The writers give us so much in this episode, but also so little. The slow reveal, man, it’s killing me, even as I rewatch. This episode is all about the flashbacks, though. All about the flashbacks.
I have watched the whole show before, so SPOILERS MIGHT HAPPEN. Big spoilers will be blanked out but references and irrelevant spoilers are going to be out in the open.
The number is that of Tommy Clay, an armored truck guard who seems otherwise ordinary. Because his job is fairly dangerous, Harold and John suspect he might be the victim.
 Kara is torturing some guy in Morocco, and John takes this leisure time to check on his messages from an old phone. Jessica had left a message saying she needs to talk, so John immediately calls her back. She sounds super distraught on the phone and not at all okay, so John promises to be there in 24 hours to get her.
He should have known that was not gonna happen. They are reassigned to pick up a very dangerous laptop in China. (I adore how long it takes for us to know what this laptop and this mission is. I love it so much.) Snow also tells John that he has to “retire” – their euphemisms, uh, kill me – Kara, since she has been communicating with people she shouldn’t have. Or something. Snow tells him, with a straight fucking face, that after that is done, he can have all the free time he wants.
… And then tells Kara the same thing: that John has been compromised, that she must now kill him. And we all scream “WHAT THE FUCK”. Well, kids, y’all are gonna have to wait two seasons to find out exactly what this particular fuck consists of.
We also see Alicia Corwin directly giving them orders about China. Did she know she was sending them to kill each other?
So it turns out Tommy was not the victim, but the perpetrator. He shoots his partner dead and John in his vest, and takes off with a million and a half dollars worth of, uh, something or other. Case-of-the-week details escape me when the episode is slaughtering my heart with them flashbacks.
 They arrive in Ordos, and everyone in that place has been killed. Oh, joy.
In the meantime, Fusco is running errands and business for HR, and getting money for it. My poor child, he asks John what he should do with the money, because he is undercover, not really in it, his heart isn’t in it. John doesn’t care, so Fusco buys his kid new sneakers.
While running an errand, Fusco is supposed to pick up a number of things from, uh, the same place where John is searching for Tommy?! Turns out HR was going to be in business with the number of the week! Isn’t this a small criminal world?
Fusco needs to figure out what to tell HR about not having their package.
John: You’re a talented liar, detective. Remember, that’s why I picked you.
 Kara finds one lonely poor guy who isn’t dead, and asks him what happened. He says ‘they’ took away the machine. WHAT THE FUCK, we all scream again. Then we see printed numbers, what looks like Social Security Numbers. Is that *The* Machine, or another Machine? What?! And we see a laptop there, but we know that’s not the one they were looking for, since the now-dead dude said ‘they’ took it away. Or is it? This episode gets a ‘what the fuck’ scream on loop, to be honest. (Most of it will be explained throughout season 2, so stay tuned.)
And then Kara shoots him, because he asked to be given something for the pain. Well, that’s one way of doing that.
As they wait to be extracted from that joyous hellhole, Kara and John talk about their job possibly becoming obsolete, about the struggle of following orders without asking questions, and their inedible nutritional packets that look like somebody already ate them. I swear, every time I hear Kara speak, I wish we could have more of her on screen.
John closes in on Tommy, but surprise! His girlfriend’s got his back. But another surprise! Not really. John takes a look at Tommy’s girlfriend’s face, a face he’s seen before.
John: I’m so sorry.
Tommy: What are you sorry for?
John: It’s the law of the fishes.
And so Tommy’s girlfriend shoots Tommy. And as she’s about to make a run for it… The HR guy shoots her. And as the HR guy is about to shoot John, Fusco shoots him.
There’s a lot of shooting. Which is the point: the law of the fishes (which is what Matsya Nyaya means, which is a pretentious way the writers can show us they’ve read a thing or two, or something). There is always gonna be a bigger fish, a predator catching the smaller predator, a threat bigger and more evil than the other. And Fusco saves John! Which is a really fun parallel, if we think about how they met, with another HR cop instructing Fusco to kill John and bury him somewhere. Look at how far my children have come.
John: You’re getting good at this, Lionel.
Fusco: I was always good at this. That’s why you picked me in the first place, remember?
 They’re ready to leave, and John is ready to kill Kara, as instructed, but chooses to ask Kara to talk about something, about the kill order, possibly. Instead, Kara just turns around and shoots him. She tells him she was told to, and he tells her he was told the same thing, that they were played. John makes a run for it, but the signal to extract is already out, and we see an explosion in the back. The CIA (or whatever evil organization they were working for at this point) was taking zero chances on them, it seems. And yet they still failed. How mad do you think Snow and other CIA people were to find out that they told both of them to shoot each other, and they sent out a drone or something to blow shit up to make sure, and BOTH of them got away?
Evans and Snow are still harassing Carter during this episode, still trying to locate John. They think they have something on him, because of some transactions with someone from Ordos, and follow that trail to a hotel. Where we know for a fact they won’t find John. So who is it??
Evans spots some nice heels on the floor, and someone shoots him in the back. Could it be…?
Of course it is. It is Kara fucking Stanton. Bless this terrifying woman. She is so bad, but she is so good at being bad.
Like Riri, and me, and Elias. The law of the fishes.
I cannot wait to tell you all about it. Not super soon, but one day. You just wait.