Penultimate episodes are made for two things: They are the calm before the finale storm; or they are the storm that allows for a calming, resolute finale. I believe we’d classify Thursday’s episode of The Blacklist as the former. Don’t get me wrong: A lot of people died tonight — a handful of them with stationary stabbed into their chests.The Blacklist is never calm. But tonight was all about making stakes perfectly clear.
How far will Harold Cooper go to find the people who brought about Agent Keen’s death? Pretty far, folks. And what would Raymond Reddington do to avenge Lizzie’s death. Oh, whatever it takes; we couldn’t even imagine the lengths until he gets there. My assumption is that next week…he will get there. And with a new partner in literal crime, at that. See, I didn’t need to know that there were five episodes left in the season after Lizzie’s death to know that Red was going to go through the grieving process of losing the dearest person in his life.
But since I double checked, and the math added up, let’s just try this on for size: Surely no one would challenge me that “Cape May” was a big ‘ol bout of Denial for Raymond Reddinton. The man spent days in an opium den, then conjured a hallucination of Lizzie’s mother and ate canned-mushroom risotto at a table set for two. And I’d wager to say that his trip to Liz’s grandfather’s house in “The Artax Network” was a bit-O-Bargaining: trying to right something that was wrong during Lizzie’s life in the off chance that it helped, that it changed anything. And now?
Now Red is an angry man. (I should probably mention that Red is so angry the finale will actually be a two-parter, a real Blacklist specialty at this point. So while I’m referring to this as the penultimate episode, there are actually two weeks of Blacklist left.) A number of times tonight, Red reminds someone that “Elizabeth Keen is dead.” That statement could seem like Acceptance — but no, something tells me Red might not ever have to make it to Acceptance. It sounded more like a battle cry to me. Elizabeth Keen is dead, and someone must pay…
SUSAN HARGRAVE, NO. 18
Why, hello there, Mystery Surveillance Footage Woman who’s new name is Scottie Hargrave. This week we’re officially introduced to Famke Janssen’s Scottie as she tries to talk a potential client named Samuel out of his nervousness over the measures she’s proposed to him. She does that by taking his hand, putting it directly inside her shirt, and asking him how long he’s been married (while I wonder if she only owns keyhole blouses in order to accommodate this maneuver): “Have you touched another woman’s breast in 23 years? How’s it feel? What are you feeling inside? Apprehensive?”
So, yeah, this one’s kind of a wildcard. Good thing, too, because she’s playing with fire now. After Aram showed Red the footage they had of Scottie, Red immediately identified her for the Post Office, and now both Cooper and Red have begun their individual hunts for who sent Solomon after Lizzie. So, Red is killing warehouses full of her operatives and pinning notes to them with daggers that say things like “We should talk” and are signed only with “R.” And Coops is finding out every single thing he can about Halcyon, the super secret government contractor Cynthia Panabaker told him to stay away from, which he now knows is run by Scottie Hargrave and her husband.
NEXT: Tom Keen, spy for hire…[pagebreak]
Basically, the government is actively protecting the organization that attempted to kidnap Liz, and Cooper is having exactly none of it. They still have a lead with Benjamin Stalder, who was spotted last week talking to Scottie shortly before she tried to abduct him, but he escaped. If they can get a tap on him, they might be able to track Scottie, and the best way to him is through his young brunette assistant, so there’s only one sexy sociopathic spy for the job: Warby Parker Tom. Tom throws on his specs and a truly dumb cardigan to head to the assistant’s regular coffee spot with a tool that can mirror her laptop from a close distance. It doesn’t work. But you know what always works? The irresistible glint of those Warbys.
Tom doesn’t get the laptop goods, but he does get a date, and Aram just about cried when he thinks he’s insinuated to Tom that he might need to sleep with the woman this time: “Tonight, you jump her air gap.” He just means he has to stick a thumb drive in her USB port — okay, still not great — but Tom seems pretty open to whatever. So he plays the widow card on their date at the assistant’s apartment, makes out with her on the desk long enough to download everything on her laptop, and gets his thumb drive outta there! Aram is very relieved to hear that all air gap jumping was only literal in nature and that Tom truly did love Liz.
That love for Elizabeth Keen — it’s a pretty solid motivator. After daggering a number of straightforward requests to some of Scottie’s best men doesn’t prove fruitful, Red makes the connection between Scottie and Samuel…you know, the breast man. Apparently that fondle did make him feel pretty confident about taking a risk with Halcyon to bring down his competitors in the oil business who’ve been doing cheap deals with terrorists. And somehow, Red knows it. Because when Samuel arrives home, his wife (that one of 23 years) tells him there’s a gentleman inquiring about their brownstone waiting in the garden. Bet you can’t guess who that gentleman is. Here’s a hint: He’s already managed to charm the wife and commandeer crudités and a glass of white wine.
