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'The Blacklist' recap: 'T. Earl King VI'

The return of Tom poses a few fresh starts; for Lizzie and Red, it’s emotional—for Tom, it’s just really punchy.

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David Giesbrecht/NBC

The Blacklist

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
James Spader

There’s just something about Tom Keen. Listen, I know that Lizzie just confessed to Red that she cares about him, and that was important, and I am glad she did it… it’s just that with Tom in the mix again, it somehow makes the cementing of Liz and Red’s care for each other feel even weightier than it would have without him. It can be tiresome that The Blacklist relies almost entirely on the dynamic between Red and Liz to drive its story, and I’m predicting good things from finally having someone else to come in and pick up a little of the narrative slack, especially in the wake of this tentative dive into more emotional vulnerability. (Also, those last two explosive Tom minutes.)

Because this show, in between all the creepy, killer families and Russian mystery men, always ends up boiling down to the relationships. That’s why tonight worked so well on both the big and small scale. Even in the little time we spent with the Kings, those were some juicy family dynamics. All anyone could talk about was how to not take things personally: Business is business, don’t get too emotionally invested, it’s all about the Benjamins, etc. That might work for the family that auctions humans together, but not for our favorite pair of task force pals: The mainstays of The Blacklist simply can’t help but mix business with pleasure.

If there’s one relationship that everyone can be totally clear on at this point, it’s Lizzie and Reddington. I mean, no, we don’t know if he’s her dad, or she’s his sister, or if he planted a microchip in her wrist at some point in her life, but it was clear that Lizzie cared about Red. That it has finally, finally been asserted makes me feel hopeful for the show’s future and its retirement of the phrase, “This, me and you—it’s just business,” forever. We’ve gotten the personal out of the way, now maybe there’s finally time to get around to the business of how these two are actually connected.

But Tom and Lizzie? They were the original interoffice relationship and they’re still a big question mark (that Tom probably has tattooed on his ass now). Whether the Tom storylines always end up panning out or not, he has consitently been the point at which business meets personal for Liz, and one of the only real connections we know between Red and Liz that predates the Post Office. With him back in the picture and out of that damn boat, it might be time to piece together some new connections with some old threads.


The episode kicks off with Earl King—guest star Jeffrey DeMunn, in a wheel chair and speaking with a voice box—and his two sons, Tyler and Francis, tallying up settlements that equal to millions of dollars for each of them. But Tyler’s number beats Francis’ and their father tells them to get on with it, so Francis picks up the revolver that’s sitting it on the table, points it at his temple and shoots. It’s a blank. “Next time,” he growls at his brother. It’s always fun to have family gatherings to look forward to, isn’t it?

Right after that adrenaline rush, we’re suddenly back face-to-face with Tom and his new My So Called Life hair. He’s in a stark motel room with a white-haired fellow, begging to be put back in the field on an assignment. What is this mysterious company that Tom works for? Does Tom even know? Could he really have that much of a reputation as a “hip young executive” type of spy considering he started on the Liz assignment when he was, what, 25? Who cares—there’s a haircutting montage in our future!

But not yet. First, Red has to explain to Lizzie exactly what she’ll be doing this episode. Madeline Pratt, former Blacklister, has been abducted and all signs point to the King family. Over the generations, their family has amassed a fortune by abducting and auctioning off humans who have value as bargaining chips or for recreational purposes, as well as, stolen art and artifacts. Liz calls Red to let him know the FBI  is following a lead to Madeline, but when Red hears where they’re headed, he says it’s too dangerous and he’ll go himself. And all at once, the unbeatable two-man force that is Dembe and Red is cornered by a fleet waiting for them. Madeline was just a trap–and once she tases Dembe, Francis King gets down to doing his abduction thing with Red. I don’t believe for a second that one little taser would take down Dembe, but I’m willing to set aside logic… someone has to be kidnapped this episode, after all.

NEXT: Prepare yourselves for Undercover Liz…