The Blacklist recap: Red and Liz race toward the finish line
“Goodbye, Elizabeth; I’ll be waiting at the finish line,” Raymond Reddington tells Elizabeth Keen at the end of Wednesday’s episode, as we barrel toward next week’s finale — what we’re told could be the finish line. It is wild (simply wild!) that we’ve been chasing this bag o’ bones for an entire season. Mr. Kaplan started it. And Red or Elizabeth will finish it. Because doesn’t it always come down to Red and Liz? Everything in between is just an interesting detour.
I was so relieved last week after the series wrap that it wasn’t just back to business as usual, stalling for time until we cracked this duffel bag wide open in the finale. Once again, in Wednesday night’s episode, the show found a way to — if I may borrow from Mr. Reddington himself — “juggle” a Blacklister storyline, a harrowing personal tale, the continued quest for the bag, and a badger named Bernadette without it seeming like stalling for time. But this final line of Red’s is proof that Ian Garvey, even Tom, it’s all been a stall to the finish. As soon as Mr. Kaplan dug Red’s old suitcase up to get it to Elizabeth, this was only ever going to end with Liz and Red racing to open that damn bag or keep it closed forever, respectively.
Which leads us to the meat of this finely loitering episode. I mean, I see what they’re doing here; I understand that they’re distracting me with two of the most beloved characters who never get enough screen time finally getting to do their thing. It’s a cheap shot but it’s working — that’s what we call a “Jägermeister” in the business (just kidding, no one’s ever said that). Samar and Aram are the steely backbone and bleeding heart of the show, respectively, and to see them in peril and in love and way up in their feelings was riveting stuff. But it also felt like Samar was never in too much danger because, well, Samar can handle herself.
Until I realized that I perhaps underestimated what the show was willing to throw at her. Which was, of course, a stone-cold bear pushing the van in which she was trapped down a hill and into a river shortly after she had self-corrected being impaled by a tire iron. Then, y’know, I was pretty scared for my fav former Mossad agent. There was so much insanity happening it felt like the writers were kind of just throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what would stick, and most of it did. In the end, it’s still just a wild wall full of spaghetti instead of a constructed Italian meal, but sometimes the journey is better than the final product. Delaying any real fear for Samar surviving her abduction until she a literal bear was attempting to drown her in rat soup somehow had the shockingly successful effect of allowing this episode to be both fun and, finally, high-stakes.
LAWRENCE DEAN DEVLIN, NO. 26
Are we to understand that Nicholas Moore, a man that started an isolated and sometimes homicidal community in the woods somehow gained access to a prolific cleaner who resides at number 26 on Raymond Reddington’s Blacklist? Yes, it seems we are. But just go with it because there’s no time to ask questions! Samar is waking up in the back of a van while her kidnapper briefly steps inside a scary insect and rodent laboratory to load up a cage with mice and, for some reason, one very tiny hand. At the post office, Red offers Brimley up to use his unique set of torture skills — Hollywood-trained badger included — to get Nicholas Moore to give up the identity of the man who abducted Samar. “If his oxygen tank is full, he can be here in an hour,” Red assures Cooper.
But Aram doesn’t have an hour; what he has is determination to get Samar back, so he marches into the interrogation room, scrambles the video feed with his phone, and asks Moore what he needs to give up the name of the man who has Samar. Moore tells him he needs something that was confiscated from him, so by golly, Aram breaks into the evidence locker, steals a tiny, weathered copy of the New Testament, and by golly, Moore sure does have a cyanide pill hidden in there that he sure does kill himself with. Not great for Aram’s FBI permanent file, but very good for Samar because before he bites it, Moore tells Aram what he knows about the man that took her: basically, nothing. He’s used the man as a fixer a few times, but he uses an obviously fake name, but he doesn’t know anything about him, only the man he arranges the meetings through: Julius Hanelore. (Recap continues on next page)
Julius is an embalmer that Red also happens to know, so he arranges a meeting. After that, he’ll have done all that’s in his power to save Samar, and intends to head to Costa Rica to follow up on the duffel bag leads Smokey has secured — a plan Lizzie overhears and is none too happy about. She says she’ll be coming along with him to see Julius, and Red sets the record straight that just because he’s helping does not make his associates her associates. Cooper says Liz can sit outside, and Red gives a very hilarious, “UGH” but continues to help….
