Person of Interest

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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For once, you'll be glad that Big Brother Is Watching...
"The numbers never stop coming, Mr. Reese."
Mr. Finch

Person of Interest is an action-thriller TV series that started airing in September 2011 on CBS. It was created by Jonathan Nolan and developed along with J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk. Prior to airing, it was much-hyped for the strong pedigree of cast and crew, and later the pilot received positive reviews.

John Reese (Jim Caviezel) is a former CIA agent, reduced to living rough as a drunk homeless man in New York City after a falling-out with the United States government. He's bailed out of trouble with the NYPD by a mysterious billionaire named Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson), who has a strange and potentially-dangerous job offer. As it turns out, Finch is a software genius who designed the government supercomputer that monitors all surveillance data, analyzing and filtering for persons involved in potential threats to national security. As a side effect, the computer also spits out "irrelevant" social security numbers that correspond to a "person of interest", someone that the computer predicts will soon be involved in a violent crime. To help these potential victims (or to stop these potential killers, as the case may be), Finch hires Reese and together, they use their collective skills and resources to help innocent people. Along the way, he is pursued by Detective Carter, a homicide detective who has begun to suspect something is amiss in the number of violent incidents involving "a man in a nice suit".

Rounding out the cast of weekly rogues is an ensemble of recurring antagonists: Elias, an elusive mob boss and master criminal whose conspiracies and criminal enterprises have generated several POI numbers not including Elias himself, "HR", a ring of corrupt cops within the NYPD that protect Elias and other crime syndicates, and Agent Snow, a CIA operative from Reese's past who is trying to put a bullet in him.

Please contribute to the character and recap pages.


Tropes used in Person of Interest include:
  • Actor Allusion: Michael Emerson saying "I've been watching you for a long time, John" sounds awfully familiar.
    • So does the sound of a receipt being printed in a taxi cab that just so happens to be driven by Michael Emerson's character. LOST's sound effect for the "smoke monster" was derived from this sound.
    • In "Witness," a student of the teacher John is protecting is reading The Count of Monte Cristo as a homework assignment. Jim Caviezel played the titular count in the 2002 version of the movie.
      • Doubles as a Whole-Plot Reference. The Count of Monte Cristo is about a man who devotes his life to revenge, heedless of the cost to others--which is a pretty fair description of that episode's POI, Carl Elias.
    • At one point Detective Carter tells Reese that he can't keep playing God.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The machine is very good at spotting threats to itself and in a flashback we see that it considered Finch's partner to be a threat.
    • At the end of "Legacy," it viewed Reese as a threat, too, and tagged him with a red box. See Colour-Coded For Your Convenience, below
    • As of "Firewall," it seems to be prepared to work with Reese to rescue Finch from Root.
  • Ambiguous Situation: At the end of "Cura Te Ipsum"[1], we never find out if Reese kills the serial rapist or lets him go.

Reese: Maybe it's up to me to do what the good people can't. Or maybe there are no good people. Only good decisions.
Andrew: Please. You don't want to do something you'll regret.
Reese: Which do you think I'll regret more: letting you live, or letting you die? Andrew, help me make a good decision.

    • The episode "Many Happy Returns" strongly implies that Reese put the serial rapist in a Mexican prison, where he'll never get out.
  • Animal Motifs: All of Finch's various identities are birds.
    • In "The Fix", Finch pretends to be a "Mr. Partridge".
    • In "Wolf and Cub," we learn that Finch was known in an earlier life as "Harold Wren." "Many Happy Returns" verifies that Finch is still using this as a cover ID.
    • In "Risk," he used the name "Harold Crane."
    • In "Identity Crisis," it's "Harold Crow".
    • Also, in "Cura Te Ipsum", Finch's pseudonym he gives to the police is 'Burdett', which also means 'bird'.
      • In "No Good Deed," the POI who figures out that The Machine exists is "Henry Peck." Finch remaks at one point that Peck is "doing what I would do" were Finch in the same situation. Birds peck at things, you know.
  • Anti-Hero: John Reese.
  • Arbitrarily-Large Bank Account: We don't know how exactly rich Finch is but he can easily buy up 8% of a major pharmaceutical company in 48 hours. And it got a lot larger when Finch sold it on a guess the price would drop on a wager of 500 million American dollars.
    • He also once invested 150 million dollars just to get close to an investment banker, and had enough liquid assets available to buy up enough stock in an energy company that had recently lost 90% of its value in a single day to make its price reach a new peak.
    • His empire includes several magazine publishers who make a particular point of regularly commissioning his former fiancee Grace to do their cover art, thus providing her steady work as an illustrator.
  • Arc Words:
    • "In the end, we're all alone and no one is coming to save you." (Doubles as Foreshadowing of Jessica's fate.)
    • ...and its counterpoint, "You have to trust somebody."
    • Reese's opening voiceover, describing Jessica, from "Pilot," which he repeats when he confronts Jessica's abusive husband/murderer in "Many Happy Returns":

When you find that one person who connects you to the world, you become someone different. Someone better. When that person is taken from you, what do you become then?

  • The Atoner:
    • Harold Finch is implied to be this in the second episode. Affirmed in the sixth episode ("The Fix") when Finch says that before he found Reese, the numbers haunted him and he took great pleasure in helping take down the bad guys as they had previously given the number of another woman.
    • Reese is implied to be atoning for the people he's killed for the CIA, possibly because some of them were not as guilty as he was led to believe.
      • ...and for not being there in time for Jessica.
    • In a way, Fusco. Since he's got a kid.
  • Badass:
    • Reese is a Badass in a Nice Suit: all Detective Carter needs to hear was that a mysterious stranger in 'a nice suit' was involved to know it was him.
    • Carter.
    • In "Matsya Nyaya," Fusco Took a Level in Badass when he rescued Reese from HR.
    • Finch, too, in his own way:
      • He's one Badass Bookworm computer hacker who, for example, hacked all of the cell towers in New York City, cutting off all cell communications except for which phones he chose.
      • He also has walked right up to an influential leader of a corrupt cop ring and manipulated him into backing down from working with a mob boss, and completely bankrupted a corrupt executive's company.
      • When physical confrontation is necessary and unavoidable, he does what he can despite his physical limitations. At the climax of "Ghosts," he placed himself between Teresa and the hit man and gave him a look that just dared him to pull the trigger. He also acquitted himself pretty well in the climactic fight scene of "Super."
  • Badass Boast: A nervous Finch watches as Reese prepares to snipe a car with a Barrett anti-material rifle.

