The Blacklist recap: The dads are fighting
I don't know why I've spent years recapping The Blacklist when Aram could have just been doing it this whole time. He sums it up nicely right from the jump when he tells Ressler, "Mr. Reddington's a traitor, Agent Keen's thrown in with a man who abducts human rights activists, and we're hunting for a pirate who buries people alive — sometimes I think I never should have left the circus."
Oh, did you notice that one of those clauses is not like the others? And yet, the reveal that Aram was briefly a member of a traveling circus is worth noting, because that tale proves to be about as complicated and unproductive as this episode's entry into the ongoing search and hopeful salvation of Elizabeth Keen. I'll let Aram explains his circus tenure first: "I was hired as a roadie on Monday, lost my virginity to a trapeze artist on Tuesday, she left me for the strongman on Wednesday, and I was back at home eating matzo ball soup on Thursday — it was quite the whirlwind."
Indeed, this episode's journey to track down a tech-bro-wannabe middleman, in order to track down Neville Townsend, in order to track down Elizabeth Keen — while hopefully saving the life and limbs of a civil rights activist in the process — could also be described as quite a whirlwind. It could also also be described as quite fruitless, due to Reddington and Cooper's inability to just tell one another the full truth and work together. But as Cooper is telling it now, he's taken his side, and it's with Keen. And yet, his best hope of finding her is still through Reddington's Blacklist…
CAPTAIN KIDD, NO. 96
Given where we ended, I truly cannot believe where we started; there was a brief moment when I thought we might be dealing with an actual child-Blacklister, or at the very least, a sort of Orphan situation.
But no, the cold open was just your classic creepy kid reading an excerpt of "The Tell-Tale Heart" as part of a Poe Society initiation that accidentally turned into another child overdosing after inhaling a bunch of fentanyl that was hidden inside the abandoned house where the boys were playing. (As of our last update, the child was n the ICU, which I will take to mean he recovers and goes on to live a prosperous life with a wild story to tell once he's, y'know, worked past the tell-tale trauma of it all.)
As told by Reddington to Cooper, the fentanyl was hidden in the abandoned house by a man who goes by Captain Kidd, the newest name on the Blacklist. Kidd is a "glorified middleman" who facilitates criminal transactions between otherwise warring buyers and sellers, hiding the seller's goods in a secret location that he releases to the buyer via GPS-tagged locations once the purchase has been made. Normally those facilitated sales are for narcotics or other contraband, but Reddington is on Captain Kidd's tail for something much larger this time, in both scale and stakes: a person.
Specifically, Safiya Maroun, a woman from Saudi Arabia who was granted asylum in the United States after being put in a mental institution for defying her male guardians' wishes, and has since become one of the most prominent and vocal opponents of Saudi Arabian repression. Now Captain Kidd has been hired to facilitate the sale of Maroun to the Saudi royal family. And the seller?
Neville Townsend. He's been contracted by the Saudi secret police to abduct Maroun, but if Reddington and the Task Force can prevent that from happening, maybe they'll be saving two birds with one stone: Maroun from capture and Elizabeth Keen from whatever the hell she's doing with Townsend.
But they're off to a pretty bad start: Maroun has already been abducted when Aram and Ressler arrive at her house, and video footage doesn't lead anywhere. But Aram's creative mind (and what I assume was a number of mochaccinos) does. Given that Captain Kidd often works in coordinating the online sale of narcotics, Aram… buys a bunch of narcotics online! In the dead of the night! Without consulting Cooper first! But don't worry about that — just worry about the fact that one out of Aram's 15 transactions was facilitated via GPS coordinates sent directly to the buyer, a Captain Kidd signature.
When Aram and Ressler go to pick up the drugs at the GPS-tagged location, they're not there. But there is dash-cam footage from a cab that just happened to be parked nearby in what would have otherwise been a dead zone for cameras. The footage doesn't reveal Captain Kidd, instead it leads the Task Force to a thief who's been tracking some of Kidd's drop spots and stealing his contraband. The heroin the thief stole then leads to the Task Force discovering similar heroin in NPD evidence lockup that was recently switched out for baking soda… and that then leads to uncovering an entire NPD lab tech drug ring… and that then leads to locating Captain Kidd.
Like I said, it's a very complicated episode! Although it's not particularly complex — I take solace in the fact that this smug criminal tech bro took was fully exposed by our sweet lawful tech bro in, like, two hours flat. But once Captain Kidd is taken in to the Post Office, he's not saying a thing about how to find Maroun unless he gets a deal. And even though Ressler has been handing out deals like fun-size Snickers on Halloween all episode, suddenly Cooper is telling him that he's reached his quota on looking the other way and getting played by criminals. No deal!