By putting a gun to the cadaver that Julius is painstakingly working on. Even on The Blacklist, I think threatening a dead man with a gun is a first. Julius tells them that the man’s real name is Lawrence Dane Devlin, a man who specializes in making problems go away with his unique knowledge of thanatology, the study of death and decay.
Which would explain the unique predicament Samar currently finds herself in. See, after Devlin loaded up those mice in the car and found out Samar was awake in the back, he simply could not stop casually chatting with her about all the creative ways he was considering ending her life. He’s the kind of guy who thinks it’s totally kosher to look into a rear view mirror and say, “I was sort of thinking of suffocating you. It’s the most natural way. Just putting you to sleep — with my hand.” Devlin is really into doing things (like murder) the natural way. He tells Samar he doesn’t believe in god: “Nature, that’s my guy.” She tells him, “We’ll have to agree to disagree. I have an angel.” That’s her guy, Devlin!
In addition to her devoted man and team searching for her, Samar also has…herself, and herself is very capable, unfortunately for Devlin. There’s an emergency kit built into the back of his van, which Samar quietly gets into, and quietly shoots a flare up into the driver’s seat while simultaneously slicing her binds off. Devlin jumps out of the car, and when he opens the back door, Samar lunges out past him and takes off into the woods. Devlin catches up with her, and given that she was recently knocked out and he has a gun, she’s back in his captivity soon enough. But not before stuffing a very sharp stick up her sleeve. As he marches her back toward the van explaining how he’ll make one clean incision in her then let the rats do the rest, she lunges at him once more, impaling his stomach with the stick.
Devlin is furious, but still refusing to use his gun because nature is his guy and all (what a turd). And so, his guy does his thing. As he’s driving, Samar does some explaining: “It’s getting harder to breathe because your lungs are slowly filling up with blood. Without a doctor, you’ll be starved of oxygen until eventually you’ll be forced to aspirate on your own blood. But on the bright side, it’s an entirely natural way to go — likely what god intended for you.” Yeeeees, Samar girl, you tell him. Fortunately, she is right, and Devlin starts passing out…
Unfortunately, he does that while still driving, runs the van off the road, and it crashes violently, settling on its side. When Samar comes to, a tire iron is sticking out of her stomach. A tire iron. Trapped in the van with loose mice now running around, and Devlin unconscious in the front seat, Samar yanks the tire iron out of her stomach and I promptly pass out.
Red is having slightly better luck in Costa Rica, because it would be hard to have worse luck. Employee-of-the-Month Smokey has found out that when Ian Garvey went to San Jose with the duffel bag, he attended a secret auction of black book items run by a local Raymond Reddington of sorts. Through a series of benders, Smokey secured Raymond a coveted entry coin. But once in, Red doesn’t do so hot. He tries to play his “I’m Raymond Reddington” card with the security guards keeping him from the big boss, but when they check in the back, the big boss doesn’t seem interested. So…
Red finds a gun Smokey hid for him in the bathroom the night before, shoots two of the auction patrons in the leg — it’s okay, they audibly say they don’t care that their money is probably funding terrorism — and gets himself to the back, one way or another. There, he finds Mr. Gonzalez, who in exchange for a $6 million purchase, tells Red that Garvey was there a month ago, but it wasn’t to see him. Security footage shows Garvey carrying the bag and meeting up with a man who Mr. Gonzalez knows as Max Birmingham: “What his real name is, I cannot say,” he tells Red honestly. “I can,” Red says, looking at the screen currently showing the owner of a proud new bag o’ bones.
At the post office, Aram has tracked down a known phone number of Devlin’s, but it’s only pinging one tower, so he can’t triangulate it. At the same time, Samar is trying to grab that phone by prying open the cage separating her form the front cab with the tire iron that was recently in her torso. When she gets her hand through though, Devlin grabs it. He’s awake. Little does he know that Aram is currently leaving him quite the threatening voicemail how killing a federal agent is punishable by death, but Devlin is a little less direct: he simply leaves to go find a doctor, telling Samar, “And you — I suspect you’ll die here.” (Recap continues on next page)
Oh, Devlin: you thought! While Samar continues to try to peel back the metal grates imprisoning her inside the van, Devlin’s body suddenly slams against the vehicle. At first it seems like he’s attacking her, but then it becomes clear that he’s bloody which is confusing. Then there’s growling; more confusing. And then…we see the bear feet. Devlin is being attacked by a bear against the side of the van. Samar spots a gun just outside the back door, and tries to grab it through the bit of metal she’s managed to lift up, but just as she grabs it — that damn insult-to-injury bear hits the van so hard, it starts rolling. Right into a river.