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Why it’s Red of course, and this whole scene, from its assertive daffodil symbolism, to its ongoing conversation about Samuel’s dealing with “videos,” is just delightfully weird. And even better, the intel Red gets leads him straight to the mission Rowan is conducting for Scottie and straight to the Post Office, invited by Cooper to join forces. I just love when these two opposite ends of the paternal spectrum get together. Red tells Cooper to smile — it’s almost over (nuh uh, two more grief steps, buddy); and Cooper asks Red how he’s holding up: “As long as we keep moving forward, I’ll endure.”
So, Cooper sends a S.W.A.T. team to the Port of Amsterdam, where Halcyon is supposed to be preventing a sale between terrorists and Samuel’s rival company. Instead, they find that Rowan was there to deliver a bomb as part of a coordinated attack on the company in multiple areas. There’s a brief scare where it seems like everyone in the vicinity has been killed by an explosion, but actually the feed back to the Post Office just briefly went out as S.W.A.T. ran the bomb to a safe location. Everyone and everything that was supposed to be blown up is actually fine…
And finally Red has Scottie’s attention. She drops him a line to say it’s one thing to kill her people — pro tip: Do not work for Scottie Hargrave — and it’s another to drive away her clients. She takes the time to remind him that she and her people went to great lengths to keep Elizabeth Keen alive and it was only when Red got involves that things got dangerous: “Might I suggest your anger isn’t with me but with yourself?” Woah. That’s cutting pretty deep for a little phone catch-up.
NEXT: Setting up the
chess checkers board…[pagebreak]
Whether Scottie’s right or not, Red still wants to meet in person, and he has different plans for her than she might expect. Through the laptop intel Tom nabbed, Aram is able to find out that Scottie’s main goal in their arranged meeting is to get Reddington good and dead. Scottie tells him to meet her in the first-class lounge at BWI knowing that he can’t get anything dangerous through security (including himself, nearly). She says it’s so she can protect herself, but really it’s so she can call the airport police just before FBI’s Most Wanted Raymond Reddingon steps through the door. The police come and cuff him, and for a moment it seems like Scottie is a pretty by-the-book foe. But then one of the cops knocks the other cop out, revealing that he’s on Scottie’s payroll — a defense contractor, as he sees it — and leading Red to her. So Red tells him about his time in Bermuda leaning to play checkers, and his favorite tactical move, the forced capture. Or in layman’s terms: THE DOUBLE JUMP!
See, Red looked at the airport schematic (always, always look at the schematic!) and knew exactly why Scottie would want to meet in the specific area their meeting was supposed to happen in; because of its close proximity to a discreet loading dock that should have taken Red right to Scottie as a captive but instead delivers Baz and Dembe, assault rifles blazing. The two chairs in the middle of the room quickly take on a new meaning as the power shifts to Red. And though Scottie gets a warning shot to the bicep for daring to suggest that the impromptu roller disco hospital Red made for Lizzie was inadequate, Red and Scottie did not share similar goals for this meeting…
She wanted to kill him. He wants to save her. Following the gunshot wound, Scottie quickly confesses to Red who sent her Halcyon after Masha Rostova — Alexander Kirk. And Red tells Scottie where they stand: “Elizabeth Keen is dead. Which means you are, too. Alex Kirk is coming to kill you; the only surprise is that I got to you first.” And Raymond Reddington, king of checkers, never underestimates the power of surprises. He’s come to Scottie because it’s time for them to get in bed together. They now share a common enemy. And we now have a stormy finale to look forward to.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS:
Scottie’s husband, Howard, and Red were/are apparently friends. Howard and Scottie apparently aren’t doing so well these days, though, and she took on the Masha Rostova assignment as an independent project.
Alexander Kirk theories — GO!
I didn’t mention Laurel Hitchin’s involvement in getting Red to Scottie, but I like the theme of Red begrudgingly teaming up with former foes to reach newer, larger foes. Also, I like Christine Lahti.
Conspiracy Corner: If Liz isn’t truly dead, Tom’s in on it, right? He couldn’t be that callous with throwing around the “my wife died, I’m getting back on the dating wagon, oh no this is just all too much” card with Stalder’s assistant if he wasn’t…could he??
Aram tells Tom he needs to be patient with technology, and Tom hits Aram back with a nod toward Samar and tells him maybe he’s being a little too patient. Just a coupl’a office pals!
After the confiscated oil tank disappears and Red ends up at the airport, even though they warned him it was a trap, Cooper is starting to “get the feeling he has an agenda here he’s not sharing with us.” Hey Coops, haaaaaave ya met Red?
One more time, all together now: DOUBLE JUMP!