I am rewatching Person of Interest (still a long way to go).

On the many occasions where The Machine went haywire or was in grave danger, did she ever become the perpetrator, and still gave the victim's number to Harold?

If not, what anti-self-preservation mechanism prevented her from becoming a perpetrator?

  • I do not recall the machine going haywire with any frequency
    – Revenant
    Feb 25, 2019 at 1:13
  • @Revenant - I vaguely recall an episode (or more) where The Machine couldn't tell the past from present from future.
    – Korg
    Feb 25, 2019 at 12:06

3 Answers 3



In 2002, Finch (Michael Emerson) communicates with the Machine throughout the use of surveillance cameras and uses his phone as way to find him, which the Machine easily does. In 2003, Finch decides to test the abilities of the Machine by using it in a Blackjack game. While initially failing, the Machine manages to get him win many times but he decides to lose the money at the last second, considering it's wrong. Later, while walking off, the Machine texts him "Stay" multiple times just as he was going to be hit by a car. He confronts the Machine, stating that the purpose is to help people, not him.


The episode periodically flashes back to 2003, where Finch is in a park playing chess with the Machine, and using the games as analogies to various concepts he teaches it. Several games later, as the Machine is appearing triumphant on many occasions, Finch tells it that he doesn't enjoy chess since it was created during a time of cynicism and societal imbalance. Finch believes people should not be assigned "values" and sacrificed; those who treat life as game of chess deserve to lose.

The Machine has scruples about killing because Finch went to a lot of trouble to teach it scruples about killing and specifically that it exists to save humans at every opportunity and never sacrifice them for some kind of advantage.


There was an episode when Harold teaches the Machine how to "behave" and becomes her Dad. The other version of the machine, the one used by the agents, it didn't have a person who taught it to "behave" so in a way it was just a machine that didn't value human life while the Machine was moral-oriented. What Harold taught her was their version of 3 Laws which prevented her from killing and/or hurting people.

  • 1
    Can you state what episode that was?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Feb 26, 2019 at 2:01
  • @FuzzyBoots - The (best) one, where he teaches it chess. See David's answer.
    – Mazura
    Feb 27, 2019 at 0:40

I skipped a few episodes and now in season 5, turns out the Machine was the perpetrator at least once. After its reboot in season 5 and without being able to put context to people's actions, it identified the team as perpetrators, and hired and paid for an assassin to go after Reese.

It also gave them the assassin's number.

Reese receives another number: Laurie Granger, who is visiting New York from Tulsa. It's actually his lucky day because she walks into the precinct seeking assistance, except it turns out that she’s an assassin who was hired by, yep, you guessed it, the Machine. She chases Reese through the streets of Chinatown and into a nearby mall with a gun. (SNAFU)

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