Virginia Sherwood/NBC
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TV Show
S4 E9
January 06, 2017 at 02:48 AM EST

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

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