Things! Just! Got! Interesting! Don’t get me wrong — watching Skeleton racing on NBC is also going to be interesting, but after the last five minutes of Wednesday’s episode, having to wait three more weeks for our next Blacklist fix might be particularly torturous. (I mean, not “whole body through a wood chipper” torturous, but at least “Brimley is behind a locked door with a small-to-midsize animal” torturous).
Just to be clear: We’re now dealing with an off-duty FBI agent who accidentally killed a criminal while trying to find out who killed her husband. She liquefied that criminal and drained him down a bathtub in order to hide his death from the detective investigating her husband’s murder. That detective is in cahoots with the man who actually killed the FBI agent’s husband, who is apparently a United States Marshal. That United States Marshal killed the FBI agent’s husband because he had something that belonged to the FBI agent’s (maybe) father, who is a criminal mastermind. Now the off-duty FBI agent is going back on duty so she can stand a chance at taking on the be-badged people who killed her husband.
At some point, maybe she’ll also learn how her (maybe) dad is connected to the reason for her husband’s death. Also, she unknowingly met her maternal grandfather tonight. We good? Good.
That is a lot of new intel coming our way with so little actual information to go on! To use a handful of unconnected metaphors, the waters have officially been muddied, and we just have to wade around in them while watching jacked bobsledders for the next three weeks; the pins have been set up and we simply must wait for The Blacklist to knock them down once Megan Boone returns from PyeongChang (presumably); the deck has been stacked and we will sit patiently until Jon Bokenkamp is ready to explode them all in our face (under blankets, in our homes, watching athletic people throw themselves around on ice).
And that’s not even getting to the Blacklister-of-the-week, which was the intriguing, if not totally novel idea of a vigilante justice co-op getting back at the bad guys they hold responsible for killing their parents (plus a couple spares because if you’re gonna murder, go on and MURDER…is how murderers think, I guess).
THE INVISIBLE HAND, NO. 63
Wednesday’s cold open is simple but effective. A restaurant owner sees the last of his patrons out, locks up, then heads to the back of the restaurant to hang out with his friends. They’re getting to know the new boyfriend of one of the friends and peppering him with your normal commentary like, “You make the cheapest handguns on the market today,” and, “Your sales drive homicide rates,” and, “You profit off misery,” and, “It’s blood money, Tim.” Then Tim gets cracked over the head with a wine bottle and buried alive by his dinner companions in hazmat suits. It really is hard to make new friends as an adult.
Okay, maybe not that hard — as Red tells Samar, a body belonging to the owner of a controversial gun manufacturing company has turned up, and he believes he was killed by a provocative group of vigilantes known as The Invisible Hand who go after targets who don’t technically break any laws but are morally reprehensible. The man’s body was found in a town called Brenford, where there’s a 10-square-mile stretch of land deemed uninhabitable because a former chemical corporation dumped so many toxins there. As Samar tells the Post Office, Red thinks there’s much more than just one dumped body to be found in the wasteland.
Samar and Ressler go to investigate the toxic burial site and find out that nine bodies have been unearthed, all with signs that suggest they were buried alive. Other than the cheap guns guy, they’ve been able to identify a man who hiked up the price on cancer pharmaceuticals, a retired judge, and a lawyer. They also get access to a surveillance camera that’s used to monitor the site’s topsoil. Unfortunately, that means it only takes one still photo a day; fortunately that’s all Aram needs to figure out a little somethin’ somethin’. He doesn’t find a suspicious vehicle like he was hoping, but he does find one photo with a suspicious man in the background, suspiciously roaming around a toxic wasteland with no protective gear on. (Recap continues on page 2)
And wouldn’t you know it, it’s one of the guys from the five-person friend group we saw bonding over murder earlier. Now they’re bonding over concern that the FBI are onto their operation. The man Aram spotted in the woods seems to be their leader, and he reminds them, “Everything we do, we do together; we choose who is deserving of punishment together, we execute sentences together, and we are all equally responsible.” He tells them if the rest of them want to stop, then they’ll stop — but he’s got something he knows will make them want to keeping going. He passes a file containing information on a woman to all of his friends, and one of them immediately says, “She has to die.” They all put their hands up and say, “Anna Hopkins, you will know The Invisible Hand.”
