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201The Contingency” (Finch) 209C.O.D.217Proteus
202Bad Code” (Root) 210Shadow Box218All In
203Masquerade2112πR219Trojan Horse
204Triggerman212Prisoner's Dilemma” (Reese) 220In Extremis” (Fusco)
205Bury the Lede213Dead Reckoning” (Stanton) 221Zero Day” (Finch/Ingram)
206The High Road” (Finch) 214One Percent” (Finch/Ingram) 222God Mode” (Finch/Hersh)
207Critical215Booked Solid
208Til Death” (Finch) 216Relevance
Prisoner's Dilemma

2x12 PrisonersDilemma



Air dateJanuary 10, 2013

Running time43:46

Production code2J7212

Written byDavid Slack

Directed byChris Fisher


ID(s) from IntroID.209/1508.24 (Fusco)
ID.210/1509.25 (Karolina Kurkova)

Images (57)

Congratulations, Carter. You've just caught the man in the suit.

— Nicholas Donnelly

"Prisoner's Dilemma" is the 12th episode of season 2, and the 35th produced hour of Person of Interest. It originally aired on January 10, 2013.


While Carter engages in mental warfare with the FBI to help Reese evade Agent Donnelly's narrowing focus, Reese crosses paths with foes both old and new. Meanwhile, Fusco is forced to fly solo to help the team's newest POI: supermodel Karolina Kurkova.

Origin of the Title

In game theory, the prisoner's dilemma is an apparent contradiction where two individuals don't cooperate with each other, even though it would be in their best interest to do so. The police have two prisoners, whom they know to be guilty, but they don't have enough evidence. So they offer each a choice: either cooperate with the police and betray the other, or remain silent. If person A betrays person B, then person A goes free but person B serves 10 years in prison (and vice versa). If both betray each other, they both serve 3 years. If they both stay silent then they both serve 1 year, based on the available evidence. Because betraying the other gives the most benefit (freedom), game theory says that the rational choice is for one prisoner to betray the other. However if both prisoners reason that way, they get 3 years of prison, while both remaining silent would give them a better choice: only 1 year in prison. Hence the dilemma.

Simulating prisoner's dilemma strategies has long been a popular problem in computer science, with tournaments held to pit different strategies against each other.

Main Plot Points

  • Nicholas Donnelly and the FBI's investigation about the man in the suit continues.
  • Carter continues her interrogation with Reese and found a chance to know about his past.
  • Carter and Finch devise a plan to frame the other three man as the man in the suit.
  • Carl Elias's life in prison and attitude towards Finch and Reese is touched upon
  • The life of the three mercenaries that were arrested along with Reese is touched upon.
  • Donnelly arrested Reese and Carter but was killed by Kara Stanton


  • Reese and Kara Stanton's relationship and attitude towards their job with the CIA is touched upon.
  • The circumstances surrounding Kara's "death" and Reese's retirement is revealed.

Episode Notes

  • Prisoner's dilemma usually refers to a component of game theory which explains complex social interactions resulting in gains for one party or more. The prisoner's dilemma is a situation in which two players each have two options whose outcome depends on the simultaneous choice made by the other player. While the theory can be applied to many situations in daily life, it is often formulated in terms of two prisoners separately deciding upon confessing to a crime, in order to gain the best possible outcome for themselves before their partner does so.
  • During the interrogation, many of the facts Reese gave about his alias can be linked to events in previous episodes:
    • Reese states his parents' names as Conrad and Laura. "Laura Reese" was the name that appeared in the press release for “Shadow Box” which was supposed to have flashback scenes about Reese's childhood.
    • Also he tells Carter that "John Warren" had been to Mexico for a few days from May 3–5, 2012. This coincides with Reese delivering Brad Jennings to Torreón penitentiary after he stopped him from killing his wife. (“Many Happy Returns”)
    • The story about John Warren and his girlfriend Allison watching the Twin Towers go down while on vacation matches Reese's real past with Jessica. (“Pilot”)

Production Notes

Bloopers and Continuity Errors

  • In the flashback where John is in the Czech Republic on assignment with Kara Stanton, the camera title says "IDŐJÁRÁS KAMERA 22" followed by "SZOBA 414" which are Hungarian, not Czech, for "Weather Cam 22" and "Room 414" respectively.



  • The red truck that crashed into Donnelly's car is the same one Reese used to hit Jimmy Calhoun's car in “Ghosts”.
  • Two of the books that make up Donnelly's Social Security Number are real books. The book with the Dewey Decimal Number 008 (keywords: "Toward MW") appears to be fictional.
  • In the past, the dates in the episodes corresponded to air dates. This time, the timeline corresponds more closely to the production dates. The bank scenes were filmed on November 15, 2012.


Screen caps


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