'The Blacklist' recap: Never trust a rich Robin Hood
Two very rare things happened in this episode of The Blacklist. Raymond Reddington admitted he was wrong about something. And a story that didn’t advance the big picture plot at all did something equally important instead: it advanced the villainous character of Anna McMahon from mere annoyance to a formidable opponent.
The Blacklist has a long history of looming Big Bads — often high ranking government officials, almost always old white men— who present both a personal problem to Reddington, and a larger problem to the world. And now that I think about it, it feels like a while since we’ve had a good one. Ian Garvey was a terror, no doubt, but he was very specific to the Lizzie-Reddington backstory, and not so much to the “making the world a safer place” goal of the FBI’s least monitored Task Force. But what’s developed in season 6 with this mysterious plot against the United States has all started to feel very much like old school Blacklist “Cabal” territory.
That McMahon’s mission is ultimately revealed in this episode not to have Cabal-like origins makes it all the more intriguing. But I will say, as we round third and head toward home in season 6, I’ve officially reached the point where I’m ready for some answers.
For now, I’m still not quite sure what to make of Anna McMahan. I know the sight of her sets my teeth on edge. I know that I want Jennifer Ferrin and Gillian Anderson to play sisters on a screen near me in the very near future. And like Red, I’m starting to think she may be a much worth adversary than originally anticipated. (But even though I get where he’s coming from—I’ll leave the dismayed arousal to Red.)
THE THIRD ESTATE, NO. 136
I should have known from the moment The Third Estate had such a high Blacklister number that their involvement with the plot against the United States was just a hipster Robinhood ruse. But then again, as we all know, numerical order is not to be trusted on The Blacklist.
Still, the one thing we know for sure going into this episode is that of all the files the Task Force obtained from crime-fixer Olivia Olson, Anna McMahan only hid one when she turned them over for investigation: The Third Estate. So when that title clicks onto the screen following a truly awful scene wherein a young woman is strapped to a medieval torture rack that goes into motion stretching her body apart every time her father hesitates to pay a ransom for her release, it seems clear these guys are big wig trouble.
“Did you know that the richest 26 people on earth have as much wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion?” a masked man asks the father in the opening scenes. “I find your wealth to be an act of immorality—so my friends and I are going to redistribute it in small amounts to those who need it more.” When the father does eventually pay the multimillion ransom, the girl is indeed released, but soon, Red is informing Liz that The Third Estate has taken another billionaire heir, and it has something to do with Anna McMahan.
Red also explains the fact that Dembe isn’t there to open the door for Liz for the first time in the six years that she’s known him because they’re having “a bit of a disagreement over methodology.” Mainly because Red is prepared to kill everyone that he thinks could have knowledge about who turned him over to the police, and Dembe knows that the only way to save those people’s lives is to tell Red how his betrayal is deeper than he could have ever dreamed. It really is quite the moral pickle.
Liz presents The Third Estate case to the Task Force, but that also means that their new advisor Anna McMahon now knows for sure now that Red is onto her. “I think they were mentioned in a press briefing … small potatoes,” McMahon sniffs when Cooper brings up the Third Estate. But she can’t exactly ignore the fifth kidnapping of a billionaire’s child. All four who have come before Nes Foy have been safely returned (minus a little rib-stretching, of course) after their families paid a rising total of $300 million—but Nes’ parents are refusing to pay.
Or rather, his father is; his mother seems like she’d like to keep her son, y’know, alive, but Mr. Foy refuses to “capitulate with terrorists,” even when Liz and Ressler inform him that negotiating with them is the only way they’ll be able to find them and safely return his son. Mr. Foy insists that the reason he won’t play along with their demands for money and not to go to the authorities is because if they keep getting what they want, they’ll just kidnap more heirs. And it’s noble for him to gamble with his son’s life like that…
But his impetus for doing things his way seems to have a lot more to do with entitlement than anything else, especially when his meeting with the Third Estate while the FBI follows along ultimately fails. Des Foy is killed on camera, the Third Estate very much does not get what they want, and yet, they’re out there kidnapping another rich kid in no time.
