'The Blacklist' recap: 'Masha Rostova'
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
Till touchdown brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no, no, no, I’m a rocket man
Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone
When The Blacklist‘s season 2 finale started, I had no idea that I needed it to end with Elton John. But I did. Of course I did. Because this entire season, as punctuated with an exclamation point in this finale, has circled again and again around all of the ways in which Red has had to hurt Lizzie in order to protect her—and that despite his best, most invasive efforts, he very much has not been able to. By attempting to purge Lizzie of her earliest sins, and secluding her from his own, the vacuum Red created has now sucked Lizzie—family, friend, whatever she is to him—into the life that he never intended for her. He’s a Rocket Man.
And now, I guess, so is she.
Knowing the little bit that we do of the childhood details that Red was trying to keep from Lizzie, the idea the he just tried to wipe them from her memory is almost quaint. Altering someone’s memory to make them forget that they once killed (…maybe killed?) someone—a parent! (…maybe a parent?)—is like trying to cover up a bullet hole with a band-aid. And as Taylor Swift and every It Girl in Hollywood will soon tell you via music video, you simply cannot do that. Tom Connolly would likely tell you the same. Because that dude was on the receiving end of Red’s temporary fix for Lizzie coming completely unhinged, and he has one very unfortunately placed bullet hole and the lack of pulse to prove it.
TOM CONNOLLY, NO. 11
This is the first time in Blacklist history that I can recall the episode not being named after the Blacklister of the week. In fact, the normal structure is all sorts of mixed up tonight; normally, Liz and Red are after the Blacklister while whatever cult lead or evil doctor currently inhabiting that role tries to evade them. But tonight, it’s Tom Connolly who’s on the hunt for Liz/Masha, and what starts as a cat and mouse situation quickly turns into a Tom & Jerry curveball. Connolly might start the chase, but it’s Lizzie who finishes it.
The finale picks up right where the last episode left off, with Red informing Lizzie on her Motorolla flip phone (with roaming fees and 10-cent text messages) that the Cabal knows about her Russian spy mom, she’s being framed for the attempt on the Senator Hawkins’ life, and Tom Connolly is storming around the Post Office asking everyone for favors. No, actually, he’s already fully in Phase 3 of his plan: Remind Cooper every single time you see him that he’s done a bunch of illegal stuff for you, so now he has to do everything you say. (Phase 1 was “join a gang of criminals;” Phase 2: impress those criminals with your favor-framin’ skills; Phase 4: World War III, presumably)
NEXT: Shut the door. Have a seat.
Connolly tells Cooper exactly how Liz will go down for being a Russian spy that infiltrated an FBI task force, blew up the CIA facility, and infected the Senator last week—which Lizzie of course overhears, because even though pretty much everyone on this show has a secret life, nobody knows how to shut a damn door. When Liz relays what she overheard to Red, she very hilariously complains, “He’s making it sound like all I’ve been doing is helping you commit crimes.” Because, WELL…
Red tells Lizzie for the 15th time that she has to get out of there, so she finally does—and opens the elevator to find Tom Connolly’s beady eyes staring back at her. While Cooper is suspended from his position as Director by Connolly, Lizzie is taken into interrogation with two agents, where she struggles to answer questions like, “What’s your name?” Liz/Lizzie/Masha/Keen is losing it, and her cries of “I’m being framed!” really aren’t helping her case. Luckily, Red realizes there’s absolutely no way Lizzie can talk her way out of this (“There’s an organization called the Cabal”… seriously, Lizzie?), and devises a plan to get her out of there. He has a man on the inside who manages to cut the power for a brief period of time and get Liz a cell phone connected to Cooper—Red’s newest go-to guy—on the other end.
Cooper tells her exactly where to go to meet up with Reddington. But before she can get to that man with whom she has a complex relationship, she runs into one with whom she has a less focused-upon complex relationship: Ressler, the new interim Director of the Post Office, as appointed by Assistant A.G. Wright. Ressler lets a lot of Liz’s Keen-isms (kidnapping her ex-husband, being obsessed with men who keep ruining her life) slide, but he gives her less allowances than many others. He won’t perjure himself for her like Cooper, or change his whole life, hire people to erase her memory, and kill anyone who blinks at her wrong way, like Red. But he will let her escape in the last few moments before the security cameras come back on, with the promise that he will have to hunt her down.