Finch: What happens if you miss?
Reese: I wouldn't know. Never have.

  • Bait the Dog: Elias helps Reese save an infant, only to lock Reese and the child in a refrigerated truck to force Reese's assistance.
  • Batman Gambit: Root gets the better of Reese and Finch by counting on them to do what they do best: helping the helpless. She puts a hit out on her own alias and leaves a digital trail for the Machine to spot, knowing that it will tag her as a POI and bring Reese and Finch to her.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: When Carter's son is kidnapped, the very anti-gun/anti-weapon Finch is so desperate to help save him that he picks up a gun and asks Reese to teach him how to use it, though he's quite realistic on what sort of assistance he'd be able to give even with a gun. Reese, however, refuses to teach Finch and instead suggests that Finch perform the very valuable assistance of being ready with the get-away car.
  • Becoming the Mask: "John Reese" is just a cover identity he was given when he became a government assassin. He discarded his life before that and became the new identity.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Putting kids in danger seems to hit this for Reese ("Justice," "Wolf and Cub," "Baby Blue," "Flesh and Blood").
    • Kidnapping babies puts it into overdrive.
    • And beating your wife will make Reese show you what a real monster looks like.
    • If you previously brought up a number that Finch was unable to save, and then bring up another one... Being on the recieving end of the wrath of a genius billionaire is not the place you want to be, because Finch will ruin your life and take away from you what you love most.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones:
    • Reese has yet to raise his voice on-screen. It'll probably be a very dark day when he finally does.
    • In "The Fix," Finch sits with the mark that he has a bit of history with (though neither one knew it at the time) and calmly and quietly informs him that he sold his shares of the mark's company just in time for them to make it go under and make Finch shattering amounts of money.
      • The only time (so far) that Finch has raised his voice was when baby Lila was teething on one of Reese's tear gas grenades.
    • Elias as well, when he's finally revealed.
  • BFG:
    • The Barrett M82 used by Reese in "Foe".
    • Also the gun marked "Plan B", consisting of an Ithaca 37 "Stakeout" with a folding stock, picatinny railing and non-lethal beanbag shotgun rounds.
    • The FN FS2000 Reese loans Carter in "Flesh and Blood."
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Straddles the line between this trope and a Rogues Gallery. Occasionally multiple villains will show up in a single episode.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Typically when either Reese, Finch, Carter, or Fusco is in trouble, one of the others will come in for the save. Special mention goes for the first season finale where Fusco and Carter play this for Reese when he is pinned down by HR and soon will die.
  • Bilingual Dialogue:
    • Reese can speak Spanish in "Cura Te Ipsum".
    • The title of the episode "Cura Te Ipsum" is Latin for "Heal Thyself" and it is the final proposition from Reese to Andrew. See Ambiguous Situation above for more details.
    • Cara Stanton can speak Mandarin Chinese, albeit decent, in "Matsya Nyaya".
      • The episode title is a Hindi phrase that is the equivalent of the English phrase "the law of the jungle." (The literal translation is "The law of the fishes.")
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The Series
    • And in the case of Finch and Reese it's apparently a good thing. Although Mileage May Vary on that. It seems like Big Brother is far less morally upright than Finch at the very least.
      • Finch deliberately designed the machine so that nobody can see the raw data that The Machine draws its conclusions from and encrypted the code to a ridiculous extent to prevent anyone from reverse engineering it in an attempt to avert the negative aspects of the trope. So far he's been successful, but evidence suggests that some of the government officials who know of The Machine wanted to use it to become Big Brother.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Some of the episodes due to the events of the episode, and others because they end with highlighting the losses Finch and Reese have suffered.
    • An example of the latter could be

Finch: "Do you think anyone will care for our names?"
Reese: "After we're dead."
Finch: "I thought we already are."

Carter: You hacked into his company?
Finch: 'Hacked' is such an ugly word.

