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Person of Interest: Prisoner's Dilemma

"Hey lover. Miss me?"

So. Much. Win. This episode was absolutely fantastic. Carter is forced to question Reese under the watchful eyes of Agent Donnelly and Finch, attempting to appear to try to break Reese without actually breaking him. Tricky stuff.

As always, every single cast member brought their A game. Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, Michael Emerson, and Brennan Brown (Donnelly) were all great. This episode had everything. We got tension, we got emotion, we got flashbacks, we got to see our gang care for each other, and we got to witness Finch’s seriously impressive cover-creating skills. Not to mention the return of several characters including Bear, Elias, the skinheads from “The Contingency,” that guy from Washington who knows about the Machine, and the fabulously fierce-tastic Stanton. I’ve said before that the more that happens in an episode in PoI, the better that episode is. Once again, the show has proven my point.

I loved how Reese’s cover story was just a thinly veiled version of the truth. He’s former military, he’s been in love once, and he spent a number of years post-military lost and broke until a rich man befriended him and gave him a job. Like Reese, “John Warren” watched the Twin Towers fall with his lady love from a hotel room. Unlike Reese, “Warren” chose to be with the woman he loved rather than reenlist. How much do you want to bet that Reese would choose that path if he had it to do over again?

Also wonderful was Finch constructing Reese’s cover as Reese was making it up. Finch is just amazing. No question about it. I love the whole workplace he had set up for Reese. Now that is a damn good cover. Bravo, Finch. Bravo.

Donnelly finally redeems his crime-solving abilities by revealing that he’s suspected Carter’s involvement for a while now. He claims she “played a pretty good game.” I have to disagree. She was as obvious as obvious can be. Still, Donnelly caught her...just in time to get shot in the head by Stanton. The second the phone started ringing, I knew it would be Donnelly’s number. I’d like to think that if Finch had gotten to him just a few minutes earlier, he would have survived, but I seriously doubt Donnelly would have believed an anonymous man on the phone claiming to be The Man in the Suit’s partner telling him an unknown but infallible source has indicated he was in danger.

This seems to be the year of the abduction. We started the season with Finch being held by Root, spent the last few weeks with Reese in federal custody, and now it looks like Stanton has Reese and probably Carter too. I’m not going to lie, I’m getting a little sick of the constant kidnappings. But I am looking forward to Stanton!

I just adore Stanton. She’s a fascinating character and I’m crazy excited to see how she and Reese will interact now that she’s back from the dead. So far, we’ve only seen Stanton as a sociopath, but it’s not hard to imagine that she might’ve started with the CIA innocent and idealistic and gradually become warped just like Reese. Jessica was the force that helped Reese hang onto his humanity. If Stanton didn’t have a person in her life like Jessica, it’s not hard to see how becoming a government-certified killer would have turned her into an (as yet) unmitigated monster.

With this much awesome, it’s hard to pick a highlight. If forced, I’d have to go with the relationship between Carter and Reese. After watching Reese get the crap kicked out of him, powerless to help, Carter purposely puts herself in physical danger to get him out of trouble. I LOVED the twist that Donnelly’s purpose in sending Reese to get beat up wasn’t to see what Reese would do, but what Carter would do. I didn’t see that coming and it was a nice character beat.

The episode’s one downside was, of course, the B story featuring Karolina Kurkova as Karolina Kurkova. CBS has a rather disturbing habit of tossing Victoria’s Secret models into their shows with little or no justification for their being there. The straight male viewership might not mind, but it bothers me. At least she kept her clothes on, I suppose. I didn’t see that part coming. I was half expecting Fusco to bodyguard her during a lingerie runway show.

With the Kurkova storyline, the writers attempted to provide a bit of comic relief to the rather heavy interrogation scenes between Reese and Carter. I think they were attempting to go for a BtVS “The Zeppo” feel, where we just check in to an overly melodramatic situation for a few seconds at a time. In Buffy, this was funny. In PoI, it just felt forced and strange. Thankfully, these moments were few and short.

