SWEEEEEEEEPS! I would like to thank Jon Bokencamp, Mr. Kaplan, and May Sweeps for this episode of The Blacklist. I would also like to thank the beam of sunlight that follows Little Liz’s mom around, the continued theme of bespectacled men with many layers, and Tom Connolly, for continuing to be the total slimeball we’ve always known he was.
Often, the most entertaining episodes of The Blacklist come when big truths are revealed or there’s a life-altering incidence—they are absolutely never when Lizzie says any variation of “you and me, we’re through” to Red. But tonight, we were dealing with a lot of facts we already know. Even with the Fulcrum finally being unlocked by Leonard Caul, everyone already knew what was on it. A bunch of 25-year-old blackmail. Blackmail that has both kept Red alive for as long as we (or Lizzie) have known him, and blackmail that nearly killed him following the Cabal’s vote at the end of the last episode.
But Red… Red likes to be prepared for all contingencies. And that means having a full medical staff on 24/7 call should the situation ever arise where his FBI confi-daughter (not saying she’s his daughter, just saying) forks over the blackmail file she for some reason is in possession of because she found out he once hired a man to spy on her, then that man married her, then revealed himself to be a spy, then she kidnapped him and held him on a ship, and now she doesn’t want anything to do with Red for the seventh time in recent memory… and then he gets shot. If that ever happens—and it did—Red is prepared.
Even in an episode where he is unconscious for more than a half of the hour, the plot of tonight’s episode inevitably revolves around Red; because everything revolves around Red. The biggest problem The Blacklist has had in its sophomore run is that anytime Spader leaves the screen, we’re left with characters whose lives are far less interesting than the mysterious one he leads. Because Lizzie isn’t even interested in her own life. She’s interested in what Reddington has to do with her life, and really, that destructively singular focus on figuring out her past as it relates to Red is much more interesting than Liz actually ever getting her shit together. And the more the show embraces that everything boils down to Red, the easier it is to have episodes that don’t revolve entirely around James Spader. We’re with Lizzie for the majority of this episode and her just being along for the ride—letting herself be devoured—that Red has turned her life into is the most interesting she’s ever been.
There’s just no fighting it. Even for random former CIA agents, for sociopathic teenage spies, for little girls without memories, for the biggest baddies in the world, and the highest ranking government officials… it all comes down to Raymond Reddington: What he knows, what he doesn’t, and if he’s willing to let anyone else in on any of it.
LEONARD CAUL, No. 63
The last time we saw Red and Lizzie, one was bleeding out of his mouth as the result of a gunshot wound, and the other was firing back at the general direction of the fired bullet. Tonight, our first glimpse of Red and Lizzie is in a dark room where many, many pictures of them are being developed by what looks to be a highly skilled stalker.
Liz and Dembe get Red into the car and Liz calls Cooper to figure out how to get him to a hospital as soon as possible, but Dembe throws her phone out the window. Red doesn’t do hospitals; Red has *77, aka, Mr. Kaplan. As soon as Lizzie calls her, Mr. Kaplan gets back with the address of a warehouse where she’ll meet them. Then the rapid fire “Code 77” texts to doctors, nurses, and EMTs start going out to the tune of “Save Me” by Hanni El Khatib; they all immediately drop what they’re doing to go meet Mr. Kaplan. No one makes massive blood loss seem like quite as much of a party as Raymond Reddington.
NEXT: Who shot Raymond Reddington?[pagebreak]
It quickly becomes clear that the Director was the one who put out the hit on Red. I had my suspicions that Red may have been faking his own death to trigger the release of the Fulcrum, etc., but this one is pretty cut and dry. The Cabal figured out that Red wasn’t actually in possession of the Fulcrum, so it was time for him to meet his end. But they’re going to have to get through Mr. Kaplan, Dembe, Lizzie, and the support of the Post Office crew to get to him. Liz calls Cooper to tell him the warehouse they’re headed to and he sends a protective detail her way while the medical Avengers Mr. Kaplan has assembled get to work operating on Red. Three agents from the protective detail arrive and when Lizzie goes to greet them—boom, boom, boom—Mr. Kaplan shoots them all.
Because they weren’t FBI agents at all, Mr. Kaplan could tell by their non-government issued guns. Because absolutely everyone is a better profiler than Elizabeth Keen. And while Keen’s achievements may never equal the greatness that has been thrust upon her, she is still important—more important than Red, really, just much less informed. After all, she’s the one in possession of the Fulcrum; she’s the one giving pep talks to junior doctors when they have to figure out how to do an operation in half the time it takes because their location has been compromised and more of the Director’s assassins will be on their way, and the head surgeon was shot by the last ones; and she’s the one being tasked by Red with his last conscious, bloody breaths to track down Leonard Caul.
