The Blacklist recap: Bugs makes an already bad criminal even worse
This episode features a lot of bugs, a lot of laughs, and not a lot of answers
If you like gross-out moments, terrifying history lessons, and itty bitty hints about what’s to come — then you’re going to love this episode of The Blacklist. There are many scenes of bugs exploding out of bodies and multiple utterances of “you remind me so much of your mother.”
If you’re a fan of clear-cut answers, having any idea what’s going, and bugs not exploding out of mouth holes every 15 minutes, then I might suggest grabbing some noise-canceling headphones, a weighted blanket, and curling up into a fetal position until next week’s two-part episode. Then, surely we’ll figure out just how Red is going to avoid being charged with treason by a jury of his peers, and how Liz plans to continue hiding the fact that she’s the reason Red is having to go in front of a jury of his peers in the first place.
To make it all the more complicated, for the last few weeks, we’ve been keeping track of the Rube Goldberg machine Red has been constructing to evade his trial, and as it seems to be getting down to the final domino falls and lever swings, understanding the way all of these Blacklisters connect has gotten more confusing than ever. Last week, Red got himself checked into a federal mental hospital so that he could meet up with an old associate…so that associate could give him a name…that was actually just a historical hint at a current criminal…so now Red must find that current criminal…because that criminal’s files might contain the address of another person…who is apparently Red’s last hope at a “get out of jail free card.”
By the end of Friday’s episode, we are told that Dembe now has that address…though we don’t know who it belongs to or what it means or how it will help Red. Additionally, Dembe gets that address just before a conversation with Liz where she asks him if he knows every single answer she needs, and he says yes…but we still don’t know what any of those things are, or who Raymond Reddington really is, or how Dembe knows the truth, or what any of that means to Elizabeth Keen.
So again, if you’re looking for answers—look further. But if you’re looking for maybe the grossest thing The Blacklist has ever done, you’ve come to the right episode!
GENERAL SHIRO, NO. 116
Frankly, if General Shiro is responsible for the happenings of this opening scene, then he deserves to be a Top-10 Blacklister. It is awful. A man wakes up coughing in bed, desperately searching his bedside table for something to help him, but only finding a beetle, which he swats with a magazine. Downstairs his wife tries to help him, but he can’t catch his breath. That’s when another beetle flies out of his mouth.
We see him being rushed through the hospital as a team of surgeons prepare to operate on him, but when he starts flat-lining, they cut straight into his trachea…from which swarms and swarms of beetles fly out. To reiterate: the bugs fly out of this man’s THROAT.
So, Red calls Lizzie to his holding cell (a popular meet-up spot these days!) to tell her that whoever got those beetles to fly out of that man’s throat is the new Blacklister. But Liz is all, not so fast mister! She knows this lead somehow plays into whatever machinations he’s been constructing, and while she understands that he needs to avoid the death penalty, she doesn’t understand why he can’t just be honest with her. I like this not-naïve, yet still not-informed Lizzie!
Unfortunately, Liz understanding exactly what Red is doing with these Blacklisters doesn’t make him any more willing to expose any of his secrets to her. In response to her plea for honesty, Red says, “You remind me so much of your mother; I don’t remember if I’ve ever told you that before.” Liz states the obvious—that there are a lot of things he hasn’t told her—and Red states the obvious right back to her: “I’m here because someone has betrayed me … under the circumstances, it’s hard to know who to trust.”
That’s right, we’re all keeping secrets aren’t we, Lizzie?!
Willing to go along with Red’s secretive plans, Liz brings the assignment to the Post Office. She tells them that for over a thousand years, human beings have been weaponizing insects: “The most notorious war criminal in World War II was General Shiro, who bred Bubonic-Plague-carrying insects that killed tens of thousands of Chinese.” Now, it seems, someone is picking up Shiro’s mantle. A year ago, a patent attorney was found suffocated by an infestation of deadly beetles that had eaten the lining of his lungs; six months ago, it was a chemical manufacturer, and as recently as the episode’s opening scene, it was the head of a biotech company, Bob Lockemy.
When Lockemy’s body is inspected by the medical examiner, he tells Liz and Ressler that his official cause of death was suffocation due to the predatory water beetles that filled up his throat. But larva remnants in his stomach lining suggest that he ingested the larva first, and they were somehow able to survive in his stomach acids for their weeklong gestation period. Then they began eating him from the inside out, before migrating to his bronchial tubes where they suffocated him. Cool, cool, cool.
The medical examiner tells Ressler and Liz that they’ll need to talk to an entomologist to find out more, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s one that works at Lockemy’s biotech company, Dr. Jonathan Nikkila. To me, the fact that a bug expert works at the office of someone who was recently devoured by bugs might be the first indication that they should dig a little deeper on said bug expert…but Ressler and Liz do not share that same hunch. (That Mark Linn-Baker is a pretty recognizable actor is also helpful in making this assumption, but technically cheating on my part.)
Nikkila tells them that carnivorous beetles wouldn’t naturally prey on humans or survive in a body for a full week, but these beetles have been genetically modified—weaponized, even. Liz and Ressler ask why someone would go to the trouble of making a super bug when there are easier ways to kill people. “Well, not if you want to be ironic,” Nikkila tells them: “They sent a bug to kill a bug killer.”
