Red and Lizzie take a backseat to the emotional espionage taking place at the Post Office.
The Blacklist - Season 4
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC
The Blacklist - Season 2

For those of you feeling will-they-or-won’t-they paternal fatigue before The Blacklist’s winter break, you’re in luck. Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen spend Thursday’s return mostly on the backburner (other than a few meetings with the president-elect of the United States — yep, they have one, too!).

Instead, this episode focused on the other members of the Post Office. And rather than Aram explaining various gadgets (he still did that) and solving every single problem presented (he did that, too), and rather than Ressler and Samar questioning various sketchy owners of various sketchy businesses (they also did that), they were living their damn lives, doing their damn jobs, not doing their damn jobs, and breaking my damn heart.

And I loved it. Yes, I want to know what Mr. Kaplan is up to. Yes, I want to know if “Yes, is that what you want to hear?” means the same thing as “Lizzie, I am your father in the most literal and biological sense of the word.” Yes, I want to learn more about Dembe’s surprising skills. But sometimes it’s fun to be interested in things you knew you were supposed to be interested in. After weeks — months! — of following around Lizzie’s maybe-dads in the first half of the season as they took turns abducting her, culminating in one dad finding out he’s not the father and one dad saying he maybe is her dad, we turned off the Maury Povich programming to find…just another day at the office. Literally.

Do I seem overly excited about that? I’m just trying to drown out the sound of my own heart shattering. Tonight, we learn Aram has terrible taste in porn-addicted women, Ressler is under the impression you can’t shoot a drone with a gun, and oh, yeah, Samar is a spy. Or a mole. Or just a conflicted dichotomous patriot. I don’t know, but either way, let’s pour one out for the Meera Maliks who came before her and start from the beginning…


…at a fish warehouse, naturally. But these are no average fishmongers. To the appropriate tune of “Fishin’ Blues,” a bunch of dudes pass around a fish, gut it open, and pull out what appears to be a large computer chip. Gunshots quickly follow and a group of masked men storms the operation, killing the warehouse workers and stealing the chip. Billy the bass looks on sullenly. (Insert your own fish-and-chips joke here.)

This is normally the point where Red would step in and tell Lizzie/us why we just watched people pull a tiny computer out of a big fish. But first! Harold Cooper needs to hand him his ass. Cooper is upset because — get this — Red was playing them all along about Alexander Kirk. Can you believe this? Coops cannot. Red said his no. 1 one objective was to keep Elizabeth safe, but when he makes the mistake of calling her Agent Keen, Cooper has one more emotional knuckle sandwich in store: “The loss of her badge was a stain on Elizabeth’s name and reputation, which you are ultimately responsible for. You brought her nothing but pain, grief, and regret, which you seem utterly oblivious to and surprisingly powerless to rectify.”

The “bring Lizzie nothing but pain” bit is a little worn out, but the “powerless” thing is new. Tuck it in your back pocket for later. For now, Red tells Cooper the seafood processing plant in Maryland that was attacked by armed commandos was not using the facility to distribute narcotics, as the authorities assume. A photo of one of the slain fishmongers reveals him to be not a pescatarian enthusiast, but a terrorist from Algeria. Cooper asks, “You’re telling me one of the most wanted terrorists on the planet was conducting a secret operation out of the back of a Maryland fish factory?” Cooper: You have got to stop stating the obvious, man.

The Post Office identifies the fish terrorists as the New Martyrs Brigade and assumes they were building some sort of mass-casualty weapon to be used on U.S. soil, but the even larger concern is whether they stole it from us. And the normal answers man, Aram, is a little distracted right now: He’s about to undergo questioning by the Justice Department thanks to that one girlfriend who used his personal laptop to commit espionage. Whoops! But Samar is there to comfort him: “Aram, you’re a trusting person who sees the best in people. Be yourself and they will see that — everyone does.”

Oh, yeah, really butter those emotions up so they’ll be nice and greasy for the forthcoming slide into the depths of heartbreak hell.

