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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Person of Interest: Big Trouble in Little Brighton Beach

Person of Interest
Episode 107

Before we get into tonight’s episode, out of no where I think this was the best episode of the series and really solidified what I think this show can be.  The Elias storyline, as its intersecting with Reese, Finch and the Machine and their collective mythology, really clicks and make an involved cohesive story.  Tonight’s TWIST! was first rate and really sets us up for the foreseeable future as an interesting A-level plotline tying us episode to episode.
The security cameras tell us we’re in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn NY. Before Person of Interest, I can tell you with absolute authority that I had never spent more than a minute wondering about Brighton Beach … and I lived in Brooklyn for a time.  For those not from around here, Brighton Beach is a coastal town on the southern belly of Brooklyn.  Formerly a Jewish enclave, today’s Brighton Beach, as depicted in Person of Interest, is a large community of Russian and former Eastern bloc ethnicities (and the Russian mob).  So, yay show for realism!

We watch a murder take place via security cam in a Brighton Beach bodega. The black and white camera and grocery aisle setting made me think of Clerks but I don’t think there is much else similar here.  Carter and Fusco are already on the scene. The murder was a clear execution, complete with an up close double tap to the victim.  A Detective Szymanski (played by the awesome Michael McGlone from The Brothers McMullen,  but more importantly as the "rhetorical question guy" from the GECIO commercials - I LOVE that guy!) from organized crime is on the scene too. Turns out the victim was a wiseguy named Benny D’Agostino, goon for “la cosa nostra” (which means “Our Thing” or “This thing of ours” and is code for Italian mafia … I continue to not be sure why they don’t say mob or Italian mafia on this show but they are at least consistent about it and its weird. Moving on!) . The  Russian Mafia (which currently controls Brighton Beach) is at war with Elias and the mob and this was a Russian retaliation hit for LCN’s (this is me going with “La Cosa Nostra”) attempts to move into their territory.   Carter spies with her little eyes that Dead Benny said something to a witness .. who promptly disappeared after the murder. Carter pontificates that a dying declaration of who the shooters were would be  admissible in court (she’s correct under Rule 804(a)(4) – Declarant unavailable due to death so Yay Show Again! for realism). Detective GEICO tells us that the owner of the bodega is Russian and  was on a well timed smoke break during the hit. That means he probably told the Russians that there's a witness. The “duh” squad realizes they need to find the witness before the Russians do. 

Turns out that in a fantastic coincidence, the witness is also our Social Security Number of the Week. Charlie Burton (played by Enrico Colantoni who really nailed this role)'s number just came up last night (don't you think Finch would have some backlog to get through before pulling last night's number?!?). Reese is already watching him and thinks he looks worried. He's a history teacher in a Brighton Beach school and Finch and Reese banter about which is a safer career, espionage or New York City school teacher ... man, that is a tough question -- probably matters to which locations you go as a spy? 

As Reese continues his surveillance, Fusco calls him looking for some help trying to find his witness.  Once Fusco's given him a description, Reese knows they're talking about the same guy.  Of course, this is the exact time the Russians have showed up to take out Charlie Teacher. Finch wants to leave this one to the authorities (especially as they are literally calling them on this) but Reese says its too late, no time to wait, and off he goes to do battle or at least exfiltrate Charlie Teacher.

Reese appears in Charlie Teacher’s apartment without a sound or warning which … is totally creepy but that’s what we love about Reese, right?  Charlie Teacher is obviously upset at many things, one of which is the big scary guy who just broke into his apartment but Reese disabuses him of any notions about his intention to do Charlie Teacher harm or that they have any time to waste.  In about 5 seconds, a Russian hit team is coming to kill you so … you know, make up your mind. Well. When you put it like that, Charlie Teacher follows Reese.  When the Russians bust in, they find an abandoned apartment but the boiling teapot reveals that Charlie Teacher just left.

Outside in the apartment’s alley, Reese takes out a waiting sentry. You can tell Charlie Teacher is equally digging Reese’s moves like Jagger and is terrified of the overwhelming violence.  Don’t worry Charlie Teacher, we all feel that way every week!  Reese wants to escape through the adjacent apartment complex but Charlie Teacher tells him that the Bulgarian drug dealers own those buildings and even the Russians stay out. Faced with no other options (and a broken cell phone/life line to Finch), Reese breaks into a car. Charlie Teacher would like to know who Reese is before they “commit grand theft auto together”; probably not the strangest first date ever, right?). Reese, playing coy, tells Charlie Teacher all he needs to worry about is getting to Fusco so he can tell his story. Just then, the Russians open fire on the car sending a bullet into Charlie Teacher's shoulder. Well, into the Bulgarian drug den we go I guess. Hey, at least they didn’t commit grand theft auto.