Bits and Pieces:

The prisoner’s dilemma is a tactic in which suspects are separated, interrogated, and offered immunity for turning on each other. I did not know this staple of police procedurals had a name. You learn something new every day, eh?

It’s still 2012 in PoI-land. I cannot explain how much or precisely why this bothers me.

“John Warren” has a boss named Howard French.

Reese and Carter compared (possibly fake) military histories. I wonder if they ever crossed paths in reality. What an interesting episode that would make...

I really liked the way the show incorporated the flashbacks from last season into the body of the show and didn’t just tack them on in the beginning. Clever. A lot of the time, those ‘Previously Ons’ can spoil certain plot points of an episode.

How adorable was Finch getting geared up for extracting Reese from jail?


“When you cook up a cover, you don’t mess around.”
No kidding!

“Do you know the penalty for treason?” (shoots guy, laughs)
Stanton is such a badass.

“It’s my first triple homicide. I didn’t know I was supposed to prepare jokes.”
God, Reese, lighten up. It’s not like it was a quadruple homicide.

“If you want to be good at your job, you have to learn to love your work.”

“There’s a point where, if you stay a soldier, you forget how to be anything else.”

“You have to decide which man do you want to be: the boy scout or the killer, ‘cause I’m sick of working with both.”
Yeah, it’s not like you can be both a CIA operative and a boy scout. What do you think this is, Alias?

four out of four Victoria’s Secret supermodels
sunbunny, Person of Interest and Bear the Dog fangirl


  1. Wonderful!

    I loved this episode as much as you did, Sunbunny. Even more, maybe, since I thought Fusco and Karolina Kurkova as Karolina Kurkova was hilarious and fun.

    But now for the anger: Why was there no "stay tuned for scenes from our next episode"? Why? Why? Because there are no new episodes until January 31st, that's why. Grr!

    (I think that's why it's still 2012 in the world of the show; I'll bet this episode was supposed to be the mid-season cliffhanger.)

  2. I'm with Josie on the Fusco front, sunbunny. I like Lionel and I think the inexistent plotline worked. I laughed a lot. Your review is very funny too!

    So I thought this episode was a 9.8 out of then. All the cast was stellar, the writers brought their game and previous storylines resurfaced, rewarding constant viewers like me. When Elias showed up, I nearly jumped out of bed.

    It doesn't bother me that it's still 2012. Reese was captured in 2012 and they can't retain him forever. I bet it'll be 2013 when the show is back.

    The only part I got annoyed at, which accounts for the 0.2 forfeit, was how Stanton got Donnelly. It's an old television trick: hit the car and kidnap the victims. It's simply stupid. Especially if you want to stun the enemy and retrieve and ally. Crashes like this are a lot likely to be fatal. What do you do if your target dies? You go "oops"?

    What makes it even worse is that she hits the car with a motherfreaking TRUCK! In real life, Reese and Carter wouldn't have survived, considering they hadn't been buckled up. I have a hard time believing a badass like Stanton would emply such tactics. She'd build a blockade and shoot Donnelly when the car stopped or something smarter.

    Anyway, probably the best PoI episode to date. Hope they wow me again on January 31.

  3. "9.8 out ot ten".

    I've been mistyping a lot lately.

  4. Glad to get a different opinion on Ms. Kurkova. Glad you guys liked it. I think it just bugs me because it's so transparently 'Look, we have a Victoria's Secret model in this episode.'

    Gus - You are so right. It's a very stupid way to kidnap someone.

    Josie - I totally got a winter finale vibe from this one as well!

  5. Dear Gus,

    You make more typos than I do. So I am happy to tell you that you'll get a gold medal, while I'll content myself with the silver one.

    I haven't had the chance of watching it yet; so of course I shall return....

    Josie : awwwww crap ! Or with my best southern accent : AHHHHH SOB ! That reminds me of the lady(ies) in Total Recall(s) : "2 weeks. Twoooooo weeks ! Gulp !"