Liz finally gets to Red, and they figure out that her run-in with the be-vested man posing as Karakurt in Union Station last week must have been when she was contaminated with the virus the Cabal is using to frame her. To prove her innocence, she has to figure out who the man in the vest was that contaminated her. She goes to Union Station—the first of many public places she visits while on the run—to review the surveillance tapes. I was so nervous it was going to somehow end up being Tom in that vest, but it was just the hippie virus murderer from last week’s cold open—who also happens to be the scientist, Andropov, who invented the virus that ultimately killed the Senator.
Lizzie tracks him down with the help of the Russian CIA informant from last week. In addition to an address for Andropov, Liz finds out that Red has told the man not to talk to her about Katarina Rostova. When Liz confronts Red about intentionally keeping information about her mother from her, he hits her with this little number, as though it’s something people say all the time: “I’m a sin eater. I absorb the misdeeds of others darkening my soul to keep theirs pure—that’s what I’m capable of.” So, Lizzie gets huffy about having all of her sins eaten and tells him, “fine DAD,” she can handle Andropov on her own because that’s what she’s capable of.
And, I kid you not, the next scene opens with her going to Tom’s boat-chelor pad to tell him that she needs his help because she can’t find Andropov on her own. Lizzie’s habit of constantly going back on the things she tells Red when she’s mad at him is surely an intentional choice by the writers, but boy is it confounding.
NEXT: Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with Keen…
Luckily, once Liz tells Tom that she really can’t sail away with him because she’d always be looking over her shoulder for the evil organization that’s hunting her, he enlists to help her clear her name with the FBI… the FBI that she is very well aware is run by Connolly and the Cabal. It’s futile from the get-go, but Tom and Liz teaming up does result in a car chase with plenty of Mustang product placement, and the death of Andropov at the hands of a few Cabal agents. Liz loses it because she thinks he was the last person alive who could tell her anything about her mother. (She seems fine with the one man who could get her off the hook for terrorism dying, though.) So she falls into the muscled, recently de-tattooed arms of one Tom Keen.
And frankly, she kind of plays him. While he gives her sexy stitches for all the glass in her shoulder, she’s all “I don’t want to regret anything,” and waffling on if she should sail away with him or not. All the naked writhing kind of makes it seem like she’s decided it’ll be a pirate/framed-fleeing-terrorist’s life for her. But when she wakes up in the morning, she remembers the flash drive they lifted from Andropov—and discovers that it contains extensive documentation about Cooper’s “condition,” suggesting that his doctor works for the Cabal. And boy, does that really grind everyone’s gears, including mine, because Harold Cooper is the best. He tries so hard to be the perfect director, and keep criminals off the street, and not let his agents murder harbor masters, and then the Cabal and their stupid doctor—who told Cooper he had stupid fake cancer so that Connolly could get him in the stupid medical trial and make him do all those stupid favors—goes and messes everything up.
Lizzie also finds all of this is quite difficult to tolerate. But whereas I resulted to juvenile name calling, Lizzie carries a piece on her hip. After Cooper chokes the truth out of his doctor, he and Liz go to confront Connolly, who tells them they have a lot of chutzpah for coming there!
You know who has a lot of chutzpah? All the federal employees and dignitaries trying to start World War III. But I guess chutzpah is all relative when all parties involved have the weight of the most powerful criminals in the world behind them. Somewhere between Liz demanding that Connolly dismiss the allegations against her, and him laughing in her face and threatening Aram, Lizzie’s chutzpah turns into something a little more primal, a little more deranged. Her eyes are twitching, she’s sweating, and then she’s pulling out a gun. Because, really, what are her other options? Go on the run, knowing that the Cabal is after her? Continue to try to find a way to clear her name with the organizations run by the very people trying to make her name be Masha?
