The Blacklist recap: 'Dr. Linus Creel'
Alright, everyone get ready to share your Myers-Briggs type in the comments, because things are about to get mental, and if you’re the manipulative type, don’t go getting any crazy ideas.
Tonight was a well-made and well-placed, if not totally frustrating, episode of The Blacklist. It raises 1,000 questions, sure; it doesn’t answer any, alright, yes; and no one is really trying to deal with that cliffhanger of an ending, absolutely not. But the way this episode aligns with last week’s in terms of character development (Is Lizzie going bonkers?), furthers the show’s mysteries across the board (What’s in that room? Is it Tom? It’s Tom, right? Is Tom in that room? Also—if there’s time—what does Naomi think Red should tell Liz?), and serves up an interesting one-off Blacklister plot (so, the warrior gene is a real thing) is a fine display in balance on a show that tries so very hard not to become a procedural each week.
LINUS CREEL, No. 82
That the last two Blacklisters have been doctors and close to each other in number is the least of the comparisons between Season 2’s third and fourth episodes, although the concept of playing god, Red’s history with doctors/surgeons, and the way he’s using the list right now probably mean something. But no, unlike Dr. James Covington with his scalpels and his questionable grasp on “finders, keepers,” Dr. Linus Creel (an excellently disturbed David Costabile) is a doctor of the psyche. Remember last week when we were treated to a little trip into Lizzie’s-mind-on-Red? And how she seemed to be scared of Tom returning, but more scared of what he told her at the end of last season that may or may not have been about Red, who also happened to be in her scary dream, putting out
maybe hopefully not sexual vibes (yeah, I saw the uncomfortable leg shot too), and insisting that she tell him what she wants.
And remember how she was so on edge that she jumped a guy in the street for being near her, then apologized and told him she was a Federal Agent, and her instincts were totally right, but her actions were, uh, crazy?
Yeah, well, bear all that in mind while I introduce you to Dr. Linus Creel, fierce believer in the warrior gene and its capabilities. The episode opens on a woman at a bank being told that she’s going to lose her house and there’s nothing she can do about it. She can’t pay the mortgage, she can’t stop sweating, she can’t control the volume on my TV from fluctuating ever two seconds. So, she walks out to her car—where a man in glasses is watching her from his own car because men in glasses watch people from cars—grabs a gun, walks back in, and shoots up the bank.
As is becoming the standard pattern of Season 2, Lizzie tries to talk to Red about some questions she has re: why you so obsessed with me, and he instead tells her about a random news story that needs immediate investigation. But as Red has this guy at #82 on his Blacklist, and surely knows exactly what’s causing the spike in random D.C. citizens going on killing sprees that he’s suggesting needs investigating when the FBI seems to be happily ignorant to them, then I’m going to have to side with Ressler (ugh, he’s such a square now that he
probably stopped popping pills) that Red is probably just trying to distract them.
If Red is keeping track of random murder spikes in DC, buying ports in Indonesia, discovering lazy pet-owning adulterers, enacting swift justice on those who betray him, and employing a vast array of weirdos known for their cleanliness and title-surname-combos, then could these federal agents possibly focus on more than one thing at a time? Maybe look at the case that Red is sending them chasing and figure out how it’s going to be helping him, or affecting their barely-passing-psych-eval agents, while also investigating the case itself?
Or rather, they could just follow this man blindly forever, occasionally wondering if he has less than pure intentions with their special little task force. After all, he does lead them to Dr. Linus Creel, a former lab assistant on the now disbanded Sub Project-7, a black ops government operation that researched people they believed to be naturally predisposed to killing—people with MAO-A R2, the warrior gene—and how those people operated under extreme stress. Blacklist Tip: Keep an eye on doctors who seem really passionate about stuff that eventually proves to be dangerous enough to not be practiced anymore… they’re 100 percent likely to keep experimenting on it and kill a bunch of people.
