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Episode 306: Mors Praematura
The Machine monitors a conversation between two men on a secured VOIP call discussing a person they have deemed a threat to their operation. They agree to allow all the members of their organization to cast a vote to determine whether the man should live or die. 62% of the members cast a vote for death, prompting the Machine to contact the Admin.
After failing to check in within the agreed upon eight hours, Finch sends Reese to check on Shaw's apartment. Finch is busy at the apartment of a compulsive hoarder, working undercover as the new partner of their latest person of interest, estate investigator Timothy Sloan. Sloan searches through the belongings of people who have died without a will to determine their next-of-kin. Sloan and Finch finally find a box of slides which confirm that the deceased hoarder had a twin sister. Meanwhile, Reese informs Finch that he found taser confetti in Shaw's apartment, indicating that someone abducted her.
Shaw wakes up and finds herself zip-tied to the steering wheel of a car. Root is in the passenger seat and apologizes for abducting her, but explains that the Machine told her to team up with Shaw. When a disbelieving Shaw notes that the Machine only gives out relevant and irrelevant numbers, Root informs her that the Machine is evolving and has created a new third type of category. As a gesture of faith, Root cuts Shaw free and invites her to take out a gun in the glove compartment. Shaw grabs the knife instead, puts it to Root's throat, and asks why she shouldn't kill her. Root gives her the date when Shaw's father died in a car crash, and reminds Shaw that she knows that the Machine is never wrong. Now the Machine wants Root to protect it and all of the innocent people that it monitors. Shaw reluctantly agrees to go along with her, but warns that once their mission is over, so is their truce.
That night, Finch takes Bear and follows Sloan as he breaks into an apartment. He informs Reese that Sloan is looking into the death of Jason Greenfield, a man who died of a heroin overdose two weeks ago. Meanwhile, as Shaw's apartment has no cameras, Reese has broken into the building across the street, knocked out its security guard and accessed the footage from its cameras. He confirms that Root abducted Shaw, and Finch tells him to find them. Meanwhile, Sloan searches Jason's apartment and takes out a watch from a drawer. While Finch observes from the doorway, he slips the watch in his pocket and steps out of sight. Finch enters the apartment and is startled when Sloan appears behind the door and gets the drop on Finch, demanding to know why he's there. When Finch demands the same thing of Sloan with Bear's assistance, the investigator shows him an engraving on the watch, a gift from Sloan's family when he was 18, showing that Jason was his foster brother.
Sloan explains that Jason's parents were addicted to drugs and eventually burned down their home while cooking methamphetamine. Sloan's parents acted as foster parents for Jason afterwards. Jason was a hacker, and after he left home, he became increasingly obsessed until he finally went off the grid. Sloan consequently lost track of Jason until he stumbled onto the report about his death. The investigator insists that Jason would never use drugs and points out all of the high-priced items in the apartment that would not be there if Jason had needed money for drugs. What actually isn't in the apartment is a computer of any kind, though Sloan did find a flash drive in the microwave that someone tried to destroy. Finch plugs it into his laptop and scans it, recovering a small fragment of an e-mail that says that Jason was worried someone would kill him if he tried to leave an organization. Sloan finds an address on a piece of paper in Jason's jacket and Finch discovers that it belongs to a storage unit, even though Jason didn't have a storage unit.
The next day, Mike Laskey is out collecting protection payments for HR and makes a pickup from a Russian deli owner named Morozov. Carter is watching him and he returns to the car and shows her to money hidden in egg cartons. She tells him to deliver it to HR as usual and find out where it's going, reminding him that she can frame him for murder at any time. Carter asks about Morozov and what he said, but Laskey says he doesn't speak Russian and insists that the deli owner is simply paying HR as a token of his loyalty and appreciation. Carter is unimpressed and warns Laskey that HR will soon show him just what they want in return for his loyalty.