In the Bulgarian Drug Den, we learn quickly that the tenants association needs to take this building back. The rec room is being used crystal meth production for goodness sakes. That’s not sanitary or enjoyable for anyone.  Also, Charlie Teacher is openly bleeding from his gun shot wound and no one even bats an eye. I would hate to see what the garbage room looks like.

Charlie Teacher again asks Reese who he is and Reese is only willing to give him “someone who helps people in trouble.”  Now, I’ll clean up your through and through bullet wound and you tell me what you saw at the bodega of death. Reese is always bargaining.  Charlie Teacher goes into his sad sack story about having worked late grading papers and stopping by the bodega of death for some soup (minestrone or split pea is a touch choice) when he spied some guys with guns  He hid but he saw that they were wearing masks.  One guy lifted his mask before the kill shot as if he wanted the victim to see him (though given who the players are, I have to imagine Dead Benny had a good idea of who was about to kill him). Dead Benny wanted Charlie Teacher to give “Elias” a message but Charlie Teacher doesn’t know any “Elias.”  The message was, "Vinny is going to finish the job for him".  Charlie Teacher thinks that going to the cops is like playing Russian roulette and he will not be speaking to no one about nothing. He wants to keep his head down and hope it blows over. You see, if Charlie Teacher testifies, he can never come back to Brighton Beach and he can't live with that. He can't leave his students. Also, strange man who protects me, please call me “Charlie.” Reese makes a fine point that he won’t be much of a teacher once he is dead. Then he introduces himself as John. Charlie thanks him for saving his ass. Does Hallmark make a card for that?

Mrs. Dead Benny is with the cops.  She is all righteous about “Elias” will hand out retribution for Dead Benny’s murder. And once Elias takes out the Russian trash and reunites the 5 families (of LCN presumably), the cops will be answering to him (Elias).  She’s very optimistic about Elias’s chances and possibly fucking insane.

Finch reprograms an ATM at a Bay Ridge Savings.

Detective GEICO is reading in Fusco and Carter on the street crime scene where Reese had fled with Charlie Teacher and the Russians opened fire. There would be good ATM footage but it  ill take too long to get a hold of (not for Finch!) but they did get some citizen cell phone filmed footage of the fight. The guy featured in the video is the son of the Russian mafia head, Ivan Yogorov. Meanwhile, back in the Lair, Finch (who is a little distraught at not being able to get a hold of Reese) pulls the ATM video and sees a NYPD cop get into a mysterious and shady car. He calls Fusco, makes introductions through their shared Reese connection (Finch reminds Fusco about he tried to kill Reese in the Pilot out in Oyster Bay) and asks Fusco to run the license plate of the mystery car (Finch can’t access those records?!?!). He says that the Russians aren't the only problem here.

Reese is trying to keep “Charlie” awake. Asks how he became a devoted teacher. “Charlie” fell in love with his kids and see real purpose in helping them live a life different from their Russian mafia parents. Reese leaves “Charlie” to look for a "pharmacy" inside the Bulgarian drug den.

Finch leaves the Lair to meet Fusco (who's eating a hot dog which draws a chide from Finch about his cholesterol levels) and discuss their status.  The mysterious car license plate was a dead end, traced back to a shell corporation.  Finch tells Fusco that Elias is looking for Charlie too due to whatever information that he thinks Charlie now has. Fusco summarizes thusly, the Russians want Charlie dead because he witnessed the Dead Benny murder. Elias wants him dead because of whatever information Dead Benny passed him.  Finch wants Fusco to report the  mysterious car stolen and then email him the police report. 

Back in the Bulgarian Drug Den, Reese is trying to bum some drugs off the Bulgarian dealers. Of course, that kind of thing never goes as planned and Reese has to Reese-fu the guys and self-help himself to stash.  
Carter gives Detective GEICO her theory that Don Moretti's illegitimate son, going by the name Elias (you’ll remember that was his dead mother’s last name) has come home to Brighton Beach to reclaim his birthright.  Reese has returned to patch up “Charlie” and to give him one of the purloined Bulgarian dealer guns.  “Charlie” is not crazy about holding gun.

