The Blacklist recap: 'Dr. James Covington'
Raymond Reddington learned an important lesson when he was 15-years-old: “Value loyalty above all else.” Because one doesn’t get to the crux of the darkest circles in the world without becoming a pretty good judge of character.
Tonight saw a dream sequence, a fake betrayal, a real betrayal, a bearded Tom, a New Tom, and Paul Reubens in a Paul McCartney circa 1964 wig. That’s right: The wigs are back. “Dr. James Covington” might not be the most unpredictable story they’ve ever told, but sometimes, being able to anticipate Red’s next move makes us feel like we’re on his team. And when it’s almost entirely unclear who else is on that team, other than Elizabeth Keen, that’s a comforting feeling in a world where people are getting vital organs on layaway.
Season 2 of The Blacklist and Red seem to be trying to work out the same issue: Can Raymond Reddington control every aspect of everything ever all the time? Last week the answer was no—he admitted to Mr. Kaplan that he was at the end of his limb, and ended up depending on Lizzie to keep him alive after striking a deal with Berlin that he didn’t quite have the means for. That’s about as desperate as it gets. But this week the answer is, “Yes, of course, I employ enough spies to fill a small liberal arts university, so it’s impossible to slip anything past me, especially you, Nico. I see you, Nico!”
We may be back to Red at his most omnipotent tonight, but one thing is for sure: The more of Red’s personal life that’s revealed, the more his vulnerabilities are exposed, and tonight we finally got a glimpse behind the curtain at Raymond Reddington, LLC. And there’s a little bit of internal shuffling going on over there. Dealing with some internal issues of her own is little Lizzie Keen, who awakes in her motel bed to find Tom (with a beard, without his Warby Parkers) pointing a gun at her and warning her that Red is just using her and will kill her once Berlin is dead. But just as he’s about to tell her why Red ever contacted her in the first place, the man himself steps in, shoots Tom, and approaches Lizzie reeeeeeal predatory-like: “What do you want, Agent Keen? What do you really want?”
But it’s totally fine, you guys, because—you will not believe this—it’s all just a **dream sequence**. Apparently, Liz sleeping with her gun in her hands isn’t exactly acting as the dreamcatcher/security blanket she thought it might. It’s mostly just exposing her subconscious fears and insecurities, which is super helpful for us in the audience. Shortly after accosting a handsome man in the motel parking lot because she thinks he’s following her, Liz goes to meet up with the creepy man who’s actually been following her for the last year or so (or, y’know, her whole life, maybe). Red is just finishing up a business meeting with his syndicate of villain partners who aren’t keen on his plan to invest in an Indonesian port or his recent dealings with Berlin. Seems reasonable. That guy is cutting off fingers like he’s Denzel Washington trying to protect a young girl.
But Liz is kind of over Berlin right now, she’s more concerned with Paul Wyatt, the man who was found with his heart cut out of his chest at the top of the episode.
JAMES COVINGTON, NO. 89
Although the bulk of the episode’s time is spent on the Blacklister of the week, the most interesting twists are happening on the big picture periphery, and somehow, Red manages to juggle both. He is, in fact, the one who brings the case of Paul Wyatt and his Y-front chest cavity to the attention of the Post Office team, telling them it could only be the work of Dr. James Covington, surgeon to the sinister stars. Formerly one of the top cardiothoracic surgeons in the country, after being disbarred for stealing a pair of lungs from the donor pool and performing an unauthorized experiment on them with a 10-year-old, Dr. Covington went into the business of performing OnDemand transplants for criminals who either can’t get on the transplant list or just don’t want to wait.
