Person of Interest Wiki
Person of Interest Wiki
Episode Overview   Summary   POI   Cast and Characters   Crew    
← Season 2 Person of InterestSeason 3 (Flashbacks in parentheses) Season 4 →
301Liberty 309The Crossing 317Root Path (/)
302Nothing to Hide 310The Devil's Share” (Multiple) 318Allegiance
303Lady Killer 311Lethe” (Finch) 319Most Likely To...
304Reasonable Doubt 312Aletheia” (Finch) 320Death Benefit
305Razgovor” (Shaw) 3134C 321Beta” (Grace)
306Mors Praematura 314Provenance 322A House Divided” (Collier)
307The Perfect Mark 315Last Call 323Deus Ex Machina” (Collier)
308Endgame” (Carter) 316RAM
Death Benefit

POI 0320 Main1.png



Air dateApril 15, 2014

Running time43:26

Production code2J7620

Written byErik Mountain
Lucas O’Connor

Directed byRichard J. Lewis


Images (41)

Our purpose has always been constant: to save lives. If that's changed somehow, if we're in a place now where the Machine is asking us to commit murder... that's a place I can't go.

— Finch

"Death Benefit" is the 20th episode of season 3, and the 65th produced hour of Person of Interest. It originally aired on April 15, 2014.


Reese poses as a Secret Service agent to get close to the latest POI, a U.S. congressman who may hold the key to derailing Decima’s plans to bring a second Machine online.

Origin of the Title

A death benefit is a payment made by an insurance company, the Social Security Administration or other agency upon the untimely death of a client. It also suggests that death can at times be a beneficial rather than, or as well as, an unfortunate event. The Machine's directive to kill McCourt would have stopped Samaritan from coming online and prevented mass casualties in the future.

Main Plot Points

  • Press coverage continues over Vigilance's exposure of the Northern Lights program and Reese and Shaw discuss what it will mean for the numbers. They then meet with two drug dealers, Ray and Julio, who are their next numbers. They pay the drug dealers $1 million but reveal that each drug dealer plans to betray the other, kill them and make off with the money. Reese and Shaw quickly subdue the two and contact Fusco to arrest them, scattering their own drugs over them as evidence.
  • As Shaw wonders who handles the Relevant Numbers now that Northern Lights is shut down, Root arrives to ask for Shaw's help with one in Alaska. She informs Reese that Finch needs his help in Washington, DC with another one, moments before Finch contacts Reese to request his help with the number Root mentioned.
  • In Washington, Reese meets with Finch who is worried that the Team is stretched thin dealing with both the Relevant and Irrelevant Numbers when Decima Technologies is determined to bring Samaritan online.
  • Finch discovers that their new number is Congressman Roger McCourt, a pivotal member of the Senate Rules Committee that is responsible for passing or blocking legislation and an outspoken opponent to government surveillance.
  • Reese steals the identity of a Secret Service agent named Jeffrey Abbott and becomes McCourt's protection detail, following him as he meets with Bruce Dunphy and appeases a problem Dunphy has with him before passing off some opera tickets he doesn't want to Dunphy.
  • Senator Ross Garrison meets with John Greer who reveals his knowledge of the true nature of the Northern Lights program to Garrison. Greer shows Garrison a picture of Peter Collier, the leader of Vigilance who exposed Northern Lights. Greer offers up Samaritan as a replacement to the Machine, telling Garrison that unlike the Machine, Samaritan can be directed. Though Garrison believes Congress will never approve of another surveillance project after the exposure of Northern Lights, Greer shows confidence that there won't be any such issues if Garrison attempts it.
  • After stopping a militia group in Anchorage, Root and Shaw head to Miami where they deal with a group of drug dealers who had started building explosives.
  • Outside McCourt's office, Reese spots three Decima agents in a nearby car and they tip off McCourt's Capitol Police protection detail that Reese is not really Secret Service. Reese engages in a shootout with the three agents, taking down two of them and disabling their car before kidnapping McCourt.
  • Reese, Finch, and Shaw take McCourt and the Decima agent to an empty house where McCourt insists that he knows nothing of Decima.
  • Reese finally understands why the Machine sent them McCourt's number: it wants them to kill McCourt which will keep the Samaritan legislation from passing through Congress and keep Samaritan off-line.
  • Shortly afterwards, the authorities break into the house to find the Decima agent and an unmoving McCourt. Reese, Shaw and Finch flee through the woods chased by the authorities. They manage to get away but Shaw is wounded in the leg. Upon their return to New York, the disillusioned Finch disappears.
  • Greer suggests a beta test of Samaritan: 24 hours with the NSA feeds in New York to locate a terrorist for Garrison and prove Samaritan's effectiveness to him. Garrison gets a call from McCourt whom Reese ultimately spared who promises to get the Samaritan legislation passed through Congress. Garrison then agrees to Greer's proposal and Greer disappears.
  • Greer has Virgil bring Samaritan online and instructs him to have Samaritan use the NSA feeds and the 24 hours it has with them to locate Harold Finch. Samaritan then begins a search for Finch.

