Home Reviews ‘Person of Interest’: “.exe” Review

‘Person of Interest’: “.exe” Review


Person of Interest
Season 5 Episode 12: “.exe”
Tuesday, May 14, 2016

In this week’s Person of Interest  “.exe” The Machine shows Harold a glimpse of what life would have been like if she never existed while Team Machine attempts to save the world.

Two Disclaimers:

1)Please be aware, this is a recap, and basically everything that follows contains spoilers.

2)I am very confused about this computer virus thing. I have seen every episode of this show, and watch it carefully but there are still things I am very confused about. The reason I am saying this is I may be misunderstanding what Harold is exactly doing or stealing, so if I misspeak I apologize.

So with that out of the way, let’s begin:

Harold is sitting in the dark talking to Machine-Root about the world’s most deadly computer virus that he is attempting to steal. He again wonders out loud at what the world would have looked like if he did not create the machine. In order to get Harold to shut up and stop whining The Machine decides to show Harold, with 96.8% certainty, exactly what the world would have looked like if she was never created.

Harold Simulation: Well without The Machine, Nathan is alive, and he and Harold are living the high life as one percenters. Harold doesn’t have a limp, and he never met Grace because, if you remember, The Machine brought them together. Harold is still single, has given up on love and wonders what life would have been like if they had succeeded in making The Machine (this is getting kind of meta). Nathan assures him that “if the government wants a system like that, they will have it someday… if they don’t have it already.” So true Nathan, so true.

The simulation has to stop there because Mr. Barnett, the man whose house Harold broke into, is about to arrive. When Mr. Barnett realizes that Harold is there to steal this ICE-9 virus he asks Harold if he plans to take down the internet. Harold is rolls his eyes “The internet? I’m about to take down a GOD!”. As Harold is leaving Mr. Barnett asks Harold who he is:

Harold: “Who am I? I’m just like you Mr. Barnett. I’m the man who sold the world. Only I charged them a dollar.”

I am glad that they didn’t have David Bowie’s Man Who Sold The World playing in the background or I would have started sobbing because it would make me think of this scene of Fringe.

Harold steals Mr. Barnett’s Tesla and The Machine drives him to a private jet. Let me repeat that. THE MACHINE, an ASI, DROVE A CAR. Like I’m not surprised, but I mostly am. Harold’s next piece of business is to shoot a frenchman with tranq-gun, kidnap him, and assume Frenchie’s identity in order to gain access into an NSA facility. This is a dark, dark road you are heading down Harold.

Shaw Simulation: Shaw is in a NYC wearing a cute pair of glasses and a blazer over a white blouse with the top two buttons undone. I have always had a thing for people in glasses, and man, Sarah Shahi in glasses does NOT disappoint.

Glasses .exe

Okay where was I? Oh yes, Shaw. Shaw is meeting with the Henry Peck, the NSA analyst whose number came up on 1X22 “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” Peck is still working for the NSA, and is still convinced the government has an all-knowing eye that is spying on them. He is meeting with Shaw, an ‘operative’ for the ‘Office for Special Counsel’ because he is starting to fear for his safety. On a positive note, Peck doesn’t need to fear for his life any more, but on a negative note, the reason is because he is dead. Yup, alternate reality Shaw is still a bad ass military operative who, I’m not sure if I have mentioned this yet, looks so very good in glasses.

After the simulation, The Machine and Harold discuss their feelings

Harold: “It is very distressing, but it makes sense that Ms. Shaw would have continued to work for her previous employer, since they never attempted to kill her.”
Machine-Root: “Then she never would have met Root.”
Harold: “Or lost her.”

First, The Machine shipping Root and Shaw, my heart can’t take this. But that one sentence “then she would never have met Root” is The Machine understanding the impact Root had on Shaw. That Root made her feel safe. That Root made her feel. Second, oh Harold, how have you become so hard? This line is probably one of the saddest things I have heard Harold say because it shows how numb he has become.

The Machine helps Harold get into the NSA facility by framing a black women for attempting to bring a gun into the facility, but that is as far as The Machine can go. The building is all Faraday caged up, so Harold is on his own for the rest of the way. Harold does pretty well for himself and makes it all the way to uploading the virus on the server, but is stopped just before he could utter the audio password needed to activate the virus.