NEXT: Warrior Pose #4 can be a bit tooadvanced for some…
Such is the case with Dr. Creel, who the Post Office gang finds has worked at the hospitals of each of the seven mentally-stable-people-turned-killers and has a heavily modified multiphasic personality inventory test on his website that, after Liz assesses it for 1.5 seconds, seems to focus especially on aggression and low impulse control, a.k.a. it would flag people with the warrior gene who were coming to Dr. Creel for psychological help. They’ll need his records to prove that Creel has been psychologically manipulating these people to drive them to homicidal breaks for his research, but his system’s firewall is Aram-proof. He’ll need to first establish physical access…
And there’s only one thing to do when you don’t have quite enough information for an arrest and need to treat a life-or-death situation extra delicately: send Agent Elizabeth Keen undercover in a hoodie. (At this point in the episode, she’s already briefly played the role of a blogger in an oversize sweater looking for her first big scoop, because Zoe Barnes ruined blogging for everybody.) While Lizzie gets in character, let’s check in on one other important undercover lady.
In between Red and Naomi having conversations where everything they say sounds like a clue, Red has invited her husband, Frank, to try and convince both of them that the only way he can protect them is to leave their old life in Philadelphia and start over. But did you see that swingin’ white wine party they were having when the FBI first showed up to take Naomi? Of course they don’t want to leave! Even though she doesn’t want to, Naomi tells Frank that she knows Red is the only one who can protect them. But Frank is feeling like he doesn’t really want to let this weird guy who got his wife kidnapped tell him what to with his life.
Then Mr. Vargas shows up. That is, he shows up at a woman’s house in Philadelphia, confirms that she is, in fact, Frank’s mistress, but worse, a terrible pet owner, and Red has all the leverage he needs to tell Frank exactly what he’s going to do. So, he drives him out into the even-more-middle-of-nowhere, holds a stick to his throat—Naomi might recommend a chicken bone, but work with what you’ve got—and tells him he’ll be starting a new life with Naomi, and only Naomi wherever Red tells them, and they’ll also be taking the mistress’ dog, and they better not dare keep him inside all day.
With that out of the way, it’s time for an extremely loaded conversation between Undercover Lizzie and Dr. Creel. Aram fakes medical records to get Dr. Creel to come to her after she “put her hand through a window because her husband left her.” What follows is Dr. Creel asking her a lot of psychological questions that we—and Samar and Aram listening in the van—are left to wonder if she’s answering as herself trying to convince Creel that her character has the warrior gene, or just herself. A few interactions:
–When asked what she would do to her “fictional” husband, who she named Tom, if she could do anything to him, she responds: “I’d chain him up and force him to tell me about all the lies, the secrets he kept. I’d make him my prisoner.”
–A significant look from Liz when he tells her his belief that people’s “reaction to anger or love or violence is baked into” them as much as their hair color or height.
–After telling Dr. Creel that she doesn’t remember anything about her dead parents: “Perhaps if you did it would be easier for you to accept who you are.” Significant look #2.
–”For better or worse, they’re a glimpse into your future.” The producers all but put twinkling Reds in her eyes at this point.
–After questioning Creel on the genetic test the nurse gave her along with her bloodwork: “Sure, how your parents treated you is important, but the genes they pass on matter more.” Baby/Lizzie/Undercover Lizzie, you were born this way… the way of your parents that you don’t know anything about… according to this crazy doctor that significant glances #3-18 suggest you’re taking it pretty seriously.
Dr. Creel gives Lizzie his secret warrior gene test and she hacks Aram into his computer while he’s out of the room and they’re able to find his next victim, Cooper, in his files. They discover that Creel has been manipulating Cooper in the same way he did his other victims: He’s putting extreme stress on them by imposing anonymous allegations that can never be verified in every aspect of their life. In the woman who opened the episode’s case, he got her fired using bad Yelp reviews, called social services on her treatment of her step children, all making it so she lost her house. With Cooper, he’s gotten him kicked out of school with cheating allegations, and catfished him (Cool Agent Cooper’s words, not mine) with a girl that has now broken his heart by lying to him about her boyfriend and sent him into a spiral.
NEXT: If a girl with a hot dog legs profile pic says she at a public forum on gun control, she’s probably catfishing you…
Creel posts a picture to the fake dating profile of a forum on gun violence where he’s taking the open mic opportunity to tell everyone who will listen how identifying the triggers of the warrior gene is the key to preventing random acts of violence. And this little overachiever has been doing his homicidal homework for the last decade!