Episode Notes

  • The opera Finch was listening to, and which the Congressman was to attend, is Il Trovatore (The Troubador) by Giuseppe Verdi. The opera was first performed in 1853, and is most famous for its easily-recognizable "Anvil Chorus", which is among the best known excerpts from any opera, and frequently used in film, television and advertising.
  • Greer and Ross Garrison meet in front of Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights. Painted in the late 15th century, the painting represents the route from innocence to damnation. The painting is not exhibited in New York, but has been in the collection of the Museo Del Prado in Madrid since 1939.
  • The center box in Samaritan's video feed during its search for Finch indicates "isp.heartbleed2.sys", making reference to the recent Heartbleed bug which affected the security of numerous websites, including the theft of several hundred Social Insurance Numbers in Canada.
  • The dilemma that Finch, Reese and Shaw face, whether to let McCourt live, causing the deaths of many, or to kill McCourt and potentially save many lives, is known in the field of Ethics as the Trolley Problem. The question is, you see a train speeding towards five people, who will surely be killed if the train continues, but can switch the train to a side track, on which there is only one person. In this case, is it ethical to switch the track, saving five lives for the price of one, or to let it continue, killing five, but saving the one?

Acronyms and Vocabulary

  • SMS (short messaging service): The text messaging component of phone, web and mobile communications.
  • SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission): The U.S. governmental agency responsible for regulating securities, stock and bond exchanges, and the sales and exchange of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments. Finch blackmails the Congressman by threatening to report him to the SEC to force him to block Samaritan's approval by Congress.

Production Notes

  • Congressman McCourt buys the homeless man a meal at Ocean Grill, a seafood restaurant on the Upper West Side in New York. The restaurant's name is visible on the doors.

Bloopers and Continuity Errors

  • After leaving the Beef Consultants Building, a firefight ensues. Although Reese is the only one on his side shooting using a single sidearm, a bullet strikes the other shooter and then another one hits the ground about 10 feet away from him in the same frame.
  • When the Congressman says, "I'm not calling off the deal," his mouth clearly says something entirely different. The words are clearly dubbed over his initial statement.
  • When Shaw and Root are in Miami talking, Shaw drinks most of her drink and eats both olives but when the camera angle changes her glass is full again and both olives are back. The camera angle changes once more and her glass is once again empty.



