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[personal profile] enemyofperfect
(Spoilers through 2x18 "All In")

So [personal profile] giandujakiss's complaint that Tao seemed sort of shoehorned into the latest episode kind of got me thinking.

My headcanon has been that the Machine is coaxing Finch and Reese into relying on Tao more and more -- and vice versa, of course -- presumably for the reason that he'll be invaluable if Finch is kidnapped again, or is otherwise incapacitated.

I think there's a good argument to be made, in fact, that at one point the Machine either planned for Tao to replace Finch, or else chose for complex Machinely reasons to act as though it did. Think back to "The Contingency": it was so convenient that the mild-mannered accountant whose number the Machine gave Reese also happened to be a total computer genius who could help him track down Root and rescue Finch, right?

Except for the part where Tao was absolutely no help at all. Reese hoped he might be, but Tao took a look at Root's handiwork and pronounced it, in the first place, brilliant and in the second place, utterly impossible to trace. It was a complete dead end -- so disappointing that it, combined with the news that Carter had also hit a wall, is what led to Reese to declare he'd let himself die right then and there if the Machine didn't give him some kind of lead. The most Tao contributed to the search for Finch was an extra life for Reese to hold hostage until the Machine agreed to cooperate.

But okay, why assume the Machine was planning anything in particular by giving Reese Tao's number, anyway? Maybe it was just going about business as usual, saving people simply because they needed saving, and not because it had any kind of larger strategy in mind; maybe the fact that Tao briefly seemed as though he might be helpful was sheerest coincidence. Except the thing is, it really does seem like such a coincidence that the very first number to come in after Finch was abducted led Reese to someone capable of doing Finch's job.

And we know that Tao is capable, because in "Critical", he did. I was never really clear on why Finch couldn't do whatever he needed to do from within the hospital, but whether I failed to understand or the show completely handwaved that one, the fact remains that apparently, Finch couldn't -- but Tao could. Everything Finch wanted hacked, Tao hacked, and as far as I can remember, there was never any hint that he even found it particularly challenging. He thought it was fun. Maybe he couldn't have built the Machine -- and arguably it's better for humanity if Finch is a special snowflake in that regard -- but as far as the everyday business of saving lives Team-Machine-style goes, Tao has already proven himself.

So we know he has the ability to replace Finch, and we know that the Machine pulled his name out of a hat just when it looked like they might need to replace him. Combine that with the fact that Tao seems to get a kick out of helping them, and has even gone so far to say (with whatever level of sincerity) that he might like to join their line of work, and I don't think it's unfair to assume that if Reese had been willing to give up Finch as lost and accept Tao as his new partner in benevolent crime, they could have done pretty well -- and that that's what the Machine had in mind.

Fortunately, of course, Reese wasn't willing, and Finch was returned home safe and sound, but they still have Tao as backup, and that's worked out really pretty well. Their relationship is symbiotic: Reese protects him from the fury of his customers and/or victims, and he gives them a hand when they need him. It's lucky for our heroes that a guy this useful keeps getting into scrapes they're ideally positioned to get him out of, isn't it?

...Or is it luck?

Nigerian scammers traditionally do their thing by email, right? And in "Critical", the trouble Tao was in had to do with online gaming.

In his first appearance, when he was explaining why he'd thought it was a good idea to steal a ton of money from the Aryan Nation, he said that he hadn't realized he was working for them for a whole six months. He never specified how he did learn, but do you think it would be unreasonable to imagine that the realization might have involved a computer?

But I mean, what am I even suggesting, here?

The Machine wouldn't deliberately put someone's life in danger just so it could lead Finch and Reese to them -- would it?

I find this question interesting.

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