At the top of this episode, while Red is lording a mysterious Blacklister conspiracy over Liz’s head while trying to convince her to get his immunity agreement reinstated once he’s cleared 24 counts of treasonous crimes, he quotes Hippocrates, saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Liz counters that she’s pretty sure Hippocrates also said, “Do no harm.” Well, I’m here to confirm that those two aphorisms are not necessarily mutually exclusive, for this episode was both full of desperation, and yet, mostly harmless.
From the jump, Red does not seem himself. A layman dropping into most any random episode of The Blacklist might think, “Oh this is a show where Spader does his Spader thing.” And yes, he does most of the time, but on occasions where Red is at odds with Liz (whether she knows it or not), the change in Red’s demeanor is palpable. Sure, the longwinded anecdotes, witty comebacks, and sassy Sima burns are all still there…but his heart just isn’t in it. Because his heart is somewhere else—with Lizzie, always with Lizzie.
Speaking of Lizzie, what the hell is going on with her? All it took was hearing that her mother framed the original Raymond Reddington for treason—and also maybe helped Fraymond Freddington usurp his identity—in the last episode for her to get tearfully back on board with declaring this imposter, whomever he may be, a golden-hearted champion of all that is right and just in this world???
Listen, I did enjoy Liz’s love letter/eulogy for Raymond Reddington in her witness impact statement because I prefer my Reds and Lizzies at evens, not odds, but…even for an often confusing show, we are at a particularly confusing time in Blacklist history. And this episode cemented it, what with its futile prison breaks and indeterminate final exclamations of “I HAVE TO FIND THE MAN IN CAIRO!” In Friday’s hour, we seem to have gotten one more link in whatever paper chain Red is constructing, as he once again declares—this time regarding the mysterious Cairo man—that “everything rests on finding him.”
But at this point, with the death penalty officially sentenced, just what “everything” means is clear to Raymond Reddington ad Raymond Redddington alone. I’ve long assumed that Red has been collecting intel to coordinate a big escape from prison, but in Friday’s episode, an attempted escape ended it what appeared to be genuinely unexpected failure. (Additionally, it consisted not of an elaborate construction of previous Blacklisters, but of…rubber cement and glue.)
Red still doesn’t know who made the 911 call that landed him in prison—or rather, he has been willfully misled by both Dembe and Liz—but if that’s what he’s still searching for, is he really willing to die for it? Or could the man in Cairo upon whom “everything” rests have something to do with the fact that Red knows that Liz knows he’s an imposter even though she doesn’t know he knows she knows (there truly is no simpler way to say that)…
All these questions, and I’m afraid tonight, we’re only getting breadcrumbs toward any sort of answers. Oh and, uh, one death sentence. We really do need to find that man in Cairo…
THE CRYPTOBANKER, NO. 160
While this Blacklister has some entertaining trappings, such as Aram trading superhero knowledge with an adorable child, he’s ultimately pretty insignificant. And Red is pretty straightforward with Liz about that. I mean, yes, the Cryptobanker launders ill-gotten crypto currency for, oh let’s say, a hacker who hacks into a child’s pacemaker so he can ransom her father for $3 million, and the Cryptobanker is just like, sure thing, I’ll have the laundered for you asap…
So, a bad guy for sure—but Red basically tells Liz that he’s luring her in with the promise of a larger conspiracy that hinges on the Cryptobanker in order to secure another immunity agreement once he’s free. Of course, that would imply he plans on achieving freedom through the legal system, when in fact, we know he’s already told Vontae and Vega that he plans to escape prison in eight weeks’ time…
But that was under the old timeline, the one where he had 24 federal charges to get through in court. Once Sima decides to change course and tell the jury about Red’s former immunity agreement, threatening the position of Liz and the rest of the Task Force, however, the timeline shortens significantly—because Red decides to up and plead guilty in order to protect the Task Force. So now he needs to escape prison…tomorrow.
