Charles Edward "Charlie" Eppes (played by
David Krumholtz) is a
fictional character and
protagonist in the
CBS
crime drama Numb3rs.
Dr.
Charles Edward Eppes is portrayed as a young mathematical genius and
professor of applied mathematics at the fictional
California Institute of Science, CalSci
(primarily based on Caltech, where some
filming and mathematics consulting is done). As a
world-class
mathematician, Charlie
helps his brother
Don Eppes solve many of
his perplexing FBI cases, sometimes with the help of his best
friend, mentor and colleague
Larry
Fleinhardt and his on-again off-again girlfriend, former
student and now fiancée,
Amita
Ramanujan, who further refines Charlie's approach and helps him
stay focused.
Charlie has consulted for the National
Security Agency (NSA), in part as a cryptanalyst, for nearly five years, having
attained TS/SCI security clearance. It was revoked at the
end of season four after he transmitted information to Pakistan,
but has recently been re-instated.
Backstory
According to Eppes'
father, he could
multiply four-digit numbers mentally at age three and at the age of
four required special teachers. In the second grade, he attempted
to find a 70-digit
narcissistic
number in
base 12 — Eppes has
described himself as "
quixotic" in
elementary school.
A prodigy, he
attended Princeton
University at the age of 13 after graduating from high school
at the same time as his brother who is five years his senior ("Soft
Target"), and took Professor Lawrence Fleinhardt's quantum physics course in his first
year. They became fast friends, with Fleinhardt establishing
his academic connections. Eppes published his first mathematical
treatise at the age of 14 (in the
American Journal of
Mathematics) and graduated at the age of 16. In fact, he
was the youngest person to ever write a paper of importance.
It was his paper on the Eppes
convergence, which concerned
asymptotics of
Hermitian
random matrices, that made him a star
in his field. Following a seminar that heavily criticized this
seminal piece many years after its initial publication, Charlie
realized that his work with the FBI has prevented him from doing
research significant to other
mathematicians and now hopes to spend decades on
cognitive emergence
theory ("the mathematics of the brain") to rectify this certain
inequity, which has delighted Fleinhardt. Although he was a child
prodigy, Charlie now moreover fears the fact that his best years in
his research will never come ahead of schedule again.
Eppes is a multiple
Ph.D. ("Decoy Effect"), a
recipient of the Milton Prize and a nominee for the
Fields Medal. Following his five-year research
on
random matrices, Charlie worked on
sequences with
orthogonal symmetry.
He has also provided insights for possibly solving the
P=NP problem and published works on
H-infinity Control
of Non-Linear Systems and
computational fluid dynamics,
while his current research is in
cognitive
emergence theory. He has presented
seminars on
harmonic analysis and
the
zeros of
random orthogonal polynomials and given
lectures on
group theory and
Kac–Moody algebras. Eppes has
taught courses on
calculus,
chaos theory,
fluid
dynamics,
game theory and
probability at CalSci in addition to giving
guest
lectures on
applied probability. The lecture in which
he converted the classroom into a miniature
casino for analyzing probabilities is considered an
"Eppes Classic". Also, Eppes has taken over Fleinhardt's
computational physics class when he
was asked to do so, and has given a joint lecture on
circular motion and the
Coriolis effect with Fleinhardt.
Characterization
Charlie has wild curly hair, is wary of people, and frequently
enthralled with objects and patterns. His father has said Charlie
is easily fascinated, possesses a big heart and is thorough, but he
misses certain things completely. Meanwhile, Larry observed that he
is "a talented
theoretician with an ego
problem" and a student once described him as fast-talking and
disorganized, to the agreement of Larry. Fleinhardt also accurately
noticed that his colleague has a high standard of guilt and is a
pragmatist. Charlie is rather fond of
providing excessive explanations (e.g., his discussion of
Occam's razor) and reducing complex phenomena
to intuitively obvious situations through practical analogies that
are quite unlike Larry's metaphysical musings and cosmic metaphors.
