Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Number 47 Said To Number 3 (Person of Interest S02E12 Prisoner's Dilemma)

No great mystery about what the overall plot is here. Apart from the fact that Reese is still a prisoner, the Prisoner's Dilemma is a well-known and very much analyzed example in game theory that shows up incredibly often both in crime drama and in larger fields in real life. The situation is presented as follows: two participants in one or multiple crimes are arrested and imprisoned. The detectives admit in a solitary investigation with each prisoner that they don't have enough evidence to try them on the main charge and they're intending to try them on a lesser charge, with a lesser sentence. The choice for the prisoner to make then, is this:

1. Confess, assuming that the cohort will also confess, and serve a medium sentence.
2. Confess, assuming the cohort will deny the crime, and serve no time under plea agreement immunity while the cohort serves the full wrath of the justice system. Keeping in mind, the same could happen to you if you don't confess.
3. Don't confess, assuming the cohort will also refuse to confess, and serve the minimum.

There are a number of interesting things that can be extrapolated about human nature by what is observed in this situation, and large numbers of papers have been written on the subject. Feel free to chase them down! The point of all this blather is, we know from the title alone that the situation will involve most likely Reese and the other prisoners being given a choice to finger somebody else for the crime and get one sentence, confess and get another sentence, or get hung out to dry when someone else fingers them for being the Man in the Suit. Which way everyone jumps depends, of course, on who knows what.

The Machine opens us up with the flashback to how Reese was captured, including a few clips to what evidence the FBI has and the assignments they collected it on, the fingerprints from the car Reese was supposed to burn in (now stolen by Carter), the DNA evidence from New Rochelle, etc. Not only that, Carter stealing the evidence and replacing it with dummied up copies to clear everyone has resulted in Donnelly (first name, Nicholas, according to the Machine, been an FBI Special Agent for fifteen years or so, it seems) becoming even more paranoid and suspicious and trusting only Carter. And now he wants her to put her military interrogation skills to use. Well. This ought to be entertaining! Meanwhile our number of the current week is apparently tasked to Fusco, and is some leggy blonde in black. It remains to be seen how much time will be spent on them. (Hint: Not much.)

Rikers! Reese is being Patriot Acted, or so Carter is telling him, despite the fact that there is no concrete evidence linking what happened at the bank to domestic terrorism. A shitpile of circumstantial evidence! But nothing concrete. But even if he weren't the Man in the Suit, that wouldn't matter, this is a brave new world we live in where the authorities can invoke National Security and do pretty much any goddamn thing they want to unless you scream loud enough, and maybe not even then. I'm sorry, was that my outside voice? Reese just stares back at her. He understands better than most what being arrested, tossed into Rikers, and not arraigned yet means, so he's opting for silence and a minimum of physical reaction to absolutely everything. Which is probably the best plan for him right now.

Back at HQ Finch gives Fusco a call, and Fusco answers wondering if it's Reese. Oh honey. Everyone misses Reese, even poor whimpery Bear. Especially poor whimpering Bear, who wants to know where his friend is. Fusco wants to know where the hell anyone is, Carter isn't back from Rikers, no one's returning his calls, and considering they spent a great deal of time before this making sure they intruded into his life to get him to do stuff for them at the most inconvenient times possible, this is actually kind of worrying. And when are they going to break John out already, he wants to know. That's really adorable coming from Fusco, who probably has about as much experience breaking out of places as I do. No, I'm not telling you how much experience that actually is. Finch is snarkily touched, most of it being snark, but he would rather Fusco take care of the number of the week, a young lady who's about to be in a lot of trouble, aren't they all. Fusco complains about this until he sees it's the model Karolina Kurkova who, as I understand, will be playing herself for the duration of this episode. Oh Fusco. The police doll cam on his desk, by the way? Still there. Just in case you were keeping track.

So. Back to the prisoners, let's identify them by their haircuts because that's the only real identifying mark we have to go by, otherwise they're four average built white guys in prison orange. Ginger Crewcut claims to have been in the bank for a business loan when he heard the explosions and gunshots. Too Much Product Brunette was inspecting the property as part of a venture capital group who were considering investing in the bank. Brunette Curls claims to be an attorney who doesn't have to tell them a damn thing, and Reese? Today he's John Warren, also an investment banker who used to be in the military so he went down to see if he could help. And then SWAT came in and that's where we allegedly picked up from. He's even doing a decent job of putting on facial expressions that aren't his usual deadpan, moderately relaxed, slightly frowning from worry. As he's the star of the show they spend a touch more time on his initial interrogation than they do on the rest of the suspects, allowing him to say he just wants to go home, he has business to get back to. For bonus extra hilarious self-referential points, Carter opens up Reese's interrogation with "you are being watched, you know." Oh yes. We know. Finch reminds us every week.

