'The Blacklist' recap: Samar says a heartbreaking goodbye to the Task Force
Okay, so…this is a nightmare. There we were: innocently beboppin’ along, enjoying a mostly harmless Blacklister who was literally taking us on a treasure hunt, and then—BOOM! Soul-crushing, tear-jerking, heart-breaking, early-Adele level heartbreak. I’ve never been able to handle betrayed Samar or devastated Aram, but I had no idea just how hard betrayed-Aram and devastated-Samar would hit me.
Friday night was host to two Blacklist episodes, and two of the top five highest-ranking Blacklisters we’ve ever met, but the notorious foes proved rather inconsequential to the purposes of this narrative arc. No, for once, this was all about our heroes. And our supporting heroes at that! This week, Red and Liz took a backseat to the heartbeat and gut check of this series; the pathos and ethos; the once will-they-or-won’t-they; the forever could-they-or-couldn’t they…
Sweet Aram and fearsome Samar.
After a half-season’s worth of build-up regarding Samar’s still somewhat mysterious brain ailment, and how that would affect her relationship with Aram, it all finally blew up in the most spectacularly painful way—a credit to the writing. But I think it is a credit to the actors that we so often only get access to Samar and Aram’s personal lives in bits and fragments, but this week when they took center stage, it felt totally natural, like this was the story that has to be told right now.
And it did need to be told because, I tell you regretfully, series regular Mozhan Marnò has taken her last Blacklist breath. No, Samar didn’t die, but her necessary disappearance left little question that she’ll ever be back; our faithful Mossad agent, holder of Aram’s heart, and possessor of truly some of the best curls on television, got the two-hour send-off she deserved. One where she got to kick some ass, show some love, and display the full range of what Marnò can do as an actor, before she heads back out into the non-network-TV world to explore just that.
So let’s just go ahead and get out of the way that the first hour, while quite fun, was also—how did Ressler put it? Oh yeah, “a complete waste of time.” Not in the negative sense, just in the sense that it was an almost-direct homage to National Treasure, and the high-camp of its silly treasure hunt mostly seemed to serve as an extra tall joy cliff from which to fall when the Samar-and-Aram of it all came rushing in. And yet, we probably shouldn’t disregard its likelihood to enter back into the mythos at some point…
After all, it’s not every day you meet Raymond Reddington’s mentor.
ROBERT VESCO, NO. 9
The man who taught Red everything he knows, then swindled him out of everything he had and disappeared from the face of the earth. But Red heard a rumor in prison that Vesco faked his own death, and Red has one guess why: he found the treasure of De La Cruz. Oh, that’s right—actual treasure from an actual sunken ship!
Well…kind of. Red puts the FBI onto finding Vesco, and then swoops in and abducts the man once they locate him, obviously. As vengeance for the aforementioned swindling, Red wants the De La Cruz gold he’s sure Vesco has found. But Vesco doesn’t have it. He figured out the treasure map, he says, but people were watching him, so he disappeared for a while, and then…became accustomed to retirement I guess??? But it doesn’t take long for Vesco to get back into the swing of things, taking Red to the Library of Congress to walk him through the path to the treasure, hidden under the old French Opera House in New Orleans, which now has a new French Opera House built on top of it—and with a very active opera happening inside it as Red and Vesco execute their heist!
Again, all very fun; all very much to the booming tune of Figaro’s Aria from The Barber of Seville. And even better, it ends with Red being swindled once more by perhaps one of the few men on earth who could swindle him. But it’s all child’s play compared to the way the writers are about to plunder and pillage our hearts…
THE OSTERMAN UMBRELLA COMPANY, NO. 6
While this is all going on, Samar has told the team she’s leaving the Task Force, and has accepted from Aram that there’s no chance of him leaving her, even with the new diagnosis of vascular dementia, which carries with it the weight of never being able to raise children. But that Aram: all he’s ever wanted is Samar, and now that he has her, there’s nothing he won’t do to keep her; nothing he won’t do to protect her…
Which is what he thinks he’s doing when he tells Samar’s former Mossad associate Levi about her brain condition. To be fair, Levi hunts Aram down, telling him that Samar failed her polygraph exit test, and if he doesn’t figure out why, his bosses are going to assume that she’s shifted her alliances. And with high-level security clearance Samar had while in the Mossad, any threat that she would expose their secrets would be of high concern to the higher-ups. They might, y’know, take care of the threat.
Samar knows that; it’s why she doesn’t tell the Mossad, or anyone, that she has vascular dementia, saying instead that her “personal” reason for leaving the Mossad is that she’s pregnant during her polygraph. But since that’s not true, and she didn’t convince them it was, Levi comes after Aram. And Aram tells Levi that Samar has vascular dementia, thinking he’s protecting her, thinking that will get the Mossad off her back about being a traitor…
And then Levi comes after Samar.
Or rather, the Mossad sends the Osterman Umbrella Company—number six on the Blacklist, only topped by Mr. Kate Kaplan herself, and they’re out here killing people with thumbtacks—comes after Samar. Osterman is an organization hired by national intelligence agencies to kill their own agents when they become liabilities. With Samar’s slipping mind, apparently, the Mossad has decided she’s just that, and hired the Osterman Umbrella Company to take her out while she’s on vacation with Aram, conveniently, in the middle of rural Pennsylvania with no cell reception.