(These analogies are known as "
audience visions" or, as friend
Megan Reeves calls them, "those cute little analogies.") While
contemplating, his antics and mannerisms may even disconcert more
conventional thinkers. Wearing his headset, Dr. Eppes has an
intense focusing ability as he voraciously writes
equations, often covering several
chalkboards with a staccato clacking and the aid
of a red chalk holder. Nevertheless, if his line of thought is
interrupted during a tense moment, as one of restricted foresight,
he can become very disgruntled. Further, when deeply concentrating
on a particular problem, it seems Charlie is unable to provide
insights to other topics for the sake that they are simply needed
or wanted — he has to write what is in his head. Like his brother
Don, he is characteristically stubborn and obsessive ("one part
exuberance, two parts obsession"), especially when it comes to
work, but he's rather naïve when it comes to human behavior. The
latter often interferes with his FBI work and, thus, is the cause
of much distress for him at times.
He is extremely talented in
chess, as it
requires both his father and brother to play against him and a
distraction to defeat him. Charlie also has vast understanding of
theoretical physics, often
assisting Larry with his multi-dimensional
supergravity theory and papers on
gravity waves, and
biology, extending to knowledge of
ciliate protozoa and the
spread of infectious diseases. While brilliant in some areas, he is
lacking in others. He is apparently a bad speller (e.g., he
misspells "anomaly" and "conceited") and does not know the meaning
of "
defenestration" (for which Larry
chastises him stating that the idealization is to be a
Renaissance man and that even math and physics
majors had to have a course on English). Thus, his father likes
playing
Scrabble with him.
Charlie is a rationalist. He is skeptical of UFOs , psychic
ability, and gematria--all considered to be
pseudosciences. He also does not like
illusions. He, however, is also fairly open-minded in terms of
faith and religion.
According to Krumholtz, Charlie wants to understand how the world
works.
Evolution over the series
The episode "Uncertainty Principle" is significant for the
backstory it gives on the familial relationships, particularly
Charlie's difficulty in dealing with his mother's death from
cancer. While it's unclear how Don reacted, Charlie spent the last
three months of his mother's life isolated in the garage,
incessantly working on one of the
Millennium Prize Problems,
specifically
P vs NP; it's a point of
contention between the brothers. Also, Charlie doesn't think Don
understood what he went through during their school years,
especially how he was treated as "Don's brainiac little brother" by
his peers in high school, and how he often left him to his own
resources as a child, though he was not as inept as Don had
reasoned. However, Charlie's relationship with Don remains strong,
as he has begun to increasingly fear for his brother's safety on
the job and still looks to his older brother for acceptance.
Charlie and his father worry about Don committing to relationships,
and for a time, fear that he had been cheating on Robin Brooks.
Ironically, Charlie has similar problems with women himself. After
a couple dozen murder cases, Charlie is somewhat jaded and
world-weary like his brother. FBI agent
David Sinclair of Don's team even
comments that he has never seen two brothers so similar and yet so
different. In "The Janus List", the brothers seem to take on each
other's tendencies a bit. Though, in season five, Charlie is
dismayed that Don does not reveal to him his newfound religious
faith.
In "Prime Suspect," Charlie purchases the beautiful
Craftsman family home from his
father, who continues to live with him. Now 30 years old, Charlie
wants to be responsible and take care of his father but still
believes that much of the pressures involving their dad has been
put on his shoulders as Don doesn't seem to have enough time.
Realizing this, Alan set his sights on moving out to accomplish
things on his own, with Charlie seemingly supporting the idea, but
has since chosen to stay as he favors his son's company. Recently,
Charlie is bothered by his father trying to impose his will on him
with maintaining the house, as he is a full
tenured professor at one of the most prestigious
institutions in the country working on "life-altering" mathematics,
i.e., in solving crimes. Alan just wants him to be responsible and
not end up like Larry, though Mr. Eppes respects Fleinhardt. Even
he has thought of this possibility and decides to do more around
the home. After Charlie compares his own situation to that of
Einstein his father looks into
information on the
physicist and
understands his son's predicament. Charlie also feels guilty about
the amount of time his parents, particularly his mother, who always
was attuned to his way of thinking, spent with him as a child; he
even asks his mother (
JoBeth
Williams) in a dream if she regrets the time away from Don and
Alan because of the special attention he needed growing up.
Charlie's research often interferes with his relationships: as with
Amita on their first date, for all they could talk about is
mathematics; Fleinhardt says that it is a common interest and they
should not struggle to avoid the subject. Charlie and Amita had
several false starts.
Charlie has also spent some time with his
ex-girlfriend, Susan Berry (Sonya
Walger), an attractive neuroscientist from London. He
had lived with Susan for two years, and Larry described this as his
very own
Berry's phase.
However, she later
reveals that she is currently involved with someone else and has to
return to England.