A very nice pair of legs attached to a standard issue Hollywood personal assistant body in a gray, rough-looking pencil-skirt dress comes up, hands a file to the man we know as Office of the Special Counsel Pennsylvania Two, and walks off. Let us all note now that we don't see her face in this episode, all we have are the legs and the dress, the leg-pan largely because procedurals tend to be shot for the male gaze and, well, nicely toned legs, and the dress because we're keeping her face out of the frame. It's not that obvious until we get to what ostensibly should be the full shot to begin the scene and we still haven't seen her face. The file she's giving him involves FBI disclosing that they would like to invoke special exception on the interrogation blah blah blah Man in the Suit. Well, that's not telling at all. Oh my, he has photos of Dead Alicia in his drawer! I wonder why that is. No, I actually do wonder, because they don't look like they're part of a file or anything, they're just hanging out in his drawer. Presumably that's to remind us that he ordered the investigation into her death kept under wraps, but mostly it just looks sloppy to have it all thrown in there like that. What he's after this time, though, is a phone. A secure phone, the OSC has the budget for such things and it'd be more in keeping with actually having official counter-intelligence resources, rather than using a burner phone. Let's see who he's calling! Oh, it's you, Hersh. We don't like you. Penn Two is calling to ask if he's located this rogue agent yet, because the presence of a rogue agent means there's another player involved, and he wants this other player shut down immediately. That's mildly short-sighted, given that they only have one operative to go on, and it'd be hard to track down the other player if they take the operative they know out of play. Still, Penn Two isn't thinking laterally or in terms of any sort of complicated steps at all. There is an irritant, something flying around bugging him, so he's going to swat it. With Hersh. Hersh points out that the rogue agent is difficult to track down, and Penn Two informs his pet assassin that the rogue agent is currently cooling his heels in a jail cell at this very moment! Now go kill. It doesn't really matter which one of the four suspects Reese is, as far as the OSC's pet assassin is concerned, he'll kill all four and then they'll be sure! Expedient, if messy. Equally expedient and messy is Hersh's method of getting to Rikers, which is to pull out his gun and empty it by shooting into the air until the police arrest him. Yeesh. At least he didn't actually kill someone to accomplish the same goal, but yeesh nonetheless.

Back at the prison, the Warden is getting sick of Donnelly's takeover of his facility in order to pursue his increasingly obvious vendetta. That's fine, Donnelly answers his objections by pointing out the "no less than fifteen" infractions of prisoner rights and safety and would the Warden like to continue this jurisdictional dick measuring? No, the Warden would not. Let's all stop and take a moment of silence for Donnelly's stability and professional career, because it's dying by inches in the last episode or two and this one. Carter comes in as the Warden walks off giving Donnelly death glares, and she has a look or two for that kind of atmosphere she's walking into. It's the same sort of look she gives Reese right after he does something shady, the "I don't want to know, do I" look. No, she doesn't, and she doesn't even ask. Instead she brings up to Donnelly the tactic of uncuffing the men she's interrogating in order to build trust. Not a bad tactic, both as a gesture of trust and in the way of removing a physical and psychological reminder that they're in hostile territory. It also might lull them into a false sense of security, giving them a greater freedom of movement and inviting them to do something stupid or suggesting that she might relax her guard in some other way. Not that I think Donnelly's thinking of this when he gives the nod, but I'm pretty sure Carter is thinking of at least two of those things with regard to the other three suspects she doesn't know. That established, Donnelly turns to his wall o' obsession where he says all four IDs passed background checks, which doesn't necessarily mean anything since one of the guys may be lying and the firm the Man In the Suit allegedly works for is powerful enough to create the kind of background check that would withstand some pretty strenuous investigating. Rival governments and corporations, he says! Yeah, Finch kind of is a corporation unto himself. Team Machine, LLC? So, in order to be sure that these backgrounds are solid, Donnelly will have agents check their homes and places of business to be sure that said homes and places actually exist. It's true, maintaining a fake place of business is usually a money sink and a losing proposition for a large corporation that only maintains a couple of operatives. And as far as we know, Finch largely operates on a digital medium rather than a physical one, so we have reason to be a little nervous when Donnelly suggests he and Carter go check out John Warren's place of business, as does Carter. Nervous enough to text Finch as they walk out, anyway, right behind Donnelly's back. Um. Carter? You do know at least one cop can see right over your shoulder as you go down the stairs, yes? Finch doesn't seem to be worried by the return text, so whatever is going on he's at least made arrangements. One has to wonder, though, if he's made these arrangements within the past 24 to 72 hours (since we know they've been held for that long minimum) or if he's had these arrangements in place the whole time just in case. Either is plausible!