  • Blatant Lies/ Cassandra Truth:
    • One PoI liked to talk about how he used to live in a mansion in Florida and owned a yacht, a pet tiger, and six nightclubs. He's a janitor who lived in the basement of the apartment complex he serviced. He's keenly aware that no one really believes these stories, which is fine by him since he was telling the truth - he had to give up his wealthy lifestyle and become a janitor after testifying against a mob figure in court and entering witness protection.
    • Though a more realistic example of Blatant Lies comes in "Legacy" where Finch's nephew comments how he has little skill in computers, suggesting Finch (the man who single-handedly built a giant highly advanced computer and can hack pretty much anything) had the same problem. Finch simply replies, "Yeah."
  • Bond One-Liner: Reese, although he's very soft-spoken and polite about it.
  • Book Ends: First and last episodes of first season end with Reese looking into the same security camera.
  • Boring Invincible Hero: Averted with Reese, who meets someone his own size, metaphorically speaking, in "Ghosts". Following episodes underline the fact that he is not invincible, nor can Finch hack or anticipate everything. A prime example is in the mid-season finale, "Number Crunch."
    • Every now and again, they do have a straight example, such as Reese not even missing a step after taking a bullet to the vest (something that would knock a normal person off their feet).
      • This actually isn't that unlikely given the circumstances. At the time it happens Reese is running hot on a combination of adrenaline and highly developed rage, which anyone who has seen real combat or even a street fight can tell you is fully capable of turning an otherwise ordinary human being into a terminator.
  • Brains and Brawn: Finch and Reese respectively.
  • Brick Joke: In "Judgement", Reese give the gang member he has locked up in the truck of a car a burger for giving him information despite the fact his arms are tied up. Later after said gang member beats up another gang member for information so he can get out of the trunk, the first thing he is seen doing is eating the burger.
    • A multi-episode one: In "Super", when Finch has to tail a woman connected to their latest case, he comments to Reese that he's getting tempted to spot the lady some cab fare so he doesn't have to follow her on foot. In "Identity Crisis", he ends up following another woman connected to a case, and does spot her cab fare at one point. Unfortunately, the woman turns out to be the villain, not the victim he thought her to be.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Reese, Fusco, and Carter all wear them.
    • The armored car bank robbers in "Matsya Nyaya" wore them.
  • Captain Obvious: You may notice in the opening, when the world is seen through the Machine's "eye, a masked man taking aim with a gun. The caption then reads, "Violence predicted 92%." Justified, as a machine like this probably has no concept of "obviousness" and therefore would not be aware of how obvious such a statement is.
    • This could also be interpreted as "this act of violence was predicted with a 92% chance. Less "Captain Obvious" and more "I was right!"
    • Or quite possibly necessary information, and not obvious at all. 92 percent isn't 99 percent. Meaning the Machine has predicted a high, but not inevitable degree of violence.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: The show milks this for all the dry humor it's worth.
  • Catch Phrase: "We've got another number", "I'm sure you'll/I'll figure something out" and "I'm/he's a *very* private person" have been repeated enough times to be catchphrases.
    • When the POI of each episode inevitably asks Reese who he is, he always responded with "A concerned third party", until one episode when he finally gets fed up and says "You know what, someday I'm going to come up with an actual answer for that." The (Chronologically) first time someone asks him that, he says "That's a good question." People seem to have stopped asking that question since then though.
    • "Our mutual friend" is used a lot, usually to refer to Reese or Finch.
  • The Chessmaster: Elias.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The first part definitely, the second part is still in the air but plausible: they apparently want to shut down the evil operations of the CIA, but they are also trying to stop Reese. In their defense, all the evidence they have of Reese's operations suggests that he's far more malignant than he really is.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience : When viewing the world through security footage (the Machine's "Perspective"), objects and people appearing on there are sorted as follows:
    • At any given moment, people appearing in a frame will have a white bracket surrounding them while The Machine is scanning them. Those found not to be involved in any sort of criminal conspiracy at that moment lose their boxes after being cleared
      • The white boxes become permanent for that episode if that person is found to be involved in a "non-relevant" crime
      • Fusco and Carter also have permanent white boxes, probably due to their links to Finch and Reese
      • When the perpetrator of a crime linked to that week's POI is attempting to put their final plan into action, their box turns red along the corners and center hash marks
    • Reese and Finch themselves have yellow boxes around them. This is likely how The Machine designates individuals who know specific details about it, as Finch's partner Ingram is shown in flashbacks to be framed in yellow himself.
      • Ingram's government contact, Alicia Corwin, is shown in yellow when she appears in "No Good Deed". A conversation with Ingram indicates that five other people know about The Machine.
      • By the end of "No Good Deed", the NSA agent has acquired enough information about The Machine to get his own yellow box.
    • A flashback in "Get Carter" shows a bomb-maker (a "Relevant" target) highlighted in a fully red box, which is also much bolder than the white and yellow boxes
      • The NSA deputy director who tried to interfere with the Machine also got a red box and label "Threat to the system".
      • At the tail end of "Wolf and Cub", Reese picks up his own red box after The Machine decides his investigation into Finch poses a threat to itself, and decides to designate him a traitor to the government. As a matter of daily reference on the show, though, his box continues to display as yellow in subsequent episodes.
      • A flashback in "Matsya Nyaya" shows Stanton and Reese in red boxes during their final operation in the CIA. Likely because they had both been targeted for termination by the Agency, and turned against each other in the process.
    • Airplanes flying in and out of the city are shown in green triangles as they pass across the frame
      • Similarly, ships moving in and out of the city are displayed in white diamonds.
    • The POI in "Firewall" is shown to be more than she seems when she starts the episode with a yellow box.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • One episode's PoI, an investment banker, made 100 million on a short sale of Virtanen Pharmaceuticals, believing that their stock would tank when their senior management was convicted of the crimes that Reese and Finch had gotten them arrested for in an earlier episode.

Reese: I'm familiar with the case.

    • In "Identity Crisis", the FBI have been following up on several unsolved cases concerning Reese including "a band of ex-military bank robbers" and "the murder of a Stasi agent".
    • Reese is shot and severely injured in "Number Crunch," and spends most of the next episode ("Super") in a wheelchair or on crutches. In the following episode ("Legacy"), he is seen holding his side and wincing after a fight and complains that "I wish gunshot wounds healed faster."
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The senior management of Virtanen Pharmaceuticals, who have someone killed to keep word about their deadly drug from getting out.
  • Couch Gag: At the end of Finch's Opening Narration, we see a brief clip of the "person of interest" for the particular episode.
  • Crime After Crime: While the Machine is unable to predict crimes of opportunity or impulse, it is pretty good in predicting when a cover up will result in murder. Several episodes have centered on a perpetrator trying to kill the "person of interest" to cover up a previous crime.
  • Cuteness Proximity: The normally stoic Finch and Reese become remarkably attached to their youngest ever PoI, six-month-old Lila Smith. Especially when one considers that the time period between Finch stealing her from the hospital to protect her from more malignant kidnappers and Reese and Finch leaving her with her maternal grandparents is no more than two or three days.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Finch and Fusco stand out in this area, but the other regular characters are far from strangers with the concept.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • John makes one with Elias to save a child who was kidnapped and mother killed. Elias betrayed him in the end by threatening the child to get some information out of John.
    • Finch approached Officer Simmons of HR to get information on Elias and where he was holding Det. Carter's son by telling him Elias had hit men watching the wives and children of every member of his group.
  • Decoy Damsel: There was one in "Baby Blue" when an unmarked NYPD sedan came across a woman asking for help from an accident. Moretti tells them to get going before a pick-up smashed into the cruiser and the plainclothed officers were gunned down. And yeah, the woman was part of it.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Detective Fusco was this before Reese forced him to work for him as his inside man. The other cops Fusco was working with were even worse. Fusco was the only one who still seemed to care about right or wrong which is why Reese decided to let him go.
    • Lieutenant Gilmore in "The Fix".
    • One of the officers Fusco talks to in "Get Carter" after being told to put down Carter permanently - who has since been expanded to be a member of a whole group of dirty cops known collectively as HR.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: In "Mission Creep," Reese and another Afghanistan veteran are drinking in a bar when they are mocked by two inebriated guys in business suits. One of them berates Reese for not having an office job: "It's the knowledge economy; you gotta use your head." Reese does just that, head-butting them into submission.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Both Reese and Finch, but the former doesn't mind it since he has no choice.

