Sure, the murder dioramas are interesting, but keep your eyes on Dembe and the emotional stakes.
Welcome to The Blacklist: Mentalist Criminal Minds. I was worried — really worried — when Thursday’s episode of The Blacklist got started that we were in for a creepy prescient-child episode. And while the child was creepy (though that can mostly be blamed on all the eyeball close-ups) and technically prescient, at least it all boiled down to a technicality easily solved by Aram. We’re already asked to believe a woman could kill the attorney general of the United States while on the run as an alleged Russian spy and eventually be reinstated as an FBI agent because her maybe-daddy-definitely-criminal-overlord asked for her to be. There’s really not room to add “the supernatural adventures of Lizzie Keen” to the list of hard-to-believe allowances.
So, yes, I was very relieved little Maggie Driscoll didn’t turn out to be a tragedy-foreseeing precog, and even more relieved her final diorama didn’t feature one Elizabeth Keen in a dire position, who was ultimately saved just moments before Maggie’s diorama came true. Because that was exactly the prediction my subpar psychic abilities helped me conjure. So, the hearing aid linked to a stock-market-scamming syndicate, an enigmatic Raymond Reddington mission, and undertones of a betrayal on the rise? Those were all a relief. I did not want to have to bring Aaron Hotchner in on this.
THE FORECASTER, NO. 163
The episode opens with Liz and Tom playing house in an actual house, no Boz or Dembe included. Well, technically, the episode opened with its first of many close-ups on an eyeball, though we don’t yet know who said eyeball belongs to. Then it’s on to Tom and Liz talking about how everything is turning up roses for them now, what with their real windows, cute baby, and origin story as secret spies who tried to kill each other. While unpacking, Tom comes across his old passports and Liz says, “That’s a lot to give up,” like he’s giving up his life as a CIA agent, not a sociopathic teen recruit to a bad-guy agency who secretly spied on her for, like, a decade. Whatever, I guess she’s just a really understanding wife now.
Tom says it’s not a lot to give up considering what he has now and tosses that 10-inch stack of former fake identities into a trash bin. Now, Tom and Liz Keen are just a couple of coffee-pouring, baby-raising, job-going adults. Until, of course, Lizzie opens the door and finds a rudimentary-looking cardboard diorama depicting a woman floating facedown in a lap pool with a pitcher of green liquid on a table to the side. Cut to an actual woman taking a sip of her green juice and diving into a lap pool, only to start choking on her first lap and wind up … You guessed it, super dead, just like the diorama depicted.
Newly reinstated Agent Keen heads to the Post Office to share her diorama with the class, telling them that although real-life federal judge Trish Culpepper was found dead from poisoned green juice at her country club pool at 8 a.m., Liz received the diorama on her doorstep at 7 a.m. Further, when she checks in with Red, even he doesn’t know who might be behind the dioramas. But considering Judge Culpepper was a high-profile murder victim and the mysterious diorama-maker knows where Lizzie lives, they better go ahead and make it a Blacklister.
Luckily, Tom is armed with a box cutter when the artist makes their second diorama drop. It’s also lucky the person doesn’t actually mean Lizzie or her family any harm — especially since Tom leaves Agnes in the unlocked apartment when he takes off after them. As it turns out, the person is actually trying to help the people depicted in the dioramas. After the second diorama of a crime — one the Post Office is able to thwart — is found at Lizzie’s apartment, enough partial prints are left behind to identify Fiona Driscoll as the delivery woman. But she’s not the one organizing the murders … or even the one making the dioramas.
Fiona tells Liz and Ressler she brought the dioramas to Lizzie’s doorstep because she followed her home after seeing her in the grocery store and recognizing her as the recently reinstated FBI agent (so much for future Undercover Hoodie Liz, I guess). They’re not depictions of crime scenes she’s planning … they’re premonitions. And they’re not her premonitions. Cue the door opening to reveal a slow-motion head-turn of a little girl with long blonde hair: “Her name’s Maggie, she’s nine.”
NEXT: Do they teach “murder dioramas” in elementary-school art class?
Maggie is Fiona’s daughter and for the last two years, she’s been making these dioramas. Fiona soon figured out her kiddo’s art projects were forecasting worldwide tragedies before they happened. But Maggie isn’t able to tell Fiona how she’s predicting these events — she suffers from what doctors call “a constellation of birth defects” that impair her hearing, communication, and cognitive functions. But she makes these dioramas, and right now she’s working on the next one.
Also working on his next move is Raymond Reddington. As previously stated, he’s clueless on this week’s Blacklister, and he’s not even lying this time in an effort to pull yet another one over on the Post Office. No, he has his own stuff going on, mostly toying around with a man named Geoffrey who works for someone named Iniko. First, Red buys an apartment that’s recently been vacated and is decorated aggressively in various shades of white. Red invites Geoffrey there and tells him Iniko recently had the former resident of the apartment killed on his own seriously white carpets.
That should have been Geoffrey’s first sign he was in trouble. But Red also tells him he wants in on the cobalt operation Iniko is currently running, though he’d rather not work with the guy. He suggests Geoffrey betray his boss. And then Red meets with Iniko and tells him he has intel on one of his employees who intends to betray him, and he’s willing to give him the name of that employee … for 25 percent of the cobalt mines. Well, what he actually says is that in addition to the mines, he’s coming to Iniko with this information because he’s also recently felt “the sting of betrayal.” As Red and Dembe head out after seemingly striking a deal with Iniko, Dembe says to Red, “You shouldn’t use her like that, to get what you want. It’s disrespectful. Kate doesn’t deserve it.” Dembe might be loyal, but loyalty can go in many directions.
