Dive back into the magical (fake) science of memory manipulation.

By Jodi Walker
May 05, 2017 at 03:24 AM EDT
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Will Hart/NBC

The Blacklist

S4 E19
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An engaging, surprising, mostly successful Ressler plot, and not a pill bottle in sight? Praise the (criminal over)lords on high!

In fact, Thursday’s episode is successful across the board at spreading the character love, and with good reason: Mr. Kaplan’s machinations to take down Raymond Reddington have officially reached self-propelled status. There’s plenty of room for everyone to get involved in his destruction. It’s not a great look for anyone on a moral or, I dunno, sanity level, but it is an opportunity for the audience to see just how deep Mr. Kaplan’s plans for revenge run. Mr. Kaplan might be the only person who can take Raymond Reddington down, but she can’t do it alone.

Of course she can hire people, bribe them, coerce them — but it turns out the fun (for us) is in finding people to work for her who don’t even know they’re doing it. Sure, the way The Blacklist deals with “the science of memory manipulation” is basically like asking us to believe that fairy dust is real and Ressler just added a heaping spoonful to his green smoothie. But that the Post Office story fits in so well with the Blacklister plot, which fits in so rationally with the Kaplan/Reddington war, which plays into the ever-evolving mythology of Elizabeth Keen nearly makes up for such logic-bending reaches.

As Red says of Mr. Kaplan’s attack on him, “The woman is an arsonist. She’s not going to stop until she burns me to the ground.” And as it turns out, Raymond Reddington’s empire is igniting less like the concentric castle he warned Kaplan of in the midseason premiere, and more like an ancient pyramid: It started with his broadest ring of associates (a base about the size of ice skating rink, you might say), and is sizzling its way upward and inward until it reaches the very top.

As we’re already reaching members of the Post Office and just a few episodes away from the season 4 finale, the question must be asked: Where will this all end?

DR. BOGDAN KRILOV, NO. 29

We’re dealing with a sub-30 Blacklister tonight, and that makes sense; Red and Dr. Krilov go way, way back. As he tells Lizzie, Krilov is “one of the few people who has mastered the science of memory manipulation,” and — you guessed it — the man Red hired 25 years ago to erase Lizzie’s memories of shooting her father. And he’s just been spotted in Vienna grabbing an Austrian coffee with one Mr. Kate Kaplan. Liz confirms that after that meeting, Krilov flew straight to New York, so as Red heads to Vienna to figure out what else Mr. Kaplan is up to, the Post Office tracks Dr. Krilov domestically.

Well, all except Ressler, that is. He’s still busy keeping tabs on detective Julian Gale, who is, coincidentally, still acting like a certified crazy person, stomping around that damn ice rink saying things like, “Why do you have empty hands, Georgie? You know how much I don’t like empty hands.” Well, Georgie (who is an adult man named George) has empty hands because he went in search of information on three of the bodies Gale managed to identify in connection to Red, but found all of their FBI files were sealed under a special classification, SC-17. He tells Ressler he thinks these three cases could be what he needs to prove that Elizabeth Keen has been tipping Red off.

And listen, this guy both has it wrong and lives in an entirely different show where it’s okay to wear sunglasses inside and slither around within three inches of people’s personal space while you talk to them, but I’m glad someone remembers that FBI Agent Liz once very publicly went on the run with FBI’s Most Wanted Raymond Reddington. The fact that she basically got recognized at the grocery store once, and then it was never mentioned again — I mean she went undercover with her regular face that had been all over the news — is a little silly. And this silly man agrees, or at least recognizes the easy connection, adding on the other thing we should never forget: she shot the Attorney General of the United States.

Ressler half-heartledly is like, Liz? What! Nooooo. But before he can really mount what I’m sure would have been an excellent defense, he gets a call from a detective in the Philly P.D. who says he came across a woman while randomly canvassing a neighborhood who might have a connection to the disappearance of Reven Wright that Ressler is currently working on. When Ressler meets the woman in Philadelphia, she’s scared, but he talks her into telling her what she knows. Apparently she used to be Laurel Hitchin’s neighbor, and late one night she saw two men carrying out a rolled-up tarp — a rolled-up tarp with a foot sticking out of it. And just as Ressler is telling her what a good thing she did in telling him, men storm the house with smoke bombs and grab the neighbor as Ressler hits his head on a counter and blacks out.

Things are going a little better in New York, where Samar and Liz have found the hotel Krilov is staying in. The man at the desk says Krilov has a letter waiting for him, so Liz takes it into FBI custody, but everyone knows you should never cross a snippy hotel worker. Liz hands it back over, and she and Samar turn to leave: “Walk fast. Any second he’s going to realize he’s holding my rent check.” There are some really good Liz moments in this episode, perhaps because she’s not being, as Samar calls it, “pink and perfect.” Not a great Liz moment? Responding to that accusation with this clunker: “The man who raised me was a grifter — I couldn’t be pink and perfect if I tried.”

