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Episode 402: Nautilus

Finch is alerted to a restaurant by Reese, who calls him there to inform him that their latest number, college student Claire Mahoney, is present. While Finch expresses shock that Reese lured him into a case, Reese briefs him on Claire's history of felonies, and the fact that she carries a firearm.

At the precinct, Fusco welcomes Reese to his new job as his detective partner.

Shaw, meanwhile, is in a truck waiting for Romeo and his accomplices to return after a robbery. Root drops by to remind Shaw of her priorities and limitations that are present even in a cover life as a criminal. She leaves just before Romeo and his men arrive and the gang drives off.

Outside, Finch watches Claire collect a slip containing some numbers off of a "lost dog" poster. He does likewise.

The next morning in his office, Finch deduces the numbers to be GPS coordinates and arrives there, witnessing Claire photograph a graffiti-laden wall. Finch finds another on his own but is confronted by Claire at gunpoint, being accused of competing a "game" she mentions and makes her determination to win clear. She then fires at the back windshield of a passing car, pins it on Finch, and escapes. Reese arrives to save Finch from the angry passengers, but is forced to follow protocol and arrest him immediately afterwards.

Finch suspects Claire of having attempted suicide in the past and that she could be a danger to herself if not others. He has Reese take Bear with him to Claire's residence, where Reese finds a hard drive shortly before encountering a man claiming to be Claire's father, Douglas Mahoney. He voices his concern for the girl.

At Finch's office, Reese informs him of the drive. Finch, meanwhile, has decoded a message found within the graffiti, to which Reese catches on and notices a pattern of horseshoes and rectangular blocks that don't overlap on one wall but do in the other. The hints map out to some kind of "three-pronged arch", the real thing being located in Central Park.

That night, Reese investigates the location while Finch calls to inform Reese of an NYPD request to view Claire's info. Reese, meanwhile, spots Claire standing in the middle of a road and saves her from getting hit by a car. Another car pulls up with the man claiming to be Claire's father, but Claire denies it. Finch confirms this with a report that both of Claire's parents are deceased; the impostor and his accomplice are fought off by Reese, who is forced to let Claire escape.

Finch has discovered the men to be military. Upon inspection of the contents of the hard drive Reese found, Finch learns that Claire discovered this "game" through an obscure message board advertising a message: "If you seek enlightenment, walk through the chambers. Good luck", paired with an image of a chambered nautilus shell previously visible among the graffiti. Finch figures the game's objective is to locate a particular file, instructions for which are coded in the image. Finch also learns that the game is going around internationally.

A cab pulls up near Finch and a young man wearing a headset camera gets out to observe the foreground: another player within the game. He demonstrates hostility towards Finch and rides away, leaving Finch to find out what the boy was watching - Finch spots a line of biking posters that, when looked at from a particular angle, form the image of a nautilus shell, with small streetlight icons representing the dash-like rectangles on the graffiti. Finch realizes that the message reads "184th and 3rd", and departs for that address.

Finch encounters Claire again, and is forced to give up her hard drive. Finch attempts to reach out to Claire by perceiving her intentions as a eulogy over her dead parents, but an evasive Claire denies his assumptions and leaves. Finch then calls Shaw, who is in the middle of another robbery, to meet with him.In a car, Finch uses a temporary laptop to examine recent surveillance feeds around the area. He spots a young barista from a nearby coffee shop posting the sign that Claire got an earlier clue from. Inside the coffee shop, Shaw interrogates the man into disclosing that he was anonymously instructed to post the sign, with a thousand dollars being put into his bank account shortly thereafter.

Reese arrives at a biker bar where he sees Claire looking at some posters. Finch, on the other hand, says that the emails Claire received lacked an origin. In the bar, the other competitor that Finch encountered is also present, and Claire antagonizes him in front of a few thugs to cut off his activity. Reese takes down the men and advises the other player to quit, to which the boy complies and retreats. Reese continues observing the pictures and notices that the eyes of a skull on one poster have nautilus shells inside them. Outside, Reese spots two men waiting for Claire.

Finch's laptop is suddenly hacked with brutal force, and he has Shaw drive away. Finch, making sense of the details and nature of the game, realizes that the gamemaker is Samaritan.

Reese pursues the men following Claire and takes them out one by one, including David, the impostor of Claire's father and the team's leader. He also informs Finch that the men are not Samaritan operatives.

The following morning, Root talks with Finch in a car and is informed of the situation. Root, acknowledging that the nature of the situation is far too based on morals to consult the Machine, tells Finch that sometimes humans must make their own decisions, no matter how irrational. Screaming is then heard from the trunk while Root does a check on her appearance as a flight attendant, apparently assigned by the Machine to kidnap a man named "Larry".

Reese takes the military men to a private location and interrogates them under the threat of arrest for operations on unauthorized ground, and subsequent exposure and possible elimination. Team leader David gives in and tells Reese that his private military organization is called Silverpool, and Claire's likely targets are files and codes that could incriminate Silverpool for war crimes. Reese then leaves, making sure to shut off the lights as goes.

At the precinct, Reese is attempting to decipher the skull poster from the bar. Fusco comes over and is quick to notice a trait within letters around the skull: they never exceed G, and are therefore musical notes that form the melody to "New York, New York". Reese solves the puzzle to map out to an address belonging to an observatory.

At the observatory, Claire is being watched by a sniper that Reese quickly defeats. Two Silverpool agents continue to follow a woman they believe to be Claire, but upon entry to an elevator, Shaw reveals herself in costume and is joined by Reese inside while the real Claire calmly makes it to the rooftop. There, Claire spots nautilus symbols and a code embedded in the floor, which she uses to unlock her target documents. Finch then appears for one last attempt to talk Claire into rethinking her decision - Claire is unable to accept her parents' death as an accident and has resorted to a search of meaning instead. Upon receiving instructions to "find the octagon in the glass", Claire looks through an octagonal hole cut into the window, focusing in on the Octagon building. She evades Finch and leaves.

That night, Claire arrives inside the building and notices the intricate staircases forming the shape of a nautilus. She spots a message on the wall pointing her to a switch she locates on a rooftop, but it's defective and its wires cut - armed men close in on her and demand the file she found. Deeply dismayed, Claire is about to give up when an unknown assailant snipes the men dead. Inside a compartment below, Claire finds a phone, and on it, a message from Samaritan: "I will protect you". Samaritan's surveillance footage labels Claire as an asset.

POI 0402 The Team in the Subway

The following morning, Finch informs Reese of Silverpool's exposure, thus eliminating some competition against Samaritan. He notes that Claire is now missing and expresses his condolences over her perceived "fate". Reese apologizes to Finch for attempting to bring him back into their cases, but Finch responds by saying he too has made his own "human decision". Taking Reese to an abandoned train station he found earlier (“Panopticon”), he unveils it to Reese as their new surveillance-free base of operations, complete with their secret private network.

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