Reese: I don't particularly like killing people, but I'm very good at it.

  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: At the end of "Identity Crisis", Reese refuses to take advantage of a drugged and uncharacteristically friendly Finch's brazen (and certainly quite tempting) offer, "Don't you want to talk? Ask me anything!" He even says that Finch would regret it in the morning.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind:
    • "Witness" revolves around a schoolteacher hunted by The Mafiya. Turned out he was an Italian mafia boss, incognito.
    • "Firewall" featured a criminal who knew about the Machine who put herself in danger to lure out Reese and Finch when they tried to save her.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Reese is trying to drink himself to death when Finch finds him.
  • Drunk Driver: A drunk driver hitting a pedestrian starts a chain of events that lead to a judge becoming a 'person of interest'.
  • Estrogen Brigade Bait: Reese, once he cleans up.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Fusco has a son and his concern for him is obvious when he's being confronted by the cartel members.
    • One of the members of HR is shown having a loving family and stops working for Elias when he realizes Elias might go after them.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Fusco, to an extent; see Dirty Cop entry above.
      • In "Justice," the thought of a kidnapped child still disgusts him as much as it would any police officer, and he seems quite sincere in offering Reese any help he can give in tracking the perpetrator(s) down.
    • A hitman refused to kill a child even after he already murdered her family. When he is sent to prison for another crime, he reveals what happened since he does not want to be known as a child killer.
    • Elias decides not to kill Reese at the end of "Witness" "because that would seem ungrateful." He even offers him a job.
    • John invokes this trope against Elias to get his help by pointing out the baby he's looking for mirror's Elias' own back story and if Elias allows the kidnapping of children in his domain then he has nothing worth protecting. Elias agrees to help. Subverted later when Elias puts the rescued baby in mortal danger until John gives him some key information, because he knows John won't let the baby get hurt.
  • Evil Counterpart: Elias is the anti-Finch. Both are men who's soft-spoken, nebbishy personalities mask the fact that they're highly intelligent and manipulative people who built up tremendous influence and power from behind the scenes while hiding their true identities from the public. But while Finch is The Atoner and working to make up for his past mistakes, Elias is a mob boss driven by revenge against those who've hurt him.
  • Failure Knight: Finch and Reese both toward one another and the people they help. Both have failed to protect someone dear to them in the past and have devoted what is left of their lives to protect those in need.
    • Finch has especially strong tones of this, stemming from years of allowing the "unimportant" numbers slip through the cracks and being unable to protect Jessica, Reese's love.
  • Flash Back: Used every two or three episodes to fill in character backstories. They generally focus on one character during an episode. Finch and Reese have had multiple instances; Carter and Elias, one episode each.
  • Foreshadowing: Reese's voiceover from "Pilot" foreshadows Jessica's death. Subtly reinforced in the second episode, "Ghosts," when Jessica's picture appears on one of the screens showing the people on the "irrelevant" list.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Elias.
  • Framing the Guilty Party:
    • Finch does this to create an opening for Reese to get closer to a POI working as a bank-robber.
    • Also, Reese tries to frame the serial rapist for cocaine possession, but it ends up not working because he's got good lawyers.
    • Fusco works for Reese because Reese can frame Fusco for a killing another Dirty Cop. Reese killed the guy with Fusco's gun.
    • Carter did a bit during her time as an Army officer to prevent suicide vests from being used by "proving" to an Iraqi civilian that she had photos of him meeting with Al-Qaeda terrorists.
    • In "Legacy," Reese got a corrupt parole officer arrested by the NYPD by pretending to make him drunk and a threat to himself with a pistol.
    • Reese even does this to himself. He makes a group of criminals believe that he is The Mole who infiltrated their gang. He is a mole who infiltrated their gang but not the undercover cop they are looking for
    • In "Many Happy Returns", Reese throws the Marshal who was stalking that week's POI into jail for being John Reese.
  • Friend on the Force: Detective Fusco's relationship with Reese is hardly friendly, but he's still a valuable source of information from within the department.
  • Gangsta Style: Deconstructed and Lampshaded. A criminal points his gun at Reese while holding it sideways. Reese explains why this is a stupid thing to do and then quickly demonstrates it to him.
  • Go for the Eye: Reese teaches the eye jab to Finch as a basic self-defense technique; Finch is suitably squicked, but uses it successfully against the villain of the week.
  • Good Feels Good: Fusco complains that he was just getting used to being a good guy when Reese insists he go undercover with HR.
  • Handicapped Badass: Reese is confined to a wheelchair or crutches for one episode after being shot by the CIA. It doesn't stop him from taking down the villain-of-the-week.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: A variation. Reese and Finch hack into the Wi-Fi of everyone in an apartment building so they can access the webcams. One woman is doing yoga in full view of her webcam. Evidently the unseen position she gets into is Head-Tiltingly Contorted.
  • Heel Face Turn: Mildly. Detective Fusco started out as a Punch Clock Villain, only a dirty cop out of loyalty to a friend. Reese turns him into a mole in the NYPD.
    • Detective Carter was never really a Heel to begin with: she was hunting Finch and Reese because it's her job.
  • Hero Antagonist: Detective Carter is actively trying to track Reese down for the first few episodes, anyway.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Reese is a very self-aware version, and tries to dissuade some of the people he helps from going down the same path ("Cura Te Ipsum," "Wolf and Cub").
    • Lampshaded in Many Happy Returns: "I'll show [an abusive husband] what a real monster's like!"
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: The Adventures of Benjamin Linus and Jesus Christ.
  • Honor Before Reason: A former soldier and Afghan War veteran robs banks because he believes he has a debt of honor to repay and needs to support the family of a friend who died in Afghanistan after they switched seats during a mission.
  • Hyper Awareness:
    • The Machine is this trope.
    • Carter often picks up on the subtle clues that everyone around her misses.
    • Reese is pretty good at it, too.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Scene changes are handled by The Machine "panning" across hundreds of different shots from surveillance cameras until the next scene is found and zoomed into. Flashbacks include a timeline at the bottom of the screen that "flashes" from the current year to the year in which they're set.
  • I Don't Want To Know: "Cura Te Ipsum"

Reese: Doctor has everything she needs to erase Benton for good.
Finch: What do you mean, "erase"?
Reese: Eight pounds of lye, heated to 300 degrees. Body will dissolve in three hours, give or take.
Finch: I will refrain from asking how you know that.