These guys are…pretty extra. And speaking of extra, Red is being hands-off on this Invisible Hand task because he’s occupied by his own invisible business. Remember that guy Anthony who helped Red get rich again by starting an Airbnb for criminals? Of course you do. Well, he shows up at Red’s office because he intercepted a package coming out of a house he’d heard was a drug-dealing operation, in hopes that the package was full of drugs he could make money off of in order to get liposculpture for his new girlfriend who’s out of his league. The package was, indeed, full of cocaine, but Big Willie Wilkins, whom the drugs originally belonged to, came looking for Anthony, not buying his lost-package story. So Anthony tells him that he heard Momo Marnello is the one who stole the package. And now Momo Manello is definitely going to kill him.
Red tells Anthony, “In matters like this, honesty is always the best policy…probably,” and takes him to tell Big Willie the truth. But, see, Willie has already chopped Momo into a bunch of pieces in the back of his warehouse and, oops, started a drug war. Momo’s guys come in, guns blazing, and there’s a shootout. Red accidentally shoots Anthony — you guys, there’s a lot happening, and it ends up all being because Red wanted to get to have Big Willie’s confidence so he could help him with a narcotics venture: He wants to go after the Nash Syndicate. That would be the drug ring Liz believes to be involved with Tom’s killers. Willie tells Red that they’re untouchable; their guys never go to jail, their shipments never get sieged, and he’s heard it’s because they’re protected by the cops. Tuck that in your cap for a while.
Speaking of cops, Liz is visited by Detective Singleton, who is no longer playing nice with her — he knows she killed Navarro, but he doesn’t know how she managed to steal the rag with her blood on it out of the evidence locker before it could be tested. He’s there to give her Tom’s personal effects, but also to tell her that he’s coming for her. She tells him, “You know, you better be careful, detective, because no matter what you believe, you’re still talking to a federal agent.”
In Tom’s personal items, there’s a special key that unlocks a safe she has in storage. Inside, she finds a notebook of Tom’s Secret Spy things, with a page he was clearly working on when he was killed. It’s titled “Oleander” and has a postcard from the Oleander Hotel in Slovenia tucked inside. Liz calls Cooper for help. Coops calls in a few favors because that sweet man just cannot say no to Liz and finds out that Oleander was/is a person — it’s the name of Russian operative during the Cold War. A few years ago the CIA thought he might be in the U.S. under an assumed name, and Cooper has that name and address for her, though he warns her the man would certainly be dangerous if he really is Oleander.
He turns out to, of course, be Katarina Rostova’s father, Dominic, whom we’ve seen Red go to a number of times, and therefore Elizabeth’s maternal grandfather. And she has no idea. Dominic tells her that he did work for Russian intelligence, but in the civilian escort as an analyst — he’s not Oleander, though the CIA once thought him be. Liz says it’s possible, then, that he knew her mother: Katarina Rostova. Dom says he knew her quite well; they worked in the same building, where she was already a legend. He even recalls seeing little Masha when she was 3 and Katarina brought her into work one day. Liz asks if he thinks she’s dead, and he tells her that he never heard from her again once she came to America. “I think there are people who want to keep that information a secret, and I think they will do whatever is necessary, even now, to keep it that way,” says Dom. Much like her father, Liz’s grandfather seems quite skilled at not lying while also not telling the truth.
But secrets that big can’t stay buried forever — just ask the Invisible Hand crew, who are rapidly being uncovered. Aram discovers that the judge and lawyer whose bodies were found served on one case together…in the city of Brenford. He can’t see the case because it’s sealed, but he can see the one other person who tried to have it unsealed years ago: Steven Altman, the man from the surveillance photo. But he also has no traceable records for the last two years. Ressler wonders if it’s because he was reckless enough to move back to Brenford… (Recap continues on page 3)
And Ressler is right! They head back to the uninhabitable land in Brenford and find that one of the old houses has smoke coming from the chimney. Inside, they find evidence of Steven living there, plus very high-end surveillance equipment. But no Steven — that’s because he’s using that surveillance equipment to track Anna Hopkins, and along with the rest of his friends, he’s just kidnapped her from her hotel. But since Aram was also able to use the surveillance equipment to track Anna, Samar and Ressler intercept the Invisible Hand’s getaway. And these vigilantes open fire on the FBI!
