I never noticed it before, but Michael Emerson drawls out his vowels like he’s Riff Raff from Rocky Horror. And now you have, too. You’re welcome.
You know this is Finch in about five years, right?
No time to waste. We need to establish a whole lot of context in the opening surveillance footage. CCTV tells us it’s 07:24:13 on the main concourse of Grand Central Station. A German voice informs us that he’s on his way there now, but the Machine is only pulling up images of an older gentleman with no identifying information. Has Finch been two-timing Reese with someone other than Fusco?
As a second German voice says to assume he knows everything, facial recognition finds a match: Wallace Negel, missing and presumed dead. Scanning continues and learns that his real name is Ulrich Kohl and he was a Stasi agent whose wife died in a car accident. He’s then deemed “non-relevant” and we get our first real glimpse into how the Machine works.
Kohl exits his train and I am contractually obligated to say SQUEE! IT’S ALAN DALE! Except I never watched Lost so I just see an elderly fellow checking out a rather Germanic-looking younger man who’s carrying an old photo of SQUEE! ALAN DALE! But this isn’t Logo or Cinemax After Dark, so Kohl slinks past unnoticed by the younger man.
While Finch fishes around his bookcase, Reese casually strolls into the library with two coffee cups. Finch rather brusquely tells Reese he doesn’t drink coffee so Reese tells him it’s Sencha green tea with one sugar, the way Finch likes it. Finch gets squirrelly but Reese tells him to relax, he hasn’t guessed his favorite color, yet, in a way that says he totally knows Finch’s favorite color but is saving that tidbit for a later date. Finch walks off saying “New number.” Rude! What was he, raised in a barn?
I lied. Your favorite color is glen plaid.
Finch exposits that the number’s name is Wallace Negel, he was born in Germany in 1946 but emigrated to the US in 1980 and blah blah…Reese notices something hinky in Negel’s file. He hasn’t made a single electronic transaction since 1987. Since this might not have been obvious enough, Reese voices over that Negel’s a covert ops alias. As Reese wonders where to start, Finch exposits about a cemetery plot Negel bought just before he disappeared in 1987. Reese asks why someone would buy a cemetery plot under an alias (he knows) but Finch is on his way out. He’s off to visit someone who has the pre-digital information they need.
CCTV takes us to an old school bookstore owned by an off-putting nebbish from Stereotypes R Us. Nebbish brings a stack of books for Finch that covers the whole span of German history during the Cold War, but that’s not what Finch wants. He’s looking for information about the 1980s but needs something more precise than books. Nebbish chuckles the chuckle of the guilty saying he doesn’t know what Finch means, so Finch blows his cover by saying he’s looking for stuff like the submarine schematics he sold back to Russian intelligence last year and then, oops, failed to report the income.
Don’t mess with me, fella. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.
As nebbish closes the store for Finch, Reese wanders around the cemetery looking for Negel’s plot, which has been recently dug up and emptied except for a stray coin then we’re back with Finch as he asks for information on Negel. Nebbish recognizes the name and exposits about how before reunification East Germany was way more German than those hippy West Germans and the Stasi knew everything. Finch says he’s heard of them and dreamily says he’s “a sucker for surveillance.” Nebbish exposits some more about the information Stasi was able to gather including “sweat and body odor samples” and I’m not quite grasping how, or why, you’d need that last one and even Finch is a bit TMI’d about that. He’s just looking for a name to go with Negel’s alias.
Finch learns that Negel’s real name is Ulrich Kohl and he was part of an espionage team. Nebbish exposits/fills in the plot holes/moves the plot along by telling us that Kohl’s specific team traveled throughout western Europe and the US (which is why he had US papers) “neutralizing” East German defectors before they could talk. And in case any viewers didn’t quite pick up on the euphemism, nebbish explains that wherever their team went people died.
