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'The Blacklist' recap: 'The Artax Network'

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Virginia Sherwood/NBC

The Blacklist

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
2
run date:
09/23/13
performer:
James Spader
broadcaster:
NBC
genre:
Drama

“I think we’re staring at Katarina Rostova.”

Oh do you, Tom? Well let. me. tell. you. what: I stared at a hallucination of Katarina Rostova for nearly an hour last week and… Yeah, okay, I could see it, actually. But that’s at the end of the episode — we haven’t even gotten to the hotbox yet.

It’s pretty incredible that in an episode that had us attending Elizabeth Keen’s funeral, meeting her biological grandfather, and seeing Aram challenge the hell out of Raymond Reddington that this episode felt kind of like a break from all the madness — and a much-needed one, at that. It was — shall we say — a healthy part of the TV audience’s grieving process to get back to a bit of the Blacklist norm while focusing on something that felt productive. We’re living in a post-numbered-Blacklister world, sure, but that doesn’t mean everything has to change. There are still cases to be solved, Blacklisters to be found. At the top of the list: whoever attacked Liz.

Last week, we saw Red’s grieving process — opium, Russian spies, and imaginary risotto — and this week we see how the folks at the Post Office are handling Lizzie’s death. It’s hitting Aram hardest of all, and listen, I would never wish grief upon that sweet, sweet man, but the fact that his immense humanity necessitated him carrying this life-after-Lizzie episode while Red is still stuck in a mental abyss…well, I’ll take it. Because not only is he always the key to cracking these cases, but this time he happens to be the key to bringing this team back together in the name of finding out who was after Lizzie.

THE ARTAX NETWORK, NO. 41

The episode opens on Liz’s funeral, and whether you have questions about the permanency of her passing or not, with Harold Cooper at the helm of eulogy perfectly deploying voice-cracks, a recapper’s bound to get emotional, y’know? He tells the story of the first day he met her — the day Reddington came into their lives and changed everything, for Liz especially — and she asked him, “Why me? I’m nobody special.” Cue one of those aforementioned brutal voice-cracks: “I think we all know different. She was humble, self-effacing, and very, very special.”

And then I don’t know how they did it, but The Blacklist made exiting a funeral seem both sad and highly badass. Actually I do know: It was 50 percent music cue — the perfect deployment of Faces’ “Ooh La La,” switching from the more somber music of the church as soon as the doors opened and the sun hit Liz’s (very much closed) casket — and 50 percent Tom’s shades. The man can wear a spectacle. And this wasn’t just a shift for shifting’s sake; the grieving process continues on, but it’s time to get to work on finding out who exactly was after Liz before her death…

With or without Red. I was just as shocked as Samar to see that he wasn’t at Liz’s funeral, but color me a whole new shade of bug-eyed at finding him on guest star Brian Dennehy’s doorstep saying, “Your granddaughter… She’s… I’m sorry.” I think I speak for all of us when I say: SAY WHAAAAAAT?!

Because Dom’s doorstep was in a secluded area somewhere within driving distance of the capital of the United States, I first assumed that he would be Liz’s paternal grandfather. But no — that’s a road we continue to get a firm orange detour arrow on, and this man has a hint of a Russian accent beneath his gruff tone when he responds to the news that Liz died during a pregnancy complication: “Mash had a child?” Dom is Katarina’s father, of course, and while he invited Red in for that plate of bacon and eggs that he never quite got to in Cape May, he doesn’t seem thrilled to see him. Like his daughter (or Red’s vision of his daughter), Dom plays the piano, but where his piano’s C-sharp key went, he tells him he doesn’t play much anymore. And then he leaves to go get groceries; so whether he likes Red or not, he must somewhat trust Red. But he probably shouldn’t because Red immediately goes to his outdoor workshop and starts rooting through all his stuff. He’s merely looking for memories though — sifting through drawings and dolls that could have been done by either one of the girls taken from Dom’s life.

