Red tests Ressler, and Elizabeth tests the limits of her dark side

By Jodi Walker
January 11, 2018 at 02:41 AM EST
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Credit: Will Hart/NBC
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“You said that once you cross over, there are things in the darkness that can keep your heart from ever feeling the light ever again.” –Donald Ressler, quoting Raymond Reddington

So, we’re basically just down to Aram, right? Like, everyone else on the Task Force has gone full Anakin at some point or another? What with their murder walls and their confession letters and their handful of accidental murders, these hearts have strayed far from the light, and if this episode was proof of anything, it’s that it will be a long journey back for those who still stand a chance.

And, listen…I don’t hate it. If The Blacklist has me suddenly thinking, I wonder when the next Lizzie scene is, then The Blacklist has perhaps done something right. I cannot recall a time where I’ve ever thought that before tonight’s episode.

What else was The Blacklist doing in Wednesday’s episode? In a phrase: the most. First, we were looking into a random and convoluted Blacklister story line, then we were delving back into the Ressler-is-a-dirty-cop business, then Liz was choking people with wires to find Tom’s killer, then Ian Garvey was also tracking Liz, then the whole Blacklister plot ended up being a test planned by Red, then Liz straight-up killed a 300-pound man by slamming him through a glass table. It was a lot. Some of it was good and necessary, and some of it I’m not even sure needs mentioning. But there was a time when I never thought we’d see Dr. Nik’s salt-and-pepper head pop back on the scene ever again, so it’s probably all worth mentioning. Let’s get to it…

THE INFORMANT, NO. 118

Last week might have been an introspective glance into Elizabeth Keen’s mourning-turned-pure-revenge-rage, but this week, the cold open tells us immediately that we are back on the original-flavor-Blacklist grind. A young man and woman are making eyes at each other at a club, until the young woman’s boss calls her and she goes full Devil Wears Prada, insisting on taking it. Once she hangs up, the man comes out, seemingly looking for her, but nope — I know man foaming at the mouth and bulging at the eye sockets from nerve gas when I see one. The young woman rushes back in the club to get help…where she finds every single person inside equally foaming at the mouth. I’m sure you can guess what happens next.

Red has Samar over to his new pad — Red is rich again, and all is right in the criminal empire world — to talk about the attack. She tells him that 57 people died and the terrorist cell claiming responsibility has been taken into custody. He tells her that in the next few days the U.S. Treasury plans to freeze the accounts that financed the attack. Small problem: Twelve hours ago, a man known as The Informant accessed the list of accounts and plans to ransom them back to the account holders, offering them the chance to get their money out before the accounts are frozen.

Got all that? Good. Because we already have a lead on The Informant: Howard Bishop, a political aide to the senator whose credentials were stolen to access the accounts list, and who has ties to the other agencies that were part of leaks at the hands of The Informant. As they tail Bishop, Samar, Aram, and Ressler talk over their headsets about Liz’s return, after Samar saw her at Red’s place. She has a feeling Liz won’t be coming back to the Task Force: “If I were her I’d do whatever it takes to find my husband’s killer…breaking the rules, ignoring the law, whatever it takes.” Aram, surely picturing himself in a tux and boutonniere, says that’s kind of sweet. “There’s nothing sweet about a cop who breaks the rules,” says Ressler, a guilty cop who’s broken the rules, and don’t you let a few months without Blacklist episodes make you forget it.

Bishop shakes Samar, but he turns back up quickly…at a police station where he tells the front desk that he has information about a crime. Once in FBI custody, Samar tells him it’s mighty convenient that he waited 24-hours to report a hit-and-run that took place at the exact same time the list was stolen. But he says there’s a good reason: he was with a married woman at the time, who just so happens to be a judge. So they bring in that judge, Sonia Fisher (played by Orange Is the New Black’s Alysia Reiner), and she confirms that she was conducting an affair with Bishop. The Post Office still thinks Bishop is the Informant though, so Red heads to the Cayman Islands to tell a banker named Herman that if he figures out who the soon-to-be frozen accounts belong to, Red can refer the owners to him for all their banking needs once they transfer their assets.