Over at the alleged place of business itself wait what. Reese, why is there a picture of you and a kid in your alleged office. Why. Finch, what did you do. Stop playing with photoshop. There's photos, there's an assistant who hasn't heard from him in days and is worried sick, Finch better have an extensive background on this entire office because Donnelly orders ID checks on everyone, a hard drive copy, and prints all over the office. The prints all over the office wouldn't be too hard to fake, maybe take a few hours but since they have days, that's not that bad, the ID checks? Dear god. At a guess Finch has indeed had this cover identity in place for Reese for a while, and either everyone in that office is paid an additional stipend to lie their asses off if questioned and say John Warren totally works there, or, what, he's been paying a doppelganger to show up now and again? No, I'm going with the first explanation. And given that it's Finch, it's entirely possible he's been running a legitimate business out of there for a while, and apart from having John Warren on the name of some of those files everything else will be completely above board. It wouldn't be the first time Finch has put one or more of his actual companies to use to help a number (Root Cause 1x13) and it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that he would ask one of those numbers to lie for him and Reese after the fact. However he's managing it, Finch has put together a suitably impressive cover, and Carter is suitably impressed. Finch does refer to it as Reese's most complete clean cover, indicating that this was a contingency cover that's likely been in place for some time, and someone as meticulous as Finch would have kept working on it and adding to it as time went on. All right then! He also will take a moment to remind Carter that if Donnelly figures it out, the game is up not only for Reese, but also for himself, for Carter, and for all of the people they could save in the future. But no pressure, Detective. Really. Gee, thanks, Finch. Carter explains to Finch that Donnelly hasn't yet revealed to the other three that they're being held under suspicion of being the Man in the Suit, that they still think they're being held for the murders or intended murders of Shane and Abby. Carter wants to pin the Man in the Suit identity on one of them. Finch is right along with her on that. And if that doesn't work, he's got the prison blueprints and god knows what all else to engineer an escape plan! Excellent. Sort of. Can Fusco help? We cut to a clip of him getting maced by Ms. Kurkova and discover that no, no he cannot. Donnelly has come back from looking over the offices and proclaims it "pretty damn real," fair enough. But he's still not sure, and since he's not sure and he's reached the point where he's defaulting to "conspiracy against him until proven otherwise," this is still all an elaborate cover. Oh Donnelly. And you used to be such a good agent. Furthering his paranoia but not, admittedly, a specific sign of it, he would now like Carter to wear an earpiece so he can feed her inforrmation while she's in interrogation. That's actually not a bad idea, and it's less telling than having her receive a text message or interrupt her by physically opening the door. If only Donnelly would use that communication channel properly instead of, well, the way he does. Particularly the fact that he intends to feed her questions (and when was the last time you were an interrogator specifically, Donnelly?) and the look on his face when he says it'll help them be a better team (flat, unconvincing and unconvinced, using the words as a rote speech that he believes is like a passcode to getting her to do what he wants) are worrying as far as Donnelly being a professional go. Carter smiles, nods, and her expression when she and Donnelly part ways shows that she's as worried as the rest of us. Well, hell.

Back in 2007 we are observing a mission that's been classified and redacted until the Machine gets ahold of it. Sadly, even with the Machine's help most of the relevant information isn't on file, but we do learn that we're about to have a look at Prague in the Czech Republic. Someone's selling the plans for combat drones! Stolen fresh from Wright-Patterson. He's making a straight cash deal with two people of unknown and/or unstated company or country origin when two drunken revelers walk in. Hey, wait a sec, those aren't drunken revelers! And then the buyers are dead and so, a short time later, is the seller. Reese hauls in the room service cart on which it appears they've hidden several bottles of, what, bleach? Hard to say, some sort of yellow liquid. And Stanton takes the briefcase. She disapproves of Reese's inability to gloat and laugh like she does. It's not that he can't crack jokes, though, since he does make one quip, it's that his sense of humor is far far dryer than hers. The choice of words is telling and sends up her red flags, though; she corrects him that these aren't murder victims, they're enemy combatants. I do actually think that's how the government classifies people who sell sensitive information these days, and maybe not just these days, either. I may quibble about what the government declares an enemy combatant and bitch about unlawful searches and seizures and so on, but I too will take issue with a guy trying to sell military technology secrets to foreign agents. That's just never been on. Oddly, the whole time Stanton is lecturing Reese on lightening up and learning to love his work, Reese is staring straight ahead like he's being dressed down by a superior officer in the military. We can tell he's doing this because Annie Parisse is at least somewhat shorter than Jim Caviezel, but his eyes aren't tilted downward, just straight out in front. It's a nice, subtle touch indicating that he hasn't been out of the military for that long at this point, that some habits are still dominating and that he doesn't consider her either an equal or someone he'd like to get to know very well, or he'd make the effort.