Charlie
attempts to start a relationship with Amita once more, though her
job offer at Harvard
University strains this possibility and makes him distraught
for some time. Eventually, she decides to take the
alternative offer at CalSci with the hope to begin a romantic
relationship with him, though his fear of possible failure causes
him to question whether he wants this second chance; Don cautions
him about such an attitude. Amita notices his ambivalence and isn't
certain if she wants to back out of the relationship, but he then
pushes it forward. Pressures from their colleagues over the
inappropriateness of the relationship nearly cost them, but by the
middle of the third season their romantic involvement stabilizes
and they have grown considerably closer. He feels rejected when
Amita does not want him to meet her father, due to his expectations
about the men she dates.
Initially, he wonders if it is based on him
being Jewish, but the problem is that he is
not Indian-born.
Alan explains that Mr. Ramanujan would like him after meeting him.
Charlie and Amita state that they love each other, and have even
decided to move in together, though, the actual living arrangement
has not been determined. When Amita's parents finally meet him,
they are rude, but warm to him later. Alan says that Charlie will
have to marry her.
Unforeseen complications with his work emerge as the new
Chair of the CalSci Physics, Mathematics,
and Astronomy Division,
Dr. Mildred Finch,
in the episode "Waste Not", makes Charlie head of the
Ph.D. admissions committee against his wishes, bogging
him down with more work, and gives him pressures about using the
school's
supercomputer for FBI work or
missing classes for such. This leads to Charlie being
confrontational, but she calms him when she says she just wants him
to be "the
Sean Connery of the
mathematics
department." In the
episode "Take Out", Charlie and Millie attend a black tie reception
for CalSci fundraising and bond. Soon after, Charlie is asked by
Millie to meet with Macmillan Pharmaceuticals, which according to
Amita has a reputation for exploiting third-world countries. Amita
serves as his conscience in this matter, and he goes to see Dr.
Finch about it. With "Pythagorean wit," he dazzles Macmillan and is
to serve as a mathematical consultant for the pharmaco-kinetic
modelling project, only under the
provision that CalSci will administer the trials and monitor the
drug at every step, all computational analyses are conducted by
Charlie and his team, and 5% of the gross will go to third-world
AIDS organizations chosen by Professors Eppes and Ramanujan . In
"Democracy", as part of his duties, he recruits the young
fantasy baseball and
sabermetrics fanatic Oswald Kittner (
Jay Baruchel), who shows great promise, to
attend CalSci.
When Larry announces his leave of absence to board the
International Space Station (in
the episode "Brutus"), Charlie is shocked and upset. He is in
denial about Larry's ambitions and he thinks
reason of the risks involved will assert itself firmly in Larry's
mind. He reasons that apparently Larry wouldn't do such a thing.
Larry remands his few prized possessions to him, and he is grateful
for the gesture. When he tells him his concerns, Larry is angered.
Amita says to Larry, "[Charlie] has never dreamt of something he
couldn't reach, so he has no idea what it is like to want something
he is not able to get. So how could he understand how much [Larry]
you would give up when this chance comes along?" Larry understands
and decides to ignore Charlie's protestations. Though neither
apologize, they are on good terms. Charlie says to Amita that he
does not know what he would do without him, as he peruses through
Larry's precious items that were bestowed upon him. In "Killer
Chat", he says that he was glad that Larry's dream could come true,
but feels conflicted about being relieved when he discovers that
Larry might have been scrapped from the mission when NASA learned
of his eccentric indulgences such as sleeping in the campus
steam tunnels. However, Charlie agrees
with Megan in wanting to help Larry and personally vouches for him.
Eppes' words and affiliation with the NSA gets him back on the
mission, thus, repaying a debt as Larry helped launch him into the
academic firmament. Earlier, he had given
him back his lucky t-shirt.
In "The Art of Reckoning", Charlie is initially overjoyed to see
his friend Larry return, but Charlie is dismayed with Larry's lack
of enthusiasm in life, so Charlie doesn't object to him readjusting
at a monastery. His concern is apparent, and he says he just wants
his friend back.
Since then, in "Trust Metric", Charlie is pleased to see his friend
doing well, feeling that he needed a friend, and is glad to have
focused on teaching while Don did not include him with FBI work;
though, on previous occasions, he expressed the desire to be
involved. Granger's escape from the prison bus causes him to become
active in helping his brother once more, allowing him a chance to
use set covering deployment.
