The Blacklist recap: Katarina Rostova would like to be excluded from this narrative
There really is nothing like a “Conclusion” episode of The Blacklist (although nothing about Louis T. Steinhil’s prosthetics-fueled resurrection seemed particularly conclusive). “Conclusion” episodes almost always contain a shootout and an edge-of-your seat emergency medical procedure scored to a sob-inducing slow jam, and they are inevitably 10 times more exciting than the preceding episode bearing the same name but none of the same fireworks.
While I can’t say that season 7’s second Louis T. Steinhil entry provided many more answers than the rather stagnant premiere, it did offer movement. And for that, we can be thankful. Sometimes you just have to chill out and rest assured that something more interesting will come our way just as soon as that second blood bag fills up.
Tonight, that something was watching Raymond Reddington and Katarina Rostova finally face off after years of mythos-building around their super-secret past. Sure, you can hardly call it a fair fight when one party is strapped to a chain-link fence, having his blood sucked out of him faster than a Capri Sun at a little league game, but the power dynamics aren’t as one-sided as they may first seem. Yes, Katarina has captured Reddington, briefly tricked him into believing he was paralyzed inside a French hospital, recaptured him, and siphoned 40 percent of the blood from his body…
But if Reddington really has the answers Katarina is so desperately seeking, then he’s got plenty of power in this dynamic too. (Most assuredly, Lizzie has as little power as she ever does, but she was particularly endearing tonight with her insistence that one day, maybe, if she plays nicely, and shares her toys, and doesn’t go stirring up anymore accidental espionage revenge plots, she will get some gosh darn answers!) And hey, we might even have a little power in this dynamic too. Because for the first time ever, we are dealing with two adversaries who know the full story behind the history of Raymond Reddington and Katarina Rostova — eventually, they’re bound to tell it.
LOUIS T. STEINHIL: CONCLUSION
Friday’s episode starts with my second-favorite kind of Blacklist conversation, second only to the kind where we get actual answers. It’s the kind of back-and-forth where you have no idea what anyone is talking about, but every single thing they’re saying seems important; like if you can just remember this conversation 10 episodes from now, everything will eventually make sense.
As Mila (the nurse from the premiere, who has now been forced by Katarina to become a murder-nurse) drains more and more blood from Reddington, Katrina tells him that this isn’t easy for her, but she needs his help. Red responds that he’s always helped her, but Katarina isn’t having it: “No, you pretended to help me! You were never on my side.”
Katarina doesn’t think Red came to Paris to warn her of a mounting attack, but to control her: “To keep feeding me your narrative. But I’m done hiding, I won’t do it anymore — not with Elizabeth asking questions and telling ghost stories.” Apparently, Katarina would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that she never asked to be a part of, since season 2. Katarina knows people are asking questions about her being alive, and that’s enough for her to believe that the mysterious Townsend Directive is her death sentence. She’s certain that she needs to give her would-be attackers what they want, and that Red will know exactly what that is.
But if he does indeed know the answer, he isn’t telling — even when Katarina turns on the waterworks, saying she lost everything she cared about “that day in Belgrade,” and Red was the one who blew it all up. But Red still won’t give Katarina the answers she needs, so she decides to let him bleed out. Because she still has one other option: Dom.
Luckily, Nurse Mila is less inclined to let the nice man in the suit bleed to death. After all the lights have been shut off and Red has been left for dead, Mila shows back up and tells Red she’s getting him out of there. At this point, Red is just conscious enough to tell Mila how to get to Dom’s house and call Dembe, who was just in the middle of “enacting the protocol” for whatever surely terrifying thing happens after Red’s death, given that he hadn’t heard from him in a full week. Once Red fully passes out, Nurse Mila pulls over and fashions a blood transfusion station in the back of her car. She also helpfully removes a tracking device from Red’s neck that would have told Katarina exactly where they were headed…
Which is, of course, Dom’s house, and he’s none too happy to have company, especially once he hears that Katarina — his, uh, daughter, who is, uh, alive — is coming for him. Mila is also startled to hear that Dom’s daughter is coming to kill him because he betrayed her, even though Dom insists that Katarina is the one who betrayed him. “The truth is, Mila, you’ve stumbled into a family squabble,” Red tells her. “And the Rostova family can be rather eccentric.”
That’s putting it mildly. And Red would know something about eccentric family dynamics, wouldn’t he? While Katarina is hunting down her father to bleed him for answers, Liz and the Post Office gang are hunting down her father to most likely beg for some answers they will never, ever get. (After six seasons, I really can understand why Katarina immediately resorted to blood when it came to asking Reddington for the truth.) By backtracking their way to the costume company that made the fake French hospital uniforms, Ressler and Liz are able to track Louis Steinhil to the warehouse where he’s closing down shop on his blood extraction station…
The FBI storms in, guns blazing, but when they get to Steinhil’s locked office, they hear a gunshot ring out inside. By the time they get in, they find Steinhil dead on the floor with a gun in his hand, no closer to finding who took Red than they were last week.
