By Jodi Walker
February 10, 2019 at 08:55 PM EST
Will Hart/NBC
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One of the best decisions The Blacklist ever made was for Lizzie to finally get on board with the fact that, no matter what, without fail, 100 percent of the time…Raymond Reddington is harboring an ulterior motive when he assigns a Blacklister to the Task Force. No reason to have our protagonist looking like a chump every time she gets duped by a man known for his duping skills. If Lizzie just expects everything from Red, then she can’t be surprised by anything…

What I wasn’t expecting was for ol’ Lizzie Keen to pull a fast one of her own. Who looks like a chump now?

With Red locked away in a federal medical institution while trying to score a self-requested psych evaluation before his trial (ahem, more on that later), Liz and Jennifer are suddenly presented with a “cat away, mice will play” opportunity. But to move forward on tracking Gerald Klepper—the man they’ve determined was operated on by Hans Koehler right around the same time as Fraymond Freddington—they’ll need assistance from the FBI. Unfortunately, Lizzie can’t tell the FBI that she’s trying to find Gerald Klepper because the man they think is Raymond Reddington isn’t actually Raymond Reddington.

Gerald Klepper is a criminal though. So why not just tell the FBI that they should go after Klepper for criminal reasons. Tracking him down with the FBI’s resources will also provide Liz with the answers she so desperately desires…

Sound familiar? Like fraud-father, like maybe-fraud-daughter.

THE ETHICIST, NO. 91

Friday’s episode opens with perhaps the worst possible visual: a waspy man in a suit hiding a young girl’s body in the woods. When he gets back in his car, it’s clear that he hit the girl while drinking and driving, and thought stashing her dead body in the woods would be a cool way to handle it.

That man turns out to be the hilariously named Digby Tamerlane, founder of CHIONE eCommerce Solutions and titan of industry, we’re told. But he’s not our Blacklister, oh no. That would be the mysterious bow-tied man who approaches Digby Tamerlane at a conference and tells him that he’d like to consult with him about “that incident near Rock Creek Park.” The man tells Tamerlane that there’s a credible witness to said incident, hands him a card for an RV park, and heads along on his merry, mysterious way.

Red has managed to delay his trial once more, getting himself sent to Springfield, Miss., for a psych evaluation, so Liz struts into the Post Office proclaiming that he gave her one last Blacklister before he headed Midwest: Gerald Klepper, a doctor who murdered 17 patients under the guise of euthanasia. He hasn’t been seen in 28 years. Sure, he’s listed in Koehler’s slightly altered dossier that Red handed over to the FBI and is now being followed up on by a different dedicated task force… but Reddington said Klepper is a very special case guys, PROMISE.

A private investigator hired by families of the victims tells Liz and Ressler that Klepper’s victims weren’t targets because they wanted to die, as the police originally thought—they were targeted because they wanted to live. Apparently, Klepper performed some self-designed cost-benefit analysis and decided that these very sick people who wanted to find a way to get better were using up resources he felt could be better used on healthier patients. So he sounds fun…

Meanwhile, bowtie man is telling Digby Tamerlane in his RV that under the Judeo-Christian understanding of justice, he should go to prison for killing a child and hiding her body in the woods. But his Very Special version of justice is more algebraic: “What economists call the VSL—the values of a statistical life.” The man tells Tamerlane that there’s a witness to his crime that’s made a preliminary statement, and he’s already crunched the numbers on her. Tamerlane is a titan of industry and employs thousands of people, yes, but the witness is a bus driver and local boys club volunteer, so on the VSL scale, she comes out ahead.

“You give people paychecks, she gives them hope,” he tells Tamerlane. But, of course, there’s a way to tip the scales. The man values “America first” highly in his Very Special Equations, so if Tamerlane decides to move the plant he’s about to build in Malaysia to Detroit instead, that might just increase his VSL, which might just inspire this dude to murder the nice lady witness, meaning she can’t testify as the only witness to his crime.

Why is this guy willing to do all this math-and-murder for Tamerlane? Unclear. Presumably, he’s asking for money in return, but I don’t think we hear him do so. I guess some people just really like—BWAH BWAH BWAAAAH—ethics.

That’s right, the bow-tied ethicist and Gerald Klepper are one and the same. Before Klepper went under Koehler’s knife he was on dialysis, and through some analyzing of kidney transplant recipients, Aram is able to figure out Klepper’s new identity and track his last purchase to a hotel in D.C. But when Liz and Ressler arrive, other cops are already there because a woman was just killed: the key witness in the case against Digby Tamerlane, in fact.

Tamerlane is asked to pay a visit to the Post Office where Liz informs him that if he’d like not to add “conspiracy to commit murder” to the original murder charge he’s already circling, he better start talking. Tamerlane gives Liz the number that he used to contact Klepper, which she passes along to Aram to trace. Except…

She doesn’t. Liz gives the Post Office a fake number and gives the real number to Jennifer’s friend Buck to trace, saying she’ll deal with the consequences later. Always a good plan! With the rest of the team on a false lead for now, Liz and Jennifer head to Klepper’s newly located RV where he very fairly is like, Yes I see your badge but given that you’ve brought along a random citizen and no back-up, this visit feels a little unofficial. But Liz tells him the jig is up: she knows he’s Gerald Klepper with a nose job. “We know who you were before,” Liz tells Klepper. “What we want to know is who Raymond Reddington was.”

