The first Person Of Interest in several weeks (and, such is the power of the Olympics to throw even rival networks’ schedules into a tizzy, the last new one for a couple of weeks) begins just fine. Reese sashays into the library wearing a new suit, so that Finch proclaims his time spent AWOL to have been “a sartorial success.”
That’s it as far as any post-hiatus throat-clearing goes: The Machine has kicked out a number for an event planner named Lin (Elaine Tan), a Chinese woman who speaks English with a posh English accent, which kind of makes sense when you put it that way. Lin is in charge of a soiree at the “Metropolitan Museum Of History”—that’s what the banner a team of drunks has hung over the front entrance says—so Finch, Reese, and Shaw all attend, as soon as Reese can figure out how to assemble his bow tie. (For a minute, the show casts Finch and Reese as Felix and Oscar, and there’s a nicely underplayed bit of comedy at the society art party that teases the homoerotic undercurrent of buddy teams of both the sitcom and action variety. A woman waits until Reese is out of earshot and then compliments Finch on having such a gorgeous hunk of eye candy; Finch just smiles, as if to say, I can afford the best.)
Shaw, wondering who might pose a threat to Lin, sizes up the crowd of protesters outside and sniffs that they’re just a bunch of “hippies and art nerds.” She then saves a rich man who’s choking on an hors d’oeuvre, then shares a joke with Lin about the possibility that, if she’d let the guy die, his Fortune 500 company could have been thrown into chaos by the work of “one cunning shellfish.” Finch, meanwhile, is swooning over the centerpiece exhibit, the thousand-year-old Nowell Codex. The show’s only been on 10 minutes, and already the dialogue has offered up several excellent suggestions for band names. Then, all hell breaks loose: A lithe figure in black goes all Irma Vep and steals a Ceźanne. Shaw identifies the thief as Lin herself; a little digging confirms that she used to be an Olympic gymnast, but for some reason has gone over to the dark side. The dark side here is personified by a smirking Czech dude named Cyril, whose looks would actually be less poignant if he were uglier, because as it is, he just missed out on being Dean Winchester.
Cyril takes such hammy, gleeful satisfaction in having Lin doing his evil bidding that it’s obvious that she’s actually a good person who is helplessly in thrall to villains who are holding something over her. This is completely lost on the French cop who’s been on the trail over the course of 40-some robberies spread across three or four continents, and it even takes our heroes time to catch on. They do, though, as soon as they learn that Lin has—don’t everybody say it at once—a daughter, who is, of course, in the hands of the Czech Art Mafia. (Why is it always a daughter? Couldn’t the bad guys, just once, be holding onto someone’s beloved grandmother, or the only guy at the pizza joint who’s not skimpy with the pepperoni?)
Lin’s troubles began with her daughter, or rather the prospect of having her: Nobody, it seems, likes a pregnant gymnast. Cast out into the cold, unforgiving world, she discovered that “Gymnastics wouldn’t feed my baby. I pawned my silver medal for the medical care to give birth. Then I broke into the same pawn shop and stole a watch.” I was hoping she was going to say that she broke into the pawn shop between contractions, but Person Of Interest knows where to draw the line. Just because Lin sounds as if she stopped off in New York on her way to Downton Abbey is no reason to just go nuts with the soppy melodrama. By now, it’s clear that this is turning into one of those Mission: Impossible-style episodes that are about winning the day through a lot of cloak-and-dagger shenanigans and disguises—at one point, Reese, the man of a thousand faces, dons eyeglasses and a caterpillar mustache—instead of merely pointing out to Reese which characters he should pounding into the middle of next week.
Cro-Magnon that I am, I’m always a little disappointed when the show goes in this direction. Happily, there’s a bit of a compromise: After Reese gets to remove his glasses and mustache, he hops a plane to Prague, and by the time Shaw and Lin have sorted things out stateside, he’s located Lin’s daughter and is explaining to them why it’s wrong to steal little girls and blackmail their mothers into working for the financial betterment of Dean Winchesters wannabes. (I am—[CRASH!]—a wild—[SMASH!]—and crazy—[ARGHHHH!!]—guy!!) Then he collects the little girl and hops a plane right back, demonstrating that jet lag is on the long list of things that just bounce off this guy. Mother and child are reunited, and Inspector Clouseau gets his cases wrapped up for him, so that his picture is posted under the words “Employee Of The Month” in the Interpol break room.
Finally, Reese, Finch, Shaw, and Fusco sit around a table to enjoy a celebratory drink together. Then Fusco has to go and say something about how they make a swell team, which of course is Reese’s cut to go turn maudlin and sulky because Carter is still dead. (I’m not sure which stage of grief he’s on right now, but Elisabeth Kubler-Ross must have undercounted, because he’s well into the double digits.) But then Fusc says something funny, everyone smiles, and the episode ends with a gleaming shot of the glass that Reese has set aside for Carter’s spirit, which would be a nice way to end this particular subplot, assuming the show does intend for it to ever end. The episode itself works fine as an enjoyable, stand-alone placeholder, but here’s hoping that when the show returns with new installments, the past will be buried and its engine will be fully revved up.