And all those Invisible Hands end up getting shot (it’s the FBI y’all!), except for one woman, who tells Ressler and Samar exactly where on the Brenford land Steven and Billy — the very very shot dude driving the getaway van — will be taking Anna. But she’s still in for a long van ride with these men who hate her. As it turns out, she was the senior executive of the branch of the chemical company that was responsible for the poisoning of Brenford’s land. And she was responsible for executing the first payout — along with the judge and lawyer who have already been killed — that kept the dangers of living in Brenford quiet for a year before everyone started getting sick…before everyone started dying.
The Invisible Hand members were all childhood friends, and then all of their parents died from bone cancer they got from the toxic spills in their formerly idyllic hometown. Now Steven has the same bone cancer his parents had, and nothing to lose. He leaves Billy bleeding out by the car, knocks Anna out, and takes her to the pre-dug grave. He’s shoveling on the dirt when Samar and Ressler get there, arresting Steve and performing CPR on Anna once they’ve dug her out. Steven doesn’t deny any of the murders: “I corrected what I knew to be wrong in the world… I will die knowing I did what I could.”
But we’re not done with the Invisible Hand yet. It seems that Red wants a private word with Billy the driver, who’s recovering from his gunshot wound. Red knows — presumably from the surveillance equipment at Steven’s, which looked similar to the surveillance equipment they found at Ian Garvey’s lair last week — that the Invisible Hand worked with someone called the Toymaker. With the threat of 20 more bullets to the abdomen, Billy gives Red the information, and he takes Liz along with him to threaten the Toymaker with a soldering gun. But the man says he’s a lover not a fighter, so he gives them the information he has on the GPS eyeball they’ve presented to him: The guy who commissioned it knew exactly what he wanted and the Toymaker built him “what might be the most advanced surveillance and counter-surveillance gear out there right now.” He says that the man was incredibly knowledgeable about the stuff, almost like he was…
“A cop?” asks Red.
Liz goes to Cooper’s office to ask to be put back on the Post Office team, saying it’s what’s best for everyone. “Meaning whatever you’ve learned about Tom’s death, having a badge is necessary,” prompts Cooper. He’s somewhat right about the badge: “Because I think whoever killed Tom has one too,” says Liz. She’ll need everyone’s help to crack this and she’ll have it. But still, the future looks grim as we hear Detective Singleton on the phone saying, “We’ve got to get everyone together. Agent Keen could become a serious problem.” On the other end of the line, Ian Garvey says he’ll deal with Keen, pushing his jacket back to reveal his U.S. Marshal badge. OOF.
A Few Loose Ends
- They were fresh out of “I’m sorry I shot you” balloons. I loved that Red threw Anthony’s liposculpture in with his, y’know, life-saving surgery for a gunshot wound, but shouldn’t his cut of that Airbnb money be enough that he doesn’t have to steal drugs?!
- I kind of hope Samar stays Red’s Post Office liaison even when Liz comes back. Liz will have all that intra-government crime to deal with anyway, and I like how much Samar/Ressler/Aram kick-ass crime solving we’ve been getting.
- “Imagine the confidence a man has to have in his own genitals to take on a nickname like Big Willie.”
- And along the same lines: “I’m not a big fish, Willie — I’m Moby Dick.”
- Did we already know that Katarina’s dad was also a Russian spy? We’ve long stanned for Spy Baby Agnes, but Lizzie was really the ultimate third-generation Spy Baby.
- Dominic calls Red to tell him that Masha was there looking for Oleander. Of course he didn’t tell her that he is Oleander, or about their connection, though it pained him. “You should tell her,” he tells Red. “Enough secrets, she deserves to know.” Dom and Dembe should start a support group.
- Anyone take down all the Oleander clues from Tom’s notebook?