What he’s really done is ensure that Duncan will show up to seek his vengeance on his internet girlfriend at the forum by posting that photo. But when Duncan shows up with his gun, it’s just his creepy psychiatrist in his creepy glasses confronting him. The FBI shows up just as Creel convinces Duncan to shoot him because it’s the only way to get people to look at his research, and when Lizzie goes to check on him, he pulls a gun on her. Ressler informs Creel that he’ll be shooting him in the very near future if he doesn’t let go of Liz, but a sniper takes care of that for him from the roof of a building down the street. Oh, hello, Mr. Handsome Hotel Man, I guess you’re a friend (of sorts), rather than a foe. Later, Lizzie, who was one second from being warrior gene-ed, will insist to Red that she doesn’t need the protection of a sniper.
It would be fairly easy to look at Red’s entry into Liz’s life, and his manipulation of everything that enters and exits her environment—her career, her personal life, her home—as a systematic plan to drive her to her breaking point. The Lizzie we first met in Season 1 was living in a brownstone, planning on having a baby, and working her way into the FBI. Though her scalp has been monumentally improved, everything else has gone to hell as a fairly direct result of Raymond Reddington. Is Lizzie just his experiment, something to play with, manipulate, and record the data when he’s done?
Recalling that Liz dreamed of Tom telling her that Red was going to kill her when he was done with her just last episode, it would seem that she’s at least entertaining the idea that he didn’t enter her life to help her. He sure as hell didn’t come to answer any of her questions. Wouldn’t it be neat if Lizzie could find someone who knows Red pretty well and might be able to offer some insight on his manipulative tendencies?
Oh good, Monica the Crappy Pet Owner saves the day again, with Aram’s illegally tracked phone records leading Liz straight to Naomi’s Cabin of Hate in the woods. Red is still in the woods threatening people with sticks, so it’s time to fail the Bechdel test in the most fulfilling of fashions and ask Mrs. Reddington what the h is up with her other half.
And Naomi answers Liz’s question of why Red doesn’t want Liz to see her as vaguely as she possibly can: “He wants something from you. It’s a game, a manipulation; he’s made you feel a connection that makes you feel like you matter… I’ll tell you this though: He’s not who you think he is.”
Who is Raymond Reddington? More importantly, who does Lizzie think he is? Does she know just how much he hates disloyalty, as we do from last episode? Does she know the consequences of him walking in to find her questioning Naomi? After she tells him to ixnay the sniper, Red tells her, “If I knew better I’d say you were hiding something.” That very careful choice of words marks a definite change in Red and Lizzie’s particular brand of love-hate manipulation, knowledge, and blissful ignorance.
Liz doesn’t know anything about Red at all. But maybe we also suddenly know a little less about Elizabeth Keen than we the open book Red has made her to us for most of the series: 1. I did not know that she liked beer. 2. I did not know that she leased creepy warehouse space. 3. What’s in the room? WHAT’S IN THE ROOOOOOOM?! I take solace in the hope that The Blacklist does not have the warrior gene: the building frustration at not having answers is brutal, but eventually everything will very logically, and without resting on psychotic laurels, click into place.
And a few loose ends:
–Tom does seem a little obvious. So, if it’s not him in that room… who/what is it?
–After giving Liz back her lab results, why did Samar tell Aram that Liz wasn’t telling the truth to Dr. Creel about wanting to kill Tom, etc., basically saying that she didn’t have the warrior gene? Was Samar lying to help Liz save face? If she does have it, who that we’ve met so far does that make her most likely to be genetically linked to? Something tells me that’s not the last we’ll see of those lab results.
–Is that the end of the Naomi plot line? With Mary Louise Parker in the driver’s seat, and her brief but shining moment with that chicken bone, I just kept expecting more from the character. After all, she did marry Red. She did finally cave tonight and tell Red that she doesn’t know where Jennifer is: “She knew you would come for her one day and she left.”
–Now, six questions about Naomi’s role in this episode: What is Naomi’s end of the bargain that she kept referencing? Why does she only call Jennifer “my daughter”? Is Jennifer not her daughter with Red? Was the story of the woman from the beginning loving her stepchildren like her own a coincidence? Could Naomi really hate Red as much as she says after that tender goodbye? When is Red “going to tell her” what, Naomi? When is Red going to tell Liz WHAT???
–I have to admit, I was pretty proud of Lizzie’s little trick stealing the prescription pad to cover for hacking the computer. She might be losing her grip on reality, but our little multi-purpose agent is growing up.
–Two laugh out loud moments for me in this episode: Undercover Lizzie slamming into the tech van, probably blowing her cover because she’s so relieved from not blowing her cover; the use of “IDGAS” in the catfish exchange.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.