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April 28, 2017 at 03:16 AM EDT

“Finding out truths about who you really are is never easy” might as well be written in Latin script on the Keen coat of arms. As far as Lizzie and Tom go, you kind of have to wonder what they thought before people came into their lives and started telling them that they were both raised as spy babies and had a part in, like, six different respective kidnappings by the time they hit first grade.

I’m sure finding out that your parents were traitors to their countries/that you tried to kill your dad when you were in preschool/that your mom is definitely going to try to hit on you because you’re hot and she doesn’t know she’s your mom/that everything you ever thought about your life was a lie… never gets easier, per se. But at least Tom and Liz are used to it. It’s Tom’s recent truth-bombs-so-big-they-required-a-spin-off that Lizzie is referencing when she says this line, but it’s Red and Kaplan who are currently grappling with the truth of who they really are.

These are two people reckoning with the lives they’ve lived — both lives that have, apparently, revolved almost entirely around the protection of Elizabeth Keen. It’s interesting that even as Liz has played a fairly minor role in The Blacklist’s midseason return, the story has become more centered on her than ever before. Liz is the axis around whom everyone on this series rotates, and no two orbits have been more intentional than those of Red and Kaplan.

The difficult truth comes in asking where such loyal devotion has gotten them. Elizabeth Keen seems no less at risk from the looming powers-of-evil-that-be than she was before Red decided to create an entire criminal empire to protect her and Mr. Kaplan decided to help him. After nearly dying and spending a little time of forced (read: chained to the floor) meditation in the woods, Mr. Kaplan’s approach to dealing with the truth of her life’s work is to take some accountability for the hand she played in the deaths of at least 86 people. And Red… Red is doing what he does best: telling everyone else that he’s right and they’re wrong forever and ever, but doing it all with a lot of flair!


After last week’s plot eruption, Thursday’s episode is more about setting up the pieces for what guarantees to be one violent chess match. But y’all — there are a lot of pieces. There’s a Blacklister whom I found engaging, even though her thing is that she’s basically just a really good actress with a capacity for Googling; there’s Red tracking the Mr. Kaplan’s associates and Mr. Kaplan tracking Red’s associates; and there’s the rebel-with-a-cause detective who seems to have maybe stumbled in from the set of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

The episode opens on a man offering a woman some company at a bar, then making out with her in a car, then getting mega-Tased in the neck by her. When he comes to, he’s tied to a chair, and Mr. Kaplan is there to greet him. He thought she… “was dead? I know. The reports were greatly exaggerated.” Mr. Kapan is working so well as an antagonist because she’s not evil, but she is motivated, operating in direct opposition to our protagonist, and capable of being simultaneously creepy and caring. Bottom line: She’s complicated and fleshed out, not something we always get out of our Blacklist Big Bads. Plus, she has a flair for drama. She laid out 86 dead bodies with connections to Raymond Reddington on an ice rink and led the authorities right to them…

And the authorities ain’t happy, specifically Cynthia Panabaker, who is pretty upset that the FBI’s dirty little secret Raymond Reddington is on the verge of being exposed. Cooper reminds her that it wasn’t their idea “to paper a deal with the most dangerous criminal in the Western Hemisphere” to begin with — that was all Diane Fowler over at Maine Justice. Panabaker doesn’t care — they have a political hurricane on their hands, and everyone is heading for the storm cellar. And if you don’t like that metaphor, how about a simile: The lead detective on the fast-tracked investigation into the bodies is “as wild as a peach orchard hog,” and if those bodies are connected to the Post Office, Main Justice will cut ties and disavow.

(1) That seems unfair. (2) I know that simile seemed insane, but y’all, believe me when I tell you that between the writing and the performance, this guy is as wild as a peach orchard hog. (Y’know, probably.) On the ice rink graveyard, two policemen talk about how all of these stinky bodies are just no-good criminals anyway, until a man in — I kid you not — sunglasses and a leather jacket with a badge pinned to it, swaggers up and says — again, kid you not — “That stink… that stink is the smell of justice.”

Stinky justice! I truly do not know what inspired The Blacklist to make this random detective like if Horatio Caine from CSI: Miami had a love child with a Ziploc bag of uppers, but it did give me a lot of laughs — I’m just not sure if they were intentional or not. After getting all up in the cops’ faces about these criminals still having kids and wives, the detective tells everyone to clear the rink. And then he starts weeping over an unidentified body, saying, “I’m sorry. This is all my fault.” He dramatically puts his sunglasses back on over his tears, and walks toward the sunlight streaming through the open door, presumably back to a CSI franchise.

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