The Blacklist recap: How Reddington got his groove back
We spend this week's episode of The Blacklist entirely among friends. It's just the Task Force, their confidential fugitive informant, his longtime Russian accomplice, and their personal Russian sleeper agent on the call sheet. And by the end of the episode, one of those people is dead, one has been punched in the face, and the executor of both those fates — one Raymond Reddington — is telling his friend that there's nothing more important to him at this point than reaching the end of all this.
To which I say: Don't threaten me with a good time, Raymond Reddington.
Much of this season has felt like it's been spent in limbo with Lizzie missing in action, only occasionally dipping in with a file or a thumb drive or a hired clone to advance whatever her mysterious mission is. But when Reddington says he's ready to end things, I believe him. Of course, I have no idea what the endgame is he's referring to… but I know I'm with Panabaker on one thing (and well, all things, generally speaking): If Reddington's endgame included betraying Cooper, then why would he keep saving his endangered ass? Reddington is definitely up to something, but I think it has more to do with keeping his secrets safe in order to keep the Task Force safe, as opposed to, y'know, betraying the U.S. government, or whatever it is Cooper thinks is going on.
Even Panabaker has to ask the question at point: "Am I talking to Harold Cooper or Elizabeth Keen?" She's mostly doing it to tell Cooper to look sharp and stop acting like his most rebellious rogue agent — but in Liz's absence, Cooper has clearly become the new chink in Reddington's armor. And for a while I was starting to wonder if the old dog really had lost his bite with so many vulnerabilities to account for at all times.
But this episode is here to remind us that nothing is more important than Reddington's endgame, and with the end in sight, Reddington might just become more vicious than ever.
RAKITIN, NO. 28
That is a high Blacklister number, my friends, and this episode has the stakes to match! Kind of. I guess we pretty much know that nothing terrible is going to happen to Harold Cooper right here in the middle of the episode, but it has ben awhile since one of our Post Office pals got kidnapped, so that's always a good and silly time.
At the top of the episode, Cooper receives a call from the congressman he first spoke to about Rakitin, and though the congressman sounds notably distressed on the phone, Cooper is like, Sure, I'll meet you in an abandoned parking deck in the middle of nowhere. When the camera zooms out, we see that Rakitin forced the congressman to make the call shortly before killing him, and now he's on his way to kidnap and kill Cooper next.
Reddington finds this out as he lands in Russia, thinking he's there to reassure his Eastern Friend (I really don't know what to call this guy, so I'm just going with the IMDb credit) that he has the Cooper situation handled, only to find out that his Eastern Friend has decided to handle it himself via Rakitin. Reddington call Rakitin and tells him not to lay a finger on Cooper or he'll have him to deal with, but Rakitin says he already has the Eastern greenlight, and Harold Cooper passed out in the back of his car, so this is happening. Reddington calls back a few minutes later and concedes: "If you're gonna kill him, at least squeeze him first." Rakitin smiles maniacally and hangs up, only for the next scene to reveal that Reddington made the second call with Aram on the other line doing a trace. The FBI storms the warehouse where Rakitin has Cooper, and the whole gang heads back to the Post Office for some interrogatin'.
Unfortunately, that is where the Reddington-Cooper alliance ends. You see, Reddington was unwilling to let Rakitin kill Cooper, but he's also been unwilling to allow Cooper to apprehend Rakitin. Because Reddington knows that, if pressed, Rakitin will talk — and there are a lot of mysterious things related to the aforementioned endgame that Reddington and his Eastern Friend don't want out on the FBI airwaves. But Reddington doesn't need to be reminded of that by his Eastern Friend, who calls to lay into him for hand-delivering their "top operative" to the U.S. government, threatening the "full weight" of the SVR (Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service) if Rakitin exposes them.
"I can see I made a mistake with you, old friend," Reddington snarls back. "We've been on the same side so long, you've forgotten who you're talking to."