In the letter, they find that Krilov was getting a delivery, and when they arrive at the location, they find a storage container full of his medical equipment. Krilov looks on from a distance, phoning Kaplan to tell her his equipment has been seized, which is irreplaceable and without which he can’t do his work. Kaplan says she might have an idea of how to get him what he needs…

But she’s going to have to do it while fending off Red, who’s charming Viennese baristas and threatening train conductors left and right to find out where Mr. Kaplan is. Red manages to actually board the train that Kaplan is traveling on, but when he gets to her sleeper car, there’s only a young woman who says, “You must be Red.” She hands him a cell phone on which to call Mr. Kaplan, a classic Red move if I’ve ever seen one. On the phone, Kaplan tell shim she’ll save him the trouble of asking: “I’m heading to Lucerne… You remember what’s in Lucerne, don’t you?” And then she’s gone.

We don’t know what’s in Lucerne yet, but surely we all guessed where Krilov was going to get his new memory-altering equipment: from poor Dr. Orchard, the previously kidnapped memory specialist who was forced to restore Liz’s manually suppressed memories in season 2. Now, she’s only being stolen from, but of course she had to be threatened with a gun and then knocked unconscious by Krilov to accomplish that. Liz and Samar find Dr. Orchard, and though it’s seeming more and more like Mr. Kaplan’s dealings with Krilov’s memory science might have something to do with Liz, Dr. Orchard has some good news: Her EEG machine connects to Wi-Fi, so once Krilov starts using it, they should be able to track him.

It’s Ressler who could use a little extra help though. He wakes up alone, knowing that the witness to Reven Wright’s murder has been snatched. And speak of the snatching devil, when he gets to the street, Laurel Hitchin is pulling up in a black SUV, eager for a heart-to-heart: “Donald, enough with the Reven Wright thing.” Ever the sweetheart, that Hitchin. She tells him that she doesn’t want to hurt that woman, but if he doesn’t back off, she’ll have no choice. He… doesn’t back off. But as he leaves the car, he tucks a tracking device under the seat. “Remember, you did this to her, not me,” Hitchin coos after him.

“Remember, you did this to her, not me,” Krilov echoes in the next scene. No… not echoes — because he was the one who said it in the first place! Because it’s Agent Donald Ressler strapped to his chair! “He has accepted the fiction that he’s in her car, talking with Hitchin,” Krilov tells his assistants, who sure do look an awful lot like the Philly P.D. detective and the witness neighbor. So, it’s not great that Krilov is implanting Ressler’s mind with memories of Laurel Hitchin abducting an innocent woman and taking her to her river house, but on the bright side, he’s using the EEG machine, so Aram is able to send Liz and Samar straight to the location of his lab.

Unfortunately, Ressler has already been transported elsewhere, but Liz has some creative methods of getting answers. When Krilov tells her that Ressler was “an excellent patient, very pliable — unlike you,” Liz gives him a nice little smack over the head. “Definitely not pink or perfect,” mutters Samar, but she doesn’t even know. Soon, Liz has this man who rooted around in her 5-year-old brain strapped down to his own chair, and when he demands a lawyer, he gets a needle of his own medicine (literally) stabbed into his arm by Lizzie. He agrees to talk before she does any actual plunging, but homegirl seems like she’s on the brink.

Krilov tells them that Ressler is headed to Laurel Hitchin’s house on the Potomac, and indeed he is — passed out and being injected with the drugs he needs to wake up with the manufactured memories deeply settled in his brain. But why is Ressler being programmed to believe that Laurel has a woman in her house who could connect her to Reven Wright’s murder? Well, as Liz explains it to Samar, “Kaplan gave us the chance to abandon our relationship with Reddington and we didn’t. Now she’ll take every step necessary to dismantle the task force.”

Because without the task force, Red doesn’t have the protection of the FBI, and without the protection of the FBI, he’s back to being just your average criminal mega-magnate. And that’s what Mr. Kaplan is busy taking a more hands-on approach to dismantling in Lucerne. As she pulls up outside a mansion, she calls Red to remind him of her mission: “I told you the bodies I dug up would undo you; that each one tells a story… They’re your own sins, Raymond. You did this to yourself.” Kaplan is spelling out a story in flesh, and she’s doing it by telling the truth.

