Now that’s more like it. After last week’s solid but overstuffed episode of Blindspot, this week’s episode does a much better job of telling a clear narrative while using its case-of-the-week structure to flesh out the stories of the main characters. There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened in the time between seasons, and Blindspot needs to find that balance between holding information back in order to enhance the mystery while also not willfully disrupting the organic nature of the plot in order to pull out some twists later. “Upside Down Craft” succeeds by using this week’s tattoo case to focus on Rich Dot Com, Patterson, and the recent past they’ve mysteriously shared.
“Upside Down Craft” begins at a fancy party of some sorts, the kind where billionaire lobbyists and Wall Street guys gather to pour money into causes that only benefit themselves. You know the ones. Anyways, Jane and Weller are flirting it up in their formal wear, while the rest of the team, who can hear everything, try not to barf. After Reade and Zapata download some files from a computer, they give the sign to arrest the man they’re after: Mr. Loewe, a high-powered Wall Street guy that the FBI is accusing of fraud, manslaughter, and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.
Back at the FBI headquarters, Director Hirst is letting the team know that if their evidence isn’t rock solid, the FBI could be in for quite the backlash. Arresting high-powered white dudes in the U.S. is always a no-no, so Hirst wants them to make sure they nail Loewe. The evidence sure seems solid: a tattoo on Jane led them to an anonymous tip, which in turn led them to look at a train derailment that killed some people. Essentially, the evidence shows that Loewe shorted stock in that rail company and then exchanged emails with an engineer in order to have the train crash, the result of which is the company’s stock plummeting and Loewe making millions.
What looks like ironclad evidence quickly evaporates when Loewe’s lawyer shows up. She says that her client has been the focus of cyber attacks for months now. Specifically, she says a hacker group that goes by the name Three Blind Mice has been targeting her client, planting emails in his inbox in order to make him look like a bad guy. She has a lock box filled with emails of this kind, and she wants the FBI to instead find the real culprits: the Three Blind Mice.
All of this is interesting enough as it is, but it gets much better when it’s revealed that Patterson and Rich Dot Com are two of the Blind Mice; or were, about a year ago. During Patterson’s time away from the FBI she wasn’t just building the massively popular Wizardville app — which everyone besides Weller seems to play — she was also teaming up with Rich and an unknown third person to do “good” hacks. “Good” hacks means taking down corrupt politicians and giving money back to people exploited by them.
Both Patterson and Rich got out of the game when the hacks started turning the wrong way, but now the rogue third mouse is threatening to expose them. Sure, this third person doesn’t know who they are, but now the FBI is actively looking into a hacker group that Patterson and Rich were a part of. Surely that can’t be good. The episode gets its tension from the fact that Patterson and Rich have no choice but to help with the investigation, but also can’t come clean about their past activities. The good intentions are there, but what they did was still illegal.
When Hirst delivers them a picture of the suspect, who was spotted near Loewe’s house wearing a mouse mask, Patterson uses some fancy (and super Orwellian) software to create a biometric profile. What that means is that she can use software to analyze this masked person based on their gait and bone structure, and when she runs that profile through some other security cameras in the area, their suspect is revealed: Kathy Gustafson. Hirst orders her to be brought in, and requests that Rich and Patterson do the questioning with her.
The walls are closing in. (Recap continues on next page)
After questioning Kathy about her involvement with the Three Blind Mice — she admits that she was in the group, but says that she did nothing wrong, that the emails in question were ones Loewe sent and then deleted, and so she was just restoring them in order to bring him down — Patterson comes to a realization. It involves more shady business, so she pulls Rich aside and tries to formulate a plan with him.
Basically, the code for her app allows her backdoor access to every single user who downloads it. That’s a huge invasion of privacy, but Patterson says he’s never used it…until now. When Kathy mentions that Loewe is once again going to short a stock and cause some sort of disruption in order to make some money, Patterson decides to look into his lawyer’s phone. She finds messages about an electric car company and the batteries they use, and she and Rich figure out that Loewe plans to ruin the company for his own gain.
But how do they tell the team this information? Patterson can’t exactly admit to the illegal backdoor access to 75 million phones. So, Rich records an “anonymous” tip using a voice modifier, saying that Loewe has hired men to plant a bomb at an electric car event, where Volta, the company whose stock Loewe is shorting, will be unveiling their new cars.
In a fun sequence Weller and Jane storm the event and manage to take down the bad guys and stop the bomb from going off. Jane even manages to avoid starting a fire with the spark that comes from firing her gun; with the room filling up with gas, the bad guys assumed Jane would have no choice but to let them go. Instead, she fires her gun through a bottle of oil, suppressing the spark and, at the same time, really impressing Weller. Nothing gets him going (I know, I’m sorry) more than Jane showing off her firearm skills.
While the operation stopped a bomb from going off, the FBI is at a dead end. They can’t track the money used to pay for the guys who set up the bomb, meaning that they have no way of pinning the attempted attack on Loewe. Hirst still calls it a win though, reminding the team that they saved a lot of lives.
In that moment of triumph, Rich and Patterson are allowed to relax. It would seem that the search for the Three Blind Mice is over. That is until they meet up in the middle of the night after they both get texts from each other, only for Kathy to show up and kidnap them. She knocks them out with beanbag rounds from a shotgun, slaps them with shock collars, and stores them in a basement somewhere.
If there’s a weak link in this episode, it’s Kathy. The story of Patterson and Rich’s past catching up with them is an interesting one, but Kathy is such an over-the-top character that it kind of ruins what should be very real anxiety about Patterson and Rich getting caught. Instead, the episode makes us sit through Kathy’s bug-eyed ramblings about how she felt connected to her partners, and how she wants to work with them again to kill Loewe because it was so much fun to work together back in the day.
It’s all just too exaggerated and too predictable. From Rich not really crashing the plane to the team showing up just in time to rescue them from the abandoned zoo where Kathy is hiding them, there’s no real built-in tension, and the episode suffers because of it. Essentially, what starts out as an interesting case-of-the-week loses its appeal when it’s not focused on the main characters and how they’re adapting to their current situation.
With that said, “Upside Down Craft” pulls it all together at the end. Reade puts the pieces together about Rich and Patterson being the other two Blind Mice, and the team realizes that Roman’s plan with the new tattoos involves exposing secrets about everyone. He’s trying to make them turn on each other, and when he calls Jane later on, he says that he’s going to make her feel pain like she’s never felt before.
The episode doesn’t end with that call though, but instead circles back to Stuart’s murder. After Patterson starts to figure out the tattoo clue he was deciphering when he was killed, she determines that it’s pointing to a number of owners of Van Gogh’s famous “Self Portrait.” But what could that possibly mean? What could that have to do with his death?
We don’t know, but as the episode ends, a man with one ear meets with a woman who works at Kinga, a company that manufactures an Echo/Alexa-type personal assistant. He makes sure this woman has wiped all evidence of something involving Stuart, who had a Kinga in his apartment, but it’s unclear what he wants or who he is.
All we know is that he’s missing an ear, like Van Gogh. A curious case indeed, and one we’ll have to stew on for at least another week.