Back in the present the through-line is homicide, taking lives, and Carter asks John Warren if he's ever killed anyone. Reese turns the question back on her with what looks like flickers of humor, but Carter is a good interrogator who knows not to answer questions, only ask them. This is an actual rule that I'm sure we've mentioned before, and it's how interrogators in most film and TV scenes get into trouble. Donnelly offers some unnecessary commentary in her ear, which suggests that Carter's brief moment of what looks like pulling back her composure is more for Donnelly than for Reese. She repeats the question, and Reese answers in the affirmative, which does seem to surprise Carter both in the act for Donnelly and genuinely as a response from Reese. He then proceeds to talk about an incident from 1995 in Bosnia, he was caught, perhaps literally, with his pants down and the only reason he survived instead of the other guy is because the gun misfired. Now, Reese knows that the best lies are 90% truth and it's entirely possible he is telling the truth in this instance, but it's the sort of truth that can't hurt anyone anymore, even himself. His military past is something he's come to terms with a long time ago, something that he might not even have been that much at odds with, given that this is also the era of Jess and the brief glimpse we have of him from them seems to be much more stable than afterwards. There were actual smiles! From Reese! So, yes, he has killed before, and if Finch has co-opted Reese's military record into Warren's history that might even be in his file. Carter is surprised to hear this coming from Reese, though her degree of control is such that the only reason we know she's having an emotional reaction is because she is too controlled. Reese concludes the story by looking away and having a mouth reaction and saying he doesn't like talking about this, two of which are the only reasons Donnelly knows this is a hot button issue with John Warren. Look, I'm really disappointed in the guy, okay? He tells Carter to push, I give Donnelly some rude fingers about jostling the elbow of the agent on the ground, and Carter asks how long Reese served in the military. '95 to '01, which end date matches the timeline for him. He got out just before 9/11. A couple more exchanges, by the end of which Reese and Carter are both smiling a little, indicating to us watchful viewers that there are two conversations going on here. The one, in which Reese can at least have a little latitude to tell some truths he doesn't mind Carter hearing and, in fact, seems pleased to have her know. From him, instead of from a paper file that she'll never admit to having had in the first place. And Carter in turn is asking him questions out of curiosity and getting to know Reese a little better, yes, under very bad circumstances, but there's still more play going on here that permits her to enjoy herself, if not to relax. Reese tells her he was a sergeant in Old Ironsides; someone's done their homework or at least surfed Wikipedia, in addition to being a nickname for the USS Constitution Old Ironsides is the nickname of the 1st Armored Division which was indeed in Bosnia in '95. Donnelly wants her to push more on the dead Serb, Carter asks more questions about Reese's military career, his childhood as a military brat. Apparently while his father was career military, his mother had a farm, and we see that Donnelly has pulled up obituaries verifying this. And possibly the dead Serb, though of course a newspaper article wouldn't provide identifying details. After which Reese asks Carter where she served, and it's an indication how much she's relaxed talking to Reese that she does answer this question. We will not see her this relaxed with the other three guys, she's breaking all kinds of technique and protocol here. Reese correctly cites the MOS of an interrogator, or as the description reads, Human Intelligence Collector, 97-Echo. Donnelly must be sick of her breaking protocol right now, and if I didn't know she and Reese were already friends I'd be a little annoyed too, she's giving information and yes, building trust in return, but this is still teetering on the edges of bad technique. Donnelly raps on the window and Carter excuses herself to go get yelled at. Her defense of building rapport works well enough for the moment, and Donnelly confirms that Reese's story checks out. Probably because a lot of it's true. Carter suggests that they're digging in the wrong spot, but Donnelly's down to signs of paranoia by now and intends to push the suspects he has in custody until he gets something he wants. Which is never what you want to hear from someone running interrogations, see also the many adages about information gathering and people telling you what you want to hear. He also offers some dire pronouncements about forces arrayed against them and the investigation just in time to cut over to Hersh being processed into Rikers. Fun stuff.

Carter is proceeding with the interrogation, which comes to us as a series of montages cutting between suspects and with Donnelly yapping in her ear like a particularly ill-trained and annoying dog. Hersh continues to be processed, Reese's middle name is Benjamin, and Too Much Product Brunette claims to not be in the military which Carter claims is a lie because he knows what an MOS is. Um. Carter? I know what an MOS is and I've definitely never been in the military. It does make for a punchy line, though. It also somehow works to tear down Too Much Product's defenses at least a little bit, because when she asks him again what's his damn name he straightens up and sits back like he's preparing to offer name rank and serial number only, like a good prisoner of war. Not that that's the only action that could result from such a gesture, but it's a resigned and indicative move. We don't get a chance to find out because Donnelly bursts in with his real name and that he was originally a Navy SEAL, and has a couple of officers read him his rights. Damn. This takes Too Much Product out of the patsy line, especially when Carter learns that he was in Iraq at the time of the New Rochelle murder. That actually does even look like a DD 214 record, which as the freeze frame tells us is a certificate of discharge or release from active duty. We will not ask how I know, not being in the military, what a DD 214 looks like off the top of my head, but I will ask when props and post-production got better at filling in the little details. Remember in the first season, the beginning of, where we were bitching about the information being copy-pasted for all the ex-military members of the robbery gang in Mission Creep? I sure do. At any rate, discharge papers! Looks like this guy was a CPO, a Chief Petty Officer, got a meritorious service medal, silver star, and a few others considering there's a see attached page. That's a decent career, and apparently he decided to chuck it in favor of cashy money by going mercenary and doing deeds of dubious distinguishment. And now that he's been identified as a non-terrorist, the public safety exception no longer applies. Since when? Now you choose to play by the rules? Bah. We now break for food and exercise, or so the Warden says.

Hersh is scanning the yard for his rogue agent, because of course he is, but our dear friends the White Supremacists will get there first. Remember, the ones Reese rescued Bear from? They're so very not happy to see him! I'm with Reese, Bear couldn't have been very happy with those assholes, but that doesn't matter, White Supremacist Asshole wants his revenge. He doesn't even get one punch in, though, before a couple other larger inmates stop him. And why is that, you may ask? I certainly was. Oh, hey, Elias. Hello Elias. You guys are all so very lucky that you're outdoors and the place isn't wired for sound. Even so, it looks just a weensy bit suspicious to have Elias's mook marching Reese over there to talk to the boss. Maybe it's because Reese is a very pretty man?

