Person Of Interest: On The Horns Of A "Prisoner's Dilemma"

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We're entering our second episode with Mr. Reese sitting on the sidelines, locked up on Rikers Island while Finch, Carter, and Fusco carry the burden of saving some NotW's bacon and stymying the authorities.

The authorities who are hunting them, as we're reminded before every episode.

Going into last night, I found myself wondering how long they could keep this up. Shaking up the dominant paradigm (or whatever) can be successful from a novelty standpoint, but will audiences desert the show if they can't see Reese shattering tracheas? What if -- heaven forbid -- they take this into Sweeps?

Well, they didn't do that. But you could certainly describe the ending to this most recent episode as, "Out of the frying pan, into the complex web of deception characteristic of clandestine intelligence operations."

We open with Carter (Taraji P. Henson) interrogator mode with Reese (Jim Caviezel). She's taking a tough stance, but I trust she won't have to go full Abu Ghraib. The other men in suits adopt varying angry postures, while Reese (AKA "John Warren") opts for the softer side, and pleads with Carter to let him go home. Is it code? It sounds like code.

Meanwhile, Finch (Michael Emerson) is tasking Fusco (Kevin Chapman) with looking after the latest Number of the Week. The detective's protestations die a quick death when he sees pictures of the NotW in question, real-life Czech Victoria's Secret model Karolína Kurková. That'll make your Prague spring.

[The Fusco arc is largely ignored, though intermittently played as comic relief throughout the ep. It's pretty hilarious, actually.]

And just to liven things up, our old buddy the Special Counsel (Jay O. Sanders) as now been apprised of the arrests of four men in connection with the "Man in a Suit" case. He calls his button man Hersh (Boris McGiver), already in NYC hunting for the "rogue operative," and tells him about the four suspects in Rikers. Hersh's brilliant strategy to get in? He pulls his piece and fires into the air. And because he's a middle-aged white guy and not, say, a 23-year old immigrant from Guinea means he's merely arrested and not shot.

Donnelly (Brennan Brown) smells blood where Reese is concerned, and takes Carter to check out "John Warren's" Wall Street office. Imagine our surprise when they discover an actual office full of workers and a secretary who's "worried sick." Finch has concocted a hell of a cover, but he and Carter know they'll have to frame one of the other poor dumb bastards to get Reese out of there.

Whoa, speaking of Prague, it's a flashback! To Prague! It's 2007, and Reese and Kara Stanton (Annie Parisse) are "extreme prejudicing" a traitor selling drone tech to (I guess) North Koreans. It's their first op together, but serves primarily as a segue into Carter (back in the present) asking if he's ever killed anybody (we get a similar Stanton-Reese flashback later: Paris in 2009). Donnelly is linked via earpiece to Carter, goading her own, but Warren/Reese has a pretty damned good cover. Can he break it? Oh, I hope not.

Hersh gets put in general population: the perfect opportunity to strike the three suspects (one was already spirited away when his identity was ascertained) while they're getting their exercise. But these prison grounds are all about reunions with old friends. Here's Bear the dog's original owner, the Nazi punk from "Contigency." He'll have to wait his turn, however, because who other than Elias is waiting around to have a chat with Reese? They talk in a "dead zone" for the jail's cameras (I guess Donnelly's too busy to look out the window and see "John Warren" chatting with one of the biggest mobsters in the Northeast).

Elias wants to help Reese (who saved his life, remember). Reese asks him to get a picture of Hersh in order to find out who he's working for.

One of the three remaining Men in Suit (Charles McAvoy, but who cares?) offers to give up Reese, until Finch gets word to him he's going to leave his wife and kids in the poorhouse. McAvoy's 11th hour turnaround hits the skids when Hersh kills the second of the suspects, leading Donnelly to lean on Reese harder than ever.

Paris 2009 again, Kara goads Reese into doing the nasty. On camera, no less. Repeat after me: surely this will end well.

The interrogation takes a weird turn; Finch trying to backfill as Reese offers half-truths about his past (he accurately recounts his feelings on 9-11, just gives the wrong woman's name and a false location). "Warren" declined to reenlist when the World Trade Center came down, unlike Reese, who muses about alternate futures. It's a surprisingly powerful moment.

Donnelly has one last card up his sleeve: throw Reese/Warren to the wolves in the yard and see if he can defend himself. Of course Hersh is still there, but Reese doesn't put up a fight and Elias calls off the beating before Hersh can get his shiv on.

Gee, this Donnelly is a psycho.

Carter, tired of goofing around, has Holt (the first suspect) brought back in. In ridiculously short order, she's provoked him into attacking her and getting Warren off the hook. Reese walks (but not before Finch, grenade launcher in hand, demonstrates the ridiculous lengths he was willing to go to in order to spring him). He and Carter share a tender moment ... until Donnelly shows up. Shit, I knew things were wrapping up too soon.

One last flashback: 2010, Ordos: where Stanton and Reese were both ordered to kill each other by Snow. Now what's the significance of that, I wonder?

Fusco gets his goodbye kiss from Karolína -- damn, I really wanted to see *that* episode -- and Finch surprisingly gets a new NotW. Oh shit, it's Donnelly. Oh shit! The car he was driving with Reese and Carter in the back just got hit by a dump truck! OH SHIT, IT'S KARA STANTON. She kills Donnelly and tranqs Reese.

Well, now I guess we know what those flashbacks meant.

Next week: Is American Idol back on? Because PoI won't be back until the ... 31st? Son of a bitch.

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