The Blacklist recap: Liz drops a bomb of betrayal
Friday’s episode of The Blacklist pulled what I like to call a “finals week combo” in the last five minutes; right before there was no turning back, they scored a 95 on the oral final exam, changing the game, and bringing that grade up by a full letter, baby.
It’s not that the bones of this episode would have been altogether C-material without the final twist: Red going on a five-minute monologue about Cary Grant and LSD? Yes, please. A rushed evacuation of the United Nations so that a drunk German man can defuse a bomb he made? Definitely. A tense bomb-diffusion capped off by Ressler taking a swig of said German man’s flask? Of course! But we’ve been teased with the knowledge that Red would soon be put behind bars, so to see it happen at the hands of a random beat cop in front of a random pretzel stand on a random afternoon felt pretty disappointing.
After all, as Red told his German friend earlier when he commented on their police escort into the United Nations, he has a “special kind of relationship” with the police. “Yeah, but this—they treat you liked Elvis,” his friend rightly observed. And surely this NYPD officer staked out at the pretzel stand wouldn’t try to come at Elvis sideways…
Wow, they really had me fooled, huh? Because a random NYPD officer may have arrested him, but that’s not who landed Raymond Reddington behind bars; that would be Elizabeth Keen. She vowed to take this imposter Red down at the end of last season, and while this episode certainly has us questioning if she’s still fully committed to that plan, the last five minutes prove she’s at least committed enough to risk his freedom in order to get some unencumbered RRR-research done. Perhaps if Liz had a little sisterly-support a long time ago, any one of those other hundred times she declared she was done—done, I tell you!—with Raymond Reddington might have stuck. She was shaking and crying when she thought about him in jail, sure, but two episodes just might be a record for our girl’s ability to hold a grudge.
Of course, that’s not to say that I like this development of Jennifer keeping the Red-vengeance accountability dialed up to a hundred. I personally prefer my Red and Lizzie on friendly terms, but I can appreciate that it’s an intriguing development. And this time around, I’m really buying the emotional turmoil, mostly because this time, Liz is continuing to push beyond it. She doesn’t really want to sever ties with this man who she’s come to accept as her father, as her family, as her support system—but that’s all outweighed by something she’s always wanted much more than any of that: the truth.
Lizzie isn’t waffling, she’s spinning, and that I can buy. And if you’ve noticed that I’ve yet to mention the Blacklister that we were chasing from Part 1 of the premiere to Part 2, that’s because, at least for now, he’s pretty inconsequential. He’s mean as a snake, almost certainly a sociopath, gifted with a contour palate, and has quite the kill-shot, but yeah…not that big a deal for now…
THE CORSICAN, NO. 20
But surely with a Blacklist number that high, he’ll be back for more. When we catch back up with Bastien Moreau, aka The Corsican, in part 2 of the season 6 premiere, he’s doing a little primping on his new face and talking about an assignment with a mysterious woman on the phone. Given that she hasn’t been able to get ahold of him for a month, she’s a little concerned about his ability to pull of the task, but Moreau assures her everything is on schedule. “The incident will appear to be part of your political agenda,” she reminds: “No one will know its real purpose if you can get it done.” Spoiler alert: by the end of this episode, we also will not know its real purpose. “It,” being Moreau hijacking the badge and access codes of a man who looks almost exactly like him (well, the new him) who’s headed to the United Nations to deliver a diplomatic package. Like just about anyone who comes within speaking distance of Moreau, that poor man winds up dead by a single bullet.
Back on the home front, Liz and Jennifer are trying to sort through Dr. Koehler’s slightly altered dossier that Reddington handed over last episode, as well as track down someone who could possibly recover the data that was removed from it. And just as Liz is explaining why that person can’t be someone from the FBI, there’s a knock at the door: it’s dear old not-dad dropping in for a visit! Naturally, Red can’t know Jennifer is there, so the two sisters stomp around picking up files at a rapid pace, whisper-argue in harsh tones, and for some reason decide the best hiding place in what we know to be a two-bedroom apartment, is inside the closet right beside the door.
Red seems suspicious, but no matter, he’s there to tell Liz that Moreau appears to be collecting arms for a new job, so Ressler and Liz head to New York where his stolen car has turned up. A little detective work with Red’s arms dealer contact in L.A. reveals that Moreau wasn’t collecting guns; he was contracting a man named Maxwell Rudiger…to build a bomb…that Moreau is now apparently carting into the United Nations…in a diplomatic pouch that’s not subject to search…cool, cool, cool!
Ressler and Liz swarm into the United Nations, telling the police officers on duty to initiate their evacuation protocol, just as Moreau delivers the pouch (it’s really more of a briefcase) to a Turkish ambassador. Luckily, he’s a chatty guy so he doesn’t quite get around to opening it before Liz is rushing into the meeting room telling him to put the bomb down slowly and get the hell out of there. The…entire United Nations evacuates, Moreau included, unfortunately, and that gives enough time for Red and Maxwell to arrive, ready to diffuse the bomb.