So, Covington was probably just getting his hands on Paul Wyatt’s heart to harvest it for a transplant, right? Wrong; at this point, I’m not even sure Liz would consider that a crime. No, it turns out that a quick look at Wyatt’s heart by a coroner who was weirdly coughing a lot, showed that the missing heart wasn’t even his original ticker. He had received a heart transplant in the past, even though his records didn’t show it. When Liz and Ressler go to talk to his wife, she tells them that it was Dr. Covington’s work, and his transplants aren’t available for purchase, they’re rented for $500,000/year, and if you stop being able to pay… Wait, is she saying—no—yes, “My husband’s heart wasn’t harvested. It was repossessed.” Yikes.
NEXT: That is exactly who you think that is…
And while we’re reeling from the shock of people playing take-backs on human hearts, Bokenkamp and the gang decide this would be an excellent time to introduce Paul Reubens, frequently known as Pee-Wee Herman, as a bad guy… as much as one can be a bad guy when wearing a pale yellow turtleneck. He busts in on Red’s three associates from earlier and promptly lets them know that he doesn’t care who they work for because he works for the one man who isn’t scared of Red, and that guy is ready to offer them a once in a lifetime opportunity.
It’s Berlin. That guy is Berlin, and he’s offering to bring them all into his fold if they ditch Red. One problem: Two of them go for it and one, Nikko, rats them out to Red. He shows Red photos of them meeting up with Vargas, and lets him know that he’s still on his side, but he has concerns about the Indonesia deal. Red’s not really a “this is a safe space, share your feelings” kind of boss though. He tells Nikko to suck it up, calls the other two into his office and has some armored goons take them away. It seems a little out of character for Red to go all feed-’em-to-the-fishes without even a tale from summer camp or a chance to explain themselves first, but we’ll get to that.
While trying to downsize, Red is also helping Lizzie try to track down Dr. Covington. The team has found that Covington funnels his payment through a nonprofit, the Wellbright Foundation, which recently paid Gordon Albee, a surgeon, $200,000 for consulting services. When Liz and Ressler find Albee, he’s acting as a medical examiner as opposed to a surgeon, but mostly he acts real, real sketchy. Liz asks Red if they can borrow Mr. Kaplan for a while, and with her proficiency for dead bodies and general gore, are able to figure out that Albee has examined four bodies recently that didn’t come in with missing organs, but definitely left a lung or two lighter. Red and Mr. Kaplan have some solid banter about Mr. Kaplan once dating a coroner’s sister, but mostly I enjoyed this interaction because I feel like Mr. Kaplan really can’t stand Lizzie, and something about that brings me great joy.
Ressler and Liz get Albee to call up his Covington contact as though he has a harvested organ for them, and the same courier that we saw deliver Paul Wyatt earlier shows up, but when he takes off on a motorcycle with a pig’s heart in an insulated lunchbox strapped on the back, it’s just a little too much for Ressler and Liz to keep up with on car or foot, and they lose him. Because every FBI agent on this show is working at “brain capacity: recent trauma” right now, Red has to step in again. They’re at least able to track down who Covington’s next transplant patient is, and Red happens to know him: The man has a bad heart, you see, hence the transplant, and when Red tracks him down, he’s able to force him into giving the phone number he has for Covington by spiking his drink and inducing a heart attack, with two paramedics standing by if he cooperates.
He does, and Aram traces a phone call on that number to a building that just happen to have a basement level not shown on the official city plans. That’s because that basement level, as Ressler and Keen discover, is being used as an experimental children’s hospital. It turns out that the experiment that originally got Dr. Covington disbarred was transplanting adult lungs into a child, a method he’s now administering illegally to try and save lives. When Liz busts in on him during an operation, he tells her that when adult lungs become available, they’re given to adults first, even if there are children in greater need. He uses the money he makes from operating on wealthy criminals to fund his research on children’s transplants, which are still very risky. Good intention; bad methods. Just about anyone could see that… except Liz, who’s all, “WE HAVE TO LET THIS CRIMINAL FINISH THIS TRANSPLANT, RESSLER,” and, “Keeping criminals who kill thousands alive is totally fine, if it means this guy can perform experimental procedures on children.”