NEXT: All that glitters is gold…

[pagebreak]

And by the time Dom returns, he finds Red pouring gold glitter all over his hands, which has to be one of the craziest things a human could choose to do. He apparently has an explanation, though: “I was just imagining young Katarina covered in glitter.” Yeah, we’re going to need you to elaborate a little there, bud: “As an adult, it’s easy to dismiss this stuff as girlish frivolity. You forget the wonder it creates, the light captured… It renders even the darkest days sparkly.” This wouldn’t be the first time that Red has dabbled in metaphors about light to describe what Lizzie means to him. At my university we used to have a saying that every organization has its glitter members and its glue members. But there was the rare person who could be both the appealing spark of an organization and the person holding it together behind the scenes — we called them duct tape. I would venture to say that Lizzie was more than just Red’s glitter, she did more than just make his darkest days sparkly; she was his duct tape. And without her, he’s totally falling apart.

(Of course, Dom tells him to knock it off with all the glitter talk because Red’s misery at losing Masha is nothing like what Dom’s was over losing Katarina, and now a granddaughter that he never got to know: “She’s gone because of choices you made for both of them! First Katarina, then Masha.”)

Attempting to put the pieces back together on the homefront are Cooper, Samar, Ressler, and Aram. Cynthia Panabaker tells Coops he’s too emotional “to come within a country mile” of successfully trying to find who was after Liz and to stay out of it, but Cooper tells his agents that is absolutely not happening. By examining the sources from the data center they uncovered in the hunt for Solomon, Aram is able to determine that the mystery group was tracking someone else other than Liz: A man named Benjamin Stalder, who is currently saying things like, “Dump that stock, Lawrence!” while rushing out of his hotel room with two body guards. Ressler and Samar are already on their way to him, but they’re heading toward trouble because also in Mr. Stalder’s elevator is Rowan, Solomon’s accomplice from two weeks ago who was supposed to be in FBI custody.

She manages to stab both body guards in the neck and make off with Stalder, but Samar gets in her way. They proceed to beat the ever-living crap out of each other, and the way she manages to get the best of Samar and escape to a getaway car is much more impressive than all the neck-stabby-stabby. Samar does end up with Stalder, though, and in her questioning of him with Ressler, he tells them that he advises governments on billion-dollar contract decisions related to energy, hence the staff of bodyguards. They ask if he has any connection to Elizabeth Keen, to which he responds, “The fugitive? Only what I hear on the news… Whatever happened to her anyway?” which sounds like something a liar in a cartoon might say. But Ressler and Samar seem totally cool with it and let him head out to his important international travel.

Where is Aram during all of this? Samar tells Cooper he’s taking a personal day because he’s not dealing with Liz’s death very well, and while that might be true, two things can be true at once: He pulls a Red and shows up on Dom’s doorstep, but he’s not there to see Liz’s grandfather. He’s there to plead with Red to come back to the Post Office and help the team. Actually, he’s kind of there to demand it. Too determined — or perhaps just too heartbroken — to muster any of the fear that usually comes with Aram speaking to Mr. Reddington. He reminds Red of the speech he gave him over an empty grave after Aram saved Liz from certain death by the Cabal. It was a speech about the people who make up the foundational elements of one’s life — about how “when they’re suddenly not there, we collapse into rubble… Now I understand why you have collapsed into rubble. I do, and I’m truly sorry. But I’m here to collect on your debt. You owe me.” ARAM FOR THE MIC DROP!

And do you know what Red does? He doesn’t go back with him. He says no! Can you imagine saying no to that speech? This rubble is well and truly collapsed.

So Aram returns to the Post Office with his head held low. But it seems that just being momentarily in the presence of Red was enough to get his wheels turning. Based off some negative aside from Ressler (ugh, so negative all episode!) Aram realizes that, while he’s checked every possible active data transferring avenue to find the mystery group’s means of spying on Lizzie and Stalder, he hasn’t checked the offline satellites, a.k.a., the satellites that get ditched in space but remain up there, circling the earth. That’s how he finds the Artax Network: a failed telecom network of 73 inactive satellites originally intended to provide data coverage to every corner of the earth. And would you look at that… They’re not so inactive after all.