While Red heads to court to determine if that guilty plea will ultimately come with a death sentence or not, he sets Vontae and Vega out on a “honey do list” consisting of: small amounts of ground beef, bleach, nail polish remover, rubber cement, and hair clippings from the prison the barber shop. Ah yes, exactly the elaborate prison break I’ve been imagining for the last seven weeks!
We’ll have to leave elaborate to the Blacklister for now, I guess. The only thing Red knows about the Cryptobanker is that he’s recently come to town, so after looking through known crypto criminals who could have brought him to the area, one name stood out: The Rat, a hacker who uses malware to lock companies out of their own servers, demanding huge ransoms before he hands the control back over. His latest target? The leading manufacturer of pacemakers…
The father who got blackmailed over the phone while his daughter clutched her chest on the soccer field earlier isn’t just any dad—he’s Matt Pearson, the founder of Pearson Diagnostics, a pacemaker company he started when his daughter was born with a heart irregularity. He tells the FBI that the Rat has control of his daughter’s pacemaker, and the man told Matt that if he went to the police, he’d kill her. Samar and Ressler assure him they can keep his daughter safe while figuring out the Rat’s identity, at which point I would have been like, Naw, I’mma just pay him the 3 million in future-money, but best of luck y’all.
But Matt agrees to go along with it, and smuggles Aram into his home. There, they build a Faraday cage around the daughter’s bed that will block any electromagnetic fields so that they can trace The Rat;s hack without him realizing it. Matt goes rogue after the cage is built though, cutting into his daughter’s chest and disconnecting her pacemaker so that the Rat no longer has the capability to attack her remotely. He does, however, now have the power to call Matt and tell him that he’s randomly selected 1,000 people with Pearson pacemakers that will die via a lethal shock to their heart if he doesn’t get him the money in 24 hours—oh, and now the ransom is 6 million in crypto currency.
The Post Office gets a break when they scour the list of Pearson pacemakers and find that there’s one patient who gets regular pacemaker software updates, but who didn’t actually need said pacemaker put in his body—The Rat. But when Samar and Ressler show up at the café he’s hackin’ from looking particularly FBI-y, he makes a run for it just as he was about to send Matt the code to take back over the Pearson system because matt wired him the 6 million in crypto currency. Instead, The Rat meets up with the Cryptobanker to tell him the FBI is onto them and they need to move fast with transferring the money Matt sent…
So, naturally, the Cryptobanker waits until he sees The Rat type his password into his laptop, then shoots him in the head, dooming the 1,000 people who are set to receive a lethal shock in three hours if Pearson Diagnostics oesn’t regain control of its servers. Luckily, in The Rat’s hacker lair, Aram finds a docking station that leads the Task Force to the manufacturer of his laptop, and that somehow gives them access the computer remotely…just as soon as whoever has it turns it on.
While they wait it out, Liz has some personal business to attend to. Since Red plead guilty, now the only thing for the jury to determine is whether he should get the death penalty or not, which will be determined by witness impact statements. Sima has called on the heads of the ATF, the U.S. Treasury, and Interpol to testify to all the harm Red has caused the world, so Liz insists that Red call on her to tell the jury about the positive impact he’s had on the world. She even wears an updo for the occasion!
Liz pours her heart out, telling the jury and Red that the world thinks he’s bad because he’s done some terrible things, “but I believe you’re good in spite of the terrible things you’ve done.” She says that he’s on trial not because of the things he’s done but because love brought him out of the shadows: “And not just the love of a father for his daughter, but the love of doing what you believe is right.” And that is accurate—Red does love doing what he thinks is right…
Which at this exact moment, is escaping prison. And that means getting back before the warden—an integral part of his escape plan—leaves for the evening. So, to speed things along, Red says the jury should just go ahead and give him the death penalty, telling them, “There’d be nothing to hope for if I was sentenced to a live in prison, and without hope, there’s nothing to live for—not even the joy of interrupting Mr. Sima making his point, only pithier.” Hey Sima—ya burnt.
