Blindspot recap: 'Balance of Might'
“Balance of Might” kicks off with a flashback, the first of many peppered throughout this week’s episode. It’s six months ago, and the show places us inside a refugee camp. A man named Saya (The Wire‘s Jim True-Frost) is giving a family good news: their application has been fast-tracked, and they’re on their way to New York City. There’s no mistaking the joy in their voices as they find out they’ll be escaping the camp and the danger that they’ve been living through.
Then, out of nowhere, Roman shows up (he has a way of doing that). He begins causing a lot of confusion, saying that Saya can’t be trusted. He tells the family they’re in danger. Could it be true? What part are they unwittingly playing in Roman’s game? It’s all so mysterious. Roman gives them a card with the name of a journalist on the front and tells them to call her.
Flashforward to the present day and Reade’s girlfriend Meg receives a call. When Reade asks about it, she says she’s been getting call after call from a Sudanese refugee who’s eager for her to tell “their story.” Meg doesn’t seem too interested in the story—she’s wrapped up in a scathing piece about $18 coffee, apparently—but when Reade starts to ask questions he sees a connection to a tattoo case. Specifically, the family was held in Camp Iko in Kenya, and one of Jane’s new tattoos is a reference to that camp.
So, Reade convinces Meg that they both need to go meet the refugees, but when they do they’re put in immediate danger. Despite meeting in a public veranda for coffee, three shooters show up to execute the refugees. Reade sends everyone inside a building and then puts in a call to the team. Patterson does her superhuman research thing and determines that the refugees somehow came to the United States after only six months in the camp, where the vetting process usually takes years. An NGO by the name of One World Alliance approved the move. The problem? All the names listed at the NGO are fake, except for one: John Saya, a private military contractor who’s clearly using the NGO as a front for something nefarious.
With all that information the team heads out to give Reade a hand, though he’s already picked off one of the shooters by the time they get there. They quickly take down another shooter but the third gets away. When Jane shoots the second, yet another flashback kicks in. This time we’re transported to 10 months ago, and we see Jane working an assignment with Clem, the man she called to help her find Avery, back before she believed Avery was killed by Weller. It’s the first in a series of flashbacks that show us how Jane and Clem grew romantically close during her time away, only for her to eventually pull back because of her love for Weller. It’s an insightful enough episodic arc, but it also contributes to the episode’s incredibly jumbled feel. There are way too many flashbacks and location jumps, and it halts much of the episode’s otherwise earned momentum.
The location jumping is a necessity because Roman is halfway across the world. Still, what started out as an intriguing story line—Roman using the FBI as his pawns for some unknown endgame—has quickly grown tiresome. Every time Roman’s on-screen it feels like Blindspot is killing time until it can reveal the man’s true intentions. It’s a slow-moving story, and while some people might connect with it, I largely find it to be tedious. This week Roman fakes PTSD, gets chastised by Blake for lying, and then eventually makes up with her by using those puppy dog eyes of his. We don’t learn anything new about Crawford, but at least we get a slight progression in the simmering feud between Roman and Crawford’s right hand man Victor. They have a tense conversation at a hotel bar, joking/not joking about how they’re still considering killing each other, all before Victor hands a shot glass to a colleague and asks him to run Roman’s fingerprints to find out who this “Tom” guy really is. (Recap continues on next page)
Back at the FBI headquarters the team wants to question the refugees about, you know, who could possibly want to kill them after just arriving in the United States, but they’re not talking. They invoke their right to counsel, a move encouraged by Meg before Reade put them in the interrogation room. For awhile it looks like Blindspot is going to have Meg and Reade butt heads over their various job-related ethics, but thankfully the show doesn’t go down that simplistic storytelling route. Instead, Jane and Reade convince Meg to get the refugees to talk because it’s in their best interest, and because it could help prevent another instance of violence.
Up until this point in the episode there’s no real sense of intrigue or momentum for two reasons: the destabilizing use of flashbacks, and the fact that Saya’s motivations are purposely hidden. There’s certainly tension in the idea of the FBI trying to get ahead of a plan they don’t yet fully understand, but it doesn’t work as well in execution. As a viewer it’s difficult to invest in the stakes of the story when, well, we don’t know what those stakes are! Saya doesn’t get enough screen time to be menacing on his own, so his motivations need to be made clear to be more dramatically effective.
It’s not until we’re more than halfway through the episode that we learn what Saya has been doing: using refugees as cover for his own terrorist attacks. Essentially, he uses his position as a contractor to gain the trust of vulnerable refugees, and then sets about framing them for violent, deadly attacks. A series of receipts proves it all: Saya creates a paper trail that leads back to the refugees.
While this episode is a bit of a mess structurally, I appreciate that Blindspot grounds its outlandishness in real-world issues. Considering the hateful rhetoric that permeates any discussion of immigration, the nuances of the refugee experience here is important in its own small way. Blindspot makes a point of humanizing these refugees and creating an experience that mimics our world, where, despite the misinformed beliefs of some, refugees spend years being vetted on the off-chance that they’ll be able to flee violence. This is a family like any other, and they just want safety.
With Saya’s intentions known, the team figures out his next target. He has a backup group of refugees set to frame, and after the team tracks some credit cards they determine that Saya plans on bombing the Sloan Hotel. Weller and Jane storm the hotel while Reade and Zapata go looking for the unmarked van where Saya is holding the refugees. When the bomb goes off, he’ll blow up the van, implicating the three refugees in the attack and laying out all the evidence for the police.
Weller and Jane find the crude bomb in the basement of the hotel, but they only have 90 seconds to either dismantle it or get it to another location. As always, Blindspot is at its best when it’s forcing the team to work out of a tight spot. As the seconds tick away, Weller and Jane run through the hotel, trying to get the bomb into the storage freezer in the kitchen. They get there just in time, with Jane essentially saving Weller’s life, while Zapata rescues the refugees and Reade takes down Saya.
With that rather lackluster storyline out of the way, “Balance of Might” turns its focus to the season’s overarching stories. We learn that Crawford has plenty of ties to companies that have contracts within refugee camps—a lucrative business that Patterson laments the cruelty of—but we still don’t really know why Roman bothered putting the FBI on to the refugees and Saya in the first place. It must be to expose Crawford in some way, but there are still missing pieces.
More importantly though, the episode ends by teasing a big fall for a number of characters: first there’s Meg, whose refugee story is going to be on the front page of the paper. She’s worried that it’s too much attention, but Reade tells her everything will be fine. The look on his face suggests he doesn’t believe his own words.
Then there’s Jane, who, after all her flashbacks, ends up at Clem’s hotel room. Is she looking to rekindle their romance? Is she really leaving Weller for good? Surely this can’t be the end of their relationship, right? No matter what Jane is planning on doing, she’s likely to get another curveball thrown her way sometime soon. Patterson, looking into Avery on Weller’s request, finds footage of Avery meeting with Roman at the same hotel where Weller met her. It looks like he’s handing her an envelope filled with money. It looks like Roman set Weller up, and it makes me wonder if Avery really is Jane’s daughter, or if this is all part of Roman’s elaborate plan to blow up the relationships within the team.
More questions, and more swerves, must be on the way. Let’s just hope there are fewer flashbacks.