We don't get to find out their excuse just yet, because now we're in Paris and it's 2009 and we still have no mission data because none of it's on file. Naturally. But we have the Machine's record of Stanton and Reese sitting and having a drink at a bar, watching a couple carouse and have a good time. He still has doubts, this time less about the job in general and more about making sure they have the right target. Stanton points out that being a couple in love and being a couple of traitors isn't necessarily mutually exclusive, or maybe they're just better at playing their cover, hint hint mister stoneface. She's got a point, Reese. That's all we get out of them at that point, though, because now it's back to 2012 and Reese has gotten better at playing his cover. Or at least, he finds it easier to blend into a cover identity that doesn't involve being romantic with a woman he seems not to like. Elias escorts him to a dead zone where the cameras aren't watching, which is both good and bad considering Finch and the Machine. We'll go with more good than bad, considering, Donnelly. Which is what Elias is considering, he appears to know all about that little vendetta. And yes, he's upset that Finch and Reese stuck him in Rikers, but being in Rikers doesn't appear to have diminished his reach any, and he gets time to think and play chess with Finch, and Reese did save his life, which he is not at all discounting. He'd much rather Reese think of him as a friend. Which is not likely to happen anytime soon, but does at least give Reese some idea of where he stands. While this is all going on, too, the pull-back scenes are from an angle where we can see a very blurry outline of Hersh keeping an eye on the yard. Dare we say Elias will soon be called upon to take care of this little problem? I think we do dare. But Reese's first request will involve more of Elias pulling back his protection so that Donnelly doesn't think he is the Man in the Suit and working for Elias. Oh, now we get to Hersh, whose death Elias offers up like asking if Reese wants him to order a pizza. It's not Hersh's death Reese wants, though, it's for Finch to know Hersh exists, in order to find out who he is and who he works for. Everyone's trying to find out who's operating around them and who said operatives work for these days. It's like a theme. It's also a lot of more blatant discussion of who are these players and who are they working for than we've had in the show thus far, everyone's faces are coming out and people are being made known to each other. We'll pause on Hersh watching Reese watch Hersh so we can go over to Finch asking Fusco for an ID on Hersh. While Fusco is running around with Kurkova from unknown assailants. Armenians! Kurkova what did you even do. Fusco identifies Hersh as the covert operative who was obstructing the investigation into Alicia Corwin's death, but gets a dial tone when he asks for help with the Armenian problem. You're such a swell boss, Finch. Stop taking lessons in handling your people from Reese.

Back over to interrogation! Carter wants to know if Reese has any enemies, and he's pretty sure the guy behind the mirror isn't a fan. You know, at this point it's a damn good thing Finch gave him the military background because I would start to seriously wonder about a guy who didn't crack under the strain of being imprisoned in Rikers and interrogated repeatedly over several days. Fingertips by the eyes could be a sign of stress, but it's also often a hidden signal with several possible meanings depending on context and whether or not there's a personal code at play here. In any case, Donnelly isn't paying attention to that, apparently, he's still jostling Carter's elbow and playing armchair interrogator. Donnelly, you are an ass and you are getting in the way of your own investigation, and someone needs to rub your nose in it like the bad puppy you are. Sigh. Carter's next question is why Reese left the military, which he dodges. Instead he gives an answer that involves no real events or traceable things but more of a personal answer, which might be a help to his and Carter's working relationship. It does seem to even be true, too, given what we know of that decision, and that indicates that a lot of the other things he's saying about his time in the military are indeed true. He is fidgeting with his hands a bit as he talks, but not in the way of indicating strong discomfort or unease, this is a kind of unease that he's grown more comfortable with, like a repeatedly strained muscle. Now we get a list of lies because we know Reese hasn't worked for securities firms or gone to business schools. Reese looks upward as he says it, but directly upward, not a direct tell of a lie and a possible expression of trying to recall the right details in the right order. Of course Finch has backed all of this up with employment records, and this might be something they'd agreed on prior, which means Reese would have it in the same mental buffer he uses to store whatever identity he's using at the time. He's accustomed to that! It also works on an emotional sincerity level when Reese begins describing how a kind man took him in and gave him a purpose and a job, which Finch has done. Only in this case it's Howard French and not Harold Finch. Eh, close enough. While Donnelly runs a background check on Howard French it's Finch's turn to jostle Carter's elbow! This time with 200% more surprise because she didn't expect him to do that. Carter being the best, she does barely react, a slightly elevated blink rate for a moment and a flick of the tongue and that's it. Since Donnelly's looking shit up on his computer, he won't even notice. Apparently Howard French found John Warren's resume online and called him in for a meeting, which is true enough if by found his resume online you mean looked up and collated his jacket from hacked records and then had him absconded with out of a police precinct to meet by a bridge under quasi-suspicious circumstances. Sure, we'll go with that. She can even call Howard and ask, he's probably wondering where his best guy is! Uh-huh. Donnelly pulls Carter out of interrogation before we get to that, sadly, because I'm sure it would have been hysterical.

