Liz wrestles with saving her maybe-dad's life, and Red starts assembling his Blacklister puzzle pieces

By Jodi Walker
November 04, 2016 at 06:31 AM EDT
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Will Hart/NBC

The Blacklist

S4 E7
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Season 4 of The Blacklist has gone to great lengths to establish that Elizabeth Keen’s life did not become complicated because Raymond Reddington surrendered himself at FBI headquarters and asked for her by name — no, Lizzie’s life became complicated the day she was born. (To whom was she born? TBD.) According to Red, Liz’s past was always going to catch up to her, not because of the players involved, but simply because of who she is.

But there are other people at play, and with each new glimpse at her mysterious past, Lizzie’s life is set on a course that she’s never quite privy to. What Lizzie can’t ever seem to grasp though is that just because she can’t see the board, doesn’t mean she can’t play the game. Because everyone else around her certainly is — they’re playing a game to protect her, they’re playing a game to use her, or endanger her, or steal her baby and endanger her, or maybe they’re just playing to keep her in the dark about exactly what game they’re playing.

Throughout the entirety of Thursday’s episode I kept finding myself scream-thinking, “PLAY THE GAME, LIZZIE!” Because while Red and Kirk are thinking five steps ahead, manipulating, leveraging, and tricking the FBI at every turn… Lizzie? She’s relying solely on impulse and emotion to guide her. Though it wasn’t the most subtle of plays, faking her own death is one of my favorite narrative moves Lizzie has ever made. Because at least it was her choice. At least there was some forethought. And it is my greatest hope that the mystifying look in Megan Boone’s eyes when she tells Kirk, “I’m not your daughter” means that she’s finally realized she has to suit up with the big dogs and play. PLAY THE GAME, LIZZIE.

DR. ADRIAN SHAW, NO. 98

Because our boy Red, oh he is playing. Like, for real, he is straight playing the FBI left and right. Much like last week, Red uses one criminal as a front to get to his ultimate Blacklister of choice — the one that gets him closer to Kirk… Enter a sketchy doctor in a lab telling a man whose skin is boiling off his face that even though they weren’t able to cure him with experimental medicine, his boiling skin has taught them ever so much. As he dies, she instructs her assistant to get the bone saw.

Of course getting to Alexander Kirk can no longer be the goal, as he’s currently trapped in The Box telling Liz, “If this is what it took for you to call me father, it was worth it.” Say it with me now: MA-NIP-U-LA-TOR. So, Lizzie decides that Kirk “deserves some clarity on what’s about to happen” and heads over to the Box for a chat. Liz! He kidnapped your baby for her blood… sitting clueless in that Magneto box is more than he deserves. But Kirk tells her that she reminds him so much of her mother: “I’ve been wanting to tell you about her, I thought we had more time.” (Plant those seeds, brother — game respects game.) It’s perfect timing for him to start bleeding out of his nose and collapse, forcing Liz to open the cell.

Given that little display, it’s no surprise that Red tells Liz he thinks Kirk is going to wriggle out of their grasp, and that she’ll likely be the one to aid him in doing so: “You believe he’s your father. When push comes to shove, your impulse will be to save him.” Other than that road block, however, these two are downright chummy tonight. Red raves to Liz about spearfishing; she aw-shucks-style tries to resist his Blacklister assignment: “I just got my baby back, my husband, my family — can’t this wait?” Ladies and gentlemen, FBI employee of the year, Lizzie Keen!

But Liz caves and presents to the Post Office: The Coroner, a mystery man who runs a witness protection program for criminals. Reddington believes that Kirk will escape and when he does the Coroner will be the one to help him disappear. Red knows of one of the Coroner’s clients, a drug trafficking heiress named Gina Barrera who killed off her father and the man her father forced her to marry as a teenager, and then disappeared off the face of the earth. That is, until Aram unearths her new identity teaching Latin at a private school in Brooklyn Heights. And when approached with a sassy Ressler who’s clearly onto her, Barrera does what any former drug trafficking heiress would do: maces him right in the eyeballs and takes off in a sprint. Samar runs her down easily though, and a young man playing soccer nearby informs the Post Office agents, “You’re not supposed to have guns in school.” And that young man is lucky that sassy looks cannot kill because Ressler was firing on all cylinders tonight.

