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On Person of Interest, it's time to store Polish gangsters in the trunk of your car

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I can't decide whether it's a good or bad development that Person of Interest seems to be leaving its dystopian premise behind in favor of goofy crime procedural nonsense. I know some of those ponderous speeches about surveillance and Big Brother could get a little tedious, but I liked them. Apparently people in the writers' room didn't, because the last two episodes have been all about beating people up to solve problems.

Last week, Reese saved a young doctor from having to kill the man who raped her sister — by kidnapping the rapist himself, beating him up a little, and then giving him an existential speech with a gun in his hand. No mention of the surveillance state, just: hey, if I mess this guy up enough, I'm sure he'll stop his raping ways. I really don't think the Machine would approve.


This week, luckily, we left the weighty issue of rape behind. Instead of an avenging sister, we got the Libertarian chemist who used to make crystal meth on Breaking Bad as a judge — whom everyone helpfully called "Judge" — with a kidnapping problem. An international Polish crime syndicate has kidnapped Judge's son so that he'll be forced to find the gang's money laundering expert not guilty in a drunk driving case.There was even a kind of tenuous connection to computers and technology because the money laundering expert was actually an expert in turning off a software program designed to detect money laundering. See how that works?

Also, we got to see Finch doing some fancy hacking, during which he said things about firewalls. In fact, at one point, Finch broke into the server farm where the money laundering expert stashed all of her software. Or maybe she was stashing the off switch there. Either way, it was a great scene because Finch got to snark at the sysadmin and we all got to feel like we were watching a computery, futuristic show.


Anyway, most of the episode did not involve sysadmins, but did include the fine scene above where Reese shows us one of the many specialized techniques he learned as an elite security operative to get information out of hostiles. The technique is called "putting two cats in a bag together" and apparently it involves getting information from kidnappers by throwing them into the trunk of your car, driving them around, and taunting them with hamburgers. You think I'm joking, but if you saw this episode you know that I'm not.


My point is that there was something downright wacky about Person of Interest last night. It didn't help that we keep seeing more and more of Reese's corrupt cop friend Fozzie Bear. The guy has two facial expressions: constipated cop and sweaty cop. Sometimes he combines them. Given that we have the awesome non-corrupt cop Carter in the show, why exactly do we need Fozzie at all? I think last week we were supposed to feel sorry for him because gangsters were threatening his son. But this week we already had Judge with a threatened son, so Fozzie seemed kind of extraneous.

Ultimately, with very little help from the surveillance state, the international Polish criminal cats came out of the bag and told Reese where Judge's son was being held. In a daring rescue, entirely unaided by technology, Reese punched some people and saved the judge and his son. Then he tied up all the bad guys, and let Fozzie and Carter find them. International crime ring busted! Cue zany sitcom music.

This show is amusing to watch when it's not dealing with arc issues, but it's not particularly interesting. What happened to the subplot about Elias? What about Finch's history with the Machine? Plus, what happened to the tense relationship developing between Reese and Carter? That was intriguing. But Reese and Fozzie is more like bad a cop buddy comedy from the 1980s.

Given the preview for next week's episode, I don't get the sense that anybody else wants to know the answers to those questions. Instead, I'm starting to believe that the best we can hope for in terms of conspiracies is Reese figuring out the dark back story of how Finch really likes eggs Benedict. It's looking like next week will be another zany story — this time involving a sexy lady. Probably there will be punching! Maybe Reese can put the sexy lady in his trunk and make more comments about cats in bags. Surveillance vigilante life is so hilarious.