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Lizzie and the gang tackle a creepy cult leader tonight, but he's kind of the least of their worries.

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February 20, 2015 at 09:17 AM EST

Hello, all you Blacklist fans. All of my apologies for the multiple steps taken in finding these recaps for the past few weeks—but thank you for sticking with it because, “There are good ships and wood ships, ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are [recapships], may they always be!”

And just as we’re getting back to normal, The Blacklist is getting back to two of its often most reliable staples: creep and camp. The Blacklist does creepy incredibly well, in part because they employ full-creep episodes sparingly. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that tonight’s episode was written by the same writer who penned “The Mombasa Cartel,” a.k.a. the Matthew-who-played-with-taxidermied-humans episode, Daniel Knauf. Swap out creepy family for creepy cult, and this episode had quite a similar vibe: Not the most cohesive hour, but breathless, nonetheless.

Before we get into this, I should put something on the table: I grew up in Waco, Texas. I’m, perhaps, a little more susceptible to the chill factor of cult-based plotlines than most. And there are a lot of cult plots in serialized television history… a lot more cult plots than cults, surely. But The Blacklist went ahead and took the typical cult trope, mixed in a little Children of the Corn, and then took a sharp left turn Lord of the Flies, making for an hour that had me occasionally guffawing at the absurdity, but also entirely enthralled in the stakes, with the caveat that I understood what the stakes were when they were at stake, which was not always. But on The Blacklist, you can at least always count on finding your way about the time that Ressler gets kidnapped (adultnapped?)…

Let’s talk about that opening scene: If there is another primetime drama that employs tonally perfect music as effectively as The Blacklist, I do not know it. Yes, a capella gospel songs are kind of a sure thing, but I took both strikes of “Down to the River to Pray” straight to the gut. The episode opens on a cult leader/preacher who has it all: Thick-as-molasses Southern accent, bolo tie, and a homily about Lot and his daughters that conveniently helps him explain child brides… one of whom joins him at the front of the church in a wedding dress following his sermon as the congregation starts in, “As I went down to the river to pray…” As that skin-crawling scene is going down, it’s also interspersed with men out in the darkness of the night loading boxes into underground storage containers. Those men are bludgeoned and gassed by unseen hands, and suddenly, those same gas canisters are flying through the windows of the church. A scythe holds the door shut as hands beat against it and screams pour through the windows.


As if a terrifying Old Testament cold open wasn’t enough to get you interested, Glen is back after the title card. Glen! Glen, the DMV worker who boils Red’s blood like no one else can, I think, because he’s the only person—at least the only one we’ve seen proof of—that Red actually needs. He provides something that Red can’t provide himself, and not just in that “secret stuffed animal stash” way that Lizzie does. At the DMV, in between Glen lying about having a retirement party he needs to bring a shrimp platter to, Red tells him that he needs to find a safe in St. Petersburg that resides on the second floor of somewhere and the only clue is Allen Fitch. It seems that Red might be playing Glen a little bit, knowing that Glen only cooperates when Red gets “all in a lather,” which he does with all the shrimp talk, but there’s no question that Glen knows how to get what he wants out of Red, too. And what he wants after he tracks down the necessary information to find the safe is to accompany Red to St. Petersburg, more specifically, on his private jet.

Red also asks Liz to meet him at The DMV (“You don’t even drive”) to tell her about Justin Kenyon, “the smiling face of a public militia movement” that goes by The Church of the Shield. Lizzie and the FBI know all about Kenyon, and all about the four expert civil rights attorneys he keeps on retainer to keep those pesky feds out of his doomsday business. What she doesn’t know is how he pays for those attorneys. According to Red, Kenyon uses his 15,000-acre compound to rent out a secret hiding place for the world’s criminals to bury storage containers full of all sorts of world-destroying contraband. And get this: Kenyon has been missing for three days, which would only be a small problem if it weren’t for the fact that Church of the Shield’s specific religious literature says that, come Armageddon/Revelations/whathaveyou, Kenyon (a direct descendent of the god, Ken’yon, obvi) will ascend to heaven and after six days, come back to Earth and… basically, burn that place to the ground.

NEXT: “We don’t want another Waco…”

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