When Agent Ressler asks Agent Samar Navabi why she’s put in for a transfer from the Post Office in Thursday’s episode of The Blacklist, she tells him it’s not just because she now knows Liz is a whiny traitor who took advantage of them by faking her own death after they helped her family over and over again. No, she says it’s bigger than that: “It’s this place. You never know where you stand with anyone… whether they’ll be there for you when you need them.”
Indeed, the footing is unsteady around The Blacklist these days. The opening episodes of this fourth season, tonight’s hour included, have felt like we’ve been building and building toward a plot precipice, but where we’ll land once it’s finally time to make the jump is just as much of a mystery now as it was at the end of season 3. Kirk could be the kind of guy who, y’know, murders a baby for her stem cells, or he could not. Said baby could be his biological granddaughter or she could not. Mr. Kaplan’s caretaker could be keeping her until he could nurse her back to health, or he could be fattening her up, Hansel and Gretel style. And Lizzie could be naïve for trusting Kirk when he says he’s just trying to protect her… or she could be naïve for trusting Red when he says he’s just trying to protect her.
I can see why Samar wants out. But not me. Oh no, I’m digging in deep — chaining my ankle to the metaphorical bed Kaplan-style (too soon?) and sticking this one out until we get some answers. Because that’s what The Blacklist is asking us to do: invest in the build-up with classic procedural episodes like tonight’s for what will hopefully be an insanely gratifying pay day (I promise, no more Shark Tank references) a little further down the road. And that’s how Red and Lizzie find themselves on the hunt for…
GAIA, NO. 81
The episode opens on a handsome-outdoorsy looking fella sketching around in a repurposed school bus in the middle of the woods… it’s all very Into the Wild. That is until he pulls a wad of cotton about six inches long covered in blood out of his nose. But we’ll have to figure out what’s up with that later — for now this guy is crashing a local going away party and poisoning a very non-threatening middle-aged mechanic in the bathroom. Never drink a drink you didn’t watch the bartender pour, folks (that means you too, middle-aged mechanic).
And all this, as Red tells Liz, has something to do with finding Agnes. You remember Agnes… the newborn baby who’s been separated from her mother for, like, weeks. Yeah, well she’s still with Kirk, but he hits her up with that paternal-hotline-bling video chat and says he’s set up a feed where she can watch her daughter anytime. Y’know, like one of those Shiba Inu puppy cams… but for her daughter who he is keeping from her. Liz tells Kirk that she knows he only tracked her down because he needs her or Agnes to cure his genetic disease. But Kirk swears, “Yes, the blood is what I need but it’s not what I want. What I want is for us to be together, and that can’t happen until Reddington is out of your life.” Hmm, kinda seems like you want the blood too though, pal.
But Lizzie thinks she knows how to handle Kirk. Tom wants to trace the video feed, but she says that he has to trust her on this and not trace it: “What does Kirk want more than anything in the world? For me to trust him, to care for him. And because it’s what he desires the most, it’s the easiest way to deceive him.” And I’m all for Lizzie being independent and coming up with her own plans, but maybe this is why Red usually handles this stuff — because what proof does she have that her trust is his number one priority? Is it that he kidnapped her child or that he never told her why he did it in the first place? I guess it’s just some of that “not knowing where you stand” that Samar says is going around.
And speaking of probably-unnecessary secrets, Red says he has a lead on finding Agnes, but Lizzie doesn’t need to know what that connection is, only where they can find it. And it all starts with ol’ bloody nose from the cold open: He’s a “stealth eco-terrorist” known only as Gaia (“earth mother” in Greek), who’s devoted to “protecting the earth from the greatest threat to its existence as we know it: us.” Apparently, this guy makes his intentional acts of eco-terrorism seem like accidents so that the public’s attention is on the danger that exists within toxic economical practices instead of the criminal who exposed them. Or as Samar puts it once the news is delivered to the Post Office, “He kills innocent people to make the point that innocent people are in danger.”