Who is Leonard Caul? Well, he’s the guy we keep seeing track Liz and Red’s every movement. He’s clearly a master or technology and tracking and we know this because his main move is to open a brand new laptop, hack traffic cameras to find how Red got away from the scene of the shooting, trace the car’s plates, and then destroy the laptop with some sort of magnet. It’s a high price to pay to track down someone who is actively looking for you, but when you’re the inventor of the Fulcrum, I guess perception—excuse me, I’m getting ahead of myself.
You see, Liz put the Post Office gang on the task of tracking down Leonard Caul while she tries to figure out where to transport Red. They find out through the call that Red secretly had Aram trace (the one from the St. Petersburg safe phone number) a while back that it was Caul’s blood that Red later found on the floor of the apartment Aram found the address to. Apparently, Caul was a former CIA agent known for his skills in blending in, but now he’s on the run. Through yet another favor from Tom “Skeeze” Connolly, Cooper gets Caul’s former supervisor to tell them that Caul came to her recently to say that he was scared about some business he’d gotten mixed up in with Raymond Reddington. Because Raymond Reddington devours lives—he makes them and he breaks them.
And while that’s all interesting information, we soon find out that trying to find Caul is pretty futile; he’ll reveal himself when the right people are looking and he’s ready to be found. Certainly not the most dramatic moment of a particularly bloody episode, but decidedly the most profound comes the way so many of The Blacklist’s better subtle moments do: through Dembe. While an old boyfriend of Liz’s is trying to get an exploding bullet out of Red (see last page or recap for details), Dembe pulls Elizabeth aside. He tells her that there is an apartment is Bethesda that contains a desk; that desk has a middle drawer with a false front; behind that false front there is a silver case and a key. She needs to find that case and key, and find Leonard Caul, and get them all back to Reddington in order for the Fulcrum to be deciphered. Oh, and one more thing: Red can’t ever know she was in that apartment. Never. Ever. Take me to this apartment!
NEXT: It has central heat and air, laundry in the basement, oh, and a lot of childhood pics of Lizzie…[pagebreak]
When Liz gets to the secret lair it looks… deceptively normal. It looks like the average apartment of a kind of eccentric guy. Know any of those? Liz goes straight for the desk, but once she gets the case out, she gets a little curious. There are old pictures everywhere, but one of the few in color is of Lizzie in graduation robes. And then one more—of a woman on a swing with a sunbeam obscuring most of her face and a little dark-headed girl sitting in her lap. The woman’s jaw line looks particularly familiar and Liz snaps a picture with her cool new flip phone (thanks a lot, Dembe).
She grabs the case and the key and heads out the door, only to pull it open and find Leonard Caul pointing a gun at her requesting that they go back inside for a chat. For some reason, Liz immediately assumes that it was Leonard orchestrating Red’s murder attempts out on the street and at the warehouse, but he breaks it down for her: Shortly after Red contacted him through Fitch’s tip, the Cabal made an attempt on his life. He knew he could trust Red simply because the Cabal wanted so badly to keep them apart. Ever since, he’s been on the run waiting for a sign from Reddington that everything was in order with obtaining the Fulcrum. When the FBI started looking for him, contacting his former bosses at the CIA, he knew it was time, and that’s how he found Lizzie standing in the middle of an apartment with a silver case and a key.
The Case: It turns out that case—the one Red retrieved from the car he was storing under the church in “The Kenyon Family”—opens up to become the interface for the Fulcrum with all kinds of whozits and whatzits inside.
The Key: And the key is the old-fashioned looking situation that Red picked out of a hanging mason jar in the other cult episode, “The Front.” But it’s not really a key to a door, it pulls apart to become the device that powers the interface on.
The Fulcrum: And, of course, the little Fulcrum nugget that has been hiding in Liz’s stuffed bunny all these years is the final step. It’s called a bubble module; alone it’s useless, but along with the cypher text hidden within the interface, it’s the key to opening the blackmail file. And Caul just so happens to be the one who wrote that cypher so many years ago.
As the blackmail video cache begins to play out of the case like a projector, Liz looks on in horror. She and Caul travel toward Red together and he tells her that he was speechless the first time he realized that some of the world’s top C.E.O.s, government officials, and intelligent officers were also its worst criminals, he was pretty speechless, too. He mentions something about when The Director stopped trusting Fitch—and even though we’ve known it for ages, this is the first time that Liz realized that it’s the actual Director of Clandestine Affairs that is running this whole sick Cabal operation. The very man who’s busy having a meeting about intel to present to the President of the United States.
