This episode is fucking fantastic! One of my favorites in the entire series. Get ready, friends.
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.
In this episode, the case-of-the-week takes a backseat, but here is the gist: The number, Karolina Kurkova, is no more than background laughs and chases through the street – or something, I guess. Not a lot of explanation into why she is running or how she is saved are given, just that she is running from the Armenian mob and Fusco saves her life at the end.
Let’s move on to what concerns us, though: is Jesus going down?
Even just focusing my review on what is happening with the Man in the Suit interrogations, it’s hard to know where to begin. There is so much going on.
First, there is Carter interrogating John (and the others, who are also lying about who they are because they are hit men and don’t know why they’re being detained, which helps a little) like they don’t know each other. This goes on throughout the episode.
But that’s not all, not even close.
Last time we saw Special Counsel, he was sending Hersh off to find Denton Weeks, kill the Man in the Suit (for helping Henry Peck, or for kicks), silence the investigation into Alicia Corwin’s murder, and to find Root, at the start of the season. They were clearly very busy. But at the start of this episode, we see his dark-haired secretary notify him of the FBI arrest of four suit-wearing men, and sends Hersh to bump them all off.
And this is why I love Hersh: Special Counsel tells him John is *probably* at Rikers, one of four men, and he just says “Then I’ll remove all four”, calmly hangs up, spots some cops at the end of the block where he is at (in broad daylight), and starts shooting at the sky with zero expression in his face as he gets handcuffed and sent to jail. Once inside, he starts his killing with the wrong guy, obviously, but the degree to which he does not change his calm pace, his expressionless face, his perfect methods, is worth watching. He is very pragmatic and ruthless and calculating and I love it. He is the John of the ‘relevant’ (numbers) side and I can’t wait for them to meet.
So Hersh is in Rikers, looking to kill all four men, just in case one of them is John. The neo nazis John put in jail in ‘The Contingency’ are also in Rikers, and are delighted for a chance to finish John for locking them up and stealing their dog.
You remember who else is in Rikers though, don’t you? Carl motherfucking Elias, that’s who.
He is happy to see John, too, if only ’cause he is bored and wherever The Man in the Suit goes, brand new shenanigans happen.
Elias: Personally, I think they could’ve come up with a better name.
Same, Elias. Same.
Personally, I think he has a crush on John, which is entirely possible – just go on AO3, you’ll see just how possible it is. Elias looks genuinely offended when John asks if Elias will turn him in.
John asks Elias not to protect him, since Donnelly had the theory that they worked together, and “John Warren” would have no reason to know this precious cupcake of a crimelord.
Why won’t you let Elias love you, John? He just wants to see you happy.
Back with Carter, Donnelly is coming up empty with his four men: all their background checks come out fine, they visit “John Warren’s” office and everything seems legit, they all seem to answer questions well. But the DNA sample was tampered with, one of the suspects “hung himself” (the one Hersh killed inside the prison), another suspect was blackmailed (by Harold) to rat another suspect. Donnelly has generally good instincts, even if he thinks John is a bad guy: he knows he is being messed with, he knows he is close. But Harold is really good at creating covers, John is good at playing them, and Carter is good at being the goddamn goddess of all that is good and pure.
Something really fun about this episode is seeing how much planning had to have gone into a part of Team Machine’s work that we rarely see, ’cause it hadn’t become relevant: them playing the roles of normal people. When Donnelly and Carter visit “John Warren’s” office, we see John in a few photos with coworkers, the assistant tells Donnelly that they’ve worked together a few years, and that she has not seen him the last few days (meaning she sees him at least somewhat regularly).
 John is in one of his first assignments with Kara Stanton. They kill three dudes, and John is being all serious and broody, as always. Kara is chipper and unattached, as always.
Kara: These aren’t murder victims, they’re enemy combatants. But yes, we are killers, John, that is our job. And if you wanna be good at your job, you’re gonna have to learn to love your work.
I mean, she’s not *wrong*.
We get to see Harold’s (unbelievable, but cool) hacker wizardry in action when Carter is asking John about his personal life. I live for his moments of unlikely but awesome as fuck genius. As John mentions a name, date or place, Harold cooks up a record of it happening, and Carter has to navigate Donnelly feeding her questions through an earpiece, Harold telling her to go slower so he has time to fabricate evidence, and John giving answers that would make anyone else have a hard time pretending they don’t know them.
Because of course John isn’t just fabricating out of thin air. He has to tug at the fucking heartstrings, giving answers that pretty much paint a picture of what he thinks his life would have been like if, after 9/11, he had stayed with Jessica instead of going back to the military. We know the details aren’t true, and mostly we’re not entirely sure, but we can tell there is a lot of fact to the fiction in Warren’s story.
 Kara and John bump some people off. Kara kind of flirts with John.
What does any of this have to do with the plot in the present, you ask? Oh, nothing. The writers have no reason to want us all to remember Kara. Nothing to see here.
Another reason I love this episode is the chance it gives Carter to display how much of a fucking powerhouse she is (and how much of a treasure Taraji is as an actress). She has indeed crossed more than a few lines: tampering with a federal investigation, participating in the blackmail of one of the hitmen in order to incriminate someone other than John, repeatedly and skillfully lying to Donnelly, goading one of the hitmen with questioning until he tried to strangle her. But her moral compass is exactly where it was since episode one. She has good instincts for what the greater good looks like, and she is ruthless in her pursuit of it. Donnelly is great at his job (and I continue to find interesting how paranoid he sounds even though we know he is right to be), but Carter is better at it. Until… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
 John keeps being broody and so Kara points a gun at him, asking him if he wants the white picket fence, or be a killer, ’cause ambivalence is fucking annoying. She has a point. So anyway, John snaps, tells her he loves his job, and they make out. I don’t know why that was necessary, but okay. Were they fucking? Did they have a relationship? What is this moment supposed to tell us, besides “if you repeatedly send two people on trips alone together they might have sex eventually”? Anyway.
At some point Donnelly sets shit up so that the aryan bros jump John, to see if he will use his G.I. Joe combat skills. He doesn’t, cause he isn’t stupid. And Elias, bless his heart, only intervenes when he sees Hersh approaching with a knife. After Carter taunts the other suspect into choking her, John gets released.
Harold, the guy who would never hold a gun, was ready to bust John out of jail. He looked so worried! Protect Harry and his sugar baby at all costs.
Once John is out, he meets up with Carter to reminisce on their good ol’ prison times – which like, I would have waited a couple days before meeting up, but okay. Aaaaand Donnelly is right behind them, ’cause he is so paranoid that he read Carter’s concern for John’s safety when the neo nazis were going to kill him as personal. While he is right, I would be concerned for anyone about to be jumped by a bunch of neo nazis, so there is that. Anyway, umm, PLOT TWIST! Now they’re both going to jail.
Except..! A payphone rings. Another payphone rings. All the payphones are ringing.
Goddamnit, Harold, just pick it up. Who’s number is it now? *INTRIIIGUE*
It’s Donnelly’s! But how, why? John would never kill him, right? Right. But we know someone who would.
PLOT TWIST! Kara fucking Stanton reporting for duty, literally crashing a truck into the plot, literally flipping everything upside down. Bringing joy and stress into my life.
Next up, Snow and Reese are bomb-vest buddies, Kara is the stone cold bitch of my dreams, and a new Big Bad rears its ugly lil’ British head.