Fusco finds the car that Root and Shaw were previously using abandoned and calls in Reese. A driver reported that two women stole his medical transport van, and Fusco informs Reese the two women are working together. Finch is troubled to learn of this and tells Reese about Jason's murder by a secret organization. Reese offers his assistance, but Finch tells him to focus on finding Shaw. As he hangs up, Sloan sits down for coffee with Finch and confirms that the storage unit Jason knew about was rented under someone else's name with cash paid up front in advance and that Jason was one of many people who visited it at all hours of the day. The day after Jason's death, the others went back, emptied the unit and cleaned it with bleach, removing all forensic evidence. Finch checks for other storage units rented in the same name and finds one in a different name, but rented in the same manner as the first unit and on the same day the other unit was vacated. Finch then realizes that the two renter names belong to American generals from the Revolutionary War, leading him and Sloan to figure that the same people are involved, and they head off to look at the second unit.
As they walk down the street, Root points out a statue of a horseman and tells Shaw to think "impact" the next time she sees it; Shaw is not impressed. Root then tapes a manila envelope beneath a nearby park bench, telling Shaw that it's insurance. They descend into a sewer across the street from the statue and Root has Shaw use an improvised thermal lance to cut through a grille. When Shaw demands an explanation, Root admits that she doesn't know and that she's just following orders from the Machine on the fly. Shaw remains skeptical but begins to cut through the bars with the device.
That night, Sloan, Finch and Bear go to the second storage unit. There's nothing inside, but Sloan sees evidence of abundant activity along one of the walls. Finch tells Sloan to get a UV light out of his car that he uses in his investigations.
After they finish in the sewers, Root leads Shaw to an apartment and they break in. While Shaw takes stock of the nearly empty apartment, a man comes out of the bathroom and immediately attacks Shaw. She holds him off for a short time before Root finally tases him unconscious; Shaw realizes that they're at a CIA pickup site. Root calls a CIA number and gives a code and password provided by the Machine. The contact tells her that they should have the package ready for pickup at 8:00 a.m. the next morning When Shaw wonders what the package is, Root takes some zip-ties and a black hood out of a drawer and says that she is.
At the storage unit, the UV light reveals that the walls are covered in coded writing. Finch realizes that it's a message center for people to covertly communicate with each other. As Finch snaps pictures of the writing, Sloan notices that the fire-sprinkler pipes are on their own line and a motor is attached to the door. Finch spots a camera and realizes that it's a trap, just as the door slams down under remote control. Gasoline starts spraying down from the sprinklers and an electric igniter starts up. Reese promptly arrives and breaks down the door with an ax, and they get out just as the gasoline ignites and the unit goes up in flames.
The next morning, while not yet able to decipher it, Finch recognizes the code from the photos he took and confirms that one of the men responsible is Peter Collier, a member of the enigmatic personal privacy group who killed data broker Wayne Kruger, (“Nothing to Hide”) leading Finch to surmise that Jason was part of the mysterious group as well. Using an identifier string from the email fragment recovered from the microwaved flash drive, Finch found an Internet chat praising a hacker for his hacking of government websites to release top-secret information to the public. Finch postulates that the hacker in question is Jason and that he became a member of Collier's group, but had second thoughts for some reason and tried to leave, leading Collier to kill him. Finch figures that the group will come after Sloan next because of his investigation into Jason's murder. Going over the coded messages, Finch realizes that they are encrypted using a running key cipher: a long string of text such as a book or letter. As Jason would have had a copy of the key, Reese heads out to Jason's apartment to search it and Sloan insists on going with him, pointing out that he's a trained investigator. Reese agrees to let him go along.
As two transport agents arrive at the CIA apartment, Root gives Shaw a number from the Machine as she zip-ties her own wrists together and Shaw puts the hood over her head. When the agents come in, they ask for a PIN and Shaw gives them the number, confirming that she's a CIA agent named Dearborne with authority to accompany them with Root as their prisoner.