But “the President will have to wait,” because Elizabeth Keen has a score to settle. I’m not being dramatic, that’s an actual quote. You see, when Keen and Caul get close to the warehouse where Red is conscious and recovering from surgery, Liz sees burly men surrounding the building and realizes that, once again, their location has been compromised by what they can only assume is a leak from within the FBI. But Caul helps her realize something else: The Director is trying to kill Red because he thinks he doesn’t have the Fulcrum. But you know who does have the Fulcrum, containing a whole lot of dirty secrets about the Director and his international villain pals? Lizzie. That is what we call leverage.
NEXT: Lizzie > POTUS…[pagebreak]
Lizzie may lack a lot of intuitive FBI agent skills, but storming into rooms is not one of them. She storms like she’s been doing it since the day she was mysteriously born. She marches into the Director’s office, plugs all her little gadgets into the Fulcrum, metaphorically grabs him by the balls, tells him to call off his men, and leaves him with a, “Don’t worry, we’ve got copies.”
Well, she almost leaves him with that sassiest of upper hands. But the man is a professional bad guy:
Director: You have no idea the enemies you’ve just made.
Liz: Yes I do.
Director: I never saw it before… how much you look like your mother.
Oh, Lizzie. Will you ever get an upper hand on the details of your own life? But whether Director has some dirt on Liz or not, he still has to call off the current hit order on Reddington and it’s a good thing because things have, uh, gotten pretty serious back at the warehouse. The assassins stormed the facility, both sides are armed with automatic weapons; except Red, who has a handgun that Mr. Kaplan gave him when he forced her to leave his side. I was quite impressed with his maneuver to use the big operating light to blind his enemies, but out of bullets, the light wasn’t enough to hold them off forever. A group of men eventually make it to Red’s hospital bed, but just as they’re about to shoot, word from the Director reaches them that today is not the day they kill the man who knows the woman who has the Fulcrum. The Director crossed Raymond “Rubicon” Reddington, and this is the price he must pay.
With so many answers—or rather just so many random puzzle pieces finally coming together to form some very valuable corners of the framework—the biggest questions still remains: How does Liz factor into all of this and what is Red keeping from her about her past. And I guess more importantly, at this point, why is he keeping it from her? Red tells Dembe that it’s “the blessing of an honest man” for him to think he might understand why Red still hasn’t told her. The answer must be quite complicated. Imagine that.
A Few Loose Ends:
- How did the Director’s assassins keep tracking Red down? Well, it seems that with Hobbs’ spot free in the Cabal family circle, new Attorney General Tom Connolly was just the man to “betray a friend” and fill it. I did enjoy seeing him look all squirmy under the powerful glare of the Director.
- You can really track the quality of a Blacklist episode to how many lines Dembe has, no?
- I’ve kind of left Tom out of this because, well, from the moment he just happens to still be living in the second warehouse that Liz takes Red to, it becomes clear that Tom Keen won’t be leaving Elizabeth Keen’s world anytime soon. The guy is around and we’ll have lots of time to continue to speculate what he means to Liz and what Liz means to him. But tonight, his most important revelations revolve around—you guessed it—his relationship with Red.
- As it turns out, the time that Red and Tom talked outside of Sam’s hospital was the first time Tom had ever met Red, even though Red had hired him years ago to watch after Liz; Red subsequently fired Tom when he realized the relationship had become intimate, and as Red tells it, Tom then joined up with Berlin so he could have reason to stay permanently close to Liz. And while Red was “threatening” Tom about not hurting Liz during their first meeting, all Tom could think was that Red is “the one who hurts Liz the most.” I don’t know what to make of all these crisscrossing paths in the Red-Liz-Tom trifecta, but we do know that Tom has much more to tell. He ends the episode telling Liz that he thinks he can get her some of the answers she needs.
- “Tell me what you know about Reddington.” Go on, Tom, tell her…
- Hey Liz, how about a little less throwing “the smartest guy you know” under the bus in front of Cooper next time you’re revealing this huge secret that you and your criminal mastermind pal have been keeping from the FBI?
- There simply wasn’t enough room here to get into yet another man who has fallen in love with Lizzie, but that whole, “I’m gonna need $376,422… Okay, here’s $500,000, now get the hell on with it” exchange with her doctor ex-boyfriend was great.
- Please leave every single detail you noticed in that apartment in the comments section. I wanted to stay there for hours. My personal favorite touch: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, sit next to me.”