Reese MacGyver’s his way into a landline phone in the drug den and contacts Finch. He Matrixes to Finch, “get me a way out of here.” The nearest exit (out of the Matrix Bulgarian Drug Den) is a service exit in the northeast corner. Reese tells Finch to have Fusco meet him and “Charlie” at the Pier 11 ferry. A little TV Watcher side note: Your esteemed blogger took the Pier 11 Ferry EVERY DAY for 3 plus years commuting from Hoboken to his just off Wall Street office. I am taking this as a personal shoutout to the Machine for knowing my occupational history! As Reese and “Charlie” try to make their way, they begin to sense the goons sweeping the building. One of “Charlie’s” students allows them entry in his apartment to hide.

Finch has received the stolen car police report and is impersonating Fusco with the car manufacturer? Or OnStar system operator? asking whomever to turn on the car’s GPS system and microphone. Through his interaction with student Will, Reese can see how much “Charlie” cares for his students and that he is very involved in their life.   Finch, meanwhile, is taking surveillance photos of the mysterious car which he has clearly located. He thinks that the mysterious cop might be Elias.

When the Russians come a knocking, Student Will stands up to them and the guy goes away without breaking down his door and seeing Reese and “Charlie.” Student Will says that “Charlie” is the best teacher he's got. Student Will also tells them about a secret set of stairs and an abandoned entrance. As a part of the Russian faction closes in on Reese and “Charlie”, Reese captures one of Head Russian Guy’s sons, Lazlo. 

Detective GEICO and Carter are at Head Russian Guy’s house. They inform Head Russian Guy that Peter (the other Head Russian Guy’s son) is the lead suspect in the Dead Benny murder. Head Russian Guy is cool as a Russian Cucumber and tells them that if they are accusing Peter of something, come back with a warrant … if you can get one (oooh, Brighton Beach corruption!). Smell ya later coppers. Meanwhile, Reese is frog-marching Lazlo towards the ferry meeting and Fusco is waiting at Pier 11. Finch calls Fusco and starts bitching at him about selling them out to Elias's men. Just as Fusco begin to plead his innocence, mysterious cop guy cold clocks Fusco in the head, knocking him out and takes his phone.

On the Ferry, Reese is telling “Charlie” that he can trust Fusco and once they get across the river (he talks about it like it’s a vast ocean of separation from Brooklyn), he’s handing “Charlie” off. We need you to testify “Charlie”. After what he has seen so far this episode, Charlie has decided to step up and testify! Yay “Charlie”!

Carter tells Peter that they’ve got him on camera at the outdoor shooting crime scene. A witness says you were shooting up a street in Brighton Beach. She lays out her theory (she has lots of theories I realize now) that Elias killed your uncle, and now you, your father and your brother (Lazlo) are trying to exact revenge, beginning with the Dead Benny killing.  Peter lays some knowledge on her that Elias was supposed to meet Dead Benny at the bodega but that only Dead Benny was there when they arrived.  Back on the ferry, Lazlo is talking crazy talk to Reese about how “Charlie” is tearing the town apart and how can Reese work with him?  Inspiration dawns on Lazlo that Reese doesn’t even know who “Charlie” is.


“Charlie” is Elias! Elias is Charlie!  Einhorn is Finkle! Finkle is Einhorn!

Reese turns to find Elias holding a gun on him and says, he though he didn’t like guns. Elias responds that sometimes we do what we don't like. Just like teaching history to children of people you hate … for three years.  That’s commitment to the role right there!  Reese puts it together that the bodega shooters were looking for him, not Dead Benny.  Elias shoots Lazlo in the leg as a message to the Russians. If Head Russian Guy gets out of town tonight, Elias will let him live but make no mistake, Brighton Beach belongs to Elias now!  Elias offers Reese a job. In the alternative, simply stay out of Elias’s way Reese and Elias will stay out of yours. And if not? Well, then the next time they meet, it won’t be so pleasant. Then he let's Reese go. Once they’ve arrived at Wall Street Ferry Landing, Elias climbs into a SUV with mysterious NYPD cop guy. Finch meets Fusco there (who is looking rough) and Reese rolls off the ferry to tells Fusco that his suspect (Lazlo) is tied to a handrail on board.

Wrap Ups! Reese is hella pissed that they just saved a guy who's entire purpose in life is to kill people on account of revenge. Finch is all “blah blah more numbers, blah blah more people to save.” Reese looks like he wants to vomit and ask Finch how many of those numbers will be generated on account of the shleppy mobster that they just helped?  The mysterious, dirty cop enters Head Russian Guy’s office and shoots all end of Godfather, Part I style.  He reports back to Elias that its done. Elias correct him that in fact, its only just beginning. Elias repeats his “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) line from earlier in the episode and him and his shleppy goombas shuffle off down the (safer?) streets of Brighton Beach.

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