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Recap / Person of Interest S02 E12

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Season 2, Episode 12:

Prisoner's Dilemma

"It’s funny, how the choices you make change who you become. Take one path or the other ...
All these years later, I still wonder... if I had re-upped when the Towers came down... who would I be now?"

With Donnelly demanding her assistance, Carter continues playing both sides of the fence to help Reese avoid being identified by the FBI, and Reese crosses paths with several old foes before finally being confronted with a figure from his past that he probably wishes would have stayed there. Meanwhile, Finch works on engineering an escape plan, and Fusco is doing... actually, we don't even know what, but it involves a supermodel, an Armenian gang, and the best unnecessary plot line ever.


Tropes present in this episode include:

  • The Alibi: Kelly, one of the goons also suspected of being the Man in the Suit, was in the Middle East when Reese killed or abducted Peter Arndt. Unfortunately for him Hersh has no way of knowing this.
  • As Herself: This week's POI is supermodel Karolína Kurková.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The intro implies that the episode is about Fusco saving the supermodel, when really its just the side plot.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Finch, at the end of the second act, though it quickly becomes unnecessary.
  • Battle-Interrupting Shout: A single whistle by Elias is enough to stop the Aryans laying into Reese.
  • Behind the Black: At the end of the episode, Reese and Carter walk towards the camera, and are surprised when Donnelly appears in front of them. However, since he's directly in their field of view, they should have seen him well before his *Click* Hello.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Elias tells Reese that he won't rat him out to the Feds, first because John saved his life once, and second, if he does, Harold will stop coming over to play chess with him.
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    • Reese doesn't like Elias approaching him, pointing out that Donnelly once assumed they were working together. Elias points out that he had in fact made that offer.
    • During the interrogations, Reese mentions that he took a trip to Mexico last May. The previous season, he did go there to get the US Marshal Jennings locked up for drug-related charges (even better, that episode aired in May 2012).
  • Cover Identity Anomaly: All the suspects have impeccable cover identities, and it becomes a race to maintain Reese's cover in the hope that one of the others will reveal a flaw first. It helps that Reese's story has a military background (as Finch tried to match it as closely as possible) whereas the others do not, so minor mistakes like knowing a military term can give them away.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Reese actually has a complete cover identity with a workplace that remembers him coming in to work.
  • Disconnected by Death: Finch tries to warn Donnelly his number has (literally) come up, but he's too late.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Fusco can't believe he's being left out of the effort to free Reese, but stops complaining when he sees who the PoI is.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet: Reese is released from prison, but...
  • Earpiece Conversation: At one point, Donnelly and Finch are using the same earpiece to talk to Carter through John's interrogation.
  • Enemy Mine: Reese accepts Elias' help.
  • Eyes Never Lie: Donnelly worked out Carter was The Mole from the 'genuine concern' in her eyes while watching Reese being beaten by a gang in the prison yard.
  • Facial Dialogue: When the Aryans start moving in on Reese, Elias's Giant Mook flexes his hands, but Reese silently warns him off.
  • Facial Recognition Software: Shown running on Finch's computer as he tries to crack the mercenaries cover identities.
  • Fakeout Makeout: Reese and Stanton pretend to be a courting couple who's stumbled into the wrong hotel room, where some Chinese are buying hacked plans of UAV weapons. Stanton is annoyed that Reese doesn't actually do any kissing.
  • Feet-First Introduction/Hand of Death: "Hey lover, miss me?"
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Finch and Carter's solution is to frame one of the mercs as the Man in the Suit, but they find it more difficult than usual as Donnelly is convinced it must be Reese.
  • Gambit Pile Up: Everyone is trying to pull off a gambit, and Carter tends to be in the middle of all of them.
    • Donnelly is trying to identify which prisoner is the "Man in the Suit," and simultaneously determine if Carter is the "mole" in his investigation, by having Carter aggressively interrogating Reese and the others.
