The Blacklist recap: Kings of the Highway
The Post Office and Team Reddington finally face off in the battle for Lizzie's fate.
Since the beginning of season 3, The Blacklist has followed two opposing groups — the Post Office and Red & Lizzie’s Super Fun Roadtrip — with two opposing goals: Arrest Elizabeth Keen; exonerate Elizabeth Keen. Often, these were two goals that seemed to run parallel to each other, even more often, standing in rooms alongside one another without either opposing goal shooting or handcuffing the other. Thank goodness the writers knew this was logic that could not be allowed to go on for more than eight episodes. And in the midseason finale, a line was finally drawn in the West Virginia dirt — “Elizabeth Keen, you’re under arrest.”
These words, spoken by FBI Agent Donald Ressler to FBI’s Most Wanted Lizzie Keen, were the last we’ll hear in season 3 for nearly two months, and they capped off a fantastic final scene, that raised as many questions as it answered. I am aware that The Blacklist is not the single-best show on television; I would wager, however, that scene-for-scene, cue-for-cue, it has the very best music curation in the biz.
What you waiting for?
No, what you waiting for?
With Lizzie in cuffs, headed toward a trial by a government full of secret sociopaths hellbent on starting the third World War, it’s easy to feel like the writers have managed to put off for eight episodes what could have been accomplished in the season 3 premiere when Lizzie first went on the run after being framed by the Cabal.
We counted all our reasons, excuses that we made,
We found ourselves some treasure, and threw it all away…
But really, these last eight episodes haven’t been stalling; they’ve been laying out the stakes. Lizzie’s a killer, but she’s not really a terrorist. Why not turn herself in? Why not take on the Cabal from the inside out? Tonight, Samar lays out an answer that might not have rung as true eight episodes ago (pre-Solomon, mind you): If Lizzie comes back into FBI custody, she will be killed. The true “inevitable” that everyone has been delaying is facing off against the real threat, and that’s definitely not Lizzie.
What you waiting for?
No, what you waiting for?
Though these are the words from the final scene’s George Ezra tune that will ring in your head for hours to come — the words a recapper might Google to remind herself whence this song came — they’re not the words of the track’s title. “Blame It On Me” speaks much more to what this episode of The Blacklist ultimately accomplishes. In the final faceoff between the Post Office and the FBI’s top targets, we find out what these people we’ve come to know so well are really made of: Ressler is a man of unbridled principals; Samar is in possession of one very specific and convicted moral code; Cooper is simply a man who wants what is right, despite not always knowing what that is; Red is a consummate protector of Lizzie. And Lizzie…
Well, this episode showcased each character’s truest self, and from the moment we met Lizzie — which is to say, from the moment Lizzie met Reddington — she has been running. She’s run from herself, she’s run from Red, she’s run from Ressler, but with all this running, she must be headed toward something. And now that she’s finally been stopped — it must be time to find out what that something is.
Heading into the latter half of season 3, there’s no more room for running: Blame it all on her.
KINGS OF THE HIGHWAY (NO. 108)
At first I was a little annoyed that the midseason finale looked to be dealing in coincidences. Red just so happens to be kidnapped by a random group of street thugs who don’t know who he is? Raymond Reddington, omnipotent being, knower of all, owner of many hats and even more waistcoats, is taken unawares by a dude with D.I.Y. knuckle tats? Yeah, okay.
But in the end, this narrative turn presented brand-new dynamics that worked to put both the FBI and Red on an equally uneven playing field, ultimately leading them to the same place. It also worked to show just how dependent Lizzie has become on Reddington, not just logistically, but emotionally. In the opening scene, Red and Liz pull over at a gas station, and after she’s done cleaning up in the bathroom, she returns to find him and the car missing, not even an empty Big Gulp or a spinning fedora in his wake. And as I watched the terror of being without Red dawn on Liz, I realized I don’t know what she would do without him either.
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Liz has become an inseparable from Red, who started this little road trip seeming more like her captor, dragging her to Idaho and giving her copious amounts of brown liquor, but ends it well on his way to being as much her savior as he believes her to be his. I swear — and all props to Megan Boone if this was intentional — Lizzie’s facial expressions are even beginning to mimic his.
