The Blacklist recap: 'Minister D'
As of one television-hour ago, Raymond Reddington is officially onto Elizabeth Keen, his maybe-fake-not-daughter. But hey! His maybe-fake-not-daughter is onto him too…
Sort of. This episode tackles a topic that’s been coming into focus ever since Reddington first hit Judge Wilkins’ court room: his innocence. We have always known Raymond Reddinton to be a criminal; guiding set of noble principles, or no—the man is a capital-c-Criminal. So for six seasons, there hasn’t been much questioning as to whether the crimes that got Red on the FBI’s Most Wanted in the first place were crimes he was actually guilty of. Not until Reddington was finally caught at the beginning of this season, at least.
Now, after eight episodes of watching Red piece together a mysterious puzzle of Blacklisters in order to obtain key evidence, the question of Raymond Reddington’s guilt is finally asked in earnest. And more importantly, it’s answered.
We leave this second episode of Friday’s two-parter with a lot more information than when we started, and yet it all feels rather tenuous. Unproven. Sure a jury of Red’s peers decide that he is innocent (!!!) of this first treason charge, but there are about 1000 Netflix docuseries that can tell you that ours is not exactly a foolproof legal system. After all is said and done, and Reddington has presented his winning evidence about Katarina Rostova to the court, he tells Liz that now she knows the truth. “I know a truth,” she corrects him.
Liz still doesn’t know who this imposter is, or why he would have claimed the identity of a man wanted for treason, or why her mother would have helped him…
But she certainly has a few more puzzle pieces to work with. And, now—so do we.
MINISTER D, NO. 99
After the pulse-pounding drug bladder delivery of the first hour, this episode offers a welcome return to confusion-but-chill-about-it. A man sits in a basement surrounded by antiquated technology, moving plugs around on a switchboard, seemingly at random. Somehow, he’s listening in to phone calls all over the world, until finally, he stops on one: “Listen, I think we might have a situation—it’s about the body.”
Red gets right to assigning this Blacklister to the Task Force because his federal trial for treason starts in an hour, and after tracking him for the last five episodes, Red has finally arrived at the man who holds the key to his innocence. Liz still doesn’t know what that key is, just that “Minister D”—who takes very Blacklist-y name from Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Purloined Letter”—has it.
Minister D is a serial blackmailer; he gathers information and then uses it to extort people, and as Reddington tells it, he could have compromising information on anyone and everyone. A man named Shaw who Reddington loaned money to pay off Minister D in 2006, tells Liz and Ressler that he came to his office one day and there was a letter sitting on his desk. Inside it was a transcript of a phone call he’d made detailing “a certain business arrangement” he’d made, and a few days later, there was another letter instructing him to deliver $400,000 in cash to a certain location. Shaw hired a team to investigate, and they found what looked to be a phone tap inside his home.
At the same time as Shaw is explaining, we see Minister D typing up a transcript of the call from the cold open on his typewriter, which he delivers to the office of Peter Dereamer, along with a handwritten note reading: “I know you killed your wife.” So that’s a yikes all around!
But at least the Post Office is moving quickly. Aram is able to trace the device Shaw showed them to a phone company that only had a few technicians who could have planted it. After some filtering, the one that makes the most sense is Elijah Bailey whose name is an alias and whose taxes filed under a stolen social security number. Oh and also, once the FBI raids his house, they don’t’ find Minister D himself there, but they do find thousands and thousands of recorded phone calls.
It’s one of those tapes that Red is in need of to prove his innocence, but while the Task Force searches for December 7th, 1990, Red is unable to postpone the trial any longer and has to begin mounting his defense without the mystery tape. But first, Sima shows up at the Post Office and informs Ressler that he’s calling him as a witness because he was the ranking officer on the pre-Task-Force task force charged with capturing or killing notorious criminal Raymond Reddington (remember that???). And yes, Sima did wait until the day before the trial to call him because he doesn’t trust his current ties to Reddington: “But once I put you under oath, your loyalty will be to the truth, not Reddington.”
And newly-minted rule breaker Ressler is acting mighty chill about the fact that he could potentially perjure himself. He tells Liz that Reddington could just admit that he’s an imposter and be off the hook for treason, but he’s not doing that: “He’s facing the death penalty and he stills says nothing—if he’s okay with that, then so am I.” But I think he lets his main motivation rise to the surface when he tells Liz that he’s not going to be the one who keeps her from getting the answers she deserves. Liz says if something bad happens to him because of this, she’ll never forgive herself. They make…meaningful eye contact.
And Ressler sure does perjure himself! On the stand, Ressler answer’s Sima’s questions and provides background about Reddinton’s notorious (alleged) treason. The USS Gideon was an Ohio-class submarine carrying 134 people on board for a secret mission that was sunk by Soviet forces. Only 16 people knew about the USS Gideon, and two days before it was attacked, the captain had to change course for weather, which he communicated to only one person: Naval Intelligence Officer Raymond Reddington. A secret KGB communication that was intercepted corroborated the assumption hat Reddington fed the information to the Russians.
At one point, Sima refers to Reddington as “the defendant,” and when Ressler responds, he notably changes the name back to Raymond Reddington instead of the defendant. Sima gets a look on his face: “And is Raymond Reddington in the courtroom today?”