It seems that the connection between all of the men who’ve died-by-beetle in the last year is the development of a pesticide called Hexapine; it was invented by Nikkila himself to kill disease-infected insects that come from standing water left behind by hurricanes. But even though it was designed to kill diseased bugs, Hexapine was still a powerful pesticide, so it was lobbied against by the environmental community and never approved for commercial use. When Ressler and Liz tell Nikkila what they’re investigating, he responds: “If the man you’re looking for fashions himself after Shiro, it means, to get his point across, he doesn’t care how many people he kills.”
Oh, is that what it means, Dr. Nikkila? Aram discovers that Lockemy was lobbying Congress for Hexapine’s FDA approval and one week ago—exactly when he would have been infected with the killer beetle larva—he had a business meeting with a major environmentalist, Dick Kendall. They assume that means Kendall is their latter-day Shiro, but when they arrive at Kendall’s home…
You guessed it: beetle-murdered. And probably infected at the exact same time as Lockemy. Samar and Aram talk to a busboy at the restaurant where Lockemy and Kendall met and find out that there was a stranger in the kitchen day who hopped in a cab when the busboy chased him out. The driver of that cab is able to tell them exactly where he took the man—which turns out to be a lab full of killer beetles and genetically modified larva, but no Blacklister to be found.
It makes no sense that Kendall the environmentalist would have been killed as well until the Post Office team realizes that Lockemy’s company was paying him a lot of money to support the movement to legalize Hexapine. As it turns out, the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s decision on whether or not to legalize Hexapine is scheduled for today and said meeting was circled with neon markers in the Blacklister’s bullet journal found at his lab. Nikkila is the star witness at this meeting, so the Task Force assumes that since he invented Hexapine in the first place, he’s the mystery buggy Blacklister’s next target.
But that assumption kind of goes out the window once we hear Nikkila’s testimony, which is extremely intense, highly bug-focused, and contains the line: “Without insects, the earth will become a deep, dark graveyard because we killed off its most important inhabitants!” Truuuue, but now that we realize Nikkila is the beetle-murder, I think we can all agree the tactics to relay this message were a little extreme.
Nikkila invented Hexapine to be used in the wake of natural disasters, yes, but then he found out his colleagues were misleading him and intended to sell Hexapine for general use. “I feel that people who poison the planet present a mortal danger that must be eliminated as an act of mobile self-defense,” Nikkila says. Ressler and Liz arrive just as the committee chair begins coughing up beetles and arrest Nikkila. When Samar interrogates him, he tells her that he didn’t infect six people with genetically modified beetle larva as revenge, but as an experiment for the insects: “My crime was to create a pesticide that kills them off, the least I could do was help them fight back by giving them the tools and traits to survive.”
Wait, did Nikkila say he infected…six people???
Oh yes, that’s about the time beetles start zooming out of his own mouth, and now it makes a little more sense why he wasn’t afraid to give the FBI all the answers they needed to eventually track him down. Now that they have tracked him down, it’s a good reminder that it was actually Red who needed to find Nikkila, a.k.a., latter-day General Shiro in the first place.
All this time, Red has been selecting a jury of his peers, and while that was a fun ride featuring the questions Red tried to get on the juror questionnaire (“compare and contrast the role of memory in the works of Proust and Dickens with examples”); Red sharing his thoughts on pugs as inspired by a woman in a pug sweater who, yes, does ultimately make it onto the jury; and a whole lot of Glen, more Glen, and perhaps a little too much Glen…it all proved fairly inconsequential when his plan to try to rig the jury through Glen’s inside DMV hookup ultimately failed.
Which is why it all comes down to Nikkila, something Liz has known all along. And once he’s found, Dembe comes around to collect. For reasons that are not fully clear, Red believes that Nikkila must have sent some of his toxic bug juice to the person who can help him get out of jail. I truly do not understand his faith in this connection, but it is enough that Lizzie allows Dembe to snoop around a sealed crime scene and find a helpfully labeled “Tracking Notices” log.
Once he’s gotten the address Red needs, Dembe thanks Liz—she reminds him of her mother too. “You know everything, don’t you?” Liz asks him. “All the answers I’m looking for.” He does know. And he’s not telling her. And he’s not telling us. Dembe is simply continuing to save Red’s life like he always does even as Sima taunts Red after a successful jury selection for the prosecution: “I appreciate our false confidence, but you and I both know you’re a dead man walking.”
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
I know Sima is, for all intents and purposes, the enemy—but I still appreciate what a consistent brat he is.
“Okay, I will not be judged by anyone who likes Schumann. I refuse to be sent to my death by philistines.” The priorities of Raymond Reddington, people.
Sooooooo, Washington DC is just… infected with genetically modified murder beetles now???
Cooper reminds all of our main cast members that from this point on they could be viewed as aiding and abetting a criminal. That, plus Samar’s random mention of “the Blacklist lab” make me wonder now more than ever who the other people wandering around the Post Office are, if they know they’re aiding and abetting a criminal, and where the hell the Post Office’s HR Department is.
“I knew a Fred Reddington once—had four nipples.” I am taking this as a clue to Fraymond Freddington’s true identity and you can’t stop me!!!