NEXT: Phone trace of shame…
Lizzie still has a few bridges with lingering embers to burn, though, and she calls Samar to ask her to trace Red’s phone but begs her not tell Ressler. That’s going to be difficult, but Samar is laying in his bed right now while he showers because they TOTALLY DID IT last night. Samar owes Red one for her brother, though, so she grabs Ressler’s laptop, runs the trace, and finds Red’s burner in a salvage yard before Ressler returns.
She must not have been as sneaky as she thought because when Ressler gets into the office he asks Aram to run a search on his laptop’s history for anything that’s been deleted, a bit of innocent information that he tells relays to Samar, and Samar is forced to tell him the truth…or the half-truth, that she traced Red’s phone for Liz, and she did it on Ressler’s laptop because, uh, he must have, uh, left it at her work station or, uh, something.
And of all the people who want to do the right thing, of all the people trying to protect Liz, I truly believe Aram wants to do the right thing the most. He tells Samar that he won’t tell Ressler, but after he runs the search on the laptop, he goes to Ressler and asks what kind of protocols he has planned to keep Liz safe if they catch her. Ressler lists all kinds of things that include him hand-selecting the groups that will be at her trial and Reven Wright and Laurel Hitchin’s overseeing of the process — remember that — that convince Aram that the right thing to do is tell Ressler about Samar’s trace for Lizzie and where in West Virginia it tracked Red’s phone.
And who’s to say if that was the right or wrong thing for Aram to do — Lizzie is a breeding ground for moral ambiguity — but it is the thing that gets Samar fired from the task force by the world’s least-successful Friend With Benefits. Something Aram knows about from the IP address of Samar’s search, by the way. Needless to say, there are sad eyes all around, and things are going about as bad at the Post Office as they are for Red, who’s been kidnapped by the Kings of the Highway, a group of hapless highway thieves. They have no idea who he is, they just thought he looked rich. And they’re right! The creepy, baby-voiced woman that these gangs always seem to have one of discovers a money belt with $25K on him — but, wait, it gets better! They just discovered that Red is No. 1 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, and that has a much bigger reward, in the form of $1 million.
Things are looking pretty dire for Red, so thank goodness Lizzie is having a little undercover fun (unfortunately, no undercover hoodie this time). She’s tracked down the guy who sells the Kings of the Highway’s stolen cars and uses the oldest persuasion trick in the book — drunken makeout — to get him to take her back to his apartment. Honestly, I’m not sure what she plans to do once she’s back there, but before she can execute any such plan, Jasper gets a text from his KOTH pals that they have Raymond Reddington, accompanied by a picture of “the Russian bitch,” a.k.a, the blonde he thought he was about to score with. He rounds on her, but Lizzie already has her gun pulled, and what follows is a pretty serious fight where this huge guy slings Liz around by her neck and attempts to drown her in the sink. But she finally gets her gun back from where it was knocked to the floor, and I took great pleasure from watching a soaking wet and seething Liz bellow, “WHERE’S MY FRIEND!?”
It’s half-adorable, half-silly how Lizzie keeps referring to Red as her “friend” rather than, say, anything else, but that’s probably the best way to describe how she thinks of him now. And her friend is currently on his way to a violent death in the middle of the West Virginia woods, but always the multi-tasker, Red is also conducting a little psychological warfare. Over time, he’s managed to convince one KOTH thug, Pablo, that he’s just a third wheel to the creepy female thug and the leader thug, and that as soon as their done with his help, they’ll kill him to keep all the money for themselves. He’s probably right, but that doesn’t matter — what matters is that he convinces Pablo that he’s right, Pablo shoots the head thug and calls Jasper’s phone to tell Liz that if she can bring the $2 million he would get for turning them into the FBI, he’ll give her Red back. She says no problem, she’s got it, but…
NEXT: Don’t care packages usually have, like, Skittles?
She don’t got it. I’m not sure why Liz wouldn’t be able to access some of Red’s millions with a simple FaceTime mediated by his current Appalachian babysitter, but Lizzie seems to think there’s only one thing she has access to with that much value: The Care Package.