Later that day, Simmons calls to tell Laskey to go to Morozov's deli. When Laskey gets there, he discovers that it's closed. Simmons calls him over to a nearby alleyway with a local contact. The crooked cop claims that Morozov was skimming on his payments and that the shopkeeper wasn't loyal to them. Laskey objects but Simmons says that HR wants fear, not loyalty, like the local man who ratted Morozov out. Simmons then tells Laskey that Morozov went for his gun when he confronted him and gives Laskey a new assignment: dispose of the deli owner's corpse by burying him six feet deep. As they talk, Carter continues secretly taking photos.
Shaw accompanies the CIA agents to a holding cell at a CIA black site. Root gives three bits of identification information to Shaw before she's locked up in a cell and her earpiece confiscated. The chief interrogator, Nick Breckenridge, comes over and tells Shaw that they're preparing to move the prisoners as part of a 72-hour cycle so that they can interrogate them indefinitely. Breckenridge's radio goes off, and he complains that they've been malfunctioning. He asks for the identification information and Shaw gives him what Root told her earlier. She doesn't have the final authentication number and Breckenridge eyes her suspiciously and refuses to allow her access. However, when his radio goes off again, Shaw gives him the remaining information that Root passed on, and he uses it to shut off the static. Satisfied, Breckenridge tells Shaw that she can leave with the team for the next site with the prisoners.
That night, Reese and Sloan search Jason's apartment and when the heat kicks on, Sloan remembers that Jason always hid things in the heater vents when they were kids. Inside, they find a copy of the book "The American Revolution, a concise history". Finch isn't surprised as he locates a copy online and uses the book to decipher the messages. Suddenly, a flashbang grenade comes in through the window, stunning Reese long enough for armed men to burst into the apartment, take Sloan, and get to their getaway van. Collier is waiting for them and they drive off as Reese staggers out. Reese calls Finch to give him the news and Finch tells him that he's deciphered enough of the code to confirm that Collier's group learned that Jason had gone to the CIA, who helped fake his death. The group is planning to intercept a CIA transport truck that will be moving Jason later that night and kill him.
Back at the black site, a CIA agent tosses Jason into the cell next to Root. Once they're alone, she calls to him by name and says that she knows that the CIA betrayed him after he came to them. Jason wonders who she is and Root responds that she is like him, telling him more about an infamous computer worm that she created to back her story up. As she works a link in the fence separating them, Jason tells her that Collier's group, Vigilance, learned about Kruger through him. It was Collier who convinced the group to authorize Kruger's death, despite Jason's objections, having only wanted to scare the data broker. As the time to transport approaches, Jason asks Root why she's in the site. The hacker tells Jason that she's there for him as she finally breaks off a piece of the fence.
Shaw loads and restrains Root, Jason, and several other prisoners aboard the transport truck. Shaw announces that she will be going along. Once the truck is closed up, Root starts cutting her plastic ties with the fence link.
Finch tells Reese that the messages show that Vigilance plans to take Sloan with them on their way to kill Jason. The message info contains the anticipated location of the ambush and Finch passes the information onto Reese.
As Collier and his team drive to the ambush site, Collier says he knows that Jason is his brother and wonders why Sloan is looking for Jason after all this time. Sloan refuses to discuss their relationship and Collier respects his desire for privacy. However, he warns Sloan that they had to dispose of him when he starting digging into Jason's death. The group voted to kill Sloan, and all Collier can offer him is a quick death if he tells them what he knows about Vigilance and who he's told, starting with Finch and Reese. Sloan has no idea why they're helping him, and Collier tells the investigator that his foster brother Jason is still alive and that Sloan will have a front row seat at his execution. The team arrives at the ambush site and Collier pistol-whips Sloan unconscious.
Inside the CIA transport truck, Root finishes cutting through her zip-ties and immediately releases herself from her restraints.
Reese arrives at the ambush site which is near a statue of a horseman. He spots Collier's van across the street and the CIA transport truck approaching. In the back of the truck, Root cuts free Jason's zip-tied hands and tells him to brace himself in a few seconds. Shaw, riding up front, sees the statue and remembers what Root said earlier about "impact". As the truck enters the intersection, Shaw and Reese spot each other from their positions. Confused, Reese starts moving in as a Vigilance member posing as a homeless man thrusts a shopping cart out in front of the truck. The paint bomb inside explodes, and the truck veers off the road and into a parked car, knocking Shaw out. Collier and his men approach as the paint bomb member spots Reese and opens fire.
