The Running Man is the fifteenth episode of the second season, and the twenty-eighth episode overall. It was released on February 3, 2006. When a DNA synthesizer with the potential to be a bio-terror weapon is stolen from a university lab, Charlie and the team must find the device before it is spirited out of the country - or put into use.
A man (Ron Allen) is running around a track. As he is running a campus maintenance vehicle is being driven. Charlie stops his stop watch as Ron finishes his run. Both he and Larry are impressed by Ron’s time. Ron wants to use math to make his time better. It is revealed that Ron is a sophomore. Larry says to Charlie that if his math skills were better he could be the next Charles Eppes.
At night it turns out that the maintenance men from earlier aren’t actually maintenance men, but thieves and they break into one of the CalSci labs and steal one of the machines. Ron is heading into the labs and sees them rolling the machine away. One of the men is behind him with a gun and pistol whips him.
The next day David and Colby are talking to him. Charlie, Amita, and Larry talk to David about Ron. The machine stolen is a Mark V DNA Synthesiser and can be used for various things including weaponising bacteria. Don and Megan are in the lab looking the scene over.
At the FBI Charlie briefs the core team on the synthesiser. Part of the security system surrounding it is a retinal scan. The scanner doesn’t read the eyes exactly, it makes a map (similar to constellation maps) to read each scan. Only somebody with the technical and mathematical know how could crack the code to one of the scans. Ron is one of their suspects.
Back a CalSci Charlie is going through some old papers. Larry comes in and comments. Larry is skeptical that a fellow scientist had anything to do with the heist, the news of which has spread all over campus. Charlie gives Larry a head’s up that a joke he made to David about Ron being the next Charlie Eppes could have put a bit more focus on him and Larry gets angry with Charlie for it. He sees some sheet music in the papers that Charlie was going through. It was a piece composed by Margaret Mann, Charlie’s mother.
Megan and David are interrogating Ron. He’s not surprised since he’s a poor, foster kid from south Philadelphia. Megan is convinced, but David isn’t buying it. He’s selling the hard-knocked life card really hard. People usually want to put distance between that kind of history, not practically brag about it.
David and Colby go to a workshop to talk to Doug Windham. He has a past selling high-end break-in tools. Some of the tech that the robbers would have had to get past are after his time. He suggests going to look for somebody else and for the police to stop bothering him.
Colby thinks he knows more. Don wants him to look into phone records going a few months back. Meanwhile, Megan has been looking into Ron. His story ‘would make a hell of a movie’. Larry arrives and is worried because the school is making him restrict Ron’s access to the lab until the investigation is over. He stands up for Ron. David has found information showing that Ron Allen isn’t who he really is.
Megan and Colby check out his dorm. He hasn’t been seen since his interrogation. His dorm isn’t decorated personally, but very eclectic with a mishmash of poster genres that don’t add up. Megan finds this odd. She gets a call. Ron is on campus, he just paid his phone bill at the bookstore. They can’t find him, so Colby calls his phone and a woman answers. They show her a picture of Ron and asks if the phone is his. She says that yes, Phil Stark, her boyfriend, gave it to him. She tells them that he went camping in the desert the day before.
At dinner, Don, Charlie, and Alan discuss Ron and the case. Charlie tells them that Larry is devastated by the news about him. Charlie brings up Margaret’s composing history with Alan. Don is surprised as Charlie was. Alan informs them how talented of a musician she was and that she could have studied in Vienna. They never saw her play because when she focused on law she didn’t look at the other path available to her. Charlie finds proof that she didn’t think that way as she composed music in the 80s, 90s and possibly until her death.
David and Colby are watching Gino McGinty who has a warehouse and is capable of transporting something like the synthesiser. About 15 minutes after talking with David and Colby, Windham had called McGinty. Don didn’t want to spook the bad guys, so they can’t go in with a team to him take down.
Larry can’t get over the fact he didn’t see the truth about Ron and that he was a complete fraud. Amita doesn’t think that that’s true as he was able to use the lab’s equipment with little difficulty. Charlie has a brainwave. He tells the core FBI team about what he has come up with. Ron has made waves and ripples in the lives around him. The waves and ripples in this instance are the various machines he could use. He is also gifted in track. Using this and the knowledge of how to operate the equipment Charlie finds evidence of him not at one school, but three. There could be more, but that’s what he found. After each school he changed his identity to be able to keep his scam going. At each of these schools his disappearances coincide with the theft of expensive equipment. Colby comes in. They had put a wiretap on McGinty and he admitted to moving a ‘major piece of merchandise’ later in the day.