Oh, hey, we will now invoke the Prisoner's Dilemma scenario! Ginger Crewcut is nervous and freaked out and ready to talk and make the deal he's sure someone else is getting. He wants immunity in exchange for his information, And just as Carter's about to begin negotiating the terms, Donnelly bursts in with the New Rochelle file. Donnelly, you are the absolute worst, and I would never want you as my supervisory agent ever. He apparently thinks he's performing a shock and awe attack, but what he's really doing is as Carter says, showing all their cards. You're a fucking moron, Donnelly. You used to be a good agent and now you're a moron. I mean, it's a well-written character devolution arc, but he still irritates me and I wish to rub his nose in the mess he's making. Donnelly wants to know he's the Man in the Suit before he considers making a deal, presumably because he wants the Man in the Suit to roll on even bigger fish. Donnelly, you know, testimony deals have clauses for shit like that specifically for those kinds of situations. This is not the way oh why do I bother. Carter has why do I bother face on, too, she's got the hand to her forehead of someone with a very big headache coming on. Donnelly offers Ginger Crewcut a deal in exchange for rolling over on his boss, which fits since even as a mercenary he did have a boss, and just as they shake hands on it the fire alarm rings! Oh joy. Donnelly, you can't interrupt an evacuation of the fire alarm. And Finch, you moron, you've tipped your hand. Everyone gets moved outside and Finch yammers off in Carter's ear that she's to drop her phone in Ginger Crewcut's pocket. She does manage that, and Finch proceeds to blackmail/threaten the shit out of the guy, whose name is Charles Bennett Mackavoy. Mackevoy? A name like that. MacAvoy, if the name on his Charter Bank of Grand Cayman is accurate. Basically Finch knows everything and can seriously screw up life for Chuck and his family unless Ginger Crewcut Chuck can dance to his tune. While all this chaos is going on Hersh has somehow bribed or threatened a guard, or had the OSC do it for him, in order to get him into a cell with Too Much Product Brunette there. Hey, we haven't seen Too Much Product since he got unmasked! And we're not going to because Hersh is going to kill him. Alas, poor Product guy, we knew you not very well.

Donnelly puts two pictures in front of MacAvoy, who fingers Curls for being the Man in the Suit. Which would work a lot better if Hersh weren't quietly killing people behind the scenes. As soon as Donnelly gets this notification he tears up the agreement and doesn't quite ask MacAvoy whether or not someone got to him, because he already knows the answer. Carter is pissed, frustrated, and chases after him to find out what the hell. And we can bitch about Donnelly's technique all we want but he is at least capable of putting two facts together, or three including MacAvoy's physical state, and coming up with something approximating the right answer. The Man in the Suit's people are tampering with the investigation, and it is indeed Warren. Though he's wrong that Too Much Product aka Brian Kelly hung himself. Still, two out of three ain't bad, and we close this scene on a focus change from Donnelly up front to Carter towards the back looking at him with the same kind of camera work usually reserved for the monster creeping up behind the latest victim in a horror movie. I actually rather like that idea, and the parallel is apt when you consider that Team Machine is moving behind the scenes sabotaging Donnelly, though not quite so actively hunting him as monsters in a horror movie.

Back in 2009 and in Paris again, Reese and Stanton are cleaning up from their latest assassination. Really, they don't have people for that? Especially in Paris where you'd think it would be easy to get people to clean up after you. Apparently not, though. Stanton's got a text message on her phone about their next gig, gives Reese a look, and suggests that he's a few days late for their next assignment. How she came across this conclusion when Reese has even more of a deadpan expression on than usual I have no idea, or maybe it is that he has more of a deadpan expression on and he's rubbing in that bleach a little vigorously. This is, note, three years after the meeting in the airport with Jess, so he should be settling in at least a little bit by now. For someone who's so good at being a spyssassin he's really bad at the emotional component. He claims to be fine. Stanton calls bullshit with a side chop to the throat and forces him up against the wall at gunpoint, reminding him that he chose this life and if he can't deal with that, she's going to deal with it for him, if not in those precise words. The options she gives are Boy Scout and Killer, which I find hilarious because Reese is far from a boy scout. Should we go with Superman or Batman? Reese doesn't appreciate being held at gunpoint. Even less, it seems like, does he like having his desire to be the good guy mocked, for all that he won't admit it to Stanton and for all that he knows if he chose to get out, his way out wouldn't be being left to be a good guy with a desk job, it'd be a bullet. He knows it, she knows it, they're all very knowledgeable here, and he will demonstrate this knowledge by getting her up against the wall and holding her there by the throat. Because nothing says yes I agree to be a bad guy like holding your partner against the wall by the throat. Apparently this is also a turn-on for Stanton. Reese... less so, but he's not in a very good headspace right now, and mindless violent sex is certainly one way to reinforce his self-loathing.

