Red is feeling entrepreneurial -- it's like Uber but for criminals!

By Jodi Walker
October 19, 2017 at 01:08 AM EDT
Will Hart/NBC
S5 E4
B-
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Oh, Dr. Nick. You simply cannot be that reasonable and survive the world of Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen. You never asked for any of this. You weren’t great at putting your foot down, sure, but you never asked for any of this. And now we’ll never gaze upon your luscious salt-and-pepper locks or permanently furious eyebrows ever again. But I will be forever grateful to Dr. Nick for his final logic-bomb exchange with Lizzie “Delusional” Keen:

Nick: “Never call me again, either of you.”
Liz: “You don’t mean that, Nick.”
Nick: “He’s the country’s most wanted criminal.”
Liz: “He’s my father.”
Nick: “That excuses nothing.”

Lizzie! Do you hear yourself? You just forcibly made a man watch a criminal being hunted by the FBI shoot herself in the head, and then you made him perform a heart transplant in the middle of a warehouse on a dying boy. And you’re all, The things we do for our dad, amiright? No! He means it, Liz: He doesn’t want to talk to you again. Your life is the stone-cold worst, and you used to be able to recognize that.

But now everything’s changed. Liz found out Red was (maybe) her dad, and she just saddled up for a life of moral ambiguity. And it’s time to just go ahead and admit it, right? The Blacklisters in season 5 have been off as a result. After last week’s killer cop gaffe, this one at least wasn’t trivially offensive, but it also wasn’t…great. Keeping Red and Lizzie connected to the FBI when they seem pretty unconcerned with taking down criminals makes the Blacklist-of-the week seem pointless to all parties involved: them and us. It’s time for the tables to turn. Lizzie has taken time off from the Task Force to run amok with her dear ol’ (maybe) dad before and been welcomed back with open arms, a badge, and a gun, so why not switch it up again?

The pretense of Red handing over a Blacklister every week is feeling forced in season 5, and there’s no rulebook that says he has to. If it’s not working, fix it; if everyone kind of just wants to roam the country picking up oddballs Reddington’s Eleven style, do it; if Lizzie is actively lying to her partners and obstructing FBI justice, fire her. It’s time to make a big change, and my hope is that change is on its way via whatever homicidal party just jacked Mr. Kaplan’s bag o’ bones.

THE ENDLING, NO. 44

Are you kidding me with this Blacklist number? Red swears up and down when he gives Liz the “Endling” assignment that homegirl is not just a horse murderer, but that is like a quarter of her criminal history. She has maybe three major crimes under her belt, and as we see in the cold open, one of them is killing the most prized racehorse stallion in the world, along with his trainer. And as we learn, that is just a means to an end.

For me, this whole episode is kind of just a means to an end; that end, of course, being the gift of seeing Red and Dembe play a heated game of Bananagrams — “PEEL!” — as Red waxes poetic about what a great business idea Airbnb is, and how it’s basically “a license to print money.” It seems purely whimsical, but this will come back later. For now, Red tells Liz about how in horse breeding, genes are everything, and now that the greatest racehorse in a generation has been killed, someone stands to profit from the loss: the owner of that stallion’s sole offspring.

And that’s at the heart of this week’s — still kind of weird — Blacklister. Red tells Liz that the only surviving member of a group of species is called an “endling.” The Task Force is in search of “The Endling,” the nom de plume of a legendary criminal who creates one-of-a-kind items. As they explore back at the Post Office, that means taking down a plane in Baghdad carrying two of three remaining statues of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, leaving only one in existence. Or stealing the genetic profile from a new kind of barley and destroying all but one of the samples. These are…specific crimes, but people will pay a high price for such one-of-a-kind items, and they need to talk to the person who has benefited most recently from the Endling’s criminal activity: Caleb Hess, the owner of the murdered stallion’s only offspring. 

Of course that foal isn’t exactly an endling, since there are still, y’know, a lot of horses in the world, even if they’re not valedictorian horses. No, the murdered horse was just a stepping stone to a true endling, Hess admits to Ressler and Samar. He says the woman, the “Endling,” never said anything about murder; she just offered to increase his foal’s value in exchange for him giving her the security protocols his security firm would have put in place for the daughter of the King of Montenegro, Princess Sonya. The Post Office sorts out that Princess Sonya is the sole heir to the throne, so if she dies, the entire family would end, presumably making her an endling.

But when the Post Office crew narrowly rescues from Sonya from the hotel the Endling — the same woman we saw kill the horse at the top of the episode — attempted to abduct her from, they find out two things: Sonya is pregnant, so she’s not exactly the last in line, and more importantly, the Endling wasn’t after Sonya at all. While the FBI were distracted with evacuating the Princess, the Endling was abducting her assistant, Ana.

The turning point in the Ana mystery is when Sonya admits that Ana is not her assistant; she’s basically like a living blood bank for her, should anything go wrong during her pregnancy. Sonya has a rare type of blood, but Ana has an even rarer type of blood, known as “Golden Blood.” Golden Blood is a universal donor for other rare types of blood, and only seven people in the world have it. Ana is one of them. Two others Golden Blood carriers have gone missing in the last three months — and the only other one in the country is an 8-year-old boy named Ethan Isaacs, currently in the ICU at a D.C. hospital.

And that’s when we see Ethan’s parents at the hospital telling what seems to be a beloved nurse named Alma — who, of course, we recognize as the Endling — that there’s nothing the doctors can do for him but make Ethan comfortable so they’re going to take him home. Alma says the nurses are throwing a going-away party downstairs if they want to head on down for cake, and she’ll grab Ethan. I beg of you, Ethan’s Parents, please don’t go down early for cake.