Well, sort of. Red, uncharacteristically flippant about Lizzie’s safety as she stays behind in the bomb-filled conference room, wants to take his one chance to explore the United Stations, while Maxwell seems not at all confident about figuring out how to diffuse the bomb he made. But to the soothing score of Red giving a truly rousing speech at the General Assembly podeum about the powers of LSD and Cary Grant, Maxwell is able to diffuse the bomb. Liz arrives at the General Assembly to tell Red he needs to head out before the NYPD arrives (I see that misdirection, writers, and I applaud it!) just as he’s recounting the LSD trip that made him “imagine myself as a giant penis, launching off from earth like a spaceship.”
Liz is unfazed.
Well, by the penis announcements that is; but there’s something else that’s eating at Lizzie. The next scene opens up on Jennifer hissing into the phone, “Second thoughts?!” as her sister paces around outside the United Nations. Liz knows they need answers but after just saving the United Nations from a nationalist’s bomb because of a tip from Fraymond Freddington, she’s also feeling like: “Whoever he is, he does a lot of good.” Jennifer understands that Red has become an important part of Lizzie’s life, but “being ‘like family’ isn’t family—we have a plan, and if we stick to it, it’s gonna work out,” she tells her waffling half-sister.
We don’t get an answer, or rather, we do, but it’s not made obvious until the end of the episode. Red is approached by a cop while buying celebratory pretzels for himself and Maxwell; another cop recognizes him as the Raymond Reddington; he’s put under arrest and sent to their precinct. It really is as quick and unassuming as that. When Aram delivers the news to Ressler and Keen, Ressler says he can tell Keen is wondering if he tipped off the police since he’s been much more hesitant than the rest of the team to get back on board with Reddington after he killed Sutton Ross to protect his skeleton-secret.
“I don’t believe you did it, but I do believe you’re relieved it happened,” she tells Ressler, her lip quivering at the thought of Red being held captive outside the jurisdiction of the Post Office. Indeed, Cooper hustles over to Panabaker’s office to insist that she do something, but she’s more insistent that she can’t and won’t. The contingencies of Reddington’s FBI informant status were clear from the beginning: were he to be caught, he would be disavowed from their protection.
Scooting right on past that superior order, Cooper invites U.S. Attorney Susan Holt who will be prosecuting Red to Post Office headquarters. She assumes that he was going to give her intel to help prosecute Raymond Reddington, but in fact Cooper is asking for his release. And it is immediately clear—that ain’t happening. It’s a great performance from Karen Pittman; I fully believed that Holt has plans to run for Governor of New York, then President of the United States, and successfully “prosecuting [Reddington] to the fullest extent of the law” may as well be a bullet train ticket straight to that destiny.
And that’s that; it’s a pretty simple episode really, all circling around one final bomb that has nothing to do with Moreau. Red is headed to prison, possibly the death penalty, but that’s not what he’s thinking about when Liz comes to see him before he’s transported. He’s thinking about what happened and how it happened; he knows he wasn’t picked up by chance at a pretzel stand, that someone must have tipped the cops off with a vague description of a white male with a concealed weapon; he’s thinking about how the person would have had to know where he was headed and where he’d been…
Raymond Reddington is thinking about how someone has clearly betrayed him; that’s all he’s thinking about, and he instructs Lizzie that she must find out who this person is. “So you can kill him?” Liz asks, showing off those acting skills she was touting in the last episode.
“I’d say that depends,” he says, staring at her. As Vision Vision’s “Hard Times” plays us out—these thoughts keep running, running / I see hard times coming, coming—Red is escorted to prison, and Liz heads back home where Jennifer hands her a glass of liquor. Liz takes it with a shaking hand. “It was the right thing to do,” Jennifer tells her, confirming for the first time what we’ve come to suspect. “What’s the biggest obstacle standing between us and finding out who he really is? … As long as he’s free, we’re never going to find the truth.”
Liz knows she’s right, but there’s one thing she doesn’t know: what Red will do if he ever find out it was Liz who betrayed him.
A Few Loose Ends:
Oh me, oh my, I can’t wait to see how Red gets out of this one. <chants> Prison break! Prison break!
Do we trust Jennifer? Do we trust Jennifer??? DO WE TRUST JENNIFER?!
In another life, Panabaker and Red could make quite the duo—they are the only two people on this show who every stick to their guns.
When Liz keeps Red waiting at her doorway, he fusses impatiently, “As a fugitive from justice, I prefer not to linger in public hallway,” but one has to wonder why he thinks a straw fedora and transition lenses are enough disguises for a sunny corner of the West Village.
“After saving Manhattan, I feel I deserve a few carbs”—truly share that exact sentiment every time I make it off the subway alive.
So we know that U.N. bomb had some “real purpose” that was beyond Moreau’s “political agenda”…and we know Moreau is still at large…and we still don’t know who that mysterious lady on the phone was…so I really don’t even know what questions to ask here. Discuss!
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.