  • CBS news anchors Kate Sullivan and Maurice DuBois play themselves in this episode. DuBois is currently with WCBS in New York and Sullivan is with WBBM-TV in Chicago; the two previously appeared together on WCBS's CBS 2 News This Morning.
  • McCourt's line, "The simple truth is, the people want to be protected, they just don't want to know how." was said by Finch to Reese in “Pilot”.
  • The first clip is an actual CBS report from Illinois, specifically Chicago, and the second is from New York.
  • Greer confirms Peter Collier is an alias, a detail highlighted in the previous episode.
  • Despite the Machine identifying PRISM as a media decoy for Samaritan, the Congressman still believes that PRISM is functioning.
  • Reese again mentions his distrust in the Machine, having previously mentioned it in “4C”. However, he once again reiterates his full faith in Harold.
  • Reese refuses to leave an injured Shaw behind, something referred to in the military as no man left behind, which is part of the Soldier's Creed.
  • The Congressman can be considered a COW, or Casualty of War, although he isn't technically dead. The war also refers to the war between the Machine and Samaritan.
  • Samaritan is able to connect Finch's name to Nathan Ingram, as well as to two of Harold's aliases: Harold Crane and Harold Wren.
  • Virgil mentions the title of the next episode, “Beta”.
  • The book on the table in Finch's Beef Consultants safe house is "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (16th edition)" by John Bartlett and Justin Kaplan.
  • Rachel McCourt has an account with OneState Bank.


  • "It's all connected." (Reese)
  • "That bitch tried to kill me. Nice to see her head on the chopping block for a change." (Shaw, to Reese, about Control)
  • "See? Business as usual, even if the government's program is on ice, the machine keeps spitting out numbers." (Shaw, to Reese)
  • "Hey kids, you miss me in between drug deals?" (Root, to Shaw & Reese) "I missed you like I miss an intestinal parasite" (Shaw)
  • "Hop on, Shaw. We've got a relevant number in Alaska. We're gonna steal a jet." "Does sound kind of fun." "Send me a postcard." (Root, Shaw, and Reese)
  • "Turn that frown upside down, Lurch. You're going on vacation too." (Root, to Reese)
  • "Northern Lights is effective but compromised by the ethics of its creator, it spoke but never listened. What I have not only listens but obeys, it can find, anyone, anywhere, any time, you merely need to ask." (Greer, to Garrison)
  • "Obstacles are only obstacles until you move them out of the way." (Greer, to Garrison)
  • "The Machine is a shield that protects lives." (Finch)
  • "That's why we got his number. He is the victim. His life is in danger." "But from who?" "Us." (Reese)
  • "The simple truth is, the people want to be protected, they just don't want to know how." (McCourt, to Finch)
  • "Mr. Reese it was never my intention for people to be killed because of the machine." "What do you think happened when it gave the government a terrorist number? What do you think we used to do for a living?" "That man is not a terrorist, he's just an opportunistic and corrupt pawn." "That doesn't make the threat any less real." "We are not assassins, we protect people." "Isn't that what we're doing? Sacrificing the life of one to save the lives of many?" (Finch and Reese)
  • "Six months ago, I would've already put a bullet in that guy's head. But ever since hanging around you guys, I've kind of gotten used to saving people. But we've only been able to do that by trusting the machine. And if it's saying that this guy's gotta go, well, I think we should still trust it." (Shaw, to Reese and Finch)
  • "John, I urge you to consider the consequences of this action." "There are consequences to not acting. Like with Simmons and Joss." (Finch and Reese)
  • "Since we started this, things have changed. We've changed. But the mission, our purpose has always been constant: to save lives. If that's changed somehow, if we're in a place now where the Machine is asking us to commit murder... that's a place I can't go. I'm afraid this is where I get off." (Finch, to Reese and Shaw)
  • "A test in a limited area, say New York City. 24 hours, quick clean, then we shut it down. No guns, no police, just information" (Greer, to Garrison)
  • "Remember, I'm your man." (McCourt, to Dunphy)
  • "Whatever you need, I'm your man." (McCourt, to Finch and Reese)
  • "Now if there's anything else you need, just ask. I'm your man." (McCourt, to Garrison)
  • "Find me Harold Finch." (Greer, to Virgil)
  • Dear... I hope you that packed something other than weapons (Harold to Reese)
  • Some trip wires to booty traps the room door and a toothbrush (Reese to Harold)
  • Oral hygiene is something I suppose (Harold to Reese)