Reader, they go down early for cake. Ressler and Samar come busting in, and everyone runs back to Ethan’s room, but he’s gone, in the car with the Endling and a doctor we’ve seen her in communication with after each abduction. Back at the Post Office, Aram has found that Ethan didn’t have medical files until 2011 because he was adopted from Syria in 2010. His birth mother is Nirah Ahmad, who is not only one of the only other seven people in the world with Golden Blood, but also a match for the woman in the back seat of the car with Ethan at this very moment.

With the illness that Ethan has, saving his life would require serious blood transfusions and a heart transplant from a Golden Blood donor that the hospital couldn’t provide — they were sending him home to die. And Nirah wasn’t creating a Golden Blood endling; all this time, she’s been abducting enough Golden Blood carriers to perform the procedure needed to save Ethan’s life. And the FBI needs to get there before she hacks everyone up to do so.

Of course, they don’t have any leads on where she’s headed, so they’ll need Red’s input for that. But he’s been a bit tied up lately, because in the middle of his midnight Talenti snack, his Airbnb was invaded by two thieves in ski masks. Red is convinced they’re after him, though it seems pretty clear to me from the beginning that they’re just run-of-the-mill burglars. But torture them Red must, and they admit that “the mailman” sent them there. And they’re not kidding — Red tracks the guy down at the post office (not to be confused with The Post Office), and after a little friendly persuasion and one gentle carjacking, Red gets Anthony back to his Airbnb.

And Anthony tells him that he was never after Red at all: “When people go away they keep their mail on hold. We keep a list, a ‘Hold List,’ of who’s away and how long they’re going to be away for. And while they’re away, we rob them — that’s it.” Needless to say, Red likes what he’s hearing, and there are dollar signs flashing over his pupils like Scrooge McDuck, but there’s no time to swim in cash just yet, because Lizzie arrives to show him the photo of Nirah and the doctor abducting Ethan and see if he can help… 

He can. He knows the doctor, or at least who he works for: a woman who runs a “Doctors Without Morals” operation out of the back of a vet clinic. She gives them an address for the doctor, and that leads them to an abandoned zoological research facility with a fully functioning hospital on the second floor, filled with forced Golden Blood donors and paid medical personnel milling about. Nirah pulls a gun, but Red plays to her all-consuming desire to save her son. He tells her that if the FBI shows up, they’ll take Ethan back to the hospital and he’ll die. But if she trusts him, he says he knows someone who can help, and he’ll take her and Ethan to them.

Lizzie gives a few feeble, “Reddington!“s, but when Ressler and Samar arrive, she tells them, “[Nirah] and her son escaped before I got here.” So, y’know, lying for not one but two criminals is a cool thing for an FBI agent to do. Even cooler is for Red to show up outside poor Dr. Nick’s hospital and force him to go to yet another warehouse medical facility and perform yet another operation under duress. And I would call this one particularly traumatizing, because when the time comes for Ethan’s heart transplant, Red hands Nirah a gun, and she shoots herself in the head.

Nick performs the surgery successfully, reporting that if Ethan makes it through the night that he has a good chance of living. Red says he’s in Nick’s debt, and Nick tells him he can repay him right now by promising to never contact him again. Earlier, when Lizzie arrived, she told Nick she was sorry about pulling him into this, and he spat back, “No you’re not. You’re not sorry you’re in this world — his world.” Because Dr. Nick is not only apparently the most gifted surgeon in the world, but also the only person in this Blacklist world who truly gets me.

Which makes what comes next so much worse. All episode, Tom has been working with Sketchy Harvard Resident Dropout Pete to identify his bag o’ bones. Pete extracted the DNA, but it didn’t match any of the databases he has access to, so he needed FBI credentials in order to access COTUS and confirm the identity. So, naturally, Tom stole Liz’s credentials while he pretended to have a sweet lunchtime meetup with her because marriage and trust, etc.

But after Tom delivers the goods, he stops hearing back from Pete or Nick. Nick, of course, because he was all wrapped up with saving the rest of Tom’s family’s asses. And yet, he still agrees to go check on Pete’s progress. And as Liz cries on Tom’s shoulder that Nick may never speak to them again because of what she asked him to do, we see Nick walk into Pete’s home and over to his computer, and get choked to death from behind by a masked figure who then picks up the suitcase full of bones and leaves.

A Few Loose Ends:

  • R.I.P. Dr. Nick. You were a voice of reason in a sea of delusion, and also, you were very handsome.
  • The best part of tonight’s episode was certainly the full evolution of Red’s journey with the mailman, ultimately adding another task force member to his own personal Reddington’s Eleven (Hundred). He informs Anthony that he’s going to take over his little Hold List business, blow it up a hundred times bigger, and Anthony can have 10 percent. He tells him the value of the list isn’t in what he can take out of empty houses but what he can put in them: Apparently, there’s a premium for available safe houses in the criminal world — Anthony can get the list, and Red can get the renters.
  • Mmhmm, but how’s the reviewing system? Everyone knows these things live and die on reviews.
  • My fortune (of Airbnb credits) for an HGTV crossover called Holdlist.
  • Not only did Dembe win Bananagrams with “Qi,” but he also settled in with a magazine called Pawster at the vet’s office. A very excellent Dembe episode.
  • Liz gets an earful from Cooper about lying to her partners in order to conspire with Reddington and abet a criminal, my favorite portion of which is when Liz says, smugly, “A criminal died to save the life of a child. I’m okay with that,” and Cooper fires back: “Who cares what you’re okay with! You don’t get to decide who lives and who dies, and neither does Reddington.” Oh no, that was such a reasonable thing to say; is Cooper going to die next?!
  • All right, best guesses as to who killed Dr. Nick and jacked the bag o’ bones in the comments — GO!

James Spader returns as Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.
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  • 09/23/13
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