'The Blacklist' recap: 'The Deer Hunter'
Lizzie just can't seem to keep herself out of trouble... or realize that there's always one person getting her out of it.
You guys… you’re not going to believe this, but tonight—I’m not kidding—Elizabeth Keen was kidnapped by the Blacklister of the week after chasing after her with no backup and was nearly killed, but Aram figured everything out and sent the other agents to save her just in the nick of time. Also, there was a morality struggle. I don’t want to be snarky—I like The Blacklist, I really do. I’m still thinking about that car Red found last week, and I remember fondly the days when Lizzie had just gotten her edgy new haircut and was going around kidnapping husbands, eating salads standing up, and paying a body double to do sexy dances in hotel windows. But tonight, I’m willing to drop the hammer on what was a pretty lackluster affair.
The Blacklist really likes to go back to the same bag of themes over and over and it’s a mixed bag. There’s some great stuff in there: Red going on tangents, strange tertiary characters, flashbacks to the past that connects to Lizzie and Red, most any Blacklister in the 1-20 range… But for at least the past two episodes, and a few in the first half of the season, The Blacklist bingo plot balls have come up on the weaker side: FBI agents who are only good at their jobs at the exact moment they need to be; stabs at questioning the ethics of killing for greater good without ever really committing to a side; Lizzie saying she’s never speaking to Red again/only speaking to him professionally only to immediately go back on it one week later.
Mainly, The Blacklist seems to like to commit to plot development in chunks: For every one episode of big picture Reddington developments, you get to spend two episodes with Liz and Ressler in the Post Office trenches chasing after weekly baddies (and inevitably getting abducted by them). What this ends up doing is making those in-between episodes seem entirely inconsequential—I guess I’m glad they found that woman before she killed more people tonight, but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter to Liz or Red’s lives. And theirs are the lives we’re asked to be interested in. Give me a Blacklister that counts as something more than another tick mark for Ressler to count as a reason that Lizzie’s allowed to facilitate the murder of innocent people, and you’ll give me an episode I’m invested in.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in on The Blacklist’s story—I just wish we didn’t have to take so many breaks being in The Blacklist’s story. This episode finds Agent Keen in full David Rossi mode, giving a graduate lecture on a long sought serial killer called the Deer Hunter. As she explains the unsub’s profile and that his are “crimes of domination,” we’re privy to watching the killer at work, hooded, shooting a man down with a crossbow, emptying his insides like a Mr. Potato Head, and taking a single ceremonial bite of his liver.
THE DEER HUNTER, NO. 93
Now, it’s a little confusing that the Deer Hunter would even have an assigned number on Red’s Blacklist, because as Lizzie reminds him in their weekly meeting where he tells her exactly what she’s doing wrong and exactly what she should do instead, he doesn’t care about serial killers. In fact, he’s only going to help the FBI out with the Deer Hunter if Lizzie tells him what she knows about the Fulcrum because he can tell that she’s all, “Nothing, dad, gawd!”
At the Post Office, Red tells the team of FBI agents trained in profiling that the serial killer they’ve been hunting for years, “isn’t a buck at all, but instead, a delicate doe.” That’s right, Deer Hunter looks like a lady, but Lizzie isn’t having any of it. For every piece of logic that Red—only a profiler by hobby—offers up to prove the Deer Hunter is a woman, Lizzie—a profiler by trade—has an example of exactly one time when there was an exception to that behavioral rule. “Yes, Agent Keen, for every rule there is an exception…each factor taken separately is not conclusive, but put them together and it’s clear, you haven’t found your man because he’s a woman.”
That’s the first time someone explicitly tells Keen what’s going on in her case. The second time is at the coroner’s office when Keen and Ressler go to look at the body of the Deer Hunter’s 12th victim and realize someone else has just been in the room with the body, trap the man in the elevator, and take him in for questioning. He writes for a gossip rag and scoffs at the idea that Ressler and Keen think the most recent victim was killed by the Deer Hunter. The past 12 deaths credited to the serial killer have clearly been executed by a copycat, he says.
NEXT: If you’re going to kidnap and murder, don’t leave witnesses…
While Liz is getting paid those government dollars to get schooled by strangers, Red is trying to save her ass secretly, in addition to saving it openly. You see, Detective Wilcox, who last we saw had Samuel Aleko, the witness to Tom and Liz’s murder of the harbor master, in custody spilling his guts about Liz to get a plea deal. Somehow Red knows about this and has a car meeting with a cop who brings him coffee cake and tells him that if he wants to talk to Aleko, he’ll have a chance while he’s being transported to Federal custody from 2 to 4 p.m. That’s a problem. Because in addition to watching out for Lizzie, Red is also trying to meet up with the voice behind the mysterious phone number from the St. Petersburg safe and the man on the phone told him they would meet at 2 p.m. Of course, he opts to skip the meeting that could lead to the Fulcrum to save Lizzie, but he puts the other man with all the answers, Aram, on tracing the address of the phone number that’s been calling him to hopefully track him down.
As for the FBI, they’ve tracked down another body that seems to be the work of the Deer Hunter. And we know for a fact that it is, because a few scenes earlier we saw a real creepy lady (the always haunting Amanda Plummer) having a one-sided conversation with her birds. She’s telling them, “I don’t like it any more than you do, but someone has to do this!” The “this” apparently has something to do with a man named Chad Henning and his wife that she goes to meet with, Mary. The woman tells Mary that there’s no other way, she’s tried to work within the system and the system has failed her. She asks Mary if she’s in or out on eliminating the evil in her life. She’s in.
