The Blacklist recap: Laverne Cox is back, Vesco's a double agent, and Wujing's safe house gets raided
- TV Show
The last time we saw Dr. Laken Perillos (Laverne Cox), she was getting arrested for working for Neville Townsend (and Elizabeth Keen, technically) back in season 8. The "Brazen Bull" Blacklister was responsible for a harrowing episode where she viciously tortured both Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) and Red (James Spader) in ways I've tried to forget. But it's all coming back to me now, because the woman who uses something called a "heretic fork" has returned!
Perillos is in prison, helping assist in the medical ward. The warden has just let her know the equipment she's been begging for has finally arrived, but unfortunately for the warden and two guards, they've been delivered by Wujing's (Chin Han) men. It's a violent prison break.
Later, Wujing introduces himself to a now-impeccably dressed Perillos. I love that they found the time to get her nails done. That was a full set with a design — it would take hours. Plus that leather pencil skirt? A gleeful psychopath she might be, but her sartorial instincts are on point.
Once Wujing has filled her in on the Task Force, Red, and Dembe's defection to law enforcement, she's up for some revenge torturing. Her goal is the location of the Task Force so that Wujing can invade headquarters and get proof of the Blacklist.
To that, they first have to grab Dembe. He's been lured to the Port of Baltimore by Soren, a Red employee whose panic could be because he's screwed up shipments… or because Wujing kidnapped his daughter to make him cooperate.
It's option No. 2, in case you're wondering.
Dembe does not go down easily; he leads Wujing's men on a merry chase, shooting several. They only manage to take him when they threaten to kill civilians. Obviously, Dembe is not going to let anyone shoot a child in the head.
Unfortunately, he left his phone behind at the port (along with a lovely sportscoat I'm certain he'll eventually regret using to scale over barbed wire). One of Wujing's henchmen uses it to text Cooper (Harry Lennix) and ooohhh we've hit a TV pet peeve of mine.
When any of us open our texting apps, the history is there! You can see the last texts! That's just phone science! But both Cooper and Dembe's phones only show the current exchange, even though Wujing's guy literally says that he's read their previous messages.
This is, as Raymond Reddington might say, utter poppycock.
Also poppycock? Dembe getting tortured. Again. This time, in addition to her terrible jellyfish poisons and whatnot, there's some psychological torture as well. Perillos taunts Dembe for joining the FBI to redeem his past bad acts.
When that doesn't get him talking, she shifts to diagnosing that he joined the Task Force to make sure he could still take care of Red in some capacity. He loves Red, a truth the torturer homes in on with disturbing accuracy.
She also brings up the racist and violent foundations of the FBI (the irony of this coming from an extremely violent torturer notwithstanding). Dembe rejoins that he's aware of the history of the FBI, thank you very much, and he will not be giving any more information about the Task Force at this time.
Then he pretends to pass out, which is probably what I would have done for real the moment I saw the torture chair.
Cooper finally figures out that Dembe is missing, helped by Red. The text Wujing's man sent was a sentence fragment — a grammar faux pas that an exacting polyglot like Dembe would never make.
While Dembe is getting tortured, Wujing is in an adjoining room filling in Robert Vesco (Stacy Keach) on his plan. Any evidence that they manage to get from raiding the Task Force will most likely be encrypted, so they need to pull in a Blacklister with exceptional computer talents.
Someone like season 3's Troll Farmer, aka Bo Chang. Chang is in Manila and is reluctant to join the team, so Wujing tells Vesco they'll need to hop on a plane to convince him. Vesco agrees easily but fakes a coughing fit to buy time before getting into the car.
Back at torture central, the Doc's frustration with Dembe's continued silence has escalated. Her long-suffering mother, who we learned last time was the reason she became fascinated with pain in the first place, died while she was in prison. Crying, she tries to bond with Dembe over the suffering they've both felt because of Red, but Dembe holds on even as she ramps up the pain.
Luckily for Dembe and for us viewers, Vesco has been on the right side the entire time. While he was fake-coughing, he texted his location to Red. Perillos escapes, but at least Malik (Anya Banerjee) and Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) find Dembe, even if they're both horrified by the condition he is in. Luckily, they get him to one of the many medical teams Red keeps on call. Lest we forget she's new, Malik is deeply confused as to why they're driving to a feed store and not a hospital.
Once Wujing is informed about the FBI raid on his safe house, it's pretty clear that Vesco is the cause. The trip to the Philippines is postponed in favor of guns and threats.
But now that the truth is out, Vesco is delightfully dismissive of his captors, who he calls "Wu Wu" and "Dr. Psychopath." He explains he has none of the information they're looking for and that Red will eventually put a bullet in all of them, because "he's Raymond Reddington."
Dembe wakes up with Red at his side. They talk about Vesco's double-agenting and we get flashbacks of how much fun Vesco was having with these spy games. Red says he's sure Vesco will be in contact when he can, but it's clear he's worried.
For good reason. By the time Red finds him, Robert Vesco is dead. Red kisses his old frenemy gently, saying a silent goodbye before striding away determinedly, presumably to locate and do terrible things to Wujing.
I don't know about you, but at this point, I'm rooting him on.
- Goodbye, Stacy Keach/Robert Vesco! This one stings a bit. Watching Spader and Keach play off of each other was a delight.
- Perillos is killed by Wujing offscreen, so this was also a goodbye to Laverne Cox. She brought a lovely emotional pain to the center of her performance of the sadist.
- Wujing does cat puzzles to relax. I don't know why this tickles me so, but it does. Cat puzzles!
- "Is Wujing a first name or are we dealing with a Cher, Prince, Beyonce situation?"
- Add Lavern Cox's horrified reaction to Dembe being an FBI agent to the list of greats this season. She went from confused to bemused to horrified to drinking a shot, all in seconds.
- After she admits the Blacklist crimes are so much worse than she imagined, Ressler gives Malik the world's worst pep talk. Highlights include "it doesn't get any easier," "there's a cost," and "Perillos is just the tip of the iceberg." Look, I don't need every character to be Ted Lasso, but my God, man.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.