Back in the library, Finch continues expositing about Kohl. He was in Europe when the wall fell, he was hiding in the Soviet Union with his wife because western authorities were hunting him, and she died in a car accident shortly after they fled…in 1987. Umm, the wall fell in 1989. Minor point. Anyway, they right their ship by saying the Stasi ceased to exist in 1989 and Kohl was never heard from again. Reese fills Finch in on the plot being a buried stash kit that Kohl dug up and if it was like his, it contained the typical spy accoutrements: IDs, weapons, money. Why hasn’t Michael Westen told us about this before? Finch obviouses that it seems Kohl the spy…is back. (RIFF RAFF)
This is your future, Mr. Finch.
Kohl’s walking down a hallway. As an elderly man opens the door Kohl barks HAUFFE. The old man pretends not to recognize him until Kohl shows a picture of Anja and asks Erinnern sie sichen Anja? (Do you remember my Anja?) Hauffe gets an Oh shit look on his face right before Kohl shoots him in the shoulder. It’s not nearly as satisfying as watching someone get kneecapped. Kohl leads us into commercial as he closes the door behind him telling Hauffe they have something to discuss.
Back from commercials and it’s a flashback to 2006. Surveillance footage puts it at 23:10:40 in Budapest and we get a lovely night shot of the Danube. Part of the fun of writing these recaps is playing Where in the World is John Reese? and finding their locations on Google maps. Because I’m a nerd. A woman asks in voice over if he’s the new guy then suggests they go somewhere private to talk. Reese and the woman walk into stone room while wearing fetching evening wear, and Caviezel wears the hell out of a tux. He establishes that her name is “Stanton” but when he starts to introduce himself she tells him the ID NCS gave him didn’t pass muster so he is, according to Stanton, “nobody” and she gets to name him. Like he’s a stray cat. That made me sad.
Anyway, she overacts and is all “le rowr, kitty,” about it, starting with the name “Wilson,” but she doesn’t like that. Then she decides to channel Barbara Stanwyck and tells him to have a drink. Reese refuses so she launches into a speech about how “Tier One boys are all the same, tense. Tense will get you killed, blah blah blah,” it’s all to confirm it’s his first day, and that with the military he’d only be behind enemy lines for finite tours but this assignment is permanent, so he may as well relax.
I am a very handsome man.
They sit at a table randomly placed in the middle of the room, with no other furniture, and Stanton asks Reese if he saw any old friends while he was in transit. He so obviously lies when he says no so she shows him a picture of the back of his head (she and Carter could be besties) talking to Jessica in the airport. She gets all ominous repeating that “you never go back.” Dun DUUUUNN.
Back in the present and it’s 11:34:56 at Finch’s library. He’s expositing about how the coin Reese found was an East German mark, which has been out of circulation since 1990, but Finch found a rare coins exchange that received a whole set of marks that morning. Convenient! Reese is walking down the same hallway we saw earlier as Finch tells us Kohl placed a call to that address from the exchange. Reese sees Hauffe’s door open, and really. Would a spy do something as obvious as leave the door open? Bad continuity, bad. Reese sees the old man sitting in a chair, dead. He walks over to the body and sees a bunch of puncture wounds on his neck and understates that he was “interrogated.”
Even his puncture wounds have a Germanic order and symmetry.
Finch continues with his exposition duties telling us that Kohl’s team consisted of himself as the assassin a leader named Steiler, who was also an assassin, a documents forger named Wernick, and a case officer named Hauffe. Finch gets the lease information and believes the dead man to be Andrew Honem. As Reese snoops around the apartment, gloveless, he finds a lapel pin from the “Volks American Society” and assumes that since Kohl hunted down East German defectors that Honem probably was one.
In addition to super ninja fighting skills, Reese has super vision and notices the wood floor in front of the breakfront is scratched. He looks to see what’s under the floorboards and finds a lockbox containing medals and a citation for “Heinrich Hauffe.” Reese also appears to have the long term memory of a cat because he’s already forgotten the case officer’s name, even though Finch just said it a minute ago. As Reese informs us that he killed his Stasi teammate, the young Germanic guy from the open has a gun on Reese and lets us know that he will kill again. The German tries to be intimidating, but Reese takes him out with two blows. Candyass. You’d think German intelligence would be made of sturdier stuff. Reese lets Finch know that before he knocked the guy out he said that Kohl would kill again.
