The parable of the Good Samaritan and a little Revelations from Johnny Cash define this episode, but not quite as much as Red killing everybody

By Jodi Walker
January 14, 2014 at 10:18 AM EST
David Giesbrecht/NBC
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Welcome to EW Recaps of The Blacklist! I can’t promise you I’ll speak with the elegance of Red Reddington, or be as right as Red Reddington is all the time, and I definitely won’t wear a fedora like Red Reddington. But I can promise you that I’ll make fun of Tom a lot and not rest until Lizzie is given a decent haircut (so, never).

Last we left The Blacklist, Lizzie had gone full Die Hard and then back again, Red had disappeared after telling Lizzie he wasn’t her father, Ressler had survived blood loss that should have killed him about 12 times over, the FBI had developed a pesky mole problem, and Alan Alda was wearing a scarf in a manner that suggested he would be important come January. The midseason finale didn’t tie up every loose end, but it did answer one of the most looming questions it had created: Is Red Lizzie’s father? A mumbled “no” settled that little predicament. Kind of.

After all, in Red, The Blacklist has managed to build a character who knows the answer to just about every question that could be asked of him, but will only tell the truth when it serves his purposes, or Lizzie’s well-being. And it’s up to his discretion how that truth is delivered. Starting with Monday night’s episode, discretion doesn’t seem to be something in which Red is taking a lot of stock. I guess seeing your bodyguard be killed right in front of you while you’re giving a manual blood transfusion to a man who’s made it his life goal to ruin you can do that to a guy.

The episode begins with a very Law & Order: SVU feel about it as a mother and son we’ve never seen before walk into a child’s birthday party. Someone is definitely about to get kidnapped, that much is immediately clear; enter unassuming, but definitely dangerous man, stage right. The man says he’s one of the children’s uncles and offers the mother some “strawberry punch,” which really should have been her first clue, because strawberry punch is not a thing that people drink. But it is a thing that crazy people put drugs in, because the mom is passing out and waking up tied down to an operating table in no time. He looks over a chart and tells her he’s going to start by collapsing her lung and, man, a tiny hammer has never looked so imposing. After an untelevised torture session, he leaves her in her minivan, almost dead but not quite, and calls 911: The Good Samaritan, #106.

Tom the Angelic and/or Evil Mastermind is hanging out under surveillance with Lizzie in their kitchen when he informs her again that he thinks they should move. We get it, you don’t want your wife to die at the hands of one of the many psychotic killers she’s currently entertaining as an acquaintance! OK, actually, that is a very logical reason to want to move, but ONLY if Tom isn’t evil. And, wait, there’s an elementary school in Lincoln, Nebraska with the funds to fly a second grade teacher out for an interview? That has me more suspicious than anything.

NEXT: Checking back in on that whole “mole inside the FBI” thing…

Before they can discuss it further, Lizzie gets an email that she’s of vital importance to yet another FBI case. She “rode lead” on the Good Samaritan case before she became Red’s best gal pal, which is why she’s being asked to liaison. Agent Cooper doesn’t want Lizzie to be distracted by anything but finding Red, but Lizzie informs him that her priorities are Red’s priorities, re: so you better make them your priorities too, buck-o, because apparently I recently grew a pair and I plan on running things now. Probably my favorite part of the episode is when the whole Post Office gang is being questioned to try and find the mole, and CIA-Meera (most likely candidate for the leak at this point) is all, Hasn’t anybody ever heard of extreme bodily torture? Let’s get this show on the road already.

Director Fowler, who is forever-angry at Agent Cooper, asks him how they managed to lose a whole body when the Wild Bunch invaded the blacksite. When he responds, “ I don’t know, but we think Reddington had something to do with it,” you can practically hear her thinking, “If I had an effing nickel for every time I’ve heard that.” She’d have a few nickels and still no control over America’s favorite FBI adjunct informant, who has, apparently, gone Terminator-Blacklist.

Red goes about finding the leak the only way he knows how: making a list and killing every person on it, and anybody who gets in his way, and then, also, anybody who looks at him funny and/or exists within his line of vision. Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” starts playing, Revelations 6:1 intro included, as Red questions the underlings from Anslo Garrick’s infiltration, and it is just the best song choice. There’s a man goin’ round takin’ names/He decides who to free and who to blame. Not to mention, Revelations is always terrifying, even more so when its verses play over images of the bodies of Red’s victims after he gets the information he needs: They never had any knowledge of the location or the target of the attack and they were paid in small bills to do their specific jobs.

Red hears Lizzie is on the Good Samaritan case and calls her up to give her all the answers she needs. Lizzie tells him she can’t see the kind of pattern that’s usually evident in a serial killer. Red doesn’t know a lot about serial killers (doubt it), but he does “know torture…and if you really want to hurt someone, you need to tailor your attack specifically to that person.” He tells her to focus on the victims rather than the killer and she figures out that the son of the murdered mother had been abused and every injury he’d every sustained had been inflicted on the mother. Ding, ding, ding — pattern. Thanks for the tip, Uncle Red!

Meanwhile, Red is tailoring his torture to a man named Fyodor by dousing him in vodka and threatening to light him on fire if he doesn’t tell him which banker financed Garrick’s mission with all those small bills. He finally caves — it’s Gestalten Landesbank, of course — and Red sticks a lit cigar in his mouth. But when he doesn’t immediately catch fire, he just shoots him. Red’s efficient that way.