The truth, apparently is that 25 years ago — a time frame that keeps coming up — Red was so intent on becoming the most powerful criminal in the world that he thought it wise to align himself with someone equally as powerful, Verner von Hauser. But as they were competitors, he chose to draw on the ancient principal, “If you want your enemy to become your friend… create a problem for him and then solve it.” Mr. Kaplan has arrived at Verner’s house to explain that the problem Red chose was for his beloved son Hans to be kidnapped, and Red would swoop in and convince the abductors to let Hans go: “Thus my enemy becomes my friend.”

But the savage brothers that Red hired to fake-kidnap Hans didn’t comply with Red’s instructions not to hurt him. Hans was suffocated while in transit, and Red killed the brother in a rage. Verner was grateful to Red for seeking revenge on his son’s murderers, and Red never told him the truth of why his son was kidnapped and ultimately killed. From that lie sprung “one of the most profitable alliances in modern criminal history,” which Mr. Kaplan is now busting wide open. And as she tells Verner, she’s got the body of his son to prove she’s the one telling the truth; the body of his son that he can now give the proper burial he was denied.

But Red isn’t going down without a fight. He arrives at Verner’s house himself to find Kaplan gone, but many more guards than the last time he was there. They strip him and Dembe of their weapons and lead them to Verner, who tells Red that he “severely underestimated my love for my son — then and now — and for that you will pay with your life.” Red admits that their relationship was built on a lie, and that he deserves to pay: “But I can’t.” And then one of Verner’s guards turns and shoots all the other guards! His name is Nicholas, and he’s been on Red’s payroll for 25 years because Red knew there was a possibility this day would come: “There are no words to duly express my remorse. I’m sorry for that… and I’m sorry for this.”

And by “this,” Red of course means the fact that he just shot his closest business partner, with whom he has worked for over two decades, and whose son he got killed, in cold blood. He thanks Nicholas for his loyalties, and I wonder if Red really knows what that word means at all.

Ressler certainly does, now more than ever. He is loyal to Reven Wright, and he is going to march into Laurel Hitchin’s house, and he is going to take back the one witness linking Laurel to Reven’s murser, even if that woman doesn’t exist and never did. Indeed, Ressler marches in, demanding to know where the witness is, so Laurel tells the ambassador she’s meeting with that Ressler is not well. And as skeevy as Hitchin is… Ressler isn’t well. He has a gun trained on the president’s National Security Advisor and is marching her through her house looking for an imaginary woman.

So thank goodness Liz shows up to tell him that there’s no witness, and he’s not crazy, he just pumped full of drugs that make memories that make him seem crazy. He’s the victim. At that last bit, Hitchin scoffs, “He’s the victim.” And Liz, continuing to break in her newest pair of badass shoes, hisses back, “Yes. And you’re a murderer. And one day, we’re going to prove it.” Take that, National Security Advisor, who is pretty much untouchable! As proof, Ressler is taken away from the incident in handcuffs, no matter how many times Liz and Samar explain that his memory was manipulated, officer!

That’s one Post Office agent down, four to go for Mr. Kaplan — or is it two down and three to go? Now that he’s in FBI custody, Liz wants every detail from Krilov that will prove Ressler is innocent and every detail on what he did to her 25 years ago. But Krilov tells her it hasn’t been 25 years since he last saw her; it’s only been two. Come again, now? Krilov said she was brought to him by a mutual acquaintance who wanted him to take care of some memories: “Let’s just say you had uncovered certain truths about Raymond Reddington. And he couldn’t have that.” He says he’ll give Liz those memories back in exchange for full immunity, and she only hesitates slightly before saying no.

On the phone, Red insists it’s not true: “Kaplan is using [Krilov] to pull at threads to unravel my life.” And it’s working. With every associate of Verner’s in Europe on the lookout for them, Red and Dembe ride in the back of a livestock truck to who knows where next.

“For the time being, we’ll have to be comfortable with chaos.”

A Few Loose Ends:

Liz spends the episode avoiding Julian Gale’s calls, and by time she finally meets up with him on the ice rink, he’s basically figured out the big picture: The day she went from a rookie profiler to being on a classified assignment is nearly the exact same time that the Reddington task force was dismantled, and a rash of major cases were solved out of the blue, all classified as SC-17. He knows Reddington has been feeding her intel in exchange for staying one step ahead of the law. So why did he want to see her, she asks. “I didn’t want to see you — I wanted you to see them. See, I’ve already asked for their forgiveness… I wanted to give you the chance to do the same.”

It was a pretty solid moment for Gale, but if he didn’t Get. Up. Off. Her. Jock. in that scene, I was going to freak out.

I kept thinking the guy Krilov has strapped to his table in the cold open was Channing Tatum. What if Channing Tatum just… guest-starred on The Blacklist? I would love to see him kick a gnome.

“Your friend has a gun.” “He does!”

Episode Recaps

The Blacklist

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