The Blacklist recap: 'Mr. Raleigh Sinclair III'
Doubles?! Yes, give me all the doubles drama. Give me all the mirror imagery, give me all the Face/Off vibes, give me all the theories about why-oh-why Reddington would want a dopplelganger-doubler in his pocket.
Is hiring a man to find-slash-create your perfect doppelganger so that said doppelganger can take over the jogging route (complete with 45 friendly-waving appointments) you’ve cultivated for five months, all so you can get away with murdering someone you initially wanted to murder, like, half a year ago the most efficient way to get away with murder? Maybe not. But dealing with Annaliese Keaton doesn’t seem particularly easy either, so this is certainly one way to do it.
Perhaps more importantly to the Blacklist canon, this double theme extends to the dueling sides of Elizabeth Keen that have been developing over the course of this season. There are good parts to Liz and there are bad parts to Liz, just as there are in all of us; the longer she continues to compartmentalize those aspects of her humanity, the less control she’ll have over them. These revelations comes courtesy of a rather unorthodox FBI therapy session, which I’m not quite sure how I feel about yet, but I do always appreciate a good old-fashioned psychological reckoning. (And I definitely always appreciate Martha Plimpton on my TV!)
There’s even a duality to the name of tonight’s Blacklister. I thought it odd that the Blacklister had a nickname — granted, “The Alibi” isn’t going to win any Marvel contracts — but the title of this episode was his given name (which could win him at least a membership to Tony Stark’s country club). Perhaps this doppel-dude is long for this world…
- RALEIGH SINCLAIR III, NO. 51
John Noble is so weird and specific in his portrayal of Sinclair that the plot didn’t even need to draw me in right away — I just needed to know what was up with this weirdo. An older man in a very petite pair of readers (eat your heart out, Tom; also, R.I.P. Tom) waits for a younger man on a park bench in Manhattan. He fusses at the younger man for being five minutes late, saying that pattern and routine are the only things that will make this plan work. Then he very quickly transitions from a lesson on timeliness to a lesson on all-consuming rage. He tells the young man, Brian, to access the rage he felt when he recently spied his wife mid-coitus in their bed with another man, and hold on to it: “That malice you feel in your heart is more dependable than any contract killer.”
Then he gives him a list of supplies he needs to gather, including an apartment in downtown Manhattan, which is actually the most insane thing he says or does in the whole episode.
Red quickly breaks down this week’s assignment for Samar: There is “a master in the art of manipulation” known as “The Alibi” who somehow tricks multiple eye witnesses into providing alibis to killers. Most recently, a man named Sam DeMarco was suspected in connection for the untimely demise of his business partner, with whom he just so happened to have recently had a nasty falling out; DeMarco was the prime suspect until four independent eye witnesses placed him miles from the murder scene.
Relaying the target to the rest of the Post Office gang, Samar says that the Alibi only works with people who want to commit the crimes themselves (hence the patented rage-encouragement earlier) and somehow devises a plan that can allow that bespoke murderer to be in two places at once. “The Alibi can exonerate anyone from any crime” — I truly thought Samar was going to say, “by dinner time!” here — “by getting people to swear to things they’ve never seen.”