    • Referenced in "Blue Code," when Cara catches Reese getting close to Jessica's husband. She asks Reese if he's planning to dissolve the man's body in lye.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Reese is a very good marksman.
  • Indy Ploy: Finch throws one together in "Baby Blue" when he realizes that the two orderlies walking in to the clinic are actually hired goons there to kidnap baby Lela.

Finch: I'm afraid I may have done something rather rash.

  • Instant AI, Just Add Water: As of "Firewall", things have officially crossed over into this territory, given that the Machine decides to cooperate with Reese to save Finch. We think.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: Reese interrogates a gang courier by taking a blowtorch to... the money the courier was supposed to be delivering. Both he and the courier know that the courier's boss will assume that the burned money was stolen by the courier rather than destroyed.
  • Ironic Echo: In one flashback scene in "Flesh and Blood", when Elias' father decides to have some of his men kill his illegitimate son, he has them tell Elias that he's sorry that he couldn't be there at the end. At the end of the episode, Elias calls his father and half brother and tells them that he's sorry that he couldn't be there at the end. Then the car they're in explodes.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: In "Blue Code" between Vargas and a Triad gang.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Finch lets his fiancee (whose existence he had, fortunately for her, kept quiet about due to his very private nature) believe him to be dead so those who are out to silence anyone connected to the Machine won't kill her.
  • It's Personal:
    • In the "Get Carter" episode when Reese told Finch that people like Carter are worth protecting. The song used at the end of the episode actually shares the name of the trope.
    • Finch invokes this when he realizes that the CEO of the company he and Reese are investigating caused the death of another person on his list.
    • Stanton appears to have taken this stance in regards to Snow's attempt to "retire" her.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: "Mission Creep" does the "firing pin" variation where the leader of the robbers sabotages the firing pins so he can pick them off in the street.
  • Jerkass: The Drug Lord L-O-S later revealed to be a CIA agent who smuggles drugs to use the money to finance the War on Terror, wants the CIA to kill two NYPD police officers simply because they did their job and arrested him for smuggling drugs. Though it makes it all the worth while to see him get his Laser-Guided Karma when Snow informs him that he was "caught behind enemy lines".
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Finch often impersonates some sort of nondescript job in order to get information or bug a place.
  • King Incognito:
    • Finch keeps himself Hidden in Plain Sight by working as a low-level employee in a company he himself owns. He even wears cheaper suits.
    • Elias has spent the better part of the past years being a school teacher of the children of his enemies so he can better understand them and turn the children against their families.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Finch doesn't trust anyone and is cynical about everyone, believes that in the end (when they die) he and Reese will have made no real lasting difference, and is usually the first to spout the cynical explanation about a current person of interest, yet he has a high moral code and is the driving force and moral compass in their team and pretty regularly puts himself in danger to help someone.
  • MacGyvering:
    • In "Root Cause," Finch turns a Pringles can into a directional wi-fi antenna.
      • Sounds suspiciously like a Shout-Out to this xkcd.
      • It's a cantenna. That kind of trick is all over YouTube.
    • In "Legacy," Reese makes a "bump key" so Finch can get into the other apartments.
    • In "Witness," Reese cuts into a phone cable and improvises a landline after his cell phone is destroyed.
  • Magical Computer: The Machine.
  • Mama Bear: Carter.
  • Meaningful Name: superhacker "Root," also known as "Caroline Turing." See Shout-Out entry below for details.
  • Mega Corp: Though there are no (obvious) links between any of them, the various companies that Finch owns could be considered this. So far we have a computer company, an insurance company, a construction company, a power company, and a magazine publishing company. It's entirely possible that this is not the complete list of industries that Finch has companies in.
  • Mercy Lead:
    • In "Number Crunch," Carter lets Reese go when she recognizes the man with him (Finch), who had presented himself before as a witness to a robbery in "Mission Creep".
    • She does it again at the end of "Baby Blue."
  • Mexican Standoff: Between Vargas and a Triad gang in "Blue Code".
  • Missing Mission Control: as of "Firewall" he's been abducted because someone wants to get into the Machine
  • Mission Control: Finch.
    • Inverted in "Super" due to Reese recovering from a gunshot wound sustained in "Number Crunch".
  • The Mole: Det. Fusco inverts the trope, being a mole for Finch and Reese.
    • The uniformed officer in "Witness" who keeps popping up at the crime scenes. He's feeding information to Elias. In "Flesh and Blood," he's seen triggering the bombs Elias uses to kill his father and the other Mafia dons.
  • Mugging the Monster: If you are picking on a homeless man on the subway you might be in for a nasty surprise.
  • New Media Are Evil: The Machine reads personal data from social networking sites as part of its data mining algorithm. Finch invented the concept of online social networking (and made a hefty profit in the process) specifically so that the information would be available for the Machine to do so.
  • Noodle Incident: In the opening sequence of the second episode, "Ghosts," we see the very end of one case, and it's heavily implied that there were several other POIs for Reese and Finch in the time between "Pilot" and "Ghosts."
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The government does not know how the Machine actually operates and Finch provided them with no plans or documentation specifically so they cannot adapt the technology for other purposes. He also encrypted the operating system so it cannot be reverse-engineered. All they can really do is feed its data and wait for it to give them social security numbers to investigate. Finch is the only one who knows how the Machine 'thinks' and he made sure that the government does not know he exists.
  • No Ending: We never learn of Benton's fate.
  • Not Quite Dead: Cara Stanton, Reese's former partner, turns up in "Matsya Nyaya" despite appearing to have a bomb dropped on her during flashbacks in the same episode.
    • Though it is justified, as a wounded Reese was able to get a safe distance away there was plenty of time for her to escape too.
  • Not So Different:
    • Reese and former Stasi assassin Ulrich Kohl.
    • Finch and Root, who describes Finch as a "worthy opponent."
      • Unwittingly lampshaded by Finch in "Firewall," when he describes her (not yet realizing who she is) as "a girl after my own heart."
  • Oddly Small Organization: The team only consists of Reese, Finch, and a giant all seeing super computer.
  • Only a Flesh Wound:
    • Reese prefers to shoot Mooks in the leg to disable them. He probably is not too concerned if some of them bleed out as a result. He will shoot to kill if there is no other option.
    • Reese is shot in the shoulder and it is later revealed to be Only a Flesh Wound. The placement of the bandage suggests that it really was just a glancing shot that did not hit muscle or bone. The shock from getting shot still takes Reese out of the fight long enough for the bad guys to get away.
      • The same thing happens to the hitman in "Ghosts."
  • Opening Narration

