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Episode 512: .exe

As Finch makes his way to NSA headquarters to unleash the ICE-9 virus, The Machine uses her immense knowledge of her beloved assets and shows him what the lives of his friends and compatriots would look like had he never created her. There are a few bright spots in these alternate realities, but ultimately Reese, Shaw, Root, and Fusco are worse off in that world. 

First, The Machine tells Finch what his own life would be without her. His and Nathan’s company would’ve prospered, but Finch would’ve also been rather dissatisfied with it all. In this alternate reality, Finch feels rather purposeless and worries that he missed his opportunity to do something “meaningful” by not accepting the DoD contract to create a surveillance system. And although this Finch still has his best friend, he never met Grace.

While Finch travels from San Jose to Washington, D.C., Fusco is back in New York, dealing with the fallout caused by NYPD’s discovery of bodies in Queens. Special Agent Martin LeRoux, who interrogated Fusco in “B.S.O.D.”, returns to the precinct and questions him about the bodies after finding the evidence board hidden in the conference room.

In a Machine-less world, Fusco would be a drunk and a disgraced cop who narrowly avoided going to jail with the rest of HR by snitching right before Carter brought HR down. The only upside to this reality is that Detective Carter lived and is now a lieutenant.

In order to break into the NSA’s headquarters, Finch kidnaps a NATO employee and steals his identity. The building is one huge Faraday Cage, so once he goes inside he’ll lose contact with The Machine. Before he enters, the Machine tells Finch what would’ve happened to Shaw in that alternate reality: she’d still be handling relevant threats for the ISA, since the government would’ve still gotten its hands on a massive surveillance system. In fact, she’d probably be the one to kill NSA analyst and whistle-blower Henry Peck who discovers the existence of the alternate machine. After hearing this, Finch takes some solace in the fact that Shaw would’ve been spared the pain of losing Root.

Finch manages to infiltrate the NSA, where he makes his way to a server room and uploads the virus. Unfortunately, Samaritan operatives — led by Travers — capture him before he has his chance to voice-activate the virus.

Reese and Shaw aren’t too far behind Finch. The Machine send them Greer’s Social Security number, some coordinates, and a room number that would lead them to the NSA. After sneaking into the building, they make their way to the NSA’s evidence room and find a wireless modem used by Edward Snowden.

Travis takes Finch to meet Greer inside Samaritan’s command center where the two launch into another stirring debate about Samaritan’s methods.

According to Greer, Samaritan was distraught when it thought The Machine had died, because she was the only other one of its kind. Greer believes Finch’s efforts are pointless since he’s only forestalling the inevitable (i.e. the proliferation of more ASIs) and hopes The Machine sticks around for the new world Samaritan will create after humanity passes through the next Great Filter. However, Finch refuses to ever let that happen, because the world envisioned by Samaritan is one in which humanity has lost its free will. Unfortunately, Finch unintentionally reveals that The Machine can’t activate the Ice-9 virus without his go-ahead. In a gambit to save Samaritan’s plan, Greer locks himself and Finch in a room and has Samaritan suck the air out to kill them both.

Thankfully, Reese and Shaw activate the wireless modem in time for The Machine to connect to Finch’s phone and send him the code to escape. Greer, however, doesn’t make it out of the room. During this time, Samaritan operatives have discovered Reese and Shaw’s presence. Now Finch has to decide: should he activate the virus or save his friends? Before he decides, The Machine shares what would’ve happened to Reese in the simulation: he would’ve saved Jessica from her abusive husband, but Jessica would’ve pushed him away after seeing his dark side and he’d end up dead alongside the East River.

With that in mind, Finch reunites with Reese and Shaw and helps them escape the building. They refuse to leave without him, but Finch uses the commotion of a gun fight to sneak off and activate the virus. During the fight, Reese finally kills Zachary when he attacks. As he heads to kill a God, Finch acknowledges how the world The Machine showed him wasn’t worse or better, just different. The Machine shows him one more simulation, revealing that Samaritan woud have existed either way, but would have grown larger and further interfered in human affairs. Root would be working with Greer.

When Finch returns to the control center, Samaritan implores him not to go through with his plan, but Finch knows what he has to do. “My Machine, her purpose has been constant, to protect and save humanity. It’s what she’s doing now,” he says before he inputs the password, having learnt the Machine could've as well but left the choice up to him. Finch is forced to break his promise to his creation — to never hurt her again — in order to save the world from Samaritan. Saving the day is a hard-won victory, never without sacrifice. Finch activates the virus and Samaritan starts to glitch.

Meanwhile, Agent LeRoux reveals he’s a Samaritan operative and kidnaps Fusco with the intention of killing him. However, LeRoux underestimates Fusco, who overpowers him and steals his gun. Now Fusco faces a decision: he can either let LeRoux live, or kill him and stop him from coming after his friends and family.

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