The Blacklist recap: The Caretaker
It seems like Red is lying to Lizzie, but it's hard to keep up with all these secrets
Did that just happen? Did… Did Red just lie to Lizzie?
Now, I’ll be honest, as much as I enjoy the twists, turns, and trickery of the Blacklist mythology, there’s one thing I’ve never really been able to get behind: the “Red doesn’t lie to Lizzie” theory. Okay, it’s not just a theory; Red has said it repeatedly on the show, the writers have said it, series creator Jon Bokenkamp has confirmed it… Hell, I’m pretty sure he’s said it directly to me in an interview or two. The things is, I watch this show, and I hear Red lie to Lizzie all the time…
But the thing about that is, Red and I have pretty principles (or at least I like to think so), and I imagine that extends to the definition of a lie. Whereas I see deliberately misleading someone away from the truth as equal to lying, I think Red merely sees it as adjacent to lying. In Red’s head, where all the dangerous secrets are stored, Red does not “lie” to Lizzie.
And then came this episode, where we heard Red tell Lizzie directly that her mother committed suicide in 1990, when just last week we heard him demand, “Where’s Rostova?” Of course, there’s always the possibility that he was talking about a different, non-Katarina Rostova. But there’s also the chance that Red’s ledger or rules and regulations are changing. Because I don’t know if Red is officially lying to Lizzie about her mother now; but I do know that something is changing.
Red is losing control of his own carefully crafted narrative because he’s not the only one making the rules anymore. First someone (seemingly Rostova) laughed in his face with that gravestone painting; then Anton Velov got around his spy system to give Lizzie the cutest little picture you ever did see… Red’s world is cracking, and someone is holding the hammer. It seems very possible that Red isn’t so much lying to Lizzie as he is simply uninformed. And wouldn’t that be an interesting new twist: Raymond Reddington not knowing something.
And he’s not the only one with a one impenetrable system of secrets being torn apart from the inside…
THE CARETAKER, NO. 78
Okay, and we’ll get to the Caretaker because Reg E. Cathey waits for no man, but first, we have to do it — we have to talk about Tom. And Lizzie…and how Lizzie finds Red lying to her about her mother unforgivable but seems to be pretty comfortable entering into a marriage with someone who failed to mention to her for the better part of a decade that he was part of a teenage sociopath spy club and, oh yeah, employed as her husband by a guy who’s been secretly keeping tabs on her for her whole life, including the parts of her life she can’t remember.
And I know she’s cool with this because Lizzie starts the episode by getting down on one knee and accepting Tom’s lingering marriage proposal. In theory, that was a pretty adorable move; in execution, this marriage feels so, so, so doomed. Red said it best last week: He’s not Liz’s Tom problem — Tom is Liz’s Tom problem. I would estimate Tom lied about what a “pharmacy messenger” was delivering to him only 10 seconds after Liz had committed herself to finding something borrowed and something blue. Yes, he brought him a couple of Percocet, but he also brought him a gun to go threaten Gina Zanetakos.
But Liz had to be on her way because there’s been an ever-so-minor breach of national security: You see, there’s this fellow called the Caretaker who’s a third-generation secret keeper. He’s entrusted with the major secrets of presidents, criminals, entire governments, with each secret coming along with one condition that could trigger its release. For example, if a Chinese-American businessman helps the U.S. State Department kill a Chinese government official, he puts this secret in the hands of the Caretaker, and if he mysteriously winds up dead, seemingly because the U.S. wanted to terminate their loose end, the Caretaker releases the secret. It’s a pretty solid safety precaution if you’re the type of person who dabbles in espionage.
NEXT: Exactly which things are unforgivable?
But the Caretaker winds up on the Post Office’s radar because Red informs Liz that secrets are coming out without the appropriate triggers having been set in motion. Liz also uses this information session to tell Red that she’s decided to keep the baby (he’s thrilled!) and she’s marrying Tom (less than thrilled). Red doesn’t tell her not to, but he can’t understand how she can forgive and forget after so much deception and humiliation. She tells him that she hasn’t forgotten all that Tom’s done but that she believes, “Forgiveness can’t change the past, but it can change the future.” It’s a charming sentiment, surely worthy of a throw pillow, or at least an Etsy cross-stitch, but Red tells Liz that in his assessment, “Some things are unforgivable.” Exactly which things are still TBD.
The Post Office discovers that the Caretaker uses an old system of underground tubes installed by the U.S. Post Office for his secret-sharing, which is pretty absurd, but as we know, there are no secrets on the Internet, and it actually seems pretty plausible that when forced to operate a business without the Internet, a series of underground tubes is the only option left. And very early in the episode, the tube intel leads right to the Blacklister. We find the Caretaker, played to creepy but principled perfection by Reg E. Cathey, inside a dug-up grave, appropriately singing “Up From the Grave He Arose” and digging a canister out of dead body’s abdomen. That’s where he’s quite literally buries his secrets, of course.
And that’s how we find out that the Caretaker’s impenetrable tube system hasn’t been compromised — he’s been revealing the secrets himself. His beloved daughter has been kidnapped, and the kidnappers have been demanding the release of the secrets or they’ll kill her; the next one, concerning a terrorist attack covered up by the German government is to be released in two hours. The Post Office goes back and forth on whether they should release the information to save the daughter’s life, and ultimately Harold Cooper decides that they must.
