There's always more to learn about Reddington's past, and there's always room for Tony Shalhoub on 'The Blacklist'

Credit: Will Hart/NBC

Did anyone else, just for a moment, think that the woman Red was slowly gifting a personal glass menagerie to all episode long was…Katarina Rostova? I know, I know — she was too young, too Parisian; there was no chance she was the legendary Lizzie Sr. But for just a moment, I wondered…

I also wondered if she was another Lizzie-type to Red (no, she likes him too much); for, like four seconds I wondered if she could be his daughter (that quickly turned to “no, no, no, no, ew, no, no, sorry I even thought it); I wondered a lot of things about that Josephine, and not just because Stephanie Szostak was utterly lovely in the role. No, it was because, in the story of Raymond Reddington, we don’t get many Josephines.

We know that Red that was in Naval Intelligence. We know that he was married to Naomi. We know that there was a fire. But we know little about what those things meant to Red’s life: when they were — how they came and how they went. Now, we didn’t learn how Red met Josephine in tonight’s episode, how he found her, or fell in love with her. But we know how he lost her; we know how he loved her (his Love Language is Gift-Giving, color me shocked); we know the lengths he went to avenge what was taken from her…and from him. That’s a much fuller story than we’ve learned regarding just about anything in Raymond Reddinton’s personal history, including his connection to Lizzie or her mother. And that it came in a particularly procedural episode of The Blacklist, makes me hope that Josephine continues to color The Blacklist‘s future with the depth that she’s colored Red’s past.


And that’s not a knock on the more episodic plot of this episode, either, which I found to be plenty engaging. And look, ma, no creepy cults! Just a whooooole buncha murder. Like, a whole bunch. Because tonight, we’re dealing with crime families; two crime families, to be exact, the Erikksons and the Vacarros. In the opening scene, an Erikkson son is shot by the Vacarros and eventually dies. Enter Tony Shalhoub.

And, oh boy, does he ever make an entrance, wearing a bowtie and man-scarf carts and carting around two tiny Pomeranians at all times, as anyone who wants to be taken seriously as a villain should. He arrives at the hospital where the whole Erikkson clan is gathered to offer his services to the patriarch, Mads, to help him save his other sons. And what kind of services can Tony Shalhoub offer to a crime family who’s being targeted by another crime family? Well, as Red explains it to Lizzie (in one of their patented conversations where they’re talking about two different things at the same time and just pretending like the other isn’t ignoring everything they say), there’s a legend of a man who works as a sort of matchmaker/negotiator to bring warring crime families together when it becomes evident that there’s more profit in friendship than in being sworn enemies, a profit of which he takes a large chunk once he successfully joins the tow.

Lizzie’s response to this new Blacklister assignment? “My mother, was she still alive when I was placed with Sam?” And a follow-up: “How did my mother die?” On task as always, but we can give Lizzie a pass this time as she’s particularly concerned with motherhood right now, and not just because she recently learned that her mom is probably more “waiting in the wings” than “dead in the ground.” No silly, did you forget? Lizzie and Megan Boone are pregnant! And as decided last week, Liz is seeking to give the baby up for adoption, but she’s hoping it can be an open adoption and that she’ll still be able to be involved in the child’s life. She’s also hoping that there will be some hopeful adoptive parents out there who won’t mind that she recently had an extended stay on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and once murdered the Attorney General of the United States.

NEXT: Pomeranian plans…

But, hey, anything can happen. After all, Tony Shalhoub is currently drinking champagne in a bubble bath with two Pomeranians, responding to their little teacup-size growls like they’re actually speaking to him: “A brilliant idea, Marilyn, you are a hopeless romantic!” And though Red doesn’t actually know who this fellow is, the FBI are able to track down Mads Erikkson and his enemy clan’s patriarch to the park where Alistair Pitt (I never could figure out the Greek word they were calling him) is having them meet to reveal Marilyn’s his plan to merge their enemy families: Have the Erikkson’s youngest son marry the Vacarro’s youngest daughter. That Marilyn, she really is a romantic…

But the patriarchs basically laugh in Alistair’s face, finally able to agree on something: that his plan is really stupid. They’re sworn enemies after all; someone backstabbed someone a few decades ago in their mutual trade of drug trafficking, and their distaste has turned to trading off on murdering each other’s kids. Dwelling on that last little bit, plus the facts that Alistair mentions — when they were once aligned, they controlled 65 percent of the drug trade on the eastern seaboard, and apart, it’s down to 22 percent — and the papas actually start thinking that an arranged marriage doesn’t sound so bad.

