Masha, Masha, Masha! Why does Masha always get all the most uniquely customized rotaviruses with the most individually devastating effects? Ugh.
From the very beginning of The Blacklist, I’ve been fascinated by the variety of names used for the two main characters. That’s bound to happen on any series centering around law enforcement, where agents and officers are often referred to by their last name, but for the two people at the center of all the mystery, in any given episode, we’re working with Liz/Lizzie/Elizabeth/Keen and Raymond/Ray/Reddington/Red. For Red, I’ve always thought his many names stand in for the many lives he’s led and the many masks he wears now; but for Liz, her names are defined by others’ perceptions of her: In her personal life she’s Liz, at the Post Office she’s called Keen, only Red refers to her as Lizzie, and she introduces herself as Elizabeth.
Throughout these two seasons, Liz’s many names have spoken to her constant search for identity from the moment Raymond Reddington entered her life and began calling her Lizzie with utter confidence. No one knows who Elizabeth Keen is less than Elizabeth Keen. And now it’s a version of herself that Lizzie only just found out existed that’s aiding the Cabal in orchestrating her demise. In the part of her life that Liz can’t remember—the part where she had a mother, and a stuffed bunny, and a Russian birth certificate—her name was Masha. And the Cabal is doing everything it can to turn Elizabeth Keen into Masha once more.
Frankly, the Cabal is working overtime, what with trying to start another cold war, importing Russian assassins, and blackmailing Harold Cooper with his terminal illness, as well as that little matter of his wife committing espionage after some emotional manipulation at the hands of Attorney General Tom Connolly. I hope Valarie Pettiford is getting paid per episode for the looming presence of her likeness in that framed photo of Charlene Cooper on Harold’s desk; its repeated focus throughout the season finally makes sense as the ramifications of Cooper’s dependence on Connolly (and as a result, the Cabal) to keep him in the medical trial finally comes to a head tonight. A couple of weeks ago, that meant a casually illegal favor here and there… now it means lying to his agents so they don’t follow the right lead while tracking the Russian agent they found out entered the country in a coffin with a mission to start World War III at the end of the last episode.
Move yourself out of your own apartment, find your own directions, watch your own laptop while you go to the bathroom at Starbucks—I am absolutely never doing anyone a favor again.
KARAKURT, No. 55
Before we get to Lizzie’s Is Your Mama a KGB Llama quest, it must be determined why the Cabal used Quon Zhang last week to smuggle in a known Russian terrorist last week, and that starts as all Blacklist stories seems to, with a grotesque and random killing. The episode opens on a college campus with a man passing out flyers to protest the Patriot Act; a student approaches him with some interest, takes a flyer, walks away, turns back around to find the man staring at him like a total creep, and promptly starts bleeding out of his eyes and coughing up white gunk, full Purple Wedding style. The man confirms to someone on the phone, “We’ve achieved customization. Initiate phase two.”
NEXT: Phase two, equally gross…[pagebreak]
Phase two is where Karakurt comes in, although we really don’t spend too much time with him in the episode. Red lays out explicitly to Lizzie what was put together in the last episode—Karakurt was smuggled into the country from Russia to perform some act of terrorism so that it will be blamed on Russia and become the catalyst for a new cold war. But as Red is telling Liz this, she’s talking right over him to tell him that she’s going to find out the truth about her parents and what happened the night of the fire: “I am listening to what you are saying, and I know that it’s important, but it is no more important than what I am telling you, and I need you to listen to that!”
And even though I’m proud of Lizzie for finally sticking up for herself in a believable way, she manages to completely Lizzie the whole thing up by deciding to do that when a bunch of the most powerful people in the world are hours away from starting a world war, and her very important problem literally could not be less important at this exact moment. Like, if you don’t care about saving the world, maybe just go on that naked boat trip Tom keeps prattling on about.
But she does—she does care. So Keen and Ressler head to the sector of the CIA that deals with keeping tabs on Russia. Unfortunately, that team of very competent agents has almost nothing to go on in regard to Karakurt being in the country, but promise to look into it. And while Keen has her on the line, she flashes the picture of her mom, a.k.a., Katarina Rastova, to the friendliest CIA agent, thinking that surely he’s heard of the Russian spy. And he has, but he tells her Katarina Rastova is “a myth… probably an amalgamation of half a dozen unknown female Soviet operatives.” But, again, he promises to look into it.
And then he blows right up. With the help of his torture expert (Brimley and his oxygen tank, not Samar and her mind games), Red figures out that Karakurt has constructed an IED and has it in a white moving truck… right outside of the CIA sub-station that Keen and Ressler have just exited when it blows up. So that’s the first act of terrorism enacted by the Cabal. The follow-up is a little more complicated…
Reddington is able to track the apartment Karakurt is operating from and Cooper deploys Keen and Ressler there with only a grainy picture from the CIA security cameras to find him. But right after they leave on Red’s lead, Connolly arrives and informs Cooper that his agents can’t stop Karakurt—“this is bigger than both of us”—and to divert them to Union Station. Cooper puts up the small fight that he puts up every time Connolly tells him to do something bad, but it just takes a look at that 8×10 of Charlene and a mention of federal prison to get Cooper to call Keen and lie about Karakurt now being tracked to Union Station.