NEXT: You say po-ta-to, I say murder…

After confirming that the son was abused by his mother and looking at the medical histories of the other victim’s surviving family members, Lizzie and Ressler realize that the Good Samaritan has fashioned himself some sort of vigilante killer for abuse victims. It just so happens that the name “Good Samaritan Killer” works really well for this, as well as the whole “leaving his victims half-dead on the side of the road” thing.

And speaking of that guy, he’s found his next project. You see, the Samaritan works as a nurse and sees abuse victims come through his ER all the time. On this particular day, a woman comes in with a broken wrist and a looming husband. The Samaritan follows that husband to an abusers support group he’s attending and shares with the group that he was abused by his mother as a child, but they’ve “figured out a way to reconcile.” Excellent character actor Frank Whaley earns every bit of his guest spot on Red’s Blacklist, making lines that sound completely normal out of context — “we worked out a process, call it a home remedy, that has allowed us to move forward” — with the creepy smile and persistent head nods that just scream, Imma kill someone real soon.

Once Meera has been cleared of being the leak (Parminder Nagra is free to be excellent!), she discovers that the money Garrick’s people were being paid with was coming from an account owned by an alias that appears to be Aram the Tech Guy’s (No! Free Amir Arison!). And would you look at that? Red’s already got him tied up with  a bag over his head. Red tells Aram he has to transfer five million dollars into his bank account from another account with no trace in a matter minutes, or he’s going to shoot him. Aram does it, of course, because he a damn black ops tech FBI agent, and Red concludes that he must be being framed because he could obviously make the money untraceable if the account had really been under his alias. It’s a pretty roundabout way of doing things, but at least we finally get to see Red figure something out, rather than just being an omnipotent, all-knowing crazy person.

There’s just one stop left on Red’s Roadtrip to Justice, and that’s the banker’s house who handled the money Aram was framed with. Henry the Banker arrives home to find Red, in a mock turtleneck and dressy jeans, I kid you not, charming his wife into making him Beef Stroganoff and sitting down to an intimate dinner for three. It quickly becomes a little too intimate when Red pulls out a gun and shoots him in the leg (a Blacklist favorite). But the best part is obviously his exasperation with Henry’s wife’s screams: “Janice, if you don’t stop, I’m going to put you in the closet” and, once he follows through on it, “Janice, if you don’t stop your yammering I’m going to have to shoot through this door which would be a shame because I won’t have any idea what I’m shooting at!”

One Papua New Guinea head-on-a-pole threat later and Henry whispers to Red who was actually transferring the money. Victorious, Red parts with, “Janice, my sincerest apologies. I’ll take a rain check on the Stroganoff, it smells delicious.” All I want is for Janice to yell back, “I’ll make you choke on it, asshole,” so there will be just one person who is worthy of being in the same room with this man. And who better than Janice?

NEXT: When is it ever not about the creepy mother/son relationship?

Lizzie and Ressler have connected the ER nurse to all of the Samaritan murders and taken off in search of him, with Ressler moving pretty steadily on that limp. The Samaritan has managed to get the abusive husband on his torture table and it seems that “reconciliation” he spoke of with his abusive mother actually means that he has her in some sort of drugged state and makes her watch as he tortures other abusers. While she is awful, and the abusive husband is awful, the murderous serial killer is also awful. It’s all just really awful, and it gets worse as the Samaritan goes to take a hammer to the guy’s skull. But then, it’s Lizzie to the rescue! She’s figured everything out, enters the torture chamber alone, and shoots the Samaritan before he can hammer-kill his mother. I personally hope the show digs a little deeper into that “we don’t have the luxury of your simple morality” line in the future.

Side Note: A really weird thing happens that almost drags down a very good episode where Lizzie goes to the hospital where the man the Samaritan tortured is, ignores his abused wife, and tells him if he ever touches his wife again, she’ll do to him what the Samaritan would have done if she hadn’t stopped him. I’m sure the abuse victim feels so comforted by your extreme threats of violence, Lizzie. Yeesh.

Aram arrives back at headquarters, where they still think he’s the mole, with evidence from Red on who the real leak is: It’s Newton Phillips. Agent Cooper speaks for us all when he says, “Who the hell is Newton Philips?” Well, Newton Philips is Red’s lurking lackey from earlier in the season, who Red must now kill in some sort of ceremonious plastic-bag-suffocating/river-drowning that James Spader somehow manages to make seem meaningful. But does any of it really matter? We all know that Alan Alda (AKA, Fitch) was behind it all from the last episode and — Oh, there you are, Alana Alda! There you are sitting at that government top dog table, acting as FBI Director Fowler’s boss, telling her to “cut the crap, Diane.” Alight then, I guess we’ll just play this one by ear.

The Blacklist may be a little over the top, and it may really just be a showcase for one great actor, but I continue to be impressed by its ability to balance a serialized mystery and mythology with week-to-week storytelling and narrative arcs. This episode was practically divided in half between Red’s larger quest and Lizzie’s one-night-only story, and both were brought together seamlessly in their final sit down catchup session…even if Lizzie’s almost-flirtatious, “Did you bring me anything?” was super weird. Never one to let his whatever-she-is down, Red did bring Lizzie something: the next name on the Blacklist.

I have my fingers crossed for a slightly lower kill count next episode, but maybe that’s just my “simple morality” talking.

James Spader returns as Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.
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