    • Carter is trying to interrogate Reese aggressively enough that Donnelly doesn't suspect anything, but without eliciting an answer that blows Reese's cover—and simultaneously trying to frame one of the mercenaries as "the Man in the Suit."
    • Reese is trying to maintain his cover identity long enough to get out.
    • Finch is listening in and adding supporting documentation for Reese's cover on the fly so that if Donnelly runs a search to confirm what Reese is saying, he won't find any gaps in the tale.
    • Pennsylvania Two just wants to Kill 'Em All.
    • ...and then there's whatever gambit Kara Stanton is playing on top of all that!
  • Get into Jail Free: How Hersh (Pennsylvania Two's chief thug) decides to get access to the Man in the Suit.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Fusco, supermodel Karolína Kurková, and an Armenian gang. The end.
  • Guns Akimbo: Fusco and Kurková are crouched behind a bullet-riddled car. Fusco is willing to perform a Heroic Sacrifice while she escapes, but she refuses to leave him. Fusco them stands up with two blazing pistols for his Offscreen Moment of Awesome!
  • Holding Hands: Fusco and Kurkova do the 'hold hands while running' version.
  • Hypocrite:
    • When the warden complains that Donnelly is holding the men without charge or access to legal aid under an anti-terrorism act, Donnelly claims he's noticed several federal law infractions on the treatment of prisoners, to make the warden back off.
    • Stanton claims Nothing Personal on shooting Reese In the Back, but as the next episode shows, she takes her own betrayal very personally indeed.
  • I Know You're Watching Me: When Finch walks by three pay phones and each of them ring as he passes, he stares questioningly at the nearest security camera. Cut to the Machine's POV, looking directly at Finch.
  • Implacable Man: Hersh gets himself thrown in prison just to kill Reese. When Elias offers to kill him, Reese quips, "I'm not so sure you could."
  • Inspector Javert: This episode really rams home how obsessive Donnelly has become, even though he believes he's doing it for the right reasons.
  • Interrogation Montage/Two Scenes, One Dialogue: Carter's interrogation cuts between the various suspects.
  • Kick the Dog: Stanton has always been a ruthless killer, but shooting Donnelly while he's in no condition to stop her taking Reese firmly establishes her as a villain.
  • Kill 'Em All: Hersh's solution to the "four suspects" problem.
  • Kinda Busy Here: Finch calls Fusco, but he's busy being pepper-sprayed in the face by the POI. He decides to call back later. Later he calls as the two are dodging Armenian gangsters on the street, but when Fusco asks for help, Finch hangs up as he's busy helping Reese. Played for Drama when Finch is rushing to rescue Reese and Carter, only for the Machine to ring with another number.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: One of the mercs has 'hung himself in his cell' after Hersh plays him a visit. He then tries to covertly shank Reese so it will look like the Aryans are responsible, but has to stop when Elias calls the Aryans off.
  • Meaningful Echo: In a flashback to 2007, Kara Stanton tells the reluctant Reese that he needs to learn to love his work as an assassin. Later in a flashback to 2009, she finally gets fed up with his continued attempts to distance himself and threatens him at gunpoint to choose who he's going to be; the boy scout or the killer. He responds by disarming her, shoving her against the wall, and with his hand to her throat informs her in no uncertain terms that he loves his work.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Supermodel Karolína Kurkova in her tight leather pants.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: For Reese In-Universe, who presents an alternate history of himself if he hadn't rejoined the army after 9/11, as a cover story. Afterwards Carter asks if any of those stories he told was true, but they're interrupted by Donnelly before Reese can answer.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Finch, dressed as a correctional officer, is loading a Grenade Launcher ready to save his friend, when Carter tells him it's unnecessary.
  • Noodle Implements: Fusco's sideplot is practically a meta example of this.
  • Nothing Personal: A flashback reminds us that Stanton said this after shooting Reese. Elias is the genuine article — he was angry after Reese foiled his plans and landed him in jail, but is still grateful for the Mysterious Protector "who came out of nowhere and saved my ass."
  • Oh, Crap!: Finch's reaction to the Machine's latest Number.
  • One Head Taller: Inverted with Fusco and the towering supermodel he's protecting.