The Vigilance members bolt the truck's front doors shut, sealing in the driver and Shaw as a shaken but unharmed Root leaves the truck via the back door and goes to the bench where she taped the envelope earlier. Inside is a gun and an earbud. Once she reestablishes contact with the Machine, Root goes back to the truck and gets Jason out. Shaw starts to wake up as Root opens fire on the Vigilance members while Reese continues to exchange fire with the group as well. Meanwhile, Sloan wakes up and comes out onto the scene. He and Jason spot each other before Collier grabs him, using him as a human shield while shooting at Root. Root fires back, but is unable to get a clear shot and takes Jason away. Shaw kicks out the transport truck's windshield, converses briefly with Reese as he advances on Collier and looks around for Root until she spots the open hatch of the sewer they were previously in.
Jason asks Root about Sloan as she leads him to the sewer grille that Shaw weakened earlier. Removing a piece of the grille, Root asks if Jason saw a tall man in a nice suit heading towards him and tells him Sloan will be fine when Jason says yes. Root gives him a flash drive with a new identity and a passcode to an account containing $2.5 million. She tells Jason to make his way to a bar in Cartagena, Colombia and ask for a certain man, but admits that she has no idea why. All she can assume is that Jason is necessary to the Machine. As Jason makes his escape and Root reassembles the sewer grille, two Vigilance soldiers arrive. Root tries to fire but realizes that she's out of bullets. Before they can kill her, Shaw arrives and takes them out. She asks Root if they've completed their mission. When Root says that they have, Shaw promptly and happily punches her unconscious.
Reese tries to get a clear shot at Collier, who still has Sloan. Reese calls Collier by name and, when the mysterious man asks who he is, tells him he is the man Collier shot in the back. They converse briefly about Reese's repeated encounters with Vigilance and when Collier quotes Benjamin Franklin, Reese notes that Vigilance has a thing for the American Revolution. Collier agrees and says that it may be time for a new American Revolution, and then, telling Reese to choose, shoots Sloan in the leg, severing the femoral artery, and flees. Forced to save Sloan's life, Reese lets Collier escape in an SUV and tends to Sloan's wound while Finch calls an ambulance.
The next day, Simmons calls Laskey and confirms that he buried the deli owner. A visibly shaken Laskey then meets Carter in their squad car. When she wonders how he slept after burying Morozov, Laskey reveals that his real name is Mikhail Lesnichy, and that he's one of twelve Russians on the force. Carter realizes that HR is seeding the department with Russian cops loyal to them, cementing their relationship with Peter Yogorov and the Russians. Laskey admits that he doesn't know specifically what HR intends to do with the money, but they're stockpiling it for something big. Carter warns her partner that things will get worse, but Laskey asks her what is worse than burying a friend.
That afternoon, Finch and Reese meet Sloan outside the hospital and he thanks them for their help, while Reese and Finch say Sloan helped them just as much. Jason calls from South America and tells Sloan that he's on a secure line and thanks him for everything he's done. He assures Sloan that he will always be his brother and Sloan promises to hold onto his watch until they meet again. Once Jason hangs up and Sloan leaves, Reese tells Finch that they'll have to keep watch on Sloan in case Vigilance goes after him again. Finch is more worried about the Machine, pointing out that it sent both them and Root and Shaw into the same battle, but with different goals. Reese wonders what they're going to do with Root.
That night, Finch visits Root, who is locked up in a storage cage in the library. She has been fitted with an ankle monitor, but warns that she has to make contact with "her." Finch notes the use of the feminine pronoun, while Root recognizes that Finch has rigged the cage up as a Faraday cage to keep her from contacting the Machine. Root warns him that the Machine will be angry at him, and that Finch doesn't want an omniscience computer mad at him. Finch suggests that it is also possible that Root is right where the Machine wants her, and leaves on that note.