And says yes: Raymond Reddington there.
During his cross-examination of Ressler, Red begins laying out a story around Katarina Rostova: that he was involved in a relationship with her during the time of USS Gideon’s sinking, but that he didn’t know she was a KGB agent, or that she was stealing information from him and passing it along to her superiors. A forensic accountant is called to the stand who testifies that $3 million was added to a bank account by Russians the day before the USS Gideon’s sinking, and the day after, and that all of the money was transferred out one week later by one Raymond Reddington. The accountant says that a fingerprint and password were used to make the transfer, but he also says it was done remotely. So Red asks him if would have been possible then that someone who had a copy of his finger print and the required password could have transferred the money; the man agrees it could have been possible. “You know what else was possible?” Res asks. “That I was framed by Katarina Rostova.”
It’s certainly an interesting theory, but it’s nothing without evidence; so thank goodness the Post Office was able to track down Minister D through his most recent extortion. They find out that four days after the recording Reddington is in need of to clear his name was made, Minister D’s home erupted in an explosion. He was admitted to the hospital with severe burns, and a man named Zachary Kimpton (who they presume to be his former partner from a sweet photo they found at his home) died.
While the Task Force continues to hunt for the December 7th tape Reddington takes the stand to give his own testimony in narrative form. He says that 35 years ago, a naval officer met a beautiful Russian woman with whom he developed a passionate relationship and soon resulted in a pregnancy. But the naval officer didn’t know that the Russian woman was a KGB agent, nor that her real handlers were actually members of a secret multinational cabal. When he discovered this, Reddington confronted Rostova who warned him that if he exposed the cabal, they would destroy his reputation. “And that’s what happened,” Red says: “With the help of the Cabal, Rostova framed Reddington with the very evidence you’ve heard in this courtroom.”
It’s a great story—and one with absolutely no proof until, in a fit of anger, Liz accidentally knocks the old photo of Minister D and Zachary, and the tape slips out of the frame. Ressler rushes it to the courtroom, and Judge Wilkins admits it into evidence. We listen on just as the jury does while Katarina Rostova speaks to Alan Fitch (Alaaaaan Aldaaaaa, people!) on the phone. She tells Fitch that Reddington knows everything and he’s taken Masha. Fitch tells her to eliminate him, but she says counters that his death would be investigated; instead, they should discredit him with the intelligence she stole: “No one will believe him with the blood of 134 Americans on his hands.”
Fitch accuses Rostova of not wanting to eliminate him because she’s sleeping with him, but she reminds him of the fulcrum; that Reddinton’s knowledge of the Cabal would be released if he dies. “And because I love his daughter—my daughter,” she finishes.
At the Post Office, Liz listens to a copy of the tape. She runs into the room where Minister D is sitting, and gasps, “Your scar—Katarina Rostova gave that to you, didn’t she?” He tried to blackmail her with a Fitch tape, and she burned his house down, taking Zachary along with it. “Katarina took someone from me too,” Liz tells him. “Thanks to your tape, I think she just gave him back to me.”
The jury finds Red not guilty on this act of treason (still plenty more charges to go, as Sima reminds!), and back in his cell, Liz tells him, “I don’t know how I can feel so relieved and so pissed at the same time.” Red asks her not to judge Katarina too harshly, and she reminds him that she grew up thinking he was a traitor. He says now she knows the truth: “That your parents loved you very much, and that’s the only thing that matters.”
Uhhhhh, sweet sentiment my dude, but that’s not even a little bit true. Given what Red and Liz know about each other right now (and what they don’t know that the other knows they know—yeah, I said it), it’s difficult to gage exactly how genuine everyone is being right now. But let us not forget that Liz is the reason Reddington was facing the death penalty at all—a fact Dembe has now figured out after tracing the 911 call back to Jennifer. Dembe tells Liz that he knows she turned Red in, and she pleads with him, “If you tell him, he’ll never forgive me.” I hate to see Dembe more burdened, but I’m also relieved that we get at least a little longer without Red knowing.
Dembe tells Red that he was able to track the 911 call to a homeless teenager who was paid to make it; he showed her a photo of Liz and she said that wasn’t the person who paid her. “I was so sure—the thought that she had betrayed me again,” Red gasps, collapsing against the side of his cell. “But she didn’t.”
“No,” Dembe lies, making himself the secret keeper for two Reddingtons now.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS:
“He loaned me money, I paid him back—is that a crime?” “To do business with a wanted fugitive and not report it? Yeah, that’s a whole lotta crimes.” I did not expect these episodes to be so Ressler-centric, but I was into it.
I am not, however, into Samar’s continued decline :( I hope her laying in Aram’s lap at the end of the episode means she’s finally confided in him.
“Do you have a point or are you just being pointlessly adorable?” With Aram, it’s always adorable AND with a point.
At the end of the episode, Ressler asks Liz why the imposter would assume Reddington’s identity at a time when the world thought he was a traitor when Koehler could have made him look like anyone in the world: “Why would anyone do that?”
Why would anyone do that???
Are they…doing…that?? Are they doing…the thing…with Katarina…and Reddington? Do you know what I mean??? They couldn’t be—no. Are they???
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.