Tom and Liz renew their wedding vows, but there is nothing romantic about this marriage of spy convenience. Meanwhile, a dying man plots murder-suicide.
I’ve been dreading this. Another episode like “The Stewmaker” that has a villain who is nauseatingly disgusting and threatening. This week’s Blacklister is Milton Bobbit, a.k.a. “The Undertaker,” a decomposing zombie Mushroom-Man who (am I a terrible person for saying this?) looked so putrid, I had to stop eating my dinner because it started to taste like compost. In the end, Mushroom was actually terminally ill and kind of a good guy, but boy was he hard to watch. In other news, Red and Liz made some (a little) headway on the story of Tom Keen. We met Craig Keen, Tom’s “estranged brother” who also worked for Berlin, but his narrative came to an abrupt conclusion.
Really every new character came to an abrupt conclusion in this episode. We’d meet someone and then a few minutes later, blam! Up in flames or out a window. I do appreciate that The Blacklist mixes up the pacing on each show, so you never know what you’re in for: Some are slower and more emotional, others are more manic and gut-wrenching.
The cold open starts with a middle-aged woman hailing a taxi to La Guardia Airport. From the car she calls her kid to say she’ll be home soon. When she hangs up, the taxi driver decides his favorite movie is Speed. He kisses a photo of his wife on the dash, and turns them both into an inferno when he drives into the back of a construction truck. And so begins the sudden death.
Cut to a shot of a gaunt man opening a file folder with the dead driver’s picture in it next to a piece of paper that says “Client Information.” He drops the photo into a shredder and orders a wire transfer. So we know he’s responsible, but we don’t know how or why. Then we follow this already scary looking man back to his apartment, which is the stuff of nightmares. He lives in a dark hovel, growing a dozen strains of fungus. Mushrooms cover the tables, soaking up fluorescent lighting, or hang from the ceiling in soil-filled lantern sacks. He clips some samples and throws them into a blender. As if he was chilling out and having an after-work beer, he removes his clothes and sits in his easy chair — but as the camera pans across his body, purplish in the dimness, we see that he’s oozing from numerous sores on his body. And just to ratchet up the level of grotesque, he removes his nose. Yep, takes it right off and airs out his nasal cavity like a grinning skeleton. The camera is trained on his horrifying face, hanging open and loose like something from the mind of Clive Barker, as he puts the straw in his mouth and slurps up his greyish fungus shake. I’ll never sleep again.
The next scene begins with Liz telling Tom that she “feels a little wonky.” As do we all, sister. As do we all. If ever there was a way to make Tom seem like a ray of freaking sunshine, it was showing his pancake breakfast after the zombified Mushroom-Man. I want a hug from anyone — even Tom right now. Tom is desperate to reel Liz in again, since she seems unimpressed by his pancakes and his spy job depends on her trusting him, so he does the only thing a person does when their marriage is falling apart like it was made by Ikea: He asks her to renew their wedding vows. Liz musters up enough of a “yes” that she doesn’t blow her cover. But once Tom leaves for work, she’s understandably furious. She’s trapped in a fake marriage, betrayed by her closest friend and lover, but she has to carry on the charade. In slow motion, she dramatically shatters plates and scatters picture frames.
NEXT: Operation Who is Tom Keen?
After her outburst, Lizzie is ready to take action. (Finally. Cripes.) First things first: Make a whiteboard and tape all the clues to it. Oh, phew. Don’t you feel better already?
Red stops by and he’s brought pimento cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off — Eartha Kitt’s recipe. (I tried to see if this was a real thing, but I came up empty. Anybody know if Eartha has an actual recipe for this? That would be worth having.) But Liz is sick of the men in her life trying to placate her with food. She flips out and tells him to give up everything he knows about Tom Keen. He admits that he had a security breach a few years ago and took stock of his vulnerabilities, i.e. Liz Keen. At this, Liz demands to know what their connection is, but Red patronizes her and tells her to focus on finding out who Tom is and what his goals are. I know for the show, it’s important to keep that question open, but if I were Liz, I’d insist on answers from Red. It’s so obnoxious that he’s so secretive, but then again Liz is so unreliable and irresponsible as an agent that I can’t blame him.
Anyway, Red tells her he’s been keeping tabs on Tom since he entered Liz’s life, but he’s without intel (or he’s unforthcoming with it) because he says that all he knows is that Tom bought his fake passports from a trusted colleague of Red’s. But Red does have the surveillance tapes of Liz’s apartment from “the apple guy,” so she can go back and watch what Tom was up to. The main thing she learns is that Tom kept a key hidden under a lamp, but she can’t figure out what it’s for. Red throws her another bone and reveals that The Undertaker is responsible for the taxi murder-suicide.
After so much dialogue, it’s time for another sudden death. We watch Mushroom Man give some poor woman her assassination assignment and she pulls up to a gas station, where she lights a guy in a suit on fire and purposely burns herself up in the blaze. So murder-suicide number two. Agent Keen briefs the crew on Red’s tip at the Post Office, and when they put their heads together they come up with the pattern: Each assassin had a terminal illness and right before his or her death came into a large sum of money.
