The Blacklist recap: Location, location, location
- TV Show
We're used to a war having two sides, with opposing factions lining up and battling it out. Allied forces vs. Axis powers. Pepsi vs. Coke. Vanessa Lachey vs. the entire cast of Love Is Blind. But this week The Blacklist asks a much more fun question: What does a war look like when there are three sides?
Our battlefield is the Task Force headquarters, a.k.a. the Post Office, a.k.a. TFHQ. We open with Red (James Spader) and his team surveying a replica of our home base. Yes, the secret project Red has been working on all season is a down-to-the-last-nut-bolt-and-vending-machine exact copy of the Task Force office.
Red is vehement it has to be perfect, and Chuck (Jonathan Holtzman) assures him it is. Red and I are both suspicious of Chuck's attention to detail, so he sends him to triple-check.
This is a twisty tale, so let's break down this battle from the perspective of each participant:
This fighting force took some significant hits recently, what with the Task Force recovering the stolen HexRoot program and arresting Bo Chang (Aaron Yoo). But don't count them out just yet.
The NSA has discovered that the HexRoot program was uploaded before the Task Force got it back, which makes Senator Cynthia Panabaker (Deirdre Lovejoy) angry enough to tell Cooper (Harry Lennix) to bring Chang to her office so she can threaten him in person.
After calling him a "tiny troll," she gives him a two-hour time limit: Either he gives up the location of Wujing (Chin Han) or he'll be sent to a CIA black site.
Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) and Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) escort Chang back to TFHQ. We get to see the entire process for the first time: The prisoner wears a blindfold and blacked-out goggles in the van, and there's a security check-in that includes a body scan, facial recognition, and a palm print scan all to get on two elevators. It's not quite as bad as getting through TSA at O'Hare, but still very thorough.
In interrogation, Chang refuses to give any info on his boss. Wujing wants to expose Red, and that means using HexRoot to get to the Task Force archive. Ressler points out that's impossible to do outside of the facility. "What's he going to do, attack a federal building?" he asks, and Chang shrugs. "Who knows?"
I do! Chang does! He's going to attack a federal building.
But first, Wujing has to know where the building is. Chang waits until Ressler is pulled out of the interrogation room by Dembe and grabs a paperclip from the table. That's spy-movie code for an upcoming escape.
It happens quickly. Ressler leaves the room and Chang gets out of his handcuffs, guesses at the code to unlock the door (having watched Ressler use it earlier), and begins to search for an exit.
Luckily, Malik (Anya Banerjee) walks past the empty interrogation room and sounds the alarm. Dembe and Ressler chase Chang through the building. Chang reaches an exit door and uses a fire extinguisher to break the lock — and gets out. By the time our agents reach the door, he's gone, presumably on his way to Wujing to tell him where to find TFHQ.
Which is exactly what he does. Wujing, his second-in-command Zhang Wei (Kenneth Lee), and Fisker Army leader Sven Hollufson (Carsten Norgaard) plan the assault. At nightfall, they sneak in from the roof of an adjoining building and Chang uses HexRoot to break an electronic security system. Their army marches up to the door.
Exactly as Red and Task Force wanted them to.
The Task Force
Walking into Fake TFHQ for the first time, Panabaker can only say, "Well shut my mouth and call me Shirley." Cooper gets to fill her and the audience in at the same time. Weeks ago, Red realized that Wujing would need to get inside the offices to find proof of his relationship to the FBI.
The solution? Lure Wujing and his men to the wrong building and arrest them when they arrive.
The meeting with Panabaker let them get Chang out of the building so they could take him back to the fake one. The paperclip was intentionally planted. Chang didn't figure out the code, Malik opened the door from downstairs. And finally, Ressler and Dembe waited in the hall until Chang saw the planted fire extinguisher to break the lock.
All in all, a flawless execution. Cooper has filled Fake TFHQ with armed soldiers ready to take on Wujing the moment he walks through the doors. They settle in to wait.