NEXT: A small cog in a large wheel, a sin eater in a heap of sin…
And even though Connolly tells her the gun option isn’t really that great either, because he is but a small cog in a very large machine, Lizzie is desperate—desperate for a way out, desperate for answers, desperate to find what she’s looking for. So she does it. She shoots and kills Tom Connolly. Cooper looks her in the eye and whispers, “Run.”
This is not the finale I was expecting. I was expecting an explosive reveal with a frustrating cliffhanger. Instead, this was a quieter affair—I mean, yes, there was a car chase, an escape from FBI custody by an FBI agent, and Lizzie shot a guy; but still. Lizzie and Red being forced to leave the Task Force is such a disruption to the core of this story that its effects almost haven’t hit me yet. And the reveal that Liz shot her father is affecting—and I can’t believe they actucally gave us a bit of the “everything” Lizzie remembered—but it’s not exactly revealing No, we didn’t get a lot of straightforward answers in tonight’s finale. Instead, we ended with everyone in utter turmoil, sure, but also knowing their missions. Lizzie has to get away, Red has to get her there, and the Post Office crew has to hunt them down.
As a character, Lizzie has always clicked less than Red because she tends to lack focus. Her life has been so out of whack since the moment we met her that she can barely see one step ahead. She admittedly does not know what she wants. Ever. But going into the next season, it doesn’t matter what she wants, because everyone has a map laid out in front of them. Everyone has a job to do—they’re rocket men.
And all this science, I don’t understand
It’s just my job, five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man
And so Elton John plays as Liz tells Red what happened when she shot Connolly. We saw it in a quick flash of the little girl in the red nightgown from Liz’s previous semi-recovered memories, the girl we now know is Masha/Little Liz holding a gun. Red confirms what Liz says she remembers from that night: “I remember everything… I know why my father died that night. I shot him.” Masha saw her mother and father fighting, “he was hurting her,” and she shot him. And then she ran away. And no matter how Red tried to protect her or keep her pure, Lizzie is still running. But at least now she has company.
Liz: You were my sin eater.
Red: I tried to be. But I failed. I never wanted you to be—
Red: Like me.
A Few Loose Ends:
- That final scene where Aram and Samar watch Ressler tack up “Elizabeth Keen’s” Most Wanted poster right next to “Raymond Reddington’s” is just deliciously brutal. It’s not that I’m rooting for Liz to face off against Ressler—I long for that beautiful birthday dinner—but I’m very excited at the prospect of Post Office gang getting expanded storylines next year as a result of not following the exact same narrative of our two main characters.
- Look at what a little side story action did for the newly healthy Harold Cooper/Harry Lennix, who was just an all-star this episode.
- That Dembe/Red goodbye hug tho.
- Red had a little insurance policy going throughout this episode where he invited 11 of the best investigative journalist, showed them the contents of the Fulcrum, and told them to investigate at their own risk. At last one of them has changed the “quaint” Cabal to “Shadow Government” in the article the Director is reading over at the end of the epsiode.
- No real new info on Liz’s mother… please fill in the blanks with all of your craziest theories.
- Knowing that Liz shot her “father” still settles exactly no questions about her paternity. Unless of course you ever found yourself wondering if Liz killed her father, in which case, good on you. And also, who the hell is he? Was that man in her memory really her father? Or just the person she thought of as her father in childhood? Did he really die? Why was Red at all a part of that night?
- The look in James Spader’s eyes while Lizzie is telling him she remembers everything surely eliminates those lingering thoughts that he could be playing her in some way, huh?
- Tom Keen is the Matthew McConaughey of Mustang. Tom Keen also rode away on his boat looking like a boat of the dream variety. Will he return? Will it be because Liz is pregnant? Was it the power of love that caused his neck tats to disappear in matter of days? Only Season 3 will tell.
- I’m hoping this nosedive into Take Your Daughter to Work anti-hero territory will be better suited for Lizzie than being a hero was.
And I’ll be there to watch it all go down. As always, thanks for watching along with me this season—I can’t wait to read all of your best theories in the comments!
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.