NEXT: The return of Mr. Mustache…

[pagebreak]

Aram uses the Artax Network to track down Mr. Mustache’s — he’s back! — headquarters, but of course he sees the FBI arrive and he initiates “protocol,” which involves quite a few more microwaves than you might imagine. By the time Ressler and Samar make it to the control room, all the technology they were nuking explodes, and Mr. Mustache and his men are able to get away, seemingly leaving no evidence behind. But Aram, really feeling himself at this point, has yet another lead. Though Stalder had previously told Ressler and Samar that he hadn’t left his hotel room for the entire morning before Rowan attacked him, Aram combed through the hotel’s security footage and found that to be a lie. He had what looked to be a very memorable discussion with a very memorable woman in the lobby. That woman? Famke Janssen, much noted guest star.

So, Aram is obviously back on his game, but Red is still having a hard time at Papa Rostova’s — the locket! — residence, and while Dom has never pretended to enjoy him there, now that he’s overheard the conversation with Aram, Red has truly overstayed his welcome. Dom wants to know what Red is really doing there…what he wants from him. “A way forward,” Red responds. “I can’t live for long with what I feel inside. I don’t see how anyone can.” Dom says that what he’s been doing since he lost his daughter hasn’t really been living: “I crawled into the wilderness like a mortally wounded animal. Got as far away from the pack as I could to ride out the clock…ride out the clock until I died.”

But Red doesn’t have to do that. Dom tells Red he has a reason to walk out that door: “It sounds like there are honest people out there who are depending on you — God help them.” And that must do it. Because leaving nothing but a hand-crafted C-sharp key in his wake, Red slips out of the house while Dom is out and shows up on the doorstep of another important man in Liz’s life: Aram. “I’m here to pay my debt to you, Aram… Strap on your bike helmet — we’re going to work.”

A FEW LOOSE ENDS:

ARAM!!! Man, I love that guy. Spader deserves every hashtag he gets, but I’d point to the bleeding heart of Amir Arison as some of the other finest work on this show. I was very glad to get to spend some more time with him in this episode, and if that is as a result of Liz’s absence, well… If Tom’s stunner shades at Lizzie’s funeral taught me anything, it’s that every loss has a silver lining.

Speaking of Tom… In between learning to swaddle and showing that Ryan Eggold is super adorable with babies, he volunteers to get his hands a little dirty by helping Cooper find Liz’s mysterious enemies. Cooper, suspicious of Cynthia Panabaker’s slippery comments about “looking the other way when you need to” regarding Rowan no longer being in FBI custody, sends Tom to spy on her a little. And what does he find? Panabaker looking suspicious, chatting with Famke Jannsen on an airport tarmac. Per Tom: “I think we’re staring at Katarina Rostova.”

Much like last week, every mysterious thing that Dom and Red say to each other feels important, but the only solid Katarina-related facts we get are that, following her disappearance, he “loved [Masha] enough to let her go. Which is more than I can say for you.” And on that note…

Dom tells Red he stayed out of Masha’s life to keep her safe, something Red couldn’t do. Red couldn’t do it. So it would make sense that in order to keep Liz safe from the greatest threat to her life yet, he might have to get tricked into thinking there was no life to stay in. Just a thought (said with waggling mental eyebrows).

That hotbox! I don’t even know what to say; it was perfect just as it was! A bunch of sad FBI agents smoking weed in a car with Ressler being a total buzzkill — just perfect.

And now we finally know which scotch Red prefers (at least when presented with an average liquor store’s offerings): “a single malt, preferably from the Highlands, but not Islay, the water there tastes like seaweed and iodine.”

What did you think of tonight’s return to a more normal Blacklist format? Did you pick up any little clues from Red’s time at Dom’s house? Are you expecting to see him again? And what do you think of Famke Janssen’s thus far silent character? Katarina Rostova, or just someone who looks like she could be a beautiful Russian spy. I can think of one man who will definitely know the difference…

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