As we start to get the big picture, cut to an older man in the hospital with an IV bag and a deadly heart condition. Mushroom Milton approaches him and bargains for a murder-suicide in exchange for financial support for the man’s family after his death.
Liz has thrown herself headlong into the charade of loving husband and wife. While Tom was at work, she surprise-invited all of their friends to the house for a cocktail party and vow renewal. This is where we meet Craig Keen. Craig is paranoid that Liz is onto them. Craig is smarter than like 2/3 of the people in this show. He tells Tom that she called him and asked about “our parent’s accident in Tucson.”
I thought the thinly veiled threats that served as marriage vows were going to be a dead giveaway to each of them, but neither acknowledged their suspicions. These days, Liz is starting to come unhinged, “I want to marry this man!” She yells laughing manically, like a woman just shy of a mental breakdown. Lock it up, Keen. Your crazy is showing. But she does manage to snag Craig’s champagne flute without his noticing.
Dembe comes over to pick up the glass, so he can get the prints and the identity of Craig. As the music builds, his eyes rove the walls and you think he’s going to share a haunting warning…”What color is the paint?” (I’m thinking like can you bug paint somehow?) And she goes, “it’s called Chicago Skyline.” “Nice,” he replies gravely. Dembe, you kill me. To get the prints, Red flies to San Salvador to visit a Bosnian scientist whose wife he once slept with (as one does.) After he bargains for the DNA testing with a weekend at his villa in Dubrovnik, he passes the info on to Liz from his private jet. Next to his glass of whiskey is a carved red egg that is somehow important. So file that away for later.
NEXT: Liz goes Kung-Fu fighting!
Once Liz has Craig’s info, she hunts him down at his hotel and whips out some awesome Krav Maga moves, smashing the door into his face when he opens it and then hooking him with a nasty elbow in the nose. Baller. Liz, I love it when you take charge! More of this please. She cuffs his lying mug to the bathroom sink after he plays “mum’s the word” with her, then invites Red and Dembe to take over when she has to go meet the Post Office folks. “Dembe, get me the hacksaw. It looks like we’ll have to take him out of here in pieces,” says Red, laughing like these torture rendezvous are all such jolly good fun.
Instead of chopping him up, they treat Craig to a visit to a modern art museum and as Red waxes poetic about the installation. Dembe casually walks by with Craig’s elderly mother in a wheelchair — a silent threat that does the trick.
The Feds have got a lead on Mr. IV bag, and Lizzie and Ressler rush to stop his attack before he shoots a politician and becomes the next murderer/victim. Disaster averted. They stop him in time. But when Liz heads back to check on Reddington’s progress with the information gathering, she finds him watching The Three Stooges with Dembe. (Sounds like a great time.)
Liz is exasperated, but Red said he was waiting for her so they could hear his answers together. There were very few answers to hear. Craig insisted that he barely knows Tom, but reveals two things: 1) There’s a woman named Nicky whom Tom talks about a lot, and 2) Tom has a real brother in Chicago. Unfortunately, Tom calls and Craig has to answer, so that interrupts the progress. But Tom let’s a line slip about Berlin, so now Reddington knows about that.
But before they can question him further, Craig throws himself out the hotel window. I did not see that coming. While everyone’s back is turned, he just disappears in a spray of glass. Red’s attitude is, “Welp, that was that.” Reddington’s complete lack of unnecessary emotion is so admirable. (Side note: I know he was a bad guy, but I really liked Craig. I wish they had used his character for at least a small story arc.)
To wrap up the plot of the episode, Milton himself pulls a gun on a Dr. Osborne and we learn that Mushroom was taken advantage of by this doctor who was testing dangerous drugs for Type 2 Diabetes on unsuspecting patients. So that’s why the sad Mushroom Man is dying a slow and agonizing death. Milton is wearing a bomb vest that he plans to detonate killing himself and the doctor in a cemetery, but the Feds get there before he can. Sexy Ressly saves the day (he still has a bit of a death wish after his girlfriend’s murder) by arresting Dr. Osborne in front of Milton, so that Milt knows justice is being served. As he’s frog-walking Ozzy back to the vehicles, Milton blows himself up.
Liz and Red finish drawing up the white board of clues surrounding Tom. She draws arrows to Jolene, to Craig, to Gina Zanetakos, to the key from under the lamp, and to a burned piece of paper that says Berlin. Probably from the bombing of Milton Bobbit, which would explain why Reddington was so interested in him. Or maybe from the trash can fire that Tom lit in his warehouse to burn his secret files.
At the end of the episode, Red is in Cooper’s office reading Milton’s client list. “So that’s what you really wanted?” Cooper asks him accusingly. To that, Red just smiles gleefully. To everything, Red just smiles gleefully.
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