That officially puts us into what one might call a time crunch. Luckily, the post office team has made it out to an address they know to be Devlin’s farm, but once there, they only find all of Devin’s creepy crawlers and a real Mose-like property manager. That guy does at least tell them where Devlin does his “experiments,” which leads them to a field full of decomposing bodies. But just as Aram finds one that looks terrifyingly un-decomposed, he gets a phone call: it’s Samar. She managed to get her phone off the still dry front seat, but the van is rapidly filling with water. At this point, I start to face the fact that Samar really might die in this episode, and so does she.
“If you had asked me to marry you, my love,” Samar tells Aram: “The answer would have been yes.” Aram smiles his sweet little smile, but immediately steels himself once more; Samar is literally sinking toward her death, and she’s stopped responding on the phone. He says between this field and the tower Devlin’s phone was pinging, there’s only one river. It’s still a long shot, but Aram takes off in a car, and drives toward the river. Eventually, realizing he doesn’t really know where to go, he pulls over in desperation. Just as he’s ready to sink to the ground…he spots tire marks in the woods…and glass…and an almost entirely sunken van…
Aram takes off, immediately jumps in the water, and swims into the can through the driver’s side window; the back of the van and Samar are completely submerged. Aram gets the keys out of the ignition, takes a few breaths to unlock the metal grate that’s been imprisoning Samar for so long, swings it open, swims inside to get her, carries her to shore, performs CPR, and begins crying out in silent anguish when it won’t work. And then, I kid you not…
When we see them next, Aram is talking to Samar in a hospital room. Thank goodness. But we’re not getting off that easy. Samar is in a minimally unconscious state, but Aram is focusing on the bright side of things: She’s alive, and he’s heard that people in her state benefit from hearing familiar music. So he puts on an acoustic version of “At Last” so that we can all just cry, and cry, and cry. Then, that sweet, sweet monster gets out a ring box: “Samar, I’ve been in love with you since the first moment I saw you. Every day since then has been my best day because I have spent them with you. I want to spend all my days with you.” Aram gets down on one knees, and asks Samar to marry him. And knowing that she would have said yes—and hopefully still will say yes—he slips his grandmother’s ring on her finger.
In Costa Rica, Red tells Dembe that Max Birmingham is actually Sutton Ross, a man he thought was dead, who most likely had a little help achieving that reputation from former U.S. Marshal Ian Garvey. “We came all this way to find the duffel and it’s been handed from one enemy of mine to another,” says Red. That’s not your only problem, pal. The next thing we know, Liz is knocking on Mr. Ramirez’s door, telling him she’s FBI, and getting a little peep at Max Birmingham for herself. Once in front of Red, he tells Liz, “You do what you know I don’t want you to do. You disappoint me — and yet, somehow at the same time you impress me. You persevere.” Apples and trees and all, I guess.
“I suppose it was inevitable, our sprint to the finish,” Red says. “After everything we’ve been through, it won’t be long until one of us has it.”
A Few Loose Ends:
The wonderful performances we’ve come to expect from Mozhan Marnò and Amir Arison were on full-100 tonight and, at times, suspended in water. My throat closed up just writing about the proposal. Wake up Samar! Say yes!
I don’t know how Aram walking in to say that he’d already done the word of a professional Hollywood badger by getting Nicholas Moore to talk was badass, but it was…
Thought still probably not as badass as Samar pulling a tire iron out of her own stomach.
I just really don’t buy that Red is a “thoughts and prayers” kind of guy — he’s more of a “buy an important religious artifact back from terrorists for $6 million” guy.
“I’ve heard steroids make you penis shrink. Have you found that to be the case?” — Red to his future best friend.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.