Back in the present! Donnelly tells Carter to go break Warren. Thank you, Donnelly, that was a very nice milkshake I just snorted out my nose. Carter brings up Reese leaving the military, Reese brings up whether or not Carter's ever killed anyone. Which he does know, having an idea of her police record, but he also likely knows that this is a relatively safe defense to mount, while still giving the impression that he's trying to rattle her. A man who left the military to work in finance and isn't comfortable with talking about the time he killed an opposing soldier likely would be rattled by talking about killing in greater detail, and so would think of that if it came time for pushback. Hard to say whether or not Donnelly's thinking that clearly, but Reese can't take the chance that he's not. It's not quite a reverse interrogation, maybe more like a reverse interrogation by proxy, which adds a whole other layer of tricky onto everything. Finch continues backfilling Reese's life, a trip to Mexico, a girlfriend. Or rather algorithms for a girlfriend, and Carter stalls for time for him to finish that by telling the story of the first time she killed someone. And this, too, is likely true, less because the veracity of her story will be called into question and more because she's returning the favor of letting John get to know her, since he's been (relatively) truthful with him. In her case it was something similar, taken by surprise, kill or be killed, only in her case it was a raid where a room was improperly cleared. And she still doesn't know whether or not the guy was a terrorist. Reese has a slight frown throughout, which as far as John Warren is concerned could be discomfort at the subject matter but I think in Reese's case might be a kind of distant sympathy. Distant, because clearly it happened long enough ago that Carter's relatively okay with what happened, as okay as she'll ever be, but sympathy because it's also clearly not something she's proud of, and he can relate to that. And now for the girlfriend. Reese is blatantly summoning up the memory of Jess for this, both by the expression: relaxed, slight smile, and by the details he gives. In the hotel room when the planes hit the towers, just getting out of the service, he thought he had to go back. Reese, too, is very calm as he tells this, indicating that he's come to terms with it somewhat. Finch isn't quite as calm, he has the wide sad eyes of oh Reese, but at least he's keeping quiet. Carter has the slightly upraised brows and upturned eyes of inquiry and sadness, too, and there's a little catch in her voice when she asks what happened; she knows this is coming from truth. Except for the part where he didn't go back in, not to the military or to the CIA. The truth he does tell is that he was an idiot and let her slip away, which we know to be that one conversation in the airport. Though, really, could Jess have lived with what Reese became? Hard to say. Reese addresses this in part, talking about the choices you make change who you become. If he'd re-upped when the Towers came down, who would he be then? It's a blatantly deliberate echo to the opening of the series right down to the phrasing, highlighting one of the ongoing themes about how the choices you make affect who you are, and make you become something else. Given what's been happening lately, it'll be interesting to see if that theme carries through.

Donnelly remains unconvinced, because at this point he's looking for anything that will justify what he believes to be the truth. The fact that he's right is incidental and only known to us because Reese is the protagonist of the show for the purposes of this episode; Donnelly's skittered past confirmation bias on his way towards full blown conspiracy paranoia. There's one last test he wants to try: put him in the prison yard and withdraw the guards, force him to defend himself and see if he displays combat skills. And what will this prove? Well, absolutely nothing, and it'll get Donnelly into a lot of trouble if it got out, and fighting skills aren't exactly admissible in court depending on what John Warren learned in the army, or even out of it if he can be tied to a dojo. Not that I think Finch did think of that, but it's possible. The problem with assuming specific details about a person based on their skillsets or knowledge is that many skillsets overlap, and many areas of knowledge can be acquired independent of their most well known source. I know what an MOS is, but I've never been in the military. I know what's in carmine food coloring, though I've never worked in the food industry. (It's bugs, in case you were wondering.) I acquire bits of information here and there because I'm curious, because I read and remember articles, or because I'm close to someone who knows these things. Donnelly doesn't take into account that there are many vectors to knowledge and experience, and in a non-plotted setting this could severely cost him, getting target-fixed like this. Since it is a plotted setting it's going to cost him anyway. Reese proceeds to get the shit kicked out of him by the white supremacists whose dog he stole; he's not resisting and they're not complicated enough in the brainpan to wonder why. Eventually Elias does call off the assault, more on the grounds that he doesn't want a man beaten to death in his yard than because he's showing signs of his fondness for Reese. Sadly for Hersh, he interrupts his assassination attempt, too. My heart bleeds for you, Hersh. Wait, no, that's indigestion.

Inside the prison Carter has had enough and is calling Donnelly on his shit. Calling him out for being obsessed, for interfering in the investigation, for being sloppy and for using tactics that could get an innocent man killed based on nothing more than a suspicion and a desire for success rather than for the truth. And she's sick of him interfering in her interrogations, is the subtext behind her ripping out her earpiece and making Donnelly only watch her break Brunette Curls. It's not, strictly speaking, an interrogation. What Carter is doing is deliberately provoking a reaction, and then extrapolating aloud at rapid-fire pace details from his responses to continue to provoke. First threatening him with Guantanamo Bay as a threat to national security and accusing him of the explosives at the bank, and when he says 'us' bringing up conspiracy charges since use of the plural implies co-conspirators, and then again when he claims not to be a rat bringing up RICO as that implies there is someone higher up to rat out, etc. None of these necessarily need to be true, they only need to provoke a response, which at the end of this cascading series of pushes she gets in the form of, okay, almost being choked to death. It's an interrogation in a controlled environment, though, security comes in to pull him off of her and she leaves him with Donnelly to be arrested. If for nothing else, for assaulting a police officer, since that's a crime he committed in front of several witnesses. At this point, too, having established that Donnelly's off the rails and target-fixed, she doesn't need to provide proof for a trial that this is the man in the suit, that's Donnelly's problem. And he stares after her as she walks off, having successfully shredded Curls' cover identity and composure. Warren being the only one who didn't break in some way, he gets to go free! Obviously he was just an investment banker after all. Sure he was.