Back at the Post Office, Aram is on the case. He finds in Maggie’s medical records something that might account for her “premonitions”: She wears a tiny, high-frequency hearing aid, and it’s possible she’s picking up certain phone conversations around her. If the killer or killers live or work near her apartment building, that could explain how she knows the details of so many of these events before they happen. To figure out if that’s the case, Aram, Ressler, and Liz head to the Driscoll apartment and turn off everything electric that could interfere with Maggie’s hearing-aid frequency so Aram can also tap into it. Soon, they’re hearing bits of a conversation and attempting to track where it’s coming from.
Unfortunately, the conversation is about how a little girl’s mom went to the FBI about her daughter’s crime premonitions. Even more unfortunately, Agent Keen is looking out of the Driscolls’ window with perhaps the most conspicuous binoculars known to man when the person having the cell-phone conversation in the building next door begins looking around to see how a little girl might possibly be overhearing his criminal chats. He spots Lizzie and takes off, so Liz and Ressler start running toward his building. Unfortunately, mystery dude’s plan was to run toward the person causing him problems, and soon, Liz and Ressler are looking from the man’s apartment into the Driscoll’s home, where they Aram on the ground and Maggie being carried off. Apparently, the Keens just love leaving children in danger.
Luckily, Aram was just bonked on the head, not killed, and he thinks to turn up the frequency on Ressler’s walkie to try and reach out to Maggie. Indeed, it does ring painfully in her hearing aid; she calls out, helping Liz locate her and scaring off her abductor. They don’t catch the man, but are able to find out who he is from snooping around his lair. His name is Ben Charnquist, and here’s his motive: Each of the catastrophes Maggie depicted involved someone who was so invaluable to his or her company that their death majorly affected said company’s stock prices. But Charnquist doesn’t seem like the type to figure out shorting the stocks on his own … So who is he working with?
NEXT: Have you tried club soda?
As it turns out, his partner is Chris Farnsworth, CEO of Jesek Private Equities. Farnsworth tells Charnquist (these names!) to chill out — this is exactly the escape scenario they’ve discussed since day one. The Post Office figures out that Farnsworth’s final plan is to hit his own company. They’ve been working with a third man to move all the money they’ve scammed to an account in Panama, and Maggie’s final diorama helps them figure out that Farnsworth plans to kill said money launderer via and old-timey elevator before escaping with their apparently untraceable riches.
But you just can’t be too careful on a cell phone, so thanks to Maggie, the FBI are hot on their tails. As Charnquist severs the elevator wires from the engine room on the roof, Ressler punches a hole in a window in the next building over and shoots Charnquist straight through the head as Lizzie finds the elevator’s emergency stop.
But the Blacklister gets away. Because, all told, this episode was never really about the Blacklister who was never meant to be a Blacklister at all. It was about what Red was up to, and oddly enough, what Red was up to was hiring a new cleaning service. He gets Geoffrey to betray Iniko so that Iniko will betray Geoffrey so that Geoffrey will then show up to Red’s pristine white apartment to kill Iniko. (Got that?) But he tries to kill Iniko with a gun that’s been handed to him by Dembe … and it shoots blanks. So, Iniko ends up killing Geoffrey right against Red’s white walls.
Iniko texts his cleaning crew the address to come take care of the mess: “They’re the best in the business.” But Red has some information for him, too: He tells him about a man he once met while bankrolling a diamond mine, a man who told him “a story about greed driving atrocities and conflict, about armed groups using mass rape and mutilation as a means to control people in the villages around the mines. I abandoned the mine, agreed to finance his campaign of protection and protests and did so until two months ago, when you had him murdered. He was a good man and my friend. And somehow your cleaners removed even the memory of his blood from this carpet.”
Red tells them they’re about to have a lot more to clean up, and then he shoots Iniko.
It seems like a lot of work to get a good cleaning crew. Dembe thinks so, too: “That’s what this was all about — replacing Kate?” Red says Kate is irreplaceable. “To me, she is,” Dembe says defiantly. Whatever is happening here with Dembe and Red, it’s new and it’s not good.
We soon find out a little more of what Dembe is thinking: Though Liz tells Red she’s not quite ready for him to visit her family’s new apartment, Dembe shows up anyway. But he’s alone. He tells Liz, “I’m worried about Raymond. I don’t think he cares about anything or anyone in the world right now other than you or Agnes. I don’t recognize him. I can’t reach him.” And then he tells her Red didn’t punish Mr. Kaplan by replacing her for faking Lizzie’s death. He killed her.
A few loose ends:
- *SPINOFF ALERT* Lizzie tells Tom to hold onto a few of those fake passports. Tom plays it off to mean he’s going to be more open with his emotions or something, but we know what’s up: Warby Parker Tom LIVES!
- As Blacklister names go, The Forecaster is pretty lame.
- It was a relief to see Samar back at the office after her ultimatum from Cooper last week, but it felt strange to not get even an awkward glance between her and Aram.
- Life lessons from Red: “Might I suggest something in broad daylight — perhaps a nice car bombing. A cliché, I know, but clichés work. That’s how they get to be clichés.”
- Life lessons from Aram: “When I was in college, Matt Skerdla had a Ouija board and we actually made contact with my pet rabbit, Dash, God rest her soul. And it turns out she did NOT escape from her cage like I was told.”
- Loved those millennial cleaners and loved even more that their daytime job is “crime-scene cleaners for Metro PD.”
I’ll leave you with this exchange between Dembe and one of the cleaners. Perhaps you can tell me what it all means:
- Cleaner: “What happened to your last cleaner?”
Dembe: “She was murdered.”
Cleaner: “Were you close?”
Cleaner: “Have you caught the killer?”
Cleaner: “Do you know who he is?”
Dembe: Yes, I do.
Cleaner: “That’s good. Then it’s only a matter of time.”
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