Blindspot recap: 'Artful Dodge'
In order to stop a terrorist attack, the team must rely on their old enemy Borden
Blindspot loves its improbable twists. This season’s big one, revealed a few weeks ago, is that Borden, former FBI psychologist/Patterson’s boyfriend/Sandstorm operative, is still alive. Considering he blew himself up with a grenade in an attempt to kill Patterson, seeing his face again a few episodes ago was a shock. How could he still be alive? (Spoiler: he just is because this is Blindspot). Who is he working for now? (Spoiler: more terrible people). “Artful Dodge” gives us the answers to these questions and moves the team one step closer to taking down Crawford.
Borden appears at the top of the episode. It looks like nothing’s changed; he’s still a horrible human being taking too much delight in torturing an unknown man. Along with a partner, he electrocutes the man over and over again, all while watching a brain scan in order to make sure the man doesn’t die, but suffers as much as possible. It’s hard to believe this guy used to be the cute psychologist next door.
Blindspot can’t be all torture and menacing looks though, so “Artful Dodge” does an abrupt scene switch to…Reade, Zapata, and Patterson tasting wedding cakes! Reade, being the director of the FBI, obviously doesn’t have time to plan a wedding at home, hence the cakes at work. Also, he apparently has no taste. His preference is a banana cake, and that’s just unacceptable at a wedding, or really any event.
Before long, the taste testing is interrupted because Rich has found something for Patterson. Remember that dragonfly tattoo, the one that Zapata’s been desperately hoping the FBI doesn’t figure out for some reason? Well, it leads to an empty message board forum that’s suddenly active again. There are just two messages, between Dragonfly164 and Atlantic17 — “cools names,” quips a sarcastic Rich — but it’s enough of a discovery to get the team thinking about ways to track the users.
This is the moment Nas warned Zapata about, the one where she’d have to reveal the truth and risk losing her friends. So, she tells them the truth about Borden. Apparently, the explosion didn’t kill him, and he spent days in the woods peeling skin off of his body in between bouts of unconsciousness before fleeing the country. The CIA found him though, one year later, and made a deal with him. With Sandstorm gone, they figured Borden could be a valuable asset in taking down the dangerous Goran Goravich — “cool name,” quips the sarcastic TV recapper — a man who committed one of the worst genocides in recent memory.
The CIA believed that Goran was planning an attack on U.S. soil, and wanted to use Borden as a mole who’d work his way into one of Goran’s terrorist cells. In exchange, they’d give him complete immunity for his crimes. As predicted by Nas, this news shocks the FBI team. Patterson, in particular, is devastated to hear Zapata has been keeping this secret from her. Zapata tries to defend herself, saying she was just doing her job, but Patterson is having none of it: “You should have cared about me more.”
Patterson’s trauma is compounded by the fact that Borden, who Zapata handled for a while, has apparently killed his new handler and is on the loose in New York. So now the FBI has to try to track him down, which means she has to see his face over and over again. They find him on some security footage, and the assumption is that since he killed his handler he’s now working with the very terrorists he was supposed to infiltrate. Zapata isn’t so sure though, saying he found that security camera in order to be seen. When the FBI stakes out a meet-up, two guys show up with guns trying to kill Borden. They’ve figured out he’s the mole, which means the CIA and FBI need to act quickly to stop whatever attack Goran has planned. (Recap continues on next page)
Once the team brings Borden in for questioning, he details as much of Goran’s plan as he can. He tells them about the torture, about his near-exposure as the mole, and then says that all he has is a USB filled with documents he stole from the terrorist cell. He’s not sure about the location of any attack, but he knows it’s going to be huge. He also demands a meeting with Patterson because, apparently, what he did to her keeps him up at night. Weller has no sympathy for that, though, refusing to let the meeting take place. Unlike the CIA, the FBI isn’t just going to give Borden what he wants.
“Artful Dodge” isn’t only dedicated to Borden’s story line, of course. As the season’s end approaches, there’s more of a need for the show to clarify what’s going on with Roman and Crawford. In this episode they grow closer, as Roman has truly earned his trust. Crawford even details his plan should the land deal with Jean-Paul go through: he wants to create a utopia, a place with no war, and monitored by a gigantic peacekeeping force. How he can pull off something to that scale is uncertain, but am I wrong in thinking that it’s kind of admirable? Crawford is supposed to be the season’s Big Bad, and yet his horrible vision of the future is a world with no war? It’s incredibly idealistic and probably unrealistic, yes, but also strangely noble.
Anyway, Roman and Crawford’s relationship is strengthened when the former falls ill and collapses. This comes on the heels of a mysterious phone call where Roman mentions that something is “irreversible.” Something is going on with Roman’s health, but we don’t know what. No matter what his condition is, he’s closing in on his plans for Crawford. He sends an encrypted text to the FBI telling them about Blake’s upcoming charity gala, where Crawford will be in attendance. All signs point to this being the moment Roman believes Crawford is most vulnerable. I’m very curious to see how this all plays out, and where everyone’s loyalties will fall.
The only other tertiary story is that of Rich trying to keep his job. Because he’s a former criminal, his job at the FBI is under review. The person in charge isn’t all that sympathetic to anything Rich says, though to be fair his recap of how he saved Patterson’s life during the Hirst situation is rather suspect. No matter though, because by the end of the episode the entire team has stepped up and vouched for their lovable if eccentric colleague. That sends the reviewer packing, but not without a warning to Reade. He was hired by Hirst too, and so he’ll also be under investigation soon enough.
But, back to the imminent threat of terrorists! The team’s break comes when Rich takes Patterson to an unused gym in the basement of the FBI headquarters in order to blow off some steam. After all, having to continuously see the face of the terrorist who wooed you into a relationship and then subsequently tortured you and tried to kill you can wreak havoc on your nerves. The distraction works, and Patterson makes a connection in the case. She cracks open an encrypted file which details the attack: Goran has 20 “bunker busters” that he’s ready to drop on Staten Island, an attack that would kill an incredible amount of people.
As usual, the build-up to the attack is better than the payoff of seeing Goran taken down. The team raids the island, finding Goran and dismantling the bombs just in time. There’s really no other way to execute these scenes, but that doesn’t mean the repetitious nature of them doesn’t get a little tiring.
Still, while the climax is familiar, the emotional resonance of “Artful Dodge” is unique. The episode explores Patterson’s trauma in a way that feels meaningful rather than exploitative. She’s able to help the team pursue Goran and stop the attack, and she’s also able to move past her fear. When she sees Borden on a surveillance monitor at the end of the episode, moments after he’s been told the CIA won’t be giving him his immunity deal, she suddenly understands that he’s not a monster to be afraid of, but rather a sad man to pity.
That’s not enough to heal her relationship with Zapata, but it’s enough to start her own healing. The question is, how will Zapata rebound? She’s lost Patterson, at least for now, and then she finally tells Reade she’s in love with him. He storms out of the bar, angry that she’d do this now, of all times. As Patterson heals, Zapata is breaking, and that could have devastating consequences on the team as they close in on Roman and Crawford.