And Herman pulls through! He brings in his own Girl With the Dragon Tattoo hacker, but she repeatedly refuses to work with Red, which I kind of love. Not many people tell Raymond Reddington, “Bite me.” But that is because his swagger cannot be resisted, and indeed, when he tells the young woman that he has an in with the hottest tattoo artist in Japan, she agrees to get him the names if he gets her an appointment within the week. From the names they’re given, Aram identifies the man named Rosmin Hazman as the man behind the terrorist attack, and the man to whom The Informant is trying to sell information. (Recap continues on next page)

That’s a lot of talk. How about some action with our resident John McClane, Elizabeth Keen? We see in a quick scene Ian Garvey getting out of bed (swigging a beer when he stands — everything about this dude is gross) to take a call: “You were right, that lead on Reddington is finally heating up.” The voice on the other end of the line is referring to Keen, and Garvey says not to worry, he’ll handle things on his end. Just as a reminder: Ian Garvey’s way of handling things has, in the past, involved a wood chipper…

But Elizabeth Keen is well on her way to handling Ian Garvey as well. She’s got a whole little detective factory brewing in the apartment where Tom was killed, with photos and partial identities of all their assailants, the bloody carpet preserved, photos of the weapons used, and everything is casually taped all over the floors and walls as indication that Liz is not at all going crazy over finding Tom’s killers. So when the detective assigned to Tom Keen’s case, Detective Singleton, knocks on Liz’s door, you can understand why she doesn’t let him in. But once he voices a real desire to find Tom’s killers, she does let him in to her Beautiful Mind two-bedroom…

And you know what, he’s pretty cool with it. Why not get a little assist from an emotionally volatile former FBI agent. The ringleader of the men who killed Tom has been identified as Navarro, the big redheaded man, but Liz tells Singleton that’s not who stabbed Tom. Navarro worked for the man who stabbed him with a Damacus knife. The police are sure, however, that the other three men found in the apartment were hired by Navarro from the Nash drug syndicate, a crew that runs out of the local Kaufman Liquor Store. Singleton can tell that Liz knows more than she’s letting on about who came in and killed all the bad dudes, but for now, he doesn’t push it.

Naturally, Liz hightails it over to Kaufman Liquor, waits until someone approaches her car and gives her a little lip, handcuffs him to the steering wheel, and starts driving, dragging him with her until he tells her that he doesn’t know who Navarro is, but Crisanto, the guy who picks up the money and does the re-ups for him might. “We’ll give him a call,” Liz says. “Unless you want to take another drive.”

Presumably he did not, because soon Crisanto is getting into a car he believes will involve a monetary exchange, but instead involves Elizabeth putting a wire around his neck from behind and telling him, “If you panic, you’ll run out of air, and if you run out of air, you’ll pass out, and if you pass out, you can’t answer my questions, and if you can’t answer my questions…I’ll kill you.” Crisanto tells Elizabeth that he’s never met Navarro, but he knows a guy named PeeWee who handles money for him. So it’s over to the kitchen where PeeWee works. PeeWee pulls a gun when Elizabeth asks about Navarro, but she pulls hers faster and immediately shoots him in the leg. While he’s on the ground, she finds where PeeWee keeps the cash, and lights a stack on a fire: “Now you can either bring him a stranger….or you can bring him a stranger who you let burn all his money.”

While PeeWee decides his fate, the Post Office has found out about the meeting between Bishop and the account holder, so Ressler and Samar are tailing them. Just when Ressler is supposed to be telling Samar that Bishop is heading in, he gets a call from Prescott, the fixer who’s been blackmailing him ever since he pretended to be “Frank Sturgeon” and got Prescott to cover up Laurel Hitchin’s death. He tells Ressler that Bishop is a client of his too, and Ressler’s going to turn the FBI off of him, or Prescott will expose him…

In an instant, Ressler redirects Samar, telling her that he lost eyes on Bishop. But as she leaves the station, Ressler keeps eyes on Bishop, sees him switch a briefcase presumably full of information about accounts that fund terrorism with a briefcase presumably full of cash, and folds — he draws his gun on Bishop and Hazman and places them under arrest, as Bishop hisses, “You’ve just made a horrible mistake.”

As evidence of that, Ressler meets up with Prescott, who shows him photos he has of Ressler with Laurel Hitchin’s body, and asks him, “You know what they do to crooked cops in prison, especially one with such a pretty face?” My appreciation of someone finally acknowledging Ressler’s pretty face is dulled by Ressler telling Prescott, “I can’t arrest you, but I can kill you, which is what I’ll do if you ever get in touch with me again.” Prescott seems highly unperturbed by this threat, which is made even worse by Ressler arriving back at the office to find that Bishop has told Samar about his own affiliation with Prescott.