Oh, have I not mentioned the Care Package, the most mysterious Blacklist item since the Fulcrum, and I have a feeling, one with a much more fulfilling reveal at the end of it. All episode long, Dembe has been waiting at a fancy bookstore for someone to deliver a “care package” that is going to be the key to exonerating Lizzie. (Aren’t they all?). Just as he gets the briefcase — heavier than it looks — Lizzie pulls up with an unconscious dude in the back of her car and tells him that if they don’t hand the Care Package over to the Kings of the Highway, Red is a dead man.
And whether Lizzie knows it or not, she’s also working under a quickly approaching expiration date. When Samar explained her decision to help Liz find Red earlier in the episode, she told Ressler that it wasn’t because she owed Red a favor, it was because she knew if they brought Liz in, she would be killed. And the moment when Laurel Hitchin shoots Reven Wright right in the heart in the middle of her living room moves Samar’s presumption from the “maybe” column, right into the “definitely” column. You see, Reven showed up to Hitchin’s house to ask her about Mr. Solomon because in her research she’d found that Hitchin was in charge of the last mission Solomon ever consulted on for the CIA, and though Reven doesn’t present that with any sort of accusation, as soon as Hitchin confirms that Ressler doesn’t know about this connection, she shoots Reven.
Because Laurel Hitchin is one Cabal-ass bitch in a cable knit sweater. (And props to Christine Lahti for her calmly deranged performance)
As always, I don’t know quite how to fit Tom into the mix, but throughout the episode, the Coopers are driving him and Karakurt around, trying to evade Solomon who is gleefully trying to murder all of them. Karakurt has a tracking chip in his chest, which Tom happily carves out. All the while, Mrs. Cooper is telling Mr. Cooper that she cheated on him with the neighbor who gave them the EpiPen last week. It’s all very weird!
But it’s just one more story line to show how much trouble Keen is in once she gets back to the Post Office, and yes, oh yes, that is where she’s headed. Ressler, without any partner left to speak of (FBI, sexual, or otherwise) has followed all of the same leads in West Virginia as Keen has, and he and the local police arrive just after Keen has presented the Care Package to Pablo in exchange for Red to be released at a different location. Pablo seems plenty pleased with the mystery contents of the Care Package, but there’s not much time to revel in his new riches, as the sirens come blaring. Dembe physically holds off the cops long enough for Lizzie to run, but Ressler is a man on a mission, and though Red is safely back on the lam, the FBI’s second most-wanted criminal just got got: “Elizabeth Keen, you’re under arrest.”
Blame it all, blame it all on Liz.
A Few Loose Ends:
- Please proceed to the comments to present all of the questions this episode raised in an orderly fashion. I’ll get it started: WHAT THE HELL IS IN THAT CARE PACKAGE AND WHO WAS THE PERSON IN THE FBI JACKET THAT TOOK IT?!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!
- Red has Mr. Kaplan for clean-up, and the Cabal just has a bunch of dumb-dumbs in hazmat suits… I think that shows who will ultimately win this war.
- Speaking of, THAT LAST SCENE: Hitchin drinking red wine while her colleague is peeled off the floor, Mrs. Cooper crying as they head to her formerly secret lover’s cabin in the woods, Ressler and Liz zooming through the forest, and Red, all on his own to protect Liz in the face of the Cabal.
- Let’s pour one out for our girl Reven who, even with her last breath, was (presumably) fighting for the good guys: “Tommy Markin.” Hmm…
- It hasn’t bothered me too much, but just how is “the Blacklist” being classified now? You’re trying to tell me this ragtag bunch of hill people are #108 on Raymond Reddington’s list of the world’s most-dangerous criminals? The guy with the knuckle tattoo and the chick with the babydoll shiv??? I don’t think so.
- As always, I prefer Undercover Lizzie to Original Flavor Lizzie, and took almost as much delight from hearing her say “tinkle” as I did watching Ressler kick the gnome last week. Almost.
- Speaking of, thanks for all the gnome gifs, pals! And thanks for reading — see you back here on Jan. 7!