By Jodi Walker
November 23, 2019 at 02:25 PM EST
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Friday’s episode of The Blacklist threw a hell-of-a-lotta story noodles at the wall…and we’re going to have to wait two weeks, and consume our body weight in mashed potatoes before we find out which ones are really going to stick.

Let’s see, there was the oft-visited “I can’t believe Reddington told us about that criminal, then let that criminal getaway just to serve his own agenda” storyline, which regular readers of these recaps will know is one of my least favorite oft-visited storylines. However, at least this time, our good buddy Ressler finally gets to phase out of the “outrage” camp, and into the “smirking with annoyed fondness as I explain to the newcomer that Reddington just gonna do what Reddington do, and we’re gonna catch a bunch of bad guys along the way” camp.

But this newcomer, Agent Park, has intuition (and a mysterious Alaskan backstory), and her gut is telling her that Reddington’s suspicious leads mean he’s in over his head—so that’s another thing to keep an eye on. Plus, there was Red actually letting his desperation shine through as he reminded us that he is, in fact, a very dangerous criminal by scaring the jellybeans out of longtime accomplice, Glen, in the name of locating even longer-time friend, Ilya.

THE BLACKLIST -- "The Hawaladar (#162)" Episode 708 -- Pictured: James Spader as Raymond "Red" Reddington -- (Photo by: Scott Gries/NBC)
Scott Gries/NBC

Ah, yes: Ilya Koslov, aka Frank Bloom, aka The Stranger. I could’ve sworn Katarina showed little to no recognition when she first found his file in Lizzie’s apartment, but now that she has Ilya tied to a chair, she seems to share an awfully emotional past relationship with him. So definitely put a pin in that. And then there’s Spy Kindergartener Agnes drawing doodles of dead bodies, leading Liz to finally become suspicious of the woman across the hall who never lets her inside her apartment because she’s busy torturing Liz’s fake-father’s childhood best friend in there.

But, of course, just as Liz starts to inch toward a Katarina-shaped breakthrough…there’s talk of memories at the very end of this episode. Never a good sign on The Blacklist.

THE HAWALADAR, NO. 163

I should also mention that pretty much none of these monumental things actually have anything to do with the titular Blacklister who basically disappears forever 15 minutes into the episode even though he’s played by excellent character actor, Iqbal Theba.

The episode opens with Reddington finding out that Katarina got to Frank Bloom/Ilya Koslov (henceforth to be referred to as Ilya because that’s what Red calls him now) before he could. Luckily, Sutherland, the man Katarina hired to find Ilya, is able to tell Red that his payment from Katarina was delivered in cash by a specific take-out restaurant in London. After a little encouragement from Red, that restaurant fesses up to being part of a 34-outpost, 18-country I.O.U. ring. As Lizzie explains at the Post Office later, “It’s a banking system outside of banks.” If a terrorist in Cuba needs to pay a terrorist in America, he can’t wire the money from the bank, so he uses a Hawaladar: a man who makes “money transfers without money movement.”

Said Hawaladar, a man named Bava Shratna, has a series of small restaurants around the world that keep millions of dollars in cash stocked so when someone needs to send money, they pay their local outpost, then the outpost closest to the recipient delivers the money from their stash. It’s pretty simple, and very hard to explain for some reason. And you’re not gonna believe this…

It’s all just a ruse! I mean, the Hawaladar is real, but Red gets the Post Office all cued up to catch the guy, sending them right to him in Manhattan, only to watch the man get waylaid by Red in a crowded park while out on a cash delivery.

Red needed Shratna to see that he was being followed by the FBI so that he could offer his protection, and Shratna would become indebted to him enough to hand over any intel he has on Katarina. Why couldn’t Red have just dressed a few of his own guards up in conspicuous FBI suits? Well, I guess because then we wouldn’t have gotten to hear him describe Ressler as “that rather furtive ginger,” and also because then Agent Park couldn’t have gotten big mad about them being used. But in the end, Red got the intel he needed—Katarina paid one other company called Orion Relocation Services through Shratna’s system—and gets the Task Force a new lead…

Before being intercepted by Red, Shratna was on his way to deliver $3.5 million to an Eli Atticus on behalf of the Zhao crime syndicate. Fourteen of Zhao’s employees were recently arrested, one of whom was put in the hospital before being sent to jail; given that Atticus is an extraction expert, Red and Liz assume that he’s being paid by Zhao to remove the hospitalized employee, Alfred Yang. So, Cooper sends Ressler and Park to get to Yang first, but when they arrive at the exact same time as Atticus’ men, things turn to good old-fashioned shoot-out. They almost turn into a choke-out when one of Atticus’ men takes Ressler unware, but luckily, not only can Park kill a man with her bare hands as we saw a few weeks ago, she’s also an ace shot.