Is that a gun barrel or are you really tall and glad to see me?
Fusco’s at work when his phone rings. It’s Reese calling in an “anonymous” tip about a homicide in the West Village. Fusco still thinks he has any say in how and when Reese calls him and says to stop calling him at work. Reese doesn’t even listen to Fusco. He explains how the shooter might kill again, but he left Fusco a “care package” and needs him to find out what the German knows. Fusco points out he can’t do anything until the crime gets called in so Reese tells him he’ll get the call about shots being fired. Fusco not getting how his creepy, but dashing, new friend operates asks if shots were fired, as Reese randomly fires off a couple of rounds.
12:16:40 on the corner of 41st and Madison and Kohl is staring into the CCTV camera. He should go down to The Today Show window. As Reese and Finch discuss in voice over that Julian Warner is the likely next victim, Kohl spots Wernick/Warner leaving his offices. Reese and Finch continue to hypothesize about why Kohl came back to kill his teammates and Reese points out that while Kohl disappeared the rest of his team went on to live cushy lives in NYC under aliases, so it’s likely a revenge plot. They discuss how the wife died in 1987 which was when Kohl disappeared and NOW Reese tells us he can spot a staged accident, so he must be on a 12 minute delay. Then he gets in a car to find Wernick quickly because there’s no faster way around Manhattan than in a private car since traffic’s light and parking is plentiful.
Kohl walks into craftbar and Daddy Tom is getting a nice piece of publicity from the show. As Wernick checks his phone, he appears to be bitten on the neck by a mosquito. No, it’s just Kohl sticking a poison-dipped needle in Wernick’s neck to get him to talk. Larry Pine can’t fake a decent German accent so Wernick exposits about the needle in a subtly twangy American accent and Kohl makes sure to ask about it so they can justify his accent as the team being encouraged to blend. Then Kohl tells Wernick that he got his information from Hauffe and pulls out Anja’s photo, again.
Yes, the shot was framed around the restaurant’s name.
Finch lets Reese know that Wernick has lunch at Daddy Tom’s place every day. Surveillance footage shows Reese is near Penn Station which isn’t far from craftbar, so good going, continuity. Wernick tells Kohl he had no idea they’d go after Anja but that killing him won’t bring her back, like revenge is supposed to be rational. He asks Kohl what happened to him and Kohl reminds Wernick that while Wernick was living well in NYC he was locked away for 24 years paying for the team’s sins. As the poison starts to take effect Wernick reminds us about the third team member, Steiler, then passes out.
While everyone gathers around Wernick, Kohl sneaks out the service entrance. Reese finally arrive then promptly leaves, since the ambulance is already there and the EMTs have managed to do triage and strap Wernick to the gurney in about 1.2 seconds. As the EMTs close the doors, the ambulance drives off. Reese highjacked it because nothing says “invisible” like stealing an ambulance.
Reese parks the ambulance to keep Wernick alive long enough to question him about Kohl’s plan. “The Americans” wanted Kohl because he was the team’s main trigger man and was killing their informants. If the team gave up Kohl they’d get new identities. Reese starts over-identifying with Kohl being left out in the cold and tells Wernick they were a team (of assassins) and that a soldier deserves better, even if he’s an assassin. He might not have used the word assassin, though.
I can’t hear you. You’re foaming at the mouth.
Reese has the medications that will counteract the poison and wants to know who Kohl’s next target is. Wernick tells him Steiler…which surprises Reese since he was both team leader and a trigger man. But Wernick’s passed out at this point so Reese jacks his lapel pin and tells Finch everything we just heard, but also sends Finch a picture of the pin for the Volks American Society. It’s an organization for German-Americans and the team had been using it as a way to meet in public. They assume that since Hauffe and Wernick were members, Steiler would be, too.
