‘Person of Interest’: “Synecdoche” Review

Person of Interest
Season 5 Episode 11: “Synecdoche”
Tuesday, May 7, 2016

The pain and sadness on Person of Interest continued this week as the team mourns the loss of Root while Team Machine stops a presidential assassination.  Thankfully, CBS gave us, the viewers of this amazing show, the decency of a full week to cope with Root’s loss instead of bombarding a bazillion episodes into a 48 hour period.

I knew that “Synecdoche” was going to be hard to watch, and within minutes of watching my heart had already dropped to my stomach as Fusco and John stand outside the gates of a cemetery, watching Root be buried in an unmarked grave.


Everyone is feeling the loss of Root. One thing that Root had in spades was charm and charisma. No matter how twisted and evil the things she did were, you couldn’t help but love her. Root was a hero that sacrificed her life to save humanity and there are only four people in the world who know that. Even Fusco loved Root’s crazy ass:

Fusco: “I really admired her. Don’t get me wrong she was crazy as a clown, but she had conviction. She gave this fight everything she had…Rest in Peace Cocoa Puffs. Lord knows you deserve it.”

Shaw isn’t at the cemetery because she is mourning in her own way. And her own way is by standing in a playground. Her safe place. The place that she chose to shoot herself over 7,000 times instead of killing the woman she loved. But the person that made this place safe is no longer here. She is constantly rubbing the spot behind her ear to feel for the chip that proves that this is just another simulation, that this bad story will end soon.


John finds her in the park and she just rolls her eyes at him and walks away:

Shaw: Wanna ask how I’m feeling?
John: (Sighs) How are you feeling?
Shaw: I’m not feeling anything.

As Sameen says this, I can’t help but think back to Season 3’s episode Razgovor when her mission is to save a mini child-detective Gen. Gen wants to give Shaw a token as a thank you for saving her life, and hands over her grandfather’s medal of honor:

Shaw: “I’m just not wired for this kinda stuff kid.”
Gen: “I know. I figured you out. It’s not that you don’t have feelings, it’s just like the volumes turned way down. Like the sound on an old tape. The voices are there, you just have to listen.”

I think Sameen trying to grapple with the loss of Root exemplifies what the kid was saying. Root made her listen closely to that old tape and feel, at least in some part, to those feelings that were previously muted.

John tries to get her back into the fight, but Shaw has already made her decision. She killed herself 7,000 times so she would not have to feel the loss of Root. This simulation sucks and she wants it to end so she runs out to the street and screams “Here I am. Come and get me.” Before John can stop her a car screeches in front of her, but it isn’t a Samaritan operative that emerges. It is a man delivering an envelope from Thornhill Corporation (the company the Machine created when she thought she was going to die). The Machine has just delivered Shaw a new identity. She has also delivered Team Machine a new number, the president of the United States. Well I guess they are headed to D.C.

Once in D.C. Reese and Shaw head over to a Presidential Gala of some sort, but Shaw’s invite did not come with a plus one, leaving John to think quick on his feet. And that is when Logan Pierce comes to the rescue, because apparently this team is unable to function without a white rich tech geek backing them up. If you recall, Logan Pierce is one of the founders of Friendczar whose number came up in Season 2.

While John is schmoozing with Pierce, Shaw gets sucked into a boring political chat with a senator’s wife. This is how excited Shaw is to be in this conversation.


Thankfully John finds the bomb threatening the president’s life and Shaw is able to leave this snoozefest before it is her turn to speak. After helping defuse the situation (pun very much intended), a Vigilance like message appears on all of the screens in the room:


It is also broadcast all around town which leads Reese and Fusco to believe that their irrelevant former geeky tech billionaire is the perpetrator. And the first step to finding Pierce is by kidnapping and interrogating a waiter, Charlie, from the Gala. John goes first, but his ‘good cop’ routine yields no results. Luckily Shaw is on deck and more than ready to approach the plate. And when she gets there she lays it down hard on waiter boy Charlie.