  • One-Hit Kill: Averted; one of the Chinese agents can be seen still twitching on the ground after he's shot.
  • Properly Paranoid: Donnelly. Unfortunately, even he gets blindsided.
  • Removing the Earpiece: Carter during her What the Hell, Hero? speech to Donnelly.
  • Revealing Skill: Agent Donnelly puts Reese in with the other prisoners at Rikers Island, hoping that his military skills will be revealed when the other prisoners attack him. Reese has to take a beating just to maintain his cover identity (fortunately a Friendly Enemy is on hand to interrupt before things get fatal). Carter then provokes one of the mercs into attacking her, to throw suspicion on him instead.
  • Rewatch Bonus: It's not explicit, but based on the timeline and her appearance, Special Counsel's briefly-seen secretary is probably Miss May.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Macavoy, one of the suspects, offers to confess due to believing that their still being held over the initial goon work they did for the corrupt charity, and feeling one of the others must have talked if they've gone so long without questioning him. That confession does make him less of a suspect to be the Man in the Suit though.
  • Rogues Gallery Showcase: Reese has to deal with Donnelly, Elias, Hersh and the Aryans from "The Contingency". Stanton is in the episode too, but as a flashback character. Until she's not.
  • Self-Parody: The standard "save the victim" plot of the show is never explained and looks weird because the one doing the saving isn't the hero.
  • Sexual Extortion: Stanton's interest in Reese has shades of this. Reverse of the trope, she's the one who instigates it and he's one who is uninterested — until she threatens him at gunpoint.
  • Shame If Something Happened: When one of the suspects is about to talk, Finch calls him up with his true identity, the address of his family, his mortgage details...and the fact that he's just transferred all the money in his offshore account and won't get it back unless he fingers his colleague as the Man in the Suit.
  • Shout-Out: Finch tries to ignore the ringing public phone because he's going to save Reese, but other phones ring as he walks past them, similar to the AI contacting the protagonist of Neuromancer.
  • Shown Their Work: The interrogation scenes are extremely realistic, thanks to technical consultant Tony Camerino, an Army veteran and trained interrogator.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss/Romance Ensues:
    • Reese and Stanton in the flashback.
    • Fusco's day starts with him getting pepper-sprayed in the face by the POI, and ends with her giving him a Smooch of Victory and asking Fusco to call her.
  • Smooch of Victory: Fusco gets Post-Kiss Catatonia after he's kissed by the supermodel he's saved. Who says he always has to be the Butt-Monkey?
  • Sound-Only Death: Reese shooting his targets in the nightclub after Stanton shoots the security cameras.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike
    Fusco: Are we gonna bust John out of there or what?
    Finch: Oh, it sounds like such a bad idea when you say it...
  • Terms of Endangerment: Stanton greets Reese with, "Hey lover, miss me?"
  • Third Act Stupidity:
    • After successfully fooling the FBI with some help from Carter, what made John think it was a good idea to go meet her in public the night he was released from prison?
    • Donnelly has become so paranoid he doesn't take any backup when arresting someone as dangerous as Reese, leaving him vulnerable to Stanton's attack.
  • Villainous Rescue:
    • Elias saving Reese from the Aryans (and, unbeknownst to anyone else, Hersh).
    • Stanton saves Reese and Carter from Donnelly by murdering him.
  • We Need a Distraction: When one of the suspect's cracks, Finch sets off the fire alarm, so he'll have time to give him An Offer You Can't Refuse. Unfortunately, Hersh uses the opportunity to take out one of his targets, negating his efforts.
  • Wham Episode: To put it mildly.
  • What Could Have Been (In-Universe): Reese uses stories from his own life to embellish his cover story, such as watching the Twin Towers go down right after deciding to leave the military. In his cover story however, he stuck to his decision.
  • What the Hell, Hero?
    • Carter is furious after watching Reese get beaten in the prison yard, telling Donnelly he's become obsessed.
    • Donnelly in turn derides Carter's naivety in helping Reese, saying he's a Professional Killer who's conned her into becoming his intelligence asset.
  • You Monster!
    Donnelly: Your friend is nothing more or less than a highly trained murderer. You don't wind up with that job by accident. He chose that life. He chose to become the monster he is.

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