But we know. He's talking to Raymond Reddington, a man who we've seen break in and out of the Post Office, turning that place upside down and sideways since the very beginning of this series. If Red needs to stop someone on the inside from talking, he can. All it takes is one cashed-in favor…
From Alina Park herself. As you'll recall, Park asked Reddington to get rid of the man she beat to a bloody pulp for killing her friend, and before doing so, Reddington told her flat-out that he'd expect a favor in return one day. Turns out, he insured the repayment of that favor by never actually killing the guy, just relocating him. So Park really needs to do what Reddington says, which he cushions with the caveat that whatever happens, it's not her doing — it's his.
Back at the Post Office, Cooper is at his wit's end, believing now more than ever that Reddington is N13. He calls in Panabaker to tell her he's been keeping something from her, and to fill her in, he's gonna need to dial the clock back 30 years to the fall of the Soviet Union. Big breath: Cooper tells Panabaker about the Sikorsky Archive, the blackmail file that was stolen from Soviet intelligence by an unidentified operative who became known as N13; he tells her how Neville Townsend was one of the powerful people named in that blackmail file, and how it got his family killed; he tells her how Townsend spent the next 30 years hunting the woman believed to be N13, Katarina Rostova, only for Reddington to kill that woman moments after she claimed to her daughter, Elizabeth Keen, that it was Raymond Reddington who was N13 all along…
And then Cooper marches into the interrogation room and tells Rakitin that Reddington is the one who gave him up, leading Rakitin to offer to give up Reddington in return.
But about the time they're setting up a little camcorder to record Rakitin's confession so that there's no question about his statement in case he tries to recant later, Park arrives back at the Post Office with an envelope tucked in her back pocket. Following a visit with his friend Felix, who seems to have a special gift for gasses, Reddington handed said envelope to Park with a list of instructions: She's to find a way to deliver the envelope to Rakitin, but she is not under any circumstances to open it or read the instructions inside. That directive seems all the more peculiar when Park does slip Rakitin the envelope just before his on-camera moment, but inside, he finds only a blank piece of paper…
And then, y'know, minutes later, he starts violently coughing up blood and drops dead because the paper inside was poisoned.
Everyone knows Reddington is somehow responsible, which is why he takes that moment upon himself to arrive at the Post Office for a chat. We are truly dealing with the Reddiest Red this episode. He reminds a fuming Cooper that he warned him that the continued pursuit of Rakitin could prove deadly, to which Cooper scoffs back that he told him he wasn't afraid of his threats. "But you should be afraid," Reddington says solemnly. "I'm not your enemy, and whether you believe it or not, you are safer today because you didn't hear what Rakitin had to say."
Ooooh, but wouldn't it be something if we had heard! As Panabaker pointed out while fussing at Cooper for going rogue earlier, if Rakitin was just giving intel to try and get back at Reddington, there would be no way for them to know if it was true or not, so who's to say if his statement would have been factual. Still, I would kill for some hint — any hint! — as to what endgame Reddington is referencing when his Eastern Friend flies all the way from Russia to D.C. for yet another conversation on Reddington's jet…
Mr. Eastern Friend comes in fuming about Reddington killing their most valuable asset, and Reddington straight-up punches him in the face, and informs his friend that this is not how they'll be conducting business anymore. "I don't give a damn who you work for — the next time you threaten me with the full weight of the SVR, I'll take that thunderbolt you mentioned earlier, and crack it so far up our ass, it'll be the last thing you see or hear. Nod if you understand."
He nods. Wouldn't you?
Reddington tells his Eastern Friend that if he thinks he's too close to Harold Cooper, or too emotionally involved with the Task Force, "You better look deep inside yourself and find a way to accept it, because that, old friend, is beyond your purview… We're nearing the end now, and nothing is more important than that." Let's see you put your money where your mouth is on that one, Reddington.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
- So how exactly does Elizabeth Keen fit into this alleged endgame when she's nowhere to be found?
- I mean, technically there's a little Liz in this episode, with Ressler leaving sad messages for her about how they all want her to come back, buuuuut… it's getting weird!
- Reddington and Park's mutual disdain for each other is giving me early Ressler-Reddington vibes, and I love it.
- Do they… not have camera in those interrogation rooms? Park was quite blatant with her poisoned envelope delivery.
- Oof, Reddington was looking tired by episode's end… Any updates on our guy's health?!
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.