But hey, Ressler is no slouch either! He did almost die, sure, but while almost dying, he managed to slip a hospital ID badge into his choker’s pocket. So once the men get away with Yang in tow, the FBI are able to track them down—that’s especially good news because Yang was, in fact, an undercover DEA agent, and once Zhao had him extracted, he was going to kill him.

But all of this is kind of…monumentally unimportant given the other business that’s going on in the background. Like, for example, Ilya managing to break loose from his zip-ties and rig a lamp plug to almost successfully hang himself, rather than betray Reddington to Katarina. But she discovers him first, and weeps over his body on the floor, asking, “How could you possibly be willing to die in order to protect him?”

Meanwhile, “him” is trying desperately to find Ilya by employing Glen to track down Orion Relocation Services, but in typical Glen-fashion, he’s not taking it very seriously, yammering on about a Casino Night the DMV is hosting later. That is, until Reddington slams his meatball sub against the window, gets right in his face and hisses: “This thing we do—my indulgence of your relentless nonsense, this insipid banter—I tolerate it. But don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a business relationship. You exist to me because you find things.” Red cuts himself off before threatening Glen’s life if his inattention gets Ilya killed.

But later, he comes back to tell Glen he feels terrible about how he spoke to him. Glen doesn’t need apologies, however. He is a finder, and with the proper motivation, he found Orion Relocation Services: “a sort of witness protection for criminals.” Red tells Glen that he’s in his debt, and Glen tells him, “You know I always bet on Red,” and heads off to Casino Night. It’s very sweet.

Slightly less sweet, is Liz finding out from a fellow mom that Agnes drew a picture of a dead body while on a play date. Later, Agnes tells Liz that she saw the man in the park with Ms. Toliver. So once Agnes goes to bed, Liz heads across the hall to see Maddy Toliver/Katarina Rostova, and once Maddy suggests they go back across the hall to Liz’s apartment (on account of the ex-Russian operative being held hostage in her guest room), Liz asks if they saw anything odd in the park the other day.

Liz quickly becomes defensive when Maddy first suggests it’s just Agnes’ overactive imagination, then points out that she knows Liz is an FBI agent, and maybe this is just Agnes communicating that what Liz does scares her. “I can tell I’ve upset you, but you have nothing to be defensive about,” Maddy tells Liz, her constant smirk finally turning over into suspicious territory in Liz’s mind.

Liz says she’s not being defensive, she’s just protecting her child, but Maddy assures Liz that Agnes didn’t see anything odd in the park. And when Liz goes to said park later to have a look around, she seems to start laughing at herself, as though realizing that she was, indeed, just overreacting about a drawing. Yet, when she goes to wash mud off her boots in the park bathroom, there it is: blood and hair on a shattered mirror, indicating that at least something bad has happened at this park.

And when Katarina goes back to her apartment, there he is: a mysterious man in a hat, telling Ilya, “Don’t be afraid … we’re just going to have a look at your memories.” Yikes.

A FEW LOOSE ENDS

Katarina has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this memory-man all episode, telling Ilya earlier: “I don’t intend to wait for you to give me answers—I’m going to take them from you instead.”

So, did Orion Relocation Services manage to relocate Katarina to an apartment across the hall from her estranged secret daughter? Impressive!

“As my third executioner said, nothing voices contrition better than silence.” –Raymond Reddington

It really is very entertaining to see Ressler basically watch the old version of himself in Agent Park: “I don’t understand.” “Well how could you—the man’s had three executioners.”

“I could be killed for telling you this.” “On the other hand, you would definitely be killed for not telling me this.” What a line!

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