The Blacklist recap: Raymond Reddington faces his fate
Raymond Reddington may have just lost his last chance at avoiding trial for multiple capital offenses, but his fate isn’t exactly sealed yet. It’s already snuggly inside the envelope, sure — but as Dembe told his boss following some pre-verdict good fortune, “Sometimes you make your own fate, and sometimes fate makes you.” And while this particular case was a rare example of the latter for Red, he’s typically more of a make-your-own-fate, create-an-elaborate-message-in-a-rat-communication-system-on-your-first-day-of-prison kinda guy. Lizzie on the other hand…
She’s seeming less and less in control of the Reddington situation with each new episode. She has seemed regretful basically since the moment she and Jennifer landed Red in jail. And if that regret ever causes her to confess, or worse, get caught, I’m not sure what that would mean for Reddington’s continued and repeated promises to get revenge on his betrayer. At the end of the episode, after Red’s request to have his super illegal gun thrown out as evidence is — spoiler alert! — rejected, he tells a very upset Liz that once he’s able to listen to the police tip-off phone call, he’ll know for certain who turned him in: “And at that moment, no matter where I am — on the street, in a solitary cell, or on the receiving end of a firing squad — at that moment, whoever set me up…his fate will be sealed.”
So, not sounding good for Elizabeth Keen!
But it is interesting that Red promises his betrayer’s fate will be sealed in the moment he finds out who they are, rather than their fate being sealed from the moment that person decided to work against him in the first place. Could Red’s affection for Lizzie save her from his unique ability to manipulate fate in favor? It’s not like this is the first time Liz has turned against him. And as Dembe reminds us in Friday’s episode when he rolls out his signature catchphrase — “You need to tell Elizabeth the truth, Raymond” — it’s not as if Red isn’t keeping a huge (HUGE!) secret from her too…
Maybe a leveled playing field is just what Liz and Red have always needed to truly align their fates — or as Dembe might put it, to “save their souls.”
ALTER EGO NO. 131
Ooh, this cold open is good. Not only because it features an incredibly creepy Purge-style home invasion, but because it incorporates both the Blacklister-of-the-Week and the Reddington-Series-Shenanigans (trademark pending). The episode starts with a billionaire associate of Red’s named Warren Van Ness complaining to Dembe about Red’s capture on behalf of the other partners in some mysterious, vaguey criminal collective. But whereas Van Ness trusts that Red won’t cut a deal and throw them under the bus, the other members have called for a vote to disavow their business from Red.
Van Ness swears to Dembe that Red can count on his vote, but when Van Ness arrives home to his mansion, he finds his wife and two dinner guests with their mouths hanging open at the dinner table, dead. Uh-oh…
As Vera Lynn’s sunny “We’ll Meet Again” plays overhead, three people in monkey masks converge on Van Ness in the dining room, open a thermos of some smoking liquid, and silently suggest that he drink it. He gives a valiant effort to get away, but they force the liquid down his throat, clean up any sign they were there, sit him at the table, turn on all the burners on the stove, and then — BOOM! — the whole center of the house explodes just as the monkey murderers make it outside.
Reddington may have a trial to determine his literal livelihood happening literally right now, but he insists on a recess to talk to the FBI’s Agent Keen, because he has bigger concerns. He tells Liz that Van Ness wasn’t killed in a house fire, as was reported, but murdered because of his association with Red: “There are no accidents around me — not unless they’re on purpose.”
Cooper sends Ressler and Liz to the reading of Van Ness’ will to see if there’s anything suspicious…and indeed, there is! Even though the snarky young man who seems to be organizing tells them they should let these people mourn in peace, the FBI agents aren’t the ones causing the disruption. No, that would be Van Ness’ letter included with his will that announces the remainder of his fortune after charitable donations will go to his son, Timothy Peterson. The thing is: Timothy Peterson never knew he was Van Ness’ son, and neither did anyone else.
But it’s true: Timothy is Van Ness’ son, and Van Ness did just make him the 500th richest man in America. But nothing in his background suggests he would kill for money. When Liz and Ressler track him down throwing a party in the yard of a hotel he’s rented out, he’s quite amiable about the whole situation, telling the agents that as far as he knows, he had never heard anything about Van Ness being his father until his lawyer called and told him to come to the reading of the will. But he has recently had some other family come out of the woodwork…
Timothy introduces his girlfriend of a year, Deidre, who I think it’s safe to say is suspiciously out of his league. Apparently, after hearing about his childhood in foster care, she encouraged him to try to find his birth family. Timothy found out his mother had passed, but he had a half-sister in California, Helen, who was thrilled to find out she had a long-lost brother. Helen and her husband Marcus are at the barbecue, and say that of course they were happy for Timothy when he suddenly became a billionaire: “But I’m just glad I have a brother — that’s what matters to me.”
All together now:
While the Post Office investigates the swirl of American Apparel models that recently entered Timothy’s life, Red is finally resuming the trial to prove that he was unreasonably searched, resulting in the finding of his illegal firearm that would mean be violated his immunity agreement with the FBI…but first, Dembe! I always welcome a visit from Dembe, especially when he’s being philosophical, which he’s especially inclined to do here given that Red listed him as his spiritual advisor to get him on the door. Red wants to talk business, but Dembe wants to give him some advice: “Be honest — tell Elizabeth the truth.” Red ignores him and says that everything rests on keeping Van Ness’ positive vote with the other associates. “I am asking you to do this,” Red says.
“And I am trying to save your soul,” Dembe responds, heading out to secure the vote anyway.