Finch: You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a Machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because ... I built it. I designed The Machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything, crimes involving ordinary people like you, crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn't act so I decided I would--but I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us; but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up, we'll find you.

  • Palantir Ploy: And how.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Michael Emerson said that Finch's injury is said to be this in the script.
    • The scars across Elias' palms from Moretti's attempt on his life may also be this.
  • Post Cyber Punk: Has elements of this what with the Machine and all.
  • Power Perversion Potential: In "Super" Reese and Finch can't help but notice how "flexible" one of their tenets is.
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: Reese has a lot of them.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: by the end of the first season, Fusco appears in the opening title sequence.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Alicia Corwin, who was Ingram's point of contact with the government when he and Finch were making The Machine, has become noticeably afraid of being anywhere with surveillance or security systems whose data might be fed into it. Upon retiring from government work, she moved to a small town in West Virginia with no wireless internet and zero cellphone reception.
    • Henry Peck, the POI in "No Good Deed," becomes this pretty quickly.
    • Finch, of course.
  • Prophecy Twist: A "person of interest" can just as easily be a perpetrator as a victim. This trips up Reese in the pilot episode.
    • There's also no guarantee that the violent crime The Machine predicts isn't highly justified. This is shown when the machine picks Elias as a likely victim, and when it identifies a potential perpetrator who is planning to kill a stalker who is harassing someone the PoI is trying to protect, for example.
    • The perpetrator-victim twist was reversed when the Number of the Week was a former construction manager who purchased a rifle and had made threats against a congressman whose budget cuts put him out of work. Reese aims to prevent him from assassinating the congressman but finds out too late that the POI is being set up as the patsy to the real assassin working for someone else.
    • And made really confusing in a case where there were two people using the same name and SSN - the actual PoI and an identity thief. They initially think that the female Jordan Hardin is the real one and the male is the drug manufacturer/identity thief, but it turns out that he's the victim, and he's trying to steal his identity thief's identity in an attempt to figure out who stole his life.
    • Once the POI was actually both. He was manipulated into multiple murders as part of a robbery, then murdered by the person who manipulated him so she could keep all the loot for herself.
    • The POI of "Firewall" was also both a victim and perpetrator. She arranged for a hit on herself in order to draw out Reese and Finch.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Fusco before being co-opted by Reese. In fact this was pretty much why he was co-opted by Reese, because he wasn't as bad as the others.
  • Quip to Black: Reese does this in "Get Carter".

Reese: "Oh I'm... pretty close."

  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Ulrich Kohl in "Foe."
    • Elias versus the Five Families
  • Revealing Coverup: Many of the premeditated crimes detected by The Machine are planned with the intent of concealing something else. In one notable episode, the thing being covered up wasn't even illegal.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Reese and Finch make sure that neither Fusco or Carter know that the other is working for them, causing them to suspect each other of being either dirty or "up to something". They're both clued in during the first season finale when Carter catches Fusco sending information to Finch.
    • Stanton and Reese get into this on their last mission, c/o Snow.
  • Rogue Agent: Reese has become one, working for Finch.
  • Rogues Gallery: What started as a procedural with a Big Bad became this by midway through the first season. So far, it consists of:
    • Karl Elias, a Diabolical Mastermind with daddy issues trying to take over the Five Families. As of the first season finale, imprisoned.
    • Root, a mysterious superhacker and Worthy Opponent to Finch. Also a career conwoman with no compunctions about commiting murder. She's also at least somewhat aware of the Machine.
    • "HR", an infrastructure of crooked cops within the NYPD. As of the first season finale, most of the crooked cops are in jail but at least one is still at large.
    • Mark Snow, a CIA officer who wants to kill his former colleague Reese. Last seen as the prisoner of Cara Stanton, Reese's ex-partner, who he had also tried to liquidate at the same time as his first attempt to kill Reese.
    • Donnelly, an FBI Special Agent in charge of a manhunt for Reese because he thinks that he's currently working as a mob hitman.
    • And as of "No Good Deed", the NSA's Intelligence Support Activity, who will kill to keep the Machine's existence a secret..
  • Rogues Gallery Showcase: Started cropping up in the second half of season one, when the Rogues Gallery began to grow in earnest.
    • In "Flesh and Blood", Elias hires HR to help him kill the heads of the Five Families while planning to wipe out HR at the same time.
    • In "Firewall", Reese and a POI are trapped in a hotel with two groups chasing them: the FBI, trying to get Reese, and HR, who have been hired to kill the POI. Who wins? Root, setting herself up as a POI by hiring HR to kill her, in order to kidnap Finch.
  • Save the Villain:
    • The person whose number who came up in the first episode was the actual villain.
    • And then there's Charlie Burton aka Elias a powerful man who is out for revenge on many people. Reese is seriously disturbed by saving the latter one and wonders just how many more numbers will appear on the machine because of this mistake. By the end of the season, there have been eight numbers with a provable direct link to Elias since Reese saved him, four of which Elias succeeds in killing.
    • In "Matsya Nyaya" the POI turns out to be both a villain and a victim. He starts killing people and now other people want to kill him.
    • In "Firewall" the POI is villain and victim in a different way. She puts a hit on herself to lure out Reese and Finch when they try to save her.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right:
    • A great deal of what Finch and Reese do is rather blatantly illegal, but they do it anyway in the pursuit of saving lives.
    • In "Flesh and Blood," Carter kidnaps three Mafia dons to keep Elias from killing them. Lampshaded by Finch, who quips to Reese, "You seem to be having some influence on her."
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Finch occasionally invokes this in order to get things accomplished as well. For example, getting a doctor to treat a critically injured Reese without reporting the gunshot wounds as required by law by handing over a handbag with six or seven figures worth of cash in it.
  • Secret Identity: Finch has many of them depending on his various false identities.
    • Harold Finch's day job is, effectively, himself. Mild-mannered bespectacled software engineer by day, crime-fighting gajillionaire owner of the company the rest of the day. Until the day he fired himself.
    • "Harold Wren" works as an insurance underwriter. This is the persona that is best friends with Nathan Ingram.
    • "Harold Burdett" is a paralegal that Carter interviews about the break-in at a police station.
    • "Harold Crane" is an anonymous investor who buys majority share in Tritech.
    • "Thomas Paine" is a political blogger who arranges an interview with Bannerman.
    • "Harold Crow," private investigator.
    • Lampshaded by Carter and her son in "Flesh and Blood."

