It’s been months since Tom Keen died — on the show, it’s been more like a year — but The Blacklist has found a way to sustain momentum in the ongoing search for his killer. For the most part, the unrelenting pursuit of “Damascus” and the mysterious web he weaves has temporarily taken over the serialized nature this series normally reserves for figuring out The Deal between Elizabeth Keen and Raymond Reddington. It’s a fun temporary detour, and it was a wise move on the show’s part to transition the search for Tom’s killer from just Lizzie’s solo quest to the motivational tie that binds all the lead characters together again.
If Red and Liz and Cooper and Ressler and Aram and Samar are interested in occasionally pushing everything else aside to find Tom’s killer — well then, I’m interested too. Plus, that Ian Garvey guy still gives me the major creeps. And now he’s killed my favorite new character just as he and Liz were becoming best friends? Oh, it is on.
Wednesday’s episode shows that, with everyone working together, they can actually achieve a little work/side-hustle balance, which is doing good things for the episodic nature of the series. In fact, this episode solidly keeps even more balls in the air than normal. Red is both evading the IRS and bringing in his new fire fixer from a few episodes ago; when she’s not assisting the Post Office with their current Blacklister, Liz is running stakeouts with Detective Singleton; and when they’re not assisting Liz with tracking Damascus, the Post Office is tracking the Blacklister who’s shut down half of lower Manhattan with casual biological warfare.
It’s fun to burn it all down to ashes a couple of times a season, but it’s also fulfilling to see this team working together to tackle a handful of smaller issues (you know, like biological warfare and IRS auditing) as they arise. As our returning resident arsonist Earl Fagan says to Red at one point: “Men plan; God laughs.” In the case of Wednesday’s perhaps overly passionate, but not entirely homicidal Blacklister, whoever’s up there at least paired the laughing with a satisfying result.
PATTIE SUE EDWARDS, NO. 68
In the world of The Blacklist, biological weapons are released about as often as a Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale, but it is always a quick ticket to TerrorVille, so I see why it’s a deep well. While a woman gets her check at a diner in Manhattan, her waitress starts coughing and soon collapses, a rash covering her body. As everyone tries to figure out how to help the waitress, her customer takes a puff of an inhaler and quickly exits the restaurant just as all the other patrons begin coughing themselves.
As it turns out, nine months ago, Red declined to help a black market trader who came to him looking to secure a pathogen with maximum contagion capabilities for a client. Judging by the recent outbreak in New York that the CDC has quarantined four city blocks for, that pathogen was ultimately found without Red. But since the trader was killed a few months ago, they don’t know who the client, a.k.a. the Post Office’s newest assignment, was. Around the time the CDC sends video footage of the woman who managed to leave the diner just before everyone else contracted the virus, we see that same woman dropping a smoking briefcase into the elevator of New York General Hospital. So, not great. Except…
The agent in a hazmat suit who opens the briefcase only finds a bunch of inhalers and a note that’s labeled “treatment protocol.” It’s not another attempted outbreak of the pathogen: it’s the pathogen’s cure.
But the CDC won’t use the alleged antidote on the victims until it’s been vetted, and the only way to figure out why someone would contaminate a bunch of people and then offer them a cure is to identify that someone. Using the security footage, Aram finds that her name is Captain Patricia Sue Edwards, a former biochemist for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Disease. So, y’know, pretty qualified for what she’s up to these days, which is definitely not sanctioned by the U.S. government. It seems Captain Edwards was released from her position in the Army about a year ago when her husband, a Navy SEAL stationed in Syria, was killed by another SEAL who caught him stealing a truckload of opium. The judge ruled that the man who killed Edwards’ husband was acting in self-defense. (Recap continues on next page)
Soon, we see Edwards at her husband’s grave telling him, “There was a story in the news today about an outbreak. I think you’ll like it.” To which I say: Whyyyyyy?
The answer to that question becomes clear to the audience very quickly; unfortunately our trained FBI agents need a little extra time to figure it out and drag out the plot, bringing about the episode’s only major weak spot. There’s just…no way they wouldn’t figure out that Edwards is trying to avenge her husband’s death as soon as all the pieces start falling together. But at least those pieces are interesting, and I always love when we get to see Aram in the field.
See, while the CDC director who’s coordinating with the Post Office on this case is explaining the pathogen Edwards created, the entire CDC computer network crashes. “It seems like the biological virus is now infecting our entire network,” she says, which got a nice little scoff out of me because…that’s absurd. But it seems that she’s right. As Aram explains to Cooper, code is created with ones and zeros, and the human genome can be manipulated to contain malicious code within it. So, when the infected DNA from the victims was analyzed and uploaded to the CDC’s network, a computer virus was lurking inside it. That is so nuts, and so far outside of my realm of expertise, I couldn’t possibly counter it; so I will simply stand in awe of it.