On the positive side, the Informant and the person responsible for the terrorist attack are in custody and the assets have been frozen; on the negative side, the hit-and-run that Bishop “witnessed” wasn’t an accident; it was the planned murder of Jasmine Perez, an Internal Affairs investigator. The presumed reason is that she was getting to close to a crooked cop who wanted her dead. All together now: UH OH. (Recap continues on next page)

Cooper sics Samar and Ressler on the case, and when they speak to Perez’s fellow detective, he tells them the password to her extensive files on the leads she was following: “Frank Sturgeon.” So when Ressler and Samar head to her apartment in search of the files, Ressler is on high alert, trying to get to the files before Samar does. When he finds Perez’s tablet, it contains an audio file that Prescott has manipulated to make it sound like Ressler’s death threat from earlier was made to Perez — a now dead person — instead of Prescott.

And that’s when Red calls: “It’s time to have a little chat,” he tells Ressler.

Red, of course, knows about Ressler’s involvement with Prescott, and he directed the Task Force toward The Informant as a test, knowing that Prescott would try to blackmail Ressler into derailing the case. “The good news is, you passed,” Red tells Ressler. And for that reason, Red seems ready to help Ressler figure this thing out. The first stop is Judge Fisher’s house, where the FBI are also on their way.

Ressler goes out on a limb, associating himself with Red to the judge, but he needs to know what she knows about Prescott. She tells them that she was once a decent and moral person, until she found out her teenage son had sexually assaulted a young woman. A father at her son’s school who was an attorney was the first to tell her what was coming, and he asked if she wanted him to make it disappear. She didn’t say yes, but when the young woman’s rape kit disappeared from evidence, she didn’t say anything about that either. She tells Ressler the name of that attorney who made it happen: “Mitchell Hatley.” And then she jumps out of her apartment window, right onto the sidewalk where Samar and Aram are arriving.

Red and Ressler track down Hatley/Prescott coaching a children’s soccer game, where Ressler reminds Red of what the quote from the top of the recap, what Red told him way back when he stopped Ressler from killing Audrey’s shooter. “I’m in the darkness,” Ressler tells Red now. “And doing the right thing is the only way I’ll ever feel the light again.” The right thing isn’t killing Prescott, but arresting him and letting the entire truth out, which is what Ressler sets out to do…

But Red has other plans. After arresting Prescott, Ressler goes into Cooper’s office to tell him everything, but Cooper tells him something first: Prescott’s transport vehicle went up in flames, presumably at the hand of one of his clients who felt compromised. And, indeed, Red later tells Ressler that he didn’t kill Prescott for him, he did it because Prescott knew about Red’s association with the FBI. So why did Red remove anything regarding Ressler from Prescott’s client files? And why does Ressler seem so mad about it?

Because Ressler is a good cop, and he is trying to find the light again by handing over a signed confession to Agent Cooper. “I don’t accept,” Cooper tells him. He has a general idea of what’s in the letter, and he’s not interested. “I’m not interested in your feelings, Agent Ressler,” Cooper insists. “None of us are the people that we were before the Task Force started, before Reddington.” Ain’t that the truth. Look no further than…

Elizabeth, who has finally tracked down Navarro. Once in his apartment, she pulls a gun on him and gives him a pair of handcuffs to put on. He tells her he can’t remember who the man with the Damascus knife was, so she pistol whips him. She keeps saying that Tom was helping Nik with something that got multiple people killed. Finally Navarro gives some intel, “You don’t get it … your man wasn’t helping Nik, Nik was helping your man.” Of course, nothing is that easy, so that’s when huge Navarro head-butts Elizabeth, and they get into a brawl that nearly ends with Liz in a sleeper hold. But she’s taken back to falling unconscious as Tom died, finds some strength reserves, and slams Navarro into a glass table. Once out of his hold, Liz looks at him on the ground to see blood gushing form his neck where a large shard of glass has clearly punctured an artery. “Okay,” Liz breathes. “This is okay.”

Is it?

A Few Loose Ends:

Cooper takes Ressler’s confession letter and offers him one of his own, telling him that when their work on the Task Force is finished, they can send them to the proper channels. Bold! Much like Ressler snatching a bottle of whiskey on the way out of Red’s apartment.

I like Detective Singleton. He seems like he still has the light in his heart, and I hope Liz lets him help her.

Aram and Samar’s relationship status: “Boring. Blissful. Domestic.”

Red’s tattoo ideas for the hacker: “Perhaps Tweetie Bird, or Yosemite Sam…or a lady riding a monkey wrench.”

“Were you honest once?” “I’m almost always honest.” Oh, Red.

Episode Recaps

The Blacklist

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

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