Cooper sends Samar and Ressler to talk to one of the DeMarco witnesses and they soon realize they have it all wrong. The clerk at the deli swears that she saw DeMarco at the store the morning of his business partner’s murder, and she would know: “The guy comes in every morning for coffee, paper, lottery tickets — you could set your watch by him.” On this particular morning, she says, he took $20 out of the ATM to get his lottery ticket, so Aram pulls the security footage and…finds DeMarco withdrawing cash at the time of the murder. Or, rather, someone who looks a lot like DeMarco. Facial recognition software only yields an 80 percent match between the ATM footage and a photo of DeMarco, so either the system’s wrong, says Aram, “or you are looking at an exceptionally convincing double who helped Sam DeMarco get away with murder.” That’s right…
But first, speaking of getting away with murder: What’s our fav revenge queen Elizabeth Keen up to? As you’ll recall, she’s in the midst of trying to get reinstated as an FBI profiler, which requires a “fitness for duty evaluation.” She’s planning on a 50 minute therapy session, which Red is fully in support of, but the first appointment with Dr. Fulton (Plimpton) turns out to be a little more…incendiary. Dr. Fulton talks to Liz about revenge, and about how anger can be a healthy emotion, and then she’s all, “Let’s talk about your father.” (Recap continues on page 2)
Isn’t it always the father with this one? Liz tells Red that her therapist thinks it’s important that she speak to both of them before she reinstates Liz, and next thing you know Li’l Masha and Daddy Red are in family counseling together, which Red rather hilariously says they don’t need. In fact, despite expressing his appreciation for therapy earlier, Red is highly averse to speaking with Liz’s FBI therapist all of a sudden. He’ll only meet with them in the car, and he’s quite sassy. To be fair, Dr. Fulton is also quite sassy with him, and I found the whole thing a little weird and very much…not at all like therapy.
Dr. Fulton starts off by telling Red that she thinks he’s a glorified serial killer, and if it weren’t for Keen’s relationship with him, she’d have no problem with reinstating her (which seems not particularly intuitive given all the stuff about revenge, and wanting to use her badge for revenge, and wanting to get back in the FBI for personal revenge she’s been being very upfront about). “Some children run from their fathers’ sins,” Fulton says. “She embraces them.” Red tells her that it’s obvious he can’t give her any answer she’d be happy with, and she’d be best off evaluating Elizabeth’s future with the bureau by judging her merits, not his. “Push her, provoke her, figure out a way to see past her grief and anger, and you’ll see who she really is.” Fulton asks who that is. “Everything that I’m not,” Red replies.
Liz, the person trying to get reinstated, literally doesn’t speak the entire time. It’s very weird, but ultimately leads to a powerful development at the end of the episode that I really appreciated and will go ahead and break down for you now. Liz finally tells Dr. Fulton that she knows she thinks she’s “afraid to acknowledge the weight of having Raymond Reddington as my father.” And at a time, that was true — Liz was too afraid to examine what Red’s past meant to her future. But she tells Fulton it’s her preconceived notions that are keeping her from understanding what Red could mean to Liz’s life. “Some of what he’s done is unimaginably bad,” Liz tells Fulton. “But some of what he’s done for me is unimaginably good.”
DOUBLES, BABY! And, yes I did choke up, especially when Liz tops it off by saying that when pushed and provoked like Red suggested, she knows who she is: “A widow, a mom, a cop — and one more thing: a daughter.” Wow-y.
And speaking of some of that unimaginably good side, Cooper sends Red on a mission to find the homeless man named Kahil Shula who was picked up for matching Sam DeMarco’s description during the police investigation. Fortunately, Red apparently keeps a homeless shelter in the area afloat and is on BFF-terms with the owner Marnie, who calls him “R-squared.” Marnie puts him in touch with my new favorite character, Delores, a down-on-her-luck woman who knows Kahil, in another excellent guest performance by Marcia DeBonis.
Delores tells Red that she last saw Kahil getting in the car with a man who said he had a job for him in front of the 26th Street shelter. The car was gold and had an EZ Pass in the window, and from that information, Aram is able to narrow it down to a hundred or so driver’s licenses. Red invites Delores over for veal and a perusal of a binder full of men’s license photos, and once he assures her that this is to help Kahil, not harm him, she points at the man she saw Kahil get in the car with. You’ll never guess who it is…
Mr. Raleigh Sinclair III, whom we’ve been watching work his (evil) magic throughout the episode. Apparently, Brian’s list of supplies from the top of the episode were for him to be able to craft a very obvious route, with many bystanders who could later function as alibis for him. He puts on a bright yellow hat and gloves to go jogging in the New York City winter; he waves at his neighbor who walks her dog at the same time every day (potential murderer, perhaps?); he puts change in the busker’s bucket; he says hi to the falafel truck guy; he gets the same coffee order from the same coffee cart at the end of every single run. So when Sinclair tracks down a man who looks almost identical to Brian — and is clearly just the actor playing Brian in a wig — it will be very easy for him to take over that route. (Recap continues on page 3)
Unfortunately for that guy, he may not know that he’s helping commit a murder, but he also doesn’t know that he’s about to facilitate his own murder. Once Delores identifies Sinclair, Red heads to Sinclair’s workshop, where he finds dozens of face molds and teeth and nose prosthetics and — I think — spare skin that could change someone who looks a lot like another person into someone who’s identical to another person. When Samar and Ressler arrive, they realize that they’ve probably got enough files to pin dozens of murders to Sinclair and the murderers he found doubles for, but the only dossier missing is the project he’s currently working on. “They’ll put it together,” Red says to Dembe with Brian’s folder sitting beside him in the car. “They have his face! And we have a long drive.”
