By Jodi Walker
December 06, 2019 at 09:00 PM EST
Karolina Wojtasik/NBC
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I will admit that it felt very dramatic to hear Maddy Toliver (RIP) confirm to Liz that she is, in fact, Katarina Rostova by outright saying, “Masha… I am your mother,” at the end of Friday night’s episode of The Blacklist.

However, to the audience, that’s not exactly new information. Even though Lizzie has been in the dark about her new across-the-hall-nanny, we’ve been aware of Maddie’s true identity for some time now. As far as reveals go, it was about like finding out Red has a soft spot for owls. Fun, but also: duh.

The much more interesting thing was actually happening in said across-the-hall nanny’s apartment, where Ilya Koslov was being hypnotized and drugged into revealing what valuable intel his memories house regarding Katarina. Or, y’know, it would have been interesting if we had learned anything new of substance about the people we care about, or come to understand what happened to Raymond Reddington if it wasn’t Ilya who assumed his identity, or why Katarina seems to have so many questions about past happenings that she was allegedly a part of, or why she doesn’t seem to harbor any affection for the daughter she once worked so hard to protect, or…

Anything, really.

As it is, I think I left this hour of The Blacklist more clueless than when I started it. But when Katarina Rostova is the titular Blacklister of the next episode, I’m not sure why I would have expected any special reveals. In tonight’s episode — the episode-before-the-episode-with-the-answers, as I like to call it — we mostly get a lot of retreading of old territory (literally), as Red chases what he thinks will be the final lead before he gets to Katarina.

ORION RELOCATION SERVICES, NO. 159

At the end of the previous episode, Glenn finally tracked down Orion Relocation Services, the company that the Halawadar was able to confirm Katarina Rostova had sent money to, and found out it was basically witness protection for criminals looking to disappear. But here’s the kicker: Orion Relocation Services doesn’t just come up with fake identities or alter appearances like we’ve seen other Blacklisters do — they kill off real, innocent people with real identities so the criminals in need of cover can assume their lives. Y’know…

Like murder. The episode opens on a flashback to nine months earlier, where a “real estate agent” has just helped a couple sell their house, confirmed that they have few friends or family, had “movers” smother them dead with plastic bags, and called her client to tell her about the new identity she’s just scored for her: one Maddy Toliver.

Indeed, nine months later, Katarina has an apartment across the hall from her secret daughter in Maddy’s name, where she just so happens to be memory-torturing the man her secret daughter thinks is the true identity of her secret father figure.

Keeping up? Great! Because The Blacklist isn’t even going to pretend to explain how Dr. Skovic is luring these memories out of Ilya. He’s basically just like, “I’m going to drug and also hypnotize you, and you’re going to tell me things, unless you super-duper don’t want to tell me, in which case you will begin convulsing.” In his lucid waking dream state, present-day Ilya observes young Ilya in his own memories (which serves as an excellent reminder of how inspired the casting of Gabriel Mann as a young Brett Cullen is) as he’s forced to relive his past.

But the weird thing is, Katarina seems to be quizzing Ilya on a past she was ostensibly a part of. Dr. Skovic asks Ilya about the day Katarina showed up at his doorstep when he thought she was dead, and Ilya recalls back to a scene we’ve watched once before, when Dom relayed it to Lizzie. The one where llya proposes to Katarina that he assume the identity of the already dead Raymond Reddington in order to obtain the money Reddington had been falsely accused of stealing. But as we see young Ilya explaining this plan to young Katarina, present-day Katarina exclaims, “But how?”

She asks Ilya to “help [her] remember the plan,” who it involved, and how it went down. Ilya says the plan didn’t go how anyone expected it to, but he resists divulging any specific memory when asked who went under Dr. Koehler’s knife to assume Reddington’s identity. So Skovic decides to try something even more risky: Katarina enters Ilya’s dream state with him. How, you ask? Who cares, The Blacklist answers! Katarina wants to know what happened that mysterious night in Belgrade we’ve been hearing about for so long, and by golly, she’s going to find out. “Ilya, love, please — I need to know you were here with Dom,” present-day Katarina says in Ilya’s memory of a cafe meeting. “I need you to tell me what happened.”

In the memory, Dom tells Ilya that the “ruse with Reddington didn’t work.” He says it just made the people who wanted Katarina dead even angrier. There’s a group of people who have come together called the Townsend Directive to put a bounty on Katarina’s head, and Dom is worried they’ll find Masha. He says they’re not going to stop looking until Katarina is dead. “You want me to kill your daughter?” Ilya asks.