Of course, we know that Red still has hope because he’s still got a plan. He arrives back to his prison cell to find a pillow case full of ground beef, loose pills, and tiny vials. He sends word to the warden that he’s finally ready to help him with the looming laundry strike the warden has been asking Red to sort out, stuffs a the pills inside the ground beef, puts the rest of the items in his pockets, and heads up to the warden’s office with a guard.
There, he feeds the warden’s Rottweiler the spiked beef, listens to the warden explain all his warden-y trials and tribulations, and insists that they need inmates Vontae and Vega up there to create a solution to the laundry strike. Red waits until the warden calls for his pals over the intercom, then distracts him by taking an interest in the taxidermied antelope on his wall, and knocks him out with a homemade chloroform concoction. When Vontae and Vega arrive, they find a passed out warden, a high-as-a-kite dog, and Red, dressed in the warden’s clothes, insisting that they need to glue old hair to his face to make him look like he has a beard. Then he tells them to handcuff themselves to the window, and he heads out with the warden’s hat, sunglasses, glued-on beard, and slightly loopy dog.
Most importantly, he has his key card, flying through doors on the way outside to meet Dembe, who’s sent an earpiece to Red through their pipe system. But as Red is making his way out of the prison, Liz is making her way in to ask Red why the hell he asked for the death penalty. She runs into the warden’s assistant at the vending machines, and she escorts Liz directly to the Warden’s office to see Red (this is one accommodating prison, no?!), where they instead find the passed out warden in his underwear.
The prison goes on lockdown just as Red makes it outside, where Dembe is flying a helicopter to meet him. He’s unable to land before the guards make it outside with their guns, ready to shoot Red or shoot the helicopter down, whichever comes first…
And there’s no way Red would ever allow the latter. He tells Dembe to turnaround, and Dembe reluctantly does so. The guards come and get Reddinton. The escape…fails. I did not see that coming. And unless Red was keeping some larger plan super, super secret, even from Dembe, that failure was a surprise. In court, Red is sentenced to the death penalty, and even though Red is kind of integral to the framework of The Blacklist, it’s difficult to see how he’s going to survive this one.
Of course, he’s still got that one, mysterious, itty bitty little iron on the fire…
The Cryptobanker finally opens The Rat’s laptop with 30 minutes until the 1,000 people are set to die, and Samar, Ressler, and Aram storm his location. They demand the laptop, but the Cryptobanker pulls a gun on Samar, so Aram shoots him right in the shoulder. Then, following one of very few times he’s fired his weapon, Aram has to figure out how to deactivate a murder code in under one minute. On the laptop, Aram finds the email with the code, gives it to Pearson over the phone, double checks that the O isn’t a zero with a second party, and successfully returns power over to the Pearson servers.
One thousand people don’t die and the Cryptobanker is in FBI custody. So, what did Red need him for in the first place? No idea. He cryptically tells Liz that he’s formerly d business with a man in Cairo who could “unlock the conspiracy.” Dembe apparently photographed a transaction report between the Cairo man and the Cryptobanker (presumably in that apartment where he found a bunch of Minister D’s blackmail fixin’s); Red tells Liz that she has to get the Cryptobanker to tell her anything he can about where he sent the man’s laundered money.
But no matter how many times Liz throws her files on the table, the Cryptobanker says he can’t tell her anything about the Cairo man because he never sent any money to him. “I HAVE TO FIND THE MAN IN CAIRO,” Liz screams with tears in her eyes, and we’re left feeling as frustrated and clueless as she is…
A FEW LOOSE ENDS:
This was a pretty dark episode, but at least we got proof of what we already knew: that Aram treats everyone with respect, no matter how small and adorable they may be. “I’m so sorry, we haven’t met, I’m agent Mojtabai, but you can call me Aram,” he tells a little girl as he builds a metal technology force field in her bedroom.
I enjoyed the juxtaposition between Aram fretting about shooting a criminal who pulled a gun on them, and Samar hesitating not one iota to pinch that man’s bullet wound the moment they needed information.
I spent the entire prison break scene so worried that Red was going to get Vontae in trouble after his great escape, that I never even considered he wouldn’t make said escape…
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