NEXT: Never trust a company with two (sexy) first names

When Ressler and Samar head to the fish factory, there is, of course, a sketchy fish factory manager who says the shooters must have somehow disarmed the security cameras — the footage couldn’t be recovered. But they do recover a timing chip Aram traces back to an impressive technology made by the United States’ own defense contractor, Blackthorne Kincaid (also a good name for the male lead in an erotica novel). But it’s not great news when Ressler and Samar show up at the Blackthorne Kincaid offices: That timing chip would have gone through more than 80 employees before hitting production.

There is a hesitant suggestion to focus on a man named James Maddox who was recently fired for his alcohol problem and might be willing to do some crazy things — like explore global terrorism as a career opportunity — for money.

And you know who hesitantly offers up James Maddox as the possible traitor? A creepy white guy with a vaguely British accent and wireframes sold exclusively at Bougie Bad Guys ‘R’ Us. And when they get Maddox into custody, non-Agent Lizzie Keen is also suspicious that he’s not the traitor they’re looking for. It seems like that non-agent status is going to stick, because even though Cooper assures Lizzie he’s going to talk to Panabaker at Aram’s trial about having her reinstated (priorities, Coop!), he later tells her it’s still a no-go. Why? Because Panabaker would have to run it by her boss, the attorney general of the United States, and “Since you pled guilty to killing his predecessor, it’s…not gonna happen.”

Sometimes I really love this show.

Second only to Lizzie being reminded she killed the attorney general is meeting a new associate of Red’s. He gets a call from a suburban mom who, in between updating him on her sons’ band and soccer achievements, lets him know her sources tell her the New Martyrs Brigade just sent six operatives into the United States to reclaim what was stolen from them — and they’re being led by Farook al-Thani.

Meet Farook al-Thani, scary motha-fisher. First, he brings in the sketchy warehouse manager who was, indeed, aiding and abetting terrorists for money. He hands over the surveillance footage he told the FBI didn’t exist, and Farook kills him. Then he calls his next helper — and I’ll give you one wire-rimmed guess who it is: Blackthorne Kincaid himself, a.k.a. Mr. Deavers. James Maddox was always just a decoy; it was Mr. Deavers who gave the NMB the Blackthorne Kincaid technology, and to get paid for seeing their little terrorism project to completion, he has to offer up some tracking technology that can identify facial features through masks. It’s time to find out who stole the terrorists’ terrorism device.

But first! You might be wondering where Red is. He’s eating soup in one of many preferred D.C. diners, obviously. But he’s also waiting on the chief of staff to President-elect Diaz, nee Senator Diaz. You may remember that before Diaz was elected, he made a deal with Red regarding alleged illegal campaign contributions from Alexander Kirk and was given a promise of immunity in return. Mr. Politics gives Red the “not gonna happen” routine at first, but when he winds up in the back of a police cruiser with Red and a bribed cop, pulled over with a blood-alcohol level of .12 — even though he’s been sober for 12 years — it’s time to sing a different tune about Diaz’s campaign promise.

But that’s just Red’s little side hustle. Back on task, Aram has used an algorithm to try and track the six NMB operatives who allegedly entered the country recently. He shows Samar the only guy he’s been able to tag as a possibility: Yusuf Tillisii is the right age and profile, but he arrived in the United States before the chip was ever stolen. Samar says she’ll have access to the right channels to track down Yusuf, so she takes over. But suddenly, Yusuf is tracking Samar, and they’re hugging, and then she’s calling him Ezra, and telling him they have a problem, and going inside a building where her former Mossad boyfriend Levi is also hanging out…

WITH THE STOLEN CHIP! So, it seems the Mossad carried out a black-ops mission on American soil — sure, it was to stop terrorists, but they didn’t clue the FBI in on that. And Samar knew about the whole thing. She tells them they need to get out of the country. But it looks like she does, too, not only because she lied to Aram about his suspect having a legitimate reason for being in the country shortly before finally accepting a date with him, but also Farook and Mr. Deavers just identified someone using that special facial technology: None other than Agent Samar Navabi.

NEXT: Et tu, Samar?

