It's Red's party, and he'll steal art if he wants to (steal art if he wants to); you would steal too if Kaplan happened to you
I’m becoming a little concerned that season 5 of The Blacklist is going to make me feel like the babysitter who won’t just let the kids streamline 18 episodes of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix when their parents go out. Because even though I know it would be a lot easier to just let them do what they want, I also know that eventually the parents are going to come and the homework won’t be done and Little Lizzie will be running around her room, hyped up on Mountain Dew, wearing her underwear on her head like a bonnet.
For the last two episodes since The Blacklist returned, I keep hearing the voice of Amy Poehler dancing around in my head: “I’m not a regular [show], I’m a cool [show]!” Because these episodes have been cool. They’ve been fun episodes, and I want to just be the fun aunt who lets them express themselves! But I can’t — I care too much! I don’t want this undisciplined, fedora-shaped child to grow up and go to college and set his dorm bed on fire from watching too much Pretty Little Liars.
Indeed, the hijinks in this episode were delicious enough to rot your teeth out. Even though the grading on these recaps can be a little superfluous, the scene in Wednesday night’s episode where Red cons an entire criminal household into believing that he is their employer’s lawyer surely upped this sucker a full letter grade. But it also highlighted two pesky Blacklist problems I can never get past. (1) Red making everyone at the Post Office look like a–holes all the time is getting a little wearisome. From the moment he walked through their doors, he has been serving his own agenda, and they simply must stop acting shocked about that. Alternatively, just give the audience one good reason why Red is constantly keeping them, and especially Lizzie, in the dark, given that his plans nearly always secure them an arrest and secure him seaports, or whatever it is he’s always after
And (2) Why — WHY?! — no matter how many times Liz insists she doesn’t need it, do the men in her life who claim to love her lie to her in the name of protecting her? It’s hard to enjoy Liz letting loose and wearing floral prints and stealing diamond necklaces when in the back of my head I know that the only two people she considers family (Agnes doesn’t count because Agnes doesn’t exist) are currently going behind her back to keep the exact same thing a secret, and that same thing is literally a bag of bones.
Okay, now that the disciplinarian portion of the evening is out of the way, see you on the other side for all the fun and games — I’ll be the one throwing desktops in the lake.
GREYSON BLAISE, NO. 37
The cold open heist is perfectly scored to Sofi Tukker’s “Awoo” as we see a man drop into a room Mission Impossible-style, steal an absurdly hefty diamond necklace, exit the room while taking off his heist-y clothes, enter the room next door, and walk up to the podium in his tux to introduce the Napoleon Diamond Necklace, which everyone has gathered at this event to see. Of course, when they head into the display room, the diamond necklace is missing…tucked safely away in the clutch of Greyson Blaise’s date.
“It came, it went/It conquered quick/I was there/And then, I quit.”
Red tells Cooper about this very heist when he marches Liz into the Terrace Vista Motor Lodge to demand that Red give them a Blacklister. He’s certain that Red’s claims of a compromised criminal empire are exaggerated and that he’s just been “playing grab-ass by the pool.” And while Red has been playing grab-ass with them for basically five seasons, he is fully prepared to lead Cooper & Co. right to Blaise, a notorious thrill seeker/under-the-radar art thief who will be at an auction Red knows about in no less than 36 hours. But Red isn’t handing over this information to capture Blaise — “I’m telling you about him so you can help me go into business with him.”
Cooper asks why they would ever help him do that. Red reminds him that his whole Criminal Informant deal lives and dies on people fearing him, and if he can align himself with Blaise, people will fear him again. Well, that, and because without Red, they really don’t have anything else to do. And also because they have relentlessly been assisting Red in building his criminal empire this entire time, it’s just that this time, he’s mentioning it up front. (All right, those last two reasons were from me.)