Taylor: Who's the guy with the glasses?
Det. Carter: When you find out, let me know.

  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Finch.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Finch has difficulty moving his neck, just like Batman in the Burton/Schumacher film series and Batman Begins (Due to costume limitations.). Reese wears dark clothing and speaks in a raspy whisper, also like Batman.
    • May well be unintentional, but one of the dead soldiers mentioned in "Mission Creep" is named Manny Santos.
    • The episode title "Get Carter" itself.
    • In "Root Cause", a hacker named Root. Or it may just be an in-joke for those with knowledge of computers.
      • As an additional Cryptonomicon in-joke, the second time the character appears, she goes under the name Turing, after Alan Turing, one of the key pioneers of computing and artificial intelligence.
    • "Super" has several references to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Reese's cover name, "Mr. Hayes," is a reference to the film's screenwriter; Reese spends the episode in his apartment in a wheelchair, trying to solve a crime by watching his neighbors.
    • "Wolf and Cub" has Reese working on behalf of a 14-year old comic book fan who decides Reese is "a ronin."
      • Also in that episode, a woman says Reese's whole stepping out of the shadows to help people thing would fit in just fine at the local comic book store. During the episode, the young POI acts as Robin to Reese's Batman, and like certain versions of Batman, his presence lightens Reese up considerably.
    • In "Identity Crisis" two of the thugs are listed in the credits as Jekyll and Hyde.
    • The numbers in Reese's SSN add up to 16, the candidacy number associated with Sayid Jarrah.
    • The climax of "Risk," when Finch is bidding up the price of Tritek, deliberately imitates Wall Street.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • "Root Cause" had a very accurate portrayal of how computer security and hacking work, and used correct terminology throughout.
    • In "Risk," Tritex (the pipeline company) is described as a "master limited partnership" whose equity interests are traded as "units" rather than "shares." (e.g. "Tomorrow at opening, it'll be down to $2 a unit.") This is correct terminology for publicly-traded partnerships.
    • In a flashback in "Blue Code," Reese is shown listening to a numbers station.
    • The Chinese ghost town shown in "Matsya Nyaya" actually exists.
      • So does the virus that targeted the Iranian nuclear program.
    • In one episode with Alicia Corwin when she meets Finch's nephew, it is mentioned she lives in the United States National Radio Quiet Zone in West Virginia, which does have a blanket ban on all cellphones, wi-fi instruments, and radios. They still use pay phones in this region.
  • Silver Fox: Reese is well on his way to being one. Lampshaded by Wendy the hairstylist in "Number Crunch."
  • Slipping a Mickey: Done to Finch in Identity Crisis
  • The Spook:
    • Both Reese AND Finch are believed to be dead by the government, and they're both keen to keep it that way.
    • Finch himself is able to repeatedly disappear and shed cover identities so effortlessly that even Reese cannot follow him or find any information about him. In flashbacks, and in "Wolf and Cub," we gradually learn that Finch spent nearly a decade disappearing from public awareness, and has been operating under an assumed name back to at least 1976. He made his partner the public face of their company and concentrated on top secret work.
    • Also, Root, the super-hacker introduced in "Root Cause."
  • Stealth Pun: Where does Reese get his information? A little bird told him...
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Detective Carter, and she is not happy about it. While she isn't completely sure about Reese, she goes from hunting him to helping him.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Some of the would-be killers that the machine spits out.
    • The POI from "Wolf and Cub": a young teen who wanted revenge on the gangsters who killed his brothers.
    • "Cura Te Ipsum": The POI is a doctor that Reese thinks will be victimized by a serial rapist; she's actually going to kill him because he raped her sister long ago, sending the sister into a toxic spiral that ended in suicide.
    • "Super": The POI is the superintendent of an apartment complex. Reese and Finch initially assume that he's stalking one of the tenants and planning to kill her boyfriend in an Murder the Hypotenuse scenario. The 'boyfriend' is the real stalker, the super's trying to kill the guy in order to protect the victim.
    • Even Elias, in a way, considering what happened to his mother.
  • Take a Third Option: When the victims of the week cannot go to the police, Reese and Finch are the option for them.
  • Taking the Bullet: Subverted and played for laughs in "Wolf and Cub". Fusco does the classic swan-dive-in-front-of-the-bullet to save the POI. And the bullet hits him in the ass. He's basically fine, but mentions to Reese as the paramedics take him away that he can already hear the guys back at the station laughing at him.
  • That's What I Would Do:
    • When asked how he knew that a murder-suicide was staged, Reese replies that it's how he would have done it.
    • He says it again in "Flesh and Blood" regarding Elias' surveillance of the "HR" cops' families.
    • In "Many Happy Returns," Reese compliments Finch on his excellent surveillance tradecraft when he catches him watching Grace from afar.
  • There Are No Girls on the Internet: Thoroughly averted with Root, the titular hacker of "Root Cause", who even outsmarted Finch and forced him to pull the plug on his library setup.
  • They Fight Crime: One of the main themes of the show.
  • Throw the Book At Them: Reese defeats an assassin after one episode's POI by clubbing him with a reference book about criminal law.
  • The War on Terror: Finch built the machine for the government as part of it's response to 9/11. Reese was ready to quit the CIA until 9/11 motivated him to rejoin. Carter was an interrogator in Iraq.
  • Title Drop: In the first episode, news report said that John is wanted as "Person of Interest" in many ongoing homicide inverstigations. Oddly, Finch and Reese do not call potential victims/perpetrators like that, using name or calling them "numbers"