NEXT: What the frack is up with this guy?[pagebreak]
So, yeah, this guy isn’t all there, and that becomes abundantly clear when we see him fatally roofie yet another seemingly harmless man at a gas station. Well, harmless, except for the fact that he’s a field inspector for a fracking company, a company that uses a practice that Gaia points out “messes up the water table.” As it turns out, Gaia killed this guy so that he could take his place inspecting the gas line at Borron Energy Services, and the Post Office is assuming it’s to do a little “accidental” damage with fracked gas. But after Samar and Ressler chase Gaia through the facility and he manages to escape, they discover he didn’t have any sort of explosives or equipment with him. No, it seems he was doing some research because his plan is a little bigger: See, he was finding the pipeline’s most vulnerable spot in order to create an explosion with a blast radius that would reach hundreds of nearby homes and schools, a hospital, and… Stone Park nuclear power plant. To that we say: YIKES.
And along that same sentiment, Kirk is getting one of his oft-featured blood transfusions. But this time, it features the doctor telling him his body has begun rejecting the transfusions, plus a random woman with a full set-o-bangs that we’ve never seen before telling Kirk, “The girl is your only option.” Kirk doesn’t seem like he’s ready for that step and the doctor tells them for what doesn’t seem like the first time that extracting stem cells from such a young child could be fatal. To that Ms. McBangs says, “We are out of time and we are out of resources. The only way to save your life is if we put the child’s in jeopardy,” and couples it with a creepy hand stroke. UH, excuse you.
So it’s a good thing that Tom is currently coordinating with a man that I’ll assume he knows from Xavier’s School for Sociopathic Youths to trace Kirk’s Agnes video feed. Or it would be a good thing if he hadn’t told Liz explicitly that he would trust her on this one and not trace the feed because Liz knew if they did, Kirk would find out and cut off the feed. And, you guys, I’m going to give you one guess what your favorite Spy Husband did… that’s right, he traced the feed, showed up at a house that contained no Spy Babies but many Spy Cameras, and got Liz’s only link to Agnes shut off immediately, all while Lizzie cooed a haunting version of “Rock-a-bye Baby.” Kirk jumps onscreen long enough to show Liz what her husband’s done and say, “I’m sorry Masha,” as he cuts the feed and Liz weeps for him to bring Agnes back.
The only chance of getting Agnes right now is to blindly follow Red in his mission to track down Gaia, whose name is actually Owen Ayers as found out by way of — who else — Glen from the DMV. Though this time he’s not at the DMV, he’s taking part in his favorite extracurricular: bowling. You know who else likes bowling? DEMBE! He tells Glen his release point is off to which Glen says, “Yeah, but I’m a charming conversationalist, so the ladies don’t mind.” Dembe tells him to just keep his elbows in, and in return, Glen speaks a little conversational Mandarin with one of his associates and figures out where Ayers lives…
Which is on that school bus. There Red finds a photo of a pregnant woman and from various documents, the Post Office is able to figure out that Ayers is a former Navy officer and helicopter pilot who was discharged in 2011 when his unit flew through an unscheduled venting of radioactive gas at Fukushima and he got radiation poisoning. As Ressler says, “He was the victim of a nuclear meltdown and now he wants to cause one.” But he wasn’t the only victim. As we see in an earlier scene, he shows up at the pregnant woman from the photo’s house, and though she’s not happy to see him, she listens when he says she has to get their son out of there… their young son who has a major deformity covering half of his face, apparently caused by the radiation that contaminated his father’s blood.
And he wants his son as far away as possible because, as Lizzie figures out, he’s not just trying to cause a pipeline explosion that would cause damage to Stone Park’s nuclear reactor. Ayers has been calculating the precise time that a supermoon — something that only happens every few decades — will cause the Hudson River to have a significantly lower tide, meaning that when the explosion does hit the reactor, there won’t be enough water in the Hudson to cool its core. Basically, according to Cooper, “Ayers wasn’t trying to send a message about the danger of nuclear power… he’s trying to recreate Fukushima on the Hudson.” But all this should be fine because the pipeline is on lockdown and there’s no way for Ayers to get on the grounds of the facility, right? Right…?
