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Prison Break: Is Michael using game theory to get what he wants?

Jacob walks Sara through game theory and how it could apply to Michael

In the last episode of Prison Break, we were given a brief explanation of game theory and how it could apply to Michael Scofield who seems to have built a gang around himself of people from different backgrounds.

When Sara finds out that Michael is alive via the mobile phone message sent her by Lincoln, she seems emotionally overwhelmed by the news given that she’d thought him long dead.

When she visits the offices of the FBI to inform them that Michael is alive, she has a chance meeting with Kellerman — an agent that had not always been on Michael or Sara’s side. He actually flip-flopped a fair bit during the original show’s four-season run.

Kellerman informs Sara that Kaniel Outis has been a person of interest for some time.

When Sara protests that Outis is Michael and says that Lincoln was framed in the same way, Kellerman remains professional and says history records that Kaniel Outis is a murderer, which pretty much indicates that the Feds still consider Michael Schofield a closed book.

Additionally Kellerman, who chased Scofield and The Fox River Eight, says off the record that only a genius like Michael would be able to create a complete new identity.

All of this really got Sara thinking, as well as us viewers, and gives us a little bit more about the mystery of Kaniel Outis — who is not a very nice guy according to the official records.

A worried Sara listens to Jacob’s explanation of game theory

When Sara visits her husband Jacob, who is an accountant, she brings up Michael and he begins to explain game theory and how a strategic thinker like Michael may apply it in order to get what he wants.

Jacob says that in game theory it serves the individual concerned to be two-faced and be everyone’s friend until the moment they are not.

The person playing will make these friends love them to a point where, even when up against it, they will follow instructions despite it being against their own personal interest and safety.

Game theory is described as a cold rational focus on winning, which makes everyone else expensive and a liability.

When Sara tells Jacob that Michael always seemed to be about family and getting his brother out of Fox River, Jacob brought up how Sara always described Michael as different.

Jacob points out to her that Michael may have fallen in love with her, but he also wanted her to leave the door unlocked in the prison for him.

He adds that in true game theory, everyone and everything is a contingency. You meet people, bring them into your life and keep them percolating until the moment that you need to manipulate them to your own advantage.

This little explanation of game theory really does kind of blow the character of Michael wide open. Especially where it concerns the new identity of Kaniel Outis.

Michael ponders his next move in an ongoing strategy to break people out of the Yemen Prison

In the series, Kaniel Outis has so far used Lincoln to help him follow through on a new prison break. But this time it’s not for family, it’s for a known ISIL terrorist.

This has us wondering if Michael has taken his application of game theory a step too far….

Will he be able to come back from this and resume a life of Michael Scofield? Your guess is as good as ours.

In real life, the application of game theory is commonly used by economists and business people who wish to apply it toward a desired outcome.

Prison Break airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox. 

Ian Cullen is a TV journalist and when not writing more

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