“Droll Autumn, Unmutual Lord” begins with a familiar feeling. Roman is laying on his side, clearly in anguish, his mind continually running through a single memory. He’s in the orphanage, locked in a room, and unable to free himself unless he’s willing to kill his rabbit. It’s not only a familiar scene — we’ve seen part of it from Jane’s perspective before — we’ve also been through these narrative beats with her. Early on this season, it looked like the whole mind-wiping thing was pretty firmly in the past, as Jane came to (mostly) understand who she is. Now the show’s doing it again with Roman, and I’m not yet convinced that’s a particularly exciting direction.
In fact, after last week’s blistering return to the TV schedule, this week’s Blindspot feels rather dull by comparison. Yes, I know “dull” is a strange way to describe an episode that’s built around a terrorist attack involving explosive basketballs, but stay with me here. What’s dull about the episode is it feels so removed from the overarching story of the season — how the team will stop Sandstorm and how Phase 2 might play out if they can’t. There’s genuine intrigue in that, so the case-of-the-week episodes often end up feeling flat.
Things get off to a good start when we see a few criminals — they’re wearing wool toques so you know they’re European criminals — arrive at a dock in Red Hook inside a shipping container. It’s unclear who these people are and what they want, which is exactly how you want to start your show. It builds some mystery right off the bat. So, after Nas again fails to meet with her potentially burned source and Weller misses the first of probably many important baby-related appointments, everybody is back at the headquarters trying to figure out what to do about Roman when Patterson makes a connection between two of Jane’s tattoos and the shipping container.
After unscrambling some security cameras like a total boss, Patterson runs a face scan and determines one of the men in the shipping container is Anton Stepulov, a member of a terrorist organization the team has encountered in the past. As for the much younger man, who looks roughly like a teenager, the team still has no idea who he is. What do they know? Well, after some digging, they find traces of nitroglycerin in the shipping container and learn a woman named Arlene Turner recently received a $250,000 transfer from Stepulov. Thus, the team assumes she’s been paid to perhaps plant a bomb somewhere in the city.
When they bring Arlene in for questioning, it’s immediately clear she’s no threat. Rather, the terrorists have duped her using her brother Paul, who was in a hospital on his death bed, as a means of giving her money in the form of “life insurance.” The problem? Arlene never saw a body, leaving Weller to believe the terrorists will be using Paul as a suicide bomber.
After Patterson manages to track down the car carrying Stepulov and, presumably, Paul — seriously, what can’t this woman do? And only days after getting shot by her boyfriend, who was secretly a Sandstorm mole! — the team ambushes the vehicle before it can hit the BQE. What seems like an easy capture gets a lot more complicated when Keaton, the CIA officer who tortured Jane, gets out of the van with Stepulov. He tells the FBI Stepulov is a guest of the CIA, that he’s brought his son here for a complex heart transplant in exchange for valuable information on potential terrorist attacks … including the one that’s happening that evening. Keaton may be a heartless prick, but he’s telling the truth.
NEXT: This city will feel my pain
Back at FBI headquarters, where Stepulov’s son is undergoing his operation, Nas has brought in a special psychiatrist to help Roman recover some of his memories. At first, Roman is resistant. Jane also believes such a procedure is unnecessary; she believes she’s the only one who can help him. But as it turns out, his troubles run much deeper than Jane’s. Eventually, the doctor helps him recover another memory from the orphanage — and it’s a gruesome one. In it, a young Roman kills another child in the hopes of earning his freedom, stabbing the kid multiple times in the stomach. Of course, the murder doesn’t secure his freedom, and it’s just the beginning of Roman’s life of violence.
This is where there’s some potential interest in Blindspot repeating its narrative beats. By creating a contrast between Roman and Jane, the show has the opportunity to explore themes of good vs. evil, nature vs. nurture, and the complications that come with the formation of identity. Jane wants Roman to be just like her, to get a fresh start like she did.
But as Dr. Karen points out, Roman isn’t the same. He’s been conditioned since birth to be cold, ruthless, and lacking in empathy. She goes so far as to recommend putting Roman in an isolated mental hospital for the rest of his life. Something tells me Jane isn’t going to accept that suggestion.
There are other problems to deal with now, though, and one of them is huge: Stepulov’s son dies during his transplant. Keaton doesn’t want to tell Stepulov the truth, but Weller and Jane do it anyway. They think that by appealing to him and his son’s more pacifist wishes, they’ll convince him to give up the details of the impending attack. Alas, Stepulov is one of those mean terrorists who kind of holds a grudge, so he refuses to give the FBI any information.
So, it’s up to Patterson to once again work her magic. She cracks Stepulov’s phone and traces a call he made to an industrial area populated with many warehouses. The team swarms the area looking for anything suspicious, and that’s when Weller sees a man loading numerous racks of basketballs into a delivery truck. As Weller walks toward the truck, the man sets off a bomb attached to one of the racks, blowing up the basketballs that just so happen to be filled with explosive gasses.
A truck full of those basketballs can do a whole lot of damage, but the team can’t seem to think of any college or NBA games taking place that night, meaning the target must be something else. Jane thinks back to her moment with Stepulov — when he said there’s nothing worse to a man than losing his child — and puts it all together. Stepulov is targeting Keaton’s daughter, who’s playing in the Youth League Nationals … along with thousands of other kids and parents.
NEXT: Viper Kings
Before the team can get to the school where the tournament is being held, Keaton texts the agent he has watching his daughter and asks her to get them to safety. When she attempts to leave the building, she finds the doors barred shut; moments later, she’s dead and Keaton’s daughter is on the run.
Eventually, the team shows up and a typical Blindspot throwdown takes place. Zapata and Reade find the bombs and have Patterson block cell signals to stop them from detonating. That’s pretty cool, but the best moment is Jane taking down an assailant by swinging a kettlebell at him. Blindspot, if you’re going to include more workout-based fights in the future, I’m not going to argue.
Everyone ends up safe after Weller and Jane take down the terrorist holding Keaton’s daughter hostage. Keaton tries to use the moment to truly thank Jane, but she has no forgiving feelings to send his way. Is this the start of something more between Jane and the CIA? Perhaps, but for now, she’s fine with throwing Keaton’s own words back in his face.
The episode closes with another mystery and the start of a romance between Reade and Zapata, though Zapata doesn’t want to admit it. She spends the entirety of the episode teasing Reade about his advances, only to then stare longingly at him as he hits on another woman at the bar. Come on, Zapata, since when are you so passive? Get in there and snag your man!
The mystery is Roman. Patterson figures out that Roman’s obsession with playing with sugar cubes in his cell is actually him playing a game of Mancala. Furthermore, she determines the leopard tattoo left off of Jane’s body contains its own Mancala pattern. When the pattern is decoded, it leads to a Social Security number for someone named Kat Jarrett, who’s apparently part of a biker gang named the Viper Kings. So, how does this all fit in with Sandstorm? Nobody’s sure, but Patterson finds a photo of Kat making some sort of handoff. And who just so happens to be by her side?
Roman. It keeps coming back to Roman.