Which is what makes it all the more confusing when the agents get there and Keen spots a man in the exact same cloths Karakurt was wearing in the surveillance picture. But when she goes after him, he catches her off guard, knocks her out and runs away. She’s soon fine though, and onto their next lead from the little information they were able to get from the CIA pre-bomb devastation, which helps them figure out the next step in the Cabal’s plan: a Weapon of Individual Destruction. An attractive microbiologist friend of Red’s tells them that the bioweapon plans they’ve found among Karakurt’s associations is for a customized rotavirus, meant to “infect one individual with the unique genetic sequence and to devastating effects.”
NEXT: Remember all the eye blood? Mm-hmm, more of that…[pagebreak]
You may recall that this episode’s opening sequence contained some devastating effects, enacted on one individual, and one individual only. Samar deploys some of her people skills, and Aram, some of his everything-skills, to discover that the college student who was killed was the secret illegitimate son—and therefore, DNA-sharer, and perfect test subject—of Senator Hawkins, an important government figure, on his way to the very public memorial service for the CIA agents killed in the truck bomb terrorist attack. A bombing is one thing—one very bad thing—but the public, violent assassination of a senator at the memorial for the victims of that bombing is means for war, and that is what the Cabal is betting on.
What they’re not betting on: Lizzie Liz Elizabeth Keen. Just kidding, that’s exactly what they’re doing—betting on Liz showing up to save the day. Karakurt is at the memorial, in disguise as a photographer in the press line, and Liz spots him just as Senator Hawkins has exited his car and is barreling toward Karakurt’s presumably infected body. Only the Sistine Chapel contains an almost-hand-touch with as much drama as the one going on between Karakurt’s hand extended toward Senator Hawkins for a friendly, fatal shake; but Lizzie dives in there, keeps them from touching, and she and Ressler have Hawkins in a waiting car in a matter of seconds. He’s thanking them for what was clearly a close call, when… do I even have to tell you?
Senator Hawkins starts bleeding out of his eyes, convulsing, and he goes out the exact same way that his son did in the beginning of the episode. Because Lizzie was carrying the virus. Because Lizzie’s mother was a Russian KGB agent; and the Cabal has discovered that. And they’re setting Lizzie up to look like a Russian agent who just infected and killed a U.S. senator with a Russian-manufactured bioweapon.
Red calls Liz with this information, telling her that she has to get out of the Post Office now, just as Connolly and two rather imposing-looking agents come barreling through the front doors. And that’s where The Blacklist leaves us until the season finale next week. The Director’s “you look just like your mother comment” last week is suddenly feeling a little more potent than just trying to rattle Lizzie’s constantly rattled cage.
A Few Loose Ends:
- I was so glad to see Cooper coming to Reddington about the Connolly issue because that poor, ethical man is just so far in over his head. Red advises him to let Connolly know that they have the Senator Hawkins plan all figured out to rattle him, and it seems to but… after all was said and done, wouldn’t that have just ended up confirming that Liz was on her way to intervene, as the Cabal wanted all along? Liz always has been Red’s blind spot.
- I don’t think they said it explicitly, but Liz was infected with the virus when Puffer McOrangeVest clotheslined her in Union Station, right?
- We have to talk about those Tom Keen Mustang ads… I don’t really know what to say, but we have to talk about them.
- A few important past-related bits and pieces we learn tonight: Red finds out that the Cabal knows about Lizzie’s Russian mother as he’s having a friendly interrogation with the agent-turned-CIA-informant who also led them to Karakurt. From the way everyone talks about this guy, he is seemingly the oldest Russian spy in existence, and even he doesn’t know if the legends of Katarina Rastova are true. But the man does have a few important revelations: 1. Red was with U.S. counterintelligence for many years; 2. Liz has already scheduled an appointment with him to ask about Katarina; 3. She wasn’t the only one… the Cabal also came around, asking about the mysterious Katarina and a mysterious daughter, which is how Red knows to warn Liz that the Cabal is framing her.
- Speaking of #RunLizzieRun, I know there are a lot of theories out there about if Tom is working Liz over again, or if Liz is somehow now emotionally manipulating him, but after all of his moping in restaurants alone tonight, doesn’t it kind of just seem like they’ve kept him around so he and Liz can Joey-and-Pacey it the hell out of DC on his boat before Liz gets labeled a terrorist? We’ll see…
Next week: SHE REMEMBERS… she remembers everything.