  • To Be Lawful or Good:
    • Carter faces this in "Number Crunch." She initially chose Lawful until she realised the CIA wanted to kill Reese, then picked Good and let Reese and Finch escape when she had them.
    • She faces it again in "Identity Crisis", with the FBI asking for help in stopping Reese because they think he's a rogue assassin selling his services to the highest bidder (Which is a reasonable conclusion given what they know of his recent activities). Since she warns Reese that the FBI is looking for him during "Flesh and Blood", it appears she's choosing to remain Good.
  • Tomato Surprise: Minor one in "Blue Code". During the flashback, Reese and his fellow agents were in a small hotel room, talking. Reese goes to leave the room, and one of the other agents tells him to be careful because "we're behind enemy lines here"--implying that they are on a mission in some Third World country. Then Reese walks out of the hotel and we see the Empire State Building in the background.
  • Tranquil Fury: Reese. All the time.
  • Truth in Television: When Reese was told that the CIA can't operate in America. Legally.
    • Hammered home with "L-O-S", who was "silenced" by Agent Snow after being caught on US soil.
    • And done so even further now that the FBI is aware of the CIA's illegal operations and is trying to get the evidence they need to shut them down.
  • Victim of the Week: More like victim-to-be of the week (Unless the POI is trying to create the victim of the week). So far, the only people to be examples of this trope who have been important to any episode other than the one where their number came up are Elias and Carter.
  • Villain Episode: "Flesh and Blood", more or less. Although main characters are still in focus, Elias got his turn for flashbacks.
  • Weirdness Magnet: What Carter thinks of Reese (and subsequently Finch) is "Baby Blue". In fact, she tells it to his face.
  • We Help the Helpless
  • Wham! Line:
    • In "Witness": "You really think we'd go to this much trouble for a witness?" Cue scene change and major Oh Crap moment for Reese when he realizes he's been protecting Elias.
    • In "Root Cause": The hacker Root ends her conversation with Finch with "...Harold."
    • In "Firewall": "It's so nice to finally meet you, Harold. You can call me Root."
  • Wham! Episode: "Witness" and "Number Crunch" both qualify.
    • "Firewall". Finch is kidnapped by Root, Carter and Fusco know about each other, and HR is severely crippled. Oh, and the computer is self aware. Finch was working for it.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Finch's business partner reacted like this when he found out about the 'irrelevant' list and the fact that Finch was ignoring information about people whose lives were in danger solely to protect the secrecy of the machine.
    • Carter to Reese after Reese gives up Elias' father's location and her fellow cop is shot. She points out that it wouldn't have happened if Reese had called the police to rescue the baby.
    • Reese gets another one, or rather two at the same time from Carter and Fusco after their Big Damn Heroes moment in the season finale when they learned they both were working with him and neither knew it. They demand to know how they can expect to trust him if he doesn't trust them. Reese responded that Carter was hunting him for six months and Fusco had tried to kill him in the past, so Reese had some viable reasons to take things slow.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: Reese makes an In-Universe WMG that there is no machine and Finch is doing it all on his own
  • Worthy Opponent: The hacker Root views Finch as one.
  • Would Hurt a Child / Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Elias manages to play both; he locks Reese and the baby in a refrigerated truck to get Reese to spill the location of Elias' father before the baby freezes to death. After Reese has given up the location, he lets them go and claims he wouldn't hurt a child but we don't find out what Elias would've decided if Reese had refused to break.
  • Writer on Board: The series is still young, but already it seems to have no love for bankers and Wall Street types.
    • Though one episode did feature an honest investment banker as the PoI, who is being targeted by a less scrupulous coworker because he noticed that there was something fishy about a certain stock his firm was investing heavily in.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • The gang of robbers in "Mission Creep".
    • Root's "customer" Matheson, at the end of "Root Cause".
    • At the climax of "Wolf and Cub," Andre is willing to write off one of his Mooks in order to avoid being shot by a vengeful Darren.
    • "Drug Lord" L-O-S, secretly a CIA agent using the drug trade to fund the War on Terror, after being caught operating on US soil.
    • The corrupt SEC investigator in "Risk".
    • Invoked several times in "Matsya Nyaya." In flashbacks, Reese and Stanton appear to get a long-distance, high-explosive version of this. Reese survives. Stanton does too. Three more people run into this trope in two separate incidents in the main storyline of the episode.
    • No matter who you are, or what you do, if the NSA finds out you know about The Machine....
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Carter gets the girlfriend of a gang leader she's trying to arrest for murder to recant the alibi she provided for him by proving that the man was cheating on her in "Get Carter".
    • One number that we only see the resolution of was a businessman whose wife had put a hit on him for being unfaithful.
    • The primary plot of "Baby Blue" centered around the six-month old product of an extramarital affair whose father's wife is trying to get rid of in order to conceal her husband's infidelity (She had already bumped off the kid's mother).
    • Elias was the byproduct of a mafia boss's infidelity, his plan to take control of organized crime in New York started from a desire to get revenge on his father for covering up the affair by having his mother killed.
    • This trope has been invoked at least two more times than has been mentioned so far, and it seems like the list of examples is only going to get longer.
  1. Heal thyself