Dr. Finch tells him to publish, and so he has renewed interest in
old research, having decided to publish one of his eleventh-grade
papers he started at nine years old, "The Mathematics of
Friendship," with an addendum. A publishing company has turned his
work into a classic book for those not mathematically inclined,
while opting for a title with more pizazz, "Friendship, As Easy as
Pi." Charlie takes joy in the belief that this book will allow his
thoughts to reach a much wider audience than before. By the episode
"In Security," the published book appears with the title "The
Attraction Equation" and a dapper photo on the back cover of him
holding a sculpture of a
stellated
icosidodecahedron with bevelled
edges. A
decision theoretic approach
to relationships is covered in the book. His proud father hands
copies to friends and Larry sells signed copies on
eBay. He apparently has some fans and gives into a
televised interview.
In "Checkmate", Charlie is training in weapons and tactics in LA's
FBI school, where he is shown to have a high skill in marksmanship
at the range, impressing many of his FBI training peers as well as
his instructor. He is given a certificate of marksmanship by the
FBI. It is unclear whether Charlie's certification will allow him
to take part in dangerous situations with the rest of the team, or
that he will now be allowed to carry a service pistol. In the
episode "Pay to Play", Charlie convinces Don to let him join the
team when they go to arrest a suspect, mentioning that he passed
the FBI course.
In the season four finale "When Worlds Collide", Charlie helps an
innocent colleague accused of terrorism by sending genetic research
to scientists at Pakistani universities which is prohibited, with
full cognizance of the consequences. As a result, Charlie is
arrested, loses his security clearance and ultimately loses his
ability to help Don on FBI cases. Once again, Charlie holds strong
to his ideals. In the previous season's "Burn Rate", Charlie has
strong opinions concerning
genetic
engineering, believing bomb suspect, fellow prodigy, physicist
and
Feynman student Emmett Glaser's
ideas about genetic predeterminism are rational, not incendiary,
and helps to clear his name.
The charges against Dr. Eppes are dropped. For a time, Don Eppes'
team is attempting to make do with Fleinhardt's and Amita's
expertise, but Charles' assistance is sorely missed to the point of
consulting him secretly. For his part, Charles has been convinced
by his lawyer and father to attempt to have his clearance restored.
Even Don supports the idea and stands up to security clearance
investigator Carl McGowan (
Keith
Carradine), stating to go after him, not his brother.
Temporarily, Charlie works as a LAPD consultant until the fiasco
with his security clearance can be resolved. He later gets his
clearance back and is working with his brother and the FBI again.
He is trying to assert himself in the methodology used to solve a
crime, having struggled with not being included, but some friction
arises with Amita and Larry.
Charlie works once again with rival Marshall Penfield, as they
settle their differences ("Frienemies"). Also, he is chosen to be
the head of the think tank model comprising himself, Larry, Alan,
and Amita ("Jacked"). As Dr. Eppes applies the
Turing Test to a seemingly unique artificial
intelligence, he is tricked only to come to the realization that
the computer only uses a recursive algorithm to apply the most
human responses, while simultaneously being tempted by an offer to
work for
DARPA. Head of DARPA special projects
Jane Karellen (
Nancy Travis) knows that
he has a limited window to use his genius and tells Charlie that he
is one of the top five minds on the planet. Amita's life is even
threatened by the advanced computer ("First Law"). For some time,
he coaches the unfortunate CalSci basketball team through his
mathematical analyses with his father and Larry ("12:01 AM").
Late in season five, Charlie moves into a new office. While moving,
he gets some inspiration for his cognitive emergence theory, which
causes him to momentarily set aside his work on a series of home
invasions for Don. Don is stabbed while attempting to arrest the
home invaders ("The Fifth Man"). Charlie blames himself for Don
being stabbed and throws himself into his FBI consultation work as
a result ("Disturbed"). This worries everyone, especially Don, who
tells him to "do whatever you want to do" ("Greatest Hits") while
visiting Charlie in his new office. Around this time, Charlie is
also presented with a series of letters from previous successive
holders of this prestigious office, wherein each celebrated
mathematician writes of accomplishments they intend to achieve,
passing down the torch to the next in line to do the same. At first
Charlie is hesitant, until the very determined Amita convinces him
to write the corresponding letter and eases his burdens, as Charlie
fears he cannot meet his destiny with so much weight to succeed
being placed on his shoulders his entire life.