Because he's our beloved Red, we can sometimes forget that Raymond Reddington is not just a criminal, he's THE criminal. He's a brilliant, manipulative, suave, probably sociopathic mastermind.
All this to say that while Wujing and the Task Force each believe they know what's happening, they don't.
The Task Force sits in the Fake TFHQ, jumping at every noise (don't accidentally shoot Malik, please, we just got her!), but there's no sign of Wujing.
Wujing's forces, meanwhile, walk out of the elevator and see… nothing. These offices are empty.
No, wait, there is one thing: Wujing walks over to a desk, picks up a familiar black fedora, and promptly gets shot in the head.
Yup, after being the big bad all season long, Red's foe gets taken out in a single shot. Not only that, but Wujing invaded the real Task Force office, not the fake one. Like I said, twisty!
Waving a white handkerchief, Red steps into view of Sven and Zhang and urges the baddies to stay calm. "You have guns, we have guns," he says, a statement that is reinforced by Chuck and crew also joining the fray.
Zhang yells for someone to kill Red, but Sven points out that he was first in the line of succession so he'll be taking over, thank you. Sven demands that Red admit he's an informant for the FBI. Red replies with a monologue worth quoting:
"An informant? I'm Raymond Reddington. I run the most intricate and lucrative criminal operation in existence. A global enterprise that you and Wujing have, or had, neither the knowledge nor the experience to even remotely comprehend. I'm at the apex of the criminal pyramid, an increasingly competitive and brutal world where those that are under are constantly scheming and striving to get on top and yet, here I am. I'm still here at the tippy-top and thriving. Always have. Why do you think that is?"
He explains that his relationship with the FBI is far more beneficial to his work than hiding from them would be. Of course he gets Blacklisters arrested — they're the worst criminals, ones who violate any "honor among thieves" and deserve to be caught. In fact, he points out, they're luckier being arrested than having to be "held accountable by me."
Red is clearly pitching Sven at this point, explaining calmly that his financial success is a tide that has been raising a lot of boats for a long time. So "how I do what I do, who I leverage and why, is nobody's business but my own."
Sven is sold. The Fisker Army now works for Red.
Zhang, on the other hand, is not so lucky. Despite expressing that he doesn't want to waste bullets, Red announces, "Aw, the hell with it," and dispatches the last loyal soldier of Wujing.
Red then checks in with Chang, who has been working with HexRoot the entire time, and the Troll Farmer assures him they're all clear. (Yes, Chang has been working with Red the entire time too — the twists just keep coming.)
Red puts on his hat and walks away. War is over.
The Task Force members are back in their real home base, looking at the two bodies on the floor and, I assume, feeling sheepish.
Cooper's phone rings. It's Red. Cooper hilariously almost doesn't answer but gives in and puts him on speaker. He's too mad to speak, though.
Red explains to all of them that Wujing's threat made it clear that the TFHQ was a liability. The archives housed at the facility would always be too tempting for criminals; the only thing way to make sure that Red and the Task Force members wouldn't be targeted would be to eliminate any evidence of Red's involvement.
Ergo, he turned Chang and got him to use HexRoot to delete any mention of the Blacklist.
Cooper is livid, but Red is calm. "Take some time to think about how, or whether, we can continue. I'll do the same," he says, and hangs up.
The episode ends on the stunned faces of the Task Force. They had definitely forgotten who they were dealing with.
- I love a twist, I love multiple twists even more, and I love a Red victory best. So obviously this episode was catnip. What a great ending to this arc, and what a great way for James Spader to chew on some delicious scenery.
- Cooper yelling, "We are not the Reddington Task Force, we are the FBI!" is an argument that would have sounded better had they not just been played like the proverbial fiddle.
- Chang is impressed that Red remembers his favorite soda is Mellow Yellow. Let that be a lesson: Relationships are formed in the details.
- I originally thought we'd spend the entire season with Wujing, but clearly that's over with. What's your best guess for what's next? Let me know in the comments!
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