And that’s what the FBI, plus the DEA, is worried about: If these two super families actually manage to successfully join forces, the drug trade stands to gain a huge boost. Luckily, they’ve at least gotten eyes on Alistair now, and with the assistance of Red’s underground network of hotel maids and valets (plus an underground tunnel to somewhere), they’re able to track him to where he’s taking care of the one little problem in Marilyn’s his plan to merge the Erikksons and Vacarros through the political power of marriage: little Chris Erikkson’s fiancée. We get to watch them be adorable and attractive as he walks her out of the hospital where she’s an adorable and attractive nurse. And then we get to watch Alistair’s men hop out of a van and gun her down with an assault rifle. It is so, so awful.

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And Mads Erikkson lets his son believe that it was the Vacarros who murdered his young fiancée and then lets Alistair somehow convince him, possibly through the hypnotic power of not-Marilyn’s perma-waggling Pomeranian tongue, that the death is all the more reason to go through with merging the two families. And while Danny Vacarro has been agreeing to play along, his wife isn’t so sure she’s ready to join up with the Erikksons or offer her daughter in holy matrimony. But Danny tells her not to worry — the celebratory dinner is already planned…and all the Erikksons will be there…in once place…an excellent place for a mass murder.

And Red manages to score himself a guest invite to that very dinner while those poor FBI paupers have to sit outside in their undercover van, just hoping that Alistair will reveal himself. Little do they know that even though this is the kind of wedding where you have to check all cell phones and assault rifles at the door, the kitchen is fair game: where both Danny Vacarro can plan his attack on the Erikksons with some lackey and where Dembe can eavesdrop on him doing so (because he doesn’t need a rotator cuff to use a swinging door). Dembe reports back to Red, and Red goes into action. And by “Red goes into action,” I, of course, mean Red makes an inappropriate and lengthy speech that makes everyone uncomfortable. And he does so to draw out Alistair Pitt just before the Vacarros start shooting up the Erikksons and the FBI swarm the place…

NEXT: A glass menagerie of pain…

I know this will shock you as it continues to shock Lizzie, but Red had an ulterior motive for wanting to find Alistair Pitt. Throughout the episode we’ve been seeing Red meet with a beautiful woman in Paris. He brings her glass figurines, and they sit close to each other, simultaneously happy and sad. It soon becomes clear that he loves her…and that she loves him…and that she’s engaged to someone else…and that these trips to Paris to see Josephine are actually flashbacks. The Vacarro/Erikkson union wasn’t the first time Alistair used Marilyn’s plan, you see. Four years ago, in Paris, Alistair brought two prolific arms dealing families together in a merger that brought him great profit. He arranged the marriage of Josephine Molier to the other family’s psychotic only son with a history of violence and rage. And when that son found out about Red and Josephine, he beat her mercilessly. Red found her beaten beyond recognition, barely still alive in her flat — the flat he bought and waited four years to bring Alistair back to the scene of the crime.

He shoots and kills him, of course.

I’d like to tell you the episode gets lighter from there, but I cannot tell a lie. Though Liz’s adoption agent had found a great family that was interested in her baby, she arrives to the meeting only to find out they just hadn’t realized which Elizabeth Keen she was. They’re still interested in adopting her baby…but they’re not interested in her. As tears roll down her face, the agent tells her that if she intends on giving up her child, she’ll also have to give up the idea of being in its life.

Elsewhere in France, Red puts his hand on the shoulder of a woman in a wheelchair and a blank look in her eyes, gives her the glass figurine of a ram, and tells her, “Josephine, it’s done.”

A Few Loose Ends:

  • Dark. Stuff. And just a whole lot of death. So good thing (depending on your opinion of Tom) Gina Zanetakos responded to Tom’s hotline bling text and let him get in on her diamond-stealing caper, even though she’s his ex who dumped her for a mark that he’s now knocked up — her words not mine — and for whom he needs to find a way to make money. He was being a little too accepting of her aggressive flirtations (and how dare she be the one to put his Warby Parkers back on for the first time in ages!), but hey, they pulled off the heist, and I’m interested to see where this goes next week.
  • What was that mark on Josephine’s wrist bruising from her fiancé? Originally, I thought it was a burn scar…
  • Shall we expect Red to show up with two little dogs with champagne tastes next week? (Then again, disappearing dogs would be nothing new to The Blacklist.)
  • Quick Q&A session: Who is Samar? “A Jewish mother.” How many pounds has Aram lost to night sweats? Nine. What happened to Dembe’s arm? “Snowboarding.”
  • Samar. In. That. Dress. You sure about that new fiancée?

Sound off in the comments with your thoughts on the episode!

Episode Recaps

The Blacklist - Season 2

The Blacklist

James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.

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  • NBC
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