Red says all he needs to do is convince Blaise he’s not broke, and all he needs from the Post Office is a lift to Italy on an FBI jet. But once everyone goes undercover at the auction and they watch Blaise buy a $3 million penny, things go a little off script. Blaise doesn’t seem interested in doing a deal with Red for a waterway in the Aegean Sea (or whatever), so Red mentions that he’s heard there’s a mole in Blaise’s operation. When that doesn’t pique his interest, he even more casually mentions that he’s having a party at his house on Lake Como, and perhaps Blaise might want to swing by “to see the Rembrandt.”
Oh, that’s right. Red tempts Blaise to come to a house that doesn’t exist for a party that isn’t happening to see Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” a painting that was stolen in 1990. And Blaise still only marks himself down as a “maybe.” Liz was at least able to put a tracking device on the back of his girlfriend’s earring, and now the only thing left to do is acquire a house on Lake Como, get the FBI to pay for an extravagant party, and find that priceless painting that’s been missing for nearly 30 years. Luckily, Red knows exactly where it is, given that he brokered the sale of it 27 years ago. Now Ressler and Samar just need to go steal it back from Amelia Hammond’s living room in Paris.
Meanwhile, Dembe and Tom are doing a little priceless-artifact tracking of their own, though certainly not together. Tom is trying to figure out where the bones in the suitcase Mr. Kaplan left Liz came from…and Dembe is trying to figure out where they went.
They’re both doing this by trying to track down a man called Dennison, but first, Tom cruises by a hospital parking garage to pester poor Dr. Nick into helping him identify his bag of gross bones. As always, Nick reasonably declines, citing that Raymond Reddington recently almost killed him for helping Tom and Liz with a secret project. But, as always, the gravitational pull for people to “help” Liz without her knowing they’re “helping” her is so strong that Dr. Nick caves by the end of the episode and agrees. Although, as I think he’s, like, a cardiologist, I have no idea what kind of bone-identifying skills he’ll be bringing to the table.
Dennison still needs to be tracked down though, which leads to an always welcome undercover turn from Tom as a brokenhearted husband just trying to change the billing address on his cell phone plan. And an unexpected cooking lesson from Dembe! Dembe finds one of Dennison’s contacts, but rather than roughing him up, he cooks dinner for him in his restaurant’s kitchen. He says that he finds he catches more flies with honey, and as we know — Dembe is the sweetest.
So. Samar breaks into the woman’s house in Paris for the Rembrandt, but it’s no longer there. The woman sold it and they have no way of finding it. Plan B is Red using reverse psychology to goad an expert paint-impressionist named Dale into recreating “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” in 24 hours. And once that’s in the works, Part 2 of Plan A is commandeering a mansion on Lake Como. Red does that by very politely threatening a lovely Italian couple until they agree to not only host a party in their home under duress, but the woman helps cater, and the man plays the piano.
I really cannot explain it, and the show doesn’t try too hard to convince you that it makes any sense either. But whether it makes sense or not, it happens, and suddenly, Lizzie is in a lovely floral midi dress, the champagne is flowing, and Red is wearing what Liz deems a “pumpkin” sweater but he swears is “Tuscan Sunset.” The Rembrandt is on the way…and so is Blaise thanks to part of the plan that Red is just now mentioning to Liz, even though he could have very easily mentioned it to her before it happened. Apparently, the tracking device she put on Blaise’s girlfriend was put there intentionally for his people to find it and turn her in so Blaise would assume she was the mole that Red warned him of. Why the woman would put a tracker on the back of her own earring — again, unclear.
But it works, and Blaise shows up…20 minutes before the painting. Red distracts him just long enough to walk him into the room right as Ressler and Dale are hanging the Rembrandt recreation on the wall. So Red tells him that his men were just taking the painting down because Red is giving the painting to Blaise. That’s how totally-still-rich and invested in partnering with him Red is. Of course, we know that the painting is a fake and that the paint has barely even finished drying on it. What we didn’t know is that Red has tipped off an Italian crime inspector, waiting at the end of the driveway to arrest Blaise when he leaves with the painting.