But if Red is trying to save his own soul, he’s doing a…confusing job about it. In court, he openly mocks Officer Baldwin, the police officer who gave him the allegedly illegal pat-down. Baldwin testifies that his dispatcher informed the unit that a call had come in about a man in a tan suit and hat who was carrying a gun, and Reddington matched that description. As for why he patted him down, Baldwin says Red seemed nervous and “furtive.” It’s not a word he seems entirely comfortable using, and when he uses it again during Red’s cross-examination, Red latches on.
First, Red points out that the call to the police came from a completely anonymous source, and that Baldwin had no knowledge if the source was reliable. As for the in-the-moment investigation Baldwin claims he performed, Red says he presented a license to Baldwin that was “created by the preeminent document forger in the world,” so there’s no chance anyone could have known it was fake, let alone Baldwin, who Red goes on to describe as “a marshmallow disguised as a patrol officer” who would under no circumstances make him — a career criminal who’s been evading the law for nearly 30 years — nervous or furtive.
Now, this does not seem like a great way to win over the very level-headed Judge Wilkins, but that wasn’t Red’s intention. His intention was to get Baldwin to blow up at him, proving that he didn’t pat him down on that fateful day because Red seemed “furtive,” but because Red was disrespectful to him in front of his fellow officers. “Tell you what,” Red says to Baldwin, “I’ll apologize for my behavior if you apologize for the illegal pat-down that has exposed me to the death penalty.” No further questions…
Except for the thousands that are popping up over at the Post Office. Aram finds out that the social security number for Timothy’s girlfriend Deidre was only created a year ago, so naturally, he hacks her phone to track her location. Liz and Ressler track her down at a wedding…her wedding. But it only gets weirder from there. After “Deidre” disappears from the scene, the groom tells Liz and Ressler that he’s not really marrying her: he hired her from a service called Alter Ego because he’s gay but his traditional parents want to see him marry a woman (boooooo).
At the Alter Ego offices, the founder tells Samar, “We fill vacancies. We provide the relationships that are missing in our clients’ lives.” It would make sense that Deidre was a hired actor, but given that Timothy worked at a bowling alley when he met her, it seems unlikely that he’s the one who hired her. When the Post Office team also finds headshots that look a whoooole lot like Helen (Timothy’s long-long sister), Marcus (Helen’s husband), and the guys who chastised them at the will-reading…the pieces start to click into place.
They immediately get the guy from the will-reading into the Post Office, and it turns out he was Van Ness’ assistant; he hired the Alter Ego actors for his plan to get Van Ness’ money, but it was never his intention for anyone to die — at least not like this. Van Ness was apparently very sick, so once his assistant found out about Van Ness’ secret son, he filed the amendment to make sure Timothy got everything once Van Ness died. Presumably, the plan was then to use Timothy’s newly treasured relationships to swindle him in some way. But Marcus got impatient and decided murder was the best route — for both Van Ness and Timothy.
As Van Ness’ assistant is speaking to the FBI, we see a drunk Timothy opening his hotel suite to find Marcus and Helen taking turns beating up Deidre. Naturally, they clue Timothy in on every facet of the plan: Deidre is pregnant, which ensures that Timothy’s heir will get his fortune when he dies — and he will die once they make it look like he attacked Deidre in a drunken, pill-induced rage after hearing about the pregnancy, and she was forced to defend herself with Timothy’s gun…
But Liz and Ressler have also heard this story back at the Post Office, and in the time it takes the Alter Ego con-monkeys to track down those pesky pills they need to force down Timothy’s throat, Ressler has come busting into the room. He’s able to apprehend Marcus and Helen, but Deidre gets away since they always go into these situations without so much a hotel security guard for back up. Luckily, Liz was on her way up after doing…something, so when the elevator doors open, there stands Deidre. An extremely physical fight ensues inside the elevator, but when the doors open on the next floor, our girl Liz throw Deidre out like she’s a rag doll, with apologies to the elderly couple attempting to get their luggage down to the lobby without a bellhop.
As Deidre, Helen, and Marcus are arrested, poor (rich) Timothy tells Liz that he doesn’t know how he could have been so stupid. “You wanted the fantasy to be real,” she tells him. “You wanted a family.” And about the time she’s telling him that she knows what it’s like to be tricked by someone you thought was family (really, these two should exchange numbers), Dembe walks in — he needs to talk to Timothy. “I work for the man who saved your life,” Dembe tells him: “I’m here to ask you to do him a favor in return.”
Harris Van Ness’s death ultimately had nothing to do with Red, but were it not for Red investigating, Timothy would have died too. So the next time we see him, he’s casting his father’s vote (also willed to him, it seems) in favor of keeping Reddington on board…
And hopefully Red’s new ally will serve as some source of comfort given that nothing else is really going his way. Like, at all. Red requests that Judge Wilkins allow him to hear the tip-off phone call to ensure that the government isn’t once again lying about something in order to nullify his immunity agreement. But Judge Wilkins knows better than to let him hear the voice, so she listens to the tape, assuring Red that it is as the prosecution says.
Red makes his case one final time: no compelling reason to take the anonymous caller’s tip as credible; a lack of reasonable suspicion under the law to search him specifically; no believable investigation performed by Officer Baldwin, who ultimately became agitated with Red and performed an illegal search and seizure. “It happens, I get impatient, I make a comment I regret,” Red says. “I promise I will work on this with my therapist, just as soon as you kick the gun and let me get the hell out of here.”
The promise doesn’t work. Judge Wilkins allows that she likely wouldn’t have administered the pat-down given the situation, but she also cannot deem Officer Baldwin’s search “manifestly unreasonable,” therefore Red’s motion to suppress the gun is denied. Upon conviction for the gun possession at trial, Raymond Reddington’s immunity agreement will be nullified. But knowing Red…
There’s a lot of fate to be made between now and then.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.