At the end of the season, while leaving for dinner, Charlie is
attacked, and Amita is kidnapped. Charlie is so emotionally
distraught that he cannot think of the math needed to find Amita.
With the help of Don, Alan, and David, Charlie snaps out of it to
locate Amita. Amita is rescued. He realizes that he did not want to
lose Amita, and he proposes to her ("Angels and Devils").
At the end the premiere episode of the program's sixth season, it
was revealed that Amita has accepted Charlie's proposal. The issue
was skirted throughout the episode, as the two were waiting until
Amita officially received permission from her parents. He and Amita
discuss the number of children that they want to have, and they
both decide that they may need to participate in the
Big Brother/Big Sister
program for some practical experience before having children.
Charlie learns about Alan's financial status and offers to help
him. Alan asks him for computer lessons. Charlie reluctantly
agrees, and the lesson does not go well as the computer software is
not user-friendly.
Creation
Long intrigued by mathematicians and scientists, creators Cheryl
Heuton and Nick Falacci created a show with one as the protagonist.
Inspiration for Charlie came specifically from
Richard Feynman. Finding the actor who would
portray Charlie would be a challenge. Over one hundred actors
auditioned for the role of Charlie Eppes. One of the actors was
David Krumholtz, who later admitted in an interview with
TVGuide.com and in an interview with USA Weekend's Lorrie Lynch to
failing math in high school. Krumholtz was cast as Charlie because
of his ability to make math sound natural.
To prepare for his role of Charlie Eppes, Krumholtz spent some time
at Caltech talking to professors and walking the Caltech campus,
attempting to understand both the basics of the math and the
mathematician's mind . He even spoke with Dr. Tony Chan of UCLA
about mathematicians’ work while filming the first pilot. Math
consultants helped Krumholtz understand the basics of the equations
on the show. Early on, Professor Rick Wilson’s graduate student,
David Grynkiewicz, showed Krumholtz how to write his own equations
and even filled in for his hand in several episodes.. Krumholtz now
frequently writes the equations himself .
Krumholtz memorizes the pages of mathematical equations and
concepts that are a part of the script. When doing scenes involving
audience-visions, Krumholtz prefers to recite his lines as the
cameras are rolling. (Audience visions are the explanations of the
mathematics involved in the case.)
Reception
Early reception of Charlie varied according the audience in
question. Due to television production’s traditional approach of
utilizing only two worlds for filming, production staff initially
opposed the idea of Charlie being a college professor. Some even
unsuccessfully suggested to Heuton and Falacci that Charlie should
be working with the FBI full-time as an employee.
When the pilot was previewed, the reception was more positive. CBS
executive Nina Tassler liked Charlie. The focus group that watched
the original pilot for
Numb3rs loved
him.
When Numb3rs was previewed for the TV critics, the reception was
different. Melanie McFarland, TV critic for the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer, stated that Charlie was not original as of the
Pilot. According to Lauren Aaronson
of
Popular Science, Charlie’s
expertise seems a little bit incredible. Robert Bianco of
USA Today, however, called Krumholtz, as Charlie,
“appealing” . Toni Fitzgerald of Media Life Magazine stated that
Krumholtz, as Charlie, “stands out” .
Since the early reception, the character of Charlie Eppes is more
widely accepted. Krumholtz appeared at the 2005
National Council of
Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) convention in Anaheim. Since
then, Krumholtz receives cheers when he attends math conventions.
In a
public service announcement, Krumholtz congratulated the Federal Bureau
of Investigation on their 100th anniversary. Charlie is
recognized as one of the first
geeks on
primetime television who paved the way for other characters such as
Chuck Bartowski of
Chuck. Charlie
was a runner-up in the category of "Sexiest Brainiac" in TV Guide's
poll.
CharlieVision
CharlieVision (as labeled by the show's creators) is the
mode in which Charlie's insights are displayed on-screen. It
consists of fast-paced visions or cutscenes often characterized by
false-color images that integrate
his analogies and
mathematical
models, usually followed by him rushing off to tell Don about
his new insights. 'CharlieVision' is not to be confused with
"audience visions," in which Charlie's voice uses an analogy to
simplify a mathematical concept while corresponding images are
flashed on screen.
Ridley Scott and
Tony Scott, executive producers for
Numb3rs, designed the specifics of the Charlie-visions, such as the
ash yellow color that appears on-screen when Charlie suddenly
becomes inspired.
References