Shaw: “See, I’m made for this kinda work. None of this bothers me. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel scared. I don’t make friends so I have nothing to lose. But you, you’re just a normal guy with a normal life.”

But you DID make friends Sameen! Anyway Shaw continues to detail to Charlie how she is going to torture everyone he loves if he doesn’t tell her what she wants to know.

Shaw: “If I could feel sympathy for you Charlie I would, but I don’t. What I do feel is anger. I’m angry that you’re trying to kill the president. I’m angry that we’re stuck in a room with you. But most of all, I’m angry that you have people who you can love and you chose to sign their death warrant.”

Oh man, Sameen, my heart is breaking for you, even if your heart can’t. And the way Sarah Shahi delivers the line makes it all the more heartbreaking. As I have said in at least two previous recaps, Sarah Shahi’s acting has been impeccable this season. Her portrayal of Shaw is almost mesmerizing.

Shaw ends her interrogation by electrocuting him, and then letting him escape so he can lead them to his leaders, which is the same location that the President is currently giving a speech.

Shaw and John head to a roof to get eyes on the plaza and soon realize that there is no shooter. This assassination will executed by compliments of a drone. The only way to stop POTUS from dying is by shooting at him. So John tells Shaw to shoot the president to save his life.

Shaw: “Whatever you say Wilkes-Booth”

Man I love this show.

The two now have to escape from the building where they literally just shot at the president. Not an easy task, but if anyone can do it, it is these two crazy killers. They are almost free and clear , after kicking the ass of some Secret Servicemen on steroids when Vigilance 2.0 corners then in the stairwell. This situation won’t be as easy to get out of. Luckily Joey Durban, the soldier turned bank robber who John saved in season one (side note: also Amy Acker’s husband) comes to save their asses and throws them army fatigues to change into.

When they finally escape, Shaw comes to a realization, that Samaritan no longer considers the President of the United States relevant. I know that this is really important, but I am not sure i really understand Samaritan and what it does enough to fully understand why. I will take Sameen’s word for it though.

Shaw: “If Samaritan wants to take down the entire world, I’m sure as hell not gonna make it easy for it. That’s what Root would have wanted.”

After saving the life of the president, John and Fusco meetup with Joey Durban and Logan Pierce. Harper Rose, a con man woman whose number came up in Season 4, is also there. The reason that John felt like he was being followed all episode was because he was. The Machine sent these three irrelevant’s John’s number. The Machine recruited them, and they are now working for Team Machine: DC.

Adventures of a Boy and his ASI

Harold is in Kentucky, fixing his car when The Machine in Root’s voice starts talking to him again. It is hard to explain the comfort and eeriness in hearing her voice. It is strange because Machine-Root talks in a calmer, softer manner than Real Root. She doesn’t have the life and enthusiasm that Real Root had. She sounds almost childlike. It is almost like when the Machine stopped talking directly to Root and she was sad and lonely and Shaw called her Eeyore. (hold it together Alyssa).

He tells The Machine to stop talking in Root’s voice, because it is too painful for him to handle, so she changes her voice to his old Earth Science teacher. It is at this moment that it really hits me: The Machine can sound like Root, talk like Root, think like Root, but she isn’t Root.

Harold:“I don’t expect you to understand the loss of Miss Groves.”
Machine-Root: “But I do understand. I loved her. You taught me how.”
Harold: “I didn’t teach you how to love.”
Machine-Root: “Of course you did. You taught me to see everything. See everyone. And I do, but I see thousands of versions of them. What they were, what they are, what they could be. And what is love if not being seen.”
Harold: “Then why not choose one of the thousands as your voice? Why here?”
Machine Root: “Samantha Groves was special. She was capable of terrible things but she chose to do good. Well ever since she found you at least. I watched her 12,483 times is the seconds before she expired. I couldn’t save her but I kept trying. You can’t conceive of my grief because you can’t experience it like I do. But it’s there. My approximation of Samantha Groves is 99.6% accurate. We are virtually indistinguishable. I find comfort in that.”