Shaw and John return from D.C. to an empty subway and a lonely Bear. DID HAROLD REALLY LEAVE BEAR ALONE THIS WHOLE TIME? Who was taking care of Bear? I need answers! Shaw gives her “hammer” idea of killing everyone in order to find and save Harold but John, the scalpel in this duo, suggests that they need a thought out plan. Before they can discuss this further, the payphone rings with a new number. Who is the number this time? None other than FUCKING GREER! Well his alias at least, but still, all the same. Well, it is official, the Mayhem twins are heading right back to the beltway, and apparently leaving Bear to fend for himself for another full week.

When they arrive in D.C. The Machine sends the coordinates of an NSA facility. After casing the place, they decide the best way in is via the recycling plant next door and they are on their way. And then my favorite Shaw/Reese interaction in the ENTIRE WORLD happens. Shaw finds a way to get into the facility, it is to climb through a small vent/furnace thing. John isn’t feeling this plan at all, and then finally it hits Shaw:

Shaw: “What? You’re claustrophobic?”
John: “Just remember what happened to that fat German kid in Willy Wonka.

This is just gold. First, John being claustrophobic. Second, John referencing the fat German kid from Willy Wonka for his REASON for being claustrophobic. Why is this show ending?!?!?!

They get themselves into the facility, steal some uniforms by knocking out a few soldiers and head upstairs to continue their ASI scavenger hunt. Their scavenger hunt leads them to an evidence room where they find Edward Snowden’s modem. And that is exactly what the Machine wanted them to find.

Back to Harold
So the Samaritan Goons bring Harold to operations HQ to have a talk with Greer. He asks Harold if The Machine is aware that this virus will kill her as well as Samaritan. While Harold admits to not telling her directly he is pretty sure she is smart enough to surmise that shit herself. Samaritan is glad that Harold hasn’t let the virus loose yet because a) Samaritan doesn’t want to die and b) Samaritan doesn’t want The Machine to die. No, they are the only two of their kind alive. ASIs have to stick together man!

Greer: “We’re dragging humanity to a higher plane. An ASI is the only thing that can save this planet. Or get us to another one if need be.”
Finch: “Humanity has always managed to survive on their own.”
Greer: “With a little help from the gods.”

Wait Samaritan is going to send us to live on another planet? Is this how The 100 started?

Greer compares the upcoming ascension Samaritan is planning to Noah’s arc. Humanity will board the arc two by two. But Samaritan doesn’t want to be the only one of his kind on the arc. He wants a companion too. He plans on taking The Machine as his wife. I think Samaritan also hinted at ASI babies but I am not sure. Either way, this is getting creepy now.

Greer wants Harold to reconsider what he is doing. After the virus kills the ASIs, what then? Um I am pretty sure that is obvious, then the ASI apocalypse is over. Harold says this more eloquently though: “Then we go back to letting humanity determine its own fate.”

During his inspiring speech Harold accidentally tipped his hand by letting it slip that The Machine does not know the password to the virus. And with that information, all of the oxygen starts to escape the room. Greer has made them the ultimate queen’s sacrifice for Samaritan. If Harold dies, then no one can launch the virus.

Greer begins a long monologue about how history will revere them. Greer does so much talking that he expedites his death my wasting so much oxygen. And to make an obvious Hamilton reference: Greer, “Who lives who dies who tells your story?” How will history revere you? No one can tell your story because no one can know about Samaritan.

After Greer dies Harold struggles to get out of the room but does not know the code to get out. Luckily Shaw and Reese were able to complete their end of the job, so The Machine can have access inside the building. Just as Harold is taking his last breaths, The Machine uses a cellphone outside to give Harold the code to exit the death room.

Harold breaks free and after taking a few deep breaths answers the call by Machine-Root

Machine-Root: Harold are you okay?
Harold: Yes. Yes, thanks to you.
Machine-Root: Don’t thank me, Shaw and the Big Lug found a way in to reconnect us. Aren’t reunions nice?

Oh man, The Machine calling Reese “the big Lug” shows how connected Root and The Machine really were. The Machine tells Harold he has two options. He can either help his friends, or deploy the virus and save the world. And as Harold apparently knows, John has always been living on borrowed time.

John Simulation: Without the Machine, John would be dead, buried in an unmarked grave. While he would have been able to leave the CIA in time to save the love of his life Jessica, doing so would have shown her a dark side of him that she couldn’t unsee. Without Jessica, Harold or Carter to save him, his body would wash up in the East River a few months later.

This is too much for Harold to handle. He wants The Machine to take him to his friends. He gets to Shaw and Reese just in time to save them but the rest, Harold must do alone. He tells them the route they need to safely exit the building before slipping away.

As Harold is walking to the heart of Samaritan, he pleas with The Machine. What should he do? What decision should he make? Nothing that she showed him definitively proved that the world would have been better without her. Only that it would be different. It is then that The Machine shows him one final simulation.