  6. That was exactly my last though : Fantastic ! Brilliant. Pure brilliance. (Yes, repetition.)

    I'm calling this show Lost's little brother. If they going keep at it until the end of the season, it's going to become another Cult TV show later on. A bit too early to give it officially the title, but it's very close to win it. Whoah. (Ah heck, in my heart, it HAS the title already. I'm in Bliss)

    Wow Sun, this one really inspired you big time : its shows in your amazing review. Hey ! Give the woman a raise !!

    I'm giving it a.....9.95 : not enough Fusco time ! (Sun, I SWEAR, I didn't know she WAS a real model and I couldn't care less. I cared about Fusco. Period.) (yes, I mean it)

    "Wonder Boy !? Is that you ?"

    I was happy (yes, happy) to see Elias. Thank you for your protection.

    Poor Fusco needing help and being hung up.

    "No Lionel ! Save yourself !" (lingerie or not, that was cute)

    In less than 25 minutes, Fringe. What a SPECTACULAR way to end the week.

  7. Oh my.

    After placement product on TV shows....let's have a "model trying to become an actress" moment !


    Very valid point about the truck.

  8. Sorry Guys.

    My mind is totally blown up ! I'm having a Lostian moment.

  9. It's the same for me, I didn't know that was a real model too! My favourite character being Fusco, I loved the storyline they gave him this episode, but only *because* it was short (less is more in this case). I do hope he gets to get in on the more serious dramatic action again though.

    Amazing episode, as you said. I like that they decided to put the 'POI of the week' story mostly aside this time to really advance the overall plot. And while I also thought Carter was being waaay too obvious in trying to get Reese off the hook (as well as being waaay too stupid in meeting with him RIGHT after he was released) the interrogation scenes were still great.

    I think we all saw Stanton coming, what with all the flashbacks. I just wasn't sure whether she would kill Donnelly, or whether Finch and Co. would flip him to their side somehow. It's a pity that killed him off, I did like his character - strong and honest sense of justice but without the sort of cockiness you sometimes see in minor FBI agent characters on other TV shows :P

    I hate that there's no episode next week. Argh.

  10. Wow. I'm gonna miss Donnelly so much. He made our Scooby gang look like amateurs, despite all Finch's hacking skills.

  11. This may quite possibly be my favourite episode of the series to date! Had a bit of everything! Only Root was missing... ;o)

    Nothing new for 3 weeks?!?!?!?! Grrrrr...

  12. Wow, just... WOW. Without a doubt one of their finest hours, and they've made a LOT of excellent hours of television in their short run so far.

    The interrogation scenes alone were fantastic. I loved how they were an opportunity for John to tell Carter about himself, letting her get to know more about how he became the man she knows. But the stuff in the yard was also a lot of fun. I figured out that Elias would be there just a little bit before they showed him, and I'm so glad he showed up. It's nice to know they haven't forgotten about all the various chess pieces(pun intended) they've laid out on their board. :)

    One could argue that the B story with Fusco and the supermodel(who's actually done some acting before, though she wasn't very good then either) was totally unnecessary, and there's some merit to that view. It had zero to do with the main story and was just a way give Fusco some screen time. But it also served another purpose. It reminded us that even with John being locked up, and the FBI closing in, the numbers keep coming. There are still people out there in danger who need help.

    I'm REALLY curious to see what Stanton's agenda is. I can't see her having a beef with John, he's not the one who tried to kill her. And she presumably didn't even know he was alive when she kidnapped Agent Snow. Is she trying to recruit him for some scheme? Has she just completely gone off her rocker? I don't know, but I can't wait to find out.

    BTW, a "prisoner's dillema" is a classic scenario in Game Theory. You take two prisoners, keep them from communicating and make them each the same offer. They can betray their partner, or stay silent. If both prisoners stay silent, they each get a year in prison. If one talks, he goes free and the other guy gets 3 years. BUT, if they BOTH talk, they each get 2 years.

  13. Just saw it, and I loved this one, too, for all the reasons everyone's already mentioned. It was such a John/Carter episode, and it showed how close they've gotten. And I have to go with Josie et al. -- I loved the Fusco/supermodel "Zeppo"-like subplot, just because it gave the episode some balance and as was already mentioned, reminded us that the numbers and the mission kept on going. Loved Finch all geared up to rescue John, too. Definitely a four star episode, and a terrific review, Sunbunny.