WRONG: Ayers just stole a nearby helicopter and he’s headed straight for the pipeline. With minutes before he gets there, Ressler tries to talk Ayers down on the phone, but he’s not budging: “I planned this out to the last detail… give me some credit, Agent Ressler of the FBI.” But you know who really never gets enough credit? Agent Aram Mojtabai of the FBI — because that badass just hacked into the controls of a helicopter and straight up stopped its propeller from spinning.
Well… he almost did. With his hand over the button, he realized that cutting off the power to the rotor would mean certain death for Ayers and, “I killed somebody once, I can’t take another life again.” So without hesitation, Cooper hits the button for him. We watch the helicopter crash into a field close to a youth football game that would have ended in tragedy if not for Aram and Cooper, rather than a scare and a story to tell at school. Aram apologizes to Cooper for hesitating and Cooper says, “For what? You did your job and then I did mine.”
But all is not as copacetic on the Post Office team as a whole. Word is out that Samar is transferring and while Ressler says to tell him if there’s anything he can do to change her mind, Aram simply congratulates her when he realizes nothing else will make a difference. Well, that is until he goes into her office after bringing down Ayers’ plane and she tells him he made the wrong choice hesitating in taking Ayers down. And that is finally Aram’s breaking point: “You know when I congratulated you on submitting your transfer request? I didn’t mean it, I was trying to make you feel better … What I wanted to say was, I’m glad you’re going. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t go fast enough.” And what I wanted to say is, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
So how about some good news? Finally, we find out why Ayers gets Red any closer to Agnes when he shows up at a diner to join Ayers’ son and his mom at their booth: “Hello, Maya — you’re a difficult woman to find.” They share some milkshakes and he tells her that her husband is no longer a threat to them, nor is he… he simply wants to meet little Skyler’s hematologist. “There is a child. Her life hangs in the balance; I believe Skyler’s doctor could save her.” But that’s not exactly the whole story…
As Red relays to Liz, Ayers and his son Skyler share a rare blood disorder… and they also share a doctor with Alexander Kirk. If they can get to Dr. Sebastian Reifler, they can get to Kirk. That’s when Lizzie admits to Red that Kirk had reached out to her through the video feed and Tom had blown it for both of them. But Red is on the case. He does indeed track down Dr. Reifler, presumably using Skyler as a draw, and tells him that he’s to bring Red along on his next house call to Alexander Kirk.
A Few Loose Ends:
- Please don’t think I’ve forgotten about poor Mr. Kaplan, The Blacklist’s resident loose end. After being dragged off by a mystery man last episode, she wakes up in what appears to be a very rustic hunting cabin where her cheek has been patched up with some very questionable bandages. But she is alive, and mystery man is feeding her soup, and once she gets her glasses on, we see that he’s not anyone we know to be dangerous. But he also keeps calling her “young lady” and “sweetheart,” and saying things like, “You’re doing great for such a little girl.” Oh and then there’s the small matter of her finally getting enough strength to sit up on her own, swiveling her feet down onto the ground and discovering that one of them is chained to the floor of the cabin. A visual I shan’t soon forget.
- If Mr. Kaplan was shot through the cheek, is this going to be a Javier Bardem in Skyfall type situation? Or are we thinking more Lady Stoneheart?
- Ressler’s thoughts on Red not telling Liz how Ayers was going to lead them to Agnes: “What a prick.” I really like supportive Ressler.
- It’s really starting to get to me how everyone always refers to Agnes as a “child.” Have you ever referred to a one month old baby as a “child” in your life?! NO! That is a baby. An infant, even!
- Tom and Liz’s current relationship status: TBD, she mad. Real mad.
- This week in Things Lizzie Says That Make Red Stare Into the Distance Because Double-Meaning: “I thought I could make it better, that I could protect my baby. That’s my one job: to protect my child, to make her feel safe at any cost.”
- All this for a doctor referral? The Blacklist is as bad as New York.