Down at the station at 14:26:34 and Fusco has to explain the sitch to Carter because she was too busy drawing glittery pink hearts around the screen caps she took of Reese in his Jesus wig and beard and practicing her new signature “Mrs. Carter Guy in Suit.” He fills her in on the West Village shooting and how a senior citizen in a suit, not to be confused with Reese, was seen fleeing both scenes but that “her guy” (back off) jacked the ambulance. Then Fusco points to the German intelligence guy who was found unconscious at the scene and they joke over who “kicked his ass sideways.”
Sure, he’s tall, dark and handsome, but when I wobble I don’t fall down.
Fusco and Carter go into the interrogation room to find out what the German knows about Wernick and Hauffe. German tries to be tough but Carter has to get her allotted lines in so she points out that one agent chasing a killer isn’t enough and that he needs their help. Well, Fusco’s. German exposits that Kohl snowed the authorities that he’d become old and feeble and was no longer a threat so he was transferred to minimum security where he escaped. He points out that it’s in both countries best interests to get Kohl back in jail, but Carter’s three brain cells meet in the middle and wonder why they didn’t involve US authorities. Oops, Kohl was never tried, just thrown in a prison and “disappeared.” That’s all the German’s able to give up before some guy from the German consulate busts in with an order from the US State Department to extradite the agent immediately. Bureaucracy at its finest.
It’s 15:04:16 and time for Finch to geek out over what lame security the Volks American Society had on its website and that he cloned their login form in seconds. Reese probably beat up kids like Finch in school but he’s more mature now so he just barks into the phone, “Finch, the POINT?” and his voice actually reaches human volume. Finch has been running background checks on the members and found one named Michael Stegans whose credit scores only go back to 1988.
Finch has a cell number for Stegans and with everyone playing beat the clock he calls. When Stegans answers Finch calls him Mr. Steiler. Steiler hems and haws but Finch gets to the point that Ulrich Kohl’s back and on his way to the construction site. Steiler doesn’t believe him but Kohl’s already there. As Kohl holds a gun on him, Steiler puts his cell in his vest pocket so Finch can continue eavesdropping. Reese is also patched into the call and they overhear Steiler’s soliloquy about how Kohl changed over the years.
As Reese climbs to their floor, Kohl continues his vengeance talk, claiming he was strong and able to survive but what happened to Anja… Steiler stops him. He goes over to the work phone and dials a number, telling Kohl he was the only one who knew then hands the phone to Kohl so he can hear Anja’s voice when she answer. Steiler lets Kohl know that Anja was frightened of Kohl and that his revenge was for nothing. Then the geezers fight over Kohl’s gun, but it’s not nearly as cool as when Reese fights so Kohl just shoves Steiler off the landing and leaves just as Reese is reaching the floor.
At the station, the German’s leaving and Carter’s whining. Fusco points out that “the guy in the suit” is still out there looking for Kohl but Carter looks a gift horse in the mouth and complains that you can’t catch a killer with a killer. Like she knows how to catch a killer with 37 open cases. As Carter walks off in one direction, Fusco “slyly” goes in another and texts Reese the description and license plate number of the consulate car. Reese figures they’ll take side streets to the airport and Finch tells Reese to get the GPS tracking number from Fusco.
About five minutes later they’re on a street under an overpass and Finch wants to know how Reese plans to stop the car. Reese goes to the trunk and pulls out a really big sniper rifle. Not very subtle or elegant, but it’ll do. Finch says he’s not very comfortable being there and Reese adds that he’s not comfortable having Finch there but he needs a spotter. Finch gives Reese what he thinks is the distance and wind information while Reese sets up the shot. Finch wonders what would happen if Reese misses and Reese brags he wouldn’t know because he never has. Show off.
Remind me to explain how first dates work when we get back to the library.
Reese takes the shot and blows the hood off the car. As the car swerves around to a stop, Reese walks up and the consulate guy tries to invoke diplomatic immunity, like what just happened was an authorized action. As the consulate guy asks who Reese is, Reese pins the agent to the car and says he’s the only person who can save Anja Kohl’s life. The agent says there’s nothing he can do, but passes Reese a convenient slip of paper with Anja’s contact information. Her alias is Anna Klein and she lives in Morningside Heights.