But worse than the assassination attempt itself: they’re ruining a vacation where Aram and Samar are all bundled up in cozy sweaters! I should have known—something that good could never last. An Osterman mercenary dressed like a ski bunny calls Aram on their cabin’s landline to get him to the front office because his credit card isn’t working, and once he’s out of the way, shows up at Samar’s door under the guise of being stranded. Osterman’s assassination weapon of choice is a ring that, once the jewel is removed, reveals a, shall we say, stab-stab-stabbing spike. One knick from that thumbtack-size poisond point, and the victim’s eyes glaze over like marbles, falling dead immediately thereafter.
We’ve seen this happen once already in the cold open, and when the Osterman agent whirls around to catch Samar off-guard, it seems like marble-eyes will be here fate too…
Oh, yeah right, lady. Samar clocks her with a pot before she can even swivel her little ring, already aware that something must be up. They get into a knock-down-drag-out fight, breaking the many, many glass surfaces in this small rural cabin, until finally, someone gets knicked.
But it ain’t Samar! During the tussle, the woman manages to cut herself, her eyes glass over, and she dies. That’s the scene Aram walks into once he gets back to the cabin. They immediately head out on the run, where Aram has to admit that it was him who told Levi about Samar’s condition. “You thought you were protecting me, I get it—but what you didn’t stop to think is that I can always protect myself,” Samar responds matter of factly. You can put the fiercely independent woman with Aram, but you cannot take the fiercely independent woman out of Samar.
Even though they approach life so differently, Samar and Aram have never tried to change each other. Samar understands why Aram would have been compelled to protect her. And Aram doesn’t care that she’s never needed his protection; doesn’t care that she keeps trying to tell him he can’t give up everything to disappear with her; doesn’t care that he’ll have to leave behind the life he knew because Osterman won’t stop until they find Samar. “You say you don’t want me to go through that, but you don’t have the right to make that decision for me!” he finally snaps at her in a snowy wood after they’ve barely escaped a car that Osterman agents just made look like swiss cheese. “You cannot force me to live without you—that is not living.” Aram says.
It’s his decision and he’s coming with her.
But when Samar tells him they’ll have to split up first for him to go to the Post Office and get Cooper’s help for a safe passage into hiding, I feared…
And when Red shows up at the rendezvous point with Dembe in tow, but no Samar, I knew…
Aram wasn’t going to need those goodbyes he was in the middle of telling the Task Force. Because Samar made sure he wouldn’t need to say them. “Samar isn’t coming,” Red tells Aram, handing him a cell phone, which Samar answers on Red’s jet. He pleads with her that they had a plan, that he wanted to come with her. “You said it wasn’t my decision to make, and you were right,” Samar tells him, breaking down with emotion like we’ve never seen from her before.
“I need to make this decision for myself: what I need. And I need to know that you’re safe—that you’re happy.” When Samar cries, I cry.
And when Aram wrenches out, “Who’s going to take care of you if I’m not there?” I am done. Done, I say.
Samar tells Aram that she loves him, that no matter what happens, she’ll never let the memory of him slip away, and she hangs up. Sobbing, she shuts the window shade on the jet, and the curtain on her time on The Blacklist.
Aram turns back to face the rest of the Task Force, a different man now than he was two minutes ago. Red tells Aram that he tried to talk Samar out of it, and we already know that he killed Levi for betraying her. But that doesn’t bring Samar back into Aram’s life—it doesn’t negate the fact that Red helped take her out of it.
Aram punches Red square in the jaw: “I will never forgive you for this.”
A FEW LOOSE ENDS:
Well, that was awful and beautiful and everything in between. If I wasn’t crying at the dissolution of Aram and Samar’s love story (I was!), I certainly started at the end of Aram and Red’s (wracking sobs!). It would be redundant to note every time Marnò and Amir Arison tore my heart to shreds with their performances, but wow—I miss them together already.
Okay, just one tiny plothole because this is loose ends, after all: when Aram brought up Samar being pregnant, the lie she had told Mossad in the polygraph, would she not have wondered how he came to have that understanding, wherein he would have admitted that he spoke to Levi? Perhaps she was just too overwhelmed by his utterly sweet declaration of “unimaginable love” that came afterward…
Oh hello, yes, with all this weeping to distract me, I almost forgot to mention the new health kick Red is on, which features green juice and a mysterious pill concocted by Spalding Star, aka, The Pharmacist via some underground clinical trials (in a warehouspital, no doubt). So that feels…NOT GOOD!!!
In other Red subtext: he seems to take Levi’s betrayal of Samar quite personally, especially how Levi manipulated Aram into endangering the love of his life. “Because of you, he has to live with the fact that he betrayed her, that his words put a target on her back; that he is the reason they will never be together again,” Red spits at Levi, almost like he’s not talking about Aram and Samar anymore. Almost…
Since it didn’t make a ton of thematic sense given the threat they pose to the world, I’m going to take the high-ranking statues of tonight’s two Blacklisters as kind of a 21-gun-salute in honor of Agent Samar Navabi. Long may she fly on Red’s jet, and hopefully, spend his money.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.