As it turns out, it's possible that Cooper's feelings are a little hurt by more or less confirming that another criminal he knows has been lying to him about being N13, traitor to his country and smuggler of sensitive intel to America's enemies. Park tailed Andrew Patterson (the man we know as Rakitin) within a block of Reddington's restaurant before he caught wind of her, and then shook her, making him seem pretty guilty, and pretty Reddington-adjacent.
Reddington himself arrives at the Post Office looking for information on Townsend at the exact moment Cooper is telling Reddington not to make a deal with Kidd. And finally, The Blacklist's two dads are ready to level with each other…
Sort of. Cooper tells Reddington that he knows about Patterson/Rakitin, and that he knows Rakitin slips him classified information which he then sells, and therefore he knows that he's N13. Reddington begs Cooper to stop this path, telling him that his quest to find a fault that explains Liz's quest to kill him is understandable, but dangerous. Red insists he's not a traitor to this country who divulges sensitive information to its enemies. "I know that's not true," Cooper huffs back. "No, Harold… you have pieces of a puzzle you think you can solve, but as I am the puzzle, I know you can't."
Well then, here's an idea, Reddington: Maybe tell your friend and colleague what the hell is going on instead of just telling them that if he keeps down this path he's going to wind up crossing one of your more "unsavory associates." If you can't protect him by lying to him, then why are you lying to him to protect him?!
Oh no — I just realized that Cooper is the new Lizzie.
Anyway, Cooper tells Reddington no deal on using his own methods (Bremley with a badger, obvi) to get Townsend intel out of Captain Kidd, but tells Ressler yes deal on full immunity in exchange for everything Kidd knows about Townsend and Maroun.
Kidd, who has been a pompous ass this entire time, literally quakes at the thought of betraying Townsend. He says no one can protect him from that man, but he reluctantly takes the deal, starting with telling Ressler where to find Maroun. Unfortunately, the FBI is two hours behind the Saudi royal family's hired men. Fortunately, the FBI has a helicopter, and even more fortunately, Safiya Maroun is a stone-cold badass. When the Saudi men dig her up from where she's been buried alive, march her over to a clearing where they plan to and dismember her, and then point a gun at her head…
Maroun suddenly brandishes a wooden shiv from her sleeve that she's been working on while in her wooden box, stabs at the shooter, gets his gun, shoots the other men, and just as she and the shooter are lunging to regain control of the gun, Ressler's boot stomps down on the shooter's wrist. It is a rousing scene, appropriately scored by some bumping EDM music worthy of a fictional civil rights hero.
But that's kind of the end of the good news. Once Maroun is safe in FBI custody, Cooper finds out that Main Justice is evacuating the shooter back to Saudi Arabia at the behest of the oil-rich royal family. Then, when Ressler arrives to take Captain Kidd back into the Post Office for questioning about Townsend, he finds two murdered U.S. Marshals and a missing Kidd, meaning that neither Reddington nor Cooper is any closer to finding Townsend or Elizabeth.
And finally — though Cooper isn't privy to this bad news — Rakitin travels to Russia, where he tells Reddington's Friend in the East, a.k.a. Sikorsky, that the FBI has officially identified him, and Reddington seems unwilling (or worse, unable) to do anything about it. Sikorsky replies, "I have known Raymond Reddington longer than anyone, and I trust him like a brother… but if he won't do what's necessary to protect what we've build over the decades, I will." And then he hands over an envelope to Rakitin with explicit instructions on how to eliminate Harold Cooper.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
- I have a few questions for our Friend in the East, like, first of all, how dare you? Second, why do you always have to eat soup — it's an aural nightmare! And finally, WHO ARE YOU???
- Given that next week's episode is titled "Rakitin," I guess I'll hold those questions for now (except the soup thing, which I demand answers to).
- Things are still tense between Cooper and Reddington by the end of the episode, what with Cooper telling Ressler that if they have to choose a side, they're hereby choosing Lizzie's. But Dembe is also out here telling Red he needs to suck it up, buttercup, and find a way to call a truce: "Elizabeth is lost, and she's aligned herself with a powerful enemy — you and Harold cannot go on fighting each other and him."
- As has become tradition, there's no Liz to be found in this episode, but her specter looms large, especially in that Poe reading: "For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever."
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.