16:47:36 and Kohl is walking up to a lovely brick home on a leafy street. He disconnects the security camera and walks into Anja’s house. She’s gone, but Reese is there, sitting at the dining room table with a gun drawn. Reese flirts about how fancy Kohl’s gun is but that it won’t stop him and he gets impatient when shot. Then, for no reason whatsoever he decides to sidle on over to Kohl, asking what his plan is. Why, his plan is to sucker you into grabbing his gun barrel freeing his hands to knock you out with a Vulcan carotid artery grip.
Anja’s riding with Finch trying to process how Kohl got out and found her. Finch wants to take her to Fusco but she wants to make a phone call. Can’t they do both? No time for an answer, Kohl has Reese tied up and wants to know where Anja is. Reese is still woozy from the brief lack of oxygen to his brain, so Kohl launches into a speech about why he uses the needles. Because they look cool doesn’t factor in. Allegedly. Then they have a butch off where Reese tells Kohl that he was tortured for 16 hours and never even gave up his name. Kohl doesn’t care what his name is, he just wants to stick Reese with needles to find out where Anja is.
Maybe this really is Cinemax After Dark.
The pain brings on another blue-tinted flashback to when he was a newbie killing machine. Stanton’s talking to two men, telling them to relax…they’re on the same team. And besides, where would she hide a gun in that dress. The two guys ignore the giant anvil in their way and ask who Reese is. Stanton hasn’t decided, yet. The men sit down to drink and Reese asks about a terrorist who was in country but left two days earlier. The guys say “It was all in our intel that we forwarded to Langley” and that he probably paid customs a fortune. Stanton gets tough and asks how much he paid the two guys, but after a tense moment she backs down saying she was just joking. Reese’s mouth twitches. Then she repeats that they’re all too tense and wants to toast but as the guys lift their glasses she shoots them. Reese starts rethinking that Blackwater offer.
Carter gets a call about Reese’s totally unnoticed take down of the consulate’s car. She pretends she’s cranky that she has to go down to the scene to see if there are any clues leading to Kohl, but c’mon, you know in her head she’s singing Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart. As she leaves, Fusco gets a call from Finch. Fusco, still forgetting who he’s dealing with, tells Finch he can’t just ring him up like he’s a bellhop. No, you tip bellhops. You’re their bitch. Finch tells him he’s lost contact with Reese and needs Fusco to find him then sends him Anja’s address.
Reese hasn’t broken, so the two ex-spies are sitting at the table discussing how Kohl will have to kill Reese. Kohl says no one enjoys killing, it was just something he was good at. Reese compliments him on mixing his own poison and Kohl is flattered at Reese’s knowledge. Kohl explains how he was a soldier and the Stasi came to him, told him his country needed him. Reese has a pang of familiarity. Kohl continues about leaving his country for his country and killing where they told him only now he’s the monster. Reese’s over-identification has never been higher and his pretty blue eyes are glassy as Kohl says “Even the blackest heart still beats.” Reese tries to get Kohl not to follow through with this last killing, but old ex-spies are immune to the healing power of the Caviezel so he just pulls out another needle.
Even the blackest heart still beats.
Anja and Finch are still in the car as she explains why she’s still alive. She knew she was married to a spy and he couldn’t talk about his work but she loved him. When the Stasi turned, they fled to the Soviet Union separately and she was soon brought in. “The Americans” showed her pictures of his assassinations and she couldn’t believe she was married to someone who could do that so she allowed them to stage the accident to start a new life.
Back at Anja’s house, Kohl’s frustrated with Reese and walks into the kitchen where he sees a picture of a young woman. As Reese winces, Kohl sees a resemblance and looks for information on her. He soon finds the family album Reese hid and learns her name is Marie. Reese tries to talk him down, saying he’s still not a monster to her and let her have a normal life, but Kohl’s refueled his rage.