But they are closer to finding where Red is now. In Steinhil’s office, they find where Red’s tracker left off on his computer, and Liz knows: He’s headed to her grandfather’s house.
At Dom’s, Red is on his way to recovery, so it’s time for Nurse Mila to be on her way. Dembe walks her out and thanks her for caring for Red when he couldn’t, but she’s hesitant to accept his gratitude. She tells Dembe that she took the job because she heard Reddington was a terrible criminal, but now that she’s been with him, he seems like a decent man. Dembe tells her that he is decent, and sends her off with a card for an associate who will make sure she’s repaid for the help she provided…
But as it turns out, Mila was never the timid nurse she seemed. She comes back inside Dom’s house and tells Red that Katarina knows where he is and she’ll be there within the hour — Mila may have removed Red’s tracker, but she didn’t remove her own.
Mila and Red’s great escape was all a ruse! Katarina forced Mila (actually Frankie, a former combat medic) to pretend to help Raymond escape, knowing he would lead her straight to Dom. But once she heard the whole story, Mila had a change of heart, and she can’t stomach Red, Dom, and Dembe being ambushed by Katarina. So, between the four of them, they armor up, set explosives, and make a plan. And when Katarina shows up with an army of men, they don’t know what hit them: Guns are shooting, cars are exploding, and Katarina is shook.
Still, she has so many more men, and so much more ammo, and Dom is 81 years old. A bullet comes sailing through the window and into his chest, and when the others realize Dom is down, they grab him and retreat to the basement.
Mila fashions a bandage to keep pressure on the wound, but things are not looking good, and they have no escape route. Gunfire ceases upstairs, and Katarina’s footsteps are heard overhead. She calls out that if they send Dom up, she’ll have to save his life because she needs answers from him. Knowing she’ll kill the rest of them without hesitation, Red, Dembe, and Mila arm themselves for a fight once more…
But suddenly, they hear Katarina and her men retreating quickly, and a few minutes later, new footsteps — the Post Office cavalry has arrived to rescue the FBI’s No. 1 most wanted criminal!
Mila has some questions about that relationship later, but for now she’s tasked with saving Dom’s life. Dembe already had a warehouspital and warehouspital staff on standby, but Dom is working with minutes left to live, so when they arrive before the surgeon, Red insists that Mila put the tube in his chest herself. As Liz and Red look on in terror, Liz says it’s time to ask the questions Red doesn’t want asked: “Who grabbed you in Paris? Who tortured you? Why is my grandfather dying in a lumberyard? My question is: What the hell happened?!”
“You did,” Red sneers. “You and Agent Ressler.”
Oh, that is r-i-i-i-i-ich, Mr. Reddington. Red tells Liz that her snooping around and asking questions about Katarina had consequences. “How many times have I asked you to leave it alone?” he asks. “Now you see what that name will make others do. These questions of yours have gotten their attention… you raised an old ghost, and that’s why your grandfather is dying in a lumberyard.”
NUH UH, NOT ON MY WATCH, REDDINGTON, AND NOT ON COOPER’S WATCH EITHER! When Liz reports Red’s scolding and her guilty conscience back to Cooper, he takes the words right out of my frantically typed notes: “You wouldn’t have had to ask questions if [Reddington] had been honest with you, if he’d told you his reality.” But he has never told Liz the whole truth, and in exchange for getting a father, Liz has sort of made peace with that. Peace enough to keep a relationship with him while knowing he’s keeping things from her, but not enough peace that she’s going to stop looking for the truth on her own.
Liz tells Red as much while he sits by Dom’s bedside, not knowing if he’ll ever regain consciousness. “I’m sorry my questions caused this,” she tells Red. “But they are questions I deserve answers to.” She tells him that someday when it’s less dangerous, she’s going to insist on getting those answers.
And Red may want to put a little wiggle in it, because — ALERT — there’s a new secret parent in town. In the last scene of the episode, as Liz steps out of her apartment to take Agnes to school, she meets her new neighbor: an elegant woman named Maddie Tolivar, played with subtle flair by none other than Katarina Rostova, mother to Masha, grandmother to Agnes, and enigma to all.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS:
We also find out at the very end of the episode… that Louis T. Steinhil didn’t actually die??? It was all an illusion, created with a gunshot wound prosthetic and something to cover his pulse. What this means for future illusions remains to be seen.
I grew rather attached to Nurse Mila, and while I understand where Red is coming from with the “You saved Dom’s life, but you’re also the reason he needed saving” train of thought, I didn’t love his threatening tone when he told her they were not even. Has he forgotten that she also saved his life (even if it was part of a ruse)? On the plus side: Mila is sticking around for now.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the last we heard mysterious mention of Belgrade on The Blacklist was way back in season 2, from big bad Luther Braxton.
After finding out she’s the one who raised the ghost of Katarina Rostova, Liz apologizes to Cooper for her family being so messy. “Katarina Rostova is your relative,” he responds solemnly. “We’re your family — and we’re not going to let anything happen to you.” Coooooop.