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Bad move, buddy! That makes the German government very angry, so they decide to stop giving information on the two terrorists they know just entered the United States and stole a cargo truck carrying a whole bunch of C-4. But who needs the German government when you have Raymond Reddington? Red tells Coops that in exchange for a “One Favor from Harold Cooper” coupon, he’ll use his contacts to find out where that truck is. Once found, Ressler and Samar head the truck off, shoot the drivers, and open the back, only to discover that killing them officially triggered the bomb they were carrying — two minutes and counting.
Now, disarming a bomb might even trump Red, but not Amar. Ressler texts him a pic, and Amar immediately starts giving instruction on which wires to snip. But Aram has one other goal to accomplish in those 120 seconds: In order to stop the truck, Samar and Ressler pretended to be an arguing couple, and once they succeeded, Ressler sniped that “being a bitch comes natural” to Samar. Oh hell no, not on Aram’s watch. He demands that Ressler apologize to Agent Navabi before he gives the last instruction. It’s very silly — it’s also great because Ressler has become a real asshole lately.
With the national security threat handled, they move on to locating the Caretaker’s daughter, and when they do, it becomes pretty clear pretty fast that she was never in much danger. She admits to the FBI that she “kidnapped herself” when she discovered herself on a missing persons list. It seems that years ago, the Caretaker had discovered a little girl being abused on the street by her father. He got in a fight with the man and then simply walked away with her. At some point, the grown daughter became privy to this information, found her biological brother, and the two went about…trying to expose the secrets that had been entrusted to the Caretaker. Why would they do that when it would cause so much more damage to other people and the whole entire world than it would to the Caretaker? I’m really not sure…
NEXT: Secrets, secrets are…everywhere
While I very much enjoyed watching Cathey on this series and would love to see him return, this whole Blacklister plot was kind of an overly convoluted way to get to two things: Red’s secrets and Lizzie’s secrets.
Yeah, Lizzie has some secrets of her own now. Encouraged by the ever-paternal Agent Cooper, Liz once more seeks out Anton Velov, the former Russian spy who’s the only person she’s encountered who knows anything about Katarina Rostova. He tells her once again that Katarina Rostova was “just a name.” But he also tells Lizzie that he’s dying and begs her to track down his estranged daughter and get a letter to her. Feeling a parental pull, Liz agrees — but when she tries to deliver the letter to the daughter, she tells Lizzie that it’s for her. She and her father aren’t estranged, but his nurse who was standing by reports to Red (of course), and he had to get the letter’s contents to Liz secretly.
The letter tells her that Velov was the agent assigned to find Katarina Rostova, so she faked her suicide, wanting the world to believe she drowned. But he tracked her to a hotel in Prague, where she’d just left in such a hurry, that she missed packing one thing: a photo of her little girl. Liz storms into the Post Office, brandishing the photo and yelling at Red, “My mother’s alive; you lied to me!” Red insists that Katarina Rostova committed suicide, but Liz believes Velov, and she believes that “Masha Rostova” resurfaced into public record because someone who knew the name was looking for her — she believes that her mother is out there looking for her.
It’s the hope of a little girl — the hope of someone who has been repeatedly lied to and misled. I don’t blame Lizzie for latching onto it. But I also don’t believe that Katarina Rostova is simply out there looking to be reunited with her little girl. For now, though, that’s what Lizzie believes and what causes her to use Red’s own words against him: “Some things can’t be forgiven.”
Of course this was all to show that whatever secret Red is keeping from Lizzie, it’s so deep and dark that at one time it needed to be sent through a series of tubes to then be buried in the chest cavity of a cadaver and buried in a grave. Red exchanges his Cooper-favor-coupon for the Caretaker’s ledger, and as he and Dembe dig up his secret, he says that in the event of his death, the Caretaker’s instructions were to give the secret to Elizabeth Keen, “just so she’d know.” But he adds, “Now I’m not sure I ever want her to know.” He takes a wax-sealed red letter out of the canister and burns it.
A Few Loose Ends:
- So…WHAT WAS IN THAT LETTER? What was in that letter that Red was once willing to let Lizzie know once he was dead but now isn’t sure that he ever wants her to know? Is he protecting her — trying not to dash a little girl’s hopes? Or is he just flat-out lying to her? On that note…
- Do you think Red deliberately lied to Liz tonight about Katarina’s suicide? Or is it possible that Liz found something out that Red truly didn’t know? His “But Velov knows differently?” did sound a bit like a genuine question. But if Red really thought that Katarina Rostova was dead, exactly which Rostova was he inquiring about with the art dealer last week? I’m confusing myself…
- Speaking of confusing: We see Gina agree (after a bit of violent threatening) to try to help him “get out” of his Major-related former life, but the episode ends with her on the phone with someone saying, “He came just like you said he would. How do you want me to handle it?” These. Secrets. Are. Killing. Me.
- If you’re playing a Blacklist drinking game at home — and why wouldn’t you be — might I suggest adding resident moral compass Dembe saying, “She deserves to know the truth.” Drink!
- Was that insane underground tube mechanism meant to parallel Red’s “underground” network of informants? Because it sure felt like it was.
- Cynthia Panabaker was back, and I don’t care how much the fatality rate of the Post Office scares her, I want more!
- Fact: Red has poked his thumb in many pies.
- See you back here on APRIL 7!