Kohl shows Reese some “professional courtesy” and says he appreciates the words but he can’t have Reese following him. As he pulls the gun up to shoot Reese in the head…a belligerent little fireplug comes in through the kitchen and says “Don’t worry, you’re not going anywhere.” FUSCO! But he’s just a kinda dirty cop not a killing machine so Kohl gets the drop on Fusco when he shoots the wall. Fusco considers chasing him but unties Reese instead. Yes, Reese is less scary.
19:10:04 at Columbia University. Several students, including Marie, are leaving for the evening. Marie checks her messages and Kohl walks up asking for Lerner Hall. As she goes to show him on his map he shows her the big gun and tells her to call her mother. She does and Finch calls Reese to tell him they’re meeting up at Central Park.
Kohl is walking Marie through the park and she wants to know how he knows her mother. Kohl says he knew her and Marie’s father before they left Germany. Marie gets heartened and asks about her father, since he “died” before she was born. He asks what she knows about him and she says her mother said he was a hero.
Police scanner announces their location as Finch and Anja approach Kohl and Marie. Kohl’s a smart ex-spy, so he wants to know where Reese is, and, conveniently, he’s behind Kohl. Elsewhere, Carter comes from one side and runs into Fusco who wonders if the shooter is in the park, and he’s totally convincing. For Carter. She gets all tingly at the thought of catching Reese and Fusco plays along with her fantasy.
Kohl and Anja discuss why she did what she did. Marie is there and Anja keeps referring to Kohl in the third person as “her husband” but Marie’s a Columbia grad student so she puts two and two together pretty quickly and is mortified when Anja’s says “her husband” was a killer. She was afraid of the person he’d become and she asks for forgiveness for the person she was. Kohl says he just wanted to see their faces. He seems to be softening saying a part of him has been with them always, but he still pulls the gun on Anja. Reese draws his gun and calls out to Kohl, but Kohl takes aim. As a gunshot rings out we see Carter whipping her hair toward the shot.
This is gonna hurt you way more than me.
As she goes off to find the shooter, we see that Reese shot Kohl. Anja helps him to a bench as Reese picks up Kohl’s gun and tells Finch to get the women out of the park. Anja sobs but Kohl tells her she was right to fear him and the women walk away with Finch. Kohl is bleeding out and Reese sees that Kohl’s gun was empty. While a doleful piano plays, Reese sits with the dying man. Kohl says he wouldn’t hurt Anja, but he never had a tomorrow. Reese wants to know how Kohl knew he’d shoot, and Kohl says Reese is a soldier, like him. Then he says they took everything from him but a part survived. Her. Then he quietly dies.
Carter comes running up with the SWAT team, but Fusco’s already with the body. He wonders who Carter thinks did it and as she looks around, Reese is watching from the bushes, causing the final flashback. Stanton isn’t even breathing hard after killing the two guys, she just wants to find a name for Reese. She thinks “Harper,” but doesn’t like it. She tells him to dispose of the gun and the dead guys and Reese’s eyes go glassy as he says she didn’t even question them. She patronizes him and tells him there wasn’t time for questions and she knew they took a bribe because a reliable source told her. She talks to him one more time like he’s five and says “This is right. The threat is real. Your country needs you.” Then she tells him to remove their teeth and fingertips. Ewwww. She’s rough. But she’s not done. One final warning, no old friends. If he sees them, he doesn’t know them. Then she realizes she’s got his new name.
But Finch says Mr. Reese. I fell for the bait and switch before with the little boy, so I’m not making any assumptions. They’re at Kohl’s grave, marked Wallace Negel. The German government will sweep it under the rug and it will be like Kohl never existed. Reese sardonically says he always figured that’s how he’d go. Finch wonders if anyone will care for their names and Reese says after they’re dead. Finch says he thought they already were…and they walk off. Sniff.
Nice to have the show back, even if it’s just for this week. This episode played better on the second viewing because I already knew the big plot points and could see the poignant elements more clearly. With next Thursday being Thanksgiving (YUM) we have another two weeks before the dreaded Carter episode, so enjoy the holiday and I’ll see you in December!
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