Person of Interest: s02 e11 – 2 Pi R

Subsitute teacher

When one of your two principals, the first named cast member, is arrested by the FBI at the end of the last episode, making him vulnerable to imprisonment and probable surreptitious execution, you would normally expect the resolution of that situation to be the primary focus of this week’s episode.

But this is Person of Interest we’re talking about. Getting Reeese out of custody in Ryker’s Island was relegated to the B story, with Jim Caviezel off screen for ninety percent of the time, given only a couple of lines of dialogue and invited to put his feet up.

The show and its cast at this stage is based upon two pairings, Reese-Finch and Carter-Fusco, each with its primary/secondary polarity. Carter is assigned the task of supporting Reese, which means that she too is offscreen a large part of the time: glamming up (very nicely) to attract a random dude and get his DNA, breaking into the Police lab to switch that for Reese’s sample.

So the episode plays up its secondaries, tackling a Number of the Week without the support of either figurehead. As a further twist, of which the story had plenty, the Number, seventeen year old High School kid Caleb Phipps (Luke Kleintank), a genius level kid hiding his light under the bushel of a rigidly maintained C-level output, was Victim and Perpetrator in one body, his intent being suicide.

Caleb’s story was an unravelling mystery of motive and intent, the episode setting up a string of red herrings that it rapidly kicked into the bushes. Along the way, Caleb featured briefly as a drugs dealer, which brought him to the threatened leg-breaking attention of the area’s real kingpin, Lorenzo, who was predictably proprietorial about ‘his’ customers. And his computer teacher Chris Beckman (Luke Kirby) looked to be ripping off Caleb’s coding and selling it for lots of money.

But it was all smokescreen. Caleb’s motivation stemmed from the incident the Machine pulled from its Archives at the start of the show, a radio report called in by a subway train driver who’d hit someone on the track, a kid. The kid was Ryan Phipps, Caleb’s older brother, aged 17 years, 6 months and 21 days. 17-6-21 was the name of Caleb’s project, which was to raise a shitload of money to be placed in a Trust Fund to look after his mother, who was drinking herselfto sleep every night. And 17 years, 6 months and 21 days was going to be Caleb’s age very very soon.

The smokescreens dissolved. Beckman was only acting as front man, promised half the profits but intent on taking none. The obviously falsified report from the transit cop who attended Ryan’s death wasn’t concealing that Ryan had been pushed, but rather that two brothers, full of drink, had dared each other over how many times they could cross the track before the train come and Ryan had been hit and Caleb had blamed himself for that and his mother’s disintegration.

So he was going to kill himself, throw himself under a subway train, from the same platform, at exactly the same age. It’s left to Finch to talk him down, using the concept of Pi, the ration between a circle’s circumference and its diameter, Pi, the forever number, never repeating, never ending, containing, like the world, everything in it that there can ever be, but without one digit from it, there cannot be a circle. Caleb’s mother doesn’t need money, she needs to not lose her other son as well.

There’s no violence in the episode, just thought and emotion, and it worked on its own, with Michael Emerson, who we already know is brilliant, and Kevin Chapman getting the chance to shine. I’ve read that because of the nature of his role, Jim Caviezel suffered from exhaustion making Person of Interest so I’m assuming this episode was in part designed to give him a breather, but it’s a superb episode in its own light, demonstrating the flexibility of the series within its procedural aspect.

As for our friend in Rykers, the seventy-two hours is up, thanks to Carter there’s no evidence, and the four arrestees are going to be released. But you don’t think it’s going to end that anti-climactically, do you? Enter Special Agent Donnelly, having secured Unacknowledged Combatant status for the four men, in effect converting Rykers Island into Guantanamo Bay.

The rules are changed. Donnelly knows something’s been tampered with. He has only one person he can trust, ex-military intelligence, senior interrogator, whio’s going to interrogate all four and find the Man in the Suit: Detective Joss Carter.

Tune in next week: this one’s a three-parter…

9 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s02 e11 – 2 Pi R

  1. Fun fact: In Emily Van der Werff’s glowing review of the fourth season (, she brought up this episode as a result of the procedural aspect of the show not always being up to scratch. I still am confused by this. I thought it was a touching, interesting episode with one of Michael Emerson’s best performances-

    “No. Your mistakes, like mine, are part of who you are now. You can’t move on from that. Believe me. I’ve made a sizable number. But… sometimes your mistakes can surprise you. My biggest mistake, for instance… brought me here. At exactly this moment when you might need some help.”-POI is not surveillance state apologia, and that is a seriously great quote.

    And it has serious relevance (pun intended) to the series’ story-without Caleb, Samaritan would have triumphed. Very good episode, as is par for the course.

  2. An interesting and enthusiastic review. Like you, I obviously disagree with her assessment of ‘2PiR’. And PoI always knew how to play the long game, aided by its format: any show introducing a significant figure every week builds itself a ‘people library’ of possible existing characters to play a future and vital role.

    1. To avoid spoilers for anyone watching through for the first time….I really like what the writers do with that concept. Bringing back numbers. Though with Seasons 4 and 5 it is clearly explained why exactly Finch doesn’t build up a whole army–doesn’t want those deaths on his conscience. Disillusioned intelligence agents like Reese and Shaw don’t exactly grow on trees, either.

      1. Absolutely. Finch is, at heart, a man who wants to keep people from premature deaths. The ‘people-library’ is an asset to be preserved at all costs. People are the point of all this. It’s like the theme of The Prisoner that only got stated in the penultimate episode: POP. Protect Other People.

      2. Fun as it would have been to see Finch amass a massive army of rogue operatives to crush Decima and Samaritan, it wouldn’t have made sense since Finch’s assets are eventually frozen anyway, and it goes against his principles. He tries very hard to stick to his principles above all else.

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