The Root Simulation: Without the machine, Samaritan would have still existed. But without the Machine to keep it in check, it would be in control of everything. It would have creeped into every facet of our lives, of the world. It would eliminate anyone who dared question its vision of the world. But more importantly, without the Machine, Root would be working for Samaritan and still think humans were just bad code. She would not have learned that humans are worthy of compassion. That humanity has value.

With this last simulation, Harold has made his decision, but he hesitates for a moment and The Machine wants to know why:

Harold: I promised you I would never hurt you again.
Machine-Root: I know, but in breaking this promise, you’ll be helping to fulfill a much larger one.

My heart. My heart is breaking because of a computer. In this moment, I sort of forgive Harold for being such a douche this season. He has been struggling internally this entire time. Which does he choose: His love for his creation or his love for humanity? He couldn’t accept his love for The Machine because he didn’t want to feel the pain if he ever had to destroy it. But The Machine understands, and that not only comforts Harold but also makes him proud. The thing he created was good. She does value human life, she was everything he could have imagined she would become.

Harold: “My machine? Her purpose has been constant. To protect and save humanity. It’s what she’s doing now.”

Harold called The Machine “she.” Not “it” not “The Machine,” but “she.” Finally he has admitted out loud that she is his child. And in this moment, I just thought of how proud Root would be. How The Machine finally got what she wanted, for Harold to show her the love she felt for him. For Harold to embrace his child. In this moment, Root did not die in vain.

Harold gets ready to disseminate the virus but again pauses before saying the password.

Machine-Root: “Eight letters. Your decision Harold.”
Harold: “Eight letters? You knew all along.”
Machine-Root: “Maybe I know you better than yourself.”
Harold: “Dashwood”

And the virus is live.

Let’s not forget Fusco
Fusco comes into work where there seems to be a lot more activity than usual. He learns that the authorities found that tunnel of dead bodies that blew his ass up a few weeks ago in Queens. As the late great Root would say… “Ruh roh.”

The Fusco simulation: He is a drunk who never got the chance to turn his life around. He is no longer a cop. Actually the only reason he isn’t in jail is because he ratted out HR to the cops. Without the machine Lionel would never have meet anybody who re-calibrated his moral compass. Not Reese and certainly not Carter. Actually Carter is the one that got Lionel kicked off the force. Yup that is right, without the Machine Joss Carter would be alive. She would have taken down HR, become Lt. and married Cal Beecher.

In real life, FBI Agent LeRoux pulls him aside and asks if he knows about this bulletin board he found at the station with the pictures of every dead body found in the tunnel. Fusco starts freaking out, and then outside the station Agent LeRoux knocks him out and brings him to the river to shoot him dead. But Fusco is no Dummy, he was wearing a bulletproof vest so he is alive. At least for now.

Other Things

1) So what did Harold steal last week? It was the virus right or was it the location of the virus and then he went to Barnett’s to steal the virus? But then what is ICE-9? Was the virus or just the password? Also when did Harold make the password for this virus? I am so very confused about this virus!

2) Loved that Shaw was fiddling around with Root’s copy of Sense and Sensibility. The book that Harold used to propose to Grace. And whose main protagonists last name is Dashwood. (Thank you to Kaylen for helping me piece this all together).


  1. I think it’s really interesting that you choose to use male pronouns for Samaritan because I always think of Samaritan in my mind with female pronouns. I guess I seem to think all AIs are female, just like ships. Or maybe Root just really got to me. Plus I think it says a lot about how great this show is that I’m even debating what pronoun is applicable to A MACHINE.

    I’m excited to see how the series ends, but sad it means your recaps will end as well!

  2. Ugh. I’m so sad this show is ending. I would’ve liked one more season or at least a full season. Too bad this wasn’t on cable, too smart for network television, I guess.

    At least Mr. Robot will be starting up again soon.

    • Well, this show is a gem. While I can’t deny that I have biases for this show, I am just not convinced that Mr. Robot will be able to bring that feeling to me as POI did. What do I do next with my life ? I feel so empty now.

      • While I am only half way through Mr. Robot, I agree with you that I don’t think that it will bring the feeling that POI did.

        I think that Person of Interest was more accessible to non computer people. I am not well versed on computer hacking stuff, and I got confused during POI often about what was virtual stuff was actually going on, but the other things going on mitigated that confusion. I find myself alot more confused when watching Mr. Robot where I am not sure if I am confused because I missed something or didn’t understand what was said, or if the show wants me to be confused.

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