"Person of Interest" Zero Day (TV Episode 2013) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • They wait ten days for a new number due to a system virus, suspecting Root is the problem. It's for Ernest Thornhill, who isn't who, or what, he is supposed to be. At stake is The Machine - will it remain with Finch or end up with Decima?

  • It's been ten days since the machine has provided a number, which means Carter has had ten days of dead bodies piling up. Finch discovers that a company called Decima is responsible for the virus which is causing these problems of inconsistency. The machine finally does dispense a number, it belonging to Ernest Thornhill, whose business of late has been buying up pay phone companies. As Finch and Reese track Thornhill, who they have yet actually to see, they find out some important information about him and exactly why the machine dispensed his number. But also aware of that fact is Root, who, using her own brand of persuasion, convinces Finch that they need to work together to battle Decima and the virus. Reese becomes aware that Root is back in the picture, he who gets some help from an old acquaintance in tracking Finch and Root. Their competing goals will all come to a head at midnight Eastern time, when the virus is scheduled to do its job. Meanwhile, Carter, in conjunction with providing assistance to Reese, tries to find out more about who killed Beecher. She is unaware that her quest may put her life in jeopardy.

  • Reese and Finch realize that a virus has rendered The Machine erratic, causing it to issue numbers irregularly. Detective Carter's mission to bring Cal Beecher's murderer to justice lands her squarely within the sights of the HR criminal organization.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Open with Reese pestering Finch for a new number. There is a virus countdown for the machine is at about 20 hours. Reese is listening to the police scanner.

    At a murder scene Terney asks Carter about her looking into Cal's death, offering his assistance if she needs it. Carter tells Reese she knows HR was behind Cal's death. Reese tells here there is a "situation" on his end.

    We see Special Counsel tell somebody on the phone about the lack of numbers and the chip found in Corwin's body. He tells the person about Decima and a belief it is behind an attempt to destroy "the program." Root walks in and pulls a gun. She tells Special Counsel she wants information.

    The machine calls Finch from a cell phone and gives him another number. It is a data CEO named Earnest Thornhill who has recently begun purchasing pay phones around the city. He's worth $20 million.

    Reese and Finch stop by Thornhill's company. Reese pretends to be there for a meeting with Thornhill. Finch spots strange printouts in the trash and can't figure out what the point of the company actually is. Finch gets a cell call from Root, who is now aware the machine is under attack. She wants to know why the machine isn't fighting back and offers to help. Finch declines and she references Thornhill.

    We flash back to 2010. Finch drops by to see Nathan and tells him he's met someone (Grace) and is planning to propose. Finch wants to tell her who he really is, but Nathan isn't sure that will fly with their "government friends." When Nathan leaves to get champagne Finch spots a strange text on Nathan's phone.

    Reese and Finch are convinced Thornhill's company is a front for something. He has a pending charge for a car service that is picking him from the airport that day.

    Reese arrives to intercept Thornhill and finds a man attempting to blow up Thornhill's car with a remote controlled drone-type explosive. Thornhill is not in the car.

    Finch believes Decima is behind the attack on Thornhill's car. Reese believes Thornhill doesn't actually exist. Based on some information Finch has uncovered, he believes Thornhill is actually the machine attempting to protect itself.

    Back in 2010 Finch proposes. Grace says yes.

    Finch isn't sure why the machine created Thornhill or why Decima wants him dead. Reese leaves to check out Thornhill's apartment and Finch calls 911.

    Carter tells Reese she thinks something is weird with Thornhill. Reese tells her to stick to Cal's case.

    At the apartment Reese finds himself staring at a gun-wielding Shaw. She says she's hunting Root.

    Finch goes to where a fake cell phone call from Thornhill had been placed. He spots Grace walking out of a building just as Root walks up from behind. Root swears she doesn't want to harm Grace, but will do it if he doesn't help her. She knows at midnight the machine will place a call to a pay phone and whoever answers the call will have full administrative power. Decima is looking to control the machine, she thinks, not destroy it. Root thinks with her help they can save the machine.

    Terney has gotten an order from above to kill Carter. He tells her he has a lead on the person responsible for Cal's death.

    Shaw tells Reese that Root is in DC. She disappears just as armed men enter the apartment and place Reese in custody.

    Back in 2010 Finch calls Nathan to give him the good news about Grace. After leaving the voicemail he spots Nathan walking out of a restaurant and ignoring his call. Finch follows Nathan into an unmarked entrance. Inside he asks Nathan "what is this place?"

    Root thinks Decima wanted to kill Thornhill because he was buying up all the payphones in an attempt to become the machine's admin. She's not sure why Finch left the machine so vulnerable. He tells her after the virus crashes the machine, the person who answers the phone will have "unfettered access" for one day. As they look we see there is someone standing by every pay phone in midtown.

    Reese's "lawyer" (Shaw) shows up when he is brought into custody. She plays him Finch's 911 call, which was the reason authorities grabbed Reese. She needs him to find Finch for her and he tells her he's put a tracking device on his glasses. Shaw and Reese escape from custody rather easily.

    Root brings Finch to Thornhill's company. She doesn't understand why the machine felt the need to create an entire fake company. Finch tells her the dot matrix printers are printing off the machine's memories. Every night at midnight the machine destroys its information. It's "killed" every single night. Root is upset that Finch crippled the machine and thinks it's up to them to intercept the call.

    Carter and Terney bust down the doors at a home. A man with a gun runs out the back and Carter shoots him. Terney isn't able to kill her.

    Shaw and Reese run into Greer, the British guy, at Thornhill's office. He knows all about Reese and Shaw. Reese wants Greer to tell him how to stop the virus. He refuses and says the virus originated on the laptop he and Stanton were sent to retrieve in China. Greer says Finch is responsible for everything. More armed guards arrive and they are forced to leave the office.

    In 2010 Finch sees that Nathan has changed the machine. He's put in the back door that is responsible for the machine sending out numbers to save the "non-relevant" people. Finch doesn't want them to play God and tries to put a stop to what Nathan's done. Finch thinks the greater good is at stake and apologizes.

    Four minutes from the machine shutdown Greer heads to the pay phone that will get the call. It's a New York public library. Root and Finch arrive and see Decima is there. They knock out a Decima worker and wait for the call.

    Internal Affairs arrives at the scene. The dead man's gun has disappeared and Terney is pretending he never saw one.

    Reese and Shaw arrive at the library. They take out several gunmen but see more are on the way.

    The virus clock strikes 00:00. The reboot begins and a call is placed. The phone next to Root and Finch rings, but Finch is doing something with the junction box. Root answer the phone, smiles and says "absolutely." At the same time a phone downstairs rings and Reese picks it up. He hears: "Can you hear me?"

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