Synopsis for 5×02 & 5×3: The Machine is back up, but has some quirks to work out, including facial recognition. It sees the team as a threat and sets out to eliminate them. Later, John runs across his boss from the CIA and helping the latest number becomes complicated.
The Machine managed to get back up, but not without a few glitches and kinks that Finch and Root needed to work out. It was at the start of SNAFU that audiences reunited with the glitch scene from NYCC, which seemed far less humorous in the midst of Samaritan’s war. Root and Finch worked to get the Machine back up and running, which temporarily grounded Team Machine operations. Root, in particular, had to remain underground because the Machine was not able to create cover identities for her to protect her from Samaritan.
Finch got out into the field and went with Reese on a heist to steal some servers to help boost the Machine’s ability to synthesize and take in information. Yet when they got her connected and she began relearning things, she ended up pegging the team as threats even as she continued to spit out numbers that weren’t panning out. The Machine was having a difficult time getting context for people, and sent the team after numbers of people who did simple things, like a kid who called in a bomb threat, or an actor who was going to be theatrically “killed” on stage.
Finch referred to it as “correlation without context.”
The Machine ended up acting defensively toward the team, to the point that it dispatched an assassin to chase after Reese, screwed with Root’s cochlear implant to keep her away, and hurt her in order to keep Finch from getting close and re-coding her. While Reese was left on his own to deal with the trained killer after him, Finch and Root concocted a plan to get Finch close to the Machine. She would “kill” herself, at least drug herself to the point of needing to be on a respirator, so that the Machine would not be able to use her to keep Finch away.
They followed through with the plan and Finch had a conversation with the Machine. She admitted to hiring the killer to end John’s life, because John was dangerous. Harold tried to convince the Machine that they were good, that it was in the past, but she showed him more recent footage that left him heartbroken. He explained it to her, claimed that there are no heroes, no villains, only people doing the best he can, and while Reese has the heaviest heart, he’s fighting the hardest.
Eventually he was able to convince the Machine that they were good and helped anchor her in time so she was able to understand the progression of people. Their context, if you will. She apologized. Reese managed to escape his attacker. Fusco saved a number. Root was brought back from the “dead,” and the status quo was restored for the time being.
Finch asked the Machine why she’d shown him Grace when she was safely tucked away in Italy (as he’d seen her multiple times in various footage through the episode) and the Machine did not understand what he meant. Root and Finch talked about leaving the system open, and Finch finally agreed to leave it as an open system, at least for the time being.
The team ended the episode on a light note, with everyone having a picnic and John joining a bowling league (in order to keep up his cover, and because Fusco gave him a hard time about being jealous of the friends he had). Of course the Machine wasn’t perfect, but they were on better footing than before…even though one of the numbers they thought to be a false positive ended up being turned into an asset, no doubt set to appear later in the season again as a thorn in their side.
With the opening of Truth be Told, Samaritan was spliced into the opening with Greer’s voice beating out Finch’s as narrator. It began with a flashback to John’s CIA days, when he had a chance to meet the man who had hired him and selected him for the particular branch of the CIA he’d been a part of.
Jumping to the present, John was late to a date with Iris to meet her parents because he was caught up in the bathroom following up on a number. Once he took care of the issue he went to meet the parents in a rather benign scene.
The new number was eventually revealed, and the team was set to follow a man by the name of Alex Duncan. He was a coder for a company contracted with the DOD and was up to some suspicious activity. He’d stolen files and later was accosted on the street by the CIA. John intended to intervene, only to see his old boss who was introduced in the earlier flashback there. His cover would be blown so Alex was taken, and it transitioned into another flashback.
John and Kara were in the Middle East, in the barracks of a man they believed had sold the location of US missiles to the enemy for a nice pay day. The man, naturally, claimed he didn’t do it.
Root was on a mission for the Machine as the episode jumped around, and ended up as a delivery driver. Mysterious packages were being transported, redirected by Samaritan, then delivered to the rightful place. Root and Finch figured out that Samaritan was redirecting electronics shipments to install pieces of malware to keep tabs on the users of the technology. It was spreading its influence.
When John got Alex Duncan away from the CIA (though not before getting made by his own boss), he took him back to a safe house and dug deeper into what was driving the young man to steal files. He explained that his brother had been military, and he had been told Paul, the brother, had died a hero. However, when he looked into it more he began to doubt it and eventually found out his brother was being investigated for treason. John recognized the brother as the man he and Kara had interrogated once upon a time, and John had killed him without initial proof of guilt.
Eventually John’s attempts to keep Alex safe and render him no longer a threat to the CIA got them both captured, and his old boss poked at him about the situation Alex had been looking into. John claimed that he had been there, but that it had been an airstrike that killed him after all. It was a lie of course, but John was more focused on getting them out of CIA custody. He managed to flip the car and get them out, but not before threatening his old boss and telling him to back off.
Root and Finch bickered a bit over what risks to take with the Machine, and the malware they’d found that had been planted by Samaritan. They were going to have to run it to see what it was.
A final flashback revealed that Alex’s brother, Paul, had betrayed his country. Kara found money in the lining of the briefcase. She also told John why he’d been chosen for the job. He had no family, lost his adoptive mother, and Beall had known he’d give everything to the agency. That’s who they were, that’s why they were good at their jobs, and they’d never have the luxury of a normal life.
At the end of the episode, John broke off his relationship with Iris and they parted ways, because he knew he wouldn’t be able to have a normal life and no longer wanted to put her in danger.