  14. Patrick, great comment! I couldn't remember if that's what "The Prisoner's Dilemma" referred to or not.

    There's a corollary experiment to that, right? Take two people. Person A is given $10. He has one opportunity to offer any portion of that $10 to Person B--only one shot. If B refuses the money, they both get nothing. If B accepts A's offer, they get to split the $10 as agreed upon.

    Apparently, most people playing Person A offer half. This is funny, since even if A offered just 2 cents, both A and B would be slightly richer than before.

    Even funnier? B tends to refuse any offer of less than half--thus costing himself (and A) a potential profit, just in the name of "fairness."

    In other words, people tend to act illogically, and psychologists have proved it.

  15. As I was thinking about this episode, something occurred to me.

    Reese, for all his gravelly machismo, essentially takes on the characteristics and motivations of whoever is giving him orders. With Stanton, he verges on sociopathic. With Finch, he fights the good fight.

    I'd love a third example, because (as Wesley and Fred say in Angel), two points make a line, not a pattern. Maybe if Reese falls under Stanton's influence again, he'll become hardcore creepy?

  16. That's a good theory Josie. I think I interpret it a slightly different way. I don't think Reese has much left inside of him. That was all stripped away when he was turned into a government sanctioned killer. Stanton brought out the worst in him, because there wasn't anything else.

    Finch however, is literally revivifying him, maybe helping Reese piece back together what's left of his soul. Bear is an example of that, he's beginning to connect to things on a basic emotional level again. And I think he's starting to truly care for Finch and Carter, and even Fusco to a degree.

    I'd hate to think that the progress he's made would be lost if he had to follow Stanton's lead again.

  17. Interesting point, Josie! I don't think Reese will fall under Stanton's spell again, though. I think he's essentially a good man. He was more susceptible to her influence before due to the pain of leaving (and later, losing) Jessica. Plus, his work with Finch makes him happy; he said so himself. I don't think he was happy by any stretch of the imagination when he was working with Stanton.

  18. I hope you're right! It's hard to imagine PoI taking the bizarre route of turning one its leads into a jerk. Although the Root/kidnapping/"bad code" stuff from earlier this season did hint that Finch, at least, runs the risk of being corrupted by his own power.

    Perhaps Reese can begin to follow Bear, and learn the Zen-like pleasures of walks, naps, and snausages.

  19. Josie

    Quoting you : "In other words, people tend to act illogically, and psychologists have proved it." AH ! Just spend a day at my office to see their proof.


    Excellent theory.

    All of you

    This one really blew us all good. Having fun here.

  20. This was one fun episode.
    Nice review, Sunbunny.

    I like Stanton, too.
    Right now, a very complex character.

    It was great to see Enrico Colantoni again. Now that Flashpoint has ended, I hope he gets to be on PoI more often.

    Everybody in Team Numbers are very busy in this ep.
    More enjoyable (?) for Fusco, at least. :)

    Hilarious seeing Finch in a biker's leather jacket holding an automatic. Precious. :D

  21. Awesome episode and great review. Interesting how Reese went from calling Carter an asset to calling her a friend on the bridge. I see a love connection brewing between the two.

  22. Astonishing hour of television. I loved this one.

    I think it was in the last review, sunbunny, that you talked about how the characters evolve. I certainly picked up on Reese's evolution this hour. Instead of being "tough" and "in your face" as the other three, he chose to be quieter and more reliant on Carter. Fantastic character beat.

    At one point, Finch tells Carter that John Warren's story most closely mirrors Reese's. So much of what he said was true, I was surprised when Carter asked him at the end about it. I would have guessed that she would have figured it out.

    I'm with sunbunny in that I thought the Fusco story was a bit off, but I did love him berating Finch for making him "warm the bench." This guy comes to play.

    As this season has ended, I'm sure by now that the question you all raise about what happens to Reese has been answered. I enjoyed the discussion, though.


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