It seems the answer is yes. In the next memory we see, Ilya and Dom are sitting in a dark car outside an inn in Belgrade. Dom convinced Ilya to lure Katarina there under the pretense of him needing her to perform a simple spy task, but the real plan was to kill her openly in front of the people seeking to get to her. But Dom and Ilya didn’t know that Katarina had taken a new husband, and when the man tried to stop her from going on her spy mission, he ended up being on the receiving end of the car bomb intended for Katarina — and all the Townsend Directive ended up seeing was Katarina Rostova very much not dying.

“I loved him,’ present-day Katarina cries, extremely emotional over this man we’ve just briefly met in flashback. “I loved him, and he died right before my eyes because of you!” Following past Katarina’s narrow escape from her own father’s plan to kill her, Ilya is also very emotional saying that “Reddington deserves to know what we’ve done” because he’s “a part of this.” In the present day, Katarina is losing it, weeping about how Reddington, whoever he is, “is a benefactor to all this,” screaming at Ilya for answers as he starts going into a seizure-like state.

And it’s just difficult to know who exactly we’re supposed to have sympathy for in this particular situation. Katarina was definitely dealt a crappy hand, what with this whole extracurricular club devoted entirely to killing her and all. But Liz is our protagonist, and all we’ve ever known about Ilya and Reddington — whoever they may be — is that they’ve tried to protect Liz and her offspring…

Whereas Katarina/Maddy recently left Agnes chillin’ alone in a park while murderous Russian mafia goons were roaming around, a horror story that Liz is now chasing. After finding blood in the park bathroom last week, she was able to track down a home video taken during the time Agnes and Maddy were in the park, and spots two blurry men headed into the bathroom in the background. She passes the shot around to every entity that might be able to identify the men, and gets a hit: The Transnational Organized Crime Unit identifies the men in the photo as part of the Russian mob. Liz considers that Red recently killed a man in the Russian mob and wonders if he was tied to the woman in Paris, which Red confirms, but he still refuses to tell Liz that woman’s true identity. But deep down, she must know…

And, indeed, she soon admits she had her suspicions. All this time while Ilya has been being memory-tortured, the Post Office has been tracking a jewel thief Red knew to be employing Orion Relocation Services. For the jewel thief’s new identity, Orion has targeted Denise Young, a woman trying to escape an abusive spouse, but luckily Reddington is able to get to Denise before she’s killed by Orion’s trusty realtor-murderer. Unluckily, Denise had been holding onto a shotgun just in case, and when the realtor came a-murderin’, Denise shot her. Red tries to get answers about Katarina’s new identity, but the woman dies almost immediately.

Liz arrives soon after, and the FBI is able to obtain Orion’s extensive files on all the criminals they’ve “relocated.” She invites Red to head on over to the Post Office because they have the files, yes, but Red is the person who knows what they should be looking for within those files. However, Liz winds up finding a loophole to not knowing the identity of the woman in Paris…

She spots her nanny inside Orion’s files instead. And then it all clicks: Maddy saying she moved there to be closer to a daughter she put through dark times, telling Agnes she reminded her of her granddaughter, talking about how sometimes people aren’t who they seem to be. And then there was the thing about Agnes seeing a dead body in the park while she was with Maddy.

So Liz heads back to her apartment, where she had asked Maddy to come keep an eye on Agnes that night. She checks on Agnes sleeping in her bedroom, screws the silencer onto her gun, finds Maddy in the kitchen, and tells her she knows the man who died in the park that day was there to kill her. Maddy tries to laugh Lizzie’s comment off as a joke, but Liz tells her she knows Maddy Toliver could never kill anyone — “but Katarina Rostova would.”

As Liz pulls out the gun, she tells Katarina that she shot her father, she put her granddaughter in harm’s way, she lied to her daughter, and asks for one good reason she shouldn’t shoot her right there in the kitchen. “You already know the reason, and that should be enough,” Katarina Rostova replies. “I’m your mother.”

A FEW LOOSE ENDS

Not a good enough reason, Katarina!!!

Is this woman Liz’s mother? If so, why does she tell her bodyguard that they’re going to be neighbors with “Ms. Keen” when she gets her Orion relocation, and why does she seem to have no real affection for Agnes, and why does she no longer have any desire to protect Liz now, when that was her constant motivation as a spy on the run three decades ago? Hmmm???

The scene where it seems like we’re about to dive into Ilya’s memory, but it actually ends up being present-day Red at the door when she was expecting Maddy (a.k.a., Katarina) — something is up with this trio, my friends!

I can’t believe Undercover Lizzie looking completely gorgeous in a Grecian-inspired gown is a mere footnote in this episode, but here we are.

Red also stole an owl and I think maybe ate rotten fruit in the dark in the very same undercover operation. He says he’s not keeping the owl, but methinks he’ll come around.

Related content:

Episode Recaps

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