Edwards’ very purpose for the outbreak was to hijack the CDC’s server, but the only way for Aram to see what she’s doing with it is to access the server farm, which just so happens to be…inside the quarantine zone. Which explains why Edwards would have caused an outbreak and then offered the cure for it: she didn’t want anyone to die, she just needed to make that server farm inaccessible. Luckily, our Aram is a brave little soldier: he suits up in a hazmat with a 20-minute oxygen supply, only makes one joke about having to pee, and heads into the eerily deserted streets of lower Manhattan to very quickly figure out what Edwards is up to inside the CDC server…
He finds that she’s not looking for something, she’s looking for someone — using the CDC server to then access the DOD server, and run some kind of search with a DNA sample. Given her backstory, that’s when it becomes pretty clear she would be looking for the man who killed her husband under suspicious circumstances. But perhaps the Post Office doesn’t make that immediate connection because they’re also busy trying to help Liz out. Now that she’s teamed up with Singleton, they come up with a solid plan to lure out whoever is providing insider info to Tom’s killer. Singleton drops to his intra-departmental team investigating Tom’s murder that by trailing Liz he found out the FBI is cutting a deal with Bobby Navarro (you know, the guy Lizzie murdered a while back), and tells them when and where that’s taking place.
The person who shows up isn’t any of the law enforcement officers from Singleton’s team, but he is on the phone reporting back to someone, and Singleton and Liz are able to trace the burner number. Once Liz gives Aram the trace, he geo-locates it to an address — an address that just so happens to be the office Singleton is standing in with his entire team when Liz gives it to him. So Liz calls the burner phone, and Singleton follows the vibrating…into Ian Garvey’s office. Garvey finds him there seconds later, and it’s a tribute to Jonny Coyne’s performance the can somehow make Garvey seem intimidating to the much larger Singleton (whose earnest performance from Evan Parke I’ve also loved). Garvey references the daughters Singleton has in Orlando that we heard him telling Liz about earlier: “You can open your mouth, but the thing is, whatever happened to me, I got people…a lot of people.” (Recap continues on next page)
While Garvey and Singleton head for a ride of indeterminate destination, the Post Office has finally figured out where Edwards is likely heading: to Caleb James Cronan, the retired Navy SEAL who killed her husband, and the DNA she was searching. Indeed, she shows up at Cronan’s house in her formal Army uniform, with a special contraption hidden inside her glove. When Cronan shakes her hand, he’s pricked by something. The next thing we know, Edwards has him zip-tied to a chair, with a gun trained on him, telling him that she knows her husband wasn’t stealing opium because he told her he was delaying his ship-out from Syria until he figured out who was stealing it. She knows it was Cronan, and that he murdered her husband and blamed it all on him. What she doesn’t know is who else was involved, and she won’t give Cronan the antidote inhaler until he tells her.
Now, the whole time Edwards is interrogating Cronan, she seems mighty sure of herself, and that’s when you know this will not end well for her. Cronan is infected, yes, but he’s also an elite Navy SEAL, and she has him bound to this flimsy chair — maybe double-zip-tie next time, huh, Edwards? Cronan busts out of the chair when she’s least expecting it and gets her gun…but he also crushes the antidote in the process, so if they both don’t want to die, they have to get to her lab.
The Post Office gang and CDC agents detour them en route with the antidote in tow, but they can’t give it to them until they know Cronan is unarmed. Ressler approaches the vehicle, visibly unloading his gun, and they both get out of the car. Cronan is coughing out that she poisoned him, and Edwards is saying that she never wanted to hurt anyone; she just wanted to prove her husband’s innocence. Ressler takes interest in that, and I enjoyed the extra twist of him waiting out a confession from Cronan before giving him the antidote. In the end, Edwards’ husband is given a funeral befitting an honorably discharged Navy SEAL, as Ressler and U.S. Marshals stands by Edwards’ side — the imagery of her holding his folded American flag in handcuffs is really something.
For a Blacklister, it’s almost a happy ending, and it’s a good thing because this episode is in short supply of those. Cooper and Liz have both been unable to get ahold of Singelton, and ultimately they’re called to a crime scene where they find his body. For a moment, it’s yet another derailment in the quest for Tom’s killer, until Lizzie hears something — a voice. Someone across the way is talking, and she flashes back to the night of Tom’s death, inside her apartment with the Damascus knife. She looks up and sees Ian Garvey. “That’s him,” she tells Cooper. “The bald man — Damascus. That’s the man who killed Tom.”
So now, all that’s left in the hunt for Tom’s killer is to see how it ends. Earlier in the episode, Red warned Liz that this moment would come. “You and I both know this doesn’t end in a court room,” he tells her. “It ends on the street. I want you to be prepared for that.”
A FEW LOOSE ENDS:
- All of the Red stuff this episode was super fun, but just so many little things to mention. Basically, his Critter Cabin money laundering front is being audited by the IRS, so he tasks Earl Fagan with figuring out how to burn it to the ground while he figures out if he can bribe the auditor instead. One private school enrollment and new assigned auditor later…and Red decides to just have Fagan burn the IRS auditing building down instead. The case is postponed indefinitely, and they don’t even have to use those animal bones Smokey dug up (maybe literally).
- Much is made of Red reigniting Fagan’s fervor for fire — whoa — and Red’s ultimate solution is to keep him on retainer for the occasional all-consuming blaze, but to also give him Embrace the Struggle by Zig Ziglar, which motivated Red “to quit smoking, and shoot from the neck down.”
- When Fagan tells Red he needs “someone who sees the fire in my eyes and wants to play with it,” Red sasses “Is that a yes, or a no, or is a haiku sometimes just a haiku?” which is preeeeetty rich coming from Mr. If-Wishes-Were-Horses-Beggars-Would-Ride himself.
- “Is this latex or memory foam?” I loved Singleton’s supreme annoyance with Red’s mattress-centric intimidation techniques, and he will be missed.
- Presumably all of the victims of the initial outbreak get the cure and are fine — we never really hear back on that.