That most recent Deer Hunter victim? Chad Henning. And when Ressler and Keen go to talk to his wife, Mary makes it pretty obvious that she knows more about Chad’s death than she’s letting on. So Liz does some of her patented FBI work and lets Mary know that they’re following a new lead that the current Deer Hunter killings are a copycat; they plan to let her “stew” for a little while before questioning her again. Back at the Post Office, they’ve found that the only thing that connects the last six killings, those executed by the alleged copycat, is that all of the murdered men had women in their lives who had gone to affiliates of White Haven Shelters, a non-profit that helps people being stalked or harassed.
Ressler and Liz go to speak to the head of White Haven, tell her all about their copycat theory and how Mary seemed nervous when they questioned her. As they’re leaving, who’s standing right outside the door but the creepy bird lady (no birds this time). She goes back to her birds who silently tell her to calm down: “You’re right, I’m over reacting…she’d never betray me. None of them would.”
She’s wrong—Mary has already called the FBI saying she wants to talk—and she must know it because she shows up at Mary’s door about the time the FBI are supposed to be coming over. Mary calls the woman Tracy and reassures her that she would never betray her after all of her husband-killing help, but after Tracy spots two mugs sitting out, and then two FBI agents walking up the drive, she knocks Mary out with a cutting board and bolts. Liz and Ressler realize something is up when they get to the house so Liz goes to check out the backyard, sees a spot where someone has hopped the fence and goes running after Tracy. And then Tracy hides behind a gate and knocks Liz in the head with a shovel. There’s a lot of talk about the Deer Hunter’s style of killing from a distance indicating that she’s physically weak, but she sure does knock two people unconscious mere minutes from each other quite easily.
NEXT: The quest for the Fulcrum continues…
As Lizzie is getting dragged to her weekly abduction, Red meets with Aleko and tells him—via a story about the best 8th grade dancer in his middle school, of course—that he knows his brother needs a heart transplant and he can get him one within the week if he does something for him. By the time Lizzie gets hoisted up in the air in a workshop full of taxidermied animals, and Tracy admits that the first Deer Hunter was her abusive husband and that he was her first kill, Aram has already made the connection between Tracy and the first copycat killing, sending a team to save her, and Samuel has kept his mouth shut in his official testimony to the Attorney General. Everything is turning up roses for Elizabeth Keen whether she knows it or not.
But Lizzie isn’t feeling so relieved. She’s ready to turn herself into Wilcox because no matter how many times Ressler tells her that Tom is the one who killed the harbor master, she knows that she hesitated—she didn’t do anything to stop him because it would be easier for the harbor master to be dead. This point is supposed to be mirrored when Liz nearly kills Tracy by choking her with her legs while she hangs from the ceiling, much like the way Tom choked the harbor master, but the very obvious difference is that with Tracy she was saving her own life while on duty as an FBI agent, and with the harbor master, she was saving her own ass while illegally holding and questioning a hostage. That Liz can barely differentiate between defense and murder either makes her an even worse FBI agent than originally thought, or is about to lead to some much more drastic character developments. Fingers crossed for the latter.
With Lizzie’s mess cleaned up, Red turns back to tracking the mysterious phone man. Aram has traced the number, so Dembe and Red head to an empty house—empty of furniture and mystery callers. The only things inside are an overturned chair, a puddle of blood, and the phone that belongs to the St. Petersburg number. It looks like whoever Red was talking to didn’t leave his perch willingly, so there’s only one place left to turn for Fulcrum intel… and this time, Lizzie is feeling more generous.
After a little scolding for going after the Deer Hunter with no backup (thank you!), Lizzie tells Red that she has the Fulcrum. But he’s not getting her treasure unless he tells her what it is and why he wants it. Red tells Liz that to tell her would be to expose her to great danger and that petulant 30-year-old has the nerve to say, “I don’t need your protection.” LIZZIE!!! Honestly, you’ve spent this entire episode thinking about the terrible thing that happened the one time you didn’t call Red for help. Thank goodness Red takes this moment to inform Lizzie that she would be in Federal custody right now if he hadn’t stepped in and gotten her out of the harbor master mess that she didn’t even know he knew about.
Red says he knows the real reason that she won’t tell him where the Fulcrum is: “Because you’re afraid that once you give it to me, you’ll be of no further use to me and you’ll never see me again.” The fact that she told him they were strictly professional just a week ago and now finds herself sitting in a Whole Foods with him talking Fulcrum facts would indicate that he’s onto something. But Liz leaves without confirming if that’s the truth while the camera lingers on the back of Red’s head, turning in the last second to expose the slightest hint of his profile. I’m not sure why, but it’s the most interesting thing that happened all night.
And a few loose ends:
- I lied. The most interesting that happened all night was Samar calling Aram sexy! At the beginning of the episode, bald Red tells Aram that he used to have a magnificent mane in front of his. Aram keeps trying to flaunt it in front of Samar while he still as it; eventually she catches on and tells him that women don’t care about balding as much as men think, and he’d look sexy no matter what anyway. Aram + Samar = <3
- Even with all my complaining, I was glad to finally hear a little more from Ressler tonight. But, boy, did that dramatic apple biting reveal have me rolling: “That’s it! He was right about the copycat, and I can prove it,” sounds like it could have been lifted right out of Scooby Doo.
- Are we all in on Lizzie’s little box being the actual Fulcrum. Or is it just the first of many steps in getting to the Fulcrum?
- Now that Detective Wilcox is without a witness, will he make it his life’s mission to expose Liz as a murdering fraud? That scene where Lizzie observes him showing compassion to a homeless man would imply that we’re not quite done with him yet. It was meant to imply something, at least.
Next week: Red gets kidnapped! Watch your backs, folks, it’s a kidnap-y world out there. What did you think of tonight’s episode?