NEXT: Putting together the puzzle…

Samar offers Barrera protection in exchange for the Coroner’s identity, and she comes through, leading to an undercover Samar, which can only mean one thing: We get to see Samar looking fly as hell… but only briefly. Because before she can even get started explaining her cover at the Coroner meetup, guess who shows up? Raymond Reddington. And he’s got lines for days as he asserts his dominance over the elderly Coroner: “You’re on the wrong side of 80, sitting on a donut pillow … If your flag is flying at half mast, rest assured, I’ve found in the privacy of one’s boudoir, pleasing others is the key to pleasing oneself.” Burn. But Red’s real bargaining chip is that he has an angry Irishman a few booths back whose brother was killed as a result of the Coroner’s misdeeds. To avoid that man’s wrath, he merely needs to tell Red the new identity of Dr. Sonia Bloom…

That would be Sonia Bloom from the file Red took from the Lindquist Concern a few episodes back. When her partner “committed suicide” shortly after they filed for a patent, Sonia knew she’d be next. That’s when the Coroner turned her into Adrian Shaw. As in, Dr. Adrian Shaw, the woman we saw damning dudes to death-by-boiled-face at the top of the episode. Ressler and Samar are a little annoyed that they once again were duped into thinking they were looking for one criminal, when Red was really trying to get to a different one all along. As Red explains, “I don’t know what the two of you are so indignant about. I told you about a criminal you had no idea existed, and now he’s in your custody … Take the win, Donald — you could use one.” I understand that the Post Office could stand for a little more transparency, but also — what a line.

Following his Box collapse, Kirk has been moved to Walter Reed Medical Center where the doctor tells Liz that he is the final stages of aplastic anemia. Basically, the intracranial bleeding is starting, and he’ll likely be dead within a few hours. Unless, y’know, a blood relative willing to donate stem cells that his body won’t reject.

So, is his blood relative willing to throw a few stem cells Kirk’s way? Well, that’s a little more complicated. And Lizzie talking it out with Tom brings about one of my very favorite tropes — Tom Keen, Unlikely Voice of Reason. As Liz wrestles with the idea of saving Kirk, Tom offers a small reality check: “He attacked our wedding, kidnapped you, and threatened to throw our child from a rooftop.” Uh huh, but he’s her dad. Liz asks Tom if he suddenly met one of his parents, would he just be able to walk away. And Tom’s all, Yeah, totally. Remember that time you were pretending to be dead in Cuba? Well I met my mom then; we had a super weird chemistry together (sound familiar?), and then I was like, “Peace out, lady, not interested.”

Now, Red… Red is a man who makes his own consequences, and this episode does an excellent job of peeling back the curtain on just what he’s been playing at the last few weeks. He tracked down the Lindquist Concern to find Sonia Bloom, and he tracked down the Coroner to find what happened to Sonia Bloom when she disappeared. Ressler puts it simply once the Post Office figures out Dr. Shaw’s current subject of expertise: “So Kirk’s dying of anemia and Reddington’s suddenly looking for a mysterious blood doctor who’s doing cutting edge research into gene sequencing.”

That’s right. But first he’s got to find the 12th item in a Highlights Magazine image search in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. He tells Dembe — noted master of all trades — not to give him any hints, but when the nurse comes to call him in and Red won’t budge, Dembe just has to point out the final sailboat. If this episode had been a flaming pile of garbage, I would have loved it for this scene alone. But inside the office of Dr. Rayburn, the new partner of Dr. Shaw, it’s all business. Red pulls out his reason for the last minute appointment (a pain right in his gun-hand, complete with gun) and informs the man he’ll be taking them to Dr. Shaw, whom the Post Office just realized…

NEXT: S.S. Human Experimentation

…Has been operating out of a freight ship in the middle of the ocean. The zoom-out to reveal this is good old-fashioned fun; a little less fun is the scene the FBI finds when they board the ship. Dozens of sickly humans laid out on cots begging to be saved. But Dr. Shaw is nowhere to be found because Red got to her first; he warned her the FBI was coming and told her if she didn’t want to go to jail for the rest of her life, she might want to trust him and cooperate. Samar is sure he plans to kill her because she’s the one person in the world who could save Kirk, but for now Red simply takes her to a hidden lab and tells her he has “a pressing matter that requires [her] assistance.” Is Red sick, she asks. “You have no idea.”

Speaking of no idea: Lizzie! In a friendly maybe-dad-daughter chat, Kirk asks Liz what she’d do if she had more money than she could ever spend and she says she’d travel around the world with her family. He tells her, “My entire life, all I ever wanted was to make you safe, protect you,” which I’m going to have to call b.s. on real quick — Kirk, bro, when have you ever tried to protect her, except for this current little Reddington vendetta that seems super not about her at all? He continues, “But in the end, the only way to do that is by dying.” Kirk tells Lizzie he’s leaving her his fortune, to which I say, LIZZIE, TAKE THE CASH AND RUN.

To which of course Lizzie says: Not so fast! How about I offer to save your criminal life right here and now so you can tell me all the secrets I want to know about my mom… as opposed to, I dunno, leveraging the fact that I’m the only person in the world who can keep you alive, and making you give me a Rostova Secrets CliffsNotes here in the next hour or so. In reality, Liz tells Kirk they’re running the tests to see if she’s a donor match right now. (Also going on right now: Trusty sidekick Odette is arranging an escape route for Kirk — they move on his signal.)

There’s been a major bus accident, however, that’s flooded the hospital with patients and is slowing down the results of Liz’s DNA analysis. She goes ahead and gets on dialysis to begin harvesting her stem cells though, which is how Tom finds her when he arrives. Obviously she hadn’t told him that she’d decided to help Kirk because what’s a marriage if not built on near-constant deceit. Liz worries, “He’s gonna die because a bus accident delayed some lab work. And all the answers I’m looking for are going to die with him.” Tom reassures her, “Some answers… about who you were, but not about who you are or who you will be.” Poetic, Tommyboy, but Liz ain’t having it. She goes to get prepped for surgery just in case the results confirm she has a compatible genetic sequence…

And then Kirk wakes up with a fully conscious and dressed Liz in his room. He asks if she saved his life. “I tried to,” she says. But she wasn’t a match. Kirk tells her that she did the best she could, not every father and daughter are a match. But the test results showed Lizzie something else entirely: “I’m not your daughter.” Cue that ambiguous tone of voice that has me wondering just what Liz makes of this world-altering reveal… is she sad? Angry? Relieved? Lizzie leaves the room to talk to Tom about how she can’t believe those 30-year-old DNA tests in Kirk’s Russian file could have been wrong, and when she arrives back in Kirk’s room, he’s standing at the window doing the sign of the cross — or as Odette probably calls it, his signal.

Kirk starts freaking out at Liz that the tests must have been altered, that Reddington arranged it: “I’m not going to die here! You’re going to save me, Masha!” Liz immediately calls Red to ask if he tampered with the tests, but when he realizes Kirk now knows Liz isn’t his daughter, he tells her she has to get out of the hospital. Her safety has been a guarantee thus far only because Kirk truly believed she was his daughter, but now…

Cue half of the “victims” from the “bus accident” standing up, taking off their various slings, looking particularly Russian, and changing into doctor and EMT uniforms. As this happens, Red tells Lizzie, “Men are coming, Elizabeth. Men who kill every living thing that’s in their way.” Those men then radio to Odette that they’re in place: “On your ready.”

CLIFF. HANGER.

A Few Loose Ends:

  • If Kirk thought Liz was his biological daughter, but she isn’t… what series of events could have led him to believe it for 30 years? And does that only leave one other Masha-Papa option? Or will we get a new maybe-dad from her into eternity?
  • Kaplan watch: Nada.
  • Baby Agnes watch: Who?
  • Spin-off watch: Loooots of meaningful looks from Tom like he was realizing if his wife Lizzie Keen was willing to make all these decisions despite his opposing opinion, maybe he could go do a little mom-vestigation of his own.
  • “Believing is such a relative concept … I prefer to think of your decision as a judicious risk assessment.”
  • PLAY THE GAME, LIZZIE!

Episode grade: B+

Episode Recaps

The Blacklist

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