Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Red teams up with the enemy to track down the bigger enemy, and we learn a world-altering detail about Tom Keen's mysterious past

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May 13, 2016 at 05:35 AM EDT

Last week when I said the introduction of Susan “Scottie” Hargrave to The Blacklist was the calm before the storm, it seems I actually should have said it was the calm before the spinoff. But the point stands — whether you’re a Tom fan or not, whether you’re interested in following the kind-of-good bad guys (or is it very-bad good guys?) or not, that was one fast-paced, high-flying, retina-scanning episode of The Backlist. Although…

It didn’t exactly feel like The Blacklist, now did it? Red was only there to bookend the episode, we’ve been missing Lizzie for ages, and there was some other IT guy saving the day besides Aram (I mean… Aram was still saving the day though, obviously). And I don’t think it was the show’s intention to trick us into watching a backdoor pilot for the potential Tom Keen spin-off; no, they were very open about that. Just like I don’t think it was the show’s intention to trick us into thinking Lizzie is dead — we all knows what’s up. The real point is to make everyone inside the show think Lizzie is dead and let us feel all smug and clued-in for suspecting otherwise. Just like, I believe, the real point of tonight’s episode was to throw Tom a bone about his past (and what a bone it was!) and give him a feasible out from this Liz-less life while still being trapped inside Liz’s world.

Okay, and yes, it was very much about enticing us on a spin-off, which the jury is still out on, but I do know three things coming out of the episode: The character of Tom has always been at his most compelling when operating outside of the confines of his romance with Lizzie; I find Scottie, Solomon, and Rowan to be interesting characters with charismatic actors to back them up; and the Blacklist writers did their damndest to make the setup of this Tom and Scottie story line the exact inverse of its source material with Red and Liz. A female international criminal mastermind attempts to find out more about a complicated maternal relationship with a young man who harbors a huge secret about their true connection? Sure, I’ll bite come pilot time.

But even if you hate the idea of a spin-off, rest assured that that, if nothing else, Scottie and her team’s globetrotting Ocean’s Eleven act got this show one step closer to avenging Elizabeth Keen’s death by catching up with…


Now, as exciting as I found the happenings of this episode — what with its bank heists and the shooting and saving of innocents; the eyeball poisonings and creepy, creepy sexual tension — even buried under the spin-off setup, I would put its main fault at keeping the Alexander Kirk stakes quite low. We spent so much time getting to know the old bad guys (you know Solomon still isn’t dead; that man is the ultimate mercenary cockroach), that we still know almost nothing about the new bad guy. And supposedly, Kirk is one of the baddest of the bad, coming in at No. 14 on Red’s big bad Blacklist, the highest ranking in all of season 3.

This is what we learn about him tonight: Kirk is some super rich Russian oligarch who took his criminal networking underground sometime around 2000, and now homeboy wants an in at the White House, so he’s secretly financing the presidential campaign of Sen. Bob Diaz to the tune of $300 million. Now officially working together against their common enemy, Red learns all of this from Scottie, who says cutting off those finances is the best way of reaching Kirk. For that, they’ll need the help of the Post Office, who, as ever, are morally conflicted but very, very down to do some very, very illegal stuff at the instruction of one of the world’s most notorious criminals. Let’s rob a bank, shall we?!

NEXT: Keep your enemies closer…

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