Just last week, Lizzie was using her most judgmental tone to tell Red how all the lives Berlin takes are on his head because he let him go to get his wife back, and suddenly she’s perfectly fine with Dr. Cut ‘n Stuff? This is a character that has never exactly popped outside of her mysterious backstory, so let’s at least try to keep her spiraling consistent. But I guess this is what Agent Cooper was worried about when he pulled her into his office to say that her psych evaluation presented some concerns. But he just gives her a “my door is always open” and sends her back into the field.
NEXT: Never double-cross a double-crosser…
With the bad guys that get punished off the streets—and to be fair, that precious little boy saved—let’s get back to the bad guys that roam free. You may have guessed that Nikko was trying to pull one over on Red by cutting a deal with Vargas, but convincing him that it was the other two partners who had done it instead. He takes Red’s impulsive decision to kill them without any real evidence as proof that Red has become reckless, and tells Vargas that the terms of his agreement with Berlin now include getting rid of Red. Nikko’s the captain now, and whatnot.
But if you guessed that, you probably further guessed that Red was the one doing the savviest double crossing. When poor, dumb Nikko meets Red to make his big reveal that he’s been working with Vargas all along, Red’s like, “Yeah, dummy, those other two are seated comfortably at a California Pizza Kitchen right now, Vargas is basically my best friend, and I’m about to straight up murder you.” But, in reality, he goes straight to Red’s Story Corner: When Red was 15, he worked for an old man selling carpets, and he hated it. He asked his father if he could get out of it, and his father wanted to know if he had given the man his word to work the whole summer. He had. So he stuck it out for the eight weeks, and at the end of it, his boss told him no kid had ever made it through the whole summer and gave him a $40 bonus for his loyalty: “Value loyalty above all else.”
And just look at that work ethic now. Nikko is killed, and the Indonesia agreement goes through because the Minister of Transportation that would have prevented it recently died because he wasn’t able to get a heart transplant he had been depending on. Would you look at that.
Bringing it all full circle, Red finally goes to visit Naomi, who gives him a hearty crack across the face, and Liz runs back into the man that she frisked in the motel parking lot earlier. We’re treated to her flirt-laugh while he apologizes for the accosting, and tells him she’s a Federal Agent for good measure. He says it’s fine and heads off on his handsome way… straight into his hotel room, where he gets out his big ol’ gun with an extra-long scope. Might be time to upgrade to a Hilton, Lizzie.
And a few loose ends:
–Samar Navabi, the Mossad agent who was revealed to be working with Red last week is now officially “on loan to the task force.” Exactly who is she loyal to? Liz doesn’t trust her at all and tells her as much, but Aram seems to be a fan: “Woah, you’re tall.”
–At this point, the Post Office team is made up of Agent Cooper who still has some mysterious hospital results we haven’t forgotten about; Ressler who stares longingly at pill bottles; a Reddington plant that everyone knows is a Reddington plant; and Lizzie, who is about one cape away from becoming some sort of vigilante. Aram, what did you do to deserve this?
–Is Mr. Vargas’ arms-dealing for Berlin just for show, or is he a double-agent too? I did appreciate the idea of Berlin shopping locally, re: guns.
–Just about everything that Reubens brought out as Mr. Vargas was hilarious, and so on par with Spader’s crazy performance, but his annoyance at Red not allowing him to leave the room before the bloodshed was just fantastic.
–Red’s “oh my gosh” count tonight: two, but only once in reference to slushies.
–”Does that even look like real hair?” On The Blacklist… never.
Will Tommy McGunFace prove to be a real threat to Lizzie? Is Tom: Original Flavor still lurking out there like Cooper and Liz suspect? And can he even see without his glasses? Most importantly, what will Naomi reveal about Liz (and Red’s) past next week? I don’t think she’s Lizzie’s mother, but I bet she’s at least got some hot takes on the matter.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.