And Red’s lucky they do put it together in time, because while Brian’s doppelganger jogs his route, and orders his coffee, and wears his goofy hat, Brian is waiting for his ex-wife in the parking garage of her work. And he seems to be feeling mighty confident with the power of knowing he’s going to get away with killing her because he spends a nice long time explaining exactly what’s going on to her, then pulls out his gun and just starts shooting like a wild man as she ducks behind cars. I guess the five months he’s been plotting this and taking his daily jogs didn’t include any target practice. Then, when Ressler and Samar show up just in the nick of time, he starts shooting at FBI agents. This guy’s nuts, and I was very happy to see Ressler hit him with the car.
Elsewhere in New York, Brian’s double is getting in the car with Sinclair, not knowing that he’s about to be murdered for being an unknowing accomplice to murder. But as soon as Sinclair pulls out his gun, another gun taps on his car window. It’s Red — he wants to go for a ride. Red tells Sinclair he’s heard whispers of his ability to put a man in two places at once. He tells him that the FBI has taken possession of his files, and with Red’s help, they can take possession of Sinclair. But if Sinclair does as Red asks, he’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.
We don’t get to know what Red asks. What we do know is that in return for hijacking their Blacklister, Red gives the Post Office the location of all the doubles’ bodies so that every single one of Sinclair’s clients, even the ones who were previously acquitted for the murders of their original victims, can be tried for murder. He just asks for one thing in return: Kahil Shula’s body, so that he can give it a proper burial. Red stands with his sweet new best friend Delores in the snow while she cries over her departed friend (somewhere, Liz feels that pang of unimaginable good).
And one more unexpected dynamic duo to end on: Throughout the episode, we’ve seen Detective Singleton up to some suspicious activities, like sneaking into Liz’s apartment without a warrant, and reporting to U.S. Marshal Ian Garvey and a group of other law enforcement officers that he’s spotted Liz Keen with Raymond Reddington, and he thinks Red must be who killed the five men in her apartment on the night of Tom’s murder, and she’s covering up for him because she works for him. But as it turns out, Singleton isn’t trying to frame her; he’s just trying to figure this out. Because there are dirty cops on the team assigned to Tom Keen’s murder, but Singleton isn’t one of them.
Liz and Singleton are able to work this knowledge out among themselves, and he believes her that there’s someone on the inside staying one step ahead of them, but he still can’t understand what her involvement with Reddington is, and he can’t help her find the dirty cop who killed her husband if she’s working with a man on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. So…she takes him to her day job and shows him just why he would have seen her with Raymond Reddington.
I really like Singleton, and I feel as though, in the name of new friendships, I should warn him: Most people who find out about this task force end up with blunt force trauma to the head. Stay safe out there.
A Few Loose Ends:
- We really trust Sinclair now, right? What exactly is Ian Garvey up to?
- Looooots of interesting Red quotes to lose some sleep theorizing over tonight, including: “Therapy helped me become an entirely different person.” And…
- “People think memory works like a video recorder… In truth, memories are reconstructed more like putting together an ever-changing jigsaw puzzle than replaying a video.” Any Blacklist quote about memory is worth mulling over.
- Every time Liz described herself to Dr. Fulton, it sounded like a quippy Twitter/Instagram profile: “Widow. Cop. Mom. That’s all there is.”
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.