While Liz and Ressler are talking to Tyler Whitmore’s billionaire parents about how to get Tyler back, Mr. Foy shows up in their house (all billionaires know each other), insisting that they not even entertain paying the ransom. Even though the agents tell them tracking the money is the best way to track the kidnappers, the Whitmores think not paying the ransom is the right thing to do and if the FBI agents “do [their] job,” they can save their son.
Luckily, these people are occasionally quite good at their jobs! Liz figures out they can track down the origin of the torture rack device, Red scoots right over to his number one medieval torture device trader, and then on to the man who owns the rack, and finally, to the warehouse next to the track owner’s warehouse where Aram figures out that he can hack The Third Estate’s cameras if he can physically get to their cable line.
It is notable that all the kidnappers we catch a glimpse of are well-coiffed, expensively dressed young people, so I did assume it was some sort of inside job most of the episode. I did not assume all of the kidnapped 20-somethings comprised all of the Third Estate. This means that when Aram shows up undercover as a cable guy to the Third Estate’s lair, and the daughter of the man who owned the rack tips them off that some guy was just asking her dad a bunch of questions…Aram is in trouble. He manages to get himself knocked out and tied up, and then gets himself untied with a gun drawn on his main guard, and the whole time, his only priority is talking them into releasing Tyler Whitmore.
So color Aram surprised when Tyler Whitmore comes waltzing in with a gun trained on him, and the kid who’s been guarding him this whole time takes his mask off revealing himself to be the allegedly dead Des Foy. “You thought we were the victims of The Third Estate? We are The Third Estate.” About that time, the FBI dramatically storms the compound, putting rich kids on the ground, and ultimately killing Tyler Whitmore when he turns his gun on them. After hearing that his friend has died, Des gives the name of the man who heads up The Third Estate, and when Red shows up at his home…
He’s just some random guy who convinced a bunch of trust fund kids to go on a fake kidnapping spree for ransom money, and he’s never even heard of Anna McMahon. Why would McMahon hold back the Third Estate file from Olivia Olson’s dossier then, Cooper asks Red…
Flash to McMahon telling her very Lurch-like associate, “I know they’d check to see if I withheld anything—so I did.” Now a dangerous organization has been brought down and she knows for certain they’re tracking her. Red rightly tells Cooper that after their run-in with The Third Estate, they’re no closer to identifying McMahon’s plot than they were yesterday, but they do know one thing for sure: “Anna McMahon is a much worthier adversary than we thought—a fact which, much to my dismay, I find oddly arousing.”
Well, hold onto a good thing Red, because your personal life about to blow up. Dembe sneaks into Liz’s office to tell her about his moral dilemma. Red is asking him to set up appointments with associates, and he can’t do that knowing that Red might kill them under the false assumption that they have something to do with his capture. Liz asks him if he’s going to come forward to Red about what he knows. “I’m coming forward to you,” Dembe tells her. “You must tell him Elizabeth. Because if you don’t, I will.
But Elizabeth isn’t the only one keeping secrets around here. She’s also on the shrouded side of a lie, with Ressler continuing to research Katarina Rostova in hopes of finding out Reddington’s true identity. He’s found the man who his CIA informant believes married Katarina’s mother in the United States, and that man tells him that his late wife did occasionally mention a daughter that she had a falling out within Russia. On her deathbed a few months ago, she asked him to mail the daughter a letter, and he did. Ressler obtains security footage from the P.O. Box where that letter was sent, and it only had one visitor. Not a woman, but a man…
Katarina Rostova’s father, and occasional confidante of Raymond Reddington: Dominic Wilkinson.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
“Judas Cradle, people really use this?” “Yes, often quite voluntarily.” Red, don’t scar young Aram like that!
Was this really the end of Mr. Foy’s involvement with Anna McMahon’s plot? He was so inordinately annoying, it seemed to me the whole time that he must have some deeper relation to her.
So, Ressler is on the verge of finding one of the few people in the world who know Fraymond Freddington’s true identity, Liz is on the verge of telling Red she turned him into the police, and Anna McMahon is still on track to do something very bad to the United States…
I know season 7 is already a lock, but it kind of seems like this whole world is about to implode, no?