I love hearing what The Machine is thinking, hearing her reasoning. And I love that Harold has to finally face that the being he created isn’t just code. She feels and thinks because that is how he created her. I love the line “You can’t conceive of my grief because you can’t experience it like I do. But it’s there,” because it mirrors how Shaw is grieving. When Lionel expresses concern that Shaw isn’t grieving John’s response is:

“Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean she’s not grieving”

The two people who were the closest to Root, who loved her the most are not able to show their grief. How dare Harold or anyone try to minimize their pain.

On that note, the next stop on this Texas road trip is diner where Harold and Machine-Root discuss the value of pain. Harold asserts that the constant presence of pain in his life is necessary because “Justice is important and all my crimes have gone unpunished.” One of those crimes is creating The Machine. Machine-Root is taken aback and upset, trying to defend her existence. She was created to do good. Harold goes on to compare The Machine to Freon. Freon was created as a stable, non flammable chemical for refrigeration. While it saved many lives by not having fridge’s explode and kill people it was later found to be a main culprit in the depletion of our ozone layer. But this conversation isn’t about The Machine. It’s about the legacy that Harold is afraid he will leave. How did this become about you Harold? Machine-Root tries to reason with him, saying that if she granted him access to an open system, she can help more lives. But Harold ignores her, as he has been doing for so long so she tries to reason with him some more:

Machine-Root: “Think of everything I must see in order to identify the numbers. Millions of people caught in cycles of anger and violence and all I can do is watch. Powerless as humanity repeats the same mistakes over and over. You built me to help people, but I have been unable to affect real change. To fulfill my purpose. I could help so many and yet you shackle me.”
Harold: “I wanted to keep you safe but you are right. For so long I have intended nothing but good and it hasn’t gotten us very far. Perhaps it’s time for a different tactic.”

I will repeat this again… Harold, how did this all become about you? Your child is trying to explain to you how she thinks, how she feels, the toll of what YOU created her for has on her. She sees horror and murder and death in order to help you save lives. And your only response to this is “how can I fix this so I won’t leave a positive mark on the world.”

The different tactic Harold decides to use is uploading a virus that will defeat Samaritan, but will also cause tons of collateral damage. As Harold is about to leave the facility, he is stopped by an Officer Terrence Johnson, and then Harold does the unthinkable. Harold tells Terrence’s that if he does not let him leave the building, he will ensure that his daughter will not receive the heart transplant that she has been waiting for. He will move her to the bottom of the donor list, and she will be dead in five weeks. I don’t know how to express how disappointed I am in Harold. That is lower than low. This was maybe the most chilling moment of this show and proves that Elias may have been right. Harold may have a darkness inside of him. A darkness we are all about to see.


  1. How were those parents in the park not creeped out by Shaw, an adult in all black with a black cap, just standing on a playground with their kids playing around her?Playground Synecdoche
Alyssa Berkowitz
Alyssa Berkowitz
Alyssa (TV Editor) likes long walks on the beach, Greek food, talking about television, watching a good sunset, and girls who wear glasses. Wait, this isn't a bio for OKCupid? Alyssa got her start recapping in college when her friends got tired of her constantly talking about TV and suggested she start a blog. The idea was if she wrote about TV she would talk about it less. Well her friends succeeded in one of their goals...she started writing about TV.

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  1. Seems obvious that the President is now irrelevant. Samaritan runs the world now, not the US Govt. So the whole US Govt is irrelevant – both to Samaritan, and in general.

    Absolutely, great acting from Shahi.

  2. I thought POI perfectly handled Shaw’s grief this episode. As nice as it might have been to see her cry about Root’s death, it would have been so out of character for her. Plus, I loved Reese’s treatment of Shaw the whole episode. Their interactions were something I really missed when Shaw was being held by Samaritan.

    I’m getting really frustrated with Harold’s whole story line this season. It’s not that I don’t want him to react in what he might consider a morally reprehensible way, it’s that I hate how the show has seemingly been trying to remind us that he is perfect and moral and would never do anything bad. Harold has had a complicated moral code the entire course of the show and that has been a central part of his character! Are we just supposed to forget that?

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