pay for. But unfortunately Warners in it's infinite lack of wisdom doesn't allow the posting of the episodes online via CBS's network, iTunes, Amazon etc. Even Season 1 hasn't yet reached any legal sources which is almost a little ironic when you consider that a show piece of this show is using computers and the Internet for good rather than 'evil'.