Later, Cooper rightly points out to Red that this means the FBI doesn’t even get credit for the arrest. Not so fast, Coops! Perhaps Lizzie explains it best as she works out the secret plan that she could have known about all along given that the entire Post Office will absolutely do anything Red says with just the smallest amount of encouragement: “Are you telling me that this entire thing — the forgery, the mansion, the 150 bottles of wine, and Blaise’s arrest — were all an extremely expensive and elaborate ruse so that you could rob him?” Correct, Red tells her. And do you know what Liz thinks of that?
So, they head out to rob Blaise’s home, and I tell you what, that is cool. Red goes in, full-Spader, convincing the entire staff that he is Blaise’s lawyer and, along with his associate Miss Chloe, they need to burn every paper record, give him every electronic record, and oh yeah, sure, throw the Picasso in his car. And Miss Chloe, why don’t you grab that diamond necklace and we’ll be on our way.
So, Red tells Cooper: Once the Italian police realize the painting is a fake, Blaise will have to be set free, at which point the FBI can arrest him because now they have all this real evidence against him, curated by one Raymond Reddington. His entire plan worked, and best of all, he was the only one who got to know about it.
Back at the Motor Lodge, Liz asks Red what was so important at that house that Red had to steal because it obviously wouldn’t just be to catch Blaise for Cooper. Red hands over the $3 million penny Blaise bought at auction earlier but doesn’t explain why because he has a follow-up question for Liz: “Why’d you let me [do it]?” Liz says it’s because she’s scared of the person that he is now more than ever: “Because it might be who I am too.” She says that she just did it because it felt right. “Because you’re my daughter?” Red asks. “In more ways than I care to admit.”
Okay, maybe slow your roll, Lizzie; you stole millions of dollars’ worth of artifacts from one criminal. Plus, given what’s going on behind her back, Liz might want to hold off on getting matching daddy/daughter airbrushed sweatshirts anytime soon….
Tom finally makes it to Dennison’s apartment, where he finds him tied up and beaten. Someone who’s found Dennison clearly prefers to get his flies with vinegar, and when Tom hears that person coming back, he hides in the closet. It is, of course, Red, who tells Dennison that his loyalty to Mr. Kaplan is admirable, but if he doesn’t tell him who has the suitcase, he’ll kill him. From the closet, Tom watches as Red shoots Dennison twice in the chest and leaves. He rushes to Dennison and begs him to tell why Kaplan had him pick up the suitcase. With his dying breath, Dennison tells Tom: “Oleander…find him.”
A Few Loose Ends:
- The episode ends with a lovely dinner that Tom has cooked for Liz and invited Red to make a surprise appearance. They exchange passive-aggressive meta-pleasantries about Blacklist: Redemption — “I remember warning you not to embark on that silly adventure” — while Liz looks between them, confused.
- “So…what have you been up to?” Tom asks Red. And while I really can’t stand the show’s pathological need to keep Liz in the dark at the hands of men martyring themselves to “protect” her…I do love when Red and Tom — two truly worthy adversaries — are at odds.
- Tom may suck at telling his wife what he’s up to, but at least she’s honest with what she wants from their reunion: “To have sex.” (He was thinking marriage, the sap.)
- Nick, a man of the people: “Reddington’s her father? I can’t say I’m surprised. But I’m sad for her, that sucks.”
- I know it’s shallow, but I love when Samar goes undercover because she gets to look so flyyyyy. I like the Lizzie and Red Do Crimes show, but I’ve been missing the Post Office gang a bit.
- Blacklist Watch: This week’s Blacklister was at least an actual Blacklister. But No. 37 for an art thief who can’t even tell if paint is dry? C’mon.
- Spy Baby Agnes Sightings: 0. Spy Baby Agnes Mentions by name: 0. Truly Pathetic Spy Baby Agnes References Made by Her Absentee Father: 1. “When did she get do big? Was I really gone that long?” YES YOU WERE, AND WHO ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, AND WHERE IS THAT BABY?!
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