In the garage Larry finds Charlie playing a homemade pan flute. Charlie is surprised by Larry’s new happy outlook. Larry is glad to know he wasn’t the only one duped. Alan offers them lunch and sees the instruments on the table. Charlie admits to making a deal with Margaret that he could quit piano so long as he didn’t quit music entirely so he started making instruments. He thinks she hid her passion for the piano because he and Don didn’t really enjoy it. Alan stops him. She kept it hidden from him. He explains how they met and when they got married she would support him in his last year of school and then he would support her during her last year. She said that music wasn’t a serious option and that was that, but she clearly still had a massive passion for it.
Just as McGinty is loading his package David and Colby stop him with a team of agents. Colby opens the box to find the synthesiser, not electronics as McGinty claimed. Don interrogates him back at the FBI. He says that a Cuban was the buyer among other smartass answers. Don convinces him to talk. Windham was a part of the robbery and Ron’s partner in the theft. It was too big a score to pass up. David and Colby do a raid on Windham's shop. They find him dead at his desk. A print at the scene matches Ron’s. A plasma cutter is missing from the shop.
Charlie explains how a plasma cutter works. Ron can turn any wall into a door. They think that he wants to show that he’s not some idiot with something spectacular. David has tracked down Ron’s real identity. He is Wesley Shrier from Illinois. An easily forgettable student.
Charlie, Amita, and Larry look into Shrier’s past academic achievements to try to figure out his next target. They figure out he’s going rob Larry’s lab.
That night Shrier and his team start to go to work. Larry brings Don and Colby to his lab. Everything appears to be there at the moment. He opens the safe. Everything is still there. The thieves continue on. Megan and David see a van in the middle of the track about 4km from Larry’s lab. That is where a tunnel is that bypasses all of the lab’s alarms and also where a real sapphire is kept as part of a laser. Don and Colby enter the tunnel as the thieves break through. The two at the track are apprehended by Megan and David. One of them goes to shoot back and is killed. Don and Charlie stop Shrier and his other accomplice.
In interrogation Shrier admitted that he needed one last score for his retirement. He blamed one of the other thieves that had been killed at the scene. He felt he wasn’t getting his fair shot until he started to give schools a hard luck backstory. David is disgusted by this.
Don arrives at the Eppes’ house with some beer. It doesn’t look like anybody is home. He finds a book of Margaret’s compositions on the dining room table. In reality Charlie and Alan are in the garage. They discuss Margaret’s love of music. Charlie didn’t think she was hiding it from them, just that she kept it for her own personal space to retreat to when she needed a break from everything. They hear piano music. Don is in the house playing one of Margaret’s compositions.
From a Stephen King story, later loosely adapted into an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
In the final scene, it is really Rob Morrow playing the piano.
In the first scene, a runner is wearing a red "Mathematica" T-shirt. Mathematica is a computer product from Wolfram Research, widely used in the mathematical and scientific community for programming, computation, and visualization. The design on the shirt shows a type of recursive, fractal figure.
About a third of the way through when Dr Fleinhardt joins the agents at the FBI, when the camera zooms in on Dr Fleinhardt a tall random agent walks from the back of the office toward Fleinhardt and then when the camera zooms out the same agent is seen appearing from the back walking towards Fleinhardt.
The opening set of numbers with the running stopwatch is flawed. It fades to Ron running with the stopwatch time at about 21:41 minutes with Charlie stopping the stopwatch less than a minute later. At the speed of 12.9 MPH, it would take 28:54 minutes to run 10,000 meters which is significantly longer than Ron's supposed time. At the time this episode aired, the fastest 10k time was 26:17.53 held by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.
When the agents go in to question Doug Windom, in the long shot he is holding the cutting touch to far from the metal he is cutting. In the closer shot he is holding the touch much closer, but the metal isn't yet ready to cut. If he put the heat on his work the moment the scene began, by the time of the close-up he would be ready to begin the cut.
[This appears on the beginning of the episode] 10,000 meters, 12.9 M.P.H, 1 finish line, 22:36:20 minutes (the last number continues to rise as the screen fades with approximately 22:41:17 minutes being he last number we see)