Peter Kramer/NBC
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TV Show
S3 E11
January 22, 2016 at 03:21 PM EST

With the 10th anniversary of High School Musical upon us — bear with me here, will you? — I can’t help but feel that the normally infallible music selectors at The Blacklist missed a major opportunity in not playing this episode out with the No. 1 cafeteria banger, “Stick to the Status Quo”:

No, no, no

Stick to the stuff you know

If you wanna be cool

Follow one simple rule

Don’t mess with the flow, no no

Stick to the status quo

Perhaps they realized the message might be a little too on the nose about the time Liz asked Reddington why he had repeatedly lied to the FBI and left them completely in the dark on his master plan, and he more or less responded, “Because Ressler would have been a total buzzkill and not let me do it.” Sound familiar? That’s because it’s proto-Blacklist, and was basically the series’ One Simple Rule for at least the first season and a half. And after weeks (months! seasons!) of experimenting, mostly successfully, with “Lizzie the Russian Spy” and “Red and Lizzie’s Great Road Trip Adventure” and “Every Person You Meet Is Part of the Cabal — Yes, That Person Too,” The Blacklist went back to its bread-and-butter. Waaaaay back, in fact: like, Raymond Reddington in The Box telling Elizabeth Keen he’ll fork over the world’s worst criminals to her kind of back.

But this Raymond Reddington is a different Raymond Reddington: he’s a fraud — a Fraymond Freddington. Or is he actually the real Raymond Reddington, and the Raymond Reddington we’ve come to know is the Freddington?

Confused? So is Aram. And we’ll get to that, but first, the most important thing that this episode establishes isn’t a return to the status quo, which after a lot of excitement in the last few weeks, brought a mostly welcome familiarity into this week’s proceedings. No, it’s that Liz apparently needed a little catching up on what’s at stake in this post-Director world. I wouldn’t have thought it needed to be explained that just because she was exonerated of the murders she didn’t commit (plus the ones she did) that her fight was anywhere close to over. Luckily, Red knows Liz a little better than I do, and he not only knew she would need a heavy dose of reality, he came prepared with visual aids as well.

Because it seems that there are not just one, but many crime-syndicate overlord clubs out there, meeting on the regular to discuss how to start World War III, make the world a worse place, etc. And if Liz is the unwitting eye of that storm … Raymond Reddinton has made himself the whole damn map.


The episode opens with an epic Mr. Kaplan cleanup scene to the tune of “Right Back Where We Started From” (on cassette, it appeared), but as soon as Mr. Kaplan and her crew of cleaning ladies synchronize their watches to 18 minutes and slap on their latex gloves, some dude comes in uninvited and shoots everyone … everyone but Mr. Kaplan, that is, who’s left alive to send a message to Reddington: “Tell him we know.”

Oh but Red, he’s a pretty in-the-know fella himself, and he’s ready to jump right back into the fray with a new assignment for Liz who, for her part, can’t believe he’s not exhausted after their treacherous time on the run. But Red is in no mood: “Your past three months have been what my life has been like for the last 25 years — I’m often exhausted.” Looks like the kid gloves are coming off and Red is ready for Lizzie to keep up. Next up on the criminal list is the Shell Island Retreat, a regular Club Med for leaders of the most lethal organized crime syndicates. It only gathers when they’re presented with a problem so vast, it must be solved by enemies working together. And I’ll cut to the chase: that huge problem is that, given his constant linking with the exonerated fugitive Elizabeth Keen while she was on the run, it would appear that Raymond Reddington, one of their own, is an informant for the FBI.

NEXT: Red, meet Fred…

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