Reese takes his victory walk out of the prison to some nice jazzy victory music as Finch is gearing up for what looks like an all-out assault on the prison. Either that or he's going to try that trick Reese used when keeping an eye on Carter (Get Carter 1x09) and set off a riot so he can go in disguised as a guard. In any case, it's unnecessary. Carter calls him up to tell him it's under control and they're releasing Reese, you can relax now, Finch. Somewhat, anyway. It's definitely a victory walk they're filming for Reese, but when he meets Carter out in the open like that, with eight minutes to go, we know it's not over. We'll stall for time with a brief shot of Fusco doing something hilariously stupid and touchingly brave. Much to the admiration of Kurkova, it seems. Back over to the main plot in question, we get about as far as Carter asking Reese if any of it was true because Slack hates us and wants us to eat our own livers. (I kid, but of course this is a Slack episode, he has a tendency to be vicious in terms of dialogue acuity and fond of the bait and switch, see also Super with the subverted expectations for the title character and Bury the Lede with the who's-HR-switcheroo. Mind where you're standing on a Slack episode, because he's got one hand on the rug at all times and he will yank it out from under you.) Donnelly will interrupt Reese's admissions that he wasn't about to give! Caught in the act of fraternization, there's really no room for Carter to talk her way out of this one.

After the commercial Carter is at least willing to accept that the jig is up and the news is out, but Reese is going back to man of stone. At a guess he's calculating approaches, exit strategies, and how best to get Carter out of this given that he values her life more than his own. (Again, Get Carter, 1x09.) Donnelly briefly regains the common fucking sense he once had, getting Carter to cuff Reese with her cuffs before putting his own on her, and tells them as Reese apologizes to Carter for getting her into this mess that it wasn't Reese himself who gave the game away, it was Carter. That's. An interesting perspective on it. Before we can get an explanation as to why Donnelly thinks this we have to go back to 2010, to Morocco, where Reese and Stanton are getting their next assignment, the Ordos mission. Stanton and Reese are to be retired, the mission site scrubbed, and thus concludes the love story of Stanton and Reese. Such as it is. We've seen the progressive arc of their relationship but we don't yet have the context for why we're seeing it now, but can you guess, dear readers? Well, you've already seen the episode, but had you guessed at the time? The main clues here are less within the context of the show itself and more within the rules of narrative; you don't put an operative who may or may not be dead on the mantel unless you mean to fire her before the episode is out, and we're running out of minutes. And you really don't leave an operative's status in question like that unless you want her to come back from the dead. Meanwhile in the present, Fusco seems to have concluded this number successfully! Really successfully. Rrrowr. Finch would now like to interrupt, because he's a moment killer like that, and because Carter and Reese are in dire need of help. And the Machine would like to interrupt! Because it's occasionally a moment killer like that. Finch walks past the first payphone and the second, but of course not the third because them's the rules and by now the Machine is ringing everything with a buzzer and a hookup to try to get his attention. And, seriously, there are three payphones within feet of each other that work in New York City these days? The blocking is crisp and poetic but the statistical probability makes my head hurt. Finch takes the details back to the library to generate the number, and we go back to Donnelly and our friends.

It turns out he's taking them to a safehouse, where he'll contact someone else and figure out how to proceed with the investigation. Because it's gone so well up to this point? He's fucked up the evidence so hard by this point there is no way this case could be legally tried, though arguably he's not looking for it to be legally tried by now, and it's entirely possible he's going to try to Gitmo them in turn. Donnelly claims that he suspected it was her when the DNA went missing, but when he put Reese in the yard with the boys and saw her reaction he knew. I still question whether or not she displayed any tells Donnelly could have seen or whether his confirmation bias got in the way and he lucked out, but it's true that there was likely something to detect. If not necessarily by him. He wants to know what her price is, which leads to an argument about what Reese is and what she is doing by helping him. It's not the kind of argument that can be resolved quickly but it is an interesting commentary on the episode given that one of the underlying themes of this specific episode seems to be monsters. Becoming a monster to hunt monsters, and whether or not you're aware of where you are on the spectrum. Stanton and Reese were aware of what they were, Stanton made sure Reese chose to be a monster on purpose and with full awareness. Carter has been spending the entire episode trying to catch the bad monsters and let the good one go while keeping Donnelly from becoming the kind of person he's hunting. You have the ordinary monsters, the white supremacists and the mercenaries in the prison, overshadowed by Hersh and Elias. Donnelly doesn't make the distinctions, though. To him, Reese and now Carter as being tainted by Reese are bad people doing bad things who need to be put away, end of story. Into the middle of this comes Finch! Who has just now realized whose number the Machine was so urgently trying to give him. Sadly, too late. Finch is still on the phone when the truck plows into Donnelly's wagon, flipping it a few times and pinning Donnelly on the bottom so someone can come up and plug him in the head. Hi Kara! So very not nice to see you again.

Of course we have to wait a full week to find out how the hell Reese gets out of this one. Frying pan, fire, and all of that.

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