Once again, pretty fairly, Klepper is like, Well we didn’t exactly do a lot of chatting in the waiting room. He tells Liz that the whole point of going to Koehler is that he was anonymous, so he knows nothing about Raymond Reddington’s former identity. However, Koehler did have a nurse who saw all of the patients before and after; she could tell them who Reddigton was before he became Reddington. If they just agree to one thing…

See, while Liz is interrogating Klepper, she gets a call from Ressler. They ran a few other searches and were able to locate Klepper’s new RV location—they’ll be there to arrest him in 10 minutes. Overhearing this, Klepper decides to roll out some of his patented value-comparisons-on-human-life. “Take us for example,” he tells Liz: “I’m going to spend the rest of my life in prison; you could have a long and productive career. Which is why you should hand me my gun.” Klepper wants Liz to hand over the gun in his cabinet so that he can take his own life before the FBI arrives to arrest him, and he thinks the value of whatever mission she’s on is a good enough reason to do so.

Listen, the ethical tilt to this Blacklister was definitely a fresh angle, and I’m undoubtedly going to look up if that whole “car companies basically let 40 people die a year because adding a beep to remind backseat passengers to put their seatbelts on just isn’t worth it” thing is true…but I never got a great understanding of why Klepper seeks out people to exact his philosophical justice on, nor why, when Liz hands him the gun, would he be so committed to this philosophy that he would indeed shoot himself, rather than shooting her and escaping. I guess he’s just…an extremely principled sociopath?

Klepper tells Liz that he’ll give her the name of the nurse once she agrees to give him his gun so he can kill himself rather than go to prison. Liz tells Jennifer to leave the RV and hands Klepper the gun. “Marguerite Renard—find her, and you’ll find out who Reddington was.” Boom.

So that’s one precarious plan to retrieve an important name completed…

And one more to go! While Liz was in search of Klepper, Red was also enacting a not-at-all foolproof plan to get a mysterious clue from a different man with an absurd name. Atticus Roderick, it seems, is a former acquaintance of Red’s who now resides at the federal mental institution in Springfield, Ill., which is why Red convinced Judge Wilkins at the top of the episode that he deserved the chance to have his mental aptitude evaluated by a psychiatrist, despite the fact that he’s been going toe-to-toe with one of the top prosecuting attorneys in the country for weeks.

So, Red gets sent to Springfield where, in between annoying his court-appointed psychiatric evaluator, he probes Atticus Roderick for…something. “It’s about our mutual acquaintance,” he tells Atticus in the common room. “I’m in trouble and I need to find him … it’s a matter of life and death.” Unfortunately, Atticus is on such a strong concoction of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers that he’s basically in an open-eyed coma. Red can’t get anything out of him.

Luckily, the pills he gets delivered every day look exactly like Skittles, there are Skittles in the vending machine, and Raymond Reddington is quite an expert in distracting nurses. So, after a few days off his meds, Atticus recognizes Reddington, and regains the ability to speak…

He also takes a flying leap at the psychiatrist when she comes to retrieve Red for their next session, saying he’s going to rip her tongue out of her throat. Red holds Atticus off from attacking the very small woman until the guards can run over and sedate him. Later, the doctor tells Red that his reaction to protecting her from Atticus tells her everything she needs to know: “You don’t know me, but you made the very conscious decision to stop him, which to my mind is a wonderful demonstration of your ability to distinguish between right and wrong.”

But Red would have never been deemed mentally unfit to stand trial; that wasn’t what this trip to Springfield, Ill. was about. Sure, swapping antipsychotics for Skittles probably wasn’t Red’s most stable plan ever, but in the end it got him the answer he needed. When Atticus returns to the common room, back on his meds, Red gives it one more try: “Your friend—who would he turn to to get a job done as quietly as possible.” Atticus answers simply, looking dead ahead: “General Shiro.”

Back in his original federal prison cell—you know, the one with the pipe that helpfully leads to the outside—Red calls Dembe with a hidden phone: “General Shiro, I need you to everything you can about him. He’s the next name on the Blacklist.”

A FEW LOOSE ENDS

I do apologize for the delay in getting this recap up—as of Friday, I’m this winter’s lucky recipient of both the flu shot and the flu. And yes, a 101 fever did make sorting through ethics-math a lot more interesting!

Liz might get the lead she was looking for out of Klepper, but she doesn’t exactly get away with it. Ressler figures out that Klepper was her Blacklister, not Red’s. She tells him that she allowed Klepper to kill himself “because he convinced me the benefit outweighed the cost, the same way I’m trying to convince you not to tell Cooper what I’ve done.”

Ressler doesn’t tattle. Not such a stickler for the rules when it comes to your good friend Elizabeth Keen, are ya bud?!

Jennifer, however, is not as cool with Liz’s assisted suicide. She’s worried tracking Raymond Reddington is going to do to her whatever it’s clearly already done to Liz. Liz assures her it won’t. I…don’t know what to think about these two anymore. Is this sisterly love headed for sisterly betrayal?

Red may be skeptical about the psychiatrist’s ink blots and daddy questions, but she reads his ass like a book: “Whatever pathologies you have, I think they can be traced to the fact that while most people see you as an iconic bad guy—you’re really just an imposter.”

Episode Recaps

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