About halfway through “Borrow or Rob,” Rich Dotcom starts to tell his whole life story to Weller. He barely gets started before the gruff FBI agent cuts him off and tells him to focus on the mission, adding that he doesn’t need Rich’s “origin story.” Rich understands. “Nobody likes prequels,” he says. Interestingly enough, though, “Borrow or Rob” is an origin story of sorts, and a compelling one at that, as it’s an episode that uses the past to provide some good insight into a number of characters and just how interconnected everyone is with Sandstorm and Phase Two.
“Borrow or Rob” starts out with a flashback to 2001. A group of four college kids, including the guy who later becomes Rich Dotcom, are breaking into their school in order to hack into the system and change their grades. The cops — the real ones, not the campus ones — show up, and the students take off. “Let’s just study next time,” one of them says, the risk hardly worth the reward here. Alas, they get caught, and this is where we see the first signs of the Rich Dotcom that we know. He attempts to sweet-talk his way out of the situation, only to be tased by the police. So it often goes for Rich.
Back in the present day, while Nas, Jane, and Roman prepare to visit some properties owned by Ellen Briggs (now known as Shepherd) to see if they stir up any memories, everyone else is focused on a new tattoo case that Patterson has cracked. As Patterson explains, a tattoo on Jane’s lower back contains an equation with numbers that coordinate with stock market numbers. The only time the equation has balanced out is today, while lithium stock is at an all-time high.
The team isn’t sure what this means, but Patterson’s already dug into the details of the tattoo. It’s a symbol for a secret society at Jameson College called Daedalus. She pulls up a leaked list of some of its members, all of whom are heavy hitters with lots of money and influence. One name stands out: Gord Enver, also known as Rich Dotcom. If the FBI has any hope of figuring out what this equation means and what could be happening in regards to lithium, they’ll need Rich, much to Weller’s chagrin.
As always, Rich makes quite the entrance, shrouded in religious garb and seemingly carrying texts from a variety of religions. He’s trying to cleanse his soul and repent for his sins, but, as with all things Rich, it’s partly genuine and partly a performance. Whether he’s being authentic or not, Rich’s presence always makes for a good episode of Blindspot. He brings a winking sense of humor — he calls Zapata “Susie Frownsalot” — and change in tone that adds some levity to all the, you know, death and destruction and promises of the world coming to an end.
Unfortunately, Rich also brings some really, really bad news. The equation that suddenly balances out? Well, it’s a risk-versus-reward algorithm that the secret society used to justify its mostly harmless pranks. This equation, though, is much more specific: It quantifies the exact time to start an armed conflict and descend a country into war. And that time is today.
NEXT: Date night
With Rich’s help, the team comes up with a suspect: Zach Riley. He’s an entrepreneur and techie who has his hands in many projects but also owns Riley Motors, a company that largely makes electric cars. Therefore, he’d financially benefit from a war in which the U.S. invades a country rich in lithium. The team determines that a winter carnival is taking place at Jameson, and Rich confirms that it’s the perfect cover for a meeting of the secret society. There’s a good chance they can track down Riley and figure out the details of the impending attack.
While Weller brings in Rich’s former partner, Boston, to help with getting into the party, Roman, Nas, and Jane begin to visit the Ellen Briggs properties, starting with Jane and Roman’s childhood home. While it’s certainly helpful to dig into Shepherd, Jane, and Roman’s backstory, the detour in this episode is a weak link. As they travel from one location to the next, we learn very little that we didn’t already know.
Roman is the biggest problem. His character arc is so similar to Jane’s that all of his episodic plots end up feeling like the show repeating itself. You can only watch Roman anguish over not being able to remember things so many times, you know? Even the payoff to this week’s story, which is Roman realizing that he killed an innocent person — Taylor Shaw’s mother, Emma, because there always has to be another twist — isn’t enough to justify the relative sluggishness of the story line. Blindspot is in a holding pattern with Roman, delaying his realization in order to build to the season’s end. That’s understandable, but it unfortunately doesn’t make for compelling episodic TV.
Still, “Borrow or Rob” is yet another entertaining hour in a recent string of solid episodes because it keeps the rest of its story tight and focused. The episode plays out like a heist film, as Rich and Weller — Rich delighting in getting to pretend Weller is his husband is an episode highlight — and Patterson and Boston attempt to get into the Daedalus party and escape with the information they need to prevent an attack. Blindspot usually succeeds when it can keep its focus on a single story that the subplots enhance rather than trying to balance what amount to two or three A-stories.
So, at the event, Weller and Rich spot Riley, who’s working at a laptop with a lawyer before someone else takes the laptop to another room. Needing to get whatever’s on that computer, the team splits up: Rich and Weller go after the laptop while Patterson and Boston attempt to get the passcode from a device in Riley’s pocket.
Of course, the team pulls it off, but not before Riley confronts Weller and Rich. He wants to know what Rich is doing snooping around his room, and this is where a little history comes in handy. Rich rips into Riley for stealing his code for a music-sharing program and using it to make RileyShare, a company that he ended up selling for millions of dollars.
Riley reveals something more interesting, though: He’s sold Riley Motors. That means he can’t benefit from a war with a lithium-rich country. So the team searches for the next suspect: Benjamin Orin, a military contractor. Patterson and Boston spot him and follow him into the fine arts building, only to get jumped. Weller manages to come in and save the day, leaving Rich Dotcom, a valuable asset, handcuffed to a statue outside the building in order to keep him safe.
NEXT: Final countdown
Surprise, surprise, though — Rich Dotcom isn’t so safe when handcuffed to something out in the open. A man named Thad Munson shows up and, after Rich fills him in on the details of why he’s there, shoots the handcuffs and lets him loose. Or rather, takes him hostage, because Thad is the one who purchased Riley Motors and is looking to stage an attack that will start a war with lithium-rich Bolivia.
Because the FBI has Thad’s original hacker occupied, he takes Rich and forces him to hack into a system that will allow him to access nuclear material stored on campus, in turn setting off a dirty bomb. Just as Rich is about to finish the work, Weller shows up to save the day again. Thad pulls Rich in front of him as a human shield, but that doesn’t deter Weller. He apologizes to Rich, shoots him in the leg, and then shoots Thad when he has a clear shot. “You shot the hostage! Your obsession with the movie Speed is becoming unhealthy,” is the only response Rich can muster. At least his sense of humor is still intact.
With a nuclear attack and a potential war averted, Rich is hoping to make himself more useful to the FBI. It really seems like he’s changing. He says he can help with another tattoo case: something about Edgewater, but the details are fuzzy for now. Really, it’s a moment that ensures Blindspot can keep using Rich Dotcom, and that’s never a bad thing.
Speaking of bad things, something terrible is certainly coming. As the episode comes to an end and Reade continues his new habit of snorting coke, we see Riley get into the backseat of a black car. He slides in alongside Borden, nervous that the FBI is closing in on them. Borden assures him that everything is still a go and that Phase Two can’t happen without Riley. So, he’s not so innocent after all, and Sandstorm’s influence seems to be nearly unstoppable.
The good news? Well, I can’t think of any.