Not only was Samar aware of what the Mossad was doing, but she planned and took part in the raid on Lipet’s Seafood Company. That’s how she finds herself abducted by the NMB and being exposition’d to about Farook and Mr. Deavers’ little (huge, monumental, catastrophic) plan. Farook offers for Samar to save herself a lot of pain by telling him where the chip is and she replies, “I’m good.” Because even if she is a double agent, she’s still the best. While torturing her, Farook tells her the chip was designed by Mr. Deavers to get past Israel’s Iron Dome, an air defense system that has interspersed more than 1,200 of the NMB’s rockets to date. He wants to know where that chip is, now.

Cue Ressler storming into Levi and Ezra’s headquarters after Red shares the real identity of the man Aram identified. They’re able to stay calm for now, united under the mission to get Samar back. Her cell phone calls Levi’s and Farook tells him they’ll hand her over if he meets him in the park with only the chip, no FBI. Ressler says no and demands the chip. Levi gives him the box and storms out. Always check your order before you leave the restaurant, Ress.

Levi takes off with the chip and arrives at the specified spot, where he hands it over to a hot-dog vendor. Samar is indeed released from a nearby van and Ressler storms in before the vendor can get away. He tells the vendor to put his hands in the air — and in what I can honestly say is my favorite TV moment of 2017 so far, the man follows the order. But one of those hands has a drone in it, with the chip attached to the bottom. And though it hovers directly at eye level for several seconds, Ressler doesn’t shoot it down, but rather demands the man bring it down. But the vendor’s not controlling it.

Farook is, from a nearby hostel. Ressler tracks him down and they take it to the streets for a little bit of hand-to-hand combat. Just when it seems like Farook has the upper hand, Ressler throws him in front of a moving van. Oh, it is a sickening crunch. I mean, the end of this episode is a roller coaster — both flying-dead-bodies and emotional varieties.

When Cooper gets ahold of Samar, he tells her: “You obstructed our investigation, put lives at risk, lied to us.” Samar tells him she did it to protect her country, but he counters that when she is on this task force, she’s protecting the United States (except for the other half of the time, when she’s explicitly protecting Elizabeth Keen, but whatevs). Cooper tells her she needs to think about where her alliances lie, and he’s not the only one…

Aram tells her to get some rest, that dinner can wait — but it’s not a raincheck. It’s indefinite. He tells Samar that although he was let off the hook, telling Panabaker about his trouble with women, his mistake with Elise was soul-crushing and embarrassing. Looking Samar right in the eyes, he says, “To find out that the person you love, the person you can see yourself having a family with…” Samar finishes for him: “…is a spy. Someone whose allegiances you can’t trust.” Aram can’t be with a person like that.

Samar swallows it like she always does. She lets Aram walk away and he lets her let him. She meets back up with Levi, the man she’s legitimately been in love with forever, and he tells her he’s broken off his engagement and hopes that’s good news for her. She tells him the truth: “I’ve been waiting a long time for this, for you. But… I am in love with someone else.”

I will never give up on these two.

A few loose ends:

  • Nor will I ever give up on Red’s ability to move mountains for Elizabeth Keen. Excuse me — Agent Elizabeth Keen. Red finally gets his meeting with the president-elect threatens to expose his criminal conduct to his wife unless the soon-to-be POTUS hands over that pardon he promised. But it wasn’t for him. It was for Lizzie, of course.
  • I should also mention the episode opens with Liz recording a truly weird video for Agnes, in which she tells her how she lived the first part of her life in a fake nursery in an abandoned warehouse surrounded by bodyguards. Baby Agnes’ adorable chubbiness is the only thing that made up for this.
  • *SPINOFF ALERT* Tom is mad that Red kept Liz from getting answers about her father: “Maybe now that I’m a dad, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wonder who my father is.”
  • If I were an askin’ woman, I might request some Blacklist fan out there make a mashup of all the times someone on the Post Office team realized Red had his own motives all along — all along, I tell you! But I’m not. Also, it would be 100 hours long.
  • I loved that no-nonsense mom who gave Red his NMB intel: “I gotta go, Lazy Bones just barfed in the kitchen.”
  • “Marlin Trout: one boy; two fish names. Funny